Adult Ballet

HELP! How Do I Get Back Into Dance Classes?

Photo courtesy of KCBalletMedia at

Photo courtesy of KCBalletMedia at

by Katie C. Sopoci Drake

Hey there. It has been a while, hasn’t it? Teaching, the day-job, kids, or just plain old life got in the way. Although you may have been showing others how to dance, practicing yoga, and even performing here and there, it’s not the same as taking class, so now you’re nervous as heck. Now, you don’t have any grand illusions of running off to audition for a national tour (been there, done that), but you wouldn’t mind brushing up on your technique, and making sure you can jump into the odd performance without tearing anything.

But here come the doubts. I don’t know where to go. All of my dance clothes are long gone. I don’t think I’ll be able to keep up. I don’t even know what level I am anymore. I really don’t want to be in an “adult” class with 12-year-olds.

Before I give you the pep talk, first things first…

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The Joffrey: Spring Desire Affinity Night


4dancers is delighted to announce a partnership with the Joffrey Ballet and Vicki Crain of Rogue Ballerina!

Spring Desire Affinity Night will take place at Joffrey Tower on Wednesday, May 2nd. This is a totally FREE evening where you will get to see the Joffrey perform excerpts from the Spring Desire program, followed by a Q&A session with Artistic Director Ashley Wheater. Stay for cocktails and hors d’ouervres, mingle with fellow dance lovers and get an inside look at the space that the Joffrey calls home.

This is the perfect opportunity to bring a friend and let them experience the Joffrey for the first time–and all attendees will receive 50% off on tickets* for the final weekend of Spring Desire at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.

*Offer not valid on previously purchased tickets.  (Please note: attendees are NOT required to purchase tickets.)

Interested? There are still spots available, but be sure to act quickly–seating is going fast for this spectacular event–and you must RSVP to attend (see below).

Here’s the info:

Wednesday, May 2

Joffrey Tower10 East Randolph Street, Chicago
5:45 pm Registration
6:00 pm Program and Q&A
7:00 pm Cocktails and Hors d’ouevres

To RSVP, please email or call 312-784-4640. Provide your name and the number of people you will be bringing to the event no later than April 25th.

Both Vicki and I will be there–so if you can make it be sure to say hello!

Please share this post with anyone you think would be interested — it really is a great opportunity to introduce someone to ballet–

Hope to see you there,



Adult Ballet Student: Steve Ha

As we continue with our focus on Adult Ballet this month, please welcome Steve Ha…

Steve Ha

1.      How did you first get involved with ballet and what attracted you to it as an adult?

I started dancing in my twenties—ancient by dancer standards—as a senior in college, just to pursue new creative outlets. Though various performing arts have played crucial roles throughout my life, dance was the final frontier, and I really just wanted to try it. I started with beginner’s jazz and modern classes and had fun with both, but my teachers often stressed the importance of ballet training so the subsequent quarter I enrolled in ballet. Everything about it made sense because not only did it touch upon my roots as a classically trained musician, it also gave me the opportunity to act and express myself without having to speak (or worse, sing) a single word. Ballet also elicited a strong desire to be disciplined about the practice and an eagerness to learn that I had never experienced as a student before.

2.      How many classes are you currently taking per week?

I try to get in the studio two to three times a week. Although, when I was still attending university I took class almost every day and those were some of the happiest times of my life!

3.      What do you see as your biggest challenge as an adult ballet student?

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Adult Ballet Student: Tanya Stanyon

Today we have an adult ballet student from the UK…Tanya Stanyon…

1.      How did you first get involved with ballet and what attracted you to it as an adult?

I first started ballet at the age of 3; these classes quickly led on to Jazz, Tap and National dance. It was my Mum who sent me to class like most girls.

I have not really had a break from ballet since that age. At 16 I went to ballet school and I just carried on. I think as an adult there is more focus on fitness but for me, ballet is just part of life and routine.

2.      How many classes are you currently taking per week?

I am currently taking one class per week, as well as monthly company classes with Chelmsford Ballet Company, although I hope to be able to take more at some point.

3.      What do you see as your biggest challenge as an adult ballet student?

For me, the hardest thing I have found is trying to get back to the level I was before I had my son a year ago. I think I am very critical of myself and strive to be as good as I can.

4.      What brings you the greatest joy as an adult ballet student?

Just to dance brings me the greatest joy, it’s like a little sanctuary away from normal everyday life.

5.      Do you have any advice for other adult ballet students?

My advice to other adult ballet students would be to enjoy each class and to work full out where ever possible as this is such a fantastic way to keep in shape. Just live it and love it.

BIO: Tanya started dancing at the age of 3 years old and went on to study Tap, Jazz and National Dance. She became a Cecchetti Scholar at the age of 14 which enabled her to attend classes in London. During this time Tanya also became a member of the Chelmsford Ballet Company, performing in many shows as a junior member. Tanya also performed with National Youth Ballet, playing the role of Tom the Lad in Maid of the Marsh. At 16, Tanya was accepted at West Street School, Covent Garden where she went on to study for 3 years. Since then, Tanya has performed with Chelmsford Ballet Company in many of the lead roles in productions such as La Fille Mal Gardée, Coppélia, Paquita, and Les Sylphides amongst others. Tanya hung up her ballet shoes after performing the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty in 2009. Following the birth of her son Euan, Tanya has begun ballet classes again in 2012.


Adult Ballet Student: Laura Thomason

Our next adult ballet student feature is Laura Thomason…

Laura Thomason

1.      How did you first get involved with ballet and what attracted you to it as an adult?

I started ballet at age 9 and have taken classes on and off ever since.  As an adult I see ballet as both meditative and challenging in a way that appeals to me.  Every class is broadly the same, yet every time I learn something new, make progress on a difficulty, or become more consistent.  I have not yet found a better form of exercise: ballet provides strength training, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness all in one.  Plus, I get a lot of compliments on my posture!

2.      How many classes are you currently taking per week?

2 ballet classes per week plus a modern class.

3.      What do you see as your biggest challenge as an adult ballet student?

To my surprise, I seem to have lost the ability to pick up choreography as quickly as I used to.  The teenagers I take class with can pick up a variation after one or two repetitions while it takes me weeks of practice.  I am also more physically cautious than a kid would be–I re-started pointe work last fall for the first time in 20+ years and the fear factor gets in my way sometimes.  And, of course, dancing around all those younger people brings up the insecurity and competitive instinct that all dancers struggle with.

Fortunately my studio is a very positive environment and no one is allowed to be down on herself for very long.  When I first started in my current class, I had trouble keeping up (especially in pointe work) because I had stepped up from a much more basic class.  I mentioned to my teacher that I was discouraged and she gave me a good hard reality check, reminding me to be patient with myself till I caught up with the level of the class.  It’s been about 6 months and I am glad I hung in there.

4.      What brings you the greatest joy as an adult ballet student?

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Adult Ballet Student: Lorry Perez

It’s time for our next Adult Ballet feature–say hello to Lorry Perez!

Adult Ballet Student Lorry Perez

1.      How did you first get involved with ballet and what attracted you to it as an adult?

I didn’t get much exposure to the arts when I was a kid. I got a job as an usher at the Music Center in Los Angeles in my teens because it was close to my home and the hourly pay was good. I was able to see wonderful productions and I really loved it, especially dance. But as much as I loved watching ballet, it seemed very distant. It didn’t seem like something that I could ever do.

Attending the ballet has always been a wonderful and even therapeutic event so about two years ago I decided that I would look into seeing if there was even such a thing as beginner classes for adults. To be honest it didn’t seem like a possibility because I would take a beginner class and they always assumed some prior knowledge, which I didn’t have. I didn’t even know how to stand at the barre and none of the teachers wanted to deal with my lack of knowledge or skill. It all was very discouraging.

I didn’t give up though and eventually I found a wonderful teacher who offered classes for adults with zero knowledge and zero background in dance. To be able to feel just a little bit of the magic of ballet – the music, the movement, the artistry – is such an amazing gift.

2.      How many classes are you currently taking per week?

I take at least three classes per week, but I would go everyday if I could!

Lorry Perez

3.      What do you see as your biggest challenge as an adult ballet student?

You know, when you are a kid, everything is possible. We are less self-conscious and just freer in our minds and with our bodies. But as adults, we bring all kinds of issues with us. I struggle with my body image, with overthinking, with fear of failure or ridicule; I bring a lot of junk with me to ballet class.

An incredible and unexpected by-product of ballet class is that I am learning how to deal with all of these things both in class and outside of class! For me the biggest challenge has not been physical but mental, addressing my issues and working through them so that I can embrace my beginners mind and take a more childlike approach that allows for happiness in learning this great art.  Not to say that the physical part hasn’t been a challenge.  None of this comes naturally to me, but arms and legs start to behave better when I worry less and open up more.

4.      What brings you the greatest joy as an adult ballet student?

I loved ballet class from the very start, but what has given me the greatest joy is progressing to the point where I now have moments that I am able to dance inside the music. It’s not every step and not even every class, but there are moments when I can really feel how the music and the movement meet and become ballet and that is pure magic! I work really hard to improve in hopes of more of that!

5.      Do you have any advice for other adult ballet students?

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Teaching Adult Ballet Class

Today we have an adult ballet teacher with us to share some thoughts about her experience with this demographic….

Adult Ballet Instructor Leigh Purtill

1.      What are you currently doing in terms of teaching adult ballet class and how did you wind up doing that?

Right now, I teach at two studios in Los Angeles and Pasadena, California and I do a lot of private coaching. At one studio, I have a program of beginner, intermediate and advanced ballet technique and pointe classes for adults which is very successful – and fun! I also choreograph the spring show and Nutcracker for that studio, both of which allow ample opportunities for my adults to perform, no matter their skill level.

When I got out of college, I taught young children and teens but now that I’m older, I find that I relate better to adults and older teens.  My approach to technique is based on kinesiology and I give corrections that are primarily bio-mechanical. Students who can understand how to access certain muscles and how bones and tendons relate to each other will be more likely to apply my corrections successfully.

2.      What do you like most about teaching adult ballet?

I love being witness to breakthroughs, whether it’s a beginner who finally understands how to lift up her abdominals and rotate from the top of her hips or an advanced student who hits a triple pirouette en pointe. I often wish I had a camera to capture the moment on their faces – the looks of surprise and elation are priceless.

With my beginner students, I become absurdly proud of their advances!  I make sure to point out to them and to the rest of the class when these things happen so they can appreciate their progress and be recognized by their peers. I encourage them to celebrate the smaller moments because they all add up!

3.      What are some of the special considerations when it comes to teaching adult ballet?

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