Friday, July 24, 2015

Is It Possible to Become a Dancer After Thirty?

My Childhood Dance Experience

Like a lot of little girls, I took ballet and tap when I was seven years old.  And like a lot of little girls, I quit after one year.  For the remainder of my childhood and all of my teen years I didn't look back.  I had other priorities in my life at that time, and dance just naturally took a back seat.

Welcome to Your Twenties, Greta Cribbs

I began my twenties with my wedding.  Yes, I married young, and I have no regrets whatsoever about that.  We had a traditional church ceremony followed by a simple reception in the social hall.  I thought it was a beautiful wedding, and was happy with the way we chose to celebrate it.

About a year later, one of my friends got married.  She also had a church wedding, but for her reception she rented a ballroom and hired a DJ.  And of course there was dancing.  My husband and I sat at our table, listening to the music and tapping our toes to the beat.  And suddenly I was gripped by this overwhelming need to be out on that dance floor.  I asked my husband to dance with me, but he didn't know how and wasn't comfortable just making something up.

That wedding was the spark.  After that, I knew that I needed dance in my life.  At the time I just wanted to be able to enjoy myself at weddings and Christmas parties, so I focused on learning ballroom dances.  And I am proud to say that the next time my husband and I were in the presence of a DJ, we tore up the dance floor.  It became almost an addiction--a little wasn't enough.  I constantly needed more and more.  I tried signing up for classes, but I lived in an area where not a lot of adults were interested in doing something like that, so every class I signed up for ended up being canceled for lack of members.  I was very frustrated, and that frustration only became worse when Dancing with the Stars debuted on television.  Now I had dancers parading around in front of me in my own living room.  It was a constant reminder of what I wanted but--it seemed--could not have. 

My Thirties: The Decade of Dance

Alright, so it actually started when I was twenty-nine.  I signed up for private highland dance lessons.  My hope was that, since I was taking private lessons and not a class, that this would be one dance form that I would be able to continue learning.  After all, there was no class to be canceled, so I would be able to keep learning for as long as I wanted.

Seven years later, I am still taking highland dance.  At first I did not compete because I was a little put off by the idea of being in the same category as children, but I eventually got over that.  I've now done three competitions, and I'm getting ready to move up to the next level.  I won't lie--it wasn't easy.  But I don't think it was my age that made it difficult.  On the contrary, I think that I was able to learn things faster because I am older and have been exposed to more dance styles than the average child.  Coordination is something that generally improves as one gets older. 

I do worry about injuries because highland dance is very high impact.  But a good warm-up and a safe stretch routine (one that does not push you beyond your personal limits) are very effective in keeping muscles and joints healthy.  And so far I have had no dance-related injuries.

What Does the Future Hold?  Ballet, Anyone?

Ballet is my newest adventure.  I signed up for a class a couple of weeks ago, and have been having the time of my life learning this most respected of all dance styles.  Again I worry about injury.  Ballet requires a lot of flexibility, and I am not deluding myself that I will ever go pro.  I know it's probably too late to think about anything like that.  But there's a lot you can do in ballet even if you can't bend your body the way some ten year olds can.  You can still learn the technique, you can still do the steps, and yes you can still dance en pointe.  I'm not quite there yet, but that's my goal, and I am confident that I will achieve it one day.

So if it's always been your dream to be a dancer, but you think it's just too late for you, I'm here to tell you that it's never too late.  If you want it that badly, go for it.  You never know what you can accomplish until you try.

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