Rachel Rawlins.

After 30 years as a ballerina Rachel Rawlins is to dance her final performance next month but expects to still be involved with the Australian Ballet in some way. Photo: Janie Barrett

THERE is a beautiful clip online of Rachel Rawlins in rehearsal for her last performance with the Australian Ballet - as Odette in Swan Lake, one of her signature roles that she imbued with an uncanny depth of feeling.

The five-minute clip illustrates how, even in rehearsal, Rawlins displays the vulnerability and reflexes of a raw nerve.

It also demonstrates, in the way she quietly responds to cues and feedback from her partner, Rudy Hawkes, and Ballet Mistress Fiona Tonkin, how far she is from the egomania and preciousness that ballerinas can inspire in the popular imagination.

Madame Butterfly Preview before opening at the State Theatre 25th February 2011 with Principal dancer Rachel Rawlins playing Butterfly. Click for more photos

A Ballerina's Brilliant Career

Madame Butterfly Preview before opening at the State Theatre 25th February 2011 with Principal dancer Rachel Rawlins playing Butterfly. Photo: Justin McManus

''She really moves people. There is a humble fragility about her in rehearsal, in life, and, definitely, on stage,'' former principal artist Lynette Wills says of Rawlins. ''She always has this gift of moving people. She has a fragility and a tragedy about her that just touches people. Her acting is very natural and believable. It always comes from a true place and she is one of our finest artists.''

Steven Heathcote, who danced with the Australian Ballet for 25 years, a record 20 of them as a Principal Artist, has said of Rawlins: ''She steps out onto stage and absolutely owns the space. She's got this kind of ability to make you think that everything she does takes no effort whatsoever. I think that's one of the hallmarks of a really good dancer.''

It's easier to get dancers talking about Rawlins, than to have her talking about herself. She is, after all, known as the ''quiet achiever'' of the company.

After dancing every day for more than 30 years - 20 with the Australian Ballet - Rawlins is to hang up her tutu.

''I feel like I need to step away a little bit,'' she says with characteristic understatement.

As for the future, she says: ''I feel very close to the Australian Ballet and the dance world so I'm sure that it will still be in my life.''

Her final performance with the Australian Ballet will be in Sydney on December 19.

■See Rawlins in rehearsal at vimeo.com/44963344