RAQUEL... BEAUTY ICON, SEX SYMBOL, SOMETIMES ACTRESS... AND ONCE BALLERINA by Dane Youssef
The Golden Globe-winning and long-time cover girl Ms. Jo-Raquel Welch is just one in a long line of classical leading movie starlets who made their start in ballet and planned not on a life on the silver screen, but on the stage as a prima ballerina absolutta with the American Ballet Theatre, The Royal Ballet... even The Bolshoi. Not trying to be Elizabeth Taylor, but Margot Fonteyn.
Raquel herself said in her life story, the tell-autobiography behind the pin-up--"Beyond The Cleavage," that she wanted to be a ballerina, taking it for an entire decade of her life--most of her childhood. From seven to seventeen.
When Ms. Welch spoke of her, " She cut quite a striking figure with her long silver hair cascading down her back, well past her waist. She would put it up with exotic-looking combs during class. Irene Clark was not at all like the typical La Jolla matron. She was an artiste. She conducted class by tapping an ornately carved cane with a silver tip like a rhythmic metronome to the count of Les Sylphides."
She admitted to having not only a case of hero worship on her childhood dance teacher, but a romantic Jones on the older lady as well. Why? Well, she was a strong female figure with a command of the whole practice of ballet--she dominated this form with attitude and style to spare. The same way every aspiring dancer looks to their coach with a mixture of awe and idol worship. They emulate their commanding officer, the way stem cells imitate their host. "You are everything I want to be... everything I will try to be..."
And her professor of ballet, Raquel's de factor sergeant of the art of classical dance eventually told her after ten years that her adult body had fermented to a type that would not make for a good ballerina. A set of broad line-backer shoulders a good mile apart, a considerable set of crushing breasts, a considerable 5'6"stature--kind of lanky for a lady. She tells us, "This ballet goddess had broken my heart. I emulated her. All I wanted to do was to be like her. I was destroyed all at once like any innocent girl is when she hears 'I don't love you back.' "
At the ripening age of seventeen, she kicked the habit of classical ballet, along with the childhood dreams of being a classical danseuse. But in her very own words--written in her own life story: "All those years of ballet had sculpted a near perfect body... racehorse legs, a very slender waist, great strength and flexibility--not to mention confidence."
She's not the only one--a lot of actresses who practiced "the ballet" as kids and eventually moved on... walked away with a lot of the same--benefits, attitude and all. Ballet wasn't just something they did--it was what they became. Actresses such as Audrey Hepburn, Neve Campbell, Jenna Elfman, Amanda Schull, Zoe Salanda, Jennifer Grey, Lea Thompson, Shirley MacLaine, Natalie Portman, Teri Polo, Marin Hinkle and Amy Smart. Just looking at them now, seeing how they act and behave in life, how they carry themselves--you can clearly see the influence that has never left them.
Just like the boys--men such as Charlie Sheen, Warren Beatty, Ed O' Neil, Rick Fox, Alex Karras, Ed Mariano and Chuck Connors who played traditional sports (you know, the kind with balls) did in their salad days. Sports--it's not just another form of exercise, it's a very way of life. It was theirs.
Now just look at Ms. Welch's body all those years ago (as if I actually have to talk you into it) and look at her body today. Look what the way of ballet has done to her--no, FOR her. And what it's done to all others who've happened to take it--and mean it. I have myself and I know what I'm talking about.
Oh, she still has a soft spot for it--she's still eternally grateful. She took similar exercises throughout the course of her entire life--cheerleading, swimming, aerobics, etc. She always stood like a prominent ballerina. If you don't keep at it, you lose it completely--like any other sport. But once you've really attained it, you have that way... that air of ease, that essence... that je ne sais quoi. And it's pure magic. It's helped a lot of people find their way, even those who found a way outside of ballet itself.
Sports do tend to do that, don't they? Hell, that's what they're there for. That's why they've lasted so many thousands of years--they tell you so much about life while speaking as little as possible.... but we're always listening.
--A Modern-Day Raquel Welch Fan, Dane Youssef