© Grier Cooper
Every holiday season, after seeing the Nutcracker, millions of little girls go to sleep with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads… Sugarplum fairies, that is. But five-year-olds haven’t cornered the market on the desire to learn ballet; the truth is that there are just as many businesswomen and mothers with the same dream. It’s never too late (or too early) to follow your heart, slither into a leotard and tights and join in a ballet class, and the benefits are huge. For instance:
1. Discipline. There is something to be said for the fine art of mental control. While the lack of it is usually glaringly apparent in five-year-olds, it lurks in the deep recesses of the minds of most adults, too. We’ve just gotten better about camouflaging it. Mind over matter is a huge skill that can be applied in every facet of life for the remainder of one’s lifetime.
2. Grace, strength and control. It’s easy to identify a ballerina in a crowd, and this trio of benefits is a good part of the reason why. Dancers move differently than the rest of their human counterparts, because they have spent a great deal of time and energy cultivating grace, strength and control. Precision of movement is one of the most fundamental requirements of ballet, and the good news is that it’s transferable to other athletic endeavors. That is why many football players, gymnasts and other athletes also spend time at the ballet barre.
3. Flexibility. More flexibility means greater range of movement and less potential for injury. Who wouldn’t want those two things? Ready to sign up yet?
4. Great exercise. Let’s face it, bodies were made to move, as often as possible, every day. Why else would we have all these moving parts? Since exercise is absolutely necessary for health and longevity, we may as well pick an activity we enjoy. This will probably sound like a biased statement, but dance is a whole lot more fun than the gym. Or consider this simple equation: Joy of movement= laying the groundwork for a life time of good exercise habits.
5. Better posture. One of the first things you will learn in ballet class is how to stand up straight. Where else will you learn this if not in ballet class? And to reiterate an earlier point, this is another one of the reasons why it is so easy to identify ballerinas in a crowd.
6. Outlet for personal expression. For some of us, it’s hitting a pillow. For others, it’s yelling from a mountaintop or scribbling away in a journal. But it can’t hurt to add another option to your list.
7. Listening and memory skills. There’s an awful lot of stuff to learn during the course of a ballet class, not to mention the fact that the terminology is all in French. The only way to stay ahead of the game is to pay very close attention to what is being said and demonstrated, and then do your earthly best to remember when to do what. This is fantastic for keeping your brain lively.
8. Body awareness. You’re probably aware enough of some parts you would like to change, erase or give away. That’s not the type of body awareness that’s being addressed. Instead, you will grow awareness of how to move all the different parts of the body, and what is attached to what. And hey, your balance will improve. Dramatically.
9. Spatial awareness. Ballet classes begin at the barre but end in the center of the room, with lots of jumping and twirling. Not only will you learn to move in desired ways in the desired direction, you will also learn how to do all this without crashing into anyone else. Works really well in crowds.
10. Fun. This one pretty much goes without saying, but is one of the very best possible reason to sign up for ballet, which is why it was saved it for last. Who couldn’t use a little more fun in their life?
Whether you are five or fifty-five, you can enjoy the benefits of ballet class. How many other hobbies can boast fitness, posture, balance and fun? It’s never too late (or too early) to pursue the dream of dance.