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Adult Ballet Dancers

in Adult Ballet Dancers, Ballet tips, Intermediate Ballet

Increase Your Consciousness and Improve Rapidly

Adult-ballet dancing tips: Read more about increasing your observation skills, the degree of consciousness each time and your focus and how that results in rapid improvement for us adult ballet beginners.

Some years ago, in spite of extreme self-consciousness, I planted myself in a children’s ballet class. The students were about 11-14 years of age and I was about twice their ages. On top of that, many of them had been dancing since they were about 3 years old and were more or less on a pre-professional route to dancing for a career.

How did I get in? I was lucky. The school had just opened in my neighborhood, and they needed students. I was the first student and my first class consisted of me and another adult. But subsequently the teachers’ students from her previous schools followed her and my class became predominantly ballet-driven pre-teens and teenagers.

During one day in class, the teacher decided to pair us up. We had to each take turns to dance the combination, and our partner had to give us feedback. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for me I was paired with the best dancer in that class. I felt so intimidated to be dancing and having her watching me. AND I was embarrassed that I had to correct her.

I couldn’t see anything! My ballet eyes weren’t developed yet and AT ALL. When I had to give her feedback, all I said was, “Oh, it looked good.” She looked at me again to see if there really wasn’t anything to add. I just sheepishly stood there. And there was a moment of awkward silence.

When it was my turn, I’m sorry to say that I had her fully watching me with her super ballet eyes, dancing the same variation she had before. I was so nervous and tried my best. I kinda looked at half shyly and half-eagerly. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was eager because she was such a good dancer and I was looking forward to the tips she could give me.

I braced myself for some divinely helpful tips. Instead all I got was:

 

Be more conscious.

 

Wait. What?

She repeated herself.

Be more conscious of every step.

 

Huh? What do you mean exactly? I asked her.

Just be more conscious.

 

I didn’t quite understand what she meant at that time. I brushed it off as one of those things or response you get when you know when people aren’t very articulate by nature. Maybe she is a dancer, so she’s more expressive and generous with her dancing than her words.

I wasn’t offended or anything, just perplexed.

I never forgot it though, even though I never fully understood.

As I continue to plough on in my journey learning to dance ballet, I kind of begin to understand.

My ballet journey was long: I went through training for ballet exams, took time out to go back to the basics, worked on flexibility, experienced my first few minor injuries. I even learned to dance on pointe, performed en pointe and took part in performances. I started doing a little teaching (young children) and etc etc.

Us adults learn differently from children. We didn’t have years for technique to sink in and the comprehension for how tecnnique is all inter-related. If you don’t nail down a certain technique, it is going to affect everything else.

We adults learn ballet all at one go. We don’t usually have the luxury fully get to understand the details of each plié, tendu, jete. We don’t see how the tendu and releve link together, and how extremely relevant is the plié to allegro. We don’t know how the press down and pull up of the supporting and working leg leads to being good en pointe. Thus, as adults, the comprehension of all these links and inter-relationships either don’t happen or we take a long time to get them. This leads to the extreme LACK OF CONSCIOUSNESS in our dancing as adult ballet dancers.

 

I'm conscious now that my back foot is not pointed

I’m conscious now that my back foot is not pointed

Just look around you in an adult ballet class. Just notice how many feet are never fully pointed. How back legs are bent, how much “sitting” or sinking of the torso into the pelvis. Also notice how shoulders are rolled in, or how shoulders aren’t engaged in center combinations. A HUGE reason of this is due to the lack of consciousness of what you’re doing.

Have you ever thought that you’re looking a certain way, or at least you look okay when you’re dancing a step, say, glissade into jete? And when you filmed it, you found that your 2nd leg (the leg that takes off after the first leg that moves) is weak, and your 2nd foot never fully reached its full pointe? Have you noticed your shoulders bobbing? And your arms jerking around? WELL THAT WAS ME. And I had been doing those simple combination of steps for YEARS.

It was only when I saw myself in a video that I noticed all these things.

So in essence, I increased my consciousness of what I was doing, unwittingly, by accident. Now that I’ve realized all those ‘mistakes’ that i’ve been doing and enforcing (unfortunately), I can then consciously correct it.

So it hit me.

We can speed up the process of learning ballet by increasing the degree of what we are doing exactly each time. We can hone our observation skills, zoom into a certain part in the mirror. We can get feedback from our friends, or film ourselves in a video, watch yourself or ask a better dancer to critique you. You can also force yourself to increase mental focus during class.

INcrease consciousness of details and observation skills

We have to do this more often, or ideally, ALL THE TIME! That is why many ballet mothers film their daughters at home practicing or during private lessons, so that they can review and improve further.

 

“My mom frequently tapes my classes for me to view later so I am able to improve my lines and expression. That really helps me a lot, as often times, I think I’m doing it correctly, but it turns out that I need to improve it further.” – Charmaine, vocational student at Queensland Ballet Academy

 

When I was training for ballet exams, I would set up my video camera, or get my teacher to film me for every exercise. I would make mental notes or even jot down in my ballet journal. Sometimes I would read them at night and mentally imagine myself doing them, especially when I had to do 8 fouettes on both my right and left side.

My professional dancer friend NT told me that when he was training to become professional, he would video himself doing certain steps, and watch a video on youtube/pro videos and compare it side by side. That was how he increased his observation skills.

I use Instagram and even then, I see current working professionals videoing themselves for their own observation and consciousness to improve.

Recently, I’ve been working on my arm movement, torso and pelvis placement during this very common combination: tombe pas de bouree, glissade and grand jete.  I use that spare time after each ballet class and get my ballet friend to film me. I then would quickly look over that 6-8 second video, and make mental notes, increase consciousness of what I was doing, or send consciousness to my fingers, my feet etc, then video again hoping to see later that I have applied my corrections. I would repeat the process at least 3 times (and repeat the favor for my friend). This way, I literally make great improvements rapidly in that mealsy 10 minutes!

It does feel like miracles are working.

Now if only I could commit my “new and improved” to muscle memory. That would be my next goal. Once the muscle memory sets in, I can focus on improving other things or come back to it to refine it further.

That’s how adults can work to improve to look more and more like a dancer. 

And the best part is technique is all related. When you work on your placement of arms for that combi, it works for other combis too.

Be Mentally Tough and Focused

As adults, our mental game is strong. Even then, applying our mental consciousness to dancing takes effort. It is easy to just dance freely in open classes, focusing on the combinations and steps, and not technique. It is easy to make excuses and be lax. No one is going to punish us for not trying our best. We work, we have family, we are tired. It is natural to be that way.

Thus it is too easy to have this mentality “Oh, it doesn’t matter if we don’t stretch or strengthen, it doesn’t really matter if we can’t do a good pirouette. Getting around is “enough”

I mean, of course if you just dance ballet because you purely enjoy it, that’s fine. But it WILL matter if you want to improve and get to the more advanced class. It matters to me because I want to be a good dancer.

If so, then you have to be tough with yourself. And you’ll have to increase your focus. So many times, I start out being very determined to apply corrections with my arms, or my stomach, say before I launch into my pirouettes from the diagonal. SO I start chanting in my head what I’m supposed to think about, “Strong stomach, leave your first arm in front of your belly button, and make the 2nd arm first the first etc” just before my turn. But after dancing down the room, I realized I wasn’t thinking about those things during the dancing!

ARGHHH

So I really understand it is much harder to really apply corrections. Somehow we are clumsier with our bodies and than the degree of sharpness with our minds.

But now that we know how rapidly we can improve by increasing our consciousness, we just got to find a way to make it work for us.

Looking back to that incident where I had to dance my horrible dancing in front of a would-be semi-professional, let’s be really honest here. I probably had a thousand things for her to comment on. She could have said, “Your turn out is not engaged, your arms are stiff like sticks, your ribs are sticking out, pelvis not lifted. Your legs are loose, feet not pointed.” Or she maybe she did give up on me and decided those were the best words.

Maybe she was kind.

Maybe God put those words in her mouth to encourage me. (Because sometimes, it is privately devastating.)

Somehow those words, “Be more conscious” brewed in me and now finally I understand. If I wanted to improve the technique and the quality of my dancing, all I had to do was to be more conscious. After all, I know enough technique to be able to try to work on my own. I don’t need someone to tell me to turn out and point my feet. I know all that. Now it is all about bridging that gap between what I know and what I DO.

So what happened to that little dancer who gave me this precious ballet nugget?

She is a professional now.

 

🙂

 

in Adult Ballet Dancers

Inspiring Adult Ballet Dancer! Stefaniya’s story

By Stefaniya Arsova,
From Sofia, Bulgaria

Hello,

my name is Stefaniya Arsova. I am now 27 years old. I am cabin crew in Bulgaria, Europe. I studied ballet as a little child, but soon school took over and I stopped attending classes. When 14 I wanted to go back to dance, but unfortunately I was considered “too old” and there was no place for me anywhere, but in some contemporary class.

When I became 20, I moved to the capital and discovered classes for adults in the studio of a famous bulgarian prima. I decided to go and started taking classes 2 times a week. I soon wanted more and more ballet and started taking private lessons.

I have always been fighting against the term ” you are too old to be a ballerina”. I said, it would be the goal of my life to become one. Some called it sick ambition, but I just smiled and said, “We’ll see”.

I must say I wasn’t flexible at all, my teacher said that she didn’t believe I can do 90 degrees arabesque. EVER. Splits were a dream. Pointe shoes- too. Dancing in them- impossible. My knees are hypoextended, which means I can’t stand properly in first position- they always looked bent, no matter how hard I squeeze my tights.

My only advantages were the ballet slim and slender look and my naturally turned out legs.

I was lucky to train with the soloists and the primas of the Bulgarian National Ballet. I have received training in the russian technique, from people, who were in Vaganova’s school or studied in Russia. I took classes with one of the primas of the Berlin State Opera.

Currently my teacher is the Premier Soloist of the National Ballet. I took hundreds of private lessons, started going on competitions and started stretching fiercely.

I am now accepted in the National Music Academy, actually I am graduating now. I will have a diploma for a ballet teacher. I can do splits and my arabesque is higher than 90 degrees now. I can dance variations on pointe. I was lucky to perform in the National Opera and Ballet’s repertoire as a soloist in a child’s ballet show called “Pinocchio”. It was in season 2012-2013.

Soon later, together with other girls like me, we founded a special ballet company and started doing charity ballet shows. They are often “SOLD OUT” and people love them. Most of the time, they think we are professionals.

The classes in my ballet school, where I and the other girls from our ballet company started 7-10 years ago are no longer written in the program like this: “Amateur adult’s class” .

They are now called “Professional exercise” . Our teachers there really train us very hard. It is no longer 2 times per week. It is almost every day.

Below is the link of my facebook profile, where you can see a short video of me dancing “Sleeping Queen” pas de deux, a piece especially choreographed for me and my partner Alexander. It is on the stage of the National Opera in the capital of Bulgaria.

Video of rehearsing end of Coppelia variation– 24 ballone on point.

Pictures of me on stage and rehearsing:
National Opera and Ballet: “Pinocchio” I am on the left.

Sleeping queen” coda

Thumbellina” – rehearsing

NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE!!! When you are a ” late -starter” ballet dancer it doesn’t mean you can’t be a ballerina. It only means you have to train twice as hard.

P.S. I am attaching a photo of my former hypoextended legs. It is not on facebook. You can see what you can get when you work hard. I am still fighting them, because in the minute I am not pushing my knees to a straight position, they bend ugly. You can put another picture on top if you decide to post this story- feel free to use any of my facebook album I shared with you.
inspiring-adult-ballet-dancer-stefaniyas-story-21802452

Submitted: Submitted Sat Dec 27 2014

Comments

Dec 31, 2014
Thank you for sharing NEW
by: Anonymous

Amazing! You are an inspiration.

Dec 28, 2014
Truly inspirational
by: Seira

Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story with the rest of us!

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in Adult Ballet Dancers

Re-entering the World of Ballet

By Luana,
From USA

I am so thrilled to find this site. I am very very old compared to the normal world of beginning students of ballet. I have been wanting to reenter the world of Ballet for over 20 years now.

I first started when I was 5 years old in New England. I danced for 11 years which included being accepted into a local junior company at the age of 14 and dancing Ballets including The Nutcracker, Peter and the Wolf, Sleeping Beauty, and a few others. I was never a principle dancer, of course, but had a lot of fun dancing and going on point. It was so much pleasure for me. After the end of my 16th year, I left the world of Ballet.

Now 31 years later, I want to seriously get back into this world. I am a runner so I may not have the flexibility, but I certainly still have the grace and the rhythm of dance. I still remember the French names of some of the steps and positions, and I think I still remember the warm-up routine. I can still remember the music played in Ballet school for the many hours at the bar during warm-up time and on the floor.

By finding this website and reading some testimonials of women my age an older that have never entered the world of Ballet, yet are mastering the art, I am very excited. I now have to find a Ballet school in my area – good luck.

Any advice or words of encouragement would be greatly appreciated.

in Adult Ballet Dancers, Uncategorized

Ballet career was never going to be for me :-(

By Sarah
From England UK

I took ballet class when I was young too, probably for a year or so then stopped.

My family moved and not until I was about 14 did I get back into my ballet lessons, by this time I wanted so badly to be a professional my heart ached. My teacher helped me so much, and at age 17 I got into a 3 year dance college where the focus was very much on the classical technique.

I worked so hard for the first 2 years, taking every class I could, even the early grade work, I was determined to catch up with my peers.

In my 3rd year I had attained a good standard, unfortunately never near good enough to do ballet as a career sadly.

At that time (1993-95) it was the old RAD work and I took my inter ballet exam for that and my ISTD Advanced classical ballet exam too. I even passed my RAD student-teacher exam with a distinction, so really for a tall, quite stiff and late starting girl, I had done really well.

After college I went off working as a commercial dancer for a good few years then finally one winter when I was home in Cumbria UK met my now husband, had children and dance slipped off the radar for a long time.

In between times I’ve done the odd teaching role and took some classes. However this year , 2014 ,now at 38 years old, my children are older , and I have more me time,I have started working on the old RAD inter class work, I’m even back on pointe.

I’m getting stronger each week and enjoying the way my body is getting back it’s old classical ballet shape.

Unfortunately in this part of England, there is only one school I can go to, but they are doing show work until June, so I’m dancing alone until then, but I don’t mind.

I am feeling very determined to get back to being the best ballet dancer I can be again, I still feel that heartache when I hear classical music as I’ve never stopped wishing I could have been a ballet dancer, but then I would not have my beautiful children, I guess things happen for a reason!

Well that’s my story. I even danced in Japan many years ago, in a place called Kinegawa.

Many thanks for this site, it’s good to find other adults like me,

MollyMoo

Submitted Wed Mar 26 2014

Comments

Feb 21, 2015
similar story NEW
by: andrea

Your story is so much like mine! I’m in the u.s. I started at 15, got a degree in dance in college, at 28 stopped because I had children. Did some odd teaching here and there too, took a few classes but nothing consistent until I was 40! Started up again, been two years now. The best part though is my 10 yr old son has decided he wants to do ballet too!

in Adult Ballet Dancers, Uncategorized

Dancing Dreamer

Note: This is edited slightly in spacing for better reading flow. I kept the writing original so that we can feel the dancer through her own words. – Seira

Written by a 28 year old adult dancer with dance injuries

I’m keeping my childhood dreams alive.

Hello fellow ballet dancers!

Beautiful webpage, so happy I found this well.

This is my adult ballet dancing story:

I was three when I stepped into the same studio now where I go to ballet, jazz and tap adult classes on a Saturday morning.

It was 1988, I can see the vision of my Mum, with her wavy hair long floral dress and wedges putting on my little white ballet slippers for me and tying my hair in two pigtails.

The smell of ballet leather, rosin and the musical sound of the piano player, I will never forget. This was my first ballet class.

I ran in so exited into a world of mirrors which transformed into a world of fairies and princesses.

Dancing in my little head was all so magical and led me on stage. I just lit up.

I was with that studio until about 7 years old. And then I switched studios and went to a more local dance school.

I now was at the junior level and it was pretty tough. I got shouted at every week for not knowing my left and right. I coped by focusing on my dream of dancing in a tutu for the swan lake number in the showcase and competition.

Unfortunately my little hopes and dreams were dashed when my arm got broken. My teacher pulled me from the Swan Lake number because she said I had missed too many lessons and rehearsals.

She then placed me with the babies who where from age 4-8. I remembered I was so upset I cried while trying to eat my packed lunch. I always stayed interested but because of my dyspraxia and other problems I piled on weight and my Mum was scared of me getting teased so I quit.

I became an actress. I must say I’m pretty good I love it as much, but the dancing was still in my heart. I was kind of always filled with regret so I enrolled and I tried so so hard in dance college in my teens. I even broke my foot trying, unfortunately I didn’t pick it fast enough and I’m considered weak in my dance technique.

I’ve kept on trying for years on and off and I’ve also been trying to do ballet exams and get back on stage.

Now at the age of 28 I pick up dances better then ever and I’m a better dancer then I’ve ever been.

I pick up fast in my 20’s something. I think something started to click, I can learn a dance in one lesson. I still have to cope with injury in my feet but tape them up (planter fasciitis) and strained knees because I’m still overweight but you know what I don’t care because the dancing is helping me lose it. Thin dancers some who are not as good technically as me sometimes look down their nose because of my size but I refuse to live in a world of broken dreams.

If I don’t keep that spark the child in me felt I won’t be me anymore and will have nothing to give anyone.

Thank you for letting me share my dance story!

Date of Submission Thu Dec 05 2013

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