Chantel started Pilates while studying at The Australian Ballet School under the guidance of Andrew Baxter. With a 15 year career as a ballerina with the Hong Kong Ballet and English National Ballet, she danced the lead roles in Swan Lake, the Nutcracker and many George Balanchine works, as well as dancing for the Queen at Buckingham Palace, on the main stage at Glastonbury music festival and in the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games. This week we interviewed Chantel to find out more about her pilates journey and how pilates saved her from invasive and painful surgery.


Why did you start Pilates?

“I started Pilates while training as a ballet dancer at the Australian Ballet School. It was part of the curriculum but I also did extra classes to gain more strength and control of my body. The teacher I started with, Andrew Baxter, was amazing and it made a huge difference to my posture, spinal control and leg alignment. After graduating I moved to Hong Kong and joined the Hong Kong Ballet as a professional ballet dancer. There wasn’t a Pilates studio where I could go that fitted into my schedule, but I knew enough to get by and was able to continue with self practice. I did it every day and used it as a warm up at the start of my day, to get ready for rehearsals, to prepare for performances and for injury prevention and rehab. There are always injuries as a dancer. I didn’t have any major ones at the time, only a few minor ones, and always used Pilates to get back on track and to prevent them from getting worse. After 9 and a half years in Hong Kong I moved to London and joined English National Ballet. The rehearsal and performance schedule was very tough mentally and physically, but there was a Pilates studio onsite and this became my safe haven to find mental calmness and the physical strength I needed for the demanding job of a professional ballerina.”


Why did you become a pilates teacher?

“I’m a forward planning type of person and so I wanted a plan of what I would do after ballet, even before it was time to retire. I’d considered becoming a Pilates instructor, especially after the years of training with Andrew Baxter. He had become a mentor to me, and even though I lived overseas for 16 years, I continued to train with him whenever I was back in Melbourne visiting my family. I loved his endless knowledge of Pilates and the body and how it could help with every physical challenge that came my way. In 2010 I sustained a hip tear which was my first severe injury. I could barely walk for the first few weeks and I was in so much pain. Usually surgery is required at that stage and the rehab is really long, around 12 months. I was almost 31 and I didn’t want to take a year off so I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I worked with the Pilates teacher at English National Ballet and did loads and loads of Pilates to strengthen the muscles around my pelvis and hip socket to support the tear. Within about 6 weeks I had gotten rid of most of the inflammation and was able to go back to performing! I continued my intense Pilates training and within 3-4 months I was back with full hip mobility range, and dancing with no pain. A follow up appointment with the hip surgeon revealed there was no longer any need for surgery. I had managed to avoid a major surgery that would have had me out for 12 months or more. After that it was confirmed in me that I was going to be a Pilates teacher post-ballerina! I knew if it could help me avoid surgery then imagine how it could help so many other people.”


What do you love most about The Pilates Method?

“I loved it when I was a dancer as it mentally and physically prepared me for rehearsals and performances. I love it now as I am still a dancer at heart and I can continue to push my limits and find new ways to challenge myself and be creative in the studio and on the equipment.”


What’s your favourite exercise?

“Reformer jumpboard work!”


How do you use The Pilates Method in your day and in your week?

“I do sessions every day, I even have a reformer in my home. I use it to prepare for my teaching days. I either do a full session or at least a warm up every day before I teach my clients, and then possibly another one if I need an energy boost during or at the end of a long day.”


Tell us about your role at National Pilates Training and Aligned For Life Pilates.

“I am an assessor for National Pilates Training and also taking on a new role this year as Faculty Educator. For Aligned For Life Pilates I am a Pilates instructor for the CBD and Moonee Ponds studios.”


What makes you get out of bed in the morning?

“I guess I have always been quite driven and set goals for myself, especially as a dancer to perform the steps perfectly and have amazing shows. As a Pilates teacher and educator, I want to keep myself in a healthy and happy condition so I continue to set myself goals and look to how I can achieve them. Now I can also help my clients and students to do the same.”


Contact Chantel and come see her in an Aligned For Life studio today.