The Australian Ballet

'Words to live by' from Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards Nominees

Good advice goes a long way. Tips on how to perfect those fouettes, life lessons that nurture personal growth, a motivational quote to pick you up when the going gets tough...

A word of advice backed by years of experience, hard work and dedication can make all the difference. This year's Telstra Ballet Dancer Award (TBDA) nominees will tell you that good advice is, in fact, life-affirming. We spoke to this exuberant group of five rising stars in The Australian Ballet about the pieces of advice and life lessons that continue to motivate them on the journey to reaching their full artistic potential.

A special thank you to Telstra for supporting The Australian Ballet's rising stars via this career-defining opportunity.

Thomas Gannon

The best piece of advice you have ever been given?
To always be yourself no matter what. People will either love you or learn to love you for you.

Some advice you have recently given someone?
Quite similar to the above, just being yourself because I truly believe there is no point trying to be someone else just so people will like you or respect you.

A word of advice to younger dancers?
My advice to young male dancers would be to just follow your dreams and trust the process. It will be hard and not everyone will understand but in time they will learn and end up loving you for it, so just persist and keep on being you.

Your favourite motivational motto, or your ‘words to live by’…
"Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I'm possible.' - Audrey Hepburn

Your dream role to dance in a ballet?
My dream role in a ballet to dance would be Emeralds in George Balanchine's Jewels. I absolutely love the music and the set designs and seeing all the 'emeralds' on stage.

Thomas on being nominated for TBDA 2022:
I couldn’t believe it. I remember the nomination call and I thought oh I’m only new and it’s really unlikely that I will be chosen. So, I couldn’t believe that I was being nominated just after a year into the company, and also that two of my closest friends had also been nominated. I was still shaking when I got home and saw mum and she couldn’t stop crying. It feels amazing to be recognised for our dancing at such a young age.

Follow Thomas on Instagram: @tomgannon

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A young Tom Gannon, bright-eyed and sprightly on stage.

Rina Nemoto

The best piece of advice you have ever been given?
“Eyes on my chest” is something one of the judges told me after a competition once. This advice made me realise how important dancing with an open chest is, it changed my perspective and the quality of my movement and storytelling. It gave me a much more confident look.

Some advice you have recently given someone?
We are all different and that’s what makes it interesting! You don’t need to copy anyone. Just trust yourself and just dance!

A word of advice to younger dancers?
Technique is important for dancing ballet, but don’t forget, ballet is art. Don’t forget to enjoy dancing, to enjoy telling your story and connecting with the audience.

Your favourite motivational motto, or your ‘words to live by’…
"Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost." - Pina Bausch

Your dream role to dance in a ballet?
I have so many dream roles. If I have to choose one, I want to dance Tatiana from Onegin.

Rina on the joy of ballet:
Ballet is my language; I use this language to express myself. I feel like I can’t live without dance now, it is a part of who I am. When I’m dancing on stage sometimes it’s tough but I feel so happy and feel as though I’m living at that moment. I feel that all the training and hard work is worth it.

Follow Rina on Instagram: @rinanemoto

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Baby ballerina Rina

Lucien Xu

The best piece of advice you have ever been given?
A career in dancing is short, enjoy, have fun.

A word of advice to younger dancers?
Being yourself is enough, be brave be confident in who you are. Being yourself is the best possible thing.

Your favourite motivational motto, or your ‘words to live by’…
"It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation." - Herman Melville

Your dream role to dance in a ballet?
My dream role is to perform Vaslav Nijinsky in John Neumeier’s Nijinsky. This is one of my favourite ballets I’ve performed with The Australian Ballet . I’d love to portray and to study a character that is so deep and complex, and to tell audiences that story.

Lucien on career highlights:
Every role is special but if I had to pick a favourite role it is probably Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929 last year. It was a huge opportunity for me to dance a pas de deux with a company dancer in front of thousands of people and that was really special. And this year we did Four Temperaments in Sydney and I had a huge role with a five-minute solo on stage. It was very challenging but also very special.

Follow Lucien on Instagram: @lucienxu

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Lucien has followed in his father's footsteps, who was also a dancer.

Lilly Maskery

The best piece of advice you have ever been given?
Neither success nor failure is permanent. Everything you do should be out of love.

Some advice you have recently given someone?
Sometimes the best thing is learning how to weather the storm.

A word of advice to younger dancers?
Don’t lose sight of who you are as a person or get caught up in the small things. Invest in yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Your favourite motivational motto, or your ‘words to live by’…
Energy creates energy.

Your dream role to dance in a ballet?
Juliet in Romeo and Juliet. The story has been able to survive centuries yet each artist breathes their own soul into the character to bring to life their very own Juliet, I would love to be able to do this alongside the incredible Prokofiev score.

Lilly on personal motivation:
The fact that I am living my 11-year-old self’s dream life, and what she hoped I would be doing by now. On days I’m not feeling the best and I need a little motivation, I remember how far I have come. I’ve always wanted to do this and it’s even better than I expected. That inner child comes through and keeps me going, even when I’m exhausted it still drives me to keep going.

Follow Lilly on Instagram: @lillymaskery

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Lily was born and raised in Auckland, and knew by age six it was her destiny to be a professional dancer.

Adam Elmes

The best piece of advice you have ever been given?
I would say the best piece of advice I’ve ever received was from my graduating year teacher at the Australian Ballet School, Andrew Murphy. I had a moment where I was alone on stage doing a pirouette, into a split jump, into a kneel and I was extremely nervous. He told me to ‘take up space and show what you’ve got’ which might not seem ground-breaking, but for a shy student it really helped me to learn to be brave and show the audience how I can shine.

Some advice you have recently given someone?
I recently responded to a direct message on Instagram asking about how I’ve worked on my confidence while performing. I explained how I’ve learned that audiences respond well to honest passion. If you go out there and show just why you love to do what you do, you will present well. A genuine smile from a dancer who is enjoying themself is unfakeable and truly special.

A word of advice to younger dancers?
Some advice I would give to young dancers is to be kind to yourself in how you think. Don't tear yourself down and don't use negative words when referring to yourself. Dance can be tough at times so being on your own team will do you wonders and the more you believe in yourself, the more others will too.

Your favourite motivational motto, or your ‘words to live by’…
There's a quote from the live action Cinderella film that I've always loved. 'Have courage and be kind.' I think these two attitudes go hand in hand much better than people might think. If you're honest, courageous and kind, nothing can stop you!

Your dream role to dance in a ballet?
Ever since we performed La Sylphide in my third year at the Australian Ballet School, I've had a fascination with the role of James. I love the classic love-affair storyline of the ballet, the costumes are so cool (kilts!!) and I love that it's a male character centred around so much petit allegro (my favourite steps). I honestly dream for the day I get to perform this role at The Australian Ballet, if I ever do you'll see a very happy man up on that stage.

Adam on his biggest inspiration:
I definitely dance for my family, and I’m aware of all the sacrifices they made. My brother was finishing school and his mum moved away and my sisters were starting university, and her mum was not there. So I dance for them, knowing they love me but thanks to them, I was given this opportunity and I must make sure it was worth their sacrifices.

Follow Adam on Instagram: @adamelmes

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Dance has taught Adam to appreciate his sensitivity and emotions, aspects of his character that make him a unique artist.