It is my delight to introduce you to one of adult ballet’s finest, Rael Oudshoorn.
Rael was a huge support and inspiration to me when I first started ballet, as I am sure she was to many others. She is a gorgeous, funny, caring chick so let’s get to it!
It’s time to meet Rael…
Why did you take up ballet as an adult?
I did ballet when I was younger, and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, there came a time in which I had to choose between ballet and horse riding, and I chose horse riding. I couldn’t do both because I had a brother and a sister that also cost money due to their study and other hobbies. In the end I got back to dancing when I was around 12, but that was street dance and I didn’t really like it because it didn’t feel graceful AT ALL.
Once So You Think You Can Dance first aired in The Netherlands I was hooked. I couldn’t stop thinking; what if I started dancing again? It seemed so weird, going back to dancing, alone. When I told people that I wanted to get back to ballet they looked at me like I had two heads. Seriously? Ballet, as an adult? Well.. yeah!
I finally found the courage to sign myself up for a test class. I was so freaking nervous!! I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know what to wear, I felt like everything would make me look like a complete fool!
In the end I know I started dancing again because I just couldn’t live without dance in my life, one way or another.
What do you love most about ballet classes?
The structure, the predictability but also the fact that I have to focus. I really have to watch my technique and that makes it something I can really work with. I have to be challenged, no matter what sport it is I do. I do consider ballet as a sport, I never would have thought that it would be so difficult! When I was younger, everything was so easy breezy.. Now I really have to work my butt off to compete with other dancers in my class and I love it. Also, it makes me feel feminine and soft, whereas in normal life I am everything but!
Has ballet had a big effect on your life? If yes, in what way?
I think so. It made me more aware of my body, with all its flaws but also with all its strengths. It also made me have an outlet for my musicality and for my restlessness. Nowadays, I am addicted to watching ballet videos, I dance around the house and I have a whole new appreciation for music. I don’t see it solely as a thing to listen to and to shut off my thoughts, I even choreograph tiny little dances in my mind!
I don’t think this ballet addiction will ever cease to exist, that is why I firmly believe that ballet has changed my life.
What has your experience of adult ballet teachers been?
I have only had two teachers for classical ballet. One was great and the other still is great. They both had different styles of teaching that made it very nice to be in their class. If I had questions for one teacher and that teacher didn’t have a way of explaining it to me that I could grasp, the other would be able to cut it into little pieces that I could understand.
They are both really supportive, and they can be strict when they need to. I think I like that, actually!
The guest teachers I have had were all very lovely. They know that you are an adult so they take it a bit slower than they would with younger dancers, but still they manage to challenge you!
Is there anything you would like adult ballet teachers to do more or less of? (You can give a joke answer like “less frappes”, as well as your serious answer, if you like.)
I would like it if adult ballet teachers would allow more room for personal interpretation. I know I said that I love the structure of a ballet class, but it is also the feeling that dancing gives me that I really love. I would like to do some more improvisation in class, that would be really, really awesome. When you do improv you have a chance to find your inner dancer, your own style. I think it is also a way to become more comfortable in class, with the people you dance with. (And yes, I would love it if teachers would stop with the frappes already!!)
Most embarrassing ballet class moment?
I think that has to be my fall(s) – yes, plural. I fell two times in class, but hey, our floor is slippery! Both times I fell were during diagonal exercises, we had to do a waltz combination across the floor and I tried to do a double pirouette… I tried, and, well, I failed! The only thing you can do is dust yourself off and try again.
If you could see any ballet anywhere in the world, which ballet would you see and where would you see it?
I would love to go to Russia to see a ballet of the Mariinsky company or the Bolshoi. Both are fine, really!! I saw Diana Vishneva in The Netherlands in Giselle and I still dream about that. It was so amazing! I think nothing beats Russian ballerinas! Svetlana Zakharova, anyone?!
If you could be taught by any teacher, either alive today or from the past, who would it be and why? (This can include your current teacher.)
I would love to be taught by Margot Fonteyn. Nureyev and Fonteyn were such a dream couple, even though they are not alive today they are a phenomenon. I still watch their videos and I think that Margot could really teach me about putting feeling into my dancing and overcoming physical problems (like technique, bad feet, flexibility) with performance!
If you could dance a pas de deux with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Well, not totally relevant to my previous question but it would be Mikhail Baryshnikov. I think he is such a good looking man, he aged so well.. and his technique and jumps, they are so amazing. He is certainly a candidate to be my partner (if only he wanted to!!)
Have you received either negative judgement or positive support about starting ballet as an adult? How did the positive support make you feel? And how did you deal with the negative stuff?
The weird thing is, everybody I knew looked at me weird when I told them I wanted to start dancing again. Only now that I’m actually dancing again, they are all super supportive. My boyfriend has to suffer my ballet-o-mania but he is really cool about it. He comes to my recitals and he enjoys watching me dance. My sister is a really big fan too! I love having positive people around me in this manner. All the people I met through ballet are very cool too. Negative judgement hasn’t happened to me, everybody is full of curiosity when I tell them about my hobby.
Thank you so much, Rael, for participating. I learned a lot from your perspective. I especially love the idea of learning more about our inner dancer and our unique style.
Hope everyone else enjoyed this as much as I did.
Comments are open if you wish to let us know what you loved most about this interview.
Thanks for reading!