Ballerina Profile: Grier Cooper

WriterDancerBodyThis week’s profile is of Grier Cooper, who writes a blog “The Writer in a Dancer’s Body” (which you can find on www.griercooper.com).  She regularly interview Bay Area dancers, choreographers, and artistic directors and share current news and trends in the dance world.

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I came back to ballet a few years after I stopped dancing professionally in my early 20s.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

I started taking ballet lessons when I was five years old. I later went on to train full-time at the School of American Ballet and performed with San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Although I always loved dancing and performing I eventually realized that the demands and sacrifices I made to be a dancer really weren’t paying off. I decided it was time to switch gears and explore other things.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I came back to dance after taking a few years off because dance had been one of the few constants in my life. Ballet studios feel like home, not just because I’ve spent so much time there but because they are a sanctuary of sorts, a place to let go and connect to something larger than myself.

Where do you take classes?

I live in the Bay Area where there is more dance per capita than anywhere else in the country. There are so many great places to choose from! Recently I tried class at the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley and fell in love with it–the building is an old Craftsman style bungalow, just gorgeous.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

Ballet is one of the most precise and elegant forms of dance in existence. I love the grace and strength I have developed. I also love the precision, majesty and beauty of the form.

What is your least favorite part?

Blisters, bunions, tendinitis… and more than 45 minutes of jumps in class.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Music has always been my greatest inspiration; some music really speaks so strongly to my heart that my body naturally wants to respond. Serenade and Concerto Barocco are two of my favorite ballets with absolutely incredible music. I’d have to say I’m inspired by all things Balanchine, of course, and all of the amazing dancers out there in today’s ballet world.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

When I dance I lose my sense of self and connect to something larger. That feeling, and the love of dance in general, is what keeps me coming back.

Do you take any other dance classes?

I really enjoy African dance classes, particularly if there are live drummers. Plus it’s really great to dance barefoot 🙂 I am also a huge salsa dance fanatic; it’s an energetic, carefree style of dance. The music is very upbeat and each time I dance with a different partner it’s like solving a puzzle: figuring out how to respond to their cues and wondering what move will come next. That keeps things fun and exciting.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I love hiking, running, distance bicycling and yoga. I’m also a creative person and enjoy things like knitting/crochet, drawing and photography. I’m also a writer by trade…. I just released my first ballet-based young adult novel last week.

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

Aside from the obvious points of finding a studio you like that has a floor made specifically for dancers, finding a good teacher is key. You need to know that the instruction will be professional and be sure to choose someone whose personality and teaching style resonates with you. The right teacher will not only help you build a strong ballet foundation, they will inspire you enough to stick with it.

Anything else you’d like to add?

There are so many benefits from ballet: grace, strength, spacial awareness…learning to apply dedication and discipline in your craft…you can always pick a dancer out of any room!

Do you have a blog?

Absolutely! my blog is called “The Writer in a Dancer’s Body” and you can find it on my website: www.griercooper.com where I regularly interview Bay Area dancers, choreographers, and artistic directors and share current news and trends in the dance world. I also have a resources page with tons of useful links and media.

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