From Here to Maturity

by Ann Dickie

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a mature dancer, and how is a fit and healthy body and mind maintained? Ann Dickie, artistic director of the mature dancers company reveals.

Being a 58-year-old dancer feels exciting, difficult and lucky. For me, usually, I’m swimming in uncharted waters and having new experiences. Some of the same old difficulties exist, there are not enough opportunities, the work is badly paid, I am asked to work for nothing – so how do you eat, pay the rent? These things are much harder to deal with as an older dancer. My persistence and determination have increased over time, as have my focus and the feeling of having nothing to lose. I can no longer sit and wait for the big moment to arrive – I have to create it myself before it is too late.

My training needs are fulfilled at the moment by ballet with teacher Roger Tully, swimming, yoga and my own contemporary warm-up which was devised and developed for the mature people that I teach, some of whom are in their nineties. I find this combination feels safe and healthy, builds stamina, strength and alignment, maintains elasticity and satisfies my soul. Occasionally I venture into the world of the ‘open ballet class’ but find it a bid mad out there and not a conducive atmosphere for research and exploration. I would also like to go to open contemporary classes but again have not found one suitable to my particular needs.

It is really important as an older dancer to treat your body kindly and give a lot of attention to maintaining you instrument at an optimum level. Energy levels change over the years but you still have an impulse to push yourself. As a younger dancer, you jump higher, turn faster or do more classes. As an older dancer, you know it is not sensible to push yourself physically, so I divert that impulse and challenge myself creatively and artistically.

I no longer drink (mainly because alcohol makes me ill, and I’m drunk and silly after half a glass of wine) and I gave up smoking over 10 years ago when I thought the time had come to do myself a favour. I eat a healthy diet (most of the time) of fresh organic produce, including fish or chicken, which tastes fantastic, digests well and provides lots of energy. However I do also indulge from time to time in the pleasures of cakes, puddings and fish and chips.

I suppose one of the advantages of being older is that I care much less now about how things look or other people’s opinions. The major disadvantage, of course, is time. Whichever way you look at it I have more behind me than in front!

Originally published in Dance UK  magazine, Issue 52 – Spring 2004