Breaking stereotypes about adult ballet

Evgenia Budrina
6 min readOct 1, 2020
Adult ballet class at DanceSecret ballet studio, Moscow, Russia.

Adult ballet is becoming more and more popular, the studios giving classes to adults keep appearing. But the stereotypes about this are still persisting. Here are some examples:

- “I first need to lose some weight and then I will start doing ballet”

- “How can I do ballet if I cannot even do a split?”

This article breaks all those stereotypes once and for all. These 2 experts helped with this:

— Georgia Canning @thebalancedballerina, professional ballerina, ballet studio owner (Gold Coast, Australia) and teacher, a great motivational speaker (her TED-talk “Why ballet is brilliant” made a huge impression on me).

— Natalia Afanasieva @natti_afanasieva, ballet studio owner (Moscow, Russia), experienced adult ballerina.

Myth 1. You need to be flexible to do ballet

Georgia Canning: “Absolutely not! The fantastic thing about ballet is that it slowly and safely increases flexibility without you even realising. My classes always incorporate some form of stretching with options for varying levels of flexibility.”

Natalia Afanasieva: “You don’t need to be flexible to start doing ballet as an adult. But if you are, it will help you a lot. It will help your joints work better at a class”.

Myth 2. You need to have previous dance experience.

Georgia: “Absolutely not! However a lot of adult ballet teachers don’t consider the ‘absolute beginner’ and I can see why new students find the experience intimidating or unsuitable for their experience. Before I began teaching my own adult ballet classes I attended a ‘Beginner’ class with my grandma. It definitely wasn’t beginner! So I think its important to find a suitable studio with a very thoughtful adult ballet teacher”.

Natalia: “You don’t need to HAVE dance experience. You need to GAIN it:) By doing ballet”.

Myth 3. You always need to wear leotard and pink tights.

Georgia: “I never wear a leotard and tights! I wore enough of them as a child (haha!) so you’ll always find me in gym wear. However in my adult ballet classes the attire ranges from full leotard, tights and ballet shoes to active wear. Some adults (especially the ones who have never danced before) love the idea of wearing traditional ballet clothing”.

Natalia: “You can wear anything you want, as long as it allows you to move freely. It could be yoga clothes, your favourite t-shirt and leggins etc. I would recommend to see first what kind of class you’re heading to. As for me, for group classes I would even wear a long ballet skirt to look nice. But for a private class I would definitely go for ballet tights and a leotard: this will allow me and the teacher to see all the mistakes”.

Adult ballet class at Grand Battement ballet studio, Moscow, Russia.

Myth 4. You need to be a certain body type (slim and tall).

Georgia: “Again, absolutely not! Whilst ballet traditionally looks beautiful on a slender, long limbed physique (I’m a dance company) there’s nothing more beautiful that someone loving what they’re doing! When I watch my students, I don’t even notice their body types, honestly!”

Natalia: “This is an absolute myth. I see lots of girls with different bodies and height. All of them, without exception, are making good progress. Even more important: I see how their bodies are changing thanks to ballet”.

Myth 5. No serious approach on both student/teacher side, as students anyway don’t make it to a serious level.

Georgia: “I take all my students very seriously. Whether they are children or adults, aiming to be a professional or not, it doesn’t matter! Ballet is an art and just as you would teach someone to paint with the correct technique, you teach someone to dance with the correct technique”.

Natalia: “I think a serious approach is mandatory in ballet. Only with this approach you will make good progress and avoid injuries. If you don’t know how to perform a certain exercise, you will never be able to get better at it. If you don’t know how to hold your leg in passé, you will never learn to do a pirouette”.

Myth 6. The focus is put mostly on fitness. Not on real ballet.

Georgia: “To be honest, anyone that attends my classes with the focus of ‘dropping a dress size’ or ‘increasing their fitness’ doesn’t last long. Ballet is so much more than simply fitness. It’s an art. It’s a lifestyle. Yes it’s wonderful for the body, however it’s just as wonderful for the mind”.

Natalia: “Fitness and ballet are totally different. Ballet is unique because when you do it, you immerse yourself into this beautiful form of art, you enjoy it and at the same time your body is getting fitter. You don’t even think about how many calories you burnt. Let me tell you this. If you do a battement tendu correcly (third exercise in any standard ballet class), you already sweat a lot”.

Myth 7. Even if you learn something, there’s no actual way to show it, as there are no performances or competitions for adult ballerinas

Georgia: “Personally I create performance opportunities for my adult ballerinas, however if this is your only motivation, to show off what you’ve learned then you’ll be disappointed learning ballet. It’s an inward journey in which you’ll never reach perfection. That constant strive for personal satisfaction and perfection is what makes the practice of ballet so unique and beautiful”.

Natalia: “Today there’s lots of opportunities for adult ballerinas to perform. It could be your local studio end-of-the year concert or even participation in a serious ballet performance, created by amateur ballet theaters. These can even give performances in different towns”.

Myth 8. Adult ballerinas are indifferent to achievements (for example, to hold the leg 90 degrees in adagio), they don’t strive to reach certain levels (unlike in running or triathlon for example)

Natalia: “This is not about ballet at all. When you start doing ballet you immediately want to do higher, better, faster. You want to raise your leg higher even though they tell you at the beginning “don’t try to do higher, just do it correctly”. You want to do a double piroutte, not a single one. I know that those who take ballet seriously care a lot about what they achieve. They want to compete and win, just like professional ballerinas do”.

Myth 9. Pointe shoes are bad for your health.

Natalia: “You know what they ask me most often when they call me to sign up for a class? “Do I need to buy pointe shoes immediately?” I always laugh:). Also, when people find out that I do ballet, they say “oh, you must have awful feet!” Pointe shoes are not bad. I would even say they are good for your feet. When you work in pointe shoes, your arch becomes more prominent.

Myth 10. Doing ballet as an adult can lead to injuries.

Natalia: “You know what can lead to injuries? If you have a bad teacher. Period”.

Myth 11. Ballet is just about being gracious and soft, not about strength and endurance.

Natalia: “Ballet is second after boxing when it comes to intensity. You really spend lots of energy at a ballet class. Although it seems to many people that just standing in one place and slowly lifting your leg actually doesn’t take too much effort. In fact your every muscle works to do it properly. You cannot dance ballet without using your strength and being ready to sweat at classes a lot”.

Author — Evgenia Budrina. I am a dance enthusiast from Russia.

I started doing ballet at 32. In my blog I write about and for those who started dancing as adults and take it seriously. Personal stories, failures, life-hacks and thoughts.

My Instagram@_a.dancer_

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Evgenia Budrina

Dance enthusiast from Russia. This blog is about dancing as an adult: starting out, keeping up, motivating yourself. Personal stories, failures, lifehacks.