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Why do adults take ballet?

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In the latest issue of Ballet Alert! Victoria Leigh wrote an article titled "Facility" which dealt with the progress of dancers in class. She reminds us that some dancers may have talent but will never progress to a professional company. Ms. Leigh says that these students should not necessarily quit dance lessons but could continue as a hobby or a recreational activity.

I would like to hear from students, probably adults, who take dance lessons for the above reasons. I would like to know what they derive from the lessons. Do they see themselves improve or do they stay at the same level? Is it a "downer" to see the young students in the class move to a more advanced level? Do they get tired of the classes? Do they get bored? Does it exhilarate them? It takes so much work; why do they do it? Everything!

I know it increases their appreciation of ballet in general, and brings more insight to the performances they attend.


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Guest pointehill

I foolishly gave up dance at the age of 18. I returned when I was 20 for a short amount of time, then quit again (I was going to "move on with my life"). It was when I was 23 that I discovered within myself what draws me to dance. Laying sleeplessly in bed one night in complete silence wondering why I was so unhappy in life as a wife, mother and with a career...I began to listen to my heart...I mean really listen...to the rhythm of the beat and my mind drifted immediately to how I would dance to that rhythm. Deep within myself my heart was still trying to dance and I had been covering it up with being too busy with "moving on with my life". I decided right then to return, and to never leave again. So here I am, dancing for myself, and also now teaching it as well. Dancing to me is part of who I am, and comes directly from my heart.

Its difficult to describe in words, but I've been told you can see it in me when I dance.

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I started dance classes at the mature age of 27. It's hard to describe why I do it - it's something so fundamental I don't think I have words for it. It's about me the same way my career of choice is about me - I can imagine doing something else instead, but it feels kind of weird, and I doubt I'd be as happy.

As to why specifically ballet of all dance - ballet is at the same time creative and codified, it's a strict discipline but through that expressive and endlessly varying. It appeals to me the same way advanced University level mathematics (say, something like topology) does - though I doubt that that explains much to most of the readers of this board.

As to how I feel about the advanced dancers - adults or teens - in the classes depends on how the day is. On a normal good day, they are an inspiration; on a bad day, watching them makes me feel like an idiot. I will never, of course, be professional level, but that doesn't matter, because what I love about ballet is learning and practicing it, not so much knowing how to do it. I watch it, yes - but mainly in learning purposes.

During the two years I've danced, 2-4 four classes a week, I've been bored in class twice. It's demanding, but working hard is fun if you really love the work (and not only the results of it).

Edited by Jaana Heino
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This does not exactly address ballet - but it does speak to the need to dance.

While in Orlando a few weeks ago, we attended an IMAX-type movie. (I can't remember what the type is - it's shown in an 8-story domed theatre). In any case - it was the movie STOMP. The movie starts with the group Stomp, but ties them to cultures from all over the world. It depicts native cultures from the far reaches of every part of the world.

The film shows how we as humans are hard-wired for rhythm, and have a need express that rhythm in dance. It is beautifully done. Whether one is a ballet purist, or not, I think everyone would enjoy the film. It is impossible to leave without happy feet.



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In my observation, the number one reason most students don't make it to a professional level is a lack of total neurotic drive to do so. Watching our teenagers, I can tell the difference between the (very few) kids who are absolutely driven, and the rest of them --- who are truly enjoying the dancing and the social atmosphere, but who will likely never choose to make the sacrifices needed to attain professional level.

It is even harder for adults to make these sacrifices, for two reasons:

1. Most of them who would have done so already did so as children.

2. Adults have other responsibilities in life.

People dance with many goals in mind. For myself, I don't know how I would approach it differently if it were as a "hobby/recreational activity" versus a "career". Either way, the goal is to continue improving as a dancer. It breaks my heart to see professional dancers who have no interest in improving --- especially when those professionals are just a couple of years out of the academy.

In performing arts, you have to put in the time to make the progress. In my observation, the further along you get, the more time you need to put in to make further progress. If you don't put in that (increasing) minimum, you find yourself stagnating, going nowhere, even going backward. For the student in that position --- at a fairly advanced level but not able to put in enough time to advance further --- I could not in good faith suggest that he/she continue "as a hobby" because that would mean being content with stagnation. I rather see the student either put in more time, or put in less time and go do something else in life. Or, I might look for ways that student can make progress in certain areas with a minimal time committment, acknowledging that other (important) areas might stagnate.

As for myself:

> I would like to know what they derive from the lessons.

I derive many things from lessons --- continued progress as a dancer, continued progress in a professional career, and a great intellectual/physical experience of continued study of the shapes and movements of ballet.

> Do they see themselves improve or do they stay at the same level?

I have improved consistently every month, every season, every year.

> Is it a "downer" to see the young students in the class move to a more advanced level?

Actually, I have moved forward a lot faster than the young students. Three years ago, they were ahead of me. I was one of those lifelong dancers who (apparently in hindsight) had the talent but was still a LONG way from professional level and about a decade too old.

Today, I am a professional dancer because I made a decision to do what it takes to get there. I was very lucky. I'm sure that many dance professionals out there would have told me to be content with ballet as a hobby. I probably would have believed them; but in hindsight, I think that would have been patronizing on their part because I have disproven them. Instead of telling me to be content with ballet as a hobby, my artistic director undertook to train me properly --- and that took a LOT of effort on both our parts. I cannot say how glad I am that he was enlightened and creative enough to take me seriously, to not write me off.

That training has been successful. Today I have some of the best form in my company. I know that the further I go, the less important my late-blooming will be in terms of getting a job (until I reach the age I must retire, and then that is as far as I will ever get as a professional dancer).

> Do they get tired of the classes? Do they get bored?

No. Class is liturgy. The founder of modern Karate, on his deathbed, said "my only regret is not enough time. I'm only just now beginning to understand the forward punch [one of the most basic moves]." Ballet is the same way. If you truly delve into it and you have a geeky passion for that kind of stuff, you can never get bored. Do you REALLY understand plier?

> Does it exhilarate them?

Sometimes, I suppose. But I can be pretty grumpy on stage, even if I look like I'm having fun in the moment. That does not detract from my total love of the art.

> It takes so much work; why do they do it?

As I said before, because I have to. Frankly, my life would be a lot easier right now without a dance career. But to have one is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And it changes you. I know that 20 years from now I'll look back on the experience and say "wow, I was a part of that". The fact that the company I dance for has already been nationally recognized but will likely only increase in reputation --- and I can help it do so by improving my dancing and in other ways --- only adds to that sense of accomplishment.

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Why I do ballet?

First of all: I don't have the body for it = flat feet, bad ankle flexibility, very long toes and my knees tend to point inwards to eachother when standing in parallel, which means I cannot stand in parallel with my feet together even though I'm not hyperextended: I actually have big difficulties not having bent knees and straighten my legs!

So having stated those facts about my body that I cannot change I still love ballet and taking classes. Maybe just because this is something that I don't have any talent for. I have to work really hard and struggle to look half as gracious as most other people.

I started taking ballet 1 1/2 years ago at the age of 21. For the first time in my life I did something that I really wanted to do and that there were no pressure from my envorinment that I should succed.

I guess I had that syndrome as one of the caracters in Center Stage when she stated: "I don't want to do something that I just happend to be good at" and I had done things that I happened to be good at all my life.

At every class I just enjoy myself and learn as much as possible and every progress makes me really happy simply because I don't expect myself to do that :dry: As this other day when I finally after over a year suddenly understood the technique in the feet behind jumps in ballet that makes it look so effortless! I have found that the only time that I'm 100% concentrated for a whole hour is during ballet classes! It seems as you leave the real-world problems outside the studio without getting more frustration adding to your system in the studio. So I guess ballet classes is kind of therapy to me :lol:

This doesn't mean that I realx in class and become lazy, in fact: I have to say that I'm one of the most concentrated students that always tries to improve and pays a lot of attention to teachers corrections and comments to the whole class (I think that's thanks to Ballet Talk :))

It's such fun to learn a lot about something new as an adult when you have had the power to decide all by yourself! It's almost the same thing as those astronomy nerds who wants to learn everything about the universe: I have become a ballet nerd! :D

Edit: I forgot to mention that there are no ambitious young aspiring dancers at my school. Here in Sweden there is really only one school (located in three different cities) for children who wants to become professional classical ballet dancers. That school offers school education in combination with daily ballet training six days a week. So it's pretty off limits for us oldies!

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I've spoken about this before on the adult board. For the past four years I've been doing a PhD which required total absorption in my work. After a few months I found it difficult to stop thinking about my work outside of the lab. In addition, I wasn't getting much exercise. Ballet (once I worked out that was what I wanted to do ... the idea came from the enjoyment I got from the few ballet exercises we did when I was a teenager doing rhythmic gym) solved my problems. When non-ballet people ask me why I do it, I say it's like yoga with brains. It requires such a degree of concentration and uses my brain in such a different way to my everyday work, that it is ideal for me. There's no way I can be in a ballet class and be thinking about what happened that day and what I have to do the next day and whether I need to go to the supermarket and when my visa bill will arrive. It is an escape from everyday life in the way that yoga is for some people - I found yoga very difficult because I just couldn't turn off the real life part of my brain. I also love the fact that I can see improvements. I took my first ballet exam and performed in my first show last year, and both were great experiences.

I have very little facility for ballet. I have poor ankle flexibility and low arches, my turnout is not great, but who cares! Enjoying myself is the important thing, and working to the best of my ability. I am like Suzanne - I found it very easy to get to the place I wanted to be in my career. Ballet is far more of a challenge! Citibob implied in his post that the only thing standing in the way of adults becoming pro is a lack of drive or priority. I think this is not true. Most twenty-year-old beginners simply don't have the physical capability let alone the training to compete with their peers who are just finishing dance college. Most professional companies wouldn't even consider them because by the time they had undertaken the equivalent amount of training they would be over 30. Our goals are different. Perhaps they are smaller, but they are no less valid. Maybe one day we will be in a school show, or part of an amateur adult company, perhaps we will pass an exam or be given the go-ahead for pointe. We won't be aiming to join the royal ballet company, but our goals are still important.

At present I'm not dancing as much as I used to, but I'm seeing a lot more ballet with a greater appreciation of what is involved. I saw Coppelia (ENB) this weekend and loved it - the last time I saw it, a few years before I started ballet, I disliked the lack of decent storyline. Now I appreciate the dancing so much more!

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Citibob implied in his post that the only thing standing in the way of adults becoming pro is a lack of drive or priority.

Actually, I was saying priority seems to be the number one determining factor in EVERYONE, children too. And it's not a bad thing either --- the time commitment required to build and then maintain a professional career is VERY costly. Most people decide they like dance but they don't like it enough to kill themselves over it. Just like I'm interested in reading astronomy results but not interested enough in it to do the research myself.

Experience shows that some amateur adults --- when they put in that kind of time --- can make rapid progress toward a professional career. But that's not possible with 2 or 3 or 4 classes per week; if it's going to happen, it requires a de-stabilizing 6-10 classes per week plus attending rehearsals, all while finding the money to pay for it.

On the other hand, I've observed that many people (again, regardless of age) who pay the price and really make it a priority in their lives eventually make some kind of career out of it. Here's what I mean: eighty percent of Joffrey School graduates go on to a professional career. That is one of the highest retention rates around; much higher than, for example, SAB. It's not because the training or the students at the Joffrey School are better (most would agree they're not). Rather, it's because the Joffrey graduates seem to have more of a desire to dance whatever the cost. In contrast, the SAB graduates tend to take more of an all-or-nothing approach --- if they don't get a good enough entry level position, they move on to another career.

Edited by citibob
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OK, here's my $0.02 and story, which I've probably told elsewhere here.

There is nothing that makes me a "natural" for ballet--I have a long torso,

short arms and legs, no musicality, etc. I do have very "sturdy" feet and

a nice high demi-pointe without any effort.

Took ballet but never particularly seriously (2-4 classes/week) from age

10ish to 17ish at several different studios, the most serious and "best" of

which was bek's. Had to stop halfway through my senior year of high school

because of logistical challenges but it didn't particularly bother me at that


Went to college in Chicago. Attended ballet performances as much as I could

afford, which wasn't much, though I did get to see the Kirov in 1987.

Worked in Minneapolis. No ballet performances.

Moved to Boston for school. Attended as many performances as possible

at Boston Ballet--I had season tickets (ouch-this was expensive for a

student!) and made use of the "student rush" tickets.

Moved to Washington, DC. with a real job, so I now have 2 subscriptions to

the Kennedy Center and one to Washington Ballet.

After 7 years of driving past the local studio, I finally gathered the

courage to try a class. I was prompted by three things:

1. A loss of flexibility due to my only form of exercise being bicycling.

2. Weight gain. I was not yet above the "healthy" range for my height, but

even with the biking, I was getting there and it felt not-right for me.

3. One of the "youngsters" at work, just out of college, was taking classes

and talking about it. Somehow it made me remember how much I missed it,

after 18 (eek) years without a class.

That first class was 2 years ago. It was fun from the beginning. I started

to lose weight quite easily and rapidly. I started with 2 classes / week,

then 4. That was the first year, at the end of which I was well and truly

hooked. I now find it irritating when we have breaks between terms.

This school year I've managed to average about 5 classes per week.

I guess I've gotten better--it's hard to tell. Some things seem easier and

some seem harder. I have certainly gotten muscle definition where there was

none before. The adults don't get annual evaluations as the kids (under 18s) do.

At the place where I take classes, there are separate classes

for kids and adults, so we don't often mix and there's not the issue of

seeing the youngsters advance. Sometimes in the summer the upper-level kids

who are not at SIs come to adult classes, and my feeling then is

that it's just a pleasure to be in class with them.

So, why? It is fun. Yes it is hard work, but so are lots of things that are

fun. We know that exercise is addictive at a biochemical level, and that is

certainly part of it. It is a mental challenge in a way that it wasn't when I was

a kid. It is an escape.

So that's it, I guess. I started for the fitness side and am now addicted.

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I didn’t start dancing until age 50. I had competed in sports, often at a very high level, every year since age 10, and I have always enjoyed music, so I found the notion of moving to music very attractive. Started as a competitive ballroom dancer, which is a mixture of sport and dance, and at age 52 took my first ballet class. Took it because I knew I had no talent, and wanted to compensate for that by having as broad based experience in dance as possible.

Clearly I have no professional aspirations. I both admire professionals and at the same time question their judgment. I mean from a long-term financial perspective, being a professional dancer is among the worst occupational choices one can make. Those who make that choice are to be admired for pursuing something they must love, throwing all practicality aside. I know I could not do that even if I were a talented teenager.

With respect to the questions.

>>Do they see themselves improve or do they stay at the same level?

Just as an aside, with respect to developing physical skills, 90% of people have reached their maximum level of technical skill in any physical activity after about 8-10 years. The good thing about dance is that it is not just a physical skill. There is an esthetic side, emotional side, and musical side that I believe continues to develop throughout life.

Personally, the only thing I have ever cared about, whether it be professional, sport, or dance is improvement and development. You cannot do anything about your status relative to other people. The only thing you can do is to try to be better.

Also the dance world is huge. Ballet is just a very very small part of the dance world. There is more to learn about dance as a whole, both from a technical and mental point of view, than any one human can possible learn.

>>I would like to know what they derive from the lessons.

It is never constant and depends on the lesson. If I do unusually well in my mind, it feeds my ego and affirms my progress. Sometimes it is just a very pleasurable experience in itself. Other times, it lets me know what I have to work on. It gives me things I work on outside of class. At times it depresses me. At times I feel good that I leaned some technical or musical thing.

>>Is it a "downer" to see the young students in the class move to a more advanced level?

An advantage of being older is that you don’t compare yourself with those who are younger. In fact, I always go a little out of my way to say some nice things to younger male dancers. They need it a lot more than I do.

>>Do they get tired of the classes?

Tired, no. As I said sometimes depressed (how can I possibly be as bad as I am?), but I’ve learned to deal with that. And I do admit to being rigid—just keep going to class.

>>Do they get bored?

When you are struggling to remember the combinations, you are not bored. Frustrated occasionally, but not bored. And for some reason, ballet combinations are more difficult for me to learn than are jazz or modern combinations. I think that’s because compared with most jazz and modern movements, ballet movements are so unnatural, and I know my mind goes through the step of hearing the (odd because I don’t know French) names of the steps, then translating them into movements rather than simply seeing the steps and doing them.

Fast petite allegro combinations take me about 10 tries to get I’ve learned. Makes no never mind if the combination is easy or difficult.

>>Does it exhilarate them?

Exhilarate, no. A good class just gives me a strong sense of satisfaction.

>>It takes so much work; why do they do it?

Life without challenges is pretty boring I would say. And things that come easy are not very self-satisfying either.

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I would like to add that like koshka I don't regularly take classes with teens; in the school there's a division to age-departments, and then division inside each age group to six technical levels (except the very youngest kids have only the first 2-3 levels, and the adults don't have the highest level at all - not enough people advanced enough, I think). Teens are allowed to take adult classes, though, and every now and then they do, when they have missed their own classes or during summer. Now I generally like it when they come, but I might feel different about them if I danced every class with them, I don't know. :crying:

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This sounds a bit preposterous and stupid, but for me ballet classes are a way of being (in my own small and humble way) connected with something more beautiful and grand than any single invidual or concept. I'm trying to learn to create beauty and art. Additionally, the abstraction, rules and harmonies of ballet appeal to my engineering mind. :wacko:

I cannot say I ever really get bored in a class. I do feel I'm improving, which gives me a strong motivation to work harder. I have been lucky in finding teachers that care about my improvement, and an abundance of classes that give me room to grow. I do not know if I would be content and satisfied to "just take classes", if at some point I realized that I have come as far as I can, especially if there is no hope of ever being graceful and enjoyable to watch. Maybe I'd go back to painting or piano. But for now, I'm enjoying the ballet journey. :)

In our school the professional track children/teens classes are completely divorced from the adult or recreational children/teen classes, so I have no idea how I would feel seeing teens, let alone professional track teens in class on a regular basis. I have shared a barre with one professional track teen for a short while at a visiting teacher intensive, and I was thoroughly inspired by the experience. I plan on adopting the teen's work attitude. :)

I think people value things they put time and effort in, and conversely, the rewards we get are dependent on what we give. Certainly ballet has become more important to me than some other things, which I intuitively "just knew" how to do and happended very easily and naturally. And yes, I guess one could say that a good class exhilarates me, if I have understood the word correctly. (English is not my native language.)


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To add about being "bored":

It does happen, but for me only in a very specific circumstance,

which is when I am in a class a bit lower than my true level AND at the

same time the level is a bit high for some people in the class, so that

there's lots of "down time".

Except for that circumstance, even a lower-level class provides plenty to

work on, and in fact one of my teachers seems to push me a bit more when I

take a lower-level class. I'm not sure why this is, but might go to a

topic being discussed in the teacher's forum about corrections in adult

classes. In the lower-level classes, maybe there are more students who are

not particularly interested in or receptive to corrections.

If I had my druthers, I'd take a couple of classes a week in the more

correction-intensive kids' classes, but that is apparently Not Done.

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I took up ballet to help excersise my back. What I discovered is something that has become an overwelming passion in my life. I am a former professional athelete. I hold a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and am generally a very driven person.

What I discovered in ballet is almost another martial art. Ballet is codified it has a very traditional training regimen. There are different styles of ballet, and even they are open to endless interpretation. What differentiates ballet from a martial art is, expression.

What ballet means to me is hard to explain. To me it's an exploration, an endless journey where I am learning more and more about myself through movement.

I am very fortunate to have a very gifted teacher. This has made my technique much easier to learn. I think that I push the envelope a bit. I started when I was just turning 31. I'll practise and practise the simplest movement for hours days or weeks until it's just right. Through martial arts and cycling I know what it takes to achieve a high level of profeciency in something. As a martial artist, bike racer or a dancer you must be willing to dig deep into yourself a reach for the next level. Very few people are willing to do that, that's why there are alot of average people in anything in life.

I can't forsee anytime that I'll stop ballet classes, there is just too much to learn. :innocent:

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Guest meliss83

i started dance only for the experience since i am a theater major. But i fell in love. And it is frustrating sometimes because i kick myself for not staying in class when i was younger. I love the beauty of it, i practically stop breathing when i watch a more advanced student or professional dancing. There is something absolutely indescribeable about it. I dance every day of the week, no i do not think i will ever be a professional, do i dream yes... but who doesn't. But that doesn't matter, i just want to dance. Yes i see myself progressing. I was told i have good feet and legs... which is an encouragement, i moved up rather quickly which is also encouraging... but watching girls my age that are auditioningfor ABT or other companies and are amazing dancers, and then seeing where i am and knowing where i SHOULD be if i had started way earlier... that is frustrating. But i in no circumstance want to stop. I love it too much, professional or not.

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Welcome to Ballet Alert's Ballet Talk, meliss83!

I've taken the liberty of moving one of your posts about starting pointe to the Young Dancer's forum for ages 16-22 board.

Be sure to look around at all of the forums and read the "About This Site" forum for some helpful hints, too. And if you haven't checked out Ballet Alert's main page, please do as it will give you a great overview of the site and all the different things that are available from "blogs" to subscriptions to two dance magazines, etc.

I'm sure you'll find your way quickly and later on in the day you'll get some helpful responses! :thumbsup:

You also ought to check in and introduce yourself on the Welcome thread, as well. :wink:

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Guest stacymckenna

I'm a gymnast, not a dancer. My mother and sister are also gymnasts. I don’t remember NOT doing gym. Form and toe point and knee angle are noticed and critiqued in my house. I was never particularly GOOD (gym is EXPENSIVE and we were not flush) but I have good form. I competed on my high school team, as did my sister (who was a tumbler, unlike me). My favorite was beam - the apparatus most requiring of good demi, straight and tall body alignment, tight glutes, and a slight turnout helped to "feel" or "grip" the edge of the beam for stopping turns and landings. One of my coaches when I was very young (primarily worked beam in a large gym where kids rotated while coaches stuck to their strongest event) taught us much about ballet for the dance elements use don floor and beam. We were taught the leg positions, leaps, turns - all so that choreography later would be easier to teach. But the body alignment was always gym - shoulders back, back arched, weight largely in your heels, elbows straight, fingers/hands straight. She required our arms in second the entire time we were on beam - sometimes 10 minutes at a go. It was brutal, but highly effective.

In high school my coach bemoaned how balletic I was, as opposed to athletic. She whined that all I wanted to do was make things float, that I never punched anything. My scale was a developpe a la premier, rond de jambe en air a arabesque, releve a demi (pardon the lack of accents...). My routines were emphasis on flexibility and balance, not strength or power moves.

In college I lost gym time due to cost and availability, and it was after seeing a performance of Quidam by Cirque that I decided to get back into it. I found a coach who specialized in adults and relearned some things in more body friendly ways (walkovers should be in my SHOULDERS instead of lower back? Fascinating!) but again - insurance for gyms is expensive and they have to pass that on to you. So again I gave it up.

A few years later (about age 27) a friend mentioned her studio was starting a new class for beginners and asked if anyone wanted to go with her (she was going to use it for pointe work). I had always been curious and wanted to do ballet, and it couldn't be as destructive to my body as gym, right? Within 5 minutes of seeing me STRETCH the instructor said "gymnast?". Very red eared, me. It has been an eye opening experience learning how differently my body moves than an early-trained dancer. For months my chest felt totally collapsed, my head felt bowed, my back felt constricted, and turn-out! Mine is abysmal (90 deg max) but I've had one or two people do manual assists of certain positions and say I have incredible potential for turnout, I just lack muscle development in the right places (my quads are overdeveloped in parallel compared to the development of the obliques that provide turnout). My knees hyperextend noticeably, so sliding into fifth often requires a little "cheat" of the front leg.

I've been dancing now for about 3 years, once a week. Being so focused on form as my family is, I've adapted largely to the ballet aesthetic and it no longer looks so foreign and awkward to me (plie with good turnout, especially a la second, to a gymnast's training? Ugly as sin!). It's always wonderful to hear my instructor compliment head alignment, shoulder position, hip placement/tilt now since these things were so hard to comprehend at first. I still find my turnout disappearing if either leg leaves the floor, especially in fully airborne steps. I notice a lot of pronation on the feet due to my turnout not coming sufficiently from my hips, especially with leaps and jumps. Turning in BOTH directions?! My brain may never get past that concept! Picking up a pattern after hearing/seeing it once, and then translating to the mirror for the return pass? So not a skill required in the strictly choreographed world of gym!

What do I get out of it? An incredible sense of satisfaction. I have enough natural grace and musicality to flow fairly nicely with music. I'm learning exactly how difficult those simple-seeming bits of choreography actually ARE and just realizing I appreciate a piece more now because I've TRIED that step and EGADS! is wonderful. I work with other adults and late teens. I don't do pointe (at only one session a week? I'm not self-destructive!). And my instructor is incredibly good at highlighting each dancer for their strengths in class, using those with the most desirable X for an example. Sometimes she needs flexibility. Sometimes strength. Sometimes alignment, and so we all get our turns in the spotlight in class. I don't particularly feel upstaged by the younger girls.

I have improved. I feel I would improve a great deal more if I stretched at home or danced more frequently. I don't feel discouraged about my progress or the other girls' progress because I know I haven't committed to it yet. I do it for fun and an occasional shot of endorphins from the exercise, and to insure I don't lose ALL of my flexibility! I often come home tired, or frustrated (pitfall of being a perfectionist), or sore (my arch often falls some if we do a lot of leaps/jumps, which I often over-practice). But finally getting a fairly decent looking fouette? Wow! It's the same in gym - you can work for months at a plateau in gym, and then boom! in one month you master 4 new tricks after months of nothing. Ballet is the same - I'm used to the plateaus and sudden bursts of progress as your body passes some invisible capability crest or comprehension.

Do I get bored? Never! I'm always too busy trying to think about "another degree of elevation, another degree of turnout, stabilizing the hip (don’t turn, don't lift), weight on the TOES, yes, TOES, 'Soft Hands, please', pelvic tilt back farther, neck taller, shoulders soft, don't drag the elbows" - who has time to be bored?! And if it's not that, it's trying to remember the latest combination we were asked to do fast enough to keep up with the music.

I have been dancing in front of the blank TV to imaginary music since I was 3. You might as well ask about breathing...

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I dance simply because I love to dance.

I actually enjoy it more now than when I was young and more competent. When I was a young serious student, I cared desperately whether I was improving, whether it was right, whether I had a chance, how I measured up, etc. Now I don't have the anxiety and can just enjoy the music. Who cares if I look like an idiot at times? Who cares if the pirouettes didn't come off well? Admittedly, I don't get the pleasure of seeing beautiful line realized in the mirror very often. Arabesque is generally not something to dwell on. One must have a sense of humor and not take oneself too seriously, be willing to laugh, and the class can still be exhilirating. And when I pull something off well, it's such a surprise pleasure. Somehow I managed to go directly from being a wannabe to a has been. It amuses me no end when people ask me what company I danced with. If you can't laugh or at least smile, you're going to have a hell of a time getting through class as an adult.

I do, however, prefer to take a class with lots of adults. One can get that kind of self conscious "she must be from Mars!" feeling when mixed in with mostly serious teenagers.... or "what, does she really think she has a chance of being a dancer at her age?" But, honestly, I find many of the youngsters are so ignorant of the dynamic possibilties of the steps, that I figure I'm giving them a good example of the rhythms involved even if no one would want to imitate my technique. I do love to have some good ambitious young dancers in class though, they're inspiring to watch... reminds us of what we're reaching for... if it's just us oldsters, we sometimes miss out on that contageous energy that sometimes makes turns and jumps work just out of mass hypnosis.

Also, I think, when it's not making you limp like an invalid, that dance keeps you young. Truly, I think there might be some hormones activated just from the effort of dancing... I don't think it's the exercise alone... probably there's something involved in competitive exercise as well, but those are probably different hormones than dance hormones. When I think of how young many the dance teachers in their sixties look and move... even though I now think they were probably extroadinary specimens in their 20s, I still think the dancing has kept them young...

Come to think of it, there's also that Alzheimers connection... perhaps you've read of that study last year? Dance was the only exercise that had a positive correlation with Alzheimers.

Do I ever improve? Sometimes, depending on how often I get to class... I generally can't maintain a level because I can't get to class regularly and often enough... but sometimes things do improve for a time or so. Of course I never reach that level I was at when I was 16... besides the youth issue, I never can put anywhere near that much time into it.

Is it a downer to see younger students advance? No. I enjoy it. We kind of feel like distant relatives when we see them improve... we're proud of them. Of course, they don't leave our class for another... they're generally only in our class to supplement their age-appropriate training... the more advanced class that they would go to isn't open to adults. Perhaps if I were stuck in a smaller school, it would be different... or if I hadn't reached a certain level myself. But no, it's not like the feeling of being left out such as I felt when my friends were getting into companies and having professional careers. It only bothers me if it's my own generation. Regarding Citibob's observation about neurotically driven students succeeding... I'm not sure that's 100 percent the case... I think I was neurotic enough to increase my risk of injury, and ultimately that plus height issues made the major difference.

Do I ever get bored?

No. There's just too much to work on. I think the more you know, the more there is to work on. If a combination is too simple, I sometimes find it difficult to remember, but there's always so much to feel and work on in the steps themselves. The only time I get frustrated is when a teacher seems to have designed the class way beyond the facility of the students... any of the students. You need to pull something off at some point in the class, or it's too depressing.

It takes so much work why do they do it?

Well, if the class is totally focused on technique and never on choreography, then it's not much fun. I guess I don't notice how much work it is. I don't have the discipline I had when I was young and ambitious, to stretch every night, etc... so I don't go to that level of work... but the class itself? I don't know... I was taught to "work hard" in class at such an early age, that I can't imagine not approaching it that way. The "work" part of it is transparent.

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Thanks to everyone for your fascinating stories. :wink: I must have missed this thread when it started, so to add my late two cents...

Of all the many reasons I take ballet, right now the one that comes first to mind is the way it connects me to things and people I never otherwise would encounter. Paivi, I love what you said about ballet connecting you to something larger and more beautiful. So many of us work in non-artistic professions, and studying ballet makes us less the spectator and more the participant.

I also love the connection to other people who feel the same way as I do about ballet. My job requires a lot of traveling (I'm in Santa Fe now) and taking a class in a strange city makes me in a small way less the stranger. It's great to interact with people in a way that isn't a business transaction. I really think someday I have to write a book or something about "Travels with Ballet" -- it's quite heartening to find so many teachers and students across the country who believe ballet can be part of an adult's life even if they never perform or "do" anything with it. To simply do it is the point! :)

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I "discovered" ballet a little less than three years ago. I took to it with an immediate and ovewhelming passion, partly making up for a buried desire to do it for so long as a child. At 35, walking into a studio was as terrifying as it has become rewarding. I now dread the days I cannot get to the studio because of my work commitments.

Has it been hard for me? Yes and no. I guess I have a natural facility for it and my drive to learn and improve has made me progress much faster than some of the people I started taking classes with three years ago.

Is it hard to see younger students move on? It was at first. I think it's only natural to feel something when you see gifted young ones progress into something you wanted but couldn't have. But in time I've dealt with that issue. Now I'm morstly pleased to see my own progress. My initial reaction to this was to stop going to classes that mixed adults and kids. Eventually I got over that getting to the point where I'm not only fine with kids being in my classes, I actually enjoy seeing them now. I find watching them helps with my own technique. But I do have to allow myself one vanity. There was one school I went to for some time. They had this boy in his late teens, their fledgling "star." At first he intimidated me because he was so much better than I was and he was not very friendly. I went back recently and he was in the same class I was taking. I realized I had progressed so much that I was able to do things he still couldn't. I was surprised and more than a little pleased to see how much my technique had grown.

Why do I keep going? Many reasons. One, I want to improve. I see no reason why I can't learn as much as possible. I may never do perfect double tours but I can do fairly descent singles. As long I as can strive to make those better I'll be taking classes. The other reason is it is a great escape from my adult world worries. For 1 1/2 hours I forget about alll my pressures and concentrate solely on the task in front of me, a well executed tendu, holding my turnout, etc. This relaxes me and helps keep me sane.

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> It takes so much work; why do they do it?

As I said before, because I have to. Frankly, my life would be a lot easier right now without a dance career. But to have one is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And it changes you. I know that 20 years from now I'll look back on the experience and say "wow, I was a part of that". The fact that the company I dance for has already been nationally recognized but will likely only increase in reputation --- and I can help it do so by improving my dancing and in other ways --- only adds to that sense of accomplishment.

At what are did you start and how often did you practice?

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I started taking ballet in my late 20s: I have very little natural aptitude, and am not one of those naturally athletically-gifted people. I had, and have, no aspirations whatsoever of being a professional dancer. When I started taking classes, I had been fascinated with ballet for a very long time, but had almost no knowledge of it, and don't think I had ever even seen a full-length production. My elder sisters, growing up, had briefly taken classes, but soon lost interest. I had a vivid memory of glimpsing inside the studio, and feeling a powerful, mysterious energy. But I also had the stupid prejudices of most young boys.

What attracted me most to the ballet is still this feeling that it at once does and does not belong to this world; that it transcends the world while being part of the world. This is true, perhaps, of all art forms, which all use prosaic means to achieve magical effects. But it is more true, or at least true in a different sense, for dance. We are our bodies, and ballet allows our bodies to become otherwise than we are; for a new system of movements, a new life even, to inhabit us from within. Once I started taking ballet class, I would feel the possibility of these new movements within me. Even though aware of far I was from the grace of a professional dancer, I would feel a trace of this grace even in the midst of ordinary life.

I imagine, though, that I could have waited forever to begin. What finally compelled me to start taking classes was an extreme feeling of alienation from my physical self. At the time, I was a Ph.D. student in the humanities, and had spent practically my entire adult life engaged in entirely "cerebral" pursuits. The summer before I started ballet class, I had underwent a small surgery on my hand to repair some minor nerve damage. During the next two weeks after the operation, most of which I spent inside shielding myself from the stifling summer heat, my feeling of detachment from my body became acute. I realized I had to do something. While I had always wanted to study ballet, and while it satisfied a desire far deeper than any of the pragmatic considerations I might give, I also could now "justify" it: I needed some form of physical activity, and I knew that my hyperactive and easily distracted mind could not bear the tedium of most forms of exercise. I needed something that simultaneously occupied my mind and my body.

I was lucky to go to a studio that trained very serious pre-professional dancers, but also took its adult students very seriously. Even though it was intimidating at times to see the gifted teenage dancers, I never found it discouraging.

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I can't help but to post a reply for this topic.

Frankly, to take classes as an adult, is to feed my inner needs. Ballet is soul food for me, even if it starts to sound cheesy. Simply having the passion for dance alone wasn't enough to become a professional dancer, and that's my case, unfortunately. I wasn't born with the dancer body, didn't start the training early enough (age 11), didn't have the proper training (age 14) even when I managed to convince my parents to switch to a better established ballet school (was told to turn out but never advised on how to do it properly, was told to get a pair of pointe shoes with no instructions on how the fitting should be done etc.), and was often encouraged to give up the training (age 16) because no one saw any future for me as a dancer.

But somehow it's not something that as a youth I would get bored with. I got over stamp collection, painting lessons, piano lessons, local children choir group, but ballet never left. Giving up the training was probably the inevitable, but the drive to dance has been always there to this day. Each class when it starts from the first position, I start to listen to my body, to feel every inch and piece of muscle stretch, to clear my mind and focus, and to dance even just to move my finger tips, my concentration is most serious and intense at this time.

To watch a ballet or to read about it on books and articles is not enough sometimes. The dance itself is more liberating than anything else.

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We dance for the joy of it.

When I was very young, I would dance for hours given the chance. Then I became serious and strived for perfect line, mulitple rotations, high extensions, impossible weight, and I strove for a professional level many hours a day, but honestly I was too tall for my generation of dancers, and not quite good enough to make up for the height. Eventually I "retired" my ambition and danced solely for recreation. At that point, honestly, I rediscovered the joy of dancing. In my serious study I had never lost the love of ballet, but the unfettered joy was hampered by concerns about shortcomings. Now that imperfection was a "who really cares, I'm dancing for my own pleasure" and no longer a flaw in professional quality... I dance about the dancing and about the music, not the perfect technique. The older I get the less I can do, but I think I'd enjoy it if even if I were in a wheelchair and just doing the port de bras.

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Hi citibob, I have a question. at what age did you start ballet ? and were you very active in the past ? martial arts dance. ? Me personnaly I have always hesitated between visual arts and dance or theatre I choosed visual art and realised I lost the drive and I want to dance now. I have done lost of martial arts on and off with some latin dance. on and off because visual arts required a lot of sacrifice. Now i decided ok. What do i want to do as a career ? i dont know exactly i just know its in art. but I know I love movement and ballet is the basics. I am 23 years old. I believe i can do everything if i find the right things and the odds is with me. i would like to do some type of very physical performance or artistic type of think between ballet, modern and circus acrobatics.

But i know i do capoeira cuz I love it. I cant breath without it and I am very frustrated of sacrificing capoeira for visual arts and I will switch now to capoeira+dance at a more serious level and hoepefully it might be something i want a career in.

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