Today while waiting in traffic (I was there for 2 1/2 hours and moved maybe 2 miles), I got an email from a new adult beginner! I was so excited to get an email from a reader. It is still hard to believe people read my ramblings sometimes.
I asked her if it would be OK to share her email with my readers, and she agreed. I also enclose my response. It’s so important that we continue encouraging others in their pursuit of dance! Enjoy.
Helen Mao writes:
Hi, I enjoy reading your blog, especially since I am an adult (44 years old) who recently became avid about ballet. Background: I was a figure skater as a teenager, then an ice dancer in my late teens, early 20’s. I took ballet lessons off and on (more off) as a child and young adult, but never for a sustained period of time (i.e. never more than 1 year at a time). Four years ago I ventured back into ballet and am hooked. I think my skating and ballet (chopped up as it was) experience has helped me in terms of balance and posture, but I always want to improve.
I have always wanted to go on pointe since I was a teenager but, as I mentioned, I never took ballet for a sustained period of time in the same place to work toward/progress to that point (hahaha, pun intended). I now take adult classes when I can (2-3 times a week, 1.5 hours of technique each time) at Maryland Youth Ballet.
Since I work from home for The New Teacher Project in teacher recruiting, I can manage to make daytime classes. Evenings are tough with kids (ages 10 and 12) and a husband who works a lot and commutes (he is an attorney like you are). I was a high school (US) and college (China) teacher and education writer before I had kids.
You mentioned on your blog that you started ballet in November 2011. Congratulations for getting on pointe so soon! In fact, I wanted to ask you: how did you progress to pointe so soon? I would love to hear any advice/tips. I have to admit that I am too bashful to tell my ballet teachers that I eventually want to do this since I do not want anyone to laugh at me :).
Well hello Helen! Thank you for your inquiry. I love talking to other adult beginners about ballet. It is so cool that we share this common (but rare) interest.
Pointe is completely legitimate and plausible goal for an adult beginner to achieve. Just because you are not 12 (or 15 or 25) doesn’t mean that points is impossible. I found it is just not talked about. Ask around to your friends and relatives; in all likelihood they will think your pursuit is a little strange (at first). That is, until they get used to the idea and then realize that your goal is no different from learning how to play golf at 60. Ballet is just not a common sport for adults to learn.
Age has nothing to do with learning pointe; it is a person’s physical fitness, desire and opportunity that gets them to the goal. Let me break it down for you:
(1) The more healthy you are, the quicker you are going to get en pointe. Strength and flexibility are important, but weight does play a role. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about skinny; I mean health. Not all the ladies (well, girls) in my class are super slim. You can have curves and do pointe. Just helps to keep the curves healthy and not sloppy (understand?) I was put en pointe so soon because I was already strong. I already worked out 5 days a week prior to starting ballet, so it helped me get up in those shoes and stay there. And when I say “flexibility” I mean foot flexibility. You will have to work on this when you start out en pointe. It’s more painful than you think and takes time, but once you have it – easy peasy. Being all around flexible will help you with technique, so work on it every day. You will not regret it. Check out the 30 day challenge on the Adult Ballerina Project.
(2) I am sure that you already realize that pointe is harder than it looks. It can hurt really bad too. Trust me. An individual who gives up easily or has a low pain threshold will not last 2 weeks. Progress en pointe is slow, so it can be quite frustrating. Some people find it easier to just give up and move onto something else rather than to push through the hard times. However, if you really want to learn pointe, stick it out. The more sincere desire you have to learn pointe, the more likely you will see it through. Once you build the muscles in your feet and legs and get the balance and coordination necessary, you will enjoy pointe like i do. It is fun, challenging and exciting. Totally worth the work.
(3) Here’s the tough part- finding someone to teach you. If you haven’t already, read my post entitled “Bye Bye T”. It explains everything. As stupid as it sounds, there some ballet instructors out there that will not put an adult en pointe. Even teaching adults ballet seems aggravating to them. The key is finding the right studio and/or instructor who actually enjoys teaching adults ballet and will entertain the idea of putting them en pointe. The only way you are going to find out is to ASK. Don’t worry about what they might say! If you get rejected, who cares! There are plenty of studios out there; one is bound to help you. You simply expressing your desire to learn shows that you truly want it; someone is bound to respond positively.
You sound like you encompass all of these qualities. It’s just a matter of following through. Don’t be scared; just go for it. You have nothing to lose except for a missed opportunity. You know as well as I do, life is simply too short for that hogwash.
I really appreciate your support! It keeps me going! 🙂
Well, there you have it. Ms. Mao reads my blog, so any of you fellow adult beginners out there have any advise to give please feel free to do so! I am sure Ms. Mao would greatly appreciate your support and well wishes!