When much-loved Australian Ballet principal dancer Ty King-Wall retires this month at 35, he could be forgiven for rushing to make up for some of the things he has missed out on.
Maybe pleasures like fast food, extra sleep, a few beers …
“Well, I hate to tell you this, but ballet never stopped me having a burger and chips,” he says. “In the role I’m doing at the moment in Anna Karenina, I lose four to five litres of sweat in every performance. So a burger, chips and a beer is pretty normal. Well, I may have a few more beers when I retire.”
Ty King-Wall in his costume as Vronsky, which will be his final role with the Australian Ballet.Credit:Edwina Pickles
He’s also looking forward to getting back to cricket and golf and maybe some new sports –the risk of injury was always too great to be too adventurous outside the studio.
“When you’re completely reliant on your body for your career, you have to be protective of it, so I’m looking forward to trying new things like that,” he says. “But let’s be honest, with two young kids, I probably won’t have time.”
King-Wall, 35, is married to fellow principal artist Amber Scott and they have two children: Bonnie, three, and Marion, who was born six weeks ago.
Fatherhood is the main reason he’s decided to hang up his ballet shoes. King-Wall began dancing aged seven in his native New Zealand. He joined the Australian Ballet in 2006 and rose quickly through the ranks to be made a soloist in 2010, senior artist in 2011 and principal artist in 2013.
When he suffered a chronic back injury at the age of 27, he questioned if he would ever dance again.
“It was a long road back, but to be able to dance for another eight years at the highest level makes me feel very fortunate,” he says.
“To be able to perform a principal role in a full-length ballet is incredibly demanding. I’m still able to achieve that, but it’s becoming harder and harder. I can see the point where I won’t be able to do it, and it’s like an oncoming train, to reference Anna Karenina. I wanted to stop before I was over the other side of that.”
Aside from being a devoted dad, he’ll work as a freelance teacher and coach. He and Scott also plan to launch a coaching residency and clinic later this year in Melbourne, offering one-on-one classes for upcoming dancers.
“In some aspects of our industry, there’s a real appetite for change in terms of the way we do things and I feel really strongly about empowering dancers and allowing them to be free thinkers, to bring their own individuality to the fore,” he says. “If change is going to be happening, I’d like to be part of that change.”
But for now he is giving his all in his final season, dancing the role of Vronsky in Anna Karenina. His last performance will be on April 23.
His parents, who haven’t seen Bonnie since she was one, and are yet to meet Marion, should be in the audience to see him take his final bows.
“It’s going to be a surreal experience when I wake up the next day but I will do another nappy change and get some cuddles with the little ones and feel even more grateful,” he says.
Anna Karenina, Sydney Opera House, April 5-23, sydneyoperahouse.com.
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