Have you ever felt like you were dancing amongst the stars? I mean really dancing amongst the stars? I have, and I did for most of my childhood.
I spent hours twirling, arms outstretched, floating about in fantasy land under the soft billowing branches of our willow tree. It was a place where the seeds of my dreams were planted, and as I danced in my world of make believe, my mother watched. And what she saw was a ballerina.
She was not mistaken for I loved to dance, and so, the dream began. Ballet became part of my world. By the time I was nine, I was a seasoned performer, dancing in operettas and even television. I was good at it and I liked it, but if you asked me whether there was an element of pressure, I would have to say that there was. It was after all, at its inception, my mother’s dream for me.
And she had a big vision. My talents were not to be wasted. Wanting the very best I started at a prestigious ballet school run by Mrs. George in the Sydney Tivoli Theatre. Twice a week Mum and I hopped on a train after school and rushed into the city. We had to walk through Belmore Park ~ perfectly fine in daylight, but on the way back in pitch black darkness we were terrified, and tore through it like lightening singing at the top of our lungs!
Within a few years I was being privately tutored by a Latvian prima ballerina. Eventually I joined her weekly classes and life centred around lessons, practice, and working towards performances ~ that’s me below on the far right in an operetta. My mother, a skilled seamstress made all my costumes, and together, immersed in the world of ballet her vision for me became mine. I dreamt of becoming a ballerina.
But that however, was to change much sooner than I imagined. My last performance, a valiant swansong, was at the tender age of eleven. Looking back now, I have the strong feeling it was all predetermined. By that time I was dancing on points, stuffing cotton wool into my ballet slippers to help with painful toes and pirouetting across the stage with great skill and flare.
That evening I had two dances. The first was a solo and the second, a duet with the principal male dancer, the prima ballerina’s husband. I remember desperately wanting a nervous pee while waiting in the wings for my solo. But when it was time to launch myself on stage, for some unknown reason, I missed my music. Another would-be ballerina standing beside me panicked and gave me a big push, and before I knew it, I was out there. Disorientated, I completely lost the thread of the dance. So, with a pounding heart, I made it up. I thought I had saved the day, but by the time the duet came around I had completely lost the plot. When he lifted, my feet were firmly planted on the floor and when I jumped he wasn’t lifting. It was a disaster, but it was about to get a whole lot worse!
After the bows were taken and the flowers given, all hell broke loose backstage. In a blistering outburst, the prima ballerina tore me to shreds. Now as bad as this may seem, sometimes the worst things turn out to be the best.
In one stroke of the tongue my desire to be a prima ballerina was over, and in my eleven year old heart I knew it was absolutely the right decision for me. Today, I have a wonderful appreciation for the fine art of ballet, but from that day on I danced without pressure and without sore toes. I was free to twirl, float and dream once again in the place where it all began… under the willow tree dancing amongst the stars.
Inara Hawley © 2013