Meet Katy McKeown, Head of The Australian Ballet Education Team
The Australian Ballet’s Education Team are often the first connection point for someone to get to know about The Australian Ballet. Their focus is to reach those who would not normally be able to access dance. Through the Art en Pointe initiative the Education Team will be able to use funds raised to reach more communities across Australia that have never had a ballet experience. The Bloch Team caught up with Katy McKeown, Head of Education at The Australian Ballet who along with the Education Team of six, delivers the artistic program to 20,000 students across Australia.
Thanks for your time Katy, firstly, can you tell us about your early years in dance and your career leading to your role with The Australian Ballet in 2015?
As a child I trained with Anne Heaton and John Field in London through a British Ballet Organisation scholarship where I completed teacher training. I then trained vocationally at the Laban Centre for Contemporary Dance in London and went on to perform in various contemporary companies before moving into dance management and lecturing in choreography in Europe.
Continually learning and developing is a huge part of my life (you can never learn too much!) Before moving to Australia in 2013, I completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Dance Education and Science at Edinburgh University and a Masters in Teaching with the Royal Academy of Dance and Surrey University, England.
What or who inspired you to dance?
I grew up in Scotland and my local ballet company was Scottish Ballet. I was lucky enough to attend rehearsals and meet the Principals quite often as a child. Later, I worked with Scottish Ballet when Ashley Page was Artistic Director, which I found very inspiring. I draw inspiration from amazing choreographers like our own Graeme Murphy, Mark Morris, Pina Bausch and from those I was fortunate enough to work/train with in Europe such as Wolfgang Stang, who set up Butterfly theatre, Royston Muldoom - a legend in community dance - and Eric Booth, who is a leader in teaching art.
What does a typical day look like?
There is no typical day at The Australian Ballet. That’s what I love about it! I might be with my team at a school teaching primary-aged children anywhere in Australia, or choreographing a piece on a youth ensemble, or advising school teachers how to use dance in their classrooms. Or I could be at The Ballet Centre in Melbourne working on the business side or meeting our amazing sponsors and donors.
What has been a highlight for you in your role as Head of Education?
For me, it would be be working with the Indigenous dance group Miriki Performing Arts (formerly Biddigal Performing Arts). For the last two years I have worked with them to co-choreograph repertoire for their performance seasons. I feel so privileged to be asked to do this and to work under the guidance of Elder Pauline Lampton.
What are some of the challenges you have come across with the work you do?
Our role in communities is very positive so the challenges tend to be around logistics. Can we fit everything in the car? What will we do now this flight is cancelled? A speaker is broken and where will get a new one in the remote Northern Territory before our show? Where can we get good coffee?
How can people become actively involved in the Education Program?
You’ll find all of our program information on www.australianballet.com.au/education and you can express interest or get in touch there.
How will the funds raised through the Art en Pointe initiative be used?
Our in-school programs are delivered free of charge to 20,000 students each year, which is why this initiative has been so meaningful for us. The Art en Pointe funds will make sure another school or community group has access to a ballet experience in 2018. This year we are in Victoria, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales, so the Bloch initiative is really making things happen nationally.
Do you have a go-to Bloch product?
I’m at huge fan of the Bloch Trackie Pants. They are a super-comfortable nice fit and roll up small in a case and dry really quickly – all very important when you are touring the country.
What would surprise people about you?
In my twenties I was travelling in Udaipur in India and got a bit part in a Bollywood movie! I’m also fully qualified as an open-water scuba diver.
What is your favourite quote?
“Art is not apart. It is a continuum within which all participate; we all function in art, use the skills of art, and engage in the action of artists every day.” (Eric Booth)
Make sure to keep up to date with The Australian Ballet and the Education team. You can follow their case studies here.
Photo credits courtesy of The Australian Ballet, photographers ASV Photographics, Mimi Tannaka and David James.