How to enjoy ballet: Lessons can help build your strength, balance and confidence

Gemma Tipton offers a beginner’s guide to taking up a new cultural pursuit

With Ballet Ireland’s Nutcracker touring up to Christmas and the Estonian National Ballet’s Swan Lake pirouetting across the Bord Gáis stage in January, you might find yourself feeling a little itch in your calf muscles to get en pointe. But surely ballet is something you begin as a baby, then dedicate your entire life to perfecting? Not so, says Christie Seaver of Ballet-lates.

Are we talking poise and beauty, or a bit of keep fit?

A spot of both perhaps. Seaver says working with ballet brings more than sweat to your workout. “It’s a way for people who have always wanted to dance to connect with their love of ballet and bring its grace and creativity into their lives.” While it may be true that to have a career in ballet you need to have started from the cradle, and be possessed of great dedication, the chances are that if you have the above, you probably already do have a career in ballet.

Where does that leave those of us who love ballet but forgot to practice every day for the past 30 years?

A bit like opera, ballet is one of those art forms that combines music, movement, acting, costume and fabulous stories. No wonder people are gripped. But the sheer physical perfection of the dancers on stage can exclude those of us who feel a little more bumpily human. “Ballet is an incredibly competitive profession,” says Seaver. “With the utmost respect to all you actors, painters and musicians out there, I might argue it’s the most gruelling and competitive of all the art forms.”

That sounds a bit alarming, I thought this column was meant to be encouraging

Absolutely, just because you may have left it a bit late to become the next Black Swan, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy and benefit from all the good things ballet can bring. With Seaver’s Ballet-lates, the clue’s in the name, as the online and in-person classes give you an outlet to dance and access to a community that love dance like you do, alongside theatre trips and backstage outings. You can also find beginner ballet classes for adults and teenagers with the Dance Theatre of Ireland, while Dance Ireland’s Silver Swans classes are billed as a way to “improve your dance-life balance”.


Let’s start with the classes

“It starts with a Pilates-inspired warm up, followed by real ballet steps standing at the barre – all set to classical music and inspired by an actual ballet,” says Seaver. “As a late starter, ballet offers so much; my shortlist would definitely include strength, balance, confidence, grace, more awareness of what your body is doing in general, the ability to think quickly, discipline and stamina,” she adds.

It’s not just ballet though, is it?

Professional dancers in (almost) all forms will tell you that a basis in ballet is the best start for core strength, poise and movement. “I 100 per cent agree,” says Seaver. “The jury is still out on how much it helps with TikTok! But with every other dance form, totally.” The other bonus is that trying something new or returning to something you have loved can “open the door to more possibilities. I have even had clients tell me they find themselves doing the weekly crossword more easily.” And what if you really are a prodigy? Seaver’s best advice is to find a trusted teacher or mentor, “and try to find and keep the joy in ballet, no matter what”.

Ballet Ireland presents Nutcracker Sweeties until December 23rd around Ireland. Estonian National Ballet comes to Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from January 11th-15th

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton

Gemma Tipton contributes to The Irish Times on art, architecture and other aspects of culture