Reunited friends still share love of ballet

A couple of Wanaka women have been walking down memory lane of late.

Kirsty Taylor and Briony Martin grew up in Dunedin and were among the select few to take part in the Royal New Zealand Ballet production of Cinderella in 1991 at the Regent Theater in Dunedin.

Now more than 30 years later they are on the dance floor in Wanaka together.

After the Cinderella production, the duo went their separate ways. Ms Taylor eventually headed abroad, leaving serious ballet behind, while Ms Martin continued to dance and to this day is heavily involved in it.

Now they are back together dancing and Cinderella is heading south, rekindling memories of their experience with the stars all those years ago.

Ms Taylor went on to study and work in London and Auckland in design, photography and teaching.

She said ballet was still a hobby wherever she was based. It was while chatting with a friend, after moving to Wanaka with her family di lei, that she heard about Ms Martin’s ballet studio in town.

“I first found out about the class when I bumped into another mutual friend … and she said ‘you do know that Briony has become a teacher and is teaching in Wanaka’,” Ms Taylor said.

She said it was pretty special reconnecting and she was a regular at Ms Martin’s ballet classes now.

For Ms Martin, the passion for ballet has remained strong.

“I was 10 when I went for Cinderella and I was a child extra for a few of their ballets as well, so that was probably when it kicked off the ‘I want to do this’, “she said.

She remained dancing at Robin Sinclair Ballet (Dunedin School of Ballet) until she was 16, when she left to go to Sydney and trained full-time to be a ballet dancer.

“When I was 19, I moved to Europe and studied at the State Opera Ballet School in Vienna and worked from then onwards,” Ms Martin said.

For seven years, she worked as a professional ballet dancer in Europe.

She moved to Australia with her husband, before returning to New Zealand, and shifted to Wanaka to be closer to family.

Ms Martin said despite not having a major theater in town, it was still close enough to enjoy ballet in Dunedin or when visiting family in Sydney.

Reflecting on their shared childhood experience of Cinderella, Ms Martin and Ms Taylor said the auditions at the Carnegie Center in Dunedin were memorable.

“I remember more of the audition than actually performing. I do remember holding a slipper at one stage, and was very nervous that I might muck up … it was very exciting and rewarding to be the one that’s picked, and also a massive learning for ones who don’t get picked, because you learn to handle that rejection, “Ms Martin said.

Ms Taylor said what continued to draw her to ballet was its immersive nature.

“You’re so present when you’re dancing. You’ve got to focus so much on the steps that it’s a great break from everything else going on. You don’t think about other things. You can’t do that when you’re dancing and the music takes you into that as well, “Ms Taylor said.

After 31 years, Cinderella will be performed again at the Regent Theater in Dunedin on September 3.

Following their teacher’s path, a few of Ms Martin’s ballet students have been selected to perform in it.

– By Aspen Bruce