When I am in Hobart on Christmas Day, as I will be this year, I make a point of finding time to walk along Bellerive Beach which forms one border with the Derwent River. I love the bonhomie of people who walk there that day. Good spirits abound. I can almost hear their bodies groaning from eating too much Christmas food. Many are happily dragged onwards by joyful dogs that are delighted to be out in the fresh air. All of this is a wonderful spirit lifter – the goodwill of people, their gambolling dogs, the grand Mount Wellington in view over the water, and the lapping sound and salty smell of the blue river.
For some people Christmas is a happy time, for others it is surrounded by sadness, and for many people Christmas Eve or Christmas Day is a rush of stressful events. Of course a person’s level of interest and engagement with Christmassy activities depends on religious persuasion and so some people are never involved in the festivities. But if Christmas is your thing, then I hope you have rituals with family and friends that relax you and, if not, then I urge you to find a way to be calm. All in all, I wish everyone happiness during the Christmas season.
The home in which I took a holiday in Kingston overlooking the Derwent River until the afternoon of Christmas Eve (I moved back home to Bellerive late that afternoon), was interesting. All houses absorb my attention for the objects they contain and their general ambience. I moved into an environment the like of which I had never experienced; I moved into the home of a dancer.
Red satin ballet shoes, holding memories, hung in the hallway.
Nearby, other used ballet shoes hung on hooks sometimes alone and sometimes clustered together. Two satin blacks were paired with pale pink shoes.
Further along, a lone shoe encrusted with silver sparkles, glittered greyly in the lowlit hallway.
I reasoned that the shoes hang as reminders of great movements made, of painful toes, of the grandness of storytelling with the body, and of fabulous tutus and magical music.
When on the stage, dancers move rhythmically and the spectacle of dancer’s en pointe seems delicate and fragile. From my comfortable theatre seats, their professional satin ballet pointe shoes have always looked soft, even when the platform tips clunk onto the stage with a dull sound.
Then I touched these pre-loved ballet shoes and recoiled. The shoes are worn-out at the wooden flat toes where the silk frays dirtily. They are not pretty to look at now. But my greatest surprise came when I felt these ballet shoes. They were hard and unforgiving to the touch. Now that I have handled these shoes, I no longer feel attracted to watching a ballet being performed. Or maybe if I do attend a performance, I will wince with the memory of the way the shoes feel. What an extraordinary sacrifice dancers make in the pursuit of their passion.