When I was a little girl, I was…um…how should we say this. Hyperactive. These days, they would have whacked me on the chill pills and stuck me in the class for the learning challenged**. Mum realized early on that if I didn’t have a lot of after school activity, I would quite literally climb the walls.
So, for some unfathomable reason, she signed me up for ballet classes. I was five. We were taught by a dragon faced woman who was despairing of my deportment and my inability to flex both legs into strange and complex shapes.
Each week, as part of our ‘introduction to choreography’ bit, we had to whisper to the aunty on the piano what kind of creature we’d like to be, and she’d play appropriate music for our freestyle dance attempt, while the rest of the class guessed what we were.
The other little girls – and boy*** – were butterflies and bunny rabbits. I was always a dinosaur or a heffalump.
But the crashing end of my career as a prima ballerina came when I was cast as a crab**** in the end of year performance of the Water Babies. I was dressed in an orange costume, with pinchers and ping pong eyeballs attached to my head. I saw my mother in the audience and yelled ‘hello mummy’ in my loud and strident voice.
Mother received a letter the next day: “We don’t think Dolce is suited to the ballet. Perhaps you could find something else for her.”
Expelled. At 5.
The moral: don’t expect me to be silent on a stage, darling.
Nevertheless, I’ve loved the silent, beautiful, graceful dance form for my whole life. My grandfather, who was involved in the Nico Malan (now the Cape Artscape) and the Friends of the Ballet had season tickets and took me to every performance. He introduced me to dancers like Phyllis Spira, Katinka van Vlaanderen and, once, when I was very, very young, Margot Fonteyn (all of whom were regaled with the story of my expulsion!).
So I’ve been gutted to hear that CAPAB (Cape Town City Ballet), the company I’ve watch, loved – and been expelled from – is battling and may be forced to close.
Bottom line? Arts and culture is getting a majorly raw deal in a country where housing and antiretrovirals (not to mention expense accounts and arms deals) get top priority.
So. If anyone feels inclined, they can help. You could also win a prize. Things like wine, tickets to a fabulous performance, a photographic print. And if you’re a blogger, possibly even an iPad.
Find out more here http://www.savecapetowncityballet.co.za/
If you do donate, send your amount and my reference number (DV1) to firstname.lastname@example.org to stand a chance to win one of the prizes (and put me in line for the iPad).
Or blog yourselves, and spread the word.
Otherwise, just go. Go and fall in love with the romance and the grace and the impossible talent of your local ballet corp. Ask to watch a rehearsal. Talk to the dancers. Or find something else you can support – every single artistic endevour needs as much support as they can get. For their survival. And ours.
*A story for Myra, because she asked. And because it’s timely.
**As it was, the establishment tried to send me to ‘special’ school, to which my mum uncategorically responded by telling them where they could shove it. Something I ponder a lot. If she hadn’t stood up for me, and insisted that helping me learn despite my disabilities (undiagnosed dyslexia, wouldn’t you know), then where might I have ended up. Special school is not a stigma one get’s over easily. And I wonder how many kids have been categorized like this. Only to rail against the expectations and labels decided by others.
*** Aaah, with a name like Pod, what do you expect.
****I will have no comments from the peanut gallery.