Ballet might be more popular than ever right now thanks to the rebirth of ballet pumps, Black Swan and tutu inspired fashion shoots gracing the style pages of Vogue and Tatler. But for the dancers who have dedicated their life to the disciplined art form since they were 4 years old, it is not a passing ‘trend’ but rather a lifelong love affair.
This is the life Shannon Glover always dreamed of. Recently promoted in front of a live audience to principal dancer at the South African Ballet theatre (SABT) in September last year– she became the first homegrown SABT dancer to achieve this recognition. Glover was speechless at her new appointment. "I thought I would have the title (of principal dancer) under my name one day. But now that it has happened, reality hasn’t sunk in yet. It is so overwhelming."
She remembers the night vividly.
If that was not enough, the SABT had planned a prize giving and promotion on stage after the show. "Normally promotions are done privately in an office – it’s never a public thing. I was standing on stage still in shock and wide-eyed that I just did the whole ballet on opening night...And when Iain MacDonald (the artistic director) called out my name, I couldn't believe it. Having danced opening night and then being promoted to principal dancer on the same night…I will never forget that moment."
"I love competition in the way that is makes me a better dancer"
Few dancers reach principal status. Not everyone possesses the technical skill and magnetic presence to command the lead roles. Some girls might find themselves in the corps (back row) their whole career. For some this might be enough. But not for Glover. "I love competition in the way that is makes me a better dancer...you need to be able to act and tell a story through dance. I love that."
She speaks highly of her fellow principal dancer Burnise Silvius, who has been one of SABT's top dancers since its inception in 2001. "She is such an inspiration. I admire her work ethics and the way she tackles her roles. I love watching her and learning from her, I am like a sponge. And I hope that the younger dancers see me the same way and can look up at me."
Dancing for a living. Dedicating countless hours of training to master the discipline of ballet. Some might find it odd. And some exciting. Others don’t even see it as a real job? (I don’t really have anything to say to these people).
Listen to the whole story behind that night Shannon was promoted.