Why do they quit dancing?

I have to admit I find myself a little bit envious of the company kids I’m performing with in Cinderella.

I enjoy watching them perform steps and combinations I wish I could halfway do. They have really cool dancing parts and I always crave to do more.

Of course, there is always the reality that reminds me that I’m not one of the kids, but an adult. I’ve got physical challenges that come with aging. I can’t jump as high as I want. I can’t move as quick. I have coordination issues that were there even when I was young to do what they do. And I have this thing called work that limits the time I would probably need to rehearse for more difficult parts I dream about.

I have been really blessed since Phil and Rachel Otto arrived in Huntsville. When we take the stage for Cinderella, I’ll be performing in my sixth ballet. There aren’t many “adult recreational dancers” who can say that. And I’ve had some really cool parts, Friar Lawrence, Chinese Lion and the guy who died twice in Billy the Kid (and actually was in a dance at the beginning).

The Ottos have truly inspired me, and I’m grateful for every role they have given me.

And while I crave at times to do more than I should, I’ve also feel a little bit sad for those company kids I sometimes envy, but really admire.

That hit home for me during Nutcracker production week. I have been “crashing” company warmups for a few years in the performances that I’m in. And a couple of company girls who are seniors got really emotional during warmups with the realization that it was their final Nutcracker with Huntsville Ballet (at least for now).

I don’t know where their personal dance journeys will end. But I know for some of the company kids I dance with, that journey ends when they graduate from high school.

Unlike a lot of “adult recreational dancers,” ballet is not just a form of glorified exercise for me. It’s become somewhat of a passion for me that at times borderlines on obsession.

I love it. I can’t fully understand why people who love dance give it up once they become adults, especially if their dreams of a professional career doesn’t come to pass.

Very few golfers make the PGA tour, but people in their 70s fill up golf courses. Very few people make the major leagues in baseball, but yet recreational softball leagues are full of people older than me who are still swinging for the fences. High school band members end up in community orchestras.

Why is dance so different?

I’m blessed to be Facebook friends with a few former Huntsville Ballet dancers. One is about to graduate from nursing school.

Another is a valet in California with dreams of going to medical school. Another is a teacher who is about to go out of the country. Another has just started her college career.

All were beautiful dancers. All of them are amazingly bright young adults with bright futures in whatever they choose to do. But yet I’m sad for many of the ones I know who no longer dance on a regular basis.

I do understand the burnout factor. If I danced from the age of three through 18, I could see the need for a break. Or if the realities of not advancing further professionally makes you want to get away from the studio for a while. A good friend of mine in California has had that love-hate relationship with ballet.

I told him once I hoped the joy of dancing would return when he was not dancing professionally.

And I can also understand the injuries piling up fir a company kid or someone who has danced professionally. And I’ve been blessed not to have any nagging injuries (the one benefit of waiting until your late 30s to really get serious about dancing).

But still, I have to wonder, five to 10 years down the road, how many of those company kids that I was in rehearsal with tonight or in class with during the week will still be dancing.

As for me, I’ve come to realize when its come to ballet, or dance in general, I’m not normal.

It frustrates me at times when I struggle with things I believe I can do. But it brings me joy.

Five, 10 years down the line, I still see myself still being Don Quixote tilting at windmills when it comes to ballet, still chasing goals like doing double pirouettes on a consistent basis despite my inability to spot, or to be in a complicated choreographed dance despite my many spacial issues … or doing that elusive second pas de deux.

Ballet is my escape from the office cubicle and the college classroom, the dance studio, my refuge.

I love it.

And don’t intend to give it up until perhaps when I need a hip replacement.

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5 responses to “Why do they quit dancing?

  • RO

    Lovely entry. I can fully relate! You are so blessed and lucky that you are dancing in this wonderful studio which gives you as a recreational adult dancer all the opportunities you can get.
    Dancing is my sole vent. I use it when I don’t feel good, I use it as exercise, I use it as meditation, I can’t imagine a day without dance, without moving to the music of my soul. My life would be pretty empty without dancing.
    You rock dude! Keep up the good work, even if that hip needs replacing one day 😉

  • This Life & Times

    Really lovely post. Put a big smile on my face because I totally agree. 🙂

  • The Traveling Dancer

    I love your passion for dance 🙂

    I think the dance world can be cruel though – its highly competitive, ageist, and ostracizing in a way – I can see why someone would want out….hell I want out sometimes and I don’t have any of the pressures a real dancer has. But then I take a fun class where I lose myself and I’m so happy that I remember – oh yea this is why I’m here. 🙂

    • Dancescribe

      That’s why I mentioned a friend of mine who once danced professionally and his love-hate relationship with it.

      But when there is no pressure, and you just do it for fun, there is no better feeling.

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