Australian Ballet dancer Dimity Azoury has been centre stage since she was four but pointe-work and pirouettes aren’t the only exercises she swears by.
The professional ballerina, who has graced stages from Paris to New York is about to take a leading role in this year’s production of Nijinsky at the Sydney Opera House. Here, Azoury talks honestly about how much she actually works out, how she copes with pressure and the one food she eats every day. And no, it’s not kale leaves or chia seeds.
What does a typical day look like for you – including meals, training and unwinding?
“Usually, I wake up pretty sore after a day of rehearsals, and start my day with a hot shower to get my muscles eased into the day. Then I have my breakfast, in winter that will be porridge but in summer it could be toast or cereal. I’m not a huge breakfast-eater but that’s definitely a personal thing – not a diet thing. I then go for a nice walk in the park to get some fresh air and spend some time with my husband.
“Then, I cycle to work and do some Pilates for about hour and then class starts at 10:30, which is a technical ballet class. After that I have a snack, and the I rehearse from 2.30 pm for most of the afternoon. I’ll cycle home again and generally go for another walk to unwind, have dinner and go to bed – it’s usually pretty late by then.”
What is the biggest challenge you face as a professional ballerina?
“I guess you kind of only find things difficult a bit later in your career. Early on I was so ballet-focused, but as you grow up a bit you do find other things in your life, which is a lot healthier mentally.
“It’s hard when you don’t have weekends, but you just have to be more organised with seeing friends, chores, that kind of thing.”
Lots of dancers have spoken out about struggling with body image. How do you deal with the pressure?
“It’s a tricky question, in a way. I think it’s really hard not to be worried about that kind of thing – but you just can’t live like that. It’s not healthy to be constantly worried about your weight.
“It’s really something that you have to deal with from early on, but I think you need to focus on having a healthy body and one that can sustain you through 200 shows a year. We do so much exercise so to stress about your weight on top of that is really draining.
“Ultimately though, we’re all human. But I think also other stressors can come out in that way – you think ‘maybe if I looked different then this situation would change’ – but it doesn’t, so you have to keep dealing with stress as it comes and not let it get to you in other ways.”
How do you stay focused – especially as your health and wellness are interconnected with your career?
“Being able to let go at the end of the day is very important. I think that’s why I find my walks and cycling very important. It is just a way to unwind and not dwell on things that have happened during the day – which can be tricky because our jobs are our passion and so it’s all-encompassing.”
What do you do on a rest day?
“I like to do is something active outdoors – like a hike – and then rest. I love to eat some good food – I’m a dinner girl myself, most people go out for breakfasts but I like to have a big early dinner at 4pm!”
When you are stressed, what do you do to relax?
“Recently, when I did get a bit overwhelmed and stress I did start working on my breathing and a little bit of meditation. I started with meditation, sort of an all body awareness thing but I actually brought it down to a breathing thing because it’s a lot simpler.
“I took some time out each morning and evening to just breathe. You find it hard to get into at first but at the end of the five or ten minutes I do feel calmer and more settled.”
Is there a skincare tip you’ve picked up on from all the years of stage make-up and dancing?
“I’ve only recently had to start looking after my skin. I’m 27 now and I’ve always been so lucky with my skin – but earlier this year I’ve noticed – I guess from all the makeup and the constant putting it on and taking it off – that my skin has become very dry and chapped.
“I recently went to Aesop and I bought a lot of different things – like their toner, vitamin E serum and a moisturiser – and I use just those three things in the morning and after a show. It’s really helped me.”
What’s your favourite pre-training snack?
“I think bananas are always good if I need a boost, but before a show I don’t like to be hungry – but you also don’t want to be too full. I like to have a good meal at 4-4.30pm so it gives me time to digest. I usually go for rice and vegetables; I’m a bit of a carb girl. But we’re all very different – diet and nutrition is all very personal – so what I do won’t necessarily work for everyone else.”
What’s the best fitness tip you’ve learnt in your training?
“Everything complements each other! I really enjoy the dancing, the cycling, the walking the Pilates, I like to swim in summer when we’re in Sydney and it’s all those different things that make me feel good – it’s not one thing.”
Is there something about your health and wellness routine that would surprise people?
“My obsession with ice cream! I have to have ice cream every day. I think the most devastated I’ve ever been is that half-way through a show I got a message from my husband saying ‘I’ve eaten all of your Messina, sorry’.”
Nijinsky opens 11 November at Sydney Opera House.
October 28, 20163:23pm