Melissa Hamilton: Strangely, for a ballerina, I am not greatly coordinated

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Dromore, Co Down-born Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton

 Northern Ireland ballet dancer Melissa Hamilton – a self-described lover of life
Gail Bell

Royal Ballet dancer Melissa Hamilton is from Dromore, Co Down


Up and at it – what is your morning routine?

My alarm usually wakens me up around 7am-ish and my first priority is always to take my dog, Apollo (a nine-month-old Japanese Spitz) out for his morning walk. My fiancé, Michael, and I have breakfast together and then set off for our working day.


What might you eat in a typical working day for…Breakfast?

Breakfast is either eggs or porridge, depending if I'm craving sweet or savoury. And always with a strong black coffee.


This varies massively depending on my rehearsal schedule. I like preparing a rice or pasta dish at home in the morning or else the previous evening, so I can bring something with me to the theatre to eat between rehearsals. Fruit (fresh and dried) and nuts are excellent fuel to snack on. I also always have some chocolate or sweets in my bag at work.

Evening Meal?

On a non-performance evening, Michael and I will cook together at home or meet each other at a restaurant. He, being the better cook, loves to dabble with different flavours and spices. At home we tend to cook steak or chicken and when we go out, I normally go for any fish on the menu.


Is nutrition important to you?

Eating healthily is essential for my job. As a ballerina, my body is my tool, so I have to fuel it correctly in order for it to work at optimum efficiency.


Best meal ever?

I adore Hakkasan, a Cantonese cuisine restaurant in London where I now live.


Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I love cheese and I have an incredibly sweet tooth – I don't go a day without chocolate.


Have you ever been on a diet? If so, how did it go?

I have never followed a fad diet. Food is so important as a fuel to be able to do what I do, so I let my energy levels guide me in gauging how much to consume.


Do you take health supplements?

I put a dissolving magnesium tablet in my water which I drink in ballet class and rehearsals. This helps ease muscle cramping in vigorous exercise. I also have Vitamin B12 and a turmeric supplement which I take daily – B12 for sustaining energy levels and turmeric for it's anti-inflammatory purposes.


How do you relax?

Massages and weekend getaways are the best way for me to relax both body and mind. I'm lucky that Michael shares my love for spas.


Teetotal or tipple?



Stairs or lift?

Whenever possible, I will take a lift. I am usually on 'conserve' mode for my legs, outside of the studio and stage, where they most definitely get put through their paces.


Do you have a daily exercise regime?

Every morning (Monday to Saturday) begins for me with ballet class at 10.30am. This is a series of exercises which warm up my body to prepare it for rehearsals and performances. On a non-performance day my rehearsals run between 12 noon and 6.30pm and if I have a show beginning at 7.30pm, that changes from 12 noon to 5.30pm.


Best tip for everyday fitness?

Take note of not only the physical, but also the mental changes that exercise gives. Feeling sluggish and lethargic can affect our whole being and bring you down, while doing some sort of exercise definitely gives you a boost. Being active and getting moving has been proven to release mood-boosting endorphins into your body.


On a scale of one to 10, how fit do you think you are and how fit would you like to be?

Ballerinas have an incredible endurance level of fitness and building for short bursts of high-energy is what we do in rehearsals. I would probably mark myself eight. I am always aiming for better aerobic stamina.


Have you tried, or would you try, alternative therapy?

I love alternative therapy and am always keen to try new treatments. I am a big believer in Reiki, acupuncture, reflexology and fascia release.


Were school sports happy times or do you have a memory you would rather forget?

I hated sports at school. Strangely, considering my profession, I am not greatly coordinated, so ball games were never a strong point.


Did you ever have a health epiphany which made you change your lifestyle?

In my 20s, I became aware that I was drinking very little water in comparison to coffee. When I upped my H2O intake I noted a massive improvement to my energy levels, my skin health and my digestion.


Best health/ lifestyle advice you were ever given and would pass on to others?

Drink more water and life is not a sprint.


Who inspires you or who would you try to emulate in terms of fitness/ attitude to life?

My regular on-stage dance partner, Roberto Bolle, is a huge inspiration. Every time we dance together he seems to get younger. He doesn't have caffeine, has very little alcohol and has the most incredibly fine-tuned ballet body in the business. He always gives 100 per cent and I have never once heard him complain about his workload or feeling tired.


What time do you normally go to bed and do you get enough sleep?

On a non-performance day, I'm usually in bed by 10.30pm and, if I've performed that evening, it will be after midnight. Michael and I are early risers and even on a Sunday we get up to seize the day before 9.30am.


Would you say you have a healthy attitude towards your own mortality?

I love life. I think it is an endless source of opportunity, discovery and self-development.

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