First, you’ll have to find a studio that suits you. This might take time and you might have to go to several spots before you find the right environment that fits your groove. Here’s the personal mental checklist I go through. This is also really helpful if you’ve moved to a new city and are looking for a studio to dance at.
Kathy Mata teaching Adult Ballet at Alonzo King Lines Dance Center in San Francisco.
Image Credits: Alexis Bartlett
What to think about when choosing a ballet studio for adult classes:
First off, see if they cater classes specifically to adults: I mean most of us don’t want to be stuck with a bunch of kids! Not all studios offer classes specifically for adults. As you can imagine, in many places you’ll see that the classes are geared for children and teens. Also, some studios combine adults with teens in classes – this is the case in a number of studios. Now although there’s nothing necessarily wrong with this per se – grouping teens with adults does change the atmosphere of the class and developing teens and adults have very different needs and learn at different paces.
But, definitely if you are in a major city you’ll likely find many options of studios where there are adult-only classes. With ballet’s growth into pop culture in the recent years, there are way more studios offering classes tailored to adults. (Stay tuned for a future post where I compile the best studios to check-out for adult classes per major city – I travel a bit and my new hobby is to take class in the cities I visit).
Keep in mind ballet levelings in general can mean anything!: Every studio has a different definition for its levels. For example, “Ballet Advanced Beginning” and “Beginning Ballet” and “Ballet Intermediate Advanced” are all different levels (Crazy right?! Ballet and its level namings can be a bit overwhelming at first to those just starting out).
Also, the jump between “Intro. to Ballet” and “Beginning Ballet” can make a difference if it’s your first time ever dancing – you’ll need the pace of an introductory class to get acquainted with the vocabulary and get a level of comfort before you start building skills and move a level up. Plus, if you’re starting out you don’t want to falsely discourage yourself if you are in the wrong level. Learning ballet takes time and dedication and it is better to start off right and get the proper foundation.
Remember, if you do see a class titled “open class,” it could an intermediate/advanced level class open for trainees, professionals, or experienced dancers. “Open” does not necessarily mean all levels welcome. It will depend on the studio so be sure to check.
How a studio levels its classes if influenced by many factors — the style (we’ll talk more about this in future posts), teacher, and factors like students currently enrolled in the class that will affect a leveling. If you are just starting out, a safe bet is to go for an “Intro to ballet” or “Ballet 1 beginning” or “Beginning ballet” as those are very explicitly classes marked for beginners.
What level should you start at?: I myself tend to go down a level if I’m new to a studio or unsure. There are many a times I’ve walked into ballet class thinking it is a lower level and it ends up being a lot faster paced and requires higher technical skill. If you are getting geared up after a few years, start low and work your way up. It’s also good to give the studio a call or email and check with the front desk on the levelings – I found that I can’t rely on schedules online and it’s best to hear from a staff member on what the situation is like – you’ll be surprised that they do answer!
Look into workshops: Many studios offer workshop packages that span several weeks. These can be a really helpful start and kind of act like a “dance accelerator” immersing you with a set group of people over several weeks and really focusing in on technique.
Don’t sign up for a big class package right away: In case you don’t like the studio you don’t want to be stuck having bought a package of ten nonrefundable classes! Do a “drop-in” class and see if you like it. Studios often have some type of deal associated with this – some even give a free first class or heavily discount it.
On a related note, don’t spend a ton of money on expensive ballet clothes right away. Every studio has a different dress code policy and you want to see what type of outfit you are comfortable in. Some studios will allow you to wear socks your first class and you might be able to get away with wearing yoga/fitness clothes as long as they are form fitting so the teacher can see your body. Also, be wary if the studio is requiring its adult students to buy expensive clothes off the bat.
Does the studio only teach ballet?: I personally am not too opinionated on this factor as I typically attend several different studios for different classes. But, if a studio only focuses on ballet you could likely find more ballet classes available at different times during the week (unless it’s one of those studios focused on training pre-professionals). Or, it just might be a studio focused on training youth, so be sure to check. It is nice to go to a studio that teaches many styles so you can explore other types of dance and have a variety to choose from!
How many classes a week do I start with?: If you’ve never danced before, it is totally fine to start with one class a week until your body gets used to it, especially if you are not used to that much physical activity. You’ll definitely be sore after your first class as you are using muscles you haven’t engaged before. To seriously improve, over time you will definitely have to try to take at least 2-3 classes a week –so keep that in mind. Hopefully the studio you find will have adult classes offered several times a week.
Also, weekend and Sunday classes especially are great. We all work and our body is better charged when we had some rest. You’ll see taking a morning versus an evening class there is a difference in your body. Personally, I’ve found that a class that is later in the evening, let’s say 7:30 or 8PM, doesn’t work as well for me. I need to decompress from work and have a good dinner before I’m charged up for exercise (also when I exercise late I have a bit of trouble sleeping as my endorphins are up). This also plays into work-life balance and dancing which we’ll cover in future posts.
It is always good to visit the studio beforehand. Pay a visit to the studio to check the facilities out. Sometimes, if you ask in advance (or make sure to ask the teacher), you can sit and observe the class to see if it is a fit. Visiting the studio is also a chance to see if the facilities are well-maintained. For me, it is important that the studio has a good and safe dance floor. For example, are the floors sprung – aka is there a protective section between the top layer of the floor and the foundation floor? This is important especially as you advance – you don’t want to be jumping on a floor that isn’t sprung as the lack of shock absorption can cause injuries (we can go more into this later). Also, I prefer a Marley/vinyl material floor as it prevents slipping and gives you a better grip, especially when you get to pointe work. Many studios have these types of floors nowadays, but you’ll be surprised to find some studios have hardwood floors built on top of cement – those aren’t very fun for your body once you get to big jumps!
You might have to shop around. Don’t give up it take time – you’ll have to find a studio and teachers you jive with. Having a friend come along always helps for motivation!
Again please feel free to comment and send me your suggestions –and anything I may have missed — this is meant to be a teaser!
(Upcoming is an adult ballet class list by major city)