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Meet Telstra Ballet Dancer Award Nominee Jasmin Durham

http://www.telstra.com/ballet

She considers it important “for a dancer to experience as much as possible in life, to fuel your movement” and it seems Jasmin has done just that.  She moved to Melbourne in 2009 to study at The Australian Ballet School, then performed on The Dancers Company tour in 2010 and 2011. 

While Jasmin joined the Australian Ballet in 2012 she explains she’s “never felt like a typical ballerina, it’s always been a fight.  You put a lot of pressure on yourself to look a certain way, to act a certain way”.

She says she was overwhelmed when her name was called out at the nominations for this Award and that she considers it a huge honour.

In her role as Telstra Ballet Dancer Award nominee Jasmin collaborated with Artist Anthony Lister. See what inspired them all in this short video, then read her exclusive Q&A with TheCarousel.com below.

What products are always in your makeup bag? 

On a daily basis I use a Clinique powder and eyebrow pencil, Nars eyeliner and Napoleon makeup brushes. I also use Moroccan oil in my hair to keep it looking healthy.

You mention that if you weren’t a dancer, you’d be a makeup artist. What interests you about doing makeup? 

I have always loved dressing up and to me that includes makeup. I think it’s a lot of fun to play with especially when you have a new role where you can use your imagination with colours and styles. I recently played the role of Stepmom in Cinderella and I was able to use multiple shades of purples and pinks on my eyes, massive fake eyelashes and a huge beauty spot on my cheek. It was definitely a look I could only pull off in that circumstance, but that’s why I love it.

My close friends know that I’m not having a great day when I show up to class with red lipstick on. It’s completely unnecessary as you sweat it off anyway but it gives me that little bit of confidence that I need to get through the day. I enjoy that little bit extra effort to make myself feel presentable and sometimes you just have to ‘fake it till you make it’.

What does the diet of a ballet dance really look like on a daily basis?

My favourite meal of the day is breakfast. Sometimes I soak muesli at night in orange juice and eat it in the morning with fruit and yoghurt. I love having bacon and eggs on toast or peanut butter and honey on toast. I love going out for breakfast. My favourite places are Tall Timber and Journey Man in Melbourne. I never go without a morning coffee; it is definitely one of my favourite daily rituals. Lunch is usually a sandwich or a salad from the deli with a yoghurt and dinner is meat and veggies or a stir fry, snacks throughout the day are usually chocolate, fruit, nuts and more chocolate. What I eat is different every day and is tweaked by how I’m physically feeling and what my workload is like. Before certain shows I need a massive grill’d burger to get through.

Do you ever have cheat days? What’s your food vice?

Like any normal person I definitely have cheat days. If there is something to celebration or a social event I don’t want to be the person that doesn’t eat or drink, it’s very important to find a balance. My favourite treats are chocolate and ice-cream, preferable together. I love a good glass of wine or two and I absolutely love pizza, especially after a big night out.

What commitment/training did it require (from what age) (I.e. physical strength and stamina, a tough skin to get through the set-backs, determination to succeed, commitment to the training and lifestyle 24/7).

I started dancing when I was three years old. Before I knew what ballet actually involved I developed a love for the simple joy of movement. I studied ballet at a local ballet school in Canberra and at thirteen my training became more intense as I was taken out of school twice a week for advanced classes. My training involved preparing solos for eisteddfods and shows. I will never forget my first solo performance. There was nothing I didn’t love about the experience, the hair, the makeup, the costumes, the lights. I remember the silence in the room and in my mind. That’s when I knew it was right for me and it was something that I wanted to be a top priority.

For some of my friends at school their priorities were to have a boyfriend, get drunk and party. Ballet required me to have a thick skin and know that if I wanted to be a ballet dancer I had to be at the top of my game and make a few sacrifices. I was an extremely determined young lady growing up. Those things my friends were interested in didn’t appeal to me, and now I’m glad I didn’t follow the trend and did what I felt was the right thing for me.

I believe perseverance and self-confidence are very important while training to become a professional dancer. I was turned down four times by The Australian Ballet School, which is where I wanted to be. I promised myself I would audition until I was too old to (which is around 16). On my fifth audition at the age of 16 I was successful and I’m so happy I persevered and didn’t give up on myself or my dream.

Ballet does feel like a battle with myself sometimes, but to me it’s something worth fighting for. I believe determination and hard work is key. I have to remind myself how lucky I am to have something in my life that makes me feel this way.

What’s the biggest misconception about ballerinas?

The biggest misconception about ballet dancers is that we are all bun heads with extremely strict lifestyles. Don’t get me wrong we are all disciplined and we have all worked hard to get where we are but it is important to balance your outside life and experience as much as you can. Your own personal experiences can inspire your artistry which is why you mustn’t deprive yourself too much of enjoying what life has to offer.

Dancers do eat! It is impossible to perform every night and rehearse everyday if you don’t eat properly. I want to feel fit, energetic and most importantly healthy, that is equally important to me as aesthetic.

Another misconception is that you have to fit a certain mould. I’ve realised that what I’ve always wanted to change about myself and what sets you apart can also be a strength. All dancers need to find the balance between striving for what you want to become and not apologise for what you already have to offer.

What was the most creative/enjoyable/difficult/unexpected aspect of your collaboration with Anthony Lister?

Anthony Lister is one of Australia’s most renowned contemporary artists, so it was a privilege to work with him. Anthony and I are very different people, when we first spoke he had no idea what ballet involved and equally I had no idea about street art and what it would be like to go to court. We both had no idea what to ask each other, he asked me “do you ever use kung fu as a ballet warm up?” It was very awkward at the start as all I could do was nervously laugh. It was difficult for us to communicate with words, however once I started dancing and he started painting it became a lot easier. Collaborating with Anthony’s art taught me that we shared in common than I had initially thought. We both had an outlet to express ourselves. What connects artists together is creativity. We all have a blank canvas, we all have the tools to create, whether it’s the stage or a surface, movement or paint.

What do you love about the fashion/costumes you get to wear in these beautiful productions?

One of the many things I love about this profession are the costumes. I love telling a story, and the costume is always the final touch and what makes the dancers and the audience understand who and what we are trying to portray. I feel so beautiful in some costumes, I feel so vulnerable in others but that can be liberating at the same time. I used to play dress ups in my mums wardrobe as a kid and I basically feel like this is the older version. I can also appreciate how hard the designers and wardrobe department work as my mum used to make costumes for my old ballet school in exchange for free tuition for my sister and I. Our living room was flooded with tutu tulle and half made costumes and my mum used to put a lot of her time and effort into it just so I could dance. I am very grateful to her and anyone who contributes to the stunning costumes that I am lucky enough to wear.

How would you describe your off-duty style?

I see myself as versatile with how I like to dress. Most days I try to look quite polished and simple. I like accessories and things that compliment the feminine shape. I adore beautiful handbags and watches and never leave the house without earrings on. In winter I mostly live in heeled boots, black pants, coloured knits and a big coat, otherwise I love the ‘boyfriend jeans’ look or distressed denim. In summer it’s usually high denim shorts and a cropped tee. I love feeling glamorous and never miss an opportunity such as an opening night function or a party where I can dress up and wear my stilettos.

What do you see yourself doing after your ballet career?

I would eventually like to teach ballet. Not full time, as I would like to explore new things, but I feel I’ve been given so much from my experience as a dancer and feel strongly about giving back. In the meantime during my career as a dancer I would like to study makeup and teaching courses so the transition into my post career life is a lot easier.

To find out more about the Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards go to telstra.com/ballet.

Written by TheCarousel

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