With her bright and bubbly energy it’s hard to not feel uplifted in the presence of Luca Dinardo. Her vivacious personality makes it easy to understand why her classes are a favourite within the dance community. Not only is she talented, she has a genuine interest in educating and giving back to others. Coming from a family of entertainers (her older sister has been performing on Broadway and her nonna was in the recent Aquaman movie), this home grown Australian talent encompasses the phrase ‘all rounder’. Not only is she a respected performer, she’s worked as a dance captain on all professional work, has been a dance assistant to world renowned choreographers, and has also been an assistant director and choreographer with Melbourne Theatre Company. Despite her achievements, Luca remains humble and emphasises the importance of self belief, trusting your intuition and divine timing. Reminding us to all be our own biggest fan and best friend, we sat down with Luca and had a chat about her career to date. See below to read more about this talented spirit and see her photoshoot with Energetiks.
Energetiks: How did your journey with dance begin?
Luca Dinardo: I was 2 and a half and my sister used to dance because she didn’t sleep well as a child. So my mum put her in every single sport possible – dancing, swimming, gymnastics to tire her out. On a Saturday, she did dancing and I was such a pain for my mum. I wouldn’t sit still watching my sister and the teacher eventually was like ‘why don’t you put her in class?’ and mum was like ‘she’s way too young’ but she did and that was pretty much how it all started. When I had to choose between other activities and dance, dancing was the thing that stayed – thank god!
E: When did you realise it was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
LD: My sister moved to New York when I was 15 and that became the first time I was going to dance without her. Growing up we always danced together and when we trained at Patrick Studios Australia (now Patrick School of the Arts) we were always in the same class, so when she moved it was the biggest adjustment for me. My dance teacher then said to me ‘so who’s going to continue the family name?’ and I was like ‘shat do you mean?’ and he said ‘you have to keep the Dinardo name going’. Normally that freaks people out but for me that was the moment that clicked where I realised that not only do I have to do this, I also want to do this.
E: Tell us about your experience as assistant director and choreographer for Kiss of the Spiderwoman. Was this the first time you’ve done something like this before?
LD: I’ve assisted choreographers before but never a director. It was always something I’ve wanted to do and when the opportunity came up to work with Dean Bryant and Andrew Hallsworth I was like ‘this is exactly what I want to do!’. I was honoured to be given such an opportunity but it also heightened many insecurities of ‘am I good enough?’ ‘do I even know what I’m doing?’ ‘will people respect me because of my age?’ But the whole time I had to stick to my guns and have faith in what I was doing. I was pretty much learning on the job as that was the first time I’ve done something like that. It was also tricky at times assisting two different people, sometimes even at the same time, but they both worked together so well that it almost felt like they were the same person at times!
The show itself was very complicated so you couldn’t just go in without having some pre-planning and a complete understanding of the storyline. Dean had such a great understanding of the show and working alongside him and watching how he directed not only the show, but the entire space, really changed my perspective on how much he and a director in general are responsible for. The respect Dean had from all heads of department was amazing to see and it was incredible to learn that part of directing that a lot of people don’t know about.
E: Do you think this is a direction you’d like to move towards in your dance career?
LD: When I started teaching and choreographing a lot that was when I realised that I actually really enjoyed those aspects of dance. As a performer, I would perform but also help create the show. From there I just fell into that kind of work, like literally fell into it. I’m very much aware that this is where I’ll end up, especially directing and choreographing. But I’m not giving up performing just yet because I really do love it! I think if I focus on choreographing and nothing else I’ll freak myself out. I’m just taking as many lessons as I can while I’m on this journey and learn from the opportunities I’m being presented with. I feel like I’m in a very special spot right now and I’m very grateful for it.
E: Your sister has been in New York performing in Moulin Rouge! The Musical, which is amazing! How was it being able to perform with her in Australia in West Side Story last year?
LD: We had done one job together when we were 13 and 15 but this was the first time we had danced together as adults! It was actually the first time since she had left that we got to dance together at all because even when I went to visit her in America she was busy working when I was doing classes or I would watch her in the show so we never got to dance together. It was also the first time she ever got to watch me perform because we always used to train together and perform together but she never really got to watch me, so it was really great that that also happened!
E: You’ve been in both seasons of Bring It On the Musical as Dance Captain. How was it being in such a fun, iconic musical and working with the talented Michael Ralph?
LD: Michael Ralph really works one on one with his dance captain (DC) so the show that is being created can be the best it can be. I was learning what DC meant on the job because this was the first time I had had this opportunity at a professional level. I learnt that the DC is like the glue that brings the creative and the cast together. I’m there to continue on the creative direction once the directors are gone.
Bring It On was such a physically demanding show and as a result there were times when we had to re-block last minute as a result of injuries. Being the first professional show I had done, and the first time as a DC, I got thrown in the deep end having to re-block and alter things 45 minutes before a show was about to start! But I’m not one to give up when a challenge arises and I can attribute that to the training that I had. When a difficult situation arises I take that challenge on and try to repair the problem as best I can, to the best of my ability. I’ve now been DC on every job I’ve done and I use the mentality that I am the voice of everyone who needs a voice.
E: What’s been your favourite moment/experience/highlight as a performer to date?
LD: Probably West Side Story (Handa Opera) because the setting was just amazing. I would turn around and you would see the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the fireworks that would go off every night. Being able to perform with my sister was an extra element on top of all that. Every night was so special. As the set had no wings, we would wait on these stairs on the side of the stage and I remember sitting there looking up at the sky and the moon and thinking to myself ‘I’m in the middle of a show looking at the moon right now!’. Everything was just so perfect, I couldn’t fault it. The cast were also so incredible. We still have group chats that everyone posts things in all the time.
Kiss of the Spiderwoman (MTC) was also a really special moment. Having my family and best friend sitting next to me watching what I had helped create was indescribable. It was the first thing I had assisted creating and been able to watch it from the outsiders perspective was surreal. It was the first time I had been part of a creative team and I was so proud of what we had all achieved.
E: The classes and workshops you teach seem to be a favourite for a lot of people. Can you explain why you enjoy teaching and what it means to you?
LD: After full-time training, I taught almost full-time for 2-3 years because I was too young to book a job but too old to still be in training. But I think I took on too much too quickly and then I started to doubt what I was doing because I wanted to perform but I wasn’t performing. So that was when I started to back away from teaching a bit. I do love teaching and working with kids and expressing myself through choreography, but I needed to focus more on performing rather than teaching at that period and time. That said, I really love teaching workshops and teaching jazz because I don’t think there’s enough being taught at the moment. I’m grateful that I had such a solid jazz technique foundation and I want to share that with others and give back. I feel like jazz doesn’t get taught that often and as a result I get such big numbers in classes. I saw a hole and I’m trying to fill that. It’s a really good way to also get to know new graduates and see what talent is out there and who else is dancing and sharing their art. If you’re going to dance after a bit of time off jazz is the place you should go back to first!
E: Who do you draw your inspiration from?
LD: I trained at PSA and Andrew Hallsworth was someone who I have always looked up to. I looked up to him before I even knew I wanted to be a choreographer. After I trained in his course for two years I was like ‘Okay, you’re even more amazing than I originally thought you were’. Andy is a mentor of mine and I always go to him when I have questions or want to ask him something but in order for me to work with him I knew that I had to grow up first. I’ve also assisted Kelly Abbey when she did Miracle City in the Opera House and I was doing my secondment. I learnt so much from her and as a female choreographer I really looked up to her, especially as a performer who moved on to choreography. She choreographed Fame and performed in Fame and that is something I would love to do!
E: If you had to choose, what would be your favourite style of dance?
LD: Choreographing I love jazz and lyrical because that’s where the ideas flow. But as a performer I’m open to everything. I feel like I sit best in lyrical because I always have something to release. I feel like it’s my healing and it’s always a great chance to do that. I do hip hop because that’s where I find my style and I feel like you always need to evolve and find what works for you. I love getting thrown in the deep end and surviving and learning from that.
E: What is something that always makes you laugh?
LD: I always laugh at everything. I’m the easiest person to get to laugh. But what really makes me laugh is good energy. If I feel like I’m in a comfortable environment, you’ll see me laughing.
E: What is something that people may not know about you?
LD: People often say to me ‘Oh you’re so bubbly’ and I was like there was actually a moment in my life where I wasn’t so bubbly. There were a few years where I was suffering from depression and nothing in my life made me happy. I was stuck and I didn’t feel like I could do anything. I was getting cut from auditions first round and I was like why am I even doing this. I started to question whether I was in the right industry and maybe I should just teach. And my mum was like ‘You’ve changed’ and I was like ‘No, this is what life is about. It’s hard’. But my mum was adamant that I was different and I couldn’t see it. I had no confidence and no belief in myself. And it’s funny because the ball rolls in any direction and for me it was just getting worse and worse. And I didn’t realise how bad it had gotten until I managed to actually get out. When I saw ‘Waitress’ on Broadway that was when I realised ‘This is me’ and I knew I had to get out of the headspace I was in. I have the most supportive family and friends but it didn’t matter. It made no difference. I just didn’t hear what they were saying. I then started to put belief in myself again and it took about 3 years to become the person I am today. And now I’m grateful for any opportunity. My life is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
E: What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of this industry?
LD: There’s a few things. Getting past the stress of doing shows or choreographing or whatever it may be and then coming out the other end like ‘I survived this. I did it’. And the trust that you have in others and others have in you. Even with all of the adversities and challenges we had whilst doing Bring It On, we still managed to put on a show and that was largely due to the fact that we had trust in each other. It was community coming together. And it’s always a community situation. When I did a fundraiser for the bushfires earlier this year with my friend Stefan we organised the workshop with such a quick turn around and we had 85 people turn up! I had to stop myself from crying. The sense of community was so overwhelming and we also managed to raise $3500 in a 2-hour class! It’s moments like that where I realise this is why I dance, this is why I perform, and this is why I do what I do. It’s the best feeling you can have. I’m here for a reason and I’m on this journey to make a difference and that’s what all artists are doing. They are trying to share something about themselves that others can relate to. That moment when you achieve something from a hard situation, which is almost every day of our lives, that is what is rewarding.
E: Any words of advice for other aspiring dancers and performers?
LD: You have to be your number one everything. You need to be that person who makes yourself get out of bed and go to class. You also need to be your number one friend. I like to think to myself, if this was my best friend what would I say to them right now, and then I say that to myself. In life, everyone and everything comes and goes. The only thing you have as a constant in your entire life is yourself. You need to ensure your ecosystem is being nurtured so you can grow. Be your own stage mum, your number one fan!
To follow Luca’s creative journey follow her on Instagram: @luca_dinardo
Article by Sheree Ronai-Horvath
Photography by Elly Ford