All the Benefits, and what you can Learn from Pas De Deux
Adult ballet is finally having a moment with momentum; the community of dancers is growing, and adult-specific classes are becoming easier to find, either in dance studios or online, and it is not hard to see why! Both scientific research and common sense, recognize that practicing ballet consistently, as an adult, has incredible benefits in so many areas of wellbeing! Health, longevity, strength, flexibility, endurance, pain management, posture, memory, self-esteem, social interactions, grit, grace, resiliency, and most importantly, the pure joy that dance provides by connecting the body, mind and soul, allowing them to finally be and work as one. This level of alignment is hard to find, and once you find it and experience it, you certainly want more of it. A lot more.
So why should this amazing level of experience be reserved only for school-aged children, and the rare few for whom the stars aligned just so to remain in the professional track of ballet? Especially since it seems to do so much good across age groups of populations?
I started asking myself this question six years ago, when for the second time, I returned to ballet as an adult, as a way to find joy in my life.
Quick back story; I began my ballet training at the age of six, and continued until the age of 13, dancing six days a week. Then I abruptly quit. Honestly, I do not remember why, because I always enjoyed it. When I was in undergraduate school, I took classes for another couple of years recreationally, and I loved it again. It probably kept me sane. My life changed direction and I began a successful career in the fitness industry, after falling in love with weight training. In 2008, I decided to join the US Army, it was a dream I have always had, and it had an expiration date, so I went for it before it was too late. I fell in love with that life too. The discipline and structure always reminded me of ballet. After 3 years, the stress of military life, and a very toxic personal relationship, had left me empty, feeling like a shell of former self. It was at that time that I went back to ballet for solace, for balance, for beauty, for all of it. And since then, I have become a teacher as well as a student, because I believe firmly, that more people can reap the ballet benefits.
I have always been quite bold and risk taking came easily to me, so returning to ballet in my late 30s was terrifying, but I love terrifying, so I knew I was going to do it. But some are shyer, more analytic, more self-critical, less impulsive than I, and I have made it my mission to bring those people to ballet, the ones that need some extra reassurance, a bit of an extra push. In the last few years, I have seen these people transform the most, and I want even more people to experience this.
In the next few days, I will analyze the benefits of adult ballet in the physical, cognitive, and mental health areas in separate articles, because I do not want to write a dissertation-length blog post (I am already doing my dissertation on adult ballet at Walden University). But what I want to make a case for in this post, is the gift that ballet has given me more recently, as I began to give ballet more of me. It gave me back my feminine energy. Yup. You heard correctly.
We live in a world where feminine strength and assertiveness are (finally) being celebrated. But as it is often the case, the pendulum swings a bit far for many of us. We are proud of “being strong independent women that need no man” (I no longer feel this way; my husband and I have a partnership that is far superior to what I could be or do alone). We pick up heavy weights in the gym, sweat and grunt with the guys, we now can go to combat right alongside them. And all these things are great. But along the way, we can forget to enjoy, embody and explore our feminine nature. I find this especially true for women in positions of leadership, because as a society, we still associate leadership with outward toughness, a loud presence and the “Superman” posture.
I discovered how far removed I was from my feminine energy while practicing pas de deux (partnering) with my teacher and friend, David Coleman. He kept telling me to trust him, to stop coming on at every move with so much raw strength and try to control everything. He explained to me how in pas de deux, the man leads, but the ballerina shines, because he leads her in such a way, as to present the best of her to the audience, while he takes care of the elements that make the dance mesmerizing, like helping her do multiple pirouettes and lifting her to defying heights so she appears to fly effortlessly. It does not mean she does not have to work hard, it’s the way she presents it that makes the difference.
It was very hard for me at the beginning to let go and give him that trust, but the more we did it, the better I understood. Eventually, when I would set up for the pirouettes that he would help me turn by rotating me from my waist, I learned to turn off the left brain, to focus on my spot and nothing else, and then it started working. The ballerina still has to work extremely hard and be extremely strong, but by remaining fully in her feminine energy, and letting her partner do what is natural, she shines more brightly than ever. What an amazing life lesson. I took that outside the studio and have become more self-aware of the energy I project all the time. The way I move, the way I respond to others, the way I react and control my reactions, have all become more balanced because of my ballet practice. It’s a work in progress, because for so long I have fought to be accepted as a strong, bad ass type. Finding this new, more balanced, combination of grit and grace, is a new part of the journey, and ballet gave me that.
And ballet can give that to anyone that accepts the gift. For men, finding their masculine energy can also happen while doing ballet, alone and with a partner. I am super happy to have discovered a bunch of guys of all ages that have recently discovered ballet. I would love to hear their stories! so feel free to leave a comment or email me.
It also occurs to me that people that decide to reconsider their gender, can benefit from exploring that trough ballet dance.
So yes, you can be a badass and a delicate (and strong) feminine being ladies. That grace is your birthright, is not reserved only for a few professional ballerinas, but like anything, you have to cultivate it and nourish it. And gentleman, you too can cultivate your divine, powerful masculine selves, as you embrace the role of supportive, loving partner. Our world needs this now more than ever.
I hope you enjoyed reading this, and share it with anyone that you think will enjoy it too. Again, I would love to hear everyone's opinions on the benefits of Adult Ballet!