Ballet & The Body
BEING COMFORTABLE IN A LEOTARD AND TIGHTS JUST GOT A LITTLE EASIER
There are countless challenges starting ballet in your late 30's and beyond, challenges not even people in the early 30's face. With every plié and every grand jete you are defying your body in the most brutal way. As it prepares to wind down, you are asking it to work harder than it's ever worked.
We force our bodies into submission with every single class.
But beyond the physical aspect of ballet, older dancers have the additional challenge of working with the aesthetics of a rapidly ageing body. Ballet is as much visual as it is physical and we all associate ballet with long, lean bodies, but as dancers beyond our late 30's we know achieving that kind of body is impossible for us because nature simply won't allow it.
Ageing can make you more than a little self conscious about your body, but for me ballet makes it worse because unlike most people I, like all dancers, am confronted by my reflection in huge mirrors, whilst wearing a leotard and ballet tights for many hours a week. In my 40's. That's fun.
Make no mistake though, as much as my ageing body annoys me sometimes, it never affects how I dress and it never will and the same goes for what I wear to ballet class. I take great pleasure in my printed leotards, bright leg warmers and wafty skirts. But earlier this week I was shooting a little ballet style post and I decided to take a photo wearing just tights and a leotard - the ballerina standard attire. This was a risky little game as It could have gone terribly wrong - I could have looked worse than I ever imagined and made myself utterly miserable.
Luckily for me, I was pleasantly surprised. Damn, if my body doesn't look pretty good! I might not have the 25" waist of 36 year old me but I realised it's because it's mostly been replaced with back and side muscles giving me a strong, athletic body. Ok I'd be lying if I said my stomach stays that flat all the time because it simply cannot - age bestows upon you greatly depleted muscle mass, meaning holding your core constantly is pretty much impossible, and a whole bunch of saggy, loose skin on top of that (thank constantly reducing collagen for that doozy) - but the fact is I'm a few weeks away from turning 44 and I'm wearing a leotard and tights and I'm not horrified. Until I took these photos I was really down on the fact ballet has given me a thick waist and rather developed trapezius muscles but actually in the context of ballet it doesn't look bad.
I'd never wear this in class of course (see above outfit with more realistic skirt on top), but maybe I won't be so hard on myself when it feels like my ageing body is constantly letting me down because actually the poor thing is working so hard when all it wants to do is lie on the sofa and eat BBQ Pringles.
I might never have a flat chest and a six pack but I've got a body that's healthier than it was when I did have that little tiny waist, and you can't ask for better than that when you're hitting 44.