Gabrielle the brave
What motivates dancer and rising choreographic star Gabrielle Nankivell? Maggie Tonkin finds out.
MEETING Gabrielle Nankivell is like taking a masterclass in fearlessness.
It is also a lesson in how to forge a career as an independent artist by being guided by chance and a willingness to give anything a go. In a long conversation in a café near Australian Dance Theatre’s Mitcham Studios – Nankivell is about to perform in the company’s first South American tour – she recounts that in Europe, where she spent her formative years as a dancer and choreographer, she seized every opportunity that came her way.
Upon graduating from the dance program at the Victorian College of the Arts, she was awarded a Marten Bequest travelling scholarship and took herself off to Europe with nothing but a backpack and a list of addresses of European dance companies, photocopied from a Dance Europe magazine. It was before the internet, she recalls, and her knowledge of these companies was pretty slight. Nevertheless, she backpacked around the continent, fronting up uninvited at theatres and studios and asking if she could do company class. “Surprisingly”, she tells me, “they hardly ever said no.”
This up-front strategy led to a variety of jobs, including a contract with the Ballet Braunschweig, a gig working with a jazz and rap improvisation ensemble touring music festivals, work in other ballet companies and even in a circus. Some of the small-scale projects she worked on, she admits, were “a bit daggy”, but because they involved a lot of touring they allowed her to see a variety of work, and opened her eyes to contemporary dance. . .
This is an extract from an article in the Dec/Jan issue of Dance Australia. Read the full article and more! Buy the new issue at your favourite magazine retailer or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app. Or, beter still, take advantage of our fantastic Christmas subscription offer.
Top: Gabrielle Nankivell with Vincent Crowley in her independent work 'Split Second Heroes'. Photo: Chris Herzfeld, Camlight Productions. Please note: this photograph appears on page 23 of the Dec/Jan issue but is incorrectly captioned and credited.