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My take on my first 6 months


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#1 pianolady

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Posted 08 October 2010 - 07:56 PM

Hello, I'm totally new to the forum and so far I found it very resourceful and welcoming. I've done search to different topics of my interest. Pls allow me to share my take on re-joining ballet again these past 6 months.

Background: I had done RAD ballet from 7 year old (pre primary) until 17 year old (Grade 6 / Pre el) and quitted for 15 to pursue my college studies, got married, had two kids, work, etc. Now I'm 32 years old. It just so happened that I relocated to the city where I did my ballet and lived quite close to the dance school, which enticed me to go back to ballet.

So six months ago I joined adult ballet (open) class. There is only one adult class in the school and the students came from variety of background, most with no ballet experience at all. No syllabus is used, most exercises are taught right in the class, involving emphasis on transfer of weights, small amount of stretching, and basic movements, no long enchainements let alone dances. I think it has been a good decision to join this class for warming-up my old muscles, but after a couple of months, I grew bored because it felt that the class is taught like re-starting from zero each time. After asking the teacher, her initial assessment indicated that I could try to join formal class (meaning RAD syllabus) at the discretion of the teacher in the syllabus classes.

So, just two months ago, I attended Grade 6 class, in which the teacher assessed me and instead recommended me to join Intermediate Foundation class, which I found out very enjoyable due to its focus on refining techniques - i totally need that. A few weeks after joining Inter-found class, the teacher there (different lady from grade 6) advised me that I could also join grade 7! (The system in the school is a bit unique in that if I take one class I would pay more, whereas if I take three classes - 4x a week it's cheaper because I would be considered as member of the school). So in the interest of cost efficiency, last months I joined as member and took three classes: Inter-found, grade 7, and jazz, with total of 6 hours per week exercise (3 hrs inter-found, 1.5 hrs gr 7, 1.5 hrs jazz). My class mates are teenagers who are very receptive to us adults, and there are two other adult students in the classes. I totally enjoy it and I feel I'm making good progress for myself - not that I'm a good dancer yet, but still..

This is what I learned so far in the process:
1. There's a bit of a culture shock moving from the adult open class - which is very lenient and not strict about rules, to the syllabus class - which is very strict in rules and mannerism. I didn't know this before, but quickly adapt to it. Always try to come on-time to class with neatly tucked bun, no cellphone, neatly ribboned shoes, and curtsey to the teacher.
2. Attending adult open class has been a good decision to warm up first. I remembered the first day I join adult class, even doing grand plie has been a torture to me. Even standing up straight is not easy. Gradually, my strength and techniques are getting better.
3. Flexibility remains a big challenge. All my syllabus classmates can do splits in every directions under the stars. My developpe devant is only 45 degree, ala seconde 50 degree, and derriere only barely 90 degree. I try not to force myself too much to avoid injury. The progress is really slow in this regard and I heard from other adult that it would take about a year until I can gain my flexibility back.
4. Aging muscles and bones. First day of Inter-found class, my hamstring (?) muscle got pulled up after a developpe devant, which took about two weeks to fully recover. I don't have major muscle tension, but I am currently having a weird stinging sensation on my lower leg bone after petit allegro. Is this something I should be cautious about? Should I drink hi-calcium milk to improve my bone strength?
5. Most annoyingly - tummy tucked in: So far I could really never satisfy my teacher. My tummy has been protruding outward after two pregnancies and I'm not sure pulling abdominal muscle can fix this.. can anyone advice me on how to improve tummy pull and what is considered a good tummy pull?
6. Lastly: My response time and head-arms-legs coordination is still quite slow. I'm trying to improve my concentration so that my response to enchainement can be more instantaneous. Have to do a lot of thinking to do movements, and I am surely hope that in due course, it would get more instantaneous.

Your comments on how to improve this is appreciated!

PS I don't know if I could ever move up to Advance level, I am currently just enjoying the class as it happens, and of course, it has been a very good physical exercise. I feel fit after the regular ballet classes!

PS My son is also starting pre-primary class and so far he had been enjoying it very much. My next plan is to get pre-primary sylabus video and music so that I can teach him at home. So excited!

#2 Balletlove

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 07:14 AM

Hi Pianolady

Firstly a very warm welcome to the board and to the adult ballet students!
Congratulations on not only going back to ballet, but also on progressing so quickly! :thumbsup:
Sadly things like warming up become essential for adult dancers just to that you dont feel like you are falling apart and flexibility is something I dream about and strive for but so far it is still somewhat elusive :)

This is my interpretation of tummy tucked in and I may be off the mark but I do dance with other adults who have had a few children and have a bit of a tummy, but for some exercises this is part of the balance and it does also help to get the weight forward.

Response time is something that I would definitely say improves with time and practice and mine is much better than it used to be but still not as good or as easy as the youngsters seem to find it.

Have patience you have only been back for a little over 6 months. It has taken me eight years to get to advanced I level although admittedly I had never done ballet as a child and I did start ballet with the odds stacked against me. :clapping:

#3 MelissaGA

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 07:22 AM

I used to feel the same way about pulling up/in my abs. I was always thinking "THEY ARE! I'M JUST FAT!" :thumbsup:

But, now that I've been a returnee for 2+ years, I see the difference. My abs are significantly stronger. While I do still have that "pooch" that comes from childbearing for some of us, I can now enage my abs properly.

As with everything in ballet, give it time.

#4 swantobe

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 08:55 AM

Welcome! :) I'm glad you've gone back to ballet and glad that you are enjoying it.

As for pulling in the tummy: I think this is the way teachers ask students to engage their abdominal muscles...so not really something to do with the "size" of one's tummy. In my classes we are usually told to "use your core muscles" as opposed to pulling in one's tummy.

As for warming up: I don't see adults at beginner classes do this, but in the classes I dance with teenagers (which, granted, are at Intermediate/Advanced level) we are all required to be warmed up and to warm up by ourselves before the class begins. So it's not just something adults should be doing!

Flexibility: This takes time. A lot of time! And regular, controlled stretching. As for developpés and such things, it is also a case of strength.

Bones and muscles: Extra calcium is always good for the bones! :shrug: However, the stinging in your leg sounds like it should be something you should check with your doctor and also tell your teacher about (maybe she/he has some suggestions, perhaps it is a technique thing, e.g. not using the plié enough). Better not to leave unusual things like that unattended!

Co-ordination: Again, comes with time. It has been 3 years since I returned to ballet and it is only in the last year that head/arm co-ordination has become "natural" and swift. Sometimes it is still lacking, though!

I hope you continue to enjoy dancing!
Dancing is the loftiest, the most moving, the most beautiful of the arts, for it is no mere translation or abstraction of life. It is life itself. - Henry Havelock Ellis

#5 pianolady

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 05:46 PM

Thank you all for the reply!

Re flexibility - I will search the forum for more info on controlled stretching and applying daily stretching regiment (upon arriving in my office - using my desk and shelf as barre)

Re tummy - exactly what is meant is core muscle and pulling up the whole upper body - need more practice and getting use to. I see good progress although not quite fast.

Re pain in the lower leg bone - what i meant is middle part of my tibia. I really2 hope that this may be temporary condition - i'm watching out. Seems this only triggered by jumps. I asked my teacher briefly about this and she said it maybe because I overstretched my pointe and I should apply painkiller ointment prior class - but I doubt that it's the explanation. It's definitely the bone and not tendon or muscle. I suspect I might have bad landing that is not well-soften by the plie - I might unconsciously land abruptly.

I also started pointe class. I should be careful but so far it has been manageable, no pain.

I may not be a good dancer yet, but going back to ballet so far has been addictive, exciting, and joyful!

I realize, all-in-all, I really need to watch out with regards to my aging body and not pushing myself too much to avoid permanent injury.

#6 pianolady

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Posted 19 October 2010 - 05:46 PM

Thank you all for the reply!

Re flexibility - I will search the forum for more info on controlled stretching and applying daily stretching regiment (upon arriving in my office - using my desk and shelf as barre)

Re tummy - exactly what is meant is core muscle and pulling up the whole upper body - need more practice and getting use to. I see good progress although not quite fast.

Re pain in the lower leg bone - what i meant is middle part of my tibia. I really2 hope that this may be temporary condition - i'm watching out. Seems this only triggered by jumps. I asked my teacher briefly about this and she said it maybe because I overstretched my pointe and I should apply painkiller ointment prior class - but I doubt that it's the explanation. It's definitely the bone and not tendon or muscle. I suspect I might have bad landing that is not well-soften by the plie - I might unconsciously land abruptly.

I also started pointe class. I should be careful but so far it has been manageable, no pain.

I may not be a good dancer yet, but going back to ballet so far has been addictive, exciting, and joyful!

I realize, all-in-all, I really need to watch out with regards to my aging body and not pushing myself too much to avoid permanent injury.

#7 pianolady

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 01:50 PM

It's now been one year since I re-started ballet and six month since I am taking syllabus class (RAD Major IF Grade and Grade 7). And I am enjoying it very much! I even trying to take class every day where I can by taking extra classes.

In addition, I am also trying to improve my stamina and core muscle by daily 30 minutes jogging and once-a week gym session with a personal trainer during the past 2 months. It has significantly improved my stamina, and core muscle strength has really helped especially in pirouette.

One pitfall that I need to overcome is still flexibility. My teacher said I need to stretch every day in order to have significant effect. I have not done this so far - I only stretch for a short while in class. I am abit discouraged by the fact that other students in the class easily improve their flexibility (well, they're 12 year olds while I'm 33).

The teacher has been really motivating and also giving out challenge. I am happy that I have gone on pointe and practicing pirouettes on that too. Even last week we tried fouette turns on demi pointe - it was a mess but really fun!

Another question is - to what extend can I be a good dancer, considering my age? Although I am conscious that I'm doing ballet mostly for exercise and fitness, I really hope that I can be a good dancer, at least in class.

#8 BlleFille

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Posted 26 May 2011 - 03:01 PM

I am right along there with you...having returned to ballet since I was 12 or so (I am in my thirties too:)) and I adore it too..and want so badly to be good!
Things DO seem to improve, if slowly. I am also doing beginner pointe and LOVE it, though it is so hard to get the right shoes and when you do, to break them in!
I have dreams of being at least one of the better dancers in my adult class (which is very professionally taught) if not, at some point, to perform in some little way:)
It's not so much about competition with others as doing the very best that I can do for myself:) I refuse to feel old and limited and not having kids, maybe I can fool myself a bit that I AM still a kid myself! LOL;)
Does your school do recitals? I am hoping that mine will...that would be something to work towards at least!

#9 Miss Persistent

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Posted 27 May 2011 - 03:51 AM

One pitfall that I need to overcome is still flexibility. My teacher said I need to stretch every day in order to have significant effect. I have not done this so far - I only stretch for a short while in class. I am abit discouraged by the fact that other students in the class easily improve their flexibility (well, they're 12 year olds while I'm 33).



Another question is - to what extend can I be a good dancer, considering my age? Although I am conscious that I'm doing ballet mostly for exercise and fitness, I really hope that I can be a good dancer, at least in class.


Pianolady, I am smiling ever so gently to myself as I read this, because I love that your are frustrated with your flexibilty - but I am smiling because your benchmark is the 12 year olds! Unfortunatly, nature takes its course and before puberty it is far easier to gain large increases in flexibility with little effort - post puberty it is oh so hard to gain little increases with much effort BUT - It is by no means impossible.

The main thing to remember is that as you the more training you are doing (ballet and cross training), the more flexibility work you will need to do. If you increase your hours in class, you need to increase your time spent developing flexibility. And i say developing flexibility instead of stretching on purpose. There are ways to increase your flexibility along with stretching. Tension release, massage, even accupunture can reduce the amount of tension held in the muscles, which is one of the biggest limitors of flexibility. This is why as your training load increases, your muscles often get tighter - you are asking them to do more, but not giving them more relief! Think of it like when you keep stuffing more and more and more into your handbag (or is that just me?) It used to be nice and functional, but now it is chockas full of junk, and you need to clean it out and reorganise. Muscles work a bit like that too - lots of effort can lead to a build up of things like lactic acid, little bundles of muscles fibres etc. which causes tension, and if it's not worked out they will just get tighter and tighter. Make a concerted effort to do stretching, along with maybe some self massage, pressure releases with a tennis ball in sore spots or foam rolling and I reakon you'll see an improvement.

As for being a "good" dancer - you need to define for yourself what is good. I am sure you are certainly able to being a good dancer - my adult students are my favourite to teach because they always work hard, and hold themselves to high standards - but everyone's standard is different, and also needs to be realistic to themselves. For one person being "good" is a double pirrouette", for another being able to do a soutenus without falling over is "good"!. Define what it means to you to be a good dancer, and then work towards it and enjoy the journey :unsure:

#10 pianolady

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Posted 21 June 2011 - 08:54 PM

The main thing to remember is that as you the more training you are doing (ballet and cross training), the more flexibility work you will need to do. If you increase your hours in class, you need to increase your time spent developing flexibility. And i say developing flexibility instead of stretching on purpose. This is why as your training load increases, your muscles often get tighter - you are asking them to do more, but not giving them more relief!


Thanks for enlightening me Miss Persistent! I didn't know that with more training the muscle can become tighter instead of more flexible. My teacher actually advised me to do stretching everyday (warmed-up of course).
1. Do you have a suggestion on little training regiment that I can do in my spare time to improve my flexibility?
2. I try everyday to stretch upon arriving in the office, by putting my legs up in the filing cabinets and desks, I wonder if this is effective?
3. Also, since ballet is so addictive, now I come to class 5-6 times a week.. and if I am out of town for office assignments, my body craves for ballet. I wonder if this can help to improve my flexibility - as you said above muscle gets tighter with more works?

As for being a "good" dancer - you need to define for yourself what is good. I am sure you are certainly able to being a good dancer - my adult students are my favourite to teach because they always work hard, and hold themselves to high standards - but everyone's standard is different, and also needs to be realistic to themselves. For one person being "good" is a double pirrouette", for another being able to do a soutenus without falling over is "good"!. Define what it means to you to be a good dancer, and then work towards it and enjoy the journey :unsure:


I just wonder whether my lack of flexibility - being an adult student - would inhibit me being a good dancer. Further, would it be realistic for me, is it possible, to land in advanced level RAD, for example? There is another adult student in my school, the same age of me, who is now pursuing Advanced 2 RAD and she is showing me that it may be possible to reach that level.

Oh well, for now I just try to take it one step at a time, trying my best at my current level, and enjoy the journey. But I also need to know ways to overcome my shortcomings - to find out if i can break beyond my current limitation. Not for going on stage or to become a famous dancer (that's not possible anymore with age), but just to push my own boundaries.

I am right along there with you...having returned to ballet since I was 12 or so (I am in my thirties too:)) and I adore it too..and want so badly to be good!
Does your school do recitals? I am hoping that mine will...that would be something to work towards at least!


yes there is annual recital for the school.. but i am not confident to go on stage and i doubt i get selected (usually the recital is for selected student). But we'll see what will come out.. an audition for this recital is coming this week and I signed up.. again, just to push my boundaries. No disappointment if i don't get any roles in the recital.

Edited by pianolady, 21 June 2011 - 08:58 PM.


#11 pianolady

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 08:37 PM

Just an update! One month ago I went to take my RAD Intermediate Foundation examination. Crossing my fingers I hope to get good results and can't wait to learn the new Intermediate syllabus next year. Next week I'm doing the recital together with fellow Intermediate - advanced students doing one small jazz ballet piece.

Slowly but surely progressing. I now managed to get front splits - but i'm still working on my side splits. I'm also still working on my extensions so that to reach more than 90 degrees. I also need to work a lot to get my stamina - I easily lose my breath when doing allegros. I'm thinking of doing daily walk / cardio work to improve my stamina. I need to work on my pirouette to gain consistency in quality - pirouettes are so unpredictable, they're like having a mind of their own. I also need to work on my landing from jumps since I discover to have a little pain on my lower leg which I suspect due to wrong landing. Also, need to work on my core muscle through various conditioning exercises.

Still I can't stop admiring my fellow teenage students who are so quick in catching up, so pliable, so adept in steep learning curve. Their bodies are so well suited to ballet since they have done it continuously since they were little, unlike me who just re-started one year ago.

All in all, I am enjoying the process of progressing through the level - albeit slowly. It would be a big bonus to me if I could obtain ARAD certification before I'm 40 years old. But if not ARAD, that's OK too. Although I don't aspire to be a professional dancer, going through the RAD levels gives the feeling that I'm progressing to become a better dancer.

#12 Hamorah

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 05:28 AM

That's great that you have started to take examinations and I wish you all the best in getting up to Advanced 2 level, which is what will give you your ARAD status! The new Intermediate is lovely - I'm sure you will enjoy learning it. A little note of caution - pain in the shin bone could be due to shinsplints, which are tiny cracks in the bone caused by too much pressure - if it persists do check it out with a doctor - you may need to rest. Are you landing through the feet from jumps? Do you use your plie to soften the landing? See if concentrating on these things helps the pain in your shin. Don't go overboard with the fitness training - there is such a thing as "too much" exercise you know!

#13 jimpickles

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 07:45 AM

Interesting to read this story which I had not seen before - amusing to see your despair at lack of flexibility, then being able to do the spits in just over a year. Congratulations - that is fast progress for an adult!

As a matter of interest, has your "tum" improved? Is it back to how you want?

If you need more core exercises, I dont think you can do better than Pilates mat classes.

Jim.

#14 pianolady

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Posted 10 March 2012 - 11:16 PM

I feel thoroughly heartened by all the supportive comments here! I have received the result for Intermediate Foundation (old syllabus).. I got overall score of 70 - Merit..not bad for someone who had stopped ballet for 16 years.. however I was a bit disheartened by the fact that all my classmates (which are 11-14 year olds) got all Distinctions hahahaha..

When I saw the detailed result form, it only shows scores per section. There is no more detailed comments handwritten by the examiner like the old result form. Hence it is difficult to determine what exactly my shortcomings because the scores don't tell so much. Is it my posture, lines, or what? It's a bit frustrating to know the score but not knowing what exactly..

Here is my scores breakdown:
  • Technique - Barre: 7
  • Technique - Port de Bras, Centre Practice, and Pirouettes: 6
  • Technique - Adage: 6
  • Technique - Allegro: 7
  • Technique - Pointe: 7
  • Music - Timing and Rhythm: 8
  • Music - Responsiveness to the music: 7
  • Performance: 7
  • Dance Study - Technique: 7
  • Dance Study - Music and Performance: 8
  • Special consideration mark: 0
  • TOTAL SCORE 70
If anyone could help me decipher all these numbers.. very much appreciated

Meanwhile I am doing my Grade 7 exam in the coming weeks, sooo.. wish me luck in this too!

#15 Garyecht

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 09:18 AM

If all you have are the numbers, you pretty much can't conclude anything. My best guess (and it is only a guess I emphasize) is that your center work is your relative weakness. I'd also guess that you might be able to figure out specifically what you have difficulty with.

In scoring systems like the one apparently used, often the scorer forms an overall impression of your work and then that overall impression guides what the scorer puts down for the categories. It is very easy to read too much into scores like that.

I had to laugh at that last category, special consideration. We used to call things like that "brownie points,"

I understand that exams are part of the culture in RAD. They can act as something like merit badges to encourage people to continue. They can provide goals for students to attain. But outside of that and especially for adults, what do they really mean? To me, as an adult student (who spent his entire professional life in the standardized testing business) it is nothing.