Meet Linda Ridgway Gamblin

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Head of Dance Training at Sydney Dance Company.

Photo by Daniel Boud.
Ridgway demonstrating for SDC's PPY students. Photo by Daniel Boud.

Your career began in classical ballet, with training at the Royal Ballet School, followed by positions within the National Ballet of Portugal, the Australian Ballet and finally the Royal Ballet.  What motivated your shift towards contemporary dance?

Ballet will always hold a special place in my heart, and I haven't left it behind. My attraction to contemporary dance grew from its natural, authentic movement style. Early in my ballet career, I had the opportunity to perform in contemporary ballets like The Green Table by Kurt Jooss and Transfigured Night by Jiri Kylian. These experiences ignited a deep and authentic connection with this form of movement.

I also found a sense of belonging in character roles, such as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet or Lise in La Fille mal gardée. Eventually, I decided to take a break from full-time ballet companies. During this period, I pursued acting studies in London, although becoming an actor was never my intention. It was more about exploring my other interests at the time.

In hindsight, this choice to study acting and explore contemporary movement with the backup of an extensive career in classical ballet has proven invaluable and greatly supports my current role

Can you explain how studying method acting in London impacted your teaching methods?

The classes gave me valuable skills in improvisation, reacting to stimuli and embodying scripts. A particular lesson I learned was how not to act, but to react authentically. Similar to the ideas I was finding in dance movement. Other principles I absorbed included "don't tell me, show me", "act less, feel more", and "question everything and doubt nothing”. One principle I found particularly impactful was "do nothing until you do", which highlighted the power of authentic, in-the-moment reactions. Applying these concepts to dance has profoundly influenced my approach to coaching.

Does classical technique play any role in your training methods now?

Absolutely. Ballet technique to me is simple, beautiful, clear, bio-mechanical; it creates extraordinary movement dynamics and moments of stillness. Rehearsing technical moves in contemporary dance by using the knowledge and information gained from ballet technique and incorporating my interests in theatrical and somatic improvisation skills is what interests me most.

So, what is your philosophy?

At the heart of my philosophy is "First, Do No Harm". I believe in creating an environment that is safe, supportive and challenging for all participants, with a strong emphasis on psychological safety. I recognise that mental and emotional well-being is vital for physical development. I coach from an internal locus of control, empowering dancers to take an active role in their creative and technical growth, making choices that align with their individuality and the mechanics of their bodies. I am committed to embracing inclusivity and diversity and continually examining and addressing my unconscious biases.

Photo by Daniel Boud.
Photo by Daniel Boud.

How did you become the Head of Training at Sydney Dance Company?

I initially joined SDC as a dancer after returning home from London. The company's equal emphasis on classical and contemporary techniques allowed me to explore ballet technique with a contemporary perspective.

Retiring from the company after five years, I started guest teaching around Sydney. Once my two sons had started school, I enrolled in a bespoke business course for mothers wanting to get back into work. It was an initiative of the Body Shop called Buziness Babes. (They are still creating great initiatives like this to empower women all over the globe). My idea was to create a ballet and contemporary dance program using methods that I considered would support growth in the individual, physically and creatively. 

Around the same time, Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela was planning a full-time program at Sydney Dance Company and our paths aligned perfectly. My passion for ballet and contemporary technique and the exploration of improvisation techniques to support creation and performance among other somatic practices aligns well with Rafael’s direction for the company. This year we are celebrating our 10th anniversary in our full-time Pre-Professional Year program. I'm immensely excited about all that we've achieved and the positive impact the training has had on countless young artists and the broader industry.

What are your favourite words?

Favourite words would be authentic, organic, personal agency, autonomy, intuition, yes, no, why, curious, perception and belief. I value these words as they lead to non-judgmental thought that can guide you in the (most) right direction.

How would you describe your feet?

As an extension of my soul (sole). Well workshopped, with the scars to prove it.

Any last thoughts?

We each possess one mind and one body, within which lies a multitude of ideas and choices. Instead of confining ourselves to one box, or conforming to someone else's expectations, let's embrace the freedom to express every facet of ourselves in each unique moment (and dance style).

This article was originally published in the Oct/Nov/Dec 2023 issue of Dance Australia. Print is for keeps! Buy on-line here or subscribe here.

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