Even after my 17 year professional dance career at the top of my field, it was still a great feeling to learn that choreographer Rob Ashford and director Kenneth Branagh had chosen me to be the dance double to Lily James on the highly anticipated Disney live action movie Cinderella. As glamorous as that sounds, working on a movie set with the likes of Lily and Richard Madden also comes with pre-filming physical training, hours in the rehearsal room and some seriously early starts! Combine this with Sleek Technique classes and it’s an exciting but busy time!
Being a professional dancer and regular to Sleek Technique means that going into rehearsals for the movie I’m already in good shape to take on the challenge of the heavily layered and corseted iconic blue dress that Cinderella wears to the ball. But to emulate Lily’s body and survive the repeated takes of gliding, pirouetting and being lifted, I needed to be at my peak so I’m up bright and early ready to log into the Sleek Technique online studio to join my Sleek partner Victoria for a one on one 30 minute Sleek workout – its so much easier to do when you have someone motivating you on the other end of your screen, even for professionals. We do a combination of our Barre Technique workout to warm my body up and engage the right muscles and Dancer Refined Abs exercises to strengthen and shape my core in preparation for carrying the immense weight of the dress and to help achieve the Cinderella nipped in waist look. We don’t use crunches in Sleek Technique workouts as they aren’t as effective in getting a strong, flat dancer midriff so Victoria focuses on conditioning my front and back abdominal panels and lower back with balletic twist sequences and port de bras side switches, as these are the areas needed to effortlessly appear to carry and shift the dress throughout the choreography. Victoria inspires and motivates all our Sleekers including me so I’m feeling energised and prepped for the day ahead – one of the many benefits of having a Sleek Technique trainer as your friend!
Breakfast is toasted rye bread with almond butter and a Rebel Kitchen Cacao Mylk to satisfy my sweet tooth and give me an extra energy kick before I dash out the door. I also keep a stash of Sweaty Betty legwarmers and Striders edge leggings in my bag just in case I need to change.
I’m on route to Pinewood studios to rehearse the duet in the ball scene with Richard Madden who plays Prince Charming. When you’re up close and personal with someone as handsome as Richard with a ballroom full of people watching you its hard not to want to look your best so I apply Chanel tinted moisturiser and Revlon BB cream (it’s great on camera and natural for the day) Benefit mascara, Chanel lipstick in Boy and a quick squirt of Jo Malone perfume in Pomegranite Noir.
On arrival I take 10 minutes to stretch while I chat to Richard. We’ve been rehearsing together over the last two weeks and he really is easy to get on with and it turns out we have mutual friends. It’s not the hardest part of my job having him partner me!
It’s time to get dancing so I get into a huge practice skirt, corset and heels. With Rob Ashford and rehearsal directors Chris Bailey and Pip Jordan guiding us, we rehearse all morning with Lily joining when on a short break from filming. This gives me a chance to study her natural movement, which I need to emulate as precisely as possible. It can be nerve racking having all these incredible names in the room but it needs to be perfect when the cameras are rolling so I concentrate on the task in hand.
While the other 52 professional dancers in the scene take the floor I grab a cup of tea and banana from catering – eating little and often is the way to survive feeling sick in a tight corset so grabbing things like fresh fruit, almonds or a non sugar and dairy wholemeal muffin throughout the day work well to keep my energy levels up. I need it as next we’ll be rehearsing the grand scale ensemble dance numbers until lunch when I finally get out of the corset for an hour. By this time it’s 1.30pm and I’m quite red around my waist where the dress rubs as I spin, but my core feels strong and thankfully my legs are used to this kind of work.
After a spinach, watercress and rocket salad with beetroot and avocado and a coconut water for lunch, I’m back in the corset as Kenneth Brannagh needs to see how things are progressing so he can work out how he will shoot the choreography so Richard and I run through the duet for him with the other dancers looking on. That really is nerve wracking especially as the dress is not easy to handle – for me the weight of it and for Richard trying not to step on the reams of delicate top layers. Happily we manage it and Lily then steps in to work with Richard and his professional dance double. She makes the perfect Cinderella with her beauty and strength and I love watching her dance. Between runs, Lily and I chat and she tells me she has practiced our Pure Stretch streaming workout at home that morning (Lily became a Sleeker during rehearsals) and loves it as it makes her feel more open and energised for her long days on set. For someone with as little time as Lily has it feels great to know she can still fit some time in to look after her body too.
During the afternoon break Lily meets my dog Ted who came with me today. He’s been to my work lots of times over his nine years and he’s used to dance studios, theatres and film sets. Ted’s been in the dressing room getting attention from some of the other dancers so by now he’s shattered and he curls up in my practice skirts for a snooze while I physically relax for a bit and catch up on all the Sleek Technique social media news and tweet out a picture of Lily. I also check our emails and see we have our first ever member from Canada join our growing global community of Sleekers!
I’m on my way back to North London ready to set up to take a Sleek Technique online interactive ballet based fitness class from my home studio. Victoria and I, along with our Sleek team are in the studio daily, leading women through our ballet fitness classes and we love it. Women of all levels are logging in from their computers, tablets and iphones, in the comfort of their own homes, offices or hotel rooms from across the world and it’s such an effective and easy way to workout for us all.
I change into my leotard and warm up shorts, open my laptop and log in to my studio where I say hello to Sleekers from the UK, Norway, Italy, USA and South Africa. We all have a quick chat to see how everyone is feeling and 5 minutes later I start taking a Ballerina Back and Arms workout – 30 minutes of balletic arm sequences designed to sculpt out lean muscles in the upper body without the use of weights. It’s one of my favourite classes to teach and means that my arms will definitely look as good as Lily’s in that beautiful blue ball gown.
Tomorrow is a big day as we start filming the famous ball scene, which means I have to be in make-up at 5.30am every day for the next three weeks. I won’t expect Victoria to get up at 4am to take me through a workout so I’ll be up to do our Flex and Stretch streaming video instead – this is a low impact workout but so effective in firming up and lengthening out the muscles in your entire body, the perfect one to do before a long day on set and help me feel camera ready.
I’m no chef but I muster up a good veggie dinner of spelt pasta with tomato and chilli with a glass of wine which I enjoy with my husband. Then it’s a detoxifying salt bath and an early night for me. It may be a fairytale job but I definitely need plenty of sleep to look like a princess!
Happy Sleeking girls!