Australian Ballet senior artist Callum Linnane faced an unusual dilemma in trying to maintain his fitness and dance skills during Melbourne's 2020 COVID lockdowns.
Completing daily ballet lessons live-streamed in to his bayside apartment required a few adjustments from what the ballet masters and mistresses were asking for.
"I'm in a 1960s apartment and not that it's small, but it's old. I'm a tall guy so I had to do really low arms or I kept hitting the ceiling.
"I learned to keep my arms low, and I couldn't jump in my apartment because the floor felt too old and it would feel like the floor boards under me wouldn't hold, plus I live above an old lady who would probably be traumatised by the sound of a guy jumping above her," he laughed.
The current circuit-breaker lockdown means the Ballarat born-and-trained dancer is back trying to stay match-fit for his role in New York Dialects, which was due to open at Melbourne's State Theatre on Thursday.
The season is currently up in the air until the outcome of the lockdown is known.
At the same time as hitting the stage in New York Dialects, he is preparing for Anna Karenina to open on June 18 in which he has a principal role.
Linnane this month celebrated a promotion within the Australian Ballet ranks from soloist to senior artist - the second highest ranking in the company.
It's a long way from the boy who loved every form of dance except ballet when he was a student at Ballarat Centre for Music and the Arts.
"I came to ballet late, when I was 11," he said. "I was at BCMA doing everything but ballet classes, I was terrified of ballet, but once they convinced me to give it a whirl I ended up loving it."
That kickstarted a whirlwind of dance that, a year later, saw him audition for the Australian Ballet School and take up a position there.
I put music on in my apartment and just danced to get my body moving sometimes, because when you're doing a ballet class in your apartment and trying to avoid the ceiling, lights and feeling like you could fall through the floor it's pretty dishearteningCallum Linnane
"I came down to Melbourne from when I was 12. It was amazing to walk down the corridor and watch the dancers of the Australian Ballet. I had inspiration at my doorstep, but I never had that much contact with them until I was older," he said.
During last year's lockdowns Linnane was quick to put his hand up to be part of an online mentoring program through Australian Ballet sponsor Telstra and was matched with aspiring Ballarat dancer Sam Holzberger from his old ballet school BCMA.
The pair took part in online sessions across six weeks.
"We didn't have mentor programs like that when I was young but I would have loved it. For a young dancer to have that communication and close contact with someone who is ultimately living your dream is fantastic.
"For me to know I'm playing some small part in a young dancer's journey to fulfil their dream of becoming a professional dancer it's so rewarding to know you are contributing.
"It was nice to get on (Microsoft) teams with a young dancer in the same situation as you are and for 45 minutes just to be able to work on something, even if it's in the living room or you can't jump, to feel like you are in it together.
"Even if we couldn't work together in person, to see him improve over six weeks as we work on things every Sunday morning it was heartwarming to see that progress and see his focus and determination."
The 2020 lockdowns also forced Linnane to explore some of the other sides of his creativity, and other ways to keep fit, given the difficulty he had with dance in his apartment.
"I tried to maintain any fitness I had by doing other things. I tried running for a bit, skipping outside, doing stairs in my apartment building, anything because I couldn't jump.
"But what I found interesting is that, because I'm a creative person, that creativity is satisfied by what I do for a living and when that was taken away I found myself branching out in to other interests.
SEE CALLUM LINNANE'S PROMOTION ANNOUNCEMENT BELOW
"For me it was pretty much going to be arts related; I was watching more movies, listening to more music, watching plays streamed online and I almost took a step away from dance in a way that it felt like an opportunity to explore other aspects.
"I wrote a little bit here and there, found an interest in photography and I put music on in my apartment and just danced to get my body moving sometimes because when you're doing a ballet class in your apartment and trying to avoid the ceiling, lights and feeling like you could fall through the floor it's pretty disheartening.
"But it felt better to put music on and dance around in a way that made me feel good."
It was a big change for someone whose working day is built around physical activity.
In normal times, Linnane is at work by 9am and in the gym doing pilates and strength work before dancing begins around 10.30.
There's a lunch break at 2.30pm, with the odd 15 minute breaks during the morning session, then another three hour block of dance from 3.30pm. He then spends up to another hour in the gym before heading home.
"It's a long day, all physical, but especially at the moment it feels like even though it can be exhausting more I do in the studio, the more I back that up up with work in the gym and pilates to keep my body in good stead the stronger I feel."
When last year's lockdowns ended the Australian Ballet returned to the studio slowly, with 'bubbles' of dancers working together to minimise infection risk.
"It was a gradual ease back in to work," he said. "We had our bubble of people so we'd take class with the same group of five people, then 10, then 20 and to be honest initially it felt strange to be in a room with other people and that took a little bit of getting used to but once that adjustment period was over, to be back in the studio and dancing it was magic.
"And once we were actually allowed to partner again and rehearse the repertoire we would be doing it was even better."
Like all performers, getting back in front of a live audience after a year of lockdown and restricted rehearsals was sweeter than he could have imagined - even if the venue wasn't a traditional Australian Ballet stage.
"Regardless of rank or promotion or whatnot, after the year we had it was the biggest pleasure just to get out on stage in front of life audience," he said.
"At the end of February we did a gala performance at Margaret Court Arena - I think that was so we could get a big number in there because it seats so many and we could still have social distancing where possible.
"Because it was the first show back there was just a sense of relief and excitement to be performing once again. It didn't matter where it was, you could have put me on the back of a truck and I would have danced."
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Getting back to the Sydney Opera House where the company has just finished a seven week season of New York Dialects, the show they were scheduled to open in Melbourne this week, made the step in to COVID normality feel even more real.
"There was a nice novelty to (Margaret Court Arena) but as soon as we got back in to the Sydney Opera House, as soon as we got back on stage, it felt like home. Nothing compared to being in an actual theatre with an actual curtain, audience, orchestra."
While the return to stage in Melbourne has been delayed, Linnane cannot wait until the curtain again rises on the State Theatre stage - first for New York Dialects then Anna Karenina.
"Anna Karenina is new to the company so it's all fresh. And with that one it's really exciting as I'm doing one of the principal male parts, which is a challenge, but a welcome challenge and it's nice to get back in to the realm of story ballet because it feels like it's been a while."
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