As professional ballet dancers, we rehearse 8 hours a day, 6 days a week and only get time to ourselves on Sundays. It sounds like a lot, and it is - but when you are chasing passion on this level, there are no short cuts that will allow you to meet the expected performance level standards without the hard work behind it.
I feel very lucky to be doing something I am passionate about and living a career my four-year-old self always dreamt of doing. But what goes on behind the curtain? I’ll give you a run down on what my average performance day looks like from early morning to curtain close.
I wake up around 8am and start the morning with a healthy breakfast; I usually have warm porridge with blueberries alongside a strong coffee to help keep me energised for the big day ahead. Each morning I’ll take Nageze Joint Pain, either before or with my breakfast. Its formula is 100% natural and is gentle on the stomach therefore I can take it with or without food which I find really convenient (especially when I’m on the go!).
I’ll also check my emails to find out what my rehearsal schedule looks like and look over any casting changes that affect me for the performance that night. I feel it necessary to target my inflammation early in the day, so that I can set myself up for a productive, successful day.
After breakfast, I jump on a tram and head into our studios for an hour of Pilates to help my body warm up for the day. This is an essential part of my routine. I like to make sure I am waking up my muscles, centering myself and ensuring that my body is ready and warm before I start the morning ballet class. We do this morning class every day without fail, to hone in on our own technique, to build strength, and to keep any inflammatory niggles at bay.
Class commences at 11am and finishes at 12.15pm. We start at the barre, then move into the centre of the studio to practice in our pointe shoes. Here, we perform more progressively difficult steps and combinations, until we finish with the most intensive part, grande allegro (big jumps).
After class there is a quick 15-minute break, during which I practice steps that I want to improve or that will be performed in the show later that night. I also squeeze in a quick snack of a banana, a muesli bar or some yogurt.
Once this manic 15 minutes is over, we head into rehearsals, which usually lasts from 12.30 to 3pm. During this time, we rehearse the next ballet coming up, even though we will be performing a different ballet that night. “No rest for the wicked” they say. It’s challenging but exciting to be juggling a few ballets at once. As ballet dancers you get quite good at remembering and picking up choreography really fast.
At 3pm our lunch break starts. This is the time I make sure I eat something healthy and nutritious to fuel my body for what I will ask of it later that night. I like to change it up but my go-to is Japanese because it’s fresh and not too greasy or heavy. I make sure there is a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and greens. A delicious bowl of brown rice, miso salmon and greens are as much a part of my routine as the pre-practice pilates!
After lunch I’ll fit in a gym workout to keep up my fitness levels or a massage appointment to iron out any tightness so that my body is in top form for the performance that night.
At 5pm I head back into the theatre to start getting ready. We learn how to groom ourselves for a show; the art of doing a stage face and hair styles to suit different eras and characters is part of our job description. Grooming is seen as being a part of the costume and an essential part of portraying a character on stage. These skills are picked up when we are students and honed once we move into the professional realm.
It’s warm up time! I do a warm up barre to get the body and mind moving again.
At 7pm, I head back into my dressing room to do any final make up/hair touch ups and I put my costume and pointe shoes on and head to the stage. I normally hear the 15min call announcement and that’s my cue to start walking to the stage; I rosin my shoes and practice any last things on stage with my partner.
The curtain is up; it’s show time! Depending on the show, we may have 2 intervals to change into costumes and prepare for the next act. During this time, we may be met by various members of staff, who come back to our change-rooms to give us any feedback or corrections. Sometimes our shows can be so hectic.
I can be required to play up to 3 different roles which means multiple costume changes in one night; it’s the ultimate dress up party! I make sure I keep hydrated during the show as we sweat a lot - so some easy fuelling snacks like a banana, nuts or cereal bars can go a long way.
Curtain down, the show’s over! When we return to our dressing room after the show the atmosphere is a combination of adrenalin and elation.There is a jovial atmosphere when we are all removing our make-up backstage. Once I’ve showered, I make sure I recover adequately to prevent stiffness and inflammation. I’ll have an ice bucket for my lower legs along with two Nageze Joint Pain capsules. Then, it’s HOME TIME!
When I'm finally home I have a light meal and another hot shower. I try to go to bed before midnight, something that with the post-performance buzz, is easier said than done. Although I am physically drained from the day, there is still some adrenalin from the show so I try to chill by catching up with my partner; I love hearing about his day, chilling on the couch with Netflix or reading a book. Then it’s sleep time to restore and repeat the whole thing the next day!