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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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Hello Everyone!!!  My name is Alexis.  I’m very happy to have found these boards.

I am interested in beginning Adult Ballet classes at age 34.  I have no previous ballet experience.  Therefore, I’m a bit nervous.

Needless to say, I’m more nervous because I am Male to Female gender fluid/transgender individual.  As I continue on my life journey, I always wanted to learn and Master the art of ballet.

My city offers Adult Open Division classes at night.  However, I was curious to get anyone’s thoughts/opinions as to whether or not I will be generally accepted, given my gender identity.  

I was also curious as to what to wear.  I know that Open division classes have a more relaxed dress code.  However, since I want to take this seriously, I read that wearing more form-fitting clothing like a leotard, tights, and slippers is preferred by instructors.

I’m looking forward to reading your replies and participating in further discussions!!

Edited by Alexis83
Mistake on word

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Hi alexis! Welcome to BT4D and to your esteemed status as an adult student. I am sure you will get lots of excellent advice and support on this forum. I know I have. When I started as an adult I was very lucky to go to a happy and accepting studio. Most newbies wore athletic gear and ballet slippers. The learning curve is long and part of it was getting used to seeing my entire body in a really big mirror. I gradually wore tights, Leo and booty shorts but honestly everyone wore what they felt happy in. For me wearing the ballet clothes made me feel more confident not less. Like slipping into a new skin. As far as gender goes I don't really know except I think you shouldn't stay at any studio that makes you feel anything other than another student with lots of work to do. I am not going to suggest that the ballet world is somehow innoculated against conservatism. It ain't. It would be excellent if you feel able to share your experiences along the road. Enjoy and good luck. 

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Hi Alexis. I hope you enjoy learning ballet! 

I have danced with a couple of trans adult students, and it appears to have been a non-issue. I hope that's your experience, too. 

One of these students has danced at the studio since before transitioning, and I think the trickiest thing is managing the gendered expectations of ballet - if they previously went with the "men's" group for big jumps (slower tempo, sometimes different vocabulary), do they continue to go in that group or not? It looks like those choices have been left largely up to the student in this case. 

Those kinds of gendered distinctions are somewhat less evident at the beginner levels, but they don't disappear. You might give some thought in advance as to what you would want to do in those circumstances - would you want to try the female part or styling or the male one? Or try both and see what feels right to you? You might want to talk about that with your teacher at some point. 

As for clothing, I think most students starting ballet as adults begin by wearing close-fitting workout clothes and then pick a ballet style that works for them in terms of comfort level and trends at their own studio. 

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, Alexis.

We had an obviously transexual student at my local ballet studio for a while. There was no problem about her presentation as female, except that she rather oddly wore tight (booty style) shorts under her pink tights, rather than over - which the rest of us would wear over tights (I wear knitted warm up shorts over leotard & tights).

The real problem was that she disrupted the class in other ways - never followed the teacher's choreography, didn't do the set exercises but did some other weird stuff (it was so distracting most of us tried not to be near her at the barre), would actually walk in front of people across the floor when we were doing grand allegro  and she was doing whatever she called "ballet" (I almost crashed into her once), and wore pointe shoes without the teacher's permission. But this was just bad behaviour, nothing to do with her sex/gender presentation. And as our studio has a very strong policy of diversity & acceptance, my lovely teacher rarely said anything. I'm sure you won't have that problem!

You do need to get some advice about what is going to be comfortable and safe for you to wear. But you probably don't want to draw attention to yourself for the "wrong" reasons, so I think you should try for fairly unisex or generally male but not masculine clothing (if you see what I mean about the difference). I wouldn't go for the full pink catastrophe - bit mainly because very few adult dancers do! Particularly not beginners. It depends how much you feel you want to cover up. But yoga tights or long leg leggings, over a close fitting top + soft ballet shoes would be fine, normal, and pretty much unisex. Go for neutral, darker tones - grey, black, blue, and you'll fit right in!

Personally, as a child of the 1970s, when men had long hair and wore flowing velvet & lots of make up, while women had short hair, dungarees and boots, I don't see why men nowadays can't try to broaden the bounds of what it is to be a man - we'd all be better off without the rigid gender distinctions we seem to have nowadays (as opposed to biological sex differences). But as Gav advises, you may need to make some decisions about how you do class. Although I have to say, at the beginner level, ballet is pretty unisex.

Good luck & I hope you find a good class where you can start learning this wonderful art!

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Hi Alexis, 

welcome to the wonderful world of ballet! I've just recently taken the first steps and started to discover it. When I started I was really nervous as well but several weeks in I am really comfortable going to class. 

In my class there are only a few (including myself) wearing ballet gear, most have running tights and a t-shirt. So I wouldn't worry about clothing to much except for wearing a dancebelt. 

Have fun!



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Hi Alexis;

You should definitely start.  I took my first ballet class in my early 30s, and am astounded at how far I have come in just a few years.  It's completely possible to start late and become proficient.  I'll never be a professional ballerina, or completely master the art, but that doesn't mean that I can't dance.

I strongly recommend looking for an "adult beginner" class rather than an "adult open" one - or at least calling the studio to clarify whether their open is beginner/intermediate or advanced/former pro.  Taking your very first class surrounded by people who can easily whip out really complicated stuff while you're still trying to figure out how to stand still in the correct position without falling over is NOT my idea of a good time ;)

Speaking as an adult student, I have zero issues with your gender identity being in transition.  And it's highly likely that I'll be so focussed on my own stuff that I may not even notice.  If you're in class to learn, and are polite and respectful, we're good.  Like anywhere, you may encounter people who feel otherwise... but am I reasonably sure you're well equipped to deal with that.

On what to wear:

For about my first year, I took class in yoga pants/leggings and a workout top (usually a fairly form-fitting tank).  Still do sometimes, if I'm running late or have a full day, though I generally try to go a little more "ballet attire".  The change in wardrobe roughly coincided with my move out of the beginners level to a more advanced class.  I say don't spend money on special clothing right away, just wear something that you feel comfortable in and lets you move.  Bonus points for fairly fitted attire that lets the teacher see how you are using your body.

I bought ballet slippers right away, and they were a worthwhile investment.  Learn from my mistakes though... my advice if you are all serious is to just go into a store and try a bunch on and buy the ones that feel the best, even if they're the more expensive version.  Don't try to save money by looking for online deals, or buying stuff that's not right, but on sale as you'll end up spending more in the long run.  You can find slippers in pink, black and white pretty easily, with tan, grey, etc. also around.  Traditional is black or white for men, and pink for ladies... but I've found that in the adult classes, no one really cares what colour you are wearing as long as they fit your feet.  I have a pink leather full sole (great for strength building and slippery floors), a pink canvas split-sole (what I am usually wearing, as my classes are on Marley floors), and a black canvas split sole (which I like to wear when I'm wearing black footed tights).  No, you don't need multiple pairs... I just like shoes :)

Welcome to the world of adult ballet!

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