Adult Ballet - Expectation v Reality

Adult Ballet - Expectation v Reality

When most people think of ballet classes they bring to mind little girls in tutus and tiaras, so it can come as a bit of a shock to discover that their 70 year old granny or 35 year old work colleague regularly go to ballet classes. As an adult ballet student it can also be a bit embarrassing to admit to, especially for those of us who most definitely don’t look like the classical ballerinas. Our bodies may well be showing a bit of wear and tear, some extra bulges or lack of muscle tone and we’re certainly not as flexible as we once were.

Yet in the ballet studio all of that gets left at the door. As we take our place at the barre, we transform. Despite the general cracking of joints asked to plie and feet that won’t point, our inner ballerina is with us. Ballet is the continuous search for unreachable perfection and it’s just as difficult and frustrating for professionals as it is for beginners.

Starting or restarting ballet as an adult is a challenging and relatively unusual thing to do, and sometimes our expectation doesn’t quite match up with the reality! On one hand, it can be a fun way to stay active and learn something new. On the other hand, it can be intimidating to take on a physical activity that is usually associated with children and young dancers. In this blog, we’ll explore the expectations versus reality of taking up ballet as an adult.

Expectation: Ballet will be hard to learn

Reality: It's true! Ballet can be difficult to learn, but with practice, it is very possible to make good technical and artistic progress as an adult beginner. Finding a patient teacher, who can help you understand the basics and build up your skills, in a class with those of similar ability will help you move forward. Regular classes, either in-studio or on-line help your body and mind to learn how to learn the physical steps as well remembering sequences. As with everything the real key is practice, practise and more practise.

Expectation: I’m too old or unfit to start

Reality: Ballet can be physically demanding, but it is very scalable to suit every age and ability. When starting from scratch or after a long gap, a beginner or introduction class is a perfect way to ease your body into the movements. Gentle warm-up and cooldown exercises can help to prepare for and recover from a class. A good teacher will be able to assess what level to teach at and make adjustments to accommodate everyone. Be sure to listen to your body and take breaks if you feel any pain or discomfort. With regular practise you’ll progress and your body will thank you for it.

Expectation: You’ll be able to do all the steps

Reality: As an adult, you may not be able to master all the steps, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy ballet. In fact, it’s important to remember that ballet is a journey, and you can continue to make progress and improve over time. Starting slowly, and adapting where needed, most steps can be conquered.  With patience and practise, you can learn the steps and build up your skills. Before you know it you’ll find steps that were really hard to understand have become easy. 

Expectation: You’ll be able to dance like a professional

Reality: Professional dancers have trained from childhood and even then it is incredibly tough to get to the top. Adults can still learn and enjoy ballet, but it’s important to be realistic about what is achievable, listen to your body and most of all enjoy what you can do and not worry about what you can’t. Whether it is a simple port de bras or your first pirouette, the beauty and grace of ballet is achievable for everyone.

Overall, taking up ballet as an adult is a great way to stay active, learn something new, make friends and have some fun. The beautiful music and graceful movements elevate it beyond exercise into art. As adults we can be too critical of ourselves, or listen to our inner voice telling us we're not good enough. Ballet is a journey, and even the most Prima of Ballerinas always feel they need to improve! Taking a ballet class is a fabulous opportunity to practise being be kind to yourself. And really, no one is watching what you're doing, we're all just trying to do the best ourselves!

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