There are some realities of what it is to be a dancer that I did not believe until I was most of the way through professional training. But I think they would help bring perspective to this discussion.
1. Dance is hard work. A 1.5 hour class can be exhausting. Rehearsals for 7 hours/day is even more so. Especially if you have significant parts in all the dances. It is for this reason that at times I wonder if I'll make it another WEEK as a dancer, let alone to the age of 40 and beyond! At the same time, my love of dance makes me wonder how I could STOP before I die; usually this feeling comes when I'm not so tired. Both thoughts are rather ridiculous; all I can do is dance or not dance today; and every day, I manage to dance, somehow.
2. The higher a level you get to as a dancer, the harder it is physically. I don't necessarily mean to say you work harder; actually, you work more efficiently and therefore expend less energy for the desired result. But all that constant stretching and strengthening of the muscles CAN be exhausting. Just 2 years ago I could take 2 classes/day; now that would seem crazy because 1 class/day can tire me out.
3. Dancing for a top-level professional company is very physically demanding. If nothing else, the QUANTITY is exhausting. These companies have long seasons with plenty of performances every week. Dancing for a company that puts on two weekends of shows twice a year is, by comparison, a breeze. You could dance for the latter to a MUCH older age than for the former.
It's true that Allegra Kent is a BEAUTIFUL dancer and looks a LOT younger than she really is; I've met her too. But if you read her autobiogrphay, you'll learn that towards the end of her career, which was 20 years ago, it would take her longer and longer to prepare a part and work it up to the standards she required of herself for performance; by the end, she was performing only once a year! Had her standards been lower, she probably could have performed more. But as a dancer, you can never LOWER your standards; that's inconsistent with the entire endeavor of dance.
4. The body of the dancer starting at age 30 should not be compared to the body of a world-class dancer who is retiring at age 30 because it's become too painful. The former, not having danced for all those years, probably has more years left to dance.
5. In dance, experience is everything. Other things being equal (good teacher, smart dancer, etc), the level you achieve as a dancer depends on the number of hours of experience you put in at the studio. Professional dancers are able to spend full time in that endeavor for at least a couple dozen weeks each year. It is for this reason, if nothing else, that professional dancers ultimately develop more as dancers. I worry about it myself, in the long summer months. Some companies DO dance over the summer. Shouldn't I be trying to dance with one of them, to get additional experience? Wouldn't I like to go that extra mile before I give up the ghost?
6. Once you've danced at a certain level --- I mean the way things are accomplished, the experience of the dancers, etc --- it is REALLY HARD to go back. When you're improving, always reaching for the next level, it's always exciting and motivating. But if you've already been there and now you're working at a community level, it can be very depressing; you're just not able to get the kind of results you're used to getting. I experienced that once, when I danced a small part for a community ballet company after having finished an apprenticeship with my professional company. I can see why, for example, a dancer for NYCB might choose to retire rather than continue dancing for semi-professional companies.
<small>[ 10-29-2002, 01:37: Message edited by: citibob ]</small>