Interview with Ingrid Gow and Rina Nemoto: two of the nominees for the annual Telstra Ballet Dancer Award

This article brought to you by Telstra

The most prestigious accolade that you can receive as an up and coming ballet dancer in Australia is the TBDA, The Telstra Ballet Dancer Award. The annual prize is given to a promising young dancer, chosen from among six nominations put forward by their peers, decided by a board of industry judges. Another prize, The People’s Choice Award, is also bestowed upon the public’s favourite. [vote for your favourite dancer here]

The TBDA prize includes $20,000 while the People’s Choice comes with $5,000.

To celebrate 30 years of partnership with The Australian Ballet, Telstra has captured the incredible talent of this year’s nominees in a video series that uses light, colour and spectacular movement to showcase ballet like you’ve never seen it before.

We were lucky to enough to talk to the nominees for the 2014 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award. Here is our interview with Ingrid Gow and Rina Nemoto, and check out their incredible videos at the bottom of the page.

Ingrid was born in Sydney and studied ballet between there and New Zealand. She began dancing properly when she was four years old and has already toured China twice! When she’s not leaping and pirouetting she likes to kick back with a good crossword.

What were your first thoughts when you heard you had been nominated for the TBDA?
I was shocked. I didn’t think that I would ever be considered a candidate for this award. I am so grateful to my colleagues for giving me this opportunity.

You’ve said that you’re fashion-conscious, is this even when you’re dancing?
When I’m in the rehearsal studio is when I’m most relaxed and comfortable. I love choosing my everyday outfits in the mornings but once I’m in my leotard and warm-up gear, the only thing I have to accessorise with is my handbag and at the moment my favourite is my Givenchy Antigona.

Since you were four you wanted to be a dancer, what is your greatest ambition for your future career?
Every day I wake up and no matter how much I want to stay in bed I remind myself that I am living the dream and I do believe that this part of my life is the happiest I will ever be! I hope to continue dancing with The Australian Ballet for the full extent of my career.

Can you describe what it feels like to be performing ballet on stage?
There is an energy that surrounds you and your fellow performers once the curtain goes up. No matter how tired or distracted you are by what’s going on in your life, when the music starts all is forgotten. The adrenalin and excitement hits and all I feel is joy to be up on stage and living my dream of being a ballet dancer.

You’re a big crossword fan – here’s one for you: protected bird, walk proudly (4)
I think I’d have to go with ‘SWAN’ for this one!

Unlike most of her colleagues Rina studied Ballet exclusively abroad, moving between Japan, Paris and London where she studied at The Royal Ballet School. She is tri-lingual and joined The Australian Ballet in 2011.

When you were 15 you moved to Paris to study ballet, has your classic European training set you apart from your fellow nominees?
Most dancers in The Australian Ballet are from The Australian Ballet School, so I think that my case is a bit special. I think my dance style is more French because I learned classical ballet in France for two years, and when I was in Japan I watched videos of the Paris Opera Ballet all the time.

In my school in France one of my favourite dancers, Dominique Kalfouni (who was an Etoile dancer in the Paris Opera Ballet and Marseille Ballet) taught the variation class. She is the ultimate ballerina and can do everything! I learned so many things from her – how to use my eyes, arms, neck, feet, music and more – and I loved this style so I’ve kept to it.

When I watched The Australian Ballet’s Swan Lake I really loved it and I thought ‘this company’s style suits my dance style’.

If you were to win the TBDA or People’s Choice Award, how would you use the prize money?
I think that dance is the same language no matter where you are – one of joy and hope, and one of my dreams is to one day be a volunteer or to help people as a dancer. This year I danced in the Merry Makers gala performance in Sydney, which is a performance with a troupe of people (the Merries), most of whom have an intellectual or physical disability and who love dance and music.

When I performed in the Merry Makers gala I was almost crying – it was really beautiful and I could tell how much the Merries loved dancing and told us something through their dance. So if I were to win TBDA or the People’s Choice Award, I would like to do something to help the Merries or other disadvantaged people.

You’re a keen traveller, where in the world would you most like to perform?
Japan and France! My family and friends are in Japan. My parents and some of my friends have come to Australia and have seen The Australian Ballet’s performances, but it’s not easy to travel here from Japan. My grandmother and some of my friends aren’t able to travel, but they are always supportive and I’d love to perform for them with The Australian Ballet.

I love The Australian Ballet and I want as many people as possible to get to know this company – including in France where my teachers from school are. I really appreciate them – they are like parents and I would like to perform for them too.

What can you tell us about your fitness routine?
My fitness routine is fairly simple and I don’t do anything particularly special, though when I was in France and England I suffered from asthma and I found it hard to dance as a result. Because of my asthma, I took the time to really look at my health and fitness and now I do everything I can to take care of myself.

Our body is always changing and every day is different, so it’s really important that I listen to my body and take proper care of it.

A typical day at the ballet involves an hour and a half ballet class in the morning, followed by all-day rehearsals and an evening performance when we are in season. There are also optional Pilates classes to help with strength and fitness.

Get more information and vote for your favourite dancer here!

Ingrid Gow and Rena Nemoto