How to Start Ballet as an Adult
The arrival of ballet studios in all metropolitan areas means that the study of dance is more open than ever before. Due to this, adult classes have exploded in popularity. Ballet is now open to any and everyone, and people take classes for a variety of reasons. Learn about choosing the right school, proper class etiquette, dance wear, and the right mindset for starting ballet within this guide.
Consider Your Reasons
There is no real right or wrong reason to start ballet. But knowing what your reasons are can help you find a studio that suits you and shares your goals. Looking to perform? Make sure to ask studios about their adult performance opportunities. Hoping to get in shape? Keep this in mind when gauging the intensity of adult ballet classes around the area.
While adult ballet classes are not drastically different from studio to studio, their end goals do diverge a bit. Writing down your reasons for starting ballet ensures that you ask the right questions before you sign up for classes. This way, you can find a studio that’s oriented with what you’re hoping to get out of ballet.
Determine Your Commitment
You may think that adult ballet classes are geared entirely toward the casual, non-committal dancer. While some are, many have stepped up their adult training.
This means that, in selecting a school, you should define what your time commitment will be. Ask yourself how many classes a week you want to take, and if you want to be involved with performances. How much will your body be able to handle? What do you want to be paying?
Commitment in ballet means many things, from physical endurance to finances. Figuring out what your limits and desires are will help you find the place that best matches you. The last thing you want is a school that you can’t afford, or a studio that doesn’t offer you enough classes throughout the week.
Once you have found a school that aligns with what you want out of ballet, it’s time for class! Make sure to inquire about the dress code for adult classes. Sometimes it can be lax, while other times there are requirements. Knowing the dress code in advance will allow you to determine the best dance wear for you.
Don’t worry about buying hundreds of dollars in leotards and cover ups. At most, you may have to purchase a leotard and tights. Outside of this, you can keep warm with simple sweat pants and/or t-shirts.
Hot Tip: Get Connected
One of the best ways to understand a ballet studio’s mentality is by talking to its teachers. If you’re interested in a studio, ask if you can observe a class. You’ll get a great idea of what you’re in for, and if the teacher is free afterward, you can ask him or her all about their classes.
At your first class, be sure to inform your teacher of any and all health problems or past injuries. By telling your teacher, (s)he will be able to guide your practice in such a way that you both avoid injury and receive the maximum health benefits of dancing. For example, if you have a knee problem, you may be told not to jump as much as other students. Your teacher may also be able to give you additional strengthening exercises to make your knee (and its supporting muscles) more stable.
Don’t feel as though you have to get in shape or stretch to prepare for your first class. The exercises performed in class are designed to warm up your body before any high impact work. Think of ballet as going to the gym: It doesn’t require a workout, it is a workout!
Keep an Open Mind
One seldom addressed issue in adult ballet is that of the adult dancer’s mindset. There is still a stigma attached to adults starting ballet in many ways. It is considered normal to start as a young child, and odd for an adult. The worst thing you can do as an adult dancer is to think that you’re “weird” or “wrong” for starting ballet. Of course, any school will have younger dancers also attending classes. But don’t think that just because you’re an adult, you shouldn’t be dancing.
Many adult dancers encounter rude or discouraging comments from younger dancers. If this happens to you, don’t let it force you out of ballet! Remember that young dancers often don’t understand adult ballet, and lash out because of it. Don't take it personally. Part of being an adult is knowing when to brush off rude comments.
Allow yourself to enjoy ballet class for what it is, as opposed to any standards or preconceived stereotypes you may have in mind. In your school, there will always be a dancer younger than you as well as a dancer older than you. Ballet is for everyone, regardless of height, weight, race, or age. Keep an open mind in class and you’ll be able to love ballet, instead of being intimidated by it.
If anyone outside of the studio hints that you shouldn’t be in ballet class, you can always respond by explaining the numerous health benefits and cultural understanding gained by being an adult ballet student. Not to mention the fact that ballet-based workouts are growing in popularity, both on TV and in gyms!
Above anything else, relax and enjoy studying the art of ballet. Class is rigorous and hard work, but by being there you’re enriching both body and mind.