How Late is “Too Late” to Start Ballet?

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Q:  Is it too late to start ballet at ____ years of age?
A:  No.  It’s never too late to start ballet.

Here at PointePerfect.com, we believe it’s never too late to begin taking ballet classes.  Dance in general is a great mental & physical workout, ballet included.  Through dance your body will develop long, lean muscle.  You’ll increase your sense of balance, improve posture, gain confidence in front of groups, increase flexibility, etc.  We even believe the very controversial idea that almost anyone can be taught to dance en pointe if it’s something they are willing to work for.  It does begin to get complicated past these theories, however.

Even considering outside the realm of professional dancers for a moment, it becomes tricky as you get older to find classes or programs who will accept a driven teen or adult into their ranks as a complete beginner.  An adult who wants to take a very basic ballet class can usually find a studio without much search, but many of the intermediate/advanced adults will struggle to find a studio that will allow them to take class with the teens looking to pursue dance as a career.  An adult dancer will have an even trickier time finding a single studio that offers/accepts adult level classes more than 1 day a week.

How late is too late to pursue a professional career in ballet?

Being completely honest, there are an awful lot of dancers out there who have dedicated their whole lives to ballet that can’t find consistent professional work with the big name companies.  That’s not to say a late starter can’t find smaller companies to perform with, but will they offer paid positions?  Internships?  Will you have shoes provided to you, or will you need to somehow manage to pay for several new pairs of shoes per week?

There is no specific answer to this question.  Many professional dancers take positions at companies immediately after graduating high school or even before their last year of school, after years of quality training and thousands of hours in the studio.  There are so many variables to factor in, it would be impossible to give an exact cutoff age.  Here is a small list of factors to consider:

  • Flexibility
  • Natural musicality
  • Time available to dedicate towards training
  • Quality of instruction
  • # Classes per week
  • Amount of time spent performing

A 13-year-old whose parents are ready to put her in homeschooling so she can dance for 6 hours a day under a top quality instructor until she’s 18?  She’ll have a reasonable shot at improving drastically, and if she proves to be exceptionally talented there’s no saying what she can do.  That’s assuming she doesn’t suffer any injuries from such intense training.  A 16-year-old taking beginning ballet twice a week?  She sadly won’t have time to put in the hours of studio time needed to truly become professional material.

The exception being a small handful of naturally ballet inclined, flexible, driven and determined ballerina shaped teens willing to put in hours of work daily to catch up to their peers.  There are a few professionals out there whose beginnings sounded like this, but it’s a really small handful.

Bottom Line?

The majority of people who take ballet classes will not become professional dancers, even every exceptionally talented dancer.  The world of competitive and professional dance is tough.  It takes thousands of hours of studio time, countless tears, blood & buckets upon buckets of sweat to get to the top, and when you get there you’re faced with a limited job market.  The straw that breaks the camel’s back?  Dance also tends to be expensive.  A single professional tutu that might be worn for one ballet competition can run well over $1000.  That $90 pair of pointe shoes that can last weeks or months in a 1-2 day a week class won’t hold up for more than a few 6 hour rehearsals.  Some professionals burn through multiple pairs of shoes per day or per performance.

That said, ballet is an amazing combination of sport and art form.  It offers so many benefits to the dancer of all shapes and sizes– anyone at any age who is considering trying ballet should absolutely do so!  You’ll be greeted with surprise– that you can do some stuff, and also that everything else is really hard.  Ballet is a workout for your mind and your entire body.  Every emotion you are feeling will manifest itself in class in some way, and can completely ruin or pleasantly enhance your experience.

If you are new, just know that it’s never too late to start taking ballet.  Search for a studios in your area and try some classes until you find your new home away from home.  It’s incredibly fulfilling and inspiring!  What do you have to lose?

 

Happy Dancing!

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