Dear Miss Haley

How Late is Too Late?

5:06 PM

Dear Miss Haley,

Hello, my name is Maria. I’m 13 years old, and I come from Germany. I dance ballet since one and a half years now. But before that I have already danced, just not ballet. Is it too late to start dancing professional? and my parents are against it. But dancing is all I want to do! <3 How can I convince them? Please help me!
Hi Maria, Thank you for emailing me. I’m so glad you love dancing ballet! I love ballet too. When I was young, it was all I ever wanted to do. My dad would play the piano and I would dance and twirl and it made me feel like I was flying, and I felt like the music was coming into my blood, moving my body, and coming out through my pores and my breath. I didn’t get to do ballet, though. I don’t know why my family didn’t want me to.

I started ballet when I was 13. I did one class a week, then two, then three, then five. Two years later I was doing ballet 25 hours a week, and most of them were en pointe. I was helping my teacher with the younger classes. This was how I learned to teach. I kept working hard and stretching and practicing at home and I loved it more and more.

I didn’t become a ballerina.

There are a lot of reasons why I didn’t become a ballerina. One is because I’m 5 feet and 9 inches tall, and most ballerinas that tall are limited to companies that are filled with other tall ballerinas, and tall male partners to work with them. And because there are only a few of those companies, it is very hard to get into them. I knew I wasn’t good enough. But I wasn’t good enough because I’d started “late.”

I also had a knee injury that made basic things like developpes and some jumps very painful and difficult. I had an issue with my hips, as well: If I was all the way turned out, my hips would pop and grind dangerously.

But I danced, and I loved every second of it. I went to college and got a degree in Ballet Pedagogy (teaching) and now I teach 12-15 classes a week.

And I still love every second of it.

Let’s assume for a minute that I hadn’t become a teacher. Let’s assume I’d just danced really hard all the time and then quit and never danced again. I would have been sad to stop, but would I have lost the memories of all those hours in the studio? no, those are mine forever.

There are a lot of dancers who started “late” and still became professionals. There are lots of dancers who started “late” and only ever danced in the studio. But it isn’t about what they didn’t do—it’s about what they did.

I started “late.” I learned a lot more than just temps lies and entrechat quatres. I learned how to listen to my body. I learned how to stand. I learned how to use visualization to control my body and my movements and my energy. I learned that sometimes you have to do something about one thousand times before you figure out how to actually do it, and then a thousand more times to make it a habit. I learned it’s okay to break a sweat. I learned that if you’re going to do it, you need to do it right or not do it at all… regardless of what “it” is. I learned to be in control of my body, my muscles, my diet, my exercise, my hydration. I learned how to do anybody’s hair. I learned how hard I can really work; I learned my limit, my threshold.
Miss Haley with her students in Sylva NC (2014)

I learned a lot of things. And I loved it, and I still do.

So know that even if you aren’t ever a ballerina, even if you never become a teacher, even if all you do is work really hard, learn that dance, get those pointe shoes, master those foutee pirouettes… then you have been successful, you have worked hard, you have learned a lot of things, and you have enjoyed it. Whether or not you become a ballerina, I will be so proud of you. Your teachers will be so proud of you. Your family will be proud of you.

But it’s most important that you are proud of you.

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