I had dinner with a friend the other night who mentioned she might want to take ballet, but really didn’t know where to begin.
And truly, finding out how to begin, I think, might be the hardest part.
Step 1: Find a class.
It’s not as easy as one might think. It often depends on where you live, and how far you are willing to drive to take class. If you live in a big metropolitan area, you may have plenty of options. If you live in a rural area in a region of the U.S. like the South, maybe not.
The first thing I would do would be to check online. If a school in your area has a website, then the second part is really easy: Send them an email asking about adult ballet classes.
As hard as it is to believe in the 21st century, some schools in my area don’t have websites. If that is the case for you, go to the phone book, get up enough courage to call about classes. But don’t be fooled. Just because a school advertises that it offers instruction for adults, that’s not always the case.
What kind of school to look for? I’d look to see if there are any pre-pro schools with a performing company in the area before I would try the “Little Miss Susie” type of studios. Pre-pro school schools tend to be more adult-friendly (and more open to male students), have better trained faculty and usually offer more adult or open classes (as in open to all, you might get a mixture of ages). And pre-pro schools usually give you the option of paying by the class if you want to just try it out (some have been known to allow free try out classes).
That doesn’t mean “Little Miss Susie” studios should be ruled out, especially if you don’t have a pre-pro school around. You can probably get a good idea about their attitudes about adult students from the phone call or email.
Step 2: Find the right level of class
Your choices might be limited, depending on the school. But if they offer a strictly beginning class and you’ve never danced before, start there. In a perfect world, you should start at the beginning of the school year. But that shouldn’t stop you if you’re itching to start classes now. The school where I take classes accepts new adult students year-round in the open classes. But if you start mid-year, you may find yourself trying to catch up to where the rest of the class is now.
Step 3: Find the right clothes for you
I know some adults who have this “romanticized” version of what they think ballet class is like, and go all out to find clothes that “fit the code.” I also know people who are scared to death of taking a class because of the dress code.
My advice to the first group? Don’t go all out on dance attire until you know for sure ballet is indeed for you. Dance clothes can be a little expensive. I’ve seen people dressed like proper ballerinas who are gone by the third or fourth class of the year, never to be seen again.
If you’re in the second group, guess what? You’re in luck! Most schools that have adult or open classes do not have a dress code for adult dancers. You can come and dance in clothes that allow you to move comfortably. They allow clothes that fit your comfort zone and are forgiving to non-perfect bodies.
Most adult dancers I know where close to dancer attire, but warm up pants, yoga pants, tank top, loose fitting T-shirts and baggy shorts are perfectly acceptable at the school where I take class.
Step 4: Throw out any preconceived notions of what you think class is going to be like
If you never taken ballet before, there’s a chance it may not be what you thought.
A strictly beginner class, for example, may be really slow to you, depending on the teacher. Or, it may be a lot more advanced. I’ve been in classes advertised as beginner-intermediate that leaned more toward the intermediate side that it chased away a lot of the new people in class. And I’ve been in classes where the opposite was true.
Step 5: Be patient, don’t judge yourself by how others do
This is especially true if you end up in a class where there is a mixed, or if it moves at a faster pace. Chances are, even in a beginning class, you’re going to be in a class with people who have danced before. They’re good to follow and learn from, but not to judge yourself against.
We all learn at our own pace. Some people pick things up really quickly and look graceful and beautiful. The rest of us have to work really hard at it. If you take a class that isn’t really a beginner class, chances are it’s going to be really overwhelming. There’s a lot to observe, the positions, the steps, arm movements, head movements.
Don’t be afraid to jump in and look foolish. I’ve found that I’m the type who learns as much by trying a difficult step or combination and analyzing as I go rather that purely sitting back and watching. That may not be the case with you … but I can tell you, things that overwhelmed me a couple of years ago, I really enjoy doing now.
Ballet is hard to do. Even the better dancers are still chasing perfection.
But the more I’ve learned in ballet, the more funner it becomes.
In a strictly beginner class, chances are you’re not immediately going to be dancing across the room. But if you stick with it, you will reach that point, and that’s my favorite part of class.