Guest jmkoffler

Looking for Lessons in Houston TX - New to Ballet

12 posts in this topic

Hi everyone, I'm new to Ballet Talk. I'm a 27 year old fit guy who is looking to take on the fine art of ballet. I'm seeing if anyone here is in Houston, has taken classes anywhere or has any suggestions of a good place for me to get started. I live in the loop near Rice. My only fear is being so terribly uncoordinated that they'll stick me in the baby ballerina classes. I've been told that it will take a few months before i will be able to move properly in ballet so I want to find a friendly place that doesn't make me want to quit because of the aloof and indifferent attitudes of the instructor and classmates (this happened the first time I tried taking ballet class a year ago).

 

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

 

Jeff

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I'm sure others more familiar with the area will be able to give better suggestions than I, but as a first step, you may find it helpful to check out this link to open classes at Houston Ballet's academy. They have an introductory class that sounds as if it's appropriate for beginners.

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Sorry, I'm not from Houston so I won't be of much help in finding a dance studio. I can relate however to your comment about the studio you attended a year ago. As an older begineer, I had kind of the same reception when I started in January. I was not made to feel welcome and encouraged to get better - it was more of a "what's the matter with this guy?" attitude. I'm not paranoid but I did feel like people were talking (and laughing) at me behind my back.

 

Getting to the point, I stuck with it, have gotten a lot better, and by my indeifference to what others thought, have started to be accepted. In fact, now when I occassionaly miss a class, the teachers and other students always ask if I was sick or something, and seem glad that I am back in class with them.

 

I guess being older males in an art conmsisting of predominantly younger females, we are "naturally" out of place, but only if we buy into that attitude. Stick to your guns wherever you decide to study ballet, and don't pay any attention to what others think, say or do. Afterall, their opinions don't really count, and if you truly want to dance, then dance!

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Thank you for the link! The Houston Ballet is my first choice for classes, it seems to have the best reputation. Do you think they'll let me observe a class before I sign up? I'm hoping to hear any comments from any guys/girls that have taken any class there and if they liked it and if it was a good atmosphere.

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Thanks for the kind encouragement!

 

I am hoping to avoid this situation again with the attitude. I received almost no support or corrections on my "moves/steps/technique/postion" I don't even know the correct terminology, sorry. I just sort of stumbled through everything mimic-ing what the girls did...it was as if I wasn't there....not a great environment for learning dance. I just want to understand what I'm doing so I can improve. Hopefully I will be able to shop around a bit this time to find a good fit for myself.

 

Thanks.

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Jeff, what you seemed to experience there is familiar to many, many male students, young and old. It's called "sink or swim" and while a little of it can go a long way, a steady diet is sufficient to discourage and depress almost any sentient being. I think a lot of the mentality behind the practice is, "You're MEN! Hoo, hoo, ho, ho; you're rough, you're tough, you're hairy. You don't feel pain, you jest at scars, you leave the seat up! You're MEN!" It's a lousy attitude toward any student, and should be a sign to leave whenever you find it.

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I think some of that attitude can also come from the perception that the ballet studio is the "girl zone". In that case, a man may actually be unwelcome to the social scene. Not the way ballet SHOULD be, but it IS that way in some places.

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Two points:

 

1) I was lucky, I found a place that was explicitly for adults-only total beginners, and advertised "all ages and shapes are welcome!". Hopefully there's something like that in Houston too. Probably the "total beginner" is the most important part - look for a class that meets regularly and has a starting date, i.e. not a drop-in class but a developmental class.

 

2) Once you're there, just get into doing the moves - get inside yourself, all the other stuff can fade out. The mental concentration is a major part of the art anyhow. If the place is any good, they will eventually pick up that you are serious about learning to move this way, no other agenda. (There's a not unreasonable paranoia in the business, especially if the class includes younger women.) I imagine, fair or not, most minorities learn to expect a probationary period in any new environment. Us guys are certainly a minority in this world!

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Hi Everyone,

 

Just a quick update:

 

I went to observe the houston met dance beginning ballet class monday

night and I don't know what to think. I don't know much about ballet,

but the instructor was definitely throwing out a lot of terminology

that I didn't quite get...I understand some things like releve and

plie and a few other terms, but I'm definitely going to have to get

that book that was recommended. There were only 5 girls in the class,

two were wearing sweat pants and one girl was just not into it (not a whole lot of energy). The

instructor told me that they usually have over twice as many students,

but with the holidays it's kinda dead. She did a good job of pushing

their legs and arms into positions, and the method seemed like it was

building on things they've learned previously, but it's nothing that I

couldn't handle. One of my concerns were the pauses between

exercises...it seemed like there was a lot of time that the girls were

doing nothing between the barre exercises. Is this normal, or were

they supposed to be continuing to practice their moves? Anyway, I'm

going back on wednesday to get an idea of how the male instructor

works.

 

Tonight I'm going to go to the houston ballet's adult open class and

see how that goes. They haven't responded to my email, so I think I'll

give them a call and see if it's ok for me to watch. If this works out

too (and turns out not to be too expensive...they don't have prices

listed) I could easily take ballet monday, tuesday and wednesday

nights which would be excellent for getting me up to speed. I'm so

excited, I truly want to be skilled in this art, it's so beautiful and

technically it's quite a challenge. I would love to work up to a

decent level and maybe just maybe audition for a little part in a

performance sometime this spring/summer. Do you think 3 nights a week

is too much? I'm planning on using this as my primary exercise for the

week. I think i can leave the bike at home for a few months since it

gets dark out so early these days.

 

How do ballet dancers get their feet to curl in so much? Is there a

special stretch for that too? Is this what they call pretty feet? What

is turnout exactly and do you either have it or you don't? Is it

something I can develop?

 

Thanks Guys,

Jeff

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Jeff:

 

 

I don't think it's unsual to find intro classes that move a little slow. Especially if a teacher is using CD's, there can be lag time between exercises. I've found sometimes adult intro classes tend to get "chatty" between exercises which drags the class out. It's been my experience this stops happening as you get into more advanced classes. Classes get faster and more complex as you advance. Generally the students become more focused and you spend more time doing exercises and movement so lag time is greatly reduced in more advanced classes.

 

A book on ballet terms is a good idea. For beginners, I always recommend the book by the Royal Academy of Dance called Step by Step Ballet Class (Amazon.com Link). It's easy to find, most book stores carry it in their dance section (it has a pink binder). It's written for children so it's very clear. They have great illustrations showing how each basic step is executed and the terminology for each step. If you go to class a lot, you'll likely progress fast enough that very soon you won't be looking at the book any more, but the first few months I looked at it after each class. I strongly recommend you get this book.

 

As for the number of times a week you take class, the more the better when you're first starting. You need repetition to learn and retain steps in dance. You can't progress very well if you're going once a week. But beware, the more classes you're taking when you start, the more you'll notice aches and pains in your feet and legs. Most of this is because you'll be using muscles in ways you haven't used them before and your body has to adjust. A lot of this will disappear in the first year or so. I find when I take lots of classes in a week, even after several years of dancing, my feet and calves bother me moreso than usual. Approach the number of classes you take with care and listen to your body: Don't push too hard too fast or you'll pay for it. As eager as we are when we first start, the idea is to dance a long time so be kind to yourself at this stage and don't over-do it.

 

About those nice, curved feet. Oh, those nice, perfect feet we all long for... Either you're born with them or you have to work like #@X* to get them. As adults, chances are we won't get great feet like that unless we took dance as a child. You can strengthen your feet and increase you're natural ability, but we're simply up against physiology at some point -- the cartlidge and metatarsels will start to set as we age and felxibility will become less and less as time wears on. It happens to everyone. Children work very hard to strength their feet to delay this from happening, but we of a "certain age" have to face reality. You can work on it and improve it somewhat, but you may never actually get those perfect, curled feet.

 

Welcome to BA. I've always found this to be a good resource and a supportive environment. Keep posting and let us know how you progress.

 

Ed

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knock knock girl posting here so remove if inappropriate:

 

I found another nice book. It is called "Ballet for Dummies" :angry: and I found it extremely entertaining to read and very helpful.

For an adult beginner I would certainly recommend it.

 

Ballet For Dummies

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Hope you were able to observe the HB open class and you enjoyed it. My daughter dances there and has said that the open beginner classes are great for anyone who wants to learn - any age. Good luck to you!

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