Last Dance

At 34, Arizona Ballet's Gail Passey-Reed is hanging up her toe shoes

When she sits down, she says that the fact of her retirement has not yet reached her.

"I don't think it will kick in until I'm watching it and I'm not part of it," she says, but she's fighting back tears nonetheless.

Passey-Reed can speak optimistically about the excitement of starting a new chapter in her life, but there is a sense of stage fright in her telling.

She witnessed her husband Michael's retirement and saw him go through a depressing withdrawal from the tight confines of the ballet-company community. The physicality of the art forces a closeness upon the dancers. They have touched each other everywhere, and so the boundaries from person to person tend to be less abrupt than between people working in an office. And you have to trust explicitly someone who is balancing you above the stage on one hand or catching you when you leap purposefully into space. Michael had missed the rush of performance, too.

In fact, Passey-Reed will probably dance minor roles in the spring to fulfill her year's contract, but she will not dance in lead roles.

And she expects that her transition will be less traumatic than her husband's because even if she will not dance next year, Ballet Arizona has asked her to stay on and work her way into an administrative role with the company. She will work full-time at jobs she's done on a part-time basis in past years. She orders shoes for the dancers, for example--each of the women goes through 60 or 70 pairs of custom-fitted pointe shoes per year, which eats up $65,000 of the company's budget. She works as the ballet school's secretary, overhauling the books, wiping runny noses, soothing bloody toes, and quieting disgruntled ballet moms in crisis. She sews and designs many of the company's headpieces and other costumes--in off-seasons she has worked in the wardrobe department of the Ice Capades.

But mostly she intends to be a mom. Her doctor has asked her to gain weight, and she realizes that it may take time to bring her body to a less physically strained point.

"Dancers tend to be thin, it's part of the look," she says. Light expands, and the harsh stage light adds pounds.

"I know that it'll be hard mentally, because for so long you strive for what you feel is perfection. Sometimes, unfortunately, it's a little distorted. At this age, at least, I'm able to admit to that, but when you're younger you don't see it that way."

Before she came for her morning meeting, Passey-Reed had sent off a package to her mother, and in it she had placed the shoes she wore for the last dance. She included a note thanking her parents for their patience and for the rides to class, and for helping her dream her dream.

In the last line she wrote, "You have my first pointe shoes in the hope chest. Here are my last Sugar Plum Fairy shoes.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Sort: Newest | Oldest
Phoenix Concert Tickets