Life After Ballet

My director has informed me that I have two years at most before he wants me to retire. I'm a ballerina in my late 30s. What can I do? I don't want another career apart from performing. Dance is it!

—Lost in Transition, Midwest

That's tough. Ballet tends to favor young adults because the technique takes a toll on the body over time. Economic concerns have added to the strain, resulting in fewer company dancers who perform more often. Still, that doesn't mean you have to give up dancing altogether after you retire from your company. You might guest with smaller troupes or experiment with other dance techniques, like contemporary, which allow your body to move in a different way. Wendy Whelan and Mikhail Baryshnikov are two glowing examples of ballet luminaries who found success in modern dance in their 40s. Some choreographers actually prefer to work with more-experienced older dancers. For instance, Beth Corning's The Glue Factory Projects creates professional productions specifically for performers over 45. Also remember that no matter what limitations your body develops, you can usually take dance class forever.

Send your questions to Dr. Linda Hamilton at advicefordancers@dancemedia.com.

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Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

December 2020