Adult Ballet: How Serious Do You Take It

May, 2015

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I have been teaching ballet to amateur adult students for the past 15 years and I feel truly blessed. I have worked with hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds, from inspiring absolute beginners to professional company classes. I really think I have one of the best jobs in the world!
 
What I enjoy most about teaching amateur classes is the enthusiasm the students show as well as their curiosity and eagerness to learn. I find it absolutely fascinating to analyse steps, that at first seem impossible to do, to their minor detail so they become accessible to more and more students.
Ballet movements work on different levels, they are comprised of anatomical, energetic and emotional components. The enquiry into these keeps ballet practice so infinitely interesting.
 
I understand from my own experience that we are sometimes extremely focused on achieving a specific goal, one that stretches us beyond our current ability. And this is in general a good thing. However, if this becomes a source for unnecessary stress and negativity, e.g. frustration, low moods, constant feelings of not being good enough, we stand in our own way to progress in a sustainable and healthy way.
 
Most of us have an idea or a vision of what we want to attain. What I observe in professional as well as in amateur dancers is that the ones who primarily focus on the "here and now" rather than on the end result increase their skills faster whilst also having more fun. They truly enjoy and appreciate every small yet important improvement, which means they have a succession of mini-successes that energises and motivates them and balances out the "bad" days. People who for the most part focus on the ideal end form become discouraged more easily when things do not work as well or as fast as they wanted to whilst they may dismiss small improvements as too insignificant to be of much value.

dégagé side, from Ballet Class DVD: Level 1

Ballet is about discipline, perseverance but also  patience and acceptance. Especially as adults, we have to learn to accept our physical limitations and know when pushing too much will bring more harm than benefit. Although for many ballet's irresistibility lies in its perceived perfection, but it is the striving for it that matters more than actually achieving it.

We all have different strong areas, some have a beautiful port de bras, others stand out because of their natural ability to turn or to jump or because they are quick learners. Yet instead of celebrating these we tend to criticise our weaknesses and compare them with others who happen to be gifted with what we are lacking.
 
My aim of this article is to encourage you to feed your love, passion and all the positive aspects that give ballet such a high standing in your life and to starve any negative side effects it may have on you. You helped rekindle the love and passion for ballet I had buried for some years. With my teaching, I only wish to try to give that back. Learn to love the journey and not the ending, because if you can then the ending will seem that much more rewarding!

To help you enjoy your ballet practice in the best possible way, here are 8 suggestions:

 

  1.  Remember why you were drawn to ballet in the first place.

  2.  Be present to the positive effects ballet has on you and your life.

  3.  Acknowledge your small improvements and accept that progress is not straightforward. Ups and downs are part of the    process.

  4.  Have a goal but enjoy the process of working towards it. Imagine how you would dance if you did not know the feelings and  thoughts of frustration, self-doubt, perhaps even jealousy, etc.

  5.  Celebrate what you have. Your starting point is your ability and skill and not that of others.

  6.  Be inspired, not discouraged by more advanced dancers. Pay them a compliment.

  7.  Remember everyone is there for his or her own reason and we all have our quirks.

  8.  Take your training but not yourself serious. Remember that there is more to life than a better turnout, more pirouettes, higher  extensions, a solo role, etc., even if sometimes it does not feel like it.