Born on Awabakal Country, raised on Darkinjung Land and a proud descendant of the Eora people from the East Coast of NSW, Ms Rixom said applying to NAISDA Dance College, the national dance and arts training organisation, was a logical next step after completing high school.
“The Aboriginal Education Officer at my high school knew I loved to dance and told me about NAISDA,” said Ms Rixom. “I applied and had my audition in September 2019, the week after I graduated.”
I had already received early entry for university, but I remember nervously waiting and hoping to get into NAISDA. When I finally heard back, I was so excited to start my Certificate III in Dance in January of 2020,” said Ms Rixom.
Although Ms Rixom was a dancer from an early age, she encourages any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander young person with a passion for the performing arts, culture or dance to consider applying to NAISDA.
“I think if you’re passionate about culture or about dance, NAISDA could be for you. You don’t necessarily need strong dance experience or cultural knowledge to come here, that’s what the courses are for, to help you learn and develop those things,” said Ms Rixom.
“I didn’t have a strong connection to my Aboriginal roots and really wanted to explore them, so the cultural component was a big part in my decision to study at NAISDA,” she explained.
Cultural knowledge is at the forefront of NAISDA training, providing opportunities to connect with Country, community and culture.
NAISDA’s unique annual Cultural Residency program enables students to stay and learn with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to deepen understanding of cultural practice, dance techniques and the creative world.
“The experience during the Cultural Residencies – going on Country, learning the culture, being given the tradition and stories and being trusted with that sacred information is the most incredible feeling,” said Ms Rixom.
“Being at NAISDA I have been very privileged to learn about Indigenous communities, both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dance, culture and practice.”
“I’ve been able to visit Nyinyikay in the North East Arnhem Land, Wollombi in New South Wales and this August we will be travelling to stay and learn with the Moa Island community in the Torres Strait,” said Ms Rixom.
NAISDA’s curriculum also includes professional development opportunities including industry placements, masterclasses and secondments to provide career pathways into industry roles.
Ms Rixom commented on her recent secondment with professional dance company Lucy Guerin Inc in Melbourne as being really eye opening.
“Working with Lucy Guerin Inc I got a feel for how arts company life works compared to training institutions,” said Ms Rixom. “I came back feeling so inspired for my studies, with ideas and a new way of thinking for my own choreographic process and practice.
“Overall, I’m so grateful to have worked with such brilliant minds – both Lucy herself and the professional company dancers and independent artists that were in the space,” she said.
As the face of NAISDA’s current Application and Audition campaign for prospective students, Ms Rixom shares advice for aspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dancers and performers.
“If you are planning on following this path, make sure you know who it’s for. I think the biggest thing that has helped me on my creative and training journey at NAISDA is knowing why I’m here,” said Ms Rixom.
“I’m here for me, with no judgments and no pressure. I’m here because I’m passionate about dance, it’s been my whole life and I love how I feel when I dance,” she concluded.
NAISDA’s training is subsidised by the NSW Government for eligible students and through the Federal Government and applications to study at the College in 2023 are closing soon.
To apply to join NAISDA’s 2023 cohort, eligible applicants should visit: www.naisda.com.au and submit their application before 22 August 2022.
Image: Peta-Louise Rixom performing – courtesy of NAISDA