I'm an adult ballet student who loves to dance, watch performances, as well as read and write about ballet.
Why Are More Adults Taking Ballet Lessons?
As I mentioned in my previous article, "Diary of an Adult Ballet Student," more and more adults all over the world are taking ballet lessons nowadays. What's attracting them to the dance studio? Apparently, ballet brings with it tremendous benefits in terms of health and emotional well-being.
Many of us who take ballet lessons know that it is a great way to keep fit.
Studies of professional ballet dancers in the United States have shown that what these dancers do is as difficult as what professional football players do. It is not hard, then, to imagine the amount of training the body gets when you do ballet.
In ballet, every inch of your muscles is actively engaged in movements. No wonder many ballet students find that they end up shedding some fat and having well-toned muscles after having started regular training.
Another benefit of ballet is that it does wonders for your posture. As the basic requirement of ballet is to have a neutral stance with the spine straightened and hips "squared" (meaning, parallel on both sides), this posture is going to have a "spill-over" effect on your day-to-day posture. If you work on it consistently, you will end up looking as graceful as Audrey Hepburn! No kidding. Hepburn had many years' training in a professional ballet conservatory, and this training showed in the way she carried herself on stage and behind the camera.
Besides the beautiful look, a good posture is extremely important in staying healthy. Many pain syndromes that people living a sedentary lifestyle experience are a result of poor posture and muscular-skeletal dysfunction. So if you don't have a good posture to start off with, ballet is going to magnify the problem—which is great, because you will now want to work on it and along brings the great health benefits of a correct posture. I will write more about ballet stance and healthy posture later.
Speaking of a sedentary lifestyle, ballet is a wonderful activity to get you off your chair. While many people choose yoga or Pilates these days to balance off the long hours of sitting and the lack of movement, some choose ballet for its high "fun factor." In ballet, we get to move along with music and make beautiful patterns with our bodies. We use a lot of "brain power" to remember the steps and to coordinate the different body parts. For example, we exercise the left brain for getting the "mathematical" parts—the logic of the step combinations—right; the right brain for interpreting the music and expressing our body in an artistic manner; the upper rear portion of the brain for interpreting spatial relationships; and the lower part of the brain for memorizing the steps.
Since we do not use words to express ourselves in this art form, the part of ourselves that cannot be expressed verbally now gets a channel to come out. And the part that deals with language gets a welcoming "time off." For me, this is a wonderful form of relaxation, no need to find the right words when I dance. It's just direct, intuitive expression.
Classical music is most often used in ballet lessons. There have been studies that confirmed the positive influence of classical music, especially that of the Baroque era and that of Viennese Classicism (especially Mozart). It is found that such music stimulates the alpha waves in the brain. Alpha wave is the waveform detected when the mind is calm or in the meditative and intuitive states. Being in alpha mode would therefore enhance thinking, learning, and intuition.
Ballet is a highly aesthetic art. In my experience, those who have picked up ballet as a hobby or as a way to keep fit usually end up being in love or even obsessed with the art form. In fact, cultural development comes naturally to any serious ballet students. The more you learn, the more you are likely to delve into the wonderful traditions behind it.
You will become interested in watching ballet performances, learning about all the current and past performers, and reading up on ballet history and other related art forms, especially music. You will start to learn about the different ballet composers and choreographers. Your musicality is also likely to improve over time, as you learn to move your body with music instead of just counting the beats.
Ballet is inherently a performing art. However, for most adult learners, performing for an audience may not be a possibility at all. Whether you end up on the stage or not, the ballet classes do provide a chance for you to "perform," even if it is only for the teacher, your classmates and yourself. You will gain a sense of confidence in your own ability to execute movements along with music. If you are a shy person, you might even overcome your lifelong shyness! And if you are lucky enough to go on the stage, the applause and recognition you'll get from the audience is worth gold.
If you are sold on joining an adult ballet class by now, I can guarantee that you will be reaping a combination of the above benefits, even if you simply start off with the intent of keeping fit or shedding a few pounds. And along the way, you will also get to make friends in a niche field—friends who are as misunderstood by their familiar circle and as obsessed as you are with this art form.
© 2008 balletomanehk
Julia on December 04, 2019:
I loved your article. I love ballet and plan to teach very soon. Thank you for such great advice.
balletomanehk (author) on June 24, 2019:
Dwight Jenkins: Go for it, but start slow and never compare yourself with others who have been training for a longer time. It would be ideal if you could find a studio with adult-only classes and a good teacher. If you can't find a studio near you, I recommend Finis Jhung's ballet DVDs for home practice.
Dwight Jenkins on June 23, 2019:
what is your advice if one is a man in his 60's?
TNeyman281 on December 27, 2018:
I am 60. I have been studying ballet since my mid 50’s, endured injuries & recovered. I have significant arthritis and 2 auto immune disorders as a result of a lengthy life threatening illness. Ballet inspires me, lightens my world and lifts me above day to day physical pain. It is strong yet graceful. As a former model, the concept of movement is natural for me yet moving within the boundaries of classical ballet training is challenging. I can’t imagine life without ballet. I have even been able to study pointe work. My advice to women considering ballet at an advanced age? GO FOR IT!
Becklassy on August 18, 2018:
Do you have bibliography? it's for a final degree project
Ann on May 23, 2018:
I have just started attending a Silver Swan Class. I am over 60 and I love it. I would recommend ballet without hesitation to anyone looking to improve fitness, posture, self confidence and muscle tone.
Rebecca Danials on September 26, 2017:
I'm intending 2 be a adult beginner at 41 years old!
I will be starting in a class of adults who are 40 years old and over!
How can I start small on my own at home with my posture?
Shannon on December 04, 2016:
I'm 42 and am still dancing! I have been in a (Theater) Jazz dance class since middle school, but I just started a Beginner's Ballet Class. As they mentioned a myth in previous comments-I haven't been thin since I was 22.
Here are some of the things I've noticed. The posture, the warm-ups, the strengthening and flexibility, are all different than my jazz class. Then you get to the actual movements of the arms, the upper body-all different, then come the steps and the lingo-I'm forever asking questions like "What does 'en croix' mean?" ("En croix" means "on cross," to repeat the movement to the front, the side, and to the rear.) It is so much different that it is humbling.
I've noticed great changes in my posture, my legs, I'm nearly down in my L & R splits and it has been maybe 10-11 weeks at just once a week, well 2x a week including my jazz class. It's a bit intimidating dancing next to a couple of young gals who have had more training than I have and are half my age...literally. However, they have turned out to be great demonstrators and patient while I play catch up. It's a good motivator to want to be a talented as they are.
I should mention my dance instructor is 80! She's still teaching jazz, ballet, Hawaiian/Polynesian, Tap, and tumbling. She took a fall (down 3 stairs) just a few years ago, only chipped an elbow w/ a slight hairline fracture; no cast, just a sling. The reason why she didn't break anything else is simple: Bone Remodeling. Dancing causes bone remodeling to reinforce the bone to take the weight of the movements. It's the job of the osteoblasts, a type of bone cell, to build bone. The more you move, the stronger your bones will be as you get older. The body is amazing, isn't it?
Keep dancing Guys & Dolls!
Kristy on September 29, 2016:
I thought ballet was only for young people. I dislike most forms of exercise because I find them a bit boring. Thank you ,Theresa, for sharing. I just bought my ballet slippers last week because dancing again is on my bucket list. But I was going to do dance therapy. I love ballet and an adult class is now offered at a local arts school.
Rockford Johnson on September 21, 2016:
It was cool to learn about the benefits of ballet classes. I like how you explained that ballet classes can help to keep you healthy. I hope that this article can help my sister to stay healthy after her pregnancy. http://thedanceelement.com/dance_classes_and_progr...
Ethan on May 10, 2016:
I found a ballet studio in Los Angeles that caters to adults. I started six months ago at age 45 and I'm obsessed. It's one of the best things I've ever done for my physical and mental health. This art form inspires.
Frankie on April 04, 2016:
Took up ballet at the age of 52 with no prior experience. 6 months down the line and am about to start my 3rd weekly class ! The article is so accurate. Cant believe the changes physically and mentally and have started to read, listen, watch and study all things ballet. Love it. Couldn't recommend it enough.
Jamie on November 08, 2015:
Thanks for all of the inspirational stories, I'm going to look for an adult class in my area and I'm very excited to find an opportunity to dance again after many years!
Theresa on November 07, 2015:
I returned to ballet at age 54. After first year of class.....I started en pointe and have continued. I danced my first recital 2 years ago.....and last year's recital....danced sugar plum fairy en pointe. Preparing for my 3rd recital in december. I Love Ballet! It took me years of yearning to find a studio that offered adult classes; finally found one that offers private adult lessons (no adult class in the area). However adult classes are gaining popularity. I believe there is no age limit when trying something interesting to you. The physical benefits are impressive, While the delight....accomplishment...of the artform itself is time well spent in this hectic rush of a world.
Ruth Denise on August 17, 2015:
I've been running for some time trying to stay fit. But the truth is I don't really enjoy it. I force myself to get going.
I danced ballet for many years, and though I'm now in my mid forties, I'm convinced that I must dance again.
Thank you for the article, it was just what I needed. And thank you all for your comments.
I guess some of us are born to dance through life!
CatherineS on May 29, 2015:
I am a true believer in it is never too late to start something new. If you go in with the right mindset you will succeed. The benefits of dance are endless and anyone at any age can receive them!
Nadia on February 23, 2015:
Add Your Comment…I am taking adult ballet …. and I just turned 50 !!! I am even performing in our Spring recital. I know I am really putting my self out there. But I truly do it for the joy it brings me. The workout benefits are just icing on the cake. There is nothing like dancing to beautiful classical music . The moment is fleeting, but worth all the sweat( and aches and pains too ) . If you have ver wanted to try… keep trying , never give up… Do it for the great joy it brings to your life.
Betti Hudson on January 30, 2015:
I have taken ballet classes right after getting my girls enrolled. Loved it ever since.
_DANE_YOUSSEF_ from California on March 22, 2013:
...VERY AGREED! by Dane Youssef
I myself started taking during the very beginning of my adult years. I conquered Pilates and Yoga rather quickly. Workouts like these and a lot of others can actually help with a workout as difficult as ballet.
I remember reading in a children's glossary book on ballet that "ballet is really for young adults." I believed it. But a lot of the professionals chalk this one up to "one more horrible misconception about the practice of ballet."
THE HORRIBLE AND INCORRECT MYTHS THAT HURT BALLET
* Ballet Is Just For Females (Especially The Rich Ones)
* You Need To Be Thin To Do Ballet
* You Have To Be Rich To Enjoy Ballet
* You Have To Be Young To Practice Ballet
* You Have To Have Studied Ballet Since The Toddler-Years
* If You're Male In Ballet, You Need To Be Gay Or Russian (or both)
... and these are just the top-six.
When "Center Stage" and "Billy Elliot" came out in 2000 (and a little later--"Save The Last Dance"), ballet started to become "hip," "in." Especially for the guys. But the thing--ballet is quite simply, the hardest of all exercises. Of all workouts, all endeavors. And if it truly is a sport---and it is often done competitively, so it is--it's it literally the most difficult and humbling of all sports. Maybe that's why so many just go the gym or just Yoga, Pilates or any of the quadrillion infinite workouts that are out right now--and believe you me, plenty more on the way.
Yes, make no mistake--ballet is harder. The hardest. But somehow, I think it's worth it. It's an art--it's a performance art. And it's a discipline, like martial-arts. It is a form of martial-arts--and it's even harder. And come to think of it... it helped me with my martial-arts. If you can conquer this thing, the nearly unstoppable daunting force we dare call ballet... you may be able to conquer everything else--including life itself.
Hell, boot camp will seem like summer camp by comparisson. So go ahead, you old fogies. Jump--you feelin' spry? Take a shot. Grab that barre, don't ever look back or let go...
Until it's time to do the floor-and-center-work, of course...
--Believing In The Way of Ballet In Any Age, Dane Youssef
Alyana Alfaro from Scotch Plains, New Jersey on July 24, 2012:
Thank you so much for sharing! I stopped ballet (but kept doing other dance) at 14 and it is something I regret every day. Maybe I will give it another shot!
balletomanehk (author) on July 02, 2012:
Hi prettypremed, besides practice, I would say that watching ballet videos and listening to classical music really helps!
Also, if your posture is less than ideal, or if you have any chronic muscular pain, I suggest checking out Egoscue exercises to address the muscular-skeletal imbalances. This would supplement your ballet practice a great deal by preparing the body so that the muscles are ready to fire!
TDCdance from Wahroonga, NSW on July 02, 2012:
Ballet is such great exercise, you're so busy trying to stand up straight, turn out your feet and feel the music that you don't even realise how much you're exercising!
prettypremed on April 18, 2012:
Thank you for sharing. I recently started an adult intro class. It is somewhat challenging at first. Any tips besides practice?
Ballet Bags on July 02, 2011:
I was thinking about taking adult ballet and after reading your site I think I will!
Teresa Wong on July 25, 2010:
Hi BALLETOMANEHK ! May I ask where you take the adult ballet classes? I am very interested in doing so as well but am not sure where I should go. It would be great if you can give me the information, thanks! You can send me an email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just leave it here and I will come back and check!
Arabesque on February 15, 2010:
Ballet is so inspiring! I will always have a passion for the beautiful dance!
Cecelia from Australia on September 20, 2009:
I love Ballet, it is in my heart and the movements call to my soul. However, it is challenging to find and maintain lifelong opportunities. You are very brave and I am glad you found an adult class which would accept you.
Random Person from San Diego, California on August 03, 2009:
I love ballet! It is a very beautiful sport and great way of keeping fit!
minnow from Seattle on December 16, 2008:
I love ballet, too. I have lost some flexibility and some muscle mass but I am thinking about starting again. Thanks for your hub!
balletomanehk (author) on May 29, 2008:
Thanks for sharing your experience, Marisa. I feel the same at the end of each class, too!
Kate Swanson from Sydney on May 29, 2008:
Some great points. I had to give up ballet in my early 40's (although it's fantastic exercise, it is a little tough on older bodies!). I switched to flamenco. It wasn't until I tried a bellydance class several years later that I realised not all dance styles are equal. While flamenco had enabled me to maintain my posture and muscle tone, I had lost a lot of flexibility in my torso.
At the end of a ballet class, you have that wonderful feeling that your whole body, from head to toe, has been stretched in every direction. I don't think there's another dance form that exercises the body so completely.