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Absolute beginner at 39yo - what's achievable?


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Hello All - I went to my first Adult beginners lesson this week - never having had any dance lessons of any sort before… and I really enjoyed it!


I was glad to see from some of the other posts that 39 isn't too late to start, but I wondered if anyone can indicate what is achievable for someone starting at that age? Physically I would probably be described as athletic/slim, but obviously in terms of flexibility and stretches there's a long, LONG way to go.


How much in terms of stretches and flexibility can the body learn when starting later like me? Is it all about training and correct exercise, or does something get "locked in" once you're past a certain age?


What would be the best exercises/stretches for a complete beginner to do between classes, and how often should you do them? I also read about overstretching etc., so would want to avoid that of course - I assume there's a greater danger for a beginner like me to do that?


Any help or advice much appreciated.




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Hello Colin, and welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers! Congratulations on starting classes--that is often the most difficult part. It is difficult to say what you might be able to achieve as it depends to an extent on how much physical facility you have as well as on how many ballet classes you're able to take per week.


That said, adult beginners can definitely increase flexibility at any age, although it may take more time and effort than it would for someone younger. Consistency is key, so you will see better results if you stretch several times a week (always making sure to warm yourself up beforehand). I recommend asking your teacher for stretches as s/he knows your abilities best and will be able to demonstrate them for you.


Good luck on your ballet journey and please do let us know how you progress!

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Thank you - I will definitely do that.


On flexibility, taking a rather extreme move such as something like the splits. That's entirely physically impossible for me right now of course, without doing myself some serious injury! :ermm:


However, do most people have the potential to achieve a move like that? So is it still possible to work towards it even after all these years of doing nothing like that at all! :grinning: Do muscles/tendons retain the ability to make such extreme adaptations? (understanding it would take a long time and lot of effort to achieve)?

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I think it is more productive to think of it this way: a split is an exercise that you do in order to increase flexibility rather than something you have or don't have. Being able to split your legs to 180º isn't necessary for any step in classical ballet, but if used correctly, it can be a useful exercise to gain flexibility. So once your teacher has shown you the correct way to go about it, yes, you can certainly work on it, but I wouldn't worry about doing a full split. You might end up being able to or you might not, but the important thing is that the flexibility you will gain from doing that stretch in addition to others will help keep you healthier and will allow you to move more freely in class.


Sorry I can't give a more conventional "straight answer"--I do not really know the extreme end of what every body might be able to do, and comparing yourself to others or to a very extreme absolute is the fastest way to get into a negative spiral of thought, but if you compare what you did this month to what you did last month, or this year to last year, and see progress, you will have something to be proud of.

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Thanks Hans - that's very helpful.


Don't worry - I'm not setting myself unrealistic goals, any improvement I'll count as gain!

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