10 Questions with Emma Watkins
Emma Watkins recently became the first female Wiggle! TOWERING magazine caught up with her to find out what life as a Wiggle is really like.
How long have you been performing?
I have been dancing since I was about four. I had seen Irish dancing on The Wiggles and apparently told my mother that I wanted to do that, but when we approached an Irish school at the time, I was too young. So I started ballet and then quickly followed along with Irish dancing when I turned six. So I guess that's about nineteen years of dance doing all styles including tap, jazz, hip hop, contemporary, lyrical, Irish, ballet and character.
When did you decide that you wanted to be a professional performer?
Well I guess I have been dancing all my life so I hadn't thought of anything else. But after high school I got a full scholarship to Sydney Film School and studied producing and editing. And when I had graduated I knew I wanted to go back and study dance full time to finish off what I had been doing throughout my whole life. And now I am so lucky because I get to combine both, I dance and perform as a Wiggle, and I also film some of the content for the DVDs and content for The Wiggle's social network sites.
How did the opportunity come about to join The Wiggles back in 2010 as Fairy Larissa?
I had graduated from film school and full time dance and I had started my Bachelor in MAP at UTS and I was forwarded an email through my dance school about the audition. I went along to the audition and we had to learn the dance via video when we got there. I performed the fairy dance to a panel and then did a small screen test in a fairy outfit. A few days later I was called back to read a script but when I got there I was given the job! I was asked to learn the Dorothy the Dinosaur travelling show, which was 60mins long by the following week for filming for their new DVD! And then after the filming I was asked to tour regional Australia as Fairy Larissa for a couple of months.
How did you feel when you were confirmed as the first female Wiggle?
Anthony approached me about it before we were about to do a show at the Enmore Theatre and I thought it was a practical joke at first because all the guys on tour play jokes all the time! But then when it was real…I just couldn't believe it. It was so unexpected that I would be a Wiggle and it is the best thing ever!
What does a typical day involve in The Wiggles?
Each tour is a little different. We are touring regional Australia at the moment. I get up around 6.00am to do my hair and make up, leave by 7.00am, sound check at 8.00am, a meet and greet with children with special needs and competition winners at 8:45am, warm up at 9:30am, first show at 10.00am. Then it's an early lunch, maybe some filming for promos, radio interviews etc, then warm up again at 12:30pm before the second show at 1.00pm. After the shows we pack up and then drive to the next town.
Do you get nervous before live performances? If so, how do you overcome the nerves?
Generally I don't, but when we did our first shows as The Wiggles I was nervous, but the best thing is seeing the children. This instantly drops all the nerves for me. They aren't nervous so therefore I am not. They are smiling and usually singing before we come out and having them dancing in the audience is the best thing you could ask for.
What is the best thing about what you do?
Seeing the children at the live shows is the best but a highlight for me is going to visit the children at the hospitals. For the last three years I have been to Sydney Children's Hospital on Christmas Day and it's naturally very emotional because these children cannot be at home for Christmas, but the families and the other siblings really love singing along. We also visit the Children's Hospital at Westmead and this week we met little Indie-Rose who is 21months. Indie-Rose is going through chemotherapy and when we arrived she just couldn't believe it, so she just closed her eyes. It was such a beautiful response because the children do watch the DVDs in the wards and when we come to visit at first it can be overwhelming but once we sing 'Toot Toot' or 'Twinkle Little Star', the children join in and for that moment we can bring them a little pocket of fun. Music just helps light up their day and this is the most special part for me.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
Well I don't imagine anything but The Wiggles! I really hope the new generation of Wiggles is successful and I hope we can continue bringing music to children for many more years to come. Hopefully you will see us on a TV series soon and I'm looking forward to more DVDs being released in the future. If I can be still wiggling in 5, 10, even 20 years, I'll be stoked!
How did your UTS education equip you for a bright future in your career?
Just the base of being able to study at UTS in the first place was great because I could still study and audition for dancing jobs at the same time. Also doing a Masters in Media Arts and Communications, I was able to choose from a range of subjects that suited what I was filming for The Wiggles. I took up a subject which was directing for camera which actually helped me direct the original Wiggles at the time in front of the camera on tour when I was organising 'behind the scenes' videos and promos. I am so grateful that I was able to even finish my degree as I started at the same time I started at The Wiggles. I really tried to choose subjects that I could complete whilst being on tour for a month at a time, subjects where I could do my own research and communicate with a mentor. I would like to say a personal thank you to Greg Ferris for encouraging me to take up the Masters degree and helping me the entire way through my degree and making it possible while I had such a bizarre performing schedule.
Words: Renee Carl
Images: Kasia Werstak