Meet the Australian Ballet's Christopher Rodgers-Wilson
Chris Rodgers-Wilson is a senior artist with the Australian Ballet.
Where are you from?
I was born in Brighton, UK, while my parents were working there – we moved back to Australia shortly after and I grew up in Melbourne.
Where did you undertake your full-time training?
The Royal Ballet School, UK.
What level of education had you attained before beginning your full-time training?
Between ages six to 17 I attended dance classes after school at Camberwell District Ballet in Melbourne where I first discovered my love of dance. I took a break between ages 12 to 15 to engage with other activities and school sport, but after seeing a performance of the Australian Ballet’s new production of Swan Lake in 2002, I came back to ballet with fresh inspiration. In early 2005 I had just started year 12 and my teachers, Susan Thomson and Toivo Taves, encouraged me to go to the Royal Ballet School in London. After a successful audition, I moved to London in September – I was midway through Year 12, and with the support of RBS I completed my exams via correspondence and obtained my VCE.
Did you make any unexpected discoveries while undertaking your full-time studies?
I definitely underestimated the challenges of moving overseas at a young age and getting used to full-time training was a huge physical and mental shift. I had next to no knowledge of the Royal Ballet and the English style but was immediately drawn in and watched the company as much as I could. London opened my eyes to dance and the arts. I’m also indebted to my wonderful teachers at RBS and Director Gailene Stock, for encouraging and pushing me to reach my potential.
Did you change your mind or have a change of attitude about your career goals in any way while you were studying?
My first year at RBS I was just trying to keep my head above water! As time went on my goal of becoming a professional dancer slowly shifted into thinking more specifically about what I had to offer as an individual artist and what kind of company would afford me the best opportunities to perform.
What was one of the main life lessons you gained from full-time studies?
The attitude and enthusiasm you bring to your work is everything.
What is your best memory of your studies?
I have great memories of sharing “breakthrough” moments in the studio with my teachers as my technique improved. Performing on the stage of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden for the first time in the school defile was electric, and being an extra in Royal Ballet productions, standing on stage watching stars like Sylvie Guillem, Darcey Bussell, Johan Kobborg – it couldn’t have been more inspiring.
Tell us a little about your present job.
I joined the Australian Ballet in 2011. It feels wonderful to now dance with the company that was my inspiration growing up – working in the studio with former principals like David McAllister, Fiona Tonkin and Steven Heathcote. I’m very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to dance featured roles in much loved classics like The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and The Merry Widow, whilst also enjoying the breadth of contemporary repertoire from choreographers like Wayne McGregor, Lucas Jervies and Alice Topp. The company also has an amazing health team that looks after us. I’ve had a couple of very tough times with injury and working with our head Physiotherapist Dr Sue Mayes and Rehab specialist and Ballet mistress Megan Connelly, has been instrumental in my career progression.
What do you know now that you wish you'd known when you were a student?
I was very hard on myself as a student; I still have to remind myself today to keep focused and work hard, but to also be patient and trust in my ability. Life is full of surprises, both good and bad – embracing them head on with self-compassion and an openness to learn will get you through. Also, it’s so important to keep connected with why you started dancing in the first place – the music, joy and freedom.
Read more inspiring personal accounts of student life in our annual pullout Full-Time Studies Guide in Spring (September/October/November) issue - OUT NOW! Buy your copy from your favourite dance shop or online here.