Peak Performer

By Hannah Wallace Photography by Ted Mase March 1, 2011

On Pointe

Why ballet? After I got married, I moved to the other side of Detroit. I had nothing to do. I’d always wanted to take dance lessons, so I went to a local studio and started taking jazz and tap. Whenever I would miss something, my teacher would tell me, “It’s because you don’t take ballet. Everything stems from ballet.” I thought, “Ugh, how boring.” But I took a class, and now I’ve been doing it for 32 years. It’s part of my soul.

Who do you dance with? When I moved to Florida eight years ago, I found a group of “mature” women who dance on Saturday mornings. We’ve stuck together. Now we dance at the new Bradenton Dance and Performing Arts Center.

About five years ago, I started taking lessons twice a week with the Sarasota Ballet at the FSU Center. I was a little intimidated; it’s quite advanced. The Tuesday class is taught by Sarasota Ballet principal dancer Octavio Martin. In the summer, when the ballet is off season, some of the actual corps dancers come and take the class with us. It’s wonderful to see their example, but it’s also a little sad thinking, I’ll never be able to do that.

Benefits? Ballet develops strength, flexibility, balance—everything. You are drenched with sweat 10 minutes into the barre exercises. It’s good because I also play ice hockey. Ballet keeps me centered; it makes me quick and agile. Hockey is an interval sport—you’re on the bench and then it’s explosive. Ballet is exactly the same—you’re doing slow adage movements and then fast running, jumping and leaping.

Inspiration? One of my teachers, Mo [Maureen] Dye, is 73 years old. She’s had two hip replacements, and she still does everything except the jumps.

Tips? It’s never too late to start. We have adults from every age, from the 70s down to the 20s, that have never pointed a toe before. There are beginner classes out there. They’re not intimidating.

Goals? To continue dancing as long as I can. It’s not only physically good, it’s a good mental thing—that’s what my 73-year-old teacher says. So hopefully it’s going to stave off Alzheimer’s.

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