What’s the Pointe in Taking up Ballet Now?

By Leah Lancione

If you saw last year’s acclaimed movie Black Swan you know it portrays a different side of ballet…one that sheds light on its severe physical and mental demands for ballerinas. However, despite ballet’s potentially grueling components, it can be a graceful and cathartic way to exercise, expand flexibility as well as unwind. Moreover, it’s not just for the athletic, nimble and often lithe, or even young dancers who have trained since they were little tikes in tutus.

The website www.Adult-ballet.com claims “adults everywhere are slipping on ballet slippers and taking advantage of classes every day.” Maybe, like them, you view dancing as a pleasurable way to exercise or perhaps you took ballet as an adolescent and you’re nostalgic for the challenging barre work and elegant routines that seem to lengthen your muscles, improve posture and increase flexibility and movement of joints. Even the magazine Redbook (online) features an article detailing just how ballet is a phenomenal workout www.redbookmag.com/health-wellness/advice/ballet-workout-routine

To break it down to its simplest terms: “ballet dancers use the barre for balance while performing several ballet steps. Exercises done at the barre are the foundation for all the other ballet exercises www.dance.about.com/od/stepsandmoves/tp/Barre-Exercises.htm These foundational exercises include such rudimentary steps as the demi and grand plie (think, graceful squats), which are performed in all ballet positions (placement of the feet and arms); the arabesque; developpe, the Rond de Jambe; and more. All of these movements, as well as the many others a ballet teacher may include in a day’s lesson, require proper balance; coordination of the feet, arms and legs, posture and control. The sheer concentration alone to achieve, and even perfect, these steps is beneficial to mind and body wellbeing.

Just visit YouTube www.youtube.com and type in “five basic ballet positions” and countless videos pop up for free viewing and even imitation—if you want to take the “leap” and sign up for a class. This is a good starting point or refresher before you slip into your leotard or tights. There are also many websites such as www.danceclass.com that review dance positions in addition to offering tips, DVDs for purchase and even classes (many tailored to adult beginners) that can be downloaded to your computer.

Ballet is not, however, just barre work. Lessons/classes often include beautifully choreographed routines to enchanting classical music. These numbers can tap into participants’ wide range of capacities from femininity and elegance to gracefulness and poise or agility. While dancers get to stretch their creative and refine attributes, they are virtually sculpting and stretching their muscles, increasing their heart rate, burning calories and exploiting their mind and body. Instructors will choreograph routines that are age appropriate to minimize injury.

The website www.learntodance.com is also a good place to peruse before your first class because it lists many of the terms (most of which are foreign) used in ballet class.

There are a handful of dance studios in the Baltimore/Washington D.C./Annapolis area that offer classes. For example, One for All Dance Academy, in Columbia, “aims to provide a nurturing environment where dancers of all ages can explore and appreciate all styles of dance.” The studio’s website reveals that the adult classes are geared to those of all levels who want to explore dance as an art form and method of exercise. Annapolis’ Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts www.mdhallarts.org offers ballet basics class for adults ranging from 40-60+ and focuses on the fundamental positions, barre work and exercises as well as “gentle stretching.” “The class emphasizes alignment and balance to produce ease of movement.”

So, why not try your hand (and arms and legs) at yet another form of exercise that stimulates both your mind and body and can inspire your soul? Find out if the famous line from “A Chorus Line” that says: “Everything is beautiful at the ballet” is true.

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