"I’d stepped into a whole new world and I knew instantly how amazing it would be to work with this company."
I was in absolute awe. It was Community Night at the Sydney Opera House and I had just seen my first Bangarra show - Blak (2013). I had never seen a theatre production of this size, at a venue this big. I was amazed by how people came together to create this! I’d stepped into a whole new world and I knew instantly how amazing it would be to work with this company. This was something I knew I would love to achieve one day.
But it wasn’t until I actually started learning about what Bangarra does and who each of the dancers are, the youth and community work they do, that I started to truly see the power in what the company does. I learnt the history of the company's origins and learned about AIDT - you know they were actually quite big protestors! Seeing Bangarra today I understand the company's place in this political climate, as well as the important artistic and individual voice it supports where each person has such a strong freedom to express their story.
Mum took me to a few dance classes as a little bubba but I feel my first experience with dance was really when I was about 10 or 11 years old - my grandfather, whom I call ‘Oldad’, would take me ballroom dancing. At the time, I didn’t think of this as ‘dance’ because it was never about the dance moves - even though Oldad loved to move - but about the time shared together and the amount of fun we had on the dance floor. The idea of ‘dance’ for me came to be associated with joy – the pure joy of moving and sharing the dance space with others.
When I was a bit older, I took a couple of months’ worth of ballet lessons, along with learning some Wiradjuri dances at my school, Hunter School of the Performing Arts, in Newcastle. At the time, I was in year 9. I didn’t stick with the ballet classes but I had a very passionate teacher for traditional dancing, Miss Tammy Gordon, a caring and proud Wiradjuri woman. She organised an Aboriginal Dance Group called Milabah. Milabah is a Wiradjuri word meaning 'place of fun' – a perfect fit for me! Our teacher would bring in community members; sometimes we would also visit them to learn more about why we dance, the purpose of dance and culture and what it is that makes us keep dancing. Based in Newcastle, we would perform around the city.
"I honestly can say that, to this day, I find so much joy sharing the dance space with others - just as I did when it was just me and Oldad!"
After completing my schooling, I went on to do further studies at NAISDA where I learnt traditional dances from the communities NAISDA engaged with. The styles of dance I feel most comfortable doing are contemporary and trad’ (traditional) ... actually, I think I feel most relaxed when I'm dancing traditional. With trad’, I draw a lot from that 'groundedness' - that 'deep in the legs' sort of feeling. In contemporary, like in trad’, I lean my body over, forwards, a lot. I take the purpose of trad’ and then ask myself “what is the purpose of these contemporary moves?”. For example, if I’m in a contemporary class and the moves require a feeling of release, I try to think of how trad’ makes me feel after a long session - I use this feeling and transfer it into the dance moment, whatever the moves are.
"What makes this all really special is that you get to put 'a sense of you' into the work."
I joined Bangarra in January this year, 2019. I'm yet to work with Stephen Page on the creation of a new work - this year we've been remounting old repertoire. I think creating a work or creating dance moves comes from each individual's body. As dancers, we take our thoughts into our body and then physically portray that thought, trying to generate something the choreographer can work with. It can be a little bit daunting finding or discovering what you can contribute and then reading the other dancers' energy and trying to make material that will mesh with the more mature dancer's material (as they've done all this before). What makes this all really special is that you get to put 'a sense of you' into the work.
On my days off from work, I wake up while I’m still trying to sleep - I just can't wait to start the week again! I'm really excited! The most exciting thing about dancing for Bangarra is waking up knowing I'm going to do class and rehearsals - and everything! ... waking up knowing that I'm going to be working on something that needs to be voiced out in the world ... and especially waking up knowing I'll be dancing with these dancers I really do admire - knowing that I’m going to be rehearsing with them and sharing the stage with them!
"I wake up while I’m still trying to sleep - I just can't wait to start the week again! I'm really excited!"
I honestly can say that, to this day, I find so much joy sharing the dance space with others - just as I did when it was just me and Oldad!
Interview with Cassidy Waters, facilitated by Cloudia Elder
Transcription Alyssa Beaudoin
Article by Yolande Brown
Dance Artist (Alumni)
Kassidy is a descendant of the Wanaruah people of the Hunter Valley, New South Wales. After graduating from NAISDA Dance College in 2016, Kassidy joined Bangarra in 2019.