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Stories from a dancer episode 5

I could feel exhaustion taking over. Ballet is a challenge, made even more so by the fact that you can't show how hard it really is. Élisabeth Platel had told me to make it look difficult. I didn't understand this until after I retired. She wasn't asking me to show the effort as much as she was asking me to present the nuance of my work like the intricacy of delicate lace and give the audience reason to reward my effort with applause.


I think the hardest thing was knowing that no one in the audience cared how little time I had to prepare. 2 weeks really wasn't enough, but it was what I had to work with. I didn't even have a costume that fit until the day of my performance.


Somehow whenever I would get to the point of exhaustion in a ballet, which I was battling through at this point, it was like a cloud would wash over me, time would stand still, I would rise above myself and it was like I was watching myself dance.


It was in these moments that I found pure joy. If you asked me at the time I wouldn't have been able to explain it this way, but looking back now I think joy and exhaustion go hand in hand. Especially when you know that exhaustion comes from pushing yourself farther than you ever though possible.


As difficult as my two performances of La Sylphide were they came and went very quickly. Just like that we were on to the next ballet which was Peter Wright's Sleeping Beauty. At the same time I was also working on The New Years Concert and finally I had the opportunity to be cast as an understudy for a role from the time casting went up. I was going to be learning Prince Florimund, the leading male role.


Of course it was not as cut and dry as that though. I didn't actually have the ability to go to many of the prince rehearsals because I was also cast in many other roles that were rehearsing at the same time. The challenge of lower rank dancers in a company...."how do I split myself into 10 versions of myself to learn everything". At least now I was in good shape.


Rehearsals were progressing as well as they could and I would drop in to the principal rehearsals when I was available, but I didn't get to learn much. New Years concert was also taking lots of time outside normal hours so I couldn't do much work on my own.


Fast forward to Christmas and one of our two principal men was injured. Two shows on Christmas Day meant our only remaining principal man was now also down for the count.


A 7am phone call

A voice on the other end.

"Shane we need you to dance the prince in the next show"


The next show was 2 days later.


Cue exhaustion. Cue hard work. It was time to finally prove what I was made of. It was time to create pure joy.




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