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Adult Ballet Vent


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I’m 37, and started ballet back in March. I danced from 3-16 and was en pointe for 2 years. There was some muscle memory, but I was a hot mess for a long time and have only recently started to feel like it’s coming back. Ballet is my safe space where I can shut out my stressful job, being a mom, all the “stuff” of modern life. It’s also helped me lose 80 lbs over the past year (with diet).

I love being back in ballet but I don’t talk about it much IRL or post a lot about it on social media. I posted ONE insta and my acquaintance was immediately “OMG, I want to do ballet too!” 

I encouraged her and filled her in on my journey - I was very specific that I started in a super casual class to re-learn all the basics and only recently started in a more strict class with a more serious dance studio because I needed more of a challenge.

She has never taken any ballet or dance lessons at all. Ever. 

Well, fast forward to today. She has, surprise, enrolled in BOTH my ballet classes. Today was the more casual one, but it’s still tough and you need at least a basic understanding of ballet to keep up. She didn’t want to follow anyone at the barre and spent most of the class really struggling. I tried to give her pointers as we went along but, as you all know, it’s not something you can just walk into - it’s such a totally different way to engage your b  ody.

After class, she told me she was on the verge of tears the whole time and was so upset that she was so bad. She is very athletic and I think she’s never been less than stellar at anything physical before. She also kept saying, “she’s much better at home” and wanted to know how to do prettier transitions between positions. Right now, she can’t even tendu properly, I told her not to worry about that right now.

Part of me is just annoyed. 5 mins of research would tell you how much work ballet is. My own journey, which, I explained to her, is evidence of that. I feel like she just disregarded all my advice and just expected to walk in and start doing pirouettes. She also asked me why we didn’t do any fouettés!?!

The stricter class is going to be even more extreme. I warned her again today about that, but she was like, “oh well, see you Monday.” I don’t really care other than that class, which I go to for the challenge, is going to have to be slowed way down for her. I feel like my “safe space” has been invaded, where I have to counsel her rather than focus on my own dancing and I just don’t know what to do.

Any advice?

Edited by Redbookish
Edited to remove advertising links. Please observe Ballet Talk for Dancers policies.
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Having your "safe space" invaded is frustrating. It sounds like at first you encouraged her to try ballet, but now you are frustrated by her expectations and lack of knowledge?

I restarted ballet a little over a year ago after not dancing for several decades. One of my classes is super casual and welcoming to complete beginners. The other class is more of a challenge and really requires prior ballet knowledge. In my experience, when people with no ballet/dance experience try the more challenging class, they almost never come back for a second class.

As for counseling her or giving her pointers during class, that's not your responsibility. You can focus on your own dancing during class; let the teacher deal with her. If the class is slowed down, you can focus on some finer nuances that are hard to think about during a regular class.

Your acquaintance will quickly figure out on her own if either ballet class is not the right fit for her, maybe even before the next class.

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Hi WoRi.  Me think'st your situation will take care of itself, and that you will in short order regain your sanctuary.  At age 61 I took my first dance class (which was ballet).  Before starting I had read that it takes 8 or 9 years to learn ballet.  Well, with the benefit of believing that I was special (following 40+ years of avid swimming, cycling, yoga, etc) I figured I would learn ballet much quicker than the norm.  At the end of this month I will truly celebrate the third anniversary of taking my first class.  When I started classes I took advantage of offerings from all studios I could access.  Rather quickly I discovered that "beginner" and "beginner/intermediate" classes were WAY OVER my head.  I am grateful that the dancers and teachers I have been with have all been nothing but encouraging, often reminding me not to worry about my particular mess-ups and lack of balance, flexibility, etc.  Only through  my experience have I come to respect the wisdom that yes, it takes 8 or 9 years to acquire the desired skill level.  Now, I am waiting for one of my teachers to invite me to attend an intermediate level class, but I have learned to be patient with that and to be accepting of the pace of my own improvement.   I can say that doing the math on my age (61 at the start, plus 8 or 9 years to learn) tempts me to regret not giving myself permission to begin ballet earlier, but I rather choose to enjoy the gift that each class is for me, even the sessions (like last night) where I mess up event the beginning tendu en croix.  Hopefully your friend will not succumb and let her present frustrations prevent her from discovering the joy many of us are addicted to.  

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