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Ballet Class 101, Part I

Congratulations on your decision to try out an adult ballet class! If this is your very first time, there are a few things for you to know while you're still at home; things you may not find out until it's "too late".


1. Do your research! Some ballet schools only teach children. Make sure that your class is an adult one. Does the studio teach a particular technique or blend them together in a less formal format? Are there examinations you need to take in order to graduate to the next level?

2. What's your level? If you are brand new, please look for labels like "adult fundamentals", "adult basic beginners", "adult brand new beginners", "adult beginner", etc. You may be rocking your hip hop class, or a professional bicyclist, or a black belt in martial arts--learning ballet is about learning technique and alignment and terminology for this particular art. As a new dancer, please don't take a class that is above your level--it will be overwhelming and you will not enjoy it and it might sour your new desire to explore ballet.

3. What do you wear on your feet? If you're just going to try out a few classes to see if ballet is the right fit and not sure whether you want to invest in ballet slippers, contact your studio and see if it's ok to take class in socks. If that's permissible, look for socks with a high cotton content. Polyester or nylon socks may have you sliding all over the floor. Many ballet studios will have Marley flooring and that can be a bit sticky. Some have wooden flooring, and that will be a little slippery-er. If you're ready to make the slipper commitment, go to a dance store to have their expert find the right soft slipper for you. You can choose between leather or canvas; split or full sole; pink, white, tan or black; etc.

4. What do you wear on your body? Your studio may have a dress code for adults. Most do not. My suggestion might be to wear what you would for a yoga class. Leggings are acceptable for the most part. If you want to go traditional, you would be wearing a leotard and tights. Quick piece of advice: if you choose a full-footed or convertible tight, please try to match it with your slippers. Black footed tights with a pink slipper or pink footed tights with a black slipper (or any other cross combo) disrupts the line of the leg and is visually jarring. If you're wearing leggings or footless tights, feel free to choose your favorite color palettes. Once upon a time, a ballerina's legs were supposedly flesh-pink and so a pink tight is supposed to fluidly enhance the aesthetic. Bare legs are also a legit choice if your studio allows it. At first, you may be tempted to hide behind baggy clothes, but rest assured that your ballet teacher will have special xray vision and still be able to see underneath all that. Your over-sized sweatpants, though, often serves as a loud signal to the teacher that you may not be ready to receive corrections yet. But once you get comfortable and are ready to learn the foundations of ballet, you will want to peel off the layers to do the work and make sure you are doing things right.

5. What do you do with your hair? As always, contact your studio for the classroom rules--that's always going to be your best bet. Most studios do not police the adults, and the regulations that apply to the children will not apply to you. However, ballet is very much about lines and aesthetics and how you wear your hair should reflect that. Generally speaking, you will want to have your hair off your face--the only exception is if you have bangs. If your hair is long enough to pull back, please do. If your hair is very long and you can get it into a secure bun, please do. If you return from a cambre forward and need to flip your hair, you may merit a disapproving look from your instructor. If you're doing a pirouette and your tresses whip someone else in the face, you will not earn extra points. And no one enjoys sweeping up clumps of hair while cleaning the studio.

6. How do you get it all together? Do yourself a favor: grab a big bag to use as your dance bag. I like mine so big that I can stuff my street clothes in it so I don't end up losing anything. If you're shopping for a new bag, try to look for one with a lining that is any color other than black, otherwise you will be forever digging around for your black legwarmers. Eventually you will add in all the tools you might need for a ballet class: hair accessories, a small towel, cleanser wipes for your face or feet, deodorant, band aids, extra slippers, pointe shoes, etc... Also, when you're in the studio, all your things will be in one place rather than making piles of clothes plus your purse.

Are you ready to actually take class? OK, here we go...

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