Entrechats with Amelia Waller

Amelia Waller has been a member of the Queensland Ballet family since 2002, completing the Company’s Professional Year (now Pre-Professional Program - PPP) before climbing its ranks to Soloist under former Artistic Director, François Klaus. Her passion lies in Contemporary Dance, which she now teaches to the aspiring dancers of our Academy.

Entrechats with Amelia Waller

What sparked your love of dance?

When I was young I absolutely loved music and would dance anytime I heard a beat – nothing’s changed really! I think this stemmed from our family’s adoration for all things Scottish. My grandpa was a passionate bagpiper and three generations of my family were Scottish Dancers. As a result, I started learning Highland Dancing before transitioning to ballet in my hometown of Bendigo, Victoria.

At age 13, I auditioned and was accepted into the Victorian College of Arts in Melbourne. Initially I was told that I didn’t have enough facility to succeed in the ballet world and would likely spend much of my time injured, however I was very determined to prove them wrong. My passion for dance took precedence over my limited turn out, and I accepted their offer without any hesitation. I moved away the following year and lived in a boarding house with 20 other arts students. Whilst it may seem young leaving home at 13, I absolutely loved residing with so many passionate young dancers, musicians and actors. There was certainly never a dull moment!

I eventually trained full-time under Christine Walsh before successfully auditioning for Queensland Ballet’s Professional Year, which I completed in 2002.

How did you break into the industry?

During the second half of my Professional year training I was given more opportunities to work with the Company. I was fortunate to be invited on their ‘smalls tour’, performing in regional areas throughout Queensland. I then joined the Company officially in 2003 and was promoted to Soloist about three years later.

Amelia performing as Stella in Queensland Ballet's A Streetcar Named Desire in 2009.

How did you discover Contemporary Dance and why did you fall in love with it?

Contemporary was something that I always enjoyed and felt connected to, however it was during my time with Queensland Ballet under François Klaus that I really began to explore it fully. I always found our International Galas particularly inspiring. Each year, some of the best dancers from around the world would guest with us, and we were also given the opportunity to learn pieces by international choreographers during this time. In 2009, we worked with Mario Schroeder, Chief Choreographer and Director of The Leipzig Ballet in Germany. The piece was called ‘Strawberry Lips’, an energetic work danced while immersed in water. I absolutely loved Mario’s style as it was fast, quirky, inspiring and challenging. This became my catalyst for exploring other opportunities abroad.

At the beginning of 2010 I ventured overseas to audition for three months. I ended up being accepted into Mario Schroeder’s Company, The Leipzig Ballet, where I danced until 2015 working with many reputable choreographers and touring globally.

Has there been a standout role or performance you can share from your career?

I have always enjoyed playing dimensional characters which have a big acting component. I loved playing Stella in Queensland Ballet’s A Streetcar Named Desire, as well as Carmen in Carmen. One of my greatest memories, however, was playing Charlie Chaplin in Mario Schroeder’s Chaplin. It was such an intense yet enjoyable process researching the character and trying to master such a genius respectively, I think I found myself waddling down the street a few times in a ‘Chaplin trance’! I was very fortunate to perform the role in front of his daughter, Geraldine Chaplin and meeting her is something I’ll never forget, it was such an honour.

Chaplin also holds a special place in my heart as it was the very first and very last role I danced in Europe. The journey didn’t end there though – In 2018, I taught the Academy students an excerpt from Chaplin and organised for Mario Schroeder to work with them leading up to their Gala performance. It was such a lovely ‘full circle’ moment.

Amelia meets Geraldine Chaplin after performing in Mario Schroeder's Chaplin with The Leipzig Ballet.

Tell us about your transition from dancer to teacher.

I retired from the stage in 2015 and moved back to beautiful sunny Brisbane, not long after I started being offered teaching and adjudicating opportunities. I reconnected with my Queensland Ballet family after six years and began working initially with the Education Team, teaching adult classes and some PPP contemporary workshops. I now teach Contemporary for the Associate Program students and also the PPPs weekly, which I absolutely love. Personally I feel I can really relate to the students in the Pre-Professional Program as I was once in their shoes. I understand the emotional rollercoaster they go through not knowing if they will get that dream contract, and I hope they find it encouraging that some of their teachers have been in the exact same position, and made it!

As for transitioning from dancer to teacher, it hasn’t come without its challenges, insecurities and uncertainties! The two are very different jobs. It has taken a while for me to find my own teaching and choreographic style but now I feel more confident and know exactly what I want to achieve. I have to mention that working alongside my ex QB Company colleagues, Christian Tátchev, Lisa Edwards, Zenia Tátcheva, Clare Morehen, Paul Boyd and Melissa Tattam, makes things easier as we are all so supportive and have known each other for a long time. I’d also like to say that our Head of Contemporary, Louise Deleur has also been so encouraging and has mentored me since the beginning of my teaching journey. It’s actually funny to think I am working alongside Louise and Paul, who both choreographed on me way back in 2002 – I feel extremely lucky.

How has your teaching adapted in the past few months?

It’s been a pretty challenging few months to say the least, learning how to navigate online platforms and teaching / dancing from our living rooms, however everyone has adapted so well. Despite not having large studio spaces or face-to-face contact, I have actually found that this period of isolation has ignited new ways to be creative and has sometimes even worked to my advantage! I’ve really been encouraging all of my students to dance without any inhibitions, practise their artistry and take more risks improvising and choreographing whilst there are no distractions. I know I have!

Do you have any advice you could offer to your younger self?

Be fearless! Don’t compare yourself to others and be confident in your abilities. Choreographers and directors want to work with dancers who takes risks and challenges themselves and are often searching for their next muse, so be that muse! Allow yourself to be vulnerable and let your personality shine through, no one wants to work with a lifeless dancer.

"The deeper the truth in a creative work, the longer it will live." - Charlie Chaplin

Photography by Ida Zenna and David Kelly.



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