Revealed: How (and What) Professional Ballerinas Eat Every Day
It’s no secret ballet dancers have enviable figures. On the whole they’re incredibly toned, but they’re also insanely—and deceptively—strong. (If you’ve ever seen a professional ballet, you’ll know exactly what I mean.) There’s something about the healthy, sculpted bodies and legit physical fitness these dancers possess that represents peak goals for us. Of course, this means when pro ballerinas offer us a sneak peek into their nutrition and exercise plans, we jump. (Or should that be jeté?)
Additionally, the hair and makeup routines of ballerinas hold such mystery for us. That each dancer is responsible for creating a look that both represents their character and flatters their individual features is impressive enough. Now, consider that they do it all in just 20 short minutes. Fascinated yet? Ahead, you'll find tips and tricks from three of The Australian Ballet's rising stars, a trio of dancers with decades of experience collectively. (That's A LOT of time spent perfecting winged liner and lump-free ballet buns.)
Keep scrolling for more.
ON: DIY stage makeup
Byrdie Australia: Walk us through your makeup routine for stage.
Jill Ogai: The first part of my preparation is having a shower or washing my face. I apply Stila’s Stay All Day Foundation ($63) (which does stay all show BTW) with an Hourglass foundation brush ($67). The foundation comes with a concealer in the lid, so I spread that lightly underneath my eyes. I then put paw paw ointment on my lips so they are smooth when I apply my lipstick later. I brush on a neutral Hourglass eye shadow from their Modernist palette in Earth Tones ($84). Next, I groom my brows and fill them in with an angled brush. I like using brushes where I can because they help me define my features and steadily build intensity without making the makeup too heavy. I then shade the creases of my eyes, once again with the Hourglass palette. To finish, I use Nars’ Contour Blush Duo ($61) in Olympia to sculpt, and the brand’s Blush ($44) in Gina on the apples of my cheeks.
Nicola Curry: I wash my face with Kiehl’s Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash ($38) and moisturise with Kiehl’s Powerful Wrinkle & Pore Reducing Cream ($74). Then, I apply foundation and powder, contour using a brown eyeshadow from MAC, and add blush. I enhance my brows with a dark brown eye shadow, applying it with a wet brush for a more accurate and dramatic effect. I apply MAC’s Eye Kohl ($32) in Teddy to my top lids, a mauve shadow to the outer corners, and a darker purple shade at the crease. Next, I apply lashes and enhance the upper lashline with black liquid eyeliner, extending the line out into a wing. I apply more Teddy to the lower lid and feather out the edges. Lipstick goes on last, after brushing my teeth, and I will often do a spritz of perfume too. I like Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle ($123), or if I’m particularly nervous for that night’s performance, Penhaligon’s Lavandula ($259).
Jade Wood: I use Bobbi Brown’s Skin Foundation ($72) which I have found is the best for my skin. For my eyes, I use Napoleon Perdis’ Prismatic Eye Shadow Quad in Swan Lake (which was developed for the premiere of Stephen Baynes' "Swan Lake"). My favourite makeup remover is L'Oreal’s Gentle Eyes & Lips ($14), which is gentle enough for the delicate eye area and doesn't sting. I use Grown Alchemist’s Facial Cleanser ($45) to remove the rest of my makeup and wash my face.
B: What’s the best makeup tip you’ve learned backstage?
JO: Lots of people only look at the front of their face when doing makeup. My tip is to know and check every angle of your face when doing makeup. The mirror is your best friend, apart from your real best friends—who you can also ask. As dancers we're constantly moving and constantly emoting, and we need to be readable from every angle.
B: Are there any makeup products you would never wear on stage?
JO: I steer clear of too much colour. My face naturally has warm peach and olive tones, so I choose a palette to reflect that. Our costumes often bring the colour (last year I danced as a fairy in Sleeping Beauty and had a pink wig—very on trend), so the colour on your face should come from your expression.
NC: Mascara or eyeliner that is not waterproof or at the least water-resistant. It would run down your face when sweat inevitably drips into your eyes.
B: What surprises people most about how you do your makeup?
JW: I think these days we apply less makeup than what dancers did many years ago. Also, it only takes about 20 minutes for us to do our makeup! We get lots of practice which means we get quicker and quicker at doing it.
NC: It is quite a bit more exaggerated than normal makeup. Also the speed at which we apply it—you get good at doing your makeup quickly when you're doing it every night.
B: Are there any special touches you add right before you perform?
JO: I like things that come in threes, so I do three special things before I step on stage. One: I spray my favourite Byredo scent La Tulipe ($240) on my wrists and neck. Two: Apply a touch of Mecca Cosmetica’s Enlightened Illuminating Balm ($32) to the tops of my cheekbones, bow of my lips and around my eyes. Three: I have a small tattoo on my wrist, and my final step is to cover it up with heavy concealer.
ON: creating the perfect ballet bun
B: Any tricks you can share on perfecting a smooth, lump-free bun?
JO: Invest in proper bun pins ($6)—not bobby pins. Learn to use them well, and your bun will look as if it's being effortlessly held up, even if there is an army of pins underneath!
NC: If it’s a high bun, I’ll often bend forward and flip my head upside down to try and get the back/underneath part smooth. Go over all the different sides with a fine comb to smooth out any bumps.
B: Does your hair suffer from being constantly pulled back?
JW: After a long season our hair can be damaged from pinning and attaching headdresses, and dry from applying lots of hairspray all the time. I find if I leave my hair in a French roll for too long it can give me a headache.
JO: On rehearsal days, my hair doesn't suffer too much because I don't put any product in it. I do get really sweaty so I wash it every day, which also helps to keep my skin clear. When we're performing I make sure I wash it really thoroughly because it's so easy for the product to build up and weigh my hair down.
NC: I change up the way I wear my hair so it’s not always being pulled in one particular direction. I use seamless hair ties which help keep my hair intact as well. I only wash my hair about twice a week, and use hydrating shampoos and conditioners like Biosilk’s range to help remove nasties and protect my hair.
B: Which are your go-to hair styling products for getting ready for stage?
JO: I used Schwarzkopf’s hairspray when I first began ballet, and I still use it! When I cut my hair short I had to invest in more products to keep my hair in place, the best being Taft's Full On Cream Gel ($8). The shorter my haircut, the slicker my hair has to be.
NC: I use a comb and often a spray bottle of water. I try to use as little hairspray as possible. Lots of hairpins!
B: Which are your favourite hair repair products?
JO: Always Kevin Murphy’s Young.Again Treatment Oil ($55).
NC: I like deep moisture hair masques. I am using Biosilk’s Hydrating Therapy Deep Moisture Masque at the moment.
B: How do you wear your hair on your off time?
JW: Funnily enough I often wear it up in a messy bun secured with a hair clip. I've spent so much of my life with my hair in a bun that I sometimes find it annoying doing normal activities with my hair out—it gets in the way! However, I always wear my hair out to go to sleep.
JO: I wear my hair out and wild—it's thick and curly so it likes to be free! It's happiest after a swim in the ocean.
NC: I’ll often wear my hair down or in a loose, high knot. Anything easy.
ON: why the occasional burger is crucial
B: What does a day in your diet look like?
JW: I always try to have a good breakfast and a coffee. I eat lots of fruit and vegetables, and protein to fuel my muscles and brain for our intense performance schedule.
JO: Lots of yummy home cooked food. My mum taught me that "all things in moderation" is what’s best for your body and mind. I have porridge in the morning, yoghurt as a snack and a big salad or sandwich with chicken or tuna for lunch. Then it’s fruit, salmon and greens or roast vegetables for dinner. And, always, coffee. If I'm hungry—especially on busier days—I eat more. On Friday's I get a treat from my local cafe. (Friday's are pretty great.)
NC: I just started drinking coffee after moving to Australia two years ago, and I’ve become a big fan of flat whites. I’ll often have one at some point during the day, either in the morning or before our evening performance. Depending on where we are—touring or in Melbourne—I’ll have granola or eggs at home or a toastie on the way to the theatre. I make or find a green smoothie to have at some point early in my day as well. After rehearsals, I’ll have a light sandwich, salad or soup, something small that digests easily so I don’t feel weighed down during the performance. Depending on how rigorous the show was, I’ll have a small snack or another relatively substantial meal afterwards.
B: What do you eat before/after/during a performance?
JW: I have a larger meal about 3 hours before the show to fuel myself until about 11p.m. which is when I get home. After the show I have another small meal because I'm always starving by then. During the show I try to hydrate and nibble on a few snacks to keep myself going. I like drinking Ultima Replenisher ($38) which is full of electrolytes, vitamins and minerals and has no artificial sugars added—it’s great for keeping hydrated.
JO: A few hours before a show I have a big meal, usually chicken, sweet potato and vegies. (A magic combination—it makes me feel great.) Then before I go on stage I’ll have a banana. (Pretty much every ballet dancer has a banana on their dressing table…) After a show, I'm usually pretty hungry and I like to have a version of breakfast, so I’ll do eggs on rye toast with avocado and tomato. It's quick to prepare, comforting and nutritious.
B: What’s the most common misconception about ballerinas in terms of diet and exercise?
JW: Some people think we don't eat a lot but we probably eat more than the average person because we do so much exercise. If we don't fuel ourselves correctly, we feel tired and risk injury because we aren't functioning at our best.
JO: We're all super strong! Many people are surprised when I tell them how much I can leg press… We don't just train to dance on stage, we also sweat it out in the gym and Pilates studio.
NC: That we don’t eat! In reality, we eat quite a lot. Our training regime can be very strenuous, and we need good food to fuel ourselves. Usually the day is filled with healthy foods that help with muscle repair and recovery like fruit, vegetables, lean protein and lots of fluids. If I’m ever out at the pub on a day or night off though, I love a burger or chicken parma and chips!