Teacher Talk: Fleming Lomax
Fleming Lomax is a dancer and teacher with the Asheville Ballet. She has been teaching adult ballet since 1992.
BL: When and where did you start dancing?
FL: I started dancing when I was four years old in my hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina. I demanded to take ballet (laughs). I actually had a playdate with a friend and her mother forgot that she had ballet that day so I had to go with her and watch the class. It was torturous to sit and observe, as I was captivated from that first moment. I begged and begged to take ballet, and the very next week I was in class. I’ve never stopped since.
BL: What about ballet appeals to you?
FL: It was my first and lifetime love affair. I love the discipline and specificity of it. Also the musicality and expressiveness; being able to embody the art form.
BL: What insecurities have you faced as a dancer?
FL: I tended to underestimate myself, that I would never be able to do certain things. Sometimes I wondered whether I deserved certain opportunities when I felt like there were so many other dancers that could do the same thing. Throughout my career I had a habit of limiting myself and what I thought I could do. I also suffered some serious injuries.
BL: What type of injuries?
FL: When I was sixteen I had a knee injury that plagued me throughout my training and almost curtailed me from pursuing a performing career. The setbacks from that injury resulted in me really craving a knowledge of body mechanics, which I pursued through a comprehensive Pilates certification program as well as anatomy and physiology classes. This approach has informed my experience as both a dancer and an educator. I teach from a very anatomical basis. I want my students to feel empowered about how the body works instead of just creating shapes.
BL: What do you enjoy about adult ballet classes, specifically?
FL: Well, teaching class and taking class are two different things. As a teacher, it’s a wonderful experience to watch other people develop. As a dancer, I feel like I’m being cared for and nurtured when I take class. It’s good for the body, soul, technique, the whole mindset. Adult ballet classes can be really freeing; I think it’s particularly beneficial for mothers, caregivers, kindergarten teachers, anyone whose lifestyle or career involves an outpouring of attentiveness to the needs of others, to take class — or be given class, as we sometimes say– and have it be about them and nurturing them. These individuals always have to be the responsible adults and look out for others. Adult ballet class is a chance for them to focus inwardly, express themselves outwardly, and receive from others.
BL: Do you have any memorable moments?
FL: I once taught a semester of ballet at a women’s prison in Colorado. It was such a moving experience to see the effects of the art form on these women, some of whom had never seen a ballet let alone be exposed to any training. Seeing their transformation, their response to the music and change in their demeanor was really powerful.
BL: What’s your favorite part of class and why?
FL: That’s hard to say. There’s something about doing that first transitional tendu combination in the center without the help of the barre. I guess embracing the technique you learned at the barre and having it come together into this cohesive art of moving, if that makes sense. Crossing that bridge from technique into really moving and dancing.
BL: Do you have a favorite ballet, or ballet company?
FL: Philip Jerry’s adaptation of Our Town by Thornton Wilder. The way Jerry crafted it and turned it into a ballet I think is just brilliant. It’s about enjoying every minute of life and not taking simple things for granted; to appreciate the small moments and not just the big events. I love the play and I love the ballet. I also really like Netherlands Dance Theater. I could watch them all day. They’re incredible.
BL: What are your favorite dance brands/accessories?
FL: I don’t have a specific favorite, but I literally still wear leotards from high school. Any given day I will pull out a leotard that’s several decades old; the soft feel of the cotton, and the elastic is all stretched out but it still feels amazing. I’m not one to throw away a leotard. I will recycle them and use them for years (laughs).
BL: What advice do you have for adult dancers?
FL: Allow yourself to be a perpetual learner/student. In our culture especially, there’s this pressure for adults to appear as if they have it all together, and the one place where all of this can unravel I can tell you for sure is ballet class. Allow yourself the freedom to say Hey, I get to be in a space where I don’t know it all and I’m not expected to. If you mess up, the earth did not shatter, you just have to stand back up and try again. It’s interesting to see your reaction to failure, or even Hmm I didn’t know I could do that! Just remember you’re learning as you go and you’re learning like everyone else.
Thank you Fleming!
–Bethany Leger, balletforadults.com, July 2016