“If people make you laugh, you like them, even if they’re being fairly awful!”
Is it time we put down the remote and picked up some tickets?
Ever wanted to step into somebody else’s shoes for the day and see what life is like as a magazine editor, a professional sportsperson or corporate high-flyer..? Well, SHESAID is giving you the closest thing to your very own Freaky Friday experience with our A Day In The Life Of… series.
Name and role
Amber Scott, principal artist with the Australian Ballet
Tell us a bit about what you do?
My life as a ballerina is a combination of dedicated routine alongside a great deal of travel and performing. From the outside, a life on the stage and performing around Australia and overseas may seem glamorous, but in reality there is a hidden backstage world where all dancers work themselves to peak physical condition every day. Sweating it out in the studio for hours leads to the reward of performing when a new season opens.
When did you discover your talent? Did you always want to be a dancer?
When I was a young girl my mother noted my boundless energy and took me to creative dance classes. I loved these as it was such a fun way to express all that energy. I grew up on the Sunshine Coast QLD so being physical was such a huge part of my youth. I feel all the running, swimming and climbing I did as a youngster really helped condition my body for the life ahead. My parents took me to see Swan Lake when I was five and it was definitely an epiphany, I think that was my fated moment when I knew what I wanted to do. Along the way, the years of training and endless dedication occasionally became a bit tedious and I probably had ulterior careers such as a paediatrician or actress up my sleeve, but my true love of dance always won out!
Where do you find your inspiration? Who has had the most impact on you and your career?
I have been inspired by every teacher I have been lucky enough to learn from. My first teacher Anne Fraser was so important in teaching me the pure beauty of classical technique. Eileen Tasker from the National TheatreBallet school in Melbourne gave me the courage to go for it and try new steps and even if they weren’t perfect she gave me a real sense of joy in performing. Marilyn Rowe OBE, Gailene Stock CBE AM and Leigh Rowles picked me out from a room of eleven-year-olds to join their associate program and thus began my life within The Australian Ballet family. Marilyn Jones OBE directed me as young girl and taught me my first solo en pointe. I feel so lucky to have been inspired by these women from a young age. They all gave so generously of their time and shared their ballerina secrets with me. When I think of grace, kindness and humility I think of all these ladies. My mother is also a beacon of light for me. She gave up a lot of her dreams so I could have mine and we had so much fun learning together about this wondrous world of ballet. It’s always so special to perform when my family are in the audience. Thinking of them comforts me and makes me want to express all the joy of life when I’m onstage.
It’s not always bright lights and glory. How do you deal with the challenges and down times?
The toughest times have been when I have been off because of an injury, or having to dance through pain because of one. It is par for the course in our line of work and fortunately we have a brilliant medical team to guide us through these times and keep us strong. I certainly wouldn’t have lasted this long without their care! Sometimes early in my career the amount of shows our company perform each year (160+) would really wear me down and even though we would be performing beautiful works, the grind would be really hard to push through. Looking back I can see how all those years of pushing through endless corps de ballet roles really gives you the grit you need to have longevity in this career.
What role has had the most effect on you? Tell us a bit about your latest projects…
I think the role of Odette in both Graeme Murphy’s and Stephen Baynes’ versions of Swan Lake have had the biggest impact on my career. It was my first big break when David McAllister asked me to be Odette when I was 21. I still feel so grateful for that leap of faith he took in me, it was terrifying and wonderful all at once! I still am dancing that role and growing with the ballet each year we perform it. I think I will always be learning more about her character. The other special Odette moment was when Stephen Baynes said I would be in his premiere cast for a new traditional version. I was a principal artist at that point, terrified all over again but so humbled to be stepping into that iconic ballerina role. I love the score of Swan Lake and always find this motivates the emotions I feel for the ballet.
Your workdays are much more exciting than the average 9 to 5. When you’re preparing or performing, what does a typical day involve?
My workday is certainly not the usual 9-5 but it also varies a great deal depending on our performance schedule. Over years of late theatre nights I am certainly not a “morning person”! Because of this I tend to push back waking up until 8am and then dawdle over breakfast. chores and emails at home. After a stop off at a local café for a flat white I get to work about 9:45am to warm up for class.
Class is generally a similar affair each day. We begin at the barre to warm and stretch our bodies and gradually the intensity increases to include turns and jumping in the centre of the room. After a 15-minute break it’s back into the studio for two and a half hours of whatever ballet is coming up. At the moment there are four different ballets being rehearsed so it is a typically busy time at the Australian Ballet. If it is a show day we will stop at 3pm to rest, eat and maybe get some physio before heading to the theatre at 5pm to put make-up on and prepare for the 7:30pm performance. After a big show I like to jump in the ice buckets up to my knees to combat any swelling or muscle soreness the next day. Then it’s time to go home and have a late dinner, usually an omelette or leftover pasta, around 11pm. Not ideal dietary advice but I prefer to relax and eat dinner after the show so I don’t feel queasy during pas de deuxs! On the days when we don’t perform I keep rehearsing after lunch till 6:30pm and then head home to cook dinner or catch up with friends and family if I can. I love cooking, it’s one of my favourite ways to unwind at the end of the day. The Ugg boots go on and then it’s straight to the kitchen to try a new recipe out with my boyfriend. Actually he is more of a “recipe” person and a great cook. I tend to make up dishes depending on what we have in the house. Luckily he is always very encouraging of my experimentation!
What are your goals for the future?
My most immediate goal for the future is to give my all to performing Aurora and Lilac Fairy in David McAllister’s new production The Sleeping Beauty. I am loving revisiting both these roles and re-interpreting them with a more mature approach. There have been many rewarding hours spent with David and our Ballet Mistress Fiona Tonkin helping me develop my interpretation. The staff of the company spend so much time with us, they see us at our best and worst, I always feel so lucky to be able to be completely honest in the studio with them.
In the distant future, I would like to study health science and continue learning about human anatomy which is something I am currently studying online. I think it will tie in really well with my ballet background and hopefully enable me to give back to the artform in some way in the future. Of course, I hope to keep dancing as long as possible and hopefully revisit some of my favourite roles such as Tatiana in Onegin, and Manon. Beyond that, I daydream of travels to Europe, having a family, a garden, and staying happy and healthy.
What advice would you give to someone following the same path as you?
As advice for someone wanting to be a ballerina I can only offer advice based on my own experience. I think if I was speaking to myself as young person I would say, be patient and be kind to yourself. It’s natural for dancers to be very self-critical but if you spend so much energy focussing on the negative you lose that feeling of joy and escapism that dance can offer. I would also say to embrace your uniqueness. Forget about lack of physical symmetry, stiff joints, not being flexible enough, and celebrate your strengths. The audience doesn’t want to see all that worry, they want to be swept away into another world.
Amber will be performing in The Australian Ballet’s upcoming contemporary triple bill, 20:21. The show in Sydney will run from 5th – 21st of November. For tickets head to www.australianballet.com.au
Curtain up! Light the lights! Going to the theatre has been a treasured pastime for hundreds of years. From Shakespeare to Sondheim, there is a play, musical, ballet, opera; you name it, for everyone. It’s fun, it’s exciting and (a fact that is often overlooked) it is a fabulous venue to bring somebody you really want to impress. Here are 5 reasons why going to the theatre is a fabulous date idea.
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1. It’s the perfect mix of glamorous and casual
Like to dress up, but tired of the conversation-trumping thumping bass of a concert/club? Want a sense of occasion, rather than the jeans-and-a-cute-top movie date getup? The theatre gives you the opportunity to frock up, but still allows you time before, at intermission, and after the show to actually converse at a normal volume. Enjoy waking up with memories of show tunes and scintillating conversation, rather than with a pounding headache, a sore throat and a guilty conscience.
2. Location, location, location
Theatres are usually located right in the city centre; close to restaurants, cocktail lounges and other nightlife. Have a quick drink, or perhaps even a three course meal pre-show, then mosey on down to theatre-land, dressed to the nines, and let your meal settle through Act 1. But whatever you do; DON’T BE LATE. Most productions have a lockout period of 5 minutes to a whole act, so it’s best to arrive about 15 minutes before show time, especially if you’re picking up your tickets at the box office.
3. Avoid awkward silences
Let’s face it; we’ve all been on a date when the conversation hasn’t quite been flowing. In fact, it’s been stuttering and starting like a steam train with a sleeping driver. On a regular date, you’ll often have to delve into the darkest recesses of your ‘date dialogue’, perhaps even dusting off the time your sister’s graduation gown caught fire. On a theatre date; when in doubt, chat about the show! It’s easier to construct a conversation around a play/musical than a movie because there is far less footage online. Odds are neither one of you will have had any idea what it’s about, which leaves plenty of room for discussion. It’s even more interesting if you both decide you’re hating it…makes the second act twice as entertaining.
4. Grab an autograph at the end of the show
Loved a particular actor or actress? Moved to tears by the awesome-ness you just witnessed? Can’t bear to leave without showing your appreciation? No problem! Head around to the stage door with your date and wait until the performers emerge. They’re more than happy to sign your program/merchandise/bra and have a bit of a chat. It prolongs the experience and you’ll have something you’ll treasure forever (or lose next time you move house). It’s much easier than battling security and every teenager in Australia to catch a glimpse of Taylor Swift trying to leave the building with her entourage (yes, I’ve been there).
5. There is nothing like live theatre
Live theatre is something everybody should experience. As performers have to recreate themselves every night, you will witness a living, breathing entity that ebbs and flows with whatever energy it may be channelling on a particular day. The skill of theatre actors is extraordinary and watching them in action is awe-inspiring. There are no second chances, no opportunities to do an extra take if they forget a line and no safety net, except for their fellow performers. Whether everything goes smoothly or the set falls to pieces, a theatre date is always memorable!
Image via Ecns.cn
The De La Guarda troupeDe La Guarda
The Big Top
Luna Park, NSW
It?s described as ?Theatre that Falls from the Sky? and they ain?t wrong. This brilliant Argentinean show is a fantastical experience. It?s a mixture of acrobatics, physical theatre and dance that is punctuated with a live and incredibly rhythmic percussion set. You will stand there mesmerised as women climb walls, as actors jump from the ceiling and as couples enact the most passionate of love scenes. You will dance like a maniac with the hundreds of other punters as the actors/singers/dancers around you perform their hearts out. And you will be shocked, touched and totally taken out of your comfort zone. It will be unlike anything you have ever seen before, and you truly won?t forget it.
Buy tickets from Ticketmaster
Tony Llewellyn-Jones in AmigosAmigos
Sydney Theatre Company
The Opera House, NSW
Amigos is the latest work by classic Australian playwright, David Williamson. It is based around 4 friends, who were the bronze medallists for rowing in the 1968 Olympics. They were The Four Amigos. Young, successful and ready to experience what life had to offer. But it?s 35 years later, and their worlds have changed.
Jim (Gary Day) and Dick (Tony Llewellyn-Jones) are the only two left in contact. The feign a deep friendship however the truth of their relationship comes out when they speak later to their respective partners, (played by Natasha Elisabeth Beaumont and Wendy Hughes). They are both using each other to get what they want. We watch these pitiful characters as they argue about money, their children and their behaviour in the last 35 years. It?s interesting, but the real show begins when Stephen (Garry McDonald) enters the fray. McDonald steals the show with his brilliant portrayal of a man trying desperately to recover from his son?s death. Like most Williamson shows, The Amigos has its mix of humour and drama with a little bit of thought provocation thrown in. It isn?t as encapsulating as some of his shows, but it?s definitely well worth seeing.
Sydney season, buy tickets from Sydney Opera House
After its Sydney season Amigos tours to the Civic Theatre Newcastle from 18 June bookings (02) 4929 1977; The Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre from 23 June bookings Ticketmaster7; the Canberra Theatre Centre from 4 August bookings (02) 6275 2700 and Parramatta Riverside Theatres from 18 August bookings (02) 8839 3399.