ONE of Newcastle's most successful ballet dancers, Olivia Bell, will hang up her pointe shoes in November after a career that has spanned nearly two decades.
The 35-year-old mother of three will retire after her last show with the Australian Ballet in Sydney on November 25.
She will take her final curtsy in front of a packed house that will include her Newcastle parents and grandfather, who is in his 90s, at the end of the La Sylphide season at the Sydney Opera House.
"I don't think it's ever an easy decision to make," Bell said yesterday of her retirement.
"I've had to listen to my heart. This year has been quite a juggling act, finding the balance between family and ballet. My daughter is 18 months old and my twin boys are four. They've been waiting patiently in the wings while mummy has had a dancing career."
Bell began ballet lessons at age nine at Tessa Maunder's New Lambton school.
By the time she was 15 she was dancing in Paris before returning to Australia to join the Australian Ballet in 1995.
Now based in Melbourne, the dancer will return to Newcastle next month to attend Maunder's 90th-birthday celebrations.
Despite travelling the world and being named as a principal artist (the highest honour a company can bestow on a dancer), Bell has never forgotten her training.
"Tessa has trained so many ballet stars. I'll always be grateful," she said.
The Australian Ballet's artistic director, David McAllister, said Bell would be remembered as a dancer "whose elegance and star quality has shone brightly, both on and off stage".
Bell has not ruled out some future involvement with the Australian Ballet.
But she said: "I want to pick up my kids from kinder and book a holiday that doesn't need to fit around a ballet schedule."