Having honed her craft growing up in Canberra, Australian Ballet coryphée Jasmin Durham was yesterday announced as one of six nominees for the prestigious 2020 Telstra Australian Ballet Dancer Awards.
Durham found out about her nomination during lockdown at time when The Australian Ballet’s 80 dancers were only allowed to come into their Melbourne rehearsal space five at a time.
With no performances on the horizon, the company’s wider team made a point of surprising her with the news.
“I was asked to come down to have a costume fitting,” she smiled. “And I remember thinking why are we doing a costume fitting?”
Upon entering the fitting room, Durham found a big cardboard box filled with balloons and streamers and a note congratulating her on her nomination.
“We didn’t know if we were going through with the award or what was happening; at the time I was just doing ballet class by myself in my one-bedroom apartment,” she said.
With 2020 having been such a disrupted season for the company, Durham was able to optimise the downtime she had compared to the usual performing schedule in any other year.
“We did class over (Microsoft) Teams every morning, you did what you could. I actually sort of took it as a rest,” she said.
“I’ve been really fortune that in my close-to-10-year career I’ve never had a major injury, so I’ve never really had a lot of time off.
“I came back stronger from working on mental health and figuring out what works for me.
“It was difficult and there were moments that were really tough, but I really took the pressure.”
Coming into her tenth year with The Australian Ballet, Durham said the nomination counts as recognition for the countless hours of hard work she has invested in her craft throughout her continuing journey.
“With the award it really shows you’ve carved a place in the company; with 80 dancers you have to have something quite unique about yourself to be nominated,” she said.
“The people who nominate you see you day in day out, and it’s not necessarily about how successful you are.
“It shows your contribution to the art form; for me I’m admired for my resilience and constant hard work … It’s given me the time to realise I’m so proud of what I’ve done and my unique contribution to the company.”
This is Durham’s second nomination for the Telstra Ballet Dancer award, having previously been nominated in 2015.
“I remember (in 2015) thinking I don’t deserve this, but this time around there’s something different, I feel worthy and feel like a contender really,” she said.
The youngest of three siblings, Durham grew up in what she described as a “humble home” in Canberra where her mother made many sacrifices for her and her sister, who now dances with Moulin Rouge, to take ballet classes.
“I wanted to work hard because my mum sacrificed so much for me to be able to do ballet … she used to make us costumes,” she said.
“I had a great experience doing ballet growing up. I know that’s not the case for everyone, but I found it a very nurturing and positive experience.
“I was very tunnel vision ‘this is what I want to do’, nothing else; I knew exactly what I wanted to do from a young age.”
Beginning her ballet education as a three-year-old at Lisa Clark Dance Centre in Hume, Durham said her formative years in Canberra have played “a huge part” in laying the foundations of her successful career.
“The older I get, the more important I realise your experiences as a child are,” she said.
“I was definitely set up with the knowledge and drive to succeed in this industry.”