Returning to, or starting, ballet as an adult brings a unique set of challenges, especially from a physical perspective. It’s important to understand and celebrate your adult ballet body, rather than resent its limitations.
Whether you’re a returning student or starting ballet for the first time, it’s vital to know that ballet technique sits differently on an adult body. Many of us know a child who does ballet, and they flit and float around with ease! Adults don’t move with the same ease or energy, so for a while, your technique might feel challenging and at times cumbersome. What looks straightforward may require a lot more energy (and brain power!) to execute.
This doesn’t mean that it’s wrong, or that you are not suited to ballet. It just means that you’ll need to adjust your ideas on how ballet feels in your body. As much as you adore ballet, you must remember that ballet is not natural! You’re asking your body to move in a way that it has never done before, so it’s best that this is approached with kindness. Be consistently patient with yourself during your adult ballet journey.
It’s likely that the only adults you’ve seen in a ballet context have been professional dancers in performance. Whilst it’s unreasonable to expect yourself to look or move like a professional dancer, finding the dancer inside YOU is entirely within your reach.
If you are returning to ballet, your brain will send the same messages to your body as before, but your body may not be able to respond in the way you remember. Even when you have been back in class for a while, it’s important to check your expectations of what your adult body can achieve to avoid frustration.
If you are new to ballet, it’s important to consider that you are forging new and vast networks of neural pathways that take time to strengthen. What you think your body is doing and what you see your body doing maybe two very different things, which is perfectly normal and very okay.
The most beautiful dancers to watch aren’t always the ones that have the most perfect technique – they are the ones that dance from the heart. A beautiful arabesque line isn’t always the one with the highest leg, or the most ‘bendy’ back – it’s the line that creates the effect of continuing beyond the body, into forever.
As physical limitations increase with age, the in-between moments become more and more valuable. The quality of how you lower from a balance, the lift through your body as you start your développé, the control of your landing in allegro… these moments create a beautiful picture, bringing a wonderful sense of reward. This is not to say that you don’t continue to strive for your best ballet technique, but that you understand your best ballet technique comes from your heart as well as your body.
Understanding and celebrating your adult ballet body will continually reward you whilst on your ballet journey. Striving for your best, whilst staying kind to yourself is the best way to improve. And throughout your adult ballet life, despite the difficulties, always remember the person you should be dancing for is YOU.