As the sun shines down, bouncing off the glistening canal water, and lighting up the chaotic configurations of colorful bikes, 24-year-old dance artist Rebecca Collins strolls along the Amsterdam streets.
Bicycle in one hand, waffles in the other, she is on the way home from the Amsterdam Central Station after a week of intense work in the small city of Deventer, East Holland, where she premiered performance art piece Pandora's DropBox at the impressive Bergkerk cathedral.
Collins is a freelance contemporary dance artist, based in Amsterdam.
She was originally from Louth Park in South Maitland. After years studying at small local school, she moved to the Marie Walton Mahon Dance Academy in Lambton at the age of 14, where she trained for two years, completing her Royal Academy of Dance classical ballet exams. She then commenced a two-year full-time study with the National College of Dance, a period of training that opened up many new possibilities for her in the world of dance.
Under the tutelage of passionate and knowledgeable teachers, Collins was able to grow as a dancer, utilising her contemporary and choreography classes as a chance to express herself outside of the rigidity of the classical ballet form.
"At the College I began to realise that for me personally, contemporary work held greater possibility - there was so much more room for experimentation within that style of movement."
"I fell in love with the videos I saw online of the Netherlands Dance Theatre [an internationally renowned Dutch contemporary dance company]. For me, the work this company was producing was incredibly eye-opening, the holy grail of contemporary performance."
"When I was 17, I saw the company perform at the Sydney Opera House, and the show had an incredibly strong impact on me."
"I can remember clearly being in the audience, standing up, applauding the dancers, with tears streaming down my face. I was so moved, I felt that I had never been touched by anything so powerfully before. In that moment I realised the power that dance can have, to remind someone what it means to be human.
"Ballet was always so enchanting, but contemporary work felt more dirty, flawed and down to earth, connecting to people by mirrors the flawed nature of humanity. I became hooked."
After deciding to pursue dance further, Collins began to look at tertiary studies and qualifications that would both push and nurture her passion for dance. The University of Arts in Amsterdam stood out, providing a rigorous contemporary dance study, a respected qualification and the opportunity to live in an exciting, creative hub. She was accepted into a fiercely competitive Bachelor in Modern Dance program, from which she has recently graduated.
"Moving to Amsterdam was an experience that completely opened my mind to the possibilities of contemporary dance," she says. "The artistic approaches taught in the school were unlike anything I had experienced before, and forced me to engage in some deep self-reflection to understand my identity and intention as an artist.
"The course also pushed me focus on developing myself as an artist outside of just dance, and I began to see that the choreographic process as something more than mimicking abstract movements.
"It is also a process of contributing yourself, your ideas, opinions and beliefs to a work. Without a formed identity to contribute to a work, you have nothing unique to offer a choreographer."
Since graduating from the intense and competitive course Rebecca has been quick to utilise her creative hat in a myriad of projects, working with choreographers in Holland and throughout Europe.
Despite a keenness to explore the art scenes throughout Europe, she has chosen Amsterdam as her base due to the tight-knit artistic community and the network of employment it provides. There are few other cities in Europe where Collins would have such ample opportunity to engage in projects with multi-disciplinary artists, while still remaining close to other creative hubs throughout Europe and the UK.
Her first professional performance experience came from her own initiative to take part in a modern improvisation workshop with the Zappala di Danza, a dance production centre in Catania, Italy.
She made a good impression on the director of the company and was selected to stay on for three months to work as part of a collective and create a work.
Collins is currently involved with two contemporary choreographers, one based in Holland, and one based in Italy, and is working in both a performance and co-collaborative role in both of these ongoing projects.
Her work in Italy has been based in Napoli, to work with a project-based company Interno Danza 5.For this work, Collins and four other dancers collaborated with choreographer Antonio Dudesu to create a piece exploring the themes and icons depicted in Caravaggio's celebrated painting 7 Acts of Mercy,circa 1607.
Another major creative venture has been her involvement with innovative and provocative German choreographer Katja Heitmann.
Having recently danced in a restaging of Pandora's Dropbox, a work exploring the current societal inclination to "optimise" human life to the point of robotic monotony, she is currently preparing a new creation Mortus Mori. Performed in a museum, this work uses the dancers like living sculptures, an archival installation revealing and paying homage to physical imperfections.
"The idea behind this installation is to dissect human movement and pull it apart, highlighting the importance of diversity and humanness," she says.
"We will be installed' into the museum space for five hours a day, six days a week, for six weeks, so it's going to be incredibly gruelling, but it's so rewarding to be a part of work that is making such powerful societal commentary."
"It's worth the pain to be a part of something that utilises such a unique style to have a powerful impact. It feels like while many other choreographers are yelling, she [Heitmann] is doing the opposite. She's slowing things down. I really enjoy this kind of work."
Where this exceptional young dancer will go next, it's impossible to say. But one thing's for sure, the Dutch are certainly feeling the impact of the inimitable Aussie flavour.
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