As little kids we are drawn to ballet for many reasons: the music, the pink ballet slippers, the hope to become a ballerina, and especially the gathered tulle we love so dearly – TUTUS!
So why as adults are we so drawn to taking a ballet class, especially if there are no sparkly tutus used in class?
Ballet attracts adults because of so many added benefits other than just getting in a great workout (and wearing a tutu):
Ballet offers both a break from daily life and a challenge with its own distinct mental and physical rewards. Ballet also provides a great workout, with lasting benefits of toning, lengthening, and stretching. Ballet makes you smarter! We exercise the left brain for getting the logic of the steps combinations; Right brain for interpreting the music and expressing our body in an artistic manner; The upper rear portion of the brain for interpreting spatial relationship; and the lower part of the brain for memorizing the steps.
Of course, jumping into a ballet class can be overwhelming: standing at the barre, the positions of the feet, and to top it all off more than half the class is in FRENCH! So for all of you future bunheads here is an online crash course to help prepare you for your first ballet class.
What should you wear?
Most adult beginner ballet classes do not have any kind of dress code. We are grown-ups and not expected to wear pink tights, poofy skirts and leotards. But, keep in mind that ballet has a lot to do with lines of the body, and if your teacher can’t see your body under oversized sweaters and sweatpants it may be hard for the instructor to give you appropriate corrects. Hair should be worn off the face and most preferably secured in a bun.
Ballet shoes can be purchased at the studio or at a local dancewear shop. Ballet shoes are typically made of leather or canvas and the sole of the shoe varies between a full sole that goes down the length of the foot or a split-sole that covers the ball of the foot and the heel of the foot. Leather shoes will last longer, and canvas shoes can always be tossed in the washing machine (because they will eventually begin to smell from your gross dancer feet, get used to it).
What is the structure of a ballet class?
First we spend a lot of time at the barre (yes, barre – not the bar). You should expect to spend almost half of your class time at the barre. Exercises at the barre include: Plies, Tendus, Degajes, Fondus, Ron de Jambes, Developes, and Battements (and sometimes, more). Consider your time at the ballet barre as a time to fine-tune your muscles to in turn, execute your ballet movements with grace in the center. The following videos include the 5 basic positions and barre exercises.
*Special THANKS to our intern Iman for making these videos!
Once the barre work is completed, we move on to an Adagio or Center work. Adagio consists of slow, graceful combinations that help develop balance, extension and control. Center exercises are similar to barre work except dancers don’t have the support of the barre.
The allegro portion of a ballet class introduces faster, livelier steps, including turns and jumps. Allegro can be divided into two categories: petit and grand. In a beginning adult ballet class, you may be given combinations with chaine turns, picque retires, and more progressive movements across the floor. You may also come to the center for a petite allegro consisting of eschappes, changements, sissones and more.
Every ballet class concludes with reverence, a series of bows and curtsies performed to slow music. Reverence gives the ballet dancers a chance to pay respect to and acknowledge the teacher. Reverence usually includes bows, curtsies, and ports de bras, and is a way of celebrating ballet’s traditions of elegance and respect.
What is typical etiquette in a ballet class?
Unless you grew up in a ballet studio, it is very hard to catch onto the etiquette or manners observed in a ballet class. Ballet has a rich history, and to those who teach it, the etiquette shown in class is very important.
- Arrive on time to class, and don’t hesitate to begin stretching and warming-up the body before class.
- Do not, under any circumstance, chew gum during class.
- Cell phones should remain in your bag on silent. Do not check your voicemails, facebook, twitter, Instagram, words with friends, text messages, or snapchat during class time.
- The ballet barre is to be used during the barre portion of your class only. Do not lean on them while you are waiting to go across the floor.
- Mark the exercises when the teacher explains them, you will remind them better if you do so
- If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Your teachers want you to ask questions and make sure you understand the combinations.