This Dancing Life: How to Make a Living
By Lyne Pringle
"I have found I need to manage a wide range of different jobs in order to make a living". Megan Adams is a freelance professional who works in many and varied situations. In January she danced with Sean McDonald in a short film I was making in Dunedin. She then went back to Auckland to assist Ann Dewey with running a community dance workshop in Leigh. Subsequently she was the rehearsal director for Douglas Wright’s latest work Black Milk. In an email interview we talked about her work.
What does your role as rehearsal director for Douglas's show require?
This role has many facets. Firstly, I am Douglas' assistant. I sit beside him while the work is being made. He asks me questions about what I see and asks me for suggestions and feedback about sections we are working on. I record any details or specific movements that dancers may not remember. I videotape any material that needs to be recorded so it can be recreated at a later date. In the afternoons if Douglas leaves the studio, he will give me a list of tasks to rehearse with the dancers. We spend time cleaning phrases, sorting out spacing, and working on any sections the dancers may need time to rehearse. I am also responsible for the dancers’ well-being. They talk to me about any issues that they may have, and it is my responsibility to talk to Douglas or the production crew to sort out the issues for them. I work quite closely with the production team – helping with are any props we require or any technical issues we need to clarify. I am in daily contact with the producer, about any publicity calls we need to attend or information needed to promote the work or enable the tour schedule to run smoothly. I teach class once a week and also liaise with the other teachers so that they are aware of what the dancers’ requirements are for class.
You have also been working in film a lot lately – assisting Shona McCullagh on King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia. What has been your role in these things?
I really enjoyed working with Shona. She received a choreographic brief from the director and attended many meetings before I was even involved. When it was clear what was required for the scene, Shona and I would work together in the studio. Shona would choreograph the scene, I would help her and make sure that I knew every role thoroughly and recorded the choreography and counts for each performer or group. We would then meet with the dancers and actors, and sometimes cast the roles and teach them the movement. Some actors needed more rehearsal, so I would often take them for extra rehearsals. Once the choreography was completely set, it was my job to make sure that I knew where every dancer was in every moment of the dance, so that if the filming stopped at 23 secs, I was able to reset every dancer and tell them where they were up. This can be quite complex if there are a lot of dancers in the scene. On set, I sat near the monitors with Shona and if there was anything thing that could be easily changed or fixed, I would go onto set and talk to the dancers to fix problems or shift their spacing. If the dancers had any problems I would then relay the issue to Shona if it wasn't something I could fix.
You have danced a lot with Sean Curham, what intrigues you about his work?
What I like about working for Sean is his thorough practice, examination and experimentation. Nothing is ever overlooked or quickly sketched. Everything is present for a reason and this gives the performers a sense of clarity and assurance, as you know that Sean has considered everything. I like the other dancers that he chooses to work with and the open working atmosphere he fosters. I enjoy the discussions and thoughts, and through these we often become clearer about what we are individually and collectively interested in.
What is your personal practice?
I am a little more relaxed with my practice than I used to be 10 years ago when I first graduated. I don't have such a strong desire for a strict technique class every day. I like to do what I need to do for that day. Every day in my life is so varied, that sometimes I just need to go for a walk up Mt Albert. Other days I will do a technique class - anything from ballet to contemporary, or go for a swim. I guess the most regular aspect of my practice is my yoga practice.
You also do quite a bit of work with children, what do you get out of this work?
What I like most about working with children is the surprise element that is always present. I am never sure how they will respond to a task and this makes the work exciting and quite joyful. The thing that I am always thinking about is to foster the imagination through dance. That is what I like exploring with children, rather than teach them to be 'good' dancers. I find this approach more rewarding and illuminating than teaching tricks, or how to mimic.
How do you manage to balance all these different kinds of work?
I have found I need to manage a wide range of different jobs in order to make a living. Actually, in doing a wide range of jobs you never get bored of one task, place or group of people. I am always arriving somewhere new and dealing with different people and situations.