Walking into the building known as the Great Hall, in what was formerly part of The University of Canterbury in Christchurch, I saw a girl onstage doing what appeared to be a ballet jump. She paused for a second when I came in with my camera, but went back to her leaping after I encouraged her not to let me interrupt her dance.
I took photos with and without flash and became frustrated when I could not get the shot just right. You’d think that I would have studied the instruction manual from front to back before going on a seven week trip to New Zealand, but even after having had the camera for three months, I was not ready when an opportunity presented and I struggled to capture her leaping in a way that I thought showed her delight in what she was doing.
I shifted focus to take a couple of photographs of the opposite side of the room and saw that like many of the buildings being used as part of the Christchurch Arts Centre, this one was still being repaired from damage sustained during the September 2010 earthquake.
Turning back to the stage, I noticed the man now in the picture and spoke to him long enough to confirm that he was her father and that it was alright for me to take her photograph. She had given me permission earlier, but I wanted to be sure it was okay with him as well.
We spoke briefly about the beauty of Christchurch, how they were Americans on holiday too and how we both wished we had more time to explore the city. While we talking, his daughter never stopped practicing her dance steps and when I left a minute or so later, she was still leaping through the air.
Reviewing my photos later, I decided the blurred images of her body as she practiced might be a lesson for me, a reminder of just what it takes to perfect a skill.
Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.
~ Martha Graham