Having danced in her first eisteddfod when she was six, Rebecca Dywer returns home as an Adjudicator in this year’s Taree eisteddfod.
Name: Bec Dwyer.
You grew up here in the Manning Valley. What do you love about the area?
I grew up in Wingham and spent a great deal of time in Taree until I left for university in 1987, at the age of 17. I still have my family and very close friends here. It will always be home to me.
I love the countryside, the people and the familiarity of the area. I’m very proud to say that I am from the Manning District. My father and late mother were born here, so heritage is a big factor also.
When did you start dancing, and was it a childhood dream?
I started dancing at the age of four. As an asthmatic, I was at first pointed in the direction of swimming to help correct breathing, but as it turned out, I was allergic to chlorine. My doctor (the late Dr Erby) then suggested to my Mum that I should take up ballet – so off I went! It was quite by accident, really.
I soon grew to love it and was a bit of a ‘natural’ at it, I guess. I still recall my first lesson! I loved our concerts. It was like venturing into Fairyland as a child.
When did you perform in the Taree Eisteddfod, and what was the experience like?
I recall my first Eisteddfod vividly! It was the Baby Dance Solo back in 1975. I wore a white tutu with a pink rose on the skirt. I would have been 6-years-old and as the Eisteddfod was still so small back then, I was dancing against 14-year-olds!
I won the Encouragement Award! It was such a surprise. I think it sparked the competitive nature in me, and it definitely sparked the ‘show pony’ in me! I loved it. I wanted to get back up on stage again, but I wasn’t allowed. From there, I performed in the Taree Eisteddfod until 1985.
Would you recommend Eisteddfods to young performers?
Absolutely! It’s a great way to experience the performance arena. It’s not about winning. It’s about doing your best on the day and more importantly, having fun. You must enjoy yourselves. Performing builds so much confidence and self esteem; that, in itself, is very rewarding. There is no other feeling like expressing yourself through movement and music.
What dance study did you pursue?
I completed my Classical Ballet training and from there, I was awarded a Bachelor of Arts (Dance) majoring in Advanced Performance (Classical Ballet and Contemporary Dance).
I studied at QUT (Queensland University of Technology) in Brisbane from 1987-1990 and proudly achieved High Distinctions in my final year.
I went there to become a professional Classical Ballet Dancer, but soon realised Contemporary Dance was my forte – which was quite a surprise at the time.
Unfortunately, injuries put an end to my career as a dancer, but I am exactly where I am supposed to be in life right now – teaching Pilates and judging dance. So, definitely no regrets.
What is your advice to young dancers in the region looking to pursue dance as a career?
If you are serious about dance as a career, do your research on the local schools. As I understand, there are a handful that focus specifically in grooming dancers for full time dance training – and then onto tertiary education in dance. If you want the dream, go for it.
What is one of the highlights from your dancing career?
Definitely winning the Open Modern Expressive Solo at the Port Macquarie Eisteddfod in 1986, when I was just 17. I was a late entry and up against 45 other competitors in that section. I chose the song Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits for personal reasons at the time. My teacher helped me create the dance. The song and the choreography blended beautifully.
The Adjudicator was Marilyn Jones – former Prima Ballerina with the Australian Ballet. I was honoured, to say the least. It may sound strange, but the minute I came off stage, I knew I had won it. I couldn’t have danced any better if I tried. I put my whole heart and soul into that performance.
Is there a particular show or venue you dream of one day dancing in/on?
Oh gosh, I’m too old now. I’ve been to Covent Garden to see The Nutcracker! As I watched, I imagined myself on stage. That was good enough for me. Maybe if the Taree Eisteddfod Society would introduce a section for veterans to enter? I may reconsider! That would be fun.
Who has inspired you as a dancer?
So many have inspired me! Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova, Anna Pavlova, Margot Fonteyn, Marilyn Jones, Marilyn Rowe, George Ballanchine and his American Ballet Theatre, my teachers Marie Walton-Mahon, Rosemary and Waynne Robenn … and many, many others.
You are an Adjudicator at this year’s Taree Eisteddfod. Are you excited about coming back to your home turf to do this?
Bursting with pride again. I was there four years ago, and I only wished my mum could have been around – she would have been so proud. It’s almost like completing the full circle of my dancing career. I’m very excited and honoured, to be honest.
Advice to dancers in this year’s Taree Eisteddfod?
Relax, enjoy, don’t be nervous, don’t ever be disappointed. I am very fair and encouraging with my critiques, so don’t fear me!
Your favourite words to live by?
You only grow old when your dreams become regrets. (John Lennon).
Thank you Bec.