Dance-maker Amrita Hepi talks to us about intersecting identities, the sometimes mishandled faculty of self-care and how her body serves her beyond dance.
Can we get the Amrita Hepi elevator pitch?
Hi, I'm Amrita. Wanna dance?
What have you been working on in the last few months? What's ahead that you're excited for?
In the last few months I have made four short dance films commissioned by ASOS, been to Romania, made a dance work/duet for Art Basel Hong Kong (with a giant inflatable and a heart rate monitor) and taken it to a festival called Dark Mofo in Hobart and still not gotten my driver's license. I'm excited about making more dance work with my friends Honey & Prue at Underbelly Arts Festival, going to Impulstanz [an International Dance Festival] in Vienna, seeing Lisa Reihana and Tracey Moffatt's work at Venice and a few new commissions in Australia that are on the boil...
When/why/how did you decide you wanted to make a career out of dance?
I started dance super young but when I decided I wanted to make a career out of it, I was studying dance at uni and had started teaching dance classes in a local Sydney nightclub called Good God to rooms full of people. I loved it. I think I may have decided in 2010 that it was an actual career choice and stopped trying to look for more 'stable, long term, paths.' Slowly, I stopped having a side job (well, started calling in sick to my side jobs) and it started being full time, and now I am here!
Why does movement make a compelling case for confidence, anyway?
The most confident people I know are never static—not to say they are in motion all of the time (confidence can be delivered in stillness) but they are always on the move.
Yes. These types are dynamic and multi-tasking and, you know, busy. And there are many shades of a woman day to day—and certainly, nuances dictated by her cycle—that mean one day she might be hyper-confident and positive and the next, she's struggling with energy and self-esteem. So sometimes, for some women, the pressure of being constantly busy is hard.
Being busy can be hard and so too is being consistent. It can also be a release—I guess the goal posts are always shifting a little bit depending on where you wanna set them. I think the most important thing beyond being busy, or getting things done or being a boss or whatever is rigour. maintaining a kind of integrity with what your doing can mean checking in beyond yourself with people you trust. I've been thinking a bit about self-love lately, spurred by a friend Jonno Revanche who is a beautiful writer. They were saying that self love is kind of endlessly promoted as a way of getting by and getting ahead and it's a bit of an individualistic memo. I think self love and being busy are both good, but so to is looking at how it is that you're doing it. Are you comparing yourself to the successes/disparity/busy-ness of others or for yourself?
You know that saying "all bodies are beach bodies"? Lol. I think you might believe that all bodies are dancing bodies. If correct why so?
Because theres potential to access pleasure in dance in all bodies—so why not? *Sidenote: it doesn't need to be voyeuristic or virtuosic. Though it can be both if desired!
Any particularly memorable stories or anecdotes about people you've taught and how they've been affected?
I've had a wide array of beautiful students from super-sweet hormonal tweens, to adults re-discovering some kind of moving joy, to an elderly lady who couldn't lift her arms above her head or walk up the stairs at the age of 79 but would come to class all the same—especially from the pop culture classes in the club. I've had people cry. I've had a room full of people on all fours shaking for their life. I've had people go off study dance after coming to classes.
Recently, I did a part of an ongoing dance work in Melbourne. There, I worked one-on-one with a person for 45 minutes to create a kind of signature move or phrase of movement. I worked with about 80 people all up, and it made me realise how much history gesture holds (as lame as it sounds) and also how generous people are willing to be with their bodies and their time.
With respects to your internet presence (@amrita_moves) is it important for you to address contemporary concerns that affect minority groups or more broadly, our generation? What are the biggest concerns?
Well, yes—my life, bloodline and history are a part of certain minority groups. And while it may feel zeitgeist-y to be a part of addressing things online, I'll take any platform I can get.
My biggest concerns are: indigenous sovereignty, the fact that our islands are drowning and climate change.....and then the things that are contributing to that decline (as well as the decline, erosion and erasure of many others) are: the patriarchy, white supremacy, ongoing colonisation.
Par Femme is a site for sexual empowerment. Do you see sex and dance as intersecting entities at all? If so how?
I'm yet to find an intersect that dance cant be part of; so yes. And maybe the most obvious justification is: they both begin with the body.
Is sex important to you? Why/why not?
No—sex can be such a fkn power ploy and the body has so many other things to get on with but also...
Yes—because as corny as it sounds I really love the person that I am having sex with and we don't get to see each other a lot... so in the moments when we are together leading up to and after sex it feels important and special.