Never Stop Believing
Arna, you have contributed so much to the Melbourne dance scene, from leading Hollabak to holding the Annual Step Off each year, where crews train from all over Australia to compete, as well as teaching and encouraging the youth to pursue dance. Having given so much to the community, what do you get out of it? What keeps Robot Girl giving more and more?
I care about this community and the dance industry. As much as I love performing and creating myself, I also find joy in providing the same opportunities I have to others, and build upon it together. You're only successful if you share your success with others. So by working together we build support and this creates a stronger community and a vision for the future.
In 2014, of all those who auditioned, you were the only Australian chosen to perform with Madonna in Toronto, Canada. What was the experience like? What was your preparation like?
It was the most epic experience of my life! Madonna is the artist I would want to dance and work for, so when this opportunity came along it was the biggest moment I had come across. At the auditions I had never fought for anything so hard in my life and seeing the hard work pay off was truly so rewarding. Everything I've ever done in my life prepared me for that moment. It all came down to that audition day and flying up to Sydney to make it happen - and it did!
Meeting Madonna, dancing with her and working with her team was surreal. I still don't think I've truly digested that it even happened. It was a whirlwind of two weeks from the audition to being in Canada.
Where does your inspiration come from? What helps you create choreography to inspire your students?
It comes from the music and from within. It depends what mood I'm in, what direction I want to divulge myself into and also what song I'm vibing at the time.
The worldwide dance community also continues to inspire me and remind me of how special it is to be a dancer and to dance in general.
How would you define yourself as a dancer?
I would define myself as a hip hop and urban dancer based on my knowledge of the foundations, history and enjoyment to also choreography my own personal style of an urban flavour.
How do you balance teaching, training and creating choreography throughout the week as well as working?
The balance is hard, but I make it work. It just comes down to understanding what you're striving for and working towards it. It's not a big industry here in Melbourne, so anything that you can do to tap into dance gives you joy and always assists with everything else you do. I would say it's just what I do.
I know of other extremely hard working dance professionals but I am aware that I may be the only person in the country working the jobs I do daily; with 15 hour days and fitting up to 5 jobs from choreographing, teaching, doing event management for local government or not-for-profit as well as the education sectors.
What is the most career defining moment you've had so far?
Dancing with Madonna. Not much else to say here, it's Madonna!
Lets start from the beginning, whereabouts are you from and where were you born?
I'm from Melbourne and was born in Australia.
Where did you grow up? What school did you go to?
I grew up in Essendon and went to St Columba's College known for its huge dance program.
Growing up did you think what you're doing now was what you were going to be doing?
I always hoped be dancing but because I didn't start with a traditional dance background, and was more of a freestyler, I didn't think it was possible for me - purely because the culture emphasised traditional styles as a core in order to be successful. However, now that I'm older and know so many dancers that started late as well, I know anything is possible as long as you have the passion for it.
When did you start dancing? What made you start? What kept you going?
I started freestyling at home when I was 8. We used to have these aerobic mornings at primary school and I would always watch Video Hits and Rage. I just felt so connected to dance.
I kept going because it was what I needed to fuel my soul. I danced every day for over two hours, it's just something I did and it would make me feel so happy.
Despite not attending a dance school at that age I was putting in the hours that serious dancers would - especially those committed to their school who were competition dancers.
How did you come up with the name Robot Girl? What does it mean?
The name came about from me popping at dance events. I was the only girl back then consistently at events doing this so the name stuck.
You’ve been the director of Hollabak for many years now, how did it all begin? At what point did you realise that this was something that you could do for a living?
Hollabak has been going on for 11 years now. It's something that we started when we were so young and now it's something that I lead. We've had a variety of dancers in the group and it's been an amazing experience with the complete line up of people, I've learnt so much from it.
It's also nice to see the friendships formed because of it. Hollabak has always been a platform where I've been able to be creative and share my point of view. I will be forever grateful for its existence.
You’ve achieved so much in your career, to date, any goals you're working on?
I would love to dance and work with Madonna again. Her work ethic is like no other and I want to be surrounded by people who have a passion and vision but also work so hard for it to achieve a truly epic outcome at the end of it.
What can we expect to see from you or see you working on in the near future?
More dance clips, more events, more creativity, more crazy opportunities and me literally being part of the future of dance in Melbourne because I ain't going anywhere.
If you were going to be remembered for something what would it be?
That I loved dance, was a dancer and an honest person and that I was someone who always puts back in to the community, always meant well, respected my vision and that I danced with Madonna!
What words of advice do you have for anyone aspiring to travel on a path similar to your own?
Believe and listen to you. Go with your gut and your passion. Know that anything is possible if you want it, but always know that it only comes with hard work. If the hard work just seems like work then it's not for you.
Dance can be a time period for some or for others it's who they are. Figure this out so you truly follow your passion and invest!