Coming from a heart space: Mia Heathcote heads to The Australian Ballet

Queensland Ballet presents Kenneth MacMillan's Manon. Mia Heathcote and Vito Bernasconi. Photography David Kelly
Queensland Ballet presents Kenneth MacMillan's Manon. Mia Heathcote and Vito Bernasconi. Photography David Kelly

Mia Heathcote is a shining star of the Australian ballet scene. A graduate of The Australian Ballet School and Principal Artist of the Queensland Ballet, Heathcote is a thoughtful and intelligent dancer who shows grace both on and off stage. At the time of Heathcote’s promotion to Principal Artist in 2022, the then Director of Queensland Ballet, Li Cunxin, declared, “There is no doubt in my mind that she is one of the top artists in the country at the moment.”

Then, of course, there is her ballet pedigree. Earlier in her career, Heathcote’s famous and much adored ballet parents were the first question on everyone’s lips, but Heathcote has created her own story that has captivated Australian audiences. 

Mia Heathcote. Photo by David Kelly.
Mia Heathcote. Photo by David Kelly.

Heathcote spoke with Dance Informa over the phone during her final week with Queensland Ballet at the end of 2023.

Do you ever get tired of being compared to your parents?

“I would say that I used to, and maybe that is because I hadn’t really formed my own path yet. People were just curious, which I understand, because a lot of people want to know about ‘the offspring’. Now I have my own journey to talk about.”

Heathcote is returning to her Melbourne roots in 2024, to join The Australian Ballet in the position of Soloist. Having reached the elite rank of Principal Artist with Queensland Ballet, it may seem an unusual move to outsiders. But she muses on this: “Yes, I’m coming in at a rank that is lower than what I am currently at. For me, it is not about trying to prove that I am good enough to keep moving up; it is that I want to learn more and want to get more out of this career for myself and give what I can give to the company.”

Is it daunting feeling like you have to reestablish yourself again with The Australian Ballet?

“I am at a point in my career where I have absorbed and learned so much about myself that I think I have the tools now. I have had to learn that over many years – it is never about proving to anyone else that I deserve the position or deserve the job. I think for me, growing up it was an extra pressure I put on myself. I have to prove I’m good enough because people expect that of me because of my past, so I have really had to learn to let go of that story. I think that is the strength I have now going into this new chapter, regardless of the fact that I’ve worked in that environment previously. I’m working there now with a more matured and self knowing of who I am as a dancer and a person. There will always be a little side of me that feels pressure, and I think that’s a good thing, but I just love this artform, and I just want to offer what I have to give without that feeling that I need to show everyone what I’ve got. I feel like that is when you can do your best and perform at your best, when it is coming from a heart space.”

What inspired the big move? 

“Many things, but particularly personal growth. I love Queensland Ballet and I love what I have done there and love the people and the atmosphere and the family sense that we have, and it is very hard to say goodbye to that comfortability, but I never want to be too comfortable in this career, I think. Once I am done and have hung up my pointe shoes, I want to know that I have done everything that my heart desired. I guess there was always a question in my mind about The Australian Ballet… One, it is a great company, and two, there is a part of me that it feels like I want to explore. And maybe that does come down to the fact that it was home. I grew up with The Australian Ballet as my pillar of inspiration. I think going back to my childhood, little Mia would be pretty stoked to have at least tried to go down that path. I don’t think it was right 10 years ago when I was first offered that contract because I was in a very different space. Unfortunately, dancers do always have a clock ticking because the body doesn’t last as long as you’d often like it to, and I’m 28, so if this opportunity arises right now while a lot of change is going on in the dance world, it is just the right time to take the plunge and experience something new and different while also being familiar for me.”

Also making the leap from Queensland Ballet to The Australian Ballet is Heathcote’s offstage partner, Cuban dancer Victor Estevez. “We are both very lucky to have received a contract,” Heathcote says.

Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon by Queensland Ballet. Mia Heathcote and D’Arcy Brazier. Photography David Kelly.

Would you be open to working overseas?

“It is something I have thought about. Yes, I have a curiosity, but I also know that jobs are hard to get, and I also think that there is more I want to seek out in Australia first. When opportunities come up, I’m a big believer in taking them, even if you feel scared by it. It is still scary to have any kind of change, and I wouldn’t discount it in the future.”

What does an average Sunday look like? 

“You are usually recovering, but I would say that my favourite kind of Sunday would be a slow morning. Waking up, having a coffee on the couch. I just love hanging out with the people that I have become very close to here. I am really lucky to say that I have gained some beautiful friends and people I know will be in my life forever. Whether that is them coming over for a brunch or we are just hanging out, that is probably my ideal Sunday. If not that, then basically just being a couch potato!” 

Heathcote adds that while she has not indulged in the recent season of The Bachelor, she is watching The Crown. When asked what kind of music she likes, she admitted she does not listen to Taylor Swift. (“Sorry to the Swifties,” she laughs.) The last concert she attended was London Grammar, she thinks. “It was so long ago. I would really like to see more live music than I do. My brother is a musician, so maybe he will take me to gigs in Melbourne.” 

On that note, Heathcote returns to writing her own story and packing up her life in Brisbane. 

By Rebecca Martin of Dance Informa.

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