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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Starting again at 51


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Thanks for your thoughts on this. I live in an area of New England not near any large cities, so finding schools is tough.


I started another thread yesterday in the Adult Dancers section on how to interview or find the right schooland teacher. Any thoughts or help would be appreciated. What questions would ask of a prospective instructor?


Thank you,


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  • BarreTalk


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  • draws


I live away from any main cities, good one for adults are hard to find, lucky for me my girlfriend (who got me into ballet) and has been dancing since a young age did the leg work in finding one mainly for herself before I started, but took her a while.


She has now turned semi-pro she wants to turn totally pro if she can

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That is wonderful that your girlfriend introduced you ballet! Great to have support from your partner. My wife is not really approving of the idea of me doing this, but hopefully will support me as time goes on.


I made contact with one school, but haven't gone to visit it yet. At the present time they do not have any adult students, but would offer me private lessons at a reasonable cost. I'm going to call one other place I heard of. I don't want to drive more than 1/2 hour to get to class, at least not in the beginning. Maybe if things progress and I really get hooked, I would consider it.


Best to you,


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Can understand about not wanting to drive to far, at first, trouble it I found its like a bug just need to do more as you progress ! The main thing is you find somewhere you are comfortable with and can provide the good instruction, which I think is a must (many schools out there with varying standards from very good to very bad !)


Hope you are able to start soon,

Good Luck

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  • 3 weeks later...

I started as an absolute beginner at the age of 52. Just like you said "and now as I'm getting older and don't really care what other people think" - this was strongly in my mind too. Life isnt long enough to worry about that.


Some points from my experience (I started 15 years ago, and am still taking classes, though reduced numbers now because of an injury; they also apply more to an absolute beginner, which I was):


1. Finding a sympathetic school which takes adult beginners. The biggest problem. Many say they take beginners and when you go, you find that most of your class members are returning students who did it for many years when younger. So you dont get the drilling in the basics - it is assumed that you know them. But ballet has to be built solidly from the ground up. Jumping in partway, which is the case for most real adult beginners, will slow your progress.


2. Finding how confusing even a simple barre is. Simple leg movements en croix, especially at speed? Should be easy, shouldnt it? But its not if youve never done it before. But it comes with practice. Also, patterns tend to repeat (even though teachers aim to try all combinations) and you will get used to them.


3. You need a teacher who is demanding about line, turnout, placement, etc. Many dont like giving corrections to adults - for many reasons. But I learned an enormous amount from a fierce old-school teacher who would use every weapon at her disposal - including insults, sarcasm and ridicule - to correct us. Children found her devastating (in fact, lots of schools banned her from teaching) but as an adult I loved it, because I could see she was doing it because of her focus on high standards, not because it was personal.


4. I'd also suggest getting a basic book which describes the steps and positions, so you can go home after a class and check up on what you meant to have learned (available books are described on this discussion board).


Private lessons? I think it might be a good idea to have one or two early on to drill you in positions, turnout, line, etc, which in reality you wont be drilled on in a group class (for the reasons described above). But as others have said, private lessons have a limited use, as well as being expensive.


"What questions would ask of a prospective instructor?" - "Will you take me?" - I dont think you will be in a position to ask much more.


For most schools, adults are an afterthought. Their main focus is on the progressing students in their teenage years. This is where their main professional commitment is and where their successful students will come from, whose success will enhance the prestige and hence enrolments of the school. Unfortunately, unless the school feels a strong commitment to adults, the adult classes can get the left-over teachers, the fill-ins, the beginners, and lots of changes of teachers. If a school has a strong commitment to adults, and gives you their more experienced teachers, that would be fantastic.


I hope you find a sympathetic school (i.e. one that wants you to be there). I am lucky because I live in a big city with one very good school which takes adults of all levels (though it wasnt in existence when I started). I started at another school which was very welcoming. However, I had to ring around quite a number of schools to find it - many were off-putting, because I did not fit into one of their standard categories. This was dispiriting, but I am glad that I persisted.


Hope if goes well for you,


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Thank you very much for your thoughtful and very good answers to my questions. Since I last posted, I have found another school close to home that teaches adult students. The director I spoke to said it is mostly people in there 30's and 40's. She was very happy I wanted to do this at this point in my life. Not many adults 50+ want to do this especially men! The class is on hold right now due to low enrollment, but a new session will start after the new year if enough students enroll. I think going to see the school and talk with them first is the right move.


Thanks again,


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  • 2 weeks later...

Welcome, Dave!


We seem to be in similar situations. I took some classes at a local community center in the mid-1980s, but stopped after a couple of years. A few years ago, shortly after I turned 50, I decided I needed to be more active and decided to go back to ballet.


> 1- What should I expect of myself and my body when starting over again?


There's quite a difference between 25 and 50. Things I used to take for granted at 25 require work at 50+, especially flexibility. Don't go in with the attitude that if you just push harder everything will be like it was. You'll just hurt yourself that way. Especially watch for positional things like keeping your knees over your toes in pliés to avoid torquing your knees and whatnot.


> 2- How do you find a good teacher and school?


Don't feel like you have to find your school the first time. I started at nearby dance school where they teach everything from ballroom to salsa, with an instructor who had just graduated from college with a dance degree. I learned quite a bit and had a lot of fun, but it wasn't very serious. After about a year of that I started taking class at a more formal school. It was less convenient, but the teachers were mostly former pros. I liked that a lot, but their adult course schedule was rather limited. Someone I met there suggested I try a third school, which was a lot farther away but had a lot of adult classes and a really strong reputation. I've been going there for a year now, and I'm taking classes there 3-4 days a week.


> 3- Those of you who started later in life, what was it like and how did the first few classes go?


I was nervous going back. This is one of the reasons I started at a nearby school where the attitude was rather casual and fun. I wore shorts the first class, then switched to tights after I was more comfortable. Once the women in the class understood that I was there to learn ballet and not to ogle or cruise for dates they accepted me as an equal.


Something I've found helpful to keep myself encouraged is to keep a journal. Mine happens to be online in the form of a blog, but others I've talked to keep theirs in a paper notebook (how quaint!). Being able to look back some months and see the progress you've made can really help when you're feeling like you'll never figure out a pirouette en dehor from fifth, or petit battements at the desired tempo.

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Thanks for the warm welcome and words of encouragement. I will be very careful of not pushing myself too hard to get used to the moves and positions.



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  • 4 weeks later...

I have to agree with everything I've read here. Like the others, I also feel that finding a good instructor is more important than what school/studio you attend. If you're lucky enough to latch onto an effective instructor, stick with that person, even if it means you have to drive a bit further than you'd like in order to attend their classes. It'll be so very worthwhile for you in the long run.


As for early experiences, I was scared to death for my very first class. I felt so self-conscious wearing my ballet gear for the first time that I nearly walked out before my class even began! (A little voice in the back of my head kept saying "Leave! Now's your chance!", but I managed to supress it, fortunately.) Once I was in the studio with my adult classmates and our work began at the barre, I relaxed considerably, I soon realized that there wasn't time to worry about my attire -- I needed to direct my full attention to the various positions/movements I had to execute. One of the many benefits of ballet soon came into focus for me -- that of increased concentration. If you don't already have good concentration, you need to develop it in order to keep up in your ballet classes. I learned I really needed to pay attention to what the instructor was saying, otherwise I'd get hopelessly lost very quickly.


Another thing I realized right off the bat was that I wasn't nearly as flexible as I'd previously thought. I'd always kept myself in what I'd considered to be pretty decent physical shape, but until I took up ballet, I hadn't recognized that my flexibility wasn't what it could or even should have been for a guy my age. My first attempts at an arabesque were kind of comical -- I just couldn't get that suspended leg anywhere near horizontal. But it was a good lesson for me in showing that I needed to really step up my game in terms of stretching and flexibility exercises.


Patience is a virtue as they say, but it's an absolute necessity in ballet training. This is something I learned early on, too. You're not going to be good or even necessarily passable at ballet right away, and you just have to resign yourself to that. It's a long process. But with time, work and patience -- perseverance, too -- you'll eventually get a good handle on it. And what a great feeling of accomplishment that is when it finally happens!


Congrats on rejoining the wonderful world of ballet, Dave. We're glad to have you aboard!

Edited by Rick
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  • 10 months later...

Hi Dave,

I'm starting back at age 71 and can't wait to take each and every lesson. I have found a great ballet training theatre in Southern NH with a really good and understanding teacher. Although I had taken lessons some years ago, I couldn't find the time to continue beyond my first year. Now that I have more time and a really good teacher/school, I cannot wait to attend each and every class. Congrats for finding your new project. I look forward to further updates and will also provide some as well.

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Hello Draws,


Thanks for picking up my old post from last year. I wasn't able to go back last year as I had hoped, But I did start back this Fall. I guess my post should now read 'Starting at 52'! I am loving it. I am taking a class in Southern, NH as well. Good to see the Granite State is alive with Ballet for Men.


Looking forward to progress updates.


Be Well,


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Hi Dave, Better late than never. I don't know if this is appropriate but I have started with an adult program in Bedford, NH with a great instructor. Where are your classes being held? Hopefully, we'll meet up some time but at least can keep everyone up to date with progress being made. Best of luck with your new program please stay in touch.



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Hi again Dave. I must admit that I was a bit hesitant about which school to re-start with and decided it best to enroll in one to determine level of difficulty/ease before deciding to stay. I found that level of difficulty was a bit high with the first school and found less willingness to slow down so that I could catch up to the more advanced students. Instead I sought out a second option through interviews then taking a free class elsewhere. Lo and behold, the second option worked out to a T. The free class was great since the instructor was more patient, very willing to explain the nuances of each position, the importance of graceful arm/hand/body positions and movements, the students more in line with my abilities and the venue very close to my home (about 20 minutes). She is taking time to also stress the areas of the body requiring strength exercises for the stomach, legs and upper body which is so important in ballet. She is also taking the time to differentiate the differences expected of the dancer and ballerina. What a way to learn. Now I'm hooked in to the perfect class, instructor and student mix. What a great find. I trust you search is as successful.



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  • 3 weeks later...

Hello Draws,


Sorry didn't answer you sooner. Been a busy few weeks. After a month away from class, (oct.-nov.) I went back and have taken 2 classes. I love it! I especially like the barre work. Once we get to open floor moves, I as graceful as an elephant on roller skates. But, I do know with practice and focus, that will get better. I just laugh it off and the instructor is very supportive. Trying to remember the names of basic moves. It will come in time.


BTW I take class in the Monadnock Region of NH. Hope you are doing well.


Edited by Dave62
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  • 6 months later...

Hello Draws,


Been a while since I posted. How is class going for you? I had to drop out for a while this winter. Hope to go back in the fall.


Hope to hear back from you,


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