Is it too late for me to start learning ballet now, as an adult? This is a question we often get asked by students who are interested in ballet but who have not had the opportunity to try it. Many are under the misconception that ballet can only be learned properly if started at a young age.
We say, it’s never too late! If you want to do ballet, do it.
Can anyone do ballet?
Anyone who wants to learn classical ballet can. There is no upper age limit to starting something new, and this is true for ballet, too. Sure, you may not become a prima ballerina if you start at the age of 50, but that doesn’t take away the joy of dancing.
We asked Maureen, who started ballet as an adult, to share her experience with us. We asked her what inspires her to learn ballet, what has been challenging, and what has been the most rewarding part.
Maureen Gonsalves; Cultural Coordinator at Max Mueller Bhavan Bangalore, yoga lover and fitness enthusiast
Why did I start learning ballet at this advanced age? I can’t really pin it down to any one thing, but maybe it’s because my daughter is a dancer, I’ve been immersed in the dance scene in Bangalore for many years, and I work in the cultural field and am exposed to a lot of international dance. This got me wondering why I shouldn’t try it out, explore a new skill.
I’ve been taking ballet lessons at TLFCB for a year and a half now, both in the studio and online, and am enjoying them immensely. For me, the best part has been discovering a fresh perception of my body and how it can move. I have no specific goals, so every little achievement is satisfying. The most difficult part has been to remember that even if I cannot always keep up, I should continue to work with what I have, and not to get embarrassed or frustrated.
The encouragement and support of my amazing teachers—Yana, Sushmitha, and Elina—are supremely inspiring. And I also have to acknowledge the invaluable private coaching I sometimes get at home (thanks, Dayita).
One thing is for sure—ballet is helping me forget my age!
What will I be able to achieve if I don’t start as a child?
It can be harder (but not impossible!) to achieve certain aspects of the art form when the body has not been trained from a young age. With this said, there is nothing stopping adults beginners from achieving a high technical understanding and proficiency in ballet. It is not all about high leg lines and many pirouettes. In ballet, there is a need for a detailed comprehension of the technique, and that can be achieved at any age with good training. There are examples of dancers who started their training ‘late’, but who are achieving great things in ballet.
Shilpa, who started ballet in her 40s, shares her experiences with joining classes with TLFCB.
Shilpa Paralkar, professional writer, baker, and dance mum
I started learning ballet because the Adult Jazz class which I had joined was throwing me completely off-balance – the music was too fast, the movements were too fast and for the life of me, I simply couldn’t catch up with the choreography. So, in a fit of despair, I walked into the office and demanded of Miss Yana, “This jazz dancing is way too much pressure. How am I supposed to last this out?”. She replied, “Learn ballet. It will help you.”
She asked me to join Grade 2 ballet but this time around, I was determined to take it as slow as possible so I asked to sign up for the Pre-primary level. To her credit, Miss Yana kept a straight face and gently suggested I try Primary instead.
So I did. 3 years on, I am in Grade 2 now.
My biggest learning from the experience is that everything and I mean everything, gets easy with practice.
Now nothing fazes me. I can’t get the glissade? I can’t get both my feet up in the pas de chat? No problem; I just keep at it…practising fiercely. At first, it looks horrible, then after a few weeks it looks bearable and then suddenly, one fine day, it starts looking like it is supposed to look! I love that experience.
I now apply this learning to every aspect of my daily life and don’t give up on learning new things simply because I can’t get it right the first few times.
The most difficult part for me? Oh, the jumps. Definitely the jumps. For nearly two and a half years, I was just not able to jump. All around me, my 11 year old classmates would be shooting up like rockets and there I was, grunting to get even an inch off the floor and keeling over with fatigue. Then the lockdown happened. The online class videos happened. My daughter and I started doing them daily to keep our sanity. (We still do them regularly.) Along with my weekly Grade 1 class, I started doing the Adult Ballet class too. All these additional hours of ballet must have helped because somewhere by the beginning of the year, I suddenly found myself going up and up and up. Just like that! It happened like magic. It was and continues to be exhilarating.
I am now able to jump in class AND last the entire stretch of music without getting tired. That means a lot to me. Of course, my feet still don’t point enough when I jump and I almost always over-cross when I land but right now I am just enjoying jumping up and down, up and down like an excited bunny rabbit. Very soon, I shall start focussing on getting the technique right.
I would really like to continue doing ballet as long as I am able to. It keeps me physically fit, it challenges me mentally and when I move in time to the beautiful classical music, it makes me burst spontaneously into a wide, happy grin. I love it.
Opportunities to dance
Many ballet schools, like ours, have specialized classes geared towards adult beginners. Some organizations, such as the Royal Academy of Dance, has classes specifically for seniors. Their Silver Swans class is spread across the world and is highly popular both with ex dancers as well as individuals who always wanted to learn, but never had the chance.
Our ballet classes for adult beginners are on Sundays from 1:30pm – 2:30pm.