Ballerina Profile: Elizabeth Bell-Perkins

me en pointe NohoWhen did you start doing ballet as an adult?

8 years old?

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Yes, but I drifted off to other things as many teenagers do, going back to classes for a few months at a time,

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

As a way to feel at-home returning to college as a young adult, I always took class, first at a 2 year SUNY school in NY state taking dance composition, ballet and modern, and then at 4 years colleges, always minored, so to speak in dance.

When I first moved to Massachusetts to attend a 4 year college, I attended a very nontraditional 4 year college and my majors were Political Science and Dance!  Only in the Pioneer Valley of western MA could you do that! It is called the 5-Colleges area- Mt. Holyoke, Smith, (all female), Umass Amherst, Amherst College and Hampshire. Once you are registered at one, you can take pretty much all your other classes at any one of the other 5 colleges.

This allowed me to experience many different dance forms including African (to age myself, we danced to “Free Nelson Mandela”), modern including Labanotation and a smattering of kinesiology, at Hampshire, ballet at Mt. Holyoke, Improvisational at Smith.

Where do you take classes?

After turning 40, I attended a really great local studio called Ballet Soleil in Williamsburg, MA owned by Kelly Torza who studied at Northern Connecticut Ballet, Walnut Hill School for the Arts, Greater Hartford Academy for Performing Arts and Hartford Ballet.  After high school she attended the Hartford Camerata Conservatory receiving certification in dance pedagogy and instruction.

I currently attend Massachusetts Academy of Ballet in Holyoke, Northeastern School of dance under Antony De Vecchi, Artistic Director and Ballet Master who danced with the ABT.  He also appeared in 12 Broadway shows and in the national tour of “Man of La Mancha” which he  directed and choreographed. Nominated for Emmy Award for his work with A Winter’s Tale for WNDT (New York) as well as recipient of the Dance Critics Circle Award for the best Broadway musical on tour.  He has partnered such names as Alicia Markova, Juliet Prowse and Chita Rivera.

When I can deal with the traffic across the CT River, I attend Amherst Ballet, under  Executive Director and Teacher Sueann Townsend who has performed in many places across the U.S. and Europe.

The Massachusetts Academy of Ballet in Holyoke is a wonderful school, founders and directors, Rose and Charles Flachs are active with and committed to, the community and have expanded adult classes in the last few years.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

The traditional continuity, challenge and feeling like you are part of a world-wide group.

While I never attained professional status, it is an artistic, grounding and physically satisfying activity.

What is your least favorite part?

At my age it is very hard for me to look at myself in the mirrors- I never wear leotards- just supportive tanks, briefs, cut-off tights and a top. Getting to class can be difficult- the closest studio still takes a 35-minute drive then a walk up to 4th floor. I have work, kids, an elderly mom and other commitments that I constantly have to juggle.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Dame Margot Fonteyn, Misty Copeland, Martha Graham, Fred Astaire (his talent and skill will never be matched), Gene Kelly and of course, Mikhail. Like many female ballet dancers, the characters in the Red Shoes, Turning Point and now the Black Swan, although I view that as more of a physiological thriller.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

Fills creative need, fitness, and social connections with like-aged fellow dancers.  We are also dedicated to supporting each other in dance and life.

(get’s me out of the house!)

Do you take any other dance classes?

Infrequent master classes that come up in Pioneer Valley and sometimes NYC such as Finis Jung.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Medical research and public health/writing, reading (everything!) baking, designing and selling decorated cookies and going to Maine to our land on a lake for physical and emotional healing.

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

Find a studio that is dedicated to nurturing the adult dancer.  There are more and more adult-only studios opening.  It is important that the teacher can design the class to meet all levels. You will find much support there!

Do you have a blog?

No, but I have new biz making decorated cookies- including ballet themes!

Hilltowncookies.com

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Beginner Ballerina Profile: Judith Villarreal of Chasing Glitter

This week’s profile comes from an adult beginner in South Korea, and runs her own blog about travel, food, style, culture, and event called Chasing Glitter.

ballet1When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I took my first ballet lesson on Monday of this week. October 28, 2013. It was my first class and I was hesitant to actually walk into the studio, but I’m so glad I walked through the doors and stepped into those ballet slippers. I loved every minute of that class and was genuinely disappointed when the hour was up. I actually snuck in a bit early for my Wednesday class to stretch and watch the previous class. That’s how much I enjoy being in that studio.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

When I was little I would tell everyone I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up, so my sweet mom enrolled me in summer lessons. We didn’t exactly have money to burn when I was a kid, and the cost of lessons, slippers, outfits, and other small expenses became too great of a financial strain. Even though I was sad to leave, I still remember being so happy that I got to spend an entire summer in a pink tutu. I think I might be trying to appease the child in me by taking lessons up almost 17 years later. I still get the same feeling I had as a little girl when I slip on pink tights.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

To be honest, it was completely random. I moved to South Korea almost 3 months ago, and I’m still getting used to my surroundings. During my free days, I walk aimlessly around town to get a feel for my area. One day as I was walking, I saw a banner for a ballet academy. I had an entire afternoon to kill so I decided to walk in and ask about classes. The instructor didn’t speak a word of English, and my Korean skills are that of a toddler, but it didn’t matter. The moment I saw the studio, my heart was sold. I signed up for classes then and there.

Where do you take classes?

At a studio called Sejong Ballet Academy in Jochiwon, South Korea. The studio is in a small town which is perfect. There are only two other girls in class with me, so the instructor is able to focus on us carefully.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

My favorite part is the leaps. I have never felt stronger than when I’m leaping across the wooden floors of the studio. Each time my leg lifts a bit higher or I land gracefully rather than stomping down, I feel an amazing sense of accomplishment. If I ever felt like I couldn’t do anything outside of the studio, I think going in for a few leaps would instantly change my mind.

What is your least favorite part?

Stretching! I used to be so flexible in high school and college, but now that I’m older, I’m as rigid as they come! It can sometimes discouraging to know I have a long way to go, so I try to stretch as much as I can when I’m at home working or reading.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

This is honestly going to sound absurd, so I apologize in advance to serious ballerinas everywhere. I loved the fact that Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis picked up ballet for an entire year to do the movie Black Swan. I understand that they had body doubles, but at 27 and 29 years old they learned enough ballet to do small scenes in the movie themselves. I’m not trying to become the next world famous ballerina. I do it because I have fun and I love it. Knowing that others have picked it up late in life and were successful makes me feel hopeful.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

Knowing that one day I’ll have a better leap or turn than I did today keeps me motivated.

Do you take any other dance classes?

Not at the moment. Once I get settled into Korea a bit more, though, I’d like to pick up salsa or swing.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I love to write. I write daily for my blog, and I hope to tell my readers all about my new experiences in ballet. I’m also currently gearing up for my next Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month). I participated in my first one last year and won. I’ve been looking forward to November all year because of Nanowrimo. The feeling I had when I completed an entire novel in a month was completely indescribable. I can’t wait to feel that again! One more day!

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

Have fun with it! We all want to be better ballerinas. We all want to jump higher, spin faster, and point harder, and we’ll get there if we’re patient. Don’t be hard on yourself on the days when your body refuses to do what you ask it, and always remember to leave class smiling. You’re in ballet because you love it and because you love the feeling you get when twirling in the air. Don’t ever forget that!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t forget to thank your instructor! I thank mine in two different languages daily. I can’t imagine the patience she must have to watch me take baby steps every day. If I were her, I’d probably just lose my patience and twirl away saying “Just do it like this. See? It’s easy!” (Except she’d say it in Korean, and I wouldn’t understand a word.)

Instructors are the nicest and most patient people I’ve ever met.

Do you have a blog?

Yes, I write at www.chasingglitter.com about travel, food, style, culture, and events. Blogging has been my obsession lately. I really hope my passion for writing translates through my website. I even did an entire post on my decision to take ballet lessons here: http://www.chasingglitter.com/blog/2013/10/28/the-black-swan-project

I called it The Black Swan Project. It seemed fitting.

Ballerina Profiles: Isabelle Roybal of thespicymermaid.com

This week’s adult ballerina profile is of Isabelle Roybal, a fellow adult ballerina and follower of the Adult Ballerina Project. Check out her own blog thespicymermaid.com

Adult Ballerina Project: When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

Isabelle Roybal: I started up again in the beginning of September 2012. At first I did DVD’s at home, but shortly after I found an adult only dance studio. It was meant to be.

ABP: Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

IR: I competed in artistic roller skating for 10 years and we took it regularly, but mainly worked on upper body movements since we had our own thing going on with our feet.

ABP: Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

IR: At first, it was a desperate search for a weight loss program. I’ve gone through so many fads: Zumba, yoga, hula hooping, running, the gym, racquetball, the treadmill, circuit workouts. One day late August I came across an article about Mary Helen Bowers training Natalie Portman for “Black Swan”. I had an epiphany! I always loved the fluid and grand movements of ballet. I tried a couple of her DVD’s and went from there. Since skating isn’t an option for me, ballet was the obvious choice. Now I’m addicted and can’t think of much else.

Loving the tutu, Isabelle!

ABP: Where do you take classes?

IR: There is an adult ballet studio called Room To Dance only 10 minutes from my house. It’s convenient and very low cost. Jackpot!

ABP: What is your favorite part about ballet?

IR: I love the effortless look of obvious strength the most. When I skated I basically had 5 pound weights strapped to my feet. This is more freedom. Something I can really use to dance away my daily stresses.

ABP: What is your least favorite part?

IR: I haven’t had any physical issues yet but I know this will be my problem. I’ll be putting my all into it and I expect there will be some annoying injuries or obstacles to overcome especially at my age.

ABP: Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

IR: Me. Another reason for taking actual classes was that this was something I could do and do well. My daily job is one of basically tending to the needs of others. Kissing butt without question. Taking negativity with a smile. Ballet is mine. No one can take it from me.

ABP: What motivates you to keep dancing?

IR: Although I’m overweight now and shy in my “old” age, I’d love to be on stage again. I miss performing. I’ve always been a ham! Oh, and the shopping. I love shopping for ballet junk.

ABP: Do you take any other dance classes?

IR: As soon as I can get up the stairs to the studio without huffing and puffing I’d love to take ballroom and/or salsa. It’s like what I did when I skated but sans wheels!

ABP: What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

IR: I love my dogs. I have 3 chihuahuas that I love coming home to every day. I also couldn’t live without camping and travel. I’m lucky enough to have found a wonderful man to take me on tropical destinations at least once a year.

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

IR: What else could they say? At our age, we’ve obviously seen some stuff and been through some things. It’s scary to start a new adventure in life. I never, EVER thought I’d be leaping and jumping in skimpy clothes in front of people. But this isn’t high school. If there are mumblings, who cares?! I’m very very self conscious about my weight and I’m not even that big. It was more than worth the effort and it turned out everyone was awesome! Start small, you’ll want more.

ABP: Anything else you’d like to add?

IR: Don’t be afraid. Of anything. Except the tuna at Subway. *shudders*

Want to read more? Check out more profiles on David Wilson and Legal Ballerina.

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