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The Australian Ballet’s Stunning Principals

By Rain Francis.

In the Australian Ballet’s 50th year Dance Informa is celebrating the company by highlighting three of the Ballet’s Principal Dancers each edition. This edition Dance Informa speaks with Madeleine Eastoe, Adam Bull and Lana Jones.

Click to catch up on last edition’s interviews with Lucinda Dunn, Yosvani Ramos and Leanne Stojmenov or September’s feature of Rachel Rawlins, Kevin Jackson and Amber Scott.

Principal Dancer Madeleine Eastoe of The Australian Ballet

Madeleine Eastoe of The Australian Ballet. Photo by James Braund

Madeleine Eastoe

Perth-born Madeleine is one of Australia’s favourite ballerinas. A graduate of The Australian Ballet School, she joined the company in 1997 and was promoted to Principal in 2005. Her first role as principal, and still one of her favourites to dance, is the title role in Giselle.

What’s your first memory of dance?

Forgetting steps on stage, aged six.

What has been a highlight of your career so far?

Returning to dance after having my daughter Ella.

Which character in a ballet do you most associate with, and why?

Giselle because I’m part mad and crazy!

Which roles are high on your wish list?

Manon and Giselle again.

What is something that most people don’t know about the life of a dancer?

Sometimes, rarely, we blank on stage!

When you are not dancing, what would you prefer to be doing?

Hanging out with my family, practising yoga and riding my bike.

If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be?

I’m not sure. I’ll be making that decision in the not too distant future.

Do you have a favourite movie? Or a favourite band?

Movie: Room with a View and High Society

Singer: Jeff Buckley

Who is your favourite choreographer?

It’s too hard to single one out.

What is the most challenging thing about your job?

Being away from family and the constant maintenance of my body.

Do you have a quote or affirmation that helps you through, or that means a lot to you?

When I first performed Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake with Josh Consandine we were the last cast to go on and because it was such an epic production, rather than practice a specific sequence of steps we had the Nike phrase ‘just do it’, to motivate us.

What advice can you give to budding dancers?

Continue to redevelop yourself and find new ways to challenge yourself as much as possible.

What do you love most about your job?

The performing, characters, time on stage, the creative partnerships and the friends.

Principal dancer Adam Bull, The Australian Ballet

Adam Bull of The Australian Ballet. Photo by James Braund

Adam Bull

Born and raised in Melbourne, Adam remembers being encouraged to dance by his Grade 1 primary school teacher. Years later, he trained at The Australian Ballet School before joining the company in 2002. Six years later, Adam was promoted to Principal.

What was your first role as principal?

My first principal role was as Colas in La Fille Mal Gardee when I was still in the Corps de Ballet, but my first role as a Principal artist was dancing Grand Pas Classique the night after I was promoted to Principal.

What has been a highlight of your career so far?

Dancing Siegfried in Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake in New York, Paris, London and Tokyo.

Which character in a ballet do you most associate with, and why?

In every role you try to flesh out the character with your own stories and actions, making every role a reflection of some part of yourself.

Which roles are high on your wish list?

I have slowly ticked off all the roles I’ve ever dreamed of dancing: Onegin, Albrecht in Giselle, Des Grieux in Manon. Every role I’ve enjoyed for different reasons.

What is something that most people don’t know about the life of a dancer?

In one day we may be working on up to five different ballets.

When you are not dancing, what would you prefer to be doing?

Snorkeling at Shelley Beach, Manly.

If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be?

A presenter on a show like Getaway!

Do you have a favourite book? Movie? TV series?

Book: The Life of Pi and A Fine Balance

Movie: Life is Beautiful, The Piano and Muriel’s Wedding

TV series: Breaking Bad

Who is your favourite choreographer?

Sir Kenneth MacMillian, Wayne McGregor and Graeme Murphy

What is the most challenging thing about your job?

Maintaining your body in peak condition 365 days a year.

Do you have a quote or affirmation that helps you through, or that means a lot to you?

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

What advice can you give to budding dancers?

The quote above has served me well.

What do you love most about your job?

The environment in which I work every day. I’m surrounded by the most talented, inspiring, funny, generous people.

Principal Dancer Lana Jones, Australian Ballet

Lana Jones of The Australian Ballet. Photo by James Braund

Lana Jones

Born in Canberra, Lana became a Principal artist in 2010, performing the Rose Fairy in Peter Wright’s The Nutcracker. The highlight of her career so far is her most recent role, Odette/Odile in Stephen Baynes’ Swan Lake.

What’s your first memory of dance?

My first memory of dance is more to do with the ballet uniform. I loved the white leotard and lycra white cross over, and of course the little white chiffon skirt. At age five, I felt so the part!

Describe your journey with The Australian Ballet.

I joined The Australian Ballet in 2002 and was gratefully always kept busy and worked really hard at being the best I could be in everything that I danced. It was so exciting when I started getting feature roles and understudying the roles I had always dreamt of dancing, and then eventually performing them. I feel enriched in all the diverse roles I have danced and they have all shaped the dancer I am today.

Which character in a ballet do you most associate with?

I think it would have to be Juliet (in Romeo & Juliet) because she is passionate and willing to take chances.

Which roles are high on your wish list?

Manon and Giselle.

What is something that most people don’t know about the life of a dancer?

That you can’t just take a sick day as it will affect at least ten or more people.

When you are not dancing, what would you prefer to be doing?

I love being physical, so being outdoors, maybe at the beach, with my husband and my two dogs.

If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be?

Hopefully a photographer or a nurse.

Who is your favourite choreographer?

I adore the classics like John Cranko and Sir Kenneth MacMillian, but Jiří Kylián is also sublime.

What is the most challenging thing about your job?

When you are having a really bad show and you have to keep going out on stage when all you want to do is run away.

Do you have a quote or affirmation that helps you through, or that means a lot to you?

Have the confidence to be yourself.

What advice can you give to budding dancers?

Ballet does not come without complete dedication, but if you’re willing and motivated then it definitely has its rewards.

What do you love most about your job?

Transporting audiences to a world where they can escape on a journey with you. I love escaping and telling a story as a character. I also love the physicality of ballet. It’s amazing what our bodies can do!

Top photo: Lana Jones, Rudy Hawkes, Adam Bull and Amber Scott in Gemini, The Australian Ballet. Photo by Jeff Busby.

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