Energetiks talks with Alexandra McMaster
‘Ballet dancer’ and ‘masterchef’ aren’t two terms you would usually see in the same sentence together, but twenty-two year old Alexandra McMaster has well and truly earned both titles. The effervescent Victorian-born dancer has been gaining a profile in the dance world and as a culinary queen as well, sharing decadent, self-created dishes online where her cooking is inspiring a whole new legion of food-positive dancers no longer afraid of eating healthy fats or carbohydrates. And after recently completing her full-time training at the world-renowned John Cranko Schule in Germany (the affiliate school of the Stuttgart Ballet), her future as a professional dancer is looking every bit as tangible as her cooking.
It seems that culinary talent runs in the family, with brother Emerson also making a name for himself as a maestro in the kitchen. But for Alex, the journey was an individual one. After moving first to Brisbane by herself at eighteen to commence training at Classical Coaching Australia, Alex found herself without the comforts of home or the convenience of family cooked meals. And after an injury then side-lined her from dancing for the foreseeable future, Alex turned to food as a means of healing and strengthening her body. She soon discovered a passion for whole foods and using cooking not just as a tool to keep her body in peek form, but something that was good for the mind and soul; a positive outlet away from the classroom.
She didn’t keep this to herself for long though, soon after transforming her own relationship with food, Alex decided to share her recipes and helpful advice with others; dreaming up the concept for ‘Ballerina Bites’, an Instagram and blog based purely around creating main courses, snacks and deserts showing just how easy it is to make your own meals that are as wholesome and balanced as they are tasty – even if you’re dancing full-time and living away from home.
In 2015 Alex accepted a place at the John Cranko Schule, moving to Germany for the next three years of what would turn out to be intense, gruelling training, performances and auditions. The challenges proved to be well worth it though, and Alex continued to thrive not just with dance, but as a flourishing chef and food blogger, amassing a loyal following of readers who were inspired and emboldened by her relationship with food and the obvious benefits it was having on her life. As if she didn’t have enough on her plate (no pun intended) at this point, Alex also became a regular blog writer for Energetiks, sharing recipes with a whole new audience and expanding ‘Ballerina Bites’ into a new series of cooking videos (the first one of which is up here, with more to come). As of this year Alex has taken the next step in her career, now living and dancing in France. And she has just as much planned for Ballerina Bites as she does for her career in ballet. We spoke with Alex earlier this year to learn more about her incredible journey and her goals for dance and Ballerina Bites, watch the interview below and see Alex’s photoshoot with Energetiks:
E: How did the idea for 'Ballerina Bites' come about?
AM: Throughout the process of beginning to create food and dishes, I wanted to share it with people, so I started photographing them and putting them on Instagram (I think that was about 2013). And in the beginning I was so secretive, I thought it was kind of weird sharing food with people online (laughs). But I just kept along at it, I had time during the day because of being injured at the time, so I started writing on the blog as well and the ideas just kept flowing and I started really enjoying it.
E: Did you realise when you created Ballerina Bites what it would turn into, and how positively it would be received?
AM: Not really, no! It was always a passion that I wanted to grow, but I never really expected this. I was just posting here and there, and even now I only post around twice a week, but I’m just taking it slowly, step by step!
E: What do you find most challenging about the demands of dance?
AM: I think for me personally I can go 110% and not know when it’s time to have a rest, and I feel like that’s quite common for most dancers really. We always want to get better, so we’re doing exercises and cross-training every day. But it’s also about identifying when you need to have a rest. It’s about knowing ‘Ok, sometimes I can wait for Sunday’, but there are times when during the week you should take a moment too. Go out for coffee or give yourself a treat because your body deserves it. And so does your mind.
E: What always makes you laugh?
AM: (Laughs) My brother Emerson. We are so close, and I can be away from home for months at a time and come back and we’re just the same, especially when we start cooking and we fight like you wouldn’t believe (laughs)! But yeah it’s great because he’s also just as great with food.
Emerson's Instagram: @emerson_cooks
E: Any final words of advice for aspiring dancers?
AM: Just keep going; work hard in your classes, because class is your holy grail (if you want to be a professional ballet dancer for instance), as the technical aspect is at such a high standard. So just keep working hard, hang in there – and fuel well! I know there’s a lot of stigma out there about dancers not eating enough, but we do! You have to fuel your body if you want it to be stronger and be the best dancer you can be. So fuel well and you’ll be right!
We can't wait to watch Alex's journey unfold, and as ever we're looking forward to the next amazing recipe she comes up with, stay tuned here on the blog for her next creation, and keep an eye on Alex's blog for exciting news to come!
Article and photography by Elly Ford