Publisher’s Point: The Ballerina Who Boggles My Mind

By: Ali ElizabethTurner

The tagline for Athens Now has always been “information and inspiration,” and we strive to present a lot of both in each edition. As the publisher, I love to pass on to our readers stuff that has caused me personally to sit up and take notice, and here is one that literally caused my mouth to fall open when I saw it.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am all about wholeness — body, soul, mind, spirit, pocketbook — and will admit I still have far to go in every category. I am also someone who wants to be a bearcat when it comes to overcoming what is popularly called “stinkin’ thinkin,” wherever it shows up. However, as someone who is still sort of disbelieving when it comes to having reached retirement age, when I saw a video of a ballerina by the name of Suzelle Poole who is still able to dance en pointe at the age of 79, I felt a number of things. One was disbelief. I wondered if someone had Photoshopped her head on to the body of a millennial. The other was incredulity. How is that possible? This is a woman who can still dance the part of the dying swan in Swan Lake, something that is considered to be one of the most difficult dances ever choreographed. It demands dancing on one’s toes (en pointe) for a full three minutes, and many ballerinas can’t do it.

Suzelle, who is referred to as Madame Poole by her students, was born and raised in London, and started dancing at the age of seven. Even though London was under attack by the Nazis, it was still possible at times to go to the Royal Ballet and see Dame Margot Fonteyn dance. My grandmother made sure that I saw Dame Margot dance the role of Juliet live in Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet when I was a kid. I can certainly understand how and why Dame Margot inspired Madame Poole!

Ok, but standard to the industry/art of dance is a mandatory career expiration date of age 30 in most cases. Dame Margot defied that one by continuing to dance as a prima ballerina until she was 67. So what gives with Suzelle? Well, decades ago she moved to Houston with her husband, never stopped dancing, has performed with the Houston Ballet, teaches ballet six days a week, and especially loves to go to long-term care facilities to both perform for the residents, as well as inspire them to dance. While I can only hazard a guess, I think some of it comes from giving back. As much as she loves to dance, she also loves to teach, and when she goes to facilities, she takes her young students with her. She dances first, and then they dance for the residents. “People in care centers can relate to me because I’m about the same age,” she has commented. “I hope to get them interested in exercise. Plus, I enjoy showing them that it’s never too late to do something you love.”

I also think that Suzelle has spent the last seven decades simply moving in the timelessness of God-given gifts. She loves to dance, it’s a gift God gave her, and more than likely she’ll dance ‘til the day she dies. I certainly hope so! She is another one that I want to be like when I grow up, and I am grateful that she just set the bar, or perhaps in this case, la barre a whole lot higher.