Having been born prematurely, Meg Thompson has been a fighter since the moment she entered the world. Here she talks about staying strong in the face of adversity, lifelong learning, and her special relationship with martial arts and dance.
I’m from Canberra, but I spent the majority of my childhood travelling around Australia for my dad’s work. These experiences taught me to accept change and learn how to adapt and evolve when required. I was born at 26 weeks and that meant I had challenges to survive from a very young age.
As a result of being born early, I have had 16 operations – the most recent one was November 2018. This has made me resilient and stoic in whatever endeavours I pursue in life. I have always enjoyed learning. If it is something that I or the person/people I am in conversation with is passionate about, I want to hear about it. There is something exciting about listening to someone’s passion that makes me want to pay attention. I don’t want to or believe I will ever stop learning; I will get to old age and realise I knew more at age 22 than I did at age 99.
This curiosity has led me to explore different avenues of self-expression over my life. I started acting at age nine and have kept it up ever since, taking singing lessons and starting to dance as a natural progression from acting. I love it and wouldn’t change my experiences growing up for anything.
In October 2018 I participated in a dance competition in Melbourne called ‘Grounded’ – an annual production that has a theme that all seven or eight choreographers have to adhere to and make their own. The choreographers chose the people they wanted on their team and I was asked if I wanted to join, so I obviously said yes. During second semester I became a bit of a 'dark sider’ due to this production, however it was worth it as it let me explore my boundaries physically and mentally and helped me push past them. We came second last, but it was an amazing journey and is something I am very grateful to have been a part of.
In 2019 I became one of the performance coordinators for MUDC (Melbourne University Dancesport Club) and it was the most hectic year of my university experience so far. It involved organising whatever performances were in the club’s calendar. It was an amazing learning opportunity in both the art of time management and organisation, and it taught me how to work with people who are different or indifferent to you. It’s something I’m glad I did.
I started Taekwondo at 16 while at Canberra Girls Grammar School and have been doing it on and off since. My main reason for starting came down to my ever-present fear of being sexually assaulted and wanting the skills to put up a fight if the opportunity arose. It’s not a nice reason but is a legitimate reason for women who want to defend themselves.
Both martial arts and dancing require the confidence and ability to be strong on your own and in a team. Both explore the person’s inner conflict and what they value in life, through physically touching others and needing to trust that the people around you won’t hurt you.
My process starts with choosing a song that reflects the kind of story I want to tell. For me the story is the most important part of the piece, as it is a way to connect with everyone and not just people who know how to dance. After choosing the song I think about the timeline and how long there is until the performance, then I figure out how difficult I want to make it from that. I then start choreographing the dance to the story in my head and also think of my friends that I want to help portray the story as much as me.
The way I choreograph is through musicality and noticing the different beats and sounds that are there and I hit whatever feels natural. I anchor every move to a beat, so it makes it easier for muscle memory to know what to hit when, even when nerves are setting in. I choreograph so everyone can dance to it. My last piece was simple in moves given we only had six weeks until the performance. However, it was effective because it was a small group and we all knew the dance very well by the time the performance occurred, so it was a job well done.
Through my experiences in life – particularly through learning martial arts and dancing – I have opened myself up to new friends and new experiences that come with connecting to people through physical movement. It’s hard to explain, but there is something magical that happens when you move with a person that you have either just met or have known for a while and everything else fades away and it’s just you and them. It’s a connection on a deeper level and that’s why I keep practicing dancing and martial arts – it’s a way of connecting with my soul and expressing different parts of myself either through music or sparring.
As told to Ian Coyukiat