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Guest sally-mandy

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Guest sally-mandy

I just have to say, am I the only person who's over 40 and returning to ballet who feels sad about the lost time and lost opportunities? I'd love to hear from others. What are realistic hopes for ourselves in this art form that worships youth? I've read some others' expressions of finding a pure joy in dancing for dancing's sake. Maybe I need an injection of that. Sometimes I feel it; other times I feel so sad that I didn't stick with it when I was younger that I want to throw in the towel.


Do we ever lose the desire to look good, to BE good?


I will put the hanky away tomorrow.

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I'd never had a dance class until I was 19 and I felt (and still feel, from time to time) that I'd missed out and regretted the fact that my parents refused to let me have dance classes when I was little.


I love dancing, though, and I doubt that I would ever have made it as a pro, so even if I had danced for 15 years prior to my first class, I would still be in the same situation as I am now, albeit as a better - read technically proficient - dancer, as a recreational adult dancer.


Even though I often wish I was better, more flexible, and that turning came more naturally to me, as it would if I had danced as a child, but then I think, well at least I made it to class when I was 19 and didn't worry about being too old to dance then. I've now had nearly a decade with ballet and dance in my life, and I am so happy it is there. I know it will now always be with me and I don't think it really matters anymore that I didn't do it as a child. I'm now learning not to care that I'll probably never be a 'natural', and just taking pleasure in pride in the things I can do.


In some of my classes I have danced with women in their seventies and eighties and I think, wow, that is really something to aim for, to be that fit, when most of their contemporaries are sitting at home watching TV and drinking tea. That is something I have a chance to aim for, to be fit and graceful all my life, and I think that that is something adult recreational dancers should be pleased about.


Don't be sad - let yourself go, and have a good time DANCING. That's why we're there, isn't it?

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I think my current activities might suggest that I am having a hard time "growing up." I really enjoy doll collecting, and have started taking ballet classes (2 years ago) with 6th graders.


I danced when I was younger but nothing like ballet. But then I look at my build and my facility and realize that even if I had started young ballet would always be a pipe dream. Now I look at it as something I would love to learn, but will probably never master. But I still enjoy ballet, and do it to learn ballet, knowing I will probably never master it.

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Guest marathongirl

oh Sally-Mandy I could have wrote your first sentence. I stopped taking ballet somewhere around 11/12 (I was on point for 6 months) for a number of reasons among them we moved and no one could take me anymore but I didn't pressure anyone b/c I didn't have the right body type or skill or any number of things even though I totally loved it (had to quit tap and violin/orchestra at this time too). If I knew then what I know now I wish I could have continued doing all those activities just for me with no expectations - or even in college or sometime before I turned 40. I do feel sad about it and how much better I could be today, but then I think, you know what, I discovered it again (at 40 too) and I LOVE IT so why look back - nothing I can do will change what happened. I still don't have the right body type, look pretty horrible in my pink tights and leotard, and my turnout is even worse than before, but I am having more fun than I've had in a long time and would go to class 7 days a week if I could. We need to enjoy ourselves now and do what we love doing. Just dance, don't dwell on what could have been, or compare yourself to others in your class. Enjoy what you are doing now for the sheer pleasure of it with no pressure, for as Mr. Johnson said, the alternative isn't better.

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Having been a pre-pro ballerina, then a modern/african dancer, I can say this: I wish I hadn't listened to my fears and just have gone for a position in a ballet company. When I get compliments on turns, or line, sometimes they hurt as much as they feel good, because I think of what might have been. Now, as an older dancer, I just want good, clean technique and to relearn reperatory for myself. I want to get to a professional level ( but not necessarily dance professionally- unless I was asked) for me, to prove to myself that I can do this. This is my motivation for 9+ classes a week. I like to feel that the music is in me, expressing itself through me. I think I'll be dancing my whole life.

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Well, yeah (went back just past 35)--I wish I had gone back earlier when I was younger and stronger and less injury-prone and blah blah blah. But then I look at the bright side--it's better than the alternative (as the Major says) and I'm still in better shape than most people my age. Also, it's just nice to not have the pressures and limitations of being a teen dancer--the cliquishness, the reliance on (and/or pressures from!) parents and family, etc. etc.


Recently some of the youngsters who took class with us senior citizens were overheard saying "I really _have_ to keep dancing so I don't end up like _them_." For the sake of these young ladies' upbringing, I wish I had both been there and had a really snappy comeback, but my instinctive reaction upon hearing the story was "They should be so lucky".

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As a 61 year old, let me say there is both good and bad about getting older. I detest the physical degradation that occurs. And for someone my age, I’m in really good physical condition, better than most 20-something professionals. But my ability to jump, move quickly, and lift heavy things is something like 70% of what it was 40 years ago. I walk slower (which I also hate) and find new challenges to simple things like getting out of bed in the morning and getting up off the floor in modern class.


On the other hand there is the mental side. Big benefits occur there. All I can say is that with age you become wiser, more content with yourself, more at home in the world. Personally, I think the aesthetic part of the brain develops once you hit mid-life. I love the mental aspect of getting older.


As to the past, well the past is past. I think it is kind of fun to speculate on “what if’s.” But that is just a game. I’ve been dancing for 11 years now and love doing it. But if I had taken a job I contemplated taking 15 years ago when I had no notion of dancing, I’m 90% sure I wouldn’t be dancing now. There were no major dance schools there. If you know anything about chaos theory, life I think fits that model. We encounter all kinds of chance events and decide to do whatever. Had we chosen something else, life would be different. And there aren’t just a few of these chance events. There are 100s each year. That’s why the “what if’s” game is just a game. Too many possibilities to comprehend.


(Read the novel Aquamarine for an interesting take on what if’s)


As to the adult dancer, I believe that the best piece of knowledge that you have is knowing that you aren’t going to be that good, at least measured against professional standards. Knowing that lets you stop measuring yourself against those relatively absolute standards. Instead, you can think about the act of improving constantly, rather than trying to see if you “measure up.” To me, improvement is the fun part of dance. It comes slowly and is difficult to recognize when it does come.


And there is one thing that older dancers can do very well and that’s dance with emotion and intensity. I see that in modern class all the time. We have the life experiences that younger people don’t have. We can draw on those experiences to put feeling in our dance. Many is the very good technically young dancer I see dance mechanically and almost lifeless while the older, less proficient dancer moves in a more genuine way.

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I started ballet at 23, although its never too late, it broke my heart to realise that i had no chance of becoming a pro :rolleyes:


It was a big disapointment and something im still dealing with. I took other styles of dancing as a child but stopped when my exams started. I still see it as the biggest mistake of my life :shrug:

I really admire the young ones who are so focused and driven to keep going and never give up when the going gets tough.


When we are younger we take things for granted or just dont realise the opportunities which are right in front of us, for me it was all about confidence, i never believed in myself and it was easier to give up. I am much stronger and have learnt from my mistake, i try to think of the positive things i have gained, passion, strength, musicality, motivation, self discipline, need i go on....


We cant change our past but we can be grateful for the opportunities we have now, i feel very priveledged that i have found something to believe in and found such a wonderful teacher, classes are the highlight of the week :wub:

I hope you soon feel better Sally Mandy.

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Oh yeah, some of the physical bits of aging get to me - as a woman in early middle age (I'm in my mid-forties) you become increasingly invisible in some situations. But what the heck! Life's too short - and like Garyecht says, the mental part of getting older is great - I'm really enjoying being on top form in some areas of my life.


I've always wanted three lives actually - one to do what I'm doing now, one to be a seamstress making historical costumes for the RSC or the National Theatre, and one to be a dancer. I know the choreographers I'd work for in that 3rd life - Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe, Mark Morris, Graeme Murphy, and Akram Khan. But that's just a fantasy . As if any dancer would work for all those people!


Really, I like that phrase, "The journey, not the arrival, matters." I think the "might have beens" are fantasies, but really, just enjoy dancing now - we'll never be perfect, but you can just try to get one or two things better or even right in each class. It's great to have such an absorbing hobby - but, hey, it's just a hobby! Have fun!

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I love the idea of three lives redbookish :shrug:


Just imagine the possibilities :wub:

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But ooooh Redbookish, I want more than three lives!!!!


When I was young I figured that if I kept dancing, I could be an Olympic gold medalist in gymnastics (you know, around age 12), and then in figure skating (say around 16) and then be a pro-dancer after that! :blushing: I'm not joking. It's in the journal we had to write in at school everyday. I think the entry before that was about being president of the *world* (you know, to promote peace and harmony) and the one after was about being an astronaut. I was one of those kids that had the weight of the world on my shoulders and wanted to solve everything. If I held myself to those standards - yikes! :wub:


I know to some of you on this thread I might still seem a bit 'young' to offer my thoughts. But I hope you'll allow me the honour.


As I've stated in detail elsewhere in these virtual halls, I danced seriously as a teen, but the level of my seriousness was always somewhat tempered by academics. It came to a point where the scales had to tip one way, and academics won. I still have my days, like cassy, where I wonder 'what if' and question the 'worst decision ever made'. Luckily, those days aren't so frequent anymore.


Why? Because life happens. I have done a lot of things I may have never done otherwise (including choreograph!), been a lot of places, and, in many ways, become a whole new person. If I had gone an alternate way, I probably would still question 'what if'. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly I'm going to do with my life, complicated more by some other personal obligations. We'll see.


That said, it was those experiences that have not only brought me back to dance, and specifically ballet, but are also *part and parcel* of my passion for it - they've influenced the way I see the world, I see art, and have helped me realise what I want from my dancing.


And there are so many benefits from being an 'older' dancer. If I had half of this concentration and insight when I was younger - wow. I approach things with a different method, and instead of just imitating - both in terms of technique and artistry - I process and visualise in a different way. I'm not trying to say that when I was young all I was taught to do was imitate - far from it; I had excellent teachers. But rather, that my mind approaches the 'puzzle' from a different angle. And I *really* appreciate this. Jonathan Cope of the Royal Ballet stunned even his most tried and true fans with his portrayal of Prince Rudolph in Mayerling, a demanding ballet for the lead male role. He's always been a nice enough dancer - but something about his rendition of this in the past five years has been beyond compare. In interviews he talks about this exact thing - how he now has experiences and the insight to pour into his work, how he wished his body could now translate all of that knowledge.


Another observation - and again something I've mentioned elsewhere. Arts of all kinds tend to be perfectionist endeavours. Our legs can always get a further degree higher, our toes just that much more pointed, and instead of a double, a triple, then a quad, quint, etc.... There's no end. Then we watch videos of 'stars' and sigh. But is that what it's all about - the relentless pursuit of the unattainable Perfect? How does that display the joy and emotions I get out of the actual act of dancing?


When I think back to what I've watched, what's won me over (and I watch a lot of ballet).... I can remember in the short-run "oh wow so and so has amazing technique and did you see those turns"... but those aren't the memories I'll remember months later. Rather, I remember the heart and soul of what I saw - the despair of a Prodigal Son, the heartbreaks in Onegin, the joy of just *dancing* in a Rhapsody or Agon or Vertiginous Thrill.... I remember going with a friend to see a ballet last season, a revived production, and at the end the male lead, who had been a bit nervous, had this huge, happy grin on his face, for he had just danced - enough joy right there to reduce myself and my friend to tears.


Isn't that what it's about? And if so, I don't need to be on stage at Covent Garden or the Met or the Bolshoi. I can get that in my kitchen. (Although it would help if I stopped banging my knee on the oven door.... :rolleyes: ).


Right, this is longer than I planned... will shut up now! :shrug:

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Guest sally-mandy

...and it took me five minutes to realize what I already know (and Garyecht and others reminded me of): I would not trade the mental and emotional benefits of being 42 for being 22 again, ever.

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Too bad those life lessons don't dawn on you until you are 40. Think of how much more sane the world would be if they did.


I'm 27 and yes, I very much would like to do "something" with my ballet. I've not been dancing that long and watch the company train wistfully through the glass doors. I hope to be able to progress to where I might be able to train with them (several more advanced adults already do). Until then, I work and stretch and practice. I've got my body on my side for now...although not ballet perfect, I've long, tone legs, strong feet, good natural turnout and a strong and flexible back with long willowy arms. My turnout is better than a few young'ens that have danced for years (or maybe I just concentrate on it more whereas they don't care and let it go/lapse when working at barre and en centre).

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