A day in the life of a professional ballerina with The Australian Ballet

A behind-the-curtain look.

There have been entire publications, social media accounts, books, TV shows, movies and podcasts created to explore how successful people structure their days. While 5am start times, fresh green juices and daily Pilates regularly feature, the stereotype of perfect routines is often in stark contrast to what’s really happening.

When you work in a creative role outside of the typical nine-to-five, the ‘perfect routine’ might look a little different. For Samara Merrick, a professional ballerina with The Australian Ballet, each day is a rotating schedule of class, pre-show prep and rehearsal for upcoming shows, with rare spots of downtime spent knitting, painting or shopping slotted in between.

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Her non-negotiables for a successful day? A strong coffee, Laneige’s Lip Sleeping Mask and a fresh pair of pointe shoes (to name a few). In the midst of her season performing in The Australian Ballet’s double bill, Études / Circle Electric, at the Sydney Opera House, Samara takes us through a day in her life.

Tell us about yourself. What’s your day job?

My name is Samara Merrick, I’m a professional ballerina with The Australian Ballet. I’m 22 years old and this is my third year with the company. I’ve been dancing ever since I can remember. Although it’s my job, dancing is one of the things I love most in this world. Outside of ballet, I love being surrounded by nature when I can or exploring fashion. In my downtime, I love painting landscapes and knitting.

How did your journey into ballet start?

I was such a competition girl growing up, (with) lots of jazz and acrobatics. I only fell in love with ballet once I got a bit older. Growing up in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, I had a teacher who used to dance in the company and taught me ballet for many years.

She got me into all of this, getting me to audition for The Australian Ballet School. Once I was accepted, I moved to Melbourne into a boarding house by myself at 15 years old. I spent five years training and then was offered a job by David Hallberg when I was 20 years old.

With a creative job like yours, no two days are the same. Could you take us through a recent, semi-typical day you’ve had?

Right now, the company is performing a double bill Études / Circle Electric at the Sydney Opera House. It consists of two completely different works, Études is pure classical ballet and Circle Electric is a new bold contemporary work by Stephanie Lake.

I am dancing in both works, so it’s been an interesting process rehearsing for such different styles. Stephanie Lake is the most creative and pure human I’ve met. She’s full of ideas and is very inspiring to work with and perform her work. Études is every ballerina’s dream work to do. It’s hard but fulfilling to be performing such contrasting works.

Every day consists of class in the morning, In the afternoon we rehearse for the upcoming season, which is a new work created by Christopher Wheeldon, called Oscar©, which is based on the life and writings of Oscar Wilde. I then have a break ’til the show where I can get some stuff done and relax. I start the show at 7.30pm and perform Études / Circle Electric. I get home around 11pm to rest and repeat the same thing the next day.

We also have double show days which are Wednesdays and Saturdays, which are huge days for the dancers. Basically, this consists of an 11am class (and a) 1.30pm show that finishes around 3.30pm, I eat, then have a rest and repeat the same show at 7.30pm. After days like this, I feel like I have a ballet hangover the next day. Although days like this are huge, they are very rewarding.

How do you manage to stay organised and keep on top of everything in your busy life?

Surprisingly, I’m very organised considering how busy my schedule is. It did take me a bit of time to get used to it all when I first joined the company.

Luckily the company is very organised and has a great schedule. On days when I’m performing in the theatre, I try to relax from 3pm to 6pm, relaxing in my changeroom or the green room, sometimes I unwind by sewing point shoes. On days when I have more energy I’ll go outside and get some life admin done or treat myself to some shopping.

Non-negotiables in your daily schedule?

  • Always a coffee to start my morning.
  • A good pair of pointe shoes to get me through the day and performance.
  • My D.S & Durga Rose Atlantic Perfume.
  • Mints.
  • Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask.

Études / Circle Electric is currently on at the Sydney Opera House until May 18, and then in Melbourne from October 2 to 9 at the Regent Theatre. For more information, head here.

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