Peak performance: what it takes to be one of Australia’s best ballet dancers
Posted on October 14, 2019
5 min read
Limitless patience; incredible support; a life-long love of dancing and the arts. That’s what the nominees of the Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards identify as being necessary to be one of the nation’s peak ballet dancers. We spoke to the nominees about their passion for dance, and how they got to where they are today.
Our partnership with The Australian Ballet continues to nurture Australia’s brilliant ballet talent, and the Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards represent the pinnacle of our partnership every year. The Awards allow us to support some of Australia’s brightest young stars with new opportunities and career experiences, to challenge and encourage them on their chosen path.
The six dancers nominated for the award this year include Corps de Ballet Dancer Isobelle Dashwood, Soloist Jill Ogai, Senior Artist Cristiano Martino, Senior Artist Marcus Morelli, Soloist Sharni Spencer, and Corps de Ballet Dancer Yichuan Wang.
We hosted a virtual roundtable with the nominees to find out what it takes to become one of the nation’s best dancers.
What’s your inspiration for dancing? How did you get started?
Sharni Spencer (Soloist): I’ve just always loved to move and dance! I grew up in Tamworth, we had a massive backyard and I was always outdoors, running around, dancing, jumping on the trampoline, bike riding, you name it I would be doing it! My parents used to do ballroom dancing and some rock’n’roll classes and would love to watch them busting a move. I’ve just always been drawn to and dance ended up being the thing that I would keep choosing when after school activity times would clash. I started taking classes at the scout hall just in the laneway behind our house. As I progressed my teachers told my parents that I had good foundations for ballet and could continue potentially into a career if I furthered my training elsewhere.
Isobelle Dashwood (Corps de Ballet Dancer): Ballet has been a huge part of my life since I can remember. My mum is a ballet teacher and as the middle of 5 children, I grew up wanting to follow my older sisters everywhere including ballet class. I was always quite shy as a child but when I danced around the house, I felt so free.
It wasn’t until I was 12 however that I really felt a big connection with the feeling ballet gave me. I loved to strive for new goals and to dance to beautiful music. The marriage of all the aspects of a show coming together to create a seamless piece of art inspired and excited me and I couldn’t get enough. As I’ve grown in the industry, I’ve definitely noticed a shift in what I find important or want to focus on. Technique will always be a foundation that supports our capability to dance and dance well, but I’m slowly learning that feeling things more emotively or taking energy from other parts of my body enhances what I do both technically and artistically. Dance is exciting because it’s a continuously evolving and changing art form with so many incredible aspects shaping the magic we share onstage and that inspires me every day to work at my best.
Being a very tall dancer has also made me appreciate differences and uniqueness. I don’t fit a mold but I’m creating my own and hopefully, that inspires others to feel that they can go after any dream that they have with hard work, passion and courage.
Jill Ogai (Soloist): I started after watching a video of Swan Lake with my twin brother. We both always loved moving, and so when we saw ballet, we wanted to try it. It’s always felt great and very right for me to move and express to music. On tougher days, it’s the most important thing to remember; why I started dancing, and how great it feels.
Cristiano Martino (Senior Artist): Really it can depend on the day. Sometimes I’m inspired by the work we’re doing in that moment, it can be the beautiful music we are dancing to or the person I’m dancing with. I find lots of inspiration in my friends/colleagues. But probably my partner Andrew Killian who is performing his 20th year & season with The Australian Ballet. He is an exceptional, humble & talented artist and a constant source of my inspiration.
I started dancing after I asked my mum if I could go along with my sister because I was always copying her routines in the lounge room when she would practice. I was a very energetic child & I’ve never been able to sit still so initially I think I just loved being able to channel my energy into something. I never really knew I could make a career out of it but I’m so grateful I have.
Yichuan Wang (Corps de Ballet Dancer): I remember the first time I saw other boys doing some really cool techniques I just felt I really loved it. And after I could successfully get those steps that feeling is awesome!
Marcus Morelli (Senior Artist): I started dancing at the age of 10 after many years of being ‘dragged’ to my sister’s ballet classes/competitions. After lots of encouragement from them and the teacher, I finally gave it a go just so they’d stop telling me to give it a try. Clearly something grabbed me from that first class, as I never stopped going back. I owe my decision to start ballet to my two wonderful sisters as without them, who knows what I’d be doing?
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