Interview: Amy Hollingsworth Q&A

Thursday 26 August 2010

Amy Hollingsworth Amy Hollingsworth is a familiar and much admired dancer on London dance stages – but not for much longer. Having collected a nicely timed Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Female Performance (modern) in January, she’s been balancing tour dates with Bonachela Dance Company (where she’s also Assistant Artistic Director) with packing up her home her in preparation to return home to Australia in April – where she’ll be hanging up her dancing shoes. Her working relationship with Bonachela will continue though, as she’s joining Sydney Dance Company as Dance Director, where he is Artistic Director.

She’s danced with Rambert, Michael Clark, Balletboyz, Wayne McGregor and many others. Amy looks back at her London years for us…

London’s loss is Sydney’s gain! We’ll miss you here – what will you miss about London? **This city is amazing. There are so many things I will miss!! ! But if pressed to name some….I will miss the Southbank and several of the theatres. Especially the National, the Old Vic, Young Vic and Almeida. And I will really miss some of my favourite restaurants, in particular Moro. But what I’ll miss the most is all my friends! !

And are you retiring from dancing when you become Director of Dance at Sydney Dance Company? **I have had the most wonderful experiences throughout my career. I have worked with incredible dancers, choreographers and directors. While there will always remain some people I would’ve dearly liked to work with, a dancer’s career is not lengthy. I knew at some point I would have to draw the line. My right hip has been problematic for a few years now and while it is still manageable I would rather retire while I’m still dancing well. I am loving being onstage and I don’t want to arrive in that place where the pain outweighs the enjoyment. I also want to finish leaving audiences remembering the best of me!! ! So I will be dancing my final performance in the Venice Biennale with Sydney Dance Company on 4 June in my role in We Unfold. From that date onwards I will concentrate solely on my role as dance director.

Tell us about working on BBC1’s So You Think You Can Dance’… **I’ve had fun working on the show. I always enjoy assisting Raf [Bonachela] and it was great to have the challenge of adapting his distinctive style of work for dancers from very different backgrounds. It’s a tough call for them. They have to get up each week and push their bodies through styles that don’t necessarily suit them. And do it in front of a large audience. I think there are a few that really stand out in terms of versatility. Tommy [Franzen] and Lizzie [Gough] in particular. And I was very sad to see Drew [Mconie] leave the show. We really enjoyed working with him and he is a great talent.

Bonachela Dance Company. The Land of Yes and the Land of No.Dancer: Amy HollingsworthPhoto: Ione Saizar Tell us some of the highlights of your dance career… **Argh, that’s a difficult question. I’ve had many moments that I’ll always remember. Meeting, working with and sustaining such a productive and creative relationship with Rafael [Bonachala] was and is a career defining highlight. I guess a highlight within that is dancing Irony of Fate, which Rafael choreographed for me, at Sadler’s Wells with my father watching – the first time he watched me dance as a contemporary dancer. Another highlight was dancing Chosen Maiden with the Michael Clark Company at both the Barbican and then at the Lincoln Centre in New York. Another would have to be having the opportunity to dance Juliet in three different productions of Romeo & Juliet, first when I was 18, then when I was 24 and finally in 2008. It’s definitely my favourite role out of all the ballets. And last but not least, my opening night performance of the main duet in *Balanchine’s Agon*when I was 19. It was my first time back onstage after a career threatening injury and it felt amazing to be back.

And low points? **Breaking my back when I was 18. It was one of the lowest points of my life but ironically is probably the reason I have real focus and discipline now!! !

You’ve been working with Rafael Bonachela for around 10 years now. What’s special about your working relationship? **Everything. I find him incredibly inspiring and still after 10 years I find each creative process fresh. We challenge each other and I think we complement each other. I have always found his genuine enthusiasm and passion so infectious. There’s a total lack of pretension and we can read each well in any situation. I guess because we work alongside each other in more than one capacity (as choreographer and dancer, or with me assisting him) it gives our relationship another dimension.

Any other choreographers you’ve particularly enjoyed working with?
Michael Clark. Christopher Bruce. Christopher Hampson. Matz Ek. Jiri Kylian. Wayne McGregor. All of them were incredible to be in a studio with in their different ways.

<?xml:namespace prefix = o>

How did you first get in to dance? **I think I did a bit when I was very small but was disinterested. I was much more serious about swimming for quite a few years! A close friend of mine went to dance classes every week and she spoke so highly of it that I went along for another go when I was 10 or 11. The next three years was spent commuting 3 hours to a bigger dance school several times a week playing catch up on technique classes. I was seen by Gailene Stock (then the director of the Australian Ballet School, now director of Royal Ballet School) in a local ballet competition and encouraged to come to Melbourne to train intensively.

*You trained in ballet – how did the move into contemporary come about? * **I never introduce myself as a ballet dancer or as a contemporary dancer for that matter!. Ballet was my training but I have spent an equal amount of years as a professional in contemporary companies. I was fortunate enough to dance many of the principal roles before I was 25. I loved ballet but was also so satisfied when I danced the triple bills with more contemporary works. I had been a big fan of Christopher Bruce and after a successful audition joined Rambert. It was a massive challenge and a career change I will never regret. It was hugely satisfying going back to dance Juliet in Christopher Hampson’s Romeo and Juliet in 2008.

You’ve made work for Rambert – and for Kylie Minogue. Is choreography something you’ll be getting in to now? **No. I enjoy choreographing but it is not, ultimately, my passion. Although as dancer I loved task work, generating material and improvising. I enjoy coaching and nuturing dancers and I look forward to investing my energy in that.

Are there any shows you’ll be making a point of seeing before you leave London in April? **To be honest as we are on tour until the day I leave for Australia I’m not going to have much time to see any shows! That said, I would really like to see Blaze at the Peacock Theatre, The Royal Ballet’s triple bill at the Royal Opera House, Kontakhof (in memory of Pina Bausch) at the Barbican. And in terms of music and theatre, I am going to see Grizzly Bear at Roundhouse and I want to see Peter Brook at the Barbican.

And if your life’s work wasn’t dance, what would you be doing? **Flying helicopters. I have my private pilot’s licence for helicopters. My ideal job as a pilot would be working for an aid agency like the Red Cross.

Amy Hollingsworth’s final London performance will be at Arts Depot on 11 February, 2010.
Tickets: £15 on 020 8369 5454 or more details/online booking

Interview by Carmel Smith
5 February 2010

What’s On