What We Tried: Adult beginner ballet class at the Joffrey Ballet School
Where: The Joffrey Ballet School, New York
What We Did: The class started out with barre exercises and then led to stretching on the floor. Then we did floor exercises as a class.
For How Long: The class lasted 90 minutes.
How'd It Feel: Everything sneaks up on you! The difficulty of the class progresses as it goes on, although the instructor, Jessica Kilpatrick, made it very clear that you are able to go at your own pace. But the way the intensity increases is nice, because it never feels like you're incapable of doing something -- each challenge is just a bit harder than the last, so you feel like you're working incrementally forward throughout the class.
The beginning of the class was benign enough -- leg exercises and releves (where you stand on your tiptoes) with graceful arms. But as the class progressed, the choreography grew more complex, and before long my brain was getting a major workout, too. Halfway through the class was a stretching exercise on the floor, followed by some of the same exercises we did at the barre at the center of the floor (a true test of balance). Then, in groups of four, we did a routine across the floor that included a series of pas de chats, arabesques and sashays, among other moves. This part was very challenging for me -- not only was there the technique of it (doing a proper pas de chat with pointed toes, good altitude and proper arms is already a feat in itself for a beginner!) but put it into a choreographed routine? The difficulty level just got ratcheted up a few notches. But while this part of the class was difficult, it was also the part of the class I enjoyed most because it wasn't just rote moves at the bar -- it required grace and style to pull off, not just physicality.
Since I don't own any ballet shoes or attire, I did the class barefoot and wore leggings and a tight shirt. But for the future, definitely wear ballet shoes -- it'll help you glide over the floor more easily and provide some padding between the balls of your feet and the hardwood floor!
What Fitness Level Is Required: Even though the class is considered a beginner ballet class, it certainly helps if you've taken ballet before, even as a kid. I took ballet up through middle school, and then a general dance class for one year in high school, so I remembered the basics -- first position, second position, how to do a tendu or an arabesque, etc. If I hadn't known these basics, I might have had a harder time keeping up in the class (although the instructor was very good about helping people who were more beginner-level than others!).
Also, you don't have to be an expert exerciser to do the class. You'll be sweating and your muscles will be sore by the end of the class, but I never felt like the class was "too hard" or that I was unable to do something.
What It Helps With: POSTURE! Ballet is not just about doing the moves -- it's also about the posture that goes with it. It also really stretches the muscles -- my inner thighs and arms were feeling the burn by class's end.
What's It Cost: $5 for college students with a valid ID, $12 for a multi-class card (if you buy more than one class), or $17 for a single class.
Would We Go Back: Yes! I thought my ballet dancing days were long over, but this class shows that even someone as out of practice as me can pick it up again (and feel strong and elegant while doing it!). The instructor was also incredibly nice and professional, and everyone in the class was learning everything right along with me, so I never felt out of place or like I wasn't able to do something. I always felt very encouraged!