Dancer and choreographer Amelia Lynch talks about trying to ‘make the break’ in Los Angeles and the difference between the American and New Zealand dance scenes.
This interview by Aaron Taouma is the first in a series of upcoming profiles from Pacific Dance New Zealand.
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“Make it in America and you can make it anywhere.”
That’s the mantra driving Amelia Lynch, a 26-year-old hip-hop and dancehall dancer/choreographer from New Zealand who has a dream of making it in America.
She rounds it up.
“I want to dance for an international artist and America is where those artists are…but I’d also like to do something to help others go to LA or New York…and inspire them to achieve their dreams.”
Amelia’s story is one, which may resonate with others also.
Born in Auckland, part Maori/Pakeha she started out in dance at seven years old. She did ballet but it was watching MTV and trying to emulate the dancers she saw, which really inspired her.
The opportunity to dance during high school was limited and it wasn’t until she was 18 that she was really able to fulfill her aspiration of being a hip-hop dancer.
While doing a conjoint degree in law and the arts at the University of Auckland (an achievement in itself), she joined the Company of University Dancers (CUDZ), also know as the Triple 8 funk dance company, in 2001 (who placed 5th at the world hip hop competition in 2008).
From there Amelia’s career has flown and in ten years she has racked up a litany of experiences from music videos, dance tours, stage productions, television and film appearances and even cheerleading.
Amelia is a dancer with a range of experiences and skill sets. She specialises in and teaches dancehall (which is very rare in New Zealand), hip-hop, breaking, house and street jazz. She’s also trained in ballet, jazz, contemporary, salsa, freestyle, popping, locking, waacking, krumping and Polynesian dance. Phew! And, she also has the looks to boot.
Amelia though is very conscious about the timeframe she has to achieve in dance.
“Being a dancer, like any sports athlete; you can’t do it forever. So, I want to achieve all I can in the time I have…although, it is a bit debatable now. I mean, these days there are people doing it in their Forties and succeeding…[but]…I don’t want to wait.”
And, it is now that Amelia wants to “make the break” in the best place to do it, Los Angeles, where she has made her base.
Having been back and forth between New Zealand and America since 2006 (when she first went to continue her law studies at the University of Seattle), Amelia has steadily built up her contacts, auditioning experience and show appearances in the US.
She trained at the world-renowned studios Debbie Reynolds, Millennium, Edge in LA and the Broadway Dance Centre in New York and has appeared on a number of television commercials and films.
While in America she also took up break dancing, which has seen her appear at various break dancing competitions in Australia and the States and saw her dance and battle on “The Drop,” a music chart show screened nationally in America.
Past Australia America presents an attractive and alluring image of opportunity, individualism and the “big time.” And, with the world getting smaller the steps to success in the land of the bold and free are getting shorter and shorter.
But in some ways Amelia’s dream represents a developed understanding that going to America is not the be all and end all in and of itself. It is only part of the dream, as Amelia explains.
“My plan is to live there for a few years then bring it all back [to New Zealand]…that’s when I would like to start up a studio here and teach…New Zealand now is so global…there’s a lot of groups here now and secretly there are a few of us who want to make New Zealand the place to be rather than America. So you never know what the future may hold.”
The leap in Amelia’s thinking is not that great. New Zealand has the potential to grow as a centre of dance/entertainment. Just look at the success of the burgeoning film scene sparked off by the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and other films. Or look at the example of artists such as “The Flight of the Concords” or “Savage.” These are only a few of the ever increasing success stories linking New Zealand to America and vice versa.
In terms of dance New Zealand is not that far behind either. Dance groups such as Triple 8 Funk, Desire or more recently ReQuest have all placed or won at the world hip hop champs and shown we are not only keeping up with the dance game but are at the forefront of street dance development, as Amelia explains.
“New Zealanders are awesome but people don’t realise it…New Zealand is ahead, especially in the competitive dance scene…we have our own style of hip hop here. It’s very unique to New Zealand…It’s a very up beat really quick style. You see it in the competitions. It’s what we’re famous for.”
She goes on to explain the differences between the American and New Zealand scenes.
“…in America it’s very individual based but over here it’s very crew based….maybe it’s because of the Polynesian influence we have here, where the group is more important than the individual.”
In this sense Amelia is a break away from the usual street dance story. She’s not doing it through a crew (although she has been part of many crews). She’s doing it as an individual. Making the move on her own and looking to make it.
Perhaps this is more fitting with the individual nature of the American scene. But for Amelia it’s just the way it is though, she says she will always carry her New Zealandness with her.
“I’m representing hard out there…[and]…it’s great we’ve got such a good rep over seas not only in the dance world but in all areas because we’ve got such a beautiful country…I’m still a New Zealander through and through.”
Amelia represents a growing swell of New Zealanders who believe America is not so very far away (just over the very large ditch of the Pacific Ocean). She’s riding a wave taking her all the way to LA and back. And, the next time you see her could very well be on stage, TV or film, stepping out and representing the New Zealand America dream – making it worldwide and inspiring others to follow in her footsteps…