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Finding Lost Dreams, Part 3 • Along the Way

Posted on: July 7, 2015 by Naomi M. Pridjian | 5 Comments
Finding Lost Dreams, Part 3 • Along the Way

Finding Lost Dreams, Part 3 • Along the Way

“When you truly sing, you sing yourself free. When you truly dance,

you dance yourself free. When you walk in the mountains or swim in the sea, again,

you set yourself free.”   ~Jay Woodman

Part 2 of this series ended:
“…While I became a fairly well established visual artist, life challenges led me down one path and up another with no clear goal at hand. Some pathways were sunny, while others were dark and stormy. Some held indelible consequences, others did not. We all have our life stories. Buried into mine and tucked inside the ballet dreams of my childhood, was the night I danced to the music.”
Fast forward to the 21st century…
I was enjoying a well-received exhibition of Pailoun’s Story in June of 2006, when I received a diagnosis of advanced stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Life as I’d known it began a radical shifting—right and left of center. I survived cancer and cancer treatment. I was lucky, but the new normal that followed did not provide much in the way of well-being. Personal losses of one sort or another seemed to multiply, creating an unrelenting challenge to courage… at times leaving me heavily bound… like a rock at low tide.
During a particularly low ebb, desperately wanting to free myself, I remembered that, for many years, a dear friend had actively enjoyed an improvisational, sensory-based group on the west coast called InterPlay. I found the website and saw that what had begun as a little start-up 20+ years ago had grown, expanded and now offered many regional and international groups. The description promised forms in which I could move my body and dance intuitively with no steps to make me freeze in fear. I screwed up my courage and drove to the address. What greeted me was life-altering freedom. Through a growing sense of kinesthetic awareness, my concept of left-footedness began to change. I had a right and a left foot, two legs, and a body, thankfully free of cancer and a host of other conditions of aging.
InterPlay speaks to people in different ways. For me, it was always dance. In short order, ballet memories filled me with desire to do more and be more. I needed training, but I had just crossed into my 7th decade! I knew of no beginning ballet classes for adults as old as I. It was just one of those things: a little too little and a little too late. I set the idea aside.
One day the need for proper training became painfully apparent when, while dancing to a provocative piece of Middle Eastern music, my left hip arced out beyond its capability and down I went with a torn Sartorius tendon (Dancer Down, posted September 22, 2013). This was a watershed event if there ever was one. I had lots of time to think things over—six weeks with a walker, tons of rest followed by lots of physical therapy.
After recovery, I found the Finis Jhung Basic Ballet Instructional DVDs and began to practice at home. Still searching for more, I found another sensory-based practice called NIA at a dance studio nearby and did that as well. (NIA combines dance, martial arts and healing practices.) When the dance studio began a small adult ballet class on Friday nights, I worried about being too old, but was eager to try.
It was a small, one-hour class, with three or four basic beginners, and a couple of intermediate students. Instruction for this wide range of ability could leave one or the other end of the spectrum feeling either over or under challenged. Once out on the floor, where combinations need to be remembered and executed, I began to feel the old familiar and loathsome anxiety. I knew that the bound rock was not far off so, after a couple of months, I resumed my search online for adult, basic beginner classes. Eureka! This time I found one and it was within reasonable driving distance! I left a message at the number listed on the website and within an hour received a friendly call back from the director of Northwest Ballet Academy.
“We have a very fine adult class,” she said. I wanted to observe the class, but was strongly encouraged to take a class and go from there. The next evening, I put my leotard, tights and ballet flats in a bag, took a deep breath, set my nerves at—float forward/don’t think—and drove off. It was the Teen to Adult, Basic Ballet I class, November 6, 2013.
I was welcomed and took a place at the barre. The class was structured and the teacher was excellent. It was a YES for me—a new beginning. I am the oldest student in this school, but I keep up—sometimes more, sometimes less. Center work is still my major challenge, as I have to work harder at memorization and timing than the younger students. But I’m there, two to three classes per week, every week, learning and improving. I’ve been blest with a slim and relatively supple body. I have a few issues as a residue of cancer treatment, but they are not insurmountable. My most daunting challenge currently is the pirouette. I suspect I’ll get it eventually because every now and then I do a decent one…just can’t seem to repeat with regularity.
Was this school’s website online all along and I didn’t see it? The director tells me she’s had adult classes including all ages for 30 years! I’d been looking for several years. I don’t know why I didn’t see it sooner. Perhaps I wasn’t ready… or perhaps my fear of being too old got in the way of my search? Whatever the reason, I’m there now and ballet class is my raison d’être. I don’t think of it as a bucket list activity. It’s much more than that. It grounds me, centers me and gives me a sense of well-being that has become my spiritual practice. Do I still get nervous? Yes, but it’s getting better. Takes a long time to counter decades of fear. When I put on my pink tights, black leotard and soft leather ballet shoes—the basic class uniform—I travel to another place and become another me, one as young as I am old. Today is today, after all.
Life Energy of the Soul

“To change, a person must face the dragon of his appetites with another dragon, 

the life-energy of the soul.”   ~ Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi


5 Responses

  1. Anne — July 7, 2015 at 5:04 pm

    Love it! And you!

    • Naomi M. Pridjian — July 7, 2015 at 5:06 pm


  2. Judy — July 8, 2015 at 11:36 am

    You are almost always happy after ballet class. I like that.

  3. Korin — July 16, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    I know I keep saying it but I can’t think of anything more original — I’m just so impressed and proud of you. You are an inspiration for me as a leave young adulthood and enter older adulthood/middle-age to keep trying things (contrary to popular belief — life doesn’t end at 39).

    • Naomi M. Pridjian — July 16, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      You are quite a girl! I’m proud of you too!


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