08 Apr a day in the life of a dancer
Australian Ballet Principal Artist Amy Harris returned to the stage after the birth of her daughter Willow in November 2014 with her soloist husband, Jarryd Madden. She lets us in on her day in the life as a ballerina and mother.
6-7am Willow is a good little sleeper. She was kind to us – we settled into a natural routine pretty quickly. We all get up, she has her bottle, we have a play and have breakfast together. Then we drop her off at daycare and head to work. She just started at daycare in January. She’s a sociable little thing and is doing well.
10:30am-11:45am This is our warm-up time. We do barre and then come into the centre of the room for more classwork.
12 noon-2:30pm It’s rehearsals, which might be the whole company or solo calls, depending on the day.
Lunch At lunch, we also have time for appointments like physio, and there’s a Pilates space upstairs.
3:45-6:30pm More rehearsals. It’s Swan Lake and Cinderella at the moment.
6:30-8pm We pick Willow up from daycare on the way home. It’s open until 8pm. Then it’s bath, bottle and bed. When it’s performance season, we stop at 3pm and it’s wonderful. We can pick her up, take her to the park or for a swim, and we then have a nanny to do the night routine. I can be on stage and know she’s happily asleep.
I have a lot of help from my mum, who comes on tour with us. Ballet is a short career; we’ll do as much as we can for as long as we can. We have our guilty days, but hopefully, Willow looks at us and sees our passion, drive and dedication and uses it as inspiration later in life.
I stopped dancing at 31 weeks and lapped up the long break. It’s the first I’ve ever had in my 15-year career. If we can’t dance at the Ballet, we go on what they call ‘safe duties’. While I was pregnant, I got to work with the philanthropy team and company management and see what was involved in organising international tours. It was mind-blowing. I’m so grateful to have had that time and now have a greater understanding of what happens behind the scenes.
I had to have a caesarean and for the first three months, I did nothing but be with my family and get a grip on being a mum. Then I started light Pilates and coming up to a year, gradually built up to classwork and my return to stage. We have an amazing set up at the Ballet with a medical team who oversaw my return.
People say to me, ‘You’re dancing better than ever.’ I used to be a stressed, anxious person, but now I put my baby first, I’ve been living more in the moment. Being in a room with 70 or so dancers with that creative flow all around you, I’ve learned not to take it for granted. It’s a crazy but wonderful ride. I feel very, very lucky and blessed. Having this little girl and sharing the world of dance with her is wonderful.
This article was originally published as En Pointe in the March 2016 issue of CHILD Mags / Photography: Sarah Black
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Amy is currently on maternity leave from the Australian Ballet and will not perform in the current season (2019)