And why you should learn ballet as an adult!
If you feel too old to learn ballet, let me tell you why you are not. Learning ballet as an adult can be better than learning ballet as a child. Surprised? Read the following reasons why.
I’ve heard it all. Many adults tell me they’ve regretted quitting their ballet classes when they were younger or that they’d wish they had taken ballet as a child.
I, am in fact, one of them. I started when I was about 5 and stopped after a few years. I picked it up again in my teens and then stopped because of university and work. However, since getting back into ballet and meeting many professionals in the world of ballet…I can give you some reasons why it is better to learn ballet as an adult (than to start as a child).
So, if you’re an adult who may think you’re too old to start, or that it’s too late – perhaps after reading this article, you’ll realize why it is actually a great time to start and enjoy ballet!
1. You are injury free
I think this is one of the best reasons to start ballet and enjoy it.
If you’re like most adults in the workforce, most likely you’re in good shape meaning you haven’t worn out your knees, have tendinitis, torn hamstrings and complicated ankle, knee and back problems.
Okay, maybe problems with pain in the back is not unusual, but that can be fixed with good posture and a strong core that comes from learning ballet.
Many dancers who have started ballet since they were three find themselves coping with pain and injuries before they even turn professional! I’ve met some of these girls, some of them as young as 13 and 14 who have tendinitis. Torn hamstrings are common, as well as backaches. If you watch Youtube videos by aspiring ballet professionals, you’ll find young 16 year-olds who are using ultra-sound devices and painkillers to cope with pain…so that they can continue to take class.
Why? It is a variety of reasons. Poor training, turning out from the knees instead of hips, muscle imbalance, and also due to the natural ‘wear and tear’ of the body.The sad thing is despite all that – only a few become professional. It doesn’t seem worth it, does it?
My physiotherapist, whom I visit regularly, to keep my body in the best condition as I possibly can, works with many professionals pre-professionals and is a regular Physio at my country’s top ballet school. My goodness, the stories she tells me about the kind of injuries these young dancers (13-18 year-olds) have to cope with in order to dance is pretty scary.
Two friends who started ballet from age 5 had to pretty much give up ballet at 17 because of injuries. And I’m not even talking giving up professional dreams – as in, stop dancing altogether. It is difficult for them to take even beginners ballet class due to injury.
They both love ballet passionately, and can only enjoy watching ballet. One became a ballet piano accompanist. She wanted to teach ballet to young children, but it became very difficult when she couldn’t kneel. The other one takes a class once every couple of weeks, and sometimes she has to forgo those classes because of sore knees. She is pretty much stuck in beginners class (even though she was in the advanced classes before her injury).
Even the professionals are not injury free. Every professional that I know is coping with some sort of injury or pain. My favorite two ballet teachers (who are ex-dancers – one is a principal, and the other, a soloist) are continuing the rest of their life with one not being able to kneel, and the other a bad back and waist.
As for us adult ballet dancers, we’ve been kept in good shape as compared to all these dancers who may appear to have an edge over us – but in reality, they envy us. We can dance as much as we like and our dance life is longer. I think that works because most of us really enjoy our jobs or families and we won’t give them up to become professional (not that it is possible, but yes, in an alternate reality).
We can take our time to learn ballet and you’ll be amazed actually how much you can progress!
2. You are mobile
Being an adult, we don’t have to rely on any one to take us to ballet class. We are free to choose where and when to take class, how often to take class and with whom! When you were a child or a teenager who hadn’t learned to drive yet, you were often limited by the commitments your parents had, and their schedules. Even if you did learn to drive, there is the issue of whether you had a vehicle that was available. The kind of classes you took and with whom were limited to where you live and how many viable options you had.
As an adult, all these issues are pretty much eliminated, or perhaps we can say we’re in greater control.
I was made aware of this privilege because the minute I became mobile, I literally ran to take class in all sort of studios to find the one that was right for me.
3. You are financially empowered.
As adults, the greatest envy children and young teenagers have of us is that we have money. We have the ability to earn it and are pretty much in control of how to spend our hard-earned cash. When I was younger, I felt really bad having my mother pay for my lessons, especially when she was a single mother and I wasn’t the only child in the family.
Back then, leotards and tights and shoes cost quite a bit more than what they cost now. I even used up my savings of $2000 to pay for my own lessons.
Now that you’re an adult, you’re in greater capacity to afford ballet lessons…with no guilt.
When you pay for your own lessons, you might find yourself more motivated to learn and make it worthwhile – compared to a privileged young person who might take her classes for granted and see them as a chore.
Heck, you may even take private lessons and make up for all the time that you lost not learning ballet as a child. I’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t mean that people who took ballet as a child have more advantage than you. Sure, they will pick it up again faster, but even so, when they come back, they have to start again from ground zero, just like everyone else. Ballet has a way of escaping the body once it is not constantly trained. That is why professionals continue to take class everyday for the rest of their careers.
4. You learn quicker
Yes, you read it right.
I am always surprised to hear from very capable ballet teachers who tell me quite often how they enjoy teaching dedicated adults (much more than teaching young children), even though they know they’re not going to go ‘anywhere’.
Dedicated adults want to be there and have sacrificed their time, money, and make effort to take class consistently. Teachers are touched by their focus, hard work and devotion. They also tell me that adults grasp ballet concepts much faster – for some, immediately or in a couple of weeks, which would normally take years for a young child to learn.
I take private lessons whenever I can afford it and I’m often flattered by my teacher’s look of amazement when within one explanation, I can correct it immediately and give her what she wants. She’ll then explain to me how difficult it was to get her third-graders (8-10 year olds) to understand.
The adult brain is more mature and capable of conceptualizing or using imagery to comprehend. It is more likely that the body control needs to be refined – which takes time – rather than because you didn’t understand what the teacher is getting at.
I had a nagging suspicion that they’re only saying that to be encouraging to me, the adult ballet dancer…until I had a chance to teach my 6-year-old niece, who has been dancing since 3. To get her to turn out from her hip and to hold her arms using her back (inside of shoulders) has been a rather frustrating period. And I was only getting her to do those things to pose for ballet photos!
It is true. Your brain is more capable of learning ballet (and much faster) than most young children.
5. You might have a longer dance life
You’re injury-free, financially capable, mobile and in control of your life and now you have picked up ballet with a passion. Ballet is your thing to do in the evenings and on the weekends. As a result, you’ve found a good teacher, made some ballet friends and thus ballet is integrated into your life and you intend to keep it that way for a long time, if not, for the rest of your life.
You might end up dancing far longer than you would if you started dancing as a child.
I’ve met so many people in the studio who has been dancing, as an adult ballet dancer, for more than 10 years.
On the other hand, I’ve met so many people who had danced pretty much their entire childhood, quit dance due to losing interest in dance (temporarily and with regret later) the minute boys became interesting, or overwhelmed by university and work, who grew overweight and could never get past the mentality of how thin they used to be when they dance (and as a result, a flat refusal to step into a dance class). Some simply delayed getting back to dancing for 1 year which became 5 or 10 years and they never had the courage to come back. Some, unfortunately had injuries. Some got so discouraged not being able to get a job as a dancer, they pretty much quit it. Some got so fed-up with the poor pay, they quit dance to pursue jobs that made bigger bucks. Many got married and became too busy with family and kids.
That is why those mothers who still dance in spite of having kids are to be revered and respected! There is this mother who dances 4 times a week and eventually completed her RAD Advanced 2 exams in her late 40s. She stopped advanced 1 to give birth to her first child, and subsequently continued to dance but not train for any exams until the other 2 kids were born.
I think that as an adult, when you chose to dance, something happens in your heart and mind. Dancing has become a love, a passion, a way of life, that you don’t think that you’re giving up something else to dance, unlike all these young people who are trained to think of ‘giving up something of themselves’ to dance. For us, it is privilege, we’re more aware of it because we’re getting older and we realize learning ballet is a long and hard road. It is no longer about priorities, but a chosen way of life for us adult ballet dancers.
There is room for adult ballet dancers in the ballet world! Read some possible ballet opportunities for adult ballet dancers..
Read also about Kathy Mata Ballet – an adult ballet company.
What about the advantages of learning ballet as a young child rather than an adult then?
Sure, there are many. Obviously, a chance to turn professional. This is only if good training, careful care to look after the body as well.
- You’ll most probably be more flexible and this will be extremely useful if you have continued to maintain it.
- Because of all those years of learning ballet, your foundation in learning ballet will be stronger and you’ll probably be in more advanced classes doing far more interesting things. You might already have developed artistry and are able to link steps better.
- You’ll get to learn snippets of classical ballets and most probably, you have had plenty of performing opportunities.
- You’ll be able to mold your body, feet and turn out to a larger degree to suit classical ballet.
- You’ll have a head-start to learning the other types of dances that adults do, such as latin, ballroom and salsa. You’ll probably have very nice lines.
But you know, since most aspiring hardworking ballet students don’t turn professional anyway … due to wrong body type, injuries, lack of opportunities etc. Let’s just say you don’t have to turn professional to enjoy and dance ballet, so why not realize that you can also have a long dance life, as an adult ballet dancer!
If you’re careful, you won’t wear out your body faster than the general population, in fact you will probably be fitter and stronger than them, not to mention, look younger too!
You can still achieve quite a large amount of flexibility, just look at all the Grandma yogis (mature ladies who practice yoga). Many of them started yoga at a late age…late forties to sixties. Check out my article about flexibility as well.
If you meet the right teacher, or studio, you will probably have a chance to learn snippets of classical ballets and participate in their year-end performance as well!
So that is why perhaps learning ballet as an adult is better than learning ballet when you’re a child!
I hope you enjoyed my article!