Ten years on from the Arts Academy: the training and learning continues.
Spike Levy completed his training at the Ballarat Arts Academy in 2007. Since that time he has performed around the globe, including in Broadway, China, Spain, Russia, Istanbul, Israel and in Australia. This is his reflection, ten years on the learning from the Arts Academy resonates and informs his incredible journey around the world...
In 2007 after completing university at, “The Arts Academy” I ventured off to Israel for a 2-3 month holiday by myself. I wanted to take time for self-reflection and look back on my journey thus far.
I felt at that time my education was a great experience but had in many ways beaten my confidence down as a young 18-21 year old.
Encapsulated by the Israeli people and the culture I immersed myself in their lifestyle and at this stage in my trip, without any performance endeavours.
Over a period of 2 months of walking around and getting lost in Tel Aviv I decided it was time to get back to taking some dance classes. It was there I met many other performers and begun to create some exciting connections with some now life long friends.
One sunny day whilst I was having lunch a mate suggested that I audition for a performance group called, “Tararam” or “Mayumana.”
I did some research over the internet and got the appropriate contact details for both companies. After having spoken on the phone to both of the bosses I immediately decided that I preferred the vibe more from the Tararam group rather than Mayumana and received an audition that following week.
The audition involved drumming, dancing, improvising, acting & singing and was primarily a drum/dance group that would perform throughout Israel and on an international level.
The audition was a success and a few hours later I received a call that I had been selected. It was there that my 7-year journey would commence, with only the intentions of a 2-month holiday from home.
I still remember the first meeting. I was nervous but extremely excited for this new venture. Young and feeling open minded I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was welcomed with open arms and by memory some very attractive Israeli women, “What could be better at age 21 than this?” I thought to myself.
Before I knew it I was back in the rehearsal room getting ready for our first show. There was a lot to learn but I had plenty of time to practise. The days were hot and long but the cast whom were teaching me were all fantastic people and again some life long friends that I still see today.
After about 1 month of rehearsals I began performing on stage again. I had finally been able to put all the years of work into practise and also had a lot of freedom to improvise and discover what works and what certainly doesn’t. This allowed me to develop as a performer and grow a strong connection between performers and audience.
As I became more comfortable with my role on stage I acquired more lead content and began to book jobs overseas with Tararam’s touring cast. I was very lucky to travel to many different places such as Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia etc.
It was a great experience to meet and share these shows with other performers from around the world.
After about a year and a half of touring, the same company offered me a 3-month campaign performing 3-4 shows a day in the blistering heat for a large sum of money or at the time what seemed like a large sum of money. I was excited and feeling great and after some time negotiating the finer details I commenced the 3-month journey.
It was by far one of the hardest ventures that I had been on and due to the hot weather conditions and large amount of shows I lost a considerable amount of weight and was getting quite close to a point of exhaustion.
After the season had finished I decided that my time with the company was coming to an end. I felt that my point of growth had stagnated and that it was potentially time to move on. It had been 2 years overseas and I decided to leave to Australia for a short break to visit family and friends and take some time to myself.
After a few months I decided to go back to Israel and continued with the company for a further 6 months with planes on saving for my next trip to audition for my childhood dream group, STOMP. I had seen their shows since I was 12 years old and had regularly been in contact with the performers over the years upon their arrival for shows in Australia. I would often go to there warm up rehearsals before the show when we were in the same country to have a play. At one stage they told me that in about 6 months time there should be some auditions and spots available in London.
With that news, I had studied the video rigorously for 6 months and had learnt all the content of the video performance in hope of preparing myself for the audition to come. I was excited and hopeful with ambitions to potentially perform in NY one day with this monumental group.
The time had come to move to London and I was literally at the doorstep of STOMP a few days after. To my dismay the main show in Las Vegas had been cancelled. As much as I pestered the company to let me audition they consistently told me that there are no positions available at that moment due to the unfortunate circumstances in Las Vegas and that there were already performers within the company without work.
I stayed in London for some time working at Camden pub for about 6 pounds an hour, hopeful that maybe a position would become available.
I learnt from this experience that some times in life when it seems you’re hitting your head against a brick wall, you may need to find another way round. It was just not meant to be and it seems timing is everything. So much so, that I learnt this after leaving London.
London was a really tough experience, I spent a lot of time alone and as much as I tried to settle in there, nothing seemed to click. It was winter, cold, I was earning terrible money and with the tips I made I couldn’t even by something to eat after my shift! I had 7 performance agents! (In London you can apparently have as many as you like) but still no auditions and no work.
I went back to Israel a bit beaten and depleted.
A week later I was walking with one of my close friends through a shopping center and we bumped into one of his mutual mates called, “Erez.” After some chitchat he told me that he was in a company called, “Mayumana” which was one of the biggest performance troupes in Israel. I went to see a show and wasn’t overly impressed by the show itself but decided nonetheless to try and get an audition with the intention of saving up and going back to London to audition for Stomp again.
I called up the boss “Boaz” and told him about my experience in their rival troop, “Tararam.” He granted me an audition and I went the following day.
I remember it being the most confident I had ever felt in an audition environment. I had worked so hard 6 months prior in hope of landing a job in Stomp and knew the that competition was immense. It was one of the best auditions I had ever done and it was a great feeling.
There really is no secret to a great audition, it just takes lots of practise and repetition until you are confident enough with your material and can really enjoy and execute the audition process.
I was then accepted into a 2-month trail rehearsal period against another young man who had also passed the initial audition. We were both at opposite ends of the performance spectrum, he a contemporary dancer and old fashioned, myself hip-hop and more commercial.
It was known that only one of us would make it to the end.
After 2 months of training we did our first show and were surprisingly and thankfully both accepted into the company.
That first performance was an hour and a half of high intense dancing, drumming, singing, flipping, you name it and nearly vomiting from being completely overwhelmed and from the high intensity of the show. As well as the fact the “First show nerves” were on over drive, I remember it being an altogether overwhelming experience!
After a few weeks of performing the head of the company told me that I have 6 months to learn how to beat box and that they will put me into the NY cast for their debut. Needless to say, I was incredibly excited and practised every day until it was time to leave. Maybe it was just good timing but I never would have seen it coming. I couldn’t believe the turn of events and learnt from that moment to be more open minded about the opportunities that may present themselves just around the corner. I had made it to NY, Broadway with a lead role in the show Momentum by Mayumana.
We were there for a full season and it was by far one of the highlights of my life. I remember my first show, beat boxing to the crowd, obviously nervous knowing that this was very much a big part of the New Yorkers culture.
There was a part of the show where I would go down to the crowd and give an audience member the mic. As I went down a whole bunch of kids starting pointing to one of their classmates and I knew what was to come. I gave him the mic and with much excitement he literally blew my socks of with natural talent and was one of the best beat boxers I had heard! It was such a fun great experience and luckily enough only happened on the first night!
The season was coming to an end, I remember it being a dream for so long to perform in NY and I was so lucky to be on Broadway. I went to see Stomp of course whilst I was there off of Broadway and realised that I had really got lucky! Especially reflecting back on my time in London again reiterated that some things should not be forced.
So it was time for all good things to come to an end and the feeling of the closing night was something strange. What happens when you fulfill a dream? We are taught to dream but I never imagined of it coming to fruition. I learnt the key is, to never stop dreaming. We don’t need to have just one!
I stayed with the company for about 2 – 2.5 years and have performed off and on with them, as well as the Australian performances at Jupiter hotel. We performed all over the world and visited many different places. In Argentina the company was most famous and we lived for a brief moment like rock stars with security surrounding us and keeping the fans back.
After a few years of performing I decided to leave the company. It was now about 2012 and I was ready to come back to Australia and pursue a new dream of becoming a music producer. Since then I have been learning and building my skills in this challenging new art form.
In 2016 I received a wonderful opportunity to work with Cirque Du Soleil in the show, “Sama Sama” which premiered in Madrid, Spain. I was selected as one of the music producers and the “Creative Content Designer.” I was in charge of creating the shows main content for the 20 auditioned performers as well as teaching and performing along side them in the opening nights. I was also heavily involved in producing the music for parts of the show.
This was another great experience that was simply based on good timing.
After all these years I feel that it is vital to make sure that when good timing comes about, that you have made sure you have done all the hard work prior, so you can cease the opportunity. Cirque Du Soleil was another great opportunity that I was involved in for about 10 months.
It’s now been about 10 years since I started my journey from The Arts Academy and I have decided to settle down with my lovely wife and start a family. It is the first time in all those years that I have searched for a 9-5, which understandably is quite a confronting notion for a performer/creative.
Luckily I fell into another amazing opportunity that we can again call perfect timing or meant to be, destiny, whatever you would call it.
I received a position at Parkville College, which is a high security juvenile prison. Our aim is to integrate these broken children back into society and to give them mentors who can treat them with respect, kindness & love. These are some qualities that our boys and girls have never experienced and as a teacher here the children understand that their education is a privilege.
I am teaching music, music production & songwriting. It is an emotionally challenging job but for the first time in all my performing years, it’s not just about me anymore, it’s about helping children who need it with something I have always been passionate about which is music and performance.
I know for now that this is where I am supposed to be and know that no matter where I go or what I do, life is going to take you places whether you’re aware of it or not. To make the most of each opportunity and stop worrying about what the future will bring. From what I’ve learnt throughout my Uni days and there on, timing is everything.
Spike Levy, Arts Academy Graduate 2007.
Spike has recently arrived back from Spain working with Cirque Du Soleil in "Sama Sama" as the "Creative Content Designer." This provided him with the opportunity to work with an international team creating the music, dance and performance for the two and half hour extravaganza.
Spike is currently working on releasing his music independently under the name of "Spike Leo."