Once upon a time, I was a clumsy child. (I’m a clumsy adult now, but I digress). My mother, in a desperate attempt to keep me from breaking every bone in my body, signed me up for dance classes. I loved them (well, not tap, but I loved the rest).
I was NEVER a good dancer. But, I was a dancer. I continued to take dance classes all through high school. (I was blessed with an INCREDIBLE high school that offered dance as a physical education class! A true win/win, I was able to stay fit AND I did not have to embarrass myself by having to try and catch a softball.) That daily dance class was a touchstone during my high school career.
So, naturally, when I went to college, I sought out dance classes. I attended, coincidentally, Hope College in Holland, Michigan, which, at least at the time was the only liberal arts college in the state that offered majors in all of the fine arts (theatre, art, dance, and vocal and instrumental music.) I started out at Hope as a theatre major, and graduated with an English Major and minors in social studies and performing arts.
Now, mind you, through all of this I was STILL not a “good” dancer. But, I was a dedicated dancer and I loved it all. The music, the pain, the discipline–all of it. I’m not as sure that my husband was as thrilled with all of it as he helped me pay off college loans after we married– “How many dance classes did you take exactly, dear?” (It was ONLY one or two a semester! Honest!)
And then, I hung up the leotards, retired the ballet slippers, and became an adult. I was busy raising four sons and I hardly had time to think about dance anymore–(though I still would sometimes leap down the hallway to prove I still “had it”).
Fast forward to 2010 and the arrival of two of the girliest twins you could ever imagine. I had some BIG dreams for them! Their nursery was painted the sweetest shade of Sherwin Williams’ “Swan Lake Pink”. Their first Halloween costumes were matching tutus. From the time they could walk I took them to see “The Nutcracker”. Finally, the day came for them to BEG for ballet classes!
After they completed their first year at Northern Plains Dance, I gathered up the courage to do the scariest thing in my adult life.
I took my first ballet class in 25 years.
Let that sink in.
25 years is a LONG time.
It is a silver anniversary.
It is the length of time that I spent as a child and college student.
In 25 years I forgot just about everything that I ever knew about ballet!
There WAS some muscle memory. But I had lost SO much (mainly my balance).
However, over the past six months I have learned seven valuable lessons from adult ballet class.
- Adult Ballet Requires Vulnerability: Let’s face it. Walking into a mirrored room in leggings to dance, takes some guts. Ballet does not allow for covering errors with jazz hands and a shuffle-ball-hop. I found myself taking a really deep breath that very first day and imagined jumping into the deep end of a pool with no life jacket. And the amazing thing was–I DID NOT DIE. No one pointed and laughed. No one asked why I was there–as if I did not belong there. I was welcomed, shown to a barre, and that was that. The first day can be rough–but after that–you are a DANCER!
- Adult Ballet is Empowering: That awesome feeling that you are a dancer? Yes, my friend, that is empowerment. From that first class, I stood up a little taller, I carried myself with more grace, and, quite frankly, my daughters were SO proud of me!
- Adult Ballet is a Reminder That Our Bodies are Designed to Move: We have been created with INCREDIBLE bodies! However, in my day to day home and office life, I spend a LOT of time sitting. Ballet is a good reminder of the amazing range of motion that my body has. Each week I can feel my ability to push things just a little bit farther, plie a little deeper, kick a little higher. And, the more I dance, the more I want to move outside of class–park a bit farther from the office, make a few more trips up and down the stairs, a nice little stroll after dinner–you get the picture.
- Adult Ballet is Improving my Balance: It is no secret that as we age, we begin to lose our balance. A loss of balance is no laughing matter–though I do try to joke about it at times. However, an older adult who has a better sense of balance and the ability to SHIFT that balance in all directions is MUCH less likely to fall. This is a big deal as we age. Each week I can see small improvements in how long and how well I balance. Part of this is positional awareness which is also important as we age.
- Adult Ballet is Improving My Concentration and Memory: This concentration and memory piece is something I took for granted as a kid. It was part of dance, and it came pretty naturally. NOW, I find myself struggling to remember combinations–and yet, week over week, I am getting better! This is something to celebrate–but know that this kind of memory is a learned skill and so valuable even outside of the dance studio.
- Adult Ballet is Improving My Relationship With my Daughters: They are dancers and are at the very beginning of their dance journey. Through my taking up dance again, we have a shared language. We are learning from the very same instructors and sometimes struggle with the same skills. They witness me getting ready for class every week, carving time out of my busy schedule, and coming home with the best kind of exhaustion. What they are learning is that ballet is not just for 10 year-olds–it is for 48 year-olds too!
- Adult Ballet Makes Me Happy: Spin class does not make me happy. Even Yoga class does not make me happy (hello, fear of gas!). However, every time I leave ballet class, I am happy, empowered, a little bit sore, and so very proud of myself. We all know that we should do what makes us feel happy.
So there you have it–the secret to the little skip in my step (but not on Wednesday–dance class is Tuesday, so on Wednesday, I’m a little slow).
I totally 10/10 recommend that you give adult ballet a try. If you live in Bismarck/Mandan, you can check out the adult ballet offerings here. Otherwise, a simple google search should find something local to you!