Following on the heels of my recent Trespassing with….Teagan Lowe (Associate Artistic Director of Mod Dance Company), I finally caught up with the three glamorous young women behind-the-scenes of Mod — Nadasha Zhang, Linda Alescio and Michelle Grace Hunder. Together, in what makes for a rather unique job brief, the trio manage the three faces of Mod: Mod, the dance company; Mod, the talent casting agency and Mod, the marketing and events firm. The partners are currently in the midst of preparations for Suite Synergy, the debut tour of Mod Dance Company, which comprises a fusion of works by Australian choreographer, Graeme Murphy. And you thought you were busy…
Names: Nadasha Zhang, Linda Alescio, Michelle Grace Hunder
Occupation: Managing Directors, Mod Dance Company and Management Agency
What are your respective personal and professional backgrounds?
Nadasha: I’m a lawyer by profession and classically-trained musician in piano and cello. I’ve always been creative and pursued a life in the arts, which lead me to extensive work in the fashion and entertainment industries.
Linda: My background…professionally, I’m an accountant by trade. On a personal level, I use to dance. I actually danced with Teagan Lowe back at Classics School of Dance.
Michelle: My background is…well, where do I start! I have a background in event management, film and television logistics, which has come in quite handy.
How did you three meet each other?
Nadasha: The common denominator with us all meeting is probably me. I met Linda about five years ago on the Melbourne media and social scene through a mutual friend and we clicked right away.
I met Michelle back in the days when we were both modelling. We worked with a few of the same photographers and struck up a casual friendship through industry networking events. The friendship grew when Michelle came to me about 18 months ago to hire some models through our casting agency, Mod Management, for an event she was managing. She became really interested in what Linda and I were doing, so in a strategic move on our behalf, knowing how brilliant Michelle is at what she does, we invited her to join the team….and we’ve never looked back, have we girls?!
Michelle: Nope, never looked back!
Linda: Agreed! These girls are like my sisters from other mothers.
How did the idea for a dance company come about?
Linda: We set up Mod Management first, which is a casting agency/marketing and events company. The agency has a very strong dance division, which caught the eye of Brett Morgan, now the Artistic Director of Mod Dance Company. Brett wanted to put on productions through Mod Management, but we soon realised that the productions were beasts of their own and needed their own entity.
Then last year, my close personal friend Teagan Lowe lost her contract with Sydney Dance Company under the incoming artistic director Rafael Bonachela and was wondering what to do next with her career. It appeared only natural with the impending productions and Teagan’s fresh situation that forming a new dance company was the way to go.
Few others have attempted the task of running a dance company and an agency/marketing and events company. What made you believe the idea was viable?
Linda: With Mod Dance Company, admittedly we have luxuries to which most start-up dance companies don’t have immediate access. We have a very strong production with the best in the industry mentoring us on how to execute both the creative and production management aspects of the tour.
Michelle: The other thing is that the two productions upon which Suite Synergy is based, Synergy with Synergy and Free Radicals, are very successful previous productions, which as Graeme Murphy always says, never realised their full commercial potential. I mean, on its previous tours, the show has boasted reviews that it should have been on Broadway!
Nadasha: In regards to Mod Management, we started the agency with a unique point of difference which received a really positive market response. We offered clients a turn key solution to their marketing, events and productions through integrating the creative, talent sourcing, management and execution processes all under one roof, which inevitably saves clients costs and time.
How do you divide your time between Mod Dance Company and Mod Management?
Nadasha: We all have very, very long days! Having staff working for us definitely helps with time management and we have different top level responsibilities allocated to each of us on a weekly basis to make sure time and attention is divided in accordance to need. At the moment, the majority of the time is devoted to Mod Dance Company, given that we are getting ready for the 2011 tour.
Have you found your age and gender an advantage or disadvantage in securing sponsorship, connections and respect. Why?
Linda: We are three women who are breaking new ground so yes, there are challenges. In securing sponsorship, we’re fortunate to have engaged sponsorship management company Coruscade, and they have been very helpful in their area of expertise. We find that the respect we may have lacked due to our age is made up for by the respect the comes from the association we have with the industry veterans we’re working with who are backing this production and us.
Michelle: There are boundaries in regards to our age and gender and we’ll always be against it a little bit, but we are into pushing boundaries in the industry. Hopefully, this will pave the way for other young people to do something similar.
Nadasha: If anything, being young, we have a fresh eye and approach to things, and we want to inspire other women and young people to rise up and achieve what they set their mind to regardless of age and industry stereotyping.
What are the particular challenges you have come across so far?
Michelle: Where do we start! Everything is a learning curve and everyday is a challenge, but in turn that has made us stronger. It’s a rollercoaster because we’re treading our own path, but we don’t see the challenges as anything negative because we’ve grown from them.
How do your personalities and backgrounds compliment each other in your work?
Michelle: We are a good mix! Our three professional backgrounds compliment each other well. We bring different skill sets and therefore different points of view, which are all relevant to what we are doing.
Linda: Yeah, we understand each other, we are friends, we bring out the best in each other, have the same work ethic, and we respect each other.
Nadasha: …brought together by the same passion!
How do you relax?
Michelle: I like to exercise. I think it’s really important to keep up an exercise and fitness regime. It has always been an important part of my life. I do personal training couple of times a week and it’s extremely good for releasing stress. It also makes sure I get a little bit of down time.
Nadasha: I spend time with my 5 month old daughter. Time stops when I’m with her.
Linda: I try and take a few days break here and there. Although it can still get hard to relax completely.
What sort of training do you feel is useful in the kinds of projects you are undertaking?
Michelle: I think it’s almost impossible to do any one course that will train you to do what we are doing. Perhaps a course in production would have been helpful but a large part would definitely need to come from life and work experience and intuition. However, you definitely need good project management and time management skills.
What advice or philosophy sustains you?
Linda: It’s cliché, but never give up! Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything.
Michelle: Another important thing is to take advice from others that are more experienced, but also don’t be afraid to push boundaries when you believe in them, you need to be able to back yourself. Also, stay positive and don’t let the challenges phase you. Having a great support network like great friends to work with also does wonders.
Nadasha: Very true… and also don’t be afraid to believe in yourself and that you can achieve that to which you set your mind. Most importantly, pursue something you are passionate about!
Tickets to Mod Dance Company’s Suite Synergy (Graeme Murphy) are on sale now.
Melbourne: 23-26 March 2011, the Arts Centre, State Theatre, Wed – Saturday 8pm, Thursday & Saturday 2pm, show duration: 1 hour 40 minutes including 20 minute interval (Act 1 45 mins, Act 2 35 mins). To book, go to theartscentre.com.au (transaction fee applies), 1300 182 183 (transaction fee applies) or the Arts Centre Box Office.
Following Melbourne, SUITE SYNERGY will be performed in Sydney, Perth, Darwin, Gold Coast and Adelaide.
Visit www.suitesynergy.com.au for full tour information