Dance Advice

Focus and freeing the mind with Audrey Freeman

Audrey Freeman.
Audrey Freeman. Photo by Nicole Chettle, ABC News Australia.

Audrey Freeman: lover of art, fashion, travel and dance. There is nothing this young personality can’t do. No matter what challenges are thrown her way, she will conquer them with maturity and grace, and with a fan base of 79.1K followers on her official Instagram account (@audstarfreeman), along with her YouTube Channel, it’s no wonder fans from around the world look up to Freeman for inspiration. 

Having started ballet at the age of three at the Annette Roselli Dance Academy, the now 16-year-old dancer then progressed through her training and studied with Tanya Pearson Academy, whilst simultaneously pursuing her early career as a rhythmic gymnast. She was the Australian Champion for three years, going on to win many international titles. After making the decision to focus purely on ballet, she was then accepted two years in a row into the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) New York Finals – twice being a Grand Finalist – and in 2017, she was the outright winner of the YAGP Paris. The following year in 2018, Freeman competed in the prestigious Prix de Lausanne competition and was consequently offered a place at The Royal Ballet School, where she commenced in September 2018, being one of the youngest accepted into The Royal Ballet School Upper School at 15 years old. Now, in 2020, she will be launching an all sustainable, ethical and zero waste dance and sportswear brand, as she feels there’s a gap in the market between dance and streetwear, and it’s called SPORTIVÉaf.

Audrey Freeman.
Audrey Freeman.

With an impressive record such as this, it is certainly evident that mindset and focus both strongly come into play – along with passion, drive and talent. But what happens when life throws curve balls? 2020 has been an unpredictable year for many, and in uncertain times, it can be difficult to navigate the path forward. However, with the right combination of positive psychology and authenticity, Freeman shares with Dance Informa her advice about focus and freedom of the mind to help you traverse the unknown path ahead so you can evolve into your best self. 

How old were you when you started gymnastics and ballet?

“I was three years old when I started ballet, and one year later I started rhythmic gymnastics.”

Describe your training as a gymnast.

Intense! Looking back, it was super hardcore, and very much cardio-based and loads of stretching…as you can imagine! So, if you want to improve stamina, flexibility and strength, do a few sessions of rhythmic gymnastics. The schedule was five days a week (after ballet) from 4pm to 8pm, and then Saturdays from 7am to 1pm. I was very successful at rhythmic. I was the Australian Champion for three years and went on to compete internationally and won many titles. Competing was always my favourite part but also some of the most stressful times of my life.”

At what point did you decide to purely pursue ballet?

“For me, my heart was with ballet all along, but I enjoyed gymnastics and was very good at it. There was the added bonus of getting to travel all over the world competing, which is a huge part of who I am today. I decided at about 13 that I wanted to focus primarily on ballet, as I felt I was falling behind in ballet.”

Like gymnastics, describe your ballet training schedule, competitions and achievements.

“Ballet is less hardcore than gymnastics, that’s for sure! But as I’ve gotten older and matured as a person and a dancer, I have realised that quality over quantity is the best way to approach it. There is no point in doing eight hours a day if you’re tired, not enjoying it, sore and not actively listening to your coaches. Another thing that has helped me recently is not just taking care of your body but also your mind and soul, as ballet is a very consuming career, and you want to make sure you are mentally okay, happy and thriving. Otherwise, everything else isn’t worthwhile. When I learned this, it was truly eye-opening to me.

In terms of my achievements in ballet, I’m not sure where to start, as I have done so many competitions and galas. Some of the achievements I am most proud of is winning the gold medal in Classical and Contemporary at the YAGP in Paris in 2017, dancing at the Prix de Lausanne in 2018 with a very select group of candidates and winning the Geneé Dance Challenge gold medal. However, truly my greatest achievement is being the best person I can be and helping others I meet along the way, as I believe success is not limited; we all need to bring one another up and support one another!”

How do you train mentally? What strategies did you implement to stay focussed?

Meditation! Always, every morning and night. It doesn’t matter what happened in between as long as I start my day with a positive intention and finish it with a grateful heart. The first hour and the last hour of the day are always the most important!”

Describe how these strategies helped you in recent times of uncertainty?

“This whole period of isolation for me has been up and down, mentally and physically. The mind and the body together work in unison, and if one is not okay, the other is probably suffering as well. Meditation has helped me so much. I think I would be completely insane if I didn’t do my daily sessions. But not only has meditation been helping me; journaling has assisted a lot also. I like to journal my feelings, my thoughts or anything I am stressed or anxious over, which pretty much every day is something new. These are just some things that help me deal with it all a little better. As we are always going to have problems or stressful situations, it’s how we deal with them, or what we can do to move forward in a positive way.”

What thought patterns have you had to unlearn in order to help you move past setbacks and obstacles?

“I struggled a lot with being too obsessed with what others thought of me and constantly trying to please others. I have been able to rewire my brain in the way of looking at the bigger picture. You are you, and you are living with yourself your whole life, so it’s so important we make our own decisions, be proud of who we are, what we have done, and what we stand for. Never ever hold back about what you are passionate about, as that is what makes you the beautiful person you are.”

Audrey Freeman.
Audrey Freeman.

How have former thoughts shaped your world? 

“Well, ‘what we think becomes our reality.’ So I guess everything I have thought has shaped the world I am living today!”

What new lessons and insights helped you evolve?

“I used to think that if you wanted to be a dancer or a ‘ballerina’, that is all you could do — nothing else. But that is so far from the truth. I believe that being a great artist, you need real life experiences to put back into your work. When I realised this, I saw ballet and dance so differently – in such a freeing way. There is not just one path. There are so many, and everyone has their own route, and to see someone evolve and find their way into their purpose is so special.”

Finally, who has been the biggest influence in your life, and how do you hope to influence young people?

“I can’t say there is one person who has been the biggest influence or anyone in particular at all. My family are my biggest supporters, and I couldn’t thank them enough for that. They are always there for support through the ups and the downs, and have taught me to be more independent with my decisions as I have matured into a young adult.

For me, on my Instagram account, I try and just be myself. Which is not perfect – far from it actually – a little crazy and clumsy. I share things that inspire me in my day-to-day life, post behind-the-scenes photos from my busy days and always share little messages and quotes that inspire me, or that I feel can help someone reading my post. I certainly have days when I am feeling down and can’t be posting those positive quotes, so I always make sure I show my followers that I don’t feel great, as I am only human and it’s more than normal to have days like that, and I certainly want to grow further awareness on this topic. In addition to my Instagram, I have my YouTube Channel where I feel people can get to know me more, as I am not just posting snippets or photos from a few minutes of my day. I am always keeping it real, maybe too real sometimes. I hope to influence people to be themselves, fearlessly and authentically. Do what makes you happy and what inspires you, and most of all, stay true to yourself and treat other people like you’d want to be treated.”

By Renata Ogayar of Dance Informa. 

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