CriticalDance Forum

Too old to dance???
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Author:  MariaK [ Thu Aug 29, 2002 1:51 am ]
Post subject:  Too old to dance???

Hello everybody!
Finally I have the opportunity to ask that question: I am 22 years old and dance Jazz and Hip Hop both at an intermediate level. I have basics in Ballett. I would really like to improve my skills and start a dance career. Is it too late for me? It seems that for an education in classical ballet I am too old (at least in Europe) and for Jazz I would have to move to the States. Do I have any chances to be accepted in a good school in Europe? If so, do you have any idea where? I would really appreciate good advice.

Author:  citibob [ Thu Aug 29, 2002 4:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???

In theory, 22 is not really too old. I launched a professional ballet career in the States at the age of 27. To do so, you need:
1. A good teacher who will take you seriously. Sorry, I know so little about Europe.
2. A lot of free time, and money to feed and house yourself while you're spending all day training.
3. A LOT of hard work, talent and luck.

Even with all of the above, launching a professional career is not at all easy and involves great sacrifice. Finally, there are no guarantees. You could easily spend great quantities of time and money on training and find you still do not have a professional career.

<small>[ 08-29-2002, 06:10: Message edited by: citibob ]</small>

Author:  Basheva [ Thu Aug 29, 2002 4:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???

Hello MariaK - welcome to criticaldance!

I am a ballet teacher and not familiar with jazz, so perhaps someone else can help you.

We do have moderators and members located in Europe who can better answer your questions about schooling in Europe than I can. I am sure they will try to help.

Meanwhile - once again, welcome!

Author:  MariaK [ Fri Aug 30, 2002 11:31 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???


what you write sounds reasonable, to have a good teacher who believes in you, to have time and money. However, your last part worried me. What do you mean after all this time and work you may still not have a professional career. Isn't this a question of engaging in it? I mean, I will only "survive" the dance education if I have an iron will and the heart to do it, right? so what's the problem in getting a job afterwards?

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Fri Aug 30, 2002 12:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???

Hi MariaK. From the dancers I know in the UK and Europe, dancing is a very competitive career option. I know a successful professional dancer who has been the dance captain on high quality christmas productions as well as performing in some of the most well known touring dance companies. However, she depends on admin work and other areas to make ends meet, in a similar way to citibob in the US context.

If you can get a position in a well funded company, the position will be much better, but to get such a job you will be competing against top dancers from all over the world in the globalised dance ecomomy.

Author:  citibob [ Fri Aug 30, 2002 1:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???


The problem is two-fold. As Stuart pointed out, you might acquire all the necessary skills and have a hard time finding professional opportunities. I don't think this is the greatest problem, though: if you can "hang in" for long enough and keep improving, and you really are at a professional level, then you will eventually have out-waited everyone else and get the job. Of course, hanging in can lead to starvation if you do not have other job options in the meantime. Sometimes it seems the dance jobs go to those who are willing/able to survive the longest without an income.

The greater problem is one of acquiring the necessary skills. It's like becoming fluent in a language. Some people make rapid progress and attain a professional level within a few years. Others never attain a professional level, no matter how long or hard they work. There's no way to tell until you've given it your best shot.

When I was going through that process, I found myself committing large amounts of time and money with no guarantee of success. Yes, I had an iron will and yes, I worked very hard. But still there was no guarantee.

How did I deal with that fact? Well, I went in day after day to class. I loved ballet so much, and I loved the STUDIO and CLASS so much, that I knew I had already gotten my money/time's worth. I got to participate in an inspiring class, and I got to participate in rehearsals as an apprentice. Even if I never made it to a professional level, even if I died the next day, I knew I was not wasting my time. As a dancer, you learn to live 110% in the present.

In my case I DID make it, much to my surprise and kind of sooner than I'd expected. But even if I hadn't, it would have been OK in some sense: I would know I had tried my hardest and done well and had a great time in the process. So I just focused on what I was doing and didn't get worried as long as my dancing continued to improve.

I think if you love every minute of the dance training and can afford it, then why not? Go for it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and you will have a chance at a professional career as well. If you give it your best shot, you will either walk away as a professional dancer, or knowing exactly why you are not a professional dancer (and hopefully content with that fact, not bitter).

On the other hand, if you don't care for dance training but just want to get to rehearsals and performances, then maybe re-consider. More than anything else, ballet is about the training. Daily work in the barre and center. Before rehearsals. Before performances. Between seasons. If you don't like the training, you may not like a professional career either.

Author:  Matthew [ Fri Aug 30, 2002 7:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???

I would have to agree with citibob 100%. One thing that i would like to add though is really ask yourself -is this your true gift? When I graduated from college I was an engineer working my way up, and I was getting a masters degree in Physics. I was so-so bright, and a very hard worker, but I remember taking a course in Quantum Optics ( don't ask :( ), and I saw another student who could do things in an hour that took me two weeks. I realized that hard work can take you 98% but that other 2% is a gift, which I just didn't have. Recognizing that, I ended up quitting my job and changing careers, perhaps closer to achieving that ethereal 2%. Anyway, nothing of real value comes without marked effort, just be sure to at least be honest with yourself about that 2%, then make your decision. Good luck!

Author:  MariaK [ Sat Aug 31, 2002 12:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???

Stuart, Citibob & Mathew!

I thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I was really looking for qualified advice and now I got it.

I didn't know that the dancing career was THAT competitive. Sounds tough. However, To me the word "competitive" has a very negative notion. I associate it with obsession in a way, because many people become obsessed with the idea of winning once they are in a competitive environment.

I don't think that's got to do with love for something. Love is unconditioned and gets the very best out of you. Competitiveness makes many people obsessed with the goal, which is not what I'm striving for.

I didn't have to think a lot when I read your answers. I do love the training. Currently I join classes twice a week, the rest of the days I dedicate at least 1 daily hour to strenghtening my body, streching, balance exercises, and the repetition of the combinations done in class. In those moments I really "feel in" what my body tells me, I try to work the details even more than in class, and to reach always one step further.

Beside dancing myself, I would also love to teach dancing. I don't know about the pay of teachers. I don't want to make my future depend on the pay, but it would harm to know :confused: Does it depend on the country , the school, the style, or on the teacher?

Author:  Basheva [ Sat Aug 31, 2002 4:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???

I think I can help with your questions about teaching. It does to some extent depend on where you are. In the UK and Europe (and some other places around the world) you need to consider learning and joining a syllabus organization. You need to get your accredidation from such an organization, such as RAD, ISTD, Cecchetti, etc.

In the United States that is not necessary at all. Ballet in the US is much more of an amalgam of styles. Most teachers here are not syllabus teachers, including me. I am not saying one method is better than another - both have their pros and cons.

That being said, it is most difficult to make a living teaching. One of the problems is that there is simply not enough hours in the day and teachers are usually paid by the hour. Unless you are a famous teacher, or a famous retired dancer, you will most likely always be running about from one studio to the next.

Children's classes generally begin in the afternoon after school. Adult classes can be difficult to maintain in the mornings because adults work. So that limits the earning potential, considerably.

You can aspire to own a studio and hire teachers, plus yourself. This, too, is not an easy road. There are a tremendous amount of expenses above and beyond paying the teachers. It is certainly possible, I don't want to discourage you, but it is difficult. In times of economic troubles, often the first thing that people cut out of their budget is dance class.

Probably the best way to make a fairly reliable and consistent living is by teaching for a college. If you get a degree in dance and achieve tenure in a college setting, then you will have a fairly secure way of providing for yourself.

Of course, there are other combinations to consider. You might have a second job in addition to your teaching - and dancing for that matter. In my case I am married, and this allowed me the freedom to pursue my dancing and teaching without worry.

If I were you I would pursue a college degree and then seek out the many avenues that degree would make available to you - dancing/teaching/choreography/writing/ - and even other related fields such as dance history, kinesiology, dance therapy.

Author:  citibob [ Sat Aug 31, 2002 12:16 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???

I would add caution to Matthew's comment about true gifts.
It's always been clear to me my true gifts lie in the field
of Computer Science. I could do in 1 hour what others took
2 weeks to do. That kept me away from pursuing just about
everything else, even things that were my true love (like

In the end, having secured a computer career, I decided I
would pursue my true love, even if it was not my gifting.
To my surprise, I found that I was a lot more gifted at
some aspects of ballet than I had ever imagined (while
I had to work double-hard at other aspects).

So yes, true gift is important. But so is true love.

Given the terrible economics of the dance world, I think
it's important to differentiate between the idea of
being a professional dancer/teacher, and making a living
at it.

To me, the essence of professionalism is that you have,
for a long enough time, put your entire self into the
dancing. It's like the "be all you can be" motto of the
Aermy. You discover how far you can go by example. In
the process, you end up with specialized skills that some
people (either choreographers or students) will pay you
for. So once you have those marketable skills, you are
a professional.

To make a living at the profession is another thing. Also,
I don't think it's the point. Most people who want to dance
do it because they want to dance. Making a living is one
of those things you have to do in life, or else you starve.
So if dance is the ONLY thing you want to do, then it would
be important to make a living using your professional dance

If dance is NOT your only desire or skill, then making a
living from dance seems like an exercise of impracticality.
That is my situation.

In many cases, dancers find that they cannot put as much
time into their dancing as they would like because their
other job/career is taking too much time. So another reason
to want to make a living dancing is so you only have to
focus on one thing in life. This tension exists in my
life, but my other jobs are able to squeeze in around
the dancing and not be too disruptive.

Dancing is pretty all-consuming: it takes so much constant
practice that you might as well put your whole life into
it while you're doing it. But teaching dance may be different
(Basheva, please correct me if I'm wrong). I imagine that,
if you had the skills and experience, you could teach as
little as 1 class/week and still do a good job. Many
(certainly not all) dance teachers I know who make a living at it
are actually somewhat burned out. They teach so much
it just becomes a continuous blur of students, most
of whom do not work very hard. So you might consider
a part-time teaching career, if there's something else
you'd like to be doing as well. I keep imagining I
might want to someday teach 2 or 3 classes per week
at a university, while I devote the rest of my working
hours to an academic career.

Author:  Basheva [ Sat Aug 31, 2002 12:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???

CitiBob, I think you make a good point about students becoming a blur to someone who teaches to make a living. I know this is a generalization, but most of the time in order to make a living, as I mentioned above, the teacher ends up running around from studio to studio. Burn out happens even to the best and brightest - and the most loving.

Ideally, the teacher should teach just as much per week as the person is able to fully handle and enjoy. Teaching is exhausting. It exhausted me much more than the actual dancing/rehearsing/performing did. It's totally consuming in a different way.

The entire class rides on the teacher's energy. If that flags the class dies. I have never seen an enthusiastic class with a less than enthusiastic teacher. The reverse can happen, but not the former. By the end of the day, I felt I was totally empty inside. I had given all I had within me to give. It's a great feeling, but needs time for replenishment.

Also, I found it was very helpful to be dancing (both taking class myself and performing) as it kept me sharp, kept my class for my students refreshed. Often someone who teaches for years without observing other teachers, or attending classes almost can't help but get into a rut. We all need an infusion of new ideas, and reminders of things we may have forgotten.

All in all, I found it to be a marvelous experience. I learned everyday from my students. However, as mentioned before, I didn't have to worry about making a living at it. I taught where, when and as much as I chose. But even without that care, you find when you begin to teach that you have made a commitment that must be honored.

For instance if you have a very successful class and they want to meet three times a week instead of just two times, well, it's almost impossible for the truly dedicated teacher to say 'no.' And, there you go...pretty soon your schedule is well beyond what you had intended.

Again, the only way I know for a teacher to have fairly tractable hours, a fairly secure living with extras like medical insurance, etc., is teaching in a college setting.

And, you are also right CitiBob, what we are gifted at and what we having a burning desire to do, can be very different things. For most dancers (and teachers) these two areas have come together. That makes it wonderful - but not necessarily easy.

<small>[ 08-31-2002, 14:58: Message edited by: Basheva ]</small>

Author:  Marie [ Sat Aug 31, 2002 2:52 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???

Hi MariaK!

Have you visited the Tanznetz site? As you are located in Germany you could probably get some practical information there from people who are working and/or training there in terms of employment opportunities (always best to go to the source, eh, for the most up to date info on what the prospects are? :) ).

I think Stuart used the word 'competitive' correctly, Germany has a very well developed dance community which mean increased competition - but the benefit to you is that the opportunities may be varied.

As far as training is concerned the Blackboards at Tanznetz should give you a good idea of what's available in Germany. Europe as a whole has very good schools but you would have to check the entrance requirements to see what kind of qualifications you need.

Author:  MariaK [ Sat Aug 31, 2002 11:26 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???

Thank you all for your good advice.

Citybob, what you write sounds like the best solution to me. Anyway, I am currently pursuing an academic career in Communications and Public Relations which I'll finish in June. So combining the dance and my academic background will be the best thing to do (I don't want to lose the pleasure of dancing, but I don't want it to become a question of dead or alive neither). I just imagine it very hard to pursue an academic profession while pursuing a dancing education. As far as I have understood it dancing educations take you up fulltime. As I already wrote, I am working hard on my skills also at home, daily. And I do notice a difference each day at my training. But for becoming a professional dancer, I would have to dedicate myself exclusively to the dance, at least for a certain period of time, ... or is there a possibility to become a professional and get some sort of certificate that "proves" my skills without engaging in a fulltime dance program???

Marie, thanks for your advice. Since last week, I am also registered in the Tanznetz.

Author:  Azlan [ Sun Sep 01, 2002 7:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Too old to dance???

Hello, MariaK. I think this thread will get more discussion in the Students' Questions forum. So I'm moving it there. Follow me...

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