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Sport on Saturdays: A dancer tells us what the Moulin Rouge is really like.

Andrea as a Moulin Rouge dancer

Andrea Robertson was obsessed with ballet before she could even pronounce the word “ballet”.

At the age of two, she constantly talked about “belly” – much to the confusion of her parents, especially because no one in her family had ever done any dancing.

Finally, when Andrea was three, the Nutcracker was on TV and she was able to show her parents what she had wanted to do all along: ballet.

She started lessons right away – and never stopped.

From there, Andrea nearly became a professional ballet dancer – and then ended up dancing as a Moulin Rouge dancer. She has also worked as an oestopath throughout her dancing career.

Andrea now runs her own enormous osteopathy clinic, has opened several Xtend barre studios throughout Melbourne, and has been nominated for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

I had a chat to her to ask all about her life as a dancer – and it was fascinating.

You’re from the country – so how did you get to the point where you became a professional dancer? 

I never danced at a full-time dance school like a lot of professionals do. I was just lucky to have such an amazing ballet teacher, who was a principal of the Australian Ballet Company, and she ended up in a little country town teaching me. I had grand ambitions of being a ballerina but I’m very tall – so I was pretty much told I would never get work as a ballerina because I was too tall. However, I was still invited to come and do an audition for the Australian Ballet Company, even though I could never work in Australia as a ballerina.

So I was planning on doing my ballet school audition, and the night before, I was in class and broke my foot. I didn’t even make my audition.

I was devastated because all I  knew was ballet. And then I went to university and studied osteopathy. While I was at uni in Melbourne, I discovered a whole new world of dance, jazz, musical theatre. Then I got auditions, an agent and did a lot of TV work and cheerleading and corporate gigs.

Andrea

I got my qualifications as an osteopath and three months later, Moulin Rouge came to Australia for auditions – and I got the job! They had about 800 auditions and only took 4 of us from Australia so it was very exciting!

What was it actually like dancing in the Moulin Rouge? Was it anything like the movie?

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It’s not anything like the movie. At the very end of the movie, when they have that one big scene when they have all the sequins and costumes? It’s a bit like that, but not all the other things the movie has in it.

It’s a really great show – professional in the way that there was a hairdresser that would always have your wigs ready and your costumes would be ready. They would mend holes in your tights and take them home and wash them for you, which I’ve never had on any other show before. There was always a lot of prestige about working there so you were treated very well and you got taken out and about in Paris. There were a lot of Aussie girls so we had a lot of fun there.

Obviously you were expected to work pretty hard, so we had a lot of rehearsals during the day time. There was real look about Moulin Rouge in the way the dancers look and move, so we had to learn to move like that.

So you danced by night… what did you do by day?

I took my treatment table with me to Paris and I used to dance doing two shows a night, and I also treated all the dancers in the Moulin Rouge through the day time. I used to treat them in my tiny apartment and it was lovely, a nice little combination.

I spent two years in Paris and then travelled around and decided to take a job in a little place in Majorca and it was wonderful. I found a little osteopathy clinic and i started working there in the day time, for just 4 or 5 hours, and then dancing every night.

Then I came to Australia and I worked as an osteopath three days a week. I had a great boss so was able to swap my days if any dancing came up. I retired from professional dancing about seven years ago and moved to Adelaide and started my own osteopathy practice here.

I’ve now gotten back into the dance world through Xtend Barre, which is an amazing workout that combines pilates and dance moves. I have one studio here already and I open a second one this week.

All those years that you were a Moulin Rouge dancer, working in your tiny apartment, working in osteopathy, what drove you to keep that going on the side as an extra career?

I just love both of my jobs. Neither have ever been hard work and it wasn’t even a conscious decision, it’s just what I do. If people need treatment I just do it. It’s never been a thought – it’s just the way it is.

Andrea running barre classes

What drove you to open your own clinic?

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When I was at uni, I always said, when I’m finished dancing, I’m going to start my own clinic. So it wasn’t even a thought, it was just always what I was planning on doing.

Do you find it difficult to run that and the Xtend Barre stuff at the same time? How do you manage to do it all?

I’m very busy and I’m very organised. I get up early (5am) and I start working on my computer. I’ve trained up a lot of good staff to help with the support. I work out a lot – I do Xtend Barre about five times a week.

What’s your number one philosophy for people that are struggling through injuries and trying to recover and losing their fitness?

It is hard, because you do have to cut back on things because of injuries. Always just persevere and keep doing the right thing and you’ll come good and get back to it. You just have to listen to the people trying to help you.

And in other sports news for the week…

– Our Aussie basketball team, the Opals, have won the bronze medal in the FIBA women’s world championships.

Our Opals played against Turkey on Monday morning and managed to nab a final score of 74-44, despite two of their most well-known players – Liz Cambage and Lauren Jackson – being out of action due to injury.

Well done, Opals!

– As a result, Opals captain Penny Taylor was selected in the FIBA Women’s World Championship’s All-Star Five in Istanbul, and is now set to rejoin the international circuit.

– It was announced this week that the women’s Rugby Sevens will be included in the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver spoke to the media, confirming that it was excellent news for Aussie women’s rugby: “Since the last Commonwealth Games program in Glasgow was announced, women’s Rugby Sevens has gone from strength-to-strength, with the IRB introducing the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series for the 2012/13 season.”

– The four-game netball Constellation Cup series is currently underway, with Australia beating New Zealand 49-40 in Melbourne on Wednesday night. The Diamonds also managed a 17 goal lead over the Ferns in the first game, leading to what should be a very interesting third game tonight.

Is there anything in the sporting world that you’d like to talk about?

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