Part 1 of this series on ‘starting ballet as an adult’, covered the first two steps. Step 1 was getting clear on what it is you are want to get out of ballet. Step 2 is finding the right studio to give you what you’re looking for.
In part 2, you’ll discover how to prepare yourself to start, including:
- checking your expectations
- connecting with other adult ballet dancers online
- online learning
Step 3: Prepare to start
There are a few things you can do that can be really helpful in easing into your new identity as an adult ballet dancer.
Check your expectations
Ballet takes time. You need to develop new neuromuscular pathways, learn a new language (as it’s all in French), and become skilled at performing specific and prescribed movements.
In your initial classes, you may feel like you’re not building up a sweat, although you’ll probably feel it in your muscles the next day. You will spend some time learning fundamental movements before you can string them together to really feel like you’re dancing.
Also be aware that you won’t be dancing en pointe for quite some time, as you need to develop a lot of strength in your core muscles, turnout muscles, legs, ankles, and toes before you are able to go en pointe.
The truth is that ballet is not good for building up long term cardiovascular endurance, as it is very stop/start. The teacher will take you through an exercise, and then you’ll perform it, so you’re not moving all the time. At more advanced levels, it can be a bit more like HIIT (high intensity interval training), as you’ll learn longer combinations of movements that require intense effort for a short time.
Ballet is excellent for improving your balance, coordination, memory, and concentration, as well as strength. It probably won’t improve flexibility a great deal unless you do extra stretch work, although the regular ballet class movements can improve calf flexibility (demi plies), upper back flexibility (cambre, which you may not do at first), and legs (grand battement).
I guess what I’m saying is, be patient. It will take a few lessons before you start to feel like you’re dancing, and not doing ‘exercises’. You will need to concentrate. But eventually, the movements will become ingrained in your muscle memory, and it will start to flow.
I don’t believe that talent or ability determines whether or not you can become an adult ballet dancer. I think it’s mindset. So before you even start, I suggest taking the time to get into the right headspace.
Ballet has it’s challenges, but is rewarding
You might find it all really hard at first because:
- the movements are quite detailed
- everything is foreign (including the movement and the language)
- you’ll be using all of your body, including toes and fingers, which requires a lot of mental energy at first, plus coordinate arms and legs (and even head movements)
Going into your first classes knowing this may help you avoid feeling discouraged.
Make a commitment to yourself
Don’t go into class thinking ‘I’ll just try one class and see what I think’. One class does not give you a true indication of what it’s like to do ballet. Instead, I suggest you give yourself at least three months, or even better, a year.
Be kind to yourself
- focus on your progress, not what you find difficult
- watch out for any inner chatter where you tell yourself you shouldn’t be doing this
- use the mirror to check your technique, not to inwardly criticise the way you look
- get rid of the stereotypes – you don’t need to be ballet dancer thin, you don’t need flat turnout, you don’t need to have danced before.
Understand that you won’t be judged
When I ask my adult dance students what their biggest fears were before they started class, most of them say they worried about being judged.
They worried that:
- everyone else would have a perfect ballet body
- everyone else will know what they are doing
- people would secretly laugh at them for thinking they could do ballet.
But what they invariably find, is that:
- people are friendly, welcoming and supportive
- everyone else is a beginner too
- most people have everyday adult bodies (not the super thin ballet stereotype)
- people put all their focus into their own dancing and don’t even notice what anyone else is doing
Of course, this is what adult dancers experience at Move Through Life. But I believe most dance studios that specialise in adults will have the same kind of welcoming atmosphere. If you do feel judged when you get there, then perhaps it’s not the right place for you. Don’t give up. You’ll find somewhere that recognizes all that you have to offer, and will love helping you fall in love with ballet.
Find an adult dance online community
There are quite a few adult dance groups on Facebook, where you can connect with others who are on the same journey as you, or have been there. They can give you moral support, advice, and tips. If you do end up joining a class that isn’t exclusively adults, having an online community can make a huge difference and make you feel less isolated.
Move Through Life has an online Facebook group (www.facebook.com.au/groups/mtl-dancestudio) and we’d love to see you in our online community. A couple of other great groups are Ballerinas by Night, and Kathryn Morgan’s Ballet Community.
Consider online lessons for the basics
If you are an absolute beginner (no previous ballet or dance experience) and the class is an ongoing beginner class (as opposed to a set time course for absolute beginners), you may not learn the basics (like ballet posture, turnout, using the feet, how to hold your hands and arms correctly). In that case, an online ballet intro course can make a huge difference. And of course, if you can’t find a suitable class in your area, an online course may be your only option.
Move Through Life offers an online Introduction to Ballet course, where you can learn via videos, connect with other beginner adult ballet dancers and your teacher through a closed Facebook group, and receive ongoing guidance and encouragement as you progress on your journey.
The third part of this series on starting ballet as an adult covers your first class, and how to get the most out of classes, including practising at home and starting a ballet journal.
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 email firstname.lastname@example.org
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