Of all the emails I get from readers, 80% of them are asking me about ballet. I am stunned at how fascinated people are by this artform. Rightly so, it's beautiful and rewarding and I can't imagine life without it. If someone were to tell me I was suddenly unable to dance, I think I would fall into a deep cavern of sadness. Ballet completes my life in ways I never would have expected.
I have answered various ballet questions over the years on here, but I appreciate people might not wish to trawl through past articles to find answers, so I'm going to answer three of the most recent, common questions and queries.
I'm scared I'll be the fattest person in the class
I have literally lost count of the amount of times people have said this to me. It's easily the most common concern readers present me with.
People associate class with what they've either experienced as kids themselves or what they see in TV and films - class filled with skinny, ballet dancing youngsters. Adult class is a wondrous thing because you get all shapes, ages and sizes in a class. Adult dancers are not training to become professionals, so weight etc really is never an issue. We rarely have young people in our class, and any teens that do occasionally come to class are invariably too fascinated with their own reflection in the mirror to concern themselves with anyone else!
In all the companies in which I've taken a class, there has been at some point overweight people in. If you are overweight, and so not perhaps used to exercise, then ballet is ideal as it's very gentle on the body when you come in a beginner. It's only when you become much more advanced that you benefit from a stronger, leaner body.
I'm not flexible at all
Another common concern. Flexibility in ballet is a huge part if it, but only if dancing is your career. If you are a recreational dancer then it's not essential. Ballet will make you more flexible however, as much of is about stretching the body, which is why it's great for toning up. I love the aesthetics of ballet as well as the physicality, so I work on being flexible because long extensions make a much more beautiful lines than little, short ones, but that's not the case for everyone.
There are some exercises in ballet that do require the dancer do the splits but again that's only at advanced level. If you keep taking your classes, then ultimately you will work to build up that flexibility in order to achieve the bigger extensions. Your teacher will allow you do grand battements, for example, to 45 degrees but will, at some point, look for them to go to 90 degrees. Again, not a concern if you are a beginner.
How long will it take to go en pointe?
I get asked this by both adults and children very often. It's a hard one to answer to be honest.
Pointe is not in every adult dancer's future. Infact, it's in very few adult dancers' futures. Most ballet schools don't run adult classes with the aim to work towards pointe. Pointe requires specific pointe lessons, as it's an entirely different experience to dancing on flat foot or demi-pointe. What might happen is that if you are advanced, your teacher might suggest you try taking an advanced class, which features pointe. But pointe is not a given. Our own pointe class is very much an exception to the rule. Since there are girls, like me, who attend the school to do their ballet grades, of which pointe will be part, we need to train just now which is why there is a specific pointe class. We have had girls take our pointe class with no experience in pointe or who did it when they were very young, and it's painful to watch. We had one girl arrive, newly bought shoes in hand, and proceeded to tie her ribbons at the front with a big bow! As you can imagine, she was stunned when the class started and never came back. There is a lot of igonarance like this about what is really involved in pointe. It's incredibly difficult, it's incredibly painful and the potentional for injuries is immense. For these reasons, it's really not for everyone.
If you are right for pointe, then you can expect to wait over 3 years to get to that stage, providing you are dancing regularly. Some girls will be ready much sooner, whilst others will take much longer.
Hopefully, that'll help others out there thinking about the same issues. If you do have any ballet questions, please feel free to ask them in comments and I will then collate them into another post and share it with everyone.