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Canberra ballerina returns home for The Merry Widow 

Ashleigh Went

Ask many little girls across Canberra what they’d like to be when they grow up, and you’re sure to find more than a few aspiring ballerinas. 

Whether it’s the grace, glamour or ethereal beauty, many fantasise about the life of a ballerina—and one former Kambah resident is living that dream.  

Lana Jones is Principal Artist with the Australian Ballet and will be returning to her home town this Friday for the opening night of The Merry Widow. 

“It’s always nice to dance at home” says Lana. “I’m nervous at every show, but I’d get even more nervous doing a home town show because I felt that I had all this pressure and something to prove.  

“But as I get older, I’m trying to turn that into more of a warm feeling. I’m not going to be able to dance forever, so I’m embracing the fact that my family get to watch me.”  

Hordes of Canberrans will flock to see The Merry Widow, which tells the story of a romance between Count Danilo and the newly-widowed and fabulously wealthy Hannah Glawari. Upon meeting, he discovers that she’s his childhood sweetheart, and that she hasn’t forgiven him for jilting her years ago.  

“It’s so romantic” says Lana. “Such a stunning, glamorous and lavish ballet. The music just hits you right in the heart, it’s beautiful to dance to and very romantic—you get swept up in it.” 

In a long list of high-profile roles, including: Aurora in David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle in Maina Gielgud’s Giselle, and Manon in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon (a role Lana describes as “one of my favourite moments on stage”), The Merry Widow stands out as a significant role in a new chapter of Lana’s life—as mother to baby boy Velasco. 

“I found it quite hard to come back after Velasco. You question whether it’s worth it at times. I feel like my heart has been fuller dancing in The Merry Widow, which was nice to find, because I was really searching for that feeling onstage again, almost wondering if it was ever going to come back.” 

Becoming a mother has presented challenges in balancing a family life and career, as well as some unexpected benefits.  

“It’s no different to any other mother guilt that’s out there” she says. “It’s hard sharing the time, but I think it’s also a good thing too, because I can’t get enough of him, so when I see him I soak up every last minute. 

“It has been tough, because I was a really emotionally stable person before Velasco, and since he’s been born it’s been an absolute rollercoaster, and I’ve been really vulnerable. That’s actually been quite good for my ballet, to be able to use that, but it has been very full on.” 

“Full on” is an apt description of the life of a professional ballerina—a career that’s as well known for its glamour and beauty as it is for the level of pressure that’s placed on dancers. 

“I think you have to be so resilient to be a ballerina. It’s not just fluffing around—I think we’re doing our job right if we make it look easy, but it’s very critical and creates a lot of self doubt.” 

While the promotion to Principal Artist was one of Lana’s biggest goals, it also intensified the pressure.  

“The higher you get up in the company, the more [pressure] there is, because you’re leading the show and the expectation of what you should be is huge. To live up to that expectation at every show is quite challenging.” 

And while The Merry Widow is packed with breathtakingly beautiful scenes and romance, Lana has one that truly stands out.  

“I don’t want to give the story away” she says, “but I’ll just say that the last scene always really gets me.” 

The essentials
What: The Australian Ballet’s The Merry Widow
When: 25-30 May
Where: Canberra Theatre Centre
Book: canberratheatrecentre.com.au

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Ashleigh Went

HerCanberra ACTIVE Editor Ashleigh Went has a passion for all things health and wellness. As someone who loves champagne and cheese almost as she loves a sweaty workout, she's all about living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. She can usually be found with her nose in a book, planning her next adventure, in the gym or updating her Instagram @wentworthavenue. More about the Author

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