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adult ballet


kellylynn

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I may be venting here a little but I was just wondering if anyone has gotten the same response that I have. I'm 25, and I have recently returned to ballet after over a decade. I stopped at about 12..I got on pointe and decided to take a break after about six months....unfortunetly it was a longer break than I would have hoped. At first I did a whole lot of research on it. I went on all the adult ballet websites I could find. I bought and read jofferys ballet-fit book and spent an entire month figuring out how I could start back up again. The hardest thing was not being able to find a studio where adults were completly welcomed. I don't live in some rinky dink town either. I live in westchester county which is about a half hour from nyc. So not being able to find a class a half hour outside nyc was shocking to me. I took out the phone book and literally called every single dance studio in a 20 mile radius and one of a few things happened. By the way...most if not all of these places have advertisments that say "instruction for all ages, all levels, children and ADULTS."

 

1. They do not have adult ballet and laughed...yes laughed... at me for even inquiring about something so silly.

2. They used to have adult ballet but there is not enough interest.

3. They are trying to set one up and take down my name and number.

4. they have adult hip-hop, pilates, belly dancing or something random like that but not ballet.

5. They only offer it once a week in the middle of the day (not good for working people).

6. They advertise it as "adult ballet" but its really for pre-professional fifteen year olds and any adult would feel uncomfortable.

 

Finally, I was able to find a place that has a decent adult program with both intermediate and beginner classes offered most nights of the week. Crazy isn't it! It is however completly out of my way. I love it there and the teachers are very supportive and are wonderful. It's before and after the class that the problem starts. I'll be getting ready for class by putting on my shoes or leaving class and people just look at me funny. I look young and can still pass for a teenager but they look at me like..."why is that old girl here and not in pointe shoes." Oh...adult beginner...ha ha. Even the first class I've taken with each teacher...they expect me to be horrible with bad turnout and sloppy piles. It's a great feeling to see their jaws drop when I am in fact doing the steps correctly. I dont want to sound like I'm bragging but I was quite good when I was younger and according to the response I still am. After the first week teachers were asking me where I "trained" and who I danced with. And they were shocked to find out that I haven't danced in over a decade. Now they are encouraging me to go to the next level. I don't know what the big deal is. I'm good at ballet but I stink in other things. In fact if you put me anywhere near some type of sports equipment I'll just stand there dumbfounded. Ballet just works for me. I have the legs and the feet. It's the only thing I feel like my body-type can do. Short, thin people with long legs and long narrow feet aren't considered the "body type" for much. Except ballet. I dont want to be a professional, I don't want to perform. I do it because I just happen to love it, and it's the one thing that I can do well. I hate going to the gym, but I love going to ballet class. And I probably get a much better physical and mental workout than any treadmill can give me. I just get frustrated because I feel like it's such an issue. I can't ask about classes without getting laughed at. I get weird looks from the younger girls warming up before their "company class." And my friends think I'm just wierd. They know nothing about ballet and think that I'm taking some weird streching areobics type class three times a week. They are like..."so..like..can you like...twirl and stuff?" Or they go..."why can't you have a normal hobby like biking or rollarblading or scrapbooking." I also have read some awful things about adult ballet students like..."if you are going to start ballet after the age of 18 dont even think that you will ever be any good." I just don't understand why a ballet student who isn't professional is looked down on. Especially after there seems to be so many of them. I mean...what's the big deal? Not that this is a major problem for me. I was just wondering if anyone out there knew why adults are discouraged from taking ballet and why teachers expect us to be horrible? It's just another form of dance. And dance is a joyful thing that anyone can benefit from. I understand that ballet comes naturally to me and it may not for many. But tennis doesn't come naturally to me and I can be the worst tennis player in the world but if that was my hobby it would be more acceptable. I just think it's lame. Sorry for the length...I was just wondering how adults who are serious ballet students get passed this.

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A great part of the problem for the adult student is the boom of "non-traditional" students (as adults age 25 and older) in all forms of education. Ballet is a rather conservative discipline, and the increase in interest among adult students has caught it more or less unawares. It is my sincere belief that the larger international institutions like RAD and ISTD should start looking at the adult students, and adjust their curricula to provide competent, excellent instruction for the serious adult ballet student. I do not believe that this is a simple spike in demographics, or just a fluke. I believe that the adult student is here to stay. The independent teacher, teaching from a self-generated curriculum, is heavily charged with a great responsibility in providing proper, age-appropriate instruction for the adult student who wishes to study real ballet safely and properly.

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Hi kellylynn,

 

I completely understand the frustration you have experienced and the lack of understanding and I think any adult dancer on this board will recognise some of the points you have mentioned. Which is a shame.

Just remember, it's their problem not yours. If you are passionate about something and you enjoy it, then why bother about worrying what everyone elses opinions are?

 

It is unbelievable though, even today, that people whether from the ballet world or not seem so opinionated on whether adults should be dancing or not.

 

To be perfectly honest though, I have met and danced with pre-professional teenagers, and professional dancers and I have never come across any derision or anti-adult feeling from them. They have nothing but impeccable manners. I have encountered it more in teachers, but they have , thankfully, been far and few between.

 

I too have had to brave young kids snearing and being downright obnoxious, but you have to remember, you aren't their age, you are older, wiser and more experienced and they are in the end just kids. Even I remember at 14 thinking that 24 was soooooo old. It makes me laugh now. Most of us have a memory of when we were teenagers and how unaccepting or wary we were of strangers in our midst.

But it is all show you know? and it usually wears off once they get used to seeing you and actually realise that you aren't an old dragon and are quite in fact a 'cool chick'. This almost always happens and I have danced with kids half my age who have treated me as part of their gang, although I do tend to go 'oh that Jason Timberlake...." which usually ruins my street cred!

 

I got past all the 'oh my god, YOU do ballet?' by not actually giving a damn about their opinion. I accept the fact it is their opinion and they are entitled to it, but depending on where I am and how I feel, I either do a pirouette there and then (which inevitably shuts them up) or change the subject. I love ballet and will dance until the end of time, end of story.

 

Jeanette

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Interesting comment I think.

 

I freely admit I could be totally off base, but my initial feeling was that perhaps you are being overly sensitive about your situation. Perhaps you sense that you are different from the others in your classes and are reacting, shall we say a bit on the defensive side. I know that could be completely wrong, but do suggest you consider the possibility.

 

My own ballet experience is limited to one school, so what I am going to say about the points raised reflects that admittedly limited experience.

 

First, my experience is that adult classes are populated by a huge variety of people. In fact the word adult is really a misnomer. A better term is that they are open classes where ages range from 15-70 and where abilities range from individuals who struggle to do a single pirouette to professional level dancers.

 

Second, being and older person, I could literally care less what the teens (who often make up a significant part of the class) think about me. Besides I am 90% sure they are worried more about their own lives than they are about mine. The teen brain just works that way.

 

Third, yes my friends who are not dancers think I’m really weird for doing ballet. I love that. Who wants to be just like everyone else? Certainly not me. Besides, I sense respect under their perceptions. Also, because it is unusual for an adult to do ballet, adults who do it tend to stick together and be supportive. We adult dancers know that we are rare and we need each other, if for no other reason than to have the school keep classes for us going.

 

Fourth, you do have to watch your perceptions. I agree that in the overall scope of ballet, we adults are “horrible,” at least with respect to the professionals and even those who are younger and quite skilled, but who only aspire to careers in ballet. So? Personally, I find that freeing rather than something horrible. I mean I never have to attempt to reach their level. I can just concentrate on improving and not attaining a skill level that I can never reach. No pressure or anxiety is placed on me.

 

Fifth, no one has ever discouraged any adult that I know of from taking ballet. Certainly the school doesn’t, as they want every cent of class fees they can get. The professionals at the school are extremely friendly, which is in itself encouraging (I think professionals know the meaning of struggle because they have all had to do it). The other adults (i.e., over about age 25) in class generally like to see other adults in class, regardless of how good are bad they are.

 

So I guess my bottom line is to look at your perceptions and why you think as you do. Ask yourself why others in your classes think and act as they do. Don’t judge. Try to figure out why people are there in the first place. Once you do that you might find your perceptions changing.

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DreadPirateRoberts

Hello Kellylynn, and welcome to our nifty online ballet-obsessed community.

(Well mostly ballet and mostly obsessed, I suppose :dry: )

 

You asked about how other people have responded to us as "adult ballet

students" -- I think you'll find that we're a pretty diverse group: professional

dancers, previously professional dancers, serious amateurs, teachers, scholars,

etc etc. The cool thing is that I think there are a LOT of us out there, and

our numbers are growing, and we are looking for quality instruction. So I

suspect you'll find a lot of people here with the sorts of experiences you

describe, and more. But Mel's right -- we're really ahead-of-the-curve

and it may take some work or time or research to find instruction that fits

what you need.

 

Thanks for sharing some of your story of returning to ballet -- I'm not a

returning student at all, but a guy who started taking ballet as a complete

beginner in my late thirties, 4 years ago, and I found all sorts of things to

contend with. The blank looks of amazement from friends. The weird looks

I used to get from parents at various studios. The comments from colleagues

or associates. And of all of this, naturally, is what happened OUTSIDE of

class. In class I have been very very lucky to have found a couple of instructors

that are willing to take me and my desire to improve seriously, even though I

DON'T have great turnout or flexibility or natural talent. So, yes, I think finding

the right instructor is crucial. But another part of it, I agree, is your own

personal attitude and work ethic. It sounds like that is what you discovered as

well -- of course it didn't hurt that you had studied before, are talented, etc :rolleyes:

But mostly, I think what other people respond to is how much you love what

you are doing! When that comes through, I think you'll find a world of people

who connect, because they find your passion and dedication and joy contagious.

 

So good luck, and may we all (as Jeanette said) "dance until the end of time"!

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Thanks guys. I was being a little over sensitive. Maybe I was just in a bad mood when I wrote it. You all are correct though. It is kinda cool to be involved in something that none of my friends are into. And I do find alot of support in class. There are many other adults that I take class with and most of them are amazing and never even had previous study. After all the negitive things I heard during my research of adults doing ballet it was refreshing to see adults that did have alot of skill and natural talent. I love the fact that it's something that while I may do well is still forever challenging enough. I'm still trying to nail that double...even at 10 I had issues with that. lol. Initially, I just couldn't understand what all the fuss is about. Now, I'm happy that I do something that is rare at my age. So instead of being embaressed, I'm proud.

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It sounds to me like the problem in your area is that you're too close to the city for the local studios to support after-work adult ballet classes. So many people from Westchester work in the city, so its easier for them to take one of the many adult classes available there. If taking class in the city is an option for you, you might want to consider it... you'll find tons of people there who are serious adult dancers, and people who take adult dancers seriously.

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Hi, kellylynn, and thanks for sharing the frustration; most of us here know what it is like. For me, Ballet Talk has been an important vent for feelings like this. This is the one place (if you can call a website that) in the world where loving ballet and wanting to do it is the most normal thing ever. :wink: Not only do we get advice from the moderators that take us seriously, but also the encouragement and support of other adult recreational students of all levels of capability means a lot.

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Guest prokofiev

Welcome, Kellylynn-

 

You're not alone! But everyone is right when they point out that sometimes your own perceptions can get in the way. I started at a new school this fall, and there aren't enough adult open classes in my area, so the school director invited me to attend an intermediate level class with mostly young teens to fill out my schedule. I naturally assumed they thought I was some old fat lady taking up too much space at the barre with pathetic turnout to boot, but as it turned out (Garyecht is SO right) they couldn't have cared less. Following was a conversation two weeks ago (after a month of classes) in the dressing room:

 

(Girls discussing regulation leotard and general class fashion woes)

Me: Yeah, I get to wear whatever leo I want for open class, isn't that fun?

Girl: Open class? Which one's that?

Me: The adult class.

Girl 2: OMG, YOU'RE AN ADULT???

Me: Um, yeah.

Girl 3: You mean [incredulous tone of awe here], you're done with college and EVERYTHING?

Me: [stunned] Uh, yeah, I guess. [And I didn't know that life ended after grad school, but I guess it does.... sigh... but that comment sure beats getting carded! :wink: ]

 

The parents don't seem to notice that I'm only a handful of years younger than they, since no one expects me to be in my thirties, and I keep up well in class.

 

The teachers take me seriously because they know I'm working hard and want corrections to improve.

 

My friends think I'm cool for doing what I've dreamed about my whole life. I don't think I've ever encountered a negative reaction about my dancing, but that's probably because I'm a musician and everyone expects us to be funky anyway. :thumbsup:

 

Cheers!

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Just to add my two penn'orth here - I've been very lucky in my 'dancing life' (such as it is). Having done RAD grade stuff till I was 15, and then taking it up again at 20 in university extra-curricular classes, and dabbling on and off for the last 25 years - I'm now 45 - but it reallydoesn't seem that long! I've been very lucky at various studios that take adults doing ballet seriously but understand we're not doing it professionally - understanding that it's a serious business even if we don't do it for a living. My Cechetti teacher in Sydney used to say when we moaned about losing turn out (I noticed increasing concrete-setting in the hips after 35) or extension, or elevation, that all the fat ones and the old ones should come to the front! It was a class joke which made us really think about the fact that we could still dance, and just to enjoy that and go for it full out.

 

I know that keeping on even just the easy classes I do at the moment (very little in the northwest of England and it [/i]all seems to be on Wednesday evenings - grrr) keeps me physically much younger and fitter, and if my body can't do it, I get it in my head so much more clearly than when I was 12!

 

Kate

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Dear Kellylynn;

 

I know how you feel.

 

It isn't easy being an adult ballet student. You're right that if you played tennis or golf everyone would think that that is normal. When people see me at the studio or after I've told them that I dance, they all ask me if I teach. They seem puzzled when I say that I just take class. I get the strange feeling that they think that I'm some sort of misfit for wanting to study dance, instead of moving on to the "socially acceptable" role of teaching.

 

I'm also in a unique position in that I am quite advanced technically, which means that I need a lot of classes per week and pointe work (currently 10 hrs/wk) to stay at my level or even advance. It is challenging to find a studio that offers this many hours for adults or will allow adults in the children's classes. Nevertheless, I love ballet too much to give it up and I will endure they weird looks and resistance to get what I want and I encourage you to do the same.

 

Much luck! :clapping:

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Guest gotnothing?

Sorry for going off-topic, but I do not have PM privelages yet...

 

Kellylynn, I was wondering if you could email me the name of the school you are taking classes at. I am not far from your area, and am trying to find somewhere to dance. My email is gotnthngintegra@aol.com.

 

I've also called and logged onto numerous websites for local studios, all of which offer adult ballroom dancing, or tap, or 'prepare for your wedding' dance, but only a couple have offered adult ballet (at inconvenient times).

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Adult classes can be hard for teachers also. First, most teachers have studied ballet very seriously from the time we were children. For better or worse, growing up in ballet teaches you to think in certain ways. Many of us have difficulty understanding someone who wants to study seriously but won't ever pursue a career, or SIs, or perhaps even performances. Not to say we are right, but it's just sometimes hard for us to understand. Ballet is so goal oriented for those who study professionally! Also, particuarly as a young teacher, I find myself intimidated in a unique way when teaching an adult class. I may have women who are twice my age and quite successful in areas that I will never be, yet who are dancing at a beginning or intermediate level. I find it sometimes intimidating to correct these ladies, wondering whether or not they want it. I also sometimes feel a lack of control of the classroom that comes more naturally when teaching children and teens, which can make me more reticent. Also, generally the progression of technique is slower for adults than children, which can be frusterating for a teacher. It's also sometimes hard to differentiate between those whoa re there for purely social/exercise reasons and those who want to improve, unless you make it clear in conversation with the teacher. These are just some of my thoughts-- I hope you find a good place to dance and you certainly deserve to! I only wanted to share another perspective that might be helpful. B)

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DreadPirateRoberts
Adult classes can be hard for teachers also. ... It's also sometimes hard to differentiate between those whoa re there for purely social/exercise reasons and those who want to improve, unless you make it clear in conversation with the teacher.

An excellent point! In other words: classroom communication

is a two-way street -- we as adult students need to convey what

our goals are for our pursuit of dance lessons, and not expect

our teachers to be mind-readers. (even though the best of them

often seem to be quite telepathic B) )

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I was really interested in Swanilda's comments from the teacher's point of view. I think it is a different mind-set when you do any sort of dance as an adult, but without the aim of professional performance. But remember we can be "serious" dancers without wanting to be professionals! And as for the dynamics in a class room with adults - for me, I go to dance classes to be taught - I'm a university lecturer and spend my days being authoritative B) and responsible for the 30 -odd students in my lecture room, and their learning - it is soooooo relaxing being taught and feeling responsible for no-one but myself! I love getting correections, and being told what to do in my dance classes. And I don't take any notice of the age difference between my teachers and me - they have the expertise to give me, just as in my classroom I have the expertise to give my students (and I've taught 80 year olds in my literature classes!) It's about respect, and those of you trained to impart the details of ballet deserve it from all your students, whatever our ages!

Best,

Kate

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