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My only regret is that it took so long for dance to become part of my life

David Chapman tells his story of taking up ballet at the age of 57 including passing ISTD exams to standard 6

It was an interesting article on boys and dance by Chris Marlow in the last issue of DANCE magazine (page 31, issue 483). My perspective is that of an older male taking up dance. With no formal dance background at all I took up ballet at the age of 57 with Dance Projection in Chelmsford and have since passed ISTD exams standard 5 and standard 6, and appeared in their end of year show six times on stage at the Civic Theatre, dancing ballet. 

"I took up ballet at the age of 57 and have since passed ISTD exams to standard 6."

A lot of what was said in the article about the experience in class resonates with me – despite my teachers being sensitive and me not being shy about expressing my views, even in class!

I think I’ve heard everything that can be thrown at a male dancer, subtly and unintentionally as well as with brute force. 

"Learning ballet has given me physical and mental challenges."

I’m old enough and ugly enough to take it all and I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. But for a boy negotiating puberty it must be really hard to take.

If you want quotes from even well meaning acquaintances I’ll give you one conversation: “Where do you get your tights?” I answered: “I bought them online”. Their reply: “Good idea, it saves you having to go to a shop and ask for them”.

My grandson is three and has started ballet classes. There are two other boys in his class. He loves it and watches me avidly when I practice at home. My daughter took him to our local dance shop where the window is often filled with pink tutus and nothing for boys. When she asked for him to be fitted for ballet shoes the assistant, disbelieving, asked her: “Are you sure you don’t mean tap shoes?”

I hope my grandson has the strength of character to keep doing what he obviously loves. Strength of character is the first quality required of a young male ballet dancer.

Learning ballet has given me physical and mental challenges of a kind I had never experienced before, and such enormous pleasure too. I am eternally grateful to my dance teachers Heidi Speakman and Gemma Hall and my only regret is that it took so long for dance to become part of my life.

"My only regret is that it took so long for dance to become part of my life."

David Chapman

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