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A typical day in the life of a ballet dancer

Donna Coutts, October 28, 2020 7:00PM Kids News

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Naomi Hibberd (centre). Picture: Prudence Upton media_cameraNaomi Hibberd (centre). Picture: Prudence Upton

arts

Reading level: green

It’s not all tutus and glittery makeup: dancer Naomi Hibberd’s day revolves around eating endless avocados and a lot of other high-energy food.

As well as avocados, there are nuts, fruit, meat, vegetables, curries and stir fries on her daily menu to get enough long-lasting energy to make it through from wake-up until midnight when she’s performing. And sugary foods just don’t do the job.

Ms Hibberd is one of Australia’s most recognisable dancers, performing with organisations including Opera Australia, The National Dance Theatre of Australia and Sydney Dance Theatre. She was a principal dancer in a European tour of a production of Peter and the Wolf, was a dancer in Dance Academy The Movie and has performed in and choreographed* music videos and advertisements.

She’s also the star of an episode of the Who’s In the Lift online series by the Sydney Opera House, in which children interview dancers, musicians and technicians about their jobs.

To celebrate World Ballet Day on October 29, Kids News asked Ms Hibberd about a typical day and some questions about what it’s like being a dancer. Here’s what she had to say.

Sydney Opera House ballet dancer Naomi for media_cameraNaomi Hibberd loves dancing because she enjoys the feeling of moving. Picture: Matt Dolin

WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT BEING A DANCER?
I enjoy the feeling of moving, I always loved the sensation* of moving around and I get to do it all day. I love the exploring of stories and characters as well, it’s like being an actress.

WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF BEING A DANCER?
I love my early bedtime so sometimes staying up late to do shows can be the hardest part. Often a show won’t finish ’til 10.30pm some nights so I don’t get to bed until midnight.

DO YOU GET REALLY TIRED?
I do but your body gets used to the amount of work and the more you do it, the easier it becomes so it can be harder after a holiday like Christmas.

I make sure I eat plenty of food throughout the day, whenever I have a break really. I have long sleeps to a full eight hours and always make sure I warm up and cool down before and after a day of dancing.

DO YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO EAT HEALTHY FOOD?
I try to eat healthy but for me it is eating food that will give me long-burning energy such as meat and brown carbohydrates*. Not too much sugar for me as I know that 30 minutes after I eat it I will be really tired again. I love avocados so I eat a lot of avocados as well.

media_cameraVegetables, nuts, meat and avocado help keep Naomi Hibberd’s energy levels up during a long day or rehearsal and performance.

DO YOU GET NERVOUS?
I used to get nervous and I would always take three deep, slow breaths to try and calm my nerves. Also going over all of the steps side stage just before I went on to make sure I felt 100 per cent prepared.

I don’t really get nervous much anymore as I have performed so much that it has become normal to me. (It’s like being nervous for your first day of school but after a while you don’t get nervous to go to school anymore.)

WHAT IS YOUR GOAL IN BALLET? HAS THAT CHANGED OVER TIME?
My goal was always to have amazing legs and feet but at a certain age I realised that I had to be happy with the legs and feet that I had and learn how to adapt certain things to make them look better. I also focused on my arms and upper body more as I realised that was my strength.

Performance is now my biggest goal. I would like to be the best performer I can be as I find that really exciting.

VIDEO: Naomi and Rhys dancing during an episode of the Sydney Opera House’s online series Who’s In The Lift

Naomi and Rhys dancing to of Who's In The Lift series

NAOMI’S TYPICAL DAY

  • 6am: I will wake up at 6am, have breakfast, which is usually toast with avocado and a coffee. Get ready for the day, pack a few different varieties of dance clothes as well as different shoes. I take my dog out for a long walk along the bay. Make sure I have enough snacks for throughout the day.
  • 9am: Ballet class for 1.5 hours. Break for 15 minutes – I usually eat fruit or nuts.
  • 10.45am or 11am: Start rehearsal for whatever show is next.
  • 1pm: Lunch break for an hour. I sometimes have a shower here to freshen up if I have been working really hard. I will usually have a decent lunch like a big salad with meat or a toasted sandwich of some kind or even last night’s dinner leftovers.
  • 2pm: More rehearsals of performance.
  • 5pm: I will sometimes teach ballet to kids or if not I usually go to the park again with my dog and do some extra business work.
  • 7.30pm: Dinner — meat and vegetables, maybe stir fry, curry (I eat everything).
  • 8pm: Shower and a bit of a stretch and cool down for the day.
  • 9.30pm or 10pm: In bed.

And do it all again the next day!

GLOSSARY

  • choreographed: designed the dance moves
  • sensation: feeling
  • brown carbohydrates: rather than more highly processed versions. Includes brown and wild rice, wholemeal pasta and bread

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. How does Naomi feel if she just eats sugary foods?
  2. How did Naomi control her nerves before performing when she was starting out?
  3. What is her biggest goal now?
  4. What sort of pet does Naomi have?
  5. What does Naomi typically have for dinner?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Questioning skills
Think of somebody who has an occupation that you admire. Make a list of at least 6 interview questions that you would like to ask them, that would help you to better understand what their job involves and whether it might be a good choice of occupation for you in the future.

(You can use the questions in the interview with Ms Hibberd to guide you but please don’t just copy all of the same questions. Be original!)

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Personal and Social Capability

2. Extension
Ms Hibberd has a very healthy lifestyle! Identify 3 things that she does each day that you could do too to stay fit and well.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education

VCOP ACTIVITY
Up-Level It
Scan through the article and see if you can locate three words that you consider to be basic, or low level. Words we use all the time and they can be replaced by more sophisticated words, words like good and said are examples of overused words.

Once you have found them, see if you can up-level them. Think of synonyms you could use instead of these basic words, but make sure they still fit into the context of the article.

Re-read the article with your new words.

Did it make it better?

Why/Why not?

HAVE YOUR SAY: What would you like and not like about being a dancer?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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