Ballet is an art form that has not only defined my childhood, but the way I look at performative art. Growing up practicing its traditions, learning to appreciate the dedication that it demands and believing in the impact it can have on those that watch it, dancing was more than just a way to express myself–it was one of the only things that made me feel like myself.
Like a lot of dancers, though, I also enjoy seeing how photographers can capture that same feeling I feel when dancing: a mixture of pure joy and precision; making something look so effortless. Someone who I think has always captured this essence is Gene Schiavone.
Schiavone is a world-class ballet photographer. Working with some of the most prestigious companies in the world including the American Ballet Theater, the Bolshoi Ballet and the Royal Ballet, his photography is known throughout the dance and theater world as captivating and even magical. Beyond his acclaim, what I've always enjoyed about Schiavone is his personal photo shoots.
Usually taking place in his studio in Naples, Florida, Schiavone photographs many up-and-coming ballerinas by appointment; making them appear as elegant and professional as the many stars he photographs on a weekly basis. What's so great about these personal shoots, though, is that the talent can come from anywhere and from anyone.
Posted a few weeks ago, an unexpected but inspiring photoshoot of Nancy Taylor, a 64-year-old ballerina, was shot and created by Schiavone. Although the pictures were almost enough to tell this woman's beautiful story, her words on persevering and discovering lost dreams were of pure heart and soul.
"I started ballet in my fifties after fracturing my spine and sternum in a fall," Taylor wrote on Facebook. "My surgeon diagnosed me with advanced Osteoporosis and told me that I would never lead an active lifestyle again. When a ballet studio opened just across the road from my home, I took it as a sign that I might have a chance to heal myself. I limped into the studio on a cane and told the instructor that if she helped me get my leg up on the bar, that I would learn ballet. She did, and on that day my life would be changed forever."
Taylor would later decide to train to go "En Pointe" when she was 58–something that was not encouraged by her instructors, but she did anyway–because let's face it, this woman kicks absolute ass.
Training herself in her own home and gradually moving to the gym to get stronger, Taylor is an outstanding example of what this art is all about: feeling beautiful and embodying that beauty through movement.
"My prognosis for the Severe Osteoporosis that I now suffer from, is that I can fracture a hip at any time, just walking, let alone dancing, but I have decided to take that chance and live my life to the fullest while I can," Taylor wrote.
An incredible thought to think: living your life to the fullest while you can. It's rewritten in so many books and films you can't keep track, yet the message is something that is so wonderful to its core.
The idea that you can really start over–whenever.
That kind of hope is something all of us can use to our advantage no matter if we are 21 and clueless, 37 and thriving or 58 and desiring to make a change. The idea that we ourselves have the power and the will to renew our careers, our habits or our minds is a reminder that we are constantly evolving. We are never, simply, finished.
More than anything, it takes a lot of courage. Not just to ignore what others may think, but at times be out of your own way; to allow ourselves to choose what makes us truly happy, even if it may seem scary.
I hope if that I ever feel the urge to, I will have the same courage as Taylor to pursue new dreams–or revisit old ones.
The truth is we all can use someone like this woman to encourage us, but the action will never come if we don't believe in the beauty and validity of our hopes and dreams.
It's not too late for me, and it certainly isn't for anyone else.
Taylor currently has a new book out called "FACE THE FEAR TOUR, Finding Your Inner Strength Through Troubled Times," and can be purchased at www.gofundme.com-facethefeartour.