real life

Dancers, it's time to dust off the leotard.

And …

5, 6, 7 8!

If you’re a dancer, those four numbers are enough to give you goosebumps. Even if it’s been a hundred years since the last time you danced.

There are many ways in which we define ourselves from a young age. Sporty, academic, funny, shy. Those definitions might chop and change over our lifetime, or they might stay the same. With dance, however, it is often a definition that begins before our personalities have developed, and remains long after we’ve hung up the pointe shoes.

Once a dancer, always a dancer.

If you relate to this, if you still define yourself as a dancer despite not pirouetting in years, if you still choreograph routines in your head when you hear a new song, if your muscles still twitch every time you see a grand jeté on So You Think You Can Dance…. it’s time for you to get your butt back in a leotard, twinkle toes.

Your body will sing with joy. (And probably ache with happy exhaustion.)

Once a dancer, always a dancer. Image: supplied.

It had been two years since my last class when I got back into dancing at 28. Before that sentence leads you to quit reading this post with excuses like "two years? Pfft! I haven't danced in TEN years!" or "she's only 28? I'm 107, it's too late for me!", let me tell you - it doesn't matter how long you've had off, that first class back is daunting. But the good news is, some things never change. So read on.

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That first class back was scary. Only a few years before, I had been bouncing through advanced classes every day as part of my university degree in Music Theatre. But time, work, busy-ness, laziness, injuries... all the usual excuses had lead to a couple years of couch time since my last split jump. And yet, I dragged on the ol' pink tights and found an adult beginner ballet class, so I could shake the dust off my legs in a class I knew I could handle.

Zoe tried to dance like Madonna...here's what happened. Post continues below. 

Man, did my ass hurt the next day. Turn-out muscles are a bitch.

But even though I was in pain, I was walking on air.

I'd forgotten how much I loved the process of a ballet class. Lining up along the barre, one hand resting delicately by the fingertips, the other in bras bas. Even the terminology felt like music to my ears. The teacher demonstrated the first exercise, pliés with tendus. Pliés. Tendus. You couldn't wipe the smile off my face.

Port de bras in the centre. Corner work. Pirouette combinations. Step-ball-change-step-leaps. Every moment of the class felt like my muscles waking back up after a long hibernation. And they were so, so happy to be awake.

It all comes back eventually. Image: supplied.
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The thing is, you don't lose your dancing skill. You lose strength and flexibility, certainly. You lose agility and stamina. But your co-ordination, your ability to pick up choreography, your passion - it might all be a bit rusty, but it's there. It never left. The things that made you a good dancer never leave; they're just in need of a good oiling, like the Tin Man from The Wizard Of Oz.

So now it's your turn.

If you still define yourself as a dancer after all these years, then you owe it to yourself. Don't be scared; no one in the class will even look at you. Seriously, aren't we all just watching ourselves in the mirror anyway?! Start with an adult beginner class, and I guarantee you won't even be the worst one there. That should be reassuring. We never lose our competitive edge, right?...

All the major cities have adult beginner classes. Space Dance in Melbourne, Sydney Dance Company, Australian Company of Performing Arts in Adelaide... have a quick Google and you'll find the one for you. If you're nervous, give them a call first, or go with another ex-dancer friend.

But don't be nervous.

Once you've got your hand on that barre, or your feet in a parallel second ready to turn your head side-to-side, or your tap shoes buckled up and about to do their first shuffle, it'll all come rushing back to you. Your body never forgot how to dance, you just stopped letting it.

Get out there. It'll do wonders for your body, your health, your mental state. Or you'll do one class, sigh with satisfaction and stop for another five years. You've got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Once a dancer, always a dancer.

Are you ready? Here we go.

And 5, 6, 7, 8....

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