She’s been a stunt double in The Matrix movies and worked alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names – she taught Margot Robbie the incredible acrobatic skills she displays in the film, Suicide Squad – but ID’s Melanie Peyton-Smith says it’s a bigger thrill watching aerial and acro students thrive under her watchful eye.
“In my career I have followed a few different paths – worked in movies like Superman Returns and The Matrix 2 and 3, but now I have my beautiful daughter, Amelie, I stay closer to home – working nights trick riding horses at the Australian Outback Spectacular and days teaching at Industry,” she says.
And of all the heroes she has created film stunts for, none compare with Melanie’s own heroic battle with a brain tumour, just four years ago.
“I had a brain tumour cut out in 2013. It was located in the balance and coordination centre of my brain. I made a full recovery very quickly though,” she says.In fact, Melanie was performing again within five months and back in full force in 2016, training Margot Robbie for her power-packed role in Suicide Squad. Mel describes Margot as “really nice and down to earth”.
These days, Melanie loves that all her years of dancing, acting, riding and acrobatics are being utilized in two jobs she adores and that she gets to be home for her daughter and partner.
Melanie says she is inspired by anyone that knows what they want and works hard to achieve it - no matter what hurdles they may face.
“These are the people who are inspirational to me, “ she says,
The words, Dream. Believe. Succeed mean a lot to us at Industry Dance, and perhaps no one at the studio appreciates their meaning more than Melanie after her illness.
“Of course there were moments when I doubted my recovery,” she said.“My doctor told me I should re-think my career path and after the operation it could have been as bad as having to learn to walk again. Thankfully this was not the case and I was determined to get back to performing as soon as possible.“My years of training ensured that my body was in good shape and had great muscle memory to bounce back quickly.”
Melanie began dancing a little later than most, starting classes in ballet, jazz and acrobatics at 13.
“I started late but my passion was so strong it didn’t take me long to catch up to the other students,” she says.Growing up, Mel says she drove her parents mad practicing acrobatics in the house.“My horse also had to put up with me flipping and climbing all over her. I have always just loved moving my body in challenging ways and being upside down.”
Melanie hopes to inspire her students to follow their passion, as she did.“I hope they feel stronger and more able to approach anything life throws at them with these skills they learn here at Industry Dance,” she says.
”I love watching the kids get braver and stronger – and keen to try new scary things. I love to see how proud they are when their confidence builds as they get out of their comfort zone.
“The kids at ID are so supportive of one another after achieving yet another new trick. The vibe here is always fun and friendly. Amelie also loves having her mum teaching her friends.”
When Miss Mel isn’t teaching you to scale tremendous heights, or trick riding, she’s at the beach with her dogs and family. Her favourite things are paddle boarding, riding her bicycle, and, of course, jumping on the trampoline with Amelie!