Eva Alt, Dancer & Social Media Editor, Glossier
"I started dancing when I was six. I moved to Boston to become a professional ballet dancer when I was fifteen. Everyone who dances is trying really hard to fit into the mold of what a ‘ballet body’ is supposed to look like. It’s so nuanced — thinness is just one aspect. You start forcing your body to do things, rather than working with your own body, and it kind of throws out the art form. In the intense focus on uniformity, we’re really losing the person. Which was the reason I stopped dancing professionally: at some point in ballet, you have to look like everyone else. And I just didn’t want to do that. I felt like I needed a break, so I didn’t dance at all for maybe two years. I didn’t think could feel joy dancing again, I really didn’t. When I found out about Moves, which is an underground dance class by Lauren Gerrie and Marissa Competello, it completely changed my life. I found like-minded individuals who also needed movement in their life to think clearly and to see the world in a more realistic way. This was three or four years ago. I started my own class, Ballet1, a year ago.
Eva wears the Plunge in Black.
Basically, what I wanted to do was to create the type of ballet class I wanted to go to. And my frustration with most ballet classes was that, it’s all short combinations that are very much about technique, and sometimes you leave feeling like you didn’t dance at all. I don’t care about technique really that much — I just want to dance. And I noticed there are so many great moments in ballet that literally anyone can do. I was like, ‘Why is there not a ballet class for adults that’s actually just about dancing, and not about technique?’ So I started putting ideas down of what I thought it could be. I’d never taught beginners before, but my favorite thing about taking a dance class is watching everyone in the room, how different they are. It’s so amazing. I really wanted it to be open to everyone. It’s been amazing to see how it’s grown. I started with seven people and now I have about 30. I get the nicest messages from people who haven’t taken ballet in like 16 years, and it’s the same kind of — ‘I was told I could never be a ballet dancer because there wasn’t a place for me.’ And it’s nice to be able to be like, ‘Here, I made a place for you. And for me.’
I think today, in our world, it’s so important to have experiences that disconnect us from our phones. Your phone is not the world around you. We need to remember to look around. It’s so important to have in-person experiences that connect us with one another and back to our physical self. I cannot think of anything better than dance to do that. Because you have absolutely no choice but to be in the very moment you’re in. You can rehearse a step a million times, but you don’t really know how it’s going to feel until you do it. One of the great things about dance is that you surprise yourself with what you can do. It gives you a sense of power. You’re constantly proving that to yourself. I think it’s really just about reconnecting to a practice to bring positive feelings. Some people are like, ‘I don’t know if I can come to your dance class, I’m not graceful, I’m not flexible.’ but everyone says that. And once they come, they realize it’s so not about that. Grace is metaphysical, not physical.
It’s hard [not to worry about what other people think]. Saying you don’t care what other people think is unrealistic. Of course I care what other people think. I have a job, I have people who count on me. You just have to control how far it goes. It helps to do the things that remind you of who you are. Because then it doesn’t really matter what other people think. For me, knowing that dance is my thumbprint makes me confident — because I know who I am. And an understanding who I am is where my confidence — or my freedom — comes from. Own who you are and have presence. That’s sexy to me.
The body image stuff, coming from dance, took time to let go. I always had boobs. I was so uncomfortable with them until maybe a year ago. [As a dancer] you just think about your body all day long... that’s not so healthy. It took time to move past it. I really needed some space, and it’s so much better now. By that I mean I don’t think about every piece of food that goes in to my mouth. When you’re thinking about that all the time, you’re not enjoying. You’re just worried. As I grew up and experienced life beyond dance, I learned to be more comfortable. I had more types of people around me who inspired me in different ways. I just needed a bigger world and different types of beauty in my life to understand that one body type is not less beautiful than another. That was one of the best parts of starting my job at Glossier. I wasn’t just a body anymore, it was about my brain and what I had to offer to the world. I was able to be a whole person in the world.
I still feel really young. But that’s a complete mindset. There are so many things to do, I have so many dreams. Anytime I’ve really wanted something and set out to do it, I’ve done it. Because I believe in myself. And if it doesn’t work out, it’s because I didn’t want it all the way. Which I think can help you handle rejection or failure — if you gave it all you could, you didn’t fail."