Beginner Ballerina Profile: Marlene

Profiles are back this week with a profile of Marlene, a ballet dancer who takes classes at Irene Dance Hub in Centurion after she was never motivated to go to the gym and decided to try ballet instead!
When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

Marlene: January 2013.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Marlene: No, never. When I stepped into the ballet class beginning of this year, I was a true “absolute beginner”.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

Marlene: Well, I desperately needed to start exercising! But I didn’t want to go to a gym – been a member once, but because it bored me and there was no fixed times that I had to go there, I soon quit. At the end of last year, the word “dance” just jumped out everywhere. Mmm, what about starting to dance? I already love music and rhythm, so I just had to start moving with it! 🙂  I hoped that dance classes would be on fixed times during the week, and I knew I probably wouldn’t get bored because there will always be something new to learn. OK then, but where in the world do you get adult dance classes? Uhm, ask Google. And so I found…

Where do you take classes?

Marlene: Irene Dance Hub in Centurion, with passionate dancer Susan Attfield as the owner, and Louina Prinsloo – our no-nonsense, “stop moaning”, teacher 🙂  We love you both!

What is your favorite part about ballet?

Marlene: Believe it or not, when my muscles are shaking and burning – that means something is working! 🙂  Other than that, I love the “jumps” we do.  It is then that I feel freedom.

What is your least favorite part?

Marlene: I hate to miss a class, or when a class ends… more, more!  Also when my mind messes with my feet and arms 😉

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Marlene: I love watching Miko Fogarty.  She not only loves ballet, but in the way she dances, she makes sure the audience enjoys it just as much as she does.  One of my favorite videos of her is:

(I just wish there was a better “non-stretched” recording available).

What motivates you to keep dancing?

Marlene: When I get discouraged I watch a few ballet movies on youtube or read the good stuff on the Irene Dance Hub’s facebook page, and soon I’m out of my pit 🙂  Also doing a few plies and easy moves in front of the mirror keeps me going as it helps me to remember that a few months ago I didn’t even know what a plie was, never mind do one!

Do you take any other dance classes?

Marlene: No, not at the moment.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Marlene: Music, books, outdoors, gardening.

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

Marlene: The only dancer you should compare yourself to is the one you used to be.

Marlene is on the far left!

Marlene is on the far left!

Anything else you’d like to add?

Marlene: Thank you for your blog, Kristen.  It is such an encouragement to read about other adult ballet dancers and their experiences.  We need that 🙂

Dealing with Sore Muscles


The best thing you can do is stretch

Oh boy! I just finished my first class in a few weeks and I am hurtin’! It was a really strange circumstance of me leaving my studio just in time for the new studio to be closed for two weeks, then I was out of town. So It had been three weeks of no structured class. I have been stretching and trying to practice at home as much as possible but I think that there is definitely something to be said for the rigor of a structured class. I got to class a bit early to stretch and speak with the instructor and thought I was ready for anything- I couldn’t have been more wrong! Haha. It still surprises me, adjusting to my body as an adult and how it works, to see how just a little break in activity can send me right back to square one (okay maybe like square five, but still not where I was at!). I got home a sweaty mess, plopped down on the bed, and told my fiancé that I know I need to eat but I’m not sure how to go about it because 1. I can’t move my legs and 2. I’m nervous that the second I put food into my mouth I might throw up. Ok, I’m slightly dramatic but I really was whooped! I knew that I instantly needed to get on top of making sure my muscles don’t tighten up much because I knew if I didn’t I probably would be in a world of hurt tomorrow. I thought I’d share a few of my tips for avoiding that next day of crying when you drop your keys because you know how much it will hurt to pick them back up. 😉

1. Stretch it out: I like to lay on my back on the floor, stick my leg straight up at a 90 degree angle and just make slow circles of varying sizes with it. The slow motion really makes you stretch it out. Then I bring my leg straight over across my body for a while, bend it for a while, then I bring my knee to my chest. I also like to borrow some yoga moves like these here. I particularly love doing the cat, cow, child, and half downward dog because they feel so relaxing but they also really do stretch those muscles out. The key is to keep stretching throughout the day so that the lactic acid doesn’t settle in your muscles which is what makes you sore. It seems like the most obvious tip but I also think that it’s the first we forget.

2. Soak! I love a good, warm Lush Bath Bomb (or essential oil) and epsom salt bath. I find the that the combination of heat and scent take the epsom salt to the next level because you’re not just relaxing your muscles but your mind too. Personally, I get super stressed from being so busy and having a stressed mind leads to a tense body and there’s no amount of salt that can take that away. So lock the bathroom door, tell the kids or partner that you’re out of commission for 20 minutes and relax! I also enjoy partaking in a good foot soak, perfect for a dancer. I love trying new “recipes” that I find on pinterest. Today I tried one with green tea, baking soda, vinegar and epsom salt. The result wasn’t too pretty… the water, well it looked a little gross. However, my feet felt AMAZING after.

3. Enlist a loved one for a massage! This is self-explanatory and can be fun!

4. Fuel your body properly. This one is hard. There are so many different resources with conflicting ideas about what to eat in general, but when you add in what to eat for working out there are one thousand more ideas. What I have found that has really worked for my body is to have a protein AND carb heavy snack about an hour before I go to ballet. Something like bagel with peanut butter or hummus. Occasionally I throw an apple in as well. I also make sure to follow my class up with a balanced yet protein and fresh food heavy meal or snack. For example, today I had a burrito in a whole wheat tortilla with eggs inside, lots of lettuce, carrots, avocado, and cabbage. I feel that I almost always feel so much better when I have something that is substantial but not heavy. I’ve read in a few places that blueberries (or any antioxidant heavy food) work well because they soak up all the free radicals left. Anti-inflammatory foods like kelp, salmon, ginger, green tea,  and sweet potatoes are also supposed to be really helpful in telling your muscles to calm the heck down. And, of course, stay hydrated!

5. Try some topical treatments like white flower oil, icy hot, peppermint oil, or salonpas. My personal favorite when it comes to this is to, right after my hot bath, rub a little white flower oil diluted in baby oil all over my legs, bottom, back, arms, and shoulders and then bundle up in warm clothes for a while. This really lets it soak into my muscles and feels SO nice.

6. Finally, don’t be too afraid of the occasional ibuprofen or Tylenol. Sometimes the pain is just too much to manage with home remedies and that’s totally fine. You don’t have to do without!

Hopefully some of these tips are helpful/new to at least one person. What do you do to keep the aches and pains away?


Beginner Ballet Tips: Sewing Elastic to Ballet Slippers

Roughly one year and one month ago, I picked up my first pair of ballet slippers at one of the local dance stores in Philadelphia and was told I needed to sew the elastics myself. Nothing more. I was clueless. I searched online and was frustrated with every article and how-to telling me how to sew pointe shoe ribbons and elastics. I eventually found this video and sewed on my elastics the best I could:

Looking back at those shoes, my elastics were sewn kind of terribly (not because the technique in the video is bad, but just because I’m horrible at sewing). I wish I had found these tips by Adult Beginner and Dave Tries Ballet to help me out when I needed it. Adult Beginner uses a single elastic, so if that’s what you’ve got, go check her’s out. The video, Dave Tries Ballet, and my tutorial below deals with criss-cross elastics that are already sewn at the back-end. I wear Sansha split sole canvas shoes (I’m looking into trying more, I just bought these because I needed new shoes and knew these would fit if I ordered them online).

Here’s what you’ll need:


Pen or Permanent Marker


Safety Pins

Needle and Thread (I recommend Bunhead’s Stitch Kit if you don’t already have needles and thread lying around. It’s super thick, strong thread that will make sure the elastics will stay put both on pointe shoes and ballet slippers)

My elastics are pulled tight so that my shoes fit my feet.

Step 1. Tighten the elastic strings at the top of your ballet slipper until you get a nice fit. You don’t want them strangling your foot but you don’t want the shoes to be falling off either.

Step 2. Mark where you will sew the elastics with permanent marker at your arches by stretching them over your feet–I just sew mine to the middle seam in my slipper. Again, you want them to be holding your foot in but not too tight. I sew the elastic from the inside of the foot underneath and the one that comes in from the outside over (I’m pretty sure there’s no rules written in stone about this–I just know it’s mentioned in one of the videos I watched so that’s what I do). I then mark each slipper somewhere on the inside so I can quickly know which one is left and right without having to look super carefully at the elastic.

Step 3. Secure the elastic using a safety pin where you will sew them and try them on again, making sure that you’ve got the right fit. Point and flex your feet a couple of times.

Step 4: Cut the elastics if you need to so they fit into the shoe (I usually leave about 1/2 an inch from the very top part of the shoe so there’s enough to sew securely in). You could probably burn the elastics to make sure they don’t fray but I don’t find it necessary.

I can’t really give you any advice on doing the actual sewing part since I’m a novice at it–some people hand sew, others use a machine. Whichever method you choose, make sure you don’t sew into the elastic string that goes around the shoe by accident.

Step 5: Put your shoes on and check the elastic string for tightness again, making sure you’ve got it where you want it. Some people will leave their strings long and tie them in a bow and then tuck them in (they shouldn’t be left out so your foot doesn’t get dragged over them and/or so you don’t trip on them).Having all the loose strings shoved into my shoe drives me crazy, so I double knot mine (without tying a bow), cut them pretty short, and then burn the ends.

Step 6: Put them on, check for the correct fit (one last time!) and admire a job well done!

What do you wish you would’ve known before starting ballet classes?

PS If you’ve got any tips for how you attach your elastics to ballet slippers, let me know! This is still a work in progress for me!

Help me Pick a May Challenge!

Yoga Class at a Gym

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I’ve used challenges recently to try to get me to get more motivated to actually do the exercises I need to be doing, but I’m kind of clueless about what I should be doing for May (yeah, I know, it’s already May 3rd, but I’ve been busy bee). So, while I’d like to keep it kind of related to ballet–a lot of things do, when it comes down to it–pretty much anything is fair game. I will create a post detailing the challenge as well so anyone who wants to join in can. No matter what I end up doing, I plan on updating at least once a week with how I’m doing.

Here are a few ideas I’ve come up with (I’m slightly leaning towards yoga or the ab challenge, but don’t let that influence you):

-Mile a Day (I’m still going to be doing #c25k, but this would push me to get a little extra mileage on my off days)

-Ab Challenge (I’ve done planks for about the past month, but this would mean doing more exercise ab-related exercises)

-Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred (it’s $8.99 on iTunes and could help me get in better all around shape, something I really need)

-Yoga Challenge (A different yoga video everyday to help improve my overall flexibility)

-Split Challenge (Yes, I’ve done it before, but if this wins I promise to give you photos on bi-weekly basis)

Vote in the poll below for one of these options, or leave your own suggestion in the comments.

If you suggest something new and exciting and I pick it, I’ll send you a pair of pink shoelaces from Sweat Pink as a reward!

Beginner Ballet Profile: Lionel

This week’s profile is another of Susan Attfield‘s ballet studio students, Lionel–who first started to take ballet in October 2012 after seeing So You Think You Can Dance. 

LionelDid you ever take lessons as a kid?

No, never took any lessons as a kid, I grew up in a small town and my interest was mainly athletics.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

There are a few reasons, I have always loved watching ballet, I was always an active individual but since I left school it gradually got replaced by work, deadlines and the idea that one day my busy schedule will get better.  It was the infamous series So you think you can dance which made me look for adult ballet classes in my area.

Where do you take classes?

In Centurion, Gauteng, South Africa.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

When after 3 months you finally start doing something right…lol, just kidding for me it’s that one hour when all the troubles in the world disappear.

What is your least favorite part?

To be honest…. when the classes are over 🙁

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

I’m not yet familiar with the great names in ballet, but at this stage watching anyone who can really dance, you don’t realise how hard these dancers have to train to dance at that level, when you see them you think to yourself o that’s good, but you don’t even begin to realise that there is a reason they train for years…

What motivates you to keep dancing?

To dance makes me happy, if I had discovered this at an earlier stage in my life things might have been different, but I like the feeling I have when I leave the class and that makes me want to come back.

Do you take any other dance classes?

No not at this stage.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Gardening, Cleaning, Swimming.

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

I have started the class about 4 months ago, and in every class I see new faces, if you like ballet just keep going, with every class it gets better just persevere.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I wish to thank the teachers and owner of the DANCE HUB group for dedicating their time to beginner adult dancers, even though I will not become a professional what your classes do for my soul is far more fulfilling than anything money can buy.  You guys are awesome.

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