Are you ready to start ballet classes but are not sure what to expect or how to prepare? Or perhaps you have already begun and want to know how to make the most of your classes and find inspiration outside of class too? Look no further – here are 10 tips on how to immerse yourself in ballet as a beginner.
Let’s start with the in-class tips:
1. Wear the right clothes
Find out if the studio you are attending has a dress code, and if there is, where to get the dance clothes. For most beginners classes there isn’t a set uniform, so to start out with, your best bet is to wear comfortable clothing that you can move in easily. This could be leggings and a t-shirt, for example (which will work for most male dancers, too). Just make sure they are form-fitting so the teacher can see your placement. If you want to step it up, you can always get a leotard, tights, and ballet skirt from a reputed dancewear store. Ballet shoes is always recommended, whatever your level or age. If you want to read more about the reasons behind the different parts of the ballet uniform, click here.
2. Tie your hair up if it’s long
It’s both good ballet etiquette and useful to have it out of the way during class. There will be enough things to think about without your hair getting in the way! For a quick tutorial on how to make a simple, easy ballet bun, click here.
3. Learn some ballet terminology
Although this is not strictly necessary as most ballet teachers will explain the steps even if they use the French terminology, it can be fun and make the experience more wholesome if you learn some of the terminology of the class. You can do this before you start the your classes, and/or continue to brush up outside the class as you continue dancing.
4. Know the structure of a class
It can be less daunting to enter a ballet class if you already have some idea of what to expect. Most ballet classes follow a similar structure: It will begin with barre work; an essential part of the class which prepares the dancer for centre work. You can think of it as the ABCs of ballet. It includes both small and large exercises facing the barre as well as standing sideways with one hand on the barre, and it is a vital part in a ballet dancer’s education. After barre work, dancers move to the centre, where they will usually begin with some centre work, such as tendus (foot exercises) and port de bras (carriage of the arms) and then move on to adage. Adage exercises are slow and flowing, and it helps dancers focus on balance, control, extension (the lift and lengthening of the legs, arms and back), and musicality. After this, the class moves onto pirouettes (turns), although this is not always part of a beginner’s class. Pirouettes exercises can stay in one place or move across the floor, and they are usually done to a slightly faster tempo of music than adage. Next up in the class is allegro. Allegro is the ‘jumping section’ of the class, and can be divided into petit allegro (small jumps), medium allegro and as the class progresses, grand allegro (large jumps).
5. Let your teacher know if you have any injuries
Ballet can be strenuous on the body, and as a highly technical classical dance form, you will definitely be using muscles that you usually don’t use. If you have any injuries or have had recent surgery, be sure to let the teacher know so they can adapt the exercises to suit you.
6. Start counting
Counting the music as the teacher sets an exercise will help in remembering the exercise as well as developing musicality in the movements. It’s a good way to start understanding how different steps form a combination.
7. Don’t compare yourself to others
With the above in mind, don’t compare yourself to others – whether it is a dancer of a major ballet company that you’ve seen on stage or on Youtube or a fellow student in the class. Use yourself as a point of comparison – did you understand something new in the class, was your leg a little higher, or were you able to get a jumping combination right that you’ve struggled with before? That’s great!
And here are a couple of tips for outside the class:
8. Listen to classical music
If you enjoy the music in the ballet class, listen to classical music in your own time, too. How about Tchaikovsky’s score for Swan Lake, The Nutcracker or Sleeping Beauty, or perhaps Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet? This may inspire you to check out some clips of the ballets online, too – a great way to get inspired to get to class.
9. Read about ballet
Do you want to immerse yourself in the world of ballet? In addition to listening to music and watching ballet online or on stage, there is SO much you can learn from reading – you can find blogs by dancers, teachers and other students of ballet; online dance magazines such as Pointe Magazine and Dance Magazine; academic articles on dance education, dance therapy, etc; books on anatomy for dancers; the list is endless! Dive into the world of ballet wholeheartedly.
10. Have fun!
Ballet is a highly technical dance form and can feel daunting for a beginner, but at the heart of it is the love for dance and movement, the honing of artistic skill and musicality. Enjoy the process!
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