At my nieces insistence I went along on Sunday to watch her ballet performance at the National Theatre in St Kilda. She was one of hundreds of girls – and a dozen or so boys – who performed on the day. The youngest was perhaps 4, the eldest somewhere around 17, and between them they danced in different styles from classical ballet to hip hop over 2 hours.
My niece was one of the youngest there, just 5. She loves her ballet. She’s the youngest in her class, and just about the smallest, but when given the option insisted she wanted to stay with the older girls. For their performance her class were dressed in pink tutus dancing along to a romantic piece that sounded like it had been penned by one of the Stausses.
It’s hard not to feel yourself swayed by these happy children on stage. Most of them are far from expert, but all of them are so committed to the performance, to giving their best. It’s clear that for all of them this is a joyous activity. Their faces are serious as they concentrate, recalling to mind the steps they have so diligently practiced, or else when memory fades following the girl in front – this is what Schae did. At times a smile will peep out, or a small giggle escape. Watching it’s hard not to smile yourself at these small, earnest but happy people. All of us are barracking hard for them – parents, grandparents, uncles – and not just because they are family. It is a genuine delight to watch these children blossom under the lights on stage. Sometimes we’ll laugh as something goes wrong, two girls collide perhaps, a child waving from the stage, the uninhibited skipping of one of them. At one point a small girl was left on the wrong side of the curtain as it came down. Exposed to view under the spotlights and all alone she started to wail trying to get under the heavy curtain while we laughed with affection. Soon enough the curtain was thrust aside and she returned to her friends.
Ballet is not my caper even when it’s adult and professional practitioners on stage. The craft is not about to seduce me, though I was greatly impressed the staging, the costumes, the choreography, and many of the performances. All that is secondary really to the reality that we are watching junior versions of ourselves on stage finding their way. I was moved by the beauty of these innocent children, empowered by the performance they had been tasked to execute. They were so proud and happy, as were their families. These were great and unforgettable moments in their young lives. To share in that gave me a sense of what it was like; I recalled for moments that particular innocence of just doing and being. My feelings were common I think, and a sense of shared community came from it. We were all on the same page.
I love my niece Schae. She is an intelligent and very wilful child. She is unrestrained, mostly in the best ways. Later we walked down the street hand in hand – she loves her Buppa too. On Acland Street there are paving stones decorated with different patterns. Upon stepping onto one of these stones she would proclaim at the top of her voice “hearts” or “stars” or whatever the decoration was. Holding her hand I noticed at a table nearby two women looking upon her uninhibited pleasure with delight. They seem transported too, taken from themselves, the conversation about everyday things and the coffee in front of them, and given a glimpse into the happy world of children. And parents too, I imagine. I found myself hoping they took me for her father. Now that would be a good feeling.
- Family life (hieronymous.net)