Dance Australia

Life after Dance: Amy Hollingsworth

01 Feb 2012

Dance director, Sydney Dance Company

After a brilliant career spanning a number of continents, Amy Hollingsworth retired from performing last year.

She is not leaving the profession unfulfilled – having danced with the Royal New Zealand Ballet as principal, the Peter Schaufuss Ballet in Germany, also as principal, and then as an outstanding member of Rambert Dance Company in the UK. In 2006 she was a founding member of Bonachela Dance Company, which began her close association with its artistic director, Rafael Bonachela, as a dancer and as assistant director. When he was anointed artistic director of Sydney Dance Company in 2009, she came to the harbour city with him, as both a dancer and dance director.

By then she already knew that her performing days were numbered, thanks to a persistent hip injury. But by that stage she had made herself invaluable as Bonachela’s right hand woman, involved in all the details of staging and rehearsals, so she was well prepared for her transition from from front stage to back. She is now the company’s fully committed dance director.

Knowing Hollingsworth’s passionate commitment to dance, it is a bit of surprise to discover that during her career she sensibly continued with other areas of study in case of injury or setbacks. “I studied through Open University while in New Zealand and in the UK, working toward a Bachelor of Science, and did arts management courses. I also obtained a helicopter pilot licence – believe it or not aviation was the area I thought I’d pursue if I ever shifted away from dance!”

Her foresight was, perhaps, a result of an incident that made her more than aware of the fragility of her profession right at the start. When she was 18 and just four years into a professional career, she broke her back while rehearsing for her role as first cast Clara in the RNZB’s The Nutcracker. “I suffered a fracture across one of my vertebrae that ran horizontally across the bone and did a lot of damage to the ligaments and muscles all around my sacrum and ilium,” she explains. “I lost the feeling in my legs for a few days, which is common in spinal injuries due to swelling placing pressure on the spinal column.” It took a year of painful and painstaking rehabilitation – up to seven hours a day of Pilates, plus hydrotherapy, acupuncture and osteopathy, before she was able to dance again.

Experiencing first hand the benefits of Pilates, she became an advocate of the method, trained as an Pilates instructor, and now, in addition to her commitment to SDC, practises at the Elixr School of Pilates in Sydney.

“My advice to all dancers who are thinking about their future is: don’t wait until you’re nearing the end of your dance career to start supplementing your skills.

“Focus on a career that utilises your strengths, such as communication or a deep understanding of physicality and art. Build on those strengths and find out how to apply them in a new profession.

"Indecision and inactivity about a new career can be crippling, so I have always advocated that dancers should give thought to the things that interest them, both within the dance profession or outside of it.

“If possible, pursue those interests in tandem with your career as a dancer as it empowers future decisions that will inevitably have to be made.”

 - KAREN VAN ULZEN

See Life after Dance: Mark Byrne on this site or many more dancer stories in the Feb/Mar issue of 'Dance Australia'.

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