Ballet is a beautiful way to keep moving forward when our lives are standing still.
So, embrace your personal space and treat it as a work of art.
That’s what I’ve said countless times as a ballet teacher. But never has it been more meaningful than now.
I’ve always been passionate about the everyday benefits of ballet for me, personally, and for the many other older adults here in New York City that I’ve been honored to teach in my free classes. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned over a lifetime as an amateur ballerina, if that’s what you call someone who dances for the sheer love of it. Older and maybe a little wiser, I value ballet most for the way it balances and centers me in ways that reach far beyond movement and dance.
As our city, our country — our whole world! — tries to make sense of life in this COVID-19 era, our only defense is to isolate ourselves from one another. To my surprise, ballet has become my constant companion.
Like many New Yorkers, I spend most of my time these uncertain days in an eternally-cluttered apartment where cozy really means incredibly small. My living roomserves too many purposes: TV news drones in the background; Alexa lights up and she won’t tell me why; ambulance sirens scream outside too often; and, right now, a bored but really cute puppy is somewhere chewing on my favorite ballet slippers.
My portable ballet barre has a place of honor near a window that allows light to shine in on my morning sessions. Anywhere I am, I make do with a dining table or high-backed chair as a barre substitute.
What I’ve learned from a lifetime of practicing ballet is that each of us has the power to transform whatever space we inhabit. By personal space, I mean the room our body takes up from the tips of our toes to the top of our head and however far our outstretched arms can reach. Even though we’re all home-bound, it matters that we stand straight and tall, ears aligned with our shoulders, stomach taut, backside tucked, legs turned out with feet firmly grasping the floor as if our whole body is drawing energy upwards from the earth itself.
The way we move can influence how we feel about ourselves and how we’ll cope. Careful balance promotes good physical and emotional health. It’s our duty, as well as our delight, to create something beautiful every step of our balletic way.
No worries if you’ve never attempted a plié or arabesque. What size, shape, age or gender you are doesn’t matter. There’s no better time to discover the many ballet classes online; Zoom, Instagram, You-Tube are our friends.
Dancing virtually at home in whatever space you have demands that you celebrate yourself. And here’s a fashion note: scheduling an internet class is a good excuse to pull together some good-looking dance outfits, too. Time to get out of those PJs!
All dressed up and no place to go is exactly what I have in mind.
“I’ve never paid much attention to age. I took my first ballet class – not as a little girl – but just before my twenty-first birthday as I began my career as a journalist. By day, I was city editor of a local New Jersey weekly newspaper; at night, I studied ballet at our neighborhood studio with Matt Mattox, who became world famous. Then, as now, I was usually the oldest in my class. My ballet slippers were probably the first things I slipped into my backpack when my husband, baby daughter and I moved to New York City. I landed a job at Women’s Wear Daily working for the legendary fashion columnist Eugenia Sheppard, who taught me about style and how to write about it. Later on, my fascination with vintage fashion and re-using old clothes inspired me to launch my own business. That led to freelance projects in the theater and work as a theatrical costume designer off-off-off Broadway. Along the way, I’ve published three books about travel and road-tripped throughout the American West writing about my adventures. Currently, I’m under contract to write a book about the vintage fashion world.
Throughout my life so far, ballet has been the thread that ties everything together. Six years ago, I started a free ballet class for older adults at our East 67th Street public library. It’s for anyone, any age, who finds joy in dancing.”
You’ll find other ideas about virtual ballet at Jennifer’s website.