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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Reasons not to take lessons... need advice.


Guest Trilby-Christin

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Guest Trilby-Christin

I've been trying to get the courage to take ballet lessons literally for years now. I just turned 22 years old. I know from reading this board that there are people who start lessons much older than me, so I'm no longer worried about my age. However, I have a couple issues (one very strange) which stop me from taking lessons. But I really do want to start lessons. So, what I'm asking is, can anyone reassure me about a couple things?

 

1) Even though I think I posted about it here once before (months ago), I'm worried about weighing too much. I'm 5'4" and usually weigh about 140. I don't look fat, but I'm sure my lower stomach and thighs would look pretty awful in a leotard, etc.

 

2) I'm very, VERY sensitive. I can handle criticism, but not if it's being barked at me or done in a humiliating way. How can I know if a teacher is going to use constructive criticism, and not humiliation?

 

3) This one is the really touchy subject, something which may freak people out, but I really hope no one will be judgmental here. I used to self-injure, ie: cut my arms and legs with razors. I'm diagnosed with Major Depression, and it was a manifestation of that. I don't do it anymore, but I have quite severe scars on my arms and legs. So I'm really scared of wearing an outfit which would show my scars, as I assume ballet clothes would. I don't know if the thing to do would be talk to the ballet teacher in advance about it to see if I could wear special clothes which would hide the scars, or if it would be better to let them show and deal with comments as they happen (a very scary thought for me; people can be very rude).

 

So those are the three things which have stopped me from starting lessons for a few years now. Any advice/comments/feedback anyone has would be really appreciated. I'm tired of daydreaming about ballet lessons; I really want to DO it, but I can't figure out these 3 things:-(

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Hi Trilby-Christen! I'm sure that the Adult Students here will be very helpful to you in these issues, as they will come to it from a totally different perspective than I can, as a teacher. However, let me take the easy one first, which is number 2.

 

Observe classes before you go. Find a teacher who does not bark or humiliate. They do exist! :)

 

As to the weight issue, perhaps the same answer would apply, ie, observe classes and note that there are many adults who do not exactly have the "ballerina body" and it doesn't seem to stop them at all!

 

As to the scars, that is a more serious and difficult issue, but the legs should not be a problem, as in most adult classes you should be allowed to wear black tights. Even pink tights might not show the scars, but I'm not sure. Long sleeve leotards would handle the arms. Also, it is no one else's business to ask about the scars, and you have no obligation whatsoever to tell them. That is easily avoided even if there happened to be someone rude enough to ask, which I doubt. But, I suppose there are rude and thoughtless people everywhere even though we would like to think that they are not in ballet classes! ;)

 

So, my suggestion would be to go for it! It's something you want to do, and there is usually a way to do that if you want it badly enough. And, you will never know unless you try! :cool:

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Guest Giselle83

HellO! all I can say is that go for it! My current teachers are great. When I started I had a teacher who used psychological pressure alot...I think she tried to brain wash us. However, I had strenght to quit. You can ALWAYS quit if you don't like your teacher :-)

I once saw a woman in her thirties, going to a ballet class. She was overweight (trust me, she weight muchhhh more than you girl) but she appeared proudly in leo and thights. I totally admired her for being so strong to do that!!!! not all people are mean in ballet class :-)

 

About scars, that's okay! and I think too that you don't need to explain anything to anybody. Long sleeved leo is a good idea, plus they're so pretty and great support for little bit bigger

bust :-)

 

good luck! remember that you PAY for the classes, don't stay if you don't enjoy them :-)

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Take that class!!!

 

One thing you will find in non-professional adult classes is plenty of different body types. You will be taking with people much older than you, pregnant women, post-baby bodies, curvy, skinny, in-shape, out of shape..... you name it. I know it is cliche, but you really will find that everyone is concentrating so hard on what they are doing, no one cares what anyone else looks like. Plus, there is no better way to get in shape and get a "ballet body" than by doing ballet.

 

As for rude questions, I agree with the above posts. Should someone be rude enough to ask, have a polite, non-committal response already planned out that you can use to discourage further prying. Follow it immediately with a comment or question about a ballet step or technique in order to steer the conversation to a more appropriate topic. I think most people would get the hint.

 

The adult classes I have been in have been very supportive. Teachers are human beings as well--and most do have a sense of humor! Just observe a class and listen to how the teacher corrects the students. I think teachers who yell and humiliate are pretty rare, particularly among those who teach adults.

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Go for it!

 

I'm older and fatter than you, by a good bit (45 years old, 5'7" and a bit over 200 lbs, but as people like to say, "I carry the weight well"), and I just started taking lessons in January. Sometimes I do think, "What the heck am I doing here? This looks silly!" But then I concentrate on the fact that it feels good, and it's fun to concentrate on learning something new.

 

Most of the women in my adult class wear long-sleeved leotards. I'm one of the exceptions, and that's mostly because I get really hot in long sleeves. I don't think anyone would question for minute if you wore one. We're actually allowed to wear anything we want, and if that's true in the adult classes near you, you could start out in a long-sleeved tee-shirt.

 

Let us know how it works out for you! You've taken the first step just by posting here.

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I'll add a go-for-it, too.

 

In the adult class, you are not aiming to be a professional, so your body means somewhat less than it would in a children's class, so never mind things like height and weight and whatever. You'll find that there are people of all sizes in most classes - and many wearing a lot more ridiculous things than long-sleeved leos and thick tights. :)

 

Please do post your impressions about your first classes once you've had them?

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Absoultely go for it. I started ballet 3 years ago tipping the scales at 270 - - now I'm a more healthy weight (still no ballerina body type though) and starting pointe. I am so thankful that I swallowed my pride and faced my fear and went that first time. Not to be melodramatic, but it has changed my life.

 

I had always expected ballerinas to be snotty about body types - but I didn't face that at all. In fact, I think the adults in my ballet class and my teacher were more accepting than the general public.

 

I felt pretty comfortable starting out in a long sleeve high neck leotard, tights and workout shorts.

 

One thing that helped me was to bring a buddy the first time. It was a really nice security blanket for the first couple of times - and she made me go that 2nd, 3rd and 4th time when I may have wimped out had I been going by myself.

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Guest beckster

I say definitely go and observe a few different classes before you decide. It will give you a feel for how different teachers behave towards their students, the types of people in the class, how to dress - in short, it should clear up many of the concerns you expressed. Many people will observe a class before they commit themselves, so don't worry about asking - it is a perfectly normal thing to do. Most of the people in the adult beginner classes I have been to tend to wear leotards with close-fitting jazz pants or leggings on top - totally opaque and acceptable to the teacher. I would add that I don't think you should have to tell the teacher about your scars unless you want to. It is not a current health problem so it shouldn't be an issue in class.

 

Above all, remember why you want to do this. The first class you go to may not be the perfect class for you, but the right class is out there, and you will really get a lot from it when you find it.

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Guest scuffite

Don't hold back any longer - go for it! My language teacher considers herself plus-sized and she wanted to lose weight. I suggested ballet and she came for a class with me. She was initially very conscious of her size but with not too revealing clothing (i.e. skirt and a t-shirt over leotard) and a warm and friendly atmosphere in the class, she enjoyed being in class!

 

Lot's have been said already and I have nothing else to add apart from that you may want to actually take trial lessons in various studios (if there are a few in your area) to find out which classes you are most comfortable with. Or even different classes within the same studio.

 

When I started ballet, mine was not so much a physical problem (except for being totally unfit!) - more of cultural and language difficulties as I am in a foreign country. Well, essentially the feeling of being different (not superior!) from the rest was there and I did hesitate to start. Certain classes had friendlier, welcoming and more encouraging teachers and fellow dancers than others - so I have stuck with the particular class that I am most comfortable with. The chemistry definitely makes a difference.

 

As an aside, when I did gymnastics in my teens, the best girl was also by far the biggest of us. But was she good and she was the first one to do the splits!

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Guest Mary J

Here is another vote of confidence in you - go for it! I have posted elsewhere that I started ballet classes in January and I am 56. I think you will find that the physical exercise and mental concentration will feel very positive. Just remember that you are there to enjoy the music and the movement, and have fun. I am a bit of a perfectionist, so I have to make an effort to keep my expectations reasonable ("It is my third lesson. Why don't I dance like Margot Fonteyn yet??"), and to be patient with myself. Sometimes I am totally lost when it comes to center work, but I try to focus on the small victories. It might make sense to talk to your teacher before class, just to let him/her know that you are new and a little concerned about certain things. That way he/she won't take that famous ballet position - pied a la bouche (foot in mouth)! Good luck!

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Guest mathiskewl

I would like to echo everyone else's statements. Go and observe a class and find the right one for you.

 

Don't worry about body type - otherwise you might spend you life in the wings. I'm incredibly self-conscious about this myself, but I love ballet more. I'm glad that I didn't wait to loose weight because I'd still be waiting. I've also been sensitive to criticism. This is one reason to make sure you observe a class first. You want to see the teacher's style and see how she encourages improvement in technique. And don't worry about your scars - as others have said it's no one's business and tights and long-sleeved leotards will hide them.

 

Go find a class and enjoy!!!

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Guest Basilo

Go for it Trilby-Christen!

I think that all three of your issues can be turned into positive reasons for searching for and taking ballet classes that are right for you.

 

1.) As an adult male student I don't think I should try to ease your personal concerns about weight because...well...men just can't relate to the pressure our society places on women in this area. However, I must say that the best looking dancers in my classes aren't blessed (or maybe cursed) with the perfect "ballet body". They don't try to fit themselves into some image or mold that doesn't fit them. When they dance I can see that it is really them dancing (from inside). Some who do have the "ballerina look" are caught up in almost circus-like competitions for the highest extension or "best" pirouettes. These girls seem to take more than they give as dancers. Also, sticking with ballet will make noticeable changes to the image (physical and mental) that you now have of yourself.

 

2.) I believe the advice given by others is paramount to your successful introduction to ballet. You need to observe several classes and find a teacher that you feel comfortable being around and being corrected by. As buglady mentioned, most teachers of adult students are more understanding and compassionate with their corrections. If you eventually end up in a class that includes younger students who are working toward dance as a career don't assume that the teacher will correct you in the same fashion as the younger students (unless you ask them to). Try to keep an open line of communication with your chosen teacher so that you can work towards your goals together.

 

3.) I know that your third issue was mostly about appearance in class and I think that the recommendations above should definitely allow you to take class comfortably without it becoming an issue. I would just like to add that I too have faced depression that manifested itself in self-destructive behavior. When I first spoke to my counselors and doctors about beginning ballet they were skeptical about the ramifications it might have on my treatment. I was allowed to start on a trial basis and my struggles with depression improved so much that I was able to move away from some treatments that had more negative side affects than positive. When you do start classes I want to encourage you to be open about how the experience makes you feel. Let those who are close to you (and us if you are comfortable) know how things are going so that they/we can help you through the days when you can't see how things are improving and so that they/we can celebrate with you in your victories and accomplishments.

 

Best Wishes!

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Guest karenfixe

Hi Trilby-Christin!

 

Welcome to the forum and I too must say "Go for it!" I totally understand your concerns and wanted to give you some ideas from another adult dancer that isn't the ideal weight either. ;)

 

1) I know you believe that your "lower stomach and thighs would look pretty awful in a leotard..." . But, honestly, I too have the "pear" shaped body. My hips are narrow, but my thighs are much larger (and wider) and I sometimes get upset that I'm not in proportion. But, there are ways around feeling self-conscious until you get into better shape. I wear dark leotards (very slimming) and black knit tights/leggings (Lytleware). I am not ready to go to class in JUST a leotard and black tights (God forbid pink ones!) but it is a goal of mine. Wear what you need to to feel comfortable enough to focus on the class and expressing yourself through your dancing.

 

No one is there to judge you.

 

2) I really understand the sensitivity issue. In college, I took ballet with a teacher that was all of 5' tall and from Julliard. She never let me progress past Level 2 (out of 4) b/c I was too tall. I'm 5'9 and while there are things I can do about my weight, you just can't do anything with height. The worst of it was when she would literally back away from me when I approached her to talk. She made me feel like a monster and 10 yrs later I still remember it. I agree with everyone here, observe a class and see how the teacher delivers corrections!

 

I've had teachers that barked out corrections and others that used their silly sense of humor to convey the idea. Not all teachers are stereotypical of what we see in the movies. Also, even though a teacher may appear "nice" to his/her students, make sure they are WATCHING them! I've seen a teacher at my school that reads a magazine while teaching!!!! Remember, you are paying for them to teach you and help you along.

 

3) I'm not freaked out about the major depression or cutting yourself. I went to boarding school with a few kids that did the same thing. There are long and 3/4 sleeve leotards you can wear if you don't feel comfortable just yet. You may find that after a few classes, as you get to know people, that eventually you might feel comfortable wearing short sleeve or tank leotards!

 

I too have suffered from Major Depression and I know how awful it can be. I truly believe that the goals I set for myself in class, having a time to be somewhere and look forward to each week really helps me. You'll be amazed at how much focus you'll achieve in class once it starts. Believe me, once you're trying to remember a combination, you won't have time to think about other worries. ;) I know for me, I found it to be a huge mental relief to have an hour and a half where I didn't feel like I was dying inside.

 

The first step is always the hardest, but please know that there are others here that struggle with some of those same issues. We are here for you and let us know how it goes!!

 

:)

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest attitudegirl

Yes, you've gotten very good advice. I would like to add that a lot of people go to ballet to fight depression. Most of the adults in my totally beginner class go for that reason. What is really sad is that one of the lady's daughters has started coming to our adult class for that reason. She cannot even mingle with her peers. So sad, so we really welcome anyone as we love people who love ballet. we're weird.

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Guest sissonne

Trilby,

You've been given so much wonderful advice, but I still have to add my vote for you to begin your classes. I felt the same hesitation before starting ballet again and I'd danced for YEARS before a long hiatus. I say just go. Call some of the schools in your area. Houston Ballet Academy (where I attend) offers your first class free to give adults a chance to try it on for size. Ask around your area and you may find they do the same. All of my instructors I have for various classes are so wonderful and supportive. Many don't give barking criticisms as they know their adult students aren't there to become professional dancers. They do, however, encourage proper technique in the interest of avoiding injury. I've spoken with each of my instructors and have asked them to critique me as they would their professional students because I want to improve and am not just there for the exercise.

 

As for the weight issue, once you've gone to a class or two, you'll more than likely find that you're concentrating so much on what you're doing, that you don't notice anyone else in the class. Believe me, the other students are doing the same. Our classes range anywhere from 20 to up to 45 students on any given day and I probably couldn't pick 2/3 of them out of a lineup!! Way too busy concentrating on what I'm doing! Having said that, one bit of advice I can give is that if you do begin classes, don't become discouraged if you don't begin to strike up relationships with the other students immediately. As I said, sometimes people are so focused on what they're doing that they don't notice others. It was months before I forged some of the relationships I have with others in my class. It's not that they don't like you, it's that they're just focused on what they're doing. Having had issues with depression, I just want you to be aware so you don't feel ignored or out of place. I say this because I took a pilates class from someone who'd attended one of my ballet classes. She thought everyone was snotty...but never gave thought to the fact we were just focused. She came back to class and stayed after that!

 

As for the scars, I agree....it's no one's business but your own. Having known people with eating disorders who also self injure, I'm completely familiar. You could wear a long sleeved t-shirt over you leotard (I do when it's cooler) or a wrap sweater. At my school, though the professional students and pre-professional students must adhere to strict dress codes, the adult students show up in everything from sweats and socks to anything else you might imagine! Call the school...find out what others wear. Additionally, as I mentioned before, our classes become quite large. As far as body-types (and ages for that matter)...they're all over the board too. Nonetheless, everyone is accepted and everyone has a good time!

 

Give it a shot. I think you'll find you really enjoy it! Establish a comfort level first by calling the school with questions about what to wear for class. Then observe a class....I think this is important. Talk to the teacher afterward to alleviate some of your concerns and further obtain that comfort level. Finally, WHEN you do decide to start....don't become frustrated if you find you have two left feet at first. Even after several years of dancing, my body just would NOT do what I expected it to after 9 years of not dancing! It was really an eye opener!! Just try your hardest and one day it will all click for you and you'll find you're keeping up with the others!

 

Good luck to you!:D

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