Melanie Hamrick has been a member of New York City’s prestigious American Ballet Theatre since she was 18 years old. Now 31, Hamrick is still in the company's corps de ballet--and is one of only two women at ABT who have had a baby. In December 2016, Hamrick gave birth to her first child with her boyfriend, the legendary musician Mick Jagger.
“It might be a bit too stage mom of me, but I might try to get him onstage for The Nutcracker this year,” Hamrick joked as she sat backstage at the David H. Koch theater in New York City, of her nearly 12-month-old son Deveraux Octavian Basil Jagger. “He loves it here—especially the lights. He has gone to his dad’s concerts with the headphones on and he loves music. I think he’s going to be a natural.”
If he has even a fraction of the talent his mom and dad have, Dev (as Hamrick affectionately calls him), is destined for a career in the spotlight. But for the time being, Hamrick is focused on her own return to the stage, and balancing the grueling schedule of being a professional ballerina at one of the top company’s in the world (where she has been since 2003) with motherhood.
“The first six weeks of the season were so brutal,” the lean, striking brunette, who returned to dancing just four months after having Dev. “I went from seeing him whenever I wanted to, to wondering if I would get to kiss him goodnight at all that week.”
Cut to mid October 2017, the week the fall ballet season for ABT kicked off and she’s finally feeling like herself again. "I think I am dancing better than ever because I am not so internal about it all. Normally, if I have a show like I do tonight, I would be putting my feet up right now, getting some rest, prepping my shoes, etc. Now, I am like, I need to go see my son," she said as she climbed the stairs backstage. ("I always like to take the stairs to get a little extra workout in," said Hamrick, who works out at least three hours a day right now to stay in prime ballet shape.)
Here, Hamrick spoke with W about how she got back in ballerina form after having her son, the miracle undereye gels she relies on to get stage-ready, and more.
You are one of two women in the company who has had a baby and come back to the stage afterwards. What has it been like coming back this season after having a baby? How are you feeling?
I came back in the spring season, so about four months after having the baby, and that, emotionally, was so hard. The first six weeks of the season were so brutal, but they were nice. They were as accommodating as they could be. That was a struggle but I did it. I had to do a lot of prep after having the baby to even get in a rehearsal studio. Rehearsal starts at 12 and you go until about 7 p.m.. I went from seeing [Dev] whenever I wanted to, to wondering if I would get to kiss him goodnight at all that week. I had to find a new balance of maybe not doing the warmup so I could get one more hour with my son, then come in and do my own warmup. I struggled with that. When we moved into the Met in May, that was better because I could go home on my breaks.
Everyone says it takes a year to get your body back to where it was. Now I understand that. I think I was trying to fight nature—it was only four months and I was trying to be like superwoman and look like this super skinny ballerina. Emotionally and mentally, that was really hard. I was pushing it too hard, my body wasn’t quite ready and I hurt a lot. Everything hurt…but this fall, I feel like me again. I got all the weight off, and was ready in a two-piece costume four months after having a baby, but it didn’t feel the same. Now, I feel like me, just older.
You are only 31!
In the ballet, that is old. But I still have that competitiveness, the drive and I want to be doing more. I am not in as many ballets this season but I am hoping it is because I was gone on maternity leave when they started putting them together. I am still looking to find a balance... It’s all different now.
Kelley Potter, in the corps de ballet, also has a baby. Was she helpful in coaching you through this tough process of returning to the ballet after having your son?
Yes, she is so sweet. She said, “It’s going to be hard, but you can do it.” She was just so supportive and she understands when I say that I am tired. It’s not like my muscles are tired—I am just tired. She’ll remind me that I am tired because I have a baby at home. It’s nice to have someone else who really gets it. I can’t give 120 percent all the time. I want to, but I have to give a percentage of that energy to my son. When I am here, I am in the zone, but I just have to make it work. But I think I am dancing better than ever because I am not so internal about it all. Normally, if I have a show like I do tonight, I would be putting my feet up right now, getting some rest, prepping my shoes, etc. Now, I am like, "I need to go see my son!"
Before you had him, ballet was probably your everything…
Yes, everything all the time. I was in class every day and I want to be in class every day, but sometimes I have to give myself my own class. Or, I will go to the gym on my way into the theater so I know i am still pushing myself as hard as I can, but it’s different than when you are 20.
Speaking of workouts, I know you used to be really into doing Refine Method in addition to your ballet training. Was that how you got back into fighting shape after having your son? Or, what’s your secret?
After the baby, I still loved ballet, but now I have to fit in my workout whenever I can. It’s hard to say I am going to book that hour for Refine or something because my day might change. Now, I do Refine when I can and do a lot with my personal trainer. I am super excited because the owner of Refine is creating this whole new tech workout that you can do from home and stuff. I think it will make everyone’s lives easier. My personal trainer, Joel, is married to Kelly (the dancer with the baby) so he knew what I needed to do.
Were you working with Joel before you had your son?
No. I always wanted to, but I never felt like I had the time to dedicate because I was always ballet, ballet, ballet. I also didn’t want to build too much muscle. But after I had the baby, I had a lot of work to do and I needed the trainer. I needed the one-on-one. He was an ex-ballet dancer, so he really gets it. He knows how to get someone in ballet shape. Now I struggle to get in time with him. Everything is last minute.
How many hours a day are you doing something active?
I go to the gym every day. At least three hours a day. Even when I go to the gym, I walk out about an hour and forty-five minutes later. I am just so used to moving all the time. I will take a day off sometimes. We have a month off in November and I want to enjoy that time with Dev, his dad and go on vacation somewhere. But when I am in the city and dancing, I want to be in the very best physical shape possible and feel good. At the gym, I run three to four miles every day and no slower than a ten-minute mile. Then I do abs, weights. I tried the stair master the other day and that was rough. I thought, ‘I must have gone like a hundred flights by now’ and it was like four.
What is the best change that your trainer Joel brought into your workouts?
He made me not afraid to build muscle. As a ballet dancer, I was trained to want to have long, thin and lean muscles. I was afraid if I lifted any weights, I would build muscle. You do need muscles! I am naturally pretty tiny, but being strong makes such a difference. I had never lifted weights or done squats or dumbbell presses. This was the first time I have ever really done weightlifting.
Diet-wise, how did things change for you after having a baby?
Well, if you want to lose weight, you eat less. It’s just a fact. Yeah, you are hungry sometimes, but just don’t eat the whole portion. You try to eat healthy as much as possible. When I was pregnant, I didn’t really gain much weight becauseI kept thinking every pound that comes on had to come off. If I wanted a donut, I would eat it. But I usually felt sick if I ate something like a donut anyways. And, I was so nervous about having a baby, in the end I think I probably lost weight because of that. When it came off, I wanted to get back into prime shape. I worked out really hard, didn’t eat probably enough. Now, I workout and eat to maintain my body. Sometimes I eat pizza or french fries (I love both), but when I was coming back into it, I wasn’t eating those things. I wanted to be a ballerina again and that’s just how it is. If you eat a lot, you are going to be bigger. But thankfully, because we’re doing shows right now and working out a lot, I can eat (for the most part) whatever I want. When I am not in season, I usually lose weight because I am not working out as much and I am not as hungry.
On a typical day now, what does your diet look like?
Today was pretty crazy. I think I have had an apple and maybe some Goldfish, but I will get a nice, proper meal like a sandwich before the show tonight and then I will eat afterwards. Yesterday, I ate a banana and a piece of toast with peanut butter for breakfast (I am not a breakfast person) and then a salad for lunch (I don’t eat salads when I am performing because it sits in your stomach). For dinner, I had sushi. Today, it’s about grabbing anything I can whenever I have time. I am going to be really hungry when I leave.
You mentioned pizza and french fries. What’s your favorite ’splurge’ food?
I love Mexican food. Even though I feel like guacamole is healthy for you as long as you don’t eat all those chips—it’s mostly just avocado and veggies. I love a burger. For the most part, I just stick to everything in moderation. If I want to have a burger, I will have one but maybe just half of it. I don’t like to deprive my body. I feel better when I eat healthier. Maybe pad thai is my favorite cheat food. I have a costume to fit into when I am performing so I try to stick to healthy foods.
We have talked about change to your diet and workout after having your son. What about the rest of your wellness/beauty routines?
It took some time for my hormones to balance so my skincare changed a little bit, but now it’s pretty easy. I keep it very simple—Clarins face lotion, Duane Reade-brand body lotion. I don’t do any undereye creams or anything like that but I feel like I should start. I used Aveeno face wash and it has always worked, I also like Aveeno body lotion. Maybe I should do something more but my skin is fine now, so I feel like you shouldn’t mess with a good thing.
You are so low-maintenance!
Oh, there is one thing. About once a month, I use these undereye gels called Facelift in a Bag from Spruce and Bond. They are like $5 and you take it off and it looks like you have slept for like 25 hours and been to the spa. It’s the best thing for when you are tired. The girls do it in the dressing room before shows. They also make things for smile lines and all that. That is the best thing I have ever used.
Any other good beauty hacks you have picked up from fellow ballerinas?
Use lip liner as your lipstick for the stage. Lipstick comes off, but lipliner stays on forever. I like MAC, and I have a whole bunch of other ones I have picked up along the way. MAC is great for all the stage makeup.
What’s your favorite makeup remove to get all the stage makeup off?
Just those Neutrogena makeup remover wipes. And then I don’t wear much face makeup during the day, just an undereye concealer, because we wear all that stage makeup at night. And I make sure to drink lots and lots of water.
What about facials. You have such gorgeous skin!
I have only had one facial in my whole life. That was like four years ago, and afterwards I noticed spots on my face. I felt like I had just opened Pandora’s box. I do like to do Cryotherapy facials. But the rest is pretty simple.
What about your haircare? What’s your secret?
I am picky with my shampoo and container because I have really thick, frizzy hair. The hair salon I go to here, called Salon Ishi, a lot of dancers go there and they are so amazing. They get that all the hairspray and bobby pins and pulling our hair back really tight all the time is rough on your hair. They do a great amino acid treatment that I started doing every three months and that has changed my hair. If your hair looks nice and you have lip gloss and mascara on, it makes a huge difference. If your hair looks frizzy and a mess, no matter how much makeup you wear you won’t feel good. When I don’t use their products my hair breaks and feels dry.
Did you hair change when you had Dev? I know that happens to a lot of women…
Yes! I have tons of those baby hairs they are so annoying. But I use eyebrow gel to tame them here at my part. My hair was beautiful when I was pregnant, but then afterwards it started falling out. Now my hair is back to almost pre-baby.
Do you want to have another baby?
Not right now. I love him more than anything in the whole word, he’s the best. But I am not ready for another one.
Career-wise, what does the future look like for you? What are your goals?
In my mind, I am too old to be promoted. But I would love to still be challenged here or somewhere else. I have only danced for ABT so maybe it would be cool to dance with another company at some point. I want to broaden my horizons. I would be curious about ballet training the everyday person. That is definitely something I am curious about…
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