On their toes
How about stepping into my shoes for a moment?
I am a 43-year-old dancer back en pointe (the shoes with the hard box at the tip), performing excerpts of the ballet, "La Bayadere," in a small studio performance for family and friends at 7 p.m. May 20 in the Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley downtown Bethlehem studios, with one chance to get it right.
During rehearsal recently, I was breathless and gasping for air as Carolyn Sarik, the adult ballet teacher, reminds me, "Stamina is the first thing to go."
Then the next thing to go was part of the choreography because I don't have the stamina to keep up with the lovely younger dancers Joyce Yoder and Andrea Mikol.
In my early 20's, I trained and rehearsed at least six hours a day with a modern dance company, Pick of the Crop Dance and Music Ensemble, performing challenging works after training at North Carolina School for the Arts and graduating from Baltimore High School for the Arts.
At that time, what I am doing now would have been a cakewalk, but I have presently hit a plateau as a dancer. There is body memory and flexibility, which does return for an older dancer. But then cognitive retention slips, along with a lapse of memory.
Luckily, there is a safe haven at the Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley (BGLV) for dancers like myself with groups of astonishing women who began their training at the BGLV, those who dance for exercise, and active dance teachers still staying on their toes.
Personally, I consider myself a dancer even though I work and play various roles in life. The life of a dancer takes a certain focus and discipline for 10 years to develop. Soreness and living in Epsom salt baths, though, is worth the elegance of developing artistry with the medium of your own body.
The BGLV adult class is structured to accommodate all levels of the dancer's expertise and level of training. For example, 69-year-old Joan Lardner Paul feels, "Ballet is much better than aerobics, walking or running or video routines at home. I go to ballet class for exercise and friendship."
Helena Lazzarini, a mother of three, served in the Navy and is sort of our drill sergeant. In that role, she convinced the class to go back en pointe. Lazzarini also organizes trips to New York City for the adult class to expand their training.
Dotty Boulin, age 64, who began her ballet training with Sarik seven years ago, says, "Miss Carolyn is extremely patient and, though I know more about the terminology of dance today, my execution does not always live up to ballet standards. However, I've never been one to let that get in my way, so here I am boldly going en pointe."
Laura Pascoe-Healy has been in the program for 12 years and thinks, "Being physically and mentally in shape are a priority in my life and having dance as a part of my fitness routine challenges me in both of these ways. Although some days I seem to have more grace and talent than other days, I feel good because I know I am doing something that I love."
Carolyn Sarik, our wonderful teacher, trained at the Princeton Ballet, Walnut School of Performing Arts and the Royal Ballet School in London. Sarik also danced professionally with the Shore Ballet and Carolyn Dorfman modern dance company.
Sarik had her own dance school for more than 17 years in Jamesburg, N.J. Sarik came to BGLV as a student, but now teaches a blend of three styles of ballet: Cecchetti (Italian), Vaganova (Russian) and the Royal Academy of Ballet (British) in her fine-tuned, challenging classes.
Sarik explains, "It is a joy to teach the adults because they want to be there and they understand. There is a good following and the adults stay with it."
For more information on Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley adult ballet classes: BGLV.org, 610-865-0353