Beginner Ballerina Profile: Jennifer Ann de la Torre

jenny-in-pink1This week’s profile is of Jennifer Ann de la Torre, who runs a blog entitled The Dance of Mental Illness by Jennifer Ann de la Torre. She returned to ballet at the age of 39 after originally starting ballet at the age of 15.

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

When I turned 39 this year, I decided to return to ballet.

Did you ever take lessons as kid?

I began ballet at the late age of 15. In my first year, I took private lessons at a local school. When I was 16, I was accepted into Goh Ballet Academy. I was placed in the general program. When I was 17, I passed the audition, and was accepted into the professional program! I was also in my first year en pointe. After my last summer intensive, I decided to quit to go to university.
Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I have been away from ballet for 22 years. Ballet is very healing. I have a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder.
I also want to take my Royal Academy of Dancing or RAD, and Vaganova exams!  At age 39, I am too late to become a professional ballerina. Most professional ballerinas retire at age 40! Taking my ballet exams is my way of being a professional ballerina!

Where do you take classes?

Currently, I am in between dance teachers and dance schools. I am seeking private ballet lessons to prepare me for my exams. I have been away from ballet for 22 years, so private lessons would serve me well.

What is your favorite part of ballet?

I love to do pirouettes! When I did my first pirouette at age 15, I fell on my bottom! I consider pirouettes my best ballet move! I like the strength, grace, and coordination of a pirouette. It would be neat if I could do a pirouette en pointe! In my first year en pointe, I was so scared of having to do a pirouette one day! At the age of 39, I am not scared anymore!

What is your least favorite part?

My least favorite part of ballet is having to stand at the front or the end of the barre! During my days at Goh Ballet, I copied the dancer in front of me at the barre! I cannot memorize steps at the barre, but I can memorize steps in centre.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

After my ballet classes, I would sit on the floor and watch Brianne Bland dance. I have always admired her strength and grace. She has the perfect ballerina body. Brianne was accepted into the Washington Ballet as a soloist for 13 seasons. I was sad to hear of her retirement, but I had the honor of watching her dance every day at my ballet school.

My other ballet inspiration is Shannon Grey. She was the best dancer in my class, and she always talked to me! She may have been the youngest and I was the oldest. When Shannon dances, I know that she loves ballet. Her expression in her face and in her body tells me that she loves to dance. We reunited 10 years ago at Goh Ballet. I was observing an adult class, and I had the honor of watching Shannon dance for the last time, while she warmed up at the barre.

Shannon was preparing for a small professional ballet company that she was accepted into.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

I feel beautiful when I dance!

Do you take any other dance classes?

I am a dance purist! Ballet is pure dance. The only dance I dance is ballet.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I study violin with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music. I also sing, act, write, and draw.

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

If you begin ballet as a teenager, you still have the potential to become a professional ballerina! You would need to train full time at a professional ballet school. I began ballet at age 15. I trained with a professional ballet school. I have always regretted quitting….I always wonder if I would have made it as a professional ballerina if I did not quit.

Ballet does not have to end after childhood. The love of ballet is enough reason to dance. You do not have to become a professional ballerina.

Do you have a blog?

My blog is,  entitled The Dance of Mental Illness by Jennifer Ann de la Torre. I share stories of my recovery from mental illness and addiction. My latest diagnosis is schizoaffective disorder. I present to you my dance of mental illness and addiction and my recovery step by step…

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