I’m 29 and gave up everything to study ballet alongside high school students

I walk into the ballet studio at 3pm on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in San Francisco’s Castro District. I’m 29 and have been dancing ballet 6 or 7 days each week for more than a year. At this time of day, most of peers who work in technology in San Francisco, in science at University of California, San Francisco, or as doctors or lawyers, are looking forward to getting off of work soon and enjoying what’s left of the afternoon with friends. Instead, as I step through the ballet studio doors, I am enter a world filled with 14 year old dancers who have 10 years more ballet experience and better performance to show for it. I will be taking four ballet classes this evening, along side a group of students just finishing up high school.

My name is Robin, I’m 29 years old, and I’m new to ballet.

As you might guess, I did not grow up dancing. While I have always been physically active, on my family’s 4-acre farm and on the high school cross-country team, I didn’t start dancing until college. While attending Reed College, I discovered a love for movement and sports, and quickly started gymnastics, Capoeira, modern dance, and a variety of other forms. After college I attempted to train dance but the siren call of an adult life led me to explore other paths.

In the years since I’ve maintained a physical practice that has spanned gymnastics, Argentine tango, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and many other forms. But eventually I found myself drawn back to ballet, and especially the classical pas de deux and men’s technique that I couldn’t get outside of a very strenuous pre-professional ballet program.

In the last year I have made sacrifices to accommodate the schedule I now enjoy. I haven’t been able to enjoy the perks of a well-funded technology company or attend graduate school because those wouldn’t allow time for my practice of ballet. On the other hand, I did recently finish a 10-week contract performing with the San Francisco Opera’s Les Troyens.

My goal in sharing this story is to inspire others who have similar hesitations — at any age — to explore the things we believe we are too old to begin. You are never too old to start something new. I don’t have time right now to share the entire story. I have to get to class. But if my example can serve in any way, I hope that it can show that if you want something enough, you can get there.

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