Uki ballerina leaping onto big stage with big dreams
IF PREDICTIONS that Uki ballet and contemporary dancer Olivia Kingston has a bright future on the international stage are borne out, ironically she'll owe it to a pair of funny feet.
When she was a toddler, Olivia's mum Judy was alarmed that both she and her older sister Amelia had feet that rolled in.
She consulted a podiatrist who advised that while there was nothing seriously wrong, the sisters could benefit from foot strengthening exercises.
And so at the tender age of four Olivia found herself enrolled in her first ballet class at Tweed Heads, decked out in a pink leotard and matching ballet shoes.
Fast-forward 13 years and the teenager will next month begin auditions for the Sydney Dance Company and Queensland Ballet's pre-professional year along with the New Zealand School of Dance.
Olivia's life's goal: to tour the world as a dancer with a leading company.
"Dancing is who I am," she says.
"It's amazing how dancing releases all the stress."
It's no surprise that her mother Judy's first thought was to ballet when prescribed exercise for Olivia's rolling feet as she had her own shot at a professional dance career as a youngster.
Judy danced for two years at the Royal Ballet School in London, aiming for a life on the stage.
But her dream was shattered when her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she had to return home to Australia.
Judy had to be content with teaching dance, which she has done for more than 20 years and continues on a part-time basis to this day, in between working with her husband Ian at their dental prosthetics business in Murwillumbah.
She's very focused and she has a beautiful inner quality that comes through her dancing. She has amazing elevation. It comes naturally: you can't teach that.
She's hopeful Olivia may go all the way although she admits to being surprised that her youngest daughter is following in her footsteps.
"I didn't think she'd stick at it," Judy recalls.
"She's been a really sporty kid and active but the discipline of ballet is really different.
"She never had to be pushed into it."
It's a combination of the right physique and an even better attitude that has dance insiders predicting big things for Olivia.
Jenny Unwin is the dance convenor of the Murwillumbah Festival of Performing Arts at which Olivia took out third place in the blue-ribbon J.J. Richards event for the second time in a row this year.
Only the cream of the crop perform in the J.J. Richards event, with 29 dancers contesting it this year.
The adjudicator Andrew Mortimer commented that the standards were higher than he had seen in metropolitan areas.
"I think she's got the dedication and the drive and the passion, and together with these three things I've got every confidence in her success," Jenny says.
"I love watching her dance modern.
"She's a very expressive dancer, she's beautiful to watch.
"She always puts herself into every dance.
"You'd think she was very quiet but when she gets on stage she really comes to life."
Judy says: "She has the right physique; she's long and lean."
"She's very focused and she has a beautiful inner quality that comes through in her dancing.
"She has amazing elevation.
"It comes naturally; you can't teach that."
Olivia studies one day a week at TAFE for her HSC, but the other four are spent at the Professional Ballet Coaching Academy at Burleigh Heads.
Such are the rigours of a dancer's life that she wears out an average of two pairs of pointe shoes a month.
So how are her feet these days?
"They're definitely beaten up; that comes with dance but they're absolutely fine," Olivia says with a laugh.