The highly talented and elegant Isobelle Dashwood is a finalist in the prestigious Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards. Here, The Carousel spoke to her about her passion for ballet, views on body image and future plans.
Isobelle, firstly congratulations for being a Telstra Ballet Dancer Award Nominee.
Thank you so much! It’s such an honor to be nominated. I feel very lucky.
What inspired you to become a ballet dancer and when did you decide to launch your career?
I’m the middle of 5 children and I grew up surrounded by dance. My mum is a ballet teacher and my older two sisters were taking lessons. I, like most younger siblings, just wanted to follow in their footsteps so went along to classes as well. I always loved dancing around the house but was quite shy outside of home. There was a point when I was around 12 or 13 however when I realised that the person I felt like when I danced felt so genuine and I loved all of the aspects of myself that dance helped me realise. I started to show more potential at that age and from then my ‘obsession’ and passion just flourished and I knew I wanted to work as hard as I could to do this for as long as I could!
Much is made over the rigorous athletic and aesthetic demands ballet places on performers. What is your personal approach to diet, exercise and nutrition and what have you found works for you?
There are so many stereotypes around ballet dancers and what they eat or how they approach their bodies. I think it’s important to note that what we do is hard work and we need sufficient nourishment and care of our bodies to get through our day to day schedules. We are essentially elite athletes. I personally have learnt that listening to my body and being as in tune with it as I can is the best thing I can do. I eat a very balanced diet and never stray from indulgences, but I know what makes me feel good and I’m a lover of routine/eating my favourite foods (so avo toast, fruit, veggies, nuts, chocolate, burgers, hummus and corn chips, HOT CHIPS!)
We are very lucky at The Australian Ballet to have such an incredible health team and are each given Pilates/gym programs tailored to our needs. Everyone works in their individual way and I personally find for me studio time is my favourite. I think ballet helps ballet and I find the solo practice time really therapeutic. I love exercising with a view so lots of long walks or anything that gets me in the sunshine to enjoy the small amount of daylight we get to see with our busy schedules.
How has your job shaped your relationship with your body? Have you ever struggled to maintain a positive body image in the industry and if so, have you found ways to cope with this?
Personally, I have struggled with accepting my tall stature within this industry. It’s not quite the body image issue that seems to linger around classical ballet but it has made me self conscious at times. I’m 5’10 and the tallest girl in the company which can feel pretty strange. I have memories from my first year, looking in the mirror at myself, half a head taller than everyone and feeling so out of place that it was changing the way I approached my dancing. I would move smaller or feel anxious about being so different. My family always encouraged me to see it as a strength and there came a moment where I thought to myself that this is an asset to me, why aren’t I using it?! From then I embraced it as a unique quality that made me stand out and it became more of a goal to make sure that because I’d stand out, it would be for good reason. I wouldn’t change my height and in fact, I love it. I feel strong and commanding and continue to work on loving it and embracing and challenging my length. It’s time we break some boundaries!!
Many professional ballerinas do their own hair and makeup – what are your favourite products for using when you are performing? What have been some of your favourite looks in terms of costume, hair and makeup.
I use quite a varied range of products and don’t necessarily stick to one brand. There are so many incredible products out there, it can be overwhelming so it’s nice to try a few and play around with our make up! I do love Clinique foundation, and hourglass does a great bronzer/blush. I think it’s important to have a really good and reliable liquid eyeliner (stilla does a great one) to get those smooth flicks. I also just tried the Eve Lom illuminating mist which is a sort of setting/hydration spray and it’s amazing! A great way to refresh pre, post or during a show! I also am a huge fan of sparkles so when it’s appropriate I add a bit of shine to my brow and cheek bones!
We all love to shop around at Mecca or Sephora and compare purchases so it’s fun to see and try a variety of products.
My favourite costume I’ve worn so far is probably the Lilac Fairy tutu in David McAllister’s ‘The Sleeping Beauty’. It’s such a stunning colour with gorgeous detail and the wig adds beautiful elegance to it. Plus we get to go crazy with glitter and purple shadow! 🙌🏼😍
Flamingos in Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in wonderland is really fun too despite being a pain to take off after a long show. We get fully painted and done up like flamingos and I personally love the feeling of sitting there being pampered for 20 minutes and walking out looking like a pink bird!
Ballet is a popular subject for film, particularly the psychological thriller genre. From Black Swan to Suspiria some of the most popular ballet movies of our time depict ballerinas as moody, driven, perfectionists prone to sacrificing their physical and mental wellbeing for the job. Is there one thing you wish the general public knew about ballet and ballet performers?
We are incredibly real, down to earth, intelligent and normal people! We just love to dance and put in an enormous amount of effort to live and breath our passion every day! There are of course mental and physical challenges and I can only speak from experience at Aus ballet, but we are a family and we only want to put on the best show possible, have fun and lift each other up.
What are your favourite skincare products and what is your skincare regimen?
I use a pretty unknown skincare brand through a dermatologist that’s worked for me for years. I don’t have a crazy 12 step routine because for me I find less is more, but always cleanse and moisturise and make sure I clean my face properly before bed. I love Bare Minerals complexion rescue BB cream for everyday wear just to even and hydrate my skin without really putting make up on and I love the Kevyn Aucoin volume mascara!
What are your favourite things to do when you are not working?
I love spending time with my crazy family! We all get on so well and just enjoy each other’s company. I have two older sisters (28 and 24) and a younger brother (16) and sister (13) so our ages are really varied but it means the list of activities we like to do is so extensive. Lots of beach trips, brunching, musical sing a Longs, movie marathons, dancing around the house, going out for Japanese (a family favorite cuisine) and just being silly together.
I love summer, going to the beach and for long walks, but on a rainy day I’m so happy to stay indoors and watch movies or read a good book.
I think when I’m not working, I just like to listen to my body and go with the flow and do what it tells me it needs…usually a slow start to the day 😂
What has one of the biggest challenges of your career been?
Definitely accepting my height as a strength as I said earlier. It has become so important to me to see it as a uniqueness of mine and I hope to inspire people to follow their passions despite stereotypes or barriers that they think could stop them. Our world is evolving and growing and I’m proud to be different. I hope others see that new found confidence in me and I hope it continues to grow in myself. I’m constantly trying to have belief and faith in myself which can be incredibly hard. We are our worst critics but confidence and trust only grow where you let them and the constant battle is one I’m willing to fight!
What have the proudest achievements of your career been to date?
I’ve been very fortunate to perform some beautiful and challenging roles so far in my career. The Lilac fairy and Myrtha are two beautiful roles that I’ve loved and been able to perform recently. My two Telstra ballet dancer nominations have also been an honor and highlight so far. It’s so nice to feel that support from my colleagues.
What are your goals for the future?
To remain humble, genuine, passionate and courageous. To keep working hard and never lose sight of why I do this. Of course I’d love to do more featured roles and climb the ranks but I think staying true to myself and consistent hard work and passion are a good place to start and always come back to.
Ballet is very competitive. Are you close friends with other dancers or do you prefer to hang out with people outside the industry when you are not working?
It’s great to have people outside the industry but my friends from work are like family and we have the so much fun both at work and outside of work. We are constantly wanting to be the best versions of ourselves and lift each other up! I think a good balance is very healthy.
Most ballerinas begin their training at a very young age, what would your advice be to a young person wanting to succeed?
I would say stay true to yourself. Be kind, genuine, humble and courageous but give it your absolute all. If you truly love it, don’t let setbacks stand in your way. Your imperfections make you unique and beautiful. Embrace them and work damn hard because it’s worth it if you have the passion.
It will teach you so much about yourself if you let it. Just always remain kind to yourself, others and the art form.
You can vote for Isobelle Dashwood in the Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards at www.telstra.com/ballet. Voting closes on 17 November 2019.