The Australian Ballet

Amy Harris: Her magical career

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Amy Harris, DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse (Wheeldon) 2016
Photo Daniel Boud

After an extraordinary 22-year career with The Australian Ballet, Amy Harris will take her final bow as Marguerite in the Sydney season of Marguerite and Armand. Behind Ballet wanders down memory lane and asks what's next for the veteran of ballet.

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Andrew Killian and Amy Harris, Swan Lake (Murphy) 2013
Photo Jeff Busby

You’ve just announced your retirement from ballet after 22 years with the company, how do you feel?

I felt good until I announced it and then I was completely overwhelmed by the outpouring of love I received. The tears started to flow reading everyone’s messages, but honestly, I feel good. It’s been quite a long thought-out process.

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Amy Harris, The Sleeping Beauty (McAllister) 2015
Photo Kate Longley

When did you first start dancing and was it an instant love?

I first started dancing in my hometown of Ararat when I was three and a half years old. I started with a bit of everything - jazz, tap and ballet. I wouldn’t say it was an instant love for me, but I do remember around the age of 10 I really started to fall more in love with ballet, and from there my love for it has continuously grown.

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Amy Harris, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland© (Wheeldon) 2017
Photo Ally Deacon

What have been some of your favourite roles to dance?

This is kind of like asking if I have a favourite child!! Which I don’t. I love both of my babies equally, and always will.

I feel fortunate that my career has been filled with all different genres of dance. I think initially, I was typecast as a certain type of dancer, which dictated what I did and what roles I played, but as my career went on, I got to do it all and I have loved that!

I’ve danced incredible works like In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, Artifact Suite, Infra and Chroma where my physical abilities were tested and made me move in ways I didn't know I could at first. I have danced roles like Aurora and Lilac Fairy, Hanna from the Merry Widow, Romola from Nijinsky and Anna from Anna Karenina. I’ve also done many character roles too. So, it’s been a bit of everything and I’m truly grateful for that.

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Brett Simon and Amy Harris, The Merry Widow (Hynd) 2018
Photo Kate Longley

Who/what have been some of your inspirations during your career?

My colleagues, past and present. I’ve never been short of inspiration during my time at The Australian Ballet. Even now in my last month in the company I find so much inspiration just watching my colleagues during daily ballet class. I’ve always been an observer, never really one to miss a beat (there’s good and bad with that of course!) but I feel like it has allowed me to become the artist I am today. Soaking it all up!

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Adam Bull and Amy Harris with artists of The Australian Ballet, Chroma (McGregor) 2020
Photo Jeff Busby

How have you seen the industry change over the past two decades?

Speaking from personal experience as a country kid, I feel that dance has become more easily accessible and is reaching a broader audience than before.

Your final performance will be as Marguerite, in Marguerite and Armand, a role made for and famous by Margot Fonteyn, is there extra pressure when performing this type of role?

I don’t think so. No matter the role or who has come before me, I always place high importance on it. The wonderful thing is because it's such a famous work, we have access to lots of footage and images. I always like to learn the ballet first, before discussing and creating with my partner and coaches. Then I like to do some research of my own, watching and learning from the many different couples and companies that have taken on this beautiful ballet. For me, it’s always been about making it my own, never recreating, but using past dancers as my inspiration.

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Amy Harris and Jarryd Madden, Paragon (Topp) 2023
Photo Daniel Boud

What will you miss most about dancing every day?

The people! I love the energy dancers have and create. My colleagues are the reason I have gone into work each and every day for the past 22 years. The banter we all share, the laughs, the antics we get up to before (and sometimes during) class, in the dressing rooms and backstage. It’s the absolute best, and what most people who have left the company say they miss the most.

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Nathan Brook and Amy Harris, Anna Karenina (Possokhov) 2022
Photo Kate Longley

What will you miss least?

The daily fight. While I am leaving very happy and fulfilled and I can look back and be proud of everything I've achieved and all the challenges I've overcome, the journey hasn't always been easy. I have always been very good at keeping a smile on my face and remaining the lighthearted company member, even when I was filled with disappointment and my heart was breaking. For the majority of my career, it’s been far more of a mental battle than it ever was a physical one.

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Nathan Brook and Amy Harris, Concerto (MacMillan) 2023
Photo Tristram Kenton

What advice would you give to up-and-coming dancers?

Go gentle and be kind on yourself, be open to all of the information and opportunities because you can be so pleasantly surprised. If you feel it, go for it! Experiment, be free, dance and be in the moment, soak it all up because it goes fast, don’t take yourself too seriously, point your toes, smile and have fun!

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Nathan Brook and Amy Harris in rehearsal for Marguerite and Armand (Ashton) 2023
Photo Brodie James

Do you have any future projects planned or will you be taking a well-earned rest?

I’m going to take a moment. I am utterly exhausted! But I also have two beautiful little humans that can’t wait for their Mummy to be home, dropping them off and picking them up from school and tucking them in at night. How lucky am I? I’m going to try and take on the advice I gave above and go gently on myself. Take the slower lane for a little while. It’s been a huge decision. Ballet has been such an important part of my life for so long and I very much want ballet to be a part of my life in the future. But for now, I need to take a break and prioritise my young children before taking on something all-consuming again.

You can see Amy take her final bow in Marguerite and Armand on Friday 24 November in Sydney

The Dream / Marguerite and Armand
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Amy Harris, Giselle (Gielgud) 2018
Photo Lynette Wills

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Amy Harris
Photo Pierre Toussaint

Can't make it to Sydney? Watch the livestream of The Dream/Marguerite and Armand featuring Amy Harris from November 21

The Dream/Marguerite and Armand Livestream