Written by: Nyakong Yang (ig @nyakong.yang)
Oftentimes in the ballet world, individuals are “born into dance”. They pick it up at a young age and continue to enhance their abilities by carrying it with them as they grow. I have always had a love for ballet. Watching dancers elegantly prance across the stage has never failed to amaze me. I can still remember watching Angelina Ballerina as a kid and attempting to follow along. Ballet as an art form is quite complex but what makes it so mesmerizing is how dancers take each step and really make it their own.
I didn’t think it was possible to start ballet due to the fact that it takes years and countless hours to develop technique and build the strength needed in order to master the art. I didn’t know where I would fit and I didn’t want to be stuck in a class that would restrict me and constantly teach at the same level. These thoughts were quite heavily influenced by the media and lack of representation in the ballet world. If an individual doesn’t see people of similar backgrounds or stories pursuing a certain goal, then they are less inclined to testing the waters. I did my research and found a class that consisted of all sorts of people with a similar dance background. I had a great time at that studio and I learned a lot of fundamentals. After three years, I decided that I did not want to continue participating in those classes. I did not want to be known as a recreational dancer. I wanted to perform. I wanted to challenge myself and see how far my feet could take me. I remember watching an interview on the Ballerinas By Night YouTube channel about a “late starter” named Alexandra. Her story is quite unique because she was a late starter that was able to train quickly and level up. Watching this interview reassured me of my ballet goals. I didn’t have a singular goal of where I’d like to go with dance, but I wanted to enhance my skills as much as possible so that I would be presented with more opportunities to further explore and express myself.
So I searched the web for a different studio that provided classes to cater to my many wants and needs. I found one that offered a wider range of classes which excited as well as motivated me. I started taking training more seriously and began to see improvement. The difference between my old and new studio is that the class sizes were smaller which allowed room for individual attention. I relearned a few things the correct way and opened my eyes to new ideas. Private lessons were something I had also picked up to intensify my learning. I felt that I had to take that step in order to gain confidence in myself as well as my dancing. There were times where I felt unmotivated and would question whether what I was doing was worth it or not. The only setbacks I had were the ones I created for myself in my mind and they came out of a place of doubt and fear. Watching dance videos and praying is what helped me get through those times. I knew deep down that ballet was a part of me and I could not abandon it nor disappoint my younger self.
I am extremely thankful that I have been put in the position to experience everything that I have experienced and I am excited to see what the universe has in store for me. After quarantine, I will attend a summer intensive at the Harbour Dance Centre in Vancouver, Canada (I live in Calgary, Canada and there aren’t any intensives in the city for dancers such as myself which is disappointing). As the years go by, I hope to see more studios create programs for all types of dancers and help break down all stereotypes.
My ultimate ballet goal is to be able to share my passion through film and possibly even dance for a professional company.
A common misconception about ballet is if you didn’t start young, then you won’t have a chance of going pro. The dance world makes it seem as if you can’t pick up the artform unless you were “born into it” and have started at a young age. This is made clear due to the fact that there are little to no options for “late starters”. This can be very discouraging. It can create limiting beliefs inside one’s mind and can make it difficult to continue. I believe that since the world is constantly evolving and becoming more inclusive, ballet should do the same. Dancers of all backgrounds should all have access to various opportunities despite “limiting factors” such as age. There needs to be more options for late starters that have a longing and drive to take their training to the next level. I believe that once these types of stories are shared and brought to light, changes will take place. This will result in dancers being more inclined to participate in the artform.
If I could offer advice to dancers that are too afraid to start or come back to dance due to age, I’d tell them to just go for it and sign up. It won’t be easy at first but you have to constantly motivate and remind yourself of what you’d like to achieve and why. Believing that you can and will pursue something is the ultimate key to success. You have to have faith in yourself and in your dreams and be willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that you are satisfied in the end.