'I started dancing when I was four': Retirement home resident's lifelong love affair with ballet

Margaret Stoddart Retirement Village resident Audrey Burton’s love of ballet hasn’t dimmed in the...
Margaret Stoddart Retirement Village resident Audrey Burton’s love of ballet hasn’t dimmed in the last 80 years and still finds time to dance when she can. ​Photo: Supplied
At 85-years-old, Audrey Burton’s love for dancing hasn’t dimmed one bit.

Ballet has been a lifelong passion for the Margaret Stoddart Retirement Village resident and she still dances whenever she can.

Burton took part in Ryman Healthcare’s Pioneers Campaign earlier this year which took a different tack on expectations about retirement life.

The campaign showed the true spirit and dignity of residents and her lifelong love affair with dancing was prominently featured.

Burton still remembered the first time she saw the Royal New Zealand Ballet perform and has closely followed the artistic directors over the years.

“I started dancing when I was four and haven’t really stopped since then,” she said.

“It’s [ballet] just been a part of my life. The biggest change in the company over the years has been the technique of the dancers. The difficulty just keeps going up and it’s a much larger company now.”

Burton and her daughter, Wendy, had the opportunity to watch RNZB’s Christmas performance of The Sleeping Beauty this year at the Isaac Theatre Royal.

Audrey Burton with ballet dancer Madeleine Graham, of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Photo: Supplied
Audrey Burton with ballet dancer Madeleine Graham, of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Photo: Supplied
Not only did the pair attend the opening performance, but they were also invited as special guests of the RNZB for a backstage tour as Burton is planning a ballet performance at the village early next year.

 

She will also be designing all of the costumes herself next year at the village showcase.

Touring wardrobe master Alison Roigard showed Burton and her the intricacies of preparing for a show, how the costumes were sorted and how it works behind the scenes at the RNZB.

“We have roughly 330 costumes, but for this show, we only have two quick changes which is tricky,” said Roigard.

However, the day did not end there. The mother and daughter also got to meet dancer Madeleine Graham.

They exchanged stories of their dancing and performances and Graham shared back-stage titbits and tales, and even gave her a signed pair of pointe shoes.

Although Audrey has never danced in The Sleeping Beauty she did perform once in The Nutcracker.

“I so much wanted to be the Sugar Plum Fairy but I’m short, so I ended up dancing Clara,” said Burton.

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