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The Pointe of It

Sarah Egan Warren, assistant director of the professional writing program in the English department, always wanted to be a ballerina. But at age 12, after seven years of classes, she concluded she was not petite and didn’t look the part.

“I felt there was no endgame. I’d never be a ballerina,” she says.

Years later, at her daughter’s ballet class, Egan Warren knew. She wanted to dance again and, after enrolling at the American Ballet School in Apex, she began re-learning ballet, even the classical technique “on pointe.”

Some Challenges

Learning ballet as an adult isn’t easy. Some women took classes with Egan Warren that fall, but most of the class consisted of girls who lovingly called the older group “the ladies.” And while Egan Warren knew the vocabulary, getting her body to actually do the moves was something else.

Sarah Egan Warren was inspired by her daughter to give ballet another try. Photo by Edward Egan. Photo at top of page by Andrew Warren.

“The fearlessness you had as a child of trying something new is gone,” she says.

Egan Warren had full support from her husband and family, but juggling work and family with dance was still challenging. Training to dance on pointe requires taking multiple ballet classes each week, Pilates, yoga and other dance courses to strengthen your ankles, feet and core.

The technique requires dancers to balance their entire body weight on the very tip of their toes. To help avoid injury, directors determine whether a dancer possesses the skills and stamina on a case-by-case basis. Ballerinas learn to dance on pointe gradually through exercises at the ballet barre, attempting it for just a few minutes each time.

Big Payoffs

Yet Egan Warren learned to be on pointe. She also learned while she may not possess a ballerina’s frame, she has good feet for dancing. Being on pointe feels euphoric, she says.

“There is an element of crazy that you are balancing your body purely on the point of your toes. But getting there required so much work — it’s a really great achievement.”

Additional benefits evolved both professionally and personally. For instance, getting outside of her comfort zone made her more empathetic for her students.

“My engineering students are brilliant at what they do but struggle writing about it. Learning ballet reminded me of this.”

Also, she showed her children that grown-ups don’t have to stop trying new things.

“I’m not a great dancer but I really like it. Ballet enriches my life and I’m glad my children see that.”

Egan Warren was so enlightened by her studio experiences she gave a live talk recently at Raleigh’s Pecha Kucha Night, a gathering of speakers who discuss their various passions. The performance was completely full.

Egan Warren is recovering from a broken foot. (She twisted over during a hip-hop class.) But she will keep dancing as long as she can, she says. “I’ll be the old lady in the nursing home trying to get everybody to do the samba.”