Ballerina Profile: Jessica Rosevear Fox

10150550_10103658194825129_715991065_n (3)When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I started ballet when I was 31 and have been dancing for about two years now. I started pointe last September. I love it!

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

I took ballet lessons for a few years in elementary school and quit after fifth grade. It was just something I did; I wasn’t passionate about it.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I became really intrigued by ballet the summer I turned 31. I read a book where the mother was a former ballerina, and I sort of thought, “Oh yeah, ballet, that’s a thing.” I started watching ballet videos on YouTube, reading different ballet blogs, and looking at ballet-themed photos and posts on Pinterest. I became really interested in pointe work. It fascinated me. Finally, I decided to check out an adult ballet class with the goal of eventually getting to pointe.

Where do you take classes?

I take classes at a dance and yoga studio about ten minutes away from my house. The classes are small, and so I’ve been able to grow a lot in a short amount of time. It’s a really nice community there. I’ve taken other classes in different studios, both in the area and in the city, but nothing beats my local studio.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

I have so many! I’m really drawn to the emphasis on precision, even if I don’t always achieve it. I love the push to be both powerful and graceful simultaneously. I also love my pointe shoes. They are my prized possessions! I love the feeling of waking up the day after a great class and feeling the soreness that tells me I worked hard previous day. I also love grand allegro. Tendus are my favorite barre exercise. I have lots of favorite parts of ballet!

What is your least favorite part?

I have really tight hamstrings, so developpes and extensions in general are hard for me.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

I’m inspired by professional ballerinas, pointe shoes, classical ballet music, my ballet teacher, and other adult ballerinas who are out there making it happen, imperfect as we are!

What motivates you to keep dancing?

I’m motivated by my own goals. I love dancing en pointe, and it’s something you need to do consistently to keep it up.

Do you take any other dance classes?

No, just ballet.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I run a literary magazine inspired by Virginia Woolf called Killing the Angel, and I recently wrote a short story called “After the Ballet”, now available on Amazon, in part inspired by the ballet world. I’m obsessed with French language, French culture, and lavender, so part of the story is set in France on a lavender farm! I also like cooking, knitting, and running.

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

I would say to go for it! Don’t worry about the reasons not to go; just try it out. Also, if you don’t like your studio, try others until you find the right one. In my experience, having the right teacher and the right environment makes a big difference.

Do you have a blog?

I have a website for my literary magazine and indie press.

Photo by Skyler Fox

Interview: Jana and Abby of Ballerinas By Night

Adult ballerinas Jana and Abby created the Ballerinas By Night YouTube channel and blog for adult ballet students. Learn about their journeys in dance, their mission, their advice for struggling students, their dream ballet roles, and so much more!

Abby and Jana of Ballerinas By Night.

Abby and Jana of Ballerinas By Night

Tell us a little about your ballet backgrounds…

Jana: Despite being obsessed with ballet from a very young age (my parents had recorded Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker movie off TV), I didn’t start ballet lessons until age 8. My first ballet was a local production of The Secret Garden and I played a beetle 🙂 I went on pointe at age 12 and danced in various local ballets until age 16, when I put my social life on priority over ballet. Typical teenager!

At age 21, I found myself back at the barre, thanks to the encouragement of my then-future husband. At first, it was just a great way to get exercise and lose that college weight, but then I went back on pointe and started performing again! I met Abby at this time and she was in the process of opening her own ballet school. When she opened it, I started training with her and quickly realized how poor my technique actually was. Her teaching really clicked with me and I found myself feeling stronger and more confident with my dancing. The few years I had to train and perform with her before she moved away were some of the best years of my life!!

Abby at age 17

Abby at age 17

Abby: I grew up dancing from the age of 8, and started really taking it seriously in my teens. Alabama Ballet started a school when I was 15 and I traveled there 5-6 days a week for two years. It was amazing because my teachers had been high-level American Ballet Theatre dancers, yet our class sizes would often be 4 to 6 people, because it was the first year. The training I got was incredible, and in a more intimate setting than I could have possibly gotten any other way.

Alabama Ballet offered me a contract with the company my second year. I did correspondence school in my senior year so I could dance full time, but ultimately opted to go to college. Dancing in college was not a fit for me, so I left to get my academic degree.

Stepping back into the studio after 3 years off was like starting over. From there, I have just continued to plug away. I opened a studio, got teacher training, closed the studio, got back in shape, danced more, retired, and now I am teaching fairly full time.

What inspired you to start Ballerinas By Night YouTube channel?

Jana: Abby’s teaching inspired me to start our YouTube channel. There’s this stigma that adult students can’t achieve as much as younger students can. Abby doesn’t care about any of that. If you show up and want to work, she will help you achieve what you want – no matter how old you are or what shape you are in. She just sees potential! She helped me push myself to limits I never thought I could achieve. I got over the idea in my head that if something didn’t happen naturally then I couldn’t do it. If there was a struggle, she would take the time to break it down and figure out what wasn’t working. I learned so much from her and I knew there were other adults out there who feel just like me–no ballet career ahead of them, but wanting to train hard for personal fulfillment! Fortunately, Abby was on board to start the channel as she is passionate about spreading her love of teaching!

Abby: After I closed my studio, I used leftover materials to build a small studio in the spare bedroom of my house. Jana would come over 2-3 times a week and we would do as much class as we could (barre and some center). But, we felt like we needed more ballet in our lives and wanted a project to work on. Jana is very good with a camera and it was basically her getting it all started. All I did was sit awkwardly in front of the camera! Once I moved, we had more challenges–mainly that I am terrible at filming and Jana still has to do all the editing for me! Some people criticize YouTube as a place where people want to get famous, but I think we are both much more guarded. I rarely discuss the channel in everyday life. Our focus has always been to put information out there and hope there are people that want or need to hear it.

What do you find most challenging about ballet?

Jana: Currently, I find it challenging to build strength and technique and maintain it. Some of it is due to being an adult and not being able to make every class. Some of it is because my current classwork is just combinations and nothing building upon itself. I think that’s the hardest thing for teachers of adults–they can’t expect adult students to commit to class like young students, so that makes it hard to figure out what the group needs and how to build technique from day one, when every class is filled with different people. So, it’s challenging for me to remember to apply every correction, past or present, when, in one class we work on those corrections, and then, in the next class, I’m just trying to keep up with difficult combinations.

Abby: Ballet is hard to keep as a part time thing. If you do it part time, it’s hard to get where you want to be with it. If you spend more time on it, it can start to eat into your personal life.

For me personally, I’ve been a professional, but I regressed so much after being off for 3 years that I didn’t look like a professional anymore. I have gotten caught in between the worlds of being a student and being a professional because I haven’t always fit into a specific mold. I feel this constant struggle between claiming what I am and not feeling worthy of claiming it.

Jana in class

Jana in class

What do you find most rewarding about ballet?

Jana: The thing I find most rewarding about ballet is the feeling of accomplishment. Having the strength to do a difficult combination, be in control, and feel pretty while you’re doing it feels so amazing!

Abby: This is so hard to put into words, for me. It’s like one of those things you have to experience to “get” it. I remember the first time I really applied a correction and saw how much better I got–instantly. I was 11 or 12, and it was about my posture in my pliés. I realized that once I thought about posture, my pliés were so much better. I loved being in control of my progress and craved getting more corrections so I could apply them to every step I executed.

But, as time has gone on, it’s been more about the mind/body/spirit connection. It’s my meditation. Which is good, because, most of the time now my body does not cooperate, so I definitely do not feel in control of my progress like I did as a student. Now I think much less about the steps and the technique, but how the movement is produced. I think about my rib cage, and how it affects my limbs. But then I also think about my emotions and my spiritual life, and how to convey that to the audience (even if it’s just the teacher or other students). I just try to turn myself inside out, and that is now the most rewarding thing for me.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about adult ballet students?

Jana: I think the biggest misconception about adult ballet students is that they want to come to class only for exercise or social reasons. Some of us (probably those reading this blog!) want to build good technique, be challenged, and be pushed to be the best we can be.

Abby: The biggest misconception is that they just want to have fun, and don’t really take it seriously. I find that adults take their dancing more seriously than a lot of younger students because they are really invested in it. Unlike (most) teenagers, they are paying for their classes and are taking time away from something else to be at class. So, it’s serious business for them. I have had so many adults thank me for my teaching simply because I treated the class like they could move forward and would take time to explain things and really give corrections. If they just wanted to dance for exercise, they could go to Zumba (and yes, I have done that too!). They come to ballet for something else. I know that once I returned to ballet as an adult, I felt what it was like trying to find teachers to take you seriously. So, I’ve been there, and I just treat my students like I wanted to be treated.

What advice would you give to adult students who are struggling with their journey in ballet?

Jana

Jana. Photograph by Abby.

Jana: If you’re an adult student struggling with your journey in ballet, first of all, I feel for you. When Abby was living and teaching in the same city as me, my ballet classes were so fulfilling every single time. Since she moved two years ago, it’s been hit or miss with classes. It’s tough. If you can make at least one friend in class who’s on the same page as you, that helps. It’s good to have someone to talk to who understands ballet! That friendship could turn into staying after class to work on things together, or taking private lessons together. Sometimes it’s easier to ask for what you want in class when you’re not the only one who wants it. If you can’t make it to a physical class, give yourself barre at home! Also, hop onto Instagram. There’s a super supportive adult ballet community growing there! (start your search with #adultballerina)

Abby: First, give it more time. Dancing is something that happens a little at a time. Try not to get frustrated if it feels like things are not happening right away. Second, try to find ways to fill in the gaps of knowledge. That’s been a huge goal for our channel and a big part of our mission. Either you grew up dancing, but don’t remember certain things. Or, you were never really taught something. Or, you began class as an adult and got kind of thrown into classes and certain things were never fully explained. Whatever the case, we are trying to deliver content that will bridge any gaps adult dancers may have.

Who are a few of your favorite ballet dancers?

Jana: I adore Michaela DePrince, Ashley Bouder, and Daniil Simkin. Natalia Osipova is freaking amazing, of course. I love to watch powerhouse dancers because I am so far from being a powerhouse 🙂

Abby: Isabella Boylston is probably my favorite ballerina currently dancing. There is just something really special about her artistry and movement quality. I follow Catherine Hurlin because I saw her as a child when I was doing my teacher training at ABT, so it’s been fun to watch her grow up and move up through the ranks. My husband and I are both huge fans of Daniil Simkin. But, I also enjoy a good corps as much, or more, than lead dancers doing solos.

What’s your dream ballet role?

Jana: I feel like I don’t have the typical ballerina answer to this! Because music is what inspires me to move, I desire to dance in works where movement is inspired by music and not so much a story. I would love to dance in Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering or Balanchine’s Serenade. But it would fulfill my childhood dream to be a Snowflake and the Peacock in Sendak & Stowell’s The Nutcracker! I finally got to see it live last year at PNB before they retired it and afterward I got to go backstage and sit in the Peacock cage! So close 🙂

Abby: Oh, so many! Kitri from Don Quixote, Aurora from The Sleeping Beauty, and almost anything from La Bayadere or Le Corsaire. The list could go on and on. But, I also have a deep love for contemporary ballet, and wish I had gotten more chances to do more of that. I’ve never been built like a classical ballet dancer, and often don’t feel like I fit into the traditional roles. Had I known about Complexions Contemporary Ballet as a teen I would have pursued that company and that side of ballet much more.

Abby. Photograph by Jana Carson Photography.

Abby. Photograph by Jana Carson Photography.

Ballerina Profile: Kat H.

11248074_801941201893_3359701117220624683_nWhen did you start doing ballet as an adult?

3 weeks ago!

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Yes. I started when I was 2.5 and danced up until I was 21.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I missed it terribly! I have been trying to be better about taking care of myself, and dance feels natural. The local studio started having adult ballet classes and I jumped at the chance!

Where do you take classes?

Lotus Studio in Salem Oregon

What is your favorite part about ballet?

The way my brain still remembers how to do it (even though my body isn’t listening yet) and how fast I’m seeing results. My posture is improving, my flexibility has already increased, and my stamina is getting better every day.

What is your least favorite part?

That my brain remembers how to do everything but my body isn’t listening yet. 🙂 It’s so frustrating to set up for a pirouette and then lose my balance half way through. My body isn’t the same as it was 9 years ago.  Also I’m not happy with the current selection of larger sized dancewear. That needs to change.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Wayne Sleep is an inspiration. His documentary Big Ballet helped me get over the fact that I’m not built “like a dancer” anymore. It really doesn’t matter.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

How happy I am when I have my ballet slippers on. It’s like a drug. I just want to keep dancing once I start. I’m already seeing results too!

Do you take any other dance classes?

Not at the moment. I used to take jazz, tap, lyrical, ballroom, and I’ve taken a Zumba class or two. I’m hoping to start taking ballroom again this year. There aren’t many adult dance classes in my area…yet.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I ride motorcycles, play golf, and remodel my house.

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

If you want to do ballet, then go try a class! Don’t worry about how silly you look, because you don’t look nearly as silly as you think you do. As adult dancers, we aren’t all going to be tall lean size 0’s with 180 degree turnout. If a size 12, 190 lb, big cheasted (I’m talking 34GG’s here…)30 year, with 90 degree turnout can dance around in a leotard and tights so can you! Everyone else in that class is so focused on themselves that they don’t have an ounce of thought left to worry about you. 🙂

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d love to see more adults be empowered and get into ballet. The dance world won’t change itself. Ballet isn’t just for little girls and skinny bitches for goodness sake! (Note: I’m NOT skinny shaming…I love all dancers equally.)

Ballerina Profile: Renée O’Neal

Dancer PoseWhen did you start doing ballet as an adult?
January 2014
 
Did you ever take lessons as a kid?
When I was about 9 years old, I used to have a coloring book called “Betsy Takes a Bow.” It told the story of a little girl named Betsy who takes ballet lessons and eventually dances the lead in Swan Lake. The best part, for me at least, was that the studio in the book was called “Renée’s School of Dance.” (I’m fairly certain that’s the reason that I never wanted to be a professional dancer – I wanted to run the show and own my own dance studio instead.) Anyways, the book had some pretty awful pictures of ballet positions and steps, and I tried to imitate them as best as I could. Even though I was a bit of a tomboy, my mom signed me up for ballet lessons (thanks, Mom!). I studied classical and contemporary ballet for many years, and I danced with two companies, the Tallahassee Ballet and Renascent Dance Theatre. After about 13 years, my heart just wasn’t in it anymore, so I stopped and went on what became an extended hiatus.
 
Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?
I moved around a bit over the years (Maryland, Colorado, North Carolina, Virginia), and I would occasionally take a class here and there. Even though I loved ballet, for one reason or another, I found it difficult to commit to anything on a regular basis. I tried some other activities, specifically yoga and fencing, and it was because of those outside interests that I met a wonderful man, got married, and had a baby girl. We relocated from Richmond to SW Virginia a couple of years ago so that he could work on his PhD, and being a stranger in a new town, I once again found myself longing for the community of pink tights and pointe shoes. As a 40-year old mother of an adorable toddler, I knew that my post-baby body, my post-hiatus abilities, and my adult perspective would make for completely different dance experience. I researched the local studio options and spent a few months debating on whether or not I really wanted to “go back”. It was during this time of indecision that a chance encounter at a coffee shop settled the matter. I met an amazing dance teacher, Carol Crawford-Smith, and after speaking with her briefly, I took it as a sign that I should get myself to a barre ASAP! Within a week, I found myself in one of her adult classes and completely in love with ballet once more. Ever since then, I’ve taken classes at two studios, performed as a Court Lady in a production of Cinderella, became a member of the Ballet Project at Virginia Tech (BPVT), danced as the Mouse Queen and a Flower in the Nutcracker, and served as a costume designer and stage manager for BPVT’s spring show. It’s been an amazing year.
 
Where do you take classes?
When time and money permits, I drop in for adult classes at two studios – the Center of Dance and Little Leapers.  I also enjoy the free open-level classes offered by the Ballet Project at Virginia Tech.
 
What is your favorite and least favorite part about ballet?
There’s no single thing about ballet that I love more than anything else. The leg warmers, the tights, the shoes, the smell of the marley flooring, the music, the sweat, the balances, the turns, the jumps, the aching muscles, the rehearsals, the stage, the performance. I love it all.
 
What I find the most interesting is how my preferences and abilities have changed to accommodate my older, post-baby body. Back in the day, I loved turns, especially combinations across the floor. However, I now find that turns are more of a challenge because my inner ear just doesn’t want to cooperate. It doesn’t matter how well I spot, if I try to do too many in a series, I get really super-dizzy. I’ve talked to an Audiologist and an ENT doctor, and they both said it’s most likely age-related. It’s a bit of a bummer, but I don’t let it stop me.
 
I’ve also noticed that my attitude (no pun intended) toward jumps is different. Petite allegro was never my forte, but I’ve found that I have more fun with it now than ever before. I also used to be fairly ambivalent about grande allegro, but now I look forward to leaping and soaring across the room.
 
Who/What is your ballet inspiration?
I’m inspired by anyone that works hard at what they do and enjoys doing it. I love to watch dancers that are willing to try every step, and even when they are overwhelmed, they still manage to smile, laugh, and keep going. There’s a girl that occasionally shows up to one of my classes, and she always puts in extra effort, repeating combinations in the corner, over and over, even after the music stops. Whenever I see her, I am inspired to keep going, to work harder, to try that combination again. Once more with feeling, indeed.
 
What motivates you to keep dancing?
It varies. The reflection in the bathroom mirror reminds me that I need to stay active. As a returning dancer, I’m fascinated by what my body can –and sometimes can’t– do, especially after having had a baby. Every class, for better or worse, is an opportunity to discover something new about myself, and I always feel an amazing sense of accomplishment when it’s over. Plus, I love that my daughter identifies me as a ballerina, so that’s a powerful motivator to keep dancing. When I come home, and she asks me in her sweet little voice if I had a good dance class, I just melt. 
 
Do you take any other dance classes?
Living in a small town means that there aren’t as many chances to branch out, and having a husband in grad school and a toddler in day care means there isn’t a lot of time and money available for anything other than one or two ballet classes a week. Whenever possible, I try to participate in any opportunities that come my way. When the Aspen-Santa Fe Ballet came to town last year, I was lucky to be able to attend their master class. It was an awesome experience, and I learned so much.
 
What are your hobbies outside of ballet?
I enjoy crafty things, especially knitting, and I also enjoy playing board games. When the weather is nice, I love spending time outdoors with my husband and my daughter, which usually involves spotting airplanes, picking flowers, and looking for bugs.
 
What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?
Don’t worry what anyone else thinks. Have fun with it. Just dance.
 
Anything else you’d like to add?
I think I’ve probably said enough, but I will add that I am grateful for this opportunity to share a bit of my dance experience with everyone.

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 facebook.com/Karen.AmbassadorOfHope. Thank you.

 

Skip to toolbar