Home grown ballerina Melissa Lott is back in Cootamundra for a short time after returning from her studies at the English National Ballet School in London for her summer break at the end of her first year.

Cootamundra are lucky enough to be able to watch Melissa in action on Saturday night (August 6) with ‘An Evening of the Arts’ performance at The Arts Centre Cootamundra, which will be supported by singer Bridgitt Ryan, Chris Edwards School of Dance, Dance With Miss Em, Dance 2590 and Friends.

The event will have a cocktail attire dress code and doors will open at 6:30pm for a 7pm start.

The 17-year-old Melissa started her ballet career at the tender age of three and has been a protégé of the Chris Edwards School of Dance since pre-school.

The Times caught up with Melissa while she is back in town, prior to Saturday’s night feature performance, discussing her time over at the English National Ballet School in London.

“I would say it’s definitely a big change going over there [London] and much of a more professional experience,” Melissa said.

“It’s definitely a huge change to be living on the other side of the world. I’m settling in well. The school actually doesn’t offer boarding, so we found our own accommodation and many of the other students and myself all live together. It’s nice that we’re all kind of figuring it out together.

“It’s very nice to be back in Cootamundra, it’s been a long time since I’ve been back. It’s kind of sad that it’s cold her now and just starting to heat up in the UK.” Christine Edwards has been one of the major influences on Melissa in the early stages of her ballet career, with Melissa extremely grateful for her guidance and tuition. “She’s been extremely helpful.

She always supported everything I’ve wanted to do. If that’s doing ballet exams, and sending me off to Sydney, she made sure I was all prepared to go,” Melissa continued.

“She’s helped me perfect my technique and knowing more ballet terminology. When I was in Sydney, she was on the journey with me, learning all the new things.

She’s been very supportive with everything.” Melissa boarded at The McDonald College in Sydney for three years between 2018 and 2020 where her ballet craft excelled rapidly. After moving away from Cootamundra late last year, Christine Edwards will be back in Cootamundra this Saturday night to watch the performance at The Arts Centre. Melissa has an action-packed show of five beautiful classical and contemporary ballet planned for Saturday night, which will keep the audience on the edges of their seats.

“I will be doing some ballet solos, contemporary and lyrical.” Melissa’s mum, Christine Lott, always spoke about Melissa’s journey from Cootamundra to the English National Ballet School.

“Melissa left home when she was 16 to go overseas. She danced with the Chris Edwards School of Dance in Cootamundra since she was three and did the bulk of her training early and really enjoyed her ballet,” Christine said.

“As she developed in her teenage years, she was considering moving away to boarding school, then she found the performing arts school of The McDonald College in Sydney where she had to do an audition.

“She moved as a boarder in 2018 and focused on her schoolwork, but as a part of her curriculum they factored in two hours of performing arts each day. Within that school system she was able to pursue a deeper passion for her dance.

“She also did an after-hours program at the school as well which she was able to explore some other teaching techniques and disciplines.

“Then Melissa was lucky enough to audition for the English National Ballet School and the Royal Ballet, both in London. The auditions were in 2021 in Sydney, and she was able to attend those where they did Zoom auditions during Covid.

“She was successful with the English National Ballet School where she had to do a couple of other auditions and assessments and offered her a spot to start in September last year. “I took her over and we had to get exemptions for travel during that time. “She’s been there for 12 months and starts her second year in September this year.”

Christine is extremely proud of her daughter and the extraordinary rise she has made towards training in the industry. “As for her journey, it’s been pretty amazing.

We didn’t think a little girl from Cootamundra would get that far. She’s very dedicated. She’s very determined and I think her passion over the years has surprised us as parents, both Peter and myself,” Christine continued. “We didn’t realise how deep her passion is and this is something that she can develop and get into a career in ballet.

“The English National Ballet School only takes in 30 students a year worldwide, considering it was a Covid year as well, she’s been very fortunate to get an audition and obviously get an offer to train. “She’s there for a three-year diploma and has to do ballet and academic exams throughout the year and upon those passing and accreditation they get offered a place for the next year.

“She’s been back since July for a two month break until September. Melissa is making a guest appearance and was invited to perform on Saturday night at the Arts Centre alongside other performers. “Peter, Melissa and I will all head back to London later this month, where we’ll have a bit of a holiday and move her into new accommodation. She’ll start back at school early in September.

Tickets for An Evening of the Arts are $25 and can be purchased on The Arts Centre Cootamundra website or at the door on Saturday night. The TACC Bar will be open to purchase drinks and snacks, with supper available after the performance.

Tim Warren