Meet Sheri, the dancer who rekindled her passion for ballet after over a decade away from the barre.
Sheri and I got to know each other during a production of Sleeping Beauty. We were both supernumeraries (ballet “extras”) and were thrilled to take part in a professional production. The opportunity is rare and, as it turns out, quite confusing to people unfamiliar with the ballet world.
We received questions like:
“So, does that mean you’re turning pro?”
“But you’re dancing?”
“But you’re getting paid?”
I would chuckle and try to explain the situation using pro sports analogies. But, as I think about Sheri and her past, I wonder if these questions struck a nerve for her. I didn’t know it at the time, but it took all of her willpower to get through our first rehearsal without bursting into tears and running out of the studio.
You see, Sheri trained at a prestigious ballet academy and was on track to joining a professional company when an abusive teacher crushed both her spirit and her love of dance. She quit at age fifteen, while her classmates went on to have successful careers. After she left, even thinking about ballet was too painful.
Eventually, however, she began to heal from the sudden loss of dance. She allowed herself to admit that she missed ballet and the joy it had brought her as a child. One day—over a decade since she had quit—she was fed up with living without it.
Sheri had just plucked up the courage to go back to the studio—and had just bought a fresh pair of pointe shoes—when a severe concussion took her out for another year. She couldn’t exercise. Couldn’t work. Couldn’t even look at a computer screen. The wait to dance again was agonizing. Once she was finally cleared to exercise, she bravely went back to ballet feeling completely out of shape.
And she persevered.
Before Sleeping Beauty, I had noticed her in class. She may have been “out of shape” and embarrassed to take off her warm ups, but I never would have known. She looked beautiful, and I could tell that she had some serious training in the past. But what struck me the most was her work ethic. She was sweating profusely by rond de jambe, and she had that look of acute awareness that intelligent dancers have. I remember thinking that it would be nice to know her story. But I’m not the type to introduce myself to strangers.
Luckily, we were destined to become friends. When people ask what my favorite part of Sleeping Beauty was, I tell them it was meeting Sheri (and Kathryn, another fellow super.) I’m so proud of her and what she has accomplished—especially reclaiming her joy for dance. Though returning to ballet has been tough both mentally and physically, she has proven that it’s never too late to begin again. I mean, just look at these photos!
Q & A with Sheri
Q. What first drew you to dance and to ballet in particular? What do you still love about it?
I can’t remember the first thing that drew me to dance because ever since I could walk, I danced. My parents shared with me that I danced at a year and half old until I had blisters on my feet. I always begged for “toe shoes” and finally received my first pair at seven years old.
I was an extremely shy and quiet child. Dance was the way I could speak. I grew up watching old musicals with Gene Kelly, Betty Grable, and other dancers. I’m sure this had an impact on me with the love of dance and choreography.
Classical music is so beautiful; it moves my soul. I come alive with classical ballet. Whenever I see ballet dancers I always become in awe of the beauty and grace. I love the challenge ballet presents—a never ending journey. I love dance as if it were my dearest friend.
Q. What are your interests and/or occupations outside of dance?
I am an artist. Painting, interior design, graphic design, hair stylist, makeup artist and photography have been ways to make a living.
Q. How do you prep for ballet class? Any strange habits or rituals?
On a perfect day I would like to go to the gym before class to have my muscles warm and awake. I usually listen to classical music on the way to class.
Q. Do you have a favorite step or part of class? Least favorite?
I love adagio and the center part of class. I don’t particularly like bar or petite allegro.
Q. What is your favorite ballet to watch?
Sleeping Beauty is my favorite classic ballet. I’ve always loved the music and the happy ending to the story.
Q. What are your goals for your dance training and for your life in general?
After leaving dance and mourning it as a death, I’ve had the great pleasure of my best friend, ballet, returning in my life. I envision myself surpassing the level I was when I quit at fifteen and performing again. I believe the joy I feel when I dance comes out and brings others joy. I love beauty and feel it is so important in a world that experiences so much pain.
Q. Finally, do you have any advice to give to adults who would like to begin or re-begin ballet?
I think the one obstacle everyone faces is that it’s too late. It is better to jump in with both feet and then after a couple of years you’ll look back and be glad you began. You won’t keep wishing that you could. Just do it!