When you think of ballerinas, you probably have an image of pink tutus springing across the stage on tip-toes (or en pointe, to give the technique its proper name). But in reality? As the Australian Ballet’s award-winning Lana Jones tells us, it’s ‘all-consuming, physically draining but amazing’…
When did you start dancing?
My parents got me into ballet when I was three because I was hyperactive. My ballet teacher wanted to take me out of class because I was disruptive, but they put me up a level and I focused. I’ve danced ever since.
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Have you made any sacrifices along the way?
I don’t know if I’d call them sacrifices – I’ve definitely missed time with my family, but in a way that’s given me more appreciation. The Australian Ballet is amazing at letting you lead a normal life outside of ballet, I think they realised that they create better artists if they let them experience life.
What’s the physical side of things like?
Ballet is a complete lifestyle. You wake up thinking about it, rehearse, perform, go home and it’s still on your mind. Physically, I don’t think I’ve ever realised how hard we work. You don’t just turn up to go through the motions, you move forward and better yourself. It’s physically draining, but that’s part of the attraction.
Do you have to keep fit outside of dancing?
I do Pilates, they have a lot of similarities in terms of core strength and lengthened muscles.
Is it true what they say about ballet dancers’ feet?
I hate to be typical but I have had a toenail fall off, and my feet bleed. When I come back after I’ve had a break from dancing, my toenails hurt so much.
How do you dance through the pain?
My mum has a muscle disease, so when I need to draw on strength, I think how tough it is for her just to get through a day. But it does amaze me how much pain you can be in and push through.
Do you have to watch what you eat?
I’m a foodie, so I’m fortunate that I’m kept so active. For me it’s all about what food can give me and how it’s going to repair my muscles. When I come home at 11pm I have a full steak dinner with potatoes, salad, the lot!
Talk us through your daily routine…
I do Pilates from 8am until 9.30am, then we start work at 11am. We have class for an hour and 15 minutes, then I rehearse until 3pm. I have a two hour break where I come home, have lunch and walk the dog, then head back to the theatre for hair and make-up. I have a barre warm-up at 6.30pm, put my pointe shoes on at 7, then it’s curtain up at 7.30pm.
Do you have any pre-show good luck rituals?
If I’m nervous, I try and put it into perspective. I’ll watch the news just to say I’m fortunate to be doing what I’m doing. On the day of the dress-rehearsal, if that goes well, I reiterate my timings and what I did in the day for the other performances.
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Do you still get nervous?
Absolutely! I think you just get better at feeling uncomfortable.
Is there a difference between how ballet dancers are perceived and what actually goes on?
It’s really difficult to explain to the general public the grit and time that goes into this. You have to go through this ugly stage before it looks beautiful. If we weren’t doing our job properly, everyone would see how hard it is. You stand in front of a mirror all day with someone telling you ‘no, do it this way’, they don’t sit there going ‘that was amazing!’ – you’re copping it all day.
Have you ever had moments where you’ve thought ‘I can’t do this’?
There’s always moments of doubt, especially in a live performance. You’ll be absolutely fine, and then all of a sudden think ‘what if I slip’ or ‘what if my costume breaks’. It is hard to trust yourself , but that vulnerability makes ballet beautiful.
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How important is the chemistry with your partner?
It’s vital - that’s what creates the magic. We rehearse everyday to eliminate the possibility of things going wrong, but you can’t control what happens out there, so you need to know you’re in great hands.
Have you made great friends in the company?
I have life-long friends who were my bridesmaids and my maid of honour – it’s not bitchy like Black Swan!
Your husband is a ballet dancer too, right?
Yeah. Ballet can be all-consuming, but we’ve found a good balance. You do end up bringing it home and talking about rehearsals, but it’s special to share that with someone you love.
What are your top tips for young people who dream of becoming a ballet dancer?
Listen to your teacher! You have to trust where you are. Apply yourself, back yourself and be open and aware of other people, to develop and enrich you as a person.
Watch The Fairy Tale Series – featuring The Australian Ballet in association with CinemaLive - across the UK on October 4th (The Sleeping Beauty), November 23rd (Cinderella) and April 19th 2016 (Coppelia). Buy your tickets here