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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Scared to go back


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After repeatedly hurting my ankle doing ballet, and moving away from my studio, I took about a 4-year break from ballet to start ice-skating. Well now ice skating has left me with a hip injury, and I thinking of trying to make a return to ballet.


I'm incredibly nervous about going back to dance. I'm about 20 lbs heavier than when I last danced and scared of wearing a leotard and tights. I'm incredibly out of shape, it seems all my ability to dance is just gone (I have NO leaps left. My turns are wobbly an uncontrolled). My flexibility has disappeared in the last 2 years. Additionally I have the hip injury, and I'm not sure I'll even be able to get through a class (developes I know are going to be tough, if not impossible). And I have a knee injury I didn't have last time I danced. My ankles should be okay now- as long as I stay off pointe, which I'm years away from going back to. I think I'll basically have to stick myself into a first time class.


So I'm scared to dance, and I'm scared to wear dance clothes.


But I'm beginning to worry it's a moot point, because I can't find a class! The studio closest to me has a good pre-pro program, but offers only 1 adult class a week, for 60 minutes. Over the phone she told me it was mostly teens who didn't like the structure of the regular class. That does not sound promising. The furthest studio from me offers 3 classes a week, but also only 60 minutes each. The university offers a class, but it's taught by a friend (which I think might be ackward) and offers no parking (a dealbreaker for me) The studio I'm thinking about going to only has 1 class a week, but it is 90 minutes. Can I get better on one class a week? When I was dancing in Dayton, I was doing 3 classes a week, and later 3 + pointe + rehearsals.


I really enjoyed dancing with the kids in Dayton, and while I was a young adult, my body didn't feel like an adult. Now, I don't think I can do it. Certainly not to start- I need to make sure my body can handle it. I'm worried about asking for a placement class anyway, because while I used to dance with middle schoolers, now I worry I'd be placed with 2nd graders. I've just degraded so much in the past 2-3 years.


Not sure what I'm expecting people to respond with- but if anyone has guidance about picking a class when none are ideal, or any other advise on returning to ballet, I'd appreciate it. I'm just stressed and I haven't even started yet.

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One thing that I'd be careful with is if you're still having some problems with injuries.. being not in the best shape and trying to do too much too soon could really aggravate those things. I doubt you need to start at the very bottom considering the level you were at before. It will take time to get things coordinated again but 4 years isn't really that long. Everything will be shakier than they were when you left of course, but it won't take eons to build back up, just need to get your feet back under you! I took something like a 3 year break as an adult and going back into class I mostly was dealing with lost strength and stability (my bane being too much flexibility and inherent lack of strength when not maintained), but the body and brain remembers. If you're not ready for leo and tights, use some coverup until you're comfortable, one less thing to fret over. :thumbsup:


The issue with classes, well that's always a tough one as an adult I think. Since you're looking to get back into things, one class a week isn't ideal but it's better than nothing. I aimed for 2 classes a week when starting back, especially when having to be mindful of aggravating a prior injury. Some weeks something would hurt after the first class so I'd just skip the next. Sounds like you know all about the cycle of injuries that develop into chronic problems, don't want that happening with the hips and knees too! I've taken all sorts of one-off classes at various studios in the past several months, maybe just pop in for one of the shorter classes to see how you feel. Some 90 minute classes have less content than I used to get in 70 minute classes due to pacing and number of students. You don't have to make a commitment right away and some offer the first class free for a trial run, worth sampling what's out there!


At the end of the day, I'd say just stop thinking (I am guilty of over-thinking/over-analyzing everything) and just go. Once getting in the door for the first class, I'm sure a lot of the anxieties will disappear. Something reassuring about the familiarity of a routine in class, even if the studio/teacher/students are new. That's my two cents. :thumbsup:

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When I started back this last time (about 4 years ago), I deliberately took beginner/advanced beginner classes, even though I'd had almost 30 years of ballet training, mostly on, but sometimes off (only a couple of years off). I, too, was bigger than I used to be - far more than what you described. I started with unitards with floppy t-shirts. Being as old as I am, the teachers didn't make me take them off. But I worked VERY slowly and meticulously. I didn't care if the exercise was simple - I MADE it hard for myself by working the placement, the turnout (to the best of my ability, etc.). I have had in the past two rather devastating injuries, and even though now I can more or less keep up with the advanced kids in the pre-pro-all-in-but-name school that I take the majority of my classes now, I still have to work very carefully.


One class a week for 60 minutes might be the ideal place to start. Two probably would be better as long as there was at least a day between. If you can do other kinds of fitness alongside the ballet classes, that will help. It certainly did with me. All my cross-training is geared for stamina, strength and stability (ooo....alliteration! :-) ).


Go in and do what you know you can do. Don't try to compete with those who are in the class. Compete with yourself - you'll be surprised how fast it comes back. At the start, I had two 60 minute classes a week. Then I added a third class and hired one of the teachers privately to help me with conditioning when I found out about Sun King Dance (that was the second year, though - not my first year!). The following year I added more classes as my schedule allowed. Now I can cope with about 4-5 hours of classes daily, but only if I'm sensible. At my age, I can't jump as I used to, so I mark instead of jump. But I can do the rest, even some pointe work. So it is possible. Just don't expect it to happen all at once and don't be discouraged because your brain sees what you USED to be able to do while the body does not respond like it used to.


Mind, I'm saying that but feeling opposite at times - it can be discouraging. That's when I look for the little triumphs - like maintaining balance in the center, or seeing my leg REALLY turned out properly in an exercise. Or feeling the good hip soreness because I really worked that turnout (like on Thursday....satisfying but ouch!).


In the end, the only thing holding you back is yourself. Make the choice you feel is best for you.

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Oh, yes, I would also go for the beginner labeled classes. But who knows what level it will actually be. :thumbsup:

Just meant that not needed for the absolute beginner-basics type ones. I think I've only really had one actual what I would consider "beginner" level class in the various adult classes I've taken lately with that label. Seems most hover around some advanced beginner/intermediate depending on who's attending type situation. I would just have a quick chat with the teacher explaining you're coming back after a break and will be understanding if you need to take it easy if something isn't feeling right, want to lay off jumping, etc.

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Guest Pas de Quoi

I have a couple of suggestions - if you have been injured and are not sure about your ability to do class as you once did, you might try Pilates mat and reformer work to get the strength and flexibility back and also get some expert feedback about the state of the injured joints. I would also suggest doing some ballet work at home with the help of a good ballet class DVD. Finis Jung's DVD's are very good (if you can get past his music - not my cup of tea!) and they are anatomically based, clear, and safe. Of course an appropriate level class of 90 minutes, two times a week, would be best but these two options may be helpful right now. I know a bit about joint injuries from my own experiences, and the one thing you must be certain about is that you are studying with an instructor who knows the body very well, and is commited to giving an anatomicallty sound class. If not, you risk reinjuring yourself.

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Thanks all for the encouragement. I'm just nervous to go to a general adult class because I always feel like an all level class means no level is served correctly at all. And maybe a 60 minute would be okay, I'm just a bit wary of them because it doesn't seem like enough time for a class. I guess I should just try each studio and decide afterwards- the walk in rates are just so high!


I do a yoga and a pilates class weekly, so while I'm grossly out of shape I'm not sedentary.

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Ballet when done correctly and with a lot of care I believe can do absolute wonders for all sorts of injuries.

You are doing the right thing with the yoga and the pilates but for sheer enjoyment I would highly recommend that you add the ballet too!


I would recommend that you rather get one good 60 minute class a week and supplement it with some of the DVD's as suggested I like the Finis DVD's. I agree that 60 minutes is not long, but it is what you make of those sixty minutes that counts. Go into the class already warmed up and with a real focus on the technique, the brain has not forgotten although the body will require quite a bit of reminding.


As far as dress code goes, I am sure that we would all like to look like a million dollars in just pink ballet tights and a leotard but unfortunately it isnt going to happen. If it is a skirt that will make you feel more comfortable get one (you wouldnt catch me in class without one :blushing: ) or whatever else you feel comfortable in even if it is what you would wear to pilates or yoga. I have found that teachers are reasonably understanding and will within reason go with the flow. In some of my classes, we have some of the dancers mom's that have recently come back to ballet and they literally wear tracksuit pants, t-shirts and ballet shoes and that is fine because they would just like some exercise, they are not looking to do exams or stress themselves out and they often only do the barre work.


If it is something that you love, go for it and let us know how it went!

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  • 6 months later...

I have just gone back to class myself with my usual aching back, a recurrence of my plantar fascitis from a while back and some unusually tight calves courtesy of my restarting tap dance. My toes look awful. They refuse to point much at all for lack of recent use and medical reasons. I am working on that in PT once again as well. There is also the matter of my excess weight. I am about 10 higher than when I went to dance camp in 08 but technically I am more than 10 down from my peak last summer and working on it.

I am no chicken. I will be 50 this spring. My body looks different now than it did at the same weight 2 years ago despite my efforts to be active with something included in my Y membership. Zumba may have helped me with cardio but it did nothing for my ballet muscles.

I have taken to wearing control garments to class either under or ove rmy tights and leo or unitard. I even sewed a skirt onto a 6 inch band of elastic that supports my back and tummy at one time last week and I liked it. It ss cooler than wearing an extra layer of something like a control panty too. I am dreaming of super high waisted control tights in fact, but not the spanx variety that inevitably has that demarkation line on the thigh. What is up with that anyway?

You will feel better in the regular ballet clothing sooner or later, even if just for the freedom of movement. I am back with people who have known me for the most part and people take what you offer in class. We are all glad each other shows up to keep classes open.

I still have arch supports in my shoes and I figure on keeping it that way. I know I am not the only one. It took forever to figure out which ones would work and get them to stick in place so I am not going to mess with it.

I signed up for camp again partly for the excellent way to mark my 50th year and part to give me some extra incentive to get back into condition so I will be able to do camp. Then there is the cameraderie.

Anyway, go to class and do what you can. Half the stuff that hurts me feels better with some use. I figure I am in my "use it or lose it years" and have been for a decade or so. I just have to be careful. I don't think you will be alone with your list of stuff in your class. It won't be pain free but you will at least have earned it in a very satisfying way.

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