Somehow ballet in my life just stuck. I was three when my family moved from our rural property in NSW to the city. My grandmother, who was quite an extravagant woman, began attending a regular weight loss class at the local church hall. One day she noticed a clutch of little ballerinas in pale pink leotards and thought to herself “Liz might like that.” It makes me laugh that my ballet journey started because my grandmother thought she was overweight!
On a serious note, I love the structure and logic of ballet and I’m attracted to the physicality and precision of detail in the movements. The hard work and dedication captivated me from the start, and also the fact that you are continually striving for perfection, even though that perfection is unattainable. You can never be perfect, but you can be unique.
I’m inspired by dancers who work hard to get where they are. My logic has always been it doesn’t matter what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it that counts.
It became like a day at the office. Every one had their place and it was easy to form routine. Every day there was class at 10am, then rehearsals and then the performance. For me, it was like a continuation of ballet school, but with more pressure on performances and a tougher schedule. On the whole rehearsals were more social as it was our everyday, but you always had to maintain your standard and work hard, you never knew who was watching.
There were definitely perks though – having your hair and make up done professionally and receiving 10-15 pairs of pointe shoes at a time. After years of buying my own shoes and doing everything in my power to make them last longer, having so many at once felt like Christmas! The second best part of life in the company was being able to wear whatever you wanted to, and the best part was being allowed to drink your morning coffee at the barre!
The hardest part was working when you were sick, injured or exhausted. There’s nothing worse than doing pirouettes with the sniffles. The best lesson was learning where to put your energy. Doing double show days of Swan Lake was a killer!
I have too many! My top panic story was when I had to perform with a broken foot. We were nearing the end of the season and had the last big gala show to go. I had really great soloist parts and a pas de deux but I was in so much pain, I was unsure if I could perform that night. My ballet master gave me a strong anti-inflammatory, telling me to take it two hours before the show. The show began, my adrenaline kicked in, and I couldn’t feel any pain in my foot – perfect! As we got further and further into the ballet I started to lose feeling in my whole body! By the end of the ballet I had no idea how I was still moving my body as I couldn’t feel a single muscle – I was numb from the neck down and I didn’t even know if my feet were pointed! The applause was pretty good so I must have performed well. It was definitely a case of muscle memory doing the work! I was so sore the next day I couldn’t walk.
One of my funniest stage moments was when I was performing the pas de trios from Don Quixote. In the choreography there is a releve in arabesque when you flick open your fan overhead and my friend I was dancing with flicked her fan so hard that the it went flying out of her hand, past my face and into the orchestra pit, hitting a percussionist on the head. Of course, you have to keep going, but I was laughing so hard and my friend had to finish the part without her fan, which is quite difficult when performing Don Q!
Gruelling auditions. Every weekend on my one day off I would travel for what could be hours to attend cattle call auditions, often in what felt like the middle of nowhere. In these auditions you would dance all day with hundreds of other dancers only to then be told that there isn’t actually a contract on offer. It felt like a massive waste of time and money, though sometimes you could get a call weeks even months later with an offer.
Rejection was a part of life and it was important to remember that it didn’t necessarily reflect on you as a dancer, you may simply have not fit the part. I’ve been rejected for being too tall, too short, too young, for not being blonde or not having a European passport. At one audition I was advised to wear red lipstick. The only dancers left at the end were all wearing red lipstick!
I enjoy sharing my love of ballet, the enjoyment of dancing to well written music. Teaching adults means that you can explain the reasoning behind the movements, why it is performed in a particular way. This is important to me as I feel like I could talk about ballet forever!
Allegro. Grand. Always! Grand allegro gives you so much freedom to move through the space and be swept up in the music.
A golf ball, though that’s pretty standard these days. Maybe my Rubik’s Cube, you can’t stretch all day!
I love skateboarding and extreme sports. I’ve had a few strange looks when on the skateboard before. It’s either the posture or the ballet tights that give me away!