Tips for Beginning Ballet as an Adult
So you’ve read all about our reasons why to start learning ballet as an adult and what to expect in ballet class. You’ve been to a few ballet classes (or only your first one!) and want to continue with this new hobby. Here are our tips to help you begin ballet as an adult and progress in your training!
Wear Comfortable Clothing & Tie Your Hair Back
Unless you are taking a graded class, ballet attire is not mandatory – except for ballet shoes! Don’t be intimidated if the dancer next to you shows up in a leotard and pointe shoes, while you are just in leggings and a t-shirt. Wear whatever you are comfortable in. But just make sure the clothing is form-fitting enough so the teacher can see your body placement and correct your form! In addition, make sure your hair is secured off your face. When doing more advanced steps like pirouettes, it is essential your hair is tied back so you can execute the step to the best of your ability. You don’t want hair flying in your eyes while dancing!
Tell Your Teacher of Your Injuries or Concerns
Ballet is quite strenuous on the body and engages muscles that are not used for every day activity. You will be sore every now and again! Make sure to tell your teacher of any concerns you may have before class starts. If you have current or past injuries, let the teacher know so they can adjust the exercises for your abilities or pay extra attention to you during class. Be mindful of yourself as well! If something hurts, stop dancing and take a break. Know when to push yourself and when to pull back.
Warm Up Before Class!
Although the first part of ballet class warms you up and prepares you for more challenging exercises later on, try not to go into ballet class completely cold. You will progress faster if you prepare your body beforehand. Remember, your body is your instrument in ballet. Like running a marathon, you wouldn’t want to just wake up and run without preparing first! By doing a warm up, you let your muscles know you are about to exercise them and thus can perform better in class and reduce the risk of injury.
The Structure of Ballet Classes Are All the Same
Refer to our separate blog post, Ballet Basics: The Structure of a Typical Ballet Class for this one. No matter where you take ballet class, you will mostly do the same things in the same order. You will always know what to expect.
Ballet Class is Progressive
Because the structure of ballet class is the same wherever you go, all the steps and exercises are progressive. This means that the more ballet class goes on, the more the steps will build off the previous ones. For example, at the barre you will do battement tendu first then battement glisse, and later on, grand battement. To do battement glisse (off the floor), you must be able to do battement tendu (on the floor). You cannot do a pirouette without being able to do a passe or retire on demi-pointe. As a result, pay attention to your posture and alignment from the very beginning of class to set yourself up to do your best later on.
Learn Ballet Terminology
From your first ballet class, make sure you pay attention to the ballet terms your teacher will introduce to you. Ballet step names are all in French and exercises will be a series or combination of steps put together. Every step in ballet has a specific name. For example, petit battement. By learning the ballet terms, you will be able to learn the exercises faster in class. This in turn will help you do them to the best of your ability rather than spending the whole exercise trying to remember the sequence of steps. Especially for open-style class, being familiar with ballet terms is essential.
When Learning Exercises, Pay Attention to Direction, Facing and Right/Left
Once you get the ballet terms down, pay attention to the direction, facing, and right/left of each exercise. By now you should know what a battement tendu is, but which direction is it to, what foot is the tendu with and where are you facing? For example, is it battement tendu devant or derriere (front or back). When learning exercises, think of…
The direction of the step (front or side?)
How many steps you are doing (3 tendus or 4?)
Which foot (right or left?)
And where you are facing, if in centre (croise or efface?)
It is recommended you learn the direction of the steps first so you know which way to travel in space. Then from there, learn which leg you are on and the pattern of the steps. Again, by paying attention to these details, you will be able to execute steps correctly and to the best of your ability.
Finally, Group Steps Together and Identify Landmark Steps to Memorize Exercises Faster
After you have the terminology and anatomy of the exercise, now you gotta memorize it so that you can dance it! Identify the pattern of the steps in the exercise. Usually, exercises will lend themselves to groupings, repeat themselves, do on the right side, then the left, or reverse. For example, 4 battement tendu devant, a la seconde, derriere. Reverse. Repeat with Left. Recognize these patterns to save yourself learning time as you only have to memorize one sequence. One of the most common patterns in ballet at the barre is en croix, meaning “in the shape of a cross” – do the same pattern of steps to the front – side – back – side in that order. Moreover, use landmark steps to aid in identifying the pattern of steps. For example, a big grand jete in the middle of the exercise can help break the exercise into two parts for easier memorization. Think about memorizing exercises in parts to break it up like paragraphs in an essay that summarize a main idea. When trying to learn a long piece of choreography, this technique helps tremendously.
Don’t Forget to Count!
Make sure you dance with the music at the same tempo and not be late or early! Always count in the measure (usually 8) so you have the correct timing of the choreography. Identify if you need to count faster, like for petit allegro, or change your count all together, like for a waltz in ¾. Once you get the count down, then you can really dance and express yourself to the music!
August is ending!
Make sure to take advantage of our August ABC Promotion before the month is over!
Take your first ballet class with us for only $20.
Contact us to book a trial.