We’d like to welcome our next adult ballet student…Jennifer Pendleton….
1. How did you first get involved with ballet and what attracted you to it as an adult?
I actually began when I was fairly young, at 6, and danced through high school with a local ballet company. I didn’t have the right combination of talent and discipline to seriously consider pursuing a career, but despite myself took classes and performed regularly through college until, ironically, I moved to New York, was working in (modern) dance administration, and had a hard time reconciling going to ballet class when I wasn’t trying to get onstage. I gradually stopped going to classes until, about 10 years later and after living overseas and growing completely detached from any performing arts community, I moved to DC, and a friend convinced me to try a class here. It turns out this is a great area for adults, working at any level, to find a nice combination of training and community.
2. How many classes are you currently taking per week?
3. What do you see as your biggest challenge as an adult ballet student?
Making peace with where I am at my age and after so much time off (my yoga practice has helped a lot), and that fear – even in my 30s – about my joints and injuries that I didn’t have as a younger dancer. Some things I knew I wouldn’t get back, like the ‘hang time’ in my jumps. Others surprised me: even with open hips, my ‘fifth’ position looks more and more like third. And spotting is a chore for me now – I couldn’t seem to relearn it. For my first couple of months back in class, I was also surprised by how much I had to think about the combinations, although that quickly passed and I am back to focusing on simply dancing and technique.
4. What brings you the greatest joy as an adult ballet student?
I am in class simply for the joy of dancing and the challenge, and accomplishing whatever I can from one day to the next. I have had so many wonderful opportunities in my career and life in general, but simply reconnecting with something with that had always been such a big part of me, to the point I almost didn’t even realize it, has been such a pleasure. And for all the frustrations of an aging body, I am constantly amazed by what I can still do – and sometimes even better with the wisdom of experience and a different sense of discipline.
5. Do you have any advice for other adult ballet students?
Whether you have had technical training in your youth or not, try to go regularly enough that you can make class about more than just learning the combinations. If you have made a choice to be in class, don’t be afraid – this is such a supportive community, so just do your best and dance!
BIO: Jennifer Pendleton is a dancer, women’s rights activist, nonprofit professional, and yoga teacher living in Bethesda, Maryland. She is a graduate of Duke University and Harvard Law School, has lived and worked in sub-Saharan and North Africa, and has worked at Joyce SoHo and the Swiss Institute in New York, as a Peace Corps volunteer on gender and small business development in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, and most recently served as Executive Director of the international women’s rights organization, Women’s Learning Partnership.