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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Overweight, Older, and Starting Adult Ballet


jflyte

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Do it. Do it. Do it. Do not wait to get in shape first. Really, no one in the adult beginning class will care how you look. It is marvelous to take ballet class. Go for it and let us know how it goes!

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Hi jflyte!

 

I think it's great that you have an interest in taking a ballet class! I know it can be a little intimidating to try something new, especially since you said you are feeling self-conscious, but if you don't try, you may never know what a wonderful experience it can be! You are definitely not alone. Many beginners are self-consious for one reason or another.

 

Don't let the thought of it being "too difficult" dissuade you. Many adults make adjustments to the exercises (with the guidance of their teachers) to make sure they stay safe and are not going beyond their physical limitations. The truth is that ballet IS difficult, but this is true no matter what your size, shape, or age. It is also rewarding in countless ways and absolutely worth it!

 

Some adult classes are more relaxed with the dress codes, so I would suggest talking to the teacher or maybe observing an adult class to see what the other students wear. If your studio allows it, you may be able to wear yoga pants, sweat pants, or a ballet skirt to make you feel more comfortable.

 

Good luck to you and please do keep us posted!

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I think you should go for it!

 

My class is an even mix of those of us who really would like to lose some weight and those who look phenomenal, but the common thread is we all love to dance.

Most adult classes aren't strict with the dress code, so you should be able to wear something you are comfortable in.

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If you wait till you lose weight you'll keep waiting! Do it now and you will feel better without even losing weight, because you'll be using the tummy muscles and standing tall and getting exercise doing beautiful moves. I call my ballet classes my food for the soul. I do what I can do and love it still and I've been dancing almost all my life!

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hi Jflyte- I am 48 and started classes 4 weeks ago so I am with you on all this!! I cant claim to be overweight but have a some extra bits I try to ignore usually. Putting on any form of exercise clothing is daunting but I find standing in front of a full length mirror in something approximating ballet garb extremely 'challenging'. In my class some of us are overweight and some of us are slim. I have obsessed about what to wear, trying to find something that doesnt make me look 'thicker' but is still suitable. I am giving up. Yoga pants and a Tshirt is what I have settled on. Having said that after 4 weeks I am paying less and less attention to how I look and more to what I am doing. I dont think anyone even glances at me during class- nothing to see. We are all fixated on the teacher and perhaps the one other student who seems to know what she is doing. Hamorah is completely right- you will feel beautiful (at times) when a movement feels fluid, you will work on your abdominal muscles and best of all- forget about 'normal' life while you concentrate harder than you have probably ever concentrated before! I find ballet mentally taxing and the less I worry about how I look the better I do. In case you are finding everyone's advice to 'just ignore how you look' less than compelling, I will tell you this: Seeing yourself in a full length mirror is confronting and a real reality check. I didnt realise my posture is how it is and I didnt realise how my body has changed over the years. I thought I still looked 25 for some reason. So all this has increased my motivation to work on my abdominals, straighten up my posture and smile more. I am taking my cue from the young woman in our class who is definitely overweight but arrives each week in full leotard and dances beautifully (for a beginner). I am not looking at her thighs- I am looking at her lovely porte de bras!

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Seeing yourself in a full length mirror is confronting and a real reality check.

 

What an excellent point, Thyme! One's judgment of oneself in class can be the most hard to face and difficult to deal with. I may feel like I am working so hard only to glance at myself, leg not completely straight, foot hardly off the ground (it sure felt like my leg was higher!) It can be depressing and seeing myself in the mirror can be the hardest part of class.

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Yes, I think I might prefer a studio without mirrors nowadays! In my mind's eye I am doing a wonderful split grand jete like I used to do "once upon a time" and then I look in the mirror and land with a crash back to present day reality :( . But in spite of that I keep coming back for more! People ask me how I am and I answer "As long as I can still take class I'm OK!" :)

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Yes! DO IT!!!!!!!!!!! There are many many folks in the classes I go to who are not slim and perfectly fit and no one cares or looks twice.....we are all looking at the teacher...and sometimes ourselves, trying to get things right :)

Just be warm, friendly and do your best...everyone will love you:) Good luck!!

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Just back from my Saturday morning class and thinking more about this conversation. I was talking to one of the younger (35 years old!) woman who in my opinion has a fantastic body and clearly has danced before. Turns out she is also a pole dance teacher! Anyways I digress but you get the idea of what she looks like? So I was talking about how I have struggled to find something decent to wear to class and she was agreeing! Saying how hard it is to face herself in the mirror. Arent we just terrible to ourselves? So while I was obsessing about my own issues this young woman walks into class carrying a whole lot of extra weight. She is all kitted out in full gear, proud as punch. Is it a generation thing? I know whole books have been written about that but it really hit me how much I/you/we worry needlessly about our bodies. What I am trying to say here is that I am on the verge of getting proud and revealing my inner ballerina. I am actually thinking of rebelling against my 'body anxiety' and going out and buying the whole kit and caboodle- leotard, little skirt and tights. Watch this space. The shock waves might be heard across the Pacific!

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There was an older (and bigger) lady in the last studio I attended and she always just wore a leotard and white/pink tights. No cover-ups. You know what? A pair of shorts isn't really fooling anyone, and she looked great without them.

 

So I completely agree with you Thyme, we shouldn't waste our energy worrying about these things. I'm saying this as someone who, as a teenager, used to go to the beach wearing a baggy t-shirt and jeans because I was so body conscious. We have to stop thinking of our bodies as visual objects, but as things we live in and move in.

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I always wear leotard and tights to class - old habits die hard! But I cover my pink tights with thicker footless black ones for modesty and because I think my thighs are heavy. Anyway, last week I arrived at the studio (having battled through the early morning traffic jams on the ring road) and discovered that I had forgotten my dance bag. To save time I always put on my leotard and pink tights under my outdoor wear at home, so I had that, but no shoes, no overtights and no changing clothes and towel. Sunday morning class is my favourite class of the week and I really didn't want to go home, so I searched lost property and found a pair of ballet shoes that fit and some black knitted shorts. But I had to go in with my legs exposed in pink tights. Horror of horrors!

 

Anyway, the teacher asked me what happened and I explained and then she said, But why are you embarrassed - your legs are lovely - you look sixteen years old in pink tights!!!! I have to say that her reaction made my day, but boy was it wierd seeing my legs in pink tights - must have been 40 years since the last time!!!

 

So the point is that we are always embarrassed about our bodies, but what we see in the mirror is not necessarily what other people see. When I go to class I expect to see the younger, slimmer me in the mirror (the one with the split jetes!) so I cringe, but other people don't see that. They know how old I am and don't expect to see someone with the body of a young dancer. I think we should stop being so hard on ourselves and just enjoy dancing, no matter what we look like.

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Don't wait until you lose weight! I myself started ballet over four years ago, being overweight. The wish to learn was just stronger than any fear how I might look. I never looked back. If I had waited, I would have missed sooo much! And now, ballet motivates me to lose weight and make progress. It's the best thing I ever did! Even if you don't lose much weight, you will appear thinner and lighter from using your muscles to hold yourself differently. You will learn to move in a new way, and get a new awareness for your body.

Just do it. And enjoy!

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I think it's natural for people to be hesitant and self-conscious when beginning a new activity, especially an activity where others can see our incompetence. I'll bet everyone on this board who began ballet at an older age has experienced it. I sure did, and I generally feel relatively confident about the things I do. So when you begin just realize that everyone in the class has been in your situation. They will know how you feel.

 

As to when you begin, ask your school's director when the best time for you would be. If you are the taxi driver for your kids going to class, you might try walking while they are in class just to prepare yourself for becoming more physical.

 

I confess to having a phobia. I hate having my picture taken. I hate seeing myself dance on film. I hate looking at myself in the mirror. Totally irrational I know. But it helps in the sense that in class my gaze is always just above the mirrors. That's not bad. I know some dancers learn to rely on the mirror for all sorts of things. I don't have that problem, which I think is good. Only time I use the mirror is in a class where a long combination is underway and %^#& I forget what step comes next and have to go for a quick glance at some of the others.

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