Beginnings - Part One
On the stage
It was almost 7pm when I slumped to the floor at the centre of the stage. Even though I had been here many times before, it still took a while to regain the courage to trust the process I had brought upon myself – and the 450 young children in my care.
Bondi Junction, Sydney, December, concert season. Everywhere I turned on this incredibly hot and humid summer evening I saw overtired dancers melting under the heat of stage lighting. The scheduled hour-long rehearsal was running overtime and communicating with the technical staff was akin to performing great feats of interpretive dance. Sore and weary teachers darted back and forth from stage right to stage left, to stage right to stage left again, with bags of sticky fragrant pineapple sweets in hand, in an attempt to catch and encourage the four-year-olds to wait it out just a little longer…
The music was getting louder, the stage manager was shouting to be heard over the chaos and I found myself in a daze, drifting in and out of what felt like a movie scene in slow-motion – a frightening horror film, complete with surround sound at very high volume.
“I am mad,” I said to myself. “I am bonkers. What on earth am I doing?”
The reality of concert season was hitting me hard. I had rocks in my head for trying to pull this off, for trying to work with so many small children. I was seriously questioning whether it was worth the incredible effort involved.
And then my eyes focused on a little hand, still with dimples for knuckles, nestled in the soft mauve net of the smallest of tutus – the kind only a loving grandmother could find.
The dimpled hand moved to pull at the two thin, pink, noodle-like elastics on the top of her ballet shoe – the ones that, despite all our best efforts, never stay tied in a bow for longer than a minute.
As I regained a little more focus, I saw many little fingers pulling at elastics on ballet shoes, and just as many tickling neighbouring friends – for I was sitting among a gathering of lilac fairies aged two years old.
“If I just remain calm and unfazed, we’ll get through it,” I thought, “but how is that even possible?”
But then the lyrical strings of 12 Dancing Princesses by composer Arnie Roth started to fill the theatre. The most-played track in my iTunes library, the music instantly cast its predictable magic and two dimpled hands swiftly pushed their owner’s tutu-wrapped body into the air in one swift burst. And in the flash it took for her to reach centre stage, the other sweaty children waiting in the wings had gone quiet.
“I am going to be Darcey Bussell,” announced the lilac fairy with dimples for knuckles, which I now recognised as Georgina from my Thursday-afternoon Baby Ballet class.
This little two-year-old was as an intriguing soul. She would often hang back a little in class, just watching, before quietly going about, interpreting each of my dance activities in her own way. And she had never said a word to me all year. But now, amidst the broiling chaos and bubbling frustration, Georgina was announcing her desire to become prima English ballerina Darcey Bussell. “What child even knows of Darcey Bussell?” I thought.
My weariness and fears melted away in the pleasure of seeing this little one dance. Georgina proceeded to do the most beautiful, heart-felt and skillful free dancing I had ever seen. Her expression, joy and immersion within the music and movement stopped time. She was mesmerising. I did not want her to stop.
In this rare moment, as the goose bumps spread and the tears welled, I realised how privileged I was to have the power to make children happy – to architect experiences that whisked them off into a parallel universe through dance. It is my quest to be of service this way – to hold the space and make this magic happen, regardless of cost, time and effort.
Photography Credit: Camille Nuttal Photography
- "Your dedication to this process is why we have stayed and stayed and stayed .. bring on Grade 7 and 8 !"
By Anita Heath on Sat 9th, June, 2018 at 11:57 AM
- "Beautiful Kate! Thanks for sharing"
By Cam on Fri 8th, June, 2018 at 08:10 PM