Guest Post: Plus Sized Ballet

Plus Sized Ballet

When most people picture ballerinas in their head, this is what they see:

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It intimidates a lot of people.  Can you blame them?  Look at the strength, the balance, the grace.

But this is what I see when I think of ballerinas:

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picture courtesy of Festival School of Ballet

That’s me on the right. All 200+ pounds of me.  At my heaviest I was 260 pounds.  I never saw myself as that heavy but I also never thought of myself as ballerina material either.  Boy was I wrong.

When I first started my weight loss journey, I felt like I didn’t know my body anymore.  When I lost 30 pounds I knew I had to do something.  I felt like a clutz.  Not at all like the graceful person I knew I was.  So I started searching for an adult ballet class hoping to reclaim some of that grace. I just wanted to go through the basic positions, do some barre work and maybe, one day, try some floor combinations.  But please, don’t make me wear a leotard and tights.

Do you know how hard it can be to find an adult ballet class like this?  Well around me, it took me well over a year.  Every time I called a studio that had an adult class, I would ask the same two questions:

How advanced is your adult class? 

Most of the time they were full of former dancers.  I was told as a beginner I was welcome to try and keep up or I could take their little ones basic ballet.

Do you have a dress code for the adult class? 

The minute they said yes, leotard and tights, I said thank you very much and hung up the phone.  I wanted to try ballet and I was insecure enough about that.  But throw in my insecurities about being in a leotard and tights at my size and it was just too much to overcome.

I was lucky though and finally found a studio that said, come as you are! Yes, there are former dancers in the class but also people who have never danced before.  Come, try it!

I have never felt more at home than I did at that first class.  I wore my workout capris and a t-shirt.  I did invest in a pair of ballet shoes since I wanted to make the point, I wanted to work my way up to dance.  I didn’t just want the barre workout or a ballet booty class.  Those are great options, don’t get me wrong, but I wanted the grace of ballet to help me learn my now rapidly changing body.

I started with one 90 minute class a week.  Turns out floor combinations were always part of the class so I stumbled, tripped and slouched through my first weeks.  Slowly but surely, however, I got the hang of it.  I was doing floor combinations!  Already!  Next thing I knew it was two classes a week and hoping for more.

I found ballet was seeping into my everyday life.  I stood taller and in better alignment which in turn made lots of other things take on a whole different meaning.  My walk became more efficient since I was standing taller and using more of my lower core.  My biking became more challenging.  I had to add more tension to the stationary bike to accommodate my stronger legs.  And something very simple, but major happened – I don’t slouch anymore.  My core and back feel so much better.

Leaving class is one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.  I spend 90 minutes stretching, lengthening, reaching.  I feel so tall and lean at the end of it all.  I feel so confident and self-assured.  And let me tell you, THAT feeling will change your life in ways you could never imagine.

Why should plus size people try ballet?  It’s a great way to build lean muscle mass.  The entire class focuses on your core and the large muscle groups of your legs.  So even at the barre, you will burn lots of calories.  It’s an excellent way to build your lung capacity and stamina.  It teaches you about your body and how it works.  So no matter how big or small you are, your body will work better for you.  If you think your weight makes you appear clumsy, ballet will teach you to control your body better.  Even if you never lose an ounce, you will naturally become more graceful and self-controlled.

And most importantly, it is empowering.  When you feel confident, graceful and in control, nothing can stop you.   Anyone can do ballet.  There is nothing special required.  But ballet can certainly make you feel special.  There is nothing holding you back from trying it except you!  So get thee to a ballet studio and start dancing!

PS:  I’ve been doing ballet now for almost two years and I’m still not wearing leotard and tights.  But I’m starting to consider tights, believe it or not.  And maybe a leotard under a big tshirt?  I think I might becoming confident enough to try.

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