TEACHER PROFILE: KARA BURDACK
Ever since a young age Melbourne-based teacher, Kara Burdack, has been passionate about learning and the physical practice of dance. Long-limbed and ambitious, Kara moved from the Sunshine Coast of Australia to Melbourne in 2010 to study at the Victorian College of the Arts. Shortly after graduation Kara discovered Countertechnique, and in 2016 became a certified Countertechnique Teacher.
Tell us a little about how you started dancing:
My mum was a dancer in her youth, so the appreciation of dance was around me growing up. I started classes when I was 4 years old and I fell in love with the discipline of ballet and the technical and social aspect of it. As a child, I was actually more excited about the classes and training than with performing. Over my career I’ve worked with wonderful choreographers, however for me the performance/end goal is still not the most important aspect. My passion is with the training, teaching and the physical practice of dance and creation.
How do you look back at your years at university?
I honestly loved my years at university and the rigour of training every day. The community of the Melbourne dance scene was vibrant, and it was such a rich and exciting time. I witnessed the beginnings of Anouk van Dijk taking over as Artistic Director at Chunky Move and it was special to experience the shift of the scene.
How was your first experience with Countertechnique?
The first class I ever experienced was one of Anouk’s first classes that she ever taught in Melbourne and I remember the intense energy in the room. I remember doing one of the shoulder exercises and not knowing what on earth was going on. Senior Teacher Phillipp Fricke was there assisting her at the time and I remember watching him fly across the room and wonder in amazement how he was doing it. Countertechnique was totally different to any other training I had ever done, and this type of technique was so foreign to me.
When did you decide to become a teacher?
When I was doing my third OBOC intensive both Anouk and Nina Wollny (Master Teacher of Countertechnique) encouraged me to attend an information evening about the Teacher Training. They believed in me and expressed that with my deep interest in the technique and already present understanding, that I would make a great teacher. It took me by surprise as I thought I wasn’t qualified to apply; I thought that I hadn’t mastered the technique enough and that it was only for dancers who had worked directly in creation and performance with Anouk. However, they convinced me otherwise and I just loved it. Being a teacher runs in my family and somehow it just felt like a natural progression for me.
Can you describe why Countertechnique became such an important technique for you?
I am a tall dancer with long limbs and all through my dance training I was told that I had so much potential and that I had to “be long” and “use my length”. However, no one told me how to do it. Then within the practice of Countertechnique I learnt how to talk to myself and communicate to myself within class that wasn’t just about the aesthetic or positions. It was so functional for my body and I could feel my body opening and expanding as I was moving. I felt this intense sense of freedom and it no longer was about the practice or the approval of the teacher, or what was happening in the class, but it became about my personal process. Finally, there was an answer to how to do things and why. For example, changing my thoughts from thinking to myself “be long” to the practical thought of “sending my head away from my feet” - then I could actually be long. It was an incredible shift for me. When you find a thing that works, you just want to share it. There is nothing within the technique that I have found that doesn’t work.
What do you like to focus on in your class?
My main goal is to help dancers reduce any unnecessary tension and to move as efficiently and as enormously as possible; to have that sense of freedom in dancing. Also, I love the anatomical aspects of the technique and the freedom and articulation you can find by creating space inside your body. Helping dancers to learn how to use the full potential of their body is a gift that I love to share. Pump some tunes, get sweaty and fly around!
How do you keep your classes fresh?
As a teacher you have to be so adaptable to the group and I always say, ‘you have to make a plan to break a plan’. My general technique however, is to go to other Countertechnique classes and have conversations with other Countertechnique teachers. We have a rich Countertechnique teaching community and to have a conversation and a check-in with my colleagues when we meet one another in person, or on social media, is the best way to keep fresh. Furthermore, seeing other performances or art and reflecting on how it works and what the pathways are, becomes a translation into Countertechnique. This time in translation can transform the language and make it something new, exciting and fresh.
You teach a couple of movement disciplines. How does Countertechnique influence your general teaching approach?
Yes, I teach barre and fitness and have also studied and taught yoga as a physical practice. Countertechnique is in my body so that information it is naturally present in all my teaching.
It is the most effective and efficient way to work with your body safely and pain-free and get the most out of it. Countertechnique isn’t specific physical exercises; it is the information, the constant articulation and the process applied to any movement.
What are reflections about the past year and what are your aspirations in your Countertechnique teaching for this coming year?
This year I began teaching back at my university, the Victorian College of the Arts, and it has been such a pleasure to be back in this environment and amongst the intensity of it. Teaching on a regular basis at the university and at Chunky Move is a huge achievement for me and two goals I have dreamed of for many years. Countertechnique has given me such a gift!
There is always more for me to discover and develop and this year I would like to spend a bit more time for my own training again, to keep myself fresh and bring in new information and experience. I would also like to expand my teaching into new territories and abroad. Travelling and teaching is the ultimate dream! But to be honest, right now I feel like I am living it.
What are your favourite aspects about teaching Countertechnique?
When dancers just open up and trust you from the very beginning of class to warm them up and take them on a ride. The special moments of exploration, when you give the dancers a little bit of movement information and they begin to play and explore it for themselves. This vulnerability and these moments that you share with the dancers are my favourites.
Find out here where Kara is teaching next.
The Countertechnique Teacher Profile Interview Series started in October 2017 and is written by Madeline Harms, an Australian dancer and writer, currently based in Mainz, Germany. Learn more about Madeline on her blog Travelling Dancers.