Blogging Ballet: Sorry, there is no DIY ballet training

A common question I've gotten recently is some variation of "What exercises can I do at home to teach myself ballet?" Because we live in the age of YouTube and Vimeo, this seems like a pretty simple request. You can find videos teaching you exercise routines, knitting and how to install your own dishwasher. So, why not ballet, too?

Well, the problem is that ballet is a very specific body discipline and you can hurt yourself if you do things the wrong way. And the only way you will know if you are doing the exercises correctly is under the supervision of a trained ballet teacher. Otherwise, it is very difficult to tell if you have proper alignment without hands-on instruction. One wrong move and you could need a trip to the doctor or surgery.

Of course, I realize that there are often major financial factors preventing students from taking classes at a studio or dance school. This was something I dealt with, too, as a young student. But I have good news: There are a lot of ways to get ballet classes with a qualified instructor in ways that you can afford.

Here are my recommendations:

  • If you are still in school, ask about dance classes. Many school districts pair with dance schools and organizations for elective courses or free/low-cost after school programs. It's definitely worth taking advantage of while you can!
  • Search online or ask around for classes offered in community centers or the YMCA. Often, these are lower in cost than those in a studio because the rent for the instructor is also lower. 
  • Let a studio owner/dance school director know about your financial difficulties. You would be surprised to find that a lot of schools offer scholarships for low income students. The school might also offer you the classes on a barter system if you agree to answer phones or clean the studio after classes. Bartering is actually how I paid for my dance tuition when I was in high school. I taught preschool and entry-level ballet classes in exchange for my training. I also know several dancers who have taken to answering phones or even acting as a rehearsal assistant for recitals in exchange for classes.

Another issue might be that you just don't want other dancers to see you in a leotard and tights. I'll admit that this is not something I particularly enjoy, either, but I assure you that you get used to it more quickly than you realize. You and everyone else in the class will be far too busy trying to get that tendu combination or pirouette just right to even care what you are wearing or look like. (Unless, of course, you show up to class in full Nutcracker costume. Then, people are bound to notice.)

My recommendation here (other than avoid the Nutcracker costume) are:

  • Seek out classes for adult beginners. The dress codes for these classes are often a little more relaxed so you might be able to wear yoga pants in lieu of tights. Also, your fellow dancers will be with a diverse group of body types. And, again, you'll be busy with combinations throughout the entire class. It's unlikely that you'll be self-conscious for long. 
  • Use the buddy system. Take a friend! The two of you can get acclimated to ballet class culture together and then commiserate over how hot/cold the studio was and that difficult pas de chat combination afterward. It will be fun!

Have a ballet or dance-related question? Then leave a comment below or send me a message in the box at the bottom of the page. Let's talk about it! :)



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