Ballet still his love
When the Royal New Zealand Ballet visited Harbourview Rest Home in Papakowhai recently, they were unwittingly performing for a ballet veteran.
Resident Eric Southern, 94, has worked as a ballet publicist all his life, starting in his native England and then in New Zealand after he emigrated in 1950.
‘‘I became heavily involved in ballet,’’ he says. ‘‘I was in publicity, a PR man.’’
Mr Southern has worked with some of ballet’s leading lights over the years, such as English ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn and Royal New Zealand Ballet founder Poul Gnatt.
But it is veteran dancer Sir Jon Trimmer he has had the most to do with. He remembers in particular taking a photo of Sir Jon in the 1950s, which showed the dancer in front of a mirror, covered in paint.
‘‘He was very, very young,’’ he says of the now 72-year-old dancer.
Later, Mr Southern even lived right by Sir Jon in Pukerua Bay: ‘‘We seem to have been fated to meet.’’
Asked when he stopped being involved in ballet, Mr Southern replied: ‘‘ I’ve never really stopped.’’
So it was with eager anticipation he took a front-row seat for the ballet company’s visit to Harbourview, where he has lived since February.
Dancers talked to residents about costume and dance techniques, and Sir Jon gave a makeup demonstration.
The visit was part of a dancethemed week at the rest home, designed to get residents learning about dance and even participating.
The home had visits from line dancers, belly dancers, ballroom dancers, contemporary dancers and an Indian dancer.
There was a field trip to see the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s new Sleeping Beauty costumes, and a disco where staff members dressed as Tina Turner. One of the Tinas, administrator Liz Abbott, says the ballet visit was a highlight of the week.
‘‘Not one of the residents fell asleep’’ she said, laughing. ‘‘It was the culmination of a really good week.’’
Pas de deux: Eric Southern and ballet dancer Sir Jon Trimmer seem fated to meet often