Falling off Pointe

I’m hearing a lot about retirement lately from a lot of my young dancer friends. There is a common question whispered throughout the ballet community; How do you know when to retire?

I had a conversation with an old friend of mine, Matthew, who dances with Kansas City Ballet a few weeks ago and he brought up a few valid points concerning retirement. Would you rather go out with a bang, at the height of your career? Or be caught “falling off pointe” at 40?

When he said the “falling off pointe” I completely lost it in laughter. How many of us have seen this exact thing. A dancer hanging on to her career by a thread (or toenail), all the while doing the audience a huge disservice. How does an Artistic Director go about telling this once magnificent dancer that it’s time to hang it up?

Is your company’s principal dancer holding the rest of the company back? There is a company here in Southern California that has a dancer like this, and I could name about ten other companies with the same problem. While this forty-something Principal Dancer may have artistic qualities to add to roles, she needs to channel her passion in another way…perhaps through coaching.

Although dance is an illusion, when ticket sales start to plummet, you know that your loyal ballet-goers have seen through the illusion. Does anyone even realize that Darci Kistler is still dancing, for example? (I’m not knocking Darci in any way, just stating a fact)

On the flip side of the coin, dancers are retiring a lot younger than they used to. For many, the economy has made it so that ballet companies are having to make cutbacks. This is making the job search hard for young dancers and even for dancers who are experienced. Principal and soloist caliber dancers are being turned down by companies because they can use young, inexperienced dancers for free.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this post other than asking one question;

Do you want to be caught on stage falling off pointe?

Happy Dancing,

Nikol Klein, Professional Ballet Dancer/ Certified Personal Trainer

Author of The Ballet Audition Preparation Guide

About Nikol Klein

Nikol Klein is former Professional Ballet Dancer turned Women's fitness expert. She currently works with Women all over the world as a personal trainer and Ballet Strength coach to dancers.

Posted on October 23, 2009, in Life Management and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Amen. This is so true. So many of us are tired of seeing old ballerinas struggle when there are young dancers eager and physically prepared to dance major roles.

  2. I don’t think a dancer in top physical shape will fall off pointe at any age. Darci Kislter could’ve performed until her 80’s if she wanted, but I guess after a while doing the same stuff gets old and it is time to move on. I am dismayed at the discrimination against older dancers maybe because I am older! Sometimes I want to audtion for a role and I always have this fear, will they take me if they knew my age? I am blessed that I look way younger than my age and I am in good shape of course. Also, I would not audition for a teenager role, I am not delusional!!! but I think I still have a lot to give.

  3. Just as bad as falling off pointe is knuckling in the pointe shoes. I see this a ton in older dancers.
    Thanks for keeping it real!

  4. After turning 38, the prima at the ballet company whose school I attend is not only less capable of doing her Sugar Plum role justice but has gotten progressively meaner.

    She talks in a baby voice, and we all want to say “… uh, you’re like…40. Let it go please.”

    My friend Emily in a less than kind moment said “she has got to be THE oldest Sugar Plum ever,” which is definitely not true, but the meaning rang through loud and clear. I loved and respected this dancer (who also taught me Ballet 2 and 3 before my prepro years, and seeing her unable to do the chaines and fouettes needed for her role is just sad. Sad for me.

    I would rather retire at my peak rather than hear people whisper one day about me “THAT’S our Sugar Plum?”


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