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 jenniferanndelatorre.wordpress.com,  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…

#AdultBallerinas Can Dance!

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One of only three photos I’ve ever shared of me dancing.

We put in hours upon hours of dance a week and many of us take 3, 4 or 5 classes a week–yet we rarely share photos or videos of us actually doing it–myself included. That’s part of the reason I request photos of dancers when I interview them, so that readers can put a face to the dancer.

Kudos to those who already share photos AND videos of yourselves dancing, I deeply admire you. But I want to see more. We can encourage others to dance by sharing more and more photos and videos of us dancing, and I’d love to share them all on Adult Ballerina Project to show just how strong the adult ballerina community is!

Here’s how:

Starting Friday, November 29th (the day after Thanksgiving) post your photos and videos of you dancing (ballet or any other form of dance) on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine using the hashtag #adultballerinas. Then each Friday until January 3rd, I’ll post a weekly recap of your photos and videos posted throughout the week.

Don’t have a social media account or prefer to e-mail photos? You’ll be able to e-mail photos to adultballerinaproject@gmail.com to participate too!

Not enough incentive yet? Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking for rewards to giveaway to those who participate, but for now I’m still on the hunt for prize ideas–if you have an idea of what would make a great prize or know someone who’d like to donate something for the contest, let me know!

Thank you to http://politefrivolity.blogspot.com/ for sparking the idea!

 

Beginner Ballerina Profile: Bethany Keats

This weeks profile is of Bethany Keats, who started ballet after her gym closed and she couldn’t find another one that offered what she wanted, but needed to stay active. Read more below and be sure to watch out for her blog (bethany.merindolhall.com), which is coming soon!

Bethany getting in some ballet stretching on a ferry!

Bethany getting in some ballet stretching on a ferry!

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I started in the middle of 2012, so I have been doing ballet for a year and a term now.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

I never took formal lessons as a kid but there was one hour of ballet as a part of my gymnastics training to help our movement for floor routines. I hated it and I don’t count it as doing ballet as a kid.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

My gym closed down and not liking what other gyms in my city offered, I needed something to keep me active. My commute to work is over 90 minutes each way therefore my usual outdoor sports I had been involved in were out of the question as there was no daylight when I got home. I started to think about taking some dance classes to blur that line between fun and exercise. I was also concerned about my posture from sitting at a desk all day and ballet ticked all the boxes I was looking for.

Where do you take classes?

I do classes twice a week at The Loft in Geelong.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

I enjoy the movement and muscle control. It’s a great feeling when you’re able to exercise that control and move your muscles exactly how you are supposed to.

What is your least favorite part?

Being in a class of adults with a varied background, the rate of learning is different for everyone and it can be frustrating when it’s moving too slow or two fast – but that’s just about patience (if I’m finding it too slow) or reminding myself that it’ll click another week (if I’m finding it too fast).

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

I couldn’t name a professional dancer to save my life. I have never been to the ballet and I know nothing about it beyond my adult class. Growing up, the only ballerina I knew was Jessi from the Babysitters Club.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

Sheer enjoyment. I have also set myself a goal of pointe as something to work towards.

Do you take any other dance classes?

Not since primary school when I did contemporary. Although there was my debutant ball in year 11 and one term of Latin at university. I’d jump at doing Latin or ballroom again.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Unfortunately, I don’t have much in the way of free time but I love rowing and I wish I did more of it. It was my primary sport for a number of years but working life just got in the way. I’m also involved with my local community radio station and I learn French.

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

Be patient. You won’t get everything straight away and sometimes you just need to let the teacher’s instruction sink in. It can be really frustrating but when it eventually sinks it, it feels great knowing that you had to work hard for it.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I don’t have kids, but I often wonder if ballet would be something I would encourage any future kids, or friends’ kids, to do. I was on the eating disorder spectrum for a number of years and as much as I love ballet as an adult who is aware of body image risks involved, this is something that I’m uncomfortable with when it comes to young people. I think you’d have to choose the teacher very wisely.

 

Beginner Ballerina Profile: Jackie of A Dancer’s Fairytale

This week’s profile is on Jackie of A Dancer’s Fairytale, make sure you check her blog out! She started ballet in June after this year because the national dance company she works for inspired her!

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When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I started on June 15 this year!

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Yes I started at 3 years old and did dance until I was 15 years old. Dance was everything to me when I was a kid.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I work at a national ballet company and I was inspired by seeing the ballerinas and dancers every day. I was kind of jealous so I started again. I also wanted to start again because I put on a lot of weight and I wanted to lose it and feel good about myself again.

Where do you take classes?

I take class at CCP Dance School which is the dance school of Ballet Philippines. So besides the company they have a connecting dance school.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

The performance. Isn’t that what dancers live for anyway? For me it is the costumes and the thrill of being on stage and dancing. I have to be on stage a lot for my major but dancing on stage is so much different for me. I just love the preparation and the hard work you put into your dancing to get to that final performance.

What is your least favorite part?

The least favorite part for me is getting frustrated when I can’t do a step or I work so hard on a step and still can’t do it. That for me is the worst. I feel like sometimes I expect too much and when I have a hard time doing something I will get so mad at ballet but I guess that is part of the dedication and I think I am perfectionist which makes it even more difficult for me. Also a silly thing is when I cannot pronounce the step. I am studying French so I am trying to perfect it so I can say the steps better.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Who inspires me would have to be my dad. Since I started again he has been putting up with my ballet talk ever since I started working for the company and he helped me decided to start back up again. Sometimes he says I have “ballet brain” and encourages me and not let me worry and lets me stay positive. Another thing that is an inspiration to me is myself. I try and motivate myself to do ballet because it is such a passion of mine. Seeing professional dancers every day also adds to that but if I believe I can they nothing can stop me.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

Besides the company dancers, I would say the break I had. I regretted taking 5 years off which you would think is not really a long time but to me it was like forever. I pretty much try to motivate myself so I could do what I always dreamed of doing which is becoming a dance teacher.

Do you take any other dance classes?

Not right now because I am in the last year of college but after I graduate I plan on starting and teaching tap at the dance school I take classes at.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I write. I love writing novels and making stories in my head. I am taking up a communication course as my major so I get to write often. Another hobby I love to do is read I guess but that’s kind of similar to writing because you need to read if you want to get inspiration for writing. Other than dancing I don’t have much of a hobby.

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

My advice would be to start ballet if it is your dream. Don’t be scared because someone will judge you. I was afraid to start again but I did it and I love being back. If you think you want to start don’t let anything hold you back because the regret will eat you up. Just have fun and everything will follow because in the end it is always worth it!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for letting me do this interview. I really enjoyed doing it and answering it. I wish everyone luck in their adventures of dancing!

Beginner Ballerina Profile: Lisa of RainStorm

This week’s profile is of Lisa, who runs a blog called RainStorm. Enjoy this profile of this recent ballerina who started around the same exact time I did!

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Lisa is in the black leotard.

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

April 2012

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Yup – a bit later than others. I took it up aged 9 or 10 I think. I had a great ballet teacher and worked really hard, even though it didn’t come naturally to me (I am tall and not at all flexible). I kept going to lessons until I left for university aged 18. I would have carried on dancing, but it wasn’t on offer so I took up karate instead! (The two are surprisingly similar.)

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I missed it! Every now and then I would say how much I missed it and my partner just said, “Well, why don’t you go to a class then?” I eventually ran out of excuses and followed his advice!

Where do you take classes?

I was taking classes in Reading (at TPAI) with Michelle, who got me back up to speed and is generally pretty fabulous.  But when I have time I supplement my training with classes in London, at both DanceWorks and DanceAttic. I’ve just moved house so I’m going to have to find the right classes for me.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

I think that when the music starts, my brain switches into an alternative reality which is calm and focused. It is the perfect de-stresser for an easily stressed girl! Also, I love the sense of achievement when you finally master something tricky.

What is your least favorite part?

Jumping! It’s so tiring – especially when the teacher says “one more time” – you know she’s lying but you still put all your energy in and then have to do it three more times!

Who/What is your ballet inspiration? 

All the other adult dancers that I have met along the way. Some are so dedicated. I have recently started going to watch ballet too.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

I just want to. It’s so nice to have a form of exercise that I really want to do.

Do you take any other dance classes?

No, although I have been involved in dance in other ways, such as working with children.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet? 

Now there’s a question 🙂 I’m a fireworks engineer; I love sailing and surfing; I roller skate and regularly take part in organised skates around London; I recently tried (and loved) stand up paddle boarding; on quiet days I enjoy reading, crocheting and swimming.

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

Seek out a beginners lesson – there are lots of great adult classes around so it is worth choosing one that is pitched at the right level.

At the beginning of each lesson, choose one thing to focus on (e.g. turnout/posture/arm shape) – I find that this helps me to improve quicker.

And for girls, I really would recommend wearing a leotard! It’s scary to start with but I find it much more supportive and easier to check my posture. You can wear a t-shirt or vest over the top, but it really is worth it.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

I wish I had more time for it. Currently I barely make one class a week. Once I’m moved and settled I really hope to make at least two classes each week.

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I’m in the black leotard. I don’t have any decent ones of just me doing ballet – these were taken by my lovely man during a “ballet tweep-up” organised by the lovely Becca of @becca_tweet.

 

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