In the first of her series of chats with inspirational women, TV broadcaster Chris Bath talks to Australian Ballet Soloist and four times Telstra Ballet Dancer Award Nominee Robyn Hendricks. Robyn is currently appearing in The Australian Ballet's spectacular production of Sleeping Beauty.
Besides how the South-African born artist started dancing as a young girl, they talk love, marriage, family and how to react when your dancing partner drops you during a live performance!
The conversation starts with Chris demonstrating one of the tougher aspects of a ballet dancer’s art! Hit ‘play’ to see the interview and vision of Robyn in several of her performances. But here’s the transcript if reading’s more your thing.
Chris: Can I just point out to people… listen to this (knock, knock, knock on one of Robyn’s pointe shoes). How do your toes get used to this?
Robyn: (laughs) They just do. You know we’re in these shoes for hours on end and you just build up the hard skin on your feet.
Chris: You’re an amazing dancer.
Robyn: Thank you.
Chris: Amazing. (vision of Robyn on stage)
Chris: So you work with your husband.
Chris: He’s in the company.
Robyn: Charles is in the company.
Chris: And he proposed in New York?
Robyn: He proposed after my first show back after being off with one of my injuries. It was a pretty special moment, it was a hard road back from injury to coming back to dancing and obviously I was ecstatic to be back on stage and then we went out that night with a few of our friends and he popped the question. So this is my engagement ring and my wedding band. Obviously Charles proposed to me with this ring. It’s a little bit different. I think he chose it because he knew I like things which are a little bit different – something that not necessarily everyone else has, so he went with the yellow diamond which is one of my favourites.
Chris: So he did well.
Robyn: He did really well. You know, there’s something really special about being with someone who has the same passions as you and he obviously understands how hard this job is and how much I have to put in to get the results out on stage and he’s inspirational to me too because he’s got that same drive and determination. I can’t imagine not working with him.
Chris: So when dancers go out partying… when you go out with Charles… do you take over the dance floor somewhere?
Robyn: Yeah, absolutely (laughs).
Chris: One of the best things I’ve ever seen you in was Swan Lake and you were the Black Swan and you were the most evil Black Swan I’ve ever seen in my life, but I know you’re not an evil person. How do you do that?
Robyn: I think for me I really get into being a different character and the Black Swan, she has so many dark evil characteristics in her and of course it’s always nice to be the character that you’re not. It was definitely one of the highlights of my career.
Chris: A lot of little girls start ballet very early – from the moment they can walk and talk. You were late coming to it in modern day terms – you were eight.
Robyn: Yeah, I was eight which is considered quite late for a girl. I was quite heavily into sports and ballet was something that I knew nothing about and my family knew nothing about either. Growing up in South Africa, ballet’s not really a big thing and a lot of people don’t understand dance as a career, so there were a lot of challenges there. I knew that I had to leave my family and come overseas if I was really serious about it and I have a really supportive family and they’ve been there every step of the way, they put me on the plane and got me to the Australian Ballet School.
Chris: Have they seen you dance?
Robyn: My mum has my dad hasn’t seen me dance yet.
Robyn: It’s just never really worked out.
Chris: So do you send him videos home?
Robyn: Lots of photos of different costumes in different productions. But it’s never the same as seeing live theatre so hopefully… one day.
Chris: So would you say ballet dancers are intelligent?
Chris: Cos there’s so much to remember and it’s split-second timing. Especially when someone’s throwing you around in the air and you’re landing face down to the floor with legs up in the air. I know this is a question you probably get asked a lot – but have you ever been dropped?
Robyn: A few times.
Chris: Live on stage?
Robyn: Live on stage. Yes.
Chris : How do you recover from that?
Robyn : You just laugh. I’ve just laughed it off. It comes with the job you know, and usually those are the shows you will always remember. Those things just happen, it’s live theatre.
Chris: So, who’s your inspiration?
Robyn: Obviously I’m really inspired by the people I work with every day – I work with a team of incredible athletes – artists. I’m very inspired by my family, especially my dad. He’s worked incredibly hard to be the man he is today. He grew up during apartheid and him and his family had a really hard time. They got kicked out of their home when my dad was not even 13 and his Mum had three jobs to put him through school and she put him through university. He’s probably one of the most qualified people I know today. He’s done amazing things and he continues to do amazing things and he has helped so many other people along the way. He’s very inspiring. I’d like to think I’m a lot like him, that I have his drive and his determination.
Chris: Well, it sounds like you do. Thanks so much for talking to us, and best of luck with Sleeping Beauty.
Robyn: Thank you.