As I mentioned in my previous article, “Diary of an Adult Ballet Student,” more and more adults all over the world are taking ballet lessons nowadays. What’s attracting them to the dance studio? Apparently, ballet brings with it tremendous benefits in terms of health and emotional well-being.
Many of us who take ballet lessons know that it is a great way to keep fit.
Studies of professional ballet dancers in the United States have showed that what these dancers do is as difficult as what professional football players do. It is not hard, then, to imagine the amount of training the body gets when you do ballet.
In ballet, every inch of your muscles is actively engaged in movements. No wonder many ballet students find that they end up shedding some fat and having well-toned muscles after having started regular training.
Another benefit of ballet is that it does wonders to your posture. As the basic requirement of ballet is to have a neutral stance with the spine straightened and hips “squared” (meaning, parallel on both sides), this posture is going to have a “spill-over” effect on your day-to-day posture. If you work on it consistently, you will end up looking as graceful as Audrey Hepburn! No kidding. Hepburn had many years’ training in a professional ballet conservatory, and this training showed in the way she carried herself on stage and behind the camera.
Besides the beautiful look, a good posture is extremely important in staying healthy. Many pain syndromes that people living a sedentary lifestyle experience are a result of poor posture and muscular-skeletal dysfunction. So if you don’t have a good posture to start off with, ballet is going to magnify the problem – which is great, because you will now want to work on it and along brings the great health benefits of a correct posture. I will write more about ballet stance and healthy posture later.
Speaking of sedentary lifestyle, ballet is a wonderful activity to get you off your chair. While many people choose yoga or Pilates these days to balance off the long hours of sitting and the lack of movement, some choose ballet for its high “fun factor”. In ballet we get to move along with music and make beautiful patterns with our bodies. We use a lot of “brain power” to remember the steps and to coordinate the different body parts. For example, we exercise the left brain for getting the “mathematical” parts – the logic of the step combinations – right; the right brain for interpreting the music and expressing our body in an artistic manner; the upper rear portion of the brain for interpreting spatial relationships; and the lower part of the brain for memorizing the steps.
Since we do not use words to express ourselves in this art form, the part of ourselves that cannot be expressed verbally now gets a channel to come out. And the part that deals with language gets a welcoming “time off.” For me, this is a wonderful form of relaxation. No need to find the right words when I dance. It’s just direct, intuitive expression.
Classical music is most often used in ballet lessons. There have been studies that confirmed the positive influence of classical music, especially that of the Baroque era and that of Viennese Classicism (especially Mozart). It is found that such music stimulates the alpha waves in the brain. Alpha wave is the wave form detected when the mind is calm or in the meditative and intuitive states. Being in alpha mode would therefore enhance thinking, learning and intuition.
Ballet is a highly aesthetic art. In my experience, those who have picked up ballet as a hobby or as a way to keep fit usually end up being in love or even obsessed with the art form. In fact, cultural development comes naturally to any serious ballet students. The more you learn, the more you are likely to delve into the wonderful traditions behind it.
You will become interested in watching ballet performances, learning about all the current and past performers, and reading up on ballet history and other related art forms, especially music. You will start to learn about the different ballet composers and choreographers. Your musicality is also likely to improve over time, as you learn to move your body with music instead of just counting the beats.
Ballet is inherently a performing art. However, for most adult learners, performing for an audience may not be a possibility at all. Whether you end up on the stage or not, the ballet classes do provide a chance for you to “perform,” even if it is only for the teacher, your classmates and yourself. You will gain a sense of confidence in your own ability to execute movements along with music. If you are a shy person, you might even overcome your lifelong shyness! And if you are lucky enough to go on the stage, the applause and recognition you’ll get from the audience is worth gold.
If you are sold on joining an adult ballet class by now, I can guarantee that you will be reaping a combination of the above benefits, even if you simply start off with the intent of keeping fit or shedding a few pounds. And along the way, you will also get to make friends in a niche field – friends who are as misunderstood by their familiar circle and as obsessed as you are with this art form.
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