My first Pilates class was in my first year at the Australian Ballet School with Andrew Baxter, and I loved it. Andrew and Pilates changed me and changed my life. I had danced from the age of 3, giving up normal school life at 12 to go to the Victorian College of the Arts and joined the ABS at 15. I was talented and worked hard but didn’t have the ideal ballerina body, a very bendy spine I had no control of and leg alignment that wasn’t quite right. I took sessions once or twice a week with Andrew in his Richmond studio on top of my full-time 6 days a week ballet schedule. His knowledge of Pilates and what I needed to do to improve and strengthen my body for a physically challenging career really inspired me. I loved walking down the stairs after each session with wobbly legs and so much new information and awareness. Over the next few years my posture and alignment changed, strengthened and sculptured into that of a ballerina and an athlete – it was working! My body coped well with the demanding training expected of a ballet dancer, but there were some injuries – mostly ankle ones for me and a stress fracture in my second metatarsal. Six weeks off right before final assessments was not an ideal situation but I did whichever Pilates exercises I could while sitting at the front of class, watching my classmates dance. I was determined to get back to stronger than before and Pilates was going to help get me there.
After 3 intense years I graduated from the ABS and was offered a contract with the Hong Kong Ballet, rising through the ranks dancing lead roles in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and some of the most challenging George Balanchine ballets – Rubies from Jewels, Theme and Variations and Concerto Borroco. I used Pilates to prepare for my upcoming roles and also as a warm up for performances to get in tune with my body, ensuring the right muscles were engaged and ready for what I was about to demand of them. Pilates wasn’t popular in Hong Kong at the time so it was all self-practice. I visited my family in Melbourne once a year for a few weeks at a time and training with Andrew 2-3 times a week was part of that yearly trip. We would discuss the company’s upcoming repertoire, and any injuries and weaknesses I’d felt during the past year and come up with an exercise plan targeting these points. There wasn’t a Pilates studio on site at the company but I went to the company physiotherapist and used the reformer whenever I had a chance. Injuries are a part of a dancer’s life and I had plenty, although never anything that took me out of action for long. I had learnt to understand my body and my injuries and knew what I needed to do to correct misalignments that crept in when doing such repetitive, demanding movements.
After 10 years in HK I decided I wanted to dance in Europe and joined the English National Ballet in London. English National Ballet was a whole new ball game, performing up to 150 shows a year giving the body very little time to recover. There was a Pilates studio in the company building and it became my haven. I spent as much time as I could watching the Pilates teachers working with other dancers and getting my own practice in. I had decided I wanted to be a Pilates teacher when I retired and knew it was never too early to start preparing. Then my worst injury so far happened. Years of overuse and stretching my body into unnatural positions had torn the cartilage in my right hip and surgery was suggested. I was devastated. Other dancers had been through this surgery and it wasn’t a quick recovery – about 12 months to get back on stage. I wasn’t willing to take a year out and thought about retiring. I continued to perform at a limited capacity while waiting for an appointment with the top hip surgeon in London. I wasn’t keen on the surgery but even if I didn’t dance anymore I would still need a healthy hip, especially if I wanted to be a Pilates teacher. While I waited, stabilisation exercises were suggested to help support my hip and ease the pain, and I made it my daily goal to get in as much Pilates as I could. The pain started to subside and six months later I was completely pain free, without surgery. My love and belief in the Pilates method skyrocketed! I continued to dance with ENB, performing for the Queen at Buckingham Palace, on the main stage at Glastonbury music festival, and at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. In 2013 I decided my career was nearing its end and I started my teacher training with Body Control Pilates, qualifying in May 2014. I loved all my new knowledge and I began teaching classes when I could while still touring and performing. I retired from ballet in October 2014 after an incredible 15 year career and started to teach full-time in London. Within a few months I had a full schedule of classes and private sessions, teaching at the Body Control Pilates studio, private sessions at Workshop Gymnasium at the Bvlgari Hotel in Knightsbridge and with dancers of the English National Ballet, and corporate classes at banks in the financial district. I was so happy to be able to pass on my love of Pilates and its benefits to improve client’s lives and their bodies.
With a Comprehensive Studio Certification under my belt with Body Control Pilates, I decided after living away from Melbourne and my family for 16 years, that it was time to bring my years as a professional ballerina and my time spent teaching and studying with great teachers in the UK to a new audience. I’m very happy to be joining Aligned For Life and can’t wait to expand my Pilates knowledge and experience working with new teachers and clients.
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