If there's one thing you can learn from the career of ballerina Sharni Spencer, it's that life is not about the destination - it's about enjoying the journey along the way.
Sharni Spencer is a soloist with the Australian Ballet. She has been dancing all her life, and has recently been nominated as one of six talented finalists for the coveted Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards.
After 12 years in the Australian Ballet, she says she is "truly honoured and humbled" to have her years of hard work recognised.
The ballerina was in born in Lismore, and spent her childhood in Tamworth. After falling in love with the challenging nature of classical ballet, her parents moved to Newcastle so that Sharni could train at the Marie Walton Mahon Dance Academy.
Former ballet teacher Marie Walton Mahon said, "Sharni is a true artist. She always danced from the soul."
After completing her studies in Newcastle, Spencer commenced a two-year graduate study at the Royal New Zealand School of Dance, and was then offered a contract with the Australian Ballet Company at age 19.
Spencer has worked her way up through the ranks of the company, and is now a soloist dancer, yet she is the first to admit that it's been a slow road to success.
However, in light of the recent announcement that Spencer has been nominated as a Telstra Ballet Awards finalist, capping off an already stellar year, it seems that all that hard work is paying off.
The Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards are an annual initiative supported by Telstra, and seen as a huge stepping stone for many ballet careers. The finalists are chosen by a committee of past finalists and colleagues from the Australian Ballet.
"It's very humbling to have my work recognised by my colleagues whom I respect so much, and who see my effort both on and off stage," Spencer says.
This nomination comes at a time when Spencer's dancing appears to be going from strength to strength. She says she feels that her years of blood, sweat and long hours in the studio are finally culminating in realising the opportunities she'd always pushed for.
One such opportunity was her recent premiere as the lead role of Alice, in Alice in Wonderland. An internationally renowned piece of choreography, Spencer has worked for years perfecting the intricacies of the character, ensuring Alice would fall down the rabbit hole with perfectly pointed feet.
"Alice was the first principal role I was even given to learn in the company, two years ago. I remember feeling like a sponge in the studio, trying to soak every correction into my brain. It was incredibly satisfying to finally put all that hard work onto the stage."
This follows Spencer's debut earlier in the year as Cinderella, in the classical ballet of the same name.
With lush Russian choreography, exquisite costuming, and an inimitable Prokofiev score, dancing this ballet was a "dream come true" for Spencer.
"Cinderella is one of those roles that you dream about as a young girl. Being able to dance that role truly was the realisation of a childhood aspiration," she says.
Spencer admits that it has been a slow and gruelling process to achieve what she has, but she regards this recent nomination as a sign of her maturation as an artist.
"When I first entered the company, I was given opportunities without even fully understanding their significance. Now I approach all my roles with a more mature understanding of how hard I've worked to get where I am," she says.
She is also quick to mention how much she owes to her supportive network of family, friend and loving husband.
"My parents were immensely supportive of my dream to be a dancer. They allowed me to move to Newcastle to study ballet at a higher level. Now I love that they can come and see my performances."
Spencer hopes her journey with dance will "inspire other dancers and artists," and remind people that success can take time to build. "This nomination is the culmination of years of dedication," she says.
Spencer firmly believes that passion and hard work pay off with time. She is proof that with determination to withstand the highs and lows, the reward is even sweeter.
Voting for the Awards is open until November 17. Support her with your vote at telstra.com/ballet or via 0484BALLET.
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