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

 

Q and A with Nancy Lorenz, Author of the Strength of Ballerinas

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I was given the lovely opportunity to do a Q and A with the author of The Strength of Ballerinas, Nancy Lorenz, who is also a fellow adult ballerina! The book came out earlier this month, and you can learn more about it here and enter a chance to win it at the end of this post!

Why did you start ballet?

When I was younger, like many kids, I wanted to wear the pretty tutus. Then, later when I started to train more seriously, I still wanted to wear the tulle, but I wanted to dance to that glorious music too.  For me, there is an immense pull between the image of the graceful ballerina, the dance, the music, and the art that comes together so well in ballet.  The interpretation of the music to movement to audience is what makes it so magical.

When did you start taking classes?

I had a late start.  I took my first classes when I was four, but then not again until I was twelve.  I was unable to continue, but took it up again, at age sixteen and a half.  I started seriously studying too late to try for an apprentice program, or audition for a company.  I went to New York to study acting and dance, and I picked up my ballet training again.  I was in dance heaven there, and really loved the New York classes, as they were very professional.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

I love the drama of it all – especially the tragic ballets.  While I also love the happier dances, the folk ballets, and the shorter works, I think that the “white ballets” with their tragic themes bring us out of our normal lives, and into a world that enraptures, mesmerizes, and entertains us for a few hours.  It is an escape where we can suspend belief, and fall headlong into the story.

It’s the combination of the dramatic moments, again coupled with the crescendos of the music, as well as with the sweet violin that conveys the more tender moments that pull us toward the art.  Swan Lake, Giselle, Les Sylphlides are my favorites.

Least favorite part?

Sore feet.  Lack of stamina. It’s a continual perfectionism to remember to turn out, hold my hands just so, and point!

My character, Kendra, in The Strength of Ballerinas, tries to “maintain lift, land light as a feather, and stretch the jump.”  She thinks about all of these things at one time, yet makes it look effortless and graceful – a difficult task. Add some “star quality” and you have quite a tall order!

The prima’s do it; however, comparing yourself to the most elite performers makes you feel that you fall short. Everyone, though, you must remember, is a different performer, with different personalities, unusual presentations….  Every dancer has his or her own special set of qualities to offer.

What is your book, The Strength of Ballerinas, about?

Overall, the book is about having a voice in your own life.  It is about being able to accomplish something, despite an obstacle, and the way to do that is through determination, and, an immense love of your art.

Kendra Sutton is a ballerina with a clear path into an Apprentice program of a big company, but when fate deals her a different path, she must fight with all her might to get back to New York and to a placement in Manhattan Dance.  Does she do it?  You’ll have to read the book to find out!

Who should read it?

The book is YA – that’s for young adults, aged 12 through 18; however, I think that the idea of aspiring to be a ballerina is something that is pretty basic for females.  I can definitely see twenty-something’s reading it also (and I wouldn’t be surprised if a mom or two snuck in to read it, secretly admitting that they too always wanted to be a ballet dancer!  Adults of all ages, I think can relate.)

Even if you don’t like ballet (and many girls don’t) this book is about dreams, overcoming obstacles, and finding your own path in life.  Whether you are an actor, writer, musician, science major, or star athlete, you still need dedication. This book is about dedication, and discovering the cost of getting there.

How does your own personal ballet (and life) journey relate to your novel?

Because my training was not constant, I understand the angst of completing training to get somewhere.  I know what it’s like to have a goal, and not have the opportunity at hand.  Even with uninterrupted training, many dancers’ goals are thwarted, due to injury, proximity to a good ballet school, emotional and financial support, ability…. The list can go on and on.  Determination really kicks in to keep your eye on the goal though, no matter how long it takes.  I think I conveyed some of my personal journey in my character, Kendra.

What advice would you give to others looking to start ballet?

Well, even though I still take ballet three times a week, including pointe class, I work as a college adjunct professor in my day job.  As I say in my bio, my advice is for dancers to go out and read and learn more about the world.

Learn about other historical eras, and see how the clothing, culture, politics, customs, and time periods affected the way people behaved and moved.  After all, ballet companies perform many “period pieces,” and wouldn’t it be nice to know the etiquette of the era to bring back to your art?

For instance, how do you let a gentleman take your arm, as you walk into a dinner party?  How does wearing a longer skirt affect your movements onstage?   Which curtsy is appropriate for a ballet, set in the 19th century? The 18th?   It’s called, “style.”  You see it in the first act of  The Nutcracker; in Frederick Ashton’s, A Month in the Country.

 If you’re set to perform the sixteenth century lovers, Romeo and Juliet, you’ll have to follow the protocol of the era in dress and etiquette as well.  What’s the difference between a pavane, a Quadrille, and a waltz?

This is a long answer, I realize; however, I know that all of you out there know ballet.  You’ve got the pirouettes, arabesques and lifts.  My advice would be to learn more, by reading, or watching historical movies in order to bring knowledge back into your art!

Overall, I think that ballet is a zenith of art, as it contains music, drama, and dance.  We are so lucky to be able to participate in this art that inspires, moves, and elevates civilization itself.

I love ballet.

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