Which adult ballet camp are you in?

The other day, I posted about trying out a new teacher in the open-beginner class.

During our stretching, to give her a better idea of how to plan her classes, she asked each of us about our experience. She’s new. She hasn’t had a chance to get to know the really hard core adult students.

The responses were mixed. You had the absolute beginner who was serious about the ballet experience she was pretty much dressed to full dress code. You had a couple of ladies who admitted they had some experience but were really in it for the exercise. Then you had a couple of us who had been dancing for a while and were about the same level.

It made me fully appreciate those who are willing to teach adults, especially beginners. With kids, things are pretty simple. If their mothers didn’t force them into class, their dream is to perform, to make their school’s company and if they truly work hard and are talented enough, to dance professionally.

The same cannot be said for adults. Unless you’re young enough, and uber-gifted, the dream of dancing professionally sailed away before you made it to the dock.

It seems to me there are three types of adult ballet students. They are:

1. I’m in it for fitness: Ballet is just another creative way of exercise. Throw it a little Pilates, a little yoga, and they’re even more happy. Some would prefer to stay at the barre the whole time. There is nothing wrong with being in this camp. Ballet is an amazing form of exercise.

2. I’m in it for the exercise, but I do want to do ballet: You want to dance. You like corrections, and you’ll follow them to a point, but hey come on, you’re an adult, your body has limitations. It’s fun, but hey, you’re not too serious about it, though. And don’t even ask you to perform in front of people. It’s just not happening. You have goals, but you don’t really fret over not being able to do a double-pirouette.

3. I’m in it for the full ballet experience: Don’t cut you any slack. You’re a dancer, an artist who also loves it for the exercise and all the other health benefits, but you want to be treated as seriously as those company kids you may end up in class with. And yes, for some odd reason, you want to perform. You want to be included in company performances. And you beat yourself over the head when you can’t bust a double anything cleanly.

I’ll be honest, when I returned to ballet as an adult, I was content in the No. 2 category. Most of the ladies who were in the original classes with me and I call dear friends remain in that category if they’re still dancing (and some of them sadly are not).

But somewhere along the way, after being dragged kicking and screaming into my first Nutcracker performance, and being motivated by an artistic director who challenged me to do much more than what I was doing, I find myself in group No. 3.

That’s why I appreciate those who would teach adults like me. We’re such an eclectic group.

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10 responses to “Which adult ballet camp are you in?

  • The Dancing Rider

    I’m in camp 3, though I probably have no right to be, expectation or age-wise. I do not want to be coddled. For whatever I can do, or get, coming back to ballet so late in life, I am dead serious about it. It is a total mind, body, spirit thing for me.

    (Of course I will take any exercise and fitness I can get. I need both.)

  • loveballet89

    To expound on it a little more, I think most adult dancers who stick with ballet are No. 2. I don’t think people who fit in that category want to be coddled. They love ballet, and to be honest, probably have a more “healthier” attitude about taking ballet as an adult.

    They may actually end up in a performance, but they don’t feel left out if they aren’t. They have goals, but they don’t beat themselves up if they can’t clean up a double pirouette, it doesn’t eat at them if they can’t do a fouette. They don’t constantly think about those things when they’re at home or at work or doing something with friends and family,

    A No. 3 is an OCD of the adult ballet world. There is always that extra mountain they want to climb and experience. They want to do that triple pirouette (or a quad). They want to perform another another pas de deux, they want to dance in a complicated choreographed piece in front of a large number of people even if you’ve done all those things before.

    A No. 3 is a fanatic, and there are times when I wish I were a 2 again. But dang it, I blame Mr. O., our artistic director. The moment he cast me as Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, my view of ballet, and what I wanted to accomplish in ballet where changed forever.

    • The Dancing Rider

      Aha! The fanatic. So I may be 3/4 Two and 1/4 Three. In my mind do I wish I could perform? Of course I do, especially since I did in skating — though granted at a recreational adult level only. It was what it was. But all the same emotions, prep, drain, etc., are present. I can say – it was not easy. Not at all. But it was really fun.

      Am I likely to truly perform, ever, in ballet? No. Realistically, at this age, I just have to try for whatever I can get. I do think about it all the time though, a curse of mine in any sport. My mind is divided between riding and the challenges of learning dressage — and ballet, and the challenges there. All at an age when most people probably wouldn’t be. I am thinking about one, or the other, all the time.

      Despite my not being a “real” dancer, I absolutely am going for standing up in a pointe shoe. I don’t care if it is only at the barre. Since I missed my chance for pointe class when I was 25, I will take ANYTHING now. Obviously, I won’t be “dancing” en pointe. It is unrealistic, and probably dangerous for me.

      Just as people stereotyped me when I started skating at 48, I can feel the stereotyping now. You are so old. You’ll never do anything in ballet. You are not a real dancer, and never will be.

      Well, I proved so many of them wrong in skating. I passed many, many tests. Tests under which the three judges DON’T CARE if you are an adult. Tests where the skater before you was 14 and doing the same solo ice dance you were. You just have to do it, and do it correctly.

      While I haven’t told “the world” about my pointe shoe aspirations, you can believe I absolutely will do everything in my power to get there. Precluding injury, I’m working on it every single day.

      One thing that can’t be done with me is counting me out. While I may not dance in a production, or do complex jumps and moves, I absolutely will be pursuing dance to the degree I can. I am just grateful I have even a small opportunity to experience something of ballet at this late stage. I have loved it all my life. Dance is in one’s heart and soul, and that is why all the negatives will not stop me!

      • loveballet89

        Don’t let everyone tell you you’re too old. I don’t think a lot of people realize there are different levels of ballet, and that not everyone who tries it aspires to be a professional, just like not everybody who tries golf aspires to be on the PGA tour.

        As far as performing, you never know. If you dance at a school that does the Nutcracker, they’re always looking for adult volunteers to play adults in the party scene, or other minor roles in productions that really don’t require much dancing.

  • RO

    I recognize myself in both 2 and three. I started in 2, but ended up in 3. Can’t help it… Ballet is so addictive!! Once I started I only wanted more, more, more. Now I’m doing pointe work and have two classes a week. I never could have imagined that when I first started again!! 🙂

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