Transcript of Kate Champion
This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the Kate Champion chat podcast (44.54).
Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all first nations people hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.
Welcome to the Creative Cast Podcast series. My name is Jackie King and I'm a project advisor with the Creative Arts Curriculum Team with the New South Wales Department of Education. Today we will be having an industry chat with a director and choreographer with over 30 years’ experience across multiple art forms. Some of her credits include founding Force Majeure Dance Company, choreographing the stage production of Dirty Dancing and most recently, directing My Brilliant Career at Belvoir Street Theatre. Please welcome Kate Champion.
Hi, Kate. Thanks so much for joining us today for our creative cast industry chat. I'm really excited to be chatting with you because, as I've just been reading, your career has been so diverse that you've you sort of started as a dancer and done some choreography worked in theatre dance, physical theatre, even film and opera, which sounds all so very interesting. So, I was wondering if you could start by sort of talking through how you got involved in the performing arts. Maybe, I'm presuming that you started dancing as a young child as a lot of dancers do. Would that be a correct assumption?
Kate – Yes, it is a correct assumption. And look, I don't know if this is just family lore, and I'm not sure anymore how true it is. But I believe my sister displayed some natural talent very young. She would have only been four, and I was probably six, and I believe I was sent to help my clumsiness. But you know, we were lucky that dance school that was closest to us was a woman who was the daughter of an abstract painter, and she was only 19 herself, and she started a dance school. Karen Kalkhoven had started a dance school behind a petrol station, and she it was quite unorthodox. In fact, encouraging creativity was more important to her than technique. Even though we absolutely learned technique. She taught us to choreograph and improvise and all sorts of things which I, because you don't know anything else, you think that's what it is. And then you realize as you get older, other, particularly girls, not many boys went to dance lessons, and I guess there are more now but there's still not an equal amount, you realized it was a different environment and that they didn't have as much creativity. And I'm endlessly thankful the way she taught us and encouraged that. It just it was, I've never, I've always been interested in making work more than, even though I was before, for 26 years it was always just to learn how to make it. That's always what turned me on and was part of the storytelling and connection to what it means to be human more than the technical achievement as such, although I do like that challenge.
Jackie – Yeah, that's really interesting because, uh, well, it's interesting that you say about boys, my son dances his eight and there's maybe one, there's only one or two in the class, and he does the eisteddfod thing, too, and it's mostly against girls all of the time. So yeah, it's one of those things with boys dancing. They don't do it as much, but certainly get involved.
Kate – They do more hip hop at least or some street dancing. There's a lot more boys here.
Jackie – Yeah? What? What sort of disciplines did you sort of go down?
Kate – Um, well, Karen taught modern dance techniques, but also ballet. I think I knew fairly early on that I didn't have the physique. I had quite a tendency to be muscly. And it's certainly not something encouraged in a ballerina. And I've always been told I don't have very good feet for a girl. Apparently, if I was a boy, they'd be okay. But no, I can't. My feet don't point beautifully. So, ballet was out of the question. Mind you, I was never really drawn. I really admire people who achieve positions in ballet and who can do it well because it's a very demanding discipline, but generally for me, it doesn't display as much of humanity as I'm interested in. It's a very narrow aesthetic that we're talking about in ballet, so I wasn't naturally drawn to it. So yeah, I think I'm not sure if we did Graham technique, but we certainly did Limon. Limon, which is a version of a contemporary, and Cunningham a bit, I think. I think it was a mixture of a lot of things, floor technique, but ballet as well. And then, as I said, improvisation and choreographic and creative tasks which we would spend weekends as an eight year old making up dances, too, and learning the structure of music, which was really great as well.
Jackie – that’s really fantastic because, like, I think now most would sort of do your RAD and or your tap exams or work through exams. So, to have that option to be creative and make up your own dances from a young age, I think is really important to bring that out in students.
Kate – Well, I'll tell you one story that's very unusual, and I guess it's divulging a bit of family history that's a bit sensitive, but due to something that was going on in my family, we had to go to family therapy. And when I went to dance lessons one of the afternoons after going to family therapy Karen Kalkhoven asked what we did. And I said the therapist asked us to put the family in positions in the room as we saw how we related to each other. So back to back or far apart or close or sitting down, standing up. And she took that task. And then we did it in our dance class and everyone made up, I guess, photographs of how they related to their family. And she took something that I guess could have easily been quite painful or traumatic into something creative. And, yeah, it was extraordinary.
Jackie – That is so special. So, through your study with Karen, you then ended up studying in Munich as well. So, you went overseas with your dancing?
Kate – My father was an academic, so every seven years we would spend in another country. So, when I was six weeks old, we were in New Haven, Connecticut. When I was seven, we were in California, and when I was 13 14, we went to Munich. We tried to go to school there. My sister and I, she would have been probably 12, I guess, and 11 12 and I was 13 14, and we progressively were put into lower and lower schools in this German school because we didn't speak German. So, I ended up with eight year olds, and it was kind of pointless in the end. They were able to send my sister to an international school. And in the end, I ended up, my mother found this amazing dance school that just was so eccentric and wonderful and had some of the best teachers from London and New York going through it, and they offered me a scholarship. So, I ended up at 13, dancing all year and going to a German language school in the evening and doing some study by correspondence, but mainly dancing. And yeah, I was incredibly lucky. They wanted me to stay because they were going to start a dance company, but my parents weren't going to leave me there alone at that age. But then, as it turned out, I came back to Australia, finished year 10, hadn't heard anything from the company in Munich. Then they wrote saying that they had started the company. They had a performance in six weeks. They'd send my airfare. Could I be there in two weeks? And so much convincing was needed from on my part to my parents to let me go. But I did eventually convince them that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and because they knew the people that I was going to, they let me go. And so, two weeks after my 16th birthday I travelled alone back to Munich and joined a dance company.
Jackie – Wow. And how long did you stay? There for?
Kate – I stayed a year, and then I came back for a year. And then I went back for two. So ultimately, I spent four teenage years 14, 16, 18 and 19 in Germany. And the three of them in this dance company. Evanston Dance Company run by a Swedish woman, actually.
Jackie – Oh, wow. And you obviously got to do a fair bit of performing with that dance company.
Kate – Yes, a lot. Um, and teaching. I taught a lot. I taught disco to German housewives with my very limited, because Saturday Night Fever was all the rage. I taught Graham technique even though I've only just learned it myself. Yeah. You know, I guess I was earning my keep as much because it was even though we did performances, it wasn't a full time company.So there were other ways we needed to, they needed to finance it. Yeah. Yeah. I taught from a very young age.
Jackie – Fantastic. That is so interesting and so lucky that your parents did let you go and do that. That's such a like a big experience for a 16-year-old to go overseas, but by yourself.
Kate – I think they were apprehensive. And my mother was still, I think, you know, a lot of other parents are shocked when they hear that, but I guess they trusted me enough to know that'd be okay.
Jackie – Fantastic. So here in Australia, you were a founding member of Dance North in Townsville and founding artistic director of Force Majeure. So, you’ve done quite a bit of work as a dancer and artistic director for dance in Australia. And in London you were also in DV8 physical theatre, which sounded very interesting as well. Can you talk about your work, I guess here in Australia, as a dancer with those two companies Dance North and Force Majeure.
Kate – Well Dance North was based in Townsville and I was quite ignorant. I didn't realize quite how far north it was, but it was a wonderful experience, is a very small company was six dancers. It had been North Queensland Ballet before it transferred to become a contemporary dance company led by Cheryl Stock. And it was just great because we did so much touring to really incredible places some of the islands of the Barrier Reef to central Australia to Nhulunbuy in Arnhem Land. Just incredible experiences of place, seeing regional Australia and parts of Australia that I think you don't experience in the same way when you're a tourist and you get to know local people in a way you wouldn't otherwise and I certainly got you see a lot of Australia and I think when it's six people, you become quite close and we were all very young and it was a real adventure. It was very, God, Townsville can be so hot. So, we didn't have air conditioning in the dance studio, so I remember there was a power strike once and we would be doing a demonstration or a performance by candlelight, and we were just slipping off each other. We were sweating so much, but, you know, go flying in a tiny plane to Nhulunbuy in Arnhem Land and performing for Aboriginal communities there and doing workshops was a real eye opener and incredibly humbling. And, yeah, eye opening experience and something I, yeah, I think because we were the age we were at the time was early twenties. It was all quite a big adventure.
Jackie – Yeah, I'm sure it would have been.
Kate – And then I was in the Australian Dance Theatre between then and with DV8. So that was in Adelaide. Um, that was a bigger company. And I was two years in that run by Lee Warren, and that was a bit different. But again, some wonderful regional touring. Lee was an incredible teacher. I was able to gain even in my late twenties, a lot of techniques. So, I have had a very unusual way into my career in that I didn't formally train and I didn't do a lot of schooling, it's quite rare for that to happen. So, I've always felt like I always need to keep learning. And even though I used to worry about my lack of formal training, I now, I'm kind of proud of the fact that I've always learned on the job, and it doesn't mean that I don't admire a formal training immensely. But I do think that this idea that you train and then you know it's not really useful and that I'm still learning today and I just turned 59. So, I think it's a lot, and I was always learning because I felt I didn't know. But it's put me in such good stead to have that attitude all my career,
Jackie – Something that we talk about in education a lot is turning our students into lifelong learners. And I really love that philosophy that you've just shared because I don't think at any point you can know everything.
Kate – There's always more to learn.
Jackie – Always, absolutely, so that's very interesting.
Kate – Yeah, I founded Force Majeure, which was a lifelong dream of mine, to have my own company very much a dance theatre company. When I say that, it certainly has dance in it and dances. But equally, half of the performance was made up of text, and half the cast were always actors. So, it was a real blend of multi art form, designing the set from scratch, using a lot of film elements in the live performance, working with composers from scratch, writers, as I said, actors and dancers. So, it was, I'd like to call it more, almost a performance company. Then it's always labels you have to come up with labels and in, you know, this country dance theatre seems to fit what we were doing. But it eventually became more theatre than dance. So that is why I've ended up directing plays. But yes, it was a lifelong dream to work with particularly colleagues Geoff Cobham, Roz Hervey, who I've known for both of them for about 30 years, and the various other people who worked with Force Majeure. Just getting credit when you find that you have a chemistry as creatives or artists together, and how you can keep building on that so you end up having a shorthand. You try not to repeat yourself, but you also already know what you've done together. So, you can just keep discovering. And that's what we did for the other thing. It was 13 years that I had the company
Jackie – Fantastic. I really love how you've got this, like amalgamation of dance and drama. A lot of our dance teachers out there are a lot of them are dance drama teachers. So, it's kind of nice that you've your career has both of those elements inthem.
Kate – Um, think possibly if I hadn't been sent to dance classes when I was younger, I would have just gone into theatre. So I'm very grateful because you can never even, if I direct a play that has no movement component, I'm still very aware of what we give off with our body and our body language and how you inhabit a role physically as much as you do with your words and characterisation.
Jackie – Yeah, fantastic. Where did your interest in, I guess theatre start to begin? So, moving from dance into more story, well, I guess I'm going to say into more storytelling, but it sounds like the storytelling started at the beginning.
Kate – It did. I admire dance technique a lot, and there are some abstract pieces that I find very mesmerizing and meditative and can affect you deeply. But generally, I'm not so interested in want of a better word making shapes like I'm not interested in. Generally, there's definitely exceptions. I do like when there's some meaning associated with what's up there imparting some sense of the human condition, which obviously can be done without words. And it doesn't have to be. But I guess it's the storytelling that I am interested in and real-life human situations. And sometimes dance without theatricality or words or storytelling can be so open ended to interpretation that it can still be moving. But I guess I've always wanted more specificity in in communication. Mind you, I can also find just talking head plays, where they do nothing but speak and stand very still, quite sometimes tedious as well. So, I guess I just, it's what your taste is, isn't it? And it's what's turned, what turned, what pushes your buttons? And that's why I encourage all students and to expose yourself to as much as you can and find out what you like. And it might not be what everyone else likes, but that is a big indicator to what you should pursue, because there's a reason why when you see it, you get a reaction and it and you talk about it and it stays with you and it affects you. And I also had quite, I didn't have a religious upbringing. And I guess sometimes religion for people fulfils that mode of why are we all here and what's it all mean? Whereas sometimes for me, when I've seen artwork by people who don't know me at all or read a book by someone who can't know anything of my life? And I've been so incredibly astounded at how similar and articulate the way they've articulated the same experience I've had as a human, and I feel that that gives me a great sense of I don't know, some sense of purpose or meaning or connectedness that I think art fulfils a lot. And so that's why, in long winded answer, that I was drawn more to storytelling aspects or work that has clarity and meaning.
Jackie – So in 97 you began your collaboration with Neil Armfield. Was that sort of your first foray into moving in a like drama direction?
Kate – Um, Let me think. Look, my brother studied drama at Victoria College of the Arts and we got to go to plays that he was in. He also joined circuses, and so he was quite influential in some work I did early on that was related to physical theatre. We did a show called Suspense that had circus, text, dance, multi-platform. Steven, my brother, was the reason why I went to some of the first plays. My dance teacher was connected to the old Tote, which was a theatre company in Sydney, I think. Early ensemble days. So even though she was in dance, she had theatre connections. So, I think there's been a myriad of people and influences. But I think Neil was the first theatre director I worked with. So yeah, in that regard, possibly. Yes, I'd say so. You know, I've worked with him quite a lot and learned a lot from him. Yeah.
Jackie – So was there a show in 97? I read that you began your collaboration with him in 97.
Kate – Alright. 87 was an opera called Frankie in Adelaide. But probably the first major collaboration was about 97. You're right. 98 on Cloud Street, the original Cloud Street, which was a five hour play. Um, that had quite a bit of movement in it, actually. And was an original Australian, you know, based on Tim Winton's book and ended up being incredibly successful and toured the world for quite some years, but that that was our probably our most significant collaboration. We have also more recently worked on the Ring Cycle, which is an opera.
Jackie – Yeah, I was going to ask you about the Ring Cycle because I know it was massive. It was in 2013 and that then relaunched in in 2016. So how did you find working on an opera like the Ring Cycle? In comparison to the work that you had done previously in dance?
Kate – Look, I learned a lot from it. It's incredible. The Ring Cycle can be like this extravagant, you know, full music and requiring massive theatricality. And then it can suddenly boil down to three people on stage. And even though they're singing, it's almost like they're in a Pinter play. So just understanding how much Wagner has influenced music that's been written since, so I kind of learned it backwards. I listened to it and think, that's like a movie tune, score from a film and realized that it was influenced by Wagner. So, it was quite an education for me. Yeah, it was eye opening. I'm not sure Opera generally is my natural home, but I have incredible admiration for the scale of it. I love the scale of it. I love what can be achieved visually, and how singers need to work in such a different way. Um, and how I just love performers, though, that are up for anything. And usually it's the most professional ones that will give anything a go. And I love that rather than needing to just stand and sing. I had to work with a lot of people, there was 75 volunteers, 40 chorus, I think we were aiming, I think we had 120 people on stage for the opening Rheingold and I had to organize them all into moving, you know, moving river of human flesh. And that was quite extraordinary and demanding. And so, I think it was paid off. I'm not sure I'd race to do that again, because it's just such a full-on thing. But yeah. And its a once in a lifetime experience.
Jackie – I can't imagine there'd be too many other art forms where you have that many people on stage at once, either. Like in music theatre, companies aren't that big. No dance companies. They're not that big either. Are they?
Kate – No, I guess we're talking Olympic opening ceremony style. Yeah. Volunteers. Because you wouldn't, you know, be able to afford that.
Jackie – Yeah, well, I saw too that you choreographed Dirty Dancing. The world premiere of Dirty Dancing. And I wondered, how did you find that? Given that it's so iconic, like, everybody knows the Dirty Dancing lift, how you were able to maybe take what was there and already old, but then also bring in your own sort of style to that?
Kate – Yeah, well, look, I never had any intentions to be involved in musicals, and I didn't have an agent. I wasn't in the phone book as it was then, in 2003. But they tracked me down because they've seen, someone had seen one of my shows, works and the way I've incorporated live actors on stage with filmed imagery. And anyway, they finally tracked me down and I said, it's not what I do. And they said, could you please come in for an interview? Because it's taken us a long time to find you anyway. So, I went in to explain why I wasn't the right person for the job. And the more I said, I don't really do unison. I like people to really look like human beings, I like a wide range of body shapes. The more I said this, which I thought would turn them off completely, the more Eleanor, who wrote the original screenplay for the movie became more interested in me. So anyway, long story short, I ended up choreographing it. If you've seen the film, because it's got such an incredible cult following, you have to. It would be like you can't do Rocky Horror Show without doing the famous dance, and like you say, you've got to have the lift in it. So, there were things that I knew I had to have in it, and there was a legal arrangement where a certain percentage from the original film company we were allowed to use. But then, if you watch the film, there's a couple of the couples dancing, but there's not eight couples, so there were ways to find new things into it, but it was both paying respect and homage to what existed and contributing new material, so it had to be a balance of both. But the thing about Dirty Dancing is the audience, just to see how much they love being there, and it's just the way they drink it up and just almost go back out, buy a ticket to come back in. It's kind of this incredible, addictive experience, and it's a wonderful thing to be part of something that brings so much joy to people. It was it was a challenge because it wasn't like opera. It wasn't a natural fit for me, but I have since grown a soft spot for musicals.
Jackie – Yeah, is that the only musical theatre that you've done? Oh, you've got spring awakening.
Kate – And I also did a brand-new musical at the Hayes two years ago called Evie May. So yeah, and it was a positive experience. I had a good time on that. Yeah.
Jackie – I see you've directed plays as well. I noted that you've done Every Brilliant Thing that at Belvoir, which students of mine went to a couple of years ago and they loved it. It really made them have to think.
Kate – I think, I don't say this lightly. It's kind of a perfect play in how it's conceived and what it does with a little. You know, basically, the first page says it should be performed in the round with no lights or no set. So, it's incredible. You can see it and HBO have done a recording of that. I don't know how easy it is to see it in Australia, but, um, if you can see it, it's worth it.
Jackie – I know the kids from our school really loved it, and so did the teacher.
Kate – Right. There's a lot of participatory theatre now where the audience are involved. I think it's a really great example of how to do audience participation in a way that's not cringe worthy. And that honours the subject matter of the play, doesn't embarrass anybody. And such an incredible thing to deal with the subject of suicide in a way that is both serious and yet somehow light-hearted, because it was devised with the writer and a comedian to perform. Johnny was, he's a comedian, so he brought that to it. But now, it's been all around the world, performed in so many different languages. So, it's an extraordinary thing to be involved with, actually.
Jackie – Do you like moving into the directing plays as opposed to dancing? Where do you sort of feel like you're most natural fit is these days?
Kate – Oh, look, everything is a challenge. And because I move around the way I do, there's inevitable imposter syndrome that comes with it because, you know, what's the choreographer doing directing a play or what's all the different things I've done? And I've always been drawn to putting myself on the line to see whether my bag kit of tools that I've developed over the years can stand up to, you know, putting myself somewhere which isn't my comfort zone. So, when I say natural fit, it's a combination of something you're drawn to because it excites you and combined with a challenge that you're to prove to myself. So, I've done. I've directed about seven or eight plays since I left Force Majeure and they've ranged from participatory, small like Every Brilliant Thing to Arthur Miller's A View From the Bridge. Um, various. I just opened My Brilliant Career last week. The joke is that at Belvoir I only direct plays with brilliant in the title, because Every Brilliant Thing and My Brilliant Career. I don’t know how to say if it's my natural fit. Depends on the play. It really depends on play, whether I'm excited by what it's trying to say to people or not. Say what it's trying to the angle. It's presenting for people to potentially look at something differently. Or here's something that they haven't been exposed to or all those things. So, it's really the material more than the form.
Jackie – I'm feeling like it's how it connects personally with you or with the human experience?
Kate – Yeah, and the team. Look, it's never me. It's the designer, the composer, the writer, the theatre company itself, the actors that you know. It's what that combination is, that is the attraction and that all those things have to be weighed up.
Jackie – Last question before we delve into schools. I noticed you've done some work on films doing the movement sequences on films. So, the film Somersault with Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington and Red. How do those experiences differ from, I guess, the theatre, the dancing and the film world?
Kate – Well, I haven't done as much film as I would have liked to, and you have to really commit to film, and I guess because I'm so involved in so many art forms to just single out film didn't happen. But I still hope for more film experiences. I guess it's not different in a lot of ways. For Somersault, I worked with Abbie and Sam the same way I've worked with any performers on anything just loosening up their physicality, giving them tasks to think of. So rather than thinking of, say, a lovemaking scene or something to not think literally, but to give them something else. For example, if you ever see Somersault, you'll see this really sexy dance she does, and all I did was ask her to keep her hands on her thighs while she moved. But it was because of the way she interpreted that task, that it became what it was. And with Red, it was working with Cate Blanchett, who is just the most phenomenal, I mean, everyone knows her as an incredible actor, but she's an incredible physical interpreter. She'll try anything and she's very inventive physically, so it didn't make my job very hard. So, it's again. It's a conversation. It's a collaboration of what can I give that will help this incredibly inventive creative person to hang on to something while the cameras are rolling. It's more about filling their mind with something that's going to be useful in the moment. Whereas when you do something that has to be a regular performance, it's a different way of working. Whereas film is capturing something more fleeting. So, I guess it's just adjusting to those two differences.
Jackie – Yeah, delving into schools. It sounds like your schooling experience was quite diverse as well, obviously being a little bit here in a little bit overseas. Were you able to study any sort of arts subjects at school or be involved in the creative arts at school? Or was it sort of too a little bit all over the place in different places? And you got it mostly from outside of school?
Kate – I didn't get it mostly from outside of school. I did do arts visual arts at Pittwater High, and I enjoyed that a lot. But yeah, I guess because dance is so all consuming and honestly from when I grew up as a child, you didn't do six different activities. You didn't do guitar piano, language, soccer, you know, people didn't do it. I don't think as many things, and I was quite content to focus on dance, but I do remember enjoying visual arts a lot at school. It was a great balance to dancing because it was, you know, such a different way of expressing yourself. So, it was a good balance. Yeah, because I wasn't at school a lot. That's what I thought I thought before this interview. I'm being quite fraudulent here and maybe should have warned you how little schooling I've had. It doesn't mean I don't value schooling. And it's just happens to be how my life turned out.
Jackie – Yeah, sure. So, what are your thoughts for our teachers? Because we obviously have dance and drama on offer in the New South Wales syllabus. What are your thoughts on preparing students for a career in, say, dance or drama through our subjects at
school? What sort of things can we do to help their mindset or prepare?
Kate – Yeah, Look, I think it's hard to know. I mean, with dance, it's easier to know whether you want to pursue it from a young age. I think, with acting, it can come later. I know this is quite a cliché at the moment, but I do think resilience is incredibly important because yeah, sometimes actors call, they jokingly call auditions humiliations. It's just you have to, they're not, it's just that you have to somehow make a joke about being rejected. You have to become so used to it. There are so many reasons why you might not be the right person for the role, and it can have sometimes had nothing to do with your talent. But even going back further, two things I'd like to say is, well, one in dance in particular, I think dance is such an incredible discipline, but also a wonderful way to appreciate music. Um, a discipline for fitness, a way to not be in your head because we're stuck so long at the computer. So even if you don't make it as a professional dancer, it will always be a benefit to your life. And I know that because dancers often, particularly ballet dancers, end their career, particularly they have children, often don't get past mid-thirties. I would say to any employer if they see a dancer rock up who applies for a job, but they don't have qualifications, hire them, because they will work harder than anyone I know. They will be on time. They're usually really smart, although they're not often asked for their opinions, so they often don't articulate because they asked to just shut up and copy and do and train their body. But I also think more than anything for me, the most important thing that teachers can do at school, yes, people students might become actors or dancers, but most importantly, it's an appreciation of what the arts mean in society. So we need to train our audiences as much as we do the people who are standing on stage. And if we have wonderful people in all sorts of professions nurses, lawyers, truck drivers, anything you name having an appreciation of the arts, understanding what it brings to our lives and what it brings to our culture and what it the benefit it gives to social cohesion, then we will be a much better society. So, I think it's just share. Imbuing and enthusiasm for the importance of the arts and creativity in life is the most important thing a teacher can do and that I personally value as an artist in what teachers do in schools more than anything else. And I think it's an incredible job.
Jackie – I love that. It sounds like mostly just sort of exposure and getting them interested in lots of different elements.
Kate – Take them to as many, expose them, especially things they think they don't like. They need to become articulate as to why they don't like it, because if they don't like it, then they'll know more why they do like what they do. Tenacity. You know, it's again. It's like resilience. Sometimes so much can be luck. So, you have to be prepared. You have to have trained. You have to train your mind as much as your body, and often it's being in the right place at the right time. But yeah, if you give up too easily, then you're not going to survive anyway. So, it's probably, you know, it is a bit survival of the fittest as well. Um, sometimes people that have enormous natural talent end up not lasting long because they haven't had to fight for what they've got, because it comes more naturally. So, if you're not naturally talented, that doesn't mean you're not going to make it with a lot of tenacity and hard work. So, yeah, I think it's you know, and I guess a lot of people say, put the fear of the fear into people that they won't survive financially, and all I know is that the richness I've had from being involved in the arts and creativity has given me so much more worth than monetary or financial gain. But you have to know that's what means something to you. You have to decide that for yourself.
Jackie – Yeah, and connect with the work. I really, really love that. Thank you so much for sharing some of that expertise today and just those philosophies, I guess, on the performing arts and your diverse career. It's so interesting to hear all of the different sort of facets. And just to think that just because you've trained as a dancer or that you started your career as a dancer doesn't mean that that's what you're locked into you. There's lots of different pathways, I guess that you can explore.
Kate – Yeah, I think Julie Taymor said, her name from you know, those big musicals on Broadway. I'm pretty sure she started as a dancer. And there's some also leaving dance. There's been some quite incredible lawyers and people retrain as well, and I always thought that although it hasn't quite happened that you can you can continue to educate yourself as formal education can go right through to very old age. It's from it up.
Jackie – Beautiful. I'd like to finish with my final fast five. So, five quick questions about you. Well, they never end up quick. Actually, I'll try and we'll see how we go. So what high school did you go to?
Kate –Well, I went to Queenwood in Mossman. Queenwood Girls School for one year and two years to Pittwater High school. And as I said, one year in kind of correspondence in Germany.
Jackie – Wow. So were you able to have a favourite teacher? And why would that teacher has been a favourite?
Kate – Yes, it was Mr Thomas and he taught history and he would teach history by just telling stories. It was like going in. And it was like bedtime stories. And we all kept thinking when's he going to teach the syllabus. And there were a whole bunch of us that were in awe and would listen to every word. There are a couple of kids that mucked up up the back. And then one day he said. I'm going to test you on everything I've told you on the Ming Dynasty this last week, and the kids at the back freaked out and had to stay up all night studying, and we've been listening to him, so we weren't worried. And he came in the next day and he asked the kids out the back if they studied. And they all said yes, they had. He said, “Good. We won't need to do the exam.”
Jackie – Very interesting.
Kate – Yeah, he just had an unorthodox way, and I guess again, that storytelling thing that just I just found, I kind of tune out when it gets too dry with how some things taught and when it's given in an imaginative way, you don't even realize you're learning. It's a bit like exercise. There’re ways you can exercise. You don't realize you're exercising. There’re ways that is just very, very tedious and hard work.
Jackie – I love that about the storytelling, though, and you can. It's a very good technique for teaching, I think is to teach through storytelling because they pick it up a lot better.
Kate – I think so
Jackie – Your favourite subject at school and why?
Kate – Well it was history because of that. I think and look, I did really enjoy German because I got the opportunity to be there, and so when I came back, and it's just an amazing experience and I think because we're an island, although we should learn more languages of countries much closer to us, but learning any other language, I just find a wonderful experience. And that's something I value a lot, even though it's rusty, my German, but whenever I go there and can communicate, it's just a real buzz. So, I enjoyed that a lot.
Jackie – I bet. Your best school achievement or memory?
Kate – Look, I think it's the friends I made, even though I wasn't there for a long time. I've reconnected with four women that I went even one when I was in kindergarten, where and we're back in touch, and there's nothing that replaces the friendships that you've had for like over 50 years. It's just an incredible thing to look into someone else's eyes when you get much older and realize you've known him that long and you can, even though there was a big gap when we lost communication, it's just picked up as if we were always in touch. And that means more to me than anything from school. I mean, I loved learning, and I loved it. But the people you meet, um, and if you can stay in touch with them there, there's something very precious about that
Jackie – I can relate to that and the last one, whichever way you want to answer this; your one takeaway from your schooling experience or some advice to teachers?
Kate – Oh, I always appreciated not being spoken down to. I appreciate it. I mean, I guess obviously people are younger, but I always think they rise to you. Not meaning, you have to be buddies or friends with them at all. But I think children can take on quite complex and mature arguments or premise or subjects if you give them the opportunity. So, I think the people are the teachers I valued the most, gave me that respect and gave me at the time to express my opinion, and it wasn't just telling it was a conversation, and that's what I appreciate it.
Jackie – Thank you so much for your time today and for sharing so much expertise on what has really been a really diverse career across sort of dance and drama and even into film and opera. It kind of covers all of our creative arts subjects. So, it's been fantastic to talk to you. And yeah, I really thank you for your time. And hopefully I can see one of your plays at Belvoir or something in the near future.
Kate – Yeah, well, My Brilliant Career is on until the end of January. I've really enjoyed this conversation. So, thank you so much, Jackie. And anyone who's listening. Thank you.
Jackie – Thank you. This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team Secondary Learners Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Get involved in the conversation by joining the Statewide Staff Room as a source of all truths regarding curriculum or email our curriculum advisor, Catherine Horvat using the email address email@example.com. The music for this podcast was composed by Alex Manton, an audio production by Jason King
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