Walking a mile in her ballet slippers
Walking a mile in her ballet slippers
August 5,2009

By Monique Johnson
Special to the Oshawa Express

Melanie Mayhew-Hammond’s feet are often bruised, blistered, and calloused. But she doesn’t mind. A quick pedicure could help her troubled feet, but she’d rather not get one done. She
needs to keep them rough to help her do what she loves most, ballet. Her calloused feet help her dance propped up on her toes without pain because they’re tough, she says. It’s a small sacrifice the 18-year-old Oshawa native has to make. She has received scholarship after scholarship to train at prestigious ballet schools in the US. Mayhew-Hammond is now a student in a six-week training program at Mystique Ballet in New York. This fall, she will train at the Joffrey Ballet School in New York City. While most of her peers will pack up and head out to university this fall, Mayhew- Hammond has abandoned that conventional path to pursue what she loves. But her career in ballet is an uncertain one. One injury can end her dance career. This possibility has Mayhew-Hammond wondering if she made the right choice.“It’s hard because you’re always thinking I should’ve gone to university,” she says. Her mentor thinks otherwise. Heather Davis is the owner of Davis Dance Studio in Whitby. She trained in dance and went to university simultaneously years ago.

“If I had it my way, I would dance more and go to university later,” she says. Davis thinks
doing both was a hard and gruelling process. She doesn’t want the same for Mayhew-
Hammond. But that may not be enough to convince Mayhew-Hammond that she’s made the right choice. On her bad days in class, her feelings of uncertainty pierce her even more.“There are days you can’t jump as high as you know you can ... it’s frustrating and disappointing,” she says. That’s why Mayhew-Hammond sees Heather Davis as a necessity. Davis is Mayhew-Hammond’s source of encouragement. She coaches her when she’s not away training.“She needs some extra reinforcement that she’s doing fine ... sometimes you need someone else to tell you that you can do it,” says Davis. And this coach has no doubt that M a y h e w -
Hammond will be successful.“She’s a good student ... she’s somebody who has a sense
of what she wants to do on stage ... she sparkles over time,” she says. M a y h e w -
Hammond knows she sparkles too. She comes alive on stage, she says. She gets to entertain,
express her feelings, and act all at the same time.

“You practice for months and it leads to that moment ... you can’t put it into words,” she
says. All her worries and concerns melt away under the hot stage lights as she embodies the
personality of the character she’s portraying. It’s that rush that keeps Mayhew-Hammond
dedicated to ballet -- no matter how challenging it may seem at times.




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