Jacqui Dreessens during the opening of her Mangroves from the Water exhibition. (Rebecca Hosking) 247435_01

Jacqui Dreessens shares her love of dance with Luke Voogt following the opening of her Mangroves from the Water exhibition last weekend.

Tell us about you…

I was born and raised on the Surf Coast and went to St Bernard’s Primary School in Belmont.

Aldi now occupies that space but I used to climb the most amazing peppercorn trees there while waiting for dad to pick me up in his bright blue Falcon.

Back in the ’70s I was a Sacred Heart College student that learnt to smoke on the school bus from Torquay to the mall in Geelong.

Smoking interfered with my lifestyle and I enjoyed dancing too much, so thankfully that habit was short-lived.

I’ve had lifetimes as a secondary school teacher and lectured at Deakin University in dance education for nearly 30 years.

Why do you love dance?

Dancing brings me into the present moment where nothing else exists except the feeling of oneness with nature, people, music and just being a human being.

I’m an ethnochoreologist – I study humanity through the lens of the dance.

Why do people make up dances? How is dance constructed and why is it meaningful to people?

I have created many dances for the High Tide Festival here in Torquay over the years.

I love creating dances that reflect where I live. It helps me to feel that I belong to the community.

My most interesting choreography happened in a slave dungeon in Ghana in 2007: Children of the Blue Light.

My son Immanuel Dreessens-Owusu and I performed with Asanti Dance Theatre and my Australian dancers in Wild Moves International.

This became an epic musical documentary about the power of music and dance to bring healing between nations.

What are your favourite things to do locally?

Walking my dog Spozzie Woz along the Jan Juc cliffs and searching the rock pools at Bird Rock.

Hanging out in sea caves and gathering ideas for choreography as I jump from rock to rock at ‘steps’ when the tide is out.

My favourite Yoga studio is Deśa Retreat for time out to tune into just me.

How are you coping with COVID-19?

I had to change gears and reinvent myself. All my teaching and gigs in schools, the community and at festivals stopped.

My rumpus room turned into my dance and drumming studio on Zoom and my family got used to me thumping upstairs and calling out, “Hoodie Boogie! Dogs on leads! Hoodie Boogie! Take my Lead!”

During COVID I have been dancing in the mangrove forest at Lake Connewarre making my new dance film Échelons.

It’s a dance about grief and transformation to love and connection.

My father was passing into the next world and I felt like my roots were being severed.

Kayaking on the Barwon River and silently sitting, filming and dancing in the mangroves forged a new way of being.

I used this experience as I performed at the opening of Mangroves from the Water at Gordon Gallery.

It never ceases to amaze me how important my art form is to lift me into a new beginning and how lucky I am to share that with the community within a brief window between lockdowns.