Ballet: Love at first plié

Poise, grace and creative expression aren't usually associated with a strenuous workout session.

But for devotees of adult ballet it’s the combination of music, artistry and a serious physical challenge that can make the experience so enjoyable.
Kristian Pellissier, teacher at Absolute Beginners Ballet, believes ballet offers moments of escapism and an opportunity for adults to tap into their inner ballerina (or danseur if you’re male!). It can also be physically demanding. 

“Ballet requires a level of control over your limbs and helps builds core muscle strength and improve coordination,” she says.

The health benefits of ballet

Even the basic movements of classical ballet can put the body through its paces including: 

  • Pliés (a deep bend of the knees with feet turned out) improves joint flexibility and muscle strength. 
  • Tendus (stretching a leg straight out to the front, side or back with the toes touching the floor) increases muscle strength and tone. 
  • Grand battements (raising one leg as high as possible in the air, keeping it straight) increases hamstring flexibility. 
  • Allegro (small, quick steps) increases aerobic fitness. 
  • Jeté (a jump through the air) promotes strength and agility. 

“Ballet is a whole-body art form,” says Dianne Harrison, principal of Elancé Adult Ballet School. “Students leave class feeling worked from head to toe, literally!”

Indeed, older dancers have reported that ballet gives them greater body awareness, and an improved posture and sense of physical confidence that helps them with everyday tasks like walking down stairs. 

Ballet, like some other forms of exercise, may even benefit your mental health. 

“It’s not over the top to say that ballet can also have an emotional impact on the dancer,” says Harrison. “The music and movement can liberate emotions and expressions that may not otherwise have an outlet.”

Older dancers have reported that ballet gives them greater body awareness, and an improved posture and sense of physical confidence.

Who can try adult ballet?

Many adult dance schools cater to all ages, fitness levels and dance expertise. This includes those who learnt ballet when they were young but didn’t continue and experienced dancers who chose not to pursue a professional career. 

Then there are people who never had the opportunity to learn as a child but may have always yearned for ballet and finally get the chance to fulfil their dreams. 

“They may have missed out because it was too expensive or there were no convenient schools,” says Harrison. “In fact we also offer a men’s class that focuses entirely on the uniquely male aspects of classical training.” 

Pellissier’s students have ranged from age 16 to 90. “I had a grandmother and granddaughter team attend a class at one point and it was lovely seeing them connect and express themselves together in the same room.”

Group of people practising ballet

What do I need to know before I start?

For some, the idea of learning ballet as an adult can be daunting and they may have concerns that they won’t cope physically. 

When people phone up to inquire they’ll often say, “I’m overweight”, or “I’ve had three children”, or “I’m not fit or flexible”. But Harrison says the aim of adult ballet classes is to train people to become the best dancer they can be with the body they have.

Where can I track down a class?

The adult ballet movement in Australia has boomed in popularity in recent years and there are classes held in all capital cities and most major regional centres too. To find a class, search online for ‘adult ballet classes’ in your region. 

If you haven’t been active for a while, are pregnant, have an injury or any health problems, talk to your doctor to check if ballet is suitable for you before starting.

Bupa Health Insurance

Injuries holding you back? If injuries are holding you back from trying a new form of exercise like ballet, it might be time to seek advice from a healthcare professional. Depending on your cover, costs towards some visits to the physio or chiro may be included under your private health insurance.

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