Ballerina Profile: Laura of Surf and Hydrangeas

unnamedWhen did you start doing ballet as an adult?

February 2014, at 34 years old!?!

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

No. My mom tried to sign me up for a session and I hated every second of it. All I wanted to do was jump around and I don’t think I even finished the classes – I was a kid with ants in my pants!

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I was looking for something to add to my strength training routine to mix it up a bit and I had been curious about ballet for a while. I wanted to see what real ballet training was like – it seemed like it would be a great challenge for me. {Being graceful has not historically been one of my strong suits! :-)}

Where do you take classes?

I take classes at Align Ballet Method in Los Angeles.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

I feel like the answer to this question changes every day! I’ve written a post about some of what I love, but so many times I come out of class and say “I loved that barre or combination today!” In general I think adagios and anything “pique” are my favorite parts of class.

What is your least favorite part?

I’m a pretty Type-A person and I get frustrated when things don’t come easily but I’m not a huge fan of frappes – they get me every time.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

I’m obviously in awe of pretty much every professional ballet dancer out there, but I find most of my inspiration closer to home. The Align Ballet Method teachers each bring their own style to class that inspires me to work on different parts of my dancing. I’m also constantly inspired by my classmates as well. They all have their own strengths that I’m in awe of and it pushes me to work harder.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

The constant challenge and my continued progress are what keep me motivated. It is amazing, and so much fun, to realize that I can do things I initially struggled with and to see how my dancing has developed over time. I also love that no matter how much I figure out there is ALWAYS something new to work on.

Do you take any other dance classes?

I only take ballet. But whenever I’m traveling for work or fun, I try to find studio to take a class in that city.  So far I’ve taken classes in New York at a few studios, {Broadway Dance Center was by far my favorite} and Toronto at the National Ballet of Canada.  Toronto was very cool since you are in the same building as the professional company!

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Ballet has definitely become #1 on my list in the last year but I also like photography and exploring LA. I try to go somewhere new once a week.

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

Keep at it! It is frustrating, difficult and sometimes a little painful {I STILL get sore!} but don’t let a bad class discourage you. Everyone learns at their own speed and when things start to come together, it is totally worth it.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I was fortunate to be able to share my ballet experience on video not long ago and I hope that if anyone is nervous or not sure about taking ballet as an adult, my story helps them feel like this is something they can take on. It’s also really cool to have a record of my dancing so that next year {and beyond} I’ll be able to see my continued growth.

Do you have a blog?

Yes – Surf and Hydrangeas. It is more of a lifestyle blog, and not all about ballet, but I do write ballet related posts a couple times a month.

Ballerina Profile: Christina Han

image1Meet Christina Han, who returned to ballet after several years. She also is editor-in-chief of Spilt Arts, a nonprofit organization founded to help children from under served locations showcase their talents in literature, art, and photography. Check out the organization’s recent interview with Michaela DePrince on Spilt Arts website!

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I started classes the month before my 34th birthday.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

I danced ballet, tap, and jazz for almost 20 years as a kid, starting from 4 years old but jeez, that seems like a long time ago now!

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I’d been thinking about coming back to ballet for a couple of years but the idea seemed daunting because I knew my body wouldn’t be able to do what it used to. But when I decided to go back to school, I knew I needed to do something that helped with discipline and mental acuity. Also, I think a lot of people overlook how physically draining things like all nighters can be. So I bit the bullet and signed up for ballet because it’s all encompassing-mentally and emotionally challenging while being physically rigorous.

Where do you take classes?

I dance once a week at a local dance studio with my teacher Monique, who is empathetic and supportive. She’s also got a crackerjack sense of humor, which is much appreciated when you’re the only adult student in a room full of freakishly flexible ten year olds.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

Oh this is a hard one…ballet makes me appreciate everything my body can do. Instead of focusing on my limitations, I choose to celebrate the seemingly small victories, like balancing a little longer than the week before. Ballet also reminds me not to force things and that sometimes we can’t control a lot of aspects in life so just go with it and see what happens.

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Ballerina Profile: Linmayu Appavu

lin in la esmeralda 2014When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I made my final decision to return to ballet at age 35, and will never quit dancing again.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Yes, a lot of lessons. From age 6 to 25. I was the worst student in class and got yelled at a LOT, until I finally learned the difference between my right and left foot. I think I was 16 by then.

Because I had danced for so many years in the past, I thought it would be easy to come back and wow everyone, but no! I had to start over from square one. My mind knew what to do, but all my ballet muscles had disappeared into the ether from lack of use.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

During the years I wasn’t dancing, I couldn’t even go to a show and watch other people dance–any kind of dance–without feeling like I was being stabbed in the heart. Then I read all the magazines and all the articles that say people over age 20 who have boobs and butts shouldn’t do ballet. But you know what, I decided I don’t care about that. We each have just one life on this Earth, and I couldn’t imagine living out the rest of mine without taking myself to the absolute limits of my ability in dance. With God all things are possible. I’m just getting started.

Where do you take classes?

Currently, I take most of my classes with University Ballet of Chicago, a student group affiliated with University of Chicago. (That’s a tip for budding adult dancers: find a local college or university group that is open to non-students! You’re more likely to find performing opportunities, and it’s easier on the psyche to go to class with college kids than with high schoolers.) If I can’t get to UB, then I take class at the Joffrey Academy or Lou Conte Studio of Dance. Both have great adult classes at all levels, from basic to advanced/professional.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

Where do I begin? I think first and foremost, I love the beauty of the art form and the fact that it carries hundreds of years of human history. I love to move my body. I love to challenge my body, to do something today I couldn’t do yesterday. I love to land a perfect pirouette. I love jumping (a little bit too much; I tend to get crazy and then get injured). I love character dances. I love the music. I love the costumes (most of the time). I love performing, and feel very fortunate that I actually get to do that right now!

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Off Balance (Ballet Theatre Chronicles Book 1) Review and Author Q&A

9705802You know a book is good when you manage to finish it in just a few days, and that’s exactly what I did with Terez Mertez Rose’s new book, Off Balance (Ballet Theatre Chronicles Book 1). You can enter to win a copy of the book ath the bottom of this post, too!

You may know Terez because she runs The Classical Girl and I interviewed her a little over a year ago as part of our profile series. You can also find her at, and on Twitter and Facebook.

Here’s a nice little summary of the book:

 Alice thinks she’s accepted the loss of her ballet career, injury having forced her to trade in pointe shoes onstage for spreadsheets upstairs. That is, until the day Alice’s boss asks her to befriend Lana, a pretty new company member he’s got his eye on. Lana represents all Alice has lost, not just as a ballet dancer, but as a motherless daughter. It’s pain she’s kept hidden, even from herself, as every good ballet dancer knows to do.

Lana, lonely and unmoored, desperately needs some help, and her mother, back home, vows eternal support. But when Lana begins to profit from Alice’s advice and help, her mother’s constant attention curdles into something more sinister.

Together, both women must embark on a journey of painful rediscoveries, not just about career opportunities won and lost, but the mothers they thought they knew.

OFF BALANCE takes the reader beyond the glitter of the stage to expose the sweat and struggle, amid the mandate to sustain the illusion at all cost.

I loved how the novel brings these two women together as they share the struggles, but also the joys, of the ballet world and I can’t wait to see what book 2 of the series has in store for this world Terez has created. I’d definitely recommend to anyone who enjoys ballet to pick up the book.

I also had the opportunity to ask Terez a few questions about why she wrote the book and what role her own ballet experience played in her writing it:

Why did you decide to write a novel?

My first novel, back in 2002, just sort of wrote itself. Which sounds simplistic, but really, there was a grand sense of something pouring out of me that absolutely had to be put down on paper, and it wouldn’t abate after 10,000 words (I’d thought I was writing a short story) or 30,000 words, or even 70,000 words. I showed up every day, every spare moment, and the story kept pouring out. A part of me was sitting back, incredulous, observing it all happen. Nothing prior to that time in my writing practice had prepared me for that. The second novel, too, came from that same urgent, muse-driven place, suffused with this manic need to get the story down on paper. I will never know where the impulse came from, after years of only writing nonfiction—indeed, having woefully failed at my attempts to produce fiction. I suppose it was a matter of being in the right place at the right time, already committed to a daily writing practice, prepped for it to happen. I am now a firm believer in the adage that the story will come when it’s ready to be told. Or there’s a strong emotional need for it. The writer just has to be ready.

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Ballerina Profile: Ashley Daily

Ashley and DrueWhen did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I started taking ballet class just 2 months ago.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

I *think* I took ballet for a single class when I was around 5 years old. The only reason I have to suspect this happened is a single picture of me in a basic ballet leotard, tights and slippers. But I might also have been just “dressing up”. So, I honestly don’t know.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

This is such a great question! I wanted to try taking ballet when I was around 10-12 but my sister was trying out ballet and I didn’t want to encroach on her territory, so I did gymnastics instead. I am friends with a whole bunch of dancers and I’ve always admired their grace and poise. After having my third child, I desperately needed something to DO that would get me out of the house, away from my duties for just a moment and allow me to become the floaty-beautiful-perfect-ballerina-princess I have always wanted to try to be. I thought at first that I was too old. Surely, I thought, my time has come and gone. There certainly cannot be a class that will take me as I am: still fluffy from being pregnant, bad hips, endless ambition, no fear, and no experience. Yet, amazingly, a good dancer friend of mine pointed me in the right direction and I’ve absolutely loved every single minute of it!

Where do you take classes?

I take class in Lincoln Nebraska at Studio 2 under the very capable tutelage of Lindsay Fischer. It’s a small studio but the hard wood floors, exposed bricks and stone, and soaring ceilings give the studio such a unique character!

What is your favorite part about ballet?

My favorite part about Ballet is the finesse required. The solid determination to pursue a single movement to perfection. I love the discipline required. I am a classical pianist and I am amazed at the parallels between the two disciplines. Each finger has to be under control at all times, thought put into every note, knowing when, where and how to make the music your own while simultaneously belonging to everyone else. This lazer-focus on perfection appeals to me and so Ballet is a natural fit! The same principles apply: control, articulation, accentuation, dynamic, phrasing, performance. Attainable perfection! What a heady drug.

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