When I first considered teaching ballet I knew that I wanted to train adult students at all levels, especially the newbies. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with kids, but adult students bring a different type of energy to ballet classes - especially adults who’ve never taken a class before.
When they are brave enough to come in and try, after researching and purchasing the necessaries to get started (tights, leotard, shoes etc), you can feel their excitement. You can also sense how their minds are ready to absorb the knowledge of an art form that they have likely been curious about for at least a decade by the time they decide to finally take the plunge.
It’s a rush to guide them through their initial understanding of ballet’s foundational training. I enjoy their “aha moments” and looks of surprise as they begin to understand their own body’s relation to turnout. This will never get old for me.
It’s shameful that the most enthusiastic students are often given the least amount of resources and attention. I really hope that more teachers will see the potential in adult ballet students.
Here’s a list of why adults make great ballet students:
1. Attitude- The first time I taught an adult ballet class I noticed that adults in recreational classes have a high level of community joy. Their general attitude is, thankfully, counter to the professional world, but their desire is similar. They simply want to be the best ballet student they can possibly be and do so without taking themselves too seriously.
2. Body Awareness- Usually within the first 5 minutes of meeting a new adult ballet student they make me aware of their health issues and past injuries. They will also let me know if a certain exercise isn’t jiving well with their bodies. It’s quite different than working with young kids who tend to just throw themselves into tricks without any base knowledge. Adults also enjoy a healthier body image and are not obsessed with looking at themselves in the mirror. They tend to be more patient and forgiving of themselves also. They know when to take breaks. They also tend to notice the positive changes in their health when they are consistent.
3. They love feedback- Every time I give an adult student constructive feedback they seem forever grateful, and they remember the corrections forever. They actually want constructive criticism, which is a nice contrast to the snobbery of the profession. They seem hungry to understand ballet and always show a great desire for the foundational education.
4. Willing to be Beginners - There’s nothing like the joy of being an absolute beginner and watching one eager to absorb the new information. It seems to be more important to an adult student to be properly placed in the right level rather than attempting to execute combinations they are not ready to try. I love to watch adults explore their new abilities. They also treat pointe as a right of passage and are concerned about really earning their first pair. They always ask very specific questions about technique to expand their knowledge.
5. Ballet Enthusiast - They support the art. Adults are happy to volunteer time, donate money and attend ballet performances. They are quite dedicated, often involving their family and friends. It’s too bad that most studios do not seem to appreciate these wonderful people, when their classes and funding often keep the ballet world afloat.
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