Local ballerina nominated for prestigious award
IT TAKES a lot of hard work and dedication to achieve a "dream come true" by the age of 18.
But for Lismore born dancer and Australian Ballet Soloist, Sharni Spencer, this was reality.
Sharni - daughter of the former owners of Henry's Bakery - started dancing when she was just three years old.
But her talent for dance didn't become serious until she was around 13, when she leapt into full time ballet while studying education long-distance.
She completed year 10 by correspondence and did a full-time ballet course before moving to England at 16, accepted into Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham.
Six months on the realisation it was not for her was clear - Sharni craved home and got a last-minute acceptance into New Zealand School of Dance.
"I really put my head down once I was there because I wanted to make the most of everything," she said.
"Since coming back from England I had firmly decided that was what I wanted to do."
A couple of years later, an audition and three classes with The Australian Ballet saw Sharni back home.
"I was so nervous I thought I had blown it," she said of her audition.
"I received a call from the director of the company the day before my 19th birthday.
"I couldn't believe it, I think I actually floated."
In 2008 she started her "dream come true" as part of the Australian Ballet.
Now in her 10th year with the company, things aren't slowing down with Sharni's second nomination for the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award - the first was in 2013.
She was one of six talented dancers of The Australian Ballet announced as nominees for the award, now in its 15th year.
The 2017 winner will take home a $20,000 cash prize, while the winner of the People's Choice Award - decided by public vote - will receive $5,000.
"It's an amazing encouragement to be nominated as it's awarded by my peers, the principle dancers at the company and the ballet staff and past winners of the award," Ms Spencer said.
"They're recognising your efforts that you're putting in, so it's really lovely to have in the back of your mind as it gives you that extra driving force to spur you on to continue to work hard and deliver the best performances you can.
"It's an encouragement you're going in the right direction."
The award has catapulted the careers of some of ballet's brightest stars, with seven former winners being promoted to principal artist following the award - the highest accolade in ballet.
The Australian Ballet's Artistic Director David McAllister commented on the calibre of this year's dancers.
"We have seen this award boost the trajectory of many of our rising stars, some of whom are now principal artists," Mr McAllister said.
"Each nominee has both passion and talent, and they all have interestingly diverse backgrounds, coming from across Australia and from overseas," he said.
Sharni took some time off last month to get married, but quickly got back into the swing of things.
For her, being a part of the Australian Ballet involves lots of performances during the year, and four months of the year in Sydney.
Sharni's full-time schedule includes a one hour plus ballet class six days a week, and rehearsals from 12pm - 6.30pm.
On a performance day rehearsals finish at 3pm and the performers start getting ready at 5pm.
The 2017 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award winners will be announced on Tuesday December 5 at the opening-night performance of Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Australians are encouraged to watch Telstra's video series which gives a glimpse inside the minds of the nominees and vote for their favourite dancer in the People's Choice Award.