Full life after ballet

Time of article published Apr 18, 2005

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Mention the name of Allison Foat and any devotee of ballet will recall exquisite lines and air-borne legs in a certain bank commercial.

Glamour and Foat are practically synonymous and she freely admits to an early zest for the tiaras and glitter of classical ballet costume.

"I did a lot of drama and sport as well as ballet in my early teens, but ballet won because of those costumes," she smiles.

"And I've always loved them - hence my nickname, Diva, when I became marketing director of Cape Town City Ballet (CTCB) after hanging up my shoes."

She retired from the stage at the young age of 27 to marry and start a family, but is far too enterprising to remain housebound; so once her sons were less dependent on her, she worked at CTCB to promote and publicise the company.

"I really enjoyed doing that, but it was limiting and I got frustrated because I wanted a more diverse portfolio," she explains when invited to talk about her resignation from that post, and her latest venture: her own company - named Diva - which markets people, products and events through the arts and entertainment.

If she wanted a diverse portfolio, she certainly has it, and in typically intrepid Foat style she started off in the deep end with her first project: co-ordinating dance entertainment for Sir Elton John when he visited the wine estate Vergelegen in January this year.

"It was all very 18th century, with period costumes, minuets and gavottes among the roses and lavender under those huge trees," she reminisces happily.

"Now I'm building up a client base both locally and overseas, notably in New York."

Among her present clients are the producers of Chicago and talent scouts for Cirque du Soleil, as well as lecturer Mignon Furman, whose South African tour Foat will be arranging this year.

"No client is too big or too small," says Foat firmly. "If I can use my networking expertise to create opportunities for local talent, and get celebrities to South Africa to see what we can do, I'll realise my dream.

"With your tiara at the right angle and enough glitter, the sky's the limit!"

Amid all her obvious enthusiasm for her current undertaking, are there any negative aspects?

"Not enough hours in a day," is the prompt reply.

"I travel quite a bit to check out the scene, particularly in the US. In order to succeed you have to be in the loop, physically there.

Browsing on the internet is time-consuming and it's just not the same. Nor is reading a week-old New York Times.

"There is nothing like being able to glean advice from directors of companies overseas - and they are surprisingly generous with their time."

It is difficult to believe that this dynamic woman has already achieved so much since Diva became a registered company; and it all began when she assisted her husband, Paul, with the launch of his company, working as publicist for his fashion stores.

The Foat philosophy is simple, and demonstrated by example: "There is life after a ballet career, and there's a whole world out there. All you have to do is give 150% and dream big!"

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