Ballerina Profile: Elizabeth Bell-Perkins

me en pointe NohoWhen did you start doing ballet as an adult?

8 years old?

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Yes, but I drifted off to other things as many teenagers do, going back to classes for a few months at a time,

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

As a way to feel at-home returning to college as a young adult, I always took class, first at a 2 year SUNY school in NY state taking dance composition, ballet and modern, and then at 4 years colleges, always minored, so to speak in dance.

When I first moved to Massachusetts to attend a 4 year college, I attended a very nontraditional 4 year college and my majors were Political Science and Dance!  Only in the Pioneer Valley of western MA could you do that! It is called the 5-Colleges area- Mt. Holyoke, Smith, (all female), Umass Amherst, Amherst College and Hampshire. Once you are registered at one, you can take pretty much all your other classes at any one of the other 5 colleges.

This allowed me to experience many different dance forms including African (to age myself, we danced to “Free Nelson Mandela”), modern including Labanotation and a smattering of kinesiology, at Hampshire, ballet at Mt. Holyoke, Improvisational at Smith.

Where do you take classes?

After turning 40, I attended a really great local studio called Ballet Soleil in Williamsburg, MA owned by Kelly Torza who studied at Northern Connecticut Ballet, Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Greater Hartford Academy for Performing Arts and Hartford Ballet.  After high school she attended the Hartford Camerata Conservatory receiving certification in dance pedagogy and instruction.

I currently attend Massachusetts Academy of Ballet in Holyoke, Northeastern School of dance under Antony De Vecchi, Artistic Director and Ballet Master who danced with the ABT.  He also appeared in 12 Broadway shows and in the national tour of “Man of La Mancha” which he  directed and choreographed. Nominated for Emmy Award for his work with A Winter’s Tale for WNDT (New York) as well as recipient of the Dance Critics Circle Award for the best Broadway musical on tour.  He has partnered such names as Alicia Markova, Juliet Prowse and Chita Rivera.

When I can deal with the traffic across the CT River, I attend Amherst Ballet, under  Executive Director and Teacher Sueann Townsend who has performed in many places across the U.S. and Europe.

The Massachusetts Academy of Ballet in Holyoke is a wonderful school, founders and directors, Rose and Charles Flachs are active with and committed to, the community and have expanded adult classes in the last few years.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

The traditional continuity, challenge and feeling like you are part of a world-wide group.

While I never attained professional status, it is an artistic, grounding and physically satisfying activity.

What is your least favorite part?

At my age it is very hard for me to look at myself in the mirrors- I never wear leotards- just supportive tanks, briefs, cut-off tights and a top. Getting to class can be difficult- the closest studio still takes a 35-minute drive then a walk up to 4th floor. I have work, kids, an elderly mom and other commitments that I constantly have to juggle.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Dame Margot Fonteyn, Misty Copeland, Martha Graham, Fred Astaire (his talent and skill will never be matched), Gene Kelly and of course, Mikhail. Like many female ballet dancers, the characters in the Red Shoes, Turning Point and now the Black Swan, although I view that as more of a physiological thriller.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

Fills creative need, fitness, and social connections with like-aged fellow dancers.  We are also dedicated to supporting each other in dance and life.

(get’s me out of the house!)

Do you take any other dance classes?

Infrequent master classes that come up in Pioneer Valley and sometimes NYC such as Finis Jung.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Medical research and public health/writing, reading (everything!) baking, designing and selling decorated cookies and going to Maine to our land on a lake for physical and emotional healing.

What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

Find a studio that is dedicated to nurturing the adult dancer.  There are more and more adult-only studios opening.  It is important that the teacher can design the class to meet all levels. You will find much support there!

Do you have a blog?

No, but I have new biz making decorated cookies- including ballet themes!


Ballerina Profile: Dr. Karen Lambie

Screenshot 2015-09-23 10.33.05Profiles are back! We’re kicking off this week with a profile of Dr. Karen Lambie. Want to be profiled? Fill out this form.
When did you start doing ballet as an adult?
I started taking ballet about 2 years ago after a 30+ year absence.
Did you ever take lessons as a kid?
I did take lessons as a kid from the age of 4 to the age of 8. I started classes again when I was in my 20’s.
Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?
I decided to take classes as a 61 year old ( I am now 63) because I loved it so much when I was younger and felt I needed the exercise.  
Where do you take classes?
I take classes right here in my small town of Statesboro, GA.
What is your favorite part about ballet?
It is difficult to say what is my favorite part of ballet, but I have always loved being able to express the emotions I feel from music through the beauty of dance, especially ballet.
What is your least favorite part?
I suppose my least favorite part is wanting so badly to be able to execute a particular move and not being able to due to the level of difficulty.
Who/What is your ballet inspiration?
I get my inspiration simply from the beauty of the art of ballet. Some of the most inspirational ballerinas for me include Gelsey Kirkland, Sylvie Guillem, Margot Fonteyn and Svetlana Zakharova.
What motivates you to keep dancing?
What motivates me to continue is the feeling that runs through my entire body when I am dancing–I feel as though I am flying! No other kind of dance makes me feel like ballet and I believe that a good barre and center workout is about the best exercise there is!
Do you take any other dance classes?
Occasionally I go to a modern dance or jazz class.
What are your hobbies outside of ballet?
My hobbies include reading, making jewelry and I love playing around with drums.
What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?
What I would say to anyone starting ballet or who wants to start is that it is not an easy discipline. It is very challenging, however, it is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling endeavors ever! It can be extremely frustrating at times, but most of the time, you will have a wonderful sense of accomplishment at the end of a class or performance, so don’t give up! Let yourself go as far as you can! Even at the age of 63, I am still improving!
Anything else you’d like to add?
Additional information about myself: I am a retired teacher with 32 years of experience. I am a foster parent. I have become a public speaker concerning the fast growing crime of human trafficking. You may visit my Facebook page at Thank you.


Advice from Ballet Instructors: Interview with Cynthia McCranie

Cynthie McCranie, an ex-ballet instructor took the time to talk to me about her 49 years of dance experience and gave some great advice to us ballet newbies (there is even some great stretching advice in there for those doing the #30daystretchchallenge)!

These photos are from a summer technique class Cynthia taught last year.

Adult Ballerina Project: How long have you been dancing?

Cynthia McCranie:  I began ballet lessons at age 4 1/2. Had to stop in 1998 after involved in a car accident. So,for around 35 years, I danced.

ABP: How long have you been doing ballet?

CM: Entire length of time in ballet is 49 years. I continued to teach after the auto accident.

ABP: Who/What inspired you to dance?

CM: Music inspires me and when I met Margot Fonteyn, I knew I was doomed. I was both exhaulted and depressed. Her artistry amazed and electrifid me, while at the same time I was depressed. I knew I would never achieve her stature in my art.

ABP: Where have you taught ballet and for how long?

CM: I am no longer teaching. For over 30 years I taught in the metro Atlanta area for my own studio and others. A few are: Atlanta Ballet (now called ABCDE- Atlanta Ballet Center of Dance Education), Smyrna School of Ballet, Dan & Company, Dance 411, Peachtree Presbyterian Fine Arts School, La Grange Ballet Theatre, Susan Chambers School of Theatre Dance, Georgia Ballet, Georgia Dance Academy, the Savannah Ballet plus many others.

ABP: Who do you teach (ages, gender, level, etc.)?

CM: I have taught ages 3 through adults, male and female. From the very beginning creative movement/ballet ages 3 & 4 through the advanced levels of Pre-professional teens and adult

ABP: What other types of dance do you teach (if any)?

CM:  My primary focus is ballet. I  also have taught modern, tap and jazz.

The class had three girls in the technique class, each on a different level.

ABP: Why do you teach ballet?

CM: There was no way I could live off the income of a professional company member in the Savannah Ballet. We were on a weekly wage, but it was very low compared to other professonals. So, I began teaching classes in the ballet school and took on extra duties to compensate my income.

ABP: What advice/tips would you give to adults who want to begin ballet for the first time/adults starting ballet again?

CM: For the beginner adult my advice is to be sure and not take it so seriously that you can’t breathe! Enjoy your class,let yourself smile and perform as you learn. LAUGH at your mistakes sometimes. It IS important to take it seriously, but not to the point that it becomes dire for you. The majority of the adults I taught were very serious, smart and self-motivated. They entered the studio scared and very self concsious. I understand that, but my job as I saw it, was not to cut them down, but to raise them up. Having had a few instructors along the way who were very mean spirited and who traumatized me in class, I determined I would never repeat their behavior. So many knowledgable and talented teachers exist nowdays in every coner of the world, that  there is no excuse for a student to remain in a saddistic class. Sure, ballet is strenous and demanding. Taking class and working well  is why you are paying your money. There is a difference in working “had” and working “well.” Sometimes a student can work too hard (as I did as a young student) to the point of detrement. Balancing out knowing when to put 110% in and when to relax is part of every student’s ongoing learning curve. That just goes with the art form. You are re-training the body to do something that is physically unnatural. This requires great effort in order to make it appear effortless.

She made sure to give each girl appropriate corrections for their level.

When you are early for your class (I hope this is the case, anyway, lol) be sure to start with gente stretching on your own. The best thing to start with is usually the parallel calf and achilles stretch.Standing, facing the wall a few feet away, place your hands on the wall. Stand in a parallel 1st position and slowly slide one leg en arriere (to the rear.) Consciously breathe deeply an slowly as you continue the leg to a deep lunge. Stay in this position a while- a minute and a half  to 2 minutes and enjoy the stretch. Do the same with the other leg. You want to go as far as you can (ithout the heel releasing the floor) until you feel a good stretch along the back of the leg, especially on the back of the ankle.

ABP: Anything else you’d like to add?

CM: In conclusion, it is good to try new things and learn new skills. Ballet is incredibly rewarding. Just remember though, it can’t be learned in 6 lessons! Enjoy the journey.