Sneak peek: Eliza Cooper

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Eliza Cooper; photo: Martyn Thompson.
Eliza Cooper; photo: Martyn Thompson.

 Eliza Cooper, artistic director of Sydney Experimental Arts Ensemble and freelance choreographer and dancer, remembers her time as a student at SDC's Pre-Professional Year.

What level of education (academic and dance) had you attained before beginning your full-time training?

HSC, Newtown High School of the Performing Arts, Sydney. 

Did you change your mind or have a change of attitude about your career goals while you were studying?

My attitude towards dance gradually evolved and my personal taste ripened. As I was exposed to a diverse range of artists and practices, my understanding of craftsmanship matured. More and more I saw that masterful performers possessed something beyond virtuosity in their technique. They had great expertise in dramatic arts and exercised creative agency within the choreography or repertoire. I found that true artistry required profound thoughtfulness and awareness
of the human and animal self.

How quickly did you gain a professional position after graduation?

I received my first professional job performing in Nick Cave’s HEARD.SYD at Carriageworks, Pitt St Mall and Sydney’s Town Hall. This opportunity arose through the Pre-Professional Year’s coordinators (many other students also received this opportunity).

Within three months of graduating, I participated in my first professional research residency through Critical Path’s Research Program in sessions exploring Hungarian partner dancing and contemporary forms led by Jozsef Trefeli and Garbor Varga.

What was one of the main life lessons you gained from full-time studies?

Don’t waste time on rigid goals, question your practice and consider alternative methods and outcomes. Have a beginner's mind, know nothing, start afresh everyday.

Learn to be bad at things, be simple, unassuming, humble,
Learn to mumble, fumble, tumble. Be rash, wild, unbinded, absent minded,
absence makes the heart grow fonder, stronger, freer, full of wonder, brimming

Don’t lose your animal!
Be affected, moved, touched.

Be earthly, brutish, ogreish, learn all your characters. Study them and reproduce them on stage. That is craftsmanship.

Learn all the things. Refine the body, be precise, particular and pedantic – but sometimes don’t – be flawed.

Tell us a little about your present job.

In performance: I am a casual dancer at Opera Australia. In 2019 I performed in Graeme Murphy’s Turandot at the Sydney Opera House and was appointed Dance Captain for the following season at the Arts Centre Melbourne.

In choreography: I am the artistic director of the collective Sydney Experimental Arts Ensemble (S.X.A.E). The ensemble is comprised of young freelance artists who produce contemporary dance works and collaborations. This year, I am a recipient of DirtyFeet’s Out of the Studio residency program and will be developing and staging my upcoming work, Bat Lake, in a showing at East Sydney Community Arts Centre. The work will be further developed through Ausdance NSW’s DAIR residency program and perhaps transformed into a short film. A full performance season will take place further down the track, when theatres re-open to full capacity.

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.




Sydney Experimental Arts Ensemble (S.X.A.E) performing 'Old Life Dead Life'. Photo: Clare Hawley
Sydney Experimental Arts Ensemble (S.X.A.E) performing 'Old Life Dead Life'. Photo: Clare Hawley




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