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Behind the scenes with English National Ballet: Meet ballerina Madison Keesler

posted on Tuesday, 13th January 2015 | find under 
As we celebrate the recent launch of the Sweaty Betty X English National Ballet collaboration, our dance model Madison Keesler is hard at work with two daily performances of Swan Lake. The fantastic reviews so far demonstrate that dedicated practice really does result in a spectacular performance. Taking time out of her very busy schedule, Madison shares some behind-the-scenes insights into what ballet rehearsal really looks like…  

Madison wears the Arabeseque Dance Leotard, Coupe 3/4 Dance Leggings and Fierce Dance Sweat

What does your typical training day look like, from breakfast through to bedtime?

My day can change a lot depending on the time of the year, current repertoire, and whether or not there is a performance that day. At the moment we are doing Swan Lake at the London Coliseum, so a typical day might be class from 11:00 to 12:30, rehearsal from 2:00 to 5:00, and then the show from 7:30 to 10:30. A non-performance day might be class from 10:15 to 11:45 followed by rehearsals from 12:00 until 6:30 with one hour off for lunch. Either way, we certainly work long hours! 
How important is nutrition when you’re rehearsing? What snacks do you keep on hand to stay energised?

Nutrition is extremely important. My body is my tool and I must treat it well because my life and career depend on it. For snacks I like to have nuts, green smoothies and protein shakes. Another snack I enjoy is toasted grain or wholewheat bread with avocado. I couldn’t live without my avocados — they are so tasty and a great source of healthy fats!

What are you thinking about just before the curtain call for a big performance?

This can change dramatically depending on the type of role I am performing.  I usually try to think to myself: “one moment at a time”. Regardless of my role, my job is to bring the audience into another world. In order to be a great artist, one must try to be fully present while they’re creating, rehearsing or performing. If I can achieve this fully present state of mind, the result will always be honest and true – which is of course the most important aspect of life or art. 
Ballerinas are infamously hard on their bodies during training. What’s been your biggest personal injury or struggle as a dancer?

My biggest struggle over my past 7 years as a professional and my 11 years of training would be staying in a strong and healthy place mentally. Sure, I have dealt with many physical injuries, but being in a strong and healthy mindset is without a doubt the most important key to success. One must be confident, yet humble; sure, yet always questioning; grateful, yet always wanting more. Finding the balance can be hard to obtain at times, so I would say that finding consistent mental strength has been my biggest challenge.
What do you do to recover from the physical and mental exhaustion of a particularly challenging training day?

I make sure to drink a lot of water and eat a good meal. I’m also trying to focus more on getting a good night’s sleep. Scientists are understanding more and more about just how important sleep is for the body, as well as the brain. 
What physical or psychological tricks do you use to stay looking elegant and composed during performance?

I always come back to the breath. Anyone with experience in meditation knows how powerful a single breath can be. Whether I’m meditating alone in my room or on stage in the middle of a performance, being able to come back to the present moment through just a single breath is the best way for me to stay composed. Performing is the most amazing type of meditation there is – when I’m on stage, nothing else exists! 

Madison wears Vitality Dance Crop, Flaunt It Dance Vest, Adagio Dance Leggings and Barre Dance Shorts

Shop our Dance Statement range for beautiful rehearsal wear inspired by exclusive English National Ballet insights. 
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