Fun Fitness: Ballet (as an adult beginner)

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I know nary a woman who didn't take ballet classes as a kid or desperately wish they had. Dancers just ooze sensuality, strength, confidence, and grace. Taking ballet can help bring those things out of anyone, no matter their age while also whipping the body into shape.

I didn't grow up taking ballet. I was a cheerleader, but I always secretly wanted to don a tutu and dance en pointe. When I went to college and said goodbye to the cheer world, I finally started taking ballet (and jazz, horton, salsa, belly dance, afrocuban, ballroom, and any thing else I was brave and curious enough to try.) My schedule never allowed me to stick to it consistently but every few months the urge to pull out my slippers creeps up.

Last week I took my first ballet class in a while and I am once again hooked. If you are an adult new to ballet or curious about ballet, I only have one thing to say, "Do it and stick to it." By the end of class I was reminded of how incredibly athletic dancers are. My feet, glutes, and core felt simultaneously worked to exhaustion and energized. I suddenly remembered how amazing I felt in the past at the end of a class. I can honestly say I was in the best shape (physically and mentally) ever the summer I diligently took classes 2-3 times a week.

If you have never taken a class but want to, don't let anything stop you. Especially the fear that you are too old. There is no shortage of adult ballet beginners; I promise you you will not be the only 20, 30, 40, or heck 80 something year old in the class.

None of what you read below should be confused with what happens in a barre class. Barre is a whole different beast, based on resistance training, pilates, and ballet, that I will cover another day.

What to Expect

Barre

Ballet class starts at the barre. Many absolute or intro beginner classes will start facing the barre rather than turned to the side. This helps to keep your shoulders and hips properly aligned. Simple movements like bends (plies), extended legs with pointed feet and toes (tendues), and rises onto tippy toes (releves) are woven together. Don't let the simplicity of the movement fool you. Putting them all together can really be a brain teaser and will develop and work muscles I promise you didn't know you had.

Stretching and Core Work

Next, typically comes stretching on or off the barre and sometimes core work. Limber joints and muscles, as well as a strong core are very important in ballet. And without question, consistently attending class will help you gain both flexibility and strength.

Center

Finally, it's time to take everything we learned at the barre and use it to dance in the center! Center work is very similar to what was just done at the barre, only now the barre is not there to help with balance.

From there new movements are introduced. Things start off slow (adagio) but the movements become increasingly challenging and energetic (petit and grande allegro.) Jumps, turns, and kicks (grande battements) will test and refine your balance, muscle control, and stamina during this portion of class.

Reverence

Class ends with reverence. The movement here is slow, almost meditative. It stems from the respect and gratitude dancers show the audience and orchestra at the end of a performance. In class it's a chance to cool down and stretch as well as thank the instructor and pianist.

Of all of the forms of movement and physical activity I like to dabble in, ballet is hands down my favorite. It is the total workout, plus it's just down right fun. The key to finding a way to stay active and fit is to find something you love to do and just do it. For me that's dance. Not only does it work my body as well as any pilates class can, it also stimulates and calms my mind like yoga while allowing me to explore music, art, and movement like nothing else.

So, are you an adult ballet beginner? Considering it? I would love to hear your story in the comments below.