Senior Dancer with the Australian Ballet
My guest today is Dana Stephensen, Senior Artist with the Australian Ballet Company and a mother of 3 children, including twin girls,
At the age of three Dana began her dance training with Davidia Lind in jazz, tap, ballet and singing in her hometown of Brisbane. She later trained with Mary Heath and Sandra Ashley before studying with the Queensland Dance School of Excellence in 2001, obtaining her Royal Academy of Dance Solo Seal.
Dana joined The Australian Ballet School in 2002. In her graduating year she was seconded to The Australian Ballet to perform in various seasons before joining the company full-time in 2005. She has since enjoyed international tours to Los Angeles, New York, UK, Auckland, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Paris.
At the end of 2008, Dana was awarded the Khitercs Hirai Scholarship, which enabled her to gain invaluable experience training with numerous ballet companies in Europe. Dana was promoted to coryphée (a leading dancer in a corps) in 2010 and went on to win the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award later that year. She was promoted to soloist in 2014 and to senior artist in 2018.
In 2020 Dana took what she thought was to be her final dance with the company, at that stage 11 weeks pregnant with her twin girls with fiancé Lachy Gillespie AKA the Purple Wiggle.
Today Dana shares her story of her experience with post natal depression and anxiety, and how she used her ballet as therapy to aid in her recovery.
I also indulge my own curiosity of the ballet world so we talk a lot about ballet!
**This episode contains discussion around post natal depression and anxiety**
Dana would love you to visit :
Music used in this episode is in the public domain and therefore not subject to copyright, and is taken from the ballets Swan Lake, Peter and the Wolf, The Nutcracker and Giselle.
Photo by Jeff Busby of Dana performing in the ballet The Sleeping Beauty.
Podcast transcript at the bottom of the page
Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of The Art of Being A Mum Podcast. I'm beyond honoured that you're here and would be grateful if you could take 2 minutes to leave me a 5-star review in iTunes or wherever you are listening. It really helps! This way together we can inspire, connect and bring in to the light even more stories from creative mums. Want to connect? Take a screenshot of this episode and share it on Instagram tagging me in with @art_of_being_a_mum_podcast
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Alison acknowledges this Land of the Berrin (Mount Gambier) Region as the Traditional Lands of the Bungandidj People and acknowledge these First Nations people as the custodians of the Region.
Welcome to the Art of Being a mum, the podcast where we hear from mothers who are artists and creators sharing their joys and issues around trying to be a mother and continue to make art. Regular topics include mum guilt, identity, the day to day juggle mental health, and how children manifest in their art. My name is Alison Newman. I'm a singer songwriter, and a mom of two boys from regional South Australia. I have a passion for mental wellness and a background in early childhood education. You can find links to my guests and topics they discuss in the show notes, along with music played a link to follow the podcast on Instagram, and how to get in touch. All music used on the podcast is done so with permission. The art of being a mom acknowledges the bone tech people as the traditional custodians of the land and water, which this podcast is recorded on and pays respects to the relationship the traditional owners have with the land and water as well as acknowledging past present and emerging elders. Thanks so much for joining me. I'm thrilled to welcome to the podcast today. Danna Stevenson, Donna is a senior artist with the Australian ballet and a mother of three children including twin girls. At the age of three, Diana began her dance training with de Vidya land in jazz tap ballet and singing in her hometown of Brisbane. She later trained with Mary Heath and Sandra Ashley, before studying with the Queensland dance school of excellence in 2001, obtaining her Royal Academy of Dance solo seal, Donna joined the Australian ballet school in 2002. In her graduating year, she was seconded to the Australian ballet to perform in various seasons before joining the company full time in 2005. Since that time, she's enjoyed international tours to Los Angeles, New York, the UK, Auckland, Shanghai, Tokyo and Paris. At the end of 2008 Danna was awarded the catex HiRISE Scholarship, which enabled her to gain invaluable experience training with numerous ballet companies in Europe. Donna was promoted to Cara fee, a leading dancer in a core and went on to win the Telstra ballet dancer award later that year. She was promoted to soloist in 2014, and two senior artists in 2018. In 2020, Donna took what she thought was to be her final dance with the company at that stage 11 weeks pregnant with her twin girls with her fiance, Locky Gillespie, also known as the purple wiggle. Today Diana shares her story and her experience with postnatal depression and anxiety and how she used her ballet as therapy to aid in her recovery. I also indulge my own curiosity of the ballet world. So we talk a lot about ballet and music. This episode contains discussion around postnatal depression and anxiety. The music used in this episode is in the public domain and therefore not subject to copyright, and is taken from the ballets of Swan Lake, Peter in the wolf, the Nutcracker. And Giselle,
I hope you enjoy. Welcome, Donna, thank you so much. It's lovely to have you today.
Thanks for having me. I'm really excited to have a chat.
Yeah, for sure. So you're a senior artist, you've obviously been dancing ballet for quite a while. Can you tell us how you first got started?
I started dancing when I was three. So my earliest memories really are of me being a dancer, obviously a little bit different to what I am now. But I think it is quite interesting that that's kind of where memory kind of starts to form for children, here and there. And so my earliest memories are of dancing. So I actually started because my sister was dancing at the time. She's two years older than me. And she had started a general jazz class at the local dance school with some school friends. Because she was really shy, really, really shy like hiding behind mom shy. So it was a way of kind of getting her into something social and something to bring her out a bit. Yes, it was parent watching week that week, and I went with mum. And I was sitting at the back and I just started, I just stood up and started joining in the class. And then they were doing cartwheels. And I just was all a part of it, basically. And the teacher came over to mom and said, Oh, I think this little one probably wants to have a go, you know, come around to the little little East class and other day. And I think it just started like that. And then quite quickly, I started the Stanford team. I was there five days a week, and then six days like, by that before I started school, probably a bit more. It was like, more is more. I just danced all the time. I was at school or I dance that was that was how it was.
Yeah, right. So it was literally your sister got you into it, which is really cool. My sister got me into singing, like formal singing, like because she joined. And I wanted to do it too. So that's a really cool, so it's your sister older. Now she's younger. And I think that's why I wanted to do it. Because it was like, well, she gets to draw, I should be doing it. Because
yeah, I mean, I think it's a little bit ironic because my sister started doing a jazz class. And I started with that. And then I started taking ballet and tap, and then all the different, all the different things. And my sister stuck with that one jazz class a week until maybe she was 10. She would, she would get so worked up before it and we didn't know this until she was older that she would get so sick to her stomach about going to dancing because it was such a big deal for her to have people looking at her. And meanwhile, her little sister was just you know, couldn't get enough of it. Interestingly, Brie my sister Bree, she would have done so well in ballet. Yeah, I was very much metrical one. And then I found ballet to be my path a lot later. Whereas my sister, she would have actually loved ballet. And she says that now I wish I'd just done ballet, not jazz, because that's all out there. And yeah, a bit chunky. Whereas ballet, she's she actually would have loved the discipline. And the, you know, the teacher sets the exercise. And you do that, and it's a bit quieter?
Not not so much like, like jazz hands in the spotlight kind of thing. Yeah. So then how did you get into the ballet side of things? Was it just something you were offered? And, and then you sort of just thought, I love this so much. I'm just gonna go with it.
Yeah, it's quite interesting, because I think as a child, I am sure this is the case. For most children. I just love dancing. I didn't really, obviously there were the dance styles. But I didn't differentiate between what each one was, I just loved the whole thing. And then once I started doing istead, fits and being on stage and the lights and the feeling of that, and taking on a different character, it was all one in the same. Obviously, there's different elements to each sort of style, but I just loved all of it. So it wasn't until I was a teenager, and every time that musicals would come to Brisbane, I'm from Brisbane. So you know, once he went fame would calm or Chicago or whatever it was, we'd go and but also every time the Australian ballet would come, you know, on the Saturday matinee mum would take me to that. And that was a big event of the year too. So it all just kind of was coinciding, and I had no preference whatsoever, until as a teenager, you do start to need to take a bit more of a structured path if you are going to follow ballet, but my school at the time did video in Dance Center where I went when I was three, she she had never had a ballet dancer. So that needed more ballet training as a teenager because no one had kind of got that fire in their belly exams at the time. So I actually had to find some teachers externally to help me. And then I was an interstate associate with the Australian Ballet School, which is in Melbourne, which is the school that does feed into the Australian ballet company. And so that meant I could come down for a week, every year to do like a winter school. And when they came to Brisbane, we do a master class, but it was still just happening bubbling along. But then the audition came to do for the first level five year which is about 15. At the Australian Ballet School, the senior school is level six, seven and eight. That's like your finishing training. But they're just started a level five and that was half ballet half school. And so I auditioned for that and was very hopeful about getting in and I didn't get in. And I was really really disappointed. And I couldn't have said it at the time. But I think that was a really big catalyst in thinking I obviously really want to do this. It's not happening right now. And I, I think I really, I want that to be happening. So the next year, I went to a school in Brisbane called the Queensland at school of excellence, which was, again, half Valley High School, but a version of that in Brisbane, and auditioned again for the Australian ballet school the next year. Yep. And got in the next year, and then did my three years and then got into the company.
Yeah, so yeah, that moment, it's like, the level of disappointment you felt made you sort of realize i, this is how much I want this. This is it's almost like, it's not great that you didn't get in, but it's almost like you needed that to confirm it for you to make you go right, I'm gonna go for this really, this is what I want to do. So
I think so it was an probably a strong indication to that I needed to probably blinkers on a little bit. And just focus a bit more on that. Having said that, I was I loved my high school, and I loved my school friends. And I, I think that's something you know, I've always had, I have always kind of needed to have a balanced sort of life. I was never like a Betty bonehead. And I'm still not. But at the same time, I think I needed to probably think, Okay, well, if this is what you want to do, there's a few steps that need to be taken. And so I took those steps and worked really hard and I was very lucky to get in that next time.
So then what what sort of direction did you Korea take from then after that, getting in there.
So they strain bicycles, three years and then. So your final year, you start to do a lot more performing. And very fortunately, at the time, the company who's in the same building, so it's really special at the school, because you can't just walk down the corridor, and like, put your little face at the windows, and you see the company dancing and rehearsing and all your idols and like it's, you know, coming from Brisbane, and coming down into this world. It was so scary, overwhelming, amazing, exciting, just all of those things. And then to, to think and dream about getting to the other end of the corridor and getting into those company rooms one day. But yeah, at the time, when I was in my last year at the school, that company had, we're doing lots of different seasons, but there was quite a few injuries. So they needed some extra dancers. And at that time, they often seconded dancers from the school to go join that company. So they had a couple of us learn a particular ballet symphony and see, and then the next night I was on, basically, Oh, yeah. Yeah, it was like a baptism of fire. But at the same time, I feel like looking back at that age, you're so ready. And that's what you're training for. And obviously, that's an amazing opportunity. And then that opportunity turned into a longer opportunity. I danced with the company for almost all their seasons that year. And so I was very lucky to have the, the staff and obviously the artistic director at the time, David McAllister, he could see me across a whole year almost, as opposed to going in one day for an audition somewhere, they have no idea who you are, where you've come from any story. And you have to somehow impress someone in in a glimpse or in a half an hour class, then, you know, to this day, I still find that hard when people come into cars valets, I'm like, I don't even know what you want to see like, and that's fine. By this point. You're just like, I need this is what I've got. And if you like it, great. And if you don't, all right, then that's kind of the nature of the industry. There's still something that I I find quite challenging. But like I said, at that at that time of, you know, trying to get my first job, I was very fortunate to have a long audition process. And not for a second though, did I think I would get a job the following year, but then at the end of the year, when they gave contracts out, they gave two female contracts and two male contracts and I was one of the females. That was lucky enough Did you get a job with the company then?
Yeah, right. So then that meant you're part of that, that room that you've been sort of peeking in and looking out for those years, that would have been incredible.
It really is. It's, you know, there's so much looking up to in ballet, you know, you watch videos in such a different world now, with the internet and YouTube, but back in the day, you'd have back in the day. But so, but no, I would watch the same videos at the Australian ballet company every Saturday over and over, and over, and I knew everything they did inside out. And then he walked down once a move to Melbourne. And then he walked down the corridor and that person, right there real quick. So, yeah, it's, I think it's a really lovely thing. And there's substitution traditions in ballet that really need to move forwards. But there's certain traditions that are really lovely, like when you're doing the company, and there's a lot of respect, obviously, for the principles. And if they don't have a passport, and you're absolutely a first year, you do not take a spot at the bar. And some of those things seem a bit archaic. But I also think in our, our industry and our career, those people have worked to where they've got to, and they who we look to and the epitome of that. And I actually loved that.
Yeah, it's like that level of respect that you can show someone's in that, like, we were talking before about being called a ballerina. That's a title that you've earned. And, you know, yeah, absolutely.
Yeah, it's, I guess all dancers feel differently about that. And that's a personal preference. But I don't feel that comfortable when people refer to me as a ballerina, because I'm not that, in my mind. I'm, for many reasons, I'm not that I'm a bit left field as a ballerina, but also, they're the people I look up to. They're the people who have earned that title as ballerinas of the company. And I've done a lot of amazing work, and I'm so proud of where I'm at, and the rain. COVID chi is something beyond my wildest dreams. But yeah, I even in like, you know, the smallest context when you know, even like, when a little girl calls me a ballerina like, Oh, I'm not quite I'm sorry. No, okay. Yeah, in my by myself, like, oh, that's, that's, that's those people. That's not me.
Yeah, yeah, I can I just say that. It's, yeah, I think, like you said, there's probably a lot of things that can change. But I think there's nothing wrong with respecting people like you, like you the story that you've just outlined the amount of work that's gone in, you know, and there's people you know, that's what they do, they dedicate their entire life to their art. So I think there's, you know, there's a time and space for like, you know, some tradition, respect Yeah.
Just while we're talking about that, I'll just mention quickly, my I went to school with two girls who went on to become dancers, dances with different ballets. I'm not sure if you know, Rachel Walsh, or if you've heard of Rachel, she was happy to fall. Yeah, we went through school together, up to I think she left you 10 might have been a last year in that Gambia. And then she went off to do her thing, which she's done, amazingly. And we've been chatting a bit. So we're organizing that she'll come on the show in the future, which is really cool. And another girl called, she's Lisa Robinson, and she went to Canada, I think, to do her dance, he or she ended up in Canada. She's there now. But it was just amazing that at that time, when you're when you're teenagers, you have no idea what these girls are doing what they're going through, you just go Oh, yeah, they're dead. They're dancing, you know, but they're, like you've described your whole world you switched on, that's your focus. And everything involved in that too. Like your, your way you eat, I suppose and the way you look after your body and the exercises you do and the training that you do. And here we are just you know, teenagers worrying about, you know, what the boys are up to or you know, it's just all different, different world.
Like that's it. That's a really interesting point because I I think ballet dancers have to make certain decisions much earlier. You know, it would it's, it's comparable with elite athletes, but they have to make quite adult is an adult grown up decisions about what they'd like to do how they'd like to achieve it. But at quite a young age, I moved to Melbourne, I was 16. But I know there's other kids, I'd say, Yeah, you know, at 1415. And they might be in the boarding house or, you know, different, different home setups. And I can't comment on anyone else's experience, obviously. But you look back and you think, oh, that's, that's actually a massive deal. But at the time, and this is, this is the sort of people we are, who are who are drawn to what, to who are drawn to doing what this what we do, you have to be so driven, and dedicated, and focused, single minded focus and determined, resilient, they're all the skills that you're building up in your teenage years, which is not often I'd say, traditionally, the years you're building up those things. Oh, and, you know, staying open to things and so you, you did, probably there's a sense of isolation in that. I mean, I had great school friends around me who they were just like Danna does ballet. And that's really great. I know, other people have had different experiences by being so different. Obviously, a lot of men in the company, I've had lots of bullying experiences, I got a little bit about how small I was, and how, how focused I was, I guess, but I had really good people around me and I have a really amazing family who's not involved in ballet at all, really grounded. And it was all a bit of a new experience for me. And I felt a bit protected in that honestly. But yeah, it is it is. It feels like you're a bit ahead in many ways, at that age, because you have to be, but that's what prepares you for the career you're about to have. And to be able to handle the pressure that you have to at really quite a young age.
Would you say, Don't put words in your mouth, but I've never been in the ballet world. Is it? Like I don't want to say cutthroat but is it a hugely intense? Like you talked about the having to audition? Like is there so much pressure to keep yourself at a certain level or and you're competing with other people all the time? Or if I got that really not on the mark?
No, you're pretty spot on. What's probably a bit less expected is that it's it's a lot more nuanced than that in terms of it is cutthroat and it's competitive. And in a company, and I've been in a company for 18 years now, which I can't believe I still feel like I'm 16 It's a bit like that, I feel like you just keep you a little bit young somehow, in some way. But anyway, I do. It's a really interesting competitiveness. Because essentially, you're vying for the same roles all the time. And you're Korea is in is ideally solely in your hands and your work and the effort you're putting in and energy and your commitment, and your training, your resilience and your reliability. There's so many skills that are in your control. But there's also a really big one, which is someone else's opinion, and that at the end of the day, sometimes trumps everything. And I think a good thing to remember with that, though, is that across your career, you will be on both sides of that, you'll be on the side where someone comes in and just thinks you're the bee's knees. And they'll then there's the times that you're on the other side of that, which is someone who's not interested in you at all. And so everyone has their moments either side. And you know, you might have a couple of bad years where you feel like nothing's going your way. And trying to stay motivated in that time and internally driven and internally motivated, is very challenging. And I think that again, we move into this career quite young, I was performing at 17 with the National Ballet Company, which you know, there were younger people than that even so, especially young, but at that age, you're dealing with quite a lot of pressure and competitiveness. And you know, I've got children and you know, what would you want to tell your children You're perfect as you are, you know, just go out there and do a good job. Just work hard, and that's the most important thing. How do you tell someone or they just don't want Like, how you look? Yeah, like, that's just always, you know, obviously, in ballet, there's, you know, a lot of scope to talk about body types and body aesthetics. And the Australian ballet is really healthy in terms of that. There's, we all look really different. There's lots of different heights, and different body styles and different ways of moving, which ultimately, is the most important thing. But there is a lot of versatility in our company now. But sometimes it really is, they don't like how you look, or how you can't, which is the way you personally express yourself. So it's pretty heart wrenching sometimes because they're like how someone else does it more. And some, sometimes just thinking about almost as clearly as as brutal as it is, is the best way. Like, that's how they're doing it. I'm doing this over here. And as you get older, and more experienced, and I think weed life experience, obviously kind of boosting you. On all sides, you realize that this is all you have is what you are and what you bring. And if it's not your turn right now, it might be your turn next month.
Yeah, I'm, that is such a incredible way of looking at things like that. It's so pragmatic. It's just an I personally, it took me a long time to get to that point with music, because it's, it's the same thing people like what you're doing or you don't, and it's you, you're putting yourself out there. And I got to a point. Like I used to do a Stanford to for singing. And one year I just thought, why am I doing this, I'm letting one person's opinion, decide how I feel about myself. And I just thought, I'm not doing this anymore. I don't, I don't want to feel like this. And I just stopped doing it. And then I can sort of like put myself up for different awards or put things online. And I feel like, if it's not my turn, it's someone else's turn. And that's they need that right now in their life. And it's become a really great way of me being able to just go, Oh, that's good, that's nice and not be worried about stuff anymore. Which took a long time, like, I'm nearly 44. So it's like, it's a thing that you have to go through, I think because no one can sit you down and say, right, this is how you should feel about failure. I think it's something you have to sort of work through yourself. But I love that I really love that the way I've described that.
I think experience, you need experience on both sides of that coin. And you know, another thing in the company, you join the company, and we all have, we all have a certain level of talent that makes us ballet dancers. And then beyond that we all have our unique talents. And some of us, I'm a really good jumper, for example, because of how I'm built and I'm really athletic. But my whole life my whole career, I've wished I've looked like the other girls who are so beautiful and so elegant. And just total ballerinas and I have lots of energy, and it serves me really well sometimes. And other times I hold over a lot. I've just come to embrace and everyone's like Dan is on the floor again. Because I've gone through obviously different phases with what I've felt like on my own failures or weaknesses. Yeah. And of course, as a younger dancer, there is something so much about your work ethic. If I just work hard enough, I can change that. And there is merit to that, about working on our weaknesses, but ultimately, focusing on our strengths and amplifying them actually, is so much more. I don't know, it's you're so much more yourself, if that's what you're focusing on what you're putting your attention to. I spent, you know, my early years in the company were quite tricky. And I was having battles with, with what eventually became Hashimotos thyroiditis. So thyroid disease, which was undiagnosed for a long time. Yeah, and my body's a lot and being a professional ballet dancer and having a really low it's an autoimmune disease. But yeah, it's, it was really challenging. And so I was finding it very hard to have confidence in anything about myself and then when it came to my dancing, I was still in that mindset of if I could just make my legs look nicer if I you know, I've got really strong feet but they're not aesthetically beautiful like a lot of the other girls like I don't know, how about it, it's a really honor. Some other people probably say that to which I say hats off to you. But yeah, I just if I could just make that better. Yeah, my career will be better. But ultimately, it's it's not it's your career is going to be what it is. And they're, they're in a ballet camp, there is always room for a dancer like me. And that took time and maturity to realize there is someone has to be the person jumping, someone has to be the one moving fast. I'm a bit messy. And I'm always working on my footwork and trying to clean things up. But someone has to do that. And once I felt confident in that, that was something I could do that those other girls were like, how do you do that? I was like, I don't know, I just get in the air man, like, Oh, I'd love to be able to do that. I'd love to be able to stand still like you is a place that can be a place for everyone. And sometimes when it comes to casting things swing your way. And other times, they don't you realize your opportunities out there, you make the most of them. And then when you can see maybe there, what's tricky in the company, there might be a season you're not in very much, or there's not a lot of work for you. But you never know what's coming up next. And you know, often we do know what's coming up, but you never know what your next opportunity might be. So if you drop the ball, and think, Oh, this is my, this is my season where it's a bit average, or I'll just won't bother. Ya know what Julie, you might miss next because you're not ready. And that's these are the things that I have no doubt, I can say 100% have have created the opportunities that have actually made me and made my career not because, you know, I was built a certain way, being in the right place at the right time has has been very good to me.
Yeah, and that you're right. It's like, it's you unless you're, unless you're ready for that opportunity when it comes? Well, actually, this person sort of slackened off a bit this year, because, you know, they didn't get so many roles. And we can see that. So we'll go to the next person, you know, so yeah, you've got to, you've always got to be motivated and still working and which would be intensely draining. Like it sounds like, you know, it's a full on life. Like you're just, I mean, obviously, lots of people do it. So it's sustainable. But from my point of view, someone who's not a dancer at all, and not highly motivated.
It really it is and again, as a young student, you don't, it's what you want to do. It's your passion, it's your drive, you love it, you can't imagine not doing it. And you're willing to give up almost anything to do it. And it's so enjoyable. Like, I love dancing. I know last night I was on stage, and my old nanny actually was watching and she hadn't seen me dance after all these years. And she said, Oh, gosh, it just looks so much fun. And I said to her, I was like, I just have a stupid amount of fun when I'm on stage. And I know I've got my little kids at home, and I hope they're asleep and they ate them. And then I just had this. I know it's not a guilt, like guilty pleasure. I just, it's just so fun. Like, and I'm just lucky, I still enjoy what I do so much. But it is a lifestyle. It's it's not. It's not it's not a job for us. And I think, again, I can't speak for everyone else. But if it becomes a job, I don't think it's right anymore. Because it is so much more than that. And you have to put so much more into it. And in terms of just your hours, you know, we work really long hours, unusual hours. We rehearse in the days. We train every day, six days a week. We have Sundays off but we try and live every morning. We rehearse every day. We perform at night, but we don't just go in for the show at night. We train in the morning, rehearse show, two shows Wednesday two shows that day. 200 shows a year. It's yeah, it's the Australian ballet is one of if not the top amount of you know shows per year in terms of ballet companies. Yeah. Which takes a certain amount of resilience and managing your body and your mind over that time becomes a really important skill that you learn. It takes years to learn how to manage that. Yep, yeah.
Can I help? Sorry, we were really doing a lot of talking about your ballet, which is dope, we will get to your family, it's okay. I'm just so honored to be able to speak to you. And I really want to squeeze everything out that I can because it's just really exciting. Like I said, my exposure to ballet, like with the girls that I grew up with, it was it was a world that I knew nothing about. I loved it. And I love watching ballet, it's just blows my mind how graceful and incredible it is. So I just want to ask you lots of things.
I'm more than happy. You know, it's a lot of people find it quite a you know, it is this mysterious kind of world. And I'm, I'm always wanting to encourage people to ask questions. And it's, you know, there's obviously that version of ballet people often think about in their heads. And often it's a bit different to that. Or then there's the other one, which is like, Oh, is it like Black Swan? And it's like, well, there's little bits that are absolutely true. I'll be the first to tell you that it's not quite like that. But I think it's lovely that people are interested in in what we do. It's always a lovely thing.
Awesome. Well, that's good. You can indulge me a bit longer than Absolutely. All right. So I'd like to ask you what your favorite roles have been that you've played and why. And I didn't even I didn't even give you a heads up. I was gonna ask you this. Sorry.
No, that's, that's really I like being on the spot. Oh, that's really tricky. Because I'm, I mean, I've been so lucky. fortunate to have had such a wide range of roles and opportunities. Yeah, and across, you know, the starting Valley does a lot of strict classical ballet performances, you know, your swan lakes, you're not crackers does owls, kind of structurally classical ballet, Sleeping Beauty. And then we do a lot of contemporary modern work. And usually the year it's kind of somewhat, the balance is somewhat split. And I have had opportunities in kind of both sections of those repertoire groups. And it's kind of like when I was younger when people said, oh, did you like jazz or ballet? And I just liked it all. Yeah, it's the same thing. In what I do. Now, I just love it all. There's not one that's better than the other. And even as I get older, often people lean one way or the other. And I just, I just love it all, because I love dancing. And they all bring different challenges. I will say though, often certain roles at certain times in your career do seem to feel like they mean, even more. The one of my favorite, like all time, classical roles was Giselle. And I was very lucky I, I was able to dance the title role of Giselle, which I would never normally be casting because there's so many other girls who are so beautiful at it. And that's just the nature of it. Sometimes you don't get it, you know, you might get a go of all those girls weren't so good. But also, you know, stylistically, you know, some people might not cast me in that role, but it came out it came about because it was the regional tour of the Australian ballet goes out. And that year on I had my son Jasper a few months earlier. And I was talking with David McAllister, my director at the time about coming back and the the main company, we're actually going to London on tour then. And I was like, not up for that. Yeah. Actually, this is really great opportunity, if you would like the regional tour is taking out Giselle, and I think you'd make a really lovely Giselle, would you like to do it and this is like the Holy Grail of ballet. And I'm like, How can anyone say no like, like coming back after maternity leave? You know, talk about like not working your way up. It's like, it's the most incredible ballet role. It's the romantic ballet period. So it's not, you know, it's your long kind of soft tutus. Not your sticky outy. tutus.
Yeah. And it's it's a beautiful ballet about this young peasant girl who falls in love. And then she realizes that he's actually a royal and he's engaged to someone else. And she has a weak heart anyway, and her she basically, cat, you know, goes into such a state and her heart gives way and she, she dies. And then the second act is the ethereal, otherworldly spirit world. And so she is one of the willies. They're called. And this beautiful quarter ballet scene, that's the big roof of the company, create this amazing atmosphere. They're like ghosts. And so Albrecht, who was the man she fell in love with comes to find her grave and her spirit. And she basically saves him because the Queen Miyata, Queen of the willies. So queen of all of these, you know, these girls who were jilted before their wedding days, they dance the man to death, anyone who dares enters the forest, you know, after dark, and Giselle with all her compassion and forgiveness dances until sunrise with our breaks this love of hers to save him. And, you know, it's a role that is so intricate, in terms of its dancing, but more than anything, just the story is so, so beautiful to tell, and you can really make your own mark on it. And to cut back after having a baby at that point, that role was so, so perfect and cathartic for me to dive into. Because there was just a whole new level of me that was able to have that absolute 100% all in love, compassion, forgiveness, I'll do anything for you know, that you have to have a child, that's just, you know, I don't even know how it comes out. But it's just a part of you. And I had this beautiful art form this beautiful music, this atmosphere and to just, you know, pour that all into so the timing of that roll, that roll in itself is is a gift to any ballet dancer or ballerina. Yeah, it's a real ballerina role. And, you know, I haven't had a lot of those ballerina moments, I could say, that might have been my one. But it was the timing of that, particularly that was so special in every single show. It's not about you know, if you got all your face positions, or if your turns were perfect. It's about, you know, your connection with your partner the atmosphere you create, and, and every show, I walked away just so happy and proud. And so touched and humbled by being able to do that at that time. You know, and I was like camping before the show. Yeah. And, you know, always bath in Jasper and then would rush to the theater and go into this other world. But that whole time did have this really special magic.
You're listening to the art of being a mom with my mom, I will assume you. You've actually answered a question that I was going to ask you later about, because there's so much acting involved in your dancing. I think I think a lot of people realize that, that that's such a massive part of what you do. The way that you'd approach a role changed after you became a mom and you've just answered that without even asking it. It's just Yeah, I love
I really think, again, that's a craft that you you have to learn across your years. You know, you come to as a young dancer and you're you're dancing and you know, you might do a bit of like, acting in terms of the ballets you're putting on it students, but that is a craft that you you learn and you know, I've been so fortunate that I've grown up in the company watching these incredible ballerinas and several of them were became mothers while they were still dancing, and I could see that transformation. I don't know how well they've had babies, but just the depth that the expression, the naturalness, the freedom, like there's so many things that come out of that, but you know, you sit there and you watch all those full rehearsals for the whole company in a room, running all these big ballets. And you you watch over the years how many We'll do those things. And when you get a chance to be able to wish I had at that point in time to put all of that in to a role. That was, yeah, such a magical time. Obviously, then there's valleys that don't have a story. And so, in terms of, you know, you're not acting per se, but you might, you know, there's obviously always envision in your mind that you're thinking of, or, you know, a vision the choreographer wants you to create, or an energy or a feeling or something in those kinds of contemporary works. And, you know, conversely, that's what I also enjoy about the contemporary repertoire that we, you know, we perform, is those kind of really physical, the expression is the physicality and the physical physicality almost has a persona, and you have a persona, when you're, you're dancing that even if there's not a story,
yeah, that's your input, you embody those emotions or whatever the you're trying to get out. Yeah,
yeah. And often, you know, obviously, ballet. For me anyway, the music is, it's the marriage of the ballet and the music, it's, that's when it comes to get it that alchemy, that's, that's what's, you know, goes across that, you know, the fault lines, that's what the audience takes on that their experience is that, you know, Alchemy that's happening in front of them, and that can be equally as powerful. In a contemporary work, I was very lucky I, when a choreographer call Wayne McGregor came out from the UK. He's a very, very renowned choreographer. And at the time, he just started as a resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet. So he was a contemporary choreographer, and then he started to move to the ballet space of it. And then not long after lots of ballet companies across the world, we're grabbing him to, like get a work by Wayne. Yeah, we were quite early in the piece, really, at that sort of time, we're able to, somehow now became, and he created a work called diet 1929 here, and that was a time he came into the room to obviously cast the ballet, we're in class, and I was quite young at the time, or maybe 24 or something, and, and I knew his work, I was like, so cool to be here. But you know, like, how do you how do you get in it? Yeah, you standing there doing fundraising? Like what can you see in my Tonberry, that's not very good, because I'm not very good at them still, that might show you that I or so want to be in your way. Anyway, really, you know, often ballets a cast from the hierarchy. So from the top of the company down, I was still in the quarterback at the time, which is, you know, the big ensemble down the bottom. But not everyone cast like that he came in, and he looked at the whole company as a whole. And it didn't matter where you were. Yeah, I think, anyway, very fortunately, got cast and his ballet, and then that ballet across my time. You know, that was such a, you know, working with him at that time was like groundbreaking for all of us. We've never worked with someone like this. He's so fast. He's so smart. He is. He does a lot of work with brain science and how he puts that into, you know, ballet and art a lot of people wouldn't even understand but for him, like, that's how he creates it. You watch his brain work. And you think, wow, I just like, you just see all the neurons firing. It was a really exciting time. It felt very, like we're in the moment cutting edge. And I, I was very fortunate to learn a spot in that. And so I was performing that and then across my career, every time we've done that ballot, then moved on to a different spot. Yeah, right. So for different spots in that valley, you know, we took it to New York. And you know, I did a different spot in that. And so I've kind of grown up in that valley. So that's one of my favorite contemporary pieces. Yeah, that's been my journey as well in terms of, I stepped up into, you know, different roles. And then my last show before I had my twin girls actually was in that valley in a white leotard, which is absolutely what you want to be in when you're pregnant with twins at 11 weeks. It's all it actually has been saying in about a month. So Valley mountains that you just, you cannot time it any better. But you are usually when you're, you know, early, you know, first trimester dancing, if you're pregnant, you have to be in a flesh leotard or while you're tired because it always happens like that. Nobody's like a free free dress or like something coming it's just always happens to fall in the most exposing of all so yeah, but same time that I knew that those were my last shows and I actually thought they were my last shows ever. And so to for it to be in that work. That particular work was really special to me, and I've done Lots of contemporary works. And they're all fantastic too. And they could so easily be my favorites. Yeah, but the timing again and what that whole valley and journey meant that yeah, that's a really special suspicion
I don't want to talk too much more about your ballet. I do want to, but I'm gonna make myself stop. But you've mentioned the music. And it's like, I absolutely that is. I don't want to say it's my favorite part of ballet because of course, the dancing is pretty awesome. But like you said, the way that it's all wrapped up together, and the costuming and everything and my favorite bit ever was in Swan Lake when because, you know, you've got that theme that dad did it, it did. I don't know what any of this is called. So just go with me here. When it turns when it changes at the end. And it's goes from being in a minor key tool, major key. And it's just it gives you goosebumps, it's like it just taught it tells you the story through the music, they don't even have to tell you what's happened to this character, this transformation. It's like you just hear in the music. And it's just that moment, every time I hear it, I just go Oh, survive. And to rely, you could just imagine how you How could you contain yourself when you're actually onstage doing that, like I always think like, it could just be like envelopes in it, you're just your whole body and your senses, it just be like charged, it'd be amazing.
It's such a full body experience, I think and we are so used to that. And so it did that. And it's an incredible feeling, you know, some of the, the scores we dance to and, you know, some scores, you know, like the the big Tchaikovsky's or, you know, it's, you've heard them over and over. And I bet you've rehearsed. And I went and stopped going back. I can't stop, go back. You know, you've heard them cut up many times, you're often counting certain things. You know, the ballet we're dancing at the moment is Anna Karenina, and the score was made for this particular production. So it also marries so perfectly. Yeah. And, you know, it's a really tragic story, obviously. And there's some absolutely just heartbreaking musical moments that are just matched so beautifully with what's happening on stage. That, you know, we've seen it so many times. And it still it gives me goosebumps, and it still feels like ah, this is just like so. Yeah, it's just, I don't know, it's yeah, it's such a privilege, you know, to, to watch people in that moment or to be in that moment. Yeah, for sure. Absolutely.
Yeah. It's beautiful. I love it all right, let's talk about your children. You've mentioned them briefly in passing. Tell us a little bit more about your family.
I have three children, which still doesn't seem real when I say that to me. I'm not doing I do I do. Just make sure. I don't mean to discount the massiveness of that and I'm, I'm so fortunate to have been lucky enough to have three beautiful children. But I do still feel quite I don't know, I guess each day I'm just like treading water. So sometimes I don't stop to like acknowledge. Yeah, I've got three beautiful children. Jasper, my son is six. And he has grown up around the valley, which is a really unique, you know, he hasn't been here every every second but he's grown up around it. And He's toured with me and I went back to dancing after I had him dancing Giselle in that regional tour when he was nine months old. So he came out on the road with me and my mom and my mom has been like the biggest To support save, You're everything to me for my whole career. I mean, she was the one who took me to every dance class. And she is not a ballet mom at all. She doesn't know one step from the other. But she has just been there every moment. And so he's been very lucky to travel a little bit with me too, but he has a real appreciation for it. But yes, I have twin girls, Lulu, and Lottie, who are 18 months old now or a few days time. So they're little, very cheeky, very funny. little toddlers at the moment, were in that sweet stage before the that yes, I was. There's no twins in our family. And that came as a bit of a shock. Yeah. And, you know, I, this is something I think this is another part of the ballet world that, you know, I don't think he's really, I guess, thought about talked about, you know, obviously a woman's choice to have children when she has them. How that works with her career is a very, very personal choice. And I absolutely respect that people don't talk about it. But I think it's really interesting. And it's probably very similar for elite athletes. But again, I can just talk about the ballet experience. You know, artistically, you are, finally, after so many years of training, learning the craft, performing, you know, working, just optimizing, you get to your 30s, artistically, you're finally coming into your straps, you're not even there yet, probably you're just coming into your straps, you're coming into that zone, where it all starts to be cohesive and make sense. And you can feel that you can trust yourself, you can go for it. And that's also the years where you need to start about a family. And if you'd like to have one how that might work. And I think that is quite a battle for the dancers in that kind of part of their career, because how can you How could you possibly choose to stop? And then there's always thinking, Oh, what's it going to be like, on the other side, I'll lose a year I've got really good, you know, flow I've got, you know, you might be in a really good trajectory, you know, not just a ranking sort of thing. But just like with the roles, you're getting the impetus, the momentum, you're building your reputation, but just like how you feel in yourself, and then to then I'm just going to stop that now. And just take, firstly, nine months to have a baby. And I'm talking very pragmatically here. I know, this is obviously, you know, there's a whole lot more to it. But I'm just like to say it kind of nine months for that and then getting back into into it. How will that work? Who's my where's the support system? How would it work? It's I think it's a really daunting prospect. And you know, there's always like, Oh, but there's that ballet coming up next year. I've always wanted to do that. We can't dance till we're 60. It's not a career that lasts forever. So, yeah, I feel like you entered. I was lucky. I had Jasper when I was 30. And I was ready, then I was ready to stop. I was ready for it to not be about me. And I left it quite open in that sense. But
yeah, I just think and you know, that's, you know, on the flip side, it's such a beautiful thing, that becoming a mum only makes your ballet career so much richer and so much more beautiful. And, you know, you can't know that beforehand. You see that in other people? But yeah, yeah. Also, then, you know, not that long after you might be thinking about retirement, I just think there's like this even like five year window, that's hyper pressure about what choices you're making, when you're making them. He's now a good time. If I'm, if I step away now, to do this, all those other girls are gonna get my impetus. And then when I come back when it's my place, it's, you know, but fortunately, I feel like when I chose to have my children, and when I, when I chose to have, you know, to say, Okay, I think I think I'm happy with what I've achieved here now, and I'd like to look at having another child in this case to that one. I was happy with what I'd achieved and it was too important. For me, it wasn't about what ballet was coming up. It was. It wasn't about that it was I would love the opportunity to have a child, another child and obviously we'd lucky to and so that trumps everything and very fortunately, we're lucky to have him At a beautiful girls. And we're a family of five.
I love that so when you when you did have Jasper, did you think that was the end? And you were happy with that? Or were you still thinking I can come back? You know, I've got the support of my mom, I can, I can do this.
And I could, I was very lucky that I'd seen women in the company go before me. And quite a lot of them honestly, because David McAllister, the director at the time, really pioneered the maternity leave and process of the Australian ballet, which is, again a front runner of worldwide standards, I could see that it was possible. I was encouraged by that. Again, they were the ballerinas as the company, I was a soloist at the time, so I wasn't on the same level as them. But also like an by level, I also mean, as a principal dancer, as principal artists, you are mostly not dancing every night and and show because you have your two or three Shows a week. This is not every week, but let's just change your Time Season. They're on all the time. But generally speaking, they have their specific shows, and you know, perhaps a bit more saying what they're doing and their timings. When you're Junior in the company, you don't you're in the biggest scene. So you're there rehearsing in the bigger scenes every day that need more time, you're not just rehearsing you and your partner, or can we do that at one today, because I've got to go or you're kind of at the mercy of the group. And then you're at the mercy of all the shows. So it's not about I'll be in the theater, like three nights a week, it's like, I'll be there six nights a week, like every week. So I had worked to a point where I'd got I was really happy with what I achieved. And again, at that point, I had a very clear mind that having a child was the most important thing. And if that was it, I was very open ended, you know if something if he was, you know, sick as a baby, or if I didn't feel like it felt right for me anymore. I would have stopped dancing. I just left it quite open. So a few months after he was born, I started doing some Pilates. And I thought now I've still got it in me and even though we don't have family in Melbourne, I was mum was able to talk with me. So I gave it a go. And then after when I knew I was pregnant with the girls I I then knew like at that first scan appointment, when I saw there was two, and I gasped he started crying. No. I'll never forget that moment. It was just it was such a indescribable, like, so many feelings. Not instantly, but I thought you know what, I think this is life telling me that this is probably time, it's time to enjoy the bit you've got left. And I was just hoping to get to that particular season that I was talking about previously to get to do that ballet died 1929. Yep. Because I thought that was a beautiful full circle. I was really sick and tired. Like really sick with the girls being pregnant with them. So I didn't know if I'd actually be able to make it to that point. But I just tried. Just gave myself each day at a time and I was able to get through those shows before COVID shut us down anyway. So I was able to do those shows. And then and thought they were my last.
Yeah, yeah. I want to ask you, you've mentioned feeling sick with the girls. What's it like? Being like dancing when you are pregnant? Like do the does the company sort of make allowances? Do they? Do you have like special things that you're not allowed to do like that? How does it sort of work?
Yeah, well, it is quite different for everyone. Obviously, you're not you know, you're not able to sit at your desk and hide away a bit and you know, discreetly go to the bathroom. If you're feeling a bit nauseous and I look it's a very vulnerable time for any woman and I it doesn't matter how many times you've been pregnant what the circumstances are. I think every woman feels very vulnerable until you feel like the pregnancy is safely on its way so I think you That's really tricky to balance with the fact that it's a very public public profession, you're in a leotard. People can look at you and you're not feeling great. You sense that other people can tell that they're still many, many weeks to go before you're in the clear, or you feel comfortable to tell your boss or other dancers. So it's actually a really yucky time. Irrespective if you're tired or sick. It's a very it feels really confronting and both pregnancies I felt really. Yeah, not. I don't enjoy that, you know, it's my first pregnancy with Jasper, I sprained my ankle ankle at seven weeks. And I think that was just a blessing, because I wasn't about maybe nine weeks, and I wasn't coping with just, like, feeling like it was so obvious, but you've got a long time to go, you've got to pretend you're still able to do everything, obviously, at any point you can, you can speak to staff, and they'll absolutely, you know, just keep like, keep that in mind. And, yeah, obviously, that that level of duty of care is absolutely there. But you know, as as a woman, you don't feel comfortable. Just you know, saying I'm eight weeks pregnant, you know, there's still four or five weeks to go before I really feel okay about this. But yes, it can affect the repertoire you're doing and obviously different partner and different lifts and things. Some some girls tell the partner they're dancing with, and some don't, because they don't want their partner to freak out. They're going to do something wrong, and you're guided by your health, your health care professionals, and I had a lovely obstetrician for the girls who said to me when Okay, let's talk about twins. And I just said, I surely can't do anything that I meant to be doing. And he said, No, no, you're and obviously, this is not medical advice. This is just what he said to me in my circumstance. He said, No, no, just you just do what you're doing. That's your life. Normally, just keep doing that. I want you to do that. He gave me some options for the sickness. But other than that, and he was just said, you keep doing that. And I told David at the time, when I was 10 weeks pregnant, I was so close to getting to the shows, but I just had to say no. And he was so excited. I love it. So excited. Yeah, certainly I'm sure in many years, not that long ago gone by it was not at all a comfortable conversation to have. Yeah, I that's something in itself. I always felt like this was exciting news to share. It wasn't like, oh, well, that's, that's going to be a shame. Or why did you choose now like you're just doing so well, there's none of that, in my experience. And so there shouldn't be but I'm sure in the years gone by it was seen as a, you're not as dedicated because you've chosen to do this.
Yeah, absolutely. And there probably wouldn't be the option to come back, because people would judge you on that and go, Well, they've chosen that so that you don't come back?
No, I think traditionally, absolutely. And David was very clear about making that cultural, you know, a huge, a huge change in that, that it was only supportive, and you don't want to be losing all your top women, just because they they realize they don't want to miss out on something that has a finite time. Our career has a finite time. And so does you know, the years where you are able to have your children and care for them and deal with, you know, their early years. That's what's so tricky. Our job is so demanding to what we often feel as ballet moms feel at odds with is that you know, those early child hood years are so intense also. And you don't want to miss lots of it. And you want to be forming that bond and that connection, but also your career there. They are your best years. And they're kind of endears. So it's like a really tricky. And you just find your way and they do complement each other. But yeah, it's a big, I think it is a big decision to kind of be confident enough. If you do want to continue to ask him to put a pause button and say this is really important that I have a family as well. And then I'm going to come back and I'm still going to be able to do what I can do.
Yeah, absolutely. When you found out you're having tweens and you mentioned those emotions. Did you think how's my body going to? I mean, I suppose at that point you weren't thinking Coming back, necessarily. But did you think how's my body going to go? Then? After all the changes? It's going to go through having to at one time, will I will I be able to dance the same way? Or, you know, how will my body come back from that with its, you know, flexibility? All that that kind of stuff. Did you did that sort of? Was that something was you thinking?
I guess, because I wasn't thinking about coming back. And, again, I'll just like the timing of it. Literally COVID had just hit Australia. A few days before that. Last season I did opened and we only were able to perform three shows a Friday into Saturday. And then everything was close. That was when everything shut down. Yeah. Sorry about it only recently performed in Melbourne this last week, since then, sorry. Which everyone thinks is actually some kind of miracle. Right? Do they days, you know, give this to them, care for them? And then come back. And, you know, oh, it's the opening of Anna Karenina that was meant to open two years ago. And yeah. But I guess yeah, my mindset wasn't on, on anything regards to ballet. Yeah, when I was, I wasn't absolutely dead set against coming back. But I just in my mind, I was leaning towards that. And I've never actually, you know, really thought too hard about that kind of physical change. In terms of my career, with, you know, with pregnancy, I did, you know, I was pretty concerned about having a twin pregnancy genuinely, it's, it is a high risk. And, you know, we had our own complications along the way. And so nothing's taken for granted. And I think that perspectives enough to be like, you know, if you, if you can't get your leg up pie anymore, it's really, it's really not important. So I was just amazed my body could handle the twin pregnancy generally. Because I'm not, there's not a lot of room. Amazingly, they make room but pretty, pretty uncomfortable at the end. And, but it's also like I, a lot of people think somehow being a valid answer must help you in birth or something. And perhaps it does, but I think more than anything, it's just that you've been so strong your whole life, that on the flip side, your recoveries probably a bit. A bit easier, even from a twin pregnancy, then yeah, maybe someone who hasn't been as active and just so aware of, you know, muscles and how things feel. And yeah, I mean, I think a lot of valid answers. So if they do go back, they try to go back really quickly to dancing and they miss it. Like, I think physically, they miss it, and they miss feeling like that. And they have, you know, a really clear vision and for whatever other reasons, which are their own, they want to dance so quickly again. I mean, I didn't have that. That's just not part of me, but also after the twins. I mean, I wasn't sleeping until they were like 10 months old, proper properly. So I don't know where in that I was meant to be. In that to be thinking about doing ballet. i If there was ever a 10 minutes, I would try to lie on the couch. You know, I wasn't like oh, just do some exercise.
It wasn't really my headspace. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So I want to bring up I've had my own experiences with postnatal depression. So I can relate to a lot of stories that my guests share. And you've been really vocal about your journey. And I want to commend you for that, because I think it's so important that we talk about it so that it becomes like a normalization of this is, this is something that happens to a lot of people. And it's not something to, you know, be scared of or hide away from, we're going to talk about it so everyone can sort of help each other and, and ways to get through it. If you're comfortable sharing we can you tell us a little bit about that experience.
Yeah, absolutely. Um, yeah, it's, you know, I I agree. It's, it's a topic that I believe should be spoken about more. You know, I can also understand you don't want to put that on to new months in that, oh, you know, it can be this hard and it can be so bad and you know, when they're going through such a transformative experience, and some people are not affected in that way. So you don't want to be Putting that experience onto everyone. But by the same token, there are so many women who are really battling with something that is out of their control. And it's meant to be the happiest time of your life. And it isn't, you feel quite unhappy, really. And on top of that, you're so sleep deprived, and so unable, what feels like so unable to cope, and then the guilt of not feeling like it's the happiest time of your life. There's so many levels of that, and the layers just kind of keep building each day. And it is, it's this, it's this kind of base and I can see, you know, externally now that why you feel like you can't say anything, and I felt that like that at the time, and I have such amazing support. And, you know, Locky is, is my greatest support in every way. And, you know, I had to sometimes some days, I had to feel, find the bravery somewhere in myself to actually say how it was. Because it felt like such a big thing to put on to someone else who's already supporting you, you know, and if that's your mom, or if that's anyone, but just to be like, it's actually really bad. You know, these are actually the thoughts I'm having. And I don't mean to be dramatic, because it's actually is that bad, you know, and mine. My postnatal depression, and anxiety kind of set in quite quickly. And, you know, I know everyone has a different experience. And yeah, I guess I'll just share mine. But yeah, twins is quite a shock. And I was so euphoric, I had this amazing, beautiful birth with them. And yeah, I had natural deliveries. And they were, you know, we, they were almost full term, and they were healthy. And after a really long pregnancy, worrying, like the relief for that. And I couldn't believe my body could do that. And I was like, This is great. And, you know, they were feeding well. And I was managing to feed them, somehow duck tanned and feed them, which is just somehow managed to do that. And you know, so you know, that first bit that first week or so, like, wow, I made two babies. And it's, um, yeah, I was, I actually did feel that pride and that, you know, we were ecstatic. And then, you know, the actual care of twins, and obviously, multiple births, you actually are just statistically at a higher risk of postnatal depression, because it's just hard. Yeah. And I was very lucky, I had people around me who said it like that, you know, and I had a really great obstetrician in Brisbane, where we had the girls eventually, I remember the six week appointment we had, I had it at four weeks, because we had to go back to Sydney at that time. So like, he could go back to work. And we had it a bit early. So it was even earlier than you know. And I walked in, and he was like, how he going and I said, like, death warmed up, and we'd had a terrible night, 20 minutes sleep the whole night. I was feeding them. At that point, trying to establish as is to better at once is one everyone says put them on a schedule schedule, put them on a schedule. And for someone who's had a schedule my whole life, like I, I would take to that like a duck to water but these babies still didn't know that.
willing to do it. And I'm still feel like there's a part of me that, you know, was was perhaps keeping twins for a reason because I can stick I'm determined, I will make them do the same things at once. But not at that stage. They you know, and they're so you know, their tummies are so little and all of the, you know, you're up padding and tap, you know, do they need more and all of that, but times two. And so after even just four weeks of that, and no sleep. And I was feeding them so that's exhausting, obviously. And it really came on like a, you know, like a freight truck, even by that point. And then we moved back to Sydney. And I met a really wonderful, very just by chance. My maternal child health nurse there was incredible and a really important person in my journey because straightaway, even though she'd never met me, and I told her our, our story, and you know, my I hadn't seen my son Jasper, who was in Melbourne with his dad. And he'd been there 10 weeks and because the borders were closed with COVID Oh, yeah. And it's like, right, so you're here. You had the girls in Brisbane, because you had to fly up, go up, drive up there do hotel quarantine because of the risk. There was a risky birth situation anyway. So we had family support, so you had to leave your son in mail. When you're here in Sydney, you've been around a bit, you've just had twins, feeding them. And she's just like, this is, this is a lot. And she's like, No, you're not around your friends like, and you know, my work friends are my family. You're not around you use your usual people. You're at a really high risk here. And, and I was like, really? Ah, no, I'll be right. And she's, and she was like, no, no, we're, we're going to look at this. And I'm going to tell you like in a really great pragmatic way with someone who's so sleep deprived, and emotionally drained, needs to sometimes hear it so bluntly. And she's like, it's, you know, twins, it's about twin management. And, you know, I was like, but I meant to be like, loving them and like caring, and like looking at their toenails. And I'm like, I don't even know what their toes look like. That feeling of like, how much your adoring them and like staring at them. And with twins, you feel like, in fact, I can see you're getting, you're trying to get to know two people at once. So you're getting double the input, like feedback, but you can't process so I felt like it took me so much longer to know which one liked what and which one needed and to feel equally as close and in connection with an in tune with both, because it was just like, kind of like not a production line. But
it's just it's just all routine. Yeah, yeah, it was. And,
and that was to our to get to a point that it was to our benefit, so that you weren't up all day and all night with one baby at a time. So it was all working towards that. But to make that happen is is like hard work like effort, like one's up, okay, get the other one out. Okay, feed, that one's going out, put the other one down. Like it's, it's not just go with the flow. And I thought being a second pregnancy second baby, I'd love to be that like go with the flow parent, which ultimately probably doesn't suit my personality. But to just be more relaxed and to know it all passes. And to know, you get through it. And but it was it was such a different experience. So how could I and I, I really needed so much support. And I'm just to this day, every day. So grateful I had access to support. I know it makes me so sad to know that there's women out there who just don't have that support, or someone saying you need, I'm going to funnel you into a system and you're going to go to that mother baby and or you're going to have this appointment, or we're going to squeeze you into a telehealth to talk to someone because right now, that's crucial. It's not just like, oh, you know, four weeks time we'll do. It's like, right now this needs to happen. And very, very fortunately, with twins, in those sorts of areas, you do sometimes get a little bit of a, you get a
priority. It's like we know this, this is yes has to happen.
Yeah, which I you know, I was really grateful for that so I had people checking on me, and I felt so incapable. And just, you know, yeah, just so out of my depth. And, you know, I was just like, I think back and it is an every time. It's like, it's like a dream, like, and not always a good one. But it's like and I with my son, he came up to see us and I'd you know hadn't seen him it's so long, which was just so hard in itself. And he was meeting his new sisters and he had so much energy and I had so little to give him and it's just you know, there was always a baby that needed something and you know, he's been so patient and had to adjust but it took me a long time, especially with how I was feeling and how low I was feeling. And so anxious. You know, even when I got to sleep, I couldn't sleep. I didn't know again until I'd spoken to my nurse and to the psychologists I eventually spoke to that I that that feeling of rage or like anger, but mostly that that rage that like volcanoes up inside you and you just need like a you know, the pressure valve just needs to release is is a real, real sign of anxiety you You just think I'm just a horrible person. And I'm just so mean to everyone. And I'm so angry, and it's not fair. And why am I so awful? And he's like, No, it's the pressure release of you're so anxious. And I think in my career, I'm so used to dealing with pressure. And even if you're anxious, you're able to deal with it. Either squash it, compartmentalize it, do something with it. I didn't have an outlet. I didn't have time. You know, anyone talks about moms having time for themselves. It's like, that was a joke. When was like, understandably, it's just not, it's also not a fact, when he had young twins, and leaving the house, and people would talk to me at the cafe, and I just, I wouldn't even know how to talk. Like, I just, I just looked down, please don't talk to me, please. Lovely, have more and just like so. And, and you feel and it's another point where you just let I just don't feel that. Like they're so beautiful, and I love them. But my experience is just like, I can't get through this. I'm I'm just floundering. And that mismatch between what what people expect or think, is another layer of like, RC like I should be. And if I could just like what I said earlier about, but if I could just work harder if I could just think differently. I'm sure I could turn this around. But really, I needed a lot of help and support. And in time sleep. Yeah. Yeah, I needed an iron infusion. I needed, you know, there was a whole plan that I was very lucky, multiple people, you know, and I had an incredibly supportive partner who sat there and looked me in the face. And you know, how old were you when I said awful things, you know, really was like, I don't like having to say this. But if I get this out, it has less power. And then we could kind of like, move through it. And so over time, and I noticed too, this is something that it feels like too much to be like, I need an hour to do my telehealth with my psychologist, you know, especially with a young family and Jasper was at school. And there was always a reason I could have just cancelled that
I was lucky to get into a psychologist with the Gates Foundation in Sydney. And so that really worked, especially not having to go out of the house. If I had to go to an appointment, I probably wouldn't have prioritized it again. I was lucky in that COVID time that telehealth was a thing. And yet, when I dropped a few weeks, it wouldn't happen immediately. But it would start to come in again, I'd feel that that ends all day anxiety. And as soon as one of the girls would wake up before I wanted her to it was so frustrating. And why are you? Why are you not doing what I thought you're meant to be doing. And now I have to get the other one out and restart again. And it's school pick up tight and just it would my coping mechanisms would start to fall away again. And obviously, everything feels like it falls apart. So definitely talking to someone, you know, weekly became a priority. And if that meant I heard, you know, my mom with the girls, and they're both screaming as hard as that was, yeah. It, I had to at some in some way. Prioritize that hour. And then once the girls were able to be in a routine that was more consistent, they didn't sleep as well as my son ever did. And, you know, every time they went through a sleep regression, one of them would always hit it worse than the other. And, and you know, not that long ago, you know, one of my girls was up for like six hours a night for a couple of weeks. And you're just like, What do I do? How How is ones just sleeping? And but you what do you do with a baby for six hours says every Monday, every overwhelmed of all time. And of course you get through it. But I could get through that because I'm in such a better place. And I've had some sleep. And it seems so simplistic to say, Oh, you just need time and sleep. But really, fundamentally, they're two really important things that help you with young babies.
Yeah, absolutely. Sleep is sleep is king.
You just get anxious about it. And so I'm like set on how everyone's sleeping how the baby's sleep times to this case, which it was ultimately everything. How you're sleeping, how my son like anyone who'd make a noise that would potentially you know, a lot of symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety I you think all you feel pretty, pretty sad and pretty low bit unmotivated. You're not enjoying it as much. A lot of the Symptoms like I couldn't handle light. I couldn't handle sound my son's footsteps running down the corridor. We're just like, Ah, it's just so loud in here one night, I was asking people to turn off the lights and the TV. And everyone was so lovely and, you know, receptive, but they looked at me like, oh my gosh, yeah, it's really not that bad. But the sensory overload for someone who was already at the end of it, like wit's end on every level, I think was just too much of a trigger.
When I, I had my first son 14 years ago, and we, you know, you go to the prenatal classes, and this guy came in from Beyond Blue, I think, Oh, I can't remember where he was from, he might have just been from the hospital. So basically, he, he said to us, you're going to have times when you feel beat down, it's going to be hard. You're going to have, you're going to feel you're gonna get the baby blues. So good luck with that. And that was what, that's what they told us about, about postnatal depression. And it was like
the intensity, oh my gosh, actually can be. And also, by this point, for anyone, when you're having a child, it's the responsibility you feel like, is overwhelming at times. Even though this is something you desperately wanted in that it doesn't change the fact that it's a huge responsibility that everything to do with this little person, or these two little people, it is about you and your decision. And every decision you make, you know, it's I think, trivialize it like that, compared to, obviously, you know, what it's like, it's couldn't, couldn't be, you know, more polar opposite to how intense it feels. It's absolutely not baby blues. And you know, that's what I say to anyone I know, who's having a baby or has had a baby, you know, like, I'm up in the night often anyway, so if you need to call anyone, please just know, you can always message me or call me or anything, because it's, it's not trivial. And there are some moments in time that you might actually just need someone. And as someone who, it doesn't matter what you've done in your life previously, as someone who by that point usually feels a bit capable are a bit like, you know, I can manage things to feel so incapable is, and so at a loss is such an unsettling, despondent feeling, let alone then feeling like that, and being responsible for someone else.
Hmm. Yeah. I want to touch on when you said, when you spoke to your, the nurse that you said was really, really good. When she sort of told you all these things, these were massive things that were impacting, and, and you sort of said, I'll be right. Were you feeling like at that point? And you don't have to answer this if I'm trying too much. Did you feel like because I'm sort of trying to relate it to my experience? Did you feel like you had to pretend it wasn't happening? Or did you really genuinely feel like it was wasn't happening?
I don't think I was aware how bad it was, even though I felt really bad. I knew it was I think it's like everyone has that pride. And I think I thought I could get through it. Or a bit like if I just do this in this a nice it'll, it'll go away or or it will get better. Yeah, I guess that was her point was just, you know, it's it doesn't have to be okay. You have so much going on, not to mention a pandemic. Yeah. Parents of the last two years, have not been able to access for their children for themselves for their families, the same levels of care, the lack of, you know, the lockdowns, the restrictions that the people popping over the all of those little things that at such a critical time, might be that one person you spoke to who you got to have a hug with, or might be, you know, all of that wasn't there. And I think I'm used to coping with quite a lot. I'll be the first to say I don't cope very well with change, or with anything going not to plan. Even though a whole lot of things in life in my life. You know, like, really there's been A lot of change and a whole lot of things that I've actually had to cope with. I think I cope externally very well. But internally, I, I battle how well I'm coping. And also I you know, you don't want to be a downer for everyone. I think that's another layer that no, we will women who are feeling, you know, like they are postnatally depressed, that you don't want to be a burden on other people. You want to live up to what you're meant to be living up to, you know, yeah,
that is so true.
You just not. And again, sometimes it has to be as plain as day is that. And also that first appointment, I think, you know, I had all these questions about the babies and you know, this feeding this and, you know, sleeping in their tummies, all this stuff, you had this list of things like all every new moms, dads, and she's like, I don't want to talk about babies. It was so amazing. So experience is I want to talk to you my mind anxious me, I just wish we could get to the things I want to talk about. So I'm getting to know both of us, myself lucky, our stories, how we got to this point, and you know, obviously with the traveling and the quarantine, and all of the know driving on the highway and all of this and Jasper and and she's like, you know, it's a pyramid structure. And she said, everyone thinks that the parents are, you know, come last, and there at the bottom, but it's actually the other way around. If you're at the top, and it filters down. If you guys aren't okay, no one's okay. And then when it came to me, if you're not, okay, no one else is okay. And that's not a burden to you, that's just where we need to put you in this picture. Because you're going to be putting yourself down here and everyone else comes first. And that the baby's needs come first. And as someone who does like perfection in that way, whenever they'd cry, I'd feel like a failure. When I couldn't settle them, I'd feel like a failure. And like lots of mums do because that's your feedback. And you equate that to how well you're doing at being a mum. And when you've got two of them at once doing that. Or when you've just got one settled and the other you think your status quo is constantly being disrupted. So therefore, you must be doing a terrible job. And someone else would be doing this better than you. But she, she kind of was the right person for me to be saying, you know, they're going to cry sometimes, and you're not going to like it. But if that means you got to eat something that is okay. Because if you don't put any of your needs first with twins, you will never ever look after yourself. And that's going to trickle down. And that's no good for anyone. So I had to relearn I have to actually in my very sad, anxious, not really, you know, really fuzzy how fuzzy you feel. Yeah, you are in that, that place like other than the tiredness, but there's a fuzz that, you know, you can't even make a sentence. Even still, I had to with practice with time, we support and someone checking in and going over this, again, really learn about putting some of my needs first, to then be able to help other people.
That's it's a massive, a massive thing. To, for someone to ask you to do that. And then more massive to actually put into practice. That's, it's huge, isn't it? Because that's not how we're not, we're not wired to think that way. We've we've just got to give given given given give. So
we kind of do feel, perhaps all mothers always do. But I do you sense in this time when I talk to my mom and you know, women of that age, that the pressure younger parents now put on themselves to be everything for their children. every second and every moment is a teachable moment. And, you know, if you did it this way, they won't have tantrums because they'll have all the food and you know, because you will have practiced these strategies and all of this and you sat with your child and looked him in the eye and all of that, you know, someone's having a meltdown in Kohl's and you've got to get back to work in like half an hour. It's really hard to be that parent. And we have that vision in ourselves. Like I want to be this parent and myself. I wanted to be that parent and then I had new born twins and I thought I knew some some things about having a baby turns out with twins it's a totally different story. And I just did absolute like sleep deprivation doesn't you know and that's what I just you know, I can't even believe I got through and any twin parents is because it's such a. Anyway triplets. quarters don't even single babies are really tricky to and it's, it's separating that like having that difficult baby or that tricky baby does not relate to how well your mothering like, it is not the same thing it's so hard to. And again, you need other people drumming that into you, reminding you and I, you know, I'm lucky that I have, I have those people around me. So I've found my way through and to, you know, not just to an end that big story. Sorry, very long story positive, but I do feel like and not that I wish this on any other mother, ever. But I do feel like the enjoyment I get from my girls. And the joy I have with them now that I had been through that experience of being so down. It really is amplified because I see it. And I remember when I first started feeling better over time, and then you have your bad days again. And then you know it's incremental. But when I actually enjoyed them, I just like cried with happiness. I just thought, oh my gosh, I'm enjoying them. Oh my gosh, like, and I think the appreciation for that was so huge. And I you know, I know there's challenging times ahead, children, but I do, I do have a greater sense of that appreciation for that, you know, enjoyment. And the present illness after feeling so not present. So spacey, so unable to be in the moment because you don't even know where you are. And sometimes you just wished you are asleep. Most of the time.
Do not thank you for sharing that. So candidly, I appreciate it. And I'm sure there's a lot of people that listening that are going to kind of take a lot from it. So thank you.
Sorry, that that's the only you know, that's what not that I mean, but I do feel like that is the one one blessing of going through that experience is that you were able to help so many other people by sharing yours. And that is the only reason I have you know, I've shared about that in my own in my own space. And you know, I'm very lucky that I've had that support and I just like I said before, I just so hope that other women have that too. And if that means one day when they're having a really bad day and they happen to read something you know, which has happened to me before to you read something on a particularly bad day and might just help you see that evening witching hour, just somewhat a bit differently for that one day. If I can help one person one day by them reading something, then I'm I'm really glad.
Yeah. You're listening to the art of being a mom, if my mom Alison Newman.
After you start to feel, well, you're enjoying these moments and things are feeling feeling improved for you. When did you get that spark that you thought? I'm gonna go in depth again?
Well, I wasn't actually feeling much better when I first started thinking about that. Yeah. Yeah, so dancing again, in, in a kind of condensed fashion, which I'm not good at, as you can see it again, was part of me feeling well, again, and I couldn't have known that at the time. Like I said, I really didn't think I would dance again. And the most exercise I would get would be when I was in the girls room, and they might have just like settled and I didn't want to open the door and the light come in. So I'd lie on the floor. And do you know, my pelvic floor exercises, that's that's the extent of where I was at. And that wasn't so I could get back on stage that was just to be a functional person again, and I have a really incredible Women's Health physio, which I also very much recommend to any any woman anywhere, no matter what you've done in your life. But you know, that was something that was just good for me. That was not, I'm just going to start with this because that'll be helpful when I'm dancing. There was no dancing thoughts. I would go over ballets when I was like rocking them to sleep in in their room, or like settling them like sometimes a random step would come out. But I was thinking about my retirement speech more than anything. And then COVID At the time I thought I probably won't even have anything and then I thought that's so sad like After 18 years like that, it just, you know, some people choose to have it that way. And I wouldn't have had a fanfare but I always thought when I retired, I'd have my family there. But yeah, I think about what I'd say. And they're the thoughts that would come and go in my, you know, spacey state that was my dance world. And so it was actually people around me mainly Locky. Because he's so supportive of me and my career. And it would be very easy to say, Oh, this is too hard. Donna, you know, Donna, you know, he tours, obviously, he's very busy with his job. And he loves his job. And, you know, he, you know, that's his dream job. And he is so good at it. It's, you know, we love watching him and but just, you know, the, the, we both have very demanding jobs in the eyes. Yeah, there was never a question of like, are from anyone that my mind was less significant in any way, or that it would be easier if I stopped dancing, because then that would work better for the family or just be easy, at some point, that probably will become part of the reason you know why we shift into a different way of how our family works. But just because I'd had two babies was not a reason for that to happen. So here's the first person who wanted to see me dance again, if that was something I wanted to do. So he he was very supportive over time in his beautiful way, not in your face just a little bit every day. Go in and have the conversation, you've got a contract still, your position is there. It's not trying to get a new job. It's your job. It's your position, have a chat, but not like what how could I talk? This is ridiculous. Don't even think about that. Go in and have a chat with David David Hallberg, our new director. So this was a new director for me, so I'm gonna who doesn't know me. And that was quite daunting in itself. So eventually, by about seven months, the company was in Melbourne at the time, they just had a Sydney season that somehow managed to squeeze in with COVID. And I arranged an appointment and decided to go in and you know, I could have not gone that day, I felt terrible, you know, I was going to miss a feed from the girls. And, you know, they'd never been left do that anyone else? Really? My mom was there lucky. I don't know if lucky was there that day. But yeah, it just all felt too hard. Of course, it's too hard. You know, there's so many other things. When you're in that, like baby space, that's too hard, leaving the house, one of them any variable for someone who is very much struggling with the day to day, a variable is too hard.
Like go in and have a chat. So I put, like proper clothes on which I hadn't done and drove my car, which I also hadn't done in a while. And, you know, all of these things, and it felt like stepping out into the world again. And that was incredibly I remember, also being in this state I was, it was a sensory overload all of it, like the light, the sounds, just everything's coming into the carpark going in the left, I felt sick. Coming up, you know, it wasn't like, Oh, I'm home. And this is, you know, this is so lovely. I spent all my life here, it's, I was not in that stage. And also things had really moved on. That building felt different. I'm so glad I did, obviously. And David was very gracious in probably accepting me in that state. And, you know, I'm also a new person to him, and I just kind of flat out said, I've had a really, really rough time, and I didn't think I'd dance again. And he's like, you know, what would you like to talk about? And I said, I just I think I might want to try. You know, it wasn't a hugely confident telling yourself. I might want to try. It's like, what would that look like? I don't know. I've run out. I couldn't look him in the eye. And, you know, I just I was a shell of myself. And he just said, Well, how about you to start somewhere? I said, I don't know what, what I could come back to, you know, I was thinking like roles or seasons or and he's like, just don't even think about that. Just start somewhere, just babysit. And I was like, you know, you feel like you've got to offer something. I'll, I'll work I'll come back and I'll do that or I'll try for that series that just
just don't yeah, don't think that far ahead. Just just
in me Reality, if I'd actually thought about everything I have to do to get in this building every day, and to tour, I would not have gone in that day at all. So it was absolutely right on all fronts. So then I started coming in. And that was my therapy, I guess I'd come in and do Pilates kind of conditioning exercises that are quite specific what we do here. And, you know, I've done them for years. And I was very lucky that everyone knows me very well here. And in terms of, you know, the artistic health team, know me very well. I know how I function best and they weren't in my face. Some, you know, there's some mums amongst them. And they, they know, they knew instinctively what I needed. Sometimes that was just done. This is done a space, she's coming in today. And she's, you came in today, and I was like, and they're like you came in today. And then I start doing my little toe push up to the theater events. Yeah. And, you know, they could sense the days, I just needed space for myself. And that's essentially what it was. Because if I was home, I was always doing something I couldn't, we just coming back from Jessa, it was different, I could do a lot at home and he was asleep. The girls were still up and down all the time. There was always something to do food to cook a snack to get Jasper to, like, I had to go somewhere to have my that my time. And so that started like that incrementally. Then I joined our like daily training class. And that was, again, usually we work with Megan Connolly, who's our rehab coach, you normally go in with her and you know, do a couple of weeks, just one on one. And she's like, so you're gonna go into class today. And I said, Oh, but like, what are we going to do? And she's like, on in and I just go in there. I was like, no, that's just like, this is a studio with people, other people. And like a teacher and a penis. And I was like, I just, I can't, I can't like so many people in the eye, it really, you know, was a full body experience trying to get myself back into the world. And I did that by coming back into ballet, into something I knew. And that even like, all at that point. And even to vary up to when I did my first shows, I had to think if I don't get to do shows, if I don't get if I stop before I get to the like the goal or the cherry on top that I've this has been a successful worthy process, because this is what needed to happen for me.
So it's more about the process rather than the end goal. It was about all those steps, and how that was like your therapy.
It was actually it was and my maternal child health nurse had commented on that so much earlier. So how are we going to get you back to work? Like, that's just can't too hard. It's just we're gonna have to think about if you want, but we'll have to think about that. And I was not in that headspace. Whereas someone like her externally so much experience, I think could see pinpoint. This, this woman is going to need even for a short window of time to find a part of herself that has been so not thought about. And so I started in class for a little bit. Some days, I'd have to leave because I was overwhelmed by it wasn't even the ballet, the actual dance and everyone's like, Oh, it looks like you've never left and I'm standing there like a shell of myself and can't even express how different I felt. Physically. I was going through the motions. So and that's what I think is is tricky externally, after 18 month sort of dancing. Twins. i And I don't mean to say this, in a sense, it's precocious, but I was actually just going through the motions giving the actual dancing side of things such little thought because it was actually so much more a mental battle for me to stay in the room. People are there. They're going to look at you sometimes their eyes. Okay, you did it like, yeah, yeah, it was it just
Yeah, it's like your body just almost had its own experience there. It knew the muscles knew what to do. It just did its own thing. And you could let it do that. In the meanwhile, the you know, inside your head. All this is happening. And yeah, and it's hard. People don't say that. Like literally, like you said, they said, it's like you never left. So they're only seeing this outside and they're not, you know, seeing the whole picture. So yeah, it's the
realizations that come to me when I'm dancing. That's always been the case. But especially in that time and even still, the distance I have from being at home when I'm At the ballet, and when I'm dancing, things come to me and I solve problems in my head. And yeah, you know, I have these epiphany moments all the time about my kids and about mothering. When I'm at the bar. It comes to me then. Ah, so it is there's something about that. And maybe just because I've grown up doing it, and there's live music the first day, when someone started, we have, you know, a live pianist. So they start playing plays, and they improvise every day, all these exercises, and I just, like, my mouth was open, I was just like, oh my gosh, that's right. So I'm gonna just plays music for your day. Someone amazing, just plays music, music all day for you. was a really profound one. But I think I could unravel a lot of what had happened over the last 18 months, by being in that space. Yeah, wouldn't have to do at home for sure. Or even, you know, gone for a run or something it might have might have worked that there was something about, like you said, my body being a little bit on autopilot, that my mental chat could start to unravel a little bit. Okay, the space, it's,
it's almost like, like a meditation in some ways that, like, I mean, I know, traditional meditation, you lay down, and then your body's at rest, so your mind can work. But sort of, in that way, like, your body's just doing its thing. You don't have to think about it. And then yeah, all this stuff, you're open to process, like it's a problem solve. And
I feel very, I had such like a vehicle actually, that was way too daunting at the start, but actually became, you know, the art form that I've loved forever, actually, was the way into, you know, the new version of me that was all put together. Every kind of come before.
Yeah, that's, that's incredible. It's like it truly is a part of your identity. And it just needed it was like that. Yeah, like I keep coming back to this word therapy was and that nurse was was experienced enough to see that, that that was going to be part of your healing was to get that part of your life back again.
Yeah. And that's how long you know, who knows, and it's not about that. And I was lucky enough to be able to, after Melbourne, got out of the last longtown last year, we had a gala celebration season in December, it was a 10 day runner shows at the Art Center. And I was lucky enough to be ready at that point. I I'd only just come back full time. And so that was a personal choice, too. I extended my maternity leave beyond the 12 months, because I wasn't ready yet to leave the girls. I wasn't ready to have my schedule dictated to. I still needed to have because everything just took longer. And with twins, it just does. I think for everyone to find their feet for the tweens to settle into life like everything. Yeah, yeah, but certainly I wasn't ready to be after that long fighting to be there and enjoying them to then just evacuate and be at work you know, for 1012 hour days. So I took a really slow slow ride in and that meant I was working Training Training obviously you can't just turn off on day one. So from you know, from when they was eight months maybe not wasn't actually was like 10 months old. That's when I started some physical stuff and then I did all of that on my own time on my own schedule and then the week before shows opened as I'd planned but they everyone knew but I was like that's when I finish things that you've got a week and then a week of shows and I'm going on holiday
Yeah, so again like compartmentalizing things like right from the start how lucky was saying just go into a chat and then you had you had David just saying well just try the sword you know it was it's breaking that down because the overwhelm if you think about everything is just too much it's just it's not it's not good yeah. The topic of mum guilt in and I guess everyone has different views. Use of what that is some people think it's a load of rubbish, which is great. Other people have like really relate to it, which is fine. Everyone's different. Have you ever had any experience with that? Or your thoughts about that
are definitely have experience with mom guilt. That's something I feel all mums do face. And I will I'm certainly I certainly do. And a lot of the ballet mums here, that's a big one for us. Obviously, feeling guilty all the time serves no one. So I'm aware of that, too, that it's, it's a, it's a sensitive feeling that isn't really helping anyone. But what we do here at the ballet feels very self centered and self absorbed. It's such a giving up form, but our experience of how hard it is and the work we need to put in and the conditioning and the focus. And the I've got to get to the theater at this time. Because I've got to get my hair, I've got to do my makeup, I've got to think about my steps. And all of that changes after you become a man, you minimize everything and into the small amount of time as you can. But there's still the sense that I'm doing something for myself here. Like I'm, I'm focusing on myself, and I want that role. And I want to do that on stage and every one. I want to feel that. And you can't help but think I've got these little people who are like, Hey, Mom, I want you to but yeah, you know, so I very much relate to that. Whilst also understanding it's not really helpful. But there was something that I come back to, and what has often come from people reminding me and then I try to repeat it for myself is that your children, seeing you as a whole person is really important. And your children, especially with what we do seeing, seeing, you're so dedicated and so passionate, and loving something so much. What brought to you is really, really important to especially as a mother. And I think the uniqueness of what we do and touring half the year, the you know, the changeability, that pulling kids out of school or daycare and taking them to Sydney for two months, can feel like a bit of a liability and a bit of a, you know, kind of mixing their life up so much. And you know, with my son, I felt really guilty, he hasn't been able to do regular swimming lessons. And he hasn't been able to do soccer. And you know, I can't always be the one at the school gate. And even though when I was at home with the little girls with my twins, and he started school, when I stood at the school gate, I felt so out of place, I felt, I just felt so out of place. I just, I just I just yeah, it was actually a really uncomfortable feeling. And he didn't actually really care if I was if it was me there or not. Some days he does, and he is but he's also had such a colorful, interesting childhood already. I tried to flip that round, to say actually, he's had exposure to things that other kids haven't had. Yes, they've had playdates regular playdates, they go to soccer every Saturday, and the routine of that, and, you know, maybe the social constancy of that, you know, he hasn't had, but he's also had exposure to so many other things. So in context of my work and knowing it's not forever, knowing at some point, and probably, you know, by the time the girls are at school, I will be at the school gate every day, makes this time even more precious. And, you know, I do hope that, you know, they can see that their mom, you know, in did look after themselves, so that I could look after them. I do hope at some point in their lives, they can, they can see how valuable that was. And I might Santi now at the ballet, and he just had the best home ever so football with with the dancers, and that's something that other kids don't get to do. That's it. Yeah, absolutely. It's about although I think it's um, it relies again, on, you know, routinely reminding yourself of the value that your your art and your work is giving to you, and then how that's trickling down into your family. I definitely have more energy and more, more empathy, more support, more, more valuable time, if I've just had a bit of time for myself. At the moment that time is being spent doing something that I love, which is dancing. And at some point in the future, I have to find something else that that time is for so that that can still trickle down.
Yeah, absolutely. You have you have that thing that feels that pick up and then you can you can give to others. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it's good. You said about that. Because yeah, one of the things I like to mention is that it's, it is important for children to say, what their mums and dads are doing. I didn't matter what didn't actually mean to ask this, I was about to say something different. But as you mentioned before the girls like see their dad on the telly like, that's just like, did they? Did they make the connection? Do they like this? Yeah, yeah.
I mean, probably assisted by the fact that like, hey, look, this study the girls, this is something I think all kids love music and dancing and our all of our kids do, but especially the girls are so absorbed in music and dance. And I mean, maybe some of those genetic I found with Queens, one of the only ways especially when they're early, you know, when they're lying on their little playing mat. That was one thing to keep them both entertained at once, which wasn't holding both of them at once was to lay them on the floor. And I'd put Wiggles, you know, playlists on and dance around like a little crazy person, you know, crazy person and try and sing not as well as their dad. And they would kick their little legs and you know, smile and giggle and that, you know, they obviously had exposure really, really early on to that. And still those particular wiggles that I've obviously drummed into them are their favorites. I you know, I love that they, I love so much, you know, we at 410 Every day we put you know, ABC Kids on and that's when we will design that's our little 10 minutes of you know, TV. They start dancing around and you know, Emma twirls around and they're, they're twirling around and they're trying to actually trying to do a sign language. It's amazing what young babies are picking up because there's me involved like, yeah, it's how they are learning because their music and dance involved. It's so innate. Yeah, I think it's really lovely. Obviously, Daddy's out there too. And that's pretty special. And yeah.
We're taking them to the wiggles concert next week. And by we, I mean me. And I can't wait. Because even when they were five months old, I think, you know, I was on the sides with the girls. And my mom and Lulu especially was transfixed, and you know, five months old for 45 minutes. Oh, yeah, totally transfixed. And I think the power of music and dance is so, so beautiful. And I'm so glad they're growing up. So, so all amongst it.
Yeah, it is beautiful, isn't it, it's like, like you're saying before, it might not be the, you know, going to soccer every week or the, you know, whatever it might be. But it's you're giving the children such an incredible life, just this exposure to things that other children might not get. And it's just, it's so awesome.
It is. And it's challenging, obviously, and logistically, it's a jigsaw puzzle, turn it upside down and back to front and try put it back together again, every day is like that we have so many moving parts of our lives function. were two of us trying to tune out as well. It's just pretty, pretty full on and we're desperate school and trying to keep that consistent. And but it but it is it's it's it's good. I think I always try to remember to this is such a short amount of time. Yet ultimately, it's the best time for it to be like this.
Jess was starting us kit this year. And he'll he'll he'll do that, you know, he'll do that in years to come. He'll have enough soccer on Saturdays and he will get to your swimming lessons. But this is a unique time where I'm able to still do this. I can't do this again in 10 years time, being the level I'm at and want to be in 10 years time. So I might say you can but I'm, you know, I'm more than every day. I'm aware of that. You know, I do I have the best job in the world. And I get to go on stage and be different people and have world class orchestras playing music for me and do something I felt mostly quite natural doing my whole life. You know, it's it's hard to say no to that. And yes, hopefully my children can benefit from that too.
Yeah, absolutely. I've got a wrench and the there was a beautiful article. Sydney Morning Herald where they took all these amazing photos of your family dressed up, and there's this one photo. I think it's Lulu. Like you've got this beautiful dress on and you're holding it and she's like, whatever like her facial expression. It's like, Oh, come on. I just every time I look at that, I just think she's in this world she gets, she knows what's going on. And she's like, Yeah, I'm in front of the camera again.
With that particular photo, I know you're talking about it was one of her actually smiling. Yeah, they didn't using it. So when I saw that particular shot, when she's looking at, yeah, like, whatever. I thought it's a bit of a shame. But for whatever reason, maybe my leg looked better. Or, you know, the dress looks, you know, had a bit more flow or something. But I yeah, I did think that oh, interestingly enough, she's the one who loves her dress, and you put it on and she doesn't actually turned around. I just find those things. So interesting. Yeah. I don't know what Mommy does. Really. They don't. They haven't been able to come in most of my friends here at work. haven't even met the girls because of COVID. And, yeah, we're still very careful here, obviously. So those sorts of things aren't allowed. But yeah, they actually only know dancing through what they know themselves and through Wiggles. Um, but it's I love watching them just like, you know, dance along.
Yeah, yeah. No, I just love I had to mention that. It's really
funny. She's, she's really theatrical one. Currently in our Melbourne season of Anna Karenina, which was meant to be in the 2020 season, but has been postponed several years. So it's so lovely to have been able to get the this ballet on here. It actually made it to Adelaide last year and a little sneaky little week. It's a big, bold, intense drama. So beautiful, amazing costumes, scenery, a real modern day story of such a classic novel, obviously. So we're performing out here now. And we move that to Sydney, in April. Yeah, for three weeks. And we open also in Sydney in May a massive production called Kunstkammer, which is a whole huge evening of work. It's an amazing show from Netherlands dance theater and dt, which is the premier absolute, contemporary dance creative Maverick company from the last 60 something years. So this concept of Karma is a collection of incredible, four different choreographers who came together to create this incredible work, and there's so much in it. So it's a big undertaking for the company, but an absolute gift for us. No one else in the world has performed this ballet. So to have this in Australia is like having, you know, the rarest gem. So we're currently working on that at the moment, which is really exciting. You know, the some of the choreographers, I never thought I would ever be in the same room as them. Last year when we started workshopping and are just learning the early bits and I thought this is already enough like day one I've seen in the room with Paul Lightfoot. I never thought that would happen. This is unbelievable. So that's so exciting. We're doing that in Sydney in May. We bring that to Melbourne in June. So Melbourne gets to see that too. And then we open a ballet called Harlequinade here, which is a great commedia dell'arte, ballet, slapstick kind of comedy, but really clever, lots of dancing. Really funny, a real family sort of fun piece, which I'm really excited about. It's the sort of dancing that I get really excited by it's virtuoso, kind of pumping and turning and lots of fast movement but also lots of comedic timing and storytelling, which you know, I think is challenging but so, so rewarding. And then we have to finish off the first half the year we have our Adelaide season actually of counterpoint which is double bill, a double bill of Raymonda and which is a classical to to act. And then I got, I got artifacts, we really emphasize artifact suite, which is kind of like, again, a ballet that you know, the Eastern invite to have in their repertoire is a real coup. Yeah, that pushes dancers to like next level. So a whole lot of work.
So, so you are performing something but then learning something else at the same time. Like you're doing different man that must does that screw with your head a bit, though, that you're like, which character am I today?
That if you're doing the same dance, but several roles in the same dance that is quite tricky for the brain. Yeah, but I find the role is in the music. So whatever musics on
it just getting to Yeah, we
only did we did two versions of Swan Lake back to back. And that was a bit like, Oh, which one are we in? This one was modern was restoration, or, Oh, it's kind of similar, but not quite hit it in a music. But again, that's a skill that you kind of have to pick up along the way. And that's the challenge as well. But yeah, it's that's the sort of thing that I think people don't realize they do. Yeah,
I never realized that till you just said that then, because I think musically, we're certainly my experience, you've got a show coming up. So you work on all this stuff for that show, then that show finishes, then you start for your next thing. But your world is just constantly constantly going,
revolving door. And the different dance styles really challenge your body in different ways. And it's often when you start a new dance style, like as in a new piece of repertoire, it often you get quite sore or a bit, you know, using different muscles to do what you have been doing, and it feels a bit not quite the same as last night, and you're all caught up to my coin. How do I do that today? It is a constant challenge in that respect. But also it's the richness of the work we get to perform in the company here is that it's so diverse. And we actually are all very versatile dancers and very capable of that. So yeah, yeah, there was always lots to look forward to. And that's why you know, if you're not in a season this season heavily, you're there's something coming up always to think about. So we're very lucky. It's like a feast for us here. Everyone's very jealous overseas, how many shows we do?
Talking about the kids like the dancing, I've worked in childcare, that's my day job. And I've certainly had a lot of wiggles over the years. But like it, they will that's what they want to hear the kids like, oh, we have this computer that we set up the music and and we have different music for sleep time. And anytime anyone walks over there we go squiggles or we will lose or they'll just they'll just start doing actions and they just love it. And same, like you said about the sign language. Like it's just becoming more mainstream a part of culture. Because of that, that, you know, the AMA, and it's like, it's just wonderful. It's, there's so there's so much like education value in what they're doing. It's not like, you know, they're not just a bunch of people to stenciling and having a party. It's like, they're actually educating and it's our like, my eldest son, he grew up with the originals. And then it was lovely to meet everyone in a different way. And some new faces when I had Digby, he's, he's six. So yeah, the year is and it's just a wonderful thing that it's still going and they've got the new faces now and it's just it's a wonderful part of our culture, I think. Yeah,
yeah. It's, um, it's a it's a pretty special experience to be able to, you know, share that with children. And I do think, like I said, Before, they children just learn so innately through through music and dance without even knowing they are. And I think that probably goes across the ages and that goes into, you know, children who are well about, you know, three, four or five years old who love all those sorts of songs and things and so much scope for for learning with music and dance and how that can help all kids and all sorts of education kind of settings. With a ballet you know, we have storytime ballet which is, you know, the ballet for kids and Jasper seen those shows and a lot of kids come to those shows and you know, that is also what sparks a lot of children's in imaginations and a lot of what becomes the future generation of ballet dancers here and overseas, because they started at that first storytime, ballet performance, you know, that their mom or their grandma or someone took them to when they were three, four or five, six? Yes, spark something of that experience that took them somewhere. And then that takes them on their life to, you know, what they might like to become? And I'm sure that's how it happened with me like I just How can you not get take with that whole experience? And I think, you know, with ballet and music you that's pretty special to have that spark at such a young age and to play a part in that little person.
Yeah, absolutely. I love that. That's it. That's a beautiful note to end on. I think. Thank you so much, Donna, it's been an absolute pleasure having you on. Thank you for giving me so much time and, and chatting. So candidly, I've really, really enjoyed it.
I have to thank you for giving me the space to you know, just like I said, I hope I can always help. The only reason I'd ever share anything about what I'm doing in my life or at home is that I can help someone else. And it's really lovely that ballet dancers now have the choice to become mums. And that, you know, we're working through this space of working out how they kind of feed and inspire each other. So thank you for giving me the space.
It's been a pleasure. Thank you. Thanks for your company today. If you've enjoyed this episode, I'd love you to consider leaving us a review, following or subscribing to the podcast, or even sharing it with a friend who you think might be interested. If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on the podcast. Please get in touch with us via the link in the show notes. I'll catch you again next week for another chat with an artistic mum