A dynamic career

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There is no single term that encompasses what Janet Bridgman does. To describe her as a ballet teacher, ballet coach or Pilates instructor suggests that these are separate activities. On one level, of course, they are. Twice weekly she gives company ballet class to Australian Dance Theatre (ADT); other mornings see her giving class to the pre-professional stream at Adelaide’s Terry Simpson studios, where she has also provided one-on-one coaching for over ten years. Wearing another hat, she is ADT’s in-house Pilates instructor, and she also teaches at her own Dynamic Dance Pilates studio. Yet although these roles may seem separate, each draws on the same knowledge base, garnered from a life-time of performing, teaching, and studying how the body works.

This approach can be attributed to Bridgman’s experience of having to work things out for herself and make opportunities when there at first seemed to be none. British-born, she grew up as a migrant in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, where she trained under Pamela Halse. She left school at 15 and started a dressmaking apprenticeship, working during the day in order to fund ballet classes at night with Adelaide teacher Eileen Hogarth. At 17 she was offered her a contract with the nascent Queensland Ballet by Leslie White. Bridgman attributes much of her early learning to the expert teaching skills of White, who, at that time, was also ballet master.

An 18-year international career followed, first in South Africa with the PACT Ballet, then in Europe, dancing with the New London Ballet, Düsseldorf’s Deutsche Oper am Rhein, the Zurich Ballet and Ballet Frankfurt. In the latter, Bridgman danced leads in Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake and Giselle. She also enjoyed the challenge of dancing in some of Forsythe’s edgy new works, in the early days of Ballet Frankfurt when the "Forsythe technique" was in its experimental stage....

This is an extract from Maggie Tonkin's profile of Janet Bridgman in the June/July issue of Dance Australia. Get your hands on the new issue at your favourite magazine retailer or subscribe here, or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app.

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