home News Examining a dancer's diet – Gourmet Traveller Magazine Australia

Examining a dancer's diet – Gourmet Traveller Magazine Australia

To celebrate our first-ever Clean Eating issue (on the stands right now!) we chat to Daniel Riley, an acclaimed dancer with Sydney’s Bangarra Dance Theatre, about how he eats on and off the stage.

What does a typical day look like for you, Daniel?
A typical work day begins with breakfast and a coffee at
home before I jump on my bike and ride to work.  There’s no
better way to wake up than riding over the Sydney Harbour Bridge,
and I feel warm, alert and ready for the day by the time I arrive.
Morning class starts at 9.30am and differs between contemporary,
ballet or yoga, with a short half hour of pilates. After class we
have a morning tea break before beginning rehearsals. Depending on
the time of year, we’re either remounting old work for an upcoming
tour or in creation mode for a new work.

Rehearsals continue up until lunch, then we’re back in the
studio for the afternoon session with a short afternoon tea break,
before finishing the day at 6pm. Every second day I’ll ride to
North Sydney Olympic Pool on my way home for a swim to lengthen my
body out and for an extra hit of strength and cardio.

Does your routine affect the way you eat? What about
when you travel?
I feel like it only effects the amount of food I can eat
at certain times of the day. I’m constantly snacking, but I have a
good breakfast, something small for morning tea, a bigger lunch,
then not much until I get home for a good dinner. If I’m dancing in
a show, I eat an hour beforehand. There’s nothing worse than
feeling heavy and full while trying to perform. 

Emma Knowles on eating clean.

How physically challenging  is it to dance for a
whole performance?

The challenge depends on the show, but it’s generally a mix of
high-intensity cardio and high concentration for over an hour.
Performing still gives me a rush that’s highly addictive. Most
nights I can get so lost in the character or story that the
performance time passes quickly, without me remembering much of it.
That feeling of losing myself in dance is what I’m always reaching

Daniel Riley performing in
OUR land people stories, 2016.

What has surprised you most about your

How much I love the people I work with. From day one when you join
Bangarra, you’re family. I took a year away from the company in
2015 to explore other opportunities overseas and on my return it
was like I never left. That kind of acceptance, love and warmth
only comes from family. And that’s what they are. 

How do you eat at home, compared to when you go out to
My wife and I eat simple, nutritious and delicious meals
at home. Spaghetti with pork and chili sausage, kale, zucchini,
carrot, flat-leaf parsley and tomato is a favourite (
try a similar recipe here
). It may not be restaurant-quality
all the time, but it is varied and enjoyable to cook and eat

Any Sydney restaurants you particularly

Kylie Kwong’s Billy Kwong has to be my number one, it’s my
version of heaven. Her saltbush cakes with chilli and XO sauce, the
steamed pork dumplings, native greens and crisp-skinned duck are
all go-to dishes for me. But really, I would eat anything off the
menu. I also love LP’s Quality Meats in Chippendale. When I’m
craving meat, Luke [Powell] always delivers the goods. I always
order the smoked sausage and my wife loves the maple pudding with
vanilla ice-cream. I also love a late-night feast at Mr Wong. It’s
the perfect way to end a long week in the theatre at the Opera
house on a Saturday night. 

Does the company give much nutritional or health
assistance to its dancers?
We have an excellent Safe Dance Program and our team of
physio therapists, masseurs, doctors and pilates instructors are
always looking out for us and are there when we need

What’s your favourite indulgence?
I’m not a big dessert or sweets person. I enjoy everything I love
a little bit all the time, so I never have to lose myself in
overdoing it on one thing. Outside of food, my favourite indulgence
is sleeping in late on the weekend until I need food, then heading
back to bed to lounge, read the weekend papers and books and listen
to my vinyl collection until mid-afternoon. 

Do you like to cook?
I love to cook, especially the preparation of a meal before
cooking. It’s one of the things I miss most when I’m on tour. Maybe
it’s the creative streak in me, but I enjoy working with whatever
is in the fridge and pantry. Seeing what I can come up with is
always fun and surprising. My most recent ‘fridge surprise’
included some whole-wheat soba noodles, some leftover vegetables
from our weekly fruit and vegetable box, homemade chilli sauce
(Kylie Kwong’s recipe, of course) stirred through, some fried
dumplings from the freezer and a fried egg on top. 

Which three GT
 from our archive do you make at

I love the 
white cut chicken with aromatic chilli oil and peanuts. 

The simplicity of chicken and chilli oil over rice, is so perfectly
delicious. This
simple tomato and onion salad with vincotto dressing
is also a
favourite. The simplicity of this recipe reminds me of my time
in Italy with my wife, we spent five weeks travelling and eating.
The best five weeks of my life. I love
char siu bao
, but have never been game to attempt them at home.
Maybe it’s time I tried.


Catch Daniel Riley in Bangarra’s national tour of Stephen

which premieres at Sydney Opera House in
June 2017.  

Gourmet Traveller’s Clean Eating issue is out now. Subscribe to the magazine at Magshop.

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