Evie Morris

Duration: 26:53

Audio transcript – Evie Morris

In this episode, we chatted with Evie Morris, tutor for the 2023 NSW Public Schools Junior Dance Ensemble. The hosts, Ava and Charlotte, are both students of the NSW Public Schools Junior Dance Ensemble.

Evie is a contemporary dancer and choreographer with a wealth of experience on stage and screen. Her freelance performance work includes ongoing contracts with Opera Australia alongside music videos with notable Australian artists and film work as a choreographer and director. She was also a choreographer for the 2022 Schools Spectacular, working with the Featured Contemporary Dance Ensemble. Her work now centres around education with a Bachelor of Dance, certification in Pilates instruction and most recently, a degree achieving a Masters in Arts Education focusing on Higher Education and pre-professional training.

This episode gives us a chance to learn more about Evie’s experience in the industry and what it’s like working with the NSW Public Schools Dance Ensemble. Thanks for tuning in.

Eve Morris
Evie Morris – dance tutor
Ava Erskine
Ava Erskine – host
Charlotte Eaton
Charlotte Eaton – host
Back to:

JOANNE KING: The dance team at the Arts Unit of the NSW Department of Education have produced this podcast as part of the 'Listen @ The Arts Unit' series. This podcast is produced on Gadigal and Cadigal land of the Eora nation. We pay our respect to the Traditional Custodians of the land, with further acknowledgment of the many lands this podcast will be listened to across Australia.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art, storytelling, music, and dance, along with the people, hold the memories of Australia's traditions, culture, and hopes. Let us also acknowledge any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders and people in our presence today who guide us with their wisdom.

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ANNOUNCER: Listen @ The Arts Unit.

[upbeat music playing]

JOANNE KING: My name is Joanne King, and I am the dance performance officer at the Arts Unit for the NSW Department of Education. This episode, the hosts, Ava and Charlotte, spoke with the NSW Public Schools Junior Dance Ensemble tutor, Evie Morris.

Evie is a contemporary dancer and choreographer with a wealth of experience on stage and screen. Her freelance performance work includes ongoing contracts with Opera Australia, alongside music videos with notable Australian artists and film work as a choreographer and director.

Evie was also choreographer for the 2022 Schools Spectacular, working with the Featured Contemporary Dance Ensemble. Her work now centres around education with a bachelor of dance, certification in Pilates instruction, and most recent degree, achieving a master's in education focusing on higher education and pre-professional training.

This episode gives us a chance to learn more about Evie's experience in the industry and what it's like working with the NSW Public School's Junior Dance Ensemble. Thanks for tuning in.

AVA: Hi, I'm Ava, and I attend Northern Beaches Secondary College Mackellar Girls Campus.

CHARLOTTE: Hi, I'm Charlotte, and I go to Dulwich Hill High School of Visual Arts and Design.

EVIE MORRIS: Hi, guys, I'm Evie. I'm so happy to be here and answer your questions.


Fire away, I can't wait to hear.

AVA: What is it that you love about teaching dance at the NSW State Dance Ensemble?

EVIE MORRIS: That's a good one. It has only been a term, but there has been a lot to love already, especially working with such young dancers who are so eager to learn. I think the best thing I've seen so far, and the thing that I go home going, ah, that was an amazing thing that we accomplished together, is the fact that you guys are picking up skills that are well beyond your years.

So as a teacher, I come in with content that I teach to full-timers and professionals and other professional dancers. You guys don't know that, but this is the same stuff that I teach to much older students. Now, the way I teach it is different, but the content is essentially the same.

And seeing students pick up things that are years and years ahead of what you would usually get is always my aim. And yeah, seeing you guys achieve that stuff is very gratifying and something I really love about being able to share my knowledge with people of this age.

CHARLOTTE: What has been your highlight or memorable moment so far with the Arts Unit dance dream for 2023?

EVIE MORRIS: Definitely what I said before is a highlight as well. But another thing has been being able to choreograph on young students as well. And that was a challenge that I went, OK, how hard do I make this for students who are in Year 7, 8, 9 and 10? How challenging can I make this for you guys? And I made the decision to go more challenging than not because I'd rather err on that side than make it too easy for you all.

And once again, it was a full surprise, especially in Term 1, to have the students I get to work with in my ensemble just pick things up straight away. And I went, oh, my goodness. OK. Maybe this is too easy, but this is some of the most challenging stuff I think I can throw at you. So definitely a highlight for me there is being further challenged by you all, going, OK, let's go to the next level and make it harder.

AVA: How did you begin your dance journey, and what age did you begin classes?

EVIE MORRIS: I started quite late. I think I did some baby ballet when I was really young, but I don't really count that. I think I really started dancing when I was 11, which is late for lots of people.

And I think that meant for me that I was behind the general like 11-year-old who was dancing, who had already done years of ballet and everything. So I did feel like I had to catch up on a lot, especially technically. But at the same time, that made me a much harder worker, I think, than people who are a little more used to dancing than I was.

So I think it was an unconventional start but actually paid off for me in the long run because I learnt to work really, really hard to try and catch up to everyone that was already better than me at that stage. So that kind of launched me.

And then in terms of a start in career, I'm not sure it happens anymore that it just kind of begins. I think you start with one little job that you get that I think my first job I got paid $50 for. And I was on set for 10 hours.

And I woke up at 3 am to get on set by 4 am to go into hair and makeup to do this music video for a friend. And I got paid nothing for it, but that started me off a trajectory working with the same director 3 times and the same artist 3 other times after that. So I don't know if that was my starting point, but it's certainly a point I remember of going, that started the ball rolling for me.

CHARLOTTE: If you started so late, what brought you to start at such an older age than most people?

EVIE MORRIS: Oh, good question. Genuinely, my mum's friend wanted to start teaching dance. It was one day a week. It was 7 o'clock on a Wednesday night at the school hall. And she put on one jazz class a week.

And my mum went, you don't do anything on Wednesdays. Go do that. And I was playing netball and doing all this other stuff. But I don't know, my mum just wanted to throw one more thing on my schedule.

And it honestly, it was one jazz class a week. That's all I started with for a whole year. And then it was 2 jazz classes, and then it was a ballet in there at a certain point. And it was a very slow start, but that's the honest answer.

I don't think I really was like, mum, mum, I want to dance. I have to dance. It just kind of happened. And then people took me under their wing and helped me along the way at that older age.

AVA: What is your favourite style of dance to teach, do and watch?

EVIE MORRIS: Oh. [chuckles] I have to say contemporary. I don't think I can say anything else. Certainly to watch it, there's so many possibilities. And that means when I teach, I get to change so much and try so much new stuff as well. So it means the amount of time I've been a teacher, for which is a very long time now, I have been able to grow my personal style and practice because there's kind of limitless possibilities of what contemporary is and what it means. It literally means all the time.

So what I do now is not what I'm going to do in 10 years' time because it won't be of the time in that time. So there's lots of room for growth there for me. Not to say that other styles aren't beautiful-- I love a ballet class. I love being able to teach it and watch it. But in terms of piquing my interest and possibility, contemporary is the one for me.

CHARLOTTE: Who or what is your inspiration behind your dance career?

EVIE MORRIS: My inspiration-- I think there's too many to name because I can take it from anywhere. I think I'd be remiss to say-- I'd be-- without the teachers that I had, I don't think I'd do it. So in terms of inspiration, the driving force early on that actually helped me bridge the gap between wanting to do it and actually doing it was the teachers that I had and who saw something in me before I saw something in myself, and went, 'We think you're good at this here. Here's an opportunity.'

And that was doing state company. When I was your age, I was in their Years 10, 11, 12-- so a little bit later than you guys. Those teachers at that time saw something in me and let me come into the company and taught me.

And then other teachers and other public school programs and at my studio and beyond that, they were the ones who had way more confidence in me than I had in myself. And without them, I don't think I would have had any driving force to move forward. So I think inspiration is maybe not the right word, but it also does fit because they gave me the confidence to be able to do it.

AVA: What is the most important factor of training in your personal opinion?

EVIE MORRIS: Oh, the most important-- I don't know how I can prioritise that. I have this conversation a lot with, especially, older students who are looking at how they enter the industry and what jobs they want to get and things like that.

I was always told that you have to be a smart dancer. And I agree, it's not just enough to be a good dancer because there's plenty of good dancers out there. There's too many of them. Everyone is good enough to get the job.

I think the thing I believe makes young dancers the most hireable and the easiest to work with is the ones who are mentally switched-on enough to pick up quickly, to be able to read the room, to be able to stay humble in the room and do the work, and stay disciplined enough that they're not just bringing their physical skill; they're bringing everything they hold in their heads as well.

And that gets underrated. And I think young dancers maybe think it's not as important. But I see it as 50-50. If you're bringing me all the dance training you've ever had in your body, and then all the life experience and all the knowledge and everything you have in your head, I can do a lot with that. So I think that would be the most underrated thing. And it's something I wish young dancers knew earlier.

CHARLOTTE: What is a challenge that you have had to overcome during your dance career? And how did you overcome this?

EVIE MORRIS: There's lots. A dance career is not easy. If you guys go into this, you will find out that.

[girls chuckle]


AVA: Injury is always a big one, and I've had my fair share. And it's, again, something I wish young dancers knew to take care of themselves earlier rather than later. We see a lot of young dancers pushing through injuries. And you're young, you bounce back, all those things. You do recover quickly.

But when I was doing my bachelor degree, my Achilles got to a point where they were hanging on by a thread. And I was not OK, and I was dancing through it. And it got to obviously a point where it was so bad, I could barely walk with it.

And I had to make the decision to stop dancing for the rest of the trimester. That I was there and just sit down and watch. And it was so painful-- it was more painful emotionally than it was physically to stop dancing. But it is a practice that I had to learn so that I could have this career that kept going and going and going.

And now, any injury that I have, I jump on it so quickly. I have a long-standing hip injury now, which is just unfortunate. But it's not taking me out of the game as a dancer. I'm still getting performance contracts and doing all the things I want, but it's something I have to look after so much more consciously than not. I can't just ignore it and go, oh, this is going to go away by itself. It just doesn't.

So being aware that your body is your main instrument for the whole life that you want to lead, it's a big lesson to learn and one that took me a long time. But I'm much better for it now.

CHARLOTTE: What's some advice that you have for young dancers in being able to return from injuries and look after their bodies?

EVIE MORRIS: I think they're 2 different things. So, returning from injury is one thing, and that's getting a proper diagnosis and doing everything your physio says.


Please do everything your physio says because without that, there is no return. They're very smart people. Please listen to them. But in terms of general body maintenance, I remember being anything under 18, and my leg-- like, I could just kick my leg high. I didn't have to warm up for anything. Everything felt good all the time. And that just doesn't happen anymore.

So the practice of warming up and the meditation that comes with that and doing something proper for your body means that you don't have to learn how to do that later. So warm-ups are important, generating body heat, stretching out after class is important.

Foam rolling, I think, is something that a lot of young dancers don't even think of because you go, I don't really need that. My muscles feel fine and nice and loose. But again, it's understanding that even 5 minutes on a foam roller or a little pressure ball release in the right places will give you access to so much other stuff rather than just being like, oh, my body goes where it tells it to go because I'm young. So foam rolling, really good one.

Please do all your warm-ups and ankles and calf rises and all that stuff. And then if you are returning from injury, the practices and the exercises that your physios set are 100% going to get you back to where you need to be, which means you don't have to deal with that injury again. And that's important.

AVA: Who is your favourite choreographer or dancer?

EVIE MORRIS: That's very hard. There's so many Aussie dancers that I love, and I feel like they don't get enough of a shout out. Ava's nodding. And I, like--

[girls laughing]

--there's so many amazing peers of mine who I'm very lucky to call peers now. So I could say lots of international people, but I'm going to give you some Aussie names of people who are working now, who are doing great things now.

One of them is Neil Whittaker. He is-- more nodding. Yes, we love Neil. He is a wonderful dancer and an incredible choreographer; but at the same time, a very great human and really generous with his time and his knowledge. And I think those 2 things make him the artist that he is.

There's Chantelle Landayan I really like as well. She's so versatile. Who else can I think of who's Australian who's in the circles? Oh, Pete's great. I'm just naming friends now.

[girls laughing]

I have such amazing friends. And it is a weird thing that I have had to accept in these-- like, the mid-career that I'm in, I guess, of going, there's so many people I admire, and then you start to work with them, and then they just become your mates.

And you don't forget that you once admired them, but you go, oh, I'm in the same rooms now, and I'm comfortable in this space. And I'm realising now as I'm talking out that I should acknowledge that I actually got to that place that I was always wishing to be at. And it's funny when that happens to you.

And it happens to lots of dancers. I think that you know you stay in the industry, and then eventually you're in a spot where you're like, I'm working with everyone that I've wanted to work with. And that's somewhere I never really-- I always wanted to get, but you never know if it's going to happen, but.

CHARLOTTE: What is your process when choreographing new pieces?

EVIE MORRIS: It changes all the time because I still am mid-career. I have been doing this for a long time now, but I still see myself as in that mid-career progression where I know who I am stylistically and where I want to go. But how I go about that, there's still lots of room for change there.

So, usually, it's movement first. It comes from an idea of I think this would look amazing, or it's like a visual in my head. And I try and put that onto my body in the space and then unpack it and kind of branch it out a little bit. So usually, it's movement first and then finding music that I can mould that movement to.

And then I'm sure you guys have seen, as I work it onto a group of people, that's not me, which always changes the choreography in and of itself because my students are not me. They don't have-- like, it's a wonderful thing, but the movement has to adapt to the people that are dancing it. So when it gets on that, it changes again.

And then finally, I really like to play with architecture in the space, and that's just bodies making shapes and patterns that can remain there or dissipate. And it gives a landscape across a stage.

And I'm trying to zoom out as much as possible when I see movement on a group of dancers where I really step back and try to look at the whole thing. And so then when I do zoom in again and try and pick moments, that's when I go, OK, that's really interesting. What has pulled my focus, and then how does that look in the whole world of the stage as well? So I think that's my kind of application. It's idea and my body first, and then music, and then how it changed on other dancers, and then architecture of the space.

AVA: Do you have a favourite choice of a before- or after-rehearsal-snack?

EVIE MORRIS: Absolutely. I love food. Here are all my food things. I could bring out my shopping list. The one I'm doing right now, some people irk at it. But it's Vegemite and avocado sandwich.

Charlotte does not like that, for people listening at home. Charlotte is not a fan. The saltiness of it and then the creamy of the avocado on some really dark rye bread makes me-- and it's like it's the fuel I need. It gets me through. So I'm having that at about 4 o'clock every single day before I go to my night work of teaching. And it gets me through until dinner time.

I'm a fan of a banana, always. After-dance-snack, it's always a lot of water and usually something carbohydratey. So if it's lunch time, it'll be rice and potatoes and some protein and quite simple stuff that's going to keep me going for the next session of the day. Dinner, same thing, pasta-- always good, sun-dried tomatoes, basil.

AVA: I love pasta.

EVIE MORRIS: Can I just talk to people at home now about what I put on my pasta dishes? Here we go-- no. OK. Yeah, I know Vegemite and avocado maybe not great. But a sandwich is always good because I'm usually in the-- I'm usually in the car when I'm driving to the next thing. So it's very easy to eat on my way.

CHARLOTTE: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

EVIE MORRIS: You know what? I used to be a really like a firm person of '5 years' time, I'm going to be here. Next year, is this. Two years from-- it's this.' And I was very planned out. And that was me in my like, early 20s really thinking that way.

And I think that's my natural personality type anyway. I'm very organised. I really like schedules and planning and things being consistent. But something shifted in me. And I think it was a necessary change being in this kind of industry where it's so freelance. And opportunities come from left of centre all the time that you go, oh, actually, that sounds great. Maybe I'll go do that, as well as what I'm already doing.

So that all culminated in me being this person at the moment in this stage of my life and career of going, I don't quite know what it looks like yet. I have general goals that I would like to be working towards. And I think that's always important to have a direction. So that for me is I'm finishing my master's in arts education dance teaching at the moment, and that's through the Royal Academy of Dance.

And so I'm finishing writing my dissertation, knowing that a master's degree in dance education is going to help me with my broader goals of staying in the education sphere and continuing to work with students like yourselves and at other institutions and bringing dance education up and up and up in Australia. So that's one direction I'm going in.

The other one is that I'm still not done dancing yet. I think I still have a few years left in me maybe. We'll see. So I'll keep taking performance work when it comes, but to a lesser degree because what excites me more now is the creative and choreographic side of things and the education.

Not to say that performing is not exciting-- it is so fun, and I look forward to it every single time I get to do it. But knowing that I'm looking to have a very long career, and that changes over every 5 years and 2 years and 10 years.

It looks different, so the directions I'm going is definitely education, definitely creative industries, and definitely still being a performing artist because I worked so long to get to that point where I was working consistently as a performer, and I can't give that up yet. So yeah, they're my 3 directions.

In terms of what it is in 5 years, like I said, opportunities, they will come from nowhere. And I think your job as a freelance artist is just to be as prepared as possible and then saying yes when you even feel like you're not ready to do that thing. So it's opportunity meets all the hard work you did before that to be able to actually take that on and do the thing that's asked of you. Yeah. I don't know. I don't know, 5 years, we'll see. I'm excited to see.

JOANNE KING: I'm going to finish off with one more question for you, Evie.


JOANNE KING: Do you have any advice for any students out there wishing to take that step to either join the NSW Public Schools Dance Ensemble or the step beyond school into their professional career? Something you could advise them on to have that long-standing career that you speak about.

EVIE MORRIS: Sure. I think there's 2 things that I value most in the dancers that I get to work with and that I want to work with when it comes to in the institution. One of them is that showing up is more important than showing off.

And it's something I've said before, and I think it's important to keep reiterating, is that the people who show up really consistently and show me that they're dedicated and disciplined, and they love to be there and all those things, they're the ones that stick in my mind more prominently than the ones who are there, but are showing off and are just taking the spotlight for the wrong reasons. So I think showing up and being consistent is such an important practice. And it makes you stay in people's minds for the right reasons.

The second thing is that I don't think it's the most important thing to be the best dancer in the room. In fact, it's better if you're not in terms of you should always be surrounding yourself with people who are better than you so you have something to work towards and aspire to and have people to admire. So I genuinely believe that I was never the best dancer in the room.

And I say that to people, and they go, no, my god, you must have been amazing. I go, no, no, no, you don't understand. I was never the best. But I think I had enough up here in my head to be able to bide my time so I could improve my physicality as much as my intellectual ability in the room.

So while I was not always the most accomplished technical dancer, especially early on in my career, I was able to hold down the fort, so to speak, and still get performing jobs because I was maybe easier to work with, or I was more humble, or I was more disciplined, or more resilient, or all of these other skills that kind of come through that people really like to work with.

Because like I said earlier, there's plenty of amazing dancers out there. Anyone can do the job. When I go to hire people for music videos or for other gigs I get or whatever, I'm looking for people who are, yes, technical, who fit the brief, all that stuff. But I go, are you going to be good to work with? Are you going to make my life easier as a choreographer? [chuckles] Please don't make it harder.

So I think it's those 2 things. It's the resilience of showing up, but in the right way; and knowing that being the best dancer in the room is not the most important thing that you have to offer to the room.

[upbeat music playing]

JOANNE KING: Thanks for tuning in to Listen @ The Arts Unit, our series introducing the 2023 NSW Public Schools Dance Ensemble tutors.

ANNOUNCER: For more information on our programs, explore our website at artsunit.nsw.edu.au. Background music licensed by Envato Elements. Copyright, State of NSW (Department of Education), 2023.

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