Ballet is the art of dance requiring strength, resilience, elegance and grace all at once. It may be difficult to master and takes lots of patience and practice to learn. If ballet is fast becoming your passion and you are prepared to put in the hours of practice, then it may just be that you are prepared to aim for a career in ballet. Ballet can be studied at any age. Girls who study ballet develop strong bodies, spatial and temporal awareness, and improve their coordination. A proved scientific, long-term bonus is that, it has been shown that girls retain the flexibility brought about by ballet throughout their adult lives. Ballet technique is considered to be the basis of training for all types of dance.
Ballet began in royal courts in the early 1600s. Early forms used long skirts and wooden clogs. Since then it has changed dramatically to fit the picture of ballet that people have today. Ballet requires perseverance and hard work. You should not expect to become a dancer overnight, and you will not become a better dancer simply by attending classes and not trying your hardest. Correct training and time is what makes a great dancer.
Step 1: Join any Dance school of your choice with good reputation
Before Your Class
Stretch your body as best as you can. Check with the instructor if you stretch out as a class. Stretching is important to loosen muscles, strengthen muscles and to elongate your posture. It is vital that it is done at the beginning of each ballet session, including before a performance.It is sometimes important to stretch daily for at least 5 minutes. This is so your body will become used to stretching and it will come naturally without it you can risk injury later on in class. You should also stretch to “wind down” at the end of class(though not all teachers do it as a class).
Learn the steps’ names. Learn the names of the steps before your first class so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Even if it is to just look over the words so you feel familiar with them. Most of them are French, so don’t be shocked if they don’t sound exactly the way they look. See if your local ballet shop has a ballet dictionary that you could borrow. Don’t try anything new without a teacher present, because you might learn it the wrong way and develop bad habits. A good class will teach you slowly and carefully over the first few months, so don’t be too worried about not knowing much. Enthusiasm and willingness is the key!
Choose ballet slippers and have your shoes fit snug but not too tight (they should fit like a glove). There are different styles and types of shoes, so ask your teaher what will work best for you. Don’t buy shoes to grow into, because your feet will seem flexed when you pointe and will look flat. You should fit them to where the drawstring is tied slightly loose(The drawstring just completes the fit, it isn’t made to tighten overly large shoes).
Know that you will start every class at the ballet barre. Here you learn the basics of ballet that will be important as you progress. You might spend all class in the beginning at the barre learning the steps and positions. This is vital for building your strength, agility and flexibility, so do not see it as wasted time. If you skipped this, you wouldn’t be able to dance. Even professional dancers begin each class at the barre.
Check with your instructor on what the school’s dress code is; some schools may have students wear the same thing and others may just require any type of leotard and tights and sometimes ballet skirts.Mostly they require tight fitting clothing so they an see that your muscles are working properly and so on. The most important thing is that you are comfortable, and the teacher can see what you are doing. If you can’t find your schools dress code, black leotard and pink tights are usually safe for a placement class. Pink ballet slippers are a must.
Listen to and respect your teacher. Respect is a big part of ballet. Don’t talk with friends or to yourself during class. If you do not obey proper ballet etiquette you may very well be kicked out of class.
Ballet Barre Basics
Know your 6 positions:
- First Position: Your feet are turned out, and together at the heels.
- Second Position: Like first position, except your feet are about a foot apart to the side.
- Third position: Like first, except heels overlap.(Your heel comes it next to the strap of your shoe)
- Fourth position Like third, except your feet are about six inches to a foot apart devant (front).
- Fifth position: Like fourth, except your heel is at the top of your big toe.
- Sixth position (also called Parallel): Both feet are together, side by side.
Do plies. Beginners do plies in the first and second position. Intermediate and advanced do them in all the positions except third and sixth.
Do tendus. A typical tendu combination is tendu en crois (in a “cross”- front, side, back, side) with fifth position between each tendu and reverse with flexed foot in between.
Start either facing the barre or with your left hand on the barre. Beginning usually starts facing the barre, and intermediate or advanced usually start with the left hand on the barre.
- Stand very straight, in either first or fifth position. You may face the barre or be sideways to it. As you progress, you will get strong enough to do it at center.
Lift one leg to the side or front, keeping it straight, as high as you can. Point your feet once your foot leaves the floor. Keep both of your knees very straight and maintain correct posture. It’s important to not lift your hip or butt to get your leg higher. Always turn your leg out, never turned in.
Make sure you are balanced by testing to see if you can let go of the barre. Keep your leg up there. This makes you stronger. Make sure you are not slouching or leaning your core towards or away the leg that you have extended.
- Keep correct technique by slowly lowering your leg and standing in the position (First or Fifth) that you started in.
- To be successful in ballet, don’t you ever give up. It might take you a while to learn how to perform the steps and to feel comfortable performing in front of an audience.
- Ballet is meant to be a very beautiful and graceful dance. If you feel more comfortable with sharp movements, try a neoclassical or Balanchine school.
- Ballet shoes (slippers) can be purchased from a specialist ballet/dance store or often directly from your dance school; ask when you enroll. The ballet school will often have preferred suppliers.
- Keep energy going through your fingers and toes. this helps you keep the whole dance flowing and also keeps the audience engaged.
- If you can’t afford the costume brand new, check the school’s bulletin board for secondhand costumes up for sale. Some stores also sell secondhand costumes on consignment. For aballet dance if nobody in your family is able to sew, tee up a seamstress early on to make your tutus and other outfits. It can be very reasonably priced if you book in advance.
- When it comes time to go to pointe shoes, there are two key factors: first, you must have enough body strength to support your weight (which comes from the strengthening exercises and lots and lots of practice) and secondly, you must have good technique. This can take years to develop, but with persistence most people can get there. And until you do, don’t despair, as you can still do contemporary/modern ballet (flat shoes), jazz ballet and other dance forms. If nothing else, keep up the ballet to ensure lifetime flexibility.
- Keep yourself relaxed — stress will show on your body. Relaxing can relieve tight shoulders, which would otherwise make you appear awkward and prevent you from looking graceful.
- Do not teach yourself! If you do you will learn the wrong way and then have to re-learn it.
- This is a strenuous activity that can raise your heart rate. If you are susceptible to heart problems, you could end up with serious and life threatening injuries. Check with your doctor before starting.
- Warm up before dance, every time. This will help prevent muscle injuries.
- Never force turn out. It can hurt your knees. Turn out comes from your inner thigh and back side.
- If you can’t do the splits alone, get the teacher to help you.
- Don’t force it – the teacher will have techniques to show you or may even decide that your body is not able to cope with it at a particular stage.
- Always choose a professionally qualified ballet school. If your class does not include stretch, it may be one indicator that the teacher is not properly trained or that the ballet school is not proper either. Seek advice from another dance school, or better still, change to a school/class with certifiable qualifications.
- Do not go en pointe (toe shoes) until your ballet instructor says that you are ready! You can do severe damage to your toes, feet bones and legs if you are not ready.
- Never start out with pointe shoes, and be very wary of a school that puts unqualified students in pointe shoes. They are for experienced dancers who have probably been dancing a few years.
- Change teachers immediately if:
- Your teacher does not stress the importance of correct placement of the hip and torso.
- Your teacher does not come with the class prepared and improvises continuously.
- Your teacher teaches by imitation and always dances while you are doing class, instead of watching and correcting students.
- You are placed in a class and left to “follow” the rest of the students which are more advanced.
- Your teacher does pointe work while you cannot maintain the correct placement of the basic steps in relevé or you are too young or if you have not acquired the strength to maintain the positions.
- When it comes to pointe shoes, never dance an important combination in new shoes. It will strain your feet and injure them. Always break-in your pointe shoes before a performance ( This is correctly done without a hammer)
- Don’t push yourself too hard, you will only end up with an injury.
- Know your limits – don’t do something that you know that you can’t do.
- Be prepared, as with many serious athletes, professional or pre-professional ballerinas have little social life outside of the studio in their teen years, let alone adulthood.
- Do not start pointe until you are ready! Pointe can be fun, but it can case permanent injuries if you are weak or start too young. The average age is eleven or twelve, but it really depends on if your feet are developed enough.
Things You’ll Need
- Ballet shoes (flats to start with); pale pink is the usual colour but black or white are also possibilities (ask the school for their preference or requirement).
- Leotard or other costume required by the school
- Hair ties, clips and pins – most schools will require your hair to be up, or even wrapped into a bun and pinned back.
- Ballet tights – usually pale pink/skin colour; these tights are different in texture from most mainstream tights.
- Ribbon – many ballet shoes arrive without ribbon attached, in which case you’ll need to sew on your own ribbon; it should be pale pink, black or white to match the shoe colour. Some schools prefer no ribbon and just elastic, check before sewing.
- Space to practice – you don’t need a special barre; the back of a chair will suffice but you do need adequate space (clear the junk away!) .
- A parent or an trusted adult willing to shuttle you to and from classes, rehearsals & concerts.