Several recent posts on this blog have pondered on dancers' ages: Sylvie Guillem at 50 on her farewell tour; and just the other day I wrote about Carla Fracci returning once more to the stage at 79 together with comments past and present by Roberto Bolle, 40, who now hopes that his time to leave the stage will be as far from now as possible.
52-year-old Alessandra Ferri's return to the stage has been unusual in that, after a long 7-year gap, she isn't just popping up every now and then in cameo appearances, but has resumed an active career with several high-profile projects.
In Italy's Confidenze magazine Ferri spoke about dance, motherhood… and ageing.
When I was three I wanted to dance. I don't know where this came from as no one in my home watched ballet or went to the theatre, yet as soon as I heard classical music I was transported to another dimension.
Talent is a wonderful gift, but also a complex one, and at times can become a weight around your neck because it is demanding and you need to always be at its beck and call.
When I decided to become a mother I had to put aside my talent, which is not easy for those who follow this profession. I didn't want dance to stop me having this experience and I knew that if I didn't I would come to hate my job.
I was right. My pregnancies were wonderful, the period after a little less so, but it's the same for all women, because getting back in shape is hard work and I was afraid that my body wouldn't return as it was. But I remember the fulfilment I felt in looking at Matilde (now 18) and Emma (15) for the first time: it remains the most important thing I've done in my life. We have a good relationship: open, friendly, authentic. I never wanted to ‘act' the mother, I don't put on masks and pretend to be something I'm not. I remember how I was at their age. I just try to show them that having a passion in life is the most important thing.
At their age, the only thing in my life was dance. I suffered when I had to go on holiday or go out in the evening to ‘enjoy myself'. But passion is a personal thing, everyone has their own ideas and my children are free to follow their own path.
I tell that that love is a wonderful thing even if relationships come to an end. They suffered as they witnessed the end of my marriage, but they had also seen the good times, before, when their father and I were happy. If a relationship finishes I don't get myself down: I'm a happy person, I love to laugh, I love to live.
Dance has always been part of my life but at a certain point, in 2007, I decided to leave my career to become a full-time Mum. My daily life changed and the days were occupied by the needs of my girls. At the beginning it was wonderful, my life was filled with my children, but after a while I began to miss the fact that I wasn't taking care of myself. This, for me, didn't mean going to the beauty salon or the beach, but dancing, so in 2012 I listened to the voice of my talent which was yelling at me to return on stage.
I realised that I couldn't separate myself from my work: they are one and the same thing. Matilde and Emma understood this and they are happy about it; they had seen the difficult moments I had gone through in my emotional life. I think a woman who is fulfilled is also a better mother, because being a good mother doesn't mean always being present and day to day caring, but is something more profound. On the other hand, when I left dance maybe I needed time away from a life chock full of commitments. In work as in love, sometimes we need pauses and silence.
Returning to the stage I felt free. I've had an important career, but now I can experiment, leave the classical repertoire and accept other types of roles. For years I was Juliet, but now I like to idea of taking on new characters… women of my own age. One shouldn't be afraid of prejudices, but not lie to oneself either.
I'm trying to free myself from the clichés imposed by social norms which can ruin lives. An important cliché for me concerned who you are when you hit 50; it's an important number but when I see it I think, is that really me? I don't feel those years. I've understood that age is a mental state and doesn't mean anything.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.