Ok but am I gonna *look* like a ballerina?

So, how’s this for crazy: Two people named Victoria commented/asked a question the other day. Two! Two Victorias! In one day! Two Victorias!
And even crazier, the Two Victorias had similar things to say.
Victorias In Tandem!
Co-Victoria Questioning!
Great Victorias think alike!
!!!
Ok I mean I thought that was a pretty crazy coincidence. Right?
Anyway, here’s an except from the Victoria who left a blog comment:

I have recently enrolled in an adult beginner ballet class though it doesn’t start until later on in Jan, I am so excited! I did a very small amount of ballet, jazz, etc styled dance as a child but had to quit due to my mother saying it was too expensive, which was a shame because I was crazy passionate about it. Now that I’m older and earning my own income nothing can stop me. Since then its been about 10 years + and I’m definitely not as flexible or thin, haha. I am very nervous to start ballet again as my body isn’t exactly a typical “dancer” body and I was wondering if you think my body shape would improve with more dance?

And here’s an excerpt from the Victoria who sent an email:

I have been dancing since I was a kid but have always had a body that as hard as I tried, wouldn’t let me dance as freely as I wanted to, or make the shapes I wanted to see. I’m not exactly ballerina shaped (more, like, WOMAN shaped), and seem predisposed to develop bulky thigh muscles where they are no desirable for good lines. The older I get, the harder it is to even try. I’m always trying to imbue my dancing with Good Lines and Smiles and Heads and Soft Romantic Arms and much Epaulement (most of my classmates are sullen skinny teenagers so this makes me look angelic by comparison) but there’s no escaping glancing at the mirror and seeing a reflection that doesn’t match what’s going on in my ballet brain.

I often leave the really advanced classes feeling much more depressed than when I went in, because my turnout is non-existent and my balance is crap and my arms are fat, and none of it matches the image of the “ballet-me” I have in my head. Do you ever get that feeling leaving class, when you’re supposed to feel the post-dancing glow but really feel like you wandered in from a legwarmers revival convention? Ballet so often gives me so much joy from nowhere, which keeps me doing it and pretending I’m Odette in my living room, but also leaves me feeling frustrated I can’t be the dancer I wish I could be. So it’s inspiring to know that there are adults out there of all shapes and sizes, abilities and ages, having a go and feeling that joy, and it just doesn’t matter a bit whether that line is just right. Screw the mirror.

Ok so both Victorias are kinda hitting on that question that I think maybe we are not supposed to be thinking?
Like, we are supposed to enter into this whole ballet thing with Pure Intentions like Being Part of a Grand Tradition and learning to Be Graceful In All Things in studio and out, and, like, Being Active in making beauty happen in our lives instead of just watching it on tv or whatever.
But maybe there’s another intention that we don’t want to cop to because it seems way too frivolous? Maybe a question like, ‘can I get a dancer body?’
Like, pursuit of hotness might be a kind of frivolous reason to get into ballet? But maybe something the Adult Beginner definitely might be kind of a little bit interested in, hypothetically?
Which reminds me of this comment from June on the post about the top dance blogs competition, where she sez, “Your blog…embraces all things that may be considered “frivolous” but often weigh heavily on the minds of beginners to be!”
Which I think is an awesome compliment.
So, was thinking about what the Victorias were saying and thinking about whether and how ballet has changed my body and my first thought was that I could just say ballet has improved my body Image, and that that’s the most important thing, but then I was like, ‘that may be true but it is also totally vague and boring!!! Get specific!’
So, the specifics:
The Adult Beginner has not gotten all ballet skinny or anything. To quote Mr. Adult Beginner, “Well, you’re not any smaller, but everything is more toned.”
(Although my most recent leotard purchases were mediums, not larges. Woo!)
Also, the other day he was demonstrating how he would like to strangle somebody, and I was like Hey! Quit It! And he was like, “but I dont want to quit it! Your neck feels nice! And your collar bones!”
Ballet has improved my whole shoulder-collarbone-neck department, mostly just by getting me to stand correctly after a lifetime of having my head down and shoulders up. Think my neck is probably stronger, like the muscles look nicer and stuff.
So, like, if you’re looking to be more strangle-able, take ballet.
Wear a lot more mini-skirts than I did before ballet. And, like, I’ve always had good legs. Not trying to toot my own horn here, just recognizing my best feature for what it is. Ballet has streamlined them- but more than that- seeing my legs twice a week in a mirror has gotten me used to seeing them out in public, which goes back to the body image thing, which is boring but true.
So, yeah, I think ballet will change your body. And definitely your body image. Although neither one is changed for good, I have days when just getting dressed for class is an exercise in strategic camouflage.
But then there’s that “joy from nowhere”.

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About adultbeginner

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

33 Responses to Ok but am I gonna *look* like a ballerina?

  1. chrisgo says:

    Is two Victoria’s e-mail anything like 30 Helen’s Agree?

    • Dude, I totally had to JFGI that.
      Kids In The Hall: just another one of the Gaping Holes in my cultural education.
      But hey, while you’re here, I’m curious: do Dudes want the ballet body too?

      • chrisgo says:

        Noooooo, I thought that the Kids in the Hall would be right up your pop-culture wheelhouse.
        Im not totally sure what the dude version of the ideal ballet bod would be, I probably wouldn’t mind having it if given the opportunity. I mean who wouldn’t want to be one of those shirtless dudes lifting their tutu’ed partners like they aren’t even there, then throwing himself across the floor making it look so easy and graceful. I just don’t have the time or the need to put in those hours in the gym, to get that look. One reason I like ballet so don’t have to go to the gym.
        Like you I’m more toned, have muched improved posture, and I fell that I carry myself with much more confidence.

      • Jeff says:

        I didn’t start ballet seeking out the ballet body… but it is a nice bonus for doing something I really love: dancing. I had been working out regularly for a while before taking ballet, but now that ballet has taken over, it’s kind of a nice maintenance. But yeah, body and body image do go hand in hand. I’m slowly getting more toned (like, man-dancer legs!) and that definitely feeds into feeling more comfortable and confident about my body. To take something trivial-sounding… before, I would never try to wear a low V-neck shirt or slim jeans out in public, but now I’m like, hey, why not?

        P.S. Chris, I saw Scott Thompson and Kevin McDonald on tour a few months ago at a comedy club in SF. Hilarious. I seriously was laughing/crying.

      • SomebodySysop says:

        I didn’t start Ballet for the ballet body, but now that it’s developing, I’m like, Oh Yeah! Best kept secret in town.

  2. Jay says:

    I really love your blog! Ballet totally changes your body. Just doing barre work for an hour in class and being aware of your posture and sort of, erm, sucking everything in translates into real life sort of unconsciously. And then there’s the ‘boring’ side of it :) When I started ballet I didn’t consider myself as beautiful, quite the contrary, but ballet is beautiful, so I enjoyed it. As I did beautiful things with my body I started to accept myself in those terms, sort of like, ‘ok, I’m beautiful when I do ballet’. Eventually it just becomes ‘I am beautiful’. I think ballet can give you permission to see yourself in a new light!

    • I love this comment!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Johanna says:

      Where did it say that “everything is beautiful at the ballet?” Chorus Line?

      Anyway, my personal history of the ballet-beautiful coincides with that of Jay’s. But I have pretty days and pretty ugly days, just like I have good hair and bad bun days. I’m going to be honest: sometimes I hate that I don’t fit the classical ballet aesthetic. My legs are strong, but neither lithe nor long. I have womanly curves, which I’m told is hot but ballety it is not. But who except me really cares? It’s not like I’m auditioning for ABT, ever.

      I can only move with this body or step aside and let others do the dancing. And that is not gonna happen! I might be vain, but ballet beats the mirror every time!

      Yes, ballet does change your look. But will it make you look like a professional ballet dancer? How about just looking like the beautiful dancer you will eventually grow into?

  3. Adrienne says:

    This is a beautiful comment, and I think this is a great topic to touch on as well! Even though muscular, I wasn’t satisfied with everything, especially the thighs (too bulky). But after having done ballet for one year, I’m (and others around me) are noticing the difference. My thighs have become leaner, and overall, my legs look way nicer. I’ve also become smaller in the waist and the hips. Actually, I think ballet is a very efficient way to change your shape if you get proper training and really give every exercise your best. And yes, the body image issues: my movements have become more graceful in everyday life, and that gives me great joy. And through the grace of the movements, I’ve grown to see myself more beautiful as a whole. My body is capable of such hard work and can give me great pleasure to be dancing and this makes me respect and love it so much more than before! And this lofty idea of being part of a grand tradition – actually that also boosts my self confidence! So the lofty and frivolous cannot be completely separated, I guess…

  4. Melia Moore says:

    This was great, really needed to hear it : )

  5. Balletcat says:

    I definitely feel fitter, and more toned… But I think sometimes all the cookies undo my good work :(

  6. lalatina says:

    I love the “body image” thing you talk about. I never had trouble with weight or anything like that, but I did have great trouble with posture (I have scoliosis). The other day in a store, a girl asked me if I did ballet or some sort of dance because- just like you- my neck looked “delicate yet strong”. I was so flattered and I also felt very happy because in the past years things have certainly improved, what I am most glad for is my back, pain is mostly gone, posture is way better and I even have a nice long neck now lol! So, I would say to people; yes, ballet improves your body and it does certainly improve your ‘body image’! Great post AB!

    • Melia Moore says:

      That is so true!! Over the years I had developed a small hump at the base of neck…I know gross.. and the other night I was playing with my hair sitting on the couch with the hubs and it felt smoother!! Like almost gone smoother and asked hubs “hey!! is my lump going down??” and we was so surprised because it had!!! love it : )

  7. Nic says:

    Just learning to look in the mirror & not immediately want to book the next plane to australia and hole up in the outback away from reflective technology for the rest of my natural life has been a big ballet-related blessing. As for the actual body- feels sleeker and better knit together & am no longer embarassed by ‘swimmers shoulders’, that always made me feel ungainly. Shoulders are still there, but seem to be less intrusive:)

  8. Yay, you guys!
    And you know, just occured to me, seems like everytime I read an interview with a professional dancer, she or he talks about Not having the ideal body for ballet. Funny that.

    • candice says:

      Yes indeed. Anna Pavlova did not have good feet, and she was very small in an age of big strong russian dancers.

      Also people with hips: y’all look good in ballet wrap skirts! Long angular people like me look like crap in them unless we weigh 110 pounds. :) We all have something and that’s okay.

  9. afrodancer says:

    Hello.

    I’m actually the biggest person in class (but that doesn’t stop me from wearing my black leotard!). Today my teacher came up to me and said that I was looking good and she could tell I was enjoying myself.

    I’ll be honest, I never wanted a ballet body – now a Alvin Ailey dancer body – I can get behind but I digress – my body is going to change but will it ever be what I want? Not really but my attitude can change as my love for ballet (and modern and contemporary) grows. :)

  10. YogiDancer says:

    There are women of all shapes and sizes in my classes, but the one thing in common they have is being better at ballet than my skinny ass.

    • SomebodySysop says:

      I hope you have kept at it, YogiDancer. If so, you’ll find out what I found out: If you work hard, you get better with time.I actually got a compliment or two from my instructor this past weekend, and I assure you that you couldn’t have been any worse than I was starting out.

  11. Anony Mouse says:

    after the first day in class i realized everyone S-XL had some level of love handles, thighs and camel toe!!!!! whut?! yes. dance teacher included. after that initial shock, i was able to focus on my posture and remembering the steps without getting hung up on my extra tire. i’m so much more relaxed and happy with myself now that i realize that all that matters is that your joints work! simple pleasures, right?!

  12. Polly says:

    Every time you start talking about posture, I find myself correcting mine. My friends can tell when I’m reading your blog because I suddenly will sit up straight.

  13. And don’t forget the feet! I’m having to get ski boots remolded this week. Well, just my left one, that’s the foot that has evolved to a pretty ballet foot, and I’m pretty sure that’s why my ski boot and I haven’t been friends lately. My right one is still flat-ish and folds in weird angles and is not at all graceful. But on the plus side, the past couple of times I’ve been skiing I’ve only had one painful foot when 3pm rolls around. :)

  14. Robin says:

    I’m a petite, stumpy pear and I enjoy ballet anyway. And I’ve noticed that it’s technique that makes a ballet performance looks good, not body type. One the students I love watching the most is a girl who is shorter and rounder than me, but damn, she dances with grace and picks up choreography instantly.

  15. Pingback: Reasons to learn ballet!! « shrutz4ever

  16. eli says:

    a bit about me.
    I’m 36 medium to small build 140 lbs, 5’2.
    i have excellent flexibility, at times poor balance and the grace of a dump truck. I started a variety of class sept 2012….and after 12 weeks of hot yoga, 9 weeks of ballet, 6 weeks of pilates, I am happy with my toned results. I’m stronger, better posture and more confidence..until every Thursday night moments after finishing ballet, I couldn’t be more unhappy.
    I feel like I am such a graceless, uncoordinated, bumbling fat body.
    I am so dissappointed with what I can’t do, its very difficult to focus on what I may be good at (if anything) during that hour of ballet.

    I muddle through the steps, unable to remember the series of movements, and when I check my posture in the mirror my confidence takes a nose dive and my self esteem follows too.
    I want to continue, because practice can only lead to better results (right?), but how much do I put myself thru when i’m leaving depressed and so unmotivated to return.

    i started my next session of 9 weeks last Thursday, tomorrow will be the second class. i’ve already decided not to do the recital (in June) because I just can’t stand the thought of being on stage and being as bad as I am in class.
    Should I speak with the instructor about how I feel?
    I think she is getting frustrated with me..or maybe thats just me reflecting how I feel…

    Thanks for reading, I appreciate your time, i just wanted to share.

    • I bet that your teacher will be able to encourage you. After all, teachers love students who are passionate and want to improve, it, like, lets them know they’re making a difference in the world.
      In the meantime, I know this sounds silly, but maybe buy yourself one new piece of pretty dance wear? Thigh-high legwarmers or a wrap sweater or a leotard with a beautiful neckline? It surprised me how much just wearing something pretty and balletical makes me feel more like I belong in class.
      And also in the meantime, enjoy your flexibility! There are a lot of us who feel graceless And inflexible, so you’ve got that!

    • KelKW says:

      eli,
      I hope you decided to continue with your classes. As you know, ballet is very challenging both mentally and physically and I can’t count how many times I’ve left class with a lump in my throat, fighting back tears of frustration or embarrassment. I had my first class about a year and a half ago, at 29 years old. A friend of mine who is in her 50s was returning to ballet along with some of her dance friends and asked me if I wanted to go :) I owe her so much for extending that invitation to me! Ballet has become such a huge part of my life, and though I can’t say I enjoy “every minute of it”, the overall benefits completely outweigh the pitfalls and hurdles. I have good days and bad…I have good barre days and terrible centre days, and that dang pirouette can go either way haha! When I find I’m getting down on myself for this or that, I try to remember the things I have improved upon. Like FINALLY remembering an entire combination, or holding my attitude on releve! One class we had a new girl who said she hadn’t danced in years and she was worried about what she would be able to do…well after the first 10 minutes of class you couldn’t miss the fact that she was fabulous! Just a gorgeous dancer, and from my perspective, as an adult beginner, there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do! I went home and told my husband that I was discouraged because I knew I’d never be able to do the things this girl was able to. After an afternoon of woe-is-me, I decided that yes, I may not reach the level of this beautiful dancer who had probably danced for the majority of her life, but something I could strive for was how she used her arms and head. Even just doing plies and port de bras at the bar, she was so graceful and she truly looked like a dancer. I was reassured and inspired with this goal: graceful yet intentional arm movements, shoulders down and “look at the hand, look at the hand”. So my humble suggestion is to be patient with yourself and find encouragement in those details that you’ve improved on :) You should absolutely be proud of them! (Not to mention hot yoga and pilates to boot, wow, that is impressive!)

  17. Ron says:

    I am 58 years old, 6’2″ and 170 pounds (mostly). I started ballet 8 years ago, was terrible at it, then stopped. Started again about 2 years ago to prepare for a show (I perform social dances), then stopped. At the beginning of this year, I finally decided I was going to start it and stick with it. My goal is to be able to dance ballet. I’ve been taking 2 classes a week, and stretching every day. Like some people who have posted here, I think of myself as Nijinsky, but see Jerry Lewis in the mirror. But, I’m trying, and I am making progress. I’ve always been a slender guy, but many people have remarked at how skinny I am now. I tell them I’m down to my ballet weight. But the great secret is how I feel when I look at myself naked in the mirror. I love my body. For a man pushing 60 (pushing hard, I might add), it is a beautiful thing (for me) to behold. I know cutting out a lot of certain foods had something to do with it, but I’m convinced Ballet had a lot to do with it. And I love the way Ballet makes me feel, and how it helps me attain a beautiful, elegant look in all my other dances.

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