Beyond the stage with Nantucket ballerina Ali Lubin.
Ali Lubin used to dread Saturday mornings. As a professional ballerina in a small dance company in New York City, she was forced to step on a scale after practice. Her weight was then posted for all to see. If she weighed more than a dancer taller than her, Lubin was scolded. If she gained five pounds, she was put on probation. “You would do anything you could to weigh less,” Lubin says. “I would even take the bobby pins out of my hair — it was so sad.”
The life of a professional ballerina is brutal. Beyond the diet and mental fatigue, dancers’ bodies are ravaged by thousands of hours of practice. Toes are destroyed. Ribs are cracked. Many have their hips replaced by the age of thirty. “There’s so much sacrifice involved,” Lubin says. “You can’t have a social life. You’re so cautious about your diet. And you’re stuck in a room with a bunch of people you’re competing against twenty-four-seven. So you look happy on stage, but the rest of it is a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.”
Those days are now long gone for Ali Lubin. Having relocated to Nantucket a year ago, this professional ballerina is now turning her dancing skills toward helping others attain healthy “ballet bodies.” “It’s not about the number on the scale,” she says. “It’s about having a balanced and strong body that’s toned and healthy.” Lubin teaches Pilates and barre classes at CORE, Go Figure, and The Westmoor Club. She’s also an instructor at Nantucket Ballet, which has gone from teaching three students to eighty students in the last three years. “I like teaching all three classes, because every type of person can find the one they like,” she says. “Everybody can get a ballet body, without having to be a ballerina.”
Despite the fact that her mother was a ballet instructor, Lubin’s love of ballet did not come naturally when she was growing up in Southern California. “I ran out crying,” she remembers of her first class. But as she grew older, Lubin came to love it, and immersed herself in the art form. After attending Loyola Marymount University, she danced with several dance companies, including the illustrious Los Angeles Ballet. She then moved to Manhattan to audition for Broadway.
Yet, like many of her colleagues, Lubin’s body began breaking down from a lifetime on pointe. First she suffered a tear in her hip and then fractured a rib. “I realized that ballet was destroying my body,” she says. “For me it wasn’t worth it anymore.” Instead, Lubin began teaching ballet, barre, and Pilates, a form of exercise that was originally created as a core-strengthening workout for the overly taxed muscles of ballet dancers. “I realized that I could still teach ballet and be in that world without having to have a hip replacement by the time I turn thirty.”
When one of her clients offered her a job as a part-time private instructor and part-time nanny for the summer on Nantucket, Lubin leapt at the chance. “By the time I moved here, I knew I enjoyed teaching more than being a full-time professional dancer,” she says. After the summer, Lubin decided to stay on island full-time. “I absolutely love what I’m doing now. I have no injuries. I have a social life. I can eat, I can sleep. It’s a very balanced, happy lifestyle, which I’ve never had before.”
Nantucket has also benefited from Lubin’s decision to stay on island. Before she arrived, ballet classes were limited to children. Now Lubin teaches adult ballet classes at Nantucket Ballet. And while teaching them to dance, Lubin is also getting her clients’ bodies on point in the healthiest ways possible. “It’s not just about how your body looks, trying to impress people by looking skinny,” Lubin says. “I weigh more now, but my body looks better.” And most importantly, Lubin’s body feels better.