Q&A with Susie Harrison
How did you become involved in dance?
I always wanted to dance, ever since I can remember. My mum insisted I wait until I started school before I could start dancing, so at the beginning of year 1 I did my first ballet class and have been dancing ever since.
What are you currently doing in the field?
Apart from teaching Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), tiny toes and jazz classes at the Dance Centre, I'm currently completing a BA in Dance Education through the RAD. This degree studies the theory of dance education and will allow me to teach dance in a number of areas. I'm also a Pilates instructor, so that allows me to work with the vocational students at the Dance Centre to increase their dance technique through strength training.
Would you share a special moment from your career?
There is not one particular special moment I can think of, rather I find the little things special. For example, I always find it special watching my tiny toes go from shy little bunnies who won't leave their mothers' sides to becoming confident little dancers who can't wait to get into ballet class.
What is the best advice you have ever received from a teacher or mentor regarding dance?
When going into dance class or performance try and immerse yourself in the role and leave everything else that's going on in your life outside the studio. That way you'll enjoy your dancing.
What has been your greatest challenge?
I have a scoliosis which is a curvature of the spine. This means I don't look straight when standing up. Because of this, I have spent extra time training my body and muscles to keep me straight while dancing. It also turned out to be a reward as it introduced me to Pilates and sent me down a career path I otherwise may never have gone down. Also, taking 6 years to do a degree has been a challenge, again rewarding, but it is a long time to be studying the same thing.
Do you have any advice for dancers who want to go on to a professional career?
Work hard and work hard some more! There are lots of other dancers out there who want the same career as you, so you need to make sure you put all you can into your training to give you the edge over the competition.
How do you feel dance has changed over the past decade?
It has definitely become more physical and athletic. When I was doing contemporary dance 8 years ago, we weren't doing anything as full on as I see the girls doing now. The girls all require knee pads now because they keep jumping and landing on the floor, it really is incredible to watch.
Where do you think dance is going?
I think there appears to be a real culmination of the different styles so that in the future dance styles will incorporate a range of techniques. Ballet is no longer just ballet, it includes elements of contemporary and modern dance. We even see that in the new RAD syllabus. I also think the dance industry is heading towards a better quality of regulation and training. Companies are now incorporating stricter methods of injury management and prevention, and studies on effective methods of training are being used to produce optimal training of dancers. Finally, I think dance is heading towards being an all-around exercise regime. Exercise methods such as Zumba, Booty Barre and Xtend Barre are setting the trend for non-dancers to become involved in dance as part of their everyday exercise regimes.
What do you enjoy most about your life in dance?
I've always loved doing and watching ballet. Now everyday I get to come into the studio and do ballet as well as watch it through our wonderful young ballerinas. It's a joy to be able to impart my love of ballet to other like-minded dancers to help them get to the next step of their dance training.
What is next for you?
In 9 weeks I send off my dissertation as my final piece of assessment for my degree. After that I plan on relaxing, enjoying my teaching and then heading off to Europe for 5 weeks in July, where I will be going to my graduation ceremony. I haven't really thought much further than that at this stage.
Susie joined the Dance Centre team in 2010 and is well known as one of the regular teachers at the school. She trained at a highly regarded dance school in Canberra from the age of five until she finished year 12 at age 17. Within that period she completed all the RAD ballet exams with a distinction average including the highly technical and prestigious Advanced 2 award. She also competed in both local and national competitions and performed major roles in stage performances such as ‘The Snow Queen’, ‘Prince Charming’ and ‘Around the World in 80 Days’.
During her dance training Susie was devoted to Classical Ballet however also trained in Jazz, Contemporary, Modern and Irish dancing. She also began Pilates to strengthen her core and aid with her ballet technique. In 2008 after leaving school Susie completed her Diploma in Professional Pilates Instruction and has since trained with local and international experts in the field. Susie now trains the vocational students in Pilates at the Dance Centre and runs Pilates Peregian; a small Pilates studio out of the Dance Centre.