Millie Slennett

Duration: 14:22

Audio transcript – Millie Slennett

In this episode, we chatted with Millie Slennett, tutor for the 2023 NSW Public Schools Junior Dance Ensemble. The hosts, Arielle and Aishi, are both students of the NSW Public Schools Junior Senior Dance Ensemble.

Millie is a professional dancer/freelance choreographer/creative director/adjudicator and host of The Dance Pod podcast. She currently travels around Australia teaching workshops, choreographing for various companies and studios and adjudicating. Millie is a touring teaching artist at Sydney Dance Company, and you may have recently spotted Millie on season one of The Traitors Australia for Channel Ten.

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

Millie Slennet
Millie Slennet – dance tutor
Arielle Roth Darko
Arielle Roth Darko – host
Aishi Wijesekara
Aishi Wijesekara – 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.

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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 Arielle and Aishi spoke with the NSW Public School's Junior Dance Ensemble tutor, Millie Slennet.

Millie is a professional dancer, freelance choreographer, creative director, adjudicator and host of 'The Dance Pod' podcast. She currently travels around Australia teaching workshops, choreographing for various companies and studios, and adjudicating. Millie is a touring teaching artist at the Sydney Dance Company.

And you may have most recently spotted Millie on season one of 'The Traitors Australia' for Channel 10. This is a chance to learn more about Millie's experience in the industry, and what it's like working with the NSW Public School's Junior Dance Ensemble. Thanks for tuning in to this episode.

ARIELLE: I'm Arielle and I attend Burwood Girls High School.

AISHI: I'm Aishi and I attend Northmead Creative and Performing Arts High School.

ARIELLE: Our first question is, what is it that you love about teaching dance at the NSW State Dance Ensemble?

MILLIE SLENNET: I love being able to see a very, very broad range of dancers come from all over the state, ones that have had different backgrounds, different training, some not a lot of training at all, and being able to nurture those individuals for what they need rather than trying to kind of conform everyone into one kind of dancer. Being able to nurture everyone individually is probably my favourite thing.

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

MILLIE SLENNET: For me it's being able to sit on the audition panel and watch you all come in as individuals, some of you that have done State Dance before, some of you who have never stepped foot in that audition room before, watching what happens there, and then the selection process to seeing you all in the studio. That's probably my favourite thing is day one rocking up and seeing all of your lovely faces from audition and seeing who actually made it into the ensemble.

ARIELLE: How do you find juggling dance and other aspects of life? And what do you do to cope with that?

MILLIE SLENNET: So I have a very unique career path when it comes to working in dance land, as I call it. So I've got a bunch of different things that I do in the dance world as a freelance artist. And then I'm also a veterinary nurse, so I juggle working in 2 very different fields. And I think being able to dip in and out of both is what helps keep me quite grounded and be able to focus when I am in each kind of job role. And then I think hanging out with my dogs is my happy place. So when I'm not working, that's what I'm doing.

ARIELLE: What are your dogs' names?

MILLIE SLENNET: My dogs are called Humphrey and Herb. And they're kind of little Instagram celebrities. They've got their own account. And I'm kind of like a dog manager.

AISHI: What got you into dance in the beginning?

MILLIE SLENNET: I was thrown into ballet when I was about 3, and I never left. To be honest, I really loved it. I got to-- that was my creative outlet. And I just-- yeah, I haven't stopped.

AISHI: What dance studio did you dance at when you were younger?

MILLIE SLENNET: So I started at North Balgowlah School of Dance. And I was there till I was probably about 12. Then I moved to Brooke Henderson Dance Studios in Brookvale, which has now changed ownership and is a different name now. And then from there, I went to Newtown Performing Arts. And then I went and trained full-time in New York with Broadway Dance Centre.

ARIELLE: What was your favourite dance memory?

MILLIE SLENNET: My favourite dance memory to be honest was probably finding out that I got accepted for the program to go to New York and train full-time. That was very, very exciting and a bit of a change of pace, because I'd never lived out of home on my own and definitely not overseas before.

ARIELLE: What was it like working in New York compared to Australia?

MILLIE SLENNET: Working in New York and overseas in general, I think, is very, very different. So when you get to a point where you are auditioning for professional roles, and you're trying to make it as a professional dancer, the audition pool in Australia-- you'll find when you get to that age-- is quite small and the jobs are quite limited, which is a good thing, because it pushes us. And Australian dancers are known for being exceptionally hungry.

But when you go overseas, the pool is much bigger. And you could go to 5 auditions in one day and not run into the same group of people, so it's just a-- it's a bigger pool.

AISHI: In your opinion, what dance style is more valuable to learn, ballet or performing arts?

MILLIE SLENNET: Well, I think everyone needs a ballet background of some description, even if you're a hip hop dancer and that's what you love. I think having some technical grounding and understanding from the get-go. I think everyone needs a bit of ballet. And then you can go out and practise versatility in different genres.

AISHI: So you think that at the start they need to do ballet, but they don't have to keep doing it?

MILLIE SLENNET: I think it's always good to have in your back pocket. I think when you're still growing, when your bodies are growing, and you're developing, and you're trying to figure out where you want to fit in and what sort of pathway you want to take with dance, it's a very good, steady genre to have. And if you do want to go down the path of full-time and things, they will drill ballet into you as well. So if you already have that from the get-go, it's where all your foundation is.

ARIELLE: What advice can you give to dancers for the future?

MILLIE SLENNET: Oh my goodness, so many things. I think the biggest thing is making sure that you really focus on what makes you happy and what you enjoy and why you dance, because I think the second you forget why you love it so much and why you're doing it is when you just fade into the background, or you become a bit of a robot and you are blending in with everyone else. Your goal as a dancer is to stand out for your own unique reasons.

AISHI: What do you like most in dance, for example, performing, teaching, learning, watching, et cetera?

MILLIE SLENNET: So this has definitely changed for me over the years. I was so set on only being a professional dancer. I wanted to be the one performing. I wanted someone else to be telling me what to do. And I still love doing bits and pieces of that.

But I think when I was sort of in my early 20s, something kind of flipped for me. I got a bit of a taste for what it was like to choreograph and be on the creative side. And that's definitely where I prefer to sit these days, because for me, being able to sit back and watch a work that I created and be able to pull it apart, put it back together, make it how I want it to look, that's what I really love from a creative point these days.

ARIELLE: What is your favourite dance style and why?

MILLIE SLENNET: Oh my goodness, so I jump around. I really like to make sure that I'm continuing to be versatile, like what we talked about before. I'm very heavy in contemporary, obviously, and that's kind of what we do a lot of here. But jazz, Broadway jazz, commercial jazz are also part of my kind of main hub of genres. I can't pick one, if I'm honest. It depends what mood I'm in-- either contemporary, lyrical, or Broadway, commercial jazz.

ARIELLE: What sort of process do you go through when creating a dance piece?

MILLIE SLENNET: So my process for creating dance pieces is a very different approach to a lot of other people that I know. I work very much on the fly. So what that means for me is I wait until I physically have those bodies in the room, and I wait to see how you all move, and I test certain things out on bodies.

I don't necessarily go in with a huge game plan. I like to work on the spot and work with my dancers and see where we can take things. And I really like watching. Rather than it be 120%, all of me giving you everything, I really like to see what you can come up with.

So for example, what we've done so far, I asked you all to pick a funky pose. It could be anything that you liked. And even just from that I could see points of your personality or ways in which your brain is working creatively. So I work on the fly, on the spot. I'll usually have an idea of where I want things to go. But I don't plan things start to finish and then put it on the dancers.

AISHI: And also, was there a specific person who inspired you to become a choreographer or who helped you make dances?

MILLIE SLENNET: So I really found my own pathway with this. I have-- obviously, there are some fabulous people in the industry that I really look up to. But I've never sort of pinpointed one person exactly.

And I've really-- I think that that's been an important part of my creative process is just figuring things out for myself, what works, what doesn't, what reads well, what doesn't read well. And if you ever go down the path of that, being able to sit at the front and actually look at something and go, um, it falls a bit flat, or that actually looked really nice-- how can we make it better? It's been sort of a personal growth journey for me.

ARIELLE: Do you think that working in America, in New York influenced your style of dance and what you like to choreograph?

MILLIE SLENNET: I think going to-- great question, by the way. I think going to America and being able to see what else was out there really opened my eyes to what I could do as a creative. So I think it was at about that point-- I was 19 when I went and studied over there-- and that was when I realised that I could do a lot more in the choreographic scene, as much as I could still continue to be a professional dancer. So that was a real turning point for me. And I think if I hadn't have gone there and had that experience, I don't know where I would be today.

AISHI: What were your other hobbies when you were a child? And were you 100% definitely going to be a dancer from a young age?

MILLIE SLENNET: I think I always knew that I would do it long term. There definitely came a point where I had to make a decision, because I was very sports-heavy when I was younger. I did a lot of surf lifesaving. I was playing water polo, playing touch footy, all of that fun stuff that I'm sure you guys probably-- do you have outside-- you obviously have outside dance hobbies. What do you guys do?

AISHI: I play cricket and netball.

MILLIE SLENNET: I love that.

ARIELLE: And I play the clarinet.

MILLIE SLENNET: Cool, so you've got things outside of this, right? For me, I got to a real pointy end where obviously to be a dancer, there's certain elements of the body that you really need to be conditioning and working on. And then if you're doing another extreme sport, like surf lifesaving and going down the path of being an iron woman, it's a completely different body build and ways of training.

And they kind of get to a point where they don't really complement each other anymore. So I had to make a decision, and I chose dance. And I was probably about 13, 14 at that point. And then I really haven't looked back.

AISHI: So at the start of our lessons every week, we share fun facts. So what would your fun fact be today, Millie?

MILLIE SLENNET: So this is my favourite part of every single lesson I think, because it means that I get to know you all so well, and for weird and wonderful reasons. Really get to dive into everyone's lives, and you guys get to know a lot about us as well.

Today my fun fact was extra super special, because I can't really hide it anymore. And that is because I'm having a baby at the end of the year. So that's why I'm sitting here in all my baggy clothes-- yeah, woohoo!-- in my baggy clothes rather than my beautiful, tight-fitted dancewear, like you both. [laughs]

AISHI: Do you know what gender your baby's going to be?

MILLIE SLENNET: I do. It's going to be a girl. So I'm very excited. I would have been excited either way, but I'm too nosy, so I had to find out. I'm not good with surprises.

My question before we wrap this up is what have you 2 enjoyed the most about being part of state dance ensemble so far this year?

AISHI: I enjoyed making new friends, because I made a lot of new friends in my group and also going out of my comfort zone with the dance. So the dance we're doing this year is a lot more different than what I've ever done before.

MILLIE SLENNET: I love that.

ARIELLE: And I've loved kind of as well, like it's very different to all of the dance that I've done before-- but I also just the dynamic. It's kind of different than competition dance or just general dance in the studio, like it's-- I don't know how to explain it. It's different. And it kind of feels more like people who really want to be there and to dance all together, so I really like that.

MILLIE SLENNET: And that means we are doing our job. Yes!

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 Background music licensed by Envato Elements. Copyright, State of NSW (Department of Education), 2023.

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