Feature: Ballet / Ballet - Adult Dancers

Get the Pointe: Ballet Interview #43 Special Issue – Adult Dancers, Featuring toroandbruin (karma: 2)
By smileywomanmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Feb 15, 2013 01:34 PM
Edited by smileywoman (141214) on 2013-02-15 13:45:25 fixed the spacing to make it prettier. :)
Edited by webdeadmaster (251) on 2013-02-17 09:48:22 Make feature

Get the Pointe: Dance.net Ballet Interview #43 Special Issue – Adult Dancers
Featuring DDNer, toroandbruin
By Maria aka smileywoman a 50+ ballet dancer and long time DDN member.

Image hotlink - 'http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a376/smileywoman/Dance/GTPCover43_toroandbruin.jpg'

Toroandbruin is an adult dancer 72 years old (73 in December) who has been dancing on and off since middle age.

For over 25 years I worked for a small company in the field of investor relations / shareholder relations (IR). IR is a relatively conservative type of public relations which I love. In 2012 the corporation was disbanded and the assets sold. I decided that before looking for another job I would take advantage of WIA funds currently available to update some of my technical skills; so I've been taking SQL Server classes.

Q: What was the spark that keyed your interest in dance, and where / when did you begin to study?
A: When I was around 43 I started taking adult dance classes when they were available at the same time my daughter was in dance class.
ASIDE: A few years prior, I had bumped my right buttock into a very sharp table corner resulting in nasty, re-occurring sciatic nerve flare-ups and I had asked my doctor if I could do anything preventative - he suggested a regular exercise program. I tried an adult jazz intro and exercise class taught by a young woman with a recent dance degree. Upon learning of my sciatica she concentrated on parallel movements and stretches. Later, when there was no problem with turning out, I started ballet classes.

Q: Were you a "natural"?
A: I'm a totally uncoordinated, natural klutz! I confuse right and left and I have little visual perception or memory. Thank goodness I played the clarinet in marching band throughout Junior High and High School. That gave me a little musical sense.

Q: Have you danced all along? Or did you start / stop / re-start like many of us adult dancers?
A: In middle age I exercised regularly, taking dance lessons, walking, orienteering, lifting weights, stretching, bicycling and keeping generally fit. Then around 1953, I got so busy at work that in my spare time I did nothing but read technical manuals. So everything dropped except for occasional walking. However about 7 years ago I started getting back in shape with Jazzercise. One thing led to another and eventually I ended up in ballet and jazz classes again.

Q: Has ballet continued to be a lifelong passion?
A: It is now. As a child I had a few summer ballet and tap classes as a casual, summer activity. I now know that most of the teaching was very bad. I tried forcing my almost non-existent turnout into a perfect 180 degrees with my feet resulting in, of course, terrible alignment; however nobody corrected me. I remember one teacher, who had attended a ballet workshop of some sort, arguing with the other teacher that the arms should be held kind of like chicken-wings and that's what we ended up doing!

Q: What motivates you at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning?
A: My day starts earlier than that with my dog and cat pestering me to wake up to let them out, feed them and pet them. They are relentless.

Q: What is your daily routine?
A: I have a small breakfast of a cup of decaf coffee and a banana along with a calcium pill, a glucosamine-chondroitin pill and a daily senior supplement vitamin pill. Then I'm off to class. Mid-morning I have a whole-grain breakfast-type bar. Lunch is usually a big salad and/or a hearty sandwich. Then after work I have some sort of snack before ballet or Jazzercise. After class I watch TV with my husband while eating a 2nd, light supper-snack, low calorie.

Q: Ballet is a never ending quest for perfection. What parts of your technique are you most satisfied with? What parts are you least satisfied with and how do you work on your technique to improve it?
A: Although I can't complain about how my body is holding up, it's totally wrong for ballet. I have much less turnout than the average human being and that is genetic. My mother was pigeon-toed/knock-kneed! Of course I'm always working to hold what turnout I have better. My knees are badly aligned. My right foot has a good arch but is inflexible; so demi-pointe is difficult. My flexible left foot is fine on demi-pointe but goes totally flat and wants to pronate when I stand flat on it; so those foot muscles have to make up for lack of arch. I was satisfied with my progress until two summers ago when I spent a week vacation at a small, local summer intensive. The young teens in my class had all gone on pointe, or were preparing to. I realized that I need feet and ankles at that same level of strength and flexibility even though I'll never go on pointe; so I'm working on that. When I was taking classes in middle age I thought of myself as a "jumper", not a "turner". This time I decided to concentrate on turning because balance is more important, long term. I can now do reasonably reliable singles and occasional doubles. However that resulted directly from the foot-and ankle-strengthening. Although I now stand more steadily in adagio, my intrinsic balance has not improved one iota. It may even be a little worse, which is worrisome.

Q: Do you workout in a gym? Or have other forms of exercise/condition besides ballet?
A: Yes. I've mentioned Jazzercise. It's a great all-around program combining aerobics, weight-lifting and stretching, and the instructors all stress posture. These days weight-lifting is very important as I'm working hard to keep osteoporosis at bay.

Q: Do you have a ‘signature step’ – one that comes naturally to you?
A: No. Nothing really comes naturally to me.

Q: Do you dance any other style other than ballet? If so, how does the other dance discipline influence your ballet dancing? [Please elaborate on type, differences, why you do?]
A: I love all kinds of dance. Over the years I've taken whatever was available: a bit of tap, a bit of modern and yoga, jazz technique in various styles, some pop funk, an African workshop, Flamenco, and even dancing on a rock wall in climbing shoes! I've also taken a bit of Tai Chi. All the forms of movement have added something to my ability to keep moving and dancing. I should mention walking classes. Most adults don't need to learn how to walk unless their knees are badly aligned, like mine. Those parallel, fitness-walking / speed-walking classes got me moving with my in-turned hips cranked out over my forced-to-go-straight-forward feet, which otherwise would pronate horribly. When I go on a long hike I know my knee joints will not hurt afterward, but my turnout muscles will be very stiff in the following days as will the hold-in-place muscles on both sides of my knees.

Q: When did you go onstage for the first time? Can you tell us about it?
A: There was a recital at the end of the summer classes as a child. I'm sure we were awful but of course we thought we were great. The second time was, actually, a few summers ago, when my rec-center, adult, jazz class did a short bit at a recital. Thank goodness I was placed to the back and side because this time I knew how awful I was, especially in comparison with the other students. It's a long time between recitals.

Q: What roles have you danced and what are your favorite roles? Why?
A: I've never danced any roles per se. The summer intensive I mentioned, above, did have a variations class in which we learned the Little Swans from "Swan Lake" and a corps piece from "Les Sylphides.” That was so much fun! I'd heard the little swans was difficult but I actually found it pretty easy because it simply repeated the same steps over and over, no more difficult than an aerobic Jazzercise number. But my group was doing it in ballet slippers. It looked much harder for the girls doing it on pointe. Pound, pound, pound, pound!

Q: Was there a role that you danced or will dance this year that you are looking forward to?
A: It's not really a "role" but in December I was a party guest in my local parks & rec production of "The Nutcracker".
Image hotlink - 'http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a376/smileywoman/Dance/toroandbruin_Grandfather.jpg'

Q: What thoughts or feelings do you have when you perform?
A: Nothing much. I've given speeches, played an instrument, taken part in school plays and so on with never a bit of stage-fright and didn't have any at the adult dance number mentioned above. I was concentrating so hard on trying to remember the steps and what came next that there wasn't time to think of anything else.

Q: What does your warm-up consist of before a performance? Other preparations?
A: These days I make sure I stretch a LOT before any kind of physical activity. I do a lot of foot-ankle-leg warmup and stretch.

Q: Is performing different as an adult than when you were younger? Explain.
A: The only way I can relate to this question is to think about my experiences in marching band where we performed in parades and did some half-time shows in the Orange Bowl. When you are a kid the roar of that crowd can be really intoxicating! In middle age I did a couple of Broncos half-time shows with my Jazzercise group. It was interesting but not the same thing. I also did a short flash mob piece downtown about a year and a half ago. It was fun even though the spring day turned quite nippy. I've included a photo. I don't know how the girl behind me survived in capris and sandals.

Q: Do you do pas de deux? If so, what do you like in a partner?
A: Unfortunately I've never had the opportunity to try it.

Q: Can you remember a funny story, blunder, something that happened to you in the middle of a performance that youÂ’d like to share with our readers?
A: Nope. Unless you count one Jazzercise Broncos half-time show. The routine was pretty simple. There were two variations. Some students, including me, learned both to make sure no side was lacking for the performance. Well, at certain points we were supposed to "jog, jog, jog" to a different place for 8 or more counts. For practice, we just went in circles, ending back in our "base" lines. In the long run the jogging parts would take us to a new formation on the football field. We would be told where to jog TO at the dress rehearsal. We assembled at a local high school football field, were assigned spots, were told to where to go for the first formation and started to practice that first bit. The cops arrived almost immediately to shut us down. Unbeknownst to the organizers, the neighborhood residents had obtained an injunction to prevent music or noise on the field outside of school hours. The school had rented us the field, anyway! So the organizers just said, "Try your best, tomorrow." What else could they say? Anyway, we assembled, did our bit, jogged elsewhere, did our bit, jogged wherever we were inspired to go and so on. It was a real mess. My friends from work, who had watched on TV, said, "Oh, it looked OK." My son, who is more honest, greeted me at home with, "Gosh, Mom, that was awful!".

Q: What kind of dance do you respond to most strongly now?
A: If I could do only one type of dance for the rest of my life it would be ballet. However I get something different out of all forms of dance.

Q: How do you think ballet (uniquely) communicate as an art?
A: Ballet feels great to do and it looks great to watch; however they are two, entirely different experiences, for me, anyway. I think that, for most people, watching ballet makes them feel good, like they are dancing, themselves, inside. A few respond by taking dance classes. Of those, some are disappointed when they find that doing it is different from watching; others understand the different experience and continue with both watching and doing. It can be hard to go back to just watching. I remember going to a performance of "Coppelia" with my daughter when she was, maybe, 14. She kept up a running commentary, "She's too far over her box.... Oh, she didn't quite hit that!" At intermission my daughter was in tears, saying "This is awful; I can't just watch, anymore."

Q: What professional dancer would you most like to dance with (why? ) and what would you dance?
A: Unless the professional could somehow modify his or her dancing down to my level, I would just be in the way; so I can't even imagine that. On Sundays I do attend an open class where some students are professionals. I don't so much dance "with" them as follow them across the floor.

Q: If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre), where would you dance?
A: Anywhere with a good floor.

Q: Who inspired you to dance?
A: Just trying it inspired me, I suppose. When I was quite young I did see a ballet performance by a late Ballet Russe company plus, after that, a new American company. It might have been a Balanchine group out of New York. My mother told me not to be disappointed if the Americans weren't quite as good. However, in spite of the fact that their costumes and scenery weren't as fancy, the performance was quite satisfying. They did an Agnes de Mille -- either "Billy the Kid" or "Rodeo", both of which kind of blur in my mind, now. It's funny because half a century later, listening to the radio while driving, I realized I saw cowboys dancing in my head. I thought, "Hey, that's "Rodeo"." And, because when I'd seen it as a kid when I hadn't YET played any music by Aaron Copeland, my next thought was, "Hey, that music was written by Copeland!" Talk about a time warp!

Q: Who are the three people in dance that have inspired you most?
A: The many, good teachers I've had all added something different. I couldn't narrow it to three.

Q: What has been the high point of your ‘career’ as a dancer, so far?
A: Whenever I find an affordable adult class offered at a place and time that I can get there, that's a high point. At the moment I actually have three per week, Wed., Fri. and Sun. What luxury!

Q: What is your best piece of advice?
A: Do SOMETHING physical every, single day, even if you can't take ballet class.

Q: Can you tell me about any challenges that you have faced as an older dancer and what you have done to overcome them?
A: Just signing up for classes and getting people to take me seriously. I signed up for a class over the phone once, giving the usual data. When I told the office my age, there was this dead silence on the other end for a couple of seconds. I got in, anyway. In this case I was glad for the bad economy which has, let's face it, encouraged dance programs to accept whoever will sign up.

Q: What is your feeling/thinking about your future as an adult ballet dancer? [Goals? Retiring?]
A: I don't have plans to retire either from working nor from going as full-out as I can with my hobby of dancing.

[b]Q: How do you see the future of the world of dance?

A: In the long term, I have great hope for many new developments in the world in general and dance in particular. They won't all happen in the US, where I live. We have been THE big gorilla for a long time. Still are, to a great extent, for the moment. But there will be a lot more varied input going forward. This is great. It will be so interesting!

Q: Are there changes you would like to make or that you see happening?
A: Of course I would like to see a lot more support for the arts. But, long term, the already-developed countries will have to share more with the many developing countries. While we concentrate more on basic necessities I hope we can still keep the creative light alive.

Q: What advice do you have for younger dancers?
A: That's tough. For my daughter and her generation, it was "If you have talent and the opportunity for training, go for it!" It was the right decision at that time. The economy was right. Today, though, the money is simply not there and is not going to be there for a while. So I would tell young people to keep dancing, never quit, but not expect that they can make a living solely from any art form.

Q: If you were asked to design your own ballet costume, what would you create?
A: It would have to be something easy to dance in as well as elegant. Blue, probably, as that is a good color on me. I've always liked floaty skirts that swirl out when I turn.

Q: You can ask six famous people to dinner - who would you invite and why?
A: Are we talking about both alive and dead? There are so many possibilities! Here's the first dinner party:: 1. Richard Feynman; 2. Madonna; 3. George Bernard Shaw; 4. Queen Elizabeth I of England; 5. Nelson Mandela; 6. Isabel Allende. Why? They're all so interesting and intelligent. I could certainly learn something from all of them. Plus, I bet they would all be glad to learn something from each other, creating fascinating dinner conversation.

Q: What would surprise people about you?
A: Maybe that I once had a student pilot license and actually soloed. I wanted to be able to land a small plane in a pinch if anything ever happened to my husband while he was piloting. I reached that goal but did not keep going to get my full license. I kept flying over pastures with horses in them. So I took the rest of the money I'd saved up and bought a horse with it.

Q: How do you feel about being interviewed for this special issue of Get the Pointe?
A: It's fun.

7 Replies to Get the Pointe: Ballet Interview #43 Special Issue – Adult Dancers, Featuring toroandbruin

re: Get the Pointe: Ballet Interview #43 Special Issue – Adult Dancers, Featuring toroandbruin
By nycsylphmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Feb 15, 2013 02:18 PM
Edited by nycsylph (206174) on 2013-02-15 14:22:14 left something out
smileywoman wrote:


Toroandbruin is an adult dancer 72 years old (73 in December) who has been dancing on and off since middle age.

This! No way! You look fantastic!

Oh, I loved this interview. If this doesn't inspire people to get out and dance I don't know what will!

Thanks for the great interview, and thanks Toroandbruin for being brave enough to share your passion! You're awesome!
re: Get the Pointe: Ballet Interview #43 Special Issue – Adult Dancers, Featuring toroandbruin
By OneGiantLeap
On Fri Feb 15, 2013 10:49 PM
I think that was my favourite interview so far. Toroandbruin, I love your attitude and your honesty. And your photos too - you're so elegant.

Thank you both!
re: Get the Pointe: Ballet Interview #43 Special Issue – Adult Dancers, Featuring toroandbruin
By smileywomanmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sat Feb 16, 2013 12:18 AM
I agree wholeheartedly that toroandbruin is an amazingly, young looking 70+ dancer. :)

I think dancing keeps us young, and makes us longer younger than our years (not counting myself in that description, ha - ha).

I really love the adult dancer series. I find the adult dancers on DDN to be very inspirational and hope to do more of these interviews.
re: Get the Pointe: Ballet Interview #43 Special Issue – Adult Dancers, Featuring toroandbruin
By adultbeginner
On Wed Mar 06, 2013 03:42 AM
Thank you very much for doing that interview Toroandbruin! You are an inspiration :)
re: Get the Pointe: Ballet Interview #43 Special Issue – Adult Dancers, Featuring toroandbruin
By attitudegurl
On Thu Mar 14, 2013 10:38 PM
Yay Toroandbruin! I loved this interview!
re: Get the Pointe: Ballet Interview #43 Special Issue ďż˝ Adult Dancers, Featuring toroandbruin
By miraclefrmheavnmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Apr 26, 2013 05:41 PM
Beautiful interview! You are the same age as my mother and neither one of you look your age! Take care of yourself. Lovely interview and congratulations. Keep dancing. Great job Maria with the interview!

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