Please advise this pointe-y beginner

Hey Gentle Reader, help me out here:
You know my time on pointe was cut stupid short by a non-pointe-related ballet-class injury, and then the class disbanded while I was recovering. Not Cool, Ballet Classmates Who Let The Class Fall Apart Without Me! Not Cool!
But anyway: received this email recently and got really fired-up by the writer’s positive attitude and strong athletic background. I think she can do anything, like, to the Nutcracker, Infinity, and Beyond! I asked if I could share her email with you in hopes of getting some more feedback from people who maybe got a little further with pointe than I have been able to so far. If you feel inspired, Gentle Reader, here’s the email, chime right in.

Hello, I am a 33 year old wife of 9 years (15 years with my husband – I know; he is my soul mate), mother of 2 and an attorney.  I started taking ballet with my former nanny and current BFF last November.  I always wanted to take ballet, but never had the courage, the means or the time to do so until recently.  In March of this year… something CLICKED. I had a terrible lesson, and I was so frustrated.  I realized the reason why is because I didn’t practice.  That night I practiced after my regular class for an hour, then the next day I watched YouTube videos and thought, “what the hell, why can’t I do this too?!  It is no different than training for the marathon I ran several years ago, weight training and tennis I played every year.  Why is ballet any different?!”  I decided right then and there to start taking it very seriously.  I started practicing every day.  I was always an athlete, but never thought I could dance…Well, I was bound and determined to prove myself wrong.  I sought out and found a teacher that not only is willing to take the time to teach me ballet, but also has put me on pointe.  Yes, I know that sounds nuts.  Trust me – I thought it was nuts too.  However, I have learned from much life experience that when someone that you respect tells you that you “can” and “should” – you DO what they tell you.  The decision was not without much opposition – my best friend, the very person that encouraged me to try ballet, told me (in so many words) that I was out of my league and going to fail.  I almost believed her – but I pushed forward.  Then, 6 weeks into my training, I participated in a basic pointe routine at my FIRST ballet recital.  I could not believe what was happening – it was so surreal.  What was more surprising was the positive feed back I was receiving from not only my teacher, but my fellow students.  Sure, they are half my age (gag), but I do rely on them for support. I mean, technically, they have been doing this ballet thing longer than I have.  So, I should highly regard their opinion, right?  Well, everything is going well.  However, I still have this inner voice that is saying “stop fantasizing; you are dreaming the impossible dream.  No one in their 30’s can get good in ballet.  It doesn’t matter that you do not want to go pro; you are too old, too inexperienced and OUT OF YOUR LEAGUE.”  I hate that this inner demon still lingers.  I have proven to myself that I can do this.  I go the extra mile every day – I stretch for at least a half hour, practice technique for an hour and practice pointe for 20 – 30 minutes EVERY DAY.  I have seen improvements in many areas.  I am stronger than most of my fellow students, which is what drove my teacher to put me on pointe in the first place.  However, it still seems like I am living in some kind of dream.  I have no one to talk to about this. I don’t know anyone who has attempted to accomplish this feat as well.  I have looked all over the Internet – women either don’t talk about it or it doesn’t happen.  I refuse to believe that in the history of man, there is no woman who started ballet and pointe in their 30’s and actually got good.  So, here is my dilemma – am I truly out of my league? Am I an anomaly or is there someone out there who has been through all of this and actually accomplished something in ballet and has reported it?  For some reason, I am seeking this reassurance.  Maybe because I feel like some kind of freak – not that ballet is freakish.  I just think it is a goal that only young folk strive to achieve; not women who are married, have children and a high pace career seek to achieve.  Well, I know that I am not the norm when it comes to these things.  I was unable to fulfill these kind of dreams when I was young (that is a WHOLE other email altogether), so now that I can pursue it, I want to try.  I refuse to believe that my peak was in my teens or 20’s.  I mean, really?! In my teens I was a prisoner of my parents (metaphorically, obviously), in my 20’s I was a prisoner of my studies.  Now that I am financially sound and have secured a strong family, I can FINALLY focus on myself…at least a little.  So – back to my point(e) [Ha – play on words] I need some support.  I need a response from you or someone who knows, who has seen or has been there.  I want to know what is possible.  Can I perform a piece from the Nutcracker or am I just fooling myself….I would appreciate any feedback at this point?

Exciting Update: see what all this lady has been up to since this letter, right here on her blog, Legal Ballerina.

About adultbeginner

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

26 Responses to Please advise this pointe-y beginner

  1. Jessica says:

    To quote a rather famous person called Walt Disney, ”If you can dream it, you can do it!”

    And keep in mind that Martha Graham started dancing at the age of 22 and her final performance was her 1970 appearance in ”Cortege of Eagles” when she was 76 years old. I think everything is possible.

  2. Glinda The Good Witch says:

    Or, in your best Tim Curry voice, “Don’t dream it, be it” or from Annie Get Your Gun, “Anything you can do, I can do better” (That one’s for your inner voice and the foetal ballerinas in your class) or or or from Fame, “I can hit the heights, out my name in lights, show the world that I can make it, by doin hard work”.

    Anyhooter, my point(e) is that if you want to do it, you will do it. Surely during your studies you had times when the work load was tough and you felt shitty about life and the future, but you worked through it and look where you are today, wife, mum, attorney; why not add ballerina to the list as well?!

    [I apologise if this appears twice, between my iPad and WordPress, something seemed to go wrong the first time]

  3. candice says:

    If you can bourree, echappe, and at least do pique turns or single pirouettes, that’s enough for a community nutcracker production, generally…

    There’s a local corps here that is nearly half older ladies, so no, 30-something is not at all too old. They keep trying to draft me into their nutcracker production. (I have just about given up pointe however, as I got eaten up by the dreaded achilles tendinitis monster. Not worth it.)

  4. I started taking ballet classes one and a half years ago and I went on pointe a year after I started training, because, as you did, I practised a lot at home. I’m 20 and hadn’t been doing any sports for six years. Also, in my class there are two women in the age between 38 and 45 and although one of them has been dancing before (until she quit when she was 15), they have only been dancing for a few years and are now taking pointe class with me too. The only reason why they’re not making so quick a progress as you do is probably because they don’t have any ambitions to be on stage and because they only take class once a week and don’t do any extra work at home. But I do – and after only a few months, my feet and everything has improved so much already!
    I can only encourage you to keep it up, I dream of dancing some big piece some day, too.
    By the way, I’m really glad to hear that there are others who set high aims for themselves in ballet, even if they started late. I can so relate to that.

  5. trish says:

    i am 48 and started taking adult ballet classes 18 months ago with NO previous experience. i was hooked immediately! it has now taken over my life much to the amusement of my teenage daughters and husband. but with the encouragement of my excellent teacher i have started pointe classes too! if you are strong you can handle the rigours of learning en pointe. and he plans to include me en pointe in next years concert! anything is possible, dream big…and good luck!

  6. guyenne says:

    If you have the right local environment, as well as the technical skill for whichever piece you pick, then yes, you can. I think it’s actually harder (depending on where you live) to find someone who will support an adult who wants to study ballet seriously. It sounds as though you already have that in your teacher, so go for it.

  7. I study at a school that only teaches adult students, and one of the women I take pointe with is in her 60s! She is one of the most beautiful dancers at the studio, and I’m pretty sure she started as an adult. So inspiring!

  8. je-faux says:

    Interesting! My progress has been pathetic, but I *don’t* practice at home. Commenters above & letter writer, what exactly do you practice at home? Barre or choreography? Are you worried about teaching yourself something wrong? And how many studio classes do you take per week?
    Do you take any privates?
    As for how far letter writer hopes to get in ballet, I guess it would help to have a more specific goal. Like dancing in student & community productions, or being able to execute certain steps. Dancing in a ballet company is not likely unless doing character roles, but I imagine it would be possible to have a semi-professional career of teaching, dancing small parts in productions, choreographing and putting on your own shows, if that’s what you want.

    • I train twice a week, sometimes more, in my studio. At home I usually do stretching and barre work (I have my own barre in my room). It helps a lot! I only do what my teacher already showed us, that way I don’t have to be afraid to do something entirely wrong. I had two privates so far and I try to work on the things she told me there.

    • legalballerina says:

      Hello Je-faux!

      Currently – I take 3-4 private lessons a week. Starting next week – I will be taking 1 adult beginner ballet class, a level 3 ballet class (it is a stretch, but my instructor wants me to try my best), a pointe class and one private lesson a week. Obviously, the more lessons you take and the more you practice the better! This includes practicing at home. I use my kitchen and basement. You really can practice anywhere. I am not worrying about practicing the wrong technique, because I only review what we went over.

      As for a goal – i want to be the best dancer I can be given my age and disposition. I know I will not go pro, but that is not my goal. I am a lawyer by day, a dancer by night! (wow – that sounded bad!) I would love to dance in some of the senior company numbers my instructor’s studio holds in the summer. They are awesome and it would be an honor. I would also like to perform a solo classical piece en pointe. I am very hopeful – I improve EVERY DAY and I am thrilled! I did a pique turn en pointe yesterday! (Yesssss!). Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

  9. Caitlyn says:

    I had the exact same question as je-faux. I’m also fortunate to have a radiator that’s exactly barre height. It’s not the same, but it’ll do in a pinch.

  10. Lainey says:

    When I was taking ballet in my late 20s, it helped my mindset when I decided to act as if I were a role model for the young dancers in my classes. Working hard with a joyful attitude and being comfortable with my softer, rounder body was my way of not giving into feeling bad about not being better or younger or thinner.

    I hope 30s isn’t too old because I’m currently trying to get back in shape for a return to ballet at the ripe old age of 40! My youngest is getting ready for preschool this fall, and I’m ready to do something for myself. Strangely, despite the extra pounds I’ve put on and the terrible shape I’m in, when watching myself move, I notice my musicality is better now and the quality of my movement is better. Age does give some advantages!

    Practice, especially as we get older, is essential! Has anyone tried any of the ballet/Pilates/yoga blend workouts to help with strength and flexibility? I’ve been hearing great things about Barre 3 (which has online workouts you can access for $15/month!) – my core strength needs some serious work! Way back the last time I was dancing ballet there was a fabulous website called Blue Diamond Dance written by an aspiring flamenco dancer who started ballet to help her technique. She offered all kinds of advice on different exercises to help adult beginners (as well as a tshirt that said corpse de ballet!). Maybe someone will be inspired to take up where she left off?

  11. legalballerina says:

    Thank you for your comments everyone! I truly appreciate all of your sound advise and overwhelming support! And of course, thank you for posting my comment AB! You have really helped to quiet the dreaded inner demon!

    Btw – you WILL achieve your goal to go en pointe again. Clearly you have the love and dedication that is necessary to achieve it. Keep the faith AB!

    Thanks again – LB!

    • I love reading all these awesome comments too, thanks for giving me the go ahead to post your email!

    • Hi there, I know this post is old, but you aren’t alone! I’m a 26 year old re starter. I took ballet for 16 years and then quit for 8. I started again 10 months ago, and shortly after I started I was put en pointe.

      It was a very long road in pointe shoe fitting hell, but last weekend I performed two shows en pointe in my schools recital. It was an absolutely mind blowing experience! I apparently have this amazing stage presence hiding inside me. Since the performance several people have reached out to me to specifically tell me that I looked like a professional on stage.

      In reality I was scared out of my mind, but it changed by life. I’m 6ft 1 you see, and I’m still trying to shed some remaining baby weight. Not your average pointe student! People say I was born to dance pointe. I’ve resolved to practice every day and really aim to be the best I can be. I hope your lessons are still going well!

      Best of luck, you aren’t alone.

  12. Sounds like LegalBallerina has an abundance of natural talent that allows her to get en pointe so early in her ballet career – it’s not just a question of strength but also: sufficient turnout from the hips, good body alignment, good kinesthetic sense (mainly for balance), and the kind of feet & ankles you were born with (able to articulate but not hypermobile, etc.) Teachers usually insist that younger girls NOT practice pointework outside the studio because bad habits and being even the teeny-tiniest bit out of alignment can cause permanent damage, but in the case of LegalBallerina who is getting quite a bit of private coaching and is not attempting anything she hasn’t already been taught in the studio, it sounds relatively safe. A tricky thing about practicing at home is that you tend to LOOK DOWN at your feet to make sure they are doing what they should be doing (esp. if you don’t have a full-length mirror) – and that throws off your alignment completely. Sometimes it’s more effective to do specific exercises at home to strengthen the core, improve turnout, and strengthen the feet and ankles – and put on pointe shoes only in the studio. That said, pointework properly executed strengthens your overall technique in a way that working on demi-pointe doesn’t – which is why many professional male dancers practice occasionally en pointe, even if they’re never going to actually have to perform en pointe.

  13. Lizzie says:

    I am so heartened by the comments on this blog. I’m in my 30s an have started ballet for the first time 2 years ago, i find it a challenge sticking to classes with all the travelling i need to do for work. Also because there are more advanced students in the class, i frequently feel that everything is a bit over my head and i’m not sure what’s going on. I would love to work towards going en pointe, and all your comments have been very encouraging.

  14. trisha says:

    So excited to come across this. I am 29 and started taking ballet a few months ago. I am soooo serious about it. Not about going pro but about being able to execute solo routines with extreme strength and flexibility. I have been working on it pretty hard but plan on hitting it even harder: 30 minutes of stretch each day and 1 hour of practice-primarily strengthening and balance. In fact, I have begun to create a fitness program that I plan to further development with my teacher and professional ballerina along with my yoga instructor. The aim of the program is to help aspiring dancing adults catapult their results with both poise and flexibility. Not to mention the side effect of looking ridiculously sexy. I find myself looking on the internet and thinking I may never be able to achieve my goals because I am too old. It is so nice to hear this from someone in my same shoes.

  15. Well I’m 23 and I’ve been doing ballet for a year now. I had to struggle with en dehors for a while, as well as coordination, but I started on pointe early too (less than a year in ballet). And I’m doing pretty well. Actually, I do pointework at the center and all and I have no problems with sores or pains as the other girls do (and they’re teenagers who have been doing ballet for years!). My left foot is not that good as the right one (but this is due to the poor en dehors that I struglle with every class) but even since I catch up with the girls who have been in pointe for years now.

    At the beggining I felt I was doing everything wrong (I mean, it cannot be THAT way. The girls who have been here for years are always talking about how pointeworks hurts and destroys your feet but I feel nothing). But now I feel confident and secure. I think is due to the fact that I, just like you, started working real hard: I analysed my weaknesses (poor en dehors, weak tights) and worked on them. With all the good qualities I already had (long arms that look very soft and nice, very strong feet) I acomplished a lot. And yes, I feel like I could dance something on Nutcracker sometimes.

    You know, in ballet, people are always thinking about perfection and sometimes they forget that we are actually doing a lot already. I mean, of course I have LOTS to improve (everybody does) but I have done quite a lot. I have strong feet, beuatiful lines, high jumps and nice stretching. In one year, I’m dancing with the teenagers who have been on the studio for ages. And you know, I catch up pretty well.

    As adults, we have more awereness than the teenagers and we can work on our body with more conscience. I’m not boasting as I know you also aren´t: we’re just being true to ourselves. We can acomplish a lot, girl. :)

  16. diggerballerina says:

    Even though this post was ages ago, I thought I’d share a bit of motivation. Roughly a year ago after moving to a new town and getting a job I started ballet again (not having danced for many years) at 23, at a studio that follows the RAD syllabus. My teen/adult class has quite a few over-30 members and even one lady over 60, and I was allowed to get en pointe after roughly 3 months. However, I don’t just want to tag along and get decent like many others do, I want to take exams and get Really Good, or at least the best I can with my imperfect and inflexible body. My inspiration now is my current teacher who is 72, and still as fierce as ever. She was never allowed to dance as a child and was only able to take up ballet in her late thirties. This was quite a long time ago, and adult beginners were not as common as they are now. She was very strong-minded though and went to an RAD academy in the UK, not making things easy for her husband and children as they had all always lived in Belgium. In the beginning she had a very hard time, and for a month or so she was not even allowed in the main studio, having to take private lessons every single day with an assistant until she could join the classes. After some years of training, she improved so much that she passed her Advanced exams with distinction. She was over 40 at that time. I think she has danced pretty much every day since, and has been leading her own dance studio since her retirement. Although she admits that she has always been reasonably flexible, I think you’re compelled to get better and better at ballet once you’re hooked. If you’re really obsessed with it which you obviously are, and like I unexpectedly became this year, you have no choice :) yessss!

  17. If the shoe fits... says:

    Yes, yes, I know this post is old, but I wanted to chime in! Another adult beginner. Age 40. Mom to three. And like the reader, also a lawyer. Never danced. EVER! I started taking ballet at 39, and was instantly hooked. I mean hoooooked. Damn, what took me so long to figure this out? Now, just because I’m enchanted with ballet, doesn’t mean ballet is particularly enchanted with me, so consequently spend quite a lot of my time feeling rather fraudulent about it, especially when I take my decidedly non-princessy self and deck it out in pink tights and shoes. I lament that my once limber body is, well, not so limber and why didn’t I dance when I was young and could put my legs behind my head? But I soldier on, and am taking 3-4 solid classes a week, and work hard. HARD. Which made it all the more sweet when my teacher wanted to know what I thought about starting pointe. What? Pointe? ME??? Well, start it I did, and I’m now back to “rank beginner” on pointe, but I can’t wait for it to get better. It CAN be done. My daughters, who both have been taking ballet for years now, are fairly convinced that next year Mommy will be in Nutcracker with them. I don’t know about THAT, but it does make for an amusing image.

  18. lookchoozact says:

    What a grand dance world it is! You will all immediately feel younger now that I am here. Just beginning pointe at 58 next month. I came back to ballet at age 55. I think it depends a LOT on the instruction and the amount of work one does. I now take 4-5 classes a week (two days are doubled up 90 min class + 60 min class) and out of 15 regulars, 5 of us are beginning, or returning to, pointe, all of us started pointe no sooner than 30 years old. Our instructor was a professional dancer and is an outstanding teacher, she challenges us each lesson and is fond of saying, that’s why you come to me! We have two short programs, one in December and one in May where we perform, a couple of duets and trios with corps de ballet, in our studio. Like many have said, we are pretty much obsessed with this part of our lives. I would say we are “serious” students.
    I am thinking of auditioning for the local Nutcracker, for the party scene, but aiming for Clara’s Mother. My goal for pointe right now is to be able to take the entire barre en pointe. I am working my memory on learning combinations quicker and retaining them longer LOL!
    @AdultBeginner, I am so sorry to hear that your class fell apart. I honestly dread that this fun would stop and life would return to ‘normal’, which for me would never be normal again. I enjoy your blog very much. I happened on this post when reading up on darning pointe shoes. No one in my class except me even likes to sew on ribbons, so I loved reading about Makarova ironing hers. It is a wonderful sisterhood to be a dancer. And I am inspired to do more conditioning at home to improve faster in class after reading the posts above.

    • A wonderful fellowship indeed. Thanks for writing! I’m feeling more hopeful about my chances of finding another pointe class someday after reading your comment. Thanks!
      Did you end up darning your shoes?

  19. Michelle says:

    I’m 36 and just gone back to ballet. Already I’m on pointe. Just think to yourself it’s what you want to do. I don’t care what people think anymore. Two years ago I was run over by a drunk driver and I’m lucky to be alive and have the use of my legs. This is why I decided to go ballet again as life is short. So just go for it. You sound fantastic and dedicated. I have the inner demons to but life is fragile. So keep it up and I will. Ballet is in my life now and always will be.

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