When you think of ballet dancers, you may think of the highly strung, dramatic divas portrayed in movies and TV, whose personal lives are as fraught as those of their characters on stage. But that idea goes completely out the window when you meet Alexander Idaszak and Vanessa Morelli.
Watching the two practise at Queensland Ballet’s West End rehearsal studios, it’s easy to be in awe of the superhuman flexibility and poise. They seem to communicate wordlessly, in small gestures and touches. But between runs their laughter rolls about the old brick warehouse.
Back at their West End apartment, within walking distance of the studio, they lean on the couch and play with their hair in the same pose – laughing when you point it out. This you soon learn: they laugh together, a lot, and Idaszak characterises much of their early attraction as being “full of just mucking around”.
Idaszak and Morelli met when they were both accepted into the Queensland Ballet in January of 2013. A quick friendship formed, and at a dinner for Morelli’s birthday they realised it was something more.
“I always used to say I’d never date another dancer, because I thought mixing work and personal life would just be too hard,” Morelli says. “I’ve had friends who’ve done that in the past and it didn’t end well … and then they had to see each other every day. But then I met Alex and I knew I had to give it a chance. It was the kind of thing you can’t fight.”
They both quickly realised the benefits of having a partner who can understand the pressure of such an elite career. Morelli continues: “It’s great because we know exactly what the other person is feeling – whether it’s physical or mental. We help each other out.”
Morelli and Idaszak are part of the cast for Queensland Ballet’s upcoming season of Swan Lake, with Idaszak playing the lead male role of Prince Siegfried. Male and female ballet dancers rarely go for the same roles or opportunities, making competition between the two practically non-existent. It’s more they want to push each other to be the best they can be. “Sometimes we give each other corrections or tips when we see something the other person is struggling with,” Idaszak says.
“Which doesn’t always go down so well,” Morelli says, laughing. “When you’re [dancing with] your partner in a show, it’s a bit easier to get annoyed at them. You don’t have the filter of being polite. But when we get home we just try and forget all about it.”
In their apartment you can see how important relaxation and fun is for the pair. Greenery, terrariums, gaming consoles and polaroids of the couple and their friends are prominent. When your work life is so full of pressure, they say, they usually just want to come home, drink some wine and watch a movie. “We’re just lucky that we’re pretty good at keeping work and our personal life separate,” Morelli says. “When we come home it’s no ballet talk.
“It helps that we’re quite different in how we deal with the stress,” she continues. “When I have a big role I get really nervous and Alex always calms me down. In other parts of our life, too. And when he gets a big role, he’s so chilled!”
Unlike a lot of people, Morelli and Idaszak know what it’s like to follow one dream throughout your whole life; they both trained in ballet since they were very young (Alex did at one stage ask if he could join the football team, but he “gave up pretty quickly”.)
They were following parallel roads before joining Queensland Ballet, Morelli dancing full time in New South Wales and Idaszak at the Australian Ballet School in Victoria. The two might have never met if it weren’t for one man: Li Cunxin, the internationally acclaimed dancer who was appointed as Queensland Ballet’s artistic director in 2012, programming his first season the following year. “We both were really drawn by Li,” Idaszak says. “Honestly, I couldn’t believe it when I heard he was taking over.
“You feel like you’ve been on his journey from the start,” he continues. “Hearing about his vision for the company – it’s a great place, but it’s only going to get better and better.”
It’s past 5pm and time to leave Idaszak and Morelli to enjoy their Saturday night. Final question: are they sure there aren’t any serious challenges in such a close working and personal relationship? Morelli thinks for a minute. “I guess the biggest conflict we have is deciding what to have for dinner,” she says. “Though we like a lot of the same things so we usually end up agreeing.”