For many people, exercising is another excuse for socializing. That’s why people are drawn to trendy sports, because being with other people helps being motivated to stay in shape.
I’ve tried all kinds of trendy sports too, from running, tennis, basketball, golf to yoga, but none of them stuck. I can’t derive pleasure in contorting myself while counting my breaths in yoga, and I hate competitive sports (tennis), especially one done with a team (basketball). I don’t have the patience to golf, and it’s just plain boring, as is running. For a while, I made a good progress with a personal trainer, but soon I started to come up with too many excuses to skip our sessions. So that’s the end of my affair with trendy sports.
In my last effort to push myself to exercise regularly, I decided to take up ballet. Now, I know ballet is always in vogue if you’re a little girl whose mom is looking for an after-school activity to keep you busy (or to fulfill their childhood dreams of being a ballerina), but after certain age, only professional dancers still do ballet. But I found a ballet studio very close to home, and it has a basic adult ballet class with a perfect schedule for me. So, I enrolled in the class.
It is a small class with only about five people that include university students and moms like me. Accompanied by classical piano music, my first class began with us standing on the barre , bending the knees repeatedly with our feet turned out, doing the plié warmups. Then we pointed our feet with straight legs in three directions (tendus), and made circles with feet (ronds de jambe), before swinging our legs high in grands battements.
As the class progressed, we were taught movements to be performed in the center of the room, ranging from turning on one leg (pirouettes) to various jumps. At the end of the one-hour class, I was drenched in sweat but surprisingly, craving more. It got me thinking, why aren’t more grown-ups doing this?
Ballet provides benefits of various sports combined, from the body contortion of yoga, the jumping of basketball, to the swift and accuracy of tennis’ movements. Looking to improve your endurance? In ballet you do turns from one end of the room to the other in high speed. You need the endurance of a runner to do this.
For guys who think a good workout must involve weight lifting, there is the pas de deux, which is basically lifting a female dancer above their head (sometimes with one hand). And all this is done gracefully to the sound of music. Ballet trains your brain to coordinate better, working out the movements called out by the teachers into a dance to the count of music. Plus, even just standing up in a balletic posture requires you to engage the muscles in your butt, chest, shoulders and abs, which is a lot of efforts.
Now a confession: I was not new to ballet. I took ballet from age 6 till 16 as an after-school activity, and, like other girls, dreamed of becoming a ballerina until I had to abandon it to focus on my studies in high school. But who would’ve thought that at 32, my attempt at finding an exercise I could enjoy that was close to home would rekindle my long-forgotten passion for the art form (not that I am a good dancer, especially after 16 years).
And then, there’s the social aspect to my renewed love affair with ballet. To increase the frequency of my ballet class and to get a sense of progression and challenges, I transferred from the once-a-week adult class to the exam-based class. This means mingling with young teenagers and high school students. This keeps me in the loop with what is happening in their little world (learning their slang words, finding out about the latest happening things—like fixie bikes—or the events that matter a lot to them like the High School Acceptance Exam Score).
Being around these youngsters motivate me to work harder. When one girl succeeded in doing triple turns, I was driven to do the same thing. It helps that they call me Kakak (sister) instead of Tante (auntie). Being around them means having to listen to stories about boyfriends or university dilemmas. I try to restrain myself from bursting their bubbles (such as telling them that 80 percent of the things learned in high school will end up unused in real life, or that what major they choose in high school will not necessarily correspond to their future career). With my teen dancing peers, I have enjoyed performing for examinations, competitions and recitals.
So did I lose weight from ballet? Nope, though people have complimented me for looking slimmer, possibly because of my improved posture. But I am addicted to ballet all the same. Above all, I love the feeling of having proven to myself that there is no age limit to being a ballet dancer.
In fact, adult ballet is on the rise in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S., with more grown-ups, even 65-year old grandmas, taking up ballet as a form of exercise. Many dance schools have had to created specialized classes and syllabuses for adults. Perhaps it may even catch on and become another trendy sport someday.
So, if you’re looking for a different kind of sweaty workout, do give a ballet a try. And don’t underestimate your inner gracefulness.