Jade Webber

Duration: 17:25

Audio transcript – Jade Webber

In this episode, Zahra chats with NSW Public Schools Junior State Dance Ensemble tutor Jade Webber.

Born in Newcastle, Jade has been involved in the creative and performing arts for over 25 years. She is a primary teacher working in the Hunter Region and has successfully owned and operated a performing arts studio for 10 years. Jade has choreographed for major productions, opening ceremonies and many events during her career. Teaching and sharing her passion for the performing arts is her dream job; she loves being able to pass on knowledge of composition and performance to inspire the young dancers of today!

This is a chance to learn more about Jade’s experience in the dance industry and what it’s like working with the NSW Public Schools State Dance Ensemble. Thanks for tuning in.

Dancers in a tight group and various poses of standing and crouching, and in blue dresses on a dark stage with the floor lit in blue and white patterns
A scene from Jade Webber's piece for the State Dance Festival 2023 – The Lost Art of the Pen Pal
Zahra Cawley
Zahra Cawley – 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.

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, Zahra chats with the NSW Public School's Junior State Dance Ensemble tutor, Jade Webber.

Born in Newcastle, Jade has been involved in the creative and performing arts for over 25 years. She is a primary teacher working in the Hunter Region and successfully owned and operated a performing arts studio for 10 years. Jade has choreographed for major productions, opening ceremonies, and many events during her career.

Teaching and sharing her passion for the performing arts is her dream job. She loves being able to pass on knowledge of composition and performance to inspire the young dancers of today. This is a chance to learn more about Jade's experience in the dance industry, and what it's like working with the NSW Public Schools Junior State Dance Ensemble. Thanks for joining us.

ZAHRA: Hi, I'm Zahra. I go to Morgan Street Public School. Thank you for coming onto our podcast, Jade.

JADE WEBBER: You're welcome. It's a pleasure to be here, Zahra.

ZAHRA: My first question for you today, Jade, is how did your dance journey firstly begin?

JADE WEBBER: So it's quite a funny story. When I was little, I was born with my feet completely turned in. And the doctor suggested to my parents that in order for me to learn to walk properly without needing callipers, which is the little metal things on your legs, to get me started in dancing to help turn my feet out. So mum and dad enrolled me in my very first dance class when I was just over 2. And then it progressively got from one class a week to up to 14, 15 classes a week as I went through school.

Every year my mum and dad would say, 'Would you like to play netball?' 'Would you like to play something else?' And dance just became my passion, I think, as a bit of a mistake. I think it was meant to be an exercise. But it ended up becoming my whole life.

ZAHRA: That's actually really crazy.

JADE WEBBER: It is really crazy. When I tell people, they can't believe that I-- yeah, that's how it started and now what I'm doing today, that it's now a career.

ZAHRA: Mm-hmm. That's definitely not how mine started.


So Jade, where did you study after you left high school?

JADE WEBBER: So I went to Hunter School of Performing Arts up in the Hunter Region. And at the end of Year 12, I had big dreams of wanting to go and do a performing arts degree. The reality of moving away from my parents when I was 18 was a little bit scary at that time, so I didn't actually pursue that. I decided to stay and do a primary teaching degree up in Newcastle at Newcastle University and then transferred onto online teaching when I purchased my own dance studio at the age of 21. And then I continued to do my primary teaching degree alongside running a performing arts studio from the age of 21.

ZAHRA: That's really amazing. I would definitely want to do that, go to a performing art school. Jade, do you still have the performing arts studio now?

JADE WEBBER: So about 3 years ago, I decided that I was juggling a full-time-- my dream job, actually my full-time job at Hunter School of Performing Arts. So where I went to school, I'm now a teacher back at that school. And I get to teach kids dance there.

It was a lot teaching from 9 till 3, and then going to my studio from 3 till 9 pm every night running classes. In the end, I had up to 450 students. And I was managing 20 staff, because we did dance, drama and music lessons.

So I had to make the decision about 3 years ago to choose one job instead of trying to juggle 2 jobs. So I managed to sell the studio. I'm still a guest teacher. I still go back and run workshops and things at the studio. But I was struggling to juggle 2 jobs at the time. And I wanted to start a family and have my beautiful little girl, so yeah, I don't have the studio anymore. But I still get to do and teach kids dance with opportunities like this and also at school every day, being a selective performing arts school.

ZAHRA: That's great. When did you realise you had a passion for choreography?

JADE WEBBER: When I was about 13, I was part of a Hunter Region event called Star Struck, which is an arena spectacular that has dance, drama and music in it. And I noticed that the kids that were a little bit older than me were part of the student production team, which was a group of students that got to choreograph items on the floor for the big show.

At that point, I realised I would like to be part of that team. So from the ages 14 through to 18 I started off as a member of the student production team. And then by the time I was 16, I was the director of the student production team and had the opportunity to then choreograph for primary students, high school students, and create works on the floor in an arena spectacular at the entertainment centre.

So I think back then was where my passion really started for choreography. I was always making up dances at home when I was a little girl and for eisteddfods and impros and things like that. But I think when I really realised that I wanted to choreograph for performances and connect with primary kids and high school kids at the time, that that was where I went, oh, I could do choreography and teaching, which were my 2 passions, and still be heavily involved in the performing arts.

ZAHRA: How would you say you got the director part of the production team?

JADE WEBBER: I think it's because I'm very organised and very-- at the time, I liked to make sure that the rehearsals were really-- I guess there was an order. And the other students at the time, they were fantastic to work with. But I kind of was a natural born leader. And I kind of took the initiative with the group to make sure that we had a rehearsal schedule, make sure that we're on track, and at the time, probably looking back now, took control a little bit of the group.

But they were really, really responsive to that. They were my friends in the end. And they just sort of noticed I had a skill set to lead them. And yeah, from the age of 18, then I was welcomed back as a choreographer. And to this day, I'm now assistant dance director of the whole show.

ZAHRA: I can definitely believe that.


So Jade, what made you want to work in the Arts Unit?

JADE WEBBER: It was the next step in my journey. So because I'm from the Hunter Region, I have been heavily involved with a lot of the performing arts up there, so whether that be, as I mentioned before, Star Struck. I've been the dance director up there for the Hunter Creative Arts Camp, which is a very similar process to this, where you work with students from a range of different schools, high potential students that have the same passion as I did growing up for dance and creating works together.

So being able to come down to Sydney and work with students that are not from here has been a wonderful experience this week, but also making the connections with other colleagues and having that, to build that relationship, to use their brains when I'm running out of ideas and to get feedback, it helps me grow as a learner. So I'm still learning, but I really wanted to come down to the Arts Unit and strengthen and develop my knowledge more but also make connections with people outside of the Hunter Region.

ZAHRA: That sounds amazing.


What qualities do you think make a strong dancer?

JADE WEBBER: I've been asked this. I get asked this a lot at school, because the kids that I teach at school all got in for dance. And they're constantly saying, 'What do I need to do to be the best dancer or the best version of myself?'

I think the biggest thing is you need to be open to change. And you need to be open to be adaptable. So when I say that, don't be scared to go and try a new class with somebody in a style that you're not familiar with.

Pushing yourself as far as you can out of your comfort zone is going to turn you into the best possible dancer that you can be. The more people that you can learn from, the more styles that you can try, even if it's a style that you thought you would never probably use in the future, go and try and take a class in it, because you will learn not only something about that genre of dance, but you will learn maybe, if you want to head into the teaching, how that teacher directs that class, how they warm up, how they get you to try things, how they get you to workshop, how they cool down, just how they even interact with you as a dancer.

The more people that you can engage with and take class from is going to make you a really strong dancer alongside, obviously, the classical technique and making sure that you are keeping that as your foundation. But don't let being scared hold you back. Do as many classes with as many people as you can.

ZAHRA: That's some really good information. What do you say is your favourite style of dance and why?

JADE WEBBER: It used to be tap growing up. It used to be tap. That was what I was-- I would love going to a state fair and doing all of my tap routines. Then it shifted to jazz, and probably more so, I would say, jazz and contemporary have the biggest part in my heart at the moment.

But it shifts and it changes I think, depending on works that I've seen. And then I go back to my school or wherever I'm working, and I try to adapt. But I'd say probably overall, tap would be my go-to.

ZAHRA: That's very interesting. I haven't really been a tapper. I did when I was little, but not really a tapper anymore. I haven't met that many tappers really in my life.

JADE WEBBER: Save that advice that I just gave you. Take some classes and become--

ZAHRA: Maybe I might.

JADE WEBBER: Yeah, become a triple threat. Learn as many styles as you can, even if it's the basics. You go to an audition when you're older, and knowing that you've got that little bit of skill to tap will put you above other people in that audition.

ZAHRA: What advice would you give young dancers about entering the dance world?

JADE WEBBER: Don't be scared like I was when I was 18. [laughs] I think take that challenge and know that you can always go home to mum and dad, but being brave enough to take that risk, to move away for an opportunity or to move away to better yourself as a learner and as a dancer, taking those classes-- I think being brave and being open to whatever possibilities are thrown your way is really important.

And remember to take care of yourself, because you can push too hard. You can definitely push your body to the extreme where you will burn out, so remembering to take time to find another passion as well as dance that you love, that can be your outlet to ensure that you have some downtime, so you don't burn out too quickly.

ZAHRA: That's a really good message for people entering the dance world. Jade, do you have a dance idol or someone that inspires you?

JADE WEBBER: I do. I do, and I actually did my HSC major work based on this choreographer. And I don't get the opportunity to do much with him with that sort of style anymore when I'm doing a lot of the contemporary works. But Bob Fosse, have you heard of him?

ZAHRA: No, I haven't, actually.

JADE WEBBER: So he was a pioneer in the choreography world many, many years ago, well before your time. And he choreographed in musical theatre was his genre. And he instigated and created this beautiful, unique style of dance that once I've pointed it out now, if you go home tonight and you have a look and you google him, you will actually see how frequent it is in musicals across time.

And his style just really appealed to me, because it was so simple, so elegant, but so effective and so powerful. I think he really-- yeah, as I said, when I'm choreographing contemporary works, I don't really get an opportunity to use much of that. But when I'm doing jazz and musical theatre pieces, he is in the back of my mind all the time, my go-to. When things start to get a bit crazy on stage, I just yeah, channel back to him and simplify it, and it comes together beautifully.

ZAHRA: Well, that's amazing. I know that I definitely love musical theatre. It's probably one of my top 3 favourite styles. It's up there.

JADE WEBBER: Do you sing?

ZAHRA: Yes, I do sing.

JADE WEBBER: Good, good. Be the all-rounder.

ZAHRA: Yeah. So Jade, what's more important, turns or jumps?

JADE WEBBER: That's a tough one. That's a really tough one. I think there's a time and place for both, but I want to say turns, only because I think that your alignment, your control, and the ability to stop and start in a direct place is important. I think jumps are great and elevation, but that's a whole different-- that's a whole different kettle of fish. [laughs] So I think turns to me are more important. If you can control turns, I think having that control and that core strength will then enable you to have beautiful jumps.

ZAHRA: Yeah. Well, that's definitely some good information for me, because I need to work on both of those, as they're not my favourite thing to do. If you could rewind time and go back to young Jade, what advice would you tell yourself?

JADE WEBBER: Not to stress, [laughs] not to overthink things, and be brave enough to take that challenge. I think I was such a worrier as a little girl. I was always worried that I wasn't doing things the right way. And I was too afraid to roll across the floor and try something new. I had to make sure that it was precise, and it was exact, and my arms and my head and my feet were in the right spot. I think to let go more would be advice I would like to rewind and give myself. Yeah, I think that.

ZAHRA: That's definitely some great advice, especially for many young people, so yeah. If you had one word to describe yourself, what would it be and why?

JADE WEBBER: Motivated, I think. I can't sit still, so I struggle to switch off. I struggle to-- even when I'm supposed to be having downtime, I think that I-- it's that overthinking that I was just talking about. I can't sit there and watch a movie without listening to the soundtrack and thinking, oh, I could use that in a dance, or a TV show or something like that. So I think motivated and driven would be my personality.

ZAHRA: It's definitely a great word to describe you, I think. Jade, do you have anything else to add?

JADE WEBBER: I would like to thank you, Zahra. Those questions really stopped and made me think about my journey, and how I've got to be here and reflect a little bit, which I often don't take time to do. So thank you for those questions.

And it's been an absolute pleasure to get to know you this week as a dancer. And I hope that you continue with the passion and the drive that I've seen in the workshops this week. You're a very, very special girl. And I think you're going to go places, so keep dancing.

ZAHRA: Thank you, and thanks for coming, Jade. We really appreciate it.

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

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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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