Contribute to the Adult Ballerina Project: Adult Ballerinas, Instructors and Professionals!

I’m always looking for more people’s views/tips/advice for adult ballet, so if you’d like to contribute to the Adult Ballerina Project, I’d love to have you. There’s a few ways you can do so:

1. If you’re an adult ballerina, I’d love to interview you for the site and feature your profile on the site.

2. If you’re an instructor or professional ballerina, I’d love to interview you for the site so you can help give tips to us and help inspire us.

3. Anyone who has a story, specific tips or tricks they’d like to write about, I’d love for you to do so. I’m only one person with limited experience, the more people who contribute the bigger this site can be!

If your interested in any of these, send me an email at adultballerinaproject@gmail.com!

Group/Forum for Adult Beginner Ballerinas

As Legal Ballerina pointed out on her site that an awesome LiveJournal group exists for Adult Ballerinas called AdultBegBallet. Since there’s not a  lot of demand for one directly linked for this website, I figured it’d be a cool thing for those who were interested in a forum to look into. While the community hasn’t seen a lot of action recently, those who have posted have gotten a fair bit of responses so there’s definitely still some members who are active.

Thanks LB for the tip!

Also, I’d like to hold a TweetChat for people interested in ballet and this blog (and I figured it’d be the easiest way to hold a chat, especially since site’s like TweetChat make it easy to follow a certain #hashtag and most everyone has a Twitter account already). If you have any other suggestions for chats let me know as well as what day/times would work best for you.

Any other forum/group/community recommendations?

Streeeettttttttttcccccch!

One of the most difficult things I’ve had a problem with getting myself to do for my ballet is stretch. I’ll go through streaks where I work really hard at my split stretches for a week or so regularly but then I get too busy, forget, or just plain old don’t feel like it, but I know I’m going to have to do it regularly if I ever want to actually become more flexible.

When I do remember, I usually focus on split stretches doing these stretches as well as this one because it really seems to stretch out my hips a lot. I plan on adding some barre split stretches that I found this morning since I recently built my own barre (more on this in a later post, but check out Leotard’s and the Buns in Them’s post on it if you want to build your own ASAP).

I know I need to increase how often I stretch and stretch more of my body than I now do (I could really use some back flexibility!) so I want to know:

How often do you stretch?

What stretches do you do?

In about a week or so I’ll compile a list so we can have a complete ballet stretching guide!

Ballet Etiquette

Knowing what to expect when you walk into a ballet studio is one of the most important things to know if you’re going to start ballet classes. Some studios will be more lenient than others (I take classes at both Philly Dance Fitness and Koresh Dance Studio–Philly Dance Fitness is a lot more laid back than Koresh is). Don’t let that scare you, it’s not really terrifying as it seems as long as you know what you’re doing.

I can’t really say it better than they did, so check out Grown-Ups at the Barre’s Balletiquette post for a good do’s and don’t’s list for ballet studios.

The 3 most important things I grabbed from the article are (that I wish I would’ve known when starting):

1. Make sure you tie you ballet shoes and tuck in the laces (as opposed to tying big bows on the front of them). I have tied mine and cut off the ends so they don’t stick out.

2. Leave enough space at the barre for the person in front and behind you. Some instructors are great when you’re new and will help to make sure you have enough space. If they don’t, it’d be best if you have enough room to swing your leg out in front and behind you. When doing center work, leave enough space between you and your neighbor, and make sure you leave “windows” so the people in the line behind you can see themselves in the mirror.

3. Expect Corrections. This was probably the toughest thing for to get a handle on because I’m such a perfectionist, but everyone is going to get corrected. You’re instructor isn’t picking on you, and everyone was a beginner at some point. You’re there to learn.

What do you think are the most important ballet etiquette rules are if you’ve been in classes before?

Ballerina Profile: Legal Ballerina

Here is the Adult Ballerina Project’s first Ballerina Profile on Legal Ballerina. She started doing ballet in November of 2011.

Adult Ballerina Project: Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Legal Ballerina: No. I was raised by my father and he worked all of the time. I wanted to take ballet, but had a difficult time expressing my desires or needs to him.

ABP: Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

LB: A couple of reasons – my BFF (and nanny) started to take a beginner class and asked me to join. I went to one class and liked it, so I joined. Second, like I mentioned before, I really did always wish I could take ballet as a child. Better late than never. Right?!

ABP: Where do you take classes?

LB: I take classes at a studio called Chardon Dance. It is my hometown. My teacher (who I refer to as “the General” in my blog) is wonderful and her students are super supportive. They are all close with each other and it feels like a family. It makes my journey that much more enjoyable knowing that they have welcomed me into it.

ABP: What is your favorite part about ballet?

LB: I love the clothes. If I didn’t, I would not be taking ballet. Fashion is important to me.

I love to practice and getting strong. Specifically, I like practicing my turns (pique and shanays to my left because it is stronger). I like seeing myself glide across the floor; it makes me feel pretty. While I didn’t enjoy them at first, I do like practicing my pirouettes now too. I have improved so much in 4 months; it is very encouraging.

ABP: What is your least favorite part?

LB: I injured my left hamstring in late spring. Ever since, I get nagging pain and pulling in that leg when I stretch or do kicks. I HATE IT. I don’t know if my hamstring will ever improve. I am going to see a physical therapist soon who is going to try to pull and massage out the scar tissue that is likely causing my problem. I suppose stretching in general is quite frustrating to me. I don’t know if I will ever be able to kick my leg to my head like some of the girls, but I can try!

ABP: What motivates you to keep dancing?

LB: My teacher, my friends, my husband and my kids. If they didn’t believe in me, it would be hard to believe in myself, especially since I started this so late in my life. Also, seeing improvement in my dancing has also kept me motivated. If I didn’t, it would be hard to keep pushing through the blood, sweat and tears associated with learning classical ballet.

ABP: What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

LB: I like to crochet (started that last year too), collecting authentic German cuckoo clocks (started that recently as well), playing video games with my daughter, play scrabble and drink wine with my hubby (who is amazing at the game btw), sing with my little sister and son (he is 3 – I am positive he has the performer gene), Friday Night Dance Parties with my family, watch old and/or obscure horror movies (I am a huge fan and have an eclectic collection) and make people laugh (yes, I consider this a hobby. I even have material that I use regularly and rely on my dad to provide me with more. He is my “muse”.)

ABP: What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

LB: There are two types of beginners: Those who want to dance as a hobby and those who want to perform. If you want to dance as a hobby, there are plenty of studios out there who are willing to teach adults that are interested in learning basic ballet terms and technique. You take one class a week, spend an enjoyable hour practicing with friends and looking cute in the mirror and then go home. There is nothing to it and I think that if you want to take ballet in this manner – go for it! You will not regret it.

Then there are those who want to perform, like me! If that is your type you have a few obstacles ahead of you.

Find a good studio/teacher that is interested in teaching an adult ballet and actually enjoys doing it. You will be surprised how rare this really is. My first teacher, while good, wasn’t interested in teaching adults who were serious about learning ballet. She felt there was no point because, as adults, you really cannot become professional dancer. My question is, “So what?!” How many of these young girls she is teaching really going to become professional dancers anyway?! Just because you are over the age of 20, doesn’t mean you cannot learn ballet. Hence, why I left that studio.

Once you find a teacher and a studio, get ready to work your butt off. Here is the thing, the harder you work for your teacher, the more he/she will want to work with you. If you want to stand out and get asked to perform along side younger students or even get a solo, you better be ready to put your all into learning technique, stretching and getting strong. When I started taking ballet, I took one class per week. Now, I take 3 classes week, plus practice at home 2 nights (which can last an hour 1/2 to 2 hours) and do an hour of cardio one night a week as well. That’s 6 days a week of preparing my body to perform. My teacher appreciates my effort and really wants to help me achieve my goal because I have shown her that I am willing to go the distance. If you want to perform, you have to work. Period. My teacher expects me to do everything her other, younger, students do. And, with a stiff upper lip, I do it. No complaints, no excuses, no shame. Sure, I have bad days (as you will read in my blog from time to time), but I stick it out through the lesson, cry alone in my car for a moment and when the tears are wiped away and the matter is assessed rationally, I dust myself off and keep on going. Also, and something I didn’t expect, if you really do put in the effort, the other students will notice and appreciate you too. As an adult, you are an influence on these girls whether you like it or not. They look at me as a friend, a caregiver, a professional and a dancer. Don’t underestimate how much of an impact you will have on these students. They look at me as a role model because I show them that when you grow up, your life doesn’t have to end when you get married and have children. I show them how a woman CAN be, if you just try. That is pretty powerful stuff and I welcome the opportunity with open arms.

ABP: Anything else you’d like to add?

LB: Don’t be afraid to walk into a ballet class and start something new. True, ballet is difficult, but not impossible. If you were athletic or flexible before ballet, it will help you excel faster. If not, you will get stronger and more flexible as the weeks go on. You just have to work at it every day. Even if you want ballet as just a hobby, you will be surprised at how much of a work out you get in so little time. Ballet can get you back in shape or be something to add in your normal work-out routine.

Also, do not be intimidated by the younger students, because undoubtedly, there will be a lot of them dancing along side you in every class. They may not understand your place at first, but do not forget YOU are the adult and they look at you like one. In all likelihood, they are intimidated by your presence. I am surprised at how mature the students are. I suppose it is because of the discipline and self control associated with learning ballet. I look at them not as children, but as fellow students and they do the same to me. So, be kind to them and they will be a great source of support to you when you have your (often frequent) bad days.

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