In Dance Australia's 2017 Careers Special, we look at all the career options that exist in the dance industry and beyond. Here Zoë Ventoura, stage and screen actor, shares her story of moving from dancing to acting.
I STARTED dancing when I was three, because at that time my mum [Ruth Osborne, currently artistic director of Canberra’s QL2 Dance] had a school in Perth. I always just felt at home in that world. It never occurred to me not to dance.
Initially I trained at mum’s studio – Contemporary Dance Centre. Then when I started high school I auditioned and got into STEPS Youth Dance Company. It gave me a taste of what life as a professional dancer might be like, which inspired me to audition for VCA when I was in Year 12. I got in and moved to Melbourne to do my Bachelor of Dance straight out of high school.
Before I left Perth I had been doing commercial gigs – things like corporate events, fashion parades, film clips, and that sustained me [after I graduated], while I took company classes and did a few independent contemporary dance projects. My first “proper” dance job was for Opera Australia – I ended up dancing in about four or five productions with them. Around the same time, I got a dance agent and they sent me for a music theatre audition, and to my absolute surprise, I got the job. That was the start of about seven years of touring musicals.
I guess my transition from dance to acting came about through my work in musicals. I was always in the ensemble or just small roles, in mainly dance-based shows. And they can be a real slog – eight shows a week, dancing and singing your heart out for three hours at a time. I was intrigued by the actors and singers in those shows – how they worked and what they did, and wanted to explore that side of performing. So that’s what I did. I started taking classes, found myself an agent, and started going out on film and TV auditions.
It takes 20 years of training to become a dancer, so mentally it was hard for me to feel like I was worthy of being anything else without that kind of training. So I did every class, course, camera workshop, voice and dialect lesson to try and get myself up to speed. I’m still in class now – I don’t think you can ever stop learning and growing as an actor.
Moving from stage to screen was definitely an adjustment! They are two completely different worlds and skill sets, although both based in the same grounding of truth and connection. I will always love theatre, but because I’ve predominantly spent the last 10 years on film and TV sets, that’s where I feel most at home these days.
Zoë Ventoura is a film and television actress, best known to Australian audiences for her role of Mel Bannon on Channel Seven’s Packed To The Rafters. Most recently, she guest starred in the fourth series of Love Child, which came after her role in the critically acclaimed crime thriller, Hyde & Seek, both for Channel Nine. She has also worked on various feature films, the most recent being Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
“The physical training and body awareness that you have as a dancer is phenomenal for acting. Also, the spatial awareness you have as a dancer is a great asset,” she says.
Want to read more career profiles? This article is part of our Careers Special, in the October/November issue of Dance Australia... out soon! Keep your eyes peeled for the new issue at at your favourite magazine retailer or subscribe here, or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app.