Starting ballet when I was 22 years old came as a shock to some.
Growing up, all my sports involved kicking a ball or wearing boxing gloves, or strapping a snowboard to my feet. Rarely did I say to myself, “I want to be a ballerina when I grow up.”
But that’s exactly what happened.
I’ll give you a short backstory, my sister, who is incredibly brave and confident in most all she does, started ballet in her late teens, after desiring to dance for her whole life. When we were growing up, as per Irish tradition, we both engaged in a (short-lived) bout of Irish step-dancing, where our tendency to talk in class and make jokes instead of jigs had us out of there in a few short years.
Sister decided she could do the thing she’d always dreamed, so when she was far past the age of most beginner ballerinas (3? 4?), she began the dance. I was proud of her, slightly jealous, and super intrigued; I remember a former boxing coach of mine saying that many boxers trained in ballet as it was extremely good for their footwork, and built up the lean muscle many bulky boxers lack.
The following summer, my friend Olivia and I began a quest to become ballerinas. We were 22, fresh out of college and about to try to dance, while neither of us had much experience at all. The class we chose was offered in downtown Burlington, VT, through an adult summer camp-like program at the Flynn Performing Arts Center. We outfitted ourselves, extravagantly ordering tutus, sock buns and shoes from the internet, and began our training.
As a yoga instructor, now I can see that many of the technical training ( placement of hands and feet, incorporating breathing with movement, etc) in ballet is more than valuable to me as a teacher. Plus, the action of staring at yourself in a leotard week after week, instead of eating a burger and fries on the couch, leaned me out that summer, and I began to look forward to the class every week.
The music was so relaxing, and we had so much fun with the other students, many of whom started late in life as we did. You’re always allowed to be yourself, in any environment, but that’s not something I figured out until the day I tried to become a ballerina. I was still myself, that’s true, but I was myself trying something new, which became a past time I readily enjoyed.
When you’re thinking about something, if it’s that important to you, you’ll find a way to do it, and if you don’t find a way to do it, it’s not really that important to you and you’ll find an excuse. Being open and honest with myself about how I felt after ballet helped to shape what my ideas about the dance were, years later.
Advice for Starting Something Late in Life:
- sign up
- show up
- don’t be scared
me as a 20-something, first-time ballerina