Principal Artist Amber Scott has been training at home since March, when our studios closed in line with COVD-19 restrictions. With her husband and fellow Principal Artist Ty King-Wall, she has fitted out her garage with a barre and adapted household objects to assist with body conditioning. They both do company class daily online, keeping fit for their return to the stage. She shares her experiences and some tips for dancing at home.
Want to take class with Amber from the comfort of your own loungeroom? We've rereleased her At Home with Studios class - enjoy!
How do you warm up?
I could warm up and do my conditioning exercises for hours! But in reality we don’t always have unlimited time to get ready for class so I try to include something for each part of my body: a strength exercise and then a gentle through-range mobility exercise. Starting on the floor with hip rolls to warm up my back is my current favourite. I also try to include a plank and some activations of the intrinsic muscles in my feet.
The Artistic Health team has all the dancers doing calf rises. Any tips on these?
I do my calf rises at the allocated time in between barre and centre, at the moment. I like the rhythm of the music to keep my pace even. It’s important to stay in the moment and be aware of your body when doing these rises as sometimes they can just be a pump of the ankle without really activating the calf and intrinsic muscles, which is what the exercise is designed to do. You can keep an eye on your alignment by propping up your phone on the floor next to you and filming your foot. You can check if your ankle is rolling in or out, and make sure you’re keeping your toes long on the floor.
What’s it like doing classes with an infant around?
It’s really cute when Bonnie discovers one of us dancing in the garage and then joins in with a mop or a broom, or tries to climb on the lawn mower! But it’s really not possible to do class and mind her at the same time, so Ty and I alternate looking after her while the other does class. To get the best out of class, I wait for a time when I can have at least one hour to myself to just focus in on ballet and move. It’s a different situation for everyone working from home. Maybe if you had older children they would like to try joining in or being an audience member applauding their parent? But in reality I do think a little quiet time is what is best for ballet practice. I think Bonnie believes she already is a pro, she knows what a tutu is, and what ballet shoes are, and her favourite moves are spins and jumping like Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh!
What makes a good barre in the home?
Kitchen benches or windowsills can be good for ballet barres. It’s important to make sure you angle your exercise so your inside leg doesn’t hit the wall.
How can we modify class to fit our spaces?
Use epaulement (angling your shoulders) and don’t be afraid to re-choreograph the exercise to suit your space. No one is going to worry if you do a few waltzes backwards to make room for your next step!
How has keeping to a regular training schedule helped you during lockdown?
Having daily class has been like having an anchor in the sea that is 2020! We can’t always have the ideal situation to work in, but keeping the routine and doing class at a set time has been very important. Within that routine it is also important to keep things fresh as we have all been home for a long time now. I like to try different classes and mix up my warm-up routine so that my body doesn’t get too complacent with the same program every day.
This year has been a year where all dancers could do was to refine the basics! They are so important and to master a pleasing classical line and technique is so satisfying. Little goals to strive for each day are really important in this time. They will serve you well when we get the joy of returning to the studio, hopefully soon.Photography Daniel Boud
To what extent is daily class is about refining your artistry as well as toning your physical body?
I like to think that artistry and technique are intrinsically linked. Your ports de bras coordinating with movements of the lower body in time to the music is artistry. One cannot be without the other, one feeds the other. This has been a time for reflecting on what we have learnt as artists and what we hope to put back into our dancing once we can all be together again. I have found that watching different online ballet performances from around the world has really opened my eyes to the current standard of what is out there. There are some incredible performances that have given me a lot of inspiration during this time at home.
What is your favourite step? And which is your most challenging?
I used to say that an arabesque was my favourite step but now it is my most challenging, after having a baby! I would say a manège of really fast pirouettes with an entrelacé in the mix is my current favourite. It’s been a while since any of us had the space to try that so I’m looking forward to returning to that feeling soon.
Has the experience of teaching made you a better dancer?
Absolutely. I have found that having to analyse a step in order to teach it well has challenged the way I think about movement. Translating all the knowledge we have been given by our teachers is a really important part of the cycle for handing on to the next generation. Teaching also makes me question the way I dance. Being able to define a feeling is vital in explaining ballet technique.