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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Why to dance at an old age?

Guest Julia

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Guest Julia

I danced ballet pretty much my whole childhood and teenage. I never had time to do anything else. Every single thing I did was to become a better dance. I did my school projects by stretching at the same time, brushed my teeth by exercising my muscles at the same time and walked from one room to another while doing different kind of turns. I never was a real ballet fan and found pretty boring to watch ballet, but I loved to dance. The longest relationship I ever have had was with the ballet, so when we broke up five years ago I had no idea about what to do :D I got two months break to get myself together, check out my motives and get rid of an eating disorder... two years later I was still confused and now five years later I still regret a lot of stuff, feel sorry about letting all of those people down, they put so much energy and time into me and they got absolutely nothing out of it. I still feel like a loser.


At the old age of 17 I sweared that I never would take a single dance step in my whole life anymore. It worked out very well for a couple of weeks while I was nursing my legs after the surgeries, which I had, because of dancing way too much with my poor legs. It has been bedroom dancing since then. Two years ago I called to the local dance studio to ask them about adult classes... they had no room for me. A year ago I made a call again and this time they agreed to take me in. The last year has been overall so difficult. It's very hard for me to admit to myself that I danced better when I was 10 years old. I'm in the same line with every single person and most of them have danced like couple of years or so. Slowly but surely I have gained so much my old strengh back and I'm not too sure that it's making stuff any easier at all. I'm studying to become a molecular biologist and all this dancing is supposed to be just a hobby for me, but I'm basically spending all my free time to stretch and exercise again to get my old skills back and be the best I possible can be. I just haven't figured out my motives at all... there is no way I'm going to go anywhere with this dancing, so why to waste any time for it? I feel so frustrated and depressed over half of the classes, because no matter what I did... I sucked and really badly. I feel sorry for the new teacher to be forced to even teach me even she seems to like me... but all these other people are smile on their faces at the adult classes expect me... it's not because I would hate the classes or anything, but I just can't stand how I'm not able to do the stuff anymore. I feel bad to complaine to these co-dancers too, I learn the new routines by watching them once... many of these people never learn them, overall everything is easier for me, but yet I'm the most pissed person in those classes. I love dancing, but I'm just so confused. I have tried to learn to give myself little goals and not getting so upset about not hitting pirouettes every single time, but I'm perfectionist and I pretty much put all my energy to become the best dancer I possible can be... without no reason at all. Who cares how I dance when I never will dance anywhere. Besides, I always was a horrible performer, a good in a tehnique but very crappy what came to be a performer. When I told my granny last summer how I'm going to be dancing ballet again... I was really exchited at that time... she looked at me and said "don't you think you are a little too old for that". I'm 22.


So why people dance overall at the old age when they know that they won't be going anywhere with the dancing stuff? Why to put all the energy and all the emotions into one thing which never will really give anything to you? Why to even bother?

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Julia, thank you for voicing these thoughts so well. The feelings of uncertainty and futility sound so familiar.


I have no answers, but let me express my sympathy for you. I'm one of the adult beginners - been taking ballet for 1,5 years now. Like you, I'm not all in love with watching ballet on stage, but I love ballet class. However, class is often really frustrating, even though I learn faster and do somewhat better than most... often I'm envious of those who are all happy and satisfied with themselves in class. My teacher does seem rather satisfied with my progress, despite my lack of natural facility. I can imagine the frustration is much worse when you've danced ever so much better when you were a kid...


I've also been wondering where I am going with this dancing thing -- what purpose or goal can there be for an adult dancer? Dancing is not exactly a simple, enjoyable hobby anymore, if it makes me place all these demands on myself. Still, dancing with less than full commitment ("just a hobby") does not seem satisfactory.


Then again (to echo one of my favorite writers) what rational justification can there ever be for striving for excellence? I've been trying to accept that the important thing is to strive for perfection, even though I'll never get close. Oh well.


On a lighter note, welcome to Ballet Talk! I'm sure the old-timers will be along soon, too, to make you welcome on this wonderful board :D

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Julia unless you can find true enjoyment in the process and some relief from focusing so much on the 'externals' (results, what other think, etc.) you will keep revisiting these issues.

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I know exactly where you are coming from. From the age of four I danced and danced. I think I must have done everyclass my school offered. When I moved from my home in England to Scotland, money was tight and only did the one class which was forgotten about pretty quickly. I stopped at the age of 14.


I recently started dancing again at the age of 23 and I am frustrated that there are lots of things that I used to do but can't anymore, including pirouettes and lengthy pointe work! I have often wondered if it is worth it as i creak and crack now and i don't look too brilliant in leotard!!


All I can say is persevere and it will gradually come back to you. Enjoy the dancing for what it is and you'll find its lots better. I am lucky in that my dance teacher is superb and my (much younger) classmates are very accepting.


I hope that this helps a bit. :D

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I dance for pleasure, for the sheer joy of moving to music and for the little, incremental improvements I make over time. Dancing is now something I do fo myself - I take it very seriously.

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Well for that matter why should you learn a different language if you have no plans to visit a country where it is spoken? Why read a book about astronomy if you aren't in the space program? Why take piano lessons if you will never be a concert pianist? There are an infinate number of things in life you will never have a chance to become because our lives are way too short. But if you allow that to curtail your enjoyment of all life has to offer and make one thing (like your profession) the be-all and end-all of your life, you are really missing out. I think it is about recognizing that knowledge and art of all kinds have an intrinsic value quite beyond the performance of them. Naturally, we would all like to be at a professional level, and many of us regret that for one reason or another that chance never came. But I guess the way I look at it is that if I only allowed myself to enjoy the things that I did perfectly, I'd get darn little enjoyment!


Cabriole said it well-- you have to enjoy the process, and the older I get the more I realize that happy people are the ones enjoying the process--whether it is ballet, music, or just life in general. Goals are great when they enhance your life and help you strive to be your best, but when they make you miserable and frustrated and become your whole focus, perhaps it is time to reevaluate your goals or reexamine your attitudes toward them. Good luck Julia!

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I am sorry to hear about your sadness and frustration with ballet; however, these feelings might be a really important part of a grieving process you may be going through right now. Unpleasant feelings are often just a part of growth. Throughout life, favored activities often take on different meaning as we grow and change. When I was younger, I worked hard in school to get A's. I was less concerned about what I was learning and more interested in how I was doing. Now, I enjoy learning and reading more for its own sake (though I still struggle with perfectionism from time to time). This has brought a lot of freedom to me. Many of my friends who danced growing up have communicated similar feelings as yours. There is a real loss in letting go of unfulfilled dreams and this takes time. But the good news about letting go of unfulfilled dreams is that we are free to dream bigger ones. As uncomfortable as your feelings may be right now, you will get through this season in your life. I hope you will give yourself some time to grieve losses and realize that your value and worth far exceed even the most perfect performance.

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Guest kristinene

I'm so sorry to hear about your frustration and sadness at dance. For me, as an adult (old person at 25!) returning to dance I've dealt with some similar issues, but I was no where near your level when I had to stop so I may have it easier. I've found that though my extensions are low, and my turn out lacking, I'm more able to find the beauty in the actual movement rather than in the extreme positions that I can't achieve. This doesn't mean that I don't work for improvement - I do - but, for me, it is more important to just enjoy the grande ronde de jambe, whether it is at 45, 90 or 120!


One of the instructors at our current school is in her 70s or 80s, I'm not entirely sure, and is always telling me, "Never stop dancing." That is certainly an inspiration for me. She doesn't mean for me to pursue dance as a career, but I think she senses that I love it, and her advice is to continue with it for my life. I guess the fact that I won't 'make anything' out of it doesn't bother me in my old age! Now, dancing is purely fun and pleasure, and I don't feel the pressure I did as a kid. I'm definitely a happier dancer now, if not as strong technically.


I hope that eventually you will be able to make peace with ballet and be able to enjoy it again. I have a feeling that if you are this devoted to something that makes your emotions so topsy turvy you must have a real love for it deep inside. Best of luck and welcome to Ballet Talk!

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Julia, you might find some threads about older dancers and why they (we!) do it on the Adult Buddy board.


When I told my granny last summer how I'm going to be dancing ballet again... I was really exchited at that time... she looked at me and said "don't you think you are a little too old for that". I'm 22.

It's too bad that your grandmother is discouraging you.


So why people dance overall at the old age when they know that they won't be going anywhere with the dancing stuff? Why to put all the energy and all the emotions into one thing which never will really give anything to you?

Well, if it doesn't "give something to you", you shouldn't do it. Really. It doesn't matter what it gives you, but it should be something. You might want to give it some time, to see if the joy comes back as you return to form. You might eventually regain all of the strength that you had before and maybe even more, but...maybe not.


So, my advice would be to ignore unsupportive people like your grandmother, to keep at it a bit more to see if you get back to a level that makes you happy, and, if it doesn't start to be fun for you, leave it again for a while.


PS 22 is NOT an "old age"!!!!!!!

Oh, one other thing: maybe you'd like to try another form of dance, like modern?

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Guest AmyLiz008

Hi Julia

I have also started to doubt my own motivation for dancing again. Dancing is time consuming, frustrating at times, and now it's becoming expensive since I've started pointe class. My husband is tired of rubbing my legs all the time, my parents want grandchildren, and the bank wants it's money back so I have to work a lot. It seems like everyone wants something from me and all I want is to dance.

I started ballet when I was 4, and I LOVED it then. I wanted to be like the big girls who wore pointe shoes and tutus! I thought they were beautiful. A few years went by and I lost interest, and for one reason or another I quit at age 12 (in retrospect, it was probably because we never did anything more complicated than pas de chat!). Then on Christmas Eve a couple years ago I watched the Royal Ballet's Nutcracker on TV, and it made me cry because I still wanted to be like the big girls with pointe shoes and tutus, I had just forgotten that for a while.

So, I guess I dance because it makes me feel beautiful. When I'm in class I forget about bills, and parents, and work, and I concentrate on being beautiful. I can forget all of those things because I MUST think about my arms and legs and back and stomach and hands and feet and fingers and toes and head and eyes. I don't have time to think about anything else.

I also accept that I will never be perfect. Even the best dancer in the world has something that needs improvement. We can't work on everything all at once either. When I'm working at the barre I think to myself "Ok, this is arms month. Forget about feet and think about arms!" And you know, at the end of that month my arms were better. Some things might not be fixable in a month; it could take a lifetime.... but that's what we have, so why not use it.

I hope that my rambling has helped you gain some insight. And I would like to add that you don't need another REASON to dance if you love it. The love is the only reason you need. :yes:

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Hi Julia


and welcome to Balletalert. I had started to respond earlier on, but got caught up in experiments, such is the life a scientist! so many thanks to the posters who have already sent supoortive replies :jump:


frist of all, we have all had similar responses, 'oh , YOU do ballet?? but surely you have to be 16/skinny/petit etc etc. It used to bother me, but now I don't give a monkey.


yes, I agree with Koshka, if something isn't right, if you are not enjoying it (and i don't just mean having a bad day every now and again), but if it is making you more miserable than happy, then you really have to sit down and take a long hard look at what it is exactly that you want to get out of your ballet classes?

Do you want to perform again? If so there are many adult ballet dancers now happily taking part in performances (huge show of hands)

Do you want to get back that magic that you had when you were younger? Hey, doesn't everyone? :jump: You really have to be honest with yourself and admit that you are not going to be and it is not going to be exactly at is was when you were 12 years old. surely thats a blessing? I mean who wants to go back to being a teenager? Not me. You have to try and accept your bodys limitations, for the moment at least. Its kind of like a voyage of discovery into the real you. I learnt an awful lot about myself when I was going through an adjustment with regards to ballet..gee how many bubbles were burst for me I can't honestly tell you, but I did pout and I did feel sorry for myself and I know that doesn't work.

Just to throw in an analogy, almost everyday at least once a week I want to give up science, I think I am totally awful at it, I think I am stupid, I can't do this anymore.

I think how could I have made that mistake? or why on earth did I do that? and everytime I think about giving up, I think of how hard all my science teachers worked with me and how hard my parents worked with me throughout my entire schooling, right through to my PhD, I think that after all these years, I really couldn't ever give it up, and I go on another day. I think if I did give up, that would be a truly sad day and so I stick with the bad times in the hope that one day, just maybe I may win a Nobel Prize!

Now I bet you think that's impossible..and many people would say so. I normally get 'Why are you STILL at university? are you going to be there all your life? "and they may say exactly what you just said and they do

"Why put all the energy and all the emotions into one thing which never will really give anything to you? Why to even bother? " In my case why spend day after day after day doing the same experiments, only to never get seemingly get anywhere, why work 16 hours a day and most weekends to do this? Heck, I could get paid more being a bus driver!

This frustration you are going through with ballet, is something that you may face at some point in your life. Use the opportunity now to work it out and get the best outcome for yourself, as it will help you so much in your life. Ballet isn't just about dancing, it's about life, and it's also a great tool to help you through your life.

I bet there isn't one person on this forum who hasn't gained something positive from ballet taht has been useful outside of class, and I bet there is no one on this forum who has ended up gaining something negative from class that has badly affected their daily lives. (Injuries not allowed :yes: )

Ohh enough of the rambling..sorry long day no one to talk to.... :wacko:

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It's too bad that you feel that way. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I would have danced as a child. However, I choose not to dwell on what might have been but rather I appreciate dancing for what it is at this particular moment. I focus on the simple pleasures of executing a simple combination perfectly, the process of extending my leg as high as it will go and to feel the joy of the movement. I pretend that I am the best dancer on the planet at that moment in time. It really gives me so much happiness in that 1.5 hrs that I spend in class. I know that it's not true, but it doesn't hurt to pretend.


When I go home, I am tired and pleasantly relaxed knowing that the next class is just a few days away. It's like a friend that is always there and will always make you happy no matter how many stressful things happen in life.


Don't get me wrong -- I think its valuable to stretch as much as you can in your free time and to do releves while showering and brushing your teeth. But if I don't think of improving my technique every single waking moment of the day, I'll know that it's still OK -- I can focus on it when the next class comes around.


I know that I"ll never be a pro, but when I am in class for 3 times a week, I make sure I feel like it and that's when it's really FUN!

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And besides, the activity causes the brain to dump endorphins into the bloodstream, and so it makes you feel good!

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Guest fastfeets

Everyone has already given such wonderful answers. I feel I can only add one aspect here. It is my opinion that as a returning dancer there are complications that a beginner hasn't. You know the steps, and know you could do them well at some time. Your mind will remember a physique much different than what your eyes show you in the mirror. It's the hardest part, letting yourself be who you are today and not living in the shadow of the past, and your dreams that stayed in that past. Once you do let go, however, things will feel and look so much better. Dance will be enjoyable again. It took me several months to reconcile that issue within myself and nearly a year after returning from a very long break before I felt even close to adept in classes, and now, 2 years and a few months later I'm feeling quite good about how I dance, and have performed a few times since (with aspirations of company work once I've had this baby). It took time, and a good bit of soul searching, but I did get there. I remember all too well the nights after class where I said/thought much the same as you. I berated myself for being so silly as to want to dance again. I even cried more times than I care to think about how awful it made me feel. It wasn't the dance that made me feel that, it was me. I have bad days still...bad weeks, too. The self doubt is always there, but that's true for any of us.


Let go of yourself and just enjoy dancing. Don't try to be the best, try to be better than you were yesterday. That's when dance gives your heart back to you.

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Hi Julia --


Thank you SO much for writing about what it is like for you to

be returning to dance. I thought your remarks were very candid

and honest and I appreciate you taking time to describe what it has

been like for you (so far) to dance, and then leave it behind, and then

return again.


I'll try to share something back with you -- I'm a guy who works as an

engineer, and I am an admitted perfectionist about many things, not just my

work, but also my hobbies (playing music and writing are the examples that

spring to mind). In those areas I work hard to excel, because I love a challenge.

When I told my friends that, at 39, I was taking up ballet for the first time,

many of them said "You're nuts" and then, after a moment "that makes sense,

because you ARE so much of a perfectionist!."


And they're right... Being a perfectionist can be a good thing, because that

tendency helps me do things well, but it also is a struggle because it makes it

difficult to finish (projects, poems, my novel -- ha!) and sometimes I get wrapped

up more in the result than in the process. So, it's easy to lose sight of the

goal of having fun -- instead I latch onto trying to be the best, or trying to

improve. It's not that those other goals are bad, mind you, but they can make

it difficult to enjoy something that I am NEVER ever going to be good at.

I'm very often the slowest one in my class.


And you know what? There's a freedom in that. (Ha! The freedom to screw

up!) If you can't tell, it still DOES bother me that I'm not better at ballet, but

I'm learning how to love the expressivity, and the process of dance, and my

aging, often inflexible body. It doesn't always do what I tell it too, but even

that is ok. Well, somedays I can tolerate it :D


Thanks so much for writing, and please keep writing to let us know how it's

going. One of the gifts of these groups to me has been learning how much I

have in common with other adult ballet students, even of different ages and

genders and cultures -- and your posting was a part of that gift. Thanks!

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