Interview with Dimity Azouri and Imogen Chapman: two of the nominees for the annual Telstra Ballet Dancer Award

This article brought to you by Telstra

This year will mark thirty years of collaboration between The Australian Ballet and Telstra. Six nominees are chosen from among the young talent to be judged for the coveted Telstra Ballet Dancer Award (TBDA). The lucky half a dozen are chosen by their fellow dancers and the winner, selected by a panel of experienced industry professionals, will receive $20,000. The People’s Choice award is decided by the public and is accompanied with a tasty $5,000 prize purse. [vote for your favourite dancer here]

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 caught up with dancers Dimity Azouri and Imogen Chapman, two of the six gifted nominees, to learn more.

Dimity was accepted into The Australian Ballet in 2008, having been dancing since she was four years old. She has performed in New York and Toronto and was nominated for the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award two years ago.

This is your second nomination for the TBDA, how have you grown since your first nomination in 2012?
I’ve been very fortunate to have been nominated twice for the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award and both have been during significant years for both The Australian Ballet and Telstra – the first in 2012 during the company’s 50th year celebrations and this year as we are celebrating Telstra and The Australian Ballet’s 30th year of partnership!

Being nominated is a very special privilege and something I take great pride in. We are nominated by our artistic staff, principal dancers and previous Telstra winners.

For those people who inspire me every day, and whose footsteps I aspire to follow in, to acknowledge twice that they see something in me is more special then I can express.

You’re married to fellow ballet dancer Rudy Hawkes (congratulations!) what’s it like having two dancers under one roof?
I can’t believe it has been nearly one whole year since Rudy and I were married! Our wedding was like a dream – and our first dance as a married couple was… hysterical (we improvised)!! Since we began dating in my first year of the company Rudy and I have loved dancing together.

Any style, anywhere – studio, stage, home, park, supermarket. It is definitely how we first connected and fell in love. In any stressful week we will always go home, put on a record and just have a boogie. In the studio, when I am inspired by what our beautiful principals are doing, I feel lucky that I have Rudy to grab and make him lift and turn me, I particularly like full overhead lifts, something like the butterfly lift from ‘Dirty Dancing’!

What is your dream role and why?
Like speaking a wish out loud my one superstition is that if I admit my dream role I might never be lucky enough to perform it. What I can say, is that I cannot think of a role that I would not want to perform – Manon, with that tragic emotional ending, Odette from Swan Lake – every ballerina’s dream, Giselle – that mad scene! Juliet, that music… I could go on and on!

The thing I love about these ‘ballerina roles’ is the feelings they inspire. You cannot help but be moved by their stories – I think the opportunity to become a character, to tell such complex stories, emit such powerful emotions and take the audience on that journey is the greatest dream of becoming a ballet dancer.

What would it mean for you to win the TBDA?
To win the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award would be an unexpected dream; the previous winners are all dancers that I admire more than I can say. Kevin Jackson, Lana Jones, Amber Scott, the list goes on! – these names are people who are some of Australia’s most beautiful ballet dancers and people who I have looked up to for a very long time. I am just so thankful to be part of an award that gives opportunities and recognition to young dancers.

The connection between the dancers and audience is stronger than ever and I enjoy being able to share the years journey with people who love the art form.

Born in Perth 1992, Imogen began her studies at The Australian Ballet School before moving to The Royal Ballet School in London. The first ballet performance she ever saw was Swan Lake, where she fell asleep in the aisle. She’s also currently learning how to play the guitar.

You studied and performed ballet in Perth, Melbourne, London, Canada and Japan before you were 16. What was it like to have such a whirlwind entrance to ballet?
I feel very lucky to have had such global exposure to ballet at such a young age. It’s influenced my dancing in unexpected ways. These amazing opportunities have formed who I am as an artist and have had a massive impact on my dancing.

How does your personality come out in your dancing?
For me ballet is an outlet, it’s when I feel most free. I suppose that need for freedom is a part of my personality that I don’t feel I’m able to communicate in my everyday life, so I use my dancing to explore those parts of myself that I wouldn’t ordinarily feel confident enough to express.

You’re a confessed animal lover. Would you have liked to work with animals if not for ballet?
I would have loved to work with animals. Zoology has always interested, me so maybe one day I’ll explore that.

What does it mean for you to be nominated for the TBDA?
It’s an extremely humbling experience to be nominated for the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award. The people who have nominated me are my peers and people who inspire me on a daily basis, so to know that they support and believe in my career with The Australian Ballet is an incredibly special feeling.

Get more information and vote for your favourite dancer here!