Cupcakes & Conversation with Brooke Lockett, Coryphée, The Australian Ballet

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Cupcakes & Conversation with Brooke Lockett, Coryphée, The Australian Ballet

ballet dancer stands at the barre in white tutu

Brooke Lockett Photograph : James Braund

What motivates you at 8am on a Monday morning ? (or Tuesday if that is the first day of your working week)

Coffee! No it’s the excitement of beginning a new week fresh and the prospect of new challenges, new opportunities and potentially wonderful moments created in the studio and on stage that gets me up. I like to start my week open minded and motivated to work hard. Monday morning you are ironing out the creases and starting afresh…

Why ballet ?

I have loved dancing to music since I can remember. I love the discipline, hard work and most of all performing on stage. The idea of telling a story through movement has always intrigued me, but it’s the grace, athleticism and artistry of ballet that fascinates me the most.

What are you looking forward to dancing during 2013 & what are the big challenges likely to be for you ?

2012 has been a massive year for me and I have enjoyed many wonderful opportunities on and off stage so I look forward to that hopefully continuing in 2013. We are starting the year with Don Quixote which is one of my favourite ballets. I love the vivaciousness, energy and passion involved in the production and as a coryphee there are some fabulous group pieces to be a part of and some wonderful soloist roles to feel challenged. Our triple bill Vanguard – consisting of Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929 and Kylian’s Bella Figura, is a programme I’m really thrilled about. It’s a wonderful mix for not only the audience members but also for the dancers to explore an array of movement and emotion in one evening.

Who would you most like to dance with & what would you dance ?

Giselle is a ballet I adore and always dream to do – there is so much scope for character development and I think the mad scene would be sublime to do. But I guess the roles that I am most passionate about are the story ballets, the heart-wrenching, spine-tingling scenes are the moments you yearn to experience on stage as a dancer. Manon and Romeo and Juliet would be at the top of the list and to dance with someone like dear friend David Hallberg would be a dream come true. Isn’t it lovely to dream…

If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance ?

There are so many breathtaking theatres in the world but if I could dance anywhere I would say somewhere spectacular like Tuscany or somewhere in France. A cliff face over a beautiful ocean would be exquisite too. The idea of ballet being performed in such glorious settings is an incredible thought.

The Narrative of Nothing (Infinity triple bill): photographer Jeff Busby, dancers Charles Thompson and Brooke Lockett

The Narrative of Nothing (Infinity triple bill): photographer Jeff Busby, dancers Charles Thompson and Brooke Lockett

How do you prepare your pointe shoes ?

Although my shoe is custom-made, every pair can be slightly different so I tend to cater to what I need at the time. I always shave the outer sole and squash them in the door to flatten the vamp. I like them soft and subtle and to really hug my foot. Finally I sew ribbons and elastic on them.

What is your daily routine at the moment ?

We are currently in a Swan Lake season in Sydney and my day starts with some pilates and stretching, followed by a ballet class and then we have been rehearsing some things for our 2013 season as we are about to go on our annual summer break. Some days I get a massage or physiotherapy in my break and I always try and get some fresh air before coming back into the theatre. I like coming in before a show with a clear mind and positive head space. I get into the theatre at about 5pm to shower, do my hair and makeup, warm up and prepare for a 7:30 show. Post-show I do an ice bath whilst removing my makeup and then enjoy a light supper when I get home before some much needed sleep. And then if there is any window of opportunity I like to read, listen to music, get to the beach, catch up with friends and enjoy life.

What do you eat during the course of a typical working day ?

I start my day with either some fruit and yogurt or muesli and always a coffee. For lunch I usually have some sort of salad or sushi and dinner is when I try and fuel myself for the following day and get all the nutrients my body needs to feel healthy and strong. My favourite dish at the moment is grilled salmon with vegetables. I have a very healthy lifestyle but am by no means perfect and my sweet tooth sometimes gets the better of me. Everything in moderation is what I like to think is ok.

You can ask six famous people to dinner – who would you invite ?

Barack Obama, Chris Martin, Baryshnikov, Kate Middleton, Valentino and Meryl Streep.

What would surprise people about you ?

I love the wilderness and trekked up a mountain earlier this year. As much as I love the city and glamour, the country air and the beach is what my soul truly loves and I’m always up for a little adventure.

Who inspired you to dance ?

Life and music inspires me to dance and the people I love and adore in my life inspire me daily. Walking out of the theatre and speaking to someone who has been moved emotionally by a performance is a constant inspiration. My Mum is without a doubt my biggest inspiration – if it wasn’t for her sending me to ballet class at three years old and supporting me the entire way through, none of it would have happened or been possible.

Beyond Twelve (Icons triple bill): photographer Jeff Busby, dancers Rudy Hawkes and Brooke Lockett

Beyond Twelve (Icons triple bill): photographer Jeff Busby, dancers Rudy Hawkes and Brooke Lockett

What is your best piece of advice ?

Believe and never give up!!

How do you prepare in the hours before a show ?

I like to feel calm before a show so I always listen to music that will set the mood. Doing my hair and makeup is a vital part to my pre show routine. I am meticulous about my grooming on stage and it’s those moments when I sit down at my desk and it’s just me and the mirror – that is when I start thinking about who I am becoming on stage that evening. I do a company warm-up barre and then the last thing I do is brush my teeth, put my lipstick on and spray myself with perfume (Chanel Chance is my scent of choice at the moment).

How do you deal with the stress of performing ?

It’s funny because I feel like the older I am, the more stressed and nervous I seem to be. Perhaps it’s just that the roles I am doing are getting harder and the pressure I put on myself is rising. When I am extremely nervous I need to mentally focus and be alone and quiet. Your mind can conquer anything. At the end of the day what we do is entertainment so I always try and keep that in mind.

Which role has tested you the most & how ?

At this moment in my career I guess it’s the technical pieces that have really challenged me the most but they have also been the most rewarding ballets. Etudes, Suite en Blanc and Ballet Imperial were all testing physically. Stanton Welch’s Divergence is a piece that you cannot stop concentrating for a second but I love that feeling and the sense of achievement you feel when you come off stage. Any role where I feel uncertain of my character or the story I am telling tests me as that is my safety net and telling a story is what I feel confident in doing.

If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create ?

It would definitely be a tutu as that is, in my eyes, the most stunning costume a ballerina can wear. There would be lace and glitz and it would be incredibly elegant yet chic and subtle. Possibly something regal and it would be fitted to the female body like a glove. It would be a costume that the entire audience gasps at and the dancer wearing it would feel like the most beautiful woman on stage.

What do you look for in a dance partner ?

Kindness, sensitivity, musicality, trust and most importantly, chemistry.

What is your favourite quote ?

 Courage is the small quiet voice at the end of the day saying try again tomorrow.

“If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.” Tom Hanks

Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you ?

Petit Allegro… I’m a jumper and have a natural spring.

A phrase I use far too often is … ?

“I can’t stop smiling because…”

Etudes (50th Anniversary Gala): photographer Jeff Busby, dancers Sharni Spencer, Dimity Azoury and Brooke Lockett (right)

Etudes (50th Anniversary Gala): photographer Jeff Busby, dancers Sharni Spencer, Dimity Azoury and Brooke Lockett (right)

What’s been your best on-stage moment so far ?

Performing the lead in Graeme Murphy’s Beyond Twelve on opening night in Melbourne and Sydney this year. It’s a piece I watched and fell in love with ten years ago as a student at The Australian Ballet School. To be cast in the role was a privilege, let alone going on for opening night and having my parents in the audience. Performing Cygnets in Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake on our international tours to places like Paris and New York would be up there too.

Do you have a secret skill which no-one knows about ?

I’m not so sure… I love interacting with people and I really enjoy public speaking but my closest friends would tell you my secret skill is luck. I tend to be in the right place at the right time…

In terms of your ballet career, where would you like to be in a year from now ?

I hope to be progressing as an artist and getting more opportunities to be challenged and fulfilled artistically. In this career you never know where you could be in a year from now so I tend to never think too far ahead. I had surgery on my knee two years ago and that was a big lesson for me in how I go about my career development and learning to love and appreciate the moment. It’s an extremely short career and you need to seize the moment. I go into every performance trying to get as much out of it as I can. It could all be over tomorrow so I just want to enjoy tonight and hopefully take some audience members on a wonderful journey. I have been with the company for seven years now so I guess I am more determined and passionate about getting everything I want out of this incredible career. I am also very proud of what I have already achieved and future opportunities are a wonderful bonus.

What is your exit strategy, for the time when you stop dancing, and how did you plan it ?

That’s a good question… I’m not scared of the future and as much as nothing will ever replace ballet or imprint on my soul like it does, the future does excite me. We lack interaction with people and looking people in the eye on a daily basis in this profession. I don’t know if you ever really know when it’s time to hang up the pointe shoes but I do know that I want to go out on top and I want to exit with wonderful memories and a love for dance. Ballet is an extraordinary lifestyle but one you make sacrifices for and your loved ones are constantly missing out, as spare time isn’t really part of the job description. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t change a thing and I gain things in this profession that I will never experience again, but the freedom post-ballet and success in my next career is something I look forward to. I try to not fear it. No matter what the future holds, ballet will always be my first love and a massive part of my life. I will miss that feeling you get when you are on stage striving for that balance between control and abandon – that is what I love. To be a ballerina is a privilege and the joy of movement is truly exhilarating, but you cannot dance forever so an exit strategy is important, I believe.

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