The dance scene in the US is highly competitive, but this jazz dancer is lapping up every opportunity.
From the National Theatre Ballet School in Melbourne to the bright lights of New York City, 26-year-old Bridie Clark is living a dancer’s dream.
Clark began her early dance training at the age of five and joined the National Theatre Ballet School under the tutelage of Beverly Fry in 2008. She completed her Advanced Diploma in Dance in 2010 and during the following years performed in a number of musicals in Australia, including The King and I, Cats and 42nd Street.
In 2015 Clark successfully auditioned for the Peridance Capezio Centre in New York. She relocated to New Jersey and began the daily commute to New York City each day for classes, graduating with honours. The program covered ballet, modern, contemporary, commercial and ethnic dance and Clark describes the intensive program as “an opportunity to grow as a dancer as well as to refine both skills and artistry”.
While studying in NY, Clark started performing with the Jazz Roots Dance Company, after accepting an invitation from the world-renowned jazz choreographer, Sue Samuels. In 2018 she was promoted to principal dancer with the company.
During her time with the company, she had the opportunity to dance alongside tap dancer and Emmy Award winner Jason Samuel Smith as well as with American Ballet Theatre dancer, Misty Copeland, in the Career Transition for Dancers: 30th Anniversary Pearl Jubilee -- a large dance gala award ceremony. Describing the opportunity as “awe inspiring”, Clark says another highlight in recent years was being invited to perform in the Luigi Concert Benefit to honour the “grandfather of jazz dance”, Eugene Louis Faccuito (whose professional name was Luigi).
These experiences have been extremely valuable in what Clark says is a highly competitive commercial dance scene in America. “You go for an audition that starts at 10am with a sign on at 9am. You can arrive at 7am and there are already 100 dancers there, hoping to be seen and to get their big break into the industry,” she says.
Combining her performing roles with teaching, mentoring and tutoring, Clark has also taught ballet and contemporary dance at the Monroe Dance Academy in Connecticut. She also coached two young dancers who were competing in the Youth America Grand Prix, with one of these dancers making it to the top 12 of all the junior competitors.
In 2018, Clark was introduced to the Dylan Wings of Change – Wingman Program. The program was established in Connecticut in response to the massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in the neighbouring town. The program was named after a young boy, Dylan Hockley, who lost his life in the mass shooting. The youth leadership program runs in schools, dance studios and summer camps, allowing older students to work with younger students, effectively becoming the “wingmen” by introducing them to dance and team activities in a fun and supportive environment.
Clark explains that the program is about “fostering acceptance, inclusion and empathy for all”. She is working with Jessica Michaels, the founder of Wingman for Dance, to bring the program to Australia and New Zealand in the next few years.
For the immediate future however, Clark is focused on her next challenge –- performing as a Soloist with the Columbian Dance Company of New York. The company performs a type of dance called “mestizo”, a blend of the African, Spanish and Indian dance in what it describes as an extensive repertoire full of colour, energy, dynamism, passion, vigour, drive, spirit and exuberance.
When she is not rehearsing or performing, Clark engages in her other passion, making headpieces for dancers and performers. She is revelling in all that New York has to offer. “I love walking around and exploring areas of New Jersey and New York because you’re always making new discoveries.”
For a young dancer from Melbourne, it seems dreams really do come true in the city that never sleeps.
- MICHELLE DURSUN