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Why Adults Do Ballet: Your Stories

by Thierry Rosenzweig

March, 2022

Introduction​ 

We present here below an overview of the results from the “My Story” questionnaire.
The objective of the survey was to draw a better understanding of why adults came up to practise ballet, what are their experiences, thoughts, and suggestions as learners.

The questionnaire was sent to the thirteen ballet learners who spontaneously expressed their interest in the "My Story" project (as presented in one of the Holistic Ballet newsletters).

Franziska with her father, Thierry, who wrote this article

12 of them filled in the questionnaire, we all thank them very much for their interest and cooperation.

The type of questionnaire we selected mainly favoured "open questions" (thus, "free answers") that in our view were more relevant to the project's objective than collecting "dry data" and statistics.

In the same way, the results presented below are for most of them illustrated/supported by a selection of respondents' (non-modified) answers. We selected answers that well reflected a set of roughly the same ideas among respondents.

In drafting the results below, we intended to keep it "short" or at least to a reasonable length. I hope we have succeeded.

 

Furthermore, readers must consider that part of the respondents are not native English speakers and might have expressed their ideas with some expressions not necessarily familiar to everyone.

Lastly, we would welcome any questions or comments regarding the survey and its results presentation.

Thank you, Thierry

1. Respondents' Profile At A Glance​

ballet statistic

2. Childhood Ballet Classes Memories​

  • Nearly half of the respondents (5/12) experienced ballet at early childhood age (4y to 9y). It left them with very strong memories but often with some frustration. “I loved those classes, I felt free and exhilarated. My teacher said I was doing very well but she also told my mum I would never be a dancer because I was already too tall”; “I did a solo when I was 7 which I was very proud of. Then, from junior school onwards I felt directed/pushed for exams. There was no « magical » anymore"; “I was not select for the show. I was very bitter”.

  • Some had not taken ballet classes during their childhood but have been fascinated by it: "I always wanted to do ballet since I was 4. Only took me 50 years to start! Not going to stop anytime soon!"

 

3. Enrolling In Adult Ballet Classes And Other Physical Practices​

The age at which respondents started adult ballet classes is evenly spread out between 20 and 50 as shown in the graph below:

ages of adult ballet students
  • When they enrolled in adult ballet class, all respondents had already several years of experience in other areas of physical activity. Five had taken courses in different types of dances (ballroom, salsa, tango, "Bollywood" or Chinese sword dance…). Three had concentrated on yoga, Pilates or similar. The remaining had actively practised individual physical activities such as swimming, hiking etc.​

  • All but two (i.e., 83%) keep practising their former activities at least on a part-time basis, namely Pilates "to improve muscular capacity, balance and flexibility in the direction required for Ballet”. Others want to “keep stamina” through climbing or fencing. One finds in swimming “a relaxing counter-effect to ballet. I do the movements with not worrying too much doing them well”.​

  • Lastly, Asian dances somehow "match well with ballet" and provide additional benefits: “I practice Chinese sword-dance, which is culturally meaningful for me and requires the use of different muscle groups (upper body). It also gives a lot of fun!”; “Bollywood Indian dance has similar precision (hands, fingers, lines) and whereas few want to watch amateur or beginner adult ballet, I perform with my Indian group a lot.”​​​

adult ballet students at Holistic Ballet workshop

adult ballet students focused at a workshop

4. Teaching Ballet To Adults: What Works?​

  • A structured progression is seen by many respondents as particularly needed by adult ballet learners. “As I’ve matured, I’ve realized how much I need calm structure around me. Holistic Ballet suits me very well for these reasons. There is calm, order and planned structure built on repetition”; “I value repetition, patience, and practice. I despair easily and am often very nervous which prevent me to repeat the combination”.​​​

  • In the same vein, a major need shared by most respondents is the need for explanations: “I need to understand how to do something and feel it. Holistic I guess”; “Understanding the anatomy involved in a certain technique helps me to engage the correct musculature and pay attention to the correct physical sensation”; “I like teachers who give [an] alternative way of explaining a movement since sometimes the more common phrases don't mean the right thing to me". ”; “I have been always struggling with the same issue because I never understood how to solve them." The teaching style of Franziska. "made me improve a lot."; "I find [it] very helpful when a teacher explains what you might do wrong before the actual combination starts."​

  • No explanations however without precise demonstrations: “I find the way Franziska breaks down the steps in the videos and also that camera is often behind her, makes it easier to follow her instructions."​

  • And explanations should also be "enlivened" at least a