Blue, red and yellow tutus are on high rotation at prima ballerina Lucinda Dunn’s Melbourne home.
Not hers but pint-sized versions for daughters Claudia, five, and Ava, two.
Claudia made her ballet debut in a concert at the end of last year and Ava hasn’t taken off her tutu since.
“She goes to kindy in this tutu, she goes to the shops in this tutu, she has her tutu on when she wakes up in the morning until the time she puts on her pyjamas,” Dunn says.
After more than two decades with The Australian Ballet, Dunn has decided to hang up her tutu.
The country’s longest serving ballerina will dance her final show at the Sydney Opera House on April 23.
Dunn is thrilled to be finishing with Manon, which she describes as a juicy three-act ballet.
She is happy to be retiring at a time of her choosing rather than injury forcing her off stage.
“It’s not a surprise that a ballerina has to retire and that’s what I have to tell myself now when I think `oh, have I made the right decision and could I keep going?'” Dunn says.
“A ballerina who retired last year (Olivia Bell) said retirement is the best gift you can give your children and I just thought that was so beautiful.
“It’s not about your decision to retire it’s what you are giving now to your children, which is more of you.”
Dunn is looking forward to simple things like having some weekends to herself and eating dinner with her family.
But she won’t be out of the ballet scene long, starting next year as artistic director of the Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching Academy and the Sydney City Youth Ballet.
Her husband Danilo Radojevic, who is the Australian Ballet’s associate artistic director, will step down from his position this year but will still be affiliated with the company.
Dancing runs in Dunn’s family, with her mother performing in musicals in London’s West End and on cruise ships.
Dunn started with tap dancing at age four but later her teachers queried whether she would consider a classical career.
At age 15 Dunn won the prestigious Prix de Lausanne scholarship to study at The Royal Ballet School in London, before joining The Australian Ballet in 1991.
Dunn says mental toughness and physical endurance are both vital to be a successful ballerina.
“You have to be extremely determined, you have to have a lot of self motivation, you have to not settle for good.
“I say that near enough is not good enough.
“You definitely need to be thick skinned too because it’s not all rosy, there are some really tough times and because it is so personal it can be really, really difficult and quite disconcerting sometimes.”
Dunn nominates her Tokyo performance of Stanton Welch’s Sleeping Beauty and her debut of Manon in Brisbane this year as career highlights.
She also fondly reflects on her partnership with Robert Curran, who retired two years ago.
“We had a good decade of dancing together and we had the same work ethics, we really wanted to better ourselves, better each other (and) push each other on stage.”
Dunn has performed in more than 90 ballets including Romeo and Juliet, Giselle and Swan Lake.
One thing Dunn won’t miss are nerves, which have not subsided throughout her distinguished career.
“I don’t enjoy being nervous, some people like use it as positive energy … for me it just distracts and gets to points where I kind of think `oh my God my legs are shaking, how am I ever pull this off?'”
– Age 40
– Raised in Sydney
– Joined The Australian Ballet in 1991
– First principal role Etudes
– Promoted to principal artist in 2001
– Danced 93 ballets
– Manon final ballet with company