Body & Fitness

Nerida Cortese’s secret battle

How the bubbly mover and shaker keeps on top of a condition that needs constant attention

Dancer and choreographer Nerida Cortese shares her tips for living a healthy life.

You’re a Dancing With the Stars icon and a dance teacher, so you are obviously very fit. How do you look after your body?

I was born with one leg shorter than the other and I didn’t find out I had scoliosis [sideways curvature of the spine] until I was 17. I was dancing and in a lot of pain, and couldn’t breathe properly. I still get a lot of back pain. I do Pilates and I also do electro muscle stimulation (EMS) training, where you put on a wet vest, and they put little electrode nodes on you and every 10 seconds your muscles contract. It’s not painful and is really low-impact, but after 20 minutes, it feels like I’ve done an hour’s workout and I don’t break or sprain anything. At 47, my brain says, “Yes, let’s do it”, but my body is like, “Hell no!” I also get plenty of sleep, at least eight hours a night, because I have a very busy brain.

Nerida putting Shane Cameron through his paces on DWTS in 2015.

You and sons Kees [16] and Jett [12] have attracted a huge following on social media with your dance videos. How did that come about?

During Covid, home-schooling was such a bore, so we just started dancing together for fun. Then Jett showed me how to post the videos we made on TikTok and Instagram, and we noticed they were getting a bit of traction, so we kept going. Our most-watched video got 16.5 million views, but that’s not why we do it. I’ve always said to them the day it’s not fun any more, we’ll stop.

What is the best advice you’ve given your sons about keeping healthy and well?

If you want to be good at what you do, you have to practise and you have to look after yourself. You have to eat well and you have to get plenty of sleep. I’m pretty strict on that.

What do you do for your mental health?

I actually dance for my mental health, or I go for walks with my partner Steve. We walk for hours and just take everything in and solve the world’s problems.

Where or when are you most happiest?

When I’m with my boys, and when I’m with Steve and my friends. I enjoy my own time, but I just love conversation and having a laugh with people. That’s when I’m at my happiest.

Son Jett has the moves like Mum!

What single thing would improve your health?

Not to have scoliosis. If I didn’t have back pain, that would be fantastic.

Do you follow any special diet to keep your body and mind healthy?

I’m gluten- and dairy-free. I’m not allergic, but my gut health hasn’t always been fantastic. I also take a multitude of vitamins every day, and I drink lots and lots of water. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a glass of wine now and then!

What is the best thing you’ve been given, bought, created or found which keeps you healthy and grounded?

I’ve just got back from a dance competition in the US, where women were wearing dresses worth $10,000 and mine cost $200. But I didn’t worry about it – I just got out there and danced. So, I think the best thing I’ve found is being grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve been presented with and not sweating the small stuff.

What are you most grateful for in your life?

My family. I lost my dad when I was 11 very suddenly from an aneurism. It made me appreciate who I had left, so my sisters, mother and stepdad and I are all very close. My boys are just everything to me.

Did you always want to be a dancer? Was this a childhood goal?

I have a black-and-white photograph of me in a tutu that my mum made. I had white sandals and socks on, with Band-Aids on my knees, and a piece of tinsel in my hair. I was four. I remember having the photo taken. And I said to my teacher, “I don’t need lessons from you. I already know how to tap dance.” I wasn’t lacking confidence, put it that way.

What do you owe your parents?

Everything. They taught me to appreciate the small things and to find the positive in anything, because no matter how crappy your life might be at the time, and you think there’s no way out, there is always something.

Tell us something we don’t know about you.

I hate holes like you find in honeycomb. I was once given a bunch of flowers at a dance performance and these flowers had little pores. I almost gagged. It’s a bit of a phobia.

Related stories