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Adult Beginner Ballet at 29 - Your thoughts


Laura F.
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Good morning all¬†ūüôā (I'm new here, not sure this is the right place of the forum to post this).

I wanted to join here because with a little courage I have decided to start Ballet.

I am 29 and live in the UK. In the past I had little experience with ballet, but I was very little and din't practice anything anymore. I know I don't have the flexibility or the body for it (definitely not like the beautiful ballerinas), but I would like to give it a try and put my efforts into it.

Is it too late? Not looking to get a career out of it ūüôā¬†My first lesson will be in June, I already bought leotard, tights, shoes, but I don't know how the class will be, is this too much or should I go with a t-shirt/leggings? I don't have an issue with leotards at all, I actually love it but I don't want to look like "it's too much" for a beginner.¬†Maybe I'm just overthinking it, but I would like to know your experiences/opinions. However, I look forward to start!

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10 minutes ago, Laura F. said:

Good morning all¬†ūüôā (I'm new here, not sure this is the right place of the forum to post this).

I wanted to join here because with a little courage I have decided to start Ballet.

I am 29 and live in the UK. In the past I had little experience with ballet, but I was very little and din't practice anything anymore. I know I don't have the flexibility or the body for it (definitely not like the beautiful ballerinas), but I would like to give it a try and put my efforts into it.

Is it too late? Not looking to get a career out of it ūüôā¬†My first lesson will be in June, I already bought leotard, tights, shoes, but I don't know how the class will be, is this too much or should I go with a t-shirt/leggings? I don't have an issue with leotards at all, I actually love it but I don't want to look like "it's too much" for a beginner.¬†Maybe I'm just overthinking it, but I would like to know your experiences/opinions. However, I look forward to start!

Welcome to the wonder world of ballet. No one is ever too old to embrace all that ballet can offer to the mind, body and sole. 
 

I can‚Äôt offer any advice on adult ballet classes, however I‚Äôm sure one of members will be able to help. There has been previous posts relating to Adult ballet classes, I‚Äôm unsure how to link your question to the post but I‚Äôm sure a moderator will help you in due course. ‚ėļÔłŹūü©į¬†

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Hey Laura  

welcome to the forum  

there are a number of posters  on here who started taking class at  rather  older ages than 29 ( waves at @sophie_rebecca among others) ( or  came back after   minimal experience as a little one) 

what is a ballet body ?  

if you¬† you have a body ( preferably¬† your¬† own )¬† and¬† do ballet you have a ballet body¬† ūüėȬ†¬†

flexibility , grace and  lines  will come with time -  it;s interestign to look at  the 'timelines' of  various adult  dancers  and how their bodies change  with  time  taking class 

so often  people start taking class as adults  because they  want to get fit(ter)  - then they fall down the rabbit hole !  and suddenly they are  then looking at getting fitter to dance  better! 

as for what to wear  to class   it really  does depend on  both you and on the class in question , i've been in adult  beginner / improver classes where all the  women  are in  pink tights / leotard  / wrap skirt  and all the  guys are in  tights/ leggings and tight top  if not  full on  male dander  lycra ,   but  equally i;ve been in classes where hardly anyone   wears  'proper'  ballet kit and  it;s  leggings / shorts  and  t-shirts all round ...   

it also  helps to understand why  'standard' class  attire can help your learning    even the accursed   back seamed tights!   

  pale / flesh tone  / bare legs allows  the teacher to see  if you are engaging the correct muscles in your legs 

form fitting tops  allow the teacher to see if  you are engaging the muscles in you  upper body  and  back properly  and   look at your alignment  overall  

will this make much of a difference at beginner level ? some would argue not  but  it 's about  sound buidling blocks   if you want to progress  beyond  improvers classes into  beign able ot  take 'Intermediate' classes  ( or  even  the exam ! )   or  'general'  classes in the London meaning of the term  


there's a number of posts on the topic on agirlreconstructed.com  some of which  also link back to stuff Sophie has  posted 

https://www.agirlreconstructed.com/2019/10/an-aesthetic.html talks aobut it and links  back  to previous posts 


leotard / tights / skirt  is rarely 'too much'   for adult class unless it s  really is a 'mum's class'   ... 


 

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Posted (edited)

Hello Laura

 

You are definitely not too old at 29.  I started ballet at 40 after the difficult end of a relationship and because my GP said I needed to think about being more flexible.  It was a complete impulse and I had not expected to enjoy it as much as I did.  Now 3 years on I'm still addicted.  I'm not brilliant at it, my turnout sucks and I can't balance in releve for toffee but I don't care because it makes me feel good.   

 

Classes vary in terms of dress code.  Some like everyone in leotard and some don't mind.  I started out with a very gentle beginner class and wore leggings and a t-shirt.  People tended to wear a mixture of things.  Gradually over time I became more comfortable with it and decided to start wearing more ballet attire.  Now I wear leotard, a ballet skirt and tights and legwarmers in winter.  I feel more in "ballet mode" when I dress for class but it took me about 6-8 months to feel that this was a thing I could do (and also to find leotards that fit my plump d-cup body).  If you're not sure I think ask the teacher or go in a t-shirt to get a feel for what other people are doing.  In my experience adult classes tend to be a bit less formal than those for children.    

 

I'd also say that it may take a couple of goes to find the right teacher.  Ballet teachers vary (like any form of instructor) and you may not click with the first one.  I've had at least one who was very clear that she didn't want overweight middle aged women taking up her classroom and another who didn't explain things in a way I understood.  When you have a teacher that works for you, it makes it so much better and the class really transforms.  

Edited by Tango Dancer
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Definitely not too old: 29 would be pretty young for a lot of beginner adult ballet classes I've been to.

 

I started six or seven years ago as mid-forties old man with the body of about half a dozen ballet dancers. I'm currently doing about seven hours a week.

 

Dress how you like: in my experience dress ranges from t-shirt and leggings heavy classes of people doing an hour a week for a bit of fun and fitness - though there's normally one or two in ballet gear even in those classes -  to the fancy leotards, tights and ballet skirts of the much more serious dancers (like my wife, who started a year before me and who appears to have taken up collecting ballet skirts and leotards as a side hobby).

 

Dressing the part seems to help most people though. A lot of the ladies seem to feel that ballet skirts make them feel less exposed in class, so that might be a consideration. Strictly speaking, as I understand it, students should be wearing the shorter skirts (for the reasons NJH explains above) but I've known people wear the longer ones until they become comfortable enough for the shorter ones. 

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6 hours ago, Laura F. said:

Good morning all¬†ūüôā (I'm new here, not sure this is the right place of the forum to post this).

 

 

Hello Laura F and welcome to the Forum!

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I'm thinking I might take up ballet again when I retire (which isn't as far away as it used to be!)

 

I think you will have a wonderful time @Laura F..  There are plenty of people on this forum who have taken up ballet as adults and who love it.

 

Just don't expect to be able to do what the kids and teenagers can do straight off.  Take it slow.

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1 hour ago, glowlight said:

I'm thinking I might take up ballet again when I retire (which isn't as far away as it used to be!)

 

I think you will have a wonderful time @Laura F..  There are plenty of people on this forum who have taken up ballet as adults and who love it.

 

Just don't expect to be able to do what the kids and teenagers can do straight off.  Take it slow.

 

Do it, take it up again!!

 

My class tonight had a mixture of ages but I'm pretty sure we were all over 30.  Definitely take it slowly and don't compare yourself to others.  Sometimes I look at the other women at the barre and wonder why they're better than I am and can balance for longer.  But then I remember that I'm better at it than I was when I started, and it's not a competition.  As long as I continue to enjoy it and improve it doesn't matter how I do in comparison with others.  

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14 minutes ago, Tango Dancer said:

 

Do it, take it up again!!

 

My class tonight had a mixture of ages but I'm pretty sure we were all over 30.  Definitely take it slowly and don't compare yourself to others.  Sometimes I look at the other women at the barre and wonder why they're better than I am and can balance for longer.  But then I remember that I'm better at it than I was when I started, and it's not a competition.  As long as I continue to enjoy it and improve it doesn't matter how I do in comparison with others.  

I agree  

 the only competition  should be yourself , whether that's last week, last month or last year ...  

 the two very best compliments i've had in my  ballet journey  have been along those lines 

one   , from Terence Etheridge , was ' you are a completely different dancer to the person I saw 6months ago '  and the other, was   from Hannah Bateman- who is one of the few people i allow to use the  term 'inspirational '  about me  (  much as @sophie_rebecca dislikes it's use  about  dancers  like she and I ) in descirbing my  ballet journey as being  inspirational   based on   our interactions via  The Ballet Retreat ...  

 

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21 hours ago, Laura F. said:

Is it too late?

 

It's never too late! I've done ballet most of my life - from syllabus classes in my early teens - a terrible teacher, so I stopped. Then took it up again at university when I was 20, and have mostly done at least a class a week ever since (it's now 40 years or so). 

 

And what you're planning to wear is perfectly appropriate. 

 

You could start to do some conditioning to help with getting used to using your body in unaccustomed ways of moving. Flexibility isn't really as important as people think - what is important is mobility and then strength. Flexibility is no good if it's static, and you can't hold it. Gentle yoga or Pilates are good complementary movement practices to help develop both of those things. You could also do some "kitchen ballet" classes on Zoom, if you wanted to get the hang of things before starting in-studio.

 

I do a range of online and studio classes - I'd really recommend doing very basic beginners' classes - I still do them to keep me honest about the basics. One of my online teachers (the excellent Hannah Frost at Pineapple) always says to absolute beginners that it will feel strange and weird, but that you need to give it about 3 weeks at the very least, to help your body learn - muscle memory takes a while.

 

I think one of the tricky things for absolute beginners is that that sense of grace & fluidity of movement which makes ballet look so wonderful to do, is really quite hard, and takes some time to learn. But - the huge advantage we have as adults is that we can think & process, and we know how our bodies work, so we can take on the advice of our teachers.

 

The other thing that sometimes adults find tricky is the ballet practice of 'corrections.' If your teacher is good, they'll be constantly 'side-coaching' - that is, they'll be calling out adjustments and corrections that individuals & the whole class need to attend to. You have to learn to keep going, while taking on the corrections as your teacher reminds you. It's quite different from current day teaching in other contexts - rarely a "It would be lovely if you could just pull up your abdominal muscles, please, if you could manage that." It will be "Pull up! Navel to backbone. Get those shoulders down, and straighten your knees!" It's direct & speedy. Sometimes adults feel this is criticism - it's not. It's advice to make you a better dancer. Ignore at your peril. 

 

Good luck and I hope you get to the point where it is fun! There's nothing like moving to music with grace and control, or crossing the floor in a series of pirouettes, or jumping and turning.

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Posted (edited)
20 hours ago, Tango Dancer said:

I'd also say that it may take a couple of goes to find the right teacher.  Ballet teachers vary (like any form of instructor) and you may not click with the first one.

 

Yes, this is a really good point! I have a teacher from my late 20s/30s (while I was writing my PhD) who's still in my head. And I've done class with some teachers over the last 10 years that others rave about, and I haven't enjoyed.  That's about me, not the teachers, I hasten to add!

 

But I think we're lucky in the UK in that there is a growing body of expert teachers who actively enjoy teaching adults. It also helps if you are "teachable." That is, you actively take on corrections, and conduct yourself in class with respect for your teacher, and also your fellow students (don't be late, and don't get in the way of other dancers ...)

Edited by Kate_N
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I did ballet until I was around 14 (my teacher retired and I lived in a village with no other option) and then started back up when I was 40. I am now 46 and am absolutely hooked! I am currently working towards my Intermediate Foundation exam, passed my RAD grade 6 in 2018 and should be starting grade 7 soon too as we had to wait for there to be enough people to make up a class! By the way, exams are in no way compulsary but I love having something to work towards and I like the structure of a syllabus. Many adults just do general classes though and love that so it really is personal choice. The beauty of doing ballet as an adult is that it really is just for you so you can go at your own pace and choose what you want to do - there is no pressure or expectations apart from what you give yourself. In terms of clothes, when we had an adult class, it was very much leggings and t-shirts but I am now in a class with teens so I wear leotard, tights and skirt as they are expected to wear proper attire so it only seems fair that I do the same. During lockdown I did an online class that is too far away to attend in person but there were many dancers 10 or even 20 years older than me so age really isn't a barrier. I have also recently started an online repertoire class where we have been learning a piece from Swan Lake which has been amazing. Sorry for rambling on but the main point is that there is no such thing as too old (especially at 29) and you have the ballet world at your feet so go for it and enjoy every second.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Kate_N said:

One of my online teachers (the excellent Hannah Frost at Pineapple) always says to absolute beginners that it will feel strange and weird, but that you need to give it about 3 weeks at the very least, to help your body learn - muscle memory takes a while.


Hannah is great (and I really must get back to doing those classes), but having started a lot of new physical skills as an adult I‚Äôd say it takes about six weeks to get over the ‚Äúconfused and overwhelmed ¬†beginner‚ÄĚ stage to ‚Äúbeginner‚ÄĚ stage. Less if you have previous experience.¬†

It takes a couple of weeks just to bring muscles you don’t use for anything else online  (and there’s always some unique movement pattern that causes something to hurt, no matter how strong you are).

Edited by Colman
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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Kate_N said:

 

Yes, this is a really good point! I have a teacher from my late 20s/30s (while I was writing my PhD) who's still in my head. And I've done class with some teachers over the last 10 years that others rave about, and I haven't enjoyed.  That's about me, not the teachers, I hasten to add!

 

But I think we're lucky in the UK in that there is a growing body of expert teachers who actively enjoy teaching adults. It also helps if you are "teachable." That is, you actively take on corrections, and conduct yourself in class with respect for your teacher, and also your fellow students (don't be late, and don't get in the way of other dancers ...)



Much as I disagree with some  things Kate says at times and some of her p/Political positioning on certain topics, this is absolutely spot on. 

The UK is  extremely lucky to have some  fabulous teachers  across the whole country who really  enjoy  teaching  adults at every level  from absolute beginners to  advanced / 'pro' classes  ( and also pro dancers who  accept the  amateurs  as peers in  those  general /adanved / pro classes ) 

Hannah Frost has been mentioned for those  who are acessible to London - she is a fabulous teacher  and  gives brilliant corrections and  is probably  a really good recommendation  -  David Kierce is also  very good  but some people don;t like his  style   (  feeling he's a little bit too snarky in his absolute beginners and Improvers    -   he can be as snarky as he wants in improver +  and his general/ Pro classes  becasue  peopel  who attend there generally  know him and his style )  

as  has been said by both Kate and Colman the first  3/4/ 6 weeks will be total shell shock if it's completely new or the last classes you took were as a little one. 
 

Edited by NJH
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4 minutes ago, NJH said:

The UK is  extremely lucky to have some  fabulous teachers  across the whole country who really  enjoy  teaching  adults at every level  from absolute beginners to  advanced / 'pro' classes  ( and also pro dancers who  accept the  amateurs  as peers in  those  general /adanved / pro classes ) 

 

And, let's not forget, opportunities for all sorts of fun workshops/masterclasses¬†taught by pros who are willing to at least pretend to take us all seriously. ūüôā

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4 minutes ago, Colman said:

 

And, let's not forget, opportunities for all sorts of fun workshops/masterclasses¬†taught by pros who are willing to at least pretend to take us all seriously. ūüôā


 have yet to find the any pretending there ...  a lot of teachers  realise  that if you  hook adult recreational dancers - you have someone  who is going to be ac ontributing part of the community for decades ... 

 there is a massive amount  of "you are a Dancer,  regardless of whether you have  had a pro contract or not " -  several of the pros/ teachers of my acquaintance say all they change is the complexity  and pace  of classes -   and the expectations are the same -  come,  pay attention , give it  your fullest effort and attention ...  

 

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22 minutes ago, NJH said:


The UK is  extremely lucky to have some  fabulous teachers  across the whole country who really  enjoy  teaching  adults at every level  from absolute beginners to  advanced / 'pro' classes  ( and also pro dancers who  accept the  amateurs  as peers in  those  general /adanved / pro classes ) 

Hannah Frost has been mentioned for those  who are acessible to London - she is a fabulous teacher  and  gives brilliant corrections and  is probably  a really good recommendation  -  David Kierce is also  very good  but some people don;t like his  style   (  feeling he's a little bit too snarky in his absolute beginners and Improvers    -   he can be as snarky as he wants in improver +  and his general/ Pro classes  becasue  peopel  who attend there generally  know him and his style )  

as  has been said by both Kate and Colman the first  3/4/ 6 weeks will be total shell shock if it's completely new or the last classes you took were as a little one. 
 

 

I'd agree, the first few weeks just feel really weird and can make you ache a lot. 

 

If you're looking for teacher recommendations, Bennet Gartside does a really good online class.  He's not teaching face to face at the moment unfortunately but he runs a lovely barre and gives very helpful corrections.  

 

I also study with Laurie McSherry-Grey who has just opened a little studio in Richmond (very small class sizes and lots of individual correction) and I love his classes.  

 

I'd recommend the both of them.  That said, teaching is individual so what I like, you may not.  My other teacher is a the chap I study tango with who is a former ballet dancer and does a "ballet for tango dancers" class.  It's very gentle and targeted at people who might not do a ballet class otherwise,  but I love it for making sure I get the basics right.  

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Tango Dancer said:

He's not teaching face to face at the moment unfortunately but he runs a lovely barre and gives very helpful corrections.  


They’re planning to restart in-studio this week, doing hybrid classes, unless there’s been a change of plan. But yes, he’s really good at zoom classes. 

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I've been really impressed by the way all my teachers have adapted to Zoom. I attended Christina Mittelmaier's new Intermediate class at Pineapple last night as a Zoomer (rather than a 'roomer' in the studio) and she was wonderful at keeping a careful eye on us all, and adapting centre work for my kitchen. Although I sort of gave up at grand allegro, partly space, but also tiredness (I'd done 5 sets of heavy deadlifts at 75kg & then run very fast on the gym treadmill in the morning!)

 

@Laura F. we are all very excited for you, so do keep us up to date about how things go. And @Colman's probably right about the 6 weeks! In my annoyance with myself at not being able to beat assemblés at the moment, I forget about what it's like to start at the beginning. I took up lifting heavy weights about 3 years ago, and i'm still learning how to squat & deadlift really really well.

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Thank you all for your amazing replies and time you took¬†to answer my post¬†ūü§©

Absolutely love it, you are all such an inspiration and I will make sure your words will keep me motivated!

I really look forward to start ballet, also as soon as I find classes available at my gym I started doing Pilates¬†yesterday (WOW IT HURTS!), but definitely¬†better for my muscles to start learning and "waking up".¬†ūüėÖ

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Hello Laura,

 

Just to give you more encouragement, I started at 45 ish and I am still going on at 60. Up to about Intermediate Foundation level and probably static now, but won't ever get on pointe. Too many broken bones so far in my life, that I won't risk it now. Just love the discipline in my life and the challenge of remembering combinations and cleaning them up, until the teacher changes them again. 

 

Pilates is brilliant for strenthening the core and flexibility, so you go girl! Will be watching out for your progress reports.

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