Tag Archives: ballerina

Thursday Doors – Back to Dance 2021.

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul.”
Martha Graham

Collectively, we’ve posted many doors on this blog share. However, for most of us it’s the familiar doors which mean the most, especially our very own front door.

Well, this Thursday I was waiting for my daughter to finish her dance class, and I noticed the door to the studio with it’s welcoming sign and I thought I’d honour that this week. After all, this is 11th year we’ve walked through that door for another dance year, and now she’s about to turn 15. So, let’s just say: “she’s improved”.

Our daughter aged 4 at her first ballet open day where Mummy was finally let inside the door along with her camera. I think the aim here was just to point their toes.

Walking through this door has been a life changer for the kids and myself. Although I’d done ballet until I was about eleven, I didn’t really get into dance at all. Didn’t connect with it, and certainly wasn’t one to go to the ballet. I’m more one for the Sydney Writer’s Festival, or possibly the theatre.

However, that’s all changed. I’ve been metamorphosed into loving dance, not that I go to the ballet even now, I see so much of it through my daughter and right up close, that I haven’t felt the need. Perhaps, I’m missing out and I was edging towards taking our daughter to the ballet in Sydney, but then covid came along. Besides, we’ve been to a few musicals in Sydney. So, she hasn’t been deprived.

Anyway, I still remember the first day we walked through this door, and into the studio for her first class. What I remember most about that, was the door closing in front of me, and I was left behind. She was only three turning four. The teacher took her away, and she was gone. It was like her first day of school, only a little early.

Since then, we’ve had the annual concerts where before we humble parents and grandparents were able to see our little darlings prancing around on stage, we had to master the fine art of getting the hair in place. This act of torture is not for the faint-hearted when your daughter has very fine hair which knots easily and every stroke of the brush produces tears and a deafening scream. Of course, it’s all worth it when you see them up on stage.

Our daughter before her first ballet concert aged four. Isn’t she sweet!

It was around the time of the first annual concert, that our daughter appeared en pointe at home. This, of course, wasn’t on real pointe shoes when she was only four years old. Rather, it was on little blue plastic cups, but she was entranced and took it very seriously.

I don’t know if I looked at her back then and started seeing glimpses of the ballerina she would become. However, it wasn’t much later because right from dot she looked like a ballerina and through all the trappings of a knockabout kid who was doing nippers, scouts and going swimming at the beach in her school uniform on occasions after school, the ballerina was there just like Michelangelo seeing David inside that block of marble.

That’s not to say that she’s going to become the next Misty Copeland. In many ways, she’s already become herself and is already a ballerina now, even though she’s still got such a long way to go. Of course, this is the benefit of being Mum and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. She was breathtakingly beautiful and an incredible dancer at four, and every time we see her dance, we’re absolutely dazzled. We’re not her teachers, or the judge. We don’t need to be critical. It’s our job to encourage, drive, and probably work about three jobs to get her through. However, you do that for your kid. You do whatever it takes to the best of your ability. Well, most of us at least try, and hopefully we can also support and encourage those who are left falling through the cracks, even if it’s only for a moment. We’ve certainly appreciated that ourselves many times over.

My adult ballet class. I’m wearing the satin ballet slippers and you can pick our teacher with her perfect foot and not wearing socks.

Anyway, since we’ve walked through that door, we’ve made many friends, and connected at a fairly deep and meaningful level over the years. Indeed, one of the things I found most difficult about covid last year, was not seeing all the other dance parents. We might see each other say for ten minutes in the waiting room after each class, which isn’t much. However, when you multiply that by a couple of classes a week over 11 years, those moments add up, and there’s been a lot of sharing. I have also done some adult classes over the years as well, and I’ve really loved them and made some wonderful friendships there. I’m not just a dance mum. I am a dancer (just not a very good one and also one with disability and health issues!! It’s quite ironic actually!)

Our daughter using her brother’s head as a ballet barre. Seems like she’s turned him into the supporting act. This was taken before the concert in our hallway at home.

So, walking through this one door, has opened many, many doors for us, and before I head off, I’ll also mention that our son also did hip-hop classes here with a former Billy Elliott from Melbourne and Broadway. He also made a friendship then, which resurfaced last year and last weekend we found ourselves comforting him after his Pop had a stroke and we drove Nan to the hospital. Our son was such a comfort to his friend, who ended up sleeping in our loungeroom that night.

Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

I think this is the most recent photo I have of our daughter on stage.

All of that started by walking through this door.

I know this quote appears in a corny ad, but it’s very true: “From little things, big things grow…”

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors, which is kindly hosted by Dan Antion at No Facilities: https://nofacilities.com/2021/01/28/trinity-church-et-al-thursday-doors/

PS I just had to include this favourite.

This was the first time I saw her doing her ballet solo. Someone else took this photo and emailed it through to me, and I’m so grateful. I still absolutely love it.

Home On A Saturday Morning…2020.

This morning, I became strangely captivated by the absurdity of our kitchen table. Or, more to the point, by the macabre and unlikely pairing of random objects which had simply been placed one on top of the other just waiting for someone to come along and put them in their rightful homes.

That might have been a job for Friday night so we could start the weekend off with a clean slate, open space and an outlook uncluttered by the detritus of four people and three dogs living under the one roof under the somewhat trying circumstances of informal isolation. Well, at least, that’s largely the go for my husband and I while we’ve loosened the noose for the kids who are on school holidays. Even still, they’re told to wash their hands as soon as they come home, and are interrogated about who they’re catching up with before they leave, and where their friends have been, as well as where the people they’ve been hanging out with have been. Any mention of Melbourne, and it’s out to the dog house. Fortunately, we live just North of Sydney and are still well away from experiencing what’s going on in America and other virus nightmare zones. However, we’ve not letting our guard down, and security is tighter at our place than the Queensland border.

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2020 will go down in history as a year we don’t want to repeat.

Anyway, I’m sure our kitchen table was clear last night. Or, at least, it was some time yesterday. Then, Mr 16 returned home from a day out with his mates and pulled a gazillion plastic spoons out of his pockets and dumped them on the table. He thought they were a great joke, and I reminded me of a friend of mine who used to do that, and earned himself the inevitable nickname of “Spoon”. Spoon was tragically killed in a car accident in his early twenties when he swerved to avoid a koala. One of my best friends had gone out with Spoon for a few years, and my connection with him was more second-hand, although when someone in your circle dies young in a tragic accident like that, you can feel a misplaced closeness. That somehow you knew them better than you did. Or, perhaps you just remember every single little detail and they’ve become frozen in a poignant time capsule in your heart for eternity.

However, my son knew nothing about that when he brought all these spoons home and spread them all over the kitchen table. Not only that, he left them there almost like a piece of ephemeral street art. Just to compound matters, he dumped them on top of my latest attempt to maintain some kind of diary and routine during 2020 when I have nowhere to go and virtually nothing to remember. I have no reason to routinely open a diary and be concerned with where I’m going, which is making it very hard to keep track of that rare random place I’m supposed to be (Is anyone else struggling with that? I know it surely couldn’t just be me?)

Anyway, after deciding that the image of my 2020 diary buried in plastic spoons somehow encapsulated the weirdness of 2020, I noticed a few other “curious points of interest” on the table. While we would usually hide all this unsightly kitchen and family clutter to produce a Insta-perfect shot, I was suddenly struck by all the personality and character which had been thrown together here, and how it possessed a strange kind of beauty which ought to be shared before it was swept away like detritus on the beach.

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First up, there’s this combo of a chocolate biscuit with a touch of lime resting on my tablet box. For the last 13 years, this tablet box has been part of my day more regularly than clockwork. Every day, I take a good handful of tablets to stave off my auto-immune disease, dermatomyositis. While photographing the spoons and my diary, I must’ve been in between thoughts and hadn’t quite managed to get my biscuit onto a plate. The biscuit was made by a friend of mine are chocolate with a hint of lime and rather special. They were left over the other night, and being kind and thoughtful, she divided the leftovers up into Chinese containers for us all to take home. Although I was also taking home the remains of a chocolate macadamia cake I’d made, I was looking forward to having her biscuits with a cup of tea. They were a real treat.

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Personally, I don’t feel the chewed up rubber innards of a tennis ball warrant an explanation. However, there might be those of you who don’t have scraps of tennis ball deposited all over the house like we do. Indeed, tapping away at my desk, I’ve spotted a streak of fluoro-orange felt with a few bits of cracked rubber still attached. Indeed, on the other side, I’ve just spotted one of my son’s disposable plastic spoons. How did it migrate out here? Surely, it wasn’t me?!! I don’t know. However, I’ve clearly been persecuted by crappy paraphernalia at every turn, and I can assure you most emphatically that”it wasn’t me”. Moreover, I’m sure sure that everyone around me, both human and canine, would agree. Of course, no one ever owns up to their crap, and the miscellaneous layers just keep building up until you pop out one morning, and a strange sedimentary rock is sitting there. Or, perhaps it’s more of a sandwich. I don’t know. All I do know, is that I don’t see this on anyone else’s Facebook pages, and I clearly don’t live an Instagram-able life!

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The quest for meaning continues…

Of course, the chaotic state of our kitchen table could well be a cause for prayer. Indeed, our house probably needs more prayer than most. Feeling that the state of the house was heading irretrievably down a precipitous cliff, I finally brought back the cleaner yesterday. By the way, I should point out that my cleaner isn’t some uppercrust indulgence. Rather, she’s a disability support worker and more of a vital necessity, except that the risk of catching the coronavirus far exceeded the need for a squeaky-clean house and we’ve been “doing alright” on our own. Anyway, when the cleaner found a stray rubber band, she hung it over the praying hands which I’d bought from Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral, and I thought it was a good laugh.You can’t take life too seriously, especially at the moment.

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Along with humour, nature has also been getting me through this year which just keeps doing my head in on so many fronts. I picked this shell up on one of my photography beach walks, either at Patonga or MacMasters. I’m not sure. I have a scattering of shells on our kitchen table from these walks. They’re ostensibly nothing spectacular, but they hold memories for me of those beautiful walks in the bright sunshine now that it’s Winter here, and I’ve had a cold for a few weeks and have switched into hibernation mode. I know it’s not good psych, but outside can wait.

Meanwhile, the outside is peering in through my window…the vast expansive branches of the Jacaranda tree just outside the door, a white camellia from our next door neighbour’s garden’s been keeping me company for awhile now, along with the chatter of the birds. There usually a dog (or all three) at my feet or even sleeping under my desk, although they’ve abandoned me today. The kids are home and no doubt they’re far more exciting. Moving humans are far more interesting than stationary ones tapping away on keyboards, and they have no concern for my ideas.

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Proof a mother’s work is never done.

Last, but by no means least, are my daughter’s pointe shoes and the accompanying post-it note. She bought a new pair of pointe shoes during the week and while they might dazzle you with their starstruck beauty, they not only torture your feet, but also your fingertips as you sew on elastics and ribbons which keep them attached to your ballerina’s feet. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried sewing into these beastly instruments of torture. However, jabbing a needle through leather is impossible for mere mortals. I snapped one needle and drew blood on separate stitch, and yet there was no respite for this ballerina’s mum. I just had to keep going and find a way. I ended up with a very strong, sword-like needle and pushing it through with the back of the dog’s brush. The dog had chewed it and there was a little tooth mark in the tough plastic where I could position the needle and push it through. Indeed, it almost appeared purpose-built, as long as I didn’t think to hard about it. Indeed, it didn’t even cross my mind at the time about how weird and absolutely bonkers it was. By 3 am, I only had one shoe done and decided my duty was done. That I was never going to have it finished in time for this morning’s class, and left an apologetic note… all on the kitchen table.

Meanwhile, I’m finding that our kitchen table’s being used less and less for its intended purpose. That it’s either too hot or too cold to sit out there in the kitchen, and i’s much more comfortable to sit out in the lounge with the reverse cycle going and the TV on. Just to compound the disintegration of family connection, our daughter usually eats in her room and our son often eats at his desk in the lounge while either playing games or watching videos. I really didn’t want us to go down this path. A path I know will lead to wrack and ruin. However, there are times I feel like Atlas carrying the weight of the family on my shoulders and I have to put the load down for a bit and recuperate a bit.  Stretch out. Extend my wings and do something without resistance. I don’t know if people realize they put themselves in the too hard basket and what that means, but sometimes, I run out of words to keep explaining and hope maybe a thought might pop into their heads without me putting it there myself. That, at the very least, they might actually stop to ask…Are Mum and Dad okay? Now, there’s a novel thought. One I didn’t consider myself when I was their age but surely something they could learn…

Anyway, it’s now Saturday afternoon and with my back turned on the tide, I have no idea what the table’s like now, However, it’s time for another cup of tea and I did just happen to see a faint ray of sunlight through the clouds.

So, now I wanted to ask you about your kitchen table. What does it say about you and what’s going on at your place? Although showing off your unkept table going against the grain, I’d love you to join me in this and have a bit of fun and please share your efforts in the comments. It could be really interesting to see a range of kitchen tables around the world and how different people live.

Meanwhile, I hope you and your loved ones and communities are safe and if they’re not, I’m thinking of you!

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

Dancing in the Moonlight…Friday Fictioneers.

David was joking when he’d asked ballerina, Vanessa Rossi, away camping for the weekend. Never thought she’d agree. Moreover, when she arrived flagrantly overdressed, he was relieved he’d also booked into a hotel.

“You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl,” he laughed.

Vanessa smiled, sipping champagne while David wrestled unsuccessfully with the tent. Once a Scout, always a Scout, Vanessa could pitch a tent blindfolded. However, she said nothing. He was her Prince, and she was his swan. Enthralled, they danced around the crumpled tent in the moonlight.

….

100 words

I was fiddling around with this one for quite awhile tonight and feel it has good potential as a short story. It was actually inspired by a story my husband tells of a school camp trip when this group of trendy girls had an expensive, upmarket tent but didn’t set it up properly and it fell over during the night and the boys had to come to the rescue. I haven’t had much camping experience myself. However, I was driving across the Nullarbor Plain on the way from Sydney to Perth and we camped by the road for the night. I always thought it was hot in the desert and was almost paralyzed by the cold. To compound my discomfort, I’d worn this fancy jumper with decorative holes and the wind howled through them. I was told “You can take the girl out of the North Shore but you can’t take the North Shore out of the girl.” That’s the part of Sydney I grew up and let’s just say it wasn’t rough and tumble. Meanwhile, the girl in this story is loosely inspired by our daughter who at 13 is still yet to step out in the world but is currently rehearsing to appear in Swan Lake in a local youth production and has been a scout until the start of this year. She got into scouts through her brother, and while she enjoyed it, I was also keen for her to do it as a counter-point to her dancing. Felt it was good for her to get out into the bush hiking and camping and stepping beyond the studio.

I hope you enjoy it and that it hasn’t suffered too much trying to cut it back to 100 words. It’s been heavily edited.

This is another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields where we write 100 words to a photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Jan Wayne Fields

Best wishes,

Rowena

Stage Entry – Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

Sorry I’ve been rather intermittent lately. Life has been uber hectic what with school holidays and performances and I’m longing to put my feet up and relax.

Rowena & Amelia Coastquest

In so many ways, this week’s door is very ordinary. However, for the performers at Coast Quest, our regional dance eisteddfod, it was the point of no return where they embarked on the exhilarating thrill, or abject terror, of being on stage. For many of the dancers, it was probably a mixture of both.

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Of course, this eisteddfod could have been anywhere. Held in any school or local hall where the stage has that worn out look of a bygone era and there’s no signs of the bells and whistles which come with performing at the likes of the Sydney Opera House.

Yet, these local competitions and performances have their place bringing the best local talent together and extending the dancers’ experience beyond the four walls of their studios. While they might not be the big time, they celebrate a moment in time or might even be a stepping stone. Moreover, for the doting audience, it means the world to see our dancers up there on stage. Indeed, we had a good group of supporters from the studio in the audience and there were cheers and applause as our dancers took to the stage. It was fantastic!

Of course, whenever my daughter competes, I naturally believe she’s the best. I’m absolutely dazzled by her performances. During her new lyrical solo, I even had goosebumps. That’s what it is to be Mum and it’s not my place to be critic. I’m simply her adoring fan. She did very well and naturally we’re very proud. However, quite aside from the results, it was the experience which mattered and it was also very helpful to receive the judges feedback. No doubt, this matches what her teachers have been saying. However, having those thoughts written down in a report by a judge also adds weight.

Tomorrow night, we’ll be off to see our son perform in the Scout & Guides Central Coast Gang Show. So, I’ll be returning with a different stage door next week.

Thursday Doors is hosted by Norm 2.0

What, if any, experiences do you have of stage door? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Our Tenacious Little Dancer.

“I think she is growing up, and so begins to dream dreams, and have hopes and fears and fidgets, without knowing why or being able to explain them.”

Louisa May Alcott

Today, our beautiful daughter suddenly grew a couple of inches taller when she stepped into her very first pair of pointe shoes and she was up en pointe. This has been something she’s been aspiring towards ever since she first started ballet as an almost four year old eight years ago. Indeed, I remember a time when she was very small and she stood in a couple of plastic cups to get the look (and a bit of added altitude). In hindsight, I probably should’ve got those cups off her feet and been more safety conscious. However, she was so happy, and it was too good a photo opportunity to miss.

In typical Rowena fashion, this pointe shoe fitting demanded a bit of pomp and ceremony. Indeed, quite frankly if she wasn’t twelve years old, I would’ve popped the  champagne, even though I’m not that partial to the taste. Even as a child, I was mesmerized by the theatre of it all what with popping the cork and all those bubbles shooting out like stars across the room with unbridled joie de vivre. Bubbly encapsulates the excitement, the celebration the exquisite preciousness of the moment in a way that nothing else does. You don’t even need to drink the stuff.

However, instead of a champagne celebration, we met up with my Mum for lunch and coffee and then the three of us headed off to Bloch’s for her 3.00pm appointment. By the way, our daughter wasn’t the only young dancer who had to get that very special pair of first pointe shoes on the very first day of the school holidays. The fitter had been flat out all day and we were something like her 11th fitting. Yet, she seemed just as excited for my daughter and for us as the first. As a dancer herself, she knew what this moment was about and really helped to make it special and informative. If there’s one thing I now know about pointe shoes, it’s not to get them wet. I also confess that I’ve also seen my daughter’s feet in a new light.

Helping en pointe BW

We really appreciated the care and assistance we received at Bloch’s Hornsby with the shoe fitting. Naturally, the staff are dancers themselves and I felt that our fitter was handing down the mantle to our daughter. They actually gave her a certificate. She’d joined the club.

Our daughter has been learning ballet for eight years now and she’s worked very hard for the last 12 months doing all sorts of stretches to prepare her feet and toes. Indeed, she needed to have a physio consultation before she could go for her pointe shoe fitting. By that stage, her teacher already knew she was ready. However, she likes her students and a parent to be aware of the physicality of ballet and how the muscles bones and other bits and pieces come together to to produce your swan. Through being more conscious of this physical element and looking after your body, dancers can help prevent injury, wear and tear. Given the difficulties I have with movement, I have appreciated these physical realities through a different window, which has given me an insight into the physical demands of dancing. That it isn’t only about costumes, makeup and hair. After all, injury and being on the sidelines is not just an inconvenience for a dancer. It can mean The End, or simply the end of  dance as they know it. When dance is your passion and raison d’etre, that can feel like surviving your own death. (I’ve gone through that with my own battles.)

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There was so much to learn at her fitting and you can see here that Miss is very focused taking it all in. She hasn’t been swept away by the excitement of it all.

For every young dancer along with her birth and dance families, getting their first pointe shoes is rightly an incredible achievement and time for celebration. While you might see those beautiful pink satin pointe shoes and immediately think of the likes of Degas and his dancers and the professional stage, these young girls are still within cooeee of being the “awkward duckling” who started out. There were no guarantees back then and for us, there were  certainly no expectations. I just dropped her off for her first class and the mysteries of dance went on behind closed doors until open days or the concert. From where I sat, ballet was just a part of childhood for a little girl. A bit of fun. An activity. It had nothing to do with my dreams, unless it came to taking her photo. Now, that was something I understood.

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Edgar Degas, The Little Dancer. She reminded me of my daughter until I found out she was quite distorted.

Although I wasn’t so conscious of this at the time, seeing Miss in her pointe shoes really brought home what we’ve all been through to get her there. I don’t think anybody’s road is easy, but everybody’s road is unique with their own particular reasons why getting into those pointe shoes is a personal miracle and a triumph over adversity. Most of you will be aware that I live with a life-threatening auto-immune disease which affects my muscles and lungs. However, Miss has a rare digestive disorder called gastroparesis, which particularly flared up a few years ago and she was barely able to eat. Indeed, she was struggling to get to school or to ballet and she missed months of classes.

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Miss in hospital waiting for her endoscopy. So brave but she also loved having her own remote control TV!!

As you could imagine, it was very difficult to know quite how to manage the situation. We were very concerned about her actual health and it would’ve been quite a logical decision to cut out dance to focus on her schoolwork. Yet, we’re fighters. We might be holding onto the cliff face by our fingertips and kicking and screaming, but we don’t give up. Indeed, it was only after missing a couple of terms and feeling like all my motivational strength had run out, that I truly started thinking it was time to pull the pin. Her teacher was also very patient. However, dancing is a team sport and it’s hard to manage a team on three legs. So, with the end of year concert rapidly approaching, it was crunch time. As a possible way forward, her teacher suggested that her friend came over and they practice the dance together. I’m so thankful because her friend saved the day. That was the turning point. She picked up the dance. Was in the concert and was back on her dance feet again. Then, the following year, she had a friend at her new school who was a passionate dancer and she also a tremendous encouragement. By the end of that year, Miss decided to audition for Dance Team at the studio and was accepted. She hasn’t looked back and with the incredible training and support from her teachers, is growing from strength to strength. Clearly, with all these dance angels working flat out with her on multiple fronts, our daughter must’ve been destined to get up on those pointe shoes today. It’s been a real team effort.

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Afternoon Tea.

By the way, while we’re talking about life lessons from the road, organization has been another hurdle. While other girls have managed to get to class with a perfect ballet bun and all components of their uniform, all too often Miss could only find one ballet shoe and her ballet bun could well have been reinterpreted as a bird nest of its own unique variety thanks to her superfine hair, where getting the knots out produced spine-chilling screams. Yet, somehow or another, all of this has mostly become a thing of the past.

After explaining some of the hurdles we’ve had to overcome, perhaps you’ll understand why I thought this moment might never come and the tears of joy I held back while we were there as I felt like the happiest Mum alive. Back when our daughter was struggling, I remember seeing a group of older girls who’d just got their first pair of pointe shoes. They were exuberant and clearly this meant the world to them not only as individuals, but as a group. I felt so privileged to catch a glimpse through this keyhole and get an insight into just how important this moment is to a young dancer and what it would mean to my girl. Whatever happened with my daughter and dance, I wanted her to hang in there at least until she’d gone en pointe and  been a part of that bubble. Not for me, but for herself. I could could sense something in her soul, which is becoming more apparent with every passing year. Dancing is her thing. It isn’t her only thing but it lights her fire.

So, now we find ourselves at a new beginning. Once she goes en pointe, she has to learn to dance all over again. Although it is tempting to try to fast forward and think about where all of this is heading, he’s only 12 years old. The world is her oyster and there are still so many forks in the road. She doesn’t need to choose one yet. However, it can be difficult to maintain a balance and keep an open mind when you fall in love with such an alluring juggernaut that you could easily sell your soul to dance in ballet’s fire. Somehow, we just need to keep a level head and maintain a balanced path…at least for now.

After the fitting, she went to stay with my parents for the week taking her beloved pointe shoes with her. If they weren’t so precious, it wouldn’t surprise me if she slept with them under her pillow or close to her heart. They meant the world to her and I’m so proud of her for all she’s overcome, her hard work, dedication and most of all her passion for dance. I am also very grateful to all the people who have helped her along the way, her teachers, my parents but also very much her friends who have been so supportive and encouraging and that’s not something you hear much about in the dance world. She has some incredible dancing mates.

That is also why I am sharing our journey via the road less travelled for our daughter to get her pointe shoes.  That parenting isn’t all about bragging rights and showing off about your kids’ talents. It’s also about sharing about the hurdles and difficulties so other girls don’t give up along the way because they feel they don’t measure up. Aren’t good enough without giving it all they’ve got. I belong to the Muscular Dystrophy community and not everyone can get up on pointe shoes or dance in a conventional sense. However, that doesn’t have to stop you from finding a way. Indeed, I’ve done some adult classes myself and have my own pair of pink satin ballet shoes. I think it helps to understand that you’re not the only one who might be going through difficulties and wondering whether to persevere with dance or whether it’s all worth it. No one else can answer that on your behalf. However, we are meant to encourage each other and dance is such an exhilarating experience. It’s worth fighting for.

Do you have any dance stories you would like to share? Or, a story of triumphing over adversity? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I have a strange sense of humour. However, after hearing about how her pointe shoes have paper mache in the toes and are very sensitive to moisture, including sweaty feet, I found I found a great deal of humour in this quote:

“Growing up, I had only one good pair of shoes. So on rainy school days, my mom would slip plastic bread bags over them to keep them dry. But I was never embarrassed. Because the school bus would be filled with rows and rows of young Iowans with bread bags slipped over their feet”
Joni Ernst

So, if you see a dancer with plastic bread bags over er pointe shoes, you’ll know that’s our daughter!

Weekend Coffee Share… 19th March, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How was your week? Oops! By now, I’ll also have to ask about your weekend. Perhaps, in the interests of brutal honesty, I should really be calling this “Monday Night Coffee Share”. However, as I’ve mentioned before, I usually take advantage of other time zones to sneak in under the radar. I just won’t verify the time in the Sandwich Islands.

My apologies for my evident neglect. However, weekends can get pretty flat out here and it can be easier to post on Mondays.

This week, I’m going to do something a bit different and run backwards through the week.

Amelia YIPA Photo

Yesterday, we saw our daughter perform her ballet solo for the first time on stage, when she auditioned for a local Youth in Performing Arts Mentorship program (YIPA). This is open for youth aged from 1st year high school (12-13 years) through to 21 years. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure exactly what getting through actually means but there will be a series of concerts in May.

However, that’s only the business side of things and that wasn’t on my mind as I watched our daughter dance. I was spellbound. She was like a real life incarnation of that little plastic ballerina twirling around in my childhood jewelry box to the tune of “Love Story”. She had such elegance and poise and moved like a real, live, mini ballerina. How was that so? It was an absolute miracle. Well, after so much practice, dedication and natural ability, she didn’t just pop out of a cereal box. It’s been a long journey which all started out as a tiny little girl, and the very same teacher who has helped bring our little dancer out. I’m simply her taxi and officially trip over both feet. Well, I am a lot more than that. It takes a lot more than driving a taxi to encourage and mentor your children.

You can read more about her performance Here: The Unbelievable Lightness of Being

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Gosford Sailing Club, NSW, Australia.

Rewinding to Saturday, we went out for dinner at the sailing club with my parents for a belated celebration of the kids’ birthdays. The sailing club has knockout water views, which sort of goes without saying. My parents managed to see Mr’s boat out on the grass, not quite the same as in the water, but better than nothing. We enjoyed watching the sunset and darkness sweep across the marina and the lights come out. There was also an engagement party in the adjacent party room and we had great fun watching the fashion parade go past. Been awhile since I’ve been to one of those. 

Last week, I got stuck into my application to have my recent NDIS plan reviewed and it’s almost ready to send off. The NDIS is Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme and was intended to improve the quality of life of people living with disabilities. However, in the usual way of government programs, it has also promised a lot and delivered a lot of headaches. When I received last year’s plan, I was over the moon. I couldn’t believe how generous it was. In many ways it was, but when it came to providing much needed equipment, participants across the board have experienced extensive delays only to have the equipment knocked back despite genuine professional reports from Occupational Therapists. I was guttered when my request for an electronic chair was knocked back. It was knocked back because I can walk, ignoring specifics of my muscle weakness which make it difficult to get out of chairs, particularly comfy chairs. So, the social activist in me, is fighting back.

My battles with the NDIS put a big dent in my mood last week. I’ve been having to delve into the darkest depths of my complex medical diagnosis and document the lot. It’s no time for positive thinking, post-traumatic growth or pushing myself beyond the beyond, which is my usual modus operandi. While I wouldn’t say that I’d reached dangerous mental territory, I knew I wasn’t okay. That’s when I heard the words of a young woman Dolly Everitt who took her life in January in response to cyber-bullying: “Stand up. Speak even though your voice is shaking.” I realized that these words cover so many situations and contain such truth. That its hard to tell others when you’re not okay, and it’s equally hard to know what to say or do, when you know someone is not okay as well. So, I guess the thing is, to push beyond all of that and it doesn’t matter if it all comes out wrong. That a shaking voice is better than no voice at all.

I probably should apologize for getting deep, serious and drifting towards the dark side of the moon. However, most of us spend too long skirting round the edges and perhaps it’s time to dive in. Or, perhaps that should read dive out. Reach in… and reach out? Clearly, I’m writing and thinking at the same time and should possibly think first and write late. However, by then it would be time for next week’s coffee share.

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Meanwhile, the pups are providing comic entertainment. Pups are notorious for pulling on the lead. While Rosie and Zac are pretty docile at home, put the lead on and some deep sled dog instinct fires up and they take off like bats out of hell. It takes a really strong hand to keep them in line, and so I take Lady and our son takes one or both pups. This afternoon, our son popped into the supermarket and let his mate and I outside with the dogs. Zac couldn’t cope and starting howling and leaping trying to catch up to him. From our perspective, it was sweet he loved him so much. However, we got quite a few judgmental stares from passersby who clearly thought the dog was mad and we weren’t controlling him well enough. If you’ve ever had a two year old throw a tanty in the supermarket you’ll know the gist of it.

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PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

Lastly, thought I’d just mention this week’s contribution to Friday Fictioneers: Capturing the Moon

Well, that at least sums up the last week. How was your week? Hope you had a great one.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

xx Rowena

 

 

Stepping Out of the Driver’s Seat.

 

It was time for me to get out of the driver’s seat and slip into my pink, satin shoes and dance but first I needed to buy the shoes. Not that ballet shoes maketh the dancer but every bit helps.

I’ve had enough of being the driver’s seat. While it sounds like you’re in control, choosing your own direction, being a trail blazer; as a parent, it’s more of a passive role. You’re a taxi driver being told where to go and quite often, due to your passengers’ lack of planning and what organization???, you’re having to floor it. Anyone would think the kids had robbed a bank and you were driving the getaway car. (Did someone say something about sirens and flashing lights??)

Beyond parenting, I’m anything but passive. With a carpe diem seize the day mentality, I can’t stand watching my clock ticking away while the kids flounce around.

I don’t know if that’s why I decided to attend an adult ballet class. That as much as I love watching ballet, that I now wanted to experience dance for myself. That there was a dancer busting to get out of my soul and even if I couldn’t dance much at all, I’d tried. I’d stepped into the world of dance and had a go. Moreover, with my daughter dancing, I wanted to understand it better.That’s not being a helicopter parent, but showing an informed interest.

If nothing else, I’ll have brushed up on my French! After all, French is the language of ballet.

After attending my first class barefoot, I decided I needed some real ballet shoes. They had to be pink. They had to be satin and they had to have pink satin ribbons…just like I had when I was a little girl. I might be 40 years older but I wasn’t living someone else’s dream. I was going to live my own.

I found out that there’s a Bloch’s Dance Store in Newcastle and decided to drive there after my daughter’s violin rehearsal. If you’ve been following my trip to Newcastle, you’ll already know that I got completely lost trying to find the dance shop and even went into Westfield in the wrong suburb!

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Ballerina Girl.

However, we finally found it and I felt so elated, like a little girl again, only with the appreciation that comes with not being a little girl anymore. I guess if you were being nasty, you could say these ballet shoes were my personal equivalent of a midlife crisis vehicle…a variation on the red Porsche. As such, everything was a bit exaggerated but I was having so much fun and who wanted to be plain Jane anyway?

I wondered what it was going to be like walzing into Bloch’s as a middle-aged beginner. I wanted to buy a pair of pink ballet tights and I seriously doubted they even came in my size. I also needed some sort of dance wear. That is, other than a leotard. I might have been dancing back to the future but the leotard wasn’t going to be part of the deal. Not yet, anyway. Who knows, all this dancing might really payoff. It’ll be like Clark Kent dashing into a telephone booth and emerging as Superman. I’ll walk into Bloch’s as Mum and emerge as a young Margot Fonteyn…Mummy Butterfly emerging from my chrysalis.

Obviously, while I might be a fledgling dancer, I do have a fully-developed imagination!

To be perfectly, honest I expected something like that dreadful scene in Pretty Woman where the shop assistants vilify Julia Roberts. Perhaps, you remember her revenge:

Shop assistant: Hello, can I help you?

Vivian: I was in here yesterday, you wouldn’t wait on me.

Shop assistant: Oh.

Vivian: You people work on commission, right?

Shop assistant: Yeah.

Vivian: Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.

 

Well, of all places, you’d think a dance shop would have to be the domain of the petite. I am anything but petite. I’m 5ft 10″ tall and let’s just say I’m well padded. Considering I find it almost impossible to find ordinary stockings which are long enough, I couldn’t see how they’d have pink tights which fitted…or anything else!

However, I was pleasantly surprised.

Not only by the fact they had stockings and leggings which fitted, but also by the respectful attitude of the staff in the shop. They weren’t snooty, condescending or nasty just really encouraging and supportive. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.

After all, I was picked on at school about my shocking coordination and was the epitome of “unco”. You think of girls being pretty and sweet, but when you’re unco or break the mold in some  way, you soon see the ugly nastiness which can lurk just beneath that perfect smile.

I was lucky. It turns out my coordination troubles were caused by undiagnosed hydrocephalus. I had brain surgery and had a shunt inserted. It took awhile for me to come good and I’m still not perfect, but who is?

 

Perhaps, some of these horrid people should be forced to have personality transplants where the nastiness is surgically removed and replaced with pure nice. Wouldn’t that be great!

Anyway, I went off to my ballet class wearing my new shoes last night, beaming from ear to ear. I’d tied the bows at the front, which in retrospect looked a bit ridiculous but I had a lesson on how to tie my shoes afterwards. No bows!

By the way, I also wanted to mention that I sewed the satin ribbons onto my shoes myself. As one who inevitably complicates something utterly straightforward, I really managed to make this difficult.

Once again, my fear of making a mistake grabbed me by the throat. My problems started with having to cut my length of ribbon into 4 lengths. This was child’s play yet there was this caution in my head. What if I make a mistake? What if I cut it in the wrong spot? We’re just talking about cutting a silly ribbon in four. It’s not rocket science. Snip! It was done. However, I then had to sew each length of ribbon onto the shoes. There was the shiny right side of the ribbon and the wrong side and to me they didn’t look that different under the dim lighting at home. Naturally, I didn’t want to look a fool turning up at the dance studio with my ribbons sewed on back to front. I am seriously short-sighted but now need reading glasses so I have bifocals but I often read without any glasses. So with all of that going on, you can imagine that I was having trouble sewing on these ribbons, especially as I couldn’t tell the different between the front and back of the ribbon and was fiddling round with my glasses trying to see. I ended up getting my daughter to help. I should be embarrassed but these eyes aren’t what they used to be.

After all of that stress getting lost trying to find the ballet shop and my struggles with the ribbons, my shoes were ready for action. Time to put on my pink stockings and head off to class. Of course, I was beaming like the Cheshire Cat. Last week someone came in a tutu but my ballet shoes weren’t a joke. They were saying that I’m taking my dancing seriously and I’m ready to learn. Do what it takes to get somewhere. Not aiming for the Opera House. Just somewhere out of the couch, beyond the driver’s seat and in my own way, soaring for the stars.

I am still getting myself organised to photograph my new shoes so stay tuned!

Have you ever learned ballet or another form of dance? How did you go?

Looking forward to hearing your stories!

xx Rowena

PS My grandmother met and possibly interviewed Margot Fonteyn on her 1962 Australian tour. Need to investigate this further.

Mummy…The Breakfast Ballerina.

On Thursday night, I attended my first adult ballet class and absolutely loved it!

The kids were in bed when I arrived home and I had to wait ‘til breakfast to share my unbridled exhilaration and gauge their responses. I knew it was going to be priceless.

After all, Mummies don’t do ballet. They drive taxis!

Being the consummate drama queen and loving a bit of theatre, I arrived at the breakfast table standing in 1st position. My face was beaming. I was absolutely chuffed. Like magic, the heffalump had metamorphosed into a swan in Swan’s Lake. I was dancing at the Sydney Opera House…albeit in my pyjamas! No ballet bun, the birds were still tweeting in my hair.

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Yet, reaching for the stars, I could have been that dainty plastic ballerina turning magically inside my childhood jewellery box. Turning round and round in circles to Love Story, she might have been plastic, but for so many little girls, she was the ultimate ballerina launching a thousand dreams.

“He was not bone and feather but a perfect idea of freedom and flight, limited by nothing at all”
― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

So there I am beaming in 1st position when my daughter pipes up:

“Mummy, did you really look like that?”

“I did,” I replied, feeling like I’d confessed to wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes down the main street. Clearly, I’d broken through quite a few barriers and the look on her face was priceless…a mix of confusion, disbelief and horror. What had I done?

To her credit, she didn’t laugh, giggle or make fun of me, although she was clearly struggling to know quite how and where to file this revelation. It didn’t fit anything she’d ever filed under “Mummy” before.

Amelia with ballet shoes

Miss with dancing Shoes

Miss is ten years old and she’s been dancing since she was three. She’s currently doing ballet, modern and jazz. Dainty and petite, she looks like a dancer and the flame burns in her heart and her feet.

 

Rowena Wamberal

Mummy

On the other hand, I’m 5ft 10inches tall, mid-40s, disabled and let’s just say I’m no twinkle toes. I last did ballet back in 1980 when I was her age. That was a sobering 36 years ago and a lot of water’s flowed under (and over) the bridge since then.You could say an entire ocean!

However, rather than being upset by her response, it’s probably a good reflection of just how many barriers I smashed taking on that class. Indeed, I’d totally shattered my daughter’s concept of Me, my capabilities and what it means to be a dancer. Mind you, to be perfectly honest, I’d also amazed myself. I fully expected to spend much of the lesson in a chair. If I could hold my hands properly at the end of the 6 weeks, I’d be stoked. Instead, I’d even attempted the basics of a pirouette.

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Mummy & Miss

“Why, Jon, why?” his mother asked. “Why is it so hard to be like the rest of the flock, Jon? Why can’t you leave low flying to the pelicans, the albatross? Why don’t you eat? Son, you’re bone and feathers!” “I don’t mind being bone and feathers mom. I just want to know what I can do in the air and what I can’t, that’s all. I just want to know.”
― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Being my usual theatrical self, I couldn’t stop at 1st position. I had to demonstrate a pirouette. Well, I don’t think I managed to turn or quite get my raised leg in the right spot but the intention was there.

“That’s that thing with the eyes,” said my son.

He leaps out of his chair and perfectly demonstrates how you focus on a spot while you’re turning and quickly turn your head around.

Jonathon Hip Hop

Mr at Hip Hop aged about 6.

What THE? How did my gaming son find out about the fine art of pirouettes? I shouldn’t have been surprised. He did a boys’ hip-hop class at the dance school and the kids have watched a few dance shows. My son’s friend is also in Dance Team at the dance school.

Besides, as I said, ballet isn’t just for petite little girls. It’s equally for boys and men and is incredibly athletic. Why shouldn’t he take an interest?

Moreover, boys and men need and deserve to express their creative, emotional sides just as much as girls and women. They shouldn’t be repressed with their wings clipped anymore than I!

“We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill.”
Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

It’s all very well to talk about equality, acceptance and respect but the rubber needs to hit the road. Ideals must translate into action.

“Instead of our drab slogging forth and back to the fishing boats, there’s reason to live!
We can lift ourselves out of ignorance, we can find ourselves as creatures of excellence and intelligence and skill. We can learn to be free! we can learn to fly!”
― Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

May we all stretch our wings and learn to fly beyond the confines of our minds!

xx Rowena