BHWF – on Pointe: Ballerina Behind the Curtain

Story by Marianne Salza

Liz Walker fulfilled her dreams and retired as a professional ballet dancer at the age of 30. The 2011 recipient of the Suzanne Farrell Dance Prize for Outstanding Artistry in the Field of Dance shared her personal story of life as a ballerina: custom-fit, pink, satin pointe shoes on the outside; blisters, corns, and sprains behind the wings.

“As much as pain and sacrifice are a part of a career in ballet, and as much as I struggled sometimes, physically and emotionally, I had an incredible experience in that world,” described Walker during the Jan. 14 Beacon Hill Women’s Forum at the Hampshire House.

Now, Walker’s desire for a second career has brought her to the State House, where she serves as a Legislative Aide. She can be seen poised in arabesque on Beacon Hill, and loves learning about issues such as housing, vaccine policies, and climate change.

“It was a complicated decision to separate my identity as a dancer. It’s difficult making the major change,” said Walker, who had reached the peak of her dance career as a member of the Los Angeles Ballet. “Retiring has been a grieving process, and the loss of my calling has been heartbreaking; but I’ve also gained much by broadening my perspective.”

Walker developed a passion for dance at an early age, and in her last two years of high school, enrolled in New York’s American Ballet Theatre. Every weekday after school, Walker and her mother, Pat, would race from Connecticut to New York to practice for three hours. On Saturdays, she spent all day at the studio; and dedicated her entire summers to dancing.

At age 18, Walker was offered a position in the Los Angeles Ballet, refining her technique and maintaining her strength and flexibility six days a week. Beginning as a corps dancer, devoted Walker worked her way up from understudy to soloist, and principal dancer.

“Something I loved about the company was performing a varied repertoire that ranged from modern and contemporary, to all the major full-length classical ballets,” explained Walker, whose favorite experience on stage was being cast as the powerful Siren in George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, when she danced wearing a 15-pound cape.

Walker’s parents encouraged her to attend college, and after graduating from Boston’s Harvard University, she returned to the Los Angeles Ballet, accepting as many challenging roles as possible.  Now, Walker is happily married to her husband, Matt, continues to dance locally when the opportunity arises, and has performed as a guest dancer at the Boston Ballet.

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