There have been many inspiring women in the ballet world that have influenced me over the years, both past and present. In recognition of International Women’s Day, I would like to focus on my current influencers in the ballet world – the phenomenal female students of Elancé Adult Ballet School. I am very blessed to have a professional role that I adore, but moreover, am surrounded on a daily basis by incredible women with incredible stories.
For obvious reasons, names cannot be shared here. However, I can hint at their stories of courage, strength and love.
We teach women who have suffered unimaginable loss. Loss of a child, a partner, a close friend. Their strength in supporting those around them, whilst not losing themselves in the process, is awe-inspiring. They are beautiful women who stand strong.
We teach women who are world leaders in their chosen field. Women who inspire others to follow in their footsteps: to become the best possible version of themselves, to believe that they worthy. They are beautiful women who lead.
We teach women who struggle with physical and mental health issues every day. Despite their personal battles, they bring their spirit to class because they believe that staying on the couch helps no-one. They are beautiful women who fight.
We teach women who would not consider themselves notable in any particular way, but they don’t see what I see. I see them caring for fellow students. I see them cheering small achievements of others. I hear them joyously talking about their children and know they are raising wonderful little people who will grow up to be remarkable adults. I hear of the sacrifices they have made in their lives for the betterment of others. They are beautiful women who support.
So, who in the ballet world inspires me? These women do – our beautiful students. Kind, strong, generous, funny, capable, REAL women. Ballet is the vehicle for our connection, but the CONNECTION is what I truly value. I will always be grateful to have met each and every one of them and thank them for the mark they’ve made on my life.
On this International Women’s Day, I’d like to pay tribute to one of the most influential women in my dancing life, Elizabeth Arthur-Harvey.
At first I wasn’t aware of Elizabeth’s arrival in the NSW country town where I grew up. I was still dancing with my first ballet teacher who was somewhat of a tyrant. There were two main things that I learnt at my first ballet school, discipline through fear, and how to execute ballet steps. There were whispers about the new ballet teacher in town and slowly more and more students left the tyrant and began classes with Elizabeth instead.
My switch to Elizabeth’s school came after a sobbing conversation with my mother about how I wanted to quit ballet. Thankfully my mother had the foresight to insist that I try a different school to see if it really was ballet that I wanted to quit.
I remember walking into the ballet studio above the sandwich shop and being amazed that it was a space just for dancing and nothing else. The floor was tarkett and there were lovely wooden ballet barres. The most striking thing in the space however was Elizabeth – a tall, kind and gracious woman who unknowingly to me would be the turning point of my dancing life.
Elizabeth had created a wonderful space that was free from fear and harsh words, and whilst the students worked hard, there was laughter and fun. The studio space was a safe environment and slowly I felt that I could be myself and tap into my inner dancer.
Elizabeth ran a tight ship, though unusually we didn’t have to complete exams. This was my first venture into open ballet classes and I loved it. There was plenty of discipline, but it stemmed from the expectation of a willingness to learn and a desire to constantly do better, rather than the fear of being wrong. We were encouraged in our work and our input in creating dances was valued. Elizabeth always had an inspiring quote to remind us that though we worked hard the rewards of dancing were infinite.
My gratitude for Elizabeth is endless. She showed me how to be a dancer and not a puppet, she allowed me to love ballet without fear, and she supported me through it all. I cherish the years training with Elizabeth, and my love and respect for her will endure.