Dance – Are my ‘Best Years’ over?

By Jaya Karan On August 22nd, 2016

Source: Masters of Choreography (Photographer Ben Vella; Shoot Everything)

Image Source: Masters of Choreography (Photographer Ben Vella; Shoot Everything)

I found myself in an uncomfortable situation last week. You see, in my class of 8 Bharatanatyam students, there’s just me and one other ‘adult’ student. Our Bharatanatyam teacher asked us to give the younger ones some words of advice. He said “tell them that this is the best years of their life” (in the context of both dance and life in general).

I stayed quiet, because I simply didn’t agree. I wish I’d spoken up at the time. You see, I’m 39 and this has been my best year so far. That insecure, teenaged version of me is a distant memory. And good riddance to my pauper student years. Not to mention the work hard, play hard existence in my late 20’s, where I did a lot but achieved zero. The thirties have been the best – where I finally discovered self-confidence, the rewards of being my own boss, the love for a child…and dancing professionally.

So I want my fellow classmates to know – you’ve got a lot to look forward to. And even in the context of dance, there are so many wonderful things about dance, at ANY stage of your life. Yes, even when you’re older, and here’s why:

  1. Increased motivation. There’s no parents dragging you to dance class, so if you’re continuing to dance as an adult, it’s cos you chose to be there. Taking responsibility for your actions means you’re more motivated to get the most out of your lesson (plus you’re paying for it too!).
  1. Less competition, more gratitude. The flip side of aging is that you (usually) get better at accepting yourself, with all your limitations. Instead of comparing yourself to the dancer who can jump higher, you’re just grateful to still be dancing!
  1. Less injury. What??! How’s that possible with stiffer joints and less flexibility?? Here’s the thing though – you get better body awareness. So you know what feels right, the difference between ‘good’ pain and ‘bad’ pain. You can’t take your youth for granted or that your body will ‘bounce right back’ after injury. So you take the time to recover properly, to stretch and warm up properly, and do more to prevent an injury in the first place.
  1. A deeper meaning (Abhinaya). Ok, so you can’t reach the technical heights you used to. But dance is more than being technically brilliant. Life experience gives you an enormous reservoir of memories, thoughts and emotions to draw upon when on stage. You get better at communicating and drawing the audience into your world.
  1. In the words of ballerina Alessandra Ferri after she retired at age 44: “I didn’t miss being on stage, or the applause. I missed feeling alive.” Alessandra came back from retirement at age 50, and danced the role of Juliet at age 53.

What a wonderful vision it would be, for us to realise that THIS moment we’re in is the best moment of all.