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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Need Adult Motivation....

Guest DelFav

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Hello all! I took ballet for 9 or 10 yrs as a pre-teen/teen and I'm thinking about trying it again (at 29...almost 30). I was hoping that I might get some words of advice/experience here from other adults (or people around my age and older) that have either gone back to ballet...or have started for the first time. I've forgotten probably most of what I use to do, I'm much older...never stretch anymore...and I'm really nervous about giving it a try again. I know it will be hard to find studios in my area that even provide adult classes...let alone take adults seriously :lol: I'm also afraid that I'm going to be very hard on myself being that I did dance well at one time, did pointe for several years...I don't want to start....and feel like giving up right away.


I'd love to hear from any of you about your experiences in ballet as an adult...what you have liked, what you have had the most trouble with, how you stick with it while working full time, having a spouse, etc. :wacko:


Thanks a ton!!!

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Try reading The Joffrey Ballet School's Ballet-Fit by Moss and Leopold. It is about adults taking ballet class, and while you probably are familiar with some of the information in it from your previous dancing experience, I found it to be an encouraging book for the hesitant adult student.

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I was in exactly the same situation as you about ten months ago when I started dancing again. It was really tough to face the fact that my body was no longer as flexible and coordinated as it once was. I started back with three classes a week, 2 ballet and one jazz .Jazz was great because the music and atmosphere aren't as *serious* as ballet class--it was great to just start moving again.


Taking up ballet again was like quitting smoking. It took a few tries to get it right. I've gone to a few teachers over the years until I found one who really helped me out. From the very first class I had corrections to think about, and a new way of working. The other times I've tried to return, I was just repeating the same mistakes over and over and ending up with a lot of hip pain.


It's been ten months of very steady work and now daily classes. I already have a full split and have started turning nice double pirouettes en pointe. Sometimes I forget that my pointe technique is still quite weak and I'll overdo something and fall down :( . But all in all, the progress has been steady. Not as much as I would like of course, but I definitely get better every week. Once you start to see real progress, classes will become very addictive. It's also nice to have a group of friends who aren't coworkers. And don't let the age thing get you down. Frankly, I don't think there's any reason why someone in thier late 20s can't progress just fine. Actually, I think we adults actually do a little better, because we're less likely to cheat technique in order for something to look good or for a leg to get higher. Patience is a real virtue in ballet study. It pays off. Sometimes it takes a long time, but it does pay off.


Pilates or some other core strength building system will help a lot. Ballet requires so much strength. You'll progress much faster if you suppliment with something like that.



I'm hard on myself too. It is tough to face the fact that you're not the same dancer that you once were. I just keep telling myself that I'm going to be even better than I used to be, because I know so much more about why things do and do not work. All you can do is stick with it and relish the improvements that you do see. You can't get worse, it only gets better. You probably remember a lot more than you think you do. Muscle memory kicks in.

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If you go here you can see my whole tale:


One of my posts from a few months back



I'm older than you, but other than that was in a similar situation a couple of years ago, and the post above has the rest of the tale.


All I can say is that my only regret is not returning sooner, and you never forget how if feels.


BTW lampwick's teacher is amazing. Too bad she is in NY...

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Make sure you are picking up ballet again because you really want to and because you truly love dance. Don't pick up ballet again just because you did it for so many years a long time ago and think those years would be "waisted" if you don't continue your training.


Also, be prepared that you might not be the same person. As an adult you take corrections in an intirely different manner than as a child. Now, you will question and demand answers. As a child you might have only done as you have been told while as an adult you will wonder why things are done the way the are.


In one way I think you will progress faster than you think because you are in a completely different intellectual level now. But, just because your brain has gotten it (usually very quickly) your body might not be able to do it. Have patience and give it time to peacefully at home descover your muscles and different ballet concepts that is applied on your body.


My guess is that children learn from imitating and from the actual movement, while we adults (wheither we like it or not) tend to do things intellectually.

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Susanne is quite right. It's true--part of why I went back was that I needed a bit more exercise, and I really can't stomach anything else. But another part was that we had a new young person at work who was taking classes and telling me about it (thus subjecting our male colleagues to _lots_ of ballet talk), and well, it just reminded me how much I liked it.


Susanne is also right that the whole process is very, very different for adults. I'd also venture to say that teaching style has changed overall, and of course the variety of "stuff" (shoes, leotards, etc) has expanded a great deal since the 1980s.


As for what "comes back", I personally have found that muscle memory is quite a spooky thing.

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The best advice I can give you is that you're going to be 30 anyway. You can be 30 and not dancing, or you can be 30 and dancing.


I started formal study at the age of 18 in a very tough university majors program, and often felt it was over before it began, the students were so awesome and I was so far behind. I changed my major to Inter-Arts and carried a music/dance program, which seemed to fit my work as more of a natural hoofer/mover than dancer. I toured with a very prestigious troupe of entertainers and played constantly to standing ovations. But -- I never quite got over the feeling that I was selling a lot of ham and glitz and pure youthful energy, rather than real, honest to goodness dance.


While still at a tender age, I got into journalism and did very well. From time to time, as my work and location would allow, I would continue to take ballet class, as an adult. Some 13 years ago, my writing brought me to my current city, where I took class as if from the beginning with a wonderful teacher who really gave me a true understanding of what I was doing. She never brought up any issue of age, just worked with me, at the same time asking me to start teaching (my forte is the small fry). I had never even intended to stay here permanently, but this particular person thought I had a gift, both as performer and teacher. Within two years of training with her, I was asked to join a wonderful classically trained ethnic troupe (a paid position), that included overseas travel as well. The character dance aspect of this troupe was perfect for someone who had all that training as a 'ham.' Granted, I had to work like mad to keep up with these talented dancers, but to have a go at a professional dance career at this point was something I can't even begin to describe.


I retired from the troupe about 8 or 9 years ago, thinking this was it. I was diagnosed and treated for cancer that year, and thought I'd settle into middle age as a woman in cancer recovery who took ballet class for pleasure, continued to teach class, and focused on her impending career as wife and step-mom.


Someone much wiser than I had other plans for me. The engagement ended in tragedy. I also developed a couple of new frustrating medical setbacks. I was frustrated, depressed, you name it. What to do, what to do .....


A chance meeting one day with an acquaintance who chairs the theater/dance dept. of the only university in this state to offer a dance major resulted in my doing something awfully foolish. I auditioned for the program -- successfully. Several years later, I can tell you that I not only completed the program with a 4.0 average, both in ballet and academics, but that I am the ONLY person who auditioned that fall term who completed the program. The others were far younger, perhaps more talented too. What kept me going? Simply that I wanted this like I had never wanted anything. I was not going to leave this world without BECOMING A BALLET DANCER.


In my home hangs a plaque: "This life is not a dress rehearsal."


Look, ballet didn't bring me back my fiance. It didn't totally erase cancer from my life (or any of the other medical pain in the butt problems I've had to contend with). But I'll tell you what -- every day I place my hand on the barre and hear that music, there is a smile on my face. All's right with the world, at least for today. And I shudder to think of what I would be like at this moment, with all that's happened, if I hadn't taken that less traveled road and become the oldest dance major in the history of my state.


A whole other career now awaits as motivational speaker and writer.


Hope I'm getting through to all of you who are doing anything other than following your passion.


A dancer dances!

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Hi DelFav,

I am not exactly in your situation, but I'll tell you about my experience : I begun ballet last year, at 24 I had never danced in my life, except for five years' ballroom dancing, which is quite different , and I've nevre been very athletic (terrible at gymnastics) ; at first I found it very difficult to finish my one hour and a half's leçon ; then I began to do barre au sol (pilates style) two, then three, then five times a week and now I find it has helped a lot I am a lot more flexible ;

my main problem as an adult student has been that I understood and memorized all the steps, but found myself unable to do them ; yet, this has become better too.

you have an advantage given by being adult : you understand that you have to work hard, and that your progress might be "slowly but surely"

good luck ! :(

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Go for it. I'm about exactly your age (turned 30 a month ago) and started ballet from scratch about 2,5 years ago. If I can do it, certainly you with your background can! Don't worry about being in bad shape and not remembering much. The memories will come back fast, I bet. The physical condition will require somewhat more work, but that's why you are in the classes in the first place, right?


I can't say I've had such big troubles. I've of course stuggled with technique and been frustrated several times, but not even close enough to seriously consider stopping taking classes. And the struggle, I feel, is part of the classes - without challenge, it would soon be boring.


The way I stuck to it despite all my other commitments is being "addicted" to taking the darn classes. (I've been sick for a week now, unable to take classes, and feel like climbing the walls.) It's just something I really want to do - it's about me in some fundamental way, the same way as my career choices are about me.


What makes it easier is having the opportunity to take classes with other adults, regularly, several times a week, in a serious and ambitious adult division of a good ballet school. If you don't have that, you will have some difficulties I've never had to face, but I myself have been positively surprised how brilliantly well most ballet teachers I've met have taken adults learning ballet; also those not teaching adults themselves. You might very well be surprised yourself when you start contacting places about taking classes as an adult.


I repeat: go for it. If you'll not like it, you can stop later, but if you don't try I think it will be quite likely you will regret it. And it's not as if we are getting any younger... every week spent without dancing is one more week out of your dancing life. :(

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My advice is to definately come back to dance, but be patient with yourself. Your technique is still there, in your mind and muscle memory, but you may not be able to make your body do what you imagine it should be doing for a while. Flexibility and strength seem to leave me quickly if I miss even one class. This is the most frustrating part for me--I just don't progress as quickly as I did when I was a youngster. When I get upset with myself for seeming to hit a plateau, I just remind myself that at least I'm out there doing what I love, which is something that can't be said for most 35 year olds!

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First of all, you should ask yourself why you'd like to take ballet again. Is this something you really like to do? Because if it is, you should approach it like you should approach the rest of your life. We are only on this earth for a short amount of time, and you only get one shot at life.


If you like to dance, then find a way to do it. Being bad at it in the beginning should not discourage you -- it should make you fight harder to get better so you can do the "real" dancing and look like a real dancer when you are doing it.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest garlrm06


Here's what I love about taking ballet as an adult student: It is a process - repeat, process - of reinventing oneself, discovering physical limitations, and exactly how much the mind and body can handle at once.

Difficulties: dealing with the fact that dancing, at all levels, is so, so humbling; accepting that one will progress at a rate that is not entirely within one's control or as one had perhaps imagined.

Sticking with it: Helpful tools include Ballet Talk, Gretchen Ward Warren's book, Classical Ballet Technique, watching ballets on video, taking control of my own learning by asking questions at the end of almsot every class specific to me and my limitations.

Integrating my ballet life into my life with my fiance: Well, why would I ever be with someone that is not supportive of my greatest dreams and aspirations? As long as I'm not breaking the bank with lessons or moving us all over creation in search of the perfect ballet school, I expect loving support. And the main idea is: integrate ballet into your life, don't allow it to take over. Remember: the grass is always greener on the other side. Professional dancers don't have a normal social life, are underpaid, and often don't complete their formal education until long after most of their same-age peers have said "adios" to their last college text.

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I danced ballet as a late teen/young adult quite seriously but quit in college. I returned 10 years later at the age of 30 and have been back now for 8 months. What started as twice a week has now become as often as possible. I have found a great studio with lots of adult classes. I restarted pointe classes as well.


I can tell you from personal experience, I put off restarting ballet for close to 3 years due to weight gain. I kept saying to myself, "I'll restart ballet when I lose the weight." Finally I realized that I really loved ballet and the weight wasn't coming off anytime soon. I just sucked it up (or sucked it in as it were) and restarted. A funny side effect of dance classes a zillion times a week was that I eventually did lose the weight.


I had to try a couple of studios until I found one that had a variety of classes for adults and treated adults as serious ballet students.


Going back to ballet is one of the best things I've done. B)



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Some really great answers here.


I started at age 47.5.


Why did I wait so long? I would kill to have started at your age.


Be really patient with yourself - don't judge your current life by your past achievements. You are a completely cellular new you. Your brain and muscle memory will take over - just deposit your ego at the door and go for it!


Best wishes.

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