So you’re an adult who wants to take ballet?

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.

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7 responses to “So you’re an adult who wants to take ballet?

  • RO

    Great entry, exactly the steps I took when wanting to get back to ballet. Finding a studio can be a real pain in the butt. Especially here in The Netherlands where adult ballet isn’t super ‘normal’.
    I’m one of those adult beginners that drove to the nearest ballet shop to buy everything I needed right after my first class, haha! Being the only one in leggings and stretch top, now that’s awkward for ya!

    • Dancescribe

      I think it’s always good to ask someone at the school what the adults wear. I know it’s awkward to be overdressed or under dressed (as in wearing sweat pants when the rest of the class is wearing dancer attire).

  • The Dancing Rider

    It’s excellent advise and direction! I did “all the above”, and am just grateful for my non-pre-pro and more competition oriented Susie studio. It’s great exercise, difficult for me ag this age, and afford me the “ballet feeling” for my schedule. It’s not the only sport I do, so beggars can’t be choosers. 🙂

    • Dancescribe

      Not all Miss Susie studios are bad schools. Some are really good, and I know for some, that is the only option. Glad you found a good one.

      • The Dancing Rider

        Starting again this coming Friday, so excited! I won’t have my friend to take class with, so it’s going to be harder for me – all Miss A’s attention on me, and I have so very many faults! :/ I’m out of shape, and am going to be very, very sore!

  • TJ

    You are right on about the boredom many adults experience. I think many who’ve “always wanted to take ballet” and start as adults are not prepared for the repetition and lose interest quickly. I’ve also found as an adult student that in a lot of smaller towns/cities you often have to swallow your pride and join classes with students MUCH younger as ‘adult’ classes are not popular enough to maintain.

    • Dancescribe

      I used to think there was no way I could ever dance in a class where I was the only adult. But now, the vast majority of my classmates are teenagers. I applaud studios that allow adults that option if there are no other options.

      And I think a lot who try ballet and find it boring would be amazed how much fun it actually is once they stick with it.

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