Updated: Aug 28
Millie is a mother of two who recently turned 40, and works in a business franchise she and her husband own called Country Brewers. She’s a gorgeous, willowy brunette, who had been told at a young age that she was too tall to fulfil her dream of being a ballerina. She believes that dance is a fundamental part of being human, and that anyone can dance. Her goal is to make the most of any opportunity she has to dance, and to continue her adult ballet and pole dancing classes.
Millie knew she wanted to dance, but she thought that if you were an adult but not a professional, you weren’t supposed to dance. As a result, she wasn’t sure if there was anywhere that would suit her. She needed to find somewhere that offered adult ballet classes and encouraged adults to dance even if they weren’t professionals, and hadn’t had the standard dance training.
She discovered Dragonfly Dance (then called Move Through Life), and danced with us for a while until life got in the way. Then she discovered pole dancing, which she still does and loves. One day she was checking on what Move Through Life was up to and discovered we had more classes on offer and there was one, the Monday morning intermediate adult ballet class, that fit her schedule.
So now she’s hooked. The ballet and pole dancing classes combined help her train her body, create better emotional balance in her life, and fulfil her dream of being a ballet dancer.
Does Millie’s story sound anything like yours? Keep reading for her full story so you can decide if Move Through Life could help you too.
Keep reading for her full story.
Finding ways to return to dance
Millie fell in love with dance when she was about seven years old. Things kept coming up to impede her aspirations to be a ballerina, but she has kept finding ways to return to it, whether it was folk dancing at the local school, or dancing in night clubs until the wee hours.
“I wanted to be a ballerina when I was about seven, and nagged my mum to take me to classes. I did about 18 months of classical ballet when I was about eight or nine, before my parents decided they couldn’t afford it anymore. From there I just found whatever way I could to dance.”
“After school on Wednesdays I did some folk dancing with the librarian. From there we got involved in a few eisteddfod and a large production that used to happen in the NT called The Beat, which was for grades 5 to 12 for all schools from Darwin and surrounding areas. I did some drama in year 12 and got roped into dance there. I found some resistance from my mother who thought I should be focussing on academic subjects. After that I just danced wherever I could. Mostly it was nightclubbing. I used to go out every Friday and Saturday night. Friday night was no alcohol, just water. I’d dance until 4am and start work at 6.30am on Saturday.”
“I stopped dancing after my partner and I bought a property, got married and had kids. Life got busy all at once. I didn’t rediscover dance until I got into a gym after having my second child. I signed up and started doing dance based exercise classes there on a Tuesday night. When the instructor went to Canada, I had a look online and found ADT and did adult classes. I did classes with them for a few months, then something happened and I couldn’t go any more. I did a few contemporary classes with Move Through Life on Saturdays for a while. Then life got in the way. Then I found pole dancing and started doing that. And randomly one day I was checking to see how Move Through Life was going and found out you were doing a fair few more classes than you used to, so found one that suited me. An adult ballet class. It was great.”
I love that Millie’s current dance regime involves pole dancing and ballet. What an unexpected combination! But then, both of them require core strength and good lines, so they support one another.
“I dance twice a week with The Pole Boutique, two different styles of pole dancing. Wednesday nights is poleography, sort of a contemporary style using the pole as the apparatus. Fridays I’ve been doing exotic for my second term. Exotic style takes its roots from strip clubs and burlesque dancers and has developed into this amazing sinuous, very sensual style of dance. It’s very empowering feeling comfortable enough to feel sexy in your own body in a dance class. There are a lot of body rolls, head flicks (since my hair is short) and running of hands along the body. You feel so much more confident afterwards.”
Adult ballet is the whole package
Like so many others who dance regularly, Millie knows firsthand how dance can make you feel better in mind, body and soul.
“I find myself getting stronger the more I use my body, and my flexibility has also changed and improved quite a bit. I found that from an emotional perspective I’m a lot more balanced. I get very cranky if I’ve missed a couple of weeks. Going on holiday was hard. And I find that being able to socialise with people who are dance nerds like myself is really lovely.”
“I think the more you get out and move the stronger you get. The more you extend your joints and limbs, the more energy and motion you’ll develop over time. Just showing up and being there is excellent motivation. Having that set time every week is a good thing for me because I don’t know if I could get into the technical side of dance without any kind of motivation, not on my own.”
But it’s not just how dance affects your body that keeps drawing Millie, and others of her ilk, back to dance.
“I love hanging out with people with similar interests. I find that dance can be a little bit of escapism from the everyday mundane things you have to do. Escape from the things that get on top of you, or the troubles you might have. Just taking some time out to focus on something completely. It clears my head and I find I’m better able to calm down and approach things from a new angle after class.”
“I was thinking about it all the other day, and took a long look back at my life and found that I need dance. I always have. Whenever I’ve been presented with some sort of obstacle to stop me dancing, I have found another way to dance. If Move Through Life hadn’t existed, if ADT hadn’t existed, I would still find a way to get out there and dance.
“During class I feel focussed. Happy. Dance brings me so much joy. Even when I’m frustrated with something I find difficult, if it’s the choreography or pirouettes, something quick, or when I have trouble balancing. Even through the frustration I still feel happiness. I’m starting to develop a good amount of confidence that I will get there. I no longer throw my arms up in the air and say ‘I can’t do this’. On difficult days I have something to look forward to, even if it’s not a dance day. I cannot stress enough how much I need dance. To me it’s like eating and breathing and sleeping.”
Since returning to ballet with Move Through Life, Millie says she’s learned a lot and that helps her feel more confident.
“I’m starting to get more confidence in technique. I find that I won’t let loose until I feel confident with the concept of choreography. So I’ll feel a little stiff until I get the movement pattern happening, then I’ll just enjoy it. I find that happening more frequently and sooner. That’s working out my brain nicely. It flows onto the movement patterns in pole choreography as well.”
Adult ballet is not just for the professional
“Before starting dance classes I had the idea that as an adult if you weren’t a professional level dancer you couldn’t really dance. It was just this preconception which I had to overcome. It was quite frustrating that my body didn’t move the way I wanted it to. It was good to rediscover that I can move. My body will have limits, and I shouldn’t expect the world from it, but I can still move within my own space.”
“I’d like to perform again. I’m even entertaining thoughts of perhaps teaching one day. I’m taking steps towards hopefully performing. In two and a little bit weeks I shall be entering a dance video into the in-house competition for pole dancing called Slay It. I’ve registered my interest and now I have to put together a routine on my own and present a video for selection. The ballet has helped with that. It helps with knowing my lines. Extensions are important in pole dancing as well. I’m more conscious of spatial awareness.”
Body stereotypes are left behind
In many ways, Millie is genetically blessed. At six feet tall, willowy, with legs to die for, many would be jealous of her physique. But it’s not just those born without a thin physique who were told their body is the wrong shape or size to fulfil their dreams.
“A preconception I’d developed and had to overcome was that I was too tall to dance. Especially classical ballet. I overheard my dance teacher when I was little saying something to Mum to that effect. In those days in the 80s if you were too tall to be a ballerina you had to be a model. Walking across a stage to a beat is very different to creating something. I find it’s also quite scary to let your own ideas out in front of other people. I guess there is that slight fear of rejection. What if someone thinks your ideas are rubbish? It’s an emotional process so it really becomes melodramatic.”
It’s more about mindset …
Ballet and pole dancing have been fulfilling for Millie, and she encourages anyone who is new to dance to stick with it, even if you feel like a fish out of water initially.
“Remember that new things take time to become familiar with. You have to give it more than just one go. Because the first time you’re going to think you’re a bit rubbish at this. You are new to it, you have to give it a bit of time and see how you like it.”
“My philosophy is that everything worth having in life is going to be hard work. How much work you put into it is a result of how much you want it. There is a great amount of satisfaction in achieving something that was hard. And you went through all that frustration and you learnt something about yourself. It’s all personal growth and you come out the other end and think look how far I’ve come.”
She is adamant that everyone can dance.
“All humans have this natural rhythm and we love music and the two just go together – moving to music. And I don’t buy into the ‘I can’t dance’ rubbish. Everyone can dance. Some just don’t want to. Or they don’t feel that they can. They’re limiting themselves through their perception of what it is to dance.”
Since this blog post was published, Millie has undertaken a teacher traineeship with Dragonfly Dance (formerly Move through Life), teaches ballet for us. She joined our performing company, where she has both performed and choreographed, and been engaged as Rehearsal Assistant for our Mature Dance Company.