Ballet at 50

Ballet at 50

Taking up ballet at 50 requires courage. Image:

Yona Zeldis McDonough author of The Cats in the Doll Shop, The Doll Shop Downstairs, The Doll with The Yellow Star, Louisa: The Life of Louisa May Alcott, just to name a few, tells of her relationship with classical ballet as a child and her journey back to ballet at 50.

As a young girl, Yona was enrolled in daily ballet classes, which she loved.

Throughout school I took ballet classes six days a week. Class consisted of a 45-minute barre, perfecting a series of exercises born in the court of France and refined in the glistening winters of Imperial Russia.

She relished the daily ritual of taking class.

For it was a ritual, and, as such, had its sacred preparations. Winding my hair into the tight bun, sewing ribbons on my shoes, donning the requisite pink tights and black leotards were acts performed with both sanctity and love.

Ballet is akin to a religious order; the girls who do it are eager noviciates, fired by their faith and their willingness to undergo daily mortification of the flesh. I was one of them, body and soul.

A life-changing event in her life pushed her to make a radical decision: she would leave her cherished ballet classes.

By wrenching myself away from something I had loved so deeply I was both inflicting a kind of self-punishment as well as unconsciously imitating my father’s rejecting behaviour. Dancing belonged to the past, and the past was a country from which I longed to escape.

I locked away the ballet girl I once was. I cultivated another self, one who went to college, held jobs, went on dates and kissed scads of frogs before stumbling on a prince. I became a writer.

For years, through marriage, motherhood, career, Yona denied herself coming into contact with what had been her passion growing up.

All that time the ballet girl remained banished. Her presence was too painful, too much a reminder of what, despite everything, I had lost. But even though she was in serious lock down, she balked at her exile and demanded to be acknowledged.

Finally, ballet at 50

Then when I hit 50 I felt the tectonic plates of self rumbling and rearranging inside. And though I could not be that ballet girl again, for the first time in decades I wanted to resume my place in front of the mirror.

I was afraid of ridicule, of failure. But desire trumped fear, and one morning three years ago I showed up for a class with four other women, all middle-aged mothers like myself.

Although I could no more return to my youth than I could soften my father’s implacable heart, I no longer had to banish the ballet girl. Instead, I could let her take me by the hand and lead me back to the barre. Back, in some sense, home.

Yona’s complete article can be found at The Telegraph UK.

It takes courage to start ballet at 50, it takes courage to follow your dream at any age. I can’t tell you how many mothers of students, friends, even total women strangers have told me that it had been their childhood dream to become a ballerina.

If you’re like Yona, I hope her story has inspired you and given you courage to signup for an adult ballet class. Don’t let another day, month, year go by.

Remember to spread the word about Yona’s story. Click “Share” and “Like” below. Come back and share your experience with us here. We will read with respect and admiration for your bravery!

About Romy Macias, Senior Editor

Romy danced with the Ballet Clasico de Queretaro Fernando Jhones for 10 years having reached 1st soloist position. She presently takes on character roles and teaches at the company's junior academy. This site is a testament to her passion for classical ballet. You're invited to be part of our community and join in the joy for this amazing art form.


  1. It’s wonderful to fulfill a lifelong dream!

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