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Starting ballet as an adult

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

What are your biggest concerns about starting ballet as an adult?


Is it that you are too old, or don’t have the right body? Are you worried about being judged? Or are you at a loss for how to even get started?


It can be a pretty brave decision to start ballet as an adult, but an incredibly rewarding one.  I’ve made it my life’s purpose to encourage and support adult dancers because I was fortunate enough to start ballet as a young teen, and love being able to help other adults bring ballet into their lives.


This blog post is a quick guide to help you to:


  1. Get started

  2. Find the best dance studio for you

  3. Prepare your mindset

  4. Stay on track once you get started

If you want more details that this post, download our more comprehensive Starting Ballet as an Adult Guide




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Step 1: Get clear on what you are looking for


Make sure you know why you want to do ballet. Do you want to get some exercise, make friends, perform, take exams, enter competitions, or just take some time out for yourself each week to do something you’ve always dreamt of?


Your answers will help determine what type of studio you want to attend. You'll also want to think about how what you want in a studio, for example:

  • the dress code (formal or casual)

  • levels and age groups available

  • atmosphere (elite or accepting of all abilities)

  • philosophy and values


At Dragonfly Dance, we are more casual. We take our ballet seriously, but the atmosphere is relaxed. We joke and laugh. You can wear full ballet gear or regular exercise clothes, and we use a mix of classical and non-classical music (ie pop, jazz, blues, and more).


Our values include:


  • belonging and connection

  • kindness and encouragement

  • acceptance/celebration of all bodies

  • fun, laughter and play

  • courage, imagination and creativity

  • joy, happiness and wellbeing.



 

Step 2: Choose a studio


Search online for dance studios who offer classes for adults. I recommend one that specialises in adults, over studios that primarily cater for children for teens. Adult-focussed studios tend to

  • offer more choice for adults

  • provide more opportunities for advancement

  • understand the physical, cognitive, and social needs of adults (which are very different to children).

Find out about the facilities. Look for a studio with:

  • sprung or semi-sprung floor (be wary if the floor is concrete or lino over concrete as these can cause injury)

  • ballet barres

  • and mirrors (as much as you might not want to look at yourself in the mirror, it is a valuable learning tool)

 

Step 3: Prepare to start


There are a few things you can do that can be really helpful in easing into your new identity as an adult ballet dancer.


Check your expectations.


Ballet takes time. You need to develop new neuromuscular pathways, learn a new language (as it’s all in French), and become skilled at performing specific and prescribed movements. You will spend some time learning fundamental movements before you can string them together to really feel like you’re dancing. But it is worth the wait!


Be patient. It will take a few lessons before you start to feel like you’re dancing, and not doing ‘exercises’. You will need to concentrate. But eventually, the movements will become ingrained in your muscle memory, and it will start to flow.


Mindset


Before you start, I suggest taking the time to get into the right headspace.


  • Remember that ballet can be challenging, yet rewarding. Keeping this in mind may help you stay motivated if things get tough, instead of getting discouraged.

  • make a commitment to try for at least three months. Just one or two classe won't really give you an indication of how rewarding ballet can be

  • Be kind to yourself. Focus on your progress, be aware of any negative self talk, avoid criticising what you see in the mirror, and leave stereotypes behind.

  • Don't worry about being judged. Everyone in the class will have been where you are at some stage, and most people are very supportive to new dancers.


Find an adult dance online community


Connecting with an adult online dance community means you'll have support from the outset. And you'll have a cheer squad. There are quite a few adult dance groups on Facebook, where you can connect with others who are on the same journey as you, or have been there. They can give you moral support, advice, and tips. If you do end up joining a class that isn’t exclusively adults, having an online community can make a huge difference and make you feel less isolated.


Dragonfly Dance has an online Facebook group and we’d love to see you in our online community. A couple of other great groups are Ballerinas by Night, and Kathryn Morgan’s Ballet Community.


Consider online lessons for the basics


If you are an absolute beginner (no previous ballet or dance experience) and the class is an ongoing beginner class (as opposed to a set time course for absolute beginners), you may not learn the basics (like ballet posture, turnout, using the feet, how to hold your hands and arms correctly). In that case, an online ballet intro course can make a huge difference. And of course, if you can’t find a suitable class in your area, an online course may be your only option.


Dragonfly Dance offers two ballet courses for beginners:

  • a free course called Ballet Basics for Adults Online

  • a longer and more comprehensive paid course

 

Step 4: Get started


First class


It’s a good idea to arrive at least 10-15 minutes early in case you have to fill out any forms. It also gives you the chance to meet the teacher and other students. Also ask the studio about parking. Find out if there parking at the venue, or might it take some time to find a park and then walk.


Set aside time to review and practice

If you don’t set aside some time, you’ll probably find the week has passed and you can’t remember anything you did in the last class. It doesn’t need to be a lot of time. Even half an hour to an hour will help. I recommend making it soon after your class, rather than later, while things are still fresh in your mind. Even just going through things in your mind when you leave the class can help significantly.


Start a ballet journal


A ballet journal is a really useful tool to help you get the most out of your time in the studio. It’s really common when you first start ballet to feel like you can’t remember what you did in class, let alone how to do it. Your journal will help you set goals, write reminders and tips, and plan and track your practice.



 

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