ASPAH Ambassador Amber Scott of The Australian Ballet discusses her career and performing arts healthcare.
1. How did you get involved in the performing arts? Why did you decide to pursue a profession in the performing arts?
I never felt like I made a conscious choice to become a ballerina. Dancing has always been part of who I am. I love it because it is my way of expressing and communicating. For something that began as a childhood hobby I feel so fortunate ballet became my job. I think the crucial time for getting serious about ballet came when I was 11. This was prompted by my acceptance to the junior program of The Australian Ballet School and the good faith and encouragement of my dance teachers at that point.
2. Have you experienced any health challenges related to your practice as a performing artist and would you like to share this experience? What happened and why? Did you overcome the challenge and how? How did your colleagues and others respond to the challenge, if they knew about it?
When I was a younger member of the corps de ballet I found the workload of rehearsing all day in different ballets and performing every night a huge adjustment after being a student. It was also a time when I moved out of home, started cooking and fending for myself and growing up in general. Whilst I loved the excitement of this stage, I also remember struggling to keep up with the workload and stay really healthy. I had most of my injuries in this phase, particularly lower leg issues. I remember in times when I was recovering and rehabilitating some of the senior ballerinas I looked up to offered encouragement and very sage advice. I was always very grateful for their wise words and reassurance. I am also very lucky to have grown up in a ballet company that is very nurturing, from our boss to the ballet staff. They allow you to have your triumphs and downfalls as it’s all part of the journey of being an artist.
3. Why do you think so many performing artists experience health challenges? What do you think is needed in order for these challenges to be addressed in sustainable ways across industries?
I think all performing artists are high achieving, passionate people who constantly push themselves above and beyond in the name of their craft. To be dead tired and running on adrenaline becomes the norm, often inducing the most incredible performances because of this feeling of being “on edge.” I think dancers are fortunate as ours is a physical art form and the body being the temple requires a good dose of discipline and restraint in heavy seasons. The main issue facing us is usually recovery time and sleep. It is easy to fall into a pattern of late night post show dinners, catch ups with friends and family watching the show followed by an inability to wind down until the wee hours. Over the weeks of a busy season this can be hugely draining. I guess self awareness and education on the damage this behaviour can cause long term burning out the body systems, particularly the adrenal system, is vital. When we get treated by our physiotherapists they often ask a range of questions as the answer to a physical niggle may be stemming not just from our working hours but also our resting ones.
4. Why have you agreed to be an ambassador for ASPAH? What does the organisation mean to you?
I have agreed to become part of the ASPAH family because I have a great deal of respect for the health professionals who have treated me and prolonged my career in dance. From our sports doctors to physiotherapists, every person has been vital in helping me stay on stage doing what I love. I also developed an interest in anatomy and exercise physiology during some of my rehabilitation processes and hope one day that I can study this further to help future dancers.
Photo credit: Erik Sawaya