By Grace Edwards.
Partnering with The Australian Ballet and The Australian Ballet School, Channel Ten will launch the premiere of its new children’s series, Once Upon A Dream, on October 16th, which will air Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 4pm. Over six episodes, the documentary-style series reveals what it takes to be a part of our national ballet company, taking viewers behind the scenes of The Australian Ballet’s production of Swan Lake. In anticipation of the series’ launch, Dance Informa’s Grace Edwards spoke to Australian Ballet soloist, Rudy Hawkes, who features extensively in the series, about what it takes to become a dancer.
Can you take us through your first memory of dance? What happened and what it was like?
It was my mum’s idea – she had always had a passion for ballet and asked if I wanted to go along. I had no idea what I was in for, so my first memory was me jumping around a class full of girls and getting really tired. I remember really enjoying it and wanting to do more, which I think took my mum a bit by surprise! It was a good surprise though, because I was a really hyperactive kid and she wanted something to tire me out.
When did you make the transition mentally from dancing for fun and deciding this was the career for you?
I was fairly into it when I moved to Melbourne to attend the Australian Ballet School. It was probably about half way through my first year of ballet school that I decided I wanted to make dance my career – watching the men of the Australian Ballet Company and seeing what they were doing every day for a job and getting paid for it inspired me. They were all fantastic dancers and I thought, “Yeah, that’s what I want to do, that’s where I want my dancing to take me.”
Growing up, was there ever a time when you thought, ‘Can I do this? Is this the right career for me?’
Yes definitely, there was always doubt, but I definitely wasn’t one to think, “Oh, am I going to be a doctor or am I going to be a dancer?” I was never that good at school or focusing my attention to books, so it was either I really try hard at dancing or knuckle down and do school work properly. I decided to knuckle down and become the best dancer that I could, so there was never really doubt about that, I suppose.
In Once Upon A Dream we get to go behind the scenes of the Australian Ballet, witness the dedication of the dancers and the team that supports them. Who are the unsung heroes of the ballet, in your opinion?
Our coaching staff and dancing staff put so many hours into making everything look right and they don’t always get the mention that I think they deserve. There are so many unsung heroes – once you get to the theatre, it’s the backstage crew that make things come alive, and wardrobe too. That’s why I think Once Upon A Dream will be interesting because it doesn’t just show the ballet dancers in costume, it shows everything else too, like the medical team who look after us if we get injured, and the choreographers. I think it will be a good insight into our little world.
What is the most challenging aspect of life as a professional dancer that you think audiences often don’t see?
It’s all pretty challenging – rehearsing every day, and even class! We always do ballet class in the morning just to keep moving and keep our technique strong. I was struggling a bit today. Things that you can do one day, the next day make you feel completely silly or uncoordinated, for instance, realising you can’t turn more than three times because you’re falling over yourself. It’s an on-going battle to keep your body doing what you want it to do and training it so that when you’re on stage it comes naturally. At the end of the day, the goal is to make everything look effortless. The audience might not realise how hard some of this stuff really is.
What do you love most about life as a performer?
Performing! You get a chance to transport the audience into a new world, help them escape the daily grind, go somewhere else and hopefully enjoy themselves. In doing that, I also get to escape by becoming a different character and to feel free whilst dancing. You feel alone in your own world even though there are many people watching you.
We look forward to seeing you on our screens Rudy. No doubt there will be a lot more people watching you soon!
Top photo: Rudy Hawkes performs in The Australian Ballet’s Nutcracker. Photo by Jess Busby 2010.