A true story, this – and if not stranger than fiction, it at least has more or less all the features of a fairytale.
Those of you with long memories, who have been following my blog for quite a while, may remember the Tale of Tuesday. Tuesday (her real name, for once, as I’m sure someday she’ll be famous) was a young girl I taught here in Somerset until a year or so back. My job was to teach her maths and English. It wasn’t always easy, as sitting at a table writing was the hardest thing in the world for her.
“I need to MOVE!” she’d say, so there would be several breaks in a lesson when she was allowed to waft around the study, arms and feet stretching and waving wildly, before settling for a bit more learning.
All she wanted to do – and I truly mean ALL – was to dance.
Her ballet teacher told her parents how talented she was. She advised them to try for a place at a ballet school. So it was that, in the spring of last year, Tuesday was accepted at one of London’s most prestigious (and expensive) ballet schools. Now she was not from some wealthy, upper-middle class family. The cost of moving to London, paying rent there and covering her fees would have been prohibitive at the best of times but this, it turned out, was the worst of times.
No sooner had Tuesday got her place, than her father was diagnosed with cancer. He is one of the most focused people I’ve ever met, and thinks the world of his daughter. He’d been quite prepared to work all hours to fund her place, but his health deteriorated very fast and things became incredibly difficult.
So do you believe in magic? Friends rallied round, a crowd-funding appeal was set up and somehow – none of us are quite sure how it happened – the rent, the fees and the cost of all the extras a young dancer needs were paid month by month. I know that some of my blog followers were kind enough to contribute to her fund, so heartfelt thanks to them.
Those were hard and difficult days. Her mother was worried sick each day. Her dad was battling his illness and still trying to work when he could. Tuesday struggled to fit in with a class of children from very different backgrounds to herself. When I met up with them in London last Christmas things looked bleak. None of us knew what would happen.
Time for a sprinkling of fairy dust now, though.
The ballet school discovered the desperate situation the family were in. They also discovered that Tuesday was an outstanding dancer – one they wanted to hold on to. They offered her a bursary, so that she could keep attending for free. Her dad was moved to one of London’s best hospitals specialising in cancer, so that he had access to pioneering treatment and expert care. He’s still with us. Tuesday began to earn the respect of her classmates and to fit in far better. By the summer, things were looking up.
Every Christmas, the school puts on a performance of The Nutcracker at a small London theatre. When I discovered that Tuesday had been chosen to dance Clara – the leading role, I knew I had to go and watch.
As in all fairy tales, though, there are twists and turns in the plot right up to the end. The theatre was closed at very short notice and it seemed the show would have to be cancelled. I did tell you it was a prestigious school, didn’t I? There were friends in high places and somehow or other they were given the run of one of the most famous theatres in London’s West End for a day.
Thus it was that I found myself sitting in the royal circle, watching the most magical production, while the little girl who had twirled and glided around my study just a year or so before was giving an immaculate performance and capturing the hearts of everyone in the audience.
The ballet school had thoughtfully sent a car to pick her father up, so that he would be able to watch. During the interval Darcey Bussell – one of the UK’s most celebrated ballerinas – introduced herself to him and told him how brilliant Tuesday’s performance was.
I just could not have been happier and prouder as I watched Tuesday take her curtain call and accept a bouquet of flowers with poise and grace that belied her tender age.
On the tube going home, I overheard a couple discussing the show.
“That little girl who danced the lead,” said the man, “What a future she has ahead of her!”
“She was splendid,” agreed his partner.