A question from a future adult beginner

Oh hey look, a question!
Let’s read it!

Hey Adult Beginner!
I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and it has inspired me to sign up for a few beginner ballet classes (ballet III, teen beginner’s ballet and adult/older teen beginner’s ballet). I think I’ll be the newest one in the class. What can I expect for the first class? Nothing too terrifying, like fouettes and mid-air leap split karate kicks, right? No Black Swan prima ballerinas with glowing red eyes? I’m pretty nervous, but really excited at the same time!  
Thanks for your help!

Ok, Gentle Reader, did you read the part where E sez that reading this blog inspired her to sign up for ballet?
Isn’t That Cool?!!!
(ok ok Adult Beginner, get it together now)
E, OmygawdI’msoproudandexcitedforyou! (dammit, self, I told you to calm down!) ok. Deep Breath.
All right E, what to expect in your first class?
Well, the nice thing about ballet is that it honors it’s traditions, by which I mean it does not evolve quickly, by which I mean, a ballet class will include certain elements, no matter the school or level.
Which means my whatever-number class and your first class will be totally different experiences involving almost all the same elements.
And that’s neat!
Ok, short answer:
You’ll do things at the barre, then you’ll do things in the center of the room, facing the mirror.
Long answer:
First, buy slippers. They don’t cost very much, you’ll feel confident-both in that you look correct and that you won’t slip, and your teacher will see that you mean business. Teacher will see you are there to get your ballet on, dammit!
Second, introduce yourself to the teacher before class. It’s just nice. Not to mention a teacher who knows your name and background can give you more helpful corrections.
Adult beginners are friendly and very rarely have red glowing eyes, so if you have any questions like where to put your bag, just ask your classmates.
Class starts at the barre.
Your first instinct will be to go to the back of the line of people.
Put yourself somewhere in the middle, so that when everyone turns, you aren’t suddenly at the head of the line.
Ok, so what will you do? A bunch of very specific and small leg exercises, which will leave you shockingly sore the next day. Each exercise works one leg, then you turn and work the other.
You’ll be at the barre about half the class. Or so. Then your teacher will invite you to go to a corner, or form rows, or line up along the back, and then you might do jumps, or two or three steps in a row which is called a combination. The idea is that you’ve warmed up at the barre, probably stretched, and practiced some specific steps that your teacher will now incorporate into some combination to test your body and confuse your brain.
The center work can be scary because you’re exposed after the shelter of the barre, but the center is a time to go big and maybe surprise yourself.
Once took a class with a very brusque teacher. Felt overwhelmed and very serious until we got to some big jumps, which were so fun that I busted into a big dopey grin, which was when he said, “well. You are all like blocks of wood, but at least I can see some of you take a least a little pleasure in this.” Ha!
Your teacher might throw in some kind of mid-air leap split karate kick type thing, maybe to please the more experienced students, maybe just to see if the class is up for it. Either way, try it!
Finally there’ll be something to signify the end of class. Hopefully a reverénce, maybe stretching, maybe applause.

Gentle Reader, do you remember your first ballet class? Got anything to add/subtract/contradict/concur?

E, have a great class!


About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
This entry was posted in Technique and Class, You Asked for it and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to A question from a future adult beginner

  1. Acacia says:

    Adult Beginners are nice as a rule (no red-eyed black swans, unless you count the tired people coming after work!) Definitely buy a proper pair of slippers (I love my canvas practice shoes) and leave pride at the door. Just enjoy yourself and don’t worry about the other students, they have been where you are.

  2. Lin says:

    I am another adult beginner who enjoys your blog and checks it daily. I have wanted to take lessons for a long time but continued to come up with excuses not to, i.e., knee surgery five years ago, the 25 minute drive to the studio, I’m too old, I can’t do deep knee bends, etc. So, enough excuses. Through some sort of magical joke of time flying by, I just turned 50; I am embracing it and not being defined by a number (having a birthday beats the alternative of not being around to have one). I start an adult beginning ballet class next Wednesday evening. Yup, I will be making the commute and doing not so deep knee bends. Your blog has been an incentive to go for it, too. I was fitted for ballet slippers last night (split sole with elastic attached as the sewing issue was discussed and I said I read about that in a blog – yes, take the credit for your blog) and received lots of great info from the experienced ballet dancer who works in the dance store. I’m nervous but excited. I’m a late bloomer in many areas, I guess, as I married for the first time at age 48. When I was planning the wedding, I was asked if I was the mother of the bride. I realize that could have been the case but it took the wind out of my sails when I was looked at like some type of freak when the vendors found out it was my “first” wedding. I guess I should have just lied and said it was my fourth. However, last night I proudly announced I was going to be a brand new ballet dancer at 50 and I was received with excitement from the enthusiastic young dancer/sales person. She was so encouraging and when she asked me where I’m attending, she said that is her school and dance company.. She thought one of her friends might be my instructor and assured me the instructors enjoy working with adults as it is a fun change for them, as well. So, as you say, I’m going to own my ballet class (and the stiff knees) Oh, I won’t go into the discussion we had about dancers’ feet, my bunions and how my feet actually look good compared to the dancers’ feet she sees. Yes, another positive! I am no longer embarrassed of my bunions. I already have experienced ballet dancer feet. Thanks for your blog. I look forward to it daily.

  3. Erin says:

    Oh, thank you so much AB for taking the time to answer my question! This was so helpful, and as always, entertaining! Like Lin said, I look forward to reading your blog, it’s so inspiring!

    • Yay!
      Oh hey, also check out the blogs in my blogroll, lots of interesting and pertinent stuff up in there

      • Erin says:

        Just wanted to follow up quickly, my first class today went perfectly!
        I was wrong when I thought that I’d be the only brand spankin’ new one– all but 2 people there were new, so the class started out slow and then we picked up the pace since we were not (totally) clueless! Again, your answer was so helpful. I got myself a pair of slippers (leather full sole), left my pride with my street shoes and had fun! Thanks for this blog, I probably wouldn’t have had to courage to sign up without it!

  4. Margaret says:

    Second to leaving your pride at the door. I would also suggest leaving your trousers, but that’s cause I looove me some tights and leotard!

    I felt like a big fool my first class, was helplessly lost, but having so much fun I didn’t care. Turns out a few months down the line, I still feel like a fool, I still get hopelessly lost, but slowly but surely things are starting to click, nothing prouder than when you get a combination and successfully complete it.

    And just have fun! Enjoy your ‘me’ time!

  5. Kaija says:

    Whoo hoo! Great question from another “one of us” and awesome answers (in addition to inspiration) from AB! :) I’ll second all that was said and also just add the crucial clue that you are NOT expected to get everything all at once. Jumping into a beginning ballet class does not mean that everything will be explained and demonstrated in detail to you…some things will, but for the rest, you just sort of jump in and try to follow along and learn by osmosis. Yes, it will feel really awkward and like others said, just drop your pride and shut off your critical mind and just turn your body loose to mimic what the rest of the class is doing. It all comes together over time…ballet is a “slow boil” process where you must be steeped in it long-term and progress happens gradually but DOES happen. Just remember that every other person in the class has been where you are and is supportive…adult ballet is not cutthroat teenage stage princesses battling for Black Swan superiority and you will probably find that your fellow adult ballet students are really nice and fun and have a good sense of humor. I know I’ve made “ballet friends” that I look forward to seeing at our regular class time each week.

    Having ballet slippers is definitely recommended. Also pull back your hair or tie back bangs/other misc hair with a hairband or anything that will keep you looking neat and sleek. You can probably wear whatever the hell you are comfortable in (no leotards required in most adult classes), and many women start off in yoga pants and a T-shirt. I recommend black leggings with black shorts or a short black skirt over them….gives you that ballet sleekness, lets your teacher see your knees clearly (so he or she can check your alignment and make sure you’re in proper position), and is comfortable without being too revealing. On top a tank top or fitted T-shirt. You may find that you later gravitate towards tights and leotards as you get hooked, but mainly, just wear something that lets you move and does not make you feel selfconscious.

    Above all, ENJOY. Moving your body to music is organic…all cultures, all over the world, since the beginning of time, have danced…it’s in our basic makeup and something we all should do more of just for the joy! :)

    • What a great answer!
      Totally agree, it all comes comes together over time, turn your body loose

      • Melia says:

        This is soooooo encouraging!!! I just joined an adult ballet class two weeks ago, being a clumsy 29-year-old-lover-of-ballet and thought who the hell do I know thats doing this too!!? That understands my little addiction!? that would be no one I know personally!… And I found this blog and finally feel like theres a “you have a friend in me” support/understanding from fellow adult beginners!!!! Yah!! and Yah! to being so freaking sore I thought I was so lame-o!!

  6. lalatina says:

    “Leave pride at the door”- I agree!

    My first class (as an adult beginner too) was awesome! Everything went very well until I had this one reaaaallly terrible class where everything went wrong. My body went into rebellious-mode and wouldn’t obey me. The next week, when I had to go back I didn’t feel like it (I know, that’s pathetic!), but I just said to myself: “No. You’re going”. And I went back and it went well and now it’s been over a year and I am so happy with that! So, I’d say that if you ever feel down because you had a bad class, just don’t pay attention to that feeling and step over it :) Go to class and prove to yourself that you can do it! Bad classes are also part of the process, I think.

    Enjoy ballet! I wish you much luck! :)

  7. Kaija says:

    100% agree on the “bad classes will happen; just gut out” phenomenon. The other side of the coin is that sometime you will also have magical classes where everything just seems to work right and the difficult things finally click and you feel the music and it is euphoric! It’s seemingly random, but that’s what makes it so addicting. Neurological and psychological research has shown that activities with “random reward” ARE the most addicting (gambling, etc, also golf from what I hear and ballet from my own experience). So yeah, that adult beginner class may be a gateway drug that starts you on a path of adventure, in the good way :)

  8. drumlinIRL says:

    Mhm, I do remember my first ballet class well.

    I was about 16 and had decided I was going to try this ballet thing, as cross training for swimming and betterment for my acting.

    Man was I confused. But everyone was incredibly nice, and the nice thing about teachers (usually) is thy they want to be able to TEACH something. If you’re happy to be there and willing to listen to what they say, you’ll find yourself not only getting more out of class, but getting more help later on.

    And AdultBeginner is competent correct, put yourself between two people who look like they’ll understand the combinations, I STILL do it as a semi professional dancer. Keeps everyone working smarter ;-)

    So excited for you! Enjoy! Merde! Toi toi toi!


    • Good point- teachers want to teach.
      Bring that positive energy and excitement and ready-to-learn-ness, and Bam! you’ve invigorated the whole class, teacher included.
      I’ve seen it happen!
      Also, unfortunately, also seen the opposite happen, where a negative I-suck attitude brought down not just that student but the entire frikin class.

  9. chrisgo says:

    Here’s two more cents thrown in, find a class / instructor that fits your personality and demeanor. Ballet class can be so much fun if you find the right fit, or it can be maddening if it’s too fast or too slow. Many schools around here will let you take the first class for free, a test drive if you will.
    I remember being a ball of nerves at my first class, wondering what I had gotten myself into. I think I got there nearly an hour early, but nearly missed my class because I was waiting outside the wrong studio after misreading the schedule in the lobby.
    And yes, like everyone above has said, buy shoes. Most importantly, have fun, you will love it!

    • Often for us adult beginners it’s just a matter of finding that class that is convenient time-wise, location-wise, budget-wise. But this is a good point, that it’s worth shopping around a little, even after you’ve found a convenient class, to see if there’s another class out there that really clicks.
      Fun to check out other classes when you’re traveling, too.
      You never know, my class started as the class-of-convenience and turned out to be awesome, I have classmates who drive in from the hinterlands -aka not convenient at all- to take this same class.

  10. Deb Young says:

    I teach adult beginners, although the main focus of my small school is its children’s division. The adult class is a completely different kind of creature. I think most of my adult students enjoy the relaxed demeanor of the class–I try to give them good, useful instruction and corrections, but I don’t take myself seriously (only the quality of instruction), and I think this helps everyone relax, which frees them to learn. The class is now entering its sixth year on the schedule, and is getting harder and harder to teach, as my young school grows and I am being stretched (I am the school’s sole ballet teacher). But every time I consider taking the class off the schedule, I think of how many students have attended the class regularly since the school’s inception in ’06, and also–significantly–of how nice they are looking in class! Keep up the good work, all you adult beginners!

    • I bet you’ve become a very important part of your students week, of not a very important part of their lives. And that’s awesome, right?
      Thanks for teaching adults!

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