I often want to say I’m in a relationship with ballet. It’s what I always go back to at the end of the day — a constant in my life no matter what else is changing.
Dance, ballet especially, is an art form that requires an intense amount of commitment and dedication in order to grow and see results. Unfortunately, as an adult dancer, we’re often at odds with this given schedules with full-time jobs and lives outside the studio.
But despite that, as an adult dancer, we are in class because we want to be. It’s a choice we make.
So how to balance it all and still get what you want out of ballet? Here are some of my thoughts and tips:
- Know you will have to make some sacrifices. I have accepted that I’ll have a busy schedule at certain times. But what I’ve realized is you won’t always have to sacrifice that after work happy hour, date night or time with your family if you make class part of your routine.
- Plan ahead and designate some special dance days. For me, I choose to have three days each week designated to dance. Sometimes if I’m really busy with career it’s two nights and sometimes when I feel really energetic it’s four to five. That’s what works for me at this moment and at this time, but it’s different for every adult dancer. Most importantly, I try to find a studio that has classes that fit my schedule. For me, sometimes I work late so I need a studio that has late weekday classes. Since I dance in an adult ballet company that rehearses Friday and Sunday evenings, I always know to have those evenings free for class so I can come to rehearsal warmed up.
- Always know when you do need a break from ballet. Setting a routine is good but know when to be flexible. It’s doesn’t help when you burn yourself out. You loose enjoyment and worse you could get injured and then you’ll be really set back. Know when you need to take a break that week or when you need to take fewer classes. Let’s say work is getting busy or you have some personal things to focus on, allow yourself to hyper-focus for a bit. You can always come back and ballet will be there. Luckily you’re not vying for a company contract so you are your own boss. You can still maintain with fewer classes and always fit in some strength training and short stretch sessions at home.
- Jumping from work to class is hectic, a little preparation helps. On days I’m dancing I make sure I eat well-balanced meals and drink lots of water. If I’m jumping to class right after work I make sure to pack a healthy snack for energy – something like almonds or a banana. I also make sure I pack all my dance clothes into my bag the night before. Yes, this seems like an obvious but personally, I scramble in the morning. For fun, I also integrate my dance clothes into my clothes. For example, those Gaynor Minden wool tights work great under a dress when it’s a bit chilly!
- Set a goal of what you want to achieve that’s measurable and focused. I find it helpful setting goals in increments. Let’s say one month you want to work on your double pirouettes and another month you want to work on your petite allegro. My yearly goal might be mastering a certain variation or getting farther in my splits. If you are realistic about what you want to achieve than you won’t be discouraged and you’ll be motivated to stay on track and know what you are working towards.
- Create a ballet community for yourself. Do class with a friend or try to make friends with those in class. Ballet can be an enjoyable social activity too. Ballet has this reputation of competitiveness and that every dancer is all for themselves. But this definitely is not the norm, especially as an adult dancer. You can find a supportive community of classmates that will motivate you to continue taking class even when you are struggling as a beginner. I’ve surprisingly made some of the greatest adult friendships through ballet. They are more than classmates – they’re barre mates who you can vent about your day to or share your exciting news or they’re the perfect companions to performances and more. I can’t imagine my life without those people and the lifelong friendships I’ve forged with them.
- Remember you are always a student. You need to give yourself time to learn. Ballet is a long-term project. Making time for other things will only make you a better dancer. Make time to watch dance. Make time to cross train – hike, swim, do Pilates or yoga with friends. It will only help your dancing.
Ultimately finding what dance means to you and where it fits in your life will allow you to make room in your schedule for dance. Ballet is a lifelong activity that I’ve carved into my routine and I can’t imagine my life without it!
Please share your tips!