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Ballet Talk for Dancers

moral support required!


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oh dear- have I bitten off more than I can chew? I have started beginner adult ballet classes with no experience at 48 years old. The teacher is lovely and demonstrates multiple times. The other students all have more experience then me (not necessarily alot more but still....). I just can't seem to remember what to do as soon as I cant see the teacher demonstrating (when I turn away and work with the other leg). Last night we did our first travelling across the floor and to be honest, I feel like I have a brain injury! She demonstrated the very simple steps several times, we all did them as a group and then to my horror we were to move in pairs while everyone watched. Honestly. I had no idea what to do after the first three gallops. How embarassing. I have complete respect for the years it takes to become even slightly competent in ballet (even more respect lately!) but really! You would think I could do three gallops and a couple hops but no. I felt like I needed her to hold my elbow and walk through each step saying 'right' left' 'right'. Am I pathologically hopeless? Please tell me it will be ok and how long it is going to take so I dont feel humiliated..... I dont think I have felt this inept since figure skating lessons when I was 10. Bad memories.... :helpsmilie: And dont get me started on what I think of having to look at myself in a full length mirror wearing very unflattering clothes for an hour! :whistling: To save everyone asking why on earth I have attempted this in the first place, I am working on the assumption that it will improve my fitness, my posture and my core. It has also inadvertently increased my empathy for DS who seems to do all this stuff without anywhere near the same complaining! :dizzy:

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  • Hamorah


  • Willimus


  • Thyme


  • juandering


First of all congrats!!! You are doing great by just being there!!

Secondly, you WILL get better.....you really will... as long as you stick with it, be patient with yourself and try and have fun...afterall that is what adult ballet is all about, fitness, fun and like you say, improving posture and so much more.


You are not hopeless! Ballet is hard, very hard and because it is an art as well as a sport of sorts, one is never perfect. We are always all striving to get better.


I returned to class in my thirties and was hopeless too but after a couple of years I am not bad at all. I can remember my combinations pretty well most of the time and can even dance across the floor with confidence! I am sometimes even asked to demonstrate when I take the beginner class which is an honour :)


It sometimes helps people to take notes of the combinations and practise them at home at least in one's mind ;) Also it helps to take at least two to three classes a week if it's possible.

That made a HUGE difference to me!!! There is so much repetition of variations on a theme that one really gets the hang of it by simply repeating over and over.

Are you in open classes or taking a series of progressive classes?


Anyhow...I am always impressed by folks who take ballet for the first time as adults...it's hard enough for those of us who danced as kids to return so well done and keep it up!!!! Smile and enjoy it! You will see how supportive adult dancers are with each other and how well you will do after even a few months of classes! Take care :)

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ooh thank you Bllfille- it is nice to hear from someone who has done it. My non-dancing friends and partner just look at me like I am crazy. I am taking two 1 hour classes each week. I do feel ok about the barre and centre work, just sweating away in my own private place with them. The travelling bit is terrible and I think I choke on the performance aspect of it. These are open classes. I am amazed by the numbers of women who attend them (about 10 each time) as the studio is out of the way, very new and only just getting started. Thanks again. I am glad I posted this- you are very encouraging!

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Non ballet people will never understand why we do it!! I take four technique classes a week and also pointe class and I KNOW how mad my fiancee and family think I am ;) And when I get upset as I find something hard, they don't seem to get it.

If I put as much effort into my dancing as my job I would be able to take on the world! lol!!!


That is great that you are taking two classes a week. I also used to HATE the performance aspect of dancing across the floor but now I often enjoy it! I bet you will too...I think that secretly that is why we love to dance...because we actually DO want to show what we have learned to others...it's a great feeling!


I know how amazing it is that ballet people will go to class no matter what! Snow, illness, traffic, holidays....you get obsessed and don't want to stop!!!

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Sounds normal to me! There are certain common sequences of steps across the floor that are super confusing at the beginning. Once you get a hang of them, things will become much clearer.


You can try:

- to learn the exercises by learning the sub-patterns. You already figured out those 3 gallops; next, figure out what's next, and so on

- to break the exercises down into phrases -- either the phrases of steps or phrases of music, whatever works for you

- to understand the exercises in terms of the "upstage" and "downstage" legs (instead of left and right), which will make it a bit easier to do the other direction


But, really, what you need is time and repetition. Oh! And to remember that no one else is judging you. More likely they're remembering how difficult it was when they were the new person.

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Hang in there, Thyme. I'll never forget the day I crossed over from having to try to remember what step came next and just being able to dance the combination! And I didn't start as an adult, but I did start "late", so there were plenty of eyes (and there was plenty of pressure) on me! It takes a while. It gets easier incrementally until one day, it clicks.


Like gav said, learning sub-patterns can help a lot. You can do yourself a favor and start practicing tombe, pas de bouree now -- that's one that will come up over and over again! And don't be afraid to ask questions of your teacher, or your DS. :) And if you aren't already comfortable enough with French for it to help you with ballet terminology, it can really help to familiarize yourself with the terminology by just reading through a ballet terminology book.

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The trouble with most so-called beginner classes is that they are not actually for complete beginners - as you say the other students do have some knowledge, so however slow and patient the teacher is you are going to struggle following what she wants. Once you accept that and stop worrying about looking ridiculous, I think you'll begin to get the hang of it! Ballet is repetitious even if the combinations are changed. There is a vocabulary of exercises that need to be learnt together with the French terminology for them and if you stick at it you will eventually cotton on to what the teacher wants! Try searching for ballet classes on youtube and watch them - see what steps you can recognise. You say your son dances - get his help to practise the basics with you - it will be good for him to try and analyse the technique too. In teaching you he will learn himself, because he will have to think about what he does! Whatever you do don't give up, but try it for at least three or four months and see what happens. Good luck and enjoy!!!

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Thyme, it takes time (oh dear sorry) to get the movements from seeing to doing. Muscle memory takes time to build, particularly if you're starting at a late-ish age (for ballet, that is). Just getting the action of doing 3 gallops across the floor is good going for your first class.


At the barre, try to stand between 2 other dancers (without crowding anyone) who know a little bit more and you can follow them roughly when you can't see the teacher.


I say "follow roughly" Because I think there are 2 ways we can generally learn ballet. It's an art of both fine details and big pictures. So if, in the first few classes, you just get the sense in your body of the big shapes of ballet, then the details will come.


Keep us up to date on your progress. You'll be amazed in 6 months time of the progress you've made, inch by inch.

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thank you everyone for your suggestions (voices of experience). I feel heartened to go to my next class. I absolutely agree with you Hamorah- this isnt actually a Beginners class- everyone else just seems to know where 5th is (for instance). I am just mimicing to the best of my ability. Redbookish- I am definitely going with the big pictures idea. Excellent. I will do my best to relay my progress- if for no other reason than to boost my self confidence! My next challenge is to find something to wear that I dont get overly hot and sweaty in, look somewhat respectable in AND hides the wobbley bits! Somehow my yoga outfit just doesnt seem to cut it. Wish me luck. :clover: Hugs to all of you!

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I always seem to end up being a sweaty betty in class! I do wear a black leotard with black shorts and a black t-shirt over the top, but I find when the perspiration is dripping from the end of my nose it doesn't really help!


First time I joined the Advanced class for barre a few months ago I ended up looking like I'd been dunked in a bucked of water. Went to catch the bus from from outside the swimming pool, so no-one knew the difference..... :lol:


I've gone with taking a very small gym towel with me, and just deciding that if I'm sweating, I'm working, and so be it!

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You've chosen something that has a very steep learning curve, hang in there it'll get easier.

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As a teacher of adult beginners all I can say is hang in there. It takes time. We will be starting a four week "absolute beginner" workshop at our studio, for students who would like something very basic...perhaps there is something like that in your area. However, it really isn't necessary. Hang in there and you will catch up and catch on. Remember, it is a CLASS. No one cares if you make mistakes...especially the other students. Trust me. Most of them are examining themselves in the mirror or worrying about what comes next. Don't feel embarrassed, everyone in that class was a beginner once.

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I started at 52 and had the same problems as you. Believe us, it will get easier! Similar combinations of steps tend to recur and you will get used to doing them (though the teachers try to give all variations possible, in practice they tend to repeat patterns). Also I suggest trying some of the fast small linking steps at home, firstly singly, then in combination (e.g. glissade, pas de bourree, pas de chat, etc) - going across the floor embarrassed in front of everybody is not a good time to learn things that happen so fast. While home practice is meant to be discouraged, we have discussed it for adults many times on this board, and the consensus seems to be that for adults and for specific goals it can be good. In class, there is not just time to do enough repetitions of a single step such as pas de bourree to really get it into your muscle memory in the time available, let alone do it in a sequence among other steps that are also confusing you. Good that you have a captive tutor in your son at home who can guide you.

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All I can do is to echo what everyone else has said. I started ballroom dancing at age 50 and I think I started ballet at age 52, so I had a little experience going into a dance class. I vividly remember that after the first ballet classes, I literally had a mild headache from thinking so hard. I quickly learned to position myself at the barre and in center so that I could see someone who knew what she was doing because I had no chance of remembering what the teacher was asking us to do. The class had a mix of people who were raw beginners and and people who had some experience.


After class, I would write down everything I could remember (a habit I began while doing ballroom)and later spend time practicing at home. At first I couldn't remember much to write down, so at first my practices at home didn't last much more than 10 minutes or so. Of course with 10 minute practice sessions you can do more than one a day.


Well, 16 years after that first ballet class, I think I can say it all worked out well.


There is something called kinetic intelligence, which is essentially the ability to learn and do physical movement. The good thing about kinetic intelligence is that it can be learned. Most people who take dance classes regularly develop their kinetic intelligence enormously.


As a beginner it's normal to feel insecure, a little anxious, and self-critical about doing something new. That wonderful drug-time-works wonders.

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  • 2 weeks later...

hi everyone- well I am still alive but walking with abit of a hobble today after a leg stretch that seems to have gone wrong (arabesque on the barre?). Done it several times before in a rather ungainly way but this time I pulled my back abit. Nothing major but just another one in the list of little aches and pains I acquire at class. So more importantly I am battling along my learning curve. Somedays I have company at the bottom on the curve which is great. I dont like being the worst but love abit of company. Today I held a posture (please dont ask what it was called but I was up in demipoint on one foot with my hands in 5th!) which the teacher thought was 'great' and said that DS 'had to have got his talent from somewhere!'. That went to my head and it was probably after that I hurt my back! :whistling: It is amazing how much a positive comment means when you are struggling! DS has been happily giving me some tips (I CAN NOT do a pirouette for love or money) and seems to be quietly amused by my

bafflement. Sweet kid. Patiently takes me through it all while he does his triples. :dizzy:

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