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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Fri Oct 25, 2002 9:53 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 20, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 3000
Location: San Francisco
Kate, I didn't get the feeling you were only talking about bharatanatyam.

There are a lot of opportunities to perform professionally that fall somewhere in between being in one of the highest calibre ballet companies (to me that means world-class, though not necessarily performing the classics), and scrounging to get gigs that don't pay or pay very little. I think these smaller groups are very valuable, and over the years I've enjoyed seeing many of them. I'm not saying anything several other people haven't already said, but I just want to add my two cents' worth.


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Sat Oct 26, 2002 5:06 am 
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Location: UK
Kate, I am new to CD.com, and I have joined in this discussion because I thoroughly approve of and support anyone beginning to dance (with whatever ambitions) at any age.

I understood "When Is A Dancer Too Old" to embrace all forms of dance. But perhaps I should not have given my own opinion on the difficulties of joining a classical ballet company after starting training late in life, as I have no experience of dancing with one; although plenty of dancing with some of their former dancers. I did have classical training as a child and danced in the commercial theatre. Yes, the dreaded word. And I know this site is mainly classical and contemporary but I think I slip in under the "all forms of performance dance". And if George Best and Nureyev can be mentioned on the same page, well...

But what I want to say is I do not think anyone has said anything that could not be used constructively by you. People, it seems to me, have given realistic assesments of the chances of dancing later in life - at a high level. Not disapproval of. Some, with what appears, to be much experience. Opinions, I am sure, have not been aimed at you personally, nor other beginners. I would think everyone wants to encourage participation.

You still need a good basic technique (better than the average amateur's) to get through a third rate audition for an end-of-the-pier show (if they still exist). And no, I am not suggesting you lower your ambitions, but it is always good to know there are other options. Times are changing, and I believe you have a longer professional life ahead of you than you would have had thirty years ago.

And just before I sign off (will I be debarred, Angela, for declaring my lowly origins?) I will try to drag this discussion down to a lower level: there is a dancer currently "doing" the Sugar Plum Fairy, en pointe ( an original version, I believe, she finishes in the splits) in a production in the USA. Rapturous applause. The audience love her. She is 67. And no, this is not a substitute for serious art. But there must be many ex:classical babes, of the same age, who would like to be in her kitsch shoes.


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Sat Oct 26, 2002 5:47 am 
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Joined: Sat Aug 31, 2002 11:01 pm
Posts: 537
Location: New Orleans, LA
Angela, Mr. Balanchine was much more progressive than you may realize. Aside from Arthur Mitchell, the most well-known example, there were other black dancers in the company while he was director that had featured and principal roles. Were you aware of the well-known case of Arthur Bell, who was recently rescued by a social worker when he fell on hard times? He danced with them in the early 1950s. Then of course there was Debra Austin, who if memory serves me correctly, can be seen in the television broadcast of "Ballo della Regina". Was that enough? No, but it was a start. In the 1958 television production of "The Nutcracker" on CBS Playhouse, broadcast on Christmas live, the Sugar Plum Fairy (Diana Adams) was partnered by four cavaliers, Deni Lamont, Edward Villella, I think Roy Tobias but I would have to check and Arthur Mitchell, who appeared in the telecast as the Arabian dancer. Few people realize how brave that must have been in 1958, in a live telecast on national television, given that black people did not even appear in television commercials at that time. Arthur Mitchell even tells the story of appearing in Western Symphony and hearing someone in the audience use the "n" word and prepare to leave until they realized how good he was. I would give Mr. Balanchine a good amount of credit.

<small>[ 10-26-2002, 08:23: Message edited by: librarian ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Sat Oct 26, 2002 10:59 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 24, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 102
Location: Cardiff, Wales, UK
Quote:
Originally posted by citibob:
But if people are doing it at the age of 70, I'm sure you'll figure out what it is and how do it in your 30's.
People do not dance Bharata Natyam into their 70's (although former great dancers often teach well into old age). It is not unusual however to see dancers in their 40's and 50's and much older on the stage, they may struggle a bit with the more demanding "pure dance" items but their abhinaya is usually sublime. My guru is well into her forties and still performs, choreographs and tours as does HER guru, who is well in her fifties! No-one criticises them for "looking" too old, or being "wrinkly" or putting their "health" at risk (they both have strength and stamina of women half their age) or "taking opportnities" from younger dancers!

Asian cultures generally venerate their older people and younger dancers watch older ones with awe and inspiration instead of sniping that they "should not be performing at their age".

I see my future perhaps more in Bharata Natyam than ballet, although I firmly intend to perform ballet, perhaps with a regional company or with other non-"professional" but talented dancers and hopefully teach as well, and nothing anyone can say will make me feel differently. I have a talent, which due to less than ideal parenting, was not discovered as a child.

You need a parent to take you to class and pay for your lessons as a child. My mother's response to the suggestion of taking me to ballet classes at age 6 was "Whatever for?" and "How much will it cost?" and "It would be a waste of money". Sad but true. I had to wait nearly three decades to discover I had ability at dance and now that I have I am not prepared to take second best!

I have been already given a lot of "helpful" advice such as that it is "pointless" to want to study dance at my age, it is "pointless" to want to sit exams and it I am "too old" for pointe work. Well, since starting ballet last year I have passed my Chechetti Grade 4 with 72%, started pointe very successfully and am dancing the role of the Prince in our (all-girl!) ballet-school recital of Cinderella.

So much for it being pointless! ;)

Tell me I can't and I will simply try harder to prove you wrong.

And as for it being "reality" that an older beginner such as me has no future due to her age -well, reality is what you make it. If all ballet-lovers changed their attitudes and prejudices and were more open to the different qualities an older beginner can bring to dance than a dancer who has studied since age 6, then it would not be "reality" that older beginners can not become professional!

This world has changed greatly in 100 years. Advances in health care, surgery and medicine, nutrition and living standards mean that people live longer, have healthier lives and are able to accomplish more than would ever have been thought possible 30 years ago let alone 100. It is no longer acceptable to expect someone to choose a career at 16 and stick with it until 60, people want more than that. If you're not prepared to change with it then you'll get left behind.

Anyway I have nothing more to say on this subject.

<small>[ 10-26-2002, 14:43: Message edited by: Kate ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Sat Oct 26, 2002 1:49 pm 
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Joined: Fri Oct 22, 1999 11:01 pm
Posts: 17498
Location: SF Bay Area
Quote:
Tell me I can't and I will simply try harder to prove you wrong.
Well, I'm not sure anyone here is saying you can't; only that the statistics are stacked against someone beginning a full professional ballet career with a top tier company at a later age.

However, action does speak louder than words. Show the world your stuff and keep us posted about your auditions and career. I am sure everyone here will be interested in seeing what happens.


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Sat Oct 26, 2002 1:54 pm 
SIMON-theres NOTHING lowly about you or your input;I'm happy you're here :D !
NO ONES input is lowly-just different.

LIBRARIAN, I was talking about Black female ballet dancers, particularly not being considered ideal to dance in NYCB.I remember reading about Debra Austin;but-correct me if I'm wrong-wasnt she the ONLY Black ballerina in the company then?I could be very wrong about that.

This is off my original subject,but from what I recall,Mr Balanchine made allowances for Black males in ballet;BUT didnt he feel ideal ballerinas should be very pale as well as very thin?

<small>[ 10-26-2002, 15:55: Message edited by: angela ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2002 5:31 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2001 11:01 pm
Posts: 257
Location: St. Peters, MO USA
First i want to say, hi angela!!! i'm back!! To Kate, go for it!!! pound on every door until someone hears you!!! you'll never know until you try.(You have not because you ask not. that's what my pastor says. :D ) you don't want to be 75 years old, and be asking yourself, could i have done it? of course everyone will stand in line, holding line numbers ready to tell you how you can't do it, but if you believe in yourself, then there's nothing you can't do. now my point is, i find it very amusing, that folks think if you're not a professional dancer, than you're not a dancer at all. (angela, you know where i'm going with this.lol. don't you just looove my soapboxes? did ya miss me, huh, huh?) now i understand that this thread is about professionals, and at what age they should quit. but i DON'T believe that you have to hang up your shoes at 40. i'm 38 years old, and i'm with an amatuer dance group through my church. we work just as hard as the professionals, in fact our bar of expectation is higher because folks are comparing us to the pros, so we have to at least look like we know what we're doing. my teachers push us and push us past our own limits, demanding that we look professional. Kate, if this pro gig doesn't work out for you, then go with something smaller. one doesn't have to be a pro to be a great dancer. i've seen amatuer dancers that could give the pros a run for the money. i'm not trying to talk you out of professional dance, go for it. but don't push aside the smaller companies. we work just as hard as the pros, in fact harder,because more is expected out of us. do we get paid? no. do we get the recognition of the pros? no. do we get to dance at the great theaters? no, too expensive!(It can cost me around $150 to do one show, including costumes and theater fees.) do we get to dance before an audience? yes. do people come up to us and tell us how much they enjoyed the show? yes. do we work so hard, that we feel our muscles will fall off our bones? yes. do we do original preformances? yes. do we push ourselves to learn technique class after class? oh, yes, yes, yes!!! (My jazz teacher demands that we look professional, and if we don't she'll yell at us, and tell us we're not trying. :D ) i am not ashamed of my group, but i'm very, very proud of us. we may not be the ABT, but we'll give em a good run for the money. so please don't think that at 40 you have to hang up the shoes. i don't plan to, at least not until i'm 65, then i'll retire!! ;)

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Great Dancers are not great dancers because of their technique: they are great dancers because of their passion -- Martha Graham<P>


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2002 5:55 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 20, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 3000
Location: San Francisco
As to what can be considered professional, in other fields people can work part-time and still be considered professionals. Why not in dance?


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2002 6:30 pm 
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Joined: Tue Nov 02, 1999 12:01 am
Posts: 2708
Location: Seattle, WA USA
My husband and I travelled to Bali in l996 to study the dance there, among other things. Bali is truly an "island of the arts". Each village specializes in some art form. The village of Ubud, in central Bali, is devoted to dance, and that's where we studied. Our teacher, Ibu Masih, was well into her 60's I believe. And could dance us off the stage, so to speak. We were driping with sweat and exhausted after 15 minutes in the tropical heat (during our dance class), she was barely breaking a sweat. There is no distinction in Bali of "professional", vs "non professional". Art is considered a part of life, like food. And age is irrelevant. Youngsters from age 6 performed, and dancers well into their "golden years" were revered. I'm not sure how this fits into our current discusssion. I'm just trying to give some cultural perspective. That ours is very much a Western, industrialized cultural perspective.

<small>[ 10-27-2002, 22:40: Message edited by: trina ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2002 10:01 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jul 03, 2002 11:01 pm
Posts: 602
Location: Seattle, WA,USA
Kate - I was afraid that I would get destroyed and I nearly did - am I really banned from the UK? I think I am being misinterpreted a little bit though - I did qualify my response to certain ballet companies where I think it would be difficult to start in your 30s or 40s and be successful, but I certainly may be wrong.
Now in terms of dancing as one gets older, I will try to be more clear. I can think of no activity which could possibly be better for a person to start at any age, and I mean ANY age. For example, a key goal in cardiac rehab after people have had open heart surgery, is to get them moving at all costs. Exercise, particularily exercise that people enjoy ( such as dance ), clearly prolongs life and there is NO upper limit to when someone can starrt if reasonable precautions are taken. ( Here I am referring to people in there 80's where one fall could mean a hip fracture with a 50% mortality ). Even in this age group, I would strongly support dance, because, you see, it isn't just about prolonging life, it is about living life - and at any age, what can be more special than bringing together physical, spiritual and mental energy in one moment, or hopefully many moments? The only thing that I can think of as more significant would be childbirth,( and perhaps dance in a way is as close as a man could every come to experiencing THAT moment). I feel very strongly that pursuing dance seriously as one gets older, (especially as a beginner), is perhaps even more important than pursuing it as a child, because children dance all day, but many of us adults have forgotten what that feels like.
Now, in terms of me not knowing what it is like to be limited by age - that is wrong. You know, in all of medicine the one thing that I loved the most was cardiothoracic surgery - I mean, for me it was the most incredible thing to assist in those cases, and I had the basic talent and the love for it that one really needs to pursue it. Unfortunately, starting an eight year program at 33 years old where you are working 100+ hours a week and not sleeping every second or third day ( and trust me _ don't exagerate ) at that age would have killed me. I had to accept that. Physically I was just too old for that type of program. And this wasn't the programs restrictions, it was my body's limitations. So, I believe that it is absolutely wrong for society to discriminate based on age, but I don't think it is wrong for mother nature to discriminate based on age, and trust me - she does.
Actually, the thing that concerns me the most about this thread though is what I call the IST response. This is to tag someone with the IST ( sexIST, ageIST ,... terrorIST), when a view is proposed that isn't necessarily popular or politically correct. Although it isn't life or death here, I do feel that at least in the US this is a very dangerous trend and is used as a tool to simplfy complicated issues. We here in the US have politicians that like to do that ;) , but it doesn't help solve any of these problems. Retirement of professional dancers has got to be an extremely sensitive time in their lives, and I feel should be treated very gently and carefully ( and is actually where I am putting most of my efforts ).


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Sun Oct 27, 2002 11:32 pm 
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Posts: 293
Location: USA
I agree with you Matthew. Dancers are artists and artists are very sensitive people. The reason most ballet companies retire dancers early is to make room for the younger dancers. It doesn't mean that the older ones can't continue. The way that the dancers are usually retired in Russia is for the older dancer to take on less demanding roles until they finally stop. For example, the leads in Swan Lake will only do the White Swan Adagio and a younger dancer will perform the role of the Black Swan which is more technically demanding. In Russia, they also introduce their talents by putting an experienced one with the new, less experienced one, like, for example in a pas de deux. Getting back on the subject, I would like to add that one should stop when either one has to for some physical problem or when they don't have the desire to move anymore. When you age, life's surprises can sometimes change your original goals and wishes, unfortunately. But, where one door will close, another door or window will open. Of course, this is the optimistic way of looking at things. Some people have to stop for other reasons too, but physically, with proper training and care, one should be able to dance (ballet, for example) well into their 60's. :eek:


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2002 10:27 am 
WELCOME BACK Kim Dawn!
You and your box of detergent are most welcome(LOLOL- :D )


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2002 12:38 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 24, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 102
Location: Cardiff, Wales, UK
Matthew - I was not "banning" you form UK theatres, simply warning you that if the sight of wrinkly old 40 year olds in tutus offends you so much you might like to stay away in 10 years time because I'm going to be there - clanking bones and false teeth and ambulance standing by and all!


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2002 2:50 pm 
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Posts: 8612
Location: El Granada, CA, USA
You know, most dancers I've seen at 40 don't look at all like that...I've noticed that they tend to age very well. I always thought it was all the sweat that kept our faces looking young while the rest of us fell apart.


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Mon Oct 28, 2002 3:27 pm 
I believe so TOO LMCtech!
I've met Allegra Kent-shes STILL beautiful;M Baryshnokov(spell) STILL looks HOT to me!!!

<small>[ 10-28-2002, 16:27: Message edited by: angela ]</small>


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