You probably need to be as old as I am to even remember Dame Beryl Grey. Prima ballerina, first Western dancer ever invited to dance with the Bolshoi Ballet despite the Cold War, who dreamed as a scholarship student of having to save the day at short notice by going on in Margot Fonteyn’s place – and who did, at the age of 14.
She and my mother had been BFF and when she was dancing in Johannesburg as Odette / Odile one year she arranged for me – aged 8 – to be allowed to join the corps in rehearsals for Swan Lake. I dreamed I’d be so brilliant they’d include me as a small, pudgy but astonishingly talented cygnet in the production but not all ballet dreams come true.
Her visit was quite a shock, not only realising how hard dancers have to work at rehearsals, but learning that our house-guest did two hours of exercise before even coming down to breakfast, every day of her life. Every day! I gave up ballet soon afterwards.