Ballerina Profile: Kristen Gillette

Me “stretching” (the railing was low) by Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia.

That’s right, me. I’m still in the process of getting a few interviews back, so in the meantime, I figured I’d share some information about myself that I haven’t posted here before.

I started doing ballet in March of 2012. I took a class once a week at Philly Dance Fitness for a while before I was living in two places this summer (Allentown and Philadelphia) and could only manage the occasional class at Koresh Dance Studio. I started going two times a week (or more, I’m at 3 or 4 now) in the beginning of September.

I took classes for three years as a kid, at about age 4. I quit after year three because my parents moved us to dance classes held in the basement of a church and not a “real” dance studio. I wasn’t a fan of the move, and I quit.

I’ve wanted to take adult classes for over a year now. It wasn’t until my boyfriend helped push me into finally buying a pair of ballet shoes that I finally got over my fears of being the “new girl” in class and finally signed up.

I take classes at both Philly Dance Fitness and Koresh Dance Studio. I started at Philly Dance Fitness, and I love my instructor, Beverly, for being as welcoming as she is to new students. I started taking classes at Koresh to get more of a “real studio” feel, and I love both, although Koresh is super challenging sometimes for a newbie.

My favorite part of ballet is turns. Currently, I can only land en dedan pirouettes (which my instructors rarely seem to work on). But I love working on them, and turns are my favorite thing to work on at home.

My least favorite part is jumps. I was FINALLY getting a handle on them a while ago, but now they

On the Race Street Pier in Philly.

I want to take modern jazz classes. Otherwise, I’ve only taken one hiphop class (and the studio stopped offering them). Koresh offers a variety of classes, and I’ve meant to take modern jazz but the class is labeled “beginner” scares me. I take an intro to ballet class there and that is tough enough as it is.

My hobbies outside of ballet including writing, TV, and crocheting. I ran a TV blog when I was younger on Blogger.

My advice to new beginners is DON’T GIVE UP. Although your first experience in a dance studio can be nerve-racking and you might not do so hot, COME BACK anyway. You’ll get better. I’ve noticed that a lot of people  show up for their first class and never return. Just remember that everyone had to start at some point.

Anything else you’d like to know about me?


Boyfriend does Ballet

Last week I dragged my boyfriend, Hoai-Quoc (or HQ, as everyone calls him) along to my Intro to Ballet Class at Koresh Dance, since they offer $5 dollar classes to first time customers (if you’re in Philly, check them out–and don’t let those who are really good at ballet scare you!). Afterwards, I asked him a few questions about his experience. While he had some dance background from classes in high school (and he does hip hop now), he had never been in a formal studio dance class before. HQ is also doing the 30 day stretch challenge, see his picture from day 2 below!

My boyfriend and I at a wedding last year. I make the loveliest faces, I know.

Adult Ballerina Project: What did you expect about the class beforehand?

HQ: I wasn’t quite sure what to expect because while I know basic ballet techniques, I have never gone to a class that covers barre work, center work, and cross floor work. I was looking forward to getting the full studio experience to see if what I knew could hold up to it.

ABP: What ballet experience did you have beforehand?

HQ: I did ballet in high school through my theatre program. We covered basic jazz, ballet, tap, modern, and hip hop. I know things like my tendus, développés, rond de jambe, and the other types of basic moves as well as some leaps from necessity for the musicals we performed

ABP: What did you think about the barre portion of the class?

HQ: The barre portion was probably the most interesting for me since I have never done barre work….at a barre. I knew how to move my legs given prior experience but when it came to chaining the different things together as well as having to try to follow the arm positions, I got super confused. I ended up just keeping my arm in an open second and doing the leg movements.

ABP: What about center work?

HQ: The center work was fun because while I knew what to expect, I couldn’t necessarily follow along. The type of combinations that I did in high school were much simpler being things like a chasse to front attitude to arabesque to a layout (which isn’t correct, just example of the simple techniques we did) and that would be all. In the class I was instantly lost when the instructor named the combination of being pique -switch-arabesque-developpe-tombe-pas de bourree. I was overwhelmed from the combinations but thought it was a good look at what real ballet classes teach you.

HQ has also decided to do the #30daystretchchallenge with me. This is from Day 2 yesterday.

ABP: What did you think of the studio?

HQ: The studio I thought had a good environment. You were surrounded with people that obviously were there with a passion (some more than others) to learning ballet. The physical studio wasn’t quite as impressive due to the flooring not being kept up super well (not that it was bad, was just irritating stepping on the tape between mats and having a toe go half way in). In all though I thought the studio was successful in the atmosphere to learn dance as well as a space to learn dance.

ABP: Would you take a class there again?

HQ: I would take a class there again but I feel like I would take one once I have gained more experience in ballet. The class for a mostly beginner like me came across as very challenging and I felt as though I was struggling to keep up at times. So while yes, because I could tell that the quality of the class was rather good, for now I would say no until I get a little more experience under my belt.

ABP: Would you take a ballet class again?

HQ:  I would definitely take a ballet class again. I enjoy dancing and definitely enjoy expanding my knowledge in the different styles of dance that I learned in high school. I feel like ballet especially is great to keep taking because while the physical aspect is very strong and necessary, I enjoy the discipline that must be held by a person learning it to make the most of it. If you go in and just kinda go about the class as if it was a chore I feel like you essentially didn’t learn anything.

ABP: Anything else?

HQ: It was a great experience. I enjoyed being able to expose myself to taking studio classes and will definitely have to take more studio classes later on.

Day 2 of the #30DayStretchChallenge

The pink socks are for you, Legal Ballerina, since I didn’t take the picture by the rest of my pink room!


I really despise my left side and this photo is to remind me to keep stretching it and not just favor my right!

Several of us adult ballerinas started the 30 Day Stretch Challenge on October 9th! Feel free to join us, even if you missed the start date! If all goes well, I’ll probably start a new one once this one has finished!

Tips on Splits!

Some more great tips from mercietchatons!

More advice on stretching!

Hi Adult Ballerinas! I thought I’d leave you with a quick post with a link to some split advice and a reminder (as mentioned in the article) to not force your splits!

While of sure some of you who may have worked towards splits for a little may get them with the #30daystretchchallenge, many of us won’t. My main point in making myself do the challenge was to develop a regular stretching habits (something my ballet routine was lacking) and track my progress via pictures (and using those pictures as a reminder about why I should be stretching everyday!)

I’m so glad that so many people have agreed to take part in the challenge! Have fun everyone!

What’s your favorite time of day to stretch? I either stretch in the evenings while watching TV or after ballet class (when I’m nice and warmed up!)

(P.S. My lovely MacBook has had some battery issues so keep your fingers crossed that it gets fixed today!)

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