Ending with many beginnings…

The end of another year nears with many beginnings. Here at RNZB headquarters we are welcoming a new artistic director- Francesco Ventriglia and also a new ballet mistress- Sandrine Cassini.
Not only do we have many new faces, but also a new season to sink our teeth into before the end of the year. Our Vodafone season of ‘A Christmas Carol’ has us brushing up our singing and acting skills as well as providing many different styles of dance, making it a very engaging and challenging rehearsal period for all the right reasons. I think this is quickly becoming one of my favourite shows to rehearse in my career so far!
More on ‘A Christmas Carol’ to come but for now I have some pointe shoe excitement to share.
Crucial to any female ballet dancer are her pointe shoes. The shoe cannot simply be good, but must be as close to perfect as possible for each dancer. For this reason we are constantly obsessing over what we can do as dancers to make our shoes fit perfectly. Here is where my shoe news comes into play.

Our new ballet mistress, Sandrine, has been giving some really awesome tips regarding pointe shoes. One particular tip is a clever ribbon tying trick that she has graciously agreed to let me video so that I can show you all! Look out for the video coming very soon! Pictured below is my newest pointe shoe alteration- notice that the material on the side of the shoe has been ‘cut down’ to make them hug my foot and reduce the extra material ‘baggy’ look. My shoes now fit like a glove and I am very happy with the feel of them! What do you think? Let me know any pointe shoe related questions you may have and I will endeavor to answer them from all the many dancers and staff expertise. More tips and rehearsal news to come! Tonia🙂



Allergic to the Couch Potato

“Hey, how about you run around the block a few times and then come back to us?”

This is a line I often hear when I am on holiday. I was not blessed with the couch potato gene and unfortunately too much free time can make me slightly crazy.

I remember one of my favourite teachers at ballet school saying to our class, “it takes double the time to get back to the fitness level you were in, in relation to the days you take off, so four days of rest is eight days to get back into the condition you were in before the break.” This is why it is important to maintain some upkeep in physical condition while on holiday.

Pointes in the lounge

Pointes in the lounge

At fear of sounding just like a health food TV commercial, it’s all about balance. I’m not talking about throwing myself fanatically into extreme workouts every time a holiday comes looming. Like a used battery, holidays are a great time to mentally and physically recharge. Rest is very important. 10 days of vacation time was bestowed upon the NZ ballet dancers after our season of Coppelia. Once a day I have kept up some form of physical exercise. Here are examples of the type of things I do to maintain physical fitness during time off. I write this from my lounge room floor where I am currently typing whilst sitting in side splits…

Side split writing + my terrible bunion that made it into the shot!

Side split writing + my terrible bunion that made it into the shot!

Dancing requires a combination of strength, endurance, flexibility and core balance. Fellow dancer and ex roommate, Mayu Tanigaito has been my inspiration on the flexibility side of things. Every night when I shared a flat with this incredibly talented dancer she would spend the last part of her evening stretching. I have copied! I spend 20 minutes or more each night stretching. It’s such an incidental way of maintaining physical health with the comfort of being at home and watching a movie, reading (or writing a blog on your laptop) at the same time.

The best part of a holiday, for me, is catching up with family and friends abroad! My dad and I love going for long bike rides around Melbourne. Occasionally I like to head to the aquatic centre to fit some swimming in as well. I am never opposed to a 20-30 minute run around my neighbouring suburbs also. Upon waking and making those first steps through the house it is not uncommon for a member of my family to find me using a bookshelf in the lounge room as a makeshift ballet barre to do a little classical training. Mainly I stick to non-dance related exercise and a mixture of Pilates and stretching.

Next week, rehearsals for our upcoming ‘Allegro’ season begin! There are bound to be some sore muscles as we switch from a highly classical performance season to a mixture of dance styles, some being very contemporary. As I always say, my camera is ready to capture some exciting shots of this season in progress and I look forward to sharing them in the weeks ahead!


Silver Linings

The reflection of a silver lining can shine upon ourselves an image that we don’t necessarily see in the moment of action.

A little Disney mania on my dressing room spot!

A little Disney mania on my dressing room spot!

After performing in Rotorua earlier this week we have now reached Auckland. The disposition of being human naturally has its ups and downs and it’s part of a dancers job to consistently perform as well as possible. Attention to detail and constant self-correction can sometimes become muddled with perfectionism. Our show in Rotorua was so rewarding. It was one of those performances where you feel that everything comes together. A big thanks to all who attended the show too, the audience was fantastic!

There are occasions when this feeling of personal triumph does not always occur. As dancers are constantly trying to improve their performance and perfect the art form, we can find ourselves getting caught up in little details. Don’t get me wrong; it is most often the little details of a show that can make a performance stand out in the right way. However, over my years in the company I have found ways of turning my negative thoughts about a performance that hasn’t gone as well as I would hope into positive ones.

Perspective is vital. Perhaps just one step in the entire show didn’t work as well as it normally would, or I felt a little more tired than normal and therefore felt that I could have done better. This is where those shiny, silver linings come into play. It’s important in these moments to stay true to the main goal. There is no reason to be negative about these things when there is so much more to feel good about. Focusing on the positive moments in the performance and the absolute love of performing is so essential. I will never give in to these negative thoughts.

Stretching!! For daily images check out toniaroselooker on Instagram!

Stretching!! For daily images check out toniaroselooker on Instagram!

I also meditate daily. It’s a time when I can find some internal quiet and stillness and I find it really helps me refocus my body and mind. I understand that this method does not necessarily work for everyone but it’s a personal preference of mine and in this incredibly busy and technological based world it’s my chance to detach myself momentarily from external stimulus and focus internally. Dancers not only need to take good care of their bodies but also their minds and this is a practice that assists me to perform at my best.

Over the next 2 days we perform here in Takapuna! I think I’m going to walk along the beachfront to the theatre and take in the beautiful scenery! Tonia🙂

Ridiculicious Sundays

Taking a Sunday pause to share a non-dance related but absolutely ridiculicious post.

Gingernuts- sweet as!

Gingernuts- sweet as!

I love baking. It’s my go to therapy when I find myself with too much time on my hands. Early this morning, sun shining into our bedroom and waking me for what has promised to be a beautiful day off in Wellington, I found myself scrolling through healthy cookie recipes. This led me to an inventive morning of baking and my, oh my, it was a tasty success and healthy too. I will be treating my fellow RNZB dancers to these when we head off to Rotorua on Tuesday!

I bring you the yummiest gingernut biscuits I found on www.vegetaraian.com with a few twists of my own improvisation. Happy Sunday baking!

Healthy Vegan Gingernuts-


2 cups of plain flour

1 cup of caster sugar

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp of ground ginger

pinch of salt

125g of dairy free butter

1 tsp of golden syrup

2-3 tbsp of plain cooked oatmeal (who knew I would discover an egg replacement whilst making my breakfast)!

a splash of water (less than ¼ cup) to bind


1)   In a mixing bowl combine sifted flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt

2)   Rub in butter until the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs

3)   Add a tiny bit of cold water, the cooked oatmeal and the golden syrup and work into a firm dough

4) Take teaspoonfuls of mixture, roll into small balls, place on lightly greased oven trays about 5cm apart.

5) Bake at 160 degrees for about 15 minutes. Loosen biscuits and cool on the trays.

After just returning home from a quick run on the treadmill at the gym I am ready to enjoy one of these delightful biscuits with a cup of tea!  Tonia🙂

Gingernuts- sweet as!

Gingernuts- sweet as!


Stage brained…

Our job is to make the hard stuff look easy. Elegance, grace, poise, power, agility, strength, stamina, musicality and on top of that, sparkling eyes and a smile. The moment you step onto the stage these are some of the things you hope to pass on to an audience. The unseen component is the mental process that occurs through a show. From the moment you wake on a show day there is a certain focus. A different energy exists. Ballet class and rehearsals prepare your body and maintain strength and ability before and during a performance season. A show day feels like a heightened sense of these rehearsed focuses. Having just performed in Dunedin, here is a glimpse into my mental process during our most recent show.

Whilst getting ready, makeup lights warming the dressing room and music sounding through my speakers, my mind is already on the show ahead. Thinking through corrections I have received from a previous show and steps I want to make more out of, or aspects of my character that I want to play on. I try not to spend too much time thinking on one thing though. I have learnt that thinking too much about aspects of the show can do more harm than good. Therefore playing music keeps me balanced. I will often sing along. It always keeps me calm during pre show prep. I will never forget during ‘Cinderella’ season when choreographer Christopher Hampson came to wish me good luck and I was singing at the top of my voice to Hunters and Collectors- ‘Throw Your Arms Around Me’. An embarrassing moment but I was certainly in a good pre show mood!

Costume on and the announcement from stage management that the stage is set, I make my descent downstairs with my fellow dancers to stage. I try out a few steps, getting a feel for the space and lights. I like to keep my body moving during this time, keeping my muscles active. I am a big fan of positive affirmations. I have a few that I like to think about before curtain up. “Live what you love”, “no regrets” and “you’ve got this” crop up a lot in my mind right before I head out on stage. Not the most original of sayings but they really help along with a smile! I enjoy the little nervous/excited buzz I feel before I step out onto stage. I know that this adrenalin will help me power through.

The moment I first step out on stage my mind goes quiet for a second. It’s a wonderful moment, just taking in the audience and the instant in time. As I continue dancing I think about what I am trying to achieve with each step that I am performing. I remind myself to breathe when steps become tiring and it is in these moments when you really have to steel your brain and not give in to fatigue. The amount of times the thought “nearly there, you can do it” has occurred is innumerable. It is this combination of physical exertion and mental stamina that makes dancing so personally rewarding. Add to that an audience and artistic expression and it’s a feeling that is simply wonderful! Tomorrow we make the long bus journey to Napier! With my overnight bag packed for our 2 day visit I look forward to another couple of shows! Tonia🙂

A glance behind the scenes!

With the curtain down on Coppelia in Invercargill, we bussed through the drizzly, South Island rain to find ourselves in our next performance destination, Dunedin. Thank you so much to the Invercargill audience. It was wonderful to receive such warm applause and it was a joy to perform this up-lifting ballet to an equally up-lifting crowd.

With 2 days off in Dunedin what mischief are we all going to get up to? Well, there is one door list that everybody is trying to get their name on- physio! We are fortunate enough to have one physiotherapist that travels to some of the main centres that we journey to. Our bodies are our tools, so maintaining health and fitness is a must to continue to perform at our best. Unfortunately there are one or two dancers maintaining more serious injuries this tour. For this reason there will always be backup casts and covers for every role in the ballet. Therefore, as well as learning the parts we have been cast to perform, we also will usually have between 2-4 and sometimes more roles to understudy in case of emergency. As the saying goes- the show must go on!

I have heard stories from friends in other companies of people waiting in costume and makeup side stage in case someone has to come off due to precariously performing on a nearly broken foot etc. Luckily, that is not the case this season. The prevention of this, however, is what is so highly beneficial about having physio available whilst on the road. I am probably getting irrationally excited about getting my calf muscle released tomorrow but it’s these body maintenance resources that help us continue to do what we love- perform!

As well as physio appointments, a day off is usually spent going to a café for brunch, window-shopping, hitting the gym and relaxing in front of the tv. Today I did all of the above (except the gym oops). Brunch to celebrate fellow colleague Maree’s birthday and my felafel wrap was delicious. Window-shopping turned into a search for the perfect ankle boot for fellow dancer, Lori, and may I say, Dunedin, you have some very chic shops! I then thoroughly enjoyed catching the latest episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ with a cup of tea and my motel roomie- Maree. Feeling very well rested. Looking forward to getting back under the stage lights soon! Until then, Tonia🙂

From left to right- Clytie, Katherine, Alayna, Abigail, Maree and Lori. Out to brunch for Maree's birthday in Dunedin.

From left to right- Clytie, Katherine, Alayna, Abigail, Maree and Lori. Out to brunch for Maree’s birthday in Dunedin.

Dolly Dancing

What’s that sound? It’s the sudden thud of my long blogging silence being broken. Hello again everyone!

The past 7 weeks have been filled rehearsing for our current performance season of Coppelia. After shedding our winter woollies post USA tour it’s nice to be back in some slightly warmer weather (despite the occasional Welly horizontal downpour).

Ready to head out on tour!

Ready to head out on tour!

Coppelia is a ballet I have grown up watching. It was one of the first ballets I tottered along to see as a very young, aspiring dancer and it was the ballet I performed at the conclusion of my graduating year at the Australian Ballet School. 7 years later, using the Australian Ballet’s costumes (I found my name in one of them from all that time ago) we are revisiting this uplifting classic.

Without going into too much plot line detail, I believe that this version of Coppelia- reworked by the consistently inspirational Martin Vedel, has gorgeously developed characters and a touching twist particularly to the character of Dr. Coppelius.

Tonight hails an evening of suitcase packing before jetting to Invercargill tomorrow. I feel I can confidently say that after years of touring life I have my travel essentials very clearly established. As I learnt from my kiwi buddies, you should never go anywhere without a pair of jandals, sunglasses and shorts. Added to the mix are a dress and heels for post show functions and as always my travel candle and tracksuit pants are an absolute luxury to travel with. Naturally tennis and golf balls are perfectly normal things to carry in ones handbag when preparing for tour too? It may sound like packing everything but the kitchen sink but when it comes to post show muscle aches a golf ball to the calf is a miracle worker. Lastly and quite possibly the handiest item to take on tour is what is known amongst the dancers as “our tour bible.” This booklet contains all the timetable, travel, media calls, accommodation and venue information for the duration of the tour. So, bible packed, suitcase zipped and I look forward to blogging our tour adventures!