Charmene Yap - Sydney Dance Company

Charmene Yap is a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. She achieved her Bachelor of Arts in Dance in 2006 and has been working in Australia and internationally ever since.
A member of Sydney Dance Company since 2010, she won rave reviews and numerous accolades for her performance in 2 One Another - including 'Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer' in the 2013 Australian Dance Awards.
Her latest role is in Interplay, featuring choreography from Rafael Bonachela, Jacopo Godani and Gideon Obarzanek. It premieres at Southbank Theatre in Melbourne on 30th April, running until 10th May.
I caught her post-rehearsal in the SDC studios for this interview. 
Photo by Peter Greig 

If you look back to when you graduated in 2006, what have you learnt about life as a professional dancer that you would never have imagined as a student?
That’s a hard one! When I was in uni, I don’t know if I knew what it would be like anyway. I’ve taken each project and each company as it comes. After working with a few people, each company and each way of working is very different. It’s about the variety and the sense of self that you bring to each company and each choreographer. You’re not just a dancer or a mover, you’re a collaborator and a creator.
2.    What are your feelings on the dance community in Sydney and Australia generally? Is it competitive?
Photo by Peter Greig 
Yes. In Sydney, and every place I’ve been to, including Tasmania and Melbourne, each community is very different. It’s extraordinarily competitive between great dancers and great choreographers. There’s pockets of different things going on everywhere. In Melbourne, there’s a really quirky side to creating and in Sydney, it’s more athletic and movement-based. There’s very few jobs and very few grants.
It’s been a long journey for me so absolutely, there have been times where as your own boss, you’re continually trying to find the next thing and the next paycheque. I’m lucky now that I’m in one of the very few big dance companies in Australia. I had doubts about whether it was possible when I first started out! 
Have you ever struggled with your image and what services are in place for dancers to be educated and supported in maintaining a healthy weight and mental resilience through constant rehearsals, performances, rejections and media commentary?
That’s always a hard one because with dance, it is about the body. It’s your instrument really so it’s unavoidable not to think about it. In SDC, there’s many shapes and sizes. Contemporary dance is a little bit more lenient – there’s not a specific prototype body so in that way it’s a little bit less stressful! We have the benefit of working every day at SDC so we’re fit and healthy just from doing work. There is none of that pressure to be a certain weight or a certain look. It’s a very healthy image that we have. In saying that, I haven’t personally gone through anything dramatic image wise but the beauty of contemporary dance is you work with what you have. Everybody brings something different to the company which makes it interesting and diverse.
4.    You have achieved so much in dance. Are there any choreographers you want to work with or locations you’d like to dance in?
Photo by Wendell Teodoro
I don’t have anyone specifically that I want to work with. When I was younger I had more of a drive to move around and work with a huge variety. I feel like I’ve worked with a great range of choreographers just in Australia. I was always interested in the Forsythe way [German dance company] of moving and I’m open to anything really – dance theatre, having as many experiences as I can get. Visiting choreographers come into SDC and that’s great.
5.   Would you like to move into other areas of dance in the future – ie. Choreography, teaching or promotion?
This is a question that I keep asking myself. I definitely love design and architecture. Dance took me on a different path. In my own time, I do online courses and I enjoy keeping my brain working in a different way to dance. After dance, who knows? I have had a bit of teaching experience but I'm seeing how I go. I would like to go into design.
6.   Tell me about Interplay and what it means to be part of it.
Interplay is a triple bill. Two are world premiere new works. The first is by Rafael Bonachela with live violin. He has taken some music by Bach and created an ensemble work for us. The second is a remount of a work called Raw Models made in 2011 by Jacopo Godani. That has a new cast and Jacopo’s is a little bit more dark and energised. They’re very different. The last is Gideon Obarzanek [from Melbourne] – he came over and created this group work for us. All three are an insight into the broad range of contemporary dance. Hopefully the audiences will find something that they enjoy. It’s a big program and sometimes tiring but a very fulfilling and rewarding experience.