Month: May 2018

Q&A With American Ballerina Grace Phillips

Today I had the opportunity to ask one of my favourite Instagramers and dancers, Grace Phillips some questions about her journey as a dancer, below are her responses.

She is an incredibly kind and thoughtful person and its been a joy watching her grow as a dancer, all of her photos on Instagram are stunning. Continue to follow your dreams Grace, always striving for the best. I’ll always be there supporting you.

Instagram: Grace Phillips

Q1: When did you start ballet?

I started Ballet when I was three years old.

Q2: Where do you currently dance?

I currently dance at San Luis Obispo Movement Arts Center. Also known as SLOMAC. I am in their pre professional company.

Q3: How long have you been en pointe for?

I have been dancing en Pointe for three years.

Q4: What pointe shoes do you currently wear?

I am currently wearing Suffolk pointe shoes.

Q5: How did you first get involved in ballet?

My mother took me to my first class. It was a tap and ballet combo class.

Q6: What is your favourite variation?

Choosing a favorite would be hard but I would have to say something from Don Quixote, Coppelia or Le Corsaire.

Q7: What company would you love to work for?

I would love to work for a contemporary ballet company’s such as Alonzo King Lines.

Q8: Do you have a favourite memory/moment in ballet?

I would have to say my favorite memory dance has provided me is summer Intensive because you get to travel to new places and meet so many new friends.

Q9: Who are your ballet roles models? Dancers that inspire you.

Beckanne Sisk and Justin Peck

Q10: Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?

Enjoy the process.

Q11: Classical or romantic tutu?

I like classical tutus more

Q12: What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?

Watch movies, cook and sleep!

Photos Courtesy of Grace’s Instagram


Ballerina in Focus: Mattison Bedinghaus

Watching someone overcome adversity is definitely inspiring and uplifting. My very good friend Mattison Bedinghaus is a great example of this. No matter the obstacle, Mattison made sure nothing held her back from achieving her goals.

Our friendship starts in 2015, from first messaging her on Facebook, it become obvious very quickly that she wasn’t like any normal dancer on Facebook, Mattison was a kind, considerate, strong minded and determined person and this was the first thing that was apparent when speaking to her. Our friendship continued to flourish over the years since. Mattison joyfully received a parcel from me with a few typical Australian things which was a total surprise to her.

Mattison began ballet at a young age and very quickly set her sights on her goals of being a professional dancer, with guidance from her incredibly knowledgeable mother, Treva, Mattison’s talents, determination and love for ballet became infectious. The joy that Mattison gets from being on stage is wonderful. From leaping across the stage to effortless pirouettes and pointe work, Mattison is an incredible dancer.


Mattison continued to flourish as a dancer but then came a situation that would take everything she had to battle through, Mattison sustained an injury that sidelined her from the studio and stage for almost a year. Throughout this time, she never lost sight on what her ultimate goal was, to sign a contract with a professional ballet company. With encouragement and support from her amazing friends and family, Mattison made a recover and returned to ballet.

As an admirer of her strength and determination, it was a joyous occasion when Mattison fully recovered from her injury and once again put the pointe shoes and tutu back on and stepped back into her domain. Ballet is Mattison’s number one passion, she lives and breathes it, and this is an astonishing quality Mattison has. Nothing ever will get in between her and her goal. Her drive and passion is astounding and is something anyone facing obstacles can look up to.

Mattison recently had the opportunity to sign a contact with Sarasota Ballet in Florida for the 2017/18 season, she had been able to realise her goal of being a ballet dancer. With this accomplishment, the amount of unwavering amount of support for Mattison continued to grow. Her dedication to ballet led to her completing her schooling ahead of time with fantastic results. Ballet flows through her veins and the joy she conveys to anyone watching her is awe inspiring and profound.


It is a pleasure to call Mattison one of my good friends even if she is so far away. She is such a kind, compassionate, courteous and thoughtful person. Watching her continue to grow as a dancer makes me happy and talking to her is a delight. I hope to watch Mattison dance in person one day and no doubt she’ll gracefully own the stage like she always does. Mattison will no doubt continue to grow as a dancer and strive to reach her goals regardless of any setback that may arise. There is nobody more graceful on the stage than Mattison. She always works incredibly hard, never gives up and always continues to improve and amaze people with what she does.

Q&A With Australian Ballerina Jazmin Marquez

I recently had the opportunity to ask my Facebook friend Jazmin Marquez some questions in regards to her journey as a ballet dancer. Below are her responses. Watching her grow as a dancer has been incredible, I definitely hope she can strive and reach her ballet goals. She is such an elegant and graceful dancer who makes it look effortless with every leap, pirouette and arabesque.

Q1: When did you start ballet?

I started at 3 years old

Q2: Where do you currently dance?

I am not at a dance school currently

Q3: How long have you been en pointe for?

I have been on pointe since I was 10 which was 8 years ago

Q4: What pointe shoes do you currently wear?

I wear energetiks pointe shoes (Almaz)

Q5: How did you first get involved in ballet?

I enjoyed the show Angelina ballerina and it lead me into ballet

Q6: What is your favourite variation?

My favourite variation is lilac fairy

Q7: What company would you love to work for?

I would love to work for Houston ballet or Washington ballet company

Q8: Do you have a favourite memory/moment in ballet?

Meeting some of my closest friends in ballet class

Q9: Who are your ballet roles models? Dancers that inspire you.

Some role models are Misty Copeland, Dusty Button and Kylie Shea

Q10: Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?

Best advice would have to be is fight, fight through every obstacle to get to your goal

Q11: Classical or romantic tutu?

Classical Tutu

Q12: What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?

I enjoy spending time with my family and friends

Q&A With Finnish Rhythmic Gymnast Julia Laine

I recently had the opportunity to ask my friend Julia Laine about her time as a rhythmic gymnast in Finland. Recently she retired from competition but now is a coach training the next generation of excellent gymnasts. Julia is an incredible gymnast and a wonderful person.

Facebook Page: Julia Laine

Instagram: julialainegymnast

Q1: When did you start Rhythmic Gymnastics?

I started rhythmic gymnastics when I was 4 year old

Q2: How did you first get involved with rhythmic gymnastics?

My mom brought me to a test day

Q3: How often do you train and how long for?

I trained 9 times a week, for 2-4 hours

Q4: Favourite apparatus?

Ball and Clubs

Q5: Do you have a favourite memory whilst doing gymnastics?

Maybe having my own Finnish championship bronze medal and final ball silver, being in European Championships group.

Q6: Who inspires you in gymnastics?

Maybe when you succeed on competitions and hard work paid off

Q7: What is your ultimate goal in RG?

I didn’t have any ultimate goal, I dreamed of competing at the Olympics but I never had the opportunity to work for it, I watched where life carries me.

Q8: Do you have a specific routine or event result you were really proud of?

Finnish championships in junior category all around 3. And in finals with ball 2.

Q9: What do you like to do when you aren’t doing gymnastics (your free time)?

Being with the friends was the best way to spend free time, I also liked just lying in the cough and chill

Q10: Do you see yourself staying involved in RG for many years to come?

Even though I quit my own career, I hope I can continue as a coach all my life

Q&A With Australian Ballerina Ashleigh Bennett

Time for a slight change, I decided to ask some of my friends and dancers I follow on Instagram some questions about ballet. Ashleigh Bennett is an incredible dancer from Australia and is a wonderful person, I had the pleasure of asking her about her incredible journey as a ballet dancer. It has been a joy watching her continue to grow as a dancer, strive to reach her dreams and make me hungry with her incredible baking.

Q1: When did you start ballet?

i started ballet when I was 10 years old

Q2: Where do you currently dance?

I have been working for the West Australian Ballet for the last 3 years, but I am about to pursue my career overseas.

Q3: How long have you been en pointe for?

I started dancing en pointe when I was 12

Q4: What pointe shoes do you currently wear?

I currently wear custom Bloch shoes in the heritage style, although I have also worn freed in the past

Q5: How did you first get involved in ballet?

I started ballet after seeing a small local production of the sleeping beauty. I was about 7 at the time, but there wasn’t a dance school close to where I lived. as soon as I moved close to one, I started lessons

Q6: What is your favourite variation?

I have so many favourite variations it’s impossible to choose! one that is special to me is the prayer solo from coppelia, because this was the first variation I performed on opening night, with a professional company

Q7: What company would you love to work for?

I would love to work for the wiener Staatsballett in Vienna. My grandfather was born in Vienna, so it would be incredibly special for me to dance with this company

Q8: Do you have a favourite memory/moment in ballet?

One of my favourite memories is when I performed as the queen of the dryads from don quixote. I had performed this ballet when I was younger, so to revisit the ballet and be given a soloist role, was very special

Q9: Who are your ballet roles models? Dancers that inspire you.

My ballet role model is Svetlana Zakharova. I was trained in the russian style, and so find her strength, control and the characterisation she gives to her roles, something that I aspire towards

Q10: Best advice you’ve ever received from a teacher?

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received was actually from my mum, who is definitely not your typical dance mum. she never pushed me, just provided me with so much support and encouragement. she used to tell me to be the best version of myself that I could. Not to try to mimic or be like anyone else. She would say that the world already has those people, what they need is an Ashleigh.

Q11: Classical or romantic tutu?

Classical tutu definitely!

Q12: What do you like to do when you aren’t dancing (your free time)?

When I’m not dancing, I love to bake! I’m a very methodical person, so I love following recipes. being in the kitchen is my happy place when I’m off the stage, and I love seeing the enjoyment on my friends and family members faces when they are eating my baked goods! I also love to read, or take my puppy for walks

Q&A With Otgo Waller

I posed the following questions to incredible Mongolian contortionist and contortion coach Otgo Waller.

At the age of 7 years old, a young Otgo started doing contortion and by the age of 13, she was one of the best in the world. In 1991 she joined Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey circus which lead her to the USA. Otgo now lives in Las Vegas where she teachers contortion using her patented teaching method. She is the creator and owner of Flexible Body Art LLC technique and school. Otgo is also a published author of her memoir ” “Twisted Tales: My Life as a Mongolian Contortionist”, Otgo details her life as a Mongolian contortionist in the grasp of a socialist country, she escaped a morose childhood and transformed herself into a world famous performer.

How long have done contortion for?

I been contortionist for 40 years.

How did you start contortion?

I saw my coach on TV when I was 7 years old, after watching her I want to be a contortionist

How often do you train and for how long?

I train my self 5 days a week for 1 hour.

What is your favourite contortion move/trick?

All of the contortion tricks and moves are beautiful so I can’t say I have favorite

What has been your best contortion experience?

My best experience is; I am still performing

What is your ultimate contortion goal/dream?

I reached all my goals and dreams and I am very proud of it.








Q&A With an Amazing Mongolian Contortionist Pt 7

I had the opportunity to ask Agiimaa Jargalsaikhan from Mongolia some questions about her life as a Mongolian Contortionist. She’s an amazing contortionist who trains at Mongolain National Circus in Ulaanbaatar.


How long have done contortion for?

I have done contortion for 14 years.

How did you start contortion?

I start contortion when I was 4 year, I was little girl. Me and my mom went Mongolian national circus.

How often do you train and for how long?

I train 5 days a week, For 3-4 hour.

What is your favourite contortion move/trick?

My favorite contortion trick is one hand balance.

What has been your best contortion experience?

My best contortion experience is duo contortion in Turkey.

What is your ultimate contortion goal/dream?

Maybe all contortionist’s dream is Cirque du Soleil. It too is a dream of mine.

Contortionist in Focus: Ruslana Krutas [UPDATED]

If you ever need someone to bend over backwards for you, make sure it’s Ruslana Krutas. A Guinness World Record holder and one of the worlds flexible people in the world. She bends like she has no bones. Without a doubt, Ruslana is one of the best contortionists and also someone who is incredibly humble and determined and who I was grateful to call a good friend.


A Star is Unearthed

Ukraine has a plethora of  talented girls who find themselves starting the most beautiful sports Rhythmic Gymnastics at a young age. Ruslana was no different. At the age of 3, her mother Lilya took Ruslana to gymnastics training. When she started, she was not flexible at all, “The most interesting thing about my childhood was that I was completely stiff, wooden, I can say.” Ruslana said while speaking to a news website in Ukraine. The gymnastics trainers were able to see Ruslana’s abilities and reveal them.

“I just saw my daughter’s abilities at a very young age, and she was where she needed to be,” Lilya, the mother of the record holder, smiles. – Ruslana is very flexible, sometimes it seems to me that she does not have bones.

At the age of 6, she decided to try her hand at contortion. Training under the eyes of Nikolai Ponurko at the Palace Culture in Kremenchuk,  Ruslana began to enhance her flexibility. In 2012, Ruslana entered Kremenchuk’s Got Talent. She shocked and wowed the judges and audience with her excellent performance which saw her take out first place and win the prize of 3000 UAH. With countless hours of training at the circus studio and at home, she started to evolve into one of Ukraine’s best contortionists. With the win at Kremenchuk’s got Talent, this lead to her performing on Ukraine’s got Talent 2012.


The Star grows with Guidance

Early 2013 saw an opportunity that couldn’t be passed up arise. Ruslana was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work and train alongside World Famous Russian born, German contortionist Zlata (Julia Günthel), this lead to her first photo shoot with her. Zlata mentored and inspired Ruslana to continue to strive to be the worlds best.

The Star gains her World Record

On January 31st 2014, through the advise of Zlata, Ruslana and Lilya were invited to Shanghai to participate in a Guinness World Records attempt on CCTV-Guinness World Records Special at Heilan International Equestrian Club. The challenge for her was to pop the most balloons in a backbend in one minute. The nerves were running through the veins of Ruslana. She was going against the older Chinese contortionist Liu Teng. Ruslana was faced this challenge only 10 days after learning she would be attempting it. With only a week practice, she quickly got the hang of it and was confident she would pull it off.

Liu Teng went first and achieved 13 balloons popped in one minute, this was a contentious result due to some of the balloons popping instantly on contact with Liu’s leotard which had sharp spikes apart of the design. Ruslana still nervous and suffering jet-lag from the long flight, no time to acclimatize, cold studio and not appearing until 2am, she began the one minute exhausting attack at bursting as many balloons as possible, with words of encouragement from her mother, Ruslana powered home with a new found energy to finish. A relieved Ruslana was announced the winner with 24 balloons popped in a minute. With all her time taken up rehearsing, sightseeing sadly wasn’t able to be squeezed into their extremely brief visit to China.

What was the most difficult part of the performance ?

“Oh, I thought that the minute allocated for setting a record would never end.” It was the longest moment of my life! I did not consider the burst balls, because I was focused on clearly performing the movements, but it seemed to me that I had been pressing the balls for an eternity.”

Ruslana returned to China a year later and defended her title against Liu Teng again on CCTV. TV appearances in Japan shortly followed.

In 2015, Ruslana also appeared on Ukraine’s got Talent for the second time where she attempted her Balloon challenge again, she amazed the audience however wasn’t able to progress through to the next round.

Two Stars Align

In 2015, Ruslana traveled to Leipzig Germany to meet with her manager Steffen Günthel where she met another World Famous Contortionist Alina Ruppel. The two trained and worked together on some photo shoots and videos for the new website of Alina.  In 2017, Ruslana and Alina met again, this time The Netherlands was the location for TV appearance again based around the balloon popping with ones back.

Ruslana continued to train incredibly hard with the goal of being one of the world’s most flexible people and best contortionists in the world.

They meet again but a different result reveals itself

In January 2017, Ruslana ventured to China once again for another appearance for Chinese New Year CCTV presentation. Yet again she was pitted against Liu Teng. The challenge this time was “Most flowers picked up with the mouth in a contortion backbend in one minute “. This performance lead to a level of frustration from Ruslana because according to her, she knew she could collect more flowers than her competitor but that was not the case. Liu Teng collected 17 flowers and Ruslana 16 flowers. Many viewers were bewildered as to how Liu Teng managed to get more roses than Ruslana with her looking slower and well behind Ruslana throughout the one minute.

Another trip to China occurred in late July 2017, this time without her Mum for support, this trip according to Ruslana was eye opening. Rather than the familiar city of Shanghai, the unfamiliar environment of Huaibei led to nerves, a little loss of motivation and a loss of appetite due to the unusual Chinese food. A bowl of borsch, some KFC or something familiar to someone many miles away from was definitely desired. Even though the trip was an eye opening experience for Ruslana, Ruslana grew as a person through this, became more independent, stronger and mature woman.

Two days I will remember forever

I had the privilege of getting to meet Ruslana in person in July 2017 while on a holiday to Ukraine. The first thing that stuck with me was her passion for contortion. Ruslana eats, sleeps and breaths contortion. “Contortion is my life” she proudly stated after queering if ever she wished she had a normal childhood like her classmates. Another thing that stuck with me was how humble, kind, considerate and welcoming she was. From allowing an Australian pen pal of hers to join her, and some of her friends for a refreshment at Kofan to even surprising me the day later with the offer to go for a walk to a cafe by the beach in Kremenchuk. I was taken back after she gifted me with a present for my mother back in Australia, she thanked me for the gifts from Australia I gave her. I was honoured to be able to call her a friend even if I lived on the other side of the world.

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The Star continues to Shine brightly

After completing school with results she was content with, Kiev was calling, Ruslana was forunate to gain acceptance into the Circus Academy in Kiev. Upon moving to Kiev at the age of 17 years old, Ruslana began training with like minded and dedicated coaches at the Circus Academy in Kiev where she had countless hours of training nearly every day of the week. Performances around Europe under the assistance of her manager continue alongside training and further studying of English. The Circus Academy has trained numerous artists who’ve gone onto successful careers, they’ve even trained current Cirque Du Soleil performers.

A new routine “Lady in Red” was developed for her in 2017, after numerous training sessions and a large amount of determination, Ruslana debuted her new routine in Germany.


Showcasing to the world 

After commencing her training at the Circus Academy of Kiev, Ruslana had the opportunity to work in some circus’s around the world, in the middle of 2018, Ruslana travelled to South America where she performed a part of Circo Estelar de Rusia. Visiting a plethora of different cities across South America. It was a challenging time for Ruslana mentally due to such differences in the way of life in South America compared to what she was used to. Following her stint in South America, Ruslana then had the chance to wow audiences in South Africa. Ruslana spent just over a month performing with Cirque Infernal in Johannesburg. It was one of her first performances where she got to showcase her hand balancing skills which she learnt at the Circus Academy in Kiev.

2019 saw Ruslana continue to focus on her training with the occasional performances. Mixed within her countless hours of training, Ruslana has been lucky enough to travel extensively throughout Europe, both for work and for leisure. Late 2019 saw Ruslana visit China again for another performance on Chinese television, this time on Universal Show – CCTV 4. Ruslana loves the atmosphere of performing on the big stage on television, it brings an incredible thrill to Ruslana although the preparation is not the easiest at times.

Late 2019 / Early 2020 was a difficult time for Ruslana mentally and physically as she suffered from anorexia. It was a frightening experience which resulted her being admitted to hospital. With a strong support network, Ruslana was able to overcome this and has become a more resilient and stronger person mentally. Ruslana said it was the worst time in her life. Early 2020 saw Ruslana make a trip to Brazil to appear on popular TV show “Hora Do Daro” which saw her showcase her incredible talent to the Brazilian people in the television studio and out in public.

2020 saw COVID 19 affect performers across the world, Ruslana was no different, she was unable to do what she loves, perform and amaze people with her incredible talents. 2020 saw Ruslana reengage with Julia Guenthel (Zlata) who is her manager, and this resulted in the choreographing of new routines including the new “Liquid Gold” routine. Pairing the creativity of Julia with the determination and talents of Ruslana is a contortion match made in heaven. Ruslana continues to strive for greatness and improves as a contortionist even during difficult situations.

At the end of 2020, Ruslana travelled to Romania to take part in Românii au talent (Romania’s got Talent). For her audition in front of the judges and a virtual audience, she performed her new Soul of Spain act, this was the first time Ruslana had had the opportunity to perform this new act. The judges were captivated by her performance and received high praise and a standing ovation. To top this off, judge Alexandra Dinu pressed the Golden Buzzer to the amazement of Ruslana. This means Ruslana will progress through to the semi finals, the joy on Ruslana was immense and infectious. After the year Ruslana had been through, to see her accomplish something of this level was awe inspiring. From battling her anorexia to catching Covid and all the other work issues involving Covid to then triumph and end the year with recognition for her talent was incredible.

After months to training but also a few set backs which included catching Covid-19 again in April, Ruslana travelled to Bucharest for the semi-finals in the middle of May, which happened to be the day before her 21st birthday, after celebrating her birthday alone in Bucharest, rehearsals and interviews followed throughout the week in the leadup to the semi-finals on Friday  21st May.  Then came the night of the semi-finals, Ruslana was the 3rd semi-finalist to perform on the night. Where she was nervous and a little worried which according to Ruslana is normal for her before performing. Her act was a new act which featured elements of her world record balloon popping, incredible contortion skills and showcasing her new aerial hoop skills she has learnt while training with Tatiana Kuznetsova. Her performance got applause from all the judges. With only 6 semi-finalists moving through to the grand final, the chances of her moving through were difficult, unfortunately Ruslana was unsuccessful in moving through. She showcased her incredible talent and showed incredible strength, determination and passion for the thing she loves the most. Friends and family were all incredibly proud of her performance.

Ruslana is definitely a determined, hard working, strong, kindhearted, smart, intelligent and independent woman who  undoubtedly can reach her goal of being the World’s Best Contortionist.

Contortionist in Focus: Anastasiia Ilina

Whether she’s elbow standing her way across London or effortlessly gliding across the stage, Anastasiia (Nastya) does everything with a sense of joy and passion.

Nastya who originally started out as a dancer decided to take the leap into the world of contortion only a few years ago, with countless hours of training with well respected contortion coach Tatiana Kuznetsova based in Kiev.

In 2016 Nastya had the chance to appear on Chinese Talent Show where she performed an unbelievable routine which amazed the judges.



Nastya has had the opportunity to take her skills to Japan where she was a part of a show where she performed and wowed audiences. Upon her return to Kiev, her passion and continuous development as a contortionist continued. In 2017 she was lucky enough to score a role in a movie which was filmed in London, Nastya spent a few months there filming and also exploring the UK which resulted in her elbow standing her way across the UK.

Nastya now passes on her knowledge and expertness in dance and contortion through stretching and flexibility workshops she runs in Kiev. Her contortion routine has a unique blending of her incredible flexibility skills and her effortless dance skills.

Besides being an incredibly talented performer, she is also an incredibly smart women. She is an excellent writer and also multi-lingual and also does ballet as a hobby. She’s an incredibly kind and considerate person. If you ever get the opportunity to talk to Nastya or take one of her workshops, her passion for this beautiful art form of contortion and dance exudes out of her. I’m pleased to say she is one of the nicest, welcoming and kind person I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Her Blog:

Her Facebook:





Q&A With an Amazing Mongolian Contortionist Pt 6

I asked Batka Azka Azka to talk to me about her experiences as a contortionist


How long have done contortion for?

8 years

How did you start contortion?

It is first used to the extension

How often do you train and for how long?

3-4 hours per day

What is your favourite contortion move/trick?

What has been your best contortion experience?

What is your ultimate contortion goal/dream?