Am I Too Old to Start Ballet?
I've lost count of the times I've seen the question, "Am I too old to start ballet?"
Because so many girls start dance lessons as tiny tots, some people get the idea they've missed the boat if they've got to 12 or 13 and haven't done any dance study. Not so! In fact, before the age of about 10 years old, no responsible ballet school will teach a child real technique - it's too hard on the body and could damage the skeleton at that tender age.
That means that if you take up ballet at the age of 12 or 13, you've missed only two or three years of serious ballet training. That doesn't sound so bad, does it? And if you've done other sports or dancing in the meantime, so much the better.
Calvin Royale III
Late Starter Boys
There are many stories of male dancers who started ballet late, but to be honest, that is somewhat misleading. Up until the 1970s, male ballet dancers were in short supply. In the early years of the 20th century, that was because the men were all at war: later, it was because ballet was seen as too effeminate an art form. It wasn't until Nureyev exploded on to the scene, that ballet became a more respectable profession for straight guys!
So in those days, ballet companies were eager for any male dancer, even if his technique was a little limited. Stories of men starting ballet at 18 or 19 were common, especially if they were former sportsmen or gymnasts.
These days, it's not so easy, but it still happens - especially if you're willing to widen your horizons beyond classical ballet.
David Hallberg (started at 12)
Late Starter Girls
Unfortunately, it's a bit more difficult for girls than for boys. For one thing, there are many more girls than boys studying ballet, so the competition is far more intense.
Also, girls have to master the art of pointe work as well as general ballet technique. At twelve or thirteen, most girls would be taking their first steps en pointe, so a girl starting at that age has some extra catching up to do - but it can be done!
The best way to convince you, I think, is to let the pictures do the talking - so here are some videos of dancers who "started late" by modern standards - and I bet some of you are surprised to see Darcey Bussell and Sylvie Guilleme on the list!
Darcey Bussell (started at 13)
Sylvie Guillem (started at 12)
Kristi Boone (started at 13)
Carmen Corella (started at 13)
You'll notice all these "late starters" were 12 or 13 years old when they took up ballet - and some of you may be thinking, "that's not very late!"
The harsh truth is that for girls, it's a huge ask to take up ballet once you've hit 14.
Let's face it, if you're going to make a career in ballet, you need to be auditioning for your first job at 17 or 18 - so there simply isn't enough time to catch up, unless you're extraordinarily gifted.
If that leaves you feeling crushed, don't despair. I was in your shoes once, and there is a solution!
What you must do is realize that passion in your soul is to dance. Ballet is just one kind of dancing. You may think it's the only one you care about - but how do you know, until you've tried all the rest?
I started ballet too late, and spent years regretting that I'd "missed out" on a dance career - until I discovered a natural talent for flamenco. If only I'd been more open-minded in my teens, I could have achieved even more in my flamenco career!
So widen your horizons beyond ballet, and look at some other dance genres. There are several dance styles where you can start in your teens or even twenties, and still have a professional career. Look at flamenco, belly dancing, ballroom dance, and even contemporary dance. If you're a dancer, you can do it!
- Better Late Than Never
six dancers who began training later in life talk about what it took to become pros
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