Me? On stage?
I attend a wonderful school in Hobart, the Felicity Ryan Ballet , which runs classes not just for young ballet students but also for seniors, and I’ve been in seventh heaven in the studio each week (sometimes twice).
Until floods damaged the remarkable studios three weeks ago, I’d never had the joy of sprung floors, perfectly placed barres, mirror-lined walls or a wired sound system. I’ve made the best friends and feel privileged to be a part of a senior culture that is wonderfully uplifting, and by and large what it does FOR me is so much more important than what it might occasionally do TO me.
The most amazing thing of all for an introvert, is that I signed up to be part of the Seniors performance at the School’s end of year concert. Why!!! Ah, more on that later.
I must thank our teacher, Catharine Allen, for immense patience and dedication, because two terms ago it seemed impossible to me that I could learn choreography from Romeo and Juliet – Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights which I’ve so often called ‘Swishworthy’. I missed the first couple of rehearsals, and it has been Hell and High Water getting those initial movements into my brain and to try and displace the idea that I might let myself and everyone else down.
The weeks counted down, we acquired costumes, things became much more intense – 10 weeks to go, five, three, one…
(dress rehearsal at the karate dojo after the flood at our own studios)
We had the flood and our seniors group moved to a karate dojo in another suburb for practice and I was lurching in and out of a state of high anxiety and numbing calm for that last week. I swear I slept with the music thumping through my head, I’d walk the dog and if no one was around, would do those first dratted steps, even in the shearing shed! (Which is a fabulous if ‘fragrant’ space with heaps of room.)
But I finally had to come to an agreement with myself – this was a challenge that I had signed up for, no one forced me, and I was going to damn well enjoy it or perish in the doing!
So why DID I sign up? Firstly, as one ages, challenges are important. I don’t want to be one of those who sinks into ennui. Secondly, I’m quite an anxious bod and this stretches my boundaries to the max. But that’s a good thing because I’ve been told by our teacher that there is no such thing as failure. There’s just performing to the best of our abilities and having fun in the doing! And finally, and in a way most importantly, I’ve met such a great bunch of women and made such good friends.
So there’s been stage make-up, hair do’s, clean ballet shoes, swishing black gowns and Tudor style headwear (for any history buffs reading this, yes, we know the dresses are more medieval/Dark Age/Viking and the head-dresses are Tudor but this is ballet, which makes an art form of creative licence). In addition, there was a whisper that under the folds of our black gowns, there should be hip flasks so we could settle the nerves.
But realistically, we were a bunch of older women (with me the oldest by almost a year) and our dance was one minute thirty seconds and most of the 1200 strong audience would attend because of the younger performers aged three to thirties.
So just to give you character context: we were a group of Veronese nobility, Capulet or Montague, take your pick. We were at a major social function in Verona, thought we were better than anyone else in the room, bordering on arrogant, and had probably had one or two goblets of good Veronese wine. Maybe we were even looking forward to a Montague-Capulet duel. We thought we were formidable!
Our dress rehearsal on stage at 7.40 AM went well, we hoped for the best and as we were the 3rd to last performers in the morning programme, went downstairs to the Green Room, put our civvies on and prepared to laze the morning away.
(Resting calmly between performances)
Except that as I stepped down off a box after hanging up my gown, I popped a tendon behind my knee. I grabbed my faithful knee wrap, bound it tightly, took analgesics and hoped to the stars I’d be okay. To be frank I could have cried as I’d been working for months for this very day. Our teacher prepared to step into my place, but she understood what I was feeling and allowed me to make the decision to perform or not.
And so! Lights, Cameras, Action!
Have you ever listened to that amazing piece of music? It’s so raw and spine tingling! Truly!
Suddenly we were on stage, the red back-lighting had exploded behind us and we were taking those first steps. I sunk my heart into my role, figuring it would void the pain and lameness and believe it or not it kind of worked. Displacement therapy at its best.
We performed twice – once in the morning and once in the afternoon – a group of senior women who never expected to be on stage dancing to an amazing classical excerpt and as part of Hobart’s only ‘solely ballet’ school. What an astonishing thing!!!
So how did we do?
Wonderful! Beyond our expectations. We were stopped by people at the lunch interval who complemented us, said we owned the stage, said it was an amazing performance, dramatic and breathtaking. The same thing happened after the second performance, with cheers and applause. It was the most scintillating thing.
I have no video of our actual performances on the day as the concert was filmed professionally and is under copyright, but you can see by our private stills that we loved our time as performers.
Would I do it again?
In the throes of post-performance euphoria, yes… probably… maybe…
Ask me again in a week’s time…