Ballerina Profile: Nancy Lorenz

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Here’s author Nancy Lorenz’s ballerina profile! Don’t forget to check out her blog!

When did you start doing ballet as an adult? 

I went back to ballet seriously four years ago; however, I took classes here and there in California before that as well.  (I also ice skated competively in California before I found a good ballet class here. I had done my solid ballet training in New York and New Jersey previously, but after getting married and moving to California, I found little ballet that was accessible in L.A. at the time.  So, until I found a good class, I figure skated competively, and did ballet on ice, of course! This kept me in good shape while being an active mom in my child’s life. After my child got older, however, I happened to find a few good ballet schools, and went back seriously to ballet only.  Love my schools!

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Yes! I started ballet at the local recreation center in Philadelphia when I was four, and then got to take class again at age twelve.  A few years later, a move to Jersey made me look for another school.  I found a good one, and trained.  Later, when I went to New York, I took classes all over Manhattan, but mainly at the American Ballet Theater School’s open level classes.   The school closed in 1979, as only company members then were allowed after that, and the school moved a few blocks up more toward Lincoln Center.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

Because I started serious training too late for a professional career, but wanted to recapture that ability, and try to attain a more elite status.  (I am working on that one!)  Ballet is not only good for my artist’s soul, but also for health, and keeps me fit for my day job – teaching.  I love music, and the combination of ballet’s movement with classical works is a synthesis that thrills me to my very soul.  I feel the music, just like Leslie Browne said in the film, The Turning Point. “I feel it!”   It’s just there, inside of me, and I have to do ballet to blend with it.  It is not a choice.  Like most dancers, I have to!

Where do you take classes?

I don’t like to reveal my class locations, being an author/public figure. I also respect the studio(s) and their privacy as well.  But, I will say that I take class in a very professional studio with large rooms, gorgeous floors, beautiful barres, and a wonderful live pianist, plus a great teacher who was an elite professional herself.  Also, I have great fellow ballet dancer classmates, who support one another.  It is always a great experience!  And, I am learning a lot!

 What is your favorite part about ballet?

There are two parts to this question: watching it and doing it.

Watching it has everything to do with dreaming it.  Imagining not only the story, but myself in the roles – Of course, we all do this!  The beauty of the productions, which encompass not only the dancers, but the orchestra, set design, costumes, choreography, lighting effects – the magic of theater and the suspension of belief for a few moments in our lives.

Doing it – It is the stardust, the tulle, the performance of art to the music, the dream and the reality of actually getting to do it – Living the dream, and dancing on pointe!  As Shakespeare said, “It is such stuff as dreams are made on!”

What is your least favorite part?

The least favorite part is when I lose my strength and stamina.  The spirit is willing, but the body is weak and loses fuel.  Part of it is being an adult ballerina with energy issues, and also the adult weight of responsibilities, which can drain you emotionally.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

I always loved Gelsey Kirkland for her dreaminess and emotional depth, as well as her beautiful technique. I also loved Cynthia Gregory and Natalia Makarova then, as well as Edward Viilella, Peter Martins, Fernando Bujones and of course, Mikhail Baryshnikov on the male side.  Currently, I like Natalia Osipova, and Svetlana Zakarova.

8.    What motivates you to keep dancing?

I have to!  But the opportunities for adult ballerinas today are there, whereas they were not there before.  Once that “window of opportunity” closed for a young dancer long ago, there was no turning back. It was housewife, or career woman, or both, but not “ballerina.”  Now, fortunately, we can have it all!

Do you take any other dance classes?

In New York, I used to audition for Broadway shows, so I took tap and jazz classes as well as a lot of ballet.  I also took voice lessons.  Somehow, with my 9-5 or temporary jobs, I managed to pay for them all.  It IS expensive living in New York, but I did it.  (I am currently working on a theater book as well).  Right now, I am taking ballet only, but took some tap and a few jazz classes in the past few years to keep my Broadway dancing  “foot” in!

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I write books; I am a member of a writing critique group; love watching TV science shows and love reading.

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

I’d say, “Don’t get discouraged, if you can’t do it right away.  It takes time, but your body will mold to your demands eventually.  Muscle memory will kick in, and you will only get better and better!”

Anything else you’d like to add?

I realize as I write this that ballet has left its mark in every state where I have lived –  Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and California. I have studied in every one of them! My memories of ballet follow me, and have prompted me to write books about ballet.  My sequel to The Strength of Ballerinas came out in November entitled, American Ballerina.  The tone of the book is a little lighter (and there will be more romance!).

Also, I am so thankful that there is a ballet community out there that supports adults.  Childhood dreams and artistic endeavors are sometimes seen as frivolous; however, they are important.  An inclination to any art, such as dance or music is innate, and will never go away; therefore, we must act upon it. Dancer/actress Shirley MacLaine writes in her book, Dancing in the Light, that dance is “an art that imprints on the soul.  It is with you every moment, even after you give it up.”   So true!

Do you have a blog?

Yes, I blog on my website at:  www.Nancy-Lorenzauthor.com/blog

 

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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My Ballerina Story: Vince Svitak

100_1022First, let me say that ballet has been a passion with me since I was a kid. I remember going to Radio City Music Hall in New York for the first time on a field trip in school to go see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. I thought to myself that I would like to dance like them one day — that’s when my passion for dance began. Ever since the show, I have had dreams of dancing en pointe and performing.

But being the shy kid that I was, I never followed that dream to take classes. So as I grew up, I just put dance in the back of my mind and went into the Navy.

What made me want get into dance as an adult?

Unfortunately, I got the chance to start ballet after a second chance at life after having an accident in 2012, when I was T-boned in my car. I was able to get back on my feet cause of my experience in the Navy, I was trained to get back on my feet without the help of physical therapy, but something still didn’t feel right with me and felt weak from the accident.

I wanted to do something, but going to the gym wasn’t something I wanted to do. Going to the gym, you do the same exercises over and over again. So that is when I  decided I’d check into ballet classes because it was something I always wanted to do, and I knew you always were learning something new when you go to class.

20141217_143959Even though I knew ballet wasn’t going to be easy and I knew may not become a professional, like my two favorite dancers, Polina Semionova and Mikhail Baryshnikov, I am finally following a dream I wanted to do.

Now, that I am taking my classes, I have finally found the happiness that I’ve been looking for since I was a kid. So, if people want to look at me and judge, that’s fine because ballet is something I want to do and enjoy. Even my teacher says she sees the hidden ballerina in me come out because I have the passion for ballet when I come to class and sees me getting better every class!

Since I started going to ballet, I advanced in November ’14, to go en pointe, and have slowly progressed in my classes. Ballet has opened me up to feel the happiness that I was missing in addition to the great exercise it gives me to keep fit and to enjoy life more.

I’m here to say, if you have a dream, don’t let anyone stop you from following it cause then it may stop you from finding the happiness that you were looking for!

Beginner Danseur Profile: Vince Svitak

100_0904Vince started taking ballet in February 2o13.  He says that while ballet was always a passion of his, he wasn’t able to start as a kid. But now that he’s an adult, he says, “it doesn’t matter to me what people think cause ballet is something I love and wanted to dance!”

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?   

I first started taking adult ballet in February, 2013.  When I first started taking classes, I didn’t feel I was keeping up with the class, so I decided to take private lessons to help build up my technique and stayed with it. Since taking my classes, I have progressed to pointe, so I have come a long way since I first started, but still more to learn and experience as I go to class.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?  

No, I never went to lessons as a kid.  I was too shy and as a kid, the boys would get ridiculed for taking ballet instead of doing sports, so it pushed me away from taking classes.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?   

I started taking ballet as an adult for a few reasons. First, ballet was always a passion of mine and wasn’t able to start as a kid. But now that I’m an adult, it doesn’t matter to me what people think cause ballet is something I love and wanted to dance! Another reason is because I was in a car accident, back in 2012, and wanted to get back into shape and the gym just wasn’t my style cause it is always the same repetition all the time and ballet you learn something new every time you go to class and it gives you a better appreciation for dance all around! But after class, it gives me more confidence and I feel better about myself cause I started a passion I love!

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