Meet Telstra Ballet Dancer Award Nominee Robyn Hendricks
Robyn began ballet classes aged eight after her grandfather observed her dancing on her toes all the time. Growing up in an academic family, Robyn was the first family member to pursue a creative passion. Robyn travelled to Melbourne in 2001 to participate in the annual Cecchetti International Competition where she was approached by The Australian Ballet School and asked to audition formally for entrance into the prestigious national school.
During her time at The Australian Ballet School, Robyn was one of four students selected to participate in a student exchange to Canada, where she studied for four weeks with the National Ballet School in Toronto. She joined The Australian Ballet in 2005 and was promoted to soloist in 2011.
Robyn’s partner Charles Thompson is also a member of The Australian Ballet and outside of their dancing careers they are also interested in the horse breeding industry and own a horse together.
In her role as Telstra Ballet Dancer Award nominee, Robyn Hendricks collaborated with Installation Artist Zoe Porter. See what inspired them all in this short video, then read her exclusive Q&A with TheCarousel.com below.
What beauty products do you use when you’re getting ready backstage?
It’s so important to me to really take care of my skin. I don’t have that ‘perfect ‘ skin that we all wish we had so I’m very aware to not become lazy with my skincare routine, especially during performing seasons. The Australian Ballet does over 200 shows a year, so you can only imagine the amount of makeup that goes on and off my skin.
I tend to sweat more than most so I have to make an extra effort looking after my skin before and after each show. I guess over the years I’ve learned that less is more and that I don’t necessarily need the most expensive products to do the best job.
My favourite products are the Dermalogica Pre-cleanse, (which is a great pre-cleanser and works well as a makeup remover too), Cetaphil cleanser (I have tried many cleansers but I always seem to come back to this one) and I’ve just started using the Iluka light day cream and love it! It contains natural emollients such as grape seed oil, Shea butter and avocado oil to help maintain the skin’s hydration and suppleness. It’s a great natural skincare range that is Australian made and not tested on animals!
I do have many favourite makeup brands that I find work better on my skin. From Dior foundations, Bobbi Brown concealer and powders, Nars blushers, Napolean Perdis eyeshadows, Maybelline mascara and liquid liners and a range of lip colours from Chanel, Mac and YSL. Another beauty product I love to use just before heading on to stage is two sprays of perfume. I can’t go past the way Chanel No.5 Eau Premiere makes me feel. A very elegant and expensive ballerina.
Do you indulge in any beauty rituals to help you relax?
Everyone deserves to indulge from time to time and I most certainly do. I work pretty hard all year round on a pretty tight and restricting schedule, with numerous shows performed all across the country and overseas, back to back rehearsals and hours of other physical training outside of the studios. I like to reward myself with a facial or body scrub after long, hard seasons. It’s important to treat myself for all the hard work, effort and concentration, both mentally and physically. I also love a good manicure and pedicure. There is nothing better than when your skin feels clean, smooth, refreshed and renewed.
You’ve trained in South Africa, Australia and Canada – can you tell us about the differences?
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have had training in South Africa, my adopted home country, Australia and on exchange in Canada. The great thing about ballet and dance, is that it’s a universal language that is understood everywhere in the world. People can relate to it both physically and emotionally. Many countries have their own unique style, which is usually taught in the respective ballet schools. Their unique style is evident in the way they move and execute steps, but it is still understood by dancers all over the world. I think that’s what makes dance so interesting and incredibly exciting for dancers and the audiences. I think it’s one of the reasons why dance is still very much alive. We, as dancers, can all learn from these other styles and the way others train. It’s what can make us better as artists and stronger technicians. There is always something new to learn in dance and about ourselves. You just have to be open and willing to try new things, challenge yourself, fail as well as succeed and continue to educate yourself each day in and out of the studios.
You love horse riding – do you still find time to ride with all the training? Is it part of your fitness routine?
I do love horses. My husband, Charles, grew up on a stud farm and horses are such a big part of his childhood. He and his two brothers and sister rode horses as soon as they were able to, later doing dressage. His younger brother is a professional dressage rider today and although Charles doesn’t ride that often, he still amazes me that he can still to this day do all the fancy footwork on a horse! We’ve had many trips back to the farm (not as often as what we would like) and a few riding lessons here and there. It’s definitely more for enjoyment than for fitness for me although I do feel a little muscle work on the insides of my legs through my adductors and most definitely my lower gluteus! We have also been lucky enough to be part of breeding race horses. They are such beautiful animals and it’s a very special and unique journey to be part of watching them grow.
What sacrifices did you make along the way?
There are definitely sacrifices that I have made for my career. Moving away from my family and my home country at the age of 16 is probably one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face. It’s not easy to be on the other side of the world all by yourself. I had to grow up very quickly and learn to look after myself. All of a sudden, I was cooking and cleaning for myself, doing the laundry and groceries, learning to pay the rent and the bills as well as doing all my training and my school work during the day. As much as it’s physically demanding, I think it is just as much a mental challenge. You have to be so strong. It is the mental strength that makes you that much better. You have to be mentally strong to get through the challenges of everyday. I guess I missed out on a ‘normal’ social life growing up, but I’ve made lifelong friends in the ballet circle and have had so many great times with these wonderful people. As much as there is not much free time in our job, I make the effort to have friends outside of ballet too. It’s important to have that balance in my life.
I’ve never really worried about food. I’m aware I need to fuel my body with the correct food in order to deliver my best on stage and in the studio. But I was always taught that growing up and never robbed myself of the occasional sweet treat. There are many sacrifices and a huge amount of dedication and discipline you need to do this career. But it’s an amazing gift to be able to do what I am so passionate about every day and the one thing I truly love. I wouldn’t change anything about what I have done to be where I am right now.
What’s the biggest misconception about ballerinas?
The biggest misconception would definitely be that ballerinas do not eat. It makes me more sad than angry when I hear this because it shows just how uneducated society still is about this incredible art form and its muses. Some of society are not only uneducated about what we do, but also unaware how athletic, strong, fit and smart we have to be to do what we do day after day. There are numerous studies about elite dancers and sportsmen in Australia. Dancers were considered one of, if not, the fittest athletes!
What was the most creative/enjoyable/difficult/unexpected aspect of your collaboration with Zoe Porter?
Zoe is an Aussie gem. She is super talented, super creative and a quiet genius. I feel like she just allowed her creativity to happen rather than planning her every move which was so exciting not only for me but the entire crew on the day. I most enjoyed her gentle nature and her complete openness to discovering dance and who I was as a dancer artistically and technically. It was a wonderful experience to work with someone who has the same passion, love and drive for her passion as I do. We shared so many similarities in this way. The biggest challenge on the day was having to improvise in front of Zoe. I was very much out of my comfort zone and I definitely felt the pressure was on to show who I was and what I was about. But Zoe, as well as the awesome crew, was so calm and encouraging which put me at ease quickly. Zoe created something so beautiful and meaningful. I’m so proud that I got to be a part of her vision.
What do you love about the fashion/costumes you get to wear in these beautiful productions?
There is such a variety of costumes I get to wear, from the classical tutu to the unitards worn in the more contemporary works. It’s great to come into work and play dress ups every night, pretend you are someone different and create a different identity. There are some costumes that make you feel like a million dollars and you remember those ballets because of that. But then again there are the odd few that you would rather forget…
How would you describe your off-duty style?
I find it very difficult to sit still. I have to always be doing something or have something planned in my time off. I love the outdoors and the sunshine so I try to be out and about as much as I possibly can. I’m naturally quite an active person so I do enjoy running, biking and swimming as a relaxing activity as well as cardio. I love going out for breakfast and am always finding a new favourite brekkie spots.
What do you see yourself doing after your ballet career?
It is such an odd thought to think that ballet for me will eventually end but as I’m getting older I know that that day is getting closer. I’ve always been interested in a lot of different fields and my family have always been involved in many projects all through my childhood. There are a few charities I’m very passionate about and I’d love to help make a difference in other people’s lives. I’ve been so blessed with the opportunities I’ve had and I’d love others, particularly younger children and teens, to be able to experience some of these opportunities. I’m a huge believer in education and I do believe that everyone should have an opportunity for education to be available to them.
To find out more about the Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards go to telstra.com/ballet.