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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Doing competitions as an adult


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Brief background: I am an adult returner to ballet (at 33) after doing RAD seriously until the age of 18. I am currently doing RAD intermediate, including pointe, with the regular teen class.


So I've been bitten with the dancing bug. HARD. At this point it might qualify for an unhealthy addiction, with the rate I'm spending money on tuition and shoes!!


I'm curious if any other adult has come back to dance with the passion and, okay, obsession that has hit me. Not only am I doing every ballet class I can fit in, but in the fall I am also going to be doing jazz, tap, contemporary, and hip hop. I can't get enough.


I said I'd never do competitions at my ripe old age (our local small town school does competitions), but suddenly - I WANT TO. And not for trophies or anything at all, I really could care less. I want to perform, to get on stage and dance, to get choreography meant just FOR ME. To get on stage again, the more the better.


I think I feel so driven because it really does feel like my last chance to make something of dance, something that's always been part of my soul. I was talked out of trying to get more serious about dance when I was younger - it wasn't practical, I didn't have the body or feet or natural aptitudes to 'make it', pro ballet was cutthroat and even pros didn't make much money, etc etc. I regret that, but I would regret it even more if I denied myself again now.


I am going to be doing a competition number with the adult jazz class, but my heart and soul lies in ballet. Unfortunately I am too old to take part in any of the ballet competition group numbers (booo!) so the only option is to do a solo (yipes!!!). I'm not even sure I can, I have asked the school but it depends if any of the teachers have availability for another solo spot, so I'm waiting to hear back.


I was curious, though, if any of the adult dancers here have done 'kids' competitions? Good idea? Bad? Are all the other dance moms (I have two sons in dance as well) going to snigger at me? Though, honestly, I don't care, you only live once after all. Mostly I wanted to hear about anyone else that has done this, what they liked, didn't like, any words of advice, etc.


My poor husband. First I had to tell him about the realities of the costs of pointe shoes, and now I'm probably going to end up with a $3-4k tuition bill, and that's not even including costumes and competition fees yet! :whistling:


Someone please tell me it's all worth it and I'm not going to seriously regret this early mid-life crisis.......

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I went to 6 dance comps last year (as a mom) and there were adults at them all dancing. Sometimes in a group, sometimes a duo, I only saw one solo adult but every comp has an adult age category so why not? I don't think anyone will snigger, the moms I know all thought it was very cool. And some used to compete in a moms tap group (and not a joke group like the "dad dances" sometimes are- real competition).


You get time onstage, personal choreography, a critique that may or may not be useful (a pitfall of these comps are they are not very ballet knowledgeable but you probably know that) and so what's the downside? I say go for it.

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Most dance schools our our area that have performances have some adult roles - a mom, teacher etc. Sometimes a small solo. That seems developmentally appropriate. There are some ballerinas who are fortunate enough to have a stage career in their 30's.


In our school there is one lady who started ballet in her 20's and she does pointe now in her 40's. It does seem both strange and admirable at the same time that she is taking class with the teenagers. She doesn't care what people think. She has a good body and most of us dance moms would never deign to put a leotard on! I know I'd look hideous.


It sounds like you're one of these people who take up training for a marathon or something --you want to be elite, set a goal. Except yours is dance instead of running.


I am a physician - addiction is when you want something compulsively despite negative consequences to your body, family, job, livelihood.

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Thanks for the encouragement ladies! :)


dancypants, the downside is justifying the cost, really. ;) It's expensive to do a solo, but unfortunately I'm too old to join any of the groups. And, there are no other serious adult ballet students at our small town school so no chance of a duo, plus if I want to do this I want to do it en pointe and there's simply no other adult doing pointe at our tiny school. I will be doing a group jazz number with other adults, but I don't LOVE jazz like I love ballet, you know? I really don't care about comments or 'results' (a close friend I have did comps as a teen, and even at 16 had some nasty comments from the judges about her age!) I just want to get on stage and perform. I figure if they didn't want adults they wouldn't have adult categories.


But gosh, the money! That's the hard part to justify. This stuff doesn't come cheap, but I keep going back to regrets and second chances.


mamatha - Okay I am killing myself laughing here, at your marathon metaphor. Because, for years, I DID run. And yes, I am definitely a Type A super competitive type. And yes, I'd want to (well not win) but make all these time goals, be the best I can be, etc etc. Only, I hated running, and I kept getting injured. I've also tried 'replacing' ballet with other more 'grown up' things, like ballroom dancing ($$$$!), gym classes, and it was just never the same.


So yep, I've been shameless talking my way back into all the kids' classes (no kidding either, I'm a total tap beginner and in the fall will be tapping with 9-12 year olds!). I have no delusions of ever 'making it' as a pro or anything, but just doing recitals and maybe get on the competition stage is enough to make me happy as a pig in mud. Even though I feel really guilty digging into the emergency fund to pay for some of this! :whistling:


I'm really fortunate, though, that my school has been so welcoming. They haven't minded 'letting' me in with the kids at all, as long as I didn't feel uncomfortable. So it's been a real blessing considering the mixed experiences I've read about on this board about adults joining the teens. Of course it also helps that the teens I have my ballet classes with are older (17-19) so it's really not bad at all. But it certainly helps to not care what others think, even though I really wish my teachers would quit holding me up as a 'mature & responsible' standard. So embarrassing!

Edited by silkmaiden
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I haven't participated in or thought about competitions, but you definitely have me intrigued! I was never into the competitive aspect of ballet/dancing when I was younger, which was part of the reason I didn't ever want to be a pro. I think that part still makes me a little uncomfortable, but I do miss performing. I may have to look into a competition myself :happy: At any rate, you seem to really enjoy it, so I say go for it!


I also wanted to comment because reading the first part of your post made me do a double-take! I have a very similar dancing obsession at the moment. I too am in my early 30s, and have just come back to ballet after a hiatus. Suddenly, I cannot get enough information about ballet, despite the fact that I was very involved in it when I was younger. It's only now that I'm older that I'm super interested in the history, about professional dancers and their careers, about the biology of ballet, etc. I have also been spending money on lots of new dance wear and stalking this forum. It's nice to find other kindred spirits :wub:

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Another option besides competition (and much cheaper!) would be to seek out adult roles in a local ballet company or studio production. There may not be the high level of dancing as you might find in a competition, but you'd still get the performing/stage experience that it sounds like you are looking for.

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morninglorie - (I love your username btw!) Yes, we do sound like kindred souls! :wub: So awesome to find a boardmate who sounds like me. I too am sooooo obsessed now, with all the details, history, stories out there about professionals, in a way that I never was as a kid. And I appreciate the joy of dancing and the opportunities SO much more (well of course I do, I'm paying for it now!)


Ah, you wouldn't happen to live near Ottawa, Canada, huh? If so we could dance together.....! :D


Blanche - oh, I have tried. I've tried looking for EVERYTHING, but there is simply nothing around here, not for adults. There's ONE prepro program, which is Vaganova anyways, and they do have a few productions each year, but they only have roles for pre-pro students, period. And I even hunted around for musical theatre, university dance programs, heck even dance teams and nothing to be found but highland and jazz/cheer type things. Now if anyone knew of any other local productions/theatre programs for Ottawa (ON) residents, I would really love to know!


Alas, moving to follow my rekindled passion for dancing and performing is really not an option! Pity!

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Haha, alas, I live on the other side of North America, in the States. Maybe we'll meet at an SI or something someday! One never knows...


It's frustrating sometimes that there tends to be a lack of classes and opportunities for adult dancers. I've sort of gotten used to being with the teenagers, but I do like it when I have another adult around! (though the teens in my current classes are super sweet). I understand that a pre-pro school would want to cater to its pre-pro (younger) students for performances, but involving adults/adult students might spread the word around more, you know? Involving the community at large can be beneficial. Ah, well. I hope there's a performance opportunity hiding just around the corner for you!

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Same to you too, morninglorie!


I am blessed in a way, that I'm short with no boobs or hips, :P (not rail thin but I AM flat as a board) so thankfully I blend in quite easily with the older teens. It makes it easier to feel like part of the class. In fact, there are many 9-11 year olds taller then me. :blush: I actually feel odder when I'm in an adult class, especially in a leo/tights outfit.


Our school isn't pre-pro, it's a very small town so it's more of a recreational school, and I suppose some might think poorly of it being a 'serious' ballet school since it does do many genres and competes. But I wouldn't call it a Dolly Dinkle in any way, the quality of instruction (even if not as many ballet classes as I'd like) is very good, and the teachers are all certified and experienced. And more importantly I've not at all been discriminated against due to age, which is very impressive. Actually, this is the second school I've taken classes at where my age isn't a problem in any way, and my skill and ability is the only thing that matters - as it should. I think that RAD opening up its exams with no max age has helped that attitude in general a lot in the ballet schools in my part of the world.


Update on the comp situation - I spoke with my teachers, and we agreed that I'd be better off this year concentrating on classes and technique, and not try to do too much or compromise my learning with competitions quite yet. Especially since I'm an adult apparently I'd probably be in the same groups as many ex pros (YIPES!!!) so I totally TOTALLY agree that I'd better be confident and as good as I can be before I try to go up against that sort of quality! I remind myself that, ballet is a slow boil process, and it's never ever a bad thing to spend more time on building a solid foundation. So instead I will be taking one extra lower level class to really work on the basics of my technique. Unfortunately that means I'll end up with two ballet classes on the same evening, but that can't be helped.


Right now, I'm happy with the performance opportunities I will be getting. Sure it's 'only' the school recital, but it's a big deal in our small town, and there will be the December showcase as well as the recital, which usually has 2-3 performances. Looks like I will have a minimum of 4 pieces, and up to 6 if I want. So that along with dancing 6 days a week is certainly plenty to keep me busy!

Edited by silkmaiden
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morninglorie - Totally OT, apologies to the mods, I'd PM but don't have that ability yet. I just wanted to comment that I just read your 'interests' under your username, and are you sure we're not long lost sisters or something?!?


Seriously. I have done a lot of cake decorating too (for awhile, taught it and sold cakes) and knit, and I LOVE Disney everything. I'm a princess at heart, and I have been known to drag my kids to Disneyworld and not the other way around.


Gosh, it's like we're 'kindred spirits', as Anne of Green Gables would say!

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Hahaha, we may be! Or doppelgangers! MAHAHAHA. :devil: If you're on Ravelry, I have the same username over there. I really want to knit something ballet-related soon, but I keep getting distracted with other things. Cake decorating is new for me--I took a class and fell in love. I'm still learning, so I just do things for fun (and spoil my coworkers).


I think the school performances sound perfect. Sounds like you'll be busy if you're in at least 4 pieces (plus classes)--I am envious! The school I'm taking ballet classes at does a winter production, but I'm not sure if I'll be able to participate or not--you have inspired me to investigate!

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morninglorie - Oh my now it's just getting plain scary. :ninja: Yes I have a Rav account, and I too am using the same username as here! Shiver, I think I just got goosebumps....


Though, I don't post on Rav, I just lurk and get patterns and such off there. As far as cakes, I was a Wilton instructor for awhile, which was a lot of fun. But, fattening, heh.


I will definitely be busy, since I have two sons who are dancing too. My middle son is 7 and he'll be in tap and ballet this year, and my youngest son will be in the creative movement class. So aside from having my own numbers to rehearse and worry about, I'll also have to 'dance mom' my kids! I guess I'll likely end up a chaperone too just because I'll be there anyways.


And, definitely ask about your winter production! I mean, what's the worst that can happen, they say no, right? But at least you tried! And if you're taking a teens class, I know as adults we all tend to assume we'll be excluded, but I think if you broach the topic you might be pleasantly surprised. Though you might know already how your school treats adults, if you've always been treated as one of the 'girls' (ie. same corrections in class, not being ignored, etc) then your school might already be assuming you're one of them.


I always made it very clear when I joined that I really appreciated being treated exactly like the other girls, that I welcomed and desired corrections, that even though I was older didn't mean I was only there for 'fitness and fun' (UGH!). I'm also careful to dress strictly to uniform (even when some of the teens don't) and act like they expect their younger students to behave. And once I screwed up my courage to ask about performing, I was told it was not a problem as long as I fulfilled expectations they would have of ANY student (class attendance, technique requirements, etc.)


I do realize I'm extremely lucky that my school has been so equal opportunity, I know many adult students have a terrible time finding such acceptance.

Edited by silkmaiden
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  • 2 weeks later...

Hey! I am 32, also danced seriously up to age 21, did one season with a contemporary company, then stopped dancing. I had a few classes here and there throughout my 20's, but woke up one day at the beginning of the year thinking HOLY COW I just want to dance. So I bought an unlimited card at a good school and went to every adult ballet class I could for several months, even though it meant driving an hour+ in each direction to get there 3-4 days a week. Now, I recently switched jobs because I am starting classes 4 days/week at another excellent school that's way closer. It's a dream come true that they will allow me to dance with the teenagers in the pre-pro program. I plan to audition for small companies next spring. I can't believe how people are actually encouraging me to do this ridiculous thing, from my mom to my now-former coworkers to strangers on the street. I truly have nothing to lose here, worst case scenario I will be in ridiculously good shape this time next year (already amazed at the changes!). Maya Plisetskaya was a prima into her late sixties. Alicia Alonso danced into her seventies and is STILL directing Ballet Nacional de Cuba at 91, and she's been legally blind since like the 1940's. No real reason to feel over the hill at our age. If you take care of yourself, if it doesn't harm your relationships, if you can afford it and it makes you happy, go for it.

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oh wow Nicolette, your story is so inspiring! You are sooooo lucky to have found a prepro school that will let you join. The few that are in my area definitely have an upper age limit, and I've aged out of most audition opportunities even with the tiny companies around here. In your shoes, I'd definitely go for it!!


And hey, nothing to lose is right. You will gain nothing by not trying after all. Gosh, I'm so excited for you!! I know that I don't think I'd ever really want to go into a professional program even if I was good enough, I have kids and all that so it's just not fair to the family or manageable. I'm pretty happy with where I am, taking as many classes as I can and recital or the odd competition performance opportunity makes me plenty happy. No regrets. :)

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Thanks! It always makes me happy when I see people who refuse to let their age, whatever it is, restrict them from even TRYING to do something they want. No regrets here, either! People ask me a lot if I regret that I stopped dancing, and my immediate answer is always no. I'm sure you would never take back the life experiences you've had, dancing or not, anymore than I would. Whatever happens, I will find a way to dance. Speaking of which, I have to get to class. :) OOOH and I have my first performance in years on Sunday! Best of luck to you, I hope you can make your performing dreams a reality!

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