Womaneer: Meet the Australian Ballerina Who Combines Athleticism With Creativity
Introducing: Womaneer, our new series that highlights and celebrates the oft–overlooked women of our day who are making waves in the fields of politics, crypto-currency, not-for-profit, and design. Each of these women have something in common: vision, grit, and a heavy dose of persistence that keeps them going despite the odds.
These women are proof that the gender gap is closing… that is, if you fight for it. With some guts, you can become the next pioneering voice in your field—a Womaneer. We’ve heard from Australian designer Anna Quan, and now for the next Womaneer in our series, we broaden our scope to Principle Artist a the Australian Ballet, Leanne Stojmenov.
Combining athleticism, with creativity—and let's not forget tenacious discipline—becoming a professional ballerina is no easy feat. What is also so impressive about Stojmenov's career is that she's also a new mother. And for a job description that is so psychically demanding, she definitely deserves a standing ovation.
From the barre to family life, we sit with Stojmenov to learn about the transferable skills that come with being a ballerina, and what the real-life of a ballerina is really like.
There’s no doubt that determination and hard work is what paves the way to success. I have never considered sacrifice a part of that journey. Sacrifice would imply that there were better things that I could’ve done.
Having said that, days of training as a student were often long and arduous, starting at 8 a.m. and frequently dancing until midnight. My day currently can start at 8 a.m and finishes after a show at 10.30 p.m. in the evening.
For me, the discipline required to perform consistently at a high-level requires focus for lengthy periods, often under high-pressure. Performing in this way, I have developed mental strength and excellent focus.
Another skill that may lend itself to another career is that of leadership. In my role, as a principal dancer I am leading Australia’s flagship dance company every time I step in the studio. This must reflect in the way I conduct myself both on and off the stage.
I am highly self-critical, which is less to do with perfection and more to do with the process of doing the art-form justice. However, for me, the challenge I faced as a young dancer was understanding my actual worth within the company and rising above that to embrace the work that I was given.
First and foremost, I need to be physically and mentally prepared. When at times a performance is overwhelming, I’ve always found a sense of gratitude for the opportunities I’ve been given. This helps calm me and focus my energy to the task at hand.
Initially, I found the return difficult. I was still breast-feeding Max and balancing the physical demands of what was required of me. Once I started performing, and despite sleep deprivation, my physicality came back perhaps even a little stronger than before. More than the physical however, I found a new understanding of the artist I wanted to be, and this became my real driving force.
There has been a stereotype idea of what a “perfect ballet body” actually is. The truth is this: The type of training required to be a ballet dancer develops long slender, strong muscles. The amount of work that the career commands means dancers are fit. In order to sustain any length of career, a dancer must be fit strong and above all else, healthy.
The nature of classical ballet is such that the competition for female contracts within professional companies is very high. They are highly specialised roles, with a limited amount of available jobs and the competition is fierce.
To be completely honest, I find the balance difficult at times. I have a family at home who need me, and when I’m with them, I am one hundred percent with them. I do my very best to make the balance work.
Obsessed with barre class, like us? Shop the Australian Ballet's chic activewear collection.