- Nicole (Johnson) Williams
1. 30 is the New 20
Updated: May 26, 2020
April 29, 2019
I’ve been trying for WEEKS to start this blog. I’ve written each one carefully right here in my head - all smart, and witty, and colorful, and grammatically correct, of course - but they keep ending up in the trash (who knows, I might pull the plug on this one before the first paragraph is finished.) The difficult, yet liberating, part about it is that my purpose is not to entertain you (which takes SO much pressure off of me lol). The purpose is to share, with the hope that someone will feel inspired and have the courage to DANCE!
My name is Nicole Williams and I’ve just decided to be a dancer. Now, that does not mean I just joined someone’s “Beginning Ballet for Adults” class and now I’m going to go dance for ABT. I started becoming interested in dance as a lifestyle around 15 or 16 years old. I learned about dance as a community years before, doing West African dance… more on that later. But I’m just now giving myself the permission to accept this as a major part of my identity UNAPOLOGETICALLY… no matter how old, how many kids, how many jobs…
You don’t have to be a 24 year old vegan living with roommates in Brooklyn to be a dancer. You can be a 32 year old mother of two, living in the suburbs of a Midwest city, with two jobs - one of which having absolutely nothing to do with dance at all. In some ways I think that’s where some of the best art is made.
As dancers, we’re conditioned to think that our best dancing years are our twenties. Things aren’t cracking, and popping, and creaking, and falling apart yet. Without the responsibility of children and household, you’re free to spend as much time training and performing as you want. Not to mention the student discounts on classes and scholarships to intensives. You could spend WEEKS out of town for a workshop and not have to worry about babysitters and carpools. Remember those teenage years when you didn’t even have to warm up before jumping right in to dance full out for hours?
Yeeeaaaa those days are long gone. And you know what? I’m glad. I, personally, am of the persuasion that our BEST dancing years may just be our 30s. Call me biased, but I really do think so. By now, we know what’s good for OUR bodies, and what’s not. We know how to listen and learn. We’ve learned how to work smarter (which doesn’t always mean “harder”). We are safer dancers, which hopefully means our bodies will last us longer. We are more thoughtful dancers. We have more life experience to pull from and more to say as artists. We have different narratives and stories to tell without doing 300 fouette turns into a leg catch turn finished off with an aerial landing in an oversplit. The things these kids can do nowadays are nothing short of amazing, but there’s something very special to be said about the more mature dancer. Something regal, and sophisticated, and complex… simply beautiful.
I started late, and was therefore pretty self conscious. Then I had a baby at 21 which shifted my priorities pretty drastically, leaving a very limited amount of time for art and dreams and purpose and LIFE. Most, if not all, of my time was devoted to survival and necessity. By the time I graduated from college, I had become just someone who dances… not necessarily a Dancer. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some pretty dope opportunities and have danced a lot over the years, but this is about identity and intent.
So now here I am, in my 30s - in my “Prime” - giving myself permission to be exactly what I’ve always been to my core. Yes, it takes a little more planning and organization to be able to “do it all”, but I think I’m learning to navigate this season a little more gracefully every day. I’m grateful for where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. And I’m happy that WHO I am doesn’t have to change just because of the number that comes at the beginning of my age. So this blog is for anyone (old, young, dancer, spectator) who can appreciate the journey :-)