Interview: Emma Coppersmith on The Creamery

Emma Coppersmith is a Wellington based dancer and actress, currently working at Java Dance Company. She is in The Creamery, which premieres at Wellington’s Hannah Playhouse in July. You can buy tickets here: https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2017/the-creamery/wellington

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Who are you and how did you get started in performing arts?

My name’s Emma Coppersmith, I’m 26 and I first started dancing when I was 5.  My mum put me into ballet classes and I loved it from the start.  I became more serious about dancing when I was about 12 where I also started contemporary, and became interested in possibility of making dance a career. I was a junior associate of the New Zealand School of Dance at 14, and then at 17 auditioned for the 3 year full time course which I was accepted into and graduated in 2010. After graduating and having to step out into the real world of working as a dancer I freelanced in Wellington.  Doing different projects with other freelancers, performing and touring with World of Wearable Arts, and just being open to saying yes to everything. I think that’s really what helps you grow and network when you first graduate as you’re not always going to get your ideal type of job or contract straight out of school.

In 2013, Sacha Copland who is the director of Java Dance Theatre, was mentoring a project I was working on and asked me if I would be interested in working with her on Java’s next project.  I am currently still working with them and we are now in the final development of our latest work ‘The Creamery’ which will be premiered in Wellington in July.

What is The Creamery and why should people go see it?

The Creamery is the third work in the Artisan Series. The Artisan Series began with RISE (bread-making as a metaphor for building a community) and The Wine Project (wine making as a metaphor for village politics, power, ritual and revelry). The Creamery looks at when two contrasting ideologies collide in a tactile world of milk, herbs, lemons, leather, bells and cheese making. Exposed to different societies, some relish in the idea of what they don’t have, others stuck in the traditions of their society. Tactics are created and rules are broken.

The Creamery is an immersive dance theater work, which creates a world that the audience are a part of. Five characters create these worlds through live music, theatre dance, textures, scent and even making of cheese all integrated.  It really is an experience for the audience.

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What’s your favourite role you’ve ever played?

Would have to be my character in The Wine Project. More so because I had the role created on me so I almost feel connected to it. From creating the character’s back story to performing it for the last 2 years and developing it even further. I enjoy that aspect of performing a role over a long duration of time as you really get to develop the character and show. The Wine Project  is also such an amazing show to perform, dancing a tango on top of wine barrels and playing cajones (type of percussive drum), crushing spices and feeding the audience grapes and flipping over barrels it’s definitely a show where feel like you’ve been on a journey.

A very memorable role though would have to be performing one of the characters of our show Back of the Bus on a double decker red bus in Edinburgh. The show involves three characters, people you might find on a bus but dramatised. We perform on the bus while it is moving and stop at different locations where the audience get off and follow the dancers. It’s like getting an insight into these characters lives from on the bus to in their living room to at a bar. As you can imagine there’s no space between the dancer and audience so that barrier is broken. We physically connect with the audience which is a skill that takes a bit of time to learn to do in a safe and less invasive manner. It’s crazy what you can make an audience member do with the right approach.  A very fun show to perform!

Why do you think dance/theatre are important?

I think dance and theatre are important because they give people a chance to come out of their everyday lives and get transformed into another world for a moment. I also love the way you can emotionally connect with your audience in so many different ways.  I love dance and theatre that breaks the barrier between performer and audience.

Who is someone that inspires you the most?

Someone that inspires me would have to be Sacha Copland who is the director of Java.  Sacha is one of the most hard working people I know, running a company pretty much by yourself is a huge amount of work. I am also really inspired by her way of working and what she can bring out of a person creatively. I have learnt so much from her and her style of working. I love her creative process, quite often working from a character development and theatrical tasking.

The other dancers and musicians I work with inspire me everyday. Their talent and creativity is really inspiring to be around.

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What is some advice you would give to a young person wanting to get into performing arts?

I would say be open minded.  We so often get stuck in one stylised way of working, I definitely wouldn’t of imagined I’d be performing the types of work I do now 10 years ago. Take risks, you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there, it’s a competitive industry with not a huge amount of jobs. Some advice for young professionals or graduates would also be to network as much as possible. A lot of the time people get jobs from who they know. It can take time, but in New Zealand that’s how a lot of people get work, through knowing the right people.

The Creamery is playing at Hannah Playhouse July 5th – 7th.

You can buy tickets to The Creamery here: https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2017/the-creamery/wellington 

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