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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2002 12:22 am 
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Location: New England
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>


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2002 12:17 pm 
Thank you for these insights citibob-it helps a lot!


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Tue Oct 29, 2002 4:05 pm 
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Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2001 11:01 pm
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Location: El Granada, CA, USA
Citibob, I would like to expand on what you said about dancers' standards. I totally agree with you about never lowerinf your standards for yourself. I think the problem comes when a dancer DOES lower their stadards for themself in order to justify still dancing past his/her prime. That's where I draw the line between too old or not.


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2002 2:07 am 
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Kate, I frankly doubt the possibility of someone starting ballet training at 29 ending up in a top-level professional company, but I don't know for a fact that it's never been done. As a woman, you will find it especially competitive. For men, it's slightly less so simply because there are fewer trying to get in. I do find your enthusiasm and dedication impressive. I also don't think working in the box office, or any other activity not directly related to the stage, would be a satisfying substitute for a dancing career. Every major company employs character dancers who do less technically demanding roles than the purely classical dancers. That might be an option to consider. I also like your idea about lying about your age, if you honestly believe you can pull it off. I was a late starter, and when I went to San Francisco Ballet School I was 23. I already had a couple of years performing experience at Los Angeles Ballet, and I told SFB I was 19, otherwise I don't think they'd have given me a scholarship. I was soon in the highest class level, and eventually was assigned to a few apprentice corps de ballet dancing parts, while at the same time making money as a guest soloist with a regional company across the bay. I never made it as a full-time professional, but I sure had a great experience and got to do a lot of dancing at a fairly high level. I had to give it up for a number of reasons, but I wish I'd have toughed out the difficulties and stuck with it longer. Don't give up!


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2002 2:15 am 
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Location: San Francisco
Lying about your age is pretty common. Six months after I moved to NY, my brother moved there, and since we were both aiming for the same dance company, we were at the same studio. Only instead of being my big brother, he had suddenly become my little brother! He, by the way, eventually got into the company we both wanted to be in, and I didn't, but I don't think our ages (real or imagined) had anything to do with it.

<small>[ 11-06-2002, 03:16: Message edited by: djb ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2002 2:18 am 
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Three days after his 50th birthday, Nureyev danced a beautiful Albrecht in Los Angeles with ABT. His characterization was more three-dimensional and touching than most younger dancers, or even than his own youthful interpretation. He was being harshly, even cruelly criticized by many at the time for not retiring, but his dancing was physically still more exciting than many dancers half his age. His jumps were high, his beats clean, and he executed his "Giselle" specialty--a challenging series of entrechats six near the end of Act II--flawlessly. The only significant technical flaw seemed to be that he had trouble straightening the knee of his leading leg in grande jetes. Otherwise, he still had a lot to offer artistically, and it was rewarding to see him again in middle age after having seen him in his younger days.

<small>[ 11-06-2002, 03:18: Message edited by: Liscarkat ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2002 2:24 am 
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I was also accompanied by my brother, to SFB. He was actually 17, and could do more pirouettes than I could, but they turned him down and gave me a full scholarship!


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2002 2:27 am 
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Oh, the irony!


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2002 4:07 pm 
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Not at all, IMHO! There's a LOT more to pirouettes than quantity. And there's a LOT more to dancing than pirouettes. In general, I think men over-focus on pirouettes.


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Wed Nov 06, 2002 9:30 pm 
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Exactly, citibob. My brother approached dance like a sport, and it showed. Plus, I had better proportions, feet, etc. than he did. Turns were always the bane of my existence as a dancer, especially as a corps dancer who was a left-turner, although I trained myself to get by. To make up for it I developed the things I was more suited to, like line, elevation, leg beats, and partnering. Even some great dancers have been poor turners. Check out Ivan Nagy on the ABT Swan Lake video with Makarova. He even admitted once in an interview that he had trouble with turns. Anyway, the point was, in spite of my bro's age advantage, I managed to get further than he did in dance.

<small>[ 11-16-2002, 03:28: Message edited by: Liscarkat ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2002 3:34 am 
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Liscarkat, I read in another thread that you kept your ballet classes a secret from your family at first. Did your brother start after you did?

<small>[ 11-07-2002, 04:34: Message edited by: djb ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2002 4:11 am 
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Found pirouettes a problem, Liscarket? I am right there with you. I am the one falling over behind you! No amount of practice ever seemed to remove the fear of "Am I going to wobble now?" Nor the shame of feeling one's technique was not up to scratch.

Citibob says there is more to dancing than pirouettes. There must be, otherwise I would not have had any sort of career!

I think it is wise always to play (dance) to your strengths and manage weaknesses. Can I recommend an insightful book: Play to Your Strengths (US title was: Soar With Your Strengths) by Donald O. Clifton and Paula Nelson, pub: by both Piatkus & Delacorte Press. This is not directed at dance, but gives useful insight into the greater reward from always putting one's effort's into the areas one is good at.


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2002 8:40 pm 
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djb, my brother had a background in high school gymnastics, and after I had been studying ballet for a couple of years in Orange County and decided to try to get a scholarship at L.A. Ballet, I talked him into trying ballet too. He stuck with it for a few years, but after failing to get into the SFB school, he lost interest. He was never obsessed like I was.


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2002 9:13 pm 
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Location: New England
The moral of the story as I see it? Obsession will ultimately carry you where great pirouettes alone will not. A man recently quit our company and quit dancing because he was just not obsessed enough with ballet to make the continued sacrifices. But he had a GREAT body, GREAT feet, etc. Wish I could have those feet.


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 Post subject: Re: When IS a dancer 'too old?'
PostPosted: Thu Nov 07, 2002 10:04 pm 
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Location: SF CA
I think it must be more than that.You can be obessed with dance but if you don't have IT (technique, body, or look) what ever IT is that the company is looking for...you won't make it.


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