Thanks to everyone who submitted a question to dancer Nicola Sabatino. Here is a sample of our followers’ questions with her answers.
Who has been you greatest inspiration?
I get inspiration from many different sources, but my first big inspiration and influence would be my dance teacher Miss Amanda Seawright in Weipa. I like going to watch shows to be inspired by different artists and works. If I ever get the chance, I would love to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Lines Ballet perform.
How do you maintain your health and energy levels as a professional dancer?
We are continually working on our fitness and strength through pilates, yoga and dance technique classes. But beyond this, I try to balance out the hard physical work with good healthy food and good rest. As for the mental exhaustion, I try to relax and do something fun at the end of everyday. I also like to cruise around on my bike and eat a mostly vegetarian diet. I think balance is an important part of self-maintenance for longevity.
What keeps you going when you’re so far away from your family and friends?
Being so far away from home, friends and family is really hard, I miss everyone and the deadly seafood. But I know I can go home which keeps me going. I get to look forward to going home to the red dirt and if I’m lucky, catch up with other friends on my way north.
Do you think your dance troupe is making a difference to people’s perception of indigenous culture particularly their connection to land and what the ‘dreamtime’ is all about?
Bangarra use stories from all over Australia so people get a glimpse into different lands and dreaming. After a show, people come to us with all sorts of questions and this is such a great thing! That means we’re getting the audiences thinking and questioning pre-conceived notions of indigenous culture. Hopefully the answers we give them deepen their understanding. Everyone has their own interpretations of what they see when we dance, but I think the strong thread through our performances is that we are a strong and resilient people with plenty of spirit and also that our culture is alive and well.
If you do yoga, what impact has it made on your body and dance life?
I don’t do yoga outside of work but I enjoy our weekly yoga class in the morning. I find it very invigorating and refreshing!
Nicola, where do you come from, do you have aboriginal ancestry (your last name sounds Italian?) and what was it in Bangarra Dance Theatre that made you want to join this group?
Funny you ask that, Italian people often ask about my last name! My great great grandfather Nicholas Sabatino came from the Philippines to the Torres Straits, so as far as I know the Sabatino name comes from the Philippines. I grew up in Weipa, Cape York and yes, I have both Torres Strait and Aboriginal ancestry. I am connected to the central and eastern islands of the Torres Strait, and also to eastern Cape York.
When I was 15, I went to see Bangarra for the first time while they were performing True Stories at QPAC. Part of that program was Elma Kris’s Emeret Lu which is all about Torres Strait culture; I was so proud to see a work inspired and created by my own people and culture!I could really feel the sense of connection to land and pride of identity that the company danced with. I was at the beginning of my dance training so needless to say I was blown away! The whole experience stayed with me and has probably guided me in someway back to join the company.
Have you wanted to dance all your life? And how did you get into Bangarra?
I was about 14 when I decided I wanted to become a professional dancer. At that time it seemed like an unattainable dream but eventually, I left for Brisbane to study ballet at ADPI and the ball kept on rolling from there. I’m really lucky to have had such great support from my family and community to get and keep me going. After Brisbane, I went on to NAISDA where I got the opportunity to participate in workshops and a secondment with Bangarra as part of my study. Once I finished studying, I kept in touch with the company whilst freelancing and was invited to join at the end of 2012.
What are your other gifts – do you sing, write, paint or draw? And do you bring that to the table when you dance?
I enjoy singing in the shower and the occasional play on the piano but I’m really not an artist or a musician unfortunately. Some of the other dancers are artists, singers and actors and those talents definitely get taken into the studio! Amongst all of us, we have a wide palette of creative abilities and insights to draw on and use when we create work and perform.