Tahlia Downey on stage at Sydney Eisteddfod. Photo: WinkiPoP Media
Tahlia Downey, finalist in the 2017 Sydney Eisteddfod Ballet Scholarship recently spoke to Sydney Eisteddfod about her passion for performing in front of an audience and being able to express herself through dance. She also shared what she has learnt about herself through competing in Sydney Eisteddfod.
What inspired your passion for ballet?
My passion for ballet stems from a desire to express myself, I was an extremely shy child and performing seemed to bring something out of me that nothing else could. I have also always loved music, of any and every kind and moving to music creates a feeling you can’t get from anything else, it’s hard to explain. Ballet is so challenging and disciplined – nothing is EVER perfect – this constant drive and potential for endless growth and improvement also made ballet seem very attractive to me.
What inspired you to start dancing?
I was always a very active child, and loved dancing around the lounge-room, but had always been too shy to actually take it up. Until I was 9 years old and I watched my cousin dancing in an end of year concert, I instantly fell in love and knew I had to get up on the stage!
You chose to perform Giselle Act 1 in the Sydney Eisteddfod Ballet Scholarship Final, tell us a little bit about this piece.
Giselle is one of my all-time favourite classical ballets. Giselle is such a detailed and complex character if you really look into the story – she is a timid and innocent young peasant girl with such freedom and excitement in all of her movements in act one. She loves nothing more than to dance. When she falls for Albrecht, her character begins to develop more and during this variation I have chosen to perform, the audience sees another side to Giselle – her movements are always light and effortless and though she is very naïve and playful, she seems to have a very subtle maturity throughout. I love dancing this character, every time is a little bit different and I find myself discovering new and interesting ways to portray her. I have really enjoyed putting myself in Giselle’s mind and imagining the story from her perspective.
Movements must be subtly playful.
Tell us a little bit about the free variation you also performed.
Dead in the Water is a contemporary piece which is choreographed from the perspective of a person being drowned. Imagine your lungs are shrinking and you can feel yourself fading, and you see someone above the water – they’re watching you. You reach up, scream for their help but all they do is stand there watching, and let you slip away.
Which other performers do you most like to watch, and why?
All of my favourite ballet repertoires are from the romantic era, and hence, my favourite performers are those which move with complete grace and sylph-like elegance. Marianela Nunez is my absolute favourite ballerina, her artistry and the way she plays with every bit of music completely amazes me! Others such as Evgenia Obraztsova and Alina Cojacaru also inspire me with their artistry and beautiful stage presence and characterisation.
What is the best piece of performance advice you've ever heard?
What have you learnt from your Sydney Eisteddfod experience?
I’ve learned not to doubt myself so much. I came into the preliminary round of the competition thinking that I wouldn’t even get through to perform my variation – and yet here I am at the finals! I can still hardly believe it! It has been a wonderful experience.