When You Can't Be A Ballerina

A common grief among adult ballet dancers is the loss of ever being able to be a ballerina — of ever being able to truly live the life of a ballerina, the whole 24/7 package.

I’m sure there are many parts of that lifestyle that we don’t fully understand. I’m sure all the blisters, injuries, pain, pressure and rejection are things we cannot fully wrap our tantalised minds around. But the great sense of injustice at finding ballet so late in our lives, that many of us feel, usually overshadows those real-life ballerina issues. Most of the time.

So then, what do you do, how do you fill the ballerina gap, when you can’t be a ballerina?

Well, you can start by celebrating the fact that you don’t have all that pressure on you. You don’t HAVE to keep dancing on that injury or risk losing your employment. You don’t HAVE to do anything in ballet.

For adult ballet dancers, it is all about what we WANT to do.

Sure, sometimes (often) in class our teachers might make us feel that we should be focusing on a million things that feel impossible, but that’s only what the teacher wants — again, we don’t HAVE to do anything we don’t WANT to do.

So, we can set our sights on almost anything! 

Triple pirouettes


Stronger feet

Feeling the music

Feeling like a ballerina

Laughing with friends


Port de bras

Anything. ANYthing! ANY THING! 

(Well, aside from the pro-ballerina thing)

Remember to believe in yourself. 

You are allowed to set goals, dream and achieve. 

You are allowed to want more. 

You are allowed to strive for the best you can be.

You are allowed to strike a fabulous ballet pose, and feel as proud of yourself as if you were that professional ballerina that you feel is inside you. 

Tiny tots starting their first ballet class, girls graduating senior ballet, boys navigating a seemingly feminine world of ballet, professional ballerinas, adult beginner ballet students, ballet teachers, advanced adult ballet students and audiences who love watching ballets on stage — we’re all part of the same thing. We’re all part of ballet.

So what can you do when you can’t be a pro ballerina?

Whatever the fuck else you can imagine. Whatever else you can dream up.

Go forth and conquer the moment. Your moment. 

Enjoy it. Revel in it. Own it.

And always remember…

You deserve to be in the room.

Zoe xxx 


8 thoughts on “When You Can't Be A Ballerina”

  1. The other thing you have to remember is that when you were not being a professional ballerina, you did something else, you met other people, you gained other skills. You can’t regret that, you shouldn’t regret that. You can look at those beautiful dancers on stage, and then you can go and do something different, something you also feel passionate about.

    Never regret. Never think ‘if only’ because that is a disservice to the whole person you are.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I remember an interview with famous Spanish dancer and teacher Matilde Coral. She talked about her former students who were performing with her that day, and she seemed to be equally proud of those who were members of dance companies as of those who had made other choices. She had a big smile on her face when she said: this one was my student and now she is a doctor, this one is a lawyer and this one already has three children, imagine!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this, thanks.
    I’m sort of in transition now, having moved across the country to a place where there is no studio close by. I’m now at an age where I just hope to get back to a class and just enjoy class and those goals you mentioned.

    I’ve been fortunate to have danced with a pre-pro company in so many productions that at times has made me feel somewhat like a professional dancer even though some of my crazy goals I never achieved.

    But I have been in a partnering class and done a pas de deux in addition to having minor parts in performances, so that’s really a lot of what those of us who have taken ballet as adults can ask for.

    I think one thing we struggle with is that fact that we don’t think we’re good enough, or worthy enough of the title dancer or ballerina when we so those who do dance major roles and go on to be professionals.

    But one of the greatest honors I’ve had was being called a dancer by my artistic director in a class full of talented kids with professional dreams. That meant a lot.

    I don’t know where ballet fits in my life right now. Maybe I’ll just be a patron and enjoy it from the audience if I don’t regularly return to class. But it will always be part of my life.

    As for whether an adult dancer can be a ballerina … just because one doesn’t dance a starring role in a performance, or have ever worn a tutu or pointe shoes … to me it doesn’t mean a person isn’t one.

    If you put in the time in class and work to improve and try to dance beautifully, to me that’s a ballerina.

    In my last year dancing fulltime (as in as a recreational dancer), I was taking classes at a university and a couple of my friends called me a ballerina.

    I thought about correcting them and trying to tell them male dancers were called danseurs or ballerinos.

    But I think I’d rather be called a ballerina than either. If that’s what they wanted to call me, than I was cool with that.

    Most adults who start later in life will never dance as professionals for a major company.

    But to me, it doesn’t we can’t embrace the title.

    I’ve only worn a tutu once (in a comedic role), but never pointe shoes.

    But I’d like to think I’m a ballerina in transition (if that doesn’t sound weird).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Doesn’t sound weird at all! I think you’re right and we can all see ourselves exactly the way we want to.

      You’ve done so much in ballet. I hope you continue to fill your love of it to the top, whichever way that needs to be – as a dancer or an onlooker.


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