Jacob Williams, Queensland Ballet’s Education Coordinator, is teaching and choreographing dance at Moorambilla. He’s passionate about the benefits of children learning live dance from teaching artists and the way that he, as an educator, can enhance and extend this experience.
“Dance has the profound power to enrich and transform lives, connecting with people of all ages and backgrounds,” says Jacob. “It’s an art form that allows for the expression of both individuals and communities. It’s a defining aspect of being human and it has been a cornerstone of many cultures and civilisations.”
“At Moorambilla the entire education framework is artistic,” says Jacob. “It’s a rich teaching environment,” he explains. “We’re not in a dance studio where technique and competition rehearsals can often dominate class-time, and we’re not in a school, which adheres to a strict curriculum. Here, we are somewhere in the middle.”
“Moorambilla gives me a lot of educational space. I’m able to push the students out of their comfort zones as they work creatively – coming up with ideas and dance movements themselves. And it’s changed over the time I’ve been working here. I’m delighted that I’m currently providing the same choreographic activities to the young primary children as I have done to the high school group two years ago.”
The Moorambilla children come from 78 different schools across the region, with different education backgrounds. What most of them have in common is a rare access to dance – particularly of this calibre.
“Some children find themselves moving without thinking! And they’ve told me that they’ve never experienced this before,” says Jacob. “For me that’s an incredibly successful outcome! They’ve managed to embody the concept, allowing their movement to flow naturally from within, which is what we want.”
There’s always a strong culture of collaboration at Moorambilla, with composers on site in Baradine to work with the choreographer. “The artistry and the music is live here. I love working with Andrew Howes to weave the music and movement together for MAXed OUT,” says Jacob. “Plus we have an incredible pianist in Ben Burton, The Song Company, and the percussion artists from Taikoz. We’re modelling the collaborative process in real-time. There are no dance backing tracks here.”
Tainga Savage from Cobar is enthusiastic about being this year’s Regional Dance Intern. “I’ve never been involved with such a large number of children or on a professional production like this,” says Tai. “While I am largely self taught and come from a hip-hop background, I’m learning a lot from Jacob’s incredible techniques and teachings.”
“Observing all art heightens and develops your senses,” says Jacob. “I’m very passionate about it. It’s an aesthetic experience where all senses are engaged, opening up the neural pathways to help us feel more from the world around us, developing insights that might not have been possible.”
“Having said that, the real power of art is in the making. And that’s certainly true in dance. Yes the physical benefits are obvious – fitness, health and stamina. But there are other benefits equally powerful – a kind of enforced collaboration where leadership and communication, empathy and above all a strong relationship with music can be nurtured.”
“Michelle has fostered a community of students which have a raw talent, one that has not been limited or restricted by codified techniques, enabling them to spontaneously explore and develop their own unique movements.
“This is a key point. Between the artistry and the education, lies the dance.”
Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach—according to George Bernard Shaw, who also wrote that he never learned anything from a teacher, he taught himself everything; so maybe GBS had a little axe to grind. He got it quite wrong—the truth is that those who can do two things well, at the same time, in almost any setting, are teaching artists. (Eric Booth)
Text: Lliane Clarke
Photography: Noni Carroll.