Sarah's Dancing Days

I LOVE ballet. I’ve been ballet ballistic ever since I was a little girl. I started studying ballet when I was five and I took classes until I was a teenager. Here is an old photo of me when I was about thirteen. Don’t I look serious?

Me doing ballet

And here is a report from one of my ballet exams when I was nine.

ballet report

I was obsessed. I read ballet books like Ballet Shoes and the Sadler’s Wells books by Lorna Hill. I watched ballet on the television whenever it was on (mainly at Christmas!), I begged my mum and my godmother to take me to the ballet, which they did. One day I even got a famous dancer’s autograph – here’s the story:

My godmother, June once took me to see a famous English dancer called John Gilpin who was dancing in the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire (before its current reincarnation). Luckily she loved the ballet too, and understood my need to be ‘up the front’ and always booked the front row seats so that I could watch the dancers’ feet and smell the resin.

When we were sitting in the auditorium (in the front row), waiting for the ballet to begin (I think it was Swan Lake), she pressed a wrapped present into my hands. I opened it up. It was a small leather-bound autograph book.

‘You can get the dancers’ autographs after the show,’ she said.

‘Meet them?’ I asked her, amazed. ‘Really?’

‘Oh yes,’ she said. ‘I’ll come with you.’

I was so excited during the performance that I could hardly sit still. Afterwards we waited at the stage door. I was a nervous wreck.

‘Are you sure they won’t mind?’ I asked her.

‘Not at all,’ she said. ‘I’m sure they’d love to sign your book.’ And she was right.

A few of the female dancers came out first and happily signed my pages. And then – John Gilpin himself – tall and handsome, with a strong but kind face. I thrust the book at him silently, hopelessly tongue-tied and he just smiled.

‘A little ballerina in the making, yes?’ he said, writing his signature with a flourish.

I just nodded, my cheeks burning with happiness. It was my first encounter with a ‘famous’ person and I’ve never forgotten it.

I still have that little brown leather autograph book, complete with John Gilpin’s signature and I’m a huge ballet fan to this day; a ballerina, sadly no. But the great thing about being a writer is that I can write about my passions, and for Ask Amy Green: Dancing Daze, I got to interview real ballerinas about their lives as dancers. Happy days!

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