When do you want to become a prima ballerina? – On dancers that defy age
Can’t help but returning to the theme of life’s second chances in my writing. I guess it might be related to being a person with a little too many interests to be able to realize all of them as career choices in one life time (and put to that a general dislike for making choices) and my fascination for seeing people that reinvent themselves at the age of 80 suddenly becomes quite evident.
Next up is the career of a dancer. A profession I hold dearly, since I, myself, earlier pursued a dance career before changing lanes over to the engineering guild.
I don’t know if there are any communities that are as judging when it comes to age as that of the dancing community. If you didn’t start at five, it’s over, if being a prima ballerina is what makes your heart beat. At least that’s what they tell you.
BUT, what if it isn’t true?
Obviously there are a lot of pros with starting early if you want to become a principal or first soloist of the Kirov (Mariinksy) Ballet of St Petersburg, but as a Guardian Theatre Blog post recently pointed out, there is a lot to the stories told in ballets or dance performances that having a little life experience can make more interesting.
And the best part is that there are quite a lot of good examples. Apart from the obvious dance icons of Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and ballet icon Frederic Franklin, who all continued to give popular performances up in their 70s (90s(!) for Franklin), just adapting movements to the new restrictions of the body, there are also examples of people having started to dance way later than in their 10s or 20s. Such as e.g. Cambridge pensioner John Lowe, who started dancing ballet at the age of 79 and recently at the age of 88 performed on stage in his first ballet at a regional theatre. Specific routines and stretches supported with ropes help him keep up with his arabesques.
So I say, if you want it – just go and get it. Be it a career of dance, music, writing, acting, photography, archeology or whatever you’ve always wanted, but never taken the time to do, or thought you’d have become too old to pursue. Sure, age does affect the body. But apparently less in some cases than our mind makes us believe.
More to come on this very interesting topic…
PS. This post also makes me think about my old ballet teacher. He always used to say that students that had once trained for him didn’t get injured, because they learnt the techniques right from the start. Another one of those prejudices. That ballet will destroy your body. It doesn’t need to, if you are just careful when approaching it. Another important hint for all you senior to be-dancers out there. 🙂 DS.