Whilst looking for something else, I just came across Katherine's contribution to a thread called 'How did you come to be a ballet watcher' and thought it would be good to add it here:
I like to brag that I went to ballet school with the great ballerina Evelyn Hart.
Admittedly, the only thing we had in common was the bench in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School's changing room.
But I am thankful to the RWB and convinced it can be proud of us both (ok, maybe prouder of Evelyn than of me), for ballet transforms all of its students, professional and recreational, famous and anonymous,
I am grateful to the RWB for more besides. A subscription was my annual birthday present starting at age nine, and its eclectic mixed-bill repertoire launched my education as a serious balletomane (I also devoured ballet books).
For instance, at age 12 I was moved to tears by John Neumeier's Nutcracker. Mind you, I was crying because there were no snowflakes in it, like the ones I had seen at my first live ballet performance, London Festival Ballet's version in 1965. Before that I have a memory of seeing The Dream on the BBC at about age 5.
I soon came to appreciate that Neumeier's gifts more than make up for such unconventional and (it seemed to me) unforgivable snowlessness. The National Ballet of Canada came through on tour with the big story ballets, and eventually I moved to Toronto. My big revelation was seeing Robert Tewsley in 1992, who embodied ideals of ballet I didn't even know I had. When he left for Stuttgart and subsequently other companies, I started travelling to see his performances wherever they were, and this exposed me to a much wider repertoire (and also, unbeknownst to me, trained me for my current occupation as a ballet holiday organizer).
As a child, I longed to do ballet, but at the ripe age of 13, I was convinced that I had missed the boat for starting classes, which for some reason I believed had to begin at age six. Seven was already over the hill.
Apprehensive at the prospect of a beginner class filled with six-year-olds, a friend and I arrived nonetheless at an "I'll do it if you do" pact, and off we set to the RWB's then unglamorous studios in a former furniture store above a drugstore.
Lo! The class was filled with... other 13-year-olds.
I remember how my first teacher insisted we finish our exercises with our heads properly poised and our arms and hands curved just so: "You never know. The audience might be watching you. Maybe that's the only time they'll be watching you!"
It must be said that no ballet audience has ever had the misfortune of having to watch me do anything.
“Your arms in pirouettes are like the flaps on the wings of a jumbo jet,” he used to say. “Let them drop and you will crash.” I probably looked more like a jumbo jet than I wished to acknowledge.
Many other teachers – and ballet pianists – have inspired me since then. Did Louis XIV ever think that a young girl on the frozen prairie would have something to thank him for? I thank the Sun King, but above all I thank the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School for allowing an unlikely swan – plump, bespectacled, uncoordinated, too old – to start ballet classes.
Forty years later, I'm still all of those things, yet I still squeeze myself into tights and leotard (for a laugh on special occasions a tutu and tiara) four or five days a week and head off to make like a ballerina.
Forty years from now, I hope I'll still be doing ballet.
And when I finish, I will poise my head and curve my arms and hands just so.
The audience might be watching.