Posted on June 27 2018
This week, we catch up with Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Madeleine (Maddy) Graham. An Aussie native - Madeleine grew up in Melbourne and began dancing aged seven, training at the Victorian College of the Arts and the Australian Ballet School which she graduated from in 2012. She then immediately joined Royal New Zealand Ballet which has seen her has travel as part of their dance tours to China, US, and Europe.
We first discovered Maddy when we saw the wonderful video of her dancing in Antarctica: The First Dance which saw the dancer perform elegantly whilst on the icy plains of Antarctic. Created and directed by award-winning choreographer Corey Baker, the filmed dance was created in order to draw attention to the impending crisis landscapes such as Antarctica are facing as a result of climate change. Here's her story:
Bardega: Can you tell us a bit about your background? What were you like growing up and when did you first get into ballet?
Graham: I was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia. Growing up I played quite a lot of different sport and always loved trying out new things. Like most children, I was pretty active but also very focused.
I started ballet because my sister was going along to dance classes for fun. I remember watching ballet videos when I was younger and would always dance around in the living room and choreograph to classical music that I loved. It wasn’t until I was accepted into a full time dance school that I really thought I could take it further.
In my graduating year at the Australian Ballet School the then director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) Ethan Stiefel offered me a contract with the company starting immediately after my final exams.
We recently discovered you through the film Antarctic: The First Dance, which is absolutely beautiful. Can you tell us how you got involved in the project?
Graham: Choreographer Corey Baker came to the RNZB looking for a dancer to take with him to Antarctica. We auditioned and I was the lucky one chosen. There was nothing that could really prepare me for what was to come, but we did go to a local ice rink as well as a snow room here in New Zealand to try some sliding and dancing. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life. To be constantly pushed to my limits in such an extreme way really taught me so much about myself and what I was capable of doing. To get to each of our locations we had to climb mountains, abseil down crevasses and slide down ski slopes.
As a ballet dancer, the conditions were far from ideal, and dancing in snow quickly showed us that we would have to adjust movements and choreography to fit our location. Corey’s main idea behind the film was to showcase Antarctica’s beauty and also bring awareness to climate change in a completely new way.
Bardega: You have been with Royal New Zealand Ballet since joining in 2012. What have been some of your highlights so far?
Graham: A career highlight for me would be having the role of ‘Juliet’ in Francesco Ventriglia’s Romeo and Juliet created on me last year. It was my first three act principal role and to have that happen with such an iconic ballet and outstanding score was such a special moment. Other works I’ve enjoyed have been ‘L’arlesienne’, ‘In the Middle Somewhat elevated’ and some new contemporary creations. I’ve also been able to tour internationally with the company to the U.S, Italy, the UK and China.
Bardega: Have there been any obstacles you have faced within your career and how did you overcome them?
Graham: Unfortunately injury has been my biggest obstacle. I’ve had multiple stress fractures in my foot which has been very frustrating. A dancer's career is so short and injury is such a setback. But each time I’ve had to rehab I have learnt something new about my body and really appreciate how lucky I am to do this for a job. Each time I’ve been forced to the side lines to get through the tough times my passion for dance and drive to get back into the studio really ignites inside me and helps me look forward to the bigger picture.
Bardega: What / who inspires you and why?
Graham: I get inspiration from everything. I think anything you surround yourself with can inspire you, it can be nature, people, music, experiences, everything is a source of inspiration and all for very different reasons.
Maddy on Instagram
Image of Maddy by Jacob BryantAntarctica: The First Dance was commissioned by Random Acts for Channel 4, and The Space, a digital development agency supported by the BBC and Arts Council, England With support of, Corey Baker Dance, Antarctica New Zealand, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Christchurch NZ, Dance Hub Birmingham, New Zealand High Commission, Earth Sea Sky.