Amrita Hepi is movin’ and shakin’

Descended from the Ngapuhi tribe and Bundjulung people, dancer/choreographer Amrita Hepi has made, and continues to make, a huge impression on the Australian arts scene.

She’s doing it through her bold contemporary dance moves, her striking choreography which pays homage to her rich cultural heritage, and her Beyoncé dance classes which dare us to remember that our bodies shouldn’t be limited by the gaze of others.

With so much happening in her life, there’s no such thing as an average day for this exceptional woman, “It depends on where I am and what I am working on,” she says.

“One day could include getting on a flight, spending the day at the theatre doing a tech run, rehearsing, attending the opening of a dance festival, and interviewing a musician for Oyster magazine.

“The next could involve a Pilates or cross fit class (Amrita trains from 7 to 30 hours a week), a dance class or rehearsals, a swim in the afternoon and hanging out with my partner in the evening.

“Wherever I am though, my days almost always include these three things: movement, emails and good food.”

Amrita, who has been dancing since the age of four and made a career of her passion at the age of 20, has one mighty impressive CV.

She has trained at the National Aboriginal Islander Skills Development Association (NAISDA) Dance College in New South Wales as well as at the Alvin Ailey American Dance School in New York and has exhibited and performed at Sydney Opera House, Sydney, Next Wave Festival, Melbourne, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, the Australian Centre for Contemporary art, Melbourne, Carriageworks, Sydney, TEDX, Sydney and Banff Centre, Alberta, Canada.

She is also a member of Western Australia’s premier contemporary dance company, Ochre.

So, where does this dance dynamo, who inspires so many women, draw her own inspiration from? Several places as it turns out.

First there’s Katherine Dunham, bell hooks and Angela Yvonne Davis, all strong Black women who challenged the status quo and left an enduring mark on the world through their chosen medium.

Next are her mum and good friend, Nayuka Gorrie. And of course, there’s Beyoncé, the inspiration behind her uber-popular dance classes, which according to her website hollaback.com.au, are “a cross between hip hop/high cardio/and 90s grooves” and “the class you go to because you’ve never danced before or you dance all the time (on a Saturday night, in your lounge room/bedroom/at the bus stop).”

Aside from teaching women across Australia to let it all hang out and dance like Queen B and RiRi, Amrita is also gearing up for a solo performance work at Art Basel/Art Central in Hong Kong, after which she’ll be working with Prue Stent and Honey Long on another dance/performance work for Underbelly Arts Festival.

Then, there’s an exciting opportunity in the pipeline with a London-based, which she’s having to keep mum about for the moment.

And on that exciting note, here are Amrita’s answers to five quick questions we put to her recently – just a few last things we thought you’d like to know about one of Sydney’s brightest stars:

What’s the greatest lesson life has taught you?
To question others and myself about who ‘everyone’ is when we make negative and grand sweeping statements like: Everyone thinks this or that is absolutely terrible. A lot of the time, ‘everyone’ is nothing other than your fear or someone else’s fear talking.

The other lesson I live by is this: Good intentions have paved the path to hell. I wholeheartedly encourage people to check in with what their true and committed intentions are. Is it for the sake of looking good on the surface or is there a deeper, real purpose to your commitment?

While it may sound negative I think commitment is key – unpacking this deeper and deeper helps us get to a better understanding of the “Why” of things.

How are you helping others realise their potential?
Through dance and by letting people know that they do not need the permission of others to “realise their potential” because they are it, and it is infinite.

How do you Energise your body?
By caring for it!

How do you Calm your mind?
By remembering that everything is transient and able to change.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
That in my heart of hearts I am a bit of a dork – and I will never stop trying to be a back-up dancer for Rihanna. Ever!

Amrita Hepi is hosting an International Women’s Day event with Elixr on 8 March. Find out more about our Beyoncé dance class and book your spot.