Too Lazy? Too Obsessed?

How To Find The Right Balance

December, 2018

How Many Ballet Classes Per Week?

How many classes should I do per week and what other activities do you recommend? These are two questions I am asked frequently. 
The answer is: 'It depends'.  It is all about balance, one that is right for you. Adult learners have to juggle work, family and friends with their ballet training. It is quite a different situation to ballet students and professional dancers where training has priority above most other aspects of life.

For 'regular' people, the optimum numbers of hours spent in the studio or at home practising depend on the individual's physicality and psychology, his or her circumstances, goals, ambitions, etc.

Road Trip

Let's use a with a road trip analogy: if you put in the miles, you will arrive faster. However, there may be obstacles in the way that slow you down.

You may have walked too fast and you are forced to take a break to recuperate. You may have taken a wrong turn and need to reorientate.

Maybe you were so focused on reaching your destination that you missed the beautiful scenery on your journey. Perhaps you reached a point where you wanted to give up.

Other times you may be lucky, catch a ride and progress effortlessly and much faster than expected. ​

Whether you go slow, one class per week, or fast, seven classes per week, or anywhere in between, I believe continuity is the key. Having a routine helps tremendously. A quote I read on Instagram said: 'You will never always be motivated, so you must learn to be disciplined'. Another helpful suggestion I heard from a client is to 'just turn up'. Often, this is the hardest part, once you get going you will find it hard to stop.

Addictiveness Of Ballet Training

But ballet training is also prone to being addictive and generally, there is nothing wrong with it. It does become unhealthy however when people become obsessive and forget WHY they took it up in the first place.  Although ballet by its nature can be frustrating at times, as long as you embrace the challenge do as many classes as you want. Yet if you lose the joy of attending classes it may be better to take a step back and reflect.

Quality outweighs quantity. Attending fewer classes in which you are truly focused, physically and mentally, may bring greater benefit than going through the motions without intent.

Last but not least, if you are in pain you may do more than your body can accept. We must not forget that even if Holistic Ballet tries its best to offer a safe training that is attuned to 'normal' people's abilities, it is still an extreme and for many an unnatural way of moving. Excitement may overtake and students can tend to ignore the warning signs.

It is also important to take rest days. Not only because you will probably enjoy your classes more but also to help your muscles and joints recover and your mind refresh. Rest days do not mean being a couch potato, rather move and think differently by doing Yoga, Pilates, going for walks, seeing friends, etc.

 core strength, hip flexor stretch, back mobility, a blasé Herbert the cat

My ballet school was six days a week, Mondays to Saturdays. We were expected to practise at home on Sundays. One year, we had the misfortune of having our first ballet training of the week on Mondays at 8am. Neither, we nor our teacher were enthusiastic about it.


I remember her shouting one morning 'I can see that you did not practise yesterday because you lost your entire turn-out! Except for Franziska.' Great, for this did not make me very popular with my classmates. I could never lose my turn-out because of my hip dysplasia, and I probably was one of the very few that actually did practise on Sundays.

Supplement Classes

This brings me to the next part of the question, which other activities would I recommend? The answer is again 'It depends'.

We are spoiled for choice: gym, yoga, Pilates, Gyrotonic®, in person, or online. You are the best person to know what works for you. Of course, in order to make an informed decision, you need to try out several methods. Though more important than the method is finding a teacher that is right for you. 
I remember my first Pilates class that made me never want to do it again until I met James D'Silva who opened a whole new world for me. 

From my experience of the above-mentioned exercise systems, for most people I would recommend Pilates as I find it the easiest to understand, it gets right to the point, it correlates extremely well to how we work the body in ballet, and it is a great tool to address unbalanced muscle tone, a common cause of injuries. 

Yoga is fantastic to calm and focus the mind, a crucial requisite in ballet. The Gyrotonic® system moves you in the most wonderful fashion. It made me understand how to do grands battements! 
A Gyrotonic® workout gets me into a more creative mindset whilst Pilates helps me when I have to be more logical. 

Weight and endurance training in the gym has its benefits too if you are the type of person that enjoys it. 

I find alternative exercises essential if you want to progress well. Whilst ballet may be one of the best workouts for legs and feet, it does not really build core and upper body strength nor stamina, yet it is impossible to advance without. Furthermore, supplement training can address individual weaknesses such as tight shoulders and hip flexors. It can help to develop underused muscles like adductors and pelvic floor, and it can improve proprioception that 'is the sense through which we perceive the position and movement of our body, including our sense of equilibrium and balance, senses that depend on the notion of force (Jones, 2000). From: Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 2013

I cannot really comment on whether it is advisable to attend contemporary classes in order to improve ballet technique as I have done too little of it. I think it is very useful if you want to become a more confident mover.

To Summarise

 

  • Do as many classes as feels good, physically and mentally.

  • If classes become a source of stress and frustration, step back and reflect, maybe small changes, e.g. routine, teacher,  is all that is needed.

  • Take rest days on which you could do alternative exercises.

  • Supplementing ballet classes with other training methods is highly advisable.

It would be great to hear what you think. How much you train, whether you adjusted your regime, what works and does not work for you.

quadriceps stretch whilst engaging the core and listening to Herbert