This time last week I would have been lining up in the wings preparing to take a curtain call. My week "playing ballerina" was an incredibly happy time, filled with many great and emotional moments - all of which will now exist in memory. I returned to Tasmania for a very special 21st Anniversary event. My ballet school was celebrating this milestone in a theatre that had turned 100 this year. 2011 for Tasmanian Academy of Dance and Launceston's Princess Theatre has been a significant year.
|Curtain call on the Princess Theatre's stage|
I was so fortunate that my mother allowed me to continue my ballet studies when we moved to Tasmania in the mid-90's. I was eight and whilst not the most dedicated dancer at that age, I enjoyed the feeling I got moving to music. I am not quite sure why my mother took me to the studio behind the old church on 1 Mann Street all those years ago? I can't remember whether it was based on word of mouth/recommendation or whether my mother just picked a name out of the phone book? Nevetheless, I found myself observing a class, which was to be my class if I was happy to start at the school. There I met someone who would become one of the most important persons in my life. I met Allison Gibson-Snare and never before had I met a teacher so positive with such a vitality for life and a passion for instilling enjoyment in dance. Needless to say, I started at TAD in April 1995 and have been associated with the school ever since.
|My teacher & ballet mum Allison|
Everyone says it is very important to find a good teacher, especially if you are serious about dance - this is true. I think I hit the jackpot (and anyone who has been blessed to have been taught by this wonderful woman will agree). My teacher not only taught me an appreciation and enjoyment of music and dance, she also fostered creativity, developed and encouraged the technical foundations of classical ballet as well as using one's brain - creating an intelligent dancer. Her lessons were both fun but very educational. There was a time when I would keep a notebook of corrections and "things that I'd learn" in my ballet bag and after every lesson I would write down what she would tell me. She always had the best interests of her students in mind and whilst there were times when she was firm, it was all for the benefit of the student at the end of the day. I will never forget the time when our competition group mucked up terribly at our performance - we were all out of time and none of us watched each other whilst we were on stage and we knew we were all at fault for getting ahead of ourselves and becoming over confident. Needless to say, we all hid in the dressingrooms afterwards dreading a scolding which we never got - we were given a stern word at our next rehearsal in the studio but it was all valid because we were in wrong and we knew it. We all wanted to try our best for her...
TAD produces intelligent, positive and happy dancers - you can just look at our alumni and what we have all achieved since leaving the school to show how much the school and an education in ballet had benefited all of us. Not all of us have gone on to careers in dance, there are those that have successfully continued on to a career in the dance field, but many of us still are involved in dance in one way or another. It is something that you cannot get out of your system. The passion never dies.
|"The Foxes" ~ Some of TAD's alumni members together in the dressing room before curtain up|
When some of TAD's former students returned for the Anniversary Performances last week, it was very special. Some of us had come from as far away as the UK to be a part of this. All of us that had returned can safely say that it was like coming home. Being in the blue studio was like walking into one's childhood home - it was nostalgic and yet at the same time, it felt almost like we had never left at all. Reuniting with people that I had not seen for many years was very special - I had worked out that one of the dancers I had not actually been on stage with for over 15 years!! Needless to say, dancing together was a surreal but incredible experience. I think the most touching thing though was the fact that we were able to share this experience with our teacher. Allison jumped on stage with us and this was very special.
|Dress rehearsal shot by Susan Long|
I find dance to be very therapeutic. It makes me happy, it cheers me up, its a way to communicate to others (both in the audience and those that you are dancing with) and it is almost like a meditation really because when you dance you forget everything and you get transported into what feels like a completely different world. That is exactly what it is like when you step out on stage. Nothing matters and suddenly you are in a completely different realm. I was discussing the feeling of pain (physical pain) with a friend of mine backstage and she asked me if I felt any pain when I was on stage dancing and I said no. She agreed - she too never felt any pain on stage. You could be warming your feet up back stage knowing that your toes are about to drop off because they are so sore but the very second you step out on stage, the feeling disappears. That is how out of this world it can be - dancing on stage is like experiencing a moment outside of humanity. It has its own definition of time, space and reality.
I will never forget that week in Tasmania and it will forever remain to be one of the best week's of my life. I got to reunite with old friends, share the stage with them as well as existing students of TAD and above all else have fun. We will all look back on this and think, wow - how cool was that?