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!

Comments 21 comments

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 3 months ago from Sydney Author

Kiane, if you just want to dance as a hobby, then it's certainly NOT too late to start ballroom dancing again. If you want to dance as a career, then there's still time to take up flamenco or belly dance and make a career.

Kiane profile image

Kiane 3 months ago from Kyiv

I`m 17 and I am too old :(( Never thought I would say that thing at that age)) I regret I gave up ballroom dancing, only now understand how I`m passionate about dancing ( Maybe the best choice is to choose some type of modern dance...

Thanks for a Hub))

Peter Grujic profile image

Peter Grujic 20 months ago from Pittsburgh

nice article- I am in my 30's and still do my ballet exercises. Never wanted to dance professionally - just dance!

grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

Very informative. I've known housewives who started ballet for the first time, just for the exercise. Wow, later they were soooo sexy.

fucsia profile image

fucsia 5 years ago

I do not know the world of the ballet, and i did not think that a person have to begin so early. To those who watch a ballet is only fascinating, behind there is a training that I do not know but should be very hard.... Thanks for sharing these videos: they hypnotized me!

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, this caught my eye because a friend of mine went back to ballet at the grand old age of 46! I know it wasn't serious but she thoroughly enjoyed it! I used to do ballet from 5 until 12, and I biterly regret giving it up, maybe I should start again! only for fun, but I still miss it now!

The Mad Aunt profile image

The Mad Aunt 5 years ago from Wales

Hi, this is a very well written and interesting piece. I started ballet aged nine, but I found myself constantly compared to the skinnier girls which made me all the more determined to eat! I gave up my dream and am now disabled, however, I remember my positions and still try them out. I don't think anyone is too old for ballet at some level.

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney Author

@Melissa, it's surprising how many people believe the myth that you have to start ballet when you're tiny. In reality, NO ONE starts serious training until they're 9 or 10 - before that, it's just learning musicality and discipline. Perhaps show her this Hub!

Melissa Martins 5 years ago

I am 13 1/2 and I just started ballet. My teacher put me on pointe straightaway and I agree with Leah-- u are never too old to enjoy it. There is a girl who thinks she is too old and heavy to start ballet, but she is only 11 and she is skinny as a stick! what should i say to her??

Leah 5 years ago

This a a very nice article! In my opinion, you are never too old to start recreational ballet. If you want to be a professional, though, you probably need to start early. I wish people wouldn't worry about being to heavy or old to start. I say take a class!

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney Author

Thanks Lily, and thank you for the correction regarding Darcy Bussell. I did some more research and you are right - she didn't start serious ballet training until age 13, but she had done dance at the Arts Educational School before that, so she doesn't quite qualify as a "late starter".

As you said yourself, you didn't start serious training until age 10, and it's not advisable to do real ballet training before then - so 11 isn't "late" at all, in fact 10 or 11 is probably an ideal age.

lily 5 years ago

very cool, i started when i was 3 & I did not start serious training until age 10, now I am going en pointe. Girls can definitely start dance at the age of 12/13. SInce I am so interested in ballet my friend, who is 11 like me, has decided she wants to take classes! 11 might be one of the "later" ages to start, but girls can DEFINITELY start that late. Oh and one other thing it said that Darcy Bussell started when she was 13, but I read in a book by her that she started when she was younger...Anyway thanks for this hub! I will tell my friend about it.

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thank you for raising this very interesting point. You well detailed hub would encourage kids which might not otherwise have tha courage to start at a later age.

Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

@Marisa. That is so interesting. Amazing what one learns as one gets older! :)

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney Author

South Africa may have been different, although I worked for the Overseas Manager and was involved in sending the Examiners overseas to award scholarships. Barbara Fewster (the principal of the ballet school) hated us, because she never liked to admit the South African and Australian scholarship girls were some of the best in the school :)

Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

Okay, that's interesting. My sister went through all the Royal Ballet exams and was invited to join the company at 14. She passed each exam with honors and distinctions and won many of the bursaries in South Africa at the time she was dancing. She never did join the Royal Ballet but danced for Pact. Nobody in South Africa ever had to go and see a doctor in order to start ballet... :)

Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 5 years ago from Sydney Author

That's not quite true, Sophia - I'm old enough to remember too! The Royal Ballet School and the Russian ballet schools never used to accept students for serious training until the age of 8 or even 10. Even then, all students were examined by doctors to ensure their skeletons were suitable. But it's true that if you wanted to start later than that, you wouldn't stand a chance of being accepted.

Sophia Angelique 5 years ago

@Marisa, the attitude of the Royal Ballet in the 60s was very definitely that if one didn't start ballet when one was 5 or 6 years old, then the body didn't form in the way it needed to in order to dance. My sister started at that age and went on to dance professonally. There came a time when when left her ballet company, danced cabaret. Now she does ballroom and teaches ballroom dancers ballet techniques. She is also still performing in shows at 58 years old! She can do things with her body that even the very young can't do. But very definitely, it was the idea that one would never be good enough professionally if one didn't start young... ;)

saesha profile image

saesha 5 years ago

great honest perspective.

vydyulashashi profile image

vydyulashashi 5 years ago from Hyderabad,India

Ballet Dance is such an amazing art and makes mind very refreshing.

Thanks for a very motivational, guiding and beautiful hub.

God Bless you!

nightbear profile image

nightbear 5 years ago from Michiagn, USA

Wow, very beautiful

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    Marisa Wright2,803 Followers
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    Marisa Wright is an Australian writer and dancer with nearly 40 years' experience in ballet, jazz, flamenco, ballroom, Latin and bellydance.

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