Jarryd Madden is one of those extraordinarily talented people. Encouraged by his dance-teacher mother, he started dancing at the age of three at his local dance school in Wauchope, New South Wales...
He became a ballet dancer at the age of 14, after seeing The Australian Ballet perform Spartacus. When he was 16, he joined Melbourne’s National Theatre Ballet School, eventually moving onto The Australian Ballet. And after seven years with the company, he became a soloist. Talk about remarkable.
Ask him how has ballet has changed his life and he’ll openly tell you it has given him his future. “Without ballet, I would never have met Amy and we would never have had a beautiful girl together. I often used to think ‘what would I be doing if I didn’t dance?’ But now that thought has changed to ‘if I never danced, Amy and Willow wouldn’t be a part of my life’. A thought I don’t like to contemplate”.
Madden met his now wife Amy (a fellow ballet dancer) back in 2007 when he joined the company. They were partnered together in Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake the following year. “She had the prettiest smile and most contagious laugh,” he recalls. Two years ago, the couple’s daughter Willow was born. “The biggest driving force behind my work ethic is Willow, she makes me want to be better than what I am. Someday hopefully I can be an example to her and show her that hard work pays off,” he says.
Madden is one of six talented nominees for The Telstra Ballet Dancer Award. The prestigious award was created in 2003 to foster young dancers in The Australian Ballet to reach their full potential and turn their dreams into reality. “It feels really special, to be honest. I go into work each day and try to improve my technique and artistry, then go out on stage and do the best show I can do that night. So to be nominated for this prestigious award is a recognition of all the hard work I put in each day,” says Madden. We caught up with Madden to talk fatherhood, what drives him, life as a ballet dancer and more…
The Telstra Ballet Dancer Award supports the rising stars of The Australian Ballet with the country’s most prestigious dance award. This year six young dancers, all with unique talents, have been nominated for their artistic quality, powerful stage presence and contribution to The Australian Ballet. Cast your vote in the People’s Choice Award and you could win a VIP trip to Sydney and the best seats in the house at the Awards presentation following the opening night of The Australian Ballet’s Coppélia. To vote, go to www.telstra.com.au
Jarryd with his wife Amy and daughter Willow
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Before I started dancing professionally, I used to also do karate. I learnt an amazing word while I was doing it: ‘Osu’ (Pronounced ‘OSS’). It was our mantra to say whenever we were to say ‘yes’, ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ or ‘goodbye’. Among many other things, it means patience, respect and appreciation. I believe it is a wonderful philosophy to carry, not only into karate, but through life! So in three words I’m patient, respectful and appreciative.
What has fatherhood taught you?
That your child is a direct reflection of you. I know it’s an obvious thing to say and babies have no idea about anything at all and that it’s your job to teach them about life, but boy, doesn’t that carry more weight than you realise! I try to be the best representation of myself to show Willow what it is to be a good, kind-hearted person. That’s easier said than done at times. I think it’s just as important to show how I act in stressful situations, or when I’m sad or mad. Just as much as it is to see me how I am when I’m happy. Hopefully she will have an excellent example to be lead by. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
Can you recall the moment Willow arrived?
Meeting Willow for the first time was very surreal. The moment I first held her, I vividly remember having this overwhelming primal feeling of having to protect her. I went very ape-like and hunched over her to shield her from the world. It wasn’t a thought-out response either. It just happened. Looking at this tiny little creature, only moments old. I thought everything in the world had the potential to harm her and I needed to protect her from it all! I feel sorry for the first boy she’ll bring home… he might be the last.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t get too excited for Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy. Revenge of the Sith is alright though.
What has been the most challenging part of fatherhood and how have you overcome any challenges?
I find the hardest part is being away from Willow. My wife, Amy, and I work long hours with our career, so some days we might only see her for two hours in the morning and that’s it! I love being a hands-on dad, so I struggle with the times when we are away from her a lot. When we are out of season, we work each day from 10:30am until 6:30pm, getting the next show up and running. So that means we drop Willow off at daycare around 9am to get into work to warm up before a 10:30am class. Then at the end of the day we pick her up, give her dinner, bath and then bed. So not much time to just play or read books together. We cherish Sunday’s more than ever now!
How did you handle the sleep deprivation in the early days?
The short answer, terribly. I love my sleep. That was the hardest thing I found to handle about parenthood. But we were very fortunate that Willow started to sleep through the night fairly early on. We noticed that she wasn’t feeding as much in the middle of the night, but more just doing it for comfort. So we held off going in straight away and she fell straight back to sleep! And because of this realisation, Willow started to sleep through the night fairly early on. Bliss!
Growing up, did you always love performing? Can you tell us about your childhood?
I grew up in Wauchope, which is a small country town on the mid north coast of New South Wales. When I wasn’t dancing after school, I was at my parents’ video shop that they owned. It was so much fun. I had every new movie that just came out to watch over and over again. I loved being entertained by the movies and that definitely transferred over into my love for dancing. I loved to entertain people and make them laugh so I was very slapstick when I performed.
Can you tell us about how you met your wife and why you fell in love with her?
I met Amy when I joined the company back in 2007. I noticed how beautiful she was instantly. That was obvious. But I got to know her well when we were partnered together in Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake the next year. We noticed we had similar lives and interests. We were both from country towns, we both loved kids, we like going to see bands… that kind of stuff. But it took her a good long time to finally agree to date me. I ‘chased’ her for a bit over a year. She made me work for it! And she still does. But soon after we were together, three months I think, she pointed out what kind of engagement ring she liked. Her mum said ‘Jeezus, don’t scare him off!’ but I was pretty set on the fact that Amy was the one for me.
What did your own parents teach you about life and fatherhood?
My parents are very giving people. They will help others out whenever they can. My Dad has always had a ‘we’re all in it together’ attitude towards life and my Mum always put my brother and I before herself. Something that I have never forgotten and try to replicate with my family.