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  1. #1
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    Recreational dance for adults (esp. ballet) -- where to start? What to look for?

    As much as I love skating, I don't think it's going to be accessible to me for at least a couple of years. In short, my rink (already a long journey) is going through some issues. I'm facing a 4-5hr return journey to the next closest rink, at least temporarily, right when my personal schedule has made the regular 3hr return difficult to do even once a week.

    On that note, I decided to look into options for "similar" sports, in terms of the stuff I like: rhythm and music and the acquisition of different elements. I considered roller-figure skating, but travel is still an issue and I don't really like rollerskating/inline. I think the way to go is ballet, though I'm open to other suggestions. I haven't done dance since I was a tot (3-5 years old).

    Basically, the features of my situation:
    - I got to about Freestyle 1 level in skating. Solid waltz jump, working on salchow and toe loop, a bit further behind on spins.
    - I am not very flexible and have a muscle condition that makes me prone to injury from overzealous stretching. It's not impossible to increase my flexibility but it has to be done slowly. I did once get to the point where I could almost go from touching-toes to hands-flat-on-ground.
    - There seem to be various options nearby for kids/teen ballet but, although I'm in my late teens, I think with the flexibility issue I'd be more suited to an adult beginner class.
    - I don't really want to do a "concert at the end of the year"-type class, though this isn't necessarily a deciding factor.

    Does anyone know what kind of things I should look for in a class description/class type? Any other advice? I thought this was the kind of thing that might be offered on a drop-in or eight-week-class sort of basis at the gym, but it doesn't seem to be. All the classes are more focussed on attaining a body shape rather than acquiring aesthetic/athletic skills. Are adult beginner ballerinas really so rare?

  2. #2
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    I've found most adult ballet classes do have drop in class cards (generally at a higher rate than if you pay for the semester). I've danced at 7 studios in 3 different states.

    If you are looking at classes at the gym, they will be fitness based. You need to look at dance studios, or possibly community centers (but that is more likely to be exercise based).
    This forum: http://dancers.invisionzone.com/ may be able to help you locate a class, if you tell them where you live. It is a very helpful ballet forum. Many dance studios also have adult jazz or tap classes.

    A good ballet class will NOT use class time for an end of the year recital. Separate rehearsal time should be used. Most adult classes don't have a recital component though.

    If you want serious dance instruction, even at a low level- consider dancing with kids, even if it means you are with kids much younger than you (I started ballet at 22 and danced with 7-8 year olds). The adult classes often are more social in nature, and some time is lost to that.
    (Oh sorry, just re-read, I see you are a late teen. Many studios "adult beginner" is anything over 14, because at 14 the kids will be advanced.) Most places will allow a trial class- just call and ask.

  3. #3
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    You could also look into ballroom/latin/lindy 'partner' dancing (most run on private lessons and group classes, neither of which require partners.) The plus there is you don't HAVE to be super-flexible (I'm not, at all), and some styles, ESPECIALLY Lindy, are basically an aerobic workout. Much like you don't need to do a recital in an adult ballet class, you don't have to compete if you don't want to.

    Our studio also offers some other classes (adult ballet, and they MEAN adults, Zumba, hip-hop.) You might also look at community centers for classes--ballet classes given there tend to be aimed at genuine beginners/non-traditional students, so they might feel more comfortable.

  4. #4
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    sometimes i take a barre class at a ballet studio near me. it's for adults. it's great exercise. no recital.
    I feel like I'm in a dream. But it can't be a dream because there are no boy dancers!

  5. #5
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    agree about looking at dance studios, not gyms. but I would disagree about taking class with little kids if you are an adult or close to one. Adult beginning is very, very different from child beginning, because beginning classes for children are also structured to deal with developing minds, not just bodies. Adult minds learn movement differently.

    If flexibility is really an issue for you, you may want to start (or complement) with modern or, as danceronice says, some sort of ballroom/partner dance. Some parts of ballet can be frustrating for the very inflexible.

    My suggestions:
    - look for a studio that focuses on adults, not children. The quality of adult classes will be higher if that's their main thing.
    - you do not need to buy ballet shoes. I don't recommend any adult invest that kind of $$ unless they've tried a few classes and decided ballet is something they like. avoid studios that require ballet slippers for beginners.
    - if you find a studio that offers different styles, see if there are any intro packages where you can try a few types of classes. Some studios will have a "dance day" before the beginning of a session where people can try short versions of all the classes for a low cost. Even if this is the case, try out different styles/teachers.
    - don't be afraid to ask questions! call or email studios to explain what you're looking for - if they don't have it, they should be able to point you in the right direction
    - have fun!
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  6. #6
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    Absolutely focus on adult classes at dance studios if they are available - the easier/lower the level the better if you're just starting. I'm spoiled in New York since several school have absolute beginner classes (pretty much never owned ballet slippers before and never touched barre before) and I've seen it similarly things in Toronto as well (especially after SYTYCD started). After getting your feet wet, you can start taking more advanced classes. These kinds of introductory classes are most helpful just because they tell you all the basic terminology, body positions, and actually allow you to slowly try the steps. If you can, ask the school whether you can watch the classes to see whether the level is suitable for you. If there aren't that many adult ballet class options and if you're brave enough, you might want to join a kids class but stop when they start preparations of recitals/concerts.

    If ballet isn't that prevalent though, you may want to consider other dance styles like jazz or modern/contemporary. They should at least have some ballet in their warm ups and such. There's no music but you may want try things like pilates, gyrotonics, or yoga. Are there gyms with acrobatics or circus arts? Those might fun too.

    Would you mind letting us know your general geography?

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    Quote Originally Posted by genevieve View Post
    but I would disagree about taking class with little kids if you are an adult or close to one. Adult beginning is very, very different from child beginning, because beginning classes for children are also structured to deal with developing minds, not just bodies. Adult minds learn movement differently.
    I think it depends how 'beginning' she is. If she has skated, it is possible she will go through the 'intro to ballet' stage very quickly. There are some adults who need to have the intro class of "this is first position, this is a tendu, etc" as a semester and that, I agree, is better to take with adults- because kids at this level will lack attention span and need to be taught in a very different manner from adults who are very analytical at this stage. But I know I pretty much did all that in a single class, due to similar but non ballet experience, and then the adult class became tedious because we repeated the same basic information so many times, and frustrating because many adults used the class as a social time. Once kids are 7 or 8 (often "Ballet III", but not always) they should have a very disciplined class that is very structured, and I find it to be a much better way to actually learn ballet. Adult classes often lack structure and logical progression, because they aren't designed to be -training- for a dancer.

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    Thanks Skittl1321, danceronice, mylittlepony, genevieve and DustPuppyOI for your detailed replies!

    I don't think I made it quite clear about the gym: I'd be happy doing ballet at a gym, at least to start, and was considering joining a large gym, thinking surely there'd be some sort of class. However, they don't have any dance except for one reference to Zumba which was outside the regular schedule.

    I'll continue looking around for a dance studio; there seem to be several around here, and will look for the things you outlined.

    I really appreciated that you took the time to make such detailed replies. Obviously I was upset about the rink's (kinda) closure but I'm starting to get pretty excited about ballet!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunny_Hop View Post

    I don't think I made it quite clear about the gym: I'd be happy doing ballet at a gym, at least to start, and was considering joining a large gym, thinking surely there'd be some sort of class. However, they don't have any dance except for one reference to Zumba which was outside the regular schedule.
    If your gym offers Les Mills classes- look for Sh'Bam and BodyJam on the schedule. Those give me my dance fix. Very fun. (I don't care for zumba...)

  10. #10
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    I have done adult ballet classes at a couple of studios. My advice is to ask a lot of questions about how they teach. After a year of beginning classes at one studio, I switched to another and used a drop in/class card to take the second half of an adult ballet I class. No problems with that. For the studio's summer session, adult ballet II was recommended to me as ballet I would start with "this is first position" and so on. That was a disaster. Basically, everyone else in the class had danced for their entire childhoods and the teacher ran it like an advanced course--standing in the corner barking out combinations half of the steps being stuff I didn't recognize or had not learned. She chewed me out for not being able to do a double pirouette one night and that is the last time I went. I was told that "in a show, only making it one and half turns will get you kicked out". My answer: "I am almost 40 years old and signed up for fun and fitness. Anyone dumb enough to cast me in a show deserves me not being able to do their choreography".

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    I have no idea about the states, but in Germany, I know that, if they even offer ballet classes at a gym, the instructor usually doesn't have a dance background but a fitness background. So basically, they have no idea what they're talking about when they teach ballet. But like I said, that might be different in the states, since I assume you are in the states.
    If you're in an urbanite area, then you should have dance schools around which offer kid/teen classes and adult classes. In a less urbanite area that might be more difficult to find.

    I agree with genevieve, I definitely would not start in a kid beginner class because kids who starts at age 4-6 should not be starting out at the barre. They should be starting out at the center, with games and stretching instead of a rigid class. If they don't, I'd give the school a second thought.

    Since you mentioned music and rhythm you might want to look into something others have suggested though, jazz, modern, Zumba etc. Because, a ballet class that is just a class usually doesn't consist much of "dancing". A beginner class might even be 45 minutes barre, 15 minutes in the center with just a couple of excercises in the center. So no step combinations through the room. Jazz, modern etc classes usually have a combination at the end of class, so you get to dance/move a lot more than in a ballet class. If you're in your late teens that might be more fun!

    In regards to ballet, some schools might offer a 10 class beginner workshop or whatever. They have a fixed starting date and a room full of beginners. Then, once the 10 classes are completed, you have a basic knowledge of ballet and can take beginner classes that go year around without feeling lost as to what the terminology means or what the teacher wants from you.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by ballettmaus View Post
    I have no idea about the states, but in Germany, I know that, if they even offer ballet classes at a gym, the instructor usually doesn't have a dance background but a fitness background. So basically, they have no idea what they're talking about when they teach ballet. .
    This has been my experience too. I would recommend checking out a dance school, or a community centre that has a strong dance program (not just ballet) - usually community centres IME are very careful about hiring good instructors if dance is a big part of their programming.
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  13. #13

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    Bunny Hop, do you have anything like this is your area? I take classes here whenever I am home and love them.

    ETA: Sorry Bunny_Hop, I thought you were Bunny Hop
    Last edited by Angelskates; 03-14-2013 at 01:42 PM.

  14. #14
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    Progress update!

    Firstly, thanks for the replies Skittl1321, PDilemma, Balletmaus, overedge and AngelSkates. I will definitely look into it. So, Ballet I is where you learn the terminology/basic stuff? I'm glad about that; I thought it was like grade one and you were supposed to do "kindergarten" first!

    I've started looking into ballet schools in the area and looks like I'm spoilt for choice! Currently I've emailed two in the area. One I like because it offers classes on a drop-in basis, the other because it has a specific recreational "stream" which I think might have attracted some other adults/late starters like me (it doesn't specify payment structure; if it also has casual payment option I will most likely go there). I just asked if they take adult/late teen students.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunny_Hop View Post
    So, Ballet I is where you learn the terminology/basic stuff? I'm glad about that; I thought it was like grade one and you were supposed to do "kindergarten" first!
    Ballet I varies from school to school. I've seen places where there's Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced and other places with Absolute Beginner/Beginner/Advanced Beginner/Intermediate/Intermediate Advanced/Advanced. Some places do have descriptions to clarify by indicating ___ number of years of dance experience. I've also had experience where the teacher practically ignores the level and caters to whoever shows up.

    If you can, do try and see if you can watch a class. If your area has live pianists (instead of recordings), those can make or break a class too.

    Glad to see you're making progress!

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    Quote Originally Posted by DustPuppyOI View Post
    If you can, do try and see if you can watch a class. If your area has live pianists (instead of recordings), those can make or break a class too.
    I'd prefer a pianist over recording any day! However, I don't think that it makes much of a difference in a beginner class since it should be pretty basic. Once you've taken class with a pianist though, you'll have a hard time going back to a class with recordings. I certainly did!

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    Update: still having some difficulty finding a place that takes adult beginners. But there are so many places around. There's also a dance school just for adults with other dance styles which says it's going to expand to ballet, but the website hasn't been updated since 2011 so I don't know what's going on there... Could give them a call I suppose!

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    If you interested in ballroom, just check the (good old fashioned) phone book (or even the 'net but not all are listed sometimes) for the dance studios. They may even have discounts if you buy a small package and the pro will dance with you. Some even have small adult groups with no partner required. I would also call, rather than just email those ballet dance studios if they haven't gotten right back with you as many are not that interested in beginner adults unless maybe you want private lessons. Perhaps a friend would go and you could split the cost of the teacher if there is no class available for you at the times you can make it.

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    Hey everyone! I'm so excited! The dance school I mentioned in my previous post has updated their website, and they weren't joking about starting ballet classes there! I'm so excited! Did I already say that? The term starts next week.

    Thanks for the idea smileyskate!

    Now, onto practical matters: what do I wear?! :O

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunny_Hop View Post
    what do I wear?! :O
    You can't go wrong with leotard and pink tights, but most adults don't wear this. My current adult ballet class 90% of the class wears a leotard, cropped yoga pants, and ballet shoes. We get a few people in t-shirts and sweat pants, and a few people in ankle socks. A few people will wear black leotard + pink tights, but also generally wear a skirt. I like to wear a skirt, personally. Oddly, it is the dancers on the extremes of the spectrum who wear socks- the absolute beginners without shoes, and the awesome just out of high school dancers- it's apparently a thing.

    I've never been in a ballet school that has a uniform for adults, but some do require ballet slippers.

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