Ev­ery­day Ath­lete

Sheena Jef­fers, 32, tells why land­ing a soaring grand jeté or a triple pirou­ette is as tran­scen­dent as it gets.

SHAPE (USA) - - Contents -

A bal­le­rina finds her groove and just keeps go­ing

You have to move with both sharp speed and el­e­gant slow­ness in bal­let. It’s a full-body work­out that de­mands flex­i­bil­ity and strength. You are con­stantly pulling up through your core to main­tain proper pos­ture even as your mus­cles burn. You’re sweat­ing. Your heart is pound­ing. And yet your mind emp­ties as you em­body the in­tri­cate com­bi­na­tions. When you’re com­pletely in the mo­ment, it’s as if you’re fly­ing. I started danc­ing at 5 years old and have never stopped. I trained in bal­let, mod­ern, jazz, and tap but al­ways stayed with bal­let be­cause it was the most phys­i­cally and men­tally chal­leng­ing for me. I stud­ied en pointe for 10 years but was never the text­book bal­le­rina: My feet, an­kles, spine, and hips weren’t flex­i­ble enough. I was never able to get my splits in se­cond po­si­tion. But I kept com­ing back to the barre with de­ter­mi­na­tion. Dur­ing grad­u­ate school, while get­ting my mas­ter’s de­gree in dance ed­u­ca­tion, I fell in love with con­tem­po­rary bal­let. Be­cause it blends mod­ern ex­pres­sion with clas­si­cal tech­nique, it al­lows for a breath of in­no­va­tive artistry. I started to en­joy bal­let purely for the art of it, the flow, the mo­men­tum, the beauty. Now, as a well­ness coach, I in­cor­po­rate move­ment—dance and yoga— into my prac­tice. I am also trav­el­ing the world, learn­ing about how dance weaves through dif­fer­ent cul­tures. Wher­ever I go, I find drop-in bal­let classes, and I hope to be at the barre even when I’m 95 years old.

You don’t have to be the per­fect bal­le­rina to feel the joy or the beauty in the strug­gle.

BAL­LET BA­SICS I love Yu­miko leo­tards (Ali­cia Mesh style, shown, $107, yu­miko.com) be­cause they are uniquely de­signed and make you feel fem­i­nine and ath­letic. I also wear Bloch Zenith bal­let shoes ($27, us.blochworld.com)— they stretch re­ally nicely over my feet and hug my arches.

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