What do you do when your dance mojo has left you and you’re not feeling it as a joy but a bit of chore and how do you get your motivation back when this happens? The difficulty with taking your dance past-time a bit more seriously for a time, is that I’ve entered into a bit of psychological warfare with my dancing. Ballet, as we know, is very physical and we watch dancers put their bodies through tough conditioning for the technical feats but what we forget about, is the emotional toughness that ballet takes. The constant feeling of being on view and from dancers’ biographies, that feeling of trying to obtain, in their minds, the unobtainable and the inevitable criticism of not just yourself but the company, friends etc. Ballet dancers, although they look super-human, are, I believe, fully human and even though you can have a physically strong body and psychologically strong, women do go through many changes in their body that can imbalance emotionally and these emotions can be very powerful at times. Dancers must listen to the rhythms of their bodies and I do hope that there is support for dancers to deal with such frailities of the human condition. There is a heightened awareness in society at the moment for mental health but there needs to also be an awareness of the physiological make-up that impacts on the emotional health of a dancer, especially as the physiology changes through different moments in life.
At the moment, I am having struggles with the thing that I love, ballet. Maybe I am too emotionally attached for an amateur dancer and I need to re-evaluate and rebalance or I need to see the wider picture and that there are so many different personalities in a room. Thankfully, I have another source of strength and other interests in my life but I know, in the end, all these experiences in life will be to my betterment and if we do not run away from challenges, they will make us stronger.
Maybe, it is also that we acknowledge our busy lives and not try to push ourselves too much and I happen to work somewhere that is particularly busy coming up to the summer and it is very much questions, questions, questions, all the time and sometimes it is mentally draining. Usually ballet is an antidote, however, it is difficult to take the mind out of ballet. I am sure that I will establish equilibrium and go back to enjoy my favourite past-time again and it will give me the impetus to work smarter and intelligently for an older but by no means, ancient, amateur dancer. It is probably also pre-show exhaustion as well and, after all, there is no business like showbusiness and the show must go on!
Well, it’s that time of the year again when our Second Chance Ballet, Adult Ballet dancers get together to honour the woman that brought adult ballet to Belfast long before celebrity culture was a thing and Hollywood A-listers took to the ballet barre to make it a trendy form of exercise, Ruth Adams. One of my original memories of ballet in the dim and distant past was of an iridescent-white ballerina, dancing round and round to a tinny version of Tchaikovsky’s most glorious score in my mum’s musical jewellery box. Swan Lake is so thoroughly ingrained in the public psyche that it has come to epitomise ballet, something that the original authors would never have believed possible but then this has helped the myth of the mythical ballet to become such a cross-cultural phenomenon. Dancing Swan Lake has been a long-time dream of mine and I just love listening to the luscious score as it builds and builds into a crescendo of anticipation, although, I think I am in somewhat of the same place as Odette as she looks on in horror at her beloved’s betrayal.
Being an adult ballet dancer, does not make you ease up on yourself, well, I don’t anyway. I find that I am constantly trying to pull some part of my body into a shape resembling a body that could in some way produce the lines of a real dancer. I do this throughout the day as well, in the shower, brushing my teeth, standing in the bus queue, although, not altogether sure if it is making any difference. What all this hopefully leads up to is being able to get together with Adult Ballet friends and make certain shapes and forms to do a passable, amateur version of Swan Lake, my childhood dream.
Rehearsals started, in earnest, a month or so ago, so in many ways, this is as close to the feeling that a professional dancer must get, in my piddling little way, although not many dancers sit at a desk for umpteenth number of hours a week and with the associated brain-packing that goes with an office job which you can’t get further away from dancing. Then I remember why we are doing this apart from the fact that it will hopefully help our own mental acuity but to remember a pioneer of adult ballet and many more people who will be caught up with the terrible disease of Alzheimer’s. Ironically, dancing being one of the top past-times to help stave off this wasting disease of the mind, hopefully by pushing ourselves, we are helping our future selves to stay healthier.
And although I have not realised my life-long dream of dancing the pas-de-quatre or ‘Little’ Swans but then you need some dreams to still bring to realisation and make you work harder!