Dance Informa recently interviewed some of Australia’s favourite dance and musical theatre artists at a prestigious red carpet event in Melbourne. Lucy Durack, Rhonda Burchmore, Daniel Riley, Annie Aitken and dancers from The Australian Ballet shared their top tips about how they maintain their mind, body and work-life balance.
We asked each of them about what keeps them dancing, creating, physically strong, and therefore enabling them to continue to meet the demands of performing in the arts and entertainment industry.
Musical theatre star Rhonda Burchmore shares that her tips for staying in the arts industry and keeping her body strong are numerous everyday things she does. “I aim to get a lot of sleep, I walk a lot, I’m not one of those ladies who ‘lunches’, I would rather walk or get on the end of a vacuum at home. I’m just a very normal mum. I’m at a certain age where people expect you to be thinking about retiring, and I have no plans of doing that any time soon — because I think as long as you’re healthy and fit and still enjoy what you do, why not?”
When asked if she does any dance classes, Burchmore says with gritted teeth and a laugh, “I don’t do any classes; I’m shocking! I should, but my shows are kind of my classes; they’re very physically exhausting, if you’re doing two hours on stage.”
Daniel Riley is a choreographer, dancer, singer, artist and a former member of Bangarra Dance Theatre. He now works at ILBIJERRI Theatre Company in Melbourne, as associate producer. Riley is also a choreographer, dancer, teacher and producer from the Wiradjuri nation of Western NSW.
He shares, “After being a full time dancer for 12 years with Bangarra, I think it’s just kind of routine to care for yourself. You’ve got to find a routine, but you’ve also got to find what works for you; it’s not one size fits all. All of our bodies are different, and we all have to find our own ways as to how we want to keep our body fit. I do a lot of bike riding and swimming because that works for me. It’s routine and finding what works for you.”
Annie Aitken recently finished Thoroughly Modern Millie the musical, which had complex tap dance choreography throughout. She says that in the lead up to the show, “I was in New York training my butt off at Steps on Broadway and Broadway Dance Center, mainly doing tap classes with my new Miller and Ben tap shoes.”
On the first day of Thoroughly rehearsals, she shares that they did dance routine work and she also had a different booking the night before and another booking after the rehearsals. When asked how she deals with the busy schedule and how she nurtures herself to prevent injury, she shares, “The busier, the better. I love it. I have amazing Physiotherapists at Performance Medicine and do clinical Pilates. I had a spa day for my birthday and a massage, facial and lots of pampering rejuvenation. I aim for lots of sleep, lots of healthy food and apple cider vinegar and tea.”
Kevin Jackson from The Australian Ballet has been in the company for 17 years. “It’s all about balance, hard work and continuing to keep working on your craft,” he shares about his longevity. When asked if dancers can have a life outside the company, he says, “Yes, we do. We let our hair down every now and then, but there is also a lot of focus and determination and sometimes not having a night out in order to focus more on the production at hand.”
Jasmin Durham has been with The Australian Ballet for eight years and shares that the hardest thing is the amount of shows the company does each year (about 160). “It’s a huge life commitment, especially if you’re a female corps de ballet member,” she says. “I think the best thing is also the amount of shows we do. I feel I’m very experienced at my job, but the work-life balance isn’t there all the time, and we do miss massive life moments. My brother’s having a baby soon, and I won’t be able to be there; I won’t be able to go. So little things like that are hard, but it’s also a privilege to be able to perform that many times a year around Australia.”
Lucy Durack is a mother of two little ones, and her advice to dancers is, “Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep doing it, taking one day at a time; then you can keep doing it. It was harder while pregnant with my daughter; I was quite sick during the pregnancy.” She continues that during her second pregnancy, she wasn’t as sick and was working on a major TV show. “The work I was doing at that time was on Australia’s Got Talent, which meant that I sat behind a desk, which was easier, and I was doing a pantomime at the same time also.”
Durack also shares that even while pregnant, she was practicing her tap routines in preparation for playing Fiona in Shrek the musical, after the birth of her second baby. While practicing a big tap dance number in her Ugg boots at home, she laughed with her husband, tap master Christopher Horsley, about not having had a tap class for awhile. He replied, “I know a guy,” and later that week gave her a lesson. “It was brilliant,” Durack reveals. “I had to buy a new pair of tap shoes.”
By Lara Bianca Pilcher of Dance Informa.