Reader Q: what to do when the Budget says No Ballet Class

Got an email the other day with a question:

Ms. Beginner,
I love reading your blog.  I’ve been an adult beginner for about 2 months now (30 years old).  I’ve recently quit my job, and to keep our household budget in check I’m having to give up my dance lessons (among other things).  I really enjoy dancing and hope to get back to it one day, but in the meantime I want to stay in practice.  Are there any videos you would recomend for practicing at home; either online, or something I could buy or checkout from the library?

Ok, so the thing is, I don’t do any videos at home. But I too would like to hear tell of videos or books or YouTubes.
Or podcasts? Are there any free ballet podcasts?
Something like a podcast would really hit the spot. After a long (free) run, do a little (free) barre podcast, amiright?
So I’mma give Lisa a high-five for keeping up with her ballet,
I mean for serious, Lisa, it’s awesome that although you’ve had to let classes go for a bit, you’re not letting Ballet go.
And meanwhile, Gentle Reader, if you’ve got a recco, lay it on me!

About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
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18 Responses to Reader Q: what to do when the Budget says No Ballet Class

  1. Stacy says:

    I recently started taking ballet (I’m an adult beginner as well). Pre and Post starting ballet, I tried these two videos.
    Ballet class for beginners (David Howard) I got this out of the local library. As many of the amazon reviews say, if you have taken a class before and know these basic barre exercises, it’s good. But one down side is that some of the exercises are only done on one side. I don’t have a barre or anything so ended up using back of a chair in my tiny kitchen (only place with hard floors in my studio apt). Ended up kicking the stove and fridge doing frappes. I also found the dude in the video to be annoying lol But for free, out of the library, can’t complain.
    Other one is the NYC Ballet Workout 1&2. Don’t need a barre. I liked this a lot better (2 is better in my opinion) but there’s weird pauses between exercises where the name of the next exercises pops out and just lingers for a while. (I think these are like $15 used on amazon now)
    Can’t seem to find good Youtube videos on any exercises though!

  2. amy says:

    I practice at home using ilyaballet’s Vaganova class level 1 on youtube. There are 8 or 9 segments of about 5 minutes each. You can run through the entire sequence or play each segment twice, once for left side and once for right. Either way, it’s a great class, the exercises are basic and thorough, and there’s even a few minutes of pointe exercises at the end. Here’s the link: it’s called “1 Grade Vaganova Ballet Class” and the segments are numbered up to 8 or 9 I think.

    If level 1 is too easy there are many higher level exercises posted. Hope that helps!

  3. I love David Howard’s tapes. They may seem old fashioned by many standards, but his address of the audience/student is so lovely, the exercises are classic and it’s fun to look at the 80s and 90s dancewear. Also excellent and with many explanations and corrections are the Finis Jhung tapes. Wonderfully done and he too knows just how to address the home student. Please note though, that training in any athletic pursuit with no instructional oversight can be dangerous if the student is very inexperienced, so please use good judgment when deciding if home study is feasible. Good luck to the reader in finding a new job and continuing to pursue dance!

  4. I highly, HIGHLY recommend the New York City Ballet DVDs! They are amazing. They give you floor work, warm ups, ab and leg workouts, stretching, and more.

    Also, for pointe, I do youtube videos!

  5. I have to agree with Classical Ballet Teacher on this one. It is really not advisable to study ballet on your own, especially not at beginner level. You are likely to develop bad habits which take much longer to unlearn, and you can also end up doing yourself harm. Ballet may be the short-cut to happiness, but faulty technique is a short-cut to injury. And it won´t look very nice. Trust me. A good teacher is invaluable!

    Having said that, there are other ways to maintain form until you can afford ballet again. For one, stay fit! Then, check out any and all community college -type of activities, there might even be some dance courses. I would also recommend a pilates video, especially one geared for dancers. Watch as much ballet as you can bear! Get to know all the classics and new ballets by heart, and learn about ballet´s history and traditions. When you get back to the barre, your experience will be so much richer for it!

    I wish you all the best and good fortunes – and I do know what´s it like. Been there, done that, could not dance, then got back to dance. It´s never too late to re-start!

    • Johanna, I love this! Stay fit and get educated, fantastic advice.
      To that end, Lisa, you might wanna see if your library has a copy of Apollo’s Angels by Jennifer Homans. It is HUGE but a really clear outline of how ballet has evolved. I’m still not finished with the damned thing but it’s given me a much clearer understanding of the different schools of ballet and why they’re different, as well as a metal timeline on which to place biographies and movies and other ballet stuff. It’s not such a nebulous ballet-blob in my head anymore.
      For that matter, while you’re at the library, maybe take a detour through the children’s section. I mean, we are beginners, they are beginners, sometimes a children’s ballet book is just silly enough to be helpful.

  6. Laura says:

    Chiming in to agree with those who recommend against at-home practice–for me, at least, it’s too easy to get sloppy when unsupervised! The NYC Ballet Workout is very good: balletic enough to be satisfying but not technical enough to be dangerous. The production values are 180 degrees from most workout videos, which is pleasant and makes up for Peter Martins’s occasionally weird cueing (especially noticeable in #1; #2 is better).

    One other thing to consider: would your studio be amenable to some kind of barter arrangement? Could you answer phones or make publicity materials or keep up the studio website for a couple hours a week in exchange for free classes?

  7. Jen says:

    I really like the Finis Jhung DVDs (available at He has every level of instruction available and they are very much like attending a real class.

  8. Count me as one that’s not crazy about home practice without the complement of a class with a knowledgeable instructor- my ballet teacher gives me SO MANY corrections every class, I can’t imagine maintaining good technique without that feedback- I think it’s better to do dance *conditioning* at home if you can’t afford classes than try to do your own proper practice (obviously, this is less true for a pro dancer than a hobbyist like me). I’m enjoying the New York City ballet workout dvds, which are very heavily ballet styled.

  9. Lisa says:

    Thanks to Adult Beginner for passing on my question! Good call to all of those advising against dancing at home with out supervision, way to rein me back in a little. It is probably a really good call. I would be happy with something that would maintain flexibility and make me get into a good daily stretching routine. I know my library has the NYC Ballet videos, so I may test drive those. Maybe I will also look at pilates. I got turned off to pilates in college, I went to a couple of classes at the university gym, and it was just an hour of crunches. Put your feet in the air and do crunches, straighten your legs and do crunches, on and on and frankly my pudgy midsection couldn’t take it. Maybe all pilates aren’t like that, I’ll think about giving it a second chance.

    Meanwhile, I’ve also become an adult beginner kniter, and an adult beginner quilter while I figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

  10. Ash says:

    I happened to be looking up something similar the other day and came across this page and the clips of the videos you can (unfortunately) purchase looked fairly decent. Free would be better but hey. Some of the info they listed was good for true clueless newbies to dance as well.

    Love the blog too btw.

  11. Kaija says:

    I second the recommend for the Finis Jhung videos…even just watching them and understanding his very detailed and precise explanations and watching his dancer demonstrator helps to train the brain and soak up that ballet aesthetic (hey, that rhymes!). :)

    For Pilates, I like the “Pilates on Fifth” series on YouTube, each consisting of a very thorough explanation (by two sisters who run a Pilates studio) of a single classic mat exercise, including modified exercises and demonstrations of “correct form” vs “don’t do this”.

  12. Hannah says:

    I think just watching ballet on youtube has helped me improve. I feel like my arm movements are prettier because I watch professional ballet all the time and start emulating what I see. For actual lesson type videos, I love the balletguru:

  13. Lydia says:

    Thanks for raising the question, Lisa. I had to take a break from dance classes for several months due to budget constraints and am returning again to class this weekend – I can’t wait! I’m an adult beginner as well and started classes last year and they bring me so much joy.

    Thanks also to everyone for the wonderful suggestions in all the comments. Great resources to look up for home conditioning.

  14. Anony Mouse says:

    hello A.B., I’m loving all these suggestions for at-home ballet ideas (reading and watching). I had a question about at-home flexibility stretches. you and your readers have some good insights and suggestions. perhaps this could be a new post. so here’s the deal, i was a cheerleader type in school and back then, so so stretchy. i didn’t have to put much effort to get my leg waaaay over there. but now, this adult beginner’s body is stiff. doing the splits used to be so simple. how did this happen? since i never learned how to become flexible i don’t know where to start. any suggestions?

  15. Moosebutt says:

    You can do so much to maintain your strength and flexibility for free or on the cheap!

    YouTube is a good start. I really like to do me some Pop Pilates for my inner thighs (I feel like I have more control over my movements, especially chaines turns, when I’ve been killing my inner thighs) –! . There are loads of Pop Pilates videos so when your legs are shaking too much to use them any more go and work your core muscles instead ;)

    Stretching –

    Maybe go running to keep up cardio fitness/stamina? Couch to 5K is an awesome program for people like me who aren’t natural runners :)

    Some dance studios will offer free/cheap initial lessons to new students so it might be worth looking around for those.

    And not quite free, but if you need some help with your turns you can download the Finis Jhung pirouette classes (12 episodes of a few minutes each) for less than $30 for the set

  16. balletbrit says:

    Hi. A lady named Melissa Lowe has had a DVD out called “The Ballet Workout” which I have used. It’s also on YouTube these days. She covers floor stretches, barre, and center work and there’s two levels. Another video I’ve used is “Video Ballet Dictionary” which is also on YouTube.

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