Backstage secrets in a dancer’s dressing room station
By Cassandra Houghton
On any given night of a mainstage performance the dancers’ dressing room stations are abuzz. After all, it’s where the magic begins.
Before mirrors bordered by spotlights, shiny black compacts and make-up palettes, hairpins, shoe tape and flower bouquets, emerge kings and princesses and vampires and fairies.
For Queensland Ballet Senior Soloist Mia Heathcote, a dressing room station is like the ‘middle ground of magical transformation from the street to the stage’. It’s an apt description of a space that holds an ethereal quality for the entire dancer ensemble – their station is their ‘zone’, their ‘theatre home’, and their place of pre-show camaraderie and character transformation.
Curious? We were too. As we prepare to open Queensland Ballet’s redeveloped home at the Thomas Dixon Centre in 2021, incorporating a suite of new dressing room stations, we sat down with Queensland Ballet dancers to find out what really goes on behind these walls, and what the spaces mean to them.
Lucy Green, Principal Artist
Dressing rooms have always had a sense of magic about them to me. When I sit at my dressing room station it generally marks the beginning of many transformations – from me to my character, from the street to the stage, and from the everyday to the momentous. I do love that sense of shedding myself, leaving the day behind and becoming someone else. It’s a ceremonial and soothing process and helps calm the nerves before curtain-up.
Above all though, dressing rooms are where enduring friendships are created. Where the big belly laughs are had, the secrets are shared, the grumbling is done, and where tears are inevitably shed. They’re where the things we mask on stage – the chaos, the silliness, even the pain, all come out. Sharing those honest moments with the women of Queensland Ballet is grounding, it builds resilience and gratitude and is a nice reminder that before we are dancers, we are all human. In a world where the pressure is very high, especially that which we place on ourselves, it’s wonderful to be part of a supportive, loving and fun team, coming together in a place that is just for us.
David Power, First Company Artist
I never understood what it meant when my dad would say “your mum is just putting her face on” when they were getting ready to go out for dinner. Putting a face on made it sound like she was becoming a different person? A different version of herself? It always confused me as to why someone would want to look in the mirror and see someone other than themself. I never really understood until I sat at my first dressing room spot in my debut production and, put my face on.
Dressing rooms are sacred places for performers, a safe place amongst the craziness of being on stage. My change room is where I can collect my thoughts, calm my nerves, share constant banter with my colleagues and ultimately put on the face of whoever I need to be for that performance.
My dressing room station is organized chaos. I lay my makeup out in an almost obsessive, spaced out way but not one thing has a specific spot. I love to have all my best wishes cards or gifts displayed around my spot to feel encouraged and present. I also always have two or three different colognes. I have always worn different colognes when I perform, depending on the role; I think a scent completes my whole process. It’s a selfish finale to my routine because everything else I do can be enjoyed by the audience – my makeup, my hair, my costumes all can be seen, but my cologne is for myself.
I am so grateful for the memories made in my change room. It’s a constant reminder of how special it is to work amongst like-minded people all working towards a common goal. To be a part of something that brings people joy is one of the highest privileges and I can’t wait to be back feeling the magic of that again soon.
Make a dedication
Take your support into the sacred space of Queensland Ballet’s artists by dedicating a Dancer Dressing Station – and know that every time an artist sits before the mirror, you will be thanked for your support. Please contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to find out more
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