Embracing Opportunity: NAISDA Advanced Diploma Students Reflect on Recent Sydney Dance Company Industry Placements - 28.02.24

Embarking on the final years of their intensive dance training, NAISDA’s Advanced Diploma students are gearing up for careers beyond graduation by immersing themselves in real-world dance experiences.

As a crucial component of the course, our Practising Artists engage in Industry Placements to prepare them for the dynamic landscape of professional dance ahead.

Recently, four Advanced Diploma students — Brooklyn Bond, Erica Dixon, Joshua Doctor, and Tayla Jackson — had the opportunity to undertake their industry placements with the renowned Sydney Dance Company in the form of secondments and professional intensive workshops.

We caught up with them to discuss their immersive weeks, unique learnings and how the hands-on experience shaped their aspirations.

Can you introduce yourselves and what year you’re in at NAISDA?

Erica: Hi, I’m Erica Dixon. I’m a proud Gomeroi woman from Bingara, Northern NSW. This is my fourth year at NAISDA, and I’m just starting my Advanced Diploma.
Tayla: My name is Tayla Jackson. I’m a Gamilaroi woman from Tamworth, but I grew up on the Central Coast. This is my fourth year and I’m also studying an Advanced Diploma.
Brooklyn: Hi, my name is Brooklyn Bond. I’m a Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung woman. This is my fifth year at NAISDA, and I’m in Advanced Diploma.
Joshua: Hi, my name is Joshua Doctor. I’m a Yuwaalaraay, Gamilaraay and Gubbi Gubbi man from Lightning Ridge, northwestern NSW and I’m doing my Advanced Diploma this year.

You’ve all recently experienced an Industry Placement at Sydney Dance Company, what does this involve for each of you? When and where did this take place?

Brooklyn: Tayla and I went to Sydney Dance Company and did a secondment placement from 22-25 January this year.
Tayla: We were involved with watching the Company’s rehearsals, watching how they create work and how they task. A lot of what we did was to watch and observe, to try and learn what you could from observing and being in the space.
Brooklyn: It was great to see the language of movement that all of the dancers and Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela share with each other and how they understand the vision that Rafael is looking for. It was a really unique experience, a really challenging week, but also really rewarding as well.
Erica: Unlike Tayla and Brooklyn, Joshua and I did a professional intensive workshop, so I wasn’t in with the Company, I was in a group with other artists that travelled internationally and interstate for the professional intensive. We were at Sydney Dance Company for a week as well.
Joshua: In the professional intensives we did a lot of company classes and learnt repertoire from the Sydney Dance Company teachers. We also did a lot of partnering work as well and learnt how to create unnatural body shapes and make them be comfortable.

What skills or knowledge did you learn that is unique to this experience or different to NAISDA?

Tayla: At NAISDA, when we do shows or productions, we have a Director, and they usually give us the choreography to perform. What I saw and experienced at Sydney Dance Company, the dancers actually helped Rafael create the movement and were involved with the process. They were the ones mostly involved in creating the whole work, which I found quite interesting and different to how NAISDA often works.
Erica: I think the way their classes operate was a little different, and I actually found it refreshing. I really enjoyed the fast pace of the class too. When learning the repertoire from Ab Intra, one of the Sydney Dance Company’s shows, it was really interesting to note the characteristics of the dance were a different style compared to what I’m used to. I found Rafael’s choreography quite interesting as my body had to learn a new way of movement to suit his style of choreography.
Joshua: I learnt how different the dance world can be. I learnt that there also are a variety of international people who come to do these professional intensives – people from New York, Hawaii, London. It was interesting just observing how they did their movements and some of them were amazing. I also learnt that there are many, many ways and dynamics of how you create and how different movements can look on another person’s body.

What was the most valuable thing that you took away from this experience?

Tayla: For me, I found it challenging to pick up choreography quite quickly, and being with the Sydney Dancers. Just being able to learn how they work the way that they do was really valuable. How they pick the work up and then figuring those things out for myself.
Brooklyn: To always be adaptable. Whether they changed the direction or the style of the movement, you just had to learn to be adaptable to that. They could have changed what way we were facing, completely changed what leg it was on or how the movement would look, and I just had to stick it through and be able to challenge myself to do that too.
Erica: I gained a lot of confidence in being able to back myself as an artist. A lot of the international people had come from European companies and had a lot of experience as professional dancers, whereas I’m obviously still studying. Even though I didn’t have that type of experience, I had my cultural side, so we had the cultural background and knowledge embedded in our movement that made Joshua and I stand out compared to the other dancers. And while I wasn’t as experienced, I still had something to offer which was really nice.
Joshua: I would say the most valuable things were the talks Erica and I were given from the Trainers and Operating Coordinator, and how we fit and maneuver as dancers, not only in our dance life, but also our personal life too. Also how we can make it easier while also confronting your ideology as a dancer and to learn what your end goal is and where you’ll be in five years’ time.

Was there anything that surprised you, challenged your thinking or that you didn’t expect – what and why?

Brooklyn: It surprised me throughout the week how quickly all of the dancers are able to be adaptable. I’ve struggled with it in the past, but all of them just have that ability to be like ‘OK we’re changing to the left side now, cool. Let’s just do that right now.’
Tayla: It’s crazy. Like Brooklyn was saying, just trying to keep up with all of them and trying to be at the same speed that they were. It was quite overwhelming to dance with them but it was a really good experience to be able to try to keep up and challenge ourselves.
Erica: The fast pace of the class, even though I liked it, was pretty full on and they just showed us and then were like ‘do it’. They didn’t break down the choreography, and that was really interesting and different compared to NAISDA, which is the environment I’m used to, not that professional environment.
Joshua: Learning the choreography really quickly and switching my brain on to do fast-paced movement and pick up the choreography quickly. Also the dance language and how different Sydney Dance Company is NAISDA.

Has it influenced your career goals or aspirations in any way?

Brooklyn: It’s influenced my future career path from where I think I would like to be. I never imagined that Sydney Dance Company would be somewhere that I could see myself being in, but now that I’ve had that experience with them, I think “why not be in a place like that? Why not be in an environment where they’re such technically amazing dancers?”
So, yes, it’s opened where I think I would like to go after NAISDA.
Tayla: I think for me, it’s definitely inspired me to work harder than I already am. To push for my dreams and to push myself to where I want to be.
Erica: It’s taught me that I’m more capable than what I thought I was, and that getting outside experience in the industry with other professional artists isn’t as daunting as I thought it would be. So I’m a little more confident to go out in the industry, which has helped as obviously as an independent artist, it’s what you have to do. I can’t say that I can see myself at Sydney Dance Company, however it has helped me figure out what I want to do. I’m very grateful for that experience.
Joshua: Yes it has, especially watching the Sydney Dance Company members up close. It’s amazing how they can manoeuvre their bodies into the choreography that the director wants them to use. It makes you feel something, and you want to capture that for yourself.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Brooklyn: It was a really rewarding experience and I would definitely go back there again. I can’t say that it wouldn’t be challenging, but it’s a challenge that I think is worth it.
Tayla: I learnt a lot about myself, and the kind of standard that I need to be in if I’m placed in a company like that.
Erica: Some of the subjects that we do here at NAISDA during Diploma or Advanced Diploma like Choreographic Processes really helped me when we went in and created tasks. When we had a discussion during the intensive about creating work, I was really able to contribute to the discussion because I had learnt it at NAISDA. It was really interesting because even though I’m not an industry professional or anything yet, I had experience in making a work whereas a lot of the other people hadn’t.

We’d like to thank Sydney Dance Company, and all our industry partners and placements for their generosity in assisting our students to push themselves, refine skills, establish valuable contacts and learn how to maximise opportunities as they enter the professional environment.

If this learning journey appeals to you, or someone you know, register your interest to audition for our 2025 cohort later in the year here.