Madame Suzelle Poole proves that one’s age really is only a number. She writes poetry, takes walks and cares for her plants. And at age 79, she still teaches, choreographs and dances ballet.
Ballet is difficult on the body. Achieving the flexibility, strength and precision required to complete seemingly effortless routines is a challenge that requires many years and thousands of hours practicing. The result is evident onstage as a graceful display of the human form and its capabilities, but at the same cost for all professional athletes – their bodies. The average retirement age of ballerinas is only 35 years old.
“I thought when I was about 26 that I wouldn’t be able to dance much longer,” Madame Poole laughs. So how has she been carrying on for so long? By teaching.
Suzelle was born in 1940 during World War II. She distinctly remembers her back step being bombed at her childhood home in London. Fortunately the war ended, and life resumed as normal. Her parents introduced her and her brother to art at a very early age, visiting galleries and exhibitions often.
She recalls an incident when she was young. “One day there was an exhibition, and it had ropes around the paintings. My brother and I went under the ropes, and were talking to each other about the artwork. As we went, behind us were a whole lot of adults following us as if we were docents.”
Suzelle and her family moved to Canada a few years later, where her official dance training began. She became proficient in the Cecchetti ballet method among others, and started performing. “I had already danced as a professional at 10 years old,” she recalls.
After a decade living in Canada, she and her family moved to Houston. She continued her training with Madame Tatiana Semenova, an established Russian ballerina and the founding director of the Houston Ballet Academy.
“She taught me to teach,” Suzelle states. “I was always a very good ballet dancer because I had wonderful ballet teachers.” Madame Poole performed as a soloist for nine years for the Houston Ballet under Madame Semenova.
After moving once again from Houston back to England, Suzelle was in the swing of her career. She lived, performed and traveled in England and Scotland, and performed most notably for the Royal Ballet Academy. It was around this time when she married her husband, an English opera singer, Jonathan Poole.
Over the next 13 or so years, Madame Poole spent time traveling, dancing and teaching in both Germany and Cape Town, South Africa, until 1986 when she moved to Dallas. Since then she has been giving private lessons, choreographing dances and inspiring all those she encounters with her endless vitality.
Madame Poole currently brings her craft to retirement and assisted living centers across Dallas and Plano as the director of her ballet company, The Poole Ballet. Her journey has also led her to The Royale Ballet Dance Academy in Dallas, where she works today.
When asked, she doesn’t know if she could condense her legacy to one singular thing, but expresses simply, “I love children and they seem to like me. I like ballet, and I like introducing them to it.”
Even though life has slowed a bit from previous years, Madame Poole’s creative spirit certainly hasn’t. She writes poetry and children’s books, and is the published author of three books, which can be found on Amazon.
Madame Poole is more than a ballet dancer. She is a living time capsule of culture. She’s a worldly teacher that speaks softly, but with a wealth of experience behind her words. She’s an inspiration to an active lifestyle. She is the culmination of the life she has lived: varied, unique and dressed in a tutu.