Welcome to our first ever Interview with an Adult Ballet Dancer! This series will follow adult students of all types and ages who dance as adults, and aren’t necessarily reaching for a professional career in dance. Pointe Perfect knows that most ballet dancers won’t be pros, so we want to put a spotlight on the dedicated students who find themselves at the barre week in and week out because it COMPLETES them.
We are so excited to introduce you to Michon! Michon is an incredible ballet inspiration, proof that ballet changes lives. Please enjoy this Interview with an Adult Ballet Dancer: Michon.
Q: Tell me a little about yourself! Are you in school? What do you do for a living?
My name is Michon; I am 28 years old, and from Chandler, Arizona. I work full-time in Human Resources for a Special Needs Agency. In the past, I majored in Art History. Art interests me and I would love to be an Art Archivist or work on conserving and restoring historical structures such as cathedrals.
Q: What made you decide to pursue ballet, and how old were you when you started?
I have always loved ballet! I have wanted to be a ballet dancer since I was little. I would dance around my kitchen in socks and pretend to be a ballerina. My family did not have the means to put me in dance, so I would watch movies and check out ballet performances from the library and try teaching myself. I started ballet seriously at 26 years old and have only missed one class from August 2015 – Present. In May of 2015, I had some pretty serious health problems and I was severely overweight. I knew I had to do something for my physical well-being. One day I decided that I wanted to dance, and I was not going to let the urge go until I did it!
Q: How long have you been dancing?
I have been dancing seriously for a little over 1 year.
Q: What did you expect before you started your first class? How does that compare to your daily expectations now?
I expected it to be much easier than it was! Ballet is so hard. It is a perfectionist genre of dance. It fits me just fine because I am a perfectionist! I also expected to have to wear a leotard and tights, but at my studio, the adult students are not required to wear ballet attire. Now that I am much stronger, more flexible, and have lost a significant amount of weight, my focus is more on the minute details of ballet technique. I also highly enjoy wearing the classic black leotard and pink tights because it allows me to see my body and has absolutely aided in my improvement! When I first started ballet, I would get so confused with the terms, steps, and positions. Now when I attend class, I only need to be told/shown once or twice and I can usually remember the series of steps that are asked of me.
Q: What are your current ballet goals?
– To gain the core and foot strength to execute my pirouettes consistently.
– To increase my arches and foot flexibility to gain a higher relevé.
– To increase flexibility to execute front and middle splits.
– To improve on working with my hyper-extended knees and turnout.
– To stay in first position when executing chaînés turns.
– To keep my future pointe goals in mind so I may one day achieve going on pointe!
Q: What do you struggle with the most in class, and how do you deal with frustration?
My biggest struggle is trying to work with my hyper-extended knees and not standing in my hips. I struggle with keeping my weight in my toes and completely straightening my legs because it is very painful. It makes it difficult to do anything in fifth position and I cannot close to fifth as tightly as I would like. I find myself often bending my knees to close to fifth in order to get around my knees. I do get upset when I lack the ability to execute a step perfectly. I try not to verbally show it or show it on my face. Some days are harder than others. After class, while in the studio, or right when I get home, I will write notes for myself of things to work on at home, or things to focus on in the next class. I know that if I continue working hard and practicing, I will improve! I do my best not to become discouraged.
Q: Do you take any other styles of dance? How does ballet help you with other forms of dance?
I take Aerial Arts classes on the weekends. It is considered aerial dance, aerial gymnastics, and circus acrobatics. In the actual dance world, I am wholly committed to ballet! Ballet has helped me with flexibility, strength, and grace in my Aerial Arts classes.
Q: What is your biggest achievement thus far?
My biggest achievement is my complete physical and emotional transformation. In July 2015, I weighed 256 lbs. With this, other issues ensued. I struggled with high blood pressure, elevated heart rate, severe acid reflux, and extreme anxiety that made it difficult to complete everyday tasks. Since childhood, I tried to get healthy by participating in team sports, yoga, running, Pilates, and joining a gym. Nothing seemed to help; I found no enjoyment in any of it. Naturally, I did not want to participate in what I did not love. I have only been dancing for a little over one year, and in that time, I have lost over 70 lbs and have gained beautiful lean muscle. My emotional health has improved so much that I am now more confident, happy, and I have gained more self-love than I could have ever imagined. I am now increasingly outgoing, and I talk more. When I first began ballet, I was self-conscious, I never talked, and I couldn’t stand looking at myself in the mirror. Now, I love the mirror, I talk all the time (when appropriate, of course), and I am never afraid to ask questions when I need to!
Q: Do you cross train outside the studio or practice at home? What’s your routine?
For cross-training, I take Aerial Arts/Aerial Circus classes, strengthen with Pilates/floor barre, work with resistance bands and Thera-bands, and practice the current barre routine. If I am not physically training or practicing, I constantly focus on nutrition and nourishing my body. I also study flash cards, research ballet history, read books, watch ballet productions to study movement, and watch videos on steps I do not quite understand. I do 2-3 hours of ballet work in some form at least 6 days a week. I have one rest day because I believe rest for your body and mind is important in retaining information and aids in improvement.
Q: Tell me about your studio family! Who has been your biggest inspiration thus far?
I take ballet classes at Jeanne’s School of Dance in Chandler, Arizona. The staff at Jeanne’s is incredible! The owners Amy and Kaley are so positive and encouraging. They have seen my transformation and asked me to write my story to be posted and shared on the studio website! Asking me to share my story made me feel so important, and that I am actually inspiring people!
When it was time for me to take my first ballet class, I was pretty nervous, and my anxiety was through the roof. The Adult Ballet teacher, Cheryl, was so warm and welcoming. I immediately felt at ease with her. My first class was a struggle, but I absolutely loved it! I needed to go back! Cheryl is a wonderful teacher. She is knowledgeable in the art of classical ballet and enjoys it! She radiates that joy to every one of her students. She is able to individualize and work with the whole class at the same time. I found that strength necessary for my personal improvement. Cheryl’s knowledge of Kinesiology has shown in class as she helps you to understand your body, how it moves, how your muscles work, and how everything is connected. My strength, flexibility, and balance have increased immensely due to her teaching style. She believes in you and helps you learn to believe in yourself. Along with my own commitment and determination, she is the reason why I continue to dance.
Cheryl has been my biggest inspiration without a doubt. She has helped me believe that I can do anything I put my mind to. She has given me the most amazing opportunity to audition and perform in The Nutcracker for the 2016 Season with the Arizona Youth Ballet. Arizona Youth Ballet is a Pre-Professional Ballet Company with Christina Hampton as the Artistic Director, and my ballet teacher, Cheryl Ayers as the Assistant Artistic Director. The experience as a guest performer at AZYB has been wonderful so far as Cheryl and Christina work very well together. They listen to each other and know the strengths of their dancers. They are very creative and their positive energy is infectious!
Q: What advice would you give to other adults considering starting ballet?
- Attend every single class and continue ballet work outside of class. Cross-training and working at home is just as important as working in class.
- If you do not understand a step or position, research it! The information and help is out there! Be sure to ask questions in class if something does not make sense. Believe me, if your teacher is the right teacher, he or she will not mind questions. They are there to help you improve, understand, and appreciate ballet.
- Being a part of a supportive adult ballet community helps too. I am a part of the Adult Ballerinas Group on Facebook. I have learned so much from the wonderful ladies in that group! Everyone is helpful when you become frustrated and even congratulate you on your successes! We are all there to help each other stay motivated and determined.
- The right nutrition, nourishment, and hydration for your body type are also so important. Focus on yourself. Another person’s diet may not be the same as yours. Make sure you are eating enough to feed your whole body. Eat fresh foods that your body will actually use. Proper nutrition is important because it will help increase and sustain stamina, and heal your body when strains, soreness, or injuries occur.
- Please do your best to get enough sleep as well! Sleep helps in healing any body aches and pains that can occur with ballet.
- It can be difficult to keep up with proper nutrition, hydration, and sleep, but it CAN be done. Find your determination to keep up with it, and I promise that ballet will be much easier to handle.
Q: Do you have any other inspiration or words of wisdom to share?
- Stick with it! Ballet is hard, but that is what makes it so beautiful!
- Be patient! Changes are very slow, but you WILL reach your goals if you continue working hard.
- Getting started is the hardest part. It can be scary and intimidating. Once you attend your first class, you will see that the other adult dancers in your class are similar to you. They are also focused on improving and are probably just as self-conscious.
- Trust your teacher! If they love teaching and are invested, they will not steer you in the wrong direction. Listen to them. If they tell you to ice an injury or strain, then do it! “ICE ICE ICE” (as my ballet teacher, Cheryl says). They care about you as both a dancer, and as a person.
- Adult Ballet is not a competition. We support each other and hope that everyone makes it!
Q: Do you have a blog, Instagram or website we can follow?
Arizona Youth Ballet:
Jeanne’s School of Dance – Chandler:
“Since 1958, we’ve been a home away from home – where kids and adults build confidence through teamwork and teachers support every individual by helping them set their goals and achieve their dreams. Our small class sizes allow teachers and staff to build relationships with every dancer and family. In this atmosphere, dancers gain so much more than a dance/theatre education. They walk away with life skills that will keep them dancing through life forever.”
Q: If you’re willing, share a ballet related photo (or photos) of yourself that makes you feel beautiful!