The process of aging brings with it a series of uncontrollable changes to our bodies that can be equally enjoyable and perplexing. I often find myself guiding my clients, especially when they express the belief that their mature bodies may no longer be suitable for boudoir photo sessions, but now they are teaching me.
This summer, when I launched my project of photographing older ballerinas (meaning dancers over the age of 40,) I had a pretty good idea of what I was walking into…capturing bodies that have aged and the souls that still radiate the passion of a dancer. What I didn’t realize was how much we would have in common.
We are not our bodies, but our bodies are part of us.
We can’t detach our identities from our bodies because they are the very vessels that carry us through life, but our bodies do not define us. When I interviewed Teri for our last newsletter, it was encouraging to hear her say that she never had the perfect “ballerina body” but that it didn’t stop her from being passionate as a dancer. She claimed her identity as a “ballerina” regardless of how her body presented itself and continues to do so. Her passions define her as a dancer, not her body type. In her youth, her short stature didn’t dictate whether or not she belonged in the ballet studio and those very challenges helped shape her character.
A dancer isn’t a dancer because they have the perfect body or because they gave a stellar performance on the stage. They are a dancer because they feel at home in the studio, at the barre and working out choreography. I think this is something everyone can connect with and lean into… our bodies do not define us; they hold, support and sustain us and our passions.
We are always a (fill in the blank) even when we are not (fill in the blank)
When I ask a dancer, “What makes you a ballerina even when you are not dancing?” I receive responses like, “I live a very structured life”, “I am connected to every part of my body” and “I present myself to the world with confidence.” This is really encouraging to me and not too hard to grasp once I apply it to myself. I am a photographer, even when I am not taking pictures. Someday, my hands may not want to hold a camera, but I will still be a photographer in my heart and soul. This gives me hope for my future, instead of dreading getting older.
We can’t stop ourselves from aging. Our bodies will change and force us to make adjustments in our activities, but it will not stop us from being who we are. Our identities as dancers, photographers, gardeners, musicians or politicians are as rock solid as we want them to be. When our bodies start aging and changing, our identities don’t have to jump ship.
If you are a ballerina over the age of 40, or know someone who is, I would love to work with you. I am currently scheduling photo sessions (such as the ones you saw in the last newsletter) and plan on having a gallery showing in the late fall. This is a beautiful project that is enriching the lives of myself and my staff and we can’t wait to share it with you.