Amy Harris’s dancing has been described as heavenly and spellbinding. We asked The Australian Ballet senior artist and two times Telstra People’s Choice Award winner about her path into ballet, and her new role as mum to baby Willow. This is what she told us.
Without the love and support I’ve had and still have from my family, especially my mum, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I grew up in a small country town in Victoria, and at the age of 10 I made the decision to further my ballet studies, which meant travelling an hour, four times a week, to attend a ballet school in Ballarat. My mum made the many trips down the highway every week, and we eventually added in two trips a week to Melbourne as well. There were many sacrifices made to make my dream come true and I am truly grateful for each and every one of them.
I successfully auditioned for the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne (pictured above) and left to attend the school in 1999. I graduated in 2001 and received a contract with the Australian Ballet as a corps de ballet member. I’ve now been with the company for the past 14 years. How time flies.
At the Australian Ballet, we’re fortunate enough to have a wonderful maternity plan, which allows dancers and mothers to return to the stage to continue to be creative. Motherhood has been one of the best things to have ever happened to me. I find I’m not sweating all of the small things anymore.
Parenthood has definitely changed me. Funnily enough, now that I’m a mother I’m a much less stressed and anxious person.
As a dancer, our days can vary quite a lot from a normal rehearsal day to a performance season. A typical day looked like this:
10:30am Ballet Class
Pilates, treatment, costume fittings, sewing pointe shoes and an ice bucket here and there – somehow all of this fits into a day. Now I just add in getting my baby up, feeding, playtime, sleeps, daycare, bath time, bedtime stories and bed.
Call me crazy, but I love it and wouldn’t change it for the world. I think as dancers you are just used to being on the go 24/7 – you don’t know any different!
I’ve always been the ‘clucky’ person. I’ve always dreamed of the day I had my own baby and had hoped I would love it and be a great mummy. It’s above and beyond anything I had ever imagined – a love like no other. I count my blessings every day that she is mine.
What’s surprised me most about becoming a mum is the love you can have for such a little human. You can waste time (but it’s completely not wasting time) just staring at them. I could watch her all day long!
Being a team with my husband and staying organised and on top of things helps me parent well. We’ve got our own little routine happening and it works perfectly for our little family.
For me, the drive is to always be a better version of myself than the day before or my last performance. I’ve always had a fire in my belly, even through some of the tougher times. Dancing is most definitely both creative and athletic.
Playing ‘Hanna’ in the Merry Widow has been a highlight in my career. This was my first full-length ballet as the leading lady and a very special time in my career.
I do include my family in my work and I wouldn’t have it any other way. When preparing to return to work I was able to take Willow into my Pilates sessions and watch class, and I’ve documented this special time on my Instagram account.
Within our ballet family, we have had many of our ballerinas have babies and return to the stage. I have really had SO much support, guidance and help along the way, which has been amazing and I am so truly grateful for it. I’m lucky enough to always travel and be on tour with my husband and Willow. My mum is also touring with us for our shorter seasons to help look after Willow.
I wouldn’t stop Willow if she wanted to start ballet, like anything in life. If she has the desire, passion and drive for something then I am not going to stop her. I think ballet is wonderful for so many different reasons – discipline, coordination, confidence and friendships.
The best parenting advice I’ve been given is to take each day as it comes. Like us, babies are completely different from day to day, so don’t get ahead of yourself too much. Be organised, but don’t plan every little detail to a ‘T’ as it can quickly change!
The best career advice I’ve been given is, if you have a strong passion for something, never let anyone take that away. Use positive and negative experiences to light that fire inside of you.
If I were giving advice to other mums who want to combine their lives as creatives and caretakers, I’d tell them to go with what they’re feeling, and again, be organised.
Amy is one of six inspiring Australian women featured in the August 2015 issue of CHILD Mags. Pick up your copy to read advice on being a creative mother from Laura Blythman, Chantelle Ellem, Anna Walker, Christine Pobke and Beci Orpin.
31-year-old Amy Harris is a ballerina with The Australian Ballet. She lives with her husband, Jarryd Madden, also a dancer with The Australian Ballet, and their baby girl, Willow Ava Madden, in Melbourne. Follow Amy on Instagram.