Life After Ballet

March 13, 2017

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 [email protected].