Starting Ballet as an (ahem) Older Beginner

Starting Ballet as an (ahem) Older Beginner

Firstly – what is older?

For the purposes of this blog we are talking about starting ballet in your 50’s and upwards, although it really applies to anyone who is an adult who hasn’t done ballet before.

Adult ballet for complete beginners is gaining in popularity and if you are lucky, you may well find a dance studio or teacher who specialises in teaching adults in your town. If you are extra lucky you will find Silver Swans classes which are ballet classes specifically designed for older learners and taught by qualified licensees who the run the programme on behalf of the Royal Academy of Dance who are headquartered in the UK.

Silver Swans Licensees are trained specifically to teach ballet to adults over 55s with a range of abilitiesbut all ages are welcome.  Open, fun and accessible, these classes will help improve mobility, posture, coordination, and energy levels. Licensees are teaching all around the world including New Zealand and Australia.

The most important thing to look for as an adult beginner is a studio and teacher who you feel comfortable with. The first few classes are bound to be daunting especially if you are joining in a class which isn’t all brand new beginners. The very best way to start is to find an ‘Introduction Course’ so that you can learn with a group of equally new people and the teacher will have time to explain everything in detail starting from scratch with an assumption of no prior knowledge. Since ballet terminology is mostly in French it’s very helpful to have an opportunity to learn the names of the movements and have them described in detail.

Jumping straight into a into a ‘beginner’ class will likely mean dancing alongside people who may have been dancing for a long time but still consider themselves beginners because they don’t want to move to more advanced classes involving jumps and turns. Most teachers are perfectly fine if you just muddle along to begin with; you will be able to pick things up as you become familiar with the movements and terminology. Beginners classes often have a wide range of ‘Beginners’ so don’t be intimidated, everyone had to start somewhere and every dancer understands what it’s like to be learning something new.

‘Corrections’ are part of every ballet class. The teacher will sometimes make general corrections to the whole class after an exercise but they may also go around the class giving people individual corrections during the exercise. This is an important part of the ballet culture of learning and something that helps dancers to progress. It might seem scary at first so don’t be offended if you get a correction, it’s the teacher taking notice of you, and that’s a good thing!

If you can’t find a studio close by there are many options to learn online with teachers who focus their classes on adult beginners. Some of these are ‘live’ where the teacher can see you and give feedback, others are recorded sessions. Having a go at some online classes can be a good way to gain confidence before you hit the studio.

Whether you’re starting at home or in the studio you don’t need to invest in heap of fancy equipment or clothing. Leggings with a t-shirt and socks are perfectly practical for your first few classes. A chair or kitchen bench can be used as a barre at home. As you progress and attend more classes you will want to invest in a pair of ballet shoes and from there you can launch into the wonderful world of ballet specific clothing! Skirts, tops, leotards, tights – be warned buying ballet clothes can become addictive!

It's not an original observation that life speeds up as we age. Our appetite for challenges and new experiences decreases, we get nervous of not being able to do things; our bodies can become unreliable and unpredictable. It can be daunting to take up anything new and ballet is no exception, in fact it’s probably something that most people consider outside their natural comfort zone. It’s all too easy to not do things and stay at home. But, and it’s a big BUT the feeling of accomplishment from learning doesn’t diminish with age, nor does the pleasure of being able to move to beautiful music. Ballet feeds the mind and nourishes the body. Whether we are propped up by the barre and only able to manage the most simple steps, enjoying a seated port de bras (that’s gentle arm waving to the uninitiated), nailing our first pirouette or managing a balance on one leg, ballet is endlessly rewarding, endlessly challenging and endlessly joyful. 

Silver Swans and other classes are full of people in their 70's and 80's, so if you take up ballet in your 50's you still have the potential for a good 20+ years of happy dancing!




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