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Why do adults take ballet?

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Hi, kozi, and welcome to BalletAlert!

Your question is better asked on our sister site, BalletTalk for Dancers. You'll find a special forum there for adult ballet students. This site, BalletAlert!, is oriented to the interests of the audience, the viewers. BalletTalk for Dancers is for doers!

You might also notice that this thread was started way back in 2003, and many who contributed to it are no longer active on BalletAlert!

In order to post on the Dancers' board, you'll have to register separately. We ask, but do not require, that members of both boards use the same name from one to the other.

Please come back here when you want to discuss performances or videos you've seen or some aspect of ballet history or repertoire, etc. :shake:

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I teach ballet at the university level. Every semester I teach at least one beginner level ballet course, where most of the students are either starting ballet for the first time, or coming back to it after many years away. In my 23 years of teaching, only one student who started ballet for the first time in a beginning class eventually made dance her professional career, and there is one other who could do so, should he desire to and have the necessary drive (which he may not). But the feedback I got from the vast majority of those students was enormously positive. For many, they took the class because they had wanted ballet lessons as a child, but for whatever reason, could not have them, so this was a chance to experience a long-deferred dream. Others loved it as a more artistic form of physical exercise. And more than a few expressed to me that it was their favorite class in their university career, and, as several said, "it feeds my soul". I taught their class as I taught my advanced classes, with the same rigor and expectations, and I hope I never condescended to them.

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I was on track to become a professional dancer when a chronic illness pulled a switch. But I continued to take classes whenever possible all through my 50s, just in order to "touch the hem of [its] garment" - ballet is that sacred an art, and an atmosphere, to me. I suspect that many adults take classes for that reason.

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I teach ballet at the university level. Every semester I teach at least one beginner level ballet course, where most of the students are either starting ballet for the first time, or coming back to it after many years away.

I was in a similar position for several years, and had many of the same responses. They would take ballet classes in the way that may adults take music lessons, visual art lessons or acting classes -- they enjoyed participating in the art form.

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Well for me this song from Chorus Line rather sums it up -

".All I know how to do is to point my toes and leap. I... Oh I'm a dancer.That's what I am .What I do...

I...I am a dancer, Give me the steps. I'll come through.

Give me somebody to dance for. Give me somebody to show.

Let me wake up in the morning to find I've somewhere exciting to go."

Here I am still taking morning class and I'm in my 60's. Dancing has been and still is my life. My technique is slowly deteriorating and I live in dread of the day when I'll finally have to stop - when I'll finally have to accept that I am old . In the meantime I dance and teach and my day is filled with life...........

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Im 24 male who started ballet a few months ago. Ballet for me has always been a childhood dream but I was not allowed the opportunity. As an adult I have now the freedom to express myself in a way that I was not allowed as a child. I find that the two beginners classes a week are pushing me to exceed more than I had expected and Im really happy with that. Everyday my body is in pain from classes and at home exercises but in the end I know it will be worth it for when it comes time for me to perform.

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Wow--such a long-dormant thread. My response from 8 (!!!!!) years ago is pretty much still all true. A few more thoughts.

Yes, the youngsters do surpass one--well, they surpass me! In fact, in the time since my earlier (2003) post, several dancers at the school where I most often take classes has gone from being tiny tots to being the standouts in the top level. It is a joy to watch.

A bit more on the presence of teens in adult classes: at this school, adults are rarely or never permitted to take the "level" classes for the children and teens. Exceptions would be if an adult is performing with the school and, more rarely, if an adult participating in a performance in other ways wants to join the pre-performance warmup. The teens join adult classes for makeups, during school breaks (summer and Christmas), and if they decide to step off the pre-pro track. _In general_, the teens are a pleasure to have in class--they have been taught appropriate class manners, and they abide by those standards in adult classes. Occasionally the younger teens have .... lapses, but these are the exception rather than the rule.

Why am I (still) taking class? It feels good, and it is good for my mental and physical health. There is always something that can get better. It is true that some avenues of improvement are more promising than others at this stage, but there is still plenty to work on!

I remain fortunate to have access to a school with one or more daily classes that are at a good level for me and that are at times that work for me (correspondingly, I am fortunate to have a workplace where my leaving in time to make it to class is heartily supported).

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I will relate this question to my own adult voice lessons. As a teenager and young adult, I was busy with school and college and my parents could not pay for lessons, anyway. But once I was on my own and making enough money (in my early 30's!) I took up voice again with a former City Opera star. I stopped for awhile, then enrolled in Juilliard Evening Division, where the teacher, David Dubal, inspired me with the joy of music again. If I could not play piano (the subject of the class) I could perform Schubert, Schumann, and many great composers with my voice. So I returned to my teacher. This was the most beautiful, the most productive period of my voice training. The combination of great music and great literature (by Goethe, Schiller, Heine) grabbed my heart in an overwhelming way. It also complemented the evening music classes at Juilliard. Schumann's year of song - I was singing those songs. Schumann's paean to a woman's life and loves - I sang the song cycle Frauen liebe und leben. I sang Bach cantatas, Mozart arias, Handel, Brahms' haunting songs. I listened to Elly Ameling's recordings as my lodestar. Though I decided at a certain age that I would stop voice lessons, I never for a moment regret my immersion in the music of great composers.

Why did I take voice lessons as an adult? To immerse myself in a great literature. To do myself what I knew I could do and do creditably well.

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It's wonderful, Eileen, that you've been able to immerse yourself in your singing. There is, I think, a crucial difference implied in the very question that titles this thread. If you're an adult and not already dancing ballet professionally, your chances of ever doing so are about one in a trillion. However, if you have the talent and the drive, you can embark on a singing career even well into your adult years.

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Thank you Carbro, a good point. However, I asked my teacher that very question at the beginning of my voice training, at about age 33, if I had potential for a career at this point. She sensitively pointed out that many others were more advanced than me. So I did not think it realistic at 33 to pursue voice as a career. I did, however, join amateur choruses like Oratorio Society, St. Cecelia, and learned much great choral music. When I "finished" my amateur vocal career, I put up a sign at Juilliard to sell my music, and sold my precious scores (most of them) to a new generation of singers from Juilliard, as well as to a collaborational pianist from the music academy in Jerusalem. I felt my scores had gone on to nourish new singers.

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There are far more performing opportunities for an amateur or semi-professional musician than as an amateur or semi-professional adult ballet dancer. The forum for adult ballet dancers, apart from dancers who performed professionally and perform character roles, is pretty much limited to class, and in some cases, local recitals.

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I just started taking beginning ballet classes about a month ago. I'm not that old, only 20 and I took ballet when I was younger and I had always wanted to try it again. I have abnormally high arches and a lot of times at the beach, or getting a pedicure people comment on them and ask if I ever took ballet.

Even though it's only been a month,I've made a great improvement in my posture and I've lost a few pounds as well and I can honestly say I look forward to the next class and even practice at home. As to why I do it I think it's because it gives me a chance to just forget about work and school and personal issues and just go and dance. No one in my class really knows me, and though I do interact with the other people in the class it's a chance to be alone and to focus on something else besides my hectic life. It's like, when I go to ballet I check myself at the door and I think everybody needs something that they can just lose themselves in.

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It's interesting that there is a lot of assumptions that everyone had the option to dance as a child. Not everyone comes from a supportive and stable home, not everyone has parents who are willing to drive even a few blocks to a dance studio or pay fees or attend recitals for their female children.

That was my experience. When I was young I wanted to dance more than anything else. I grew up in a hockey town and I had brothers, so they got to do the activities and I didn't. It was awful because it was the only thing I wanted to do. One of my meaner teachers always says, you should have learned this as a child as if I had a choice.

So when I was 24, I signed up for classes at the National Ballet School of Canada and worked super hard. Now 2 years later, I'm en pointe and dancing at an intermediate level.

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