Q&A with Academy Teacher Lisa Edwards

Q&A with Academy Teacher Lisa Edwards

Lisa Edwards’ path intertwined with Queensland Ballet’s on a winter’s day in 2004 in Hamburg, Germany. François Klaus, Artistic Director at the time, and Artistic Associate Robyn White were in the country holding open auditions, and despite enjoying four years of dancing across Europe in Swiss and German companies, Lisa leapt at the chance to move back home. She hasn’t looked back. After rising through the ranks at Queensland Ballet to become a Senior Soloist and developing her own Pilates business on the side, she retired from the stage in 2018 and now imparts her vast knowledge as a teacher to the students at Queensland Ballet Academy.

Dancers also have the opportunity to learn from Lisa in our upcoming Summer School Session 2

You grew up in Dubbo in regional New South Wales – how did you discover your love of dance?

I watched a lot of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movies as a young person and wanted to learn tap dancing. My teachers suggested it would be good to also get some dance technique, so I learned ballet, tap, jazz, song and character – the works. They recognised I had some talent and started sending me to competitions and eisteddfods in Sydney. Placing there was quite a big thing as I was against dancers from all the big Sydney schools.

From Dubbo to The Australian Ballet School?

I attended the Guest Associate program with The Australian Ballet School then auditioned and was offered a place. I was also offered a place at the Royal Ballet School but decided to stay in Australia. I moved to Melbourne by myself at 15 and I was terribly homesick for the first year! By the third year, I shared a flat with one of the other dancers, which was a really nice experience, and really close to the school as well.

Where was your first professional contract?

There were no jobs in Australia, so I spent four months auditioning across Europe, attending 14 auditions in total. It was back when I had to use a physical map, and not knowing the languages and being only 19 made it all a little bit more challenging! I got into Stadttheater St Gallen in Switzerland, then went to Germany and danced in two companies - Anhaltisches Theater Dessau and Stadttheater Koblenz. It was a great experience, I really recommend it to people. You’re required to dance in musicals and other productions, so you have to be incredibly versatile and flexible. There’s usually a huge mix of nationalities, and the hours are very different to here – we’d start at 10am and work until 2pm, then work 6pm until 10pm. It was hard when it was winter and dark and snowing!

2024 will mark your 20th anniversary with Queensland Ballet – congratulations! What are a few of your highlights from your career as a dancer?

I’ve just realised I’ve worked with this organisation pretty much half my life! My first performance was the International Gala – the Rite of Spring as well as the Classical Waltz. Highlights over the years include performing as Cinderella and Fairy Godmother in Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella; The Sylph in La Sylphide; Sugar Plum Fairy and Snow Queen in Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker, Giselle and Myrtha in Giselle, and I retired as a at the end of 2018 after performing the Arabian dance in The Nutcracker, which is probably what I was best known for. It doesn’t feel that long ago - I still hear the music and get those feelings.

How did you transition into teaching at the Academy?

In 2019, I began teaching Level 4 students one day a week, while also building my Pilates business, and teaching adult dance classes. Just this year, I’ve become a full-time teacher here, teaching both Upper and Lower Schools. It has been a big year – the organisation has to be so on point because we have to plan so far in advance, and also working around Kelvin Grove State College exams and College commitments. Additionally, we do a lot of staff development and training, as well as child protection education – we are always learning all the time, but I think I’ve really found my groove.

Favourite aspect of being an Academy Teacher?

I wasn’t aware of how quickly you get connected with the students. We see some of them more than their families – especially the students who live away from home, so that is quite special. I really love the team I work with, and to see those friendships and relationships, as well as the Academy itself, develop since I’ve been with Queensland Ballet has been really interesting. I saw what it was before and now it’s just thriving – it’s a world-class organisation right up there with the top schools in the world.

What makes the Academy a special place to train at?

It’s one of the few big schools in Australia that has such an amazing facility, plus it’s a really caring and nurturing environment. The set up between the Academy and Kelvin Grove State College is so well done, and the program is QCAA accredited so it’s helping the Upper School students’ by providing points towards their QCE. It’s a strong team here and you can see everyone is always striving to be better and that motivates you. Another aspect I love is having live pianists – I’ve always loved listening to music, and that we are fortunate to have these incredibly talented pianists is really lovely.

How does your Pilates teaching complement your dance teaching?

A dream of mine is to one day have my own studio, but at the moment, I’m teaching Pilates outside the Academy only one day as week as the weeks are so busy! I currently do Pilates and Body Conditioning with the students here as well, teaching across all levels, at our Pilates studio here at the Academy. I’m able to tailor the programs to the individuals, which is really beneficial. Ballet and Pilates support each other so well, and it’s great to be able to say ‘this exercise relates to this’ to give them that body awareness and understanding.

What are your top audition tips for young dancers?

There are simple things like wear something that’s comfortable and that will flatter you aesthetically. Try not to compare yourself to others in the room – stay focused on what you’re doing at the time. Etiquette is important – how you present yourself, how you wait at the side – we see all of that. Be pleasant, be engaging, be kind. And we want to see that you’re enjoying what you’re doing. We want to see quality, we want to see artists, and if you’re enjoying it, that makes us feel at ease and want to watch you, too.

For more information about our Summer Schools and to register, visit our website below.

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We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we work and perform. Long before we performed on this land, it played host to the dance expression of our First Peoples. We pay our respects to their Elders — past, present and emerging — and acknowledge the valuable contribution they have made and continue to make to the cultural landscape of this country.

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