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Me and my health: Choreographer and dancer Oona Doherty on her lifestyle


Dancing queen: Oona Doherty
Dancing queen: Oona Doherty
Performers in Lady Magma

By Linda Stewart

The choreographer and dancer (33), from Bangor, is staging Lady Magma, the closing event of the Belfast International Arts Festival.

Q: Do you take regular exercise and if so, what?

A: Going to work is my exercise. Now if I have time off, I go to Flow Yoga in Belfast and Holywood for "proper yoga". Fierce Grace yoga is the new Bikram: 27 poses in a sauna. These are really great for the body, in the heat. I would do it after rehearsal and it stops me getting injured. But Yin yoga is where it's really at - that's where the body heals. I don't play team sports - I'm too much of a diva. I was forced to play netball at St Oliver Plunkett School and I'd say it was embarrassing for all of us.

Q: What is the worst illness you've had?

A: I have nearly had pneumonia twice as I'm a smoker. Once I had a cough so bad I tried to hold in the cough backstage and I burst a blood vessel in my eye. I came out dancing like something from a horror movie.

Q: How healthy is your diet?

A: For 50% of the time I'm veggie. I'm trying to cut down on sugars and bread. I cook when I'm home and practicing, but I'm away travelling all the time, so I don't cook very much. It tends to be Caprese salad (mozzarella and tomato), some kind of lentil or rice thing with tonnes of hummus, on repeat. I guess when you're in an AirBnB on your own, you get a bit lazy. Cooking and eating with others is better than alone. When I'm performing, I don't eat for at least six hours before a show. I need to feel hungry to dance fast. Afterwards I will eat whatever I can get, which can mean resorting to chips or a sandwich from a corner shop. I love sushi but it really depends where you are.

Q: Any bad habits?

A: I fall off the sugar wagon a lot and love a wee pastry. Drink doesn't agree with me but sometimes I forget that, too. On the upside, I love fruit and veg - it's the main thing in every meal. My mum has a great garden and grows loads of her own stuff. My friend Janie is also passionate about food and health, so I get good ideas and delicious fresh grub from them.

Q: Do you drink and smoke/ if so how much?

A: I don't drink much when I'm working, maybe a glass or two of wine a week. I smoke like a train, but I really hope to quit that soon. It doesn't suit my body at all. I did manage to quit smoking once and I used a vape for a while. I'm determined I will quit again because there's a level in yoga you will never reach when smoking and I'm not letting that go.

I have always smoked for lots of reasons, but I think it keeps your weight down. And that's something no one talks about, especially skinny dancers. I think the pressure for people to fit in to one particular form of beauty is relentless. In the dance community, it's rife, deep and old. Lots of people have confused being thin with power. I think we really need to open up and change what is seen as beautiful.

Q: Do you take any supplements?

A: Vitamin C (because I'm a smoker) and cod liver oil with primrose. In the winter, I take echinacea.

Q: How do you take time out?

A: I'm so boring - I love TV and I will happily watch Graham Norton repeats, Killing Eve and movies with a tub of hummus.

Q: How well do you sleep?

A: Pretty good. I go to bed early and get up early most of the time. It's not very cool but keeps me right.

Q: Do you worry about getting old?

A: I worry more about money - when I'm old and can't dance anymore, what else will I do as I have no other skills?

Q: What is your go-to product that keeps you feeling healthy?

A: Water. It fixes everything. Being away so much, homely food is what's good for my soul. Roast chicken - the smell of it cooking in the oven makes the house so cosy. I also miss potato bread and Barry's proper tea, sausage sandwiches with my dad and an Indian takeaway with my family. I even miss IKEA meatballs with my nephews. These are like ritual coming-home dinners and when I get back for two or three days, I eat all the best stuff, then when I'm travelling and dancing I eat more healthy foods.

Oona Doherty's Lady Magma is the closing event of the Belfast International Arts Festival, showing at the MAC Belfast from Thursday, October 31 to Saturday, November 2. An ode to femininity, it is a celebration of female strength and sexuality, in the light of historical oppression of women. It brings together an ensemble of international contemporary dancers, in association with Prime Cut Productions. To book, visit or call 9024 6609

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