5 myths about ballet classes for adults
I’m sure you know there are a lot of little girls out there who dream about being a ballerina. But did you know that there are lots of women who secretly harbour the same fantasy? Perhaps you are one of them. But in our culture, there is an unspoken belief that once you grow up it’s time to leave these hopes behind. Too bad if your parents couldn’t afford ballet classes, or you weren’t interested at the time, or you did take classes but gave up a long time ago.
Well, I’m here to tell you that this simply isn’t true. Well, the ballerina bit perhaps, since it takes decades of training, tenacity, and a natural physique and talent to make it to the ranks of prima ballerina. But it is not true that you can’t take ballet classes and enjoy the beauty, discipline, and health benefits, regardless of your age, body type, or fitness level.
Sadly, there are a number of myths about ballet classes for adults that stop a lot of people from even thinking about taking ballet class, let alone making the decision to join a class. So in this article, I aim to debunk some of those myths and to reveal the truth about ballet class. Thank you to the wonderful women in my Ballet Basics for Adults classes who shared the misconceptions they had about ballet before they started, and the wonderful discoveries they’ve made since, which you can read about at the end of each myth.
Myth #1: You need to start ballet as a child
I think the most common myth about ballet is that if you haven’t done it as a child, you have no business doing it.
I can’t tell you how many people who join my ballet or other dance classes tell me that they always wanted to try ballet, but for some reason they didn’t get the chance. Perhaps their parents couldn’t afford it, there wasn’t a ballet school in their town, they were too busy playing sport, or any number of reasons.
To be honest, I’m not sure why people think ballet is just for young people, other than the fact that more children do ballet than adults. However, when you are an adult, your brain is much better able to understand the movements, and you are likely to have the concentration needed, and to enjoy the connection between the body and mind. Sure kids often pick things up easier and have more agile bodies, but as an adult, you have a greater capacity for understanding and applying the knowledge.
There is nothing to stop you learning the movements of ballet no matter what age you start, and you are likely to gain great satisfaction from mastering them.
Taking a ballet class can leave your body tired, but your mind is calmer because of the focus required helps your mind stop racing and worrying about other things. In that way, it has a similar effect to yoga or tai chi, especially during the exercises performed at the ballet barre, and some of the slower exercises performed in the centre, like port de bras (movements of the arms) and adage (slow and sustained movements).
Myth #2: You can’t do ballet if you’re over 20 years old
Closely related to the first myth is the misconception that once you are past a certain age, you are too old to do ballet. This one in particular stops people who had learnt ballet as a child or teenager from returning to an exercise option and artform that they love. So many people who return to ballet after a long break tell me that they’ve tried other types of exercise, but none of them have given them the same joy as ballet. They’ve had this yearning in their heart for years, but never realised they could do a ballet class as an adult.
It can be frustrating when you don’t have the flexibility or strength that you used to, but the tradeoff is that you have a more mature outlook and deeper understanding of what you are doing than when you’re in your teens. Besides, why deny yourself the pleasure of ballet just because your body changes. There is no reason why you can’t build up the flexibility and strength, and it will make you healthier and fitter than you would be if you weren’t doing ballet. It’s easier to run around and jump when you’re a child or teenager than when you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s (and so on), but that doesn’t stop people going to the gym or doing fitness classes or sport, so why should it stop you doing ballet?
Yes, I realise that you may be worried that it’s ridiculous to be doing ballet at your age, but this is just a cultural misconception. Ballet class is a great way to exercise, and it doesn’t mean you’re running around in a tutu and pretending to be a fairy or a sylph. There is absolutely nothing age-inappropriate about ballet class.
Myth #3: You have to be born with a slim body to do ballet
We are women (or men). We have adult bodies. These are not the bodies of teenagers nor should we expect them to be. Sure, there are some people who naturally have the lithe, slim body typical of a ballet dancer, but if that’s not you, so what? Your body has a different beauty.
I firmly believe that it’s not the way you look, it’s the way you move and hold yourself that counts. If you have a slim physique, but you slouch or droop your head or shoulders, you don’t look like a ballet dancer. But you can be curvy and voluptuous and hold yourself like a dancer and you are transformed.
I have to admit that I’ve never been that happy with my own physique (though I blame that to some extent on the serious ballet training as a teenager where I was told to lose weight if I wanted to be a professional ballet dancer, and this was in the day when I had a completely flat stomach). I am certainly no poster girl for ‘the ballet body’, but I would never give it up just because of that, and I know that I’m in a lot better shape than I would be if it wasn’t for ballet.
Ballet class teaches you how to stand and move so that you become graceful and stand taller. I’ve heard it said that if you have a good posture, you can look two dress sizes smaller, and it’s true. I have enjoyed watching women who come into my class with no ballet experience transform over a matter of weeks simply by learning how to stand with their belly pulled up, shoulders relaxed, and chin slightly lifted. It exudes confidence, plus it actually tones your muscles. Even simply standing in a ballet class can give you a workout if you do it properly.
Myth #4: You need to have previous dance experience to do ballet as an adult
Sure, if you join a ballet class that isn’t for beginners, you’ll quickly feel out of your depth and perhaps scarred for life (joking!). But that’s why we have beginner classes. There is no need to have any previous ballet or dance experience, at least for a Move Through Life beginner class. I know that one of the challenges as an adult with no previous dance experience is finding a suitable class. Either you have to join in with the young kids, or you join a class with adults who already know what they are doing.
Actually, I didn’t start ballet until I was 13 years old, and started out in class with kids five years younger than me, which made me feel, well, weird. I must have loved it though because by the time I was 18 I was accepted into a full time Bachelor of Dance, and here I am now in my mid 40s and still doing it.
Over the last 12 years that since I started Move Through Life, I have had so many people tell me they would love to have learned ballet if only they’d had the chance. And so it has become my mission in life to open that door and give people the chance to try something they’ve always wanted, regardless of previous dance experience. In our beginner ballet classes, we start with the basics and give you the building blocks to get you started.
Myth #5: Ballet classes are very serious and formal
In the ‘old’ days, ballet classes would have a very strict teacher, and pianist over in the corner churning out the accompaniment. I’ve heard terrible tales of teachers walking around with sticks wacking student’s legs if they weren’t working hard enough, or belittling students for doing something wrong.
My own ballet teacher when I was a teenager was very strict and required us to be on time, quiet in class, and to say ‘Thank you for giving me the chance to improve’ when we were given a correction. Incidentally, I didn’t mind all of that, since I just loved everything about ballet, and I thought she was wonderful. But I do know that ballet has a bit of a bad rap when it comes to having fun. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and it certainly isn’t at Move Through Life. Laughter is part of the whole experience.
One of the ways we liven up our ballet classes is with inspiring music. Some of the teachers at Move Through Life use classical music, but some don’t. I enjoy performing ballet to non-ballet music, and take a lot of pleasure in compiling my song list for each 6 week program that I’m teaching.
Even when there is an element of ‘seriousness’ in class, it is about being centred and focussed, not about taking things too seriously and being all dreary about it. Ballet is a formal style of dance, in that there are specific steps and patterns of movement, and a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to do things. There are rules to be learned, such as ‘don’t let your arms cross the midline of your body’, but these rules can also be broken if the teacher wants. These rules aren’t there to keep you in line, they are there to help you learn how to move in the most efficient way possible, and to learn to control your body, so that eventually you can fly. You just need to learn the rules first. But just because there are rules and correct ways to do things, it doesn’t mean the experience of being in the class is boring or tedious. You are allowed to have fun!
If any of these myths have been holding you back, I hope that you now realise you can take up ballet. You are not too old, too overweight, too weak, too uncoordinated, or too clumsy. Ballet is not stuffy or boring, nor too slow to give you a good workout. So what’s stopping you?
Find an adult dance class near you with Move Through Life Dance Studio. We offer classes in a number of locations around Adelaide from beginner to advanced.
Move Through Life Dance Studio offers dance classes to adults of all ages in ballet, contemporary, jazz, and tap. We pride ourselves on offering you a place to indulge your love of dance, whether you’re a complete beginner, had a long break from dance, or danced all your life. Our classes have a broad mix of ages, and our philosophy is that you are never too old to dance, it is never too late to start, and you can dance forever!
If you have any questions, get in touch with Anne on 0408 240 772 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep up with the latest from Move Through Life; dance classes, plus tips & fact sheets to help you on your dance journey…