Now that you’ve spun yourself sweaty and galvinized your glutes with a gazillion barre workouts, what next? Refine your fitness routine with ballet! The beautiful results to be had from this old school workout are universally admired, yet many feel intimidated about trying a real ballet class. Here’s what you need to know to get your grace on:
1. Take a ballet class appropriate to your experience. Ballet is a progressive technique that becomes more intense the more correctly you do it, so don’t be surprised if the third class has you more sore than the first. Beginner classes are a good place to develop a solid foundation even if you have previous ballet experience. But don’t be alarmed to spot a professional in the room. Dancers like to go back to basics, especially when rehabbing from injuries. It’s best to start out slowly so you can refine your posture and learn how to move the arms and legs for maximum strength, tone, and flexibility.
2. Wear comfortable clothes. Athletic attire and yoga wear are alternatives to leotards and tights that can keep you feeling comfortable. Although some classes can be taken with regular socks, others require ballet slippers. Contact the instructor or studio if you are unsure. A good studio will happily answer your questions.
3. Arrive a few minutes early. Being ready at the start of class is respectful to the instructor and other students and ensures you get the most out of your ballet experience. Practicing pliés (the typical first exercise of ballet class) not only keeps your knees happy, but it also prepares you for more complex sequences. Especially if you are a beginner, arriving early will help you feel more mentally poised.
4. Stay focused on yourself. If you have a critical voice in your head, give it a firm “Shhhh!” and listen to the music and your body instead. Especially in the beginning, the mirror can distract you into judging rather than feeling your body. If you think you’ll be tempted to watch yourself, stand well away from the mirror and focus on the movements instead. In no time you’ll be standing taller and accessing muscles you didn’t even know existed! Eventually you’ll feel your body without the need to check your reflection all the time. And while it can be inspiring to admire other dancers’ grace and technique, comparisons and self-flagellations do nothing to help you inside or outside the studio.
5. Practice good etiquette. With so many leg and arm movements, it’s important to be aware of the space around you. Take a look at other dancers in the room to see how they position themselves next to one another. If class is crowded, it may be necessary to do smaller movements to avoid kicking your neighbor. If you feel uncertain, standing at the end of the barre or the back of the pack will allow you to follow the more seasoned dancers without stepping on anyone’s toes. And always ask your instructor for guidance if you need it–they are there to help you!
6. Enjoy the music! Classical fare is a beautiful antidote to the assault of noise we contend with every day. Listening to the music also helps you learn how to do the movements. Before long the unity of muscle, mind and music transforms ballet class into a meditation in motion in which you eagerly await that beautiful tune from last class!
7. Be patient. Ballet technique takes time to learn, but the payoff is ENORMOUS! You can think of learning ballet as a travel adventure in which you are going deep inside your own body to incredible new places. Enjoy the journey, appreciate the discoveries, and have a sense of humor along the way!
Engaging proper ballet technique raises the barre on your fitness level regardless of the extent or lack of prior experience. The trick is to try setting your mental body baggage down before ballet class. Even if you feel a bit intimidated, you may find that the music and movements make you feel quite lovely despite yourself!
And of course, if you’re looking to develop a personal ballet practice, Everyday Ballet Members offers an outstanding library of streaming video workouts you can do in the comfort and privacy of your own home or wherever you may be!