We enjoy sharing the love for ballet through our dancewear designs. However, every once in a while, we find a dancer who greatly inspires us with her love of ballet. We couldn’t resist and feel that you should meet her and hear her ballet story. You’ll be surprised who this person is! No, she’s not a professional ballerina. She is Katie, from Taiwan, a recreational dancer in her 30s. Her passion for dance deeply moved us and it reignited our passion for dance. She dances 6 days a week in basic, intermediate classes and takes pointe classes.
Here is her story…
- What made you start learning ballet?
I guess that’s what they call: “Love at first sight”.
- How has your ballet journey been so far? How many classes do you take a week?
I fell in love with ballet at the age of 5 when I had the chance to accompany my friend to her ballet class. I will never forget the moment, sitting by the window, and how watching the class made my heart skips a beat and how it made my eyes sparkled.
It was not until I was 8 when I had the chance to take my first ballet class. Though it was only a recreational class, it was all the same – a dream come true for me.
It was only class once a week till I was about 12 years old. At that time, I was under academic pressure to quit ballet to focus on my school work and so I did, unfortunately. Being a daughter of both parents who are teachers, I felt obligated to focus on getting good grades in order to find a “decent” career and take ballet as passion not as a profession, so that’s what I did. Nevertheless, ballet has always been on my mind.
Although I had quit ballet as a child, I had the chance to return to that ballet studio of my childhood in my college years. It reignited my passion for ballet and I even had the chance to dance in their performances. However, not too long after, I had to stop my ‘return to ballet’ due to an injury of my left leg (caused by intense stretching). I was feeling sad and discouraged and even told myself to forget about ballet. Why dance ballet so seriously as it could never be pursued as a career? I tried to tell myself that I was dreaming and being unrealistic about it and I should “wake up”.
Yet, I can’t seem to let go of ballet. I can’t help getting excited whenever seeing ballet related pictures, movies, TV dramas and I can’t help staring at the ballet studios signs on the street. At the end of 2013, after watching the series of Australian TV drama “Dance Academy”, I knew that I couldn’t stop my wriggling feet anymore and just have to get back to the studio again to feel “completed”. That was the fastest decision I have ever made in my life. I googled online for adult ballet class, called and registered for my class. This is when I really started my ballet journey, at the age of 27.
At the beginning, it was just 1 or 2 classes a week, but the more I dance, the more I want to dance and the more I need to dance. Yes, my ballet love is like an addiction, I’m totally stuck with ballet. Knowing I’m not getting any younger, I know I have to work much harder; its simple math, if I spend twice or three times more on ballet, I’d have the chance to improve twice or three times faster. That’s why now I only give myself one day off from ballet, “ideally” of course, but I try to attend at least 5 classes a week against all odds.
- What are some of your ballet goals or aspirations?
To tell the truth, I don’t know. Yeah, I do have dreams to dance like a professional doing crazy fouettés and wrap my legs around my head one day, but I actually don’t know what the point is for setting such goals for myself at this time of age in my life. So for now, I just wanted to first achieve feeling “free” in ballet, being able well control my body decent enough (not extreme) to enjoy naturally in the moves without having to worry about if I’m gonna fall, if I’m using the correct muscles, if my feet is pointed, if my turn out is still there…etc and very importantly look for the “ballet aesthetic”.
- What is your most favorite thing about ballet?
I guess what fascinates me so much about ballet is the incredible strength underneath that beautiful disguise.
- What is your biggest challenge?
Physically it would be having to overcome my old injuries, correct all the wrongly used muscles developed throughout previous improper training and bad habits that’s been stuck with me in my 30 years of life.
Then there is the challenge to always try finding balance in life, between family, friends, work and ballet.
- Why do you think you love ballet? What made you love it? Was it love at first sight or did you grow to love it more and more?
It was definitely love at first sight and I kind of feel like its already hidden somewhere inside my DNA. The love for ballet continuously grows and I just know it’s meant to be a part of my life.
- Who are your inspirations?
In fact I don’t get my inspirations from a particular person, but from all my fellow ballet classmates and the ballet community on social media regardless of whether they are professional or not. I’m truly inspired when seeing total different individuals at different ages, levels giving their earnest dedication just because they share the same passion and love for ballet. I can always relate to their feelings and feel so motivated following their progress.
- What are some things that your ballet teacher says?
I have many ballet teachers and I love how one of them once said “I will never mind how ugly you do, what matters to me is you have the courage to try”.
- Do you ever feel self-doubt or ever felt like quitting?
Absolutely. I believe anyone who has truly devoted themselves into ballet would understand the feeling of frustration when improvement halts into a long plateau or when you feel that you’re regressing.
Hence, I always find ballet more challenging for the mind than the body. Whenever I’m feeling frustrated, I try to remember my love of ballet to stay motivated and move forward. It wasn’t easy at first, but I’m handling it much better now.
- Do you have a hard period in your ballet life? If so, do share.
Yes, actually current period is quite tough for me because I’m still feeling all the side effects of the old injury of the left leg and all bad habits developed afterwards.
The injury I had 10 years ago have affected the way I used my muscles in dancing ballet. In turn, I felt that I didn’t use the right muscles and it affected my vertebral column and pelvis. This caused my body to be lopsided and my body has gotten used to this ‘unbalanced balance’. The right ballet posture feels abnormal to me and I find it extremely hard to get used to it.
Although I’ve been returned to dancing ballet for 3 years, half of that time I didn’t realize I wasn’t using the right muscles. My muscles are naturally strong, and thus I can imitate ballet positions quite well, thus it took a lot of me and the teacher for me to realize I’m not really developing the right technique. It was only about a year ago I realized I had to focus on all the ballet basics and get rid of the bad habits (and erase all the false “lookalike” ones out of my head).
That is, in fact a very hard thing to do. The first thing is to accept mentally the fact that I have to ‘lose all the technique’ I once achieved by cheating and totally start over the right way. Though that is disheartening, I try to encourage myself that the techniques will eventually return and I will be a much more solid dancer after this.
From the physical point of view, I have to first relax and repair those overused incorrect muscles, then train the brain to use and develop the correct ones. They say old habits die hard, and so does old muscle memories. I’m currently still struggling through this transition.
- What is your dancewear style?
I have numerous of leotards, ballet skirts, shorts, all kinds of warmers. I just can’t seem to resist them! I think I’m famous for “a non-professional who has a ballet wardrobe of a professional ballerina” lol.
Since I have such variety of dancewear to choose from, it’s hard to define a particular style (mostly I choose my ballet outfit depending on weather and mood). But I would say my favorite ballet outfit would be elegant 3 quarter sleeve mesh/lace leotard with ballet skirt and leg warmers.
- What does your dance teacher say the most (number of times) e.g. “point your foot!”?
I’m often told to “RELAX” because I’m the kind of person who only try too hard instead of not enough.
- What do you think is the greatest misconception about ballet?
That ballet is just about flexibility, being able to do the splits, looking elegant, pretty and thin. However, “strength” is actually the key and that ballet dancers are in fact athletes. They are athletes that only have tremendous strength and power but can always looks beautiful at the same time!
- How do you get so flexible? And how did you manage to get your leg high up in Écarté ?
I have to thank God for having natural “above-average” flexibility. But as for getting the legs high in ecarté actually depends on the strength of the supporting leg and the body. As for me, “relaxing” seems to be quite a hard task, so thus my strength is that I’m good at holding up my body (lol). However, now I lower my Écarté because I want to focus more on turning out the leg. I’m working on strengthening my turn out muscles, stretching, loosening and re-toning my hip and inner thigh muscles.
- Lastly, what is your approach to ballet? Meaning, what is most important to you in ballet, or what advice you would give others who has not yet reached your level etc.
Though these 3.5 years of adult ballet training, I learned to open my eyes and mind to “observe”.
Ballet is indeed about intense dedication and practice, but what’s more important is to do it correctly and wisely. Through “observing”, which includes seeing actual demonstrations, listening to those constantly repeated corrections by the teacher, and most importantly feeling your own body, focusing the brain to really “think about it”.
That is how I feel dancers can ‘catch’ the correct technique and it is also why sometimes you can’t (if you’re not observing well enough). If you feel you can’t get it, it might mean that you have to get a clearer picture of what you’re doing. When you do so, you’ll see what you need to work on and how. We might have a limitation on our body but the advantage of doing ballet as an adult is our brain.
Other things I would say to dancers is to cherish every moment of ballet and enjoy the journey of learning to dance (especially while you still can). Whenever you feel frustrated and disappointed, remember that you have a second chance called ‘tomorrow’. Do what you love and love what you do!