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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Gym culture shock


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I used to be a gym member for a while (for the aerobics classes) but I didn't renew my membership after it lapsed so I haven't been in one for years.


I just went for a trial because I want to flatten my tum but it was an alienating experience. I wanted to attend a beginner jazz class(I've never tried jazz before) and I got there early so I walked around to inspect the facilities. They tried to hard-sell but I'm pretty thick-skinned so I walked away. It was seriously claustrophobic...all I could see were rows of gleaming steel, harsh lighting and joyless sweaty men and women working out. It didn't look enjoyable and people were busy distracting themselves with tv and music. I felt as though the people were mice running in a wheel. I don't like the smell of sweat either or barefoot women walking around in towels in the locker room.


I don't have jazz dance shoes and the gym doesn't stop people from wearing street shoes in the studio so I didn't want to wear my ballet slippers so I turned up in cross-trainers which was hell to do releves in. I didn't expect much because it's not a proper dance studio and people were wearing all kinds of gear (I'm too used to old leo/tights/ballet slippers). People were youngish and slender but I have a big belly! We didn't get to do much dancing, mostly gym exercises to awful music (I think a real studio would be much better and teach real technique plus these are drop-in classes, no consistency of attendance). But I got the last laugh despite my apple-shaped body because I turned out to be more flexible lol. (Plus I don't get winded after the choreo.) My partner was amazed and the teacher complimented me. It was mean of me but fun to see the thin, gym-toned girls straining. The really funny thing is that I dance ballet with little girls and all of them are way more flexible than I am. Some of them can do splits and I can't. By ballet standards, I'm super-stiff but here I actually look good! (Hooray for ballet training!) lol Halfway through the class, I felt like running out immediately and signing up for more good ballet training because I was super bored. Also, even in the humblest ballet studio, I felt that I was working towards beautiful artistic expression but working out in a gym is like going into zombie mode. I don't like the mind/body disconnect.


I used to be unhappy because gym membership is cheaper than paying for ballet classes but now I think if I have spare money I'll rather spend it on more good ballet training than on a gym. The people get nice, thin bodies but it's boring and soulless. I'd rather work out at home and do my nyc ballet workout. (I must work on my discipline!) I feel so happy that I'm a dancer. The studio feels like my second home and my teacher knows all of us by name. I just love the discipline and the romance of the dance studio atmosphere and no one has ever tried to hard-sell dance classes to me. My happiest part of the week is when my own class is over and I'm watching the senior girls dance.


My personal life is not going well (I'm having health issues) but ballet is ok. I learnt some character dancing for my grade last week. First time I got to use my new character shoes! And I've been back for some time and I feel recently that my flexibility and fluidity is improving. When I first restarted, I was so stiff that I could only touch my knees but last week I was delighted to see that I can actually touch my ankles now. Ok, I can't put my head all the way down like my little classmate but it's an improvement. Plus my tight achilles tendons have loosened up. I feel that I'm dancing slightly more fluidly and it's all little things but it's a great encouragement. I need to strengthen my ankles though to prepare for pointe and I still suck at releve passe!

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  • Redbookish


  • Sakura


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On the down side, it sounds like gyms in your area suck. On the upside, your ballet in general sounds better!

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I actually enjoy the different atmosphere of a gym - a good one might not be like a ballet studio, but the people in there have a sense of purpose, (and my gym has lovely sauna and steam rooms - great for aching ballet muscles!).


And there's been some research in Australia about the importance of aerobic fitness for dancers in developing strength, endurance, and helping to guard against injury. A good gym is, I think, increasingly seen as a necessary part of the professional dancer's life at certain points in their career. Deborah Bull has written about this in "Dancing Away" (great book I've just finished reading), and about how when out with an injury she gradually developed her aerobic fitness by careful work on the treadmill and weight training machines (her partner's a physiotherapist, so he obviously gave her expert advice).


And how many times have we all experienced the reactions of people used to gyms to OUR pursuits in often chilly and bare studios, which are rarely glamorous? And often without the changing facilities etc that are now standard in a good gym.


I guess it's different cultures - different people find dfifferent ways to enjoy physical expression and movement. I'm all for that - instead we'll become a world of couch potatoes!

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I know but I kinda wish people would get their exercise walking outside instead of in the stale gym atmosphere. When the weather is good, I sometimes walk instead of taking the subway and I walk every week to my ballet studio and back instead of taking the bus to save money.


I know that male pros do need to do weight-training for pdd especially. Gym just seems to be another part of our unnatural lifestyle (I'm talking about non-pros) that consists of sitting in a office for 8 hours and then going to another artificial environment. I live in the city and I'm tired of the urban jungle.I wish I can take country walks rather than walking on city pavements.


I like bare studios through...space is nice! Gotta dig out my free weights! I've donated way too much money to the local sports supply store buying home equipment though I'm proud to say that I actually USE my exercise mat every week. I know a lot of people with gym memberships that they don't use.

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I have a love/hate relationship with the gym, but the main reason that I go is for weight training, the classes that are included in the membership fee, and a dependable place to do cardio when the weather is less than ideal for a walk outside.

As much as I don't like to admit it, ballet classes (especially adult classes) rarely provide much of a cardio workout, something that is important in maintaining heart health. I prefer to walk or run outside, but when it's dark at 7pm ... the gym comes in handy!

Also, I do a fair amount of weight training and the gym provides equiment and expertise (lots of personal trainers) that just isn't available to one at home.

I also feel motivated by working out with other people, similar to how I feel motivated in ballet classes by dancing with students of my level. I guess we can just agree to disagree on this one!

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Some people like gyms while others don’t. Some people like dance while others don’t. Just individual differences. I think one can dance just fine without ever going to a gym. Having said that, many an adult dancer I know routinely goes to a gym because they like feeling fit or because they can’t take as many classes as they might like to. I’ve spent a good deal of my life in gyms and have my own in my house that I use three times a week and have so for the last, well, many years.


I think the reason to go to a commercial gym is that it provides something of a social environment that keeps you exercising regularly. You don’t need to talk, but just seeing regular people there somehow keeps you coming back. And when you make a financial commitment, you do tend to keep showing up.


The conventional wisdom is that cross-training reduces the likelihood of injury. Certainly, working out in a gym is one form of cross-training. The counter thinking to the cross-training argument is that those who have time and energy to cross-train do not spend that much time training intensely in their chosen activity and that it is the intensity which creates the injury, intensity which is also necessary for improvement.

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I've never been into gyms and weight training. I much prefer running around like a loony having fun playing a game, like hockey, or netball. What's the point if it's neither dancing or a game sport? I was also good at ball sports at school and rubbish at things like aerobics.

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I think the gym is boring. Yes, it serves its purpose. But it's boring. For many years I spent so much money trying to get motivated to go to the gym. It never worked out for me. If it wasn't for the blahness of the gym atmosphere I would have never re-discovered ballet. So thank god for that. I may be interested in cross training sometime in the future, but only as an enhancement to my ballet training. The gym will never be my main form of exercise. I don't think it should be for anyone. There are much more exciting ways to get fit.

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Stupid me signed up for a 2 year gym membership a few months ago, because it was cheap- and I regret it. Classes absolutely suck. Just like in your studio, Sakura.

I do not feel trained properly and I do not feel I am getting serious jazz/hiphop/pilates/yoga whatever training there. I hate it but have to occasionally go to get my money`s worth.

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I always wondered what those gym dance classes were like since I never actually took one. I see alot of "ballet inspired" exercise classes, kinda like the nyc ballet workout. I do hear however that they are falsely advertised because the only thing even remotley balletic is a plie to techno music. And I don't even want to know what they consider a "plie" to be. "Okay ladies, bend from the knee. Go down!" LOL. Then again, i don't see anything wrong with it for non-dancers. I hope to think that anyone who was serious about wanting real dance training wouldn't look for it in a gym, and I certainly hope they would know better not to. Gyms try to keep members motivated by introducing "new and fun" classes so they throw in titles to make it sound alot more interesting than it really is. Wouldn't you rather try "The Ballet Booty Workout" then "Shape your Buttocks with Judy?" And yes...in ny there really is some weird ballet booty dance workout thing going on. It is a real class. Very scary. The members then think they are trying something new..."ooohhh ballet" then just the same ol thing with some fake plies and port de bras. I don't even believe these classes catch on well because I never see one on a schedule for more than a couple of months.


I'll take my marley floored, lockeroom-less, studio over all those overpriced, fancy gyms and their lame classes any day of the week. :)

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Well, you know, I was never any good at ball games, found team sport aggressive & unpleasant and it fed into the bullying I got throughout school anyway. So apart from ballet & jazz to 15, actor training to 18, and intense horse riding & competition to 18, I was NOT "sporty" - REAL problem as v teenager transplanted to Australia, let me tell you!


When the aerobics craze hit, I got interested, because it combined dance with fitness & I needed to find a fitness regime which fitted my life as a student wioth long days at my desk. Through all that, including some *very* good training in weights and resistance training, I realised I DO have some physical anmd kinesic ability - I thought I did not. I also developed strength and endurance.


So Jane Fonda headbands and all, I would never knock the whole gym thing. It works for a lot of people and it can be fun! As Garyecht says, there's a sociability & shared sense of purpose in a good gym.

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Not all gyms are alike. My most recent gym experience was a nice little boutique gym. It had good Pilates classes, and highly trained staff who could assist in an effective plan for each person to reach their fitness goals. I formed wonderful relationships in that environment, and will miss the people very much. I've given it up because it was in the town where dd danced. It's 50 minutes away from my home. While I like it very much, it's not practical to think I can get my money's worth with that distance.


I have belonged to gyms where they were a bit of meat market. It was as though everyone was on display - or at least wanted to be on display. Grunting by the heavy duty weigh lifters abounded.


A nice alternative to a gym environment - particularly if you get your cardiovascular exercise outside - is a Pilates Studio. It will tone much more than your tum, improve your posture, and inform your dancing. :)

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I used to love the gym. I used to shut down mentally and go into my own little world of self-absorption and narcissism. I found that the gym gave me much more direct results than ballet, in terms of improving my physical appearance. After all, that's what gyms are all about, really. And that was addictive. I never did classes though, apart from a couple of times. I didn't get bored. I'd just jump on the treadmill, put a good book on the magazine holder in front of me, and off I went! Hours of good reading. :)

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It's interesting to read also about the good experiences people here have with gyms, and Redbookish made me think: why doesn't the ballet studio have steam rooms? That would be great! :P


I don't think the gym's for me though. I always avoided it's joyless machines and loud noise, but before the summer I took an open "cardio-striptease dance class" at a reputable gym in the neighbourhood.

Sadly, it wasn't "cardio" for anyone who is in at least reasonable shape, it wasn't "striptease" (unless you think just pushing your butt back in a plié suddenly makes something sexy :shrug: ) and it most definitely was not a "dance class"! :huh:


And then there was an almost sickening smell of sweat... Does anyone have any idea why gyms tend to smell like that, while studios don't even though clearly a lot of sweating goed on there as well?




Anyway on a different note:

It was mean of me but fun to see the thin, gym-toned girls straining.

This actually made me frown a bit. I really treasure the fact that at my studio we all just want everybody to feel good about class, and to do as good as they possibly can. Regardless of who is "apple-shaped" and who is pear-shaped or banana-shaped, or whatever! To quote the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: "We are all FRUIT!" :D


But I guess this both creates and requires a certain ease with oneself, so if you already feel bad about yourself, then maybe it's understandable that it makes you feel good to see other people doing badly. I'm sorry people feel that way though. :)

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It was mean of me but fun to see the thin, gym-toned girls straining.


I'm with Sakura on this one. I'd never advocate being bitchy or horrid to someone, but while our superficial society continues to put these people on a pedestal, why shouldn't we feel a private pleasure at outdoing them? After all, we've earned it.



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