A quite extraordinary event was held in Sydney on the weekend to honour the Sydney teacher Tanya Pearson.
In celebration of her 50 years of dedication to her artform and her students, as well as her 75th birthday, a gala performance was organised at the Parade Theatre on Saturday night. So huge was the demand for tickets that a second performance had to be scheduled for the next day.
Former pupils of Mrs P (as she is affectionately known) now performing in overseas companies returned to Australia and donated their time to take part in the event. Lucinda Dunn, principal with the Australian Ballet and one of Mrs P's most glittering successes, also made a generous appearance, in the solo The Dying Swan and as the principal soloist in La Bayadere.
Initiated by Pearson's daughter, Nicole Sharp, and organised in secret by Pearson's many devoted friends and admirers, the whole event was somehow kept secret from its honoured guest until the very last moment.
The program, choreographed by Paul Boyd, cleverly spun together the story of Mrs P's life from her birth in Russia, her exile as a child to Germany, her migration to Australia at age 11 and her dancing and teaching career. The two acts were narrated by Colin Peasley and Danilo Radojevich, courtesy of the Australian Ballet.
Excerpts from various ballets were interwoven with photos of Mrs P projected onto the stage and filmed congratulation speeches from admirers and colleagues who could not make it to the big night. The Sydney City Youth Ballet, the company Mrs P established as Northside Ballet Company back in 1971, linked the sections together, supported by pupils from Mrs P's Classical Coaching Academy.
The professionalism, scale and ambition of the production were a reflection of Mrs P's own standards of teaching and performance.
Also in evidence were TV cameras - Mrs P's life will be the subject of the ABC's Australian Story on Monday 13 August.
- KAREN VAN ULZEN