As a child, Fay Richardson wanted to dance, with the grace and movement of ballet captivating her.
“There just seemed to be a freedom in the ability to use your body that way,” she recalled.
It wasn’t in the books for her, with her family moving far from any place near a dance school, and as she notes, “Dance was not something that everybody could afford either.”
But now, at the age of 79, Richardson is living out her childhood wish, as the oldest dancer at the Youth Ballet of Saskatchewan, a Regina-based dance school.
As the instructor tosses out a list of steps, Richardson listens carefully and balances her way through an arabesque across the room, breathing heavily by the end.
With a dash of self-consciousness, she admits that she isn’t as speedy or as limber as the other dancers. While they may twirl around the room, she may only be able to do a spin a couple of times before getting dizzy.
“I can feel my balance go. I’ve been told I have to stay standing up and I think it’s wiser to quit at that point,” she said, laughing at herself.
Richardson began dancing as an adult at the age of 45, and found even if grace wasn’t something that just flowed naturally, she enjoyed the motion of ballet.
“There was a joy and kind of an excitement in learning something new, learning it about my own body, learning it about dance itself.”
And while she’s had those thoughts about quitting, each time, her fellow students have encouraged her to stick with it, at whatever speed or level she can.
“And I thought, if they don’t mind having me in the class, then fine. And I really respect them for that,” she said.
Instructor Barb Cameron calls Richardson “an inspiration” and says she reminds everyone, including the school’s youngest students, that dancing can be for everyone.
“Keeping dancing, and doing ballet at her age, it’s incredible,” said Cameron. “There’s not many people that do it, so we’re just thrilled to have her.”
The encouragement from her fellow dancers fills Richardson with emotion.
“It feels special, because I am doing it and I like it,” she said.
“It’s also special in the way that the others don’t say give up, or get out and let us show off at a better level. They bring me to their level, somehow.”