Professional Dancers who Started late – Against all odds!

Professional dancers who started late

There is a widespread idea that dancers have to start training at an early age, otherwise they will not make it. While starting young will make the process of learning and incorporating technique easier, that doesn’t mean that you can’t start dancing if you are not 4 or 5 years old. It would be crazy to assume that!

The truth is, it is never too late to start dancing. Becoming a professional dancer, however, is a lot more physically and mentally demanding than just dancing as a hobbie or even at a semi professional level. Some dance styles, such as Ballet, require so much from dancers that many that started at early ages don’t get to have a successful career. Other styles, like Contemporary or Hip Hop are more flexible and you see older dancers with different body types on stage and even movies!

Being a professional dancer is not easy, achieving this is even harder for someone that didn’t start at a young age. But it’s not impossible. In fact, many have attempted this and succeeded. Some are even famous.

In this post I want to share with you some of my personal favorite examples of dancers that started “late” and made it. They inspire me and I hope they will inspire you too!

Misty Copeland

“The best piece of advice that I remember probably on a daily basis is to accept everything about me that is different. That is what makes me special.”

Misty Copeland in Coppelia
Gilda N. Squire Gildasquire

Yes, the Misty Copeland. She is a beautiful person and an amazing dancer. She started dancing at the age of 13 and recently became a principal Ballerina at the American Ballet Theater (ABT). The fact that she is the first African-American woman who achieved this makes her even more remarkable!

At 33 years old, Misty has done more than many people would dream in a lifetime. She has danced the most famous Ballets in many stages from all over the world, she is a best-selling author, has her own clothing line and stars in the Disney movie The Nutcracker and The Four Realms.

Can you tell that I love her?

Although 13 years old doesn’t make anyone old, just barely a teenager, most professional Ballet dancers start their training before they are 10, so it really is impressive to even become a professional if you start after that age. Again, not impossible.

Misty started dancing at the the Boys & Girls Club in San Pedro, California and was spotted by her teacher, Cynthia Bradley, who saw the amazing potential she had and started mentoring her during her first years of dancing. She moved to New York and joined the ABT at 18 years old and well… she never stopped growing since there!

Phillip Chbeeb

From his personal Instagram account

I first saw Phillip Chbeeb on this little show called So You Think You Can Dance and was hypnotized by his movement. He started dancing Hip Hop and Popping when he was 15 years old and auditioned for the show at 18.

From the first moment he said that he wanted to stand out by showing the world something  different and that  he wasn’t trying to be like anyone else. And he wasn’t.

So You Think You Can Dance was only the beginning of an amazing career, during his time on the show his main challenge was to be good at others styles other than his area of expertise. He appeared on seasons 3, 4 and 5 and in the last one he made it to the top 12.

After SYTYCD, he was also featured in America’s Best Dance Crew and made appearances in movies like Step up Revolution. 

Phillip has a brilliant career as a dancer, a movement creator and video director!

He is a truly inspiring artist who keeps learning and perfecting his movement and skills as time goes by.

Make sure to follow him on Instagram to keep up with his work!

yogaclub box

David Zurak

May the paths unfold, intertwine and continuously expand in this era when we can rarely just be one item!

From David Zurak’s website

David Zurak(1970-2017) started dancing at 23 years old, while he was completing his engineering degree. He became a successful performing artist over the next years.

As a dancer, he trained in Ballet and Modern Dance. His most prominent work was in Martha Graham Dance Company, where he was a dancer from 2002 to 2009. Later on he also choreographed and became a teacher.

Besides his successful career in Contemporary dancing, he was also featured on TV and Films as an actor.

He was an extremely expressive dancer, I love watching him move.

What can we learn from them?

These amazing artists are just some of the many who managed to have a successful professional career. Not only that, they also became known internationally!

There are many others like them, like Paul Taylor and Ohad Naharin that started dancing at a “late” age.

There are many other dancers around the world that are professional dancers and not famous, like my Tango teacher, who fell in love with dance at 28 and has danced all over the world!

But what did they all have in common?

They kept training, they kept practicing, they kept learning. No matter the rejections, no matter what other people say.

Being a professional dancer is hard for everyone, even for those that were born with the perfect body and have danced since they were kids. If you try to attempt dancing professionally it will probably be the hardest thing that you will ever do, maybe you won’t get it or your passion will shift somewhere along the way.

But it has been done before.

And amazing inspiring people are still doing it!

Do you want to become a professional dancer? Is there someone that you know that wants to? I would love to read anything that you want to share!

I recently came accross a website called Zippia, they made a dancer career map that is based on the resumes of real dancers, and is updated in real time. Meaning it shows what types of jobs dancers move onto once they begin their careers! Check it out!

14 thoughts on “Professional Dancers who Started late – Against all odds!

  1. It’s never too late for almost anything in your life. Dancing is no different. Of course your body and your health should be good so you can physically perform.

    It’s amazing that Misty Copeland can dance the way she does.And ballet is very difficult to do. I admire her.

    But in addition to these awesome dancers, I know of another Irish step dancer named Michael Flatley who can still dance at almost age 60 and what a dancer he is!

    I give the professionals credit especially when they get a late start in the career!

  2. You can learn to dance at any age If you have a passion for it. Professional dancing is a little bit difficult so starting as early as possible is always advisable.

    One fact about dance is that it’s really good for your overall health. It lowers the chances of a heart problem, improves your weight problem and posture. It can reduce your stress level and improve your brain function. Great article, thanks for sharing.

  3. Hi Vivi, thanks for the inspiring article! I’m embarking on a new journey and trying to find reasons to justify to others why it’s ok for what I’m about to do. I always wanted to be a dancer, until at an audition for a ballet acedamy I got told my body was not strong enough. I gave up. I did not follow my dream. I lived a comfortable life ever since but now that I’m over 40 and have two kids I am so desperate to follow my dream. I have been dancing Argentine tango for 6 years now as a hobby, but I now I will leave everything for three months to dance and live tango in Buenos Aires! I feel this is right, but people around me just don’t understand! I am not sure how I can explain to them what it feels like to feel the need to dance, improve and reach limits you never thought you could. Dance! Thank you

    1. Hi Zita, thank you so much for telling me your story. You have already lived your life how you were supposed to, you can allow yourself to start living it like you are meant to! The Tango in Buenos Aires is completely different from other parts of the world and I am sure you will love it!

  4. My son is 17 years old; and will be 18 years old in October. I recognized his dancing skills at age 2. I wanted to enroll him in dancing classes, but I couldn’t afford it at the time. As he grew older, my family thought it would be better for him to accomplish martial arts, because he was very expressive with his thoughts; and felt he needed defensive classes for “his smart mouth”. My uncle even encouraged me to get my son enrolled into sports; which he had no interest in; and I listened to them instead of my son. When i finally could afford to send him to class at least 2 days a week, he was not doing well in school, so his father said no dance classes until his grades and attitude was better in school( his grades weren’t that bad!). I made a serious mistake! I have witnessed my son get on ice skates for the first time and was successful in skating on ice without assistance. I observed my son get on an adult bike after riding bikes with training wheels and ride the bike without any assistance. Unfortunately, I listened to my family, and now I regret it!!! He is no longer interested in dancing, as he thinks it is not masculine, What can I do to get my son interested in dance again? Please help! I am so distraught and feel guilty by not helping my son follow his dream through listening to others.

    1. Hi Sondrea. Sorry for my late reply. First of all: Don’t feel guilty. We do what we can and I am sure you never meant to do anything wrong.

      As I always say to my male friends, there is nothing sexier than a man that knows how to dance. There are both masculine and feminine male dancers and he will dance according to his personality. I don’t know what he is into but I would say find dance styles according to the music that he loves. I always find men more interested in Hip Hop (and urban styles in general) and Tango (the best way to meet women is at the milonga!)

      But ultimately the decision is his, just let him know that the possibilities are endless!

      This is a funny beer commercial that came to my mind as I read your comment:

  5. Hi VIVI, I had a question/story. I really want to learn dance, I’m not in my 20s yet, but I’ve putting it off because of 2 reasons. 1. I’m not fit, I’m overweight and I’m trying to lose weight first. 2. I lack confidence. I’m a musician, and I’m fine with my band, but alone I get extremely nervous. I just wanted to know your opinion on what I should do. Dancing makes me happy, and I want to learn hip hop. Do you know any workouts or exercises to get in shape effectively, and increase stamina?

    1. Hi Aditi! I found that Hip Shake Fitness is a great way to get in shape and dance at the same time. I actually learned how to twerk with this website because I was too shy to go to a twerk class.

      Read my review by clicking here! You can try it for free =)
      Once you get your confidence PLEASE go out and dance, don’t let anything, even if it’s some extra weight keep you from doing what you love. You have some extra booty to shake, so what? Look at this AMAZING dancer, and she is not skinny:

  6. I recently went back to ballet . I started ballet at 2 and a half years old and stopped at 11. I’m now 18 and just went back. I was so overwhelmed because I had forgotten so much , but it’s been coming back quicker than I would’ve thought. I feel so sad that I ever stopped , I don’t even remember why I stopped. I did it for along time but was also gone a long time. I really wish for going professional, but does how old I am now not work for that? It’s a dream of mine but I feel like it might be too late. Though technically I did get the really young start.
    What do you think ? Can I do it?
    Professional? Even it will take a lot of hard work and might not be likely, I look for any glimmer of hope and possibility.

    1. Hi Lorelei! Thanks for your comment. Becoming a ballet dancer at 18 is certainly difficult, and it’s more competitive for women, I am not going to lie. But I don’t think you should lose hope. My advice would be to find a GREAT teacher and ask him/her to train you, take as many classes as you can. At 18 you can get at a University dance program or another institution. You might find out that you like more things than Ballet!
      Have a great week!

  7. This is beautiful but guys, here we are talking about 13, 18, 23….. Is that late? I’m 40 and I wanna put myself in the contemporary dance as much as I can. I’m not thinking now that I want to be a professional dancer, cause it’s pretty much impossible but I’ve been dancing when I was younger and I carry within myself the natural skills for it! Does exist in the world a case of someone that started late ( I mean a real late) and builded up a career out of it? Mmmm do not think so. And I say this because the article brings examples of professionals!
    But anyway, if we talk about amateurs then, for sure the age is not a barrier.

    1. Yes, Barbara, I completely get your point. The dance professional world is still highly competitive and it is hard to make it even if you start young. But it also depends on your expectation and the kind of style you start dancing. 13,18 and 23 are ages that are considered “late” in the dance world and many teenagers and young adults lose hope of becoming dancers because they didn’t start at 5!

      Can a 40-year-old person become a professional dancer and perform as a principal? That is almost impossible. But everyone can learn how to dance, any style. I encourage you to try a contemporary dance class if that is what you want and I can assure you you will be surprised by the results!

      I hope you have a great week!

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