Life as a ballet dancer means always being on your tippy toes. Drew Hedditch, who’s currently coryphée (leader of the corps de ballet, and occasional soloist) spends his days in rehearsal studios and his nights on stage.
“More often than not, we’re rehearsing the next show [after what’s] in the theatre at the present time,” he says. “At the moment we’re performing Swan Lake, but during the day we’re rehearsing for The Dream and Marguerite and Armand, which is the next show that we'll be doing. So the ball is always rolling. Never ends.”
Since relocating from Canberra to Melbourne in 2011 as a 16-year-old to join the Australian Ballet School, Hedditch has become a Melbourne local through and through – including a self-proclaimed status as a “coffee snob”. He tells us what a typical day is like, from his favourite spots around his home in South Yarra and lunchtime dashes into the city to where he goes for dinner after a show and the new spots he’s keen to check out.
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Hedditch’s mornings start with a 7.30am Pilates class at One Hot Yoga in South Yarra, then it’s back home to have breakfast and feed his cat Margot, or he’ll head out for coffee and something sweet.
“Sometimes that’s my treat, to do the work in Pilates and then get something good and buttery,” he says. His regular coffee spot is Maker on Toorak Road.
Then Hedditch cycles along the Yarra to The Australian Ballet’s Southbank studios. First up: another round of Pilates in the gym, this time more tailored to ballet, followed by morning class at the barre. Hedditch describes this as a ritual for dancers: resetting the body, starting slow with pointing the feet and pliés, then gradually working up to grand allegro, or those mind-bogglingly big jumps and turns.
When morning class disperses for a 15-minute break, Tiny Teddies satisfy his sweet cravings. Rehearsals begin around midday and go for three hours. Some days this might be a full run of the ballet with the entire company, or dancers might be jumping between different rehearsals. When it’s the latter, Hedditch says the Ballet Centre is a flurry of tutus and boots being rushed around from one room to another.
On a normal rehearsal day, lunch rolls around at 2.30pm. But on performance days, rehearsals end at 3pm and the dancers get a bit of a break to prepare for the evening show.
Some days, a packed lunch just doesn’t cut it – at those times, Hedditch crosses the river up into the CBD for fresh air and a bit to eat (“Necessities!” he says).
It’s a hop and skip through Flinders Lane to Hedditch’s “ultimate favourite coffee” at Dukes. He zips back across the river to the Ballet Centre before his fellow dancers have even noticed he slipped out.
With double shows on Saturdays, a proper weekend is hard to come by – so Hedditch makes the most of the time he has before and after.
For a treat, he’ll head to Richmond for a croissant, or a slice of lemon tart at Tarts Anon.
“Sometimes I just love a plain, buttery croissant – just something simple on the palate. I’m really not a fan of the pastries that are loaded up with lots of chocolate and all of that heavy stuff on top. I want to go back to the French basics, the classic things,” he says. Then it’s off to the theatre for back-to-back performances.
By the time Hedditch gets off stage, it’s usually pretty late. “If someone like my mum has been watching the show, I'll often take her out afterwards.” France Soir is a top choice as it’s open late and offers classic French cuisine – a juicy steak is his post-show order. Bar Margaux and Embla in the CBD and Marion in Fitzroy are also favourites.
On a Sunday, Hedditch might head out with friends to the cosy ’70s-inspired Leonard’s House of Love for beer, fried chicken and good vibes. He also frequents neighbourhood bar Canecutters and casual wine store South Yarra Cellars.
Though he’s got tried and tested mainstays, Hedditch is also constantly on the lookout for new spots to try around Melbourne; currently on the list are opulent restaurant Reine and its adjacent bar La Rue.
“There are always places popping up, it’s hard to keep track of. I find that when I have the time to myself, not being in the theatre and not performing, I like to treat myself and to spend time with friends at places where I can be wined and dined. But also with good service, just so that I can sit back and take a moment to enjoy the finer things and something simple. And then not have to clean up, obviously.”
The Australian Ballet’s double bill of The Dream and* Marguerite and Armand runs at the Sydney Opera House from November 10 to 25.*
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