One of the great perks of getting older is knowing who we are, what we want, and what makes us happy. A “mature” ballet practice offers a wonderfully effective yet versatile way to be active doing something that brings a sense of beauty to life! And you can inhabit your inner-ballerina at any age! These tips will keep you on the right foot for a grownup ballet practice:
1. Honor your body. The body is fluid–it feels a little different each day depending on the weather, nutrition, sleep, activity levels, etc. So it’s important to tune-in and respect how you feel when you move. Learning to pay attention to your physical state is a big first step towards working with your body in a sophisticated and effective, yet compassionate way.
2. Quiet the Critic. All of us have a negative voice inside that judges our efforts and puts us down, often using unrealistic comparisons or expectations to diminish or guilt us. This pesky Critic spews emotional self-sabotage that obstructs our joy and learning.
First, realize the Critic’s only power is the attention you give to it! Go ahead and give your Critic a firm “SHHH!” Let the physical details of ballet technique keep the mind focused while allowing the music to replace that negative inner-voice with something beautiful.
3. Work “inside out”. In ballet, the “what” is far less important than the “how”. Anybody can stick out their arms and legs out and dance about. But ballet’s loveliness comes from the quality of movement it teaches. Learning that special combination of strength and softness brings graceful elegance to the body and joy to the heart!
Learning how to move gracefully requires bringing mindful attention to parts of your body you may never have thought about before. Rather than looking to see how your technique appears (outside), focus instead on observing how the movements feel (inside). The “inner-sight” you develop by feeling (instead of looking at) your movement promotes focused awareness that allows you to better refine your ballet technique.
4. Start small. Whether you’re 8 or 80, ballet movements should always be done with attention and care. This means respecting your limits and giving yourself time to work up to the full expression of a movement.
It’s best to approach challenging steps progressively. This may mean keeping the legs low or on the floor as you gradually work up the strength or flexibility to do it bigger. It could also mean breaking down a complex step into parts or a beginning/middle/end to better understand and practice the coordination before doing it full-out.
Above all, ENJOY YOURSELF! Although our bodies may not be as indestructible and resilient as they were at 20, being more conscious, selective, and intentional with our choices ultimately makes for a much more rewarding experience! There is great wisdom and power in doing what interests and delights you! So if your inner-ballerina is calling, go dance with her!