13 October 2023

Suzanne was 'basically alone' when she moved to Canberra, then she discovered dance

| Travis Radford
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Suzanne Carroll.

Suzanne Carroll in TunnelVision (2020), which involved dancers responding to sculptures by James Rodgers. Photo: Canberra Dance Theatre.

When Suzanne Carroll uprooted her life and moved to the capital for work in 2017, she was “basically alone” and on the hunt for a way to keep active and make some new friends.

Enter Canberra Dance Theatre (CDT). Suzanne hadn’t taken dance classes since she learned ballet as a primary schooler, but decided to take the plunge and sign up for an adult ballet class.

“It was like dredging up old memories in a way and I think it helped they had beginner classes, so you could start from absolute scratch,” she recalls.

“Then they had a winter and Christmas house party and I remember seeing some other dance styles. That got me interested in doing contemporary, which is actually what I do more of these days and it’s probably my favourite style.”

Seven years later, Suzanne is a member of a CDT dance performance group and is volunteering as a leader for the community-owned not-for-profit’s 45th birthday community dance celebration this Sunday (15 October). Canberrans are invited to Civic Square to follow dance leaders including Suzanne and jive along to live music alongside Canberra drumming ensemble, Tanamasi.

There will also be free 15-minute taster classes for a variety of dance and movement styles, including contemporary, ballet, hilal, dance for seniors, Zumba and strength and flexibility.

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But Suzanne says it isn’t just the dancing that keeps her coming back. “It was surprising actually, coming in the door I found it was a really welcoming place,” she says.

“It wasn’t judgmental as to who’s the most flexible, it really was just an atmosphere of come in and enjoy, which I particularly found in my first contemporary class. It was just an absolute ball.

“You keep seeing the same faces and start to know a few names. We tend to go and have a coffee after class on a Saturday and I have friendships now outside of CDT through people I met at CDT.”

In her other life, Suzanne is a senior research fellow at the University of Canberra’s Health Research Institute, which examines how different factors may influence health and wellbeing.

“I tend to spend my day sitting at a desk quite a lot or in meetings,” she says. “It’s very much head-oriented stuff with a lot of thinking and it can be quite stressful at times.

“So it’s really pleasurable to go somewhere you can just let all that go, be completely distracted by something else and just get to enjoy the freedom of expression.”

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The CDT can also be traced back to another local academic, 2018 Senior Australian of the Year and one of Australia’s most eminent scientists Professor Graham Farquhar AO.

He established the National University Dance Ensemble (NUDE) in 1970, which later grew into the CDT. But Suzanne promises newcomers the CDT isn’t just full of academics.

She says there’s a “good mix” of Canberrans from all walks of life, from local university students through to over 55s, including those with different movement abilities.

“The place itself is very focussed on inclusion and diversity. It is about trying to just have people come in and enjoy dance.”

CDT’s 45th birthday celebration at Civic Square on Sunday 15 October starts at 1:30 pm. To find out more or book tickets, visit the CDT website.

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