A Fifty Year Old Ballerina and Aging In The Industry | Harper’s BAZAAR

A Fifty Year Old Ballerina and Aging In The Industry | Harper’s BAZAAR


I’ve danced on many of the greatest stages
around. I’ve danced at Covent Garden. I’ve danced at the Kirov. I’ve danced at the Bolshoi. I’ve danced at the Paris Opera Ballet. Aging gracefully means being flexible, being
open, allowing change, enjoying change, and loving yourself. I think that’s what it means. I danced for 30 years with the New York City
Ballet. I joined as an apprentice when I was 17 and
I retired at 47. It’s my longest run. My body started to change and I started to
have some issues with my hip and some issues with my back that were a little bit more painful. I developed arthritis. I thought “Oh I’ll just be young and happy
and feeling great forever” and then all of a sudden, it was just like, this is your new
life. It took me 4 years to get out of pain. And that included leaving the ballet company
and changing my way of dancing. It’s hard to feel that change in your body
and to feel that ability to jump so high and run and to fly, it’s hard to let that go,
and to remember that you’re human. It’s just a constant strive for excellence. It’s a constant strive to be better. And whatever that means, you just want to
be better. And then there comes a time when being better
isn’t always with your body, but it’s with other things. That’s the exchange. To be an aging ballerina, can be looked upon
in not the best light. It just felt wrong to hang on to something
that didn’t feel natural anymore. I got a hip replacement at age 48. I felt a lot younger, a lot happier. I’m doing a little bit of everything now. I’m dancing, I’m teaching. The thing I love most is continuing to learn
and keeps me motivated. I think I learned so much about who I am through
my dancing and through the experiences I’ve had. I do feel that I experienced a little bit
of ageism, but I think it’s very natural to the art form and it’s an unfortunate fact
that comes along with it. It just went with the territory that I chose
and it was why I was so happy there.

33 thoughts on “A Fifty Year Old Ballerina and Aging In The Industry | Harper’s BAZAAR

  1. It's so amazing to see how her movement has changed, adapted, and developed since doing more modern and contemporary styles. What an incredible artist, athlete, and person.

  2. wow. "It took me four years to get out of pain" — had a similar story – suddenly I developed all kinds of pain in my back – I'm on year four now, been doing ballet for about 2 & the ballet is helping a lot. I'm 52 and I was also one of those people who thought I would escape the effects of aging. Good to see her story.

  3. I'm 47 and still dancing. When she said about the body changing and not being able to leap, etc…my heart knows exactly how she feels. I will dance and teach for as long as I can. Thank you for the inspiration to keep moving.

  4. She has a name: Wendy Whelan. Men’s name such as Balanchine or Martin would figure prominently in title, but such an esteemed female talent does not even get named.

  5. Wendy Whelan is wise, and she became wise through experience, through living, through dancing. I'm so glad she is feeling well after the hip replacement, a not uncommon thing among NYCB dancers. Balanchine is tough on the body.

  6. I just turned 63. I've only been taking ballet for 5 years, but love it. I dance and perform several other dances, and the ballet training has made me so much better in all of them. Like Wendy and others here, I work to try and get better and do as much as I can while not overdoing it and injuring myself. The video inspires me to keep on keeping on.

  7. She is such an incredible name in the ballet industry; cannot think of any other female principle who went as long as she did in a major ballet company. Crossing my fingers that she gets the director position at NYCB soon!

  8. She is not just a 50 year old ballerina. She is Wendy Whelan, an icon, a human being. Not once did I see her name appear in this video not in the description and she should have her name on here.

  9. She looks amazing at 57 it's soo hard to warm up my muscles just aren't the same and I have to work harder

  10. I only read the 15 part and I saw this grown woman and I was thinking, back in the day 15-year-olds did not look like this

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