As we continue with our focus on Adult Ballet this month, please welcome Steve Ha…
1. How did you first get involved with ballet and what attracted you to it as an adult?
I started dancing in my twenties—ancient by dancer standards—as a senior in college, just to pursue new creative outlets. Though various performing arts have played crucial roles throughout my life, dance was the final frontier, and I really just wanted to try it. I started with beginner’s jazz and modern classes and had fun with both, but my teachers often stressed the importance of ballet training so the subsequent quarter I enrolled in ballet. Everything about it made sense because not only did it touch upon my roots as a classically trained musician, it also gave me the opportunity to act and express myself without having to speak (or worse, sing) a single word. Ballet also elicited a strong desire to be disciplined about the practice and an eagerness to learn that I had never experienced as a student before.
2. How many classes are you currently taking per week?
I try to get in the studio two to three times a week. Although, when I was still attending university I took class almost every day and those were some of the happiest times of my life!
3. What do you see as your biggest challenge as an adult ballet student?
My body for sure. Every dancer can give you a laundry list of supposed flaws, but mine are the worst! No turnout, hypo-extended knees, stiff ankles, flat (and wide) feet, pigeon-toed…it’s a miracle I can even stand up. My lines are far from aesthetically pleasing and my range of motion is so poor that it makes me wish I just had average flexibility. Knowledge is a double-edged sword because the more I learn about the genetic gifts that make ballet both easier and prettier, the more easily I spot them in other people, whether they be dancers, friends, or strangers. Obviously, I would never force anyone to do ballet just because they have the body for it, but it can be discouraging to feel like you’re constantly surrounded by unused potential.
4. What brings you the greatest joy as an adult ballet student?
To be honest, I like to think of myself as living proof that ballet is not a psychologically destructive activity that serves as a breeding ground for obsessive perfectionists and melodramatic behavior. I came to ballet with virtually no self-esteem, having been teased for so long by so many for a multitude of reasons, and stereotypes of ballet dancers dictate that my flaws would send me spiraling further into frustration and despair. However, the opposite is my personal truth—I learned how to address my shortcomings with acceptance and ideas on how to improve, mask, or even ignore them. As I make progress, I feel more and more confident every time I dance. Not surprisingly, class is an addiction for me and I always feel at home and most alive in the studio. For the time being, I’m just loving these opportunities to learn, though I foresee a need to translate the belief I have in myself as a dancer to every day life.
5. Do you have any advice for other adult ballet students?
Be motivated to learn, be yourself, and show people how much you love to dance. I find that these are three very simple goals and yet there are a lot of people who think they’re achieving them and aren’t. Motivation to learn means ensuring the desire to improve always comes from within; Being yourself is simply expressing who you already are and not who you want to be; Showing people how much you love to dance requires showing a passion for the art, not a narcissistic need to show off. Anyone who can achieve this much need not worry about technical output because it’s going to be there—your body will do it for you if you let it. Too often adult students get weighed down with concerns about technique when really, they are in complete control of how they dance, because they don’t have directors or choreographers telling them what to do, or how to express themselves. It’s a freedom I love!
BIO: Steve Ha is a graduate of The Ohio State University, where he minored in Dance and received the beginnings and majority of his ballet training under the tutelage of Jessica Zeller, Karen Eliot, and Karena Birk. Now a resident of Seattle, he continues to dance with the adult open program at Pacific Northwest Ballet, finding time to write about dance through his blog ‘You Dance Funny‘ and as a critic for ‘Seattle Dances.’ Deeply moved by Tamara Rojo’s performance in 2009 of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s ‘Manon’ at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., he considers that experience as the one that changed his life. It’s also worth noting that Sir Frederick Ashton is his hero.