Tate- à-Tate

Last weekend…Perfect!

I caught the train from Southampton Central, to Waterloo, London on Friday and walked over the Thames and along the embankment to my daughter’s work place. Once there, I sat quietly in the rather grand foyer.

She answered my “I’m here!” txt and after a short while, watching the hustle and bustle of corporate-world unfolding in a multi-national way, she appeared out of the lift, swiped her way through security to land safely in my embrace.

What to do? Where to go? Choices, choices, choices!

After a long and welcomed tête-à-tête over dinner in a really cool Mexican restaurant in Camden Town, we retired to my daughter’s flat, complimentary chilly seeds in tow…

…Before we knew it, Saturday morning was upon us. We got sorted, left the flat and took another trip on the underground. A short walk in later, we got to our destination -Tate Art Gallery.

The delights inside cannot be contained in one blog, so over the next three weeks I am going to write about three significant moments. There were more than three significant moments of course…it is The Tate after all! But three it will be.

Time limited us to wander only three of the ten floors. The Tate is not a place to hurry through; more to see on another visit.

Where to begin?

OK, I’ll handle this in order of delight…

The first moment of extreme excitement was seeing my first Degas sculpture, in the flesh. Or was it?

La Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans, The Little fourteen-Year-Old Dancer, 1880-1. A young Belgian ballerina named Marie van Goethem modelled for Degas. She was a student of the Paris Opera Ballet dance school.

Degas sculpted her in a reddish-brown wax, which was the usual medium in the late 1800’s. He was desiring a realistic look – he dressed the sculpture in real fabric, ballet shoes, hair ribbon and real hair. What I saw was one of several bronze casts, of the original wax piece, created in 1922 by Degas heirs after his death in 1917.

It wasn’t quite like seeing the original, but she was so sweet and so full of character, those warm fuzzies easily found their way to my heart.

When the wax sculpture was first exhibited, viewers were shocked by its unique realism and by the dedication of one so young to endure the rigorous training and discipline.

I could see that. As a mother of two little ballerinas, one of which danced in the Nutcracker with The Imperial Russian Ballet Company in the early 2000’s during one of their New Zealand tours, I know the hours of stretching and bar work that goes on behind the public performance.

So, I called my, not-so-little-dancer-any-more over to share the moment.


I remembered when we were living in Gisborne, NZ, during the ballet competitions, the older ballerinas at my daughter’s dance school performed a beautiful classical ballet called The Dance Class, Degas. At the beginning and end of the dance the ballerinas positioned themselves on stage as in Degas’, Dance Class 1874.


It was spectacular.

(I do have to say – of all the Tap and ballet competitions I have attended over the years, none of them beat the Gisborne ones. The town hall was the place to be during the competition season. The standard so high and the competitions so well organised, the venue so appropriate, one would think one was attending professional performances.)

Anyway, I giggled to myself…Who would have thought, all these years later I would be at The Tate standing in front of The Little Dancer.

I’ll leave you with these insightful words of Degas

 “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.


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