Profiles Galore!

Just a quick update while we’re working on things for the site — I sent out a bunch of interview questions to those who have signed up to be interviewed for a profile! So check your inbox/spam if you were expecting one!

If you sent me back answers a while ago and your profile was never posted — let me know. I lot of things have gotten lost in my inbox lately and I probably just missed it.

If you haven’t yet signed up to be interviewed for a profile and/or guest blogging you can do so using this form:

 

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: Joy Wrona

A couple of weeks ago, Joy wrote an amazing blog post here on Adult Ballerina Project that was one of our most well-received posts ever, Plus-Sized Ballet. If you want to learn more about Joy, check out our interview with her below:

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When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

Joy: Two years ago, I lamented to my best friend’s mom (who has been a dance teacher her whole life) that I could not find an adult ballet basics class.  She offered to teach one at her studio if I could recruit more students.  It was usually just me though so after a few months, I thanked her and went on the hunt again.  Didn’t seem right to be taking up that studio time every week.  Last year, I finally found my ballet home and am now taking two classes a week.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Joy:  I remember taking a lesson as a wee tot in a school gym.  Then my middle school gave us weekly ballet classes but we spent more time changing into tights and leotards than actually at the barre.  I also took Irish dance for seven years of my childhood.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

Joy:  I began losing weight and felt very clumsy and uncoordinated.  I thought ballet would help me find my grace.  But in truth, it has taught that and so very much more.

Where do you take classes?

Joy:  Festival School of Ballet in Buffalo, NY.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

Joy:  The grace – which leads to my second favourite part, strength.  You don’t realize just how STRONG ballet dancers are until you actual start attempting it yourself.  It looks so effortless (and really, isn’t that the point?)

What is your least favorite part?

Joy:  Slow improvement.  This is probably just me but I struggle with basics like a good second position tendu turnout.  Seems like no matter how hard I try, I never seem to get it!  But I keep trying all the same.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Joy:  My ballet inspiration is my best friend’s mom.  She has been dancing and teaching for what seems like forever.  She’s so healthy and vibrant and she is in her 70s!  I want to be like that when I grow up.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

Joy:  My desire to keep fit, mobile and healthy just like my parents.

Do you take any other dance classes?

Joy:  I’ve taken hip hop and zumba but after knee surgery last year, those went by the wayside.  Though I do miss them and want to try them again.  I am also an avid swing dancer with my fiancée.  And it all started with Irish dancing when I was 6.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Joy: Bike riding is a relatively new obsession.  If I can bike there, I’ll do that before I get in my car.  Better for me and the planet!  I’m also very blessed to be an actor with a day job.  I do anywhere from 2-3 shows a year.  I do better with straight plays but I enjoy the occasional musical too.  My dance abilities do me well at auditions.  I always say, I’m actor who can carry a tune and count to 8.

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

Joy:  If you want to do it, don’t give up!  Keep looking until you find that perfect dance studio.  Don’t think after the first class you can’t do it.  You CAN.  It doesn’t come easy, it takes work but that is the point.  But you can do it if you are willing to put the effort in.  I started dancing with FSB in February 2012 and then found I needed knee surgery in May 2012.  I thought for sure I wouldn’t be able to go back.  But I took class Thursday night, had surgery Friday morning and was back at the barre the following Thursday.  Nothing got in my way once I knew just how much I loved ballet.  Don’t let anyone or anything get in the way of doing something you love.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Joy:  Speaking of not letting anyone get in your way – don’t listen to the haters.  Random people on the street feel the need when they see my ballet school tshirt or hoodie, to comment on how I couldn’t be a ballet dancer.  I’m too heavy, I’m too old, whatever.  I’ve had it said to me at the grocery store, in traffic while I’m on my bike, heck even people I know have suggested I might be out of my league with ballet.  DO NOT LISTEN.  Listen to yourself.  I have felt for my entire life that I had a dancer in me.  It took me until I was in my late 30s to truly answer the call and feel good enough to call myself A DANCER.  I’ll be dancing till I die now, no matter what anyone says.

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(Re)Beginner Ballerina Profile: Terez Mertes of The Classical Girl

This week’s profile of Terez Mertes of The Classical Girl (she does ballet and plays the violin!), who returned to ballet at 35 after giving it up because she joined the Peace Corps.

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

When I moved to the Santa Cruz area, fifteen years ago, when I was thirty-five.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Yes, I started when I was ten, at a local studio. Once a week, I took ballet and tap in a dimly lit, basement facility with linoleum floors. Quite the humble affair, but it was walking distance from our house and when you are the seventh of eight kids, the only one taking ballet, you do what’s convenient. I didn’t move up to a “real” ballet classes, with aspiring pre-professional students, until I was sixteen and could drive myself there. I remained enamored of ballet through high school and college, and was fortunate enough to perform with a local dance company through my college years.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I’d joined the Peace Corps upon college graduation, which quickly put an end to any further ballet aspirations. In my late twenties, I  thought I’d “outgrown” ballet and the need for it, but something deep in my soul was clearly still craving it. I’d told myself no, that ballet was for younger bodies, and I joined a gym instead. But the urge, the pain of missing ballet, wouldn’t go away, so finally I returned. I had to stop once again a few years later, however, when I had a baby. In truth, I’ve started, stopped, started, stopped. Life does that to you sometimes. But I always come back.

Where do you take classes?

At the International Academy of Dance, in Santa Cruz.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

I love classical music, so that’s a big perk right there. I love the intellectual challenge of ballet, the music and movement choreographed in a way you’ll never find in an aerobics or kickboxing class. I’m forced to keep my attention focused in ballet, be present in my body, not lost in thought and just sort of going through the motions.

In class itself, I think I most enjoy the grand allegro section. It feels like the dessert portion of a meal. It’s where I don’t have to struggle with balance, with extensions, where I can just fling myself out there and really dance, regardless of how old I am or what kind of shape my body is in. It feels like the old days of performing, and I just love that. I’m also really enjoying petit allegro work, which is not something I would have said when I was younger, so maybe there are advantages to dancing as an adult. I’m stronger at it than I used to be, perhaps more driven for the chance to “perform” it, if only for myself and the mirror.

What is your least favorite part?

The fact that I can’t do things at the same skill level I used to is the least favorite part of my adult ballet experience.Ballet2 copy I have to stick to single and the occasional double pirouette. I have much lower extensions, wobbly balance, a thicker waist—these are all limitations I’ve come to accept, but they’re still not much fun.

In class, what I enjoy least is the balance work required in the adagio section. I hesitate to say all of the adagio section, because that used to be my favorite part, such a wonderful opportunity to stretch, emote, really pour everything into slow, beautiful art. Part of me can still enjoy that, the elegant upper body expressiveness, while the other part struggles and wobbles and mentally mutters curses.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Every time I watch professional ballet being performed, whether in a live performance or YouTube or on TV, it re-ignites a fire in me to be doing the same thing. It gets me up and moving. It drives me to try harder, maintain what little of the art, the craft, that I can.

In terms of specific performers I admire, I’d say San Francisco Ballet principals Yuan-Yuan Tan and Sarah Van Patten, for their strength, their lyricism and the originality they bring to their dancing. On YouTube, I have just been stunned with admiration by Alina Cojocaru, principal with the Royal Ballet. (Her Aurora in Sleeping Beauty – wow!) And NYCB dancer Sarah Mearns, as well as ABT’s Misty Copeland, both embody to me everything that is healthy and positive about ballet and dancers today. Great role models, both of them, for the rising generation of ballet dancers.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

Call it thwarted ambition or the desire to excel, but as mentioned above, there’s this fire in me, this feeling that I’m only half-alive unless I’m reaching for the sky, the stars, through dance. The feeling, the pain of it can consume me when I don’t have a regular dance practice in my life. Especially if I watch a ballet performance, and I’m sitting there, passively observing. All these strong emotions rise up, this understanding that you can never be what you were, do what you once did. I know there are former dancers who don’t go back to dance, or watching performances, for that reason. And yet, it’s so deeply ingrained in me, the love of ballet, the need for the movement. When I feel that way now, I know it’s time to hurry back to the studio for another class ASAP.

Do you take any other dance classes?

No, but I’m a longtime yogi, and enjoy, in particular, the vinyasa or “flow” classes, which give me the opportunity to really “dance” the practice, which I love. I take a kickboxing class which couldn’t be more different than ballet, but it’s a good cardio workout, it’s free at my gym, the time slots work, and there’s free childcare there. (A big perk in past years when my son was little.) I also lift weights and jog; I like diversity in my workouts, and that ballet dancer’s ethic of working out six days a week has never left me.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Seven years ago, when my ballet class at that time disbanded and nothing else seemed to fit my time/budget constraints, I decided to switch arts and started playing the violin. Very, very challenging! And yet, it was something performing arts-related that I could do, from my home, on a daily basis. It was classical music-based, so that part of the equation felt right. Now that I’m back in a ballet class, I’m still trying to keep up with the violin. It’s a very nourishing (and humbling) experience, to be an adult beginner on the violin. It’s why I relate so well to adult beginner ballet dancers, even though I myself am a lifelong dancer. We all understand the journey of discovery as an adult, how thrilling and humbling it can be. Switching gears, I’m also a book-reading junkie and always have stacks of books around the house, often reading two or three at the same time.

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

Enjoy the journey, and it’s all about the journey, and the love of what you are doing, moving your body to the music. it’s such a beautiful, organic thing to do, and at the same time, it’s a pursuit that will challenge you mind, body and spirit. Don’t talk yourself out of the impulse to give it a try and/or keep at it. (I’ve blogged about this very topic in the post called “Beginners’ Remorse” over at my own site.)

And this: don’t think you’re too old, too big, too clumsy, too tall, too anything. If the urge is in you to dance, then the solution is simple. You go, and lovingly pursue that goal. And, for the record, no one arrives at perfection in ballet. Ever. You have flaws, fine, so do all of us. We all just show up to work on our stuff. Oh, and to dance to pretty music!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Aim for the stars. Dare to dream, and believe. And come visit me at my blog, The Classical Girl (www.theclassicalgirl.com)!

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