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 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:

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

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