Guest Post: Finding the Right Studio

Caysie face pictureUnfortunately over the week I seem to have developed a bit of a chest cold that prevented me from going to dance (among other things). What’s with this summer cold business?? Anywho, I was hoping to post a nice tutorial blog with photos of a DIY stand alone barre that I made before I started feeling unwell but because I am not up to setting up to do the pics for that post, it will have to wait until next week. Why even tell you, you ask? Perhaps then maybe you’ll be motivated to check back because that DIY barre is a life saver for a busy lady like myself who just wants a 20 minute tendu sesh here and there. Now that I’ve dangled that like a carrot in front of your face (mwahaha), I’ll get on to my post for this week which is a bit inspired by the lovely Queen Michelle at Kingdom of Style, but a more beginner focused version.

I’m currently in the process of switching studios because the one I currently go to is so far away. I figured that since finding a studio/class and going to the first class is a huge hurdle for a lot of adults who want to begin ballet but haven’t yet I’d write about that process. I’ll address some of the most important concerns I first had myself.

1. I’m going to look like an idiot. Ok. So this fear of mine really was the absolute biggest I had that stopped me from starting up a class.  It’s hard to start something if you have little to no experience with it. You can be nervous that people will laugh at you or that you’ll be the center of attention cause you can seem to EVER get into first position. I have tested the waters with a few classes and can tell you, from personal experience, that this is 95% of the time not the case. Adult beginner classes are just that- BEGINNER. Even if you don’t know a plié from a piqué, it’s unlikely that anyone will judge you for it. You’re there to learn and build these skills just like everyone else. From my experience it’s just been an hour of laughing and commiserating because no one is perfect! We all have our “looking silly” moments, and you know what… it’s ok that it’s funny because it’s fun!

2. I have no idea what studio is the best fit. This one has the easiest solution: try them all! Many studios offer the first class for free or allow you to come watch for free. If you’re concerned with fit of the style of class and the instructor, it’s always a very good idea to check it out. Sometimes you’ll love it, sometimes you won’t but HEY! it was a free ballet class and that never sucks!

3. I’m nervous about the other people in the class being WAY better than me, judging me, or being cliquey. This one is a little similar to the first but not quite the same. This was a big concern for me for my first few classes. I’d arrive early, sitting in the lobby stretching and no one would talk to me. It was a weird feeling to be on the outside. I’d look around and see some women in their 40’s talking about their daughters’ recitals and having a hard time stretching. Then I’d see a 16 year old who could not possibly be in my class (just look at her with her perfect ballet bun in the front splits reading a school book!). Then I see a 60 year old woman with her leg stretched over her head in the corner. I am like absolutely none of these ladies. How on earth do I belong here?! Let me tell you how we ALL belong here- we love ballet. After class begins each time, any sort of social barrier gets left at the door and we all have a great time focusing on our technique, stretching together, and joking around. Moral of this story is: you may meet some friends at ballet, but if you don’t that is OK too. You’re there for dance and in the end that is what will unite you!

4. I don’t have time! This is something that I still struggle with when it comes to ballet. I find myself tempted after a busy week and when I know that I have lots of homework to skip ballet (whether at home, using a video, or in a studio). We’re all busy but it’s really important to make time to take care of your mind and body and ballet is great for me to do both. I fought myself for hours last week whether or not I was going to go to class. I was grumpy the whole way there. But about 10 minutes into class, I forgot about being busy and just enjoyed moving. So, if ballet is for you then make time! Even if its just 30 minutes at home or an hour of class a week. On occasion if I’m particularly busy or if I’m traveling, I just squeeze in a 15 min Ballet Beautiful workout along with some stretching.

Hopefully that covers some of the fears some of you may be having about starting a ballet class or about being in one. If there are any other things you can think of, I’d love to hear them in the comments and we can talk about them as well! I’d also love to hear any ideas about what you’d like to hear about from the beginner perspective, I’m open to it all! Again I apologize for the lack luster post due to my being sick, but I promise I’ll make it up to you with that DIY barre post when I’m better.

Guest Post: Meet Caysie!

Caysie is going to be a regular contributor to Adult Ballerina Project in the future–check out this cool introduction she wrote about herself!

dHi everyone! I am so excited to get to be writing for this blog today. Just a while back I was browsing the search results for adult ballet classes in my neighborhood and was completely shocked to find this website. It’s so wonderful to know that I am not the only brave soul willing to put in the work to learn ballet as a “grown up”.

A little about me: I’m Caysie. I’m 23 and currently in my second year of my master’s program learning to become a therapist. I am getting ready to start seeing clients as a trainee, which is exciting and scary all at once! One thing we talk about a lot (when I say a lot, I mean A LOT) at school is a term called “self-care”. Ok, ok, I know this isn’t a totally new term to most of you but the value was a new concept to me. It’s important, not only as therapists but as busy adults, that we take time for ourselves on a regular basis so that we can feel fulfilled outside of work and school. I sat and thought- most of my hobbies are so product related (DIY projects on Pinterest, home improvement, etc) and are good for some quick fun but they aren’t really things that I can sink my teeth into and be passionate about. I had to find something that would keep me sane and happy, something I could love forever.

Enter my love affair with ballet.

I took dance as a kid–tap, jazz, ballet, you name it!- but I ended up not pursuing it beyond elementary school. I stretchbasically forgot about it until when I started my undergrad degree and started nannying for a 12-year-old ballerina. I had to drive her to both of her studios daily and watch her dance through class after class. I fell in love with it. Unable to make time for classes, I picked up doing ballet related exercise through the NYC Ballet Workout DVDs and the Mary Helen Bowers Ballet Beautiful series. I’ve seen my mood and my body change in such wonderful ways over the past few years but it wasn’t enough. So, I ditched my last ounce of reservations and found myself an adult ballet beginners class. I’m not far in, but I’m loving every second of it. I’ve even set up my own little “studio” space in my apartment where I can go to tendu and plié to my heart’s desire.

I’m excited about the possibility of getting to share my journey of not only learning to do ballet, but learning to live ballet and to bring the grace and strength from the art into all aspects of my living.

Just for fun, here are the answers to the questions for profiles that I didn’t yet cover!

What is your favorite part about ballet? 

It’s a way to just lose yourself and totally enjoy creating art using nothing but your body.

What is your least favorite part?

The muscle pain! Haha.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Maria Kochetkova and Mary Helen Bowers

What motivates you to keep dancing?

The sense of pride in the amazing things my body can accomplish!

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

Don’t be afraid to look silly when you first begin. Ballet is about grace, but it takes time!

Beginner Ballet Tips: How to Improve Jumps

Now that my legs finally seem to be getting back in shape, it’s finally time that I start to work on my jumps a little bit more, which, honestly are pretty pathetic. I’m not a jumping person AT ALL. In fact…it’s probably my least favorite part of ballet. But, I am ever so jealous of pretty professional ballerinas and their perfect grand jetes.  So I did some research into what I could possibly to do improve them and found out the key was:

Plies, Plies, Plies!

Plies are one of the keys to  jumps (and  turns as well).

The Ballet Dancer’s Guide says:

Your plie is crucial to every single jump, for both the landing and the take off. Without your plie you simply can not jump, but more importantly, without the right use of the plie you won’t be give full value to each jump.

Other tips from Dance Advantage (which also mentions plies!) include strengthening your core and proper alignment (my dance instructor is always reminding us of this). I know I need to work on proper alignment more, as its one of the things I’m likely to forget as I’m focused on something else. It also mentions working on strengthening your feet as well through exercises in class (tendu, degage, releve) as well as through theraband at home exercises.

Dance Advantage also has some pretty great tips for doing grand jetes.

What do you do to improve your jumps?

 

Beginner Ballet Tips: Grand Plies in Fourth

Ballet class

(Photo credit: Oude School)

Grand plies in fourth position: yuck, right?

Okay, maybe you don’t have a problem with grand plies in fourth, but I certainly do. I’m always super wobbly while doing them. I realize that this probably has a lot to do with the fact my turnout needs a lot of work (my feet can look a mess in fourth position if I’m not being careful).

As it turns out, a quick Google search found a lot of people struggling with grand plies in fourth position, with a lot of them even questioning a need for them, as they’re kind of harsh on the knees.

Someone else recommended keeping a very small fourth position that allows you to really feel your turnout. Other people on the same message board recommended making sure your back knee doesn’t bend too far in, maintaining proper turnout, and keeping your weight equal on the same legs.

My goals for improving my fourth position grand plies will be both working on my turnout and strengthening my knees (from Dance Spirit Magazine). I’m already doing the squats from the knee strengthening post!

Do you have trouble with 4th position grand plies? Do you think they should be banned?

Note: I’m not a professional ballet instructor or fitness instructor, just sharing the notes I found helpful when I was looking for help for myself.

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