Lucy’s tutu good, but can she rain dance?

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - CHAR­LIE PEEL

The for­tunes and emo­tions of gra­ziers may be be­holden to the weather but one nine-year-old girl from western Queens­land has given her par­ents a rea­son to smile through the drought that has crip­pled their sheep sta­tion for two-thirds of her life.

“There are peo­ple who don’t walk, they leap and twirl,” Rachael Web­ster told The Week­end Aus­tralian of her daugh­ter. “That’s how Lucy is.” Lucy Fag­got­ter’s pas­sion and suc­cess as a bal­let dancer have helped her fam­ily cope with the en­dur­ing heartache of drought.

Her re­lent­less pes­ter­ing of her par­ents led them to sign her up for bal­let classes three years ago.

Un­like her reg­u­lar classes, which are de­liv­ered by the School of the Air, her bal­let classes have to be con­ducted in per­son. This means Ms Web­ster and Lucy must make a twice-weekly trip to Lon­greach, about an hour’s drive along a dusty, rocky road.

The 17,000ha Mount Vic­to­ria Sta­tion, which has been in the fam­ily of Lucy’s fa­ther Allen Fag- got­ter, since the 1970s, has not had de­cent sea­sonal rain­fall since 2012. It re­ceived just 15cm of rain, only half the yearly av­er­age.

Where 7000 sheep should be walk­ing through grassy pad­docks, about 4000 now trot over dusty plains in search of some­thing to pick. At the worst point in the drought, just 1800 sheep were left on the sta­tion.

But trot­ting, twirling and leap­ing over the dusty land­scape is Lucy, who ad­mits to hav­ing “a lot of en­ergy”.

She said her dream was to be a dancer for the Queens­land Bal­let, an am­bi­tion in­stilled in her when she met the com­pany’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, Li Cunxin, of Mao’s Last Dancer fame.

“I feel I can make them proud,” she said of her par­ents.

“I like to dance when Dad plays the gui­tar.”

Lucy’s in­fec­tious love of bal­let has spread to her par­ents.

“We re­ally love it,” Ms Web­ster told The Week­end Aus­tralian.

“When we watch it, we are not wor­ried about what’s go­ing on here (on the farm) for a few hours.

“So much of what hap­pens here is in­flu­enced by the weather and you re­ally have no con­trol over it.”

She said the hours of driv­ing to and from dance classes and eisteddfods were “not a chore”.

“This is the mem­ory I want her to have of this time — the fun that she had, how great it was to dance, the peo­ple she met, what it was like to wear a tutu; not, ‘gee it was pretty or­di­nary grow­ing up’,” Ms Web­ster said.

“For two-thirds of her life she’s been in drought, and that’s the part of her life she re­mem­bers.” MORE RE­PORTS P2

LYN­DON MECHIELSEN

‘I like to dance when Dad plays the gui­tar’: Lucy Fag­got­ter with par­ents Rachael and Allen on their parched sheep sta­tion near Lon­greach

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