Beginner Ballerina Profile: Christine Lee Smith

Christine-Lee-SmithThis week’s profile is on Christine Lee Smith who has been dancing for a year now after taking ballet for “about five minutes” as a kid. Make sure you check out her awesome photography as well!

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

January 2013.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

For about five minutes I took ballet when I was in kindergarten or first grade. I think I was traumatized by the on stage “Dumbo” performance we did because I didn’t go back.

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Beginner Ballerina Profile: Zoe Simms aka Bush Ballerina

Our first nominated Beginner Ballerina is Zoe Simms, aka Bush Ballerina. Check out the profile below and make sure you follow her blog to read more about the upcoming ballet classes she’ll be attending with her daughter!

River Ballet 1

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I started ballet in March this year (2013). I was 35 years old.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

I only took a handful of ballet lessons in my childhood. I did a little jazz and tap.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

Ballet was a style of dance that I had never tried properly as a child, and it had always kind of baffled me. It looked complicated and intense. I was overwhelmed by it. Especially the ballet language – “You want me to pirou-what?” I mean, I thought it was absolutely beautiful and enchanting, and I had always wanted to learn it. But I was too scared.

I decided to start ballet as an adult to help me fight my way out of a depression. It was essentially therapy. I needed to spend time each day focussing on something that was completely new to me, and was only for me – not for anyone else. It needed to take me out of my comfort zone. I chose ballet to do that, and it worked.

It’s amazing how something you can be so afraid of can end up being so healing.

Tenterfield ballet 1

Where do you take classes?

I live in the bush and don’t have access to any adult classes, so I teach myself. I read books on teaching ballet and I search the internet for great ballet videos to learn from. So I take classes in my lounge room. And sometimes by the river.

I will be travelling back and forth to Sydney for some medical treatments for my daughter soon, and I have lined up some ballet classes at Studio Tibor while I am down there. I’m really looking forward to that.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

Ballet soothes my soul. That’s my favorite part.

What is your least favorite part?

Not being able to do everything I wish I could do. Why can’t a retire in releve be easier to hold?

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?zoe ballet hilltop

Oh, I have a mega Polina crush (Polina Semionova)! Haha. Actually, the people who inspire me the most are those who aren’t technically supposed to be dancing ballet but are doing it anyway. Traditionally there has been discouragement around starting ballet any older than teenhood, but now there are all these people starting ballet all through adulthood . It’s both beautiful in contrast, and courageous.

I’m also inspired by the teachers who are not only instructing adult dancers in ballet, but are holding them to high expectations. Those teachers are telling adults starting ballet that they shouldn’t expect less of themselves just because they are not spring chickens. I think that is an inspiring way to view life in general.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

The acute awareness that one day I won’t be able to dance anymore, and that I may be unable to dance sooner rather than later, is a major motivational factor.

I have a connective tissue disorder which makes my body pretty high maintenance. I need to work really hard to keep my body functioning (sometimes only semi-functioning). Ballet has become an important form of physical therapy for me. It’s also, as I mentioned earlier, my emotional therapy. So basically I become a a bit of an all round mess if I don’t dance! Lol.

Do you take any other dance classes?

No. But I would love to have a go at some of the ballroom styles before my dancing days are over. That would be even harder to learn on my own, in the bush! “Bush Ballroom?” Haha.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

My blog. Watching movies. Attempting to fish. Oh, and I am an unabashed Dancing with the Stars geek. Our Australian version just started a new series, so that is my Tuesday night hobby at the moment!

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

You won’t always be able to dance your heart out. So do it while you can.

Remember that every day you are able to dance is a blessing. It’s easy to feel disappointed and frustrated with our physical limitations (especially as adults entering ballet) but it is a blessing to even be in the position that enables you to feel that frustration. Feel blessed that you have a studio or a lounge room to walk into for ballet. Feel blessed to have a teacher or access to amazing teachers who wrote books that you can learn from. Feel blessed when the music starts. Feel blessed when you move your body – even if it’s in the wrong direction. It’s kind of neat that you have a body you can move, because not everyone has that. Ballet really is a gift.

Beginner Ballerina Profile: Karen Merchant of The Brush of an Intention

This week’s profile was nominated by her friend, Michelle, who I interviewed last week. Karen Merchant runs a wonderful blog over on Tumblr called The Brush of Intention. Make sure you check it out and read below to learn more about Karen!

Photo on 2013-06-08 at 11.40 #2

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I started in January 2013. 

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Nope. Absolutely no dance background. 

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I was looking for a new hobby and came across a dance studio that offers an 8-week BASICS Beginners workshop so I figured, why not? 

Where do you take classes?

I take classes at the Contemporary School of Ballet Dallas.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

Every time I am at class, I am able to step outside my own busy/stressful life and focus on my own strength, grace, form and flexibility. Its wonderful!

What is your least favorite part?

I hate that class ends after 1.5 hours. I wish I could dance all day long! 

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

I suppose it would be my instructors-they are amazing! 

What motivates you to keep dancing?

The dream of dancing en pointe. Its the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I also want to learn how to move my body to music and really tell a story; convey an emotion. I want to take what I am feeling-anger, sadness, happiness, hope and create real art. 

Do you take any other dance classes?

Just ballet. I’ve considered taking modern and/or ballroom dancing, but I really just want to focus on only ballet right now. 

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I adore yoga as it enables me to find my strength and stability. Sometimes I even call it my “ballet homework”. I also like to run long distances (just completed my first half marathon last year!)

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

Ballet takes a lot of patience, especially as an adult beginner, but if you love it, then stick to it! You will see improvement with time, I already have! 

 

Beginner Ballerina Profile: Michelle McCarthy

This week’s profile is of Michelle, who contacted me a few weeks ago about doing a profile on her ballet friend Karen (who will be featured next Friday!). Michelle reminds us so much that you need to only compare yourself to yourself–not to any other dancers! It’s amazing how much you’ve improved, even when you don’t think you’ve come that far.

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When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

 Michelle: January 2013 (33 years old)

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Michelle: Nope. I was interested, but I think my parents thought it was too expensive and my mother didn’t want to hang out with the “dance moms.” They did let me take gymnastics, tumbling, and cheerleading for a while. In college, I went swing and salsa dancing.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

Michelle: I was interested in taking barre fitness classes but balking at the expense. A co-worker suggested I take the “basics” workshops at her studio since it was mostly barre work. I took both 8-week sessions and became interested in ballet for its own sake (although it has been a great workout). And I’m now spending a lot more money per month than my old gym membership…oops!

 

Before class!

 Michelle: School of Contemporary Ballet Dallas.

 What is your favorite part about ballet?

 Michelle:  The combination of mental and physical challenge. I love the routine of class and the fact that no one is really paying attention to anyone but themselves. It’s been a very restorative activity for me during the last year after some rough spots in my personal life. Also, learning ballet is the opposite of being a tax lawyer (which is what I do for a living).

What is your least favorite part?

Michelle: Getting discouraged that its a lot harder for me to pick up new physical skills in the my 30s. My goal for the summer was to be able to do a single pirouette, and I’m don’t think I’m going to make it. I am getting closer though!! Also, my “old” brain has a hard time remembering the combinations (but that’s getting a little better too).

 Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Michelle: Really, all the people I’ve met at the studio. I really enjoy that the students are of all ages and levels and taking a couple of hours to do something they enjoy. I have a “ballet friend” that I met in the basics workshops and its fun to have someone to discuss class and our frustrations and accomplishments with (because no one else is interested – ha!) The teachers as well. After taking a few classes at other studios, I can safely say that classes of all levels at CBD are tough!! But the teachers are always very encouraging, even when it must be frustrating (and hilarious).

After Class!

After Class!

What motivates you to keep dancing?

 Michelle: Getting out of the house! Ballet has become my “mommy time” activity and it gets me moving instead of collapsing onto the couch as soon as my kid goes to bed.

 Do you take any other dance classes?

 Michelle: I have taken a few modern classes and really enjoyed it. I’d definitely like to explore other styles, but am limited in how many classes I can get to in a week.

 What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Cooking, Gardening, Book Club, and Toddler Wrangling.

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

Michelle: Stick it out when you get frustrated and only compare yourself to yourself!! I try to remember that even though I’m still terrible, I’m less terrible than 8 months ago (or even 1 month ago).

 Anything else you’d like to add?

 Michelle: Thanks for the inspiring and interesting blog.

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