Interview with Linda Gamblin I Senior Contemporary Dance

With a career spanning The Australian Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Portugal, and more recently, Sydney Dance Company, Linda Gamblin has spent most of her life working in the dance industry. In addition to her performance training, Linda has also developed a deeper understanding of the performer’s journey through her qualifications in dance education. In her current position as the Head of Training at SDC, Linda has also been instrumental in creating our new Senior Contemporary Dance Program, which enables Year 10-12 students to engage in all aspects Contemporary Dance training whilst they complete their academic studies. We spoke with Linda about the launch of the program this year, the benefits of its training, and the pathways offered to young dancers through this program. 

The McDonald College in partnership with Sydney Dance Company recently launched the new Senior Contemporary Dance Program. Can you tell us about the key areas of the curriculum?

The vision was to incorporate the design and philosophy of Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year Program into The McDonald College Senior Contemporary Dance Program and give younger dancers a creative approach to rigorous training. Technique, Creativity and Performance are the three foundational areas of focus in all advanced training courses at Sydney Dance Company.

Finding a strong, healthy, dedicated technique practice gives young dancers confidence to continually evolve throughout their training and career. We teach this by encouraging critical thinking within all classes (repertoire, ballet, contemporary and improvisation). We encourage the dancers to think about how and what they are doing and question everything. Precision then comes effortlessly. Creativity is decision-making with authentic choices, however, without technique our creativity is incomplete. Creativity goes hand in hand with stage presence. Performance is how we communicate to an audience. Without technique and creativity, we have limited means to communicate.

Year 10-12 students in class. Photo by Erik Sawaya
Year 10-12 students in class. Photo by Erik Sawaya

Who are some of the teachers working with the students?

We select teachers, educators and choreographers who work within Sydney Dance Company’s Professional Ensemble and Pre-Professional Year. They are artists working in the industry who have had many years of research, skills development and performing. They are choreographers working at the top of their field and company dancers still performing. They all come with industry specialties and encourage strong communication skills within the learning environment.

The training sessions have a workshop feel to them where collaboration, discussion and questioning are invigorated. Each choreographer works together with the students as co-creators in the choreographic process.

Choreographers this year have included:

  • Sydney Dance Company Dancers Juliette Barton, Richard Cilli, Nelson Earl, Charmene Yap, Cass Mortimer Eipper
  • Pre-Professional Course Coordinator Omer Backley-Astrachan
  • Head of Training Linda Gamblin
  • Independent Choreographers Dean Walsh, Adelina Larsson, Zachary Lopez, Lucas Jervies
  • International Guests Vangelis Legakis, Tamas Moricz
Senior Contemporary Dance Program Erik Sawaya 0483
Teacher Juliette Barton. Photo by Erik Sawaya


What are the benefits of starting this training whilst in high school?

Being amongst like-minded creatives while continuing academic studies helps the dance students holistically develop much needed educational and creative skills for a sustainable performing arts career. The McDonald College is an exceptional performing arts high schools that caters for just this.

It enables young people with an ambition to join an industry that requires you to start training more seriously at a younger age, to do so alongside and in conjunction with their academic achievements. The academic and dance teachers work together to give students the time and support to commit to a dedicated training regime directed to their ambitions.

What do students take away with them once they finish the program in Year 12 and enter the industry as a young dancer?

Students leave with collaboration skills, a strong practice to continue to develop and the confidence and self-regard to do so, an inquisitive mind which likes to question, and first hand industry knowledge. They will be conscious in their communication and have the ability to contextualise a choreographer’s directions without losing ownership of their movement and accountability of their body to do so.

Senior Contemporary Dance Program Erik Sawaya 2765
Students with Choreographer Lucas Jervies. Photo by Erik Sawaya

What pre-professional pathways are available to students once they finish the program?

Throughout the program and the greater community of The McDonald College, the student will explore the idea of many different avenues available to them as a creative performer. With the skills learned, and the individual support given, the student will feel confident in whatever decision they make to do next.

Tertiary pathways for dance may include:

  • Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year – Advanced Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance)
  • Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) – Bachelor Degree in Dance
  • Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) – Bachelor Degree in Dance
  • Queensland University of Technology (QUT) – Bachelor Degree in Dance
  • New Zealand School of Dance – Diploma in Dance
  • And other national and international classical and contemporary full-time institutions offering accreditations in dance or other genres of theatre.

Find out more about our Senior Contemporary Dance Program.