The Sunday Mail
February 22, 2009
EVERY chance he gets, Adelaide dancer Luke Ingham swaps tights and ballet shoes for stubbies and RMs and heads for the shearing shed.
The 23-year-old soloist with the Australian Ballet grew up on his family’s farm in Mt Gambier, and says despite his passion for dance, shearing is in his blood. So much so that every time he returns home, he heads straight for the shed.
“It’s still something that I enjoy when I go back to the mount, I do a bit of shearing with my mum’s husband in the holidays,” he says.
“He thinks I’m a bit crazy ‘cos it’s hard work and stuff. It’s a lot of repetition, a lot of strain on your body, and just the heat in the sheds takes a big toll.
“But it’s a good way to escape. It’s not relaxing, but you’re not thinking about ballet, and you’re still staying in shape a bit which is good.”
Echoing the story of hit film and musical Billy Elliot – in which a small town boy dreams of being a ballet dancer – Ingham’s journey from the farm to the stage has been remarkable.
An energetic and extroverted child, he set his heart on dancing at age three after discovering a box of his mother’s old ballet gear. “I told her I wanted to dance, and she said I could do it when I turned five,” he said.
“I think she was sort of hoping that I’d forget. Not that she was ever negative about it but it was sort of not normal. So straight away when I turned five I said I’d like to try it and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
A television broadcast of legendary Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov sealed the deal. And Ingham still recalls the thrill of seeing his hero dance for the first time.
“Honestly I think that anyone who, as a kid, saw that guy dance would have wanted to dance,” he says.
“He was just a freak. Even to this day no one has been able to really match what he ever did and was capable of. He was just amazing.”
Unlike Billy Elliott, Ingham never faced much opposition to his career plans. “It was surprising, I never really copped too much crap from people,” he says – and after joining the Australian Ballet in 2004, he was promoted to soloist after just four years.
He is now one of the company’s brightest stars with a string of awards to his name, including the Telstra’s People’s Choice Award for best dancer in 2007, and the Australian Arts Council’s Young and Emerging Artist Award in 2006.
Realistically, Ingham knows he only has another 10 years on stage before he’ll have to find another career – and having recently bought land in his old home town with girlfriend and fellow ballet dancer Danielle Rowe (26), he’s leaning towards a life on the land.
“I’d like to be involved in agriculture,” he says.
“I think when I leave the stage there are other things I’d like to do, and to have a normal life for a while would be nice.”
Sadly he won’t have time to click the shears this week while in town for the Australian Ballet’s latest production, Firebird, but the former Urrbrae Agricultural High student says he’s planning on another trip home in July.
Copyright 2009 News Limited