PRINCIPAL DANCER, AUSTRALIA
One could say I fell into dancing by accident. No one else in my family was a dancer. In fact, both of my parents were teachers.When I was seven, one of my friends at school was taking ballet class and was the only boy, so I went along with him for moral support.
After a few weeks of lessons he decided it wasn’t for him, but I fell in love with it! My mother saw that I was enjoying my dancing, so she took me to see the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of Swan Lake . Seeing that performance was the first moment I remember thinking “t his is something I want to do when I grow up ” .
When I was 11, my family moved to a different part of New Zealand. I had a new male ballet teacher, Scott Milham , who helped keep up my enthusiasm for ballet. He showed me many videos of famous male dancers, and taught me all the turns and jumps in the men’s ballet vocabulary.
A t this point, my dancing was still very raw , and my technique was not the best. But this was when I lost thefear for these big virtuosic steps, which was important as I got older.
It is at your lowest point, not your highest, that your true strength as a dancer and a person is revealed. We grow the most when we are in the midst of our greatest challenges.
When I was 16, I moved to Melbourne to train at the Australian Ballet School, where I was taught by Dale Baker. He wa s an amazing teacher, who instilled in me the importance and responsibility of partnering as a male dancer.
Alt hough leaving New Zealand and moving away from home was hard, I knew that I didn’t want to look back with any regrets. Luckily, everything worked out for the best and I joined the Australian Ballet in 2006. When I joined the company , I was incredibly fortunate to have a number of particularly strong male principals to watch and learn from: Steven Heathcote, Robert Curran, Damien Welch, Matthew Lawrence.
As a young dancer, it was great to see what was possible, what the standard was, and the level you we re expected to live up to. It made me realize that the hard work was only just beginning!Over the years, I’ve had a number of injuries, with particularly serious ones in my lower back.
Being off for extended periods of time was incredibly difficult, and I often doubted my ability to come back. Without question the biggest achievement in my career has been returning to the stage from these injuries . As dancers, we constantly rely on our bodies.
When they betray us, we feel as though we have lost our identity . But it is at your lowest point, not your highest, that your true strength as a dancer and a person is revealed. We grow the most when we are in the midst of our greatest challenges.Eventually, I was able to return to dancing, and one of the highlights since returning was guesting with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, in the same production of Swan Lake that inspired me as a child. It felt like I’d come full circle, and was a very proud moment for my family and I.
More than anything, there are no guarantees in a ballet career. Everyone has to find his or her own path. Ultimately, the best chance for success is to put everything on the table, be receptive to what others have to offer, and absorb it all. Life is too short to look back and wonder if things could have been different.
All photos courtesy of The Australian Ballet