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Dance Mums: Our biggest fans

TAB Giselle Melbourne Photo Lynette Wills 2015 12 5

Lisa Bolte and Ako Kondo, Giselle (Gielgud), 2015
Photo Lynette Wills

This Mother's Day we celebrate and acknowledge the wonderful mums who have supported, encouraged and championed some of The Australian Ballet dancers. From early morning drives to dance class, to late nights sewing costumes and attending performances, our mum's are our biggest fans. Happy Mother's Day to all the incredible mums out there!

Katherine and Hanka Sonnekus 1

Katherine and Hanka Sonnekus

Katherine Sonnekus

How has your mum’s influence shaped you as a dancer?

My mum has influenced my dancing by setting an example for me of how to work hard. Her resilience in every aspect of her life has astounded and inspired me for a long time. She kept my drive alive in the darkest hours by instilling hope in me. She burned a little flame in my heart that she nurtured and always kept a light no matter how many people tried to snuff it out. Years of belief, love, generosity, sacrifice and absolute belief from her are why I am not only here, but why I am who I am today.

What’s your favourite memory with your mum?

I have many fond memories, but sometimes I think the special moments are the quiet ones. The exhausted car rides home, the cup of tea at the end of an unrelenting day or the quiet confidence she has in me when I hear her speak about me to others. A recent moment that has already become a memory was having her watch me dance for the first time as a professional at the Sydney Opera House. After six years of being in the company she was able to see me perform in Don Quixote.
I walked out of stage door as I always do, and my mum was there beaming. I'd been thinking about that moment for a very long time and I will always remember it.

Does your mum have a favourite role that you’ve played?

I don't know if my mum has a favourite role I've played, she has always been very supportive across the board. I always felt when I was younger that in the really classical roles she could tell I felt like the best version of myself and I think she could feel my ease and joy and loved seeing me happy and flourishing as the truest version of myself.

“Happy Mother's Day Ma. I love you so much. Thank you for a lifetime of love and memories that I'll always cherish, to many more! Aroha ahau ki a koe” — Kather­ine Sonnekus

Donna Harwood and Corey Herbert


Donna Harwood and Corey Herbert

Corey Herbert

How has your mum’s influence shaped you as a dancer?

As a young kid, mum wanted me to pursue karate instead of ballet. She used to say to me, "what are you going to do if someone tries to rob you? Are you going to fight them, or spin around in a circle and say, 'get away from me I’m a ballerina?'"
It was my dad that had a soft spot for dance, but after years of pursuing my number one passion, my mum is now my biggest fan.

My mum was and is my biggest support. Whether it be her flying up to Sydney to watch me perform at the Sydney Opera House or waking up with me at 6am for six years when I was a full-time ballet student at VCASS and then The Australian Ballet School. Mum has always had my back and pushed me to work hard and pursue my dreams in this crazy career.

What’s your favourite memory with your mum?

I have so many incredible memories with mum along the ballet journey. I used to love the way mum would quickly put my hair in a ponytail for competitions instead of fussing over it for hours and I loved late nights sitting on the kitchen counter eating ice cream with her after she had picked me up from my local dance school.
The most special memory I have of mum must be when she flew to Sydney with only a few hours’ notice to watch me in my debut of the leading character Lise in the musical An American in Paris. Mum was a singer herself and we would often sing as a family growing up. I have her genes to thank for the fact I can somewhat hold a tune and had the opportunity of a lifetime.

Does your mum have a favourite role that you’ve played?
Mum says her favourite roles to watch me in was as one of the street dancers in Romeo and Juliet as it was fun and quirky, or any of the contemporary programs I’ve performed in over my career. She knows that contemporary dance is something I hold close to my heart and it’s when I dance with the most freedom.

“Mum you are the most joyful woman I know! Your energy and kindness to all is what I aspire to achieve in both my life and career. I love you and I appreciate you beyond words.” — Corey Her­bert
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Adam and Arna Elmes


Adam and Arna Elmes


Adam and Arna Elmes

Adam Elmes

Your mum has been instrumental in your career, how has her influence shaped you as a dancer?

I loved growing up in an expressive and theatrical family full of life. I was naturally very timid, but mum raised me to view my sensitivity as my superpower rather than a weakness and that has shaped me as an artist. My emotions aren’t buried deep down inside me and that makes it easier for me to draw them out, to communicate with the audience and allow myself to be a vessel for other characters and people’s stories.

Your mum is a dance and Pilates teacher, is it helpful or challenging to have a professional in the family?

I have absolutely benefited from my mother understanding so much of the dance world, from having Pilates equipment at home to being able to rely on her pointers and corrections. That being said, I do distinctly remember coming off stage from my solo (choreographed by my mum) looking for positive reinforcement and receiving only notes on how to improve. I couldn’t escape the extra criticism on my dancing, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

What’s your favourite memory with your mum?

Sometimes on Sunday afternoons, Mum would put on songs from popular musicals, and we would sing them together and dance around the living room. I Know Him So Well from Chess always reminds me of her and is the perfect duet to sing with a loved one.

Does your mum have a favourite role that you’ve played?

I’ll have to quote her on that one:

“I loved, loved, loved watching him in Kunstkamer because there were so many elements to that performance. Character development, sensitivity, timing, contemporary dancing, acting, singing. It was such a feast for me as an audience member but much more so as his mumma. I found his sensitivity, timing and embodiment so commanding, his subtlety so powerful. That’s why I saw it seven times!” - Arna Elmes


Adam and Arna Elmes in the studio


Aya Watanabe

How has your mum’s influence shaped you as a dancer?

My mum has been my biggest supporter since I started dancing. She’s been by my side for my whole journey at both the highest and lowest times. The dedication and energy she has put in for me has really inspired me and shaped me as a dancer.

What’s your favourite memory with your mum?

My favourite memory with her would be going out to watch ballet with her when I was younger. She took me out to Tokyo to watch so many companies perform. She told me that it’s good for me to watch and be inspired by professional ballet companies perform. She also bought me lots of DVDs to watch as well.

Does your mum have a favourite role that you’ve played?

She loved watching me as Kitri in Don Quixote recently. It was my first principal role, and it was so special to have her in the audience to witness my debut.

“I can’t thank you enough for your endless support. I wouldn’t be here dancing today without your love and encouragement. You always inspire me to keep going. I love you so much mum.” — Aya Watan­abe

Thomas and Lhan Gannon


Thomas Gannon with his family

Thomas Gannon

How has your mum’s influence shaped you as a dancer?

To say my mum went above and beyond for me to have my dancing career is an understatement. Being a single mother and raising three kids, mums influence on me has been huge. For over 10 years it would be just us in a car for hours on end driving back and forth from ballet to school and back to ballet again. No matter how stressed out or how little time mum had, she always seemed to make time for me to get to any ballet concert or competition or even a to run down to the service station and grab me a snack. She has been the biggest influence on my life and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t think how truly grateful I am to her for being my mum.

What’s your favourite memory with your mum?

I have too many favourite memories with my mum but one most recently would have to be during lockdown, and it was just us two in our little apartment and when the zoom “workday” was done we would sit and play Nintendo switch for hours or binge watch Kath & Kim and just have a ball laughing together.

Does your mum have a favourite role that you’ve played?

Lead Romani in Don Quixote that we just did in both Sydney and Melbourne.

"Mum, you're my best friend. You have stuck by my side for years especially moving to Melbourne with me so that I could pursue ballet, leaving your whole life behind. There is no one else in the world that I’d want to be my mum and I can’t wait to celebrate you and all the other amazing mothers out there on Sunday. I Love you xx" - Thomas Gannon
Ausballet Jewels Sydney photo Raineelantry 282 1

Amy Ronnfeldt and Corey Herbert in Jewels, (Balanchine), 2023
Photo Rainee Lantry


Baby Amy and mum Jane Ronnfeldt

Amy Ronnfeldt

How has your mum’s influence shaped you as a dancer?

To put it simply, I would not be where I am, dancing in my dream ballet company, without my mum. Yes, she taught me how to sew my shoes and do my hair, but the influence she has had on my dance journey goes far beyond that. She most importantly influenced my work ethic. As an artist, I strive to be as kind-hearted, joyful, passionate, dedicated, patient and curious as my mum, both off stage and onstage. She has encouraged me to believe in myself on countless occasions, always lifting me back onto my feet, which continues to help me become a more confident and resilient person.

What’s your favourite memory with your mum?

Mum and I have gone on many special trips because of ballet actually. We’ve been lucky enough to visit Wellington in New Zealand and Winnipeg in Canada, just the two of us. I remember going to an American Football game and ordering a massive bucket of warm, cinnamon donuts to share, which was so much fun. All my favourite times with mum seem to end with delicious food - often in excess amounts.

Does your mum have a favourite role that you’ve played?

Recently my mum joined me for a week in Sydney and watched nearly every performance of Jewels while she was staying. She really enjoyed the Rubies piece I was in with its jazzy and energetic dynamic. It’s very different to anything I’ve danced before, so I think she loved seeing me move in a new way.

“I love you so much and am beyond grateful for your never-ending care and support, which I sometimes don’t feel I deserve. Thank you mum. Here’s to more precious memories and donuts…” — Amy Ron­n­feldt

Nathan Brook with his mum Maureen


Nathan Brook with his mum Maureen

Nathan Brook

How has your mum’s influence shaped you as a dancer?

My mum introduced me to dance when I was 7 years old after a neighbour had spotted me dancing in my living room every afternoon after school. Mum had already been a subscriber of The Australian Ballet for years, so she took me to see my first ballet at The Sydney Opera House. From the moment I heard the orchestra play and saw the curtain rise on the effortless dancers, I knew I wanted to dance professionally with The Australian Ballet on the Sydney Opera House stage. I became a subscriber with her at eight years old. Her and dad have always been extremely supportive of me and my career in dance. When I was accepted into The Australian Ballet School at 14, Mum moved down to Melbourne with me, and we lived together for the five years I was training. Her and my dad sacrificed a lot by having a long-distance relationship while she moved away from dad and my older brothers. Mum has been there for every special performance and milestone throughout my career and she is always on the other end of the phone willing to offer her advice and support during the demands of a ballet career.

What’s your favourite memory with your mum?

My favourite memory with my mum is dancing with her at my wedding in January.

Does your mum have a favourite role that you’ve played?

Her favourite role I’ve played is Romeo in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet.

"Dear Mum, Thank you for all you have done for me over the years and for your continued love and support. I was so fortunate to have you living with me during my years of training at The Australian Ballet School. You’ve taught me to stay present and enjoy myself on the journey. Thank you for the sacrifices you made while we lived in Melbourne without pressuring me to succeed. The opportunities you and Dad have given me over the years have been priceless and I can’t thank you enough. Happy Mother’s Day. We all love you very much. Love Nath x" - Nathan Brook

Nathan Brook with his parents on his wedding day, 2023