The more you focus on age as a negative factor in your life, the more it will become so. Try never to make the assumption that you're too old for something you really want to do until you've given yourself a fair chance.
Your desire and motivation can mean ten times as much as your age in enabling you to reach your goals. [Age] is rather a simple fact that should be treated in proportion to the real part it plays in your life. Keep it in perspective and in its place, and it shouldn't present any problems.
The more conviction you have about yourself, the more assurance and consistency will show up in your dancing.
Teri Loren, The Dancer's Companion: The indispensable guide to getting the most out of your dance classes. Dial Press, 1978</font>
I wrote that down in a notebook at a time when I was feeling really old. I was 18—old for someone considering a career in ballet (which, for the record, never happened for me and I later moved on to contemporary dance). I'm mentioning this because I think age plays a factor in dance right from the get-go, not just when you hit your 30’s. I remember reading that Suki Schorer didn’t think Balanchine would hire her (if I remember correctly, she was 19) when she left SFB for NYCB so she lied about her age. I don't think times have changed all the much since her days as a professional dancer.
What is changing in particular is the dancer's individual perception of how long they can dance for. Nutrition and strength training has played a factor in this. Dancer's with long careers do a substantial amount of work to extend them, I'm thinking of people like Karen Kain with her extensive regimen of physio, Pilates, etc. The conflict that arises, in this youth based profession—because let's face it, anything that requires physical endurance has got to be related to age on some level—is that often times we go for age over artistic ability. By 'we' I mean society. We like to see youth and beauty on stage. Audiences look for it and ADs and Management provide it. I think this is both an aesthetic and fiscal choice.
Additionally, we're also often looking for the 'next best thing.' So for the mature artist, this can be a stumbling block. You may be improving artistically but that may not be valued as much as the athletic abilities of younger dancers. If the AD and/or choreographer know your abilities and are interested in what someone else can do there’s not too much you can do about it. It’s a problem that’s inherent in a profession that needs people to create artistic commodity. And it has inspired a lot of debate The Kim Glasco
case, for example). I’m not sure how this can be rectified. But it’s an important issue. In most professions you hit your prime at 40. But the ballet world, for the most part feels differently, for example this thread on the POB enforced retirements
And if you thought that this was only an issue in ballet, nope, it extends to contemporary dance as well. A friend of mine turned 38 this year. She’s got the physical abilities of someone 10 years younger than herself, but if she leaves the city that she’s been performing in for the last 20 years it will comprise her ability to find employment as a dancer. And she is dynamic on stage, with the experience and ability to go well beyond her physicality, allowing to her engage you on a much deeper artistic level. I would go so far as to say that I have seen her bolster weak choreography with her mature approach to dance. Many contemporary dancers, who may not have opportunities with companies, have chosen to continue on in their dance careers as independent artists. But they’re reported as anomalies in age referenced articles, ie., Peggy Baker
By the age of 19, Edmonton's Peggy Baker had come to dancing late . . .
Baker is 48 now with a depth of wisdom and complexity in her dancing that only comes with experience -- of solitude, of union, of distance and of passion. The experience of moving from young to old.
<font size=1>Jenny Jackson, Ottawa Citizen</font>
It will be interesting to see how this conflict progresses in terms of our personal interpretations of aging as dance artists vs. a society that still reveres youth. I don’t think we’ve heard the last of it, I think Glasco was the tip of the iceberg. As I left Vancouver this summer there were a lot of rumblings in the dance community about whose decision it was for certain dancers to ‘retire’ from Ballet BC...
[This message has been edited by Marie (edited August 22, 2001).]
<font size = -2><center>(Edited by salzberg to fix link)</center></font>
<small>[ 08-11-2002, 05:34: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>