Graceful, elegant ballet dancer Ella Chambers is currently touring the country with the Australian Ballet School – but this is definitely just one step for this phenomenally talented local dancer. Ella studied at La Vive in Port Macquarie, but the whole world’s a stage – and who knows where we’ll be able to see her perform next!
Hi Ella. What’s your family/school background in the Port Macquarie area?
I lived in Sydney before moving to Port with my family in 2007. When we came to visit my dad’s sister, who lives in Wauchope, we just fell in love with Port Macquarie. We moved to Lighthouse Beach, and soon my grandparents came from Sydney to retire in Port.
I started at St Columba Anglican School with my brother, Josh, and sister, Zoe.
How old were you when you first started dancing – and who have been some of your dance teachers over the years?
After moving to Port, Zoe wanted to start dance classes, and Mum thought it would be a good way to make friends, so I decided to give ballet a go.
At La Vive, I began to really love ballet and focus on it more, realising it could be a viable, yet difficult, career option. Miss Elizabeth and Miss Ashley really nurtured my love and grew my skill. They encouraged me to audition for the Australian Ballet School, and I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
What genres of dance are you most comfortable with (and why)?
Ballet, definitely. I also love contemporary and having more freedom with movement – I don’t find them easy, but far more natural than other styles like Hip Hop and Jazz. I still enjoy those styles, although my sister always laughs and says I look like a ballerina when trying them.
When/how did you get your “break” with a national ballet school?
In 2013, I auditioned for the Australian Ballet School’s full-time program, and got in for the following year. So when I was 14 years old, my family and I moved down to Melbourne so I could complete the next part of my training.
Now I’m in my fifth and final year at the school, and although it’s been physically, emotionally and mentally difficult, training at this school has shaped me as a dancer and person. Coming towards the end of it, I’m glad I can say it’s been worthwhile and I’ve enjoyed it.
How long have you now been dancing with the Australian Ballet Company … and what does a typical day’s work with this company involve?
I’m still with the school, but I’ve been touring with the company for the past few weeks. We’re nearing the end of our six week Dancer’s Company Regional Tour, which is an amazing opportunity for the graduate year at the Australian Ballet School to perform with members of the company and gain incredible professional company experience.
A day on tour is very different to a day at the ballet school, which is usually around 8:30 – 5. On tour we start 10:30 – 11. Our days end before 3pm if we just have rehearsals, or past 10pm if we have a night show. Most of our shows are at night, so we’ll have class and rehearsals in the morning until about 2:30. Then we’ll have a few hours’ break to relax, eat and do our hair and makeup before the show. We’ll have a short half hour class at 6:15 and then the show starts at 7:30 and ends around 10.
The shows are tiring, but I’ve been loving them!
We’ve caught up with you in between performances. What production/role are you currently dancing?
We’re performing Coppélia around Victoria, Queensland and Northern Territory. It’s a fairly big production and the Dancer’s Company is only about 30 dancers, so most of us have to double up on roles.
We have two casts, meaning many dancers do different roles in every second show. In the first cast, I’m a Mazurka dancer in the first act, and the Spanish doll in the second. I’m in Hours, a beautiful ballet piece on pointe, and Maidens for the third act in both casts. In the second cast, I play the Coppélia doll in Act 1 and 2.
What are your future career aspirations/goals?
My goal is to get into a ballet company and make it as a professional dancer. After I graduate this year, I’ll spend the summer and next year auditioning. I haven’t wanted to set my sights on one company, because auditions can be tough and crushing, but I really want to get into a company in Australia or Europe.
I’ve been studying French for the past few years, and although I’m nowhere near fluent, I love the language and dancing with a French speaking company would be really amazing.
I also want to move up in the ranks of a company, because I want to build up and be able to perform bigger and more challenging roles.
When you’re not dancing, what would we most likely find you doing?
Most of the time I’m either relaxing and taking some alone time, or hanging out with friends and family. I don’t have a lot of hobbies outside of dance, but a social life keeps me sane.
My friends and I love Melbourne’s night life (when we’re not too exhausted), so some weekends we’ll go out dancing in a very different setting to usual. I love spending time with family, whether it’s watching TV, family dinners, playing with our dog, Scout, or nights out. I’m so lucky to have had them with me for this whole journey in Melbourne.
Where can we follow your artistic journey/find out more about your career?
I post regular dance photos on Instagram following my journey (@ella.c.chambers). With ballet being unpredictable and having the ability to send people all over the world, I find social media a great way to keep up with and see how some of my friends who are dancing overseas are doing, and be inspired by all the different companies and dancers across the globe.
Interview: Jo Robinson.