Gift made to Order
TWO days after she passed away, Diana de Vos Beck says her best friend gave her one last gift: the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
Claremont resident Mrs de Vos Beck met Leslie Hutchinson when she was just 10 years old.
The inseparable pair shared a love of dance for more than six decades; they trained together, both became principal dancers at West Australian Ballet, later taught dance and even moved to a cramped one-bedroom flat in Melbourne as teenagers to pursue their dreams of the stage.
Mrs de Vos Beck said she had no idea Mrs Hutchinson had nominated her for an OAM.
“I always knew she was good at secrets; she kept it a real surprise,” she said.
“We both had a passion in dance and that really kept our friendship alive and well.
“I would call her and she would say: ‘Oh I was just thinking about you, I knew you were going to call’. We grew up together. But, more than that, she was just a lovely person. We have daughters who are good friends. She is always close.”
Mrs de Vos Beck was yesterday awarded an OAM for her service to the performing arts, including her roles as an international examiner and life member at the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), Graduate College of Dance board member, WA Academy of Performing Arts tutor and membership secretary at the Friends of WA Ballet.
“Dance makes you feel ecstatic, it is absolutely uplifting,” she said.
“I get a huge kick out of watching my students dance and seeing their success.
“If you have not made somebody feel a heart flutter or tear, or just sheer exuberance from it… if that is not there, you’ve missed the point. The energy, the input of emotion, you cannot dance without that.”
Although her life is filled with incredible experiences such as dancing in front of the Queen at the opening of Sydney Opera House in 1973, Mrs de Vos Beck said she was most proud of the quieter moments.
“My husband and I spent a year in Vietnam in 2006, where I discovered there was a vocational dance school,” she said.
“I used to visit it often and watch classes, and I joined up with a group of ex-pat women raising money for disadvantaged Vietnamese children.”
Even after so many years, Mrs de Vos Beck said she often still held her breath during a final performance.
“I attended a competition and a woman behind me, I don’t know what I was doing, but she tapped me on the shoulder and said: ‘Is that your son?’ and I said: ‘No, he’s my student’.
“She said: ‘My God, do you get as nervous as that with all your students?’”
Mrs de Vos Beck said the RAD 80th anniversary Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow last month, dedicated to Leslie, was one of the first performances in her life she did not feel anxious.
Diana de Vos Beck has had a lifetime in dance.
Leslie Hutchinson (left) and Diana de Vos Beck in the 1960s.