Elizabeth's fair for subversive entertainment has made it's mark on the vaudeville, cabaret and burlesque circuit, with two Green Room Award nominations for 'Best Ensemble' (2015) and 'Innovation in Cabaret' (2012), a Fields Award nomination...
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Elizabeth's production company, Miss Friby, was featured at the 'Immersed Dance Industry Gala' 2013/14, alongside top international clowns at 'So You Think You Can Clown' (Comedy Festival Hub 2012) and was a featured finalist on Channel Nine's 'Australia's Got Talent'...
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Her work is often described as colourful, hilarious, aesthetically rich, high quality, memorable and unique...
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Elizabeth's eclectic training in both dance, theatre and circus, and her prolific repertoire of acts, make her an incredible addition to any creative project...
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SKILLS & TRAINING

theatre

CLOWNING, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, 

CABARET, HABITUAL MOVEMENT, VOICE, SCRIPT ANALYSIS, GROUP DEVISING, PHYSICAL THEATRE, MUSICAL THEATRE, CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT, ACT DEVELOPMENT, ABSURDIST

CIRCUS

FIRE EATING/TRACING/POI/STAFF, COCKTAIL FLARING, BASIC TUMBLING, ACT DIRECTION, PROP MANIPULATION, COMEDY & FRAME BREAKING

MUSIC

SONG WRITING & THEATRE COMPOSITION, MUSIC EDITING, SONG AND DANCE, BODY PERCUSSION, STOMP & TAP

DANCE​

EXPERT (15+ YEARS)

CLASSICAL BALLET, JAZZ (LYRICAL, CONTEMPORARY, CHARACTER BASED, OLD WORLD STYLE), TAP, CONTEMPORARY, BROADWAY, HIP HOP, BURLESQUE, VAUDEVILLE, CHORUS LINE, HABITUAL MOVEMENT (DANCE FOR NON DANCERS) 

ADVANCED (10+ YEARS)

LATIN PARTNER DANCING (SALSA, FORRO), FOLKLORIC (AFRICAN, STREET GYPSY)

INTERMEDIATE (5+ YEARS)

JIVE, ROCK N ROLL, CAPOEIRA, CHA CHA, FIRE DANCING, STOMP, COMMERCIAL JAZZ.

TOES DIPPED (>2 YEARS)

TANGO (ENGLISH/ARGENTINEAN), WALTZ, BELLY DANCE (TURKISH STREET, UNMATA TRIBAL FUSION), RUMBA, PARTNER DANCE LIFTS

FILM

SCRIPT DEVELOPMENT, PRODUCTION, EDITING & ANIMATION

Artist 

Profile

...it's a long story

   There are many other notable stages in my life that have influenced how I produce exciting innovative things on stages, and what I am like to be with when I’m not working. They couldn’t go without mentioning.

[CHILDHOOD]

     I grew up in the western suburbs of Melbourne, and to this day, live in the west. Every house on my street was home to a different group typical of the west, non-English speaking immigrants, working class families, bikies, drug dealers etc but we all got along, and ultimately kept watch over each other’s kids. I have always believed diversity is key to creating a strong community and this can often be seen in my choices in casting, those that I collaborate with and those I seek for advice and mentoring.

   My childhood and teen years were spent attending dance (jazz, tap, ballet & contemporary) and theatre classes and performing in local eisteddfods and competitions. I loved dance, but to be honest, I wasn’t too good at it, keeping my place in the competitive team on account of my stage face and outlandish persona, rather than technical ability. Being one of four children, and arguably the strangest of the bunch, my parents sacrificed a lot to keep me in class, as dancing was my lifeline, even when we moved to Namibia (Africa) my mum would take me to community classes in the township of Windhoek where I would learn South African Gumboot dancing and Afro-contemporary fusion.

 

[AFRICA]

   It was in Africa that I began making shows, my parents were volunteers (my father worked in cultural conservation for the Kalahari Bushmen & my mother ran the World Food Program for the UN) and when the volunteer community would come together, I would put on concerts for them. I also organised a show for the local orphanage featuring students from my school, and yes, like most shows I have produced, it even featured a table. I was lucky enough to travel to various areas of Africa, accompanying my parents on remote field trips to remote indigenous communities, creating memories I will never forget. Anyone that has been to or lived in Africa will swear vehemently that the country has seeped into their heart, and I am no different. I truly believe that a lot of my creative output and choreography has deep roots in African movement and musicality.

 

[PERFORMING ARTS AS A TEEN]

   My high school years were spent delving further into dance, theatre and singing, however, as I attended audition after audition I was beginning to grow more and more dis-enchanted with the ‘industry’ I had so much wanted to be a part of. I was confused by the ‘cookie cutter’ attitude towards each performer, the idea of toning down a performance/skill to make the stage uniform, and the incessant body shaming that was rife in the rehearsal rooms and on the stages. When I received a scholarship for a one year performance course held at St Martin’s Performing Arts School in Albert Park, I gave up on dance, in favour of acting, after all, that outlandish stage persona was still alive and kicking.

    I was the youngest at St Martins (16 y/o) by about four years, learning invaluable tools in script analysis, vocal training and character work for performance. I had quit dance training, but not dance altogether, indulging my newfound love of hip hop by sneaking into some of Melbourne’s over-age hot spots for break dance battles, competing as a b-boy/b-girl duo with my dance and training partner. Like any 'break-rookie', my floor work was shocking, however our strong point was in the choreographed dance breaks we would throw down together, and being one of the few female dancers at the time, I was encouraged to keep performing.

 

[TRAVEL]

    I travelled significantly with my family (Africa, Europe, Australia & USA), raised to consider travel as a form of education, so it was the obvious choice when I finished high school. I started travelling as a hitch hiker throughout Australia, but soon took to hitchhiking all over the world (Europe, Turkey and Brazil). It was during this four year period that I would make money on the road as a street performer, dancing, singing and fire performing. Eager to learn, I explored a wide range of folkloric movement styles (Romany Gypsy, Turkish Belly Dance, Capoeira, Aikido, Samba, Forro), storytelling techniques and music making and soon made the decision to return to Australia to study theatre making.

 

[TEACHER/TRAINING]

    I’ve never been a stranger to rejection, but being rejected by Swinburne University was a tough pill to swallow. I really thought I had found 'the course' top put all of my show making energy into, but there were other plans in store for me. I got a job working as an apprentice instructor at Rio Dance Studio, teaching, and simultaneously being taught a wide range of ballroom dance genres (Waltz, Quickstep, English/Argentinean Tango, Foxtrot, Cha Cha, Rumba, Jive, Meringue, Salsa and Samba). I loved the job, learning so much about clearly articulating movement to non dancers (many of my clients were beginner adults) and I credit my impressive ability to ‘give any man hips’ to that year at Rio Dance Studio.

 

[BRAZIL]

    You know what they say, you have never lived until you have lived above the non-English speaking catholic grandparents of your non-English speaking Brazilian boyfriend in one of the most traditional areas in Brazil, so in 2007, that’s what I did. My time in Brazil was spent teaching English and dance to teenagers, training in theatre and dance (contemporary, lyrical, jazz, capoeira, forro, tambor de crioula) with my dance partner, Antunes Neto (who continues to produce avant-garde arts happenings) and producing multi-arts shows and performance events production partner (and 'partner' partner), Fritz Schliebe.

   The company, ‘Friby Producoes’ (Friby Productions), a compound word of our names, Fritz and Libby, was created to house our creative works. Fritz and I no longer work together however the name Friby is an, albeit strange, but appropriate choice for my work, as it was with Fritz that I had to tailor my choreography to accommodate his non-dance background, informing the stylised movement I still explore today.

 

[UNIVERSITY]

   I was thrilled to be accepted into the Bachelor of Creative Arts Industries course at Victoria University, so much so that, I didn’t shy away from the challenge of becoming a mother at the same time. I took advantage of every opportunity that presented itself. I was hired by the University to be a ‘Writing Mentor’, assisting students from diverse academic (and language) backgrounds with their writing, and a ‘Creative Arts Mentor’, assisting creative arts students with their creative project execution. I was selected to attend a creative arts cultural tour of China, learning an eclectic range of folkloric art techniques and was subsequently chosen to represent the university as a panel member for the Chinese National Delegate Convention in Canberra.

    Having a space to rehearse, an assortment of creatives to collaborate with and in-kind support from a major institution meant that I was able to think bigger as an artist, and I did. I created multi-arts event ‘Dead House Walking’ completely converting a soon-to-be-demolished house into an immersive arts exhibition featuring over forty artists of a variety of genres, I made two large scale seasoned cabaret works ‘Aphrodite’s Bordello’ and ‘Two Pound Parlour’, co-founded the ‘Creative Arts Collective’ a creative arts club within Victoria University and I choreographed a myriad of performance works that were featured as standalone vignettes under the name ‘Miss Friby’ and in the performances of touring band, ‘Rapskallion’.

 

[RAPSKALLION/TOURING]

   My first foray with 'Best Music' recipients (Adelaide Fringe 2012), Rapskallion, was to devise a show to be held at The World Famous Spiegeltent in 2008. 'We have this song for Devil's Lair, and I'd like you to be a tap dancing devil with a cane and...' I agreed profusely, this was a great idea, but within days I had begun to create something entirely different. 'I know you wanted a tap dancing Devil, but I am actually going to be a psychotic nun', the look on Sara Yael's (lead singer's) face went from pre-show excitement to absolute horror, 'ok' she said unconvincingly as we walked on stage. I'll admit, that these days I would never presume to deliver something so off request, particularly with little or no discussion with the client, but at the time this felt right, and it was, the nun remained an audience favourite for the following four years that I toured with the band.

   I tell this story because it signifies the creative trust between Sara Yale and I that saw me flourish as an artist and musician, and to this day we continue to collaborate, often taking on different roles in each others projects (Two Pound Parlour, Aphrodite's Bordello, All Alone, Top Spot, Kill Ya Darlings, Fingal and the Foxes, The Desert Thieves, Bonnie Love). My creative family has certainly grown and evolved over time and I am so grateful to have longstanding relationships with many of the performers, producers and clients I have worked with, trust is an essential ingredient to developing innovative work.

 

[BURLESQUE]

    My encounter with the 'Burlesque' genre certainly came as a surprise, if I were to be honest, I had never really enjoyed striptease performance, which is the only form burlesque I had encountered. Identifying as a vaudeville show maker, I pursued research into the genre as part of my Honours thesis, but soon found myself learning about the earlier non-striptease burlesque shows. Much of what I learned about the earlier forms of burlesque, was a far cry from the popular form of Burlesque performance today and I began to see that my work shared many of the qualities that existed in nineteenth century burlesque shows – gender parody, social caricature, pun-filled suggestive dialogue, song and dance and comedy. What I found most interesting about Burlesque, was it's influence as one of the first theatre genres that gave women the opportunity to speak off script (ad-lib), often quite frankly in direct address to the audience. It is this admiration for the history of Burlesque that drives me to continue to refer to the genre when describing my work. 

 

[AND NOW...]

    My love for creative production has often seen me flitter between two roles and currently I sit on both sides of the fence, working as Events & Marketing Manager for the Lady Cutler Melbourne Showboat and Creative Producer for a range of theatrical, immersive and creative events. I also work as an arts mentor, creative director and workshop facilitator for freelance performers, delving into creative works from web series development, act creation and choreography.

    Like most creatives I am often confused as to where I sit as an artist, I still find myself asking the same old questions. Am I a producer or a performer? Scriptwriter or a comedian? Choreographer or director? Clown or comedian? Do I make Vaudeville or Burlesque? Cabaret or Musical Theatre? Physical Comedy or Circus? High end or low end? And ...am I any good?

   This will be an ongoing adventure, which is why I feel the need to share what I was, and what I've done, rather than who I am and what I do - I think we're all still knuckling that one out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2023 by Ryan Simmons. Proudly created with Wix.com

Elizabeth Dawson-smith is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.