Meet Telstra Award winner Nathan Brook

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Nathan Brook

It's official: Nathan Brook is one of the Australian Ballet's most popular dancers. Nathan, a soloist with The Australian Ballet, recently received the company's most lucrative award: the Telstra Ballet Dancer of the Year. But wait, there's more:

The award comes in two parts – the Telstra Rising Star Award (which is chosen by a panel of judges) and the Telstra People's Choice Award (which is selected by public vote). Nathan won not just one but both of these awards, netting him $25,000 and $15,000 respectively.

The award generated the highest number of votes ever this year, with 240,000 votes from online and SMS. 

Dance Australia spoke to Nathan in the wake of his extraordinary win.

You have been on many tours. What is the best venue you have ever performed in?

Yes, I've performed at Lausanne in Switzerland, the Coliseum twice in London, and in Shanghai, Beijing, Toronto and the Joyce Theatre in NY City. I have to say that probably the audience at the Joyce Theatre was the most memorable, but still my favourite theatre in the world is the Sydney Opera House. It's a really special theatre to me, an incredible building. As a child it was always my dream to perform there, and still every day when I walk to the Opera House there's that feeling of magic and excitement that I experienced when I was a kid.

Even though the stage is small?

(Laughs.) We manage! I love the intimacy that a small stage provides, you really see eveything, you can really feel the energy coming from the audience.

What are the most rewarding roles you have performed?

The most rewarding classically was the Nutcracker Prince, for the pure classicism it requires. Ballet is unforgiving, as we know, and to accomplish the really pure, strict technique in the solo and the pas de deux was a big reward for me, especially as a dancer who has had a lot of opportunities in the contemporary repertoire.

In the contemporary repertoire I've recently been performing one of the pas de deux in Artifact Suite, by William Forsythe, and that has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I've always dreamed of dancing a Forsythe ballet, and it has not disappointed me. It's so much fun to dance. I danced it with (Principal Artist) Dimity Azoury, and I just love being out there pushing the boundaries and risking things every night. You never know quite how it's going to go and usually the more you risk it the better it pays off.

What do you mean by 'risk' in this context?

You have to take calculated risks, especially in a pas de deux, you can't push it so far that you're going to put your partner off. But from an emotional, almost spiritual way, you can really take risks and really develop the narrative, by which I mean the the narrative in your head. You can have a different narrative every night, and the physicality will change. For example, if it's more of an emotional performance, there are moments of tenderness, or when it's more aggressive, it's much more dynamic, has more grit.

Where would I find you half an hour before a performance?

In the dressingroom, putting on my make-up. Mentally I would be going through the the steps, and focussing on what I can improve.

How do you balance work and rest? What is your work ethic?

I would classify myself as a hard worker. I do have natural ability but through my entire ballet journey I have had to work hard to get my technique at the standard that it's at today. Class for me is a really important tool to be able to do the steps in the repertoire.

To find the balance, I try and work as hard as I can at work, class, rehearsals and performance, and when I leave I try and rest and not do too much exercise. . . Lunch breaks I go to the gym and do my Pilates, but not outside work hours.

What is your favourite part of class?

Pirouettes. I'm not an amazing turner, but I love a good pirouette combination from the corner.

Do you have other interests or activities outside of your work?

Yes, when we went into lockdown last year, I thought how I can get involved in the dance community. . .  Watch Nathan talk about his mentoring activities:

I'm studying for an Advanced Diploma of Leadership and Management and that is going to take me to my 3rd year of a Bachelor Degree in Business. Ballet isn't forever – I still plan on dancing for many years . . . but I wanted to get started on it early.

What gets you riled up?

Environmental issues and what we're [not] doing on a global scale to lower our ecological footprint. I think that's what riles me up the most – in Australia we could be doing a lot more about energy conservation. I think what we saw with the bush fires – the response probably wasn't proportionate to what was happening.

For the full list of Telstra nominees, go here.

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