STARTING BALLET - WHAT DOES A COMPLETE BALLET BEGINNER NEED TO KNOW?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked from new clients who are just starting out.
Firstly, find a class near you and suitable to your level. When I first started teaching ballet there was only a handful of adult ballet classes available in London, let alone the rest of the country. And I was one of only several highly trained dancers and teachers offering these classes to a certain demographic of people. Now, it appears adult ballet classes are everywhere! And I'm not just talking about the carefully (and cleverly marketed) Barre classes that have exploded onto the fitness scene . . .
So make sure if it's classical ballet classes you want, that you actually do your research. Location, level and the all important search engine words - Adult Beginner Ballet Classes. Don't be fooled by the word Barre - chances are that this is an aerobic fusion class where they use the ballet barre to help support their movements. I can't even remember the number of people that have walked into my ballet classes either expecting it to be a Barre class or who actually think they have already taken ballet classes (when in fact, it was a Barre class) and this is due to the misleading marketing campaigns and advertising from the fitness industry. If you want to begin Adult Beginner Ballet Classes, En Avant Ballet offers and range of classes across London, as well as private lessons should you require a more bespoke experience.
If you're a complete beginner, you shouldn't try an intermediate class just yet, even if the location is more convenient. A beginners class will take you through the fundamental positions of the legs and feet, posture and port de bras (movement of the arms) which are crucial for you to know and be practicing regularly in order to prevent injury, improve quickly and increase your knowledge and confidence. Until you're sound with these, you should hold off on attending an intermediate class as these classes are faster, longer and involve more complicated steps and movement patterns. The last thing any good teacher will want will be for you to feel out of your depth and therefore not enjoy the class!
Clothing wise, I always suggest you wear something comfortable that makes you feel confident and that's easy and safe move in. There's so many great ballet clothing brands out there that look just like gym and/ or street gear such as Pepper and Mayne, Bloch and Freddy. Some of my favourite pieces for women include the Performance Vest by Pepper and Mayne, Superfit Trousers from Freddy and these freeing Wide Leg Capri Pant from Bloch. For men, it is often unclear. I would suggest you wear a t-shirt, long tracksuit bottoms or tight cycling shorts or leggings - basically anything you'd wear to the gym! Some great ideas can be found at www.dancedirect.com.
Ballet shoes are very personal to you. I have worn every ballet shoe brand from Freed to Bloch to Sansha and the best I have found to be are Bloch. They have a wide range of sizes, widths and fits for both men and women plus the staff at the London store are very knowledgeable. However, if you have very large feet (I'm talking to women here!) Grishko are very good, especially if you have narrow feet and longs toes. These can be purchased at Dancia on Drury Lane, Covent Garden in London. When it comes to the material and colour of your shoes, that is totally up to you. There is this rather outdated stereotype that women should have pink satin shoes and men should have either black or white canvas shoes. But I actually prefer to wear white canvas ones myself - anything other that those pink shiny slippers from my youth! Leather shoes are better for beginners as are full soled ones. They are great for strengthening and articulating the feet. Also, most shoes will come without elastics sewn onto them but it is very important that you do sew them in order to keep the shoes on whilst you are in class. Follow the link to my YouTube page to see how to sew crisscross elastics.
Lastly the most important item of clothing you'll need for your ballet class . . . (I am obviously being frivolous!) LEG WARMERS! I LOVE LEGWARMERS. They can be multi-functional. Not only are they great for keeping your legs warm (obvs) but they come in a variety of different styles, colours and lengths so in a way have become a fashion statement of their own. I like to wear flared ones to flatter and lengthen the legs and I never wear the same ones on both legs . . . Some great leg warmers can be found at Intermezzo, Wear Moi and First Position.