As a young aspiring dancer you always have a special, big three-act ballet you absolutely love and would happily watch over and over again. For me that ballet was Don Quixote.
The lead role in this Spanish Ballet is Kitri. Her character is exciting and strong and beautiful. It is one of the hardest three act ballets to perform as it includes several grueling solos and the performance finishes with one of the most famous pas de deux in classical dance. Kitri is also a show off so there are many tricks that are wonderful to watch.
I would watch intently then dance around my lounge room over and over playing the role of Kitri in my head. By the time I was in the ballet company at 16 I felt I knew most of the solos and steps by heart. As a young dancer I performed in Don Quixote as a street dancer and later in supporting roles but was always waiting and wanting to dance Kitri.
It was around the age of 20 that finally my wait was over. On a rural tour of Australia I was cast as the role of Kitri for the third act. By the following year I was a soloist and was cast as Kitri with the Australian Ballet across the major cities. We were starting the tour in China where the principals were dancing the role and I was cast as a street dancer before heading back to Melbourne to start rehearsals for my dream role.
During a performance in Shanghai, the dancer performing Kitri sprained her ankle mid performance (in fact while crawling out of the fireplace on stage – the crack was very loud!) She continued to dance but was in a lot of pain. One of the coaches came running up to me to announce I needed to finish that first act while they rang up the alternate Kitri to discover she was enjoying a night out thinking she had the night off…
I was so excited but I hadn’t rehearsed that act yet or danced with the partner! Fortunately I knew him well and was confident I could do it. I was thrown into the costume, had my hair pulled back and before I knew it was on stage. Honestly I loved it – it was one of the best nights of my life.
As the principal was injured I was cast to alternate the role with the other principal but I only had a day and a half to practice all three acts and work with my new partner. It was really hard but such a thrill. The director at that time was Ross Stretton who was so impressed that on my first full performance as Kitri I was promoted to senior Artist in front of the audience in Shanghai and the other dancers.
Playing my dream role and being promoted made that tour of China a truly magical time I will always cherish.