Dance must change: Ballet star Steven McRae

Published : 17 Apr 2024 09:59 PM | Updated : 17 Apr 2024 09:59 PM

After an almost super-human recovery from an injury, star dancer Steven McRae says the ballet world must take much better care of its artists.

As charted in the upcoming documentary "A Resilient Man", McRae thought his high-flying career as a principal dancer in London's Royal Ballet was over when he heard the horrific sound of his Achilles tendon snapping midway through a performance of "Manon" in October 2019.

It took months for McRae to walk again, but he was lucky: the Royal Ballet is one of the only companies in the world with a dedicated medical team.

"In the world of dance, injuries have always been seen as a sign of weakness," he told AFP. "You're injured, you're useless. Out. Next!"

It took a Herculean two-year effort, supported by his physios, for McRae to return to the stage and get back in peak form.But the experience has radically changed his view of the ballet world.- 'Go go go' -

McRae had unlikely origins in Australia.He is the son of a mechanic and drag-racer, with his family having limited funds for a classical dance education.But talent and determination ultimately led him to first prize at the world's biggest dance competition, in Lausanne, and a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School.

"None of it was handed to me on a silver platter, and anyone who has to fight for something then protects it," he said.

"In that fear of losing it all, you say yes to everything. 

You don't complain about anything. Just go go go."

McRae became one of the company's biggest stars, but he did it by pushing his body to extremes with little care for his physical and mental well-being, relying 

on a steady intake of painkillers 

to survive performances and being so burned-out that he felt 

emotionally numb when he came off stage.

Something had to give, and, aged 35, it was his Achilles."Now I know I was dangerously underweight and not as powerful as I thought," he said.