This is the second in the series of Conversations with Adult Ballet Students. Leave me a message if you would like to be profiled in a future edition.
Meet Mary Zhou. Mary is a university professor in Hong Kong and dances 6-10 hours a week.
Q: Did you ever take ballet lessons as a kid? When was that?
A: No, never.
Q: When did you start taking ballet class as an adult?
A: When I was 28 , in Fall 2008 at the University of Pennsylvania gym. There, I took one class a week. Then I started seriously taking classes in Spring 2009 at Symmetry Dance Wellness with a Russian-trained master teacher, Kip Martin, four times a week. Later on, I took class every day except for Sunday, when the studio was closed.
答：2008年秋天，28歲的時候，最初在賓夕凡尼亞大學的體育館，每周一堂課。然後2009年春天正式開始在Symmetry Dance Wellness跟隨俄派導師Kip Martin，先是每周4堂課，然後每天都去上課，除了星期天（學校没課）。
Q: What motivated you to do so?
A: I always wanted to try ballet, but did not have the chance. Then I happened to see they have ballet beginner class offered at my university gym. So I decided to give it a try.
Q: Tell me more about your initial experience of taking class.
A: In the first two and a half years, I took class at a studio in downtown Philadelphia. My teacher, Kip, is such a wonderful teacher. I think he is the one who made me the dancer I am today. He really took adult students seriously. He believed in us, and believed that adults can achieve as much as children can. So I followed a systematic training with him, which built the foundation for my further training with other teachers. Today, I still think of Kip as someone who created me as the ballet dancer.
Q: What do you find to be the biggest challenge or difficulty to learn ballet as an adult?
A: I think it is to overcome that feeling that even if you try your best, you won’t be as good as those people who started as a kid. And of course, you can never reach professional level. Also, you are sort of constantly reminding yourself that when those kids are learning, they are growing up, but when you are learning, you are growing old…. That means you will become worse instead of becoming better.
Q: What does ballet bring to your life?
A: I think it just opened up a different world for me. Before I took up ballet, I was a researcher and a writer. So I had only colleagues, classmates and fellow writers as my friends. Now I have a lot of dance friends too. Of course I learnt a lot of new things, and tried out new things. So I think it just added another dimension to my life.
Q: What is the greatest achievement in your ballet life so far?
A: I used to set a goal: to get on pointe before I get my PhD. Now that’s done. I don’t think there is a single achievement, like performance or competition. I think being able to achieve my current level is an achievement. I am happy when other people say to me they do not believe I started ballet only in Fall 2008. I guess I wasn’t expecting to make such progress in such a short time either. So I will keep on working hard.
Q: What have you gained that was out of your expectation?
A: Being a writer, I also wrote one ballet novel. I put it online, and people liked it. Some of them thought I was a professional ballerina (ha!). One publisher was interested, and asked me to finish a sequel. Perhaps they will combine the two and publish it. So I’m working hard on finishing the sequel.
Q: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done for ballet?
A: Well, I once took all classes offered in a studio, like 21 hours a week. But last year, I did a summer intensive—four hours a day for 13 days straight. Summer intensives could be quite crazy! I could not even point my feet at night.
Q: What have you lost?
A: I guess I have less time to write now. It used to be work and write. I have been writing novels since 2002. Now it is work, write and ballet. My readers and editors are not happy about it.
Q: Is it all worth it?
Q: Have you ever dreamt of becoming a professional ballet dancer?
A: No, since when I started, it was already impossible to have this kind of dream. Plus, I actually enjoy taking classes more than performing.
Q: As an adult dancer, what is your goal in ballet?
A: Not sure. I guess just keep improving.