I've spoken a bit about this before, but I've been thinking today about how personal "retiring" from this field really is. Since making this decision for myself, I have really been hyper aware of others in the field and how and when they decide to take this step. It fascinates me. I've seen everything from finishing after four years to suddenly being offered a job and announcing two days later that they're taking it.
I have to say that one perspective that I can allow myself to be a bit jealous of(sometimes) is the dancer who gets to dance until they're in their forties. Holy smokes! The natural ability and focus that it takes to maintain ones craft and have a lengthy career such as that baffles me. I happily raise a glass to anyone who is able to do so.
A piece of advice that I would offer a young dancer would be to dance as long as he or she can. More importantly, dance as long as it fulfills them and makes them happy. I will have danced ten seasons, and I am thrilled to be exiting still feeling that I love this job. I would never want to stop because I was sick of it or unhappy.
There is no right or wrong time to retire. Those of us who get to do it in our own timing and on our own terms are definitely lucky and unfortunately not always the norm. It is such an individual choice, and I hope that my writing these many entries will help dancers feel that this isn't just a scary part of the career but an exciting part.
Whatever the reason for dancers finishing their runs as company artists, injury, the desire to have a family, wanting to do something else, you name it, it is my wish that they will come to know that this career and training-no matter how long it lasts, has prepared us for so much to come. We really are a special breed.