Ballet and Body Image

Some say the ballet world has perpetuated an unrealistic ideal. As a result, many adults are reluctant to try ballet because they are self-conscious about their body. ‘I don’t want to be seen in spandex!’, along with countless other self-deprecating remarks. This negative attitude prevents many from experiencing the physical, mental, and social benefits that an adult ballet class has to offer. Confronting popular misconceptions about the art form will help you to develop a healthy perspective as an adult student.

Myth: You have to be extremely thin to do ballet.

Fact: It’s possible that a person may have a particularly thin frame. Regardless of physique, if a professional dancer wants to have a successful career, they must maintain their health through proper nutrition and physical therapy. Or they simply won’t last.

Bottom line: Don’t compare yourself to the images of the professional ballet world. Adult ballet students come in all shapes and sizes.

Myth: I’m too old to do ballet.

Fact: Age is no excuse. One of the best dancers I ever knew in an adult ballet class was my classmate, a retired professional, and she was 60! She put me to shame every day. She had beautiful lines and technique. On the other side of me was an 85 year-old lady who could do the splits!

Bottom line: If you want to pursue a professional career, yes, you typically need to start between the ages of 3 and 8. But if you’re past puberty, you don’t have to feel like you missed the boat. You can still enjoy ballet for recreation, as part of an active lifestyle that keeps you on your toes (pun intended).

Myth: I’m not flexible enough to do ballet.

Fact: (This one makes me laugh.) Ballet increases flexibility! The slow, steady movements of ballet technique improve mobility in the joints, promote circulation, and give your muscles a good stretch. 

Bottom line: Don’t set unreasonably high expectations for yourself. Students are not expected to put their leg over their head, or do the splits (unlike my 85 year-old classmate). Think about it: You wouldn’t be asked to dive if you didn’t first know how to swim. Yet, how are you going to learn to swim if you never get in the water? The goal of adult ballet class is to learn the basics of ballet.

Adult ballet class welcomes all body types and abilities. If the thought of spandex still gives you nightmares, wear a tank top. Concerned that you’re too old? Remember, “It’s not the age. It’s the mileage!” And if you’re a self-proclaimed couch potato who can’t touch their toes, just throw on some sweatpants (if you’re not already in them) and give class a try. It’s true that everyone feels insecure at times. However, negative self-talk will only reinforce unhealthy attitudes and discourage you. When you don’t allow your body image hang-up to hold you back, you will be rewarded for your efforts with newfound confidence.


image credit: Quinn Dombrowski
Creative Common license Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)


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