Professional choreographer LUCAS JERVIES looks back on his time as a student at the Australian Ballet School.
Where are you from? Mount Beauty, Victoria.
Where did you undertake your full-time training? The Australian Ballet School
What level of education (academic and dance) had you attained before beginning your full-time training?
I completed year 10 studies at VCASS.
Did you make any unexpected discoveries while undertaking your full-time studies?
I’ve always intrinsically understood on some level that we exist within a contrived system of made up rules that we are supposed to follow. On a micro level, dance and more specifically ballet is just one of those systems where I was lucky enough to find a home and a sense of purpose. I had the privilege to create an identity in a protected environment. Alongside the art form, I learned to communicate, to problem solve, to question, to rebel and to celebrate the joys and challenges of systems. I learned early on that choreography was a platform for these ideas to be discussed explicitly.
I also enjoyed being social. Hanging out with friends, making people laugh, creating grandeur from the mundane, celebrating each other’s differences and being weird all gave me great joy and I wanted the best of both worlds, so I brought these things into the studio with me, and I still do today.
Did you change your mind or have a change of attitude about your career goals while you were studying?
I come from a small country town with a very working-class “Billy Elliotesque” back story. Ballet offered this little queer kid a safe and privileged existence. After retiring from dancing at the age of 30, I studied theatre directing at NIDA. It was here where I realised that with privilege comes great responsibility, and so I started to look beyond the bubble at the other systems in place and I learned how to talk about those through my art making.
What is your best memory of your studies?
Three specific favourite memories come to mind from my full-time studies at the Australian Ballet School and all three are from creative periods – creating my own ballet on my classmates, working with Petal Miller Ashmole on her story ballet and working on two short abstract ballets with teacher and choreographer Mark Annear. All three experiences supported learning, art making and social interaction in a beautifully unique way. I am about to create a new story ballet for the Australian Ballet School, and I hope to cultivate a similar safe, productive and inspiring environment.
How quickly did you gain a professional position after graduation?
I had hoped to move straight into a contemporary company, but surprisingly I was offered a contract with the Australian Ballet by then artistic director Ross Stretton. I had never considered working for TAB but was encouraged to take the job by the late and great Gailene Stock. This first job provided me with a good professional foundation and understanding of company life; it cemented lifelong friendships and gave me the travel bug!
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were a student?
If I could sit down and share some advice to my younger self, it would go something like – people are usually just trying their best to work out what this all means. Don’t take things personally. It’s not personal, even if the intention is. Complacency is the enemy of art. Your art is not the whole you, but it helps define you. Everything is actually art. Find more art. Learn from it. Talk more. You are so fortunate. Show up, you’re good at it. Don’t be scared to try harder.
Read more inspiring personal accounts of student life in our annual pullout Full-Time Studies Guide in Spring (September/October/November) issue - OUT SOON! Buy your copy from your favourite dance shop or online here.