The Student News Site of Kent State University

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The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

En Pointe: The World of Adult Ballerinas And Exclusive Interview With Veronica Viccora

Art: Katarina Hudock

The theater is dimly lit as the orchestra pit settles from its warm-ups, ready to fill the house with its vibrational music. The chatter of the excited audience and rustling of winter coats begins to dissipate and without warning, the lights flood the stage to a scene filled with graceful ballerinas, glittering and gliding across the marley-covered stage as famous Tchaikovsky’s compositions reverberate through the Benedum Center.

As a young girl looking up to that stage, I knew instinctively that I needed to dance.

For many, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet is their first introduction to the ballet world – with all of the fantastical costumes and Christmastime appeal, it quickly became a popular seasonal and family-oriented festivity. For myself, it is the sole origin of my love and passion for the arts and theater culture, but it was the duality of beauty in Swan Lake that led me to pursue ballet.

@balletblogx The most beautiful corps ୨୧:⋅˚ my pointe shoe class earlier killed my feet istg. #ballet#aesthetic#royalballet#royaloperahouse#fyp#foryoupage#fy#foryou ♬ original sound –  ⋆ ˚。⋆ ୨୧˚

Since my move to New York City, I felt myself reminiscing about past aspirations and wishes. More often than not, those dreams and desires pointed to my long history and involvement in theatre and dance. I attended a performing arts school where I majored in Musical Theatre and Film. It truly was a privilege and joy to be able to dance every single day of my life in a rigorous and passionate pursuit of my dreams. It only made sense to dedicate myself to the craft, as I had been dancing since before I could talk. That all ended the day that I broke my left foot– the aftermath of a pirouette gone wrong resulted in several metatarsal fractures and breaks.
A dancer’s worst nightmare.

All of that love for self-expression and movement has only become more prevalent within these last few years of dance being absent from my routine. Finally, I felt as though an angel was guiding me toward pursuing my ballet dreams of barre warmups and sugar plum fairies. That angel being Veronica Viccora.

@veronicaviccora Top 3 best life choices I ever made were: 1. Moving to Manhattan to pursue dance 2. Actually walking into my first dance class 3. Walking into dance classes every week for the past year #ballet #balletdancer #ballerina #ballerinalife #balletlife #nycballet #adultballet #trending ♬ original sound – zukhanye

I stumbled upon Viccora’s YouTube Channel quite some time ago, but recently her documentation of her dance journey as an adult ballerina seems to have garnered a hopeful and dedicated audience of principal dancers and beginners alike.

MK: Hi Veronica, can you share just a little bit about yourself and your personal journey of why you decided to start ballet in your 20s or as an adult? What inspired you, where do your motivations stem from?

VV: “I think dancers are just born knowing they need to move and when I look back, the passion has always been in my heart. For the longest time, my big sister (who was the pinnacle of cool when I was 7) always wanted to be a ballerina too and I’ll never forget the day she showed me Center Stage. Both of us always dreamed of what it would be like to go to [a] ballet academy in New York like in the movie. But we grew up in rural Long Island where ballet classes weren’t entirely accessible or quite frankly, affordable for our family. I was also an extremely anxious kid, so I figured the stage wasn’t meant for financially struggling, shy girls like myself. However, I embarked on a long journey of overcoming stage fright at 17 and attempted to put myself through dance school after working 5 jobs when I was immediately told I was already too late. After years of failed college degrees, rejections in the performing arts industry and a brief career as a yoga instructor that helped reinstate my confidence, I moved to Manhattan at 27 to pursue my dream despite the setbacks. I started sharing snippets of my dance journey on the YouTube Channel I started right after high school and I doubted anyone would want to see a late bloomer flail around in a ballet class, but here we are.”

With the rise in popularity of balletcore and movies in the vein of Black Swan, it only seems logical that the next stage would be the exploration and participation in the origin source itself: ballet. Her videos are for those looking to bridge the gap between the aesthetics of ballet and the real and raw ballet world.

MK: When you first decided to leap into the world of ballet, what sort of tropes have you encountered, if any, and what challenges have you had to overcome with starting ballet as an adult?

VV: [laughs] I love your choice of words. Truthfully, the ballet world was so much kinder than I expected. I’ve encountered very few of the “mean girl” ballerina types because truthfully, when you’re in the studio dancing, it’s a very bonding experience. Everyone has their own unique story and, in my experience, actually wants to help each other. The other day, I was standing in the back of the room panicking as I waited for my turn to do a complicated series of jumps across the floor that I’d never done before, and this incredible and kind dancer saw my fear and said “come on, I’ll go with you.” When we make mistakes, we all just laugh together! It’s a really beautiful experience. So really, the biggest challenges have been the things going on inside my own head: overcoming the idea that I’m “too late,” or that my body isn’t good enough. Which is why I’m so passionate about sharing my journey in real time. There are so many misconceptions about the community that people should know.

MK: I’ve come to understand that in a lot of your posts and videos, you mention the toxicity within the community of who can and cannot be deemed a professional. Could you elaborate more on that subject and how the ballet community has largely been plagued by stereotypes and unrealistic standards?

VV: Where I came from, the most offensive B word we had was only 4 letters. But then I started referring to myself as an adult “ballerina” and some people lost their gosh dang marbles. Apparently, there are some very specific rules about who’s allowed to call themselves what, that I’ll admit, as a beginner, I still don’t fully understand. My mission is simply to free the dancers who are still trapped in scarcity and shame like I was. So while I don’t know what the professional world of ballet is really like and I don’t share tips on how to get there, I do tout the power of adopting a professional’s MINDSET, a life-changing concept coined by Steven Pressfield in Turning Pro. And quite frankly I’m so uninterested in semantics. People can refer to us adult ballerinas as purple avocados if it makes them feel better. We used to dance to express ourselves long before we used spoken language too, so I don’t believe ballet should be gate-keept from anyone.

While watching her videos I found myself a renewed sense of purpose, and a pathway to join ballet once again, even if my legs no longer held the same flexibility that they once had. Without thinking twice, I dusted off my old leotards, tights and dancing shoes and went out into the world, braving my first ballet class in years at the Broadway Dance Center in NYC.

I was nervous at first about the new arrangement but quickly settled into the old routine of things, as I naturally fell into place at the barre. However, for many others beginning ballet as an adult, the whole ordeal is anything but comfortable. Viccora sheds light on what it’s like to be an adult ballerina, the obstacles she and many others must overcome along their journey, and the dedication she has to face her fears and walk the line outside of her comfort zone. If I didn’t have a pre-existing background in dance, I am not sure that I would be able to summon up the courage that she and many others parade into a beginner ballet class.

MK: As an influencer, you have shared your adult ballet journey online through many platforms including YouTube Channel, Veronica Viccora, TikTok, and your very own virtual dance magazine, befittingly donning the name The Slipper Edit, – How has the ballet community welcomed you as an adult beginner, and how important has this sense of community been in your journey?

VV: The adult ballet community has meant EVERYTHING to me. It’s a bond like no other and I feel so grateful to have connected with some of the coolest, most courageous people on the planet through the learning process. I now have several dear friends both in person and online who are writing their own incredible stories and they really inspire me to keep going. I’m also consistently shocked by the incredible support and encouragement from my online community. They’ve helped me with everything from landing pirouettes [and] improving technique to staying focused when things get rough. As much as I hope to inspire others that it’s never too late, the people I’ve encountered along this journey are actually the ones keeping me motivated. It truly feels like home.

@veronicaviccora I’m Veronica. I’m a massive failure & I’m proud! I’m so tired of the glorification of “the prodigy” Is it amazing when people can learn quickly and easily? Absolutely. But you know what’s ALSO amazing? Consistent. Focused. Determination. We all want to chase the magic, overnight solution to our problems. But quick fixes often don’t have staying power. I’m interested in longevity. I still find pirouettes and other turns tricky depending on the day. But I don’t let that keep me from trying and I’m SO proud of how far I’ve come over this past year. So how many auditions will you go to before you decide acting isn’t for you? How many times will you try to publish the book before you throw in the towel? How often are you willing to fail before you give up? #dancelife #dancing #dance #pirouette #pirouettes #ballet #ballerina #motivation #determination #fyp ♬ original sound – zukhanye

MK: While your ballet journey has only just begun, what are some of your future goals and aspirations as a ballet dancer, and how do you plan to continue progressing in this new career path?

VV: It’s funny, I’m generally an extremely goal-oriented person who always has a plan, but ballet is one of the only things in my life that’s leading me. I’m not trying to put too much pressure on it right now. I suppose, however, that one of my biggest goals is to find ways to bring the adult ballet community together. Reading the stories people share makes me realize how separate and lonely we all feel or felt at a certain point. When you find a community of people with similar pasts and aspirations, you suddenly realize that you’re not crazy or alone after all, and that it’s actually not so scary. But most importantly, I want to continue to keep making art with my body. Nothing feels more like the ultimate expression of life than dance. And where that leads me, I’m very open-minded.

ACT FOUR (The Final Act)
In the spirit of taking in all of the advice from Viccora, I felt as though I could triumph the black swan pas de deux if I was given the chance – but, if not that, at least I left more knowledgeable on the ins and outs of the adult ballet community. It feels admirable to know that the pride in being a ballerina acts as the connective tissue between us all, bringing everyone in the community together, whether you’re a beginner or prima ballerina, fourteen or ninety-two. As for myself, I plan to continue down my adult ballet journey, attending regular-weekly classes, donning my lavender leotard and grey warm-ups, and certainly indulging in the romantics of it all.

MK: Finally, what message or words of encouragement would you like to share with others who may be hesitant to pursue their passion for ballet as adults? What challenges may they face and how should they brave them?

VV: I think as dancers we get so caught up in trying to manage our bodies, that we forget the power of managing our hearts and minds. But we’re a unit of mind, body, and spirit and it’s very difficult for one to flourish without the others. So firstly, I would encourage everyone to look within and really ask themselves who and what makes them feel hesitant, “too late,” or “not good enough” in the first place. Because the truth is, we aren’t born thinking we’re worthless. That’s learned behavior. And then I’d remind them that they are not only capable of rewriting those stories, they’re capable of incredible things. As a human race, we’ve built cities from nothing! We’ve explored SPACE! BABIES. COME. OUT. OF. PEOPLE! We have beautiful minds, and beautiful bodies full of potential and creativity. We’ve been dancing for thousands of years and the truth is, if a nobody from Long Island can follow her dreams, anyone can.

My young heart and mind were naive to believe that I’d be taking my final bow on ballet all those years ago. But here I am, 21 years old and pas de bourre-ing my way through my final year of college. As the stage lights dim and the audience erupts in applause, the show may have met its end, but many more are just beginning.

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