Why Ballet?

· Reflecting on Seven Years of Dance ·

Photo by Jana Carson

I discovered ballet relatively late, first at age 16, then again at 23. And for the past seven years, it has been a constant in my life–the one activity I could do forever if given the chance.

But why ballet? That seems like a strange and silly hobby for a grown woman.

It’s much more than a hobby to me.

In my early 20s, I was restless and impatient to do something of significance with my life. I could afford one ballet class a week, and that hour and a half  brought a disproportionate amount of joy to my heart. I found comfort in new friends who understood that joy, no explanation needed, and who danced alongside me week after week. Looking forward to Thursday evening class was enough to get me through three years of a mundane job, and it taught me to hope that I might do something else one day–something that ignited my creative passion as much as the studio did.

When my hubby joined me at the barre. 🙂

In that studio, I rediscovered my intuitive connection to music. I found that the simple act of moving to it–of feeling my body describe a melody, a rhythm–was a form of therapy, but also an art. And the fleeting, ephemeral nature of this art freed me from the fixed canvas I was used to, where flaws are sealed in acrylic and words are committed to a page.

The odd person out in a family of athletes, I discovered that I am an athlete, after all. And, more importantly, ballet taught me a type of discipline I never thought I could have. It taught me how to be comfortable with failure until a million small victories add up to something substantial. If one day I find that I can no longer dance, I will still carry that discipline with me, forever grateful. It is the reason I was able to write Cantique, bit by bit, until words became chapters, chapters became acts, and acts became a story.

Photo by Jana Carson

This story–Cantique–was not only inspired by my time in the studio, but it is, in a way, my gift to others who share that love. We understand that our love of dance, like any true love, flourishes at times but also endures through challenge–through periods of doubt and difficulty–and that the struggle is worth it in the end.

I hope this story reminds readers to seize whatever it is that brings joy and beauty into their lives, even if it’s only for an hour and a half every Thursday. I hope it reminds us that we needn’t always take our dancing or ourselves so seriously–that humor is still as important as discipline, and that enjoyment is more profound than achievement. After all, sometimes I go to class just to listen to the music.

Have you had a similar experience with ballet as an adult? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Until then–happy dancing, and happy reading. 🙂


Cover art by Beth Laird | Animation by BalletForAdults


Beauty and Humor

· Q & A with Pia of Utopia Dancewear ·

I’ve met a lot of dancers over the last few years, and I’m constantly impressed by the variety of creative pursuits that accompany their love of ballet. In Pia’s case, she balances dance classes with a full time job and “side hustle” Utopia Dancewear, based out of Perth, Western Australia. Her shop is one of the most unique dancewear shops on Etsy. Not only does she sew handmade ballet skirts, she also creates clever (and hilarious) T-shirts, beautiful knitwear, and accessories made from hand-painted fabric designs.

“Ballet Cat” wrap skirt

“Sally” ladies wallet

‘Ballet T-shirt by Utopia Dancewear

I first took notice of Pia’s Utopia products on Instagram and eventually stumbled upon her personal account @broadwaytoballet. There, she frequently shares funny and provocative quotes from her ballet teachers (see #shitmyballetteachersays.) Her sense of humor, love of Broadway musicals, occasional reference to Strictly Ballroom, and general attitude toward ballet keeps me looking forward to each post she makes.

Pia’s goal for 2018 is also something that resonates with me. She states, “Of course I’d love better turns, higher jumps and amazing turnout but ultimately I just want to have fun.”

For those of us who tend to take ballet too seriously, it’s good to be reminded that a playful and lighthearted approach can ultimately benefit us more–especially as adults who are, after all, dancing for fun. Just as Pia injects both beauty and humor into her Utopia creations, we can learn to approach dance with both effort and ease.

“There are going to be days when you can’t pick up the exercises…” Pia says. “Just keep going! It will be better to tendu somewhere with a smile on your face than standing and watching other people dance…”

Better to tendu somewhere. She should put that on a T-shirt!



Q & A with Pia

Q. Tell me a little about your background. Where are you from? How old are you? When and where did you begin your dance training?

My name is Pia but you might know me as broadwaytoballet on Instagram. I’m 33 years old and I was born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted by an Australian couple at four months old. I live in Perth, Western Australia.

I first dabbled with dance in a “ballet”/creative movement class when I was about three years old. Despite loving the class, at the end of year concert I refused to dance (instead taking my headband off numerous times while my cousin picked it up and put it back on my head – I must’ve thought it was a game) and then cried when I had to leave the stage.

I didn’t start formal training until I was six or seven. I was cast as an understudy in a professional touring production of The King and I. During the audition, I made a friend who was a wonderful acrobat. She was doing backflips down the hallway and I wanted to be just like her. I started jazz, tap, ballet, acrobats and musical theatre classes shortly after the show closed.

Q. What first drew you to ballet in particular? What do you still love about it?

I have never been a bunhead. Musical theatre and Broadway jazz were always my preferred styles while ballet was compulsory at the studios I attended. Fortunately I had some wonderful teachers who (despite my lack of enthusiasm) gave me a great foundation for ballet.

In my late 20s after trying other forms of exercise, I tried to return to dance but was finding that jazz classes were too taxing on my body. I was initially too scared to enroll when West Australian Ballet launched adult classes so started with their pilates classes and a term later, I mustered up the courage and enrolled in the intermediate class. Five years later and I’m taking 3 – 6 classes a week!

Aside from the physical benefits and creative release, adult ballet classes have connected me with a wonderful community. I have a fabulous group of friends who I’ve made through ballet. Sometimes there are days when I don’t really feel like dancing but knowing that I’ll see my friends in class gives me that little nudge to get to class.

Q. How do you prepare for ballet class? Any strange habits or rituals?

Until very recently, I would fly into class just on time or moments after class has started. 2018 with my “new year, new me” attitude, I’ve been arriving early so I can use my foam roller and get warmed up. Even though I know I’ll get sweaty, I always shower before class.

Q. You run a small business, Utopia Dancewear. Would you tell us a little about the work you do and what inspired you to design and sell dancewear?

I work in Research Administration at a university as my day job and have had a ‘side hustle’ for about 6 years. I started my first handmade business (Utopia Handmade) with my Mum sewing retro aprons, pinafores and kids clothing.

The dancewear thing came about very organically. It started out of necessity as I couldn’t find a ballet skirt that had sufficient wrap so I made a few for myself. I ended up with excess fabric so made some more and created an Etsy store. Shortly after I released a t-shirt line and recently launched a range of knitwear, and some ballet inspired purses and makeup bags. Everything I’m designing and creating has come out of an inability to find something I’d like to own.

Q. Do you have a favorite Utopia piece? (My personal favorite is the “Slow Death by Penché” T-shirt.)

“Slow Death by Penché” has a special place in my heart. It’s something one of my teachers has said numerous times. “Barre Wars – Return of the Jeté” is probably my favourite though.

Q. I’m curious to hear what you have to say about marketing your dancewear. How has Instagram impacted your business?

My first customer was someone from the U.S. who I follow on Instagram. Many of my customers are members of the #adultballetcommunity online and people I’ve chatted with on Instagram – so Instagram has definitely played a huge part of Utopia Dancewear’s success.

When I was thinking of starting a dancewear brand, I actually crowdsourced on Instagram and the responses were positive. I don’t think I would’ve started this business had it not been for the late night conversations with our online community.

Q. I can’t mention Instagram without discussing the #shitmyballetteachersays series on your account. What made you start posting these hilarious–and sometimes surprisingly thought-provoking–quotes? And does your teacher know about it?

I have about 6 or 7 teachers. Most of them know about it and quite a few of them follow me on Instagram.

In the early days, my ballet friends and I had a Google doc that we would contribute to after class – we have made one particular teacher a set of magnets, a tshirt and a poster with different #shitmyballetteachersays quotes.

Q. Do you have a favorite ballet or company to watch?

I’ve only ever seen The Royal Ballet on DVD but I’d love to see them live! I also really enjoy The Australian Ballet who I’ll be seeing perform Giselle later this year in Melbourne with my ballet friends.

Q. Studying ballet as an adult can be frustrating. Do you have any advice to give to adults who would like to begin or re-begin ballet?

This is something that one of my teachers (a regular to my #shitmyballetteachersays series on Instagram) said to us recently “I think some of you give up too easily when something goes wrong. Find a way to keep going.” There are going to be days when you can’t pick up the exercises or when your ability to find your balance disappears, I’ve watched company classes and it happens to the best of them… just keep going! It will be better to tendu somewhere with a smile on your face than standing and watching other people dance, or beating yourself up.

Q. Finally, what are your aspirations for your dance training, your business, and for life in general?

My 2018 goal for ballet was to have fun. Of course I’d love better turns, higher jumps and amazing turnout but ultimately I just want to have fun.

BONUS QUESTION! Since you’re from Australia, I have to ask–did you watch Dance Academy?

YES! I binged it from start to end in an embarrassingly short time and then rewatched it after the movie came out. Abigail is my favourite character (oh the sass!) but sweet Sammy will always have a soft spot in my heart.

Find Pia on Instagram @broadwaytoballet and @utopiadancewear or on Etsy.

A Ballet Haven

· Q & A with Nicole Ozment of Ballet For Adults ·

When I began taking ballet classes in 2011, I would have loved to have a haven like Ballet for Adults. Recreational ballet was not as much of a thing back then, and I remember scouring the internet for anything that could help me process this budding obsession. There were a few blogs and forums, but nothing as comprehensive as balletforadults.com, which is a beautifully curated collection of resources on technique, artistry, mindset, etiquette, dancewear, and just about anything else the adult student might need.


As co-owner of Ballet for Adults, Nicole Ozment was kind enough to discuss the amazing work she and her team are doing, as well as share a bit about her fascinating performance background. Not only is Nicole an accomplished dancer, she is also an artist, designer, ballet teacher and mother. But she manages to make time for the website because–like many of us–her love for ballet runs deep.

It is clear that Nicole has a special place in her heart for adult ballet dancers, and she also understands and honors the realities of practicing this art form. Her perspective is refreshing for adult students who experience the constant tension between studio life and regular responsibilities.

“My heart is inspired by every adult ballet dancer’s story,” she says. “Because it takes a lot of effort to get to a ballet class.”

Nicole also sees value in providing performance opportunities for adults–which are normally hard to come by–and bringing more awareness to the accomplishments of adult dance students.

“We want to bring recognition to this niche of unrepresented artists and be a hub for connecting other adult ballet contributors as well. Put simply, we want to help make an impact on adult ballet.”

With the amazing content Nicole and her team have amassed, as well as their brand new podcast (which I’m particular excited about!), I’ve no doubt that their impact has already begun. Ballet for Adults reminds us that there is much support to be found within this ever-growing community, and that we can also be that support for others.

Now, let’s get on to the interview!


2017 Adult ballet workshop with Swan Lake variation

Q & A with Nicole

Q. Tell me a little about your background and involvement in dance.

I’ve been dancing for over 40 years. I met my childhood teacher Judith Svalander when I was less than two years old. It’s one of my earliest memories. In high school, I would take the train into Chicago to study with Royal Ballet teachers Richard Ellis and Christine DuBoulay. From there I got a summer trainee scholarship with Milwaukee Ballet and after that danced with the original company of the National Tour of The Phantom of the Opera.

Years on the road and twenty apartments later, I moved to L.A. and joined the Screen Actors Guild to work in television and film. I moved back to Chicago to be near my family and start a family of my own. I finished my undergrad at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago where I explored performance art, photography and design. I have been working with a co-artist, Linda Oeffling, for the past ten years and together we own the blog Ballet For Adults. I have been taking adult ballet classes for over 12 years now and, when I find time, I teach workshops specifically designed for adults in ballet.

C&O artists Linda Oeffling and Nicole Ozment

Q. What first drew you to ballet in particular? Has your perspective or appreciation changed as an adult?

I was first drawn to ballet because of its beauty. The older I get the stronger I want to express what connects ballet to fine art – my own journey as an artist and unexplored ways to highlight the creative aspect of ballet; what makes it art beyond exercise.

Q. Do you have a favorite ballet or company to watch?

Ballet that amplifies emotion is the most appealing to me. I am often reminded that the small town studio recital can take me away to places in my soul that maybe the big city company on a certain show failed to reach. Also, along with classical ballet, I especially like watching trained dancers as leads in musicals, performance art and dance theatre: such as A Chorus Line, Bauhaus Dance, Pina Bausch.

C&O, Dancer in my Dreams

Q. As a teacher, what do you appreciate or look for in your adult ballet students?

My heart is inspired by every adult ballet dancer’s story because it takes a lot of effort to get to a ballet class. With the older students, you can appreciate their life history as they as they recount why they love ballet. For example, we were doing an interview and one adult student told us she started dancing because her mom loved ballet but had polio and couldn’t dance. I also look to the young adult dancers who may want to matriculate into performing and give them extra attention.

Q. What should a student look for in a teacher?

Adult ballet teachers must be advocates for adult dancers and see their students with this understanding. It is not about the instructor’s age, experience, or even ego. Teachers who are able to master an adult ballet class that have returning students from beginning to post-professionals are the most aware of this component for teaching adults. These classes are designed to flow with energy that feel similar to all levels of studio classical ballet classes. Without it, there is a subtle disconnect that leaves dancers lost or cold.

Q. What advice do you have for dancers facing physical limitations or to those struggling to balance ballet training and adult responsibilities?

I would tell them that the opportunity to grow is still there. If you are facing a tough physical limitation or relentless adult responsibilities, try to find time to work on ballet three days a week. (haha. I laugh, with three young boys right now, I am able to schedule about one class per week.) Your ballet training may present itself in a different forms than traditional ballet class, such as a podcast on ballet, where we just started Ballet For Adults on iTunes with The Premiere Dance Network, or a ballet book, like Cantique! Support adult ballet and enroll in a class, and even if you have to only do port de bras because of weakness or injury, become a part of your local adult ballet community. Finally, being a part of the online adult ballet community, like Instagram, is a great place to find that spark of support and inspiration when you need it the most.

C&O, Inc. Adult Ballet Sunday Funnies

Q. You recently celebrated your one year anniversary with Ballet for Adults after acquiring it from founder Bethany Leger. Why did you and your team want to be involved and expand the site?

We were working at the time on a ballet and lifestyle blog, and struggling to find a focus. When we found Ballet for Adults, it immediately became clear that we did not want to be a personal blog, but wanted to focus on the larger vision, connecting with and inspiring adult ballet dancers from different backgrounds and various levels of experience. We want to bring recognition to this niche of unrepresented artists and be a hub for connecting other adult ballet contributors as well. Put simply, we want to help make an impact on adult ballet.

Q. In your mission statement, you refer to adult ballet as a “growing genre in the ballet world.” How have you seen it grow over the years? Why do you think so many adults are discovering or rediscovering an interest in ballet?

Oh yes definitely! For example, we are finding that more studios, especially the larger, established ballet company schools, are developing and encouraging the adult programs that can include workshop intensives which often incorporate connecting performance, variations and company interaction. The ballet world as a whole will benefit from this support and as this generation becomes more aware of the benefits of dancing as we age, respect is growing.

Q. Do you have any plans for Ballet for Adults that you can share with us?

We are always striving to be more creative in our work and provide content that is helpful and artistically satisfying. With Ballet For Adults, it has been our dream to have a blog for a very long time and we are grateful for the opportunity to do this work that is speaking to us very strongly. We are always trying to be a bridge that helps expand adult ballet. We would like to make an impact on curriculum, classes, performance opportunities, cross training, attire… the list goes on and we are very motivated to keep going and growing.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the ballet world?

That the art form continues to broaden into all backgrounds, all levels and all genres. That there continues to be movement toward gender and racial equality and opportunity in dance. That adult ballet dancers are respected and valued for their experience and their stories as individuals.

Nic ~ The Last Dancer

Find Nicole on Instagram @nicoleozment
http://balletforadults.com/ @balletforadults

Photos by: Chelini & Oeffling (http://co-designstudio.com/)




Music in Motion

· Q&A with Deborah ·

Photo by Johannes Kollender

Some people were simply born to move, and Deborah of @my.ballet.love is no exception. As a child, her boundless energy landed her in ballet class. Now, over two decades later, she still radiates the same energy and enthusiasm, sharing her ballet journey as a sincere expression of the delight that dance brings to her life. Her technique is already strong and serene, yet she remains determined, ever-reaching toward progress.

“You never stop learning with this art form/sport,” Deborah says. “You can always work to get better.”

Watch her Instagram videos and you will find that her dancing also reveals an intuitive connection to music. This is not surprising, considering that both of her parents are classical musicians at the Hamburg Opera. As a child, she grew up surrounded by music and learned to play the violin.

“Whenever I get the rare chance of taking a class with a pianist,” she says. “I can feel a huge difference in my attitude and movement. It’s like instead of seeing in black and white, all of the sudden there are colors everywhere.”

Like so many of us, Deborah thrives on this union of music and movement as if it were some sort of oxygen. It is no wonder that she has amassed an impressive number of like-minded followers–24k and counting. Her popularity is not only due to her content, but to her dedication, humility, and genuine efforts to cultivate a supportive adult ballet community.

Earlier this year, she launched Circle, A Shared Dance, a project sparked by her desire to dance with her newfound virtual barre buddies. The result is this beautiful video featuring adult dance students from around the globe, each dancing Deborah’s original choreography. Projects like Circle have made the #adultballet community even more meaningful for recreational dancers.

“I find it helps a lot to have a good community,” she says. “Whether on Instagram or even better in your studio/class. Friends that… understand and can lift you up.”

Thanks, Deborah, for being a friend to us all!

Q & A with Deborah

Q. Tell me a little about your background. Where are you from? How old are you? When and where did you begin your dance training?

I’m 29 years old and I was born and live in Hamburg, Germany. I first started dancing when I was five years old.

Q. What are your interests and/or occupations outside of dance?

Aside from ballet I love music. Can’t live without it. Also movies, TV shows and I like to craft, like knitting or sewing.

For a while now I’ve also come to really enjoy Instagram and YouTube. I also like to travel and meet new people even though I’m sometimes having a hard time doing it.

Q. What first drew you to ballet? What do you still love about it?

Well actually my mother put me in ballet. I was constantly dancing around the house, doing headstands in every room, driving her crazy. So one day she wouldn’t have it any longer, and the ballet school was the closest option. But quickly I fell in love with it and stuck with it for a long time.

Today I love ballet because it challenges me, both physically and mentally. You never stop learning with this art form/sport, you can always work to get better, and I absolutely enjoy moving to beautiful music.

Ballet can also be a very healing thing. On days or weeks that are just rough, you can always come to the barre, forget it all, and just lose yourself in the movements. That’s very liberating, I find.

Q. How do you prepare for ballet class? Any strange habits or rituals?

Not really actually. I usually drive to class by bike, but in any case I want to be there early enough to have time to do a proper warmup and stretching, which makes all the difference for me. So I always roll out my feet, warm up my joints and carefully stretch for a bit, so the muscles are prepared to work long, not short and cramped when class begins.

Q. At the moment, what is your favorite dancewear brand or go-to class outfit?

I absolutely love wearing pastel colors, and unicolored outfits. That’s what I mostly wear right now.

For brands, I don’t really have one brand I prefer. I really love Intermezzo, they have gorgeous designs and the fit is very nice for adult dancers. Also Wearmoi, same thing, very comfy and beautiful. I also enjoy sewing and wearing my own ballet skirts. It’s so much fun combining them with these pretty leos.

Also, now that winter is close, I usually start wearing thin white socks in my flats again during class, because our studio is a bit more on the freezing side unfortunately.

Q. You’ve made great efforts to connect with other dancers around the world, especially with your project, “Circle, A Shared Dance,” which you choreographed yourself. What inspired the project and that particular choreography?

Actually the trips that we started making in 2015 were kind of the reason why. I keep saying that I would want to travel the world, meet all the adult ballerinas and dance together. So that thought stuck in my mind, that we weren’t able to all dance together.

And then I just had the idea to connect them all in a video. The choreography was then inspired by the modern variations at the Prix de Lausanne 2017, which were contributed by John Neumeier. These neoclassical variations, some of them just with piano music, inspired me a lot for my own choreography. I loved the whole experience and will certainly do it again!

Q. What is your favorite ballet to watch?

Uh, that’s a tough one. I haven’t seen too many classics live. I have seen many many on DVD or YouTube. I really love The Little Mermaid, Kameliendame and Nijinsky by John Neumeier. I also love Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I also love La Bayadere, Don Quixote and Manon. Of course there are so many more that I really love too… Oh, I have to mention The Concert and Dances at a Gathering by Jerome Robbins. Love those a lot too.

Photo by Ursula Klepper

Q. Learning ballet as an adult can be frustrating. Do you have any advice to give to adults who would like to begin or re-begin ballet?

Yes, it absolutely can be frustrating. I have days, on which nothing works and I feel like a complete failure. I guess you just have to not think too much about those days and let them get to you. I also try to not compare myself to professional dancers, I rather try to be inspired by their abilities and look for things, that I feel like I actually can improve in.

I find it helps a lot to have a good community. Whether on Instagram or even better in your studio/class. Friends that are in the same [class] as you understand and can lift you up. If you want to start new, I think it’s crucial to find a good school, that knows about teaching adults, and a teacher that pushes you in an encouraging way. Listen to your gut, and don’t settle for anything you don’t feel comfortable and safe with. Only then can you grow and discover your potential and love for it.

Q. As I continue to train, I’m finding that I would like to know more about music and music theory. I’m curious–do you have any sort of musical background or training? How does a good pianist affect class?

Actually my parents are classical musicians at the opera here in Hamburg, so growing up for me basically was music. Of course, I learned to play the violin at five years old and the opera/concert halls were my second home. I don’t know too much about music theory, but our teacher is very specific about rhythmicality, musicality, accents and counts, so we learn a bit of it during class anyway. Having sort of a good musicality due to my parents it’s quite easy for me I guess to adapt combinations and steps.

Sadly we don’t have a pianist, but whenever I get the rare chance of taking a class with a pianist, I can feel a huge difference in my attitude and movement. It’s like instead of seeing in black and white, all of the sudden there are colors everywhere.

Q. Have you had opportunities to dance in other cities or countries? If so, how did your experiences compare to dancing in your home studio?

I have. I’ve been dancing in Paris, London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Munich and Berlin and so far they all have been a great experience. The styles and languages of course are different, but the ballet vocabulary is always the same, and your body recognizes the movements, and instantly feels kind of home.

The class at my studio is a very tough one, the tempo is quick, there are many exercises,

it’s a lot about stamina. So when I visit other classes, I usually feel quite relaxed, because so far there has never been a class as demanding as the ones at my home studio. So in a way, I’m well prepared to take on the adventures of dancing around the globe.

Q. Finally, what are your goals for your dance training and for your life in general?

Hm…. I think I just want to get better and better. I actually want to learn more repertoire and be able to dance them gracefully and on pointe one day. I keep thinking about founding an adult ballet company…that thought sticks for a while now. Not sure how that would work, it’s just a feeling in my gut. I also want to keep traveling and meet other adult dancers, I hope to help, connect and inspire a lot more adults and/or young adults to dance if that’s what their heart wants.

I get so many messages and comments on how they are insecure if they would be good enough, or that they’ve found my account and got to encouraged, that they started dancing again. Which really is like a huge gift for me.

Bravery and Ballet

· Q&A with Michelle ·

I have been quite taken with Michelle’s studio style ever since I found her on Instagram. I’m drawn to her bold mixture of colors and prints, her slouchy skirts and, of course, the confidence she exudes as she dons the pointe shoes she has rightfully earned. She is en pointe so much, in fact, that I wrongly assumed she had danced as a youngster.


She actually began her training at age 38. And just look at her now!

In her popular blog, Kingdom of Style, Michelle discusses the impact of her dancewear, a sentiment with which I completely relate.

“For me,” she writes. “Clothing is armour. It’s what gives me confidence to get out and face the day no matter how I feel inside, and what I wear in the ballet studio serves the same purpose.”

I have an inkling, however, that even if she were stripped of her armor and had to attend class in sweatpants and a t-shirt, Michelle would still kick ass in the studio. Her late start in ballet is enough to reveal other aspects of her character. I know that it takes an outrageous amount of courage for an adult to walk into a ballet studio for the first time. And to keep coming back again and again, despite the extreme difficulty of ballet, requires the kind of determination that can only be driven by deep love or perfectionism—or some combination of both.

Michelle seems to understand that love for ballet is a risky type of love. It’s one-sided, as ballet is a thing, not a person, and can be very frustrating. It can also be profoundly rewarding, if you’re brave and bold enough to try. Eventually, after so much hard work, you may actually find yourself dancing.

Michelle writes, “What I have realised with starting ballet at such a late age, is that it’s not really about the perfect pliés or the turnout or the endless search for the elusive middle split, it’s about allowing yourself to really listen to your body, to letting go of any inhibitions and just dancing.”

Just dancing. Is there any better feeling?

Well, perhaps dancing in a beautiful outfit.


Q&A with Michelle

Q. Tell me a little about your background.

I’m from Glasgow and I’m 44 years old. I began my dance training at Scottish Ballet about six years ago. I was always into ballet as a kid but from afar as I never had any opportunities to dance as a child.

Q. Many of our readers may already be aware that you are co-creator of the popular fashion and lifestyle blog, Kingdom of Style. What are your interests and/or occupations outside of fashion and dance?

By day I’m a graphic designer, so that takes up 90% of my life. I also have a wonderful boyfriend of 20 years so we just hang out and play records a lot!

Q. What first drew you to ballet? What do you still love about it?

I grew up in the era of Darcey Bussell and I was pretty obsessed with her. I would spend hours drawing her and her glorious feet so when I finally decided I needed some exercise in my life, ballet was the only option I even considered. I love it because it’s so challenging. It’s deeply frustrating so much of the time, but the perfectionist in me finds the constant challenge really rewarding.

Q. How do you prepare for ballet class? Any strange habits or rituals?

I don’t really have any rituals to be honest. I basically decide what I’m wearing and which shoes I need for that particular class; I have different pointe shoes for different kinds of choreography. Then I pack my bag and off I go!

Q. I have to say, you may be my #1 ballet style icon. At the moment, what is your favorite dancewear brand or go-to class outfit?

My favourite brand is Elevé. I love being able to choose pattern and colour combinations and I can usually find something from them that makes me feel good. I’m really into slightly odd colour pairings right now, such as army green with electric blue or lilac.

Q. Speaking of dancewear, I’m wondering you if could speak more about the effect that clothing has on your mood, your dancing, etc. during class. (I myself am a huge advocate for “dressing the part”—that is, the ballet uniform helps me feel like a dancer and therefore perform better.)

For me clothing has a huge effect on how I feel in class. As an adult dancer I can be prone to gaining a few pounds here and there and if I choose the wrong leotard for my classes I just end up feeling really self-conscious and can’t focus on what I’m doing as I’m too busy pulling or re-adjusting my clothing. If I feel good in what I’m wearing that really shows through in my dancing as I feel far more confident.

Q. Do you have a favorite ballet or dance company to watch?

I love our national ballet company here in Scotland, Scottish Ballet. I have been taught by many current and past dancers with the company and they are incredibly talented. They are an absolute delight to watch.

Q. Learning to dance as an adult can be frustrating. Do you have any advice to give to adults who would like to begin or re-begin ballet?

It’s soooo frustrating! My main advice would be not to give up. There will be times, LOTS of times when you’ll think “screw this” and want to walk away, but don’t. Ballet is filled with extreme highs and extreme lows, but the rewards are entirely worth all the frustration. There is no better feeling than the first time you nail a turn!

Q. As I continue to train, I’m finding that I would like to know more about music and music theory. I’m curious—do you have any sort of musical background or training? How does a good pianist affect class?

I don’t have any musical training per se but I used to be a DJ so I have a natural affinity for understanding beats and rhythms, which has helped me so much in class.

At Scottish Ballet we had a live pianist and it is just amazing. It really helps you be able to feel the music when there is someone there physically playing it.

Q. Finally, what are your goals for your dance training and for your life in general?

My current main goal in ballet is to be able to do pirouettes en pointe. When I started ballet that was my ultimate goal and still is even now. I have developed a real fear of them though and I would really love to be able to overcome that.


Be sure to check out Michelle’s new ballet Instagram account @i_am_thrasherina and her style account @kingdomofstylemichelle. You can also find her blog at KingdomOfStyle.net

Dancing for Joy

· Q&A with Marina ·

I can’t help but smile as I look though Marina’s photos. She and her hilarious fiancé Brian approach ballet with delight without forsaking the discipline also required of them. Despite being relatively new to ballet, Marina has shown excellent progress, her dancing exudes playfulness, and her sage advice for adult students is on par with that of any seasoned dancer.

Marina’s healthy perspective seems to spring from a profound sense of gratitude toward ballet. In our interview, I learned about the major role that dancing played in helping her recover from an eating disorder. Ballet, she explains, pulled her out of the fear-based mindset that was keeping her from eating properly. Once considered a “daily burden,” food is now used to “fuel and nourish” her dancing body.

“Ballet is really what prompted me to want to get better, get stronger and gain weight,” Marina says. “No way would I let my fears rob me of dancing!”

This idea may come as a surprise to some. After all, we often hear stories about ballet triggering disordered eating and even self-hatred in some dancers. But Marina’s positive experience was not surprising to me. As an adult beginner, I’ve experienced a similar shift in mindset about food and the way I view my own body, precisely because of ballet. Dancing has taught me to respect my body—to be patient with it, to care for it and fuel it, and then to let it rest. I dwell less on how I look and instead celebrate what I am able to do on each given day.

Marina’s success in both her recovery and in ballet has led to a movement of “facing and conquering” her fears. She is determined to push beyond her comfort zone, a trait that will take her far in her training and ultimately lead to more joyful dancing.

“One cannot be timid when it comes to ballet,” she says. “You have to be fearless!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Q&A with Marina

Q. Tell me a little about your background. When and where did you begin your dance training?

Ballet was given to me as a gift from my fiancé on our one year anniversary. He knows how much I love to dance, so he surprised me with a full semester of lessons at a local studio! Though I was never particularly drawn to ballet (having spent my summers in Russia, I knew what it took) I fell absolutely in love with it from day one, and it has benefited my life in countless ways.

Most notably perhaps, it has been an integral part of my recovery from an eating disorder: While I used to see food as a daily burden, necessary for survival, because of ballet I now see food as a way to fuel and nourish my body… and my body, the instrument through which I can express this beautiful art form.

I am now 1 1/2 years recovered. To ballet (and Brian!) I am forever grateful.

Q. You’ve mentioned to me before that your eating disorder was not related to body image. Would you explain more about that?

While many eating disorders are rooted in body image (and it is an important topic, especially for dancers!), mine was not like that. In childhood I would get bad stomach aches, so ultimately what I suffered from is a fear of food itself (called avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, I believe. ARFID)

The pressures of starting college caused my weight to become quite low. Then after starting ballet I recall this one moment when I was literally shaking from trying to eat something before class. People with anorexia and the like fear calories. Not me; I was straight up afraid of eating and at the same time even more afraid of NOT eating. It got worse: I would sit out parts of class due to the anxiety that I lacked the energy to perform at my best. Ballet is really what prompted me to want to get better, get stronger and gain weight. No way would I let my fears rob me of dancing!

So I took the leap and (with the support of my family and Brian) sought help at a local ED clinic. For me that was the ultimate in facing my fears. Though I’m still afraid from time to time, I no longer let my fears control what I do. One cannot be timid when it comes to ballet, you have to be fearless!

Q. You dance with your fiancé Brian. How did he end up being interested in ballet? And what’s it like taking class together?

Funny story! One of our teachers wanted him to be a sailor in their spring production of The Little Mermaid (ballet ever suffering from a shortage of male dancers!) They made him sit in and watch a class after which he began taking class on Tuesdays. Unfortunately his work schedule changed so he was unable to perform, but he now takes a private partnering class with me on the weekends that we LOVE. Dancing with him is the best because he has a great sense of humor and brings an infectious joy to the classroom.

Q. What are your interests and/or occupations outside of dance?

I speak a few different languages including English, Russian,
Chinese and a little Spanish (I’d like to say that ballet is my 5th language!!) I am in college now, thinking about doing work in international relations. In my free time I enjoy playing piano, drawing and painting.

Q. How do you prep for ballet class? Any strange habits or rituals?

My perfect ballet prep would be like this:
1. Stay hydrated & eat well throughout the day.
2. Arrive to class already warmed up – any gentle activity that gets the body moving. To be safe no static stretching before class, dynamic stretches only!

Q. At the moment, what is your favorite dance wear brand or go-to class outfit?

Hair neatly secured in a bun, pink tights, ballet shoes and my best leo; the traditional uniform of the ballerina happens to be my favorite as well. Lately I’ve been loving my Yumiko leos for their comfort and clean lines. But of course the most important thing for any dancer is to feel confident in what you’re wearing.

Q. Do you have a favorite step or section of class? Least favorite?

Love petit allegro! I find hitting those little beats & staying on the music to be oh so satisfying and fun.

Least favorite at the moment has GOT to be turns (pirouettes, fouettés etc.) at the barre. My apprehension about striking the barre at the end of the turn causes my technique to fall apart rendering the exercise, at best, unhelpful in my opinion.

Q. What is your favorite ballet to watch?

La Fille Mal Gardée, if done correctly, is one of the funniest & most entertaining ballets I’ve ever seen!

Q. Learning ballet as an adult can be frustrating. What do you do to stay positive?

I am inspired by how available and un-self-conscious young children are. Giving in to feelings of self-consciousness can be detrimental to one’s development as a dancer. It is much better to approach class with a carefree and positive attitude I think, especially as an adult beginner; learning ballet is about humbling yourself to the task.

Q. Do you have any other advice to give to adults who would like to begin or re-begin ballet.

Your own progress will be the *real* measure of your success as a dancer. Smile and point your toes, be proud!! Find a teacher you really like, who is willing to push you. Work hard! The rest will come in time.

Q. What are your goals for your dance training and your life in general?

To do the best I can with what I have, to meet and love new people, and to never stop growing/ pushing myself beyond my own comfort zone.

You can follow Marina’s ballet journey on Instagram @marina.enpointe

Daring to Dream

· Q & A with Emilee ·

While we would never dream of quitting dance, any dedicated, recreational dancer knows that studying ballet as an adult comes with its own set of challenges. We must curb our cravings for studio time with work, family, and various obligations. If we are fortunate enough to find a good balance between these responsibilities, we are always confronted with fresh obstacles.

We worry that our passion for ballet may be too self-indulgent.

We struggle to focus on progress instead of failure.

And we are constantly faced with the realities of our aging bodies.

As dancers, we are acutely aware of our bodies, which is why it seems like a betrayal when they succumb to illness or injury. All we want to do is dance, but our means of doing so—our physical selves, our instruments—feel broken.

How and when will we dance again?

My friend Emilee is currently facing this question, but with the good humor and resilience that I would expect of her. Since she began dancing in 2011, she has been a pleasant, positive force in the adult ballet community, both online and at her home studio, forging genuine connections with others and encouraging them to dance despite their fears. In her blog, Another Night at the Barre, you will see a theme emerge—many iterations of a phrase found throughout her writing: “I wanted this more than I was afraid of it.”

Overcoming fear. This was how Emilee began to dance and how she was able to seize subsequent opportunities in ballet—opportunities she never thought possible. To me, there is nothing more empowering than watching women push anxiety aside in order to do something extraordinary.

Emilee during a performance (a dream come true!)

Fear is one thing, but dealing with illness—something we may never fully “overcome”—is another matter.

Ongoing health issues, including a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, have disrupted Emilee’s daily life. Finding the energy to work, let alone dance, has been a struggle. Despite all of this, she has fought to keep a healthy perspective, reminding others to “extend yourself grace” during these frustrating times and to remember how far you’ve already come.

She writes in her blog, “I didn’t wait and wish and hope that one day I might dance, I got out there and fumbled around like a baby giraffe until it started to make sense. I chased my crazy dream until it came true. And it did. Just in time, it did. And no matter what happens, no matter if I ever get well or stay sick the rest of my life, no matter if sickness comes in and takes more from me, I will always have that. I will always know I dared to dream and my dreams came true.”

There are so many things I could write about Emilee, but she is also a writer, and her own articulate answers speak for themselves. You will not want to miss her interview below!

Q & A with Emilee

Q. Tell me a little about your background. Where are you from? How old are you? When and where did you begin your dance training?

I’m from a tiny town of 300 called Bayside in Texas, near Corpus Christi along the coast. I’m 28 and started dancing six years ago this October at the age of 23 at a local place called Instep Dance Studios that has since closed down. I now dance at Munro Ballet Studios and also with the Corpus Christi Ballet.

Q. What are your interests and/or occupations outside of dance?

I work for a CPA firm doing bookkeeping, largely. I also take pictures on the side and love to write, whether it be on the blog, random poetry here and there, or in the 50+ journals I’ve filled since I was 12. And reading. I love to read.

Q. What first drew you to ballet? What do you still love about it?

I took classes when I was a kid at a tiny local studio that really doesn’t teach technique. I was six years old, but there was something about ballet that made me feel alive. I loved it. My mom took me out of classes and I always had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to go back one day, but no one really took me seriously about it. When I was old enough to make my own decisions, and also more afraid of never trying than how afraid I was to start, I put out a post on Facebook asking if anyone knew of studios that took super beginner adults. A good friend of mine told me about Instep, and so I emailed them to see what was available. I’m so very glad I did.

Q. How do you prepare for ballet class? Any strange habits or rituals?

I usually get to the studio early, partially because it’s a 45 minute drive, partially because it helps me clear my head before class. When my hands aren’t hurting, I like to have something to crochet before class. It helps me sort of find my center.

Q. At the moment, what is your favorite dancewear brand?

I’m a big fan of Capezio. I also love Eleve Dancewear’s leotards and Flic Flac Dance Skirts on Etsy. Plus, you can’t go wrong with Covet Dance or Cloud & Victory with their super clever dance clothes!

Q. Do you have a favorite step or section of class? Least favorite?

I really love adagio. Something about it makes the whole experience of ballet for me. Realizing that I’m doing the same moves that thousands of dancers before me have done, even though I’ll never be a professional or anywhere close. It’s the history and tradition of it; the connection to dancers past and future.

I’m not a big fan of any sort of allegro in execution, but largely because my legs are uneven so it causes pain to my long leg’s knee as well as my hips and back. My hips are perpetually never square. The struggle.

Q. What is your favorite ballet to watch?

I’m actually fairly new to the ballet world, especially when it comes to viewing. I saw my first live professional ballet just last month, which was La Bayadère at the Houston Ballet. It blew my mind. So incredible. They used to bring the Ballet to the cinema’s here locally, where I got to see Romeo and Juliet and La Fille Mal Gardée. Those dancing chickens are probably my favorite thing I’ve ever seen.

Q. Learning ballet as an adult can be frustrating. Do you have any advice to give to adults who would like to begin or re-begin ballet?

Don’t give up. When I first started I would panic in the corner until one of the “older girls” (she was fourteen) would come and pull me out and do whatever step with me that I was freaking out about. I got in my head a lot. But you have to face that panic and fear and not give up. If it seems overwhelming at first, go home and find ballet dictionaries and YouTube channels online that help break it down until it becomes familiar. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself being the example for the new girls. It’s quite the incredible feeling when you get to that point. (I highly recommend Ballerinas By Night, Kathryn Morgan, and Claudia Dean on YouTube)

Q. As I continue to train, I’m finding that I would like to know more about music and music theory. Do you have any sort of musical background or training? How does a good pianist affect class?

I always wanted to learn violin, but once again my family didn’t take me seriously. (It’s still on my list.) I’ve found myself drawn to music, though I don’t play any instruments myself. I did get thrown into running the sound board at my church once and apparently did it well, though I’ve never had any training. I do have many classical music vinyls and albums on my iTunes that I love listening to when I get a chance.

A good pianist is everything. I feel they are the well placed adjectives and adverbs in the sentence that is dance. Just enough to flourish the sentence to give the reader a true feel for what is being expressed. For me, it also makes me feel more official, giving me the sense of pride that makes me stand up straighter and approach the class giving 100% of what I have to offer.

Q. What are your goals for your dance training and for your life in general?

My current goals are largely just to keep with it. Most of the goals I had developed as my training progressed have been achieved. I earned my pointe shoes at age 25, was in my first performance the next year, and my main goal–to be in the most advanced ballet class and dance of our spring performance–was accomplished this past spring. When I started out, I never expected to be able to accomplish all the things I’ve been able to, especially in performing (and especially at my age.) For now, I would love to just continue to teach the baby ballet classes I get to teach at my studio. This year is my second year, and those kids are the fire in my belly. They help put things in perspective when things get hard or when my body decides to work against me.

Q. You’ve been honest about your struggles with illness and finding the energy to dance. What would you like to say to others who are facing similar issues? Have you been able to strike a good balance between dance and the rest of life for the sake of your health?

The balance is still a struggle, especially since the diagnosis I do have is so new, and the illness I’ve had for years still isn’t diagnosed. I don’t really know what I’m going to get one day to the next until I wake up. Sometimes it’s just enough to get through the work day, sometimes it’s that and a bit more, sometimes just getting through work is a struggle itself.

The important thing is to figure out what works for you. To know your limits, but also know when you need to push them. Ballet is so important in keeping my body as healthy and functional as it is, especially for my digestion, arthritis, and chronic fatigue syndrome issues, but I do have to realize that there are some days where pushing it will do more harm than good. At the same time, I can’t be afraid to push through on other days when I know my soul needs the studio time.

Also, a diagnosis isn’t a death wish. It may cause you to have to adjust some goals and dreams, but it doesn’t make them impossible even if it seems like it now. Take it one day at a time and do what you are able. You never know what doors will open when you least expect it. And don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t able to do as much as you’d like. Unfortunately, we’re all human, and sometimes human bodies work against us more than they work with us. Take it as it comes. Being active is important and does so much good for our bodies, but we also have to find what works for us.

And don’t compare yourself to others! In health and in life in general, really. Your story can’t be the story of the person next to you. We have to do what’s best for us. I could go on and on, but really, just fight for what you want and remember to extend yourself grace when you need it.


To connect with Emilee, follow her on Instagram @anothernightatthebarreofficial and visit her blog, Another Night at the Barre.


In the Moment

· Q & A with Ana ·


I’ve never met Ana in person, but I’m certain that she is a kindred spirit—the INFJ to my INFP, if we are to speak in Myers-Briggs terms. She is kind, reflective, sensitive to beauty, and a self-proclaimed “idealist and eternal dreamer.” Naturally, these qualities carry over to her love of dance. She approaches ballet with discipline to be sure, but also with warmth, mindfulness, and imagination. I have been moved by the encouraging words she speaks to others in the ballet community, reminding us to be gentle with ourselves when we feel overwhelmed, but also to be brave.

Ana is 40 years old and lives in Florida, where she works as a corporate consultant. When she’s not spending time with her husband and dogs, she loves doing any sort of creative endeavor, from painting and writing—she has kept journals since she was ten—to knitting and whatever else strikes her fancy. In 2014, after an almost 25-year hiatus, she decided to return to ballet class.

“I danced when I was a teenager but gave up ballet at 14,” Ana says. “…so aside from the few basics, it was like starting from scratch.”

Despite the difficulty of starting over, she stuck with it. Nowadays, she dances regularly at two schools that follow the Russian/Vaganova method, and she continues to document her ballet journey on Instagram. And, while she doesn’t get around to watching many live ballets, she admits to being addicted to Dance Academy.

Um, that makes two of us!

One of Ana’s amazing watercolor paintings!

My interview with Ana reminded me that ballet class can be a meditative experience—a time when we can set our troubles aside and be fully invested in the present moment. I believe this is why so many of us have been attracted to ballet. A good class offers respite from anxiety-filled days, exercise for our often-neglected bodies, and a creative, energizing community. We can stand at the barre, alone but not lonely and, as Ana’s teacher says, “Just let it go.”

Q & A with Ana

Q. What first drew you to ballet? What do you still love about it?

I am not a very active person. I hate the gym, did not like yoga and am definitely not into anything too social. Ballet encompasses many things I find attractive: it is a solitary practice (it only depends on me and as an introvert, it is appealing), it is structured and disciplined, and at that same time, it is an expression.  I love it because I can see the changes in my body, from not being able to touch my toes to being able to extend a leg, from having to look at other students for combination to being able do an entire combination all on my own. Little achievements, that are so rewarding.

Q. How do you prep for ballet class? Any strange habits or rituals?

Not really. I don’t stretch before class. I find it that it makes me tighter. My biggest ritual is that after a long, stressful day at work, I just put my ballet clothes on and try not to think about it too much. Otherwise, I will just stay on the couch.

Q. Let’s talk dancewear. What is your typical class attire?

I went through an insane phase of buying every leotard, skirt, leg warmer you can imagine. Now, I just wear something that makes me feel pretty and comfortable. I am skinny but I am very top heavy, so backless, spaghetti straps are not for me.

Q. Do you have a favorite step or part of class? Least favorite?

I hate fondu. HATE IT. lol. I used to dislike rond de jambes very much, but now I really like them. Hoping that one day, I will feel the same about fonduI love everything else about the class.

Q. Learning ballet as an adult can be frustrating. What do you do to stay positive?

The most important thing is acceptance and not comparing yourself with others. I say the same to any newbie that comes to class. It will fall in place.

Q. Do you have any other advice to give to adults who would like to begin or re-begin ballet?

Just do it. One of my favorites teachers had a beautiful message to us last Saturday: Dance big. Dance. You come to class to dance. If you are timid and in this little space and afraid of making a fool out of yourself, then you are wasting your time and money. No one is looking at you. Everyone is too concerned with themselves. Just let it go. What’s the worse that can happen?

Q. What are your goals for your dance training and for your life in general?

Flexibility is and will continue to be my biggest challenge. I have very tight hamstrings. And I want to dance a choreography beautifully.

Q. I love your paintings. How does the creative process compare with that of ballet? Do you see any interesting parallels between the two art forms?

I believe both are a form of expression. Ballet is like a painting in movement. They are both so amazingly meditative. You can get lost and forget about all the craziness and just be in that moment. Ever present and mindful.

Be sure to check out Ana’s incredible artwork and ballet posts on Instagram @introvertedart !

In Pursuit of Perfection

· Q & A with Katie ·

When I first stumbled upon Katie’s Instagram account, I assumed that she was a professional dancer. Then I took a closer look at her profile and was shocked to find that—not only is she not a professional—she has only been dancing regularly for the last four years.

Four years. Incredible.

The technical progress she has made is astounding, and it is clear that her passion for dance is the driving force behind it. After all, there are no shortcuts in ballet—no hacks or fast-tracks to improvement, save for more hours of practice. Even then, practice is no guarantee. But Katie has made the most out of her time in the studio.

“I’ll seize every opportunity to dance until I can’t,” she says.

Katie is almost 32 years old, hails from Taiwan, and, like many of us recreational dancers, she must schedule dance around her career. By day, she works as a sales manager for a local company, where she handles international sales and marketing. When she’s not travelling for work, you can find her in the studio on evenings and weekends, wearing the most fashionable dancewear and balancing en pointe with the poise of a seasoned ballerina. (She can even do Italian fouettés.) Her technique is seriously impressive, her discipline and determination perhaps even more so.

Katie’s amazing extension!

Given her professional attitude, it is no surprise that she takes ballet very seriously—so seriously that she hopes to raise support for other dedicated recreational dancers, who are rarely afforded opportunities to perform.

“I believe many of us have the same passion as professionals do,” she says, proceeding to explain the sacrifices that adult students make to attend class. “[Their] devotion to ballet is incredible, and they deserve a stage to shine.”

Katie has been fortunate enough to perform solo variations on stage, herself. Despite having to overcome fear and self-doubt, she treasures the opportunity to share her passion with others. Indeed, her love for ballet is too profound not to share, and she has a lot to say about the subject. I hope you will find her words as fascinating and inspiring as I do!

Q & A with Katie

Q. What first drew you to ballet? What do you still love about it?

Ballet first caught my eye when I was five years old when I accompanied my friends to their ballet class in the US. Although I knew nothing about it, it was love at first sight. Now that I have taken ballet class more in depth as an adult, I think what fascinates me the most about ballet is the incredible strength hidden underneath the effortless elegant exterior. I love howballet to me is so irresistible yet so unattainable and it has no end to the pursuit of perfection.

Q. When and where did you begin your dance training?

I took ballet lessons once a week at a local studio near home for a few years (definitely not professional training) when I was young and stopped at the age of 12 to focus on school work. I did pick up ballet several months when I was 20, but stopped again due to injury caused by improper stretching. I came back to ballet at the age of 28 and am now in my fourth year of adult ballet journey.

Q. How do you prep for ballet class? Any strange habits or rituals?

Not really, but I do care a lot about what I wear in class so I’ll always have that planned out beforehand.

Q. What is your typical class attire?

I always wear a leotard, tights and either shorts or wrap/pull on skirts (I’m still insecure of wearing only leotards and tights). In the winter, I wear rompers, warm up knit pants and leg warmers. I’m a big fan of leotards with three-quarter sleeves and those with mesh and laces that are elegant and feminine.

Q. Do you have a favorite step or part of class? Least favorite?

I love adagio and also turns and grand allegro where you can travel/fly across the studio freely. Petit allegro is my least favorite since my body and brain can never connect fast enough; it will take me a lot of practice to get the same combination correct and smooth.

Q. What is your favorite ballet to watch?

Since we don’t have many opportunities to see full act ballets in Taiwan (only on YouTube), it’s hard for me to really say which in particular is my favorite. But I love many variations from various ballets such as Don Q, La Bayadère, Le Corsaire, Swan Lake, etc.

Q. Studying ballet as an adult can be frustrating. What do you do to stay positive?

It could indeed be very frustrating sometimes. I think besides learning to adjust my mindset and trying to find some positivity within tiny progress, I’m also lucky that I have positive fellow adult ballet students around (in the studio or on social media) to discuss the problems we face, to share our own solutions, our experiences, and to encourage and cheer each other up.

Q. Do you have any other advice to give to adults who would like to begin or re-begin ballet?

Be focused, listen and really think over about all the tips and corrections the ballet master gives, try absorbing as much as you can and feel your muscles. Also, try developing a sensitive body with the collaboration of the brain. As adults, there is much less that our bodies can give, but a lot more that we can gain from the brain to even up. And most importantly, never forget why you started it in the first place, as that’s what keeps you going and moves you forward. Life is short; if you love it, just go for it!

Q. You’ve had opportunities to perform (wearing gorgeous tutus, no less!) What have you learned from your performances? Do you prefer the stage to class?

I love being on stage wearing beautiful tutus and tiaras (well, who doesn’t?) although at the same time feeling nervous and often overwhelmed by fear due to the lack of confidence. But I also know that true confidence is built in class to give you the power to enjoy that magical moment on stage so I cherish every dancing opportunity no matter onstage or offstage.

Q. What are your goals for your dance training and for your life in general?

I’ll seize any opportunity to dance until I can’t. I hope there is the day that I can really feel my dance without being distracted by worrying about technique or body limitations, which is when I can really show my passion and love for ballet.

Q. Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

As an adult ballet dancer, we have far fewer opportunities to perform on stage and to really experience the life of professional dancers, but I believe many of us have the same passion as professionals do and if not show even more by trying to pursue our dreams as much as we can while juggling a full-time job (the real salary that financially supports our interest), family responsibilities (at the most awkward age having to take care of both our parents and kids) and still struggling to make improvements.

I know some determined adult ballet dancers around me (including myself) who wouldn’t mind taking a huge commute and rush to ballet classes after a long day of work, or even return to the office late after finishing the class just because they wouldn’t want to miss the chance to dance. They sacrifice the tiny free time left to relax just hoping to have a little bit more practice to improve their techniques. That kind of devotion to ballet is incredible, and they deserve a stage to shine.

I do hope that there is the chance that soon we can come up with a project to find a way of gathering financial support (as we know how overwhelming the cost of renting studio, hiring teachers for choreography, training, rehearsals and all kinds of stage costs could be) for these serious passionate adult ballet dancers to have the opportunity to pull together decent annual performances of their own, to inspire and show the world their love for ballet, and their courage and determination to pursue their dreams.


Precision and Grace

· Q & A with Bane ·


This is Bane in his natural habitat—leaping over railings, scaling buildings, and being all-around awesome as he documents his Parkour training. Take a peek at his Instagram account and you’ll notice a quality in his movement that is both powerful and precise. It’s not surprising that Parkour Generations praised his ability to make Parkour look “natural” and “utterly elegant.”

What may surprise you, however, is that—at least once a week—you can also find Bane in a ballet studio.

Bane is 31-years-old, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and he has been taking classical ballet for two years. Prior to that, he had “absolutely zero dance experience,” but he could have fooled me. Like many of the dancers you’ll read about in this blog, I became acquainted with Bane through Instagram, and I was immediately struck by his willingness to tackle complex turning sequences. If you haven’t seen the video of him turning multiple pirouettes (and even a few fouettés) while dressed in a full-on Disney Beast costume, well—let’s just say you’ll be impressed that he has only been dancing for two years.

Bane is not your typical re-beginner or late-starter. He is primarily a Parkour athlete and coach, whose unconventional path to the studio derived from a curiosity about ballet training methods. His focus on athletic training does not diminish his deep respect and appreciation for the art form, however. An artist himself (he is a painter), he is no stranger to the paradoxical quality found in good artists—that is, the ability to make strenuous effort appear effortless. His insightful comparison of Parkour with ballet expands upon this idea, but I’ll let you read it in his own words.

Joker & Harley, one of Bane’s paintings available on Etsy.

In his answers, I found traits we can all model in our own practice—good humor, determination, and a willingness to experiment in dance, no matter how awkward we might feel at first. After all, we never know what will lead to improvement.

When asked about his goals for his training and life in general, he succinctly states, “I just want to be better than I was yesterday.”

Good answer. Me, too.

Q & A with Bane

Q. What first drew you to ballet? What do you still love about it?

I don’t recall a solitary stand out moment where I discovered or was drawn to ballet for the first time. I think that my experience in other movement disciplines, Parkour for one, gave me insight into the spectacle of ballet from an athletic perspective. The two disciplines are intrinsically linked by their defining characteristics. They both demand incredible strength and condition. They both prioritize technique, execution and consistency with fluidly linked movement all while making it look effortless. They both have hidden depths that a casual observer may miss entirely.

For a growing number of years in my 20s I developed an increasing admiration for it, ironically contrasted starkly by my complete inability to dance and indeed the fact that ‘dancing’ actually makes me feel awkward. It was seeing my first live ballet on stage that spurred me to query just why, after years of wanting to know more and being curious of the training methods, I had not done anything about it. I quickly learned that there was a whole world of adult ballet out there. An acquaintance on Instagram was able to recommend a local class to me, and I bit the bullet walking into a studio as a blank slate ready to learn.

What I enjoy about it is the precision and the grace. While I can adequately perform neither, it’s the development of and subsequent attainment that is the most intoxicating elixir. I love it when something finally works… after countless hours of seemingly futile effort. I also love the 4th dimension of appreciation it nurtures when watching a professional performance—it becomes more relatable and I constantly find my eye breaking down elements and trying to figure out any one little part I might actually be capable of.

Q. Speaking of performances—what is your favorite ballet to watch?

I really love Giselle. A lot of the male parts stand out to me and I love the story. I’m booked to see the English National perform this again in Belfast in June. I loved Liam Scarlett’s Frankenstein last year. I think I prefer classic ballet in times of royalty and nobility over more modern variations. For example, I much prefer the classic Swan Lake over Matthew Bourne’s, both of which I’ve been happy to see live. In saying that my knowledge is limited so I remain open!

Q. How do you prepare for ballet class? Any strange habits or rituals?

Ballet is secondary to my primary focus of Parkour. I try and get out for movement work over the weekend so I’m typically pretty well drained and sometimes muscularly sore before I even look at my ballet class on a Monday evening. I like to spend some time in a resting squat both in parallel and with feet in second to start the hip opening. I also am guilty of every dancer’s habit of seeking out the ‘regular’ spot at the barre and I go straight into warming up my feet and calves. I HATE cramping on my very first retiré!

Q. Do you wear the typical class attire for men?

We don’t have a ‘uniform’ or prescribed attire in our studio. Nice and relaxed. I wear Capezio footed tights and a t-shirt.

Q. Do you have a favorite step or section of class? Least favorite?

I think anyone who follows me on Instagram will know I LOVE turning! When I practice at home it’s in my wooden floored living room so no space for grand allegro and very little for petit allegro. I really get a kick out of pirouettes for some inexplicable reason. I’m not a natural turner, or a natural anything when it comes to ballet for that matter, but I probably work on turns the most as I can dip in and out when I’m cooking or making coffee, etc.

Least favourite is probably any step sequence in class. Hear me out! I’m the kind of person who would need to spend an hour or more just going over a tiny step sequence just to get the order of movements right, then to figure out all the right steps to get from one technique to the next all before actually trying to do it well. Arm coordination is another thing entirely. This obviously doesn’t lend itself to a class format where you get a few tries and then move on to the next section. Ironically, I would probably love it if it was just 90 minutes of booked studio time and I was given a video of just one step sequence to work on. I’m all about the drilling and the repetition so always find centre work impossible in a class scenario.

Q. Learning ballet as an adult can be frustrating. What do you do to stay positive?

No truer words have ever been spoken. Frustrating covers all bases. I am endlessly frustrated because I tend to impose high expectations on myself. This isn’t through a cavalier attitude or a belief that it ‘should be easier’, but I feel that I am capable of more than my body lets me do a lot of the time.

To stay positive, I need to constantly check myself and remember that until my 30s I hadn’t danced a day in my life and that people spend their lives developing in this game. Also, Instagram is a big part of my learning process. Predominantly a training log for myself of Parkour, conditioning work and now ballet. It’s less about showing people what I can do (which is very little honestly) but more capturing the hard work I’m putting in so that I can continually review successes, or failures. Case in point when I was really feeling like my turning was not improving in the slightest I was able to dig out a video of my very first attempt at a single pirouette after a class ever, then I found my first ever raggedy double pirouette and then my cleanest triple at that point to date, after about a year and a half. I edited them all together into a little ‘milestone’ post and the difference was like day and night in terms of improvement. I try, in these situations, to focus on how far I’ve come and not on how far I still have to go because that road is endless.

Q. Great answers. Do you have any other advice to give to adults who would like to begin or re-begin ballet?

If you can afford the time and money—do it! This may be slightly controversial, as I’m not convinced it’s best practice, but my advice would be to not be afraid to experiment. I regularly play around with variations, turns, etc., that I really have no business trying at my current level. However I’m convinced that I am better for it. While I’m not deluded that I have great technique, I taught myself how to double pirouette long before I even attempted it in a class. I’ve also experimented with fouetté turns, turning with different arm positions and lots of little step sequences that I break down from videos found on IG. Having some basis for these, I feel, makes my class time more productive because when we do cover something I’ve tackled at home I am better equipped to take direction on board and improve the technique rather than just floundering trying to get to grips with the mechanics of what we’re trying (as I’ve already done that at home!)

To learn more about Bane, be sure to check out his Etsy shop, and follow him on Instagram @baneparkour.