By Rebecca Martin.
Lisa Edwards is Queensland Ballet’s newest Soloist. She was promoted in April after her outstanding performances in the company’s production of Cinderella.
A graduate of The Australian Ballet School, Lisa moved to Europe and danced with Stadttheater St. Gallen in Switzerland and Anhaltisches Theater Dessau and Stadttheater Koblenz, both in Germany. She returned home to Australia and joined Queensland Ballet in July 2004. Dance Informa’s Rebecca Martin recently caught up with the rising star.
Tell us a little about your early dance training in Dubbo.
I began my training with The Dance Academy in Dubbo at the age of five, with teachers Doreen and Virginia Thompson. I loved Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers from an early age, so I wanted to tap dance. My teachers recommended doing ballet also to get a basic technique. I ended up doing everything: ballet, tap, jazz, national character, contemporary and even song and dance! My teachers saw potential and exposed me to some of the bigger dance scenes. I was about 13 when I decided that this was what I really wanted to do and I auditioned successfully for The Royal Ballet School and The Australian Ballet School.
You were accepted into The Australian Ballet School and relocated to Melbourne to train there. How did you manage being away from home?
It was such a huge change moving from the country city of Dubbo to a big city like Melbourne. I suffered from home sickness terribly and had to really decide if I could handle it. In the end it was my determination and passion for dance that helped me through. After the first term I had made friends and had a routine, so it became a little easier. A lot of us were going through the same thing, so that helped us to become closer. It was the friendships that really kept everyone strong. That and a great sense of humour! My time at the school was hard, but so rewarding. I got some lovely opportunities.
Your professional career began in Europe. What were some of the highlights of your time there?
I began my career in Europe in St. Gallen, Switzerland, before moving to Dessau, Germany for two years, then Koblenz for a year. So many experiences! I did not speak a word of German when I arrived, so that was a huge challenge in itself, as my first two directors didn’t speak English, just German or Spanish! So beginning to fully understand in rehearsals was exciting. These companies were all based in the theatres so the dancers were used for Opera and Musicals as well as our own shows. I’ve worked with some great choreographers and toured to Cuba and Croatia – definite highlights!
You’ve recently been promoted to Soloist at Queensland Ballet – congratulations! How does it feel to have your hard work rewarded in such a way?
To be promoted to Soloist is such an honour, especially so early into our 2013 program under Li’s direction. QB hasn’t had a girl soloist since 2008, so it’s an important role, not just for the dancing but to help inspire and guide the other young talented dancers in QB. It’s so wonderful to be recognised for my work, dedication and leadership. I’m very excited and I feel like this is definitely a new chapter in my career.
Run us through an average day for you at QB.
During our rehearsal periods my day usually starts around 6am. I like to get up and do some yoga/Pilates before I go to work. Our daily class is at 9:30am, then it’s rehearsals from 11:15am-1:15pm, and then again from 2:15-5:30pm, Monday to Friday. There’s also an optional class on Saturdays.
My schedule is pretty full so I’m usually dashing from rehearsal to rehearsal and learning multiple roles at the same time. It keeps me on my toes! At times we also have media calls throughout the day and costume fittings. We are lucky to now have a medical team. So I try to squeeze in some physio at some point during the week, and massage!
How do you manage injuries and stay motivated?
Injuries can be tricky. As you get older you learn better how to manage them and to listen to what your body is telling you. We have an amazing medical team, a Pilates studio and cardio equipment to help keep everyone in form and to prevent injury. Not to mention our ice machine – ice bins are not just for footy players!
Yes, there are days when I am tired and everything hurts, but we are so incredibly lucky to have such an amazing artistic team of Li and his wife Mary, Greg Horseman and Janette Mulligan, full of so much experience. They genuinely want to bring out the best in us. They, along with our wonderful Pianist Kylie Foster, who plays for us everyday, and obviously my fellow dancers, keep me motivated – especially our Principals. To watch them is inspiring .You can learn so much and appreciate how much of themselves they are giving. I also love YouTube. It’s great to just appreciate the amazing and sometimes crazy things dancers do!
What roles do you hope to dance in the future and what have been some of your favourite performances so far?
There are so many roles I would love to dance. I love the classics. I would have to say Juliet for her drama, abandon and passion and Swan Lake’s Odette/Odile for the pure classicism. We are getting some amazing works brought out, like Ben Stevenson’s Cinderella, which is a privilege to dance. I have been recognised around Brisbane as “Lisa the Lilac Fairy” as it’s a role I’ve done with the company over quite a few seasons. I’ll always remember the Fairy Godmother from Cinderella as something quite special, as that’s when I was promoted!
We are just about to head off for our tour of Giselle. I will get to dance the role of the Queen of the Willis. It’s something I have always wanted to dance, so I’m very excited to take on this role.
What advice would you give to young dancers wanting to pursue a career in ballet?
For young dancers it’s really important to have good teachers to guide them and also to have a good understanding of your body. A career in dance is so hard on the body so you need to take care of it and fuel it properly so it functions at its optimal range. Watch artists that inspire you and see live shows when you get the opportunity. Having a sense of humour is invaluable when times get tough, and love what you do. It’s such a unique thing and there is honestly nothing quite like it… and yes, it is fun!
Photo (top): Lisa Edwards in the studio. Photo by Ken Sparrow.