Our Putting Pen To Paper series, features different individuals & showcases what they use their favourite notebook for. It could be for to-do lists, sketching, song writing, illustrations, notes, daily gratitudes & everything in between. This week we went inside the notebooks of Alice Topp, Resident Choreographer at The Australian Ballet & Benedicte Bemet, Principal Artist with The Australian Ballet.
Benedicte: I’m a Principal Artist with The Australian Ballet. I spend my days in the studio taking class, rehearsing and at night I’m in the theatre performing.
Alice: I would describe being a choreographer as a developer, director, designer and artist of movement. Being a choreographer means using your artistic voice to create your own dance vocabulary, collaborating with dancers, designers, musicians and other creatives to help bring your vision to life.
Plain or Lined paper?
Benedicte: Most of the time I use lined paper, I love having structure on a page already. There can be something very daunting about a blank page! However, I’m trying to remind myself that not everything I write has to be perfect and sometimes you just have to put the pen to paper and let the rest happen naturally, lines or no lines!
Alice: Plain paper! I usually use my notepad for jotting down choreographic ideas and potential concepts. I also regularly use my notebook for corrections during a rehearsal so often my notes become scrawled across the page as I attempt to keep one eye on the choreography and not miss a beat!
When do you put pen to paper?
Benedicte: I put pen to paper in so many different ways each day. I’m a to-do list lover, I have been known to add something to my list just to get the satisfaction of ticking it off! I scribble things down in my diary and yearly planners regularly, this makes it easier to stay on top of our busy touring schedule and various performance dates. I also love hand writing cards! We have a beautiful culture at work where will write each other ‘chookas’ (good luck) cards before big shows and I love writing to my boyfriend that lives in Germany at the moment. It’s a little old-fashioned but beautiful.
Alice: Often when an idea comes to mind, I like to jot it down as soon as possible. I might write down thoughts, things I’ve read, seen or heard and it’s full meaning might not become apparent immediately. When ruminating on concepts for a new work, I often collect snippets of poetry, quotes and images and stick them next to ideas I’m developing. I also have a habit of attempting to capture movement ideas by scrawling down amateur stick figures to help demonstrate partnering steps or patterns! It’s a novel way of trying to remember a sequence!
What inspired the Pen to Paper in your images?
Benedicte: My images are inspired by the thoughts are things that keep me present and motivated each day. I love being surrounded by nature and keep dried flowers in second-hand vases I find at op shops. Being able to glance at them whilst I take class in my living room at the moment is really grounding for me. I also love this picture of my mum. Just the simple pointe shoe and tulle skirt reminds of the purity of classical ballet and why I love it so much.
Alice: I’ve recently been rehearsing my work Aurum with the Royal New Zealand Ballet via Zoom. Unfortunately lockdown in Melbourne meant I was unable to travel to NZ to rehearse so I’ve been rehearsing with the company virtually and jotting down corrections as we run the piece. It’s been a beautiful journey! I’ve also been collating ideas for a new work, so it’s been great distilling ideas and thoughts and putting them to paper.
What does journaling look like to you/how do you journal?
Benedicte: I try to make sure I take the time to journal when I’m feeling overwhelmed. In my profession, much of our time is spent rehearsing, travelling and performing. I can become so busy I forget to sit and process what I am thinking and feeling. In times of stress, I have written myself letters to remind myself of who I am, what I love and to reignite that spark within. Sometimes when I can’t find the right words or I don’t feel like writing I will search out quotes that inspire me. They can reflect how I am feeling at a certain time or they might capture the essence of a ballet I’m performing. I’ll pop them in places I see often, reading them grounds me and helps me focus on what’s important. One of my favourite quotes is “Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim.” Tyler Knott Gregson. I think it’s beautiful.
Alice: I often keep two journals - one for my daily ‘to-do’ list and another for creative purposes. I have a journal full of musings and whatnots! I have lists of potential future titles for pieces, words that resonate for whatever reason, like little mysteries that I’m yet to unlock their potential and meaning. I have clippings of photos, fabrics and designs that I love, pages of favourite poems and quotes, all simmering away, just waiting to connect in some way and inform a new work of art.
Feeling creative & want to put pen to paper yourself? Start here with this favourite notebook of Bene & Alice.
Follow Alice on Instagram HERE & Benedicte HERE. Follow The Australian Ballet HERE.
Feature image by Kate Longley. Other imagery by Benedicte & Alice while at home for lockdown in Melbourne.