How to Take Up Ballet as an Adult or Older Teen

At some point in their lives most girls desire to put on a frilly tutu, lace up ribbons and whirl the gracelful dance of ballet. Maybe they practice in their living rooms, or take lessons for awhile, but most do nothing, going about their lives and getting wistful thoughts whenever the ballet comes into town, wishing that they too had taken lessons. Many women are also under the impression that if they didn’t start young that there is no place for them in ballet among the bendy nine year olds and the semi-professional 19 year olds. That’s where they’re wrong. Ballet is for ALL ages, and ballet studios cater to all types of people, encouraging everyone to take up this wonderful dance form as a life-long hobby. With ballet, its never too late.

If you walk into my adult ballet class you’ll see a huge age range of people. There are young college students taking the class for fun, professional women taking it to relieve stress, 60-somethings taking it to stay flexible, and the occasional “serious dancer” taking a slower class while recovering from an injury. In short, anyone and everyone can take a beginning adult ballet class. The first step is too look up the dance studios in your area and see which classes offer adult beginning ballet, or beginning teen ballet (where adults are placed if there are no adult classes). Sometimes there are also open beginning classes where young and old can learn together. The point is to find one that you feel comfortable with, and, for most begining adult students, that is in an adult only begining class.

After you’ve found a studio with a class that fits your schedule, drop in to observe the class. You’ll find it much less intimidating watching your first time. Meet the instructor and discuss your goals. Do you want to relieve stress? Gain strength? Improve your ballet and see how far you can go? Your instructor will tell encourage you and answer your questions. Talk to the students after class as well. What they’re doing may look advanced as you observe but when talking to them you’ll find that many are very begining students as well. I have found adults learning ballet together to be some of the most encouraging people I know!

While you’re there take a look at the clothing the students are wearing. Most adult classes don’t have a dress code but you’ll still want to look professional and fit in with the rest of the students. If you’re not comfortable in a leotard, and many adults aren’t, buy one anyway and wear it under your shirt. It will help you get the “feel” of the dance and project dancer confidence. The same for your tights. Always buy ballet pink tights, even if you’re wearing them under pants. Remember, even if you’re covering up, wear tops and bottoms that are as form fitting as possible so you can see your body and your teacher can make the proper corrections. Check out the local dance shop for cute dance knitwear to wear as warmups. This is where you will buy your shoes as well. Purchase pink leather or canvas shoes. The sales people will help fit you with the shoes that work best for your feet.

When it comes time to take your first class get there early so you will feel comfortable in the studio. Introduce yourself to all of the students and be sure to place yourself in the middle of the group, where there will always be someone to watch. If someone tries to take your spot move over! Dancers can be territorial about their place on the barre! Also be sure your hair is off of your face and bring a waterbottle and notebook. Listen to your teacher and be sure to ask if there is something you don’t understand. The beauty of ballet is that people of multiple levels can practice together. Don’t be frusterated if the woman nest to you can stretch farther, or that the girl behind you can do double frappes when you’re struggling with one. They were all beginners once and you WILL improve! After class you might want to jot down excercises or stretches you feel comfortable practicing at home. Talk to your teacher and see how you did. Chances are she’ll have some tips for you and give you steps to work on.

All adults want to know if there is a chance to someday dance point? It is very, very difficult for an adult student to get to that level but it can be done! Once you’ve been at your studio for a few months, if that is your goal mention it to your teacher. You will need to take multiple classes a week to get to that level and she can help you reach your goal. I know of many women who danced point for the first time in their 30’s, even if all they do are barre excercises in their pointe shoes, they’ve reached a life long goal. If it is yours, don’t give up!

There are many resources out there for the beginning adult student. Take as many classes as you can and keep an open dialogue with your teacher. I also recommend purchasing Joffery Ballet School’s Ballet Fit. This book is specifically written for the beginning adult student and is fabulous! It give detailed information on EVERYTHING you can imagine. I also recommend joining the livejournal community AdultBeginningBallet. This will give you the forum to talk to others who are going through the same journey you are.

Most of all remember to have fun! Ballet is a learning process, and, if done correctly, it can be a life-long hobby that brings much enjoyment. If you’re not having fun talk to your teacher, don’t give up. Everyone goes through frustrating times when they’re learning something new and dance has a steep learning curve. Just remember your goals, relax and listen to the music. In no time at all you’ll be whirling across the floor!

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