The 7 bits of wisdom about midlife that I learned from a ballerina

5-minute read 

A friend, who herself adores ballet, passed along an article about renowned ballerina Alessandra Ferri. At age 19, she was the youngest woman to become a principal ballerina with Royal Ballet School. She has worked alongside some of the greats:  dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, choreographer Kenneth MacMillan, Now, at age 54, she has come out of retirement to light up the stage once again. 

This is no small feat. Not only does the world of ballet adore the young, but there are very practical physical limitations that come upon even the most tone ballerina as she ages. Added to that is that ballet has become an even more physical endeavor than it was in the 1960s, and you have many odds stacked against you. 

But those odds didn't faze Ferri. Her extraordinary talent combined with mental discipline and a positive approach have brought her again into the limelight. 

Here are 7 bits of wisdom I learned from Ferri: 

#1:  It's what's inside that counts. "Of course, the beauty of youth is amazing and wonderful," she says, "but then you find out there is beauty in life, beauty in being a human being; there’s beauty in just following joy." 

#2:  Willpower can even overcome your body. Ferri exercises her willpower over her body. "If there is a difficulty in your body," says Ferri, "you just go. I am stronger than my body. I will overcome this pain or difficulty by working, and if it takes an hour more every day, it will take an hour more.” 

#3:  Don't give up your passion. For Ferri, ballet was not a "job", but a passion. Of her retirement from ballet she says, "I gave up my life, I gave up a calling, I gave up a passion, I gave up creativity. I suddenly felt that a greater part of me was locked into a room." 

#4:  See your life through your own eyes. Like many of us, we, as women, invest ourselves in others. Although supporting others is not negative thing, per se, we can, in the process, forget who we are. This same self-forgetting happened to Ferri. She was pushed back on stage to:  " . . . find myself, to find that strength in me and find that light again. Because otherwise I saw myself only through his (her ex-husband's) eyes.  I needed to see myself through my own eyes." 

#5:  Work within your limits. No longer a 20-year-old, Ferri must work extra hard to compete in the physical world that is ballet. "I have to do all kinds of things to stay fit and toned and strong," she says. "Afterwards I have a massage, some physiotherapy. You have this when you are young, but I have more. I also need shorter days; I can’t rehearse until 7 o’clock every day. Maybe I need a two-day weekend, instead of a one-day weekend." 

#6:  Aging brings fearlessness. Rather than being a liability, age is an asset, according to Ferri. She relishes representing an older dancer, a fearless woman, without shame and full of confidence in her abilities. 

#7:  Aging brings freedom.  Ferri does not the common misconception of aging-as-powerlessness to determine your attitude. "We are all conditioned to think that when you reach a certain age, you are entering an old age," says Ferri. "And it is more scary for a woman because you get put aside – even your sexuality – so you feel weaker. But I have a new freedom. I am not going through “the change” [menopause], I have changed.


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To read the entire article in the UK Telegraph, go here.

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