“Most of us knew we wanted to be professional ballet dancers from a young age.” It feels like a future in dance was fated for Isobelle Dashwood, who grew up in a dance-loving family and remembers that by age 13, she was sure she’d found her calling.
“I’m the middle of five children, so growing up watching my two older siblings take ballet lessons made me want to be just like them,” she says. But the support and influence of her ballet teaching mother was also a guiding hand; “her presence during my time at the studio and her knowledge of the industry allowed me to feel like it was a really safe space to express myself. I fell even more in love with this world, and I knew I wanted to give everything I had for the chance at a career.”
And that she did. Joining The Australian Ballet in 2016, Isobelle quickly took centre stage in several of the company’s most celebrated productions, including The Lilac Fairy in David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty, and Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, in Giselle.
After five years, Isobelle was promoted from the Corps de Ballet to the rank of Soloist (skipping the role of Coryphée, or leading dancer in the Corps de Ballet), and she is the only member of the company to ever make such a leap.
We’re so mesmerised by the beauty and brilliance that is produced by The Australian Ballet, and it’s our pleasure to welcome this rising star to the RATIONALE fold as one of our Luminaries. We spoke to Isobelle (or ‘Dash’ as she’s more often known) about all things ballet, beauty routines, and the strong family ties which bind everything together for her.
Photography (below): Kate Longley
What has your journey with The Australian Ballet looked like so far?
I joined The Australian Ballet immediately after graduating from The Australian Ballet School in 2016.
I was 18 and had so much to learn—I still do today! But I was so honoured and grateful to finally be living the life I had always dreamt of. I started to feel glimpses of confidence growing as I settled into professional life, and was offered more opportunities within the company.
2020 was incredibly challenging, with so many cancelled performances and missed opportunities, but despite these challenges we had a wonderful first few months with our new Artistic Director, David Hallberg. And being promoted earlier this year from the Corps de Ballet to Soloist still feels so surreal!
What does a typical day in the life of a ballet dancer look like?
Ballet is extremely structured, so even with our ever-changing schedules, there is a loose rhythm that we follow each day.
A typical working day starts with a bit of a warm-up. Some Pilates or a roll on the foam rollers in the studio to get your body ready for the day ahead. We have a morning ballet class at 10:30am. It’s a chance to warm up, check-in on yourself, and is a safe space to work on technique and specific steps. I find this time very meditative.
When we aren’t performing, we have rehearsals from midday until 6:30pm with a lunch break in between. Often we’ll be rehearsing multiple ballets at once, which can really test the memory.
If we’re performing, we rehearse until 3pm so we have a good break to rest, eat and prepare for a show. Something people are often surprised to learn is that ballet dancers do their own hair and makeup! I like to start mine just after 5pm. Then I warm-up and do evening barre before the performance starts at 7:30pm. The shows finish around 10:30pm, so then it’s home to eat some more, wind down and get a good night’s sleep before doing it all again the next day!
Photography (below): Kate Longley
Best part of your job?
The fact that it doesn’t feel like a job. It’s like we’re a big family, and we get to spend our days expressing ourselves and supporting each other while doing something we’re all extremely passionate about. I also love the escapism that dance brings to its audiences, and to me.
Besides dance, what is something you love to spend time doing?
At the start of lockdown last year I took up running as a way to cope and move my body in a way that was different to dancing or training. Along with yoga, they are two things that I find extremely therapeutic and find so much joy in.
I also love musicals and Disney. If you’re lucky (or unlucky) you’ll hear me and my family belting out the lyrics to our favourite songs. We’re a bit of a crazy bunch but we have a lot of fun!
You come from a beautifully close-knit family, with a strong and shared love of dance. What is something your parents have taught you?
My mum has always taken great pride in how she presents herself. Not just physically, but also in the way she treats other people—always with grace, pride and respect. How you make other people feel is a real reflection of your own beauty, I think.
Equally, my Dad always comments on people’s eyes; he says you can always tell if someone is kind by their eyes.
Photography (below): Kate Longley
At RATIONALE, we’re big believers in the value of daily rituals. Could you step us through your morning and evening routines?
This changes depending on what we’re doing at work, and if we’ve had a big show the night before, but generally I wake up at 7:30am. I always try and do a little yoga flow before I get ready for the day, even if it’s short. I just love how it makes me feel.
I’d describe my beauty routine as minimal, but essential! I won’t leave the house or even go downstairs without doing my morning skincare. I rinse my face with water and pat dry before applying #2 The Hydragel and #3 The Day Crème SPF15. Finally, a tinted SPF, mascara and some lip balm and I’m all set.
For breakfast, my go-to every morning is avocado on toast. Recently I’ve been adding bocconcini, tomato and balsamic vinegar to mix it up. Very delicious.
In the evenings, I’ll use #4 The Cleanser on dry skin and let it sit for about five minutes before rinsing off in the shower. After showering, I use #5 The Cleanser, followed by #5 The Serum and #5 The GelCrème. I’m slowly introducing #6 The Night Crème into my routine as well.
I always put my essential oil diffuser on before bed. Peppermint oil is so relaxing to me. I have half a cup of herbal tea (because I forget about it and it gets cold), and put on some contemporary classical music (I love Max Richter, Dustin O’Holloran, Nils Frahm, Hans Zimmer to name a few). I’ll write a list of things I need to remember for the next day, set my alarm, apply some more lip balm and then usually I’m ready for a big sleep.
Photography (below left): Kate Longley and (below right) Daniel Boud
With the life of a ballet dancer being so structured, how do you choose to unwind? Let’s say you have a night off and you want to pamper yourself—what are you doing?
You’ll find me wearing comfy clothes, eating good food, and spending time with my family.
Also, my favourite evenings are when everything in the world feels calm: sitting on the couch, freshly showered, all my jobs done, puppies on lap and a bowl of pasta by my side with a good Netflix show. Heaven.
And finally, what can we be excited to see next from you?
We’ll perform for audiences again soon, and our 2022 season is very exciting. It includes some ballets that unfortunately had to be postponed this year, so we’re all very much looking forward to finally sharing them.
I can’t wait to dance for full audiences again; nothing beats the anticipation and hush before a show, or the rapture of applause as it ends.
The Australian Ballet’s 2022 Season Launch
Tune in from 6:30pm (AEST) on 26 October to watch Artistic Director David Hallberg, joined by some of the most acclaimed choreographers in the dance world, announce the exciting 2022 season.