Are You Too Old to Start Ballet?

by David on April 12, 2010

Ballet takes an intense amount of training, taking years to develop proficient skill. Because of this, ballet is often considered to be reserved for those who start at a very young age, maintaining steady training, and retiring at a young age. It seems that everyone over the age of 12 wonders if they are too old to start ballet. The short answer is, “NO!”, you are not too old to start ballet. The long answer takes into account what you want to get out of ballet and the age you start. In this post I will talk a little bit about my personal experience as a late-beginner. I will also discuss the reality of when dancers begin studying ballet, particularly pertaining to male dancers, as well as what options are open to nearly all dancers, regardless of when you start.

My Experience as a Late-Beginner

At 24 years old I decided to take ballet. I had never taken a dance class in my life, unless you count the time we learned a line-dance to “Boot Scootin Boogie” in my 7th grade gym class (and I don’t think we’ll count that). When I told friends I wanted to take ballet, not many people took it too seriously. Some warned me that ballet was hard, which is true, but is not a reason to not do it. At 25 years old, I quit working as a Merchant Mariner (doing deck work on cargo-ships) and finally had time to try out a Teen-Adult Beginner ballet class.

Since I took that first class, my dance training slowly became more intensive. I started taking two classes a week. After about a month I took 3 a week, then later 4, adding in some beginner classes with the younger students (somewhat embarrassing being so old in class, but that is just more reason to redeem myself by getting better at dancing). I slowly worked myself up into Advanced level classes by taking as many classes as I could, concentrating on dance, taking summer intensives, and find all opportunities to dance. This whole time I was in school full time, and working, so time management was essential, but I was lucky enough to be given a dance scholarship, otherwise I would not have been able to afford it (dance scholarships for male dancers are frequent, especially in schools connected to dance companies).

I’m 28 years old now, and I’m performing as a soloist in a local pre-professional company. I find many opportunities to perform in full productions, as well as in dance festivals. I have found a chance to teach creative dance to elementary students. Through dance I’ve made some excellent friends. I’m in better shape than I have ever been in, both mentally and physically. I consider the day I decided to take ballet, a major transition in my life. Ballet is a huge part of my current life, and I scare myself by thinking about what life would be like if I had not given ballet a chance.

When Dancers Begin Studying Ballet

It is typical that ballet dancers will start studying as young as 4 years old. But this is not a rule, even for professional dancers. Every dancer’s journey is different. While it is extremely helpful to get as many years of training as you can, it does not mean that you cannot study ballet after a certain age. Male dancers can find even more freedom from this rule.

You will see that there are a lot of professional male dancers who started at a very young age. But it does not mean that there aren’t any very successful professional male dancers who started later in their teens. Males have an advantage because of the shortage of men in ballet, so while there is competition, it is not nearly as competitive as it is for a ballerina.

While starting early can mean a head start on technique, skill, and understanding, it doesn’t always mean a head start on strength. Males usually see their adolescent growth spurt in early or mid-teen years, where they develop the strength they need for partnering and jumping, two major parts of male ballet. In these later years, new dancers are usually are more focused in their training than when they were as a child, and so make greater improvements over short periods of time.

What Late-Beginners Can Expect

The great thing about being a late-beginner, is that your path isn’t defined. Some people could see that actually makes the journey harder, but I think it makes it more enjoyable, rewarding, and unpredictable. When you start ballet, nobody will be able to tell you how far you will go, or what you will do. If you start young, people may give you options and say that you can study yourself into a professional company, or into a school and into a company. There are avenues that have been travelled before and that are still made available. As a “late” start, you will be finding your own way.

Your way may or may not include a professional career. However, if you love dancing or performing, you are happy dancing and performing. You will find ways to do what you love. I believe, that no matter what age you start dancing at, you will find somewhere happy to have you studying dance with them. I also believe that regardless of your age, there are plenty of local dance companies who are looking for people willing to perform and take part in their productions. Performing locally is far more rewarding than people ever seem to give it credit.

You are never too old to dance. I know that sometimes people think that ballet and dance is the exception to things that anyone can start at any age, but it is not. If you put a serious effort into dance, you will most likely get a positive experience in return.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

1 caleblargo April 12, 2010 at 5:54 pm

very encouraging article. i found myself wanting to dance ballet at 13, after seeing a youtube video of mikhail baryshnikov. i am now 16, and haven’t been able to take lessons yet, because i can’t afford it. is there any way to start ballet if one cannot afford lessons? i’d like to start as soon as possible, because i might not have time as my life/courier progresses.

2 Henrik April 13, 2010 at 4:18 am

@Caleblargo:
Go ask in a ballet studio, and tell them you don’t have the funds to pay for regular classes, but that you are very motivated. Most studio’s adore it’s boys – I’m sure they’ll make something possible – maybe performing for free or helping out with partnering classes instead of your tuition?! There’s always a solution! :) GO for it!

3 Dianne April 13, 2010 at 1:58 pm

What an inspiration this article is. I get asked the question (am I too old) so much – from now on I’ll link to this article!

4 Jef April 13, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Hey, thanks for this wonderful article you wrote.

I have been thinking of taking up ballet for many years, gettin more serious right now though i’m turnin 34 soon (so this is VERY LATE) and been looking at courses, but there are limited ‘adult ballet’ classes where I live.

Also gotta work my time out to see if i’m willing to commit to this..

But thanks again, the article is inspiring and who knows where i’ll end up dancing. :)

5 David D April 15, 2010 at 8:12 am

I started 3 years ago at age 41. I started after watching So You Think You Can Dance Seasons 2 and 3. I have always been quite athletic and as I watched Danny Tidwell in that dance contest I thought, “I could probably do that.”

So, I actually tried ballroom first (4 free introductory classes) but I just wasn’t feeling as glorious as I thought I would. By chance, I saw a web article about adult ballet classes in New York City. I looked up classes for the city that I live in and found out that the cities ballet company had classes. It was love at first tendue.

Being the only guy in a class full of women has its ups and downs. It can be like being the only black student in a school full of white people. Sometimes that is positive and sometimes that is negative.

I am enjoying seeing how good I am getting.

6 Henrik April 16, 2010 at 8:33 am

Late beginners always has such a passion for what their doing – something I admire and try to think about in everyday work. I have been dancing since I was a child, but there is still much to learn – also from those who started late!

7 Catherine April 16, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Another great post David! I started at 5 years of age, but I currently teach an adult ballet class and I have people there who began at 50. And they love it! You don’t have to want to do it professionally even…you can just take it for the love of dancing.

Almost anyone can do ballet if they want to. You just have to find a class where the teacher and you understand each other.

I love your blog!

8 Cielo April 17, 2010 at 3:28 pm

I’m 29 and this is my first year as a dancer. I took my first dance class this past summer, and have been taking ballet regularly, 3-6x/week for only 4 months. I do modern classes ocassionaly as well. I haven’t paid for a single class and my ballet teacher buys my shoes! She is excited to scholarship me in exchange for partnering work. I am the only guy in my ballet school. I go to level 5 classes with middle school girls, I go to pointe classes to partner the more advanced students, and I attend a weekly adult class as well. I’m curently working on my first ballet performance, partnering and doing a pa de deux with my teacher and am very excited. I’m moving to a different area this fall and will be applying for scholarships and work study at a couple different dance schools. I love ballet more than anything I’ve ever done. It’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I’m into bodybuilding and when people hassle me about dance I just laugh, it’s one thing to grunt and lift weights, it’s another to lift a ballerina and leap through the air and make it look easy.

9 PDXDANCER April 22, 2010 at 11:25 am

This blog was so exciting. I started taking ballet at the beginning of the year just to be active and discovered that I loved it. And it wasn’t until I read this blog that I realized that I wanted to do it more seriously. I went to a school with a curriculum and a men’s program yesterday and danced for the artistic director and he said he thought what I was doing was great and that he wanted to work with me. I’m so stoked. I can’t wait to start the program and see how far I can go…

10 Paul Burrows April 27, 2010 at 10:52 pm

I have only recently started at 54 – now thats late! Your never too old for this and it really does make you feel young.

11 Simon May 13, 2010 at 7:44 am

Great article really inspiring!

I have a question if some could answer i would be very grateful!
Do guys need to have some ballet training behind them to get into drama school? (Bearing in mind i don’t have any training in dance! – however i am still a VERY able dancer!) I’m 17 years old and a guy! – what sort of class should i take?

Thanks S.

12 Burke May 28, 2010 at 9:04 pm

This article is much appreciated. I am 17 and very recently began t take an interest in ballet, so this article and these comments have been very encouraging. I live in a small town but plan on taking up a class when I relocate to the city next year. My goal and inspiration is to dance the Gypsy Chief in Don Quixote :)

13 grace June 9, 2010 at 6:30 am

hey!!! im already 19 years old.. but seens i was 5 years old i dreamed of going to a ballet class… i do love dancing… but we cant afford it.. im studying nursing and planning to take lessons of ballet after graduation it makes me like in heaven every time i dance.. its like a passion to me… like i cannot leave with out dance.. so help me god.

14 Allan P. June 14, 2010 at 1:11 am

I’m 16 years old, And I love male dancers. ( not in the gay way)
but i started to take intrest in ballet, now after reading this article I want to take ballet classes even more, since I know that’s it’s not to late.
I’m not sure how my parents will take it though. :)
thank you.

15 Priscilla July 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm

wow
Im 17 years old, and im wondeirng if i could enter ballet or NOT but ur articcle make my think much clearer…
and i wanna do it so mucch=)
thanks

16 krsti July 18, 2010 at 3:38 am

Im 16 years old and i wont to study ballat..but i dont have any time to do it..so i enjoy it in holiday

17 remie August 7, 2010 at 5:40 am

i am now 13 years old
and i want to try ballet
a thought
its too late
but thanks for this article

18 Carl Mansfield August 20, 2010 at 2:11 pm

Thank you ever so much for this post! I am 55 years old and have wanted to take Adult Beginner Ballet for a long time. This gives me a lot of encouragement David because you are a professional dancer who has an open mind and an open heart. Hooray!!! May I suggest that you do some interviews with older men (over 40???) who have started Ballet to find out what their experiences have been like. It would be good to know what their feelings are.

19 Alexandre October 21, 2010 at 4:34 pm

tenho 19 anos, posso ser um grande bailarino? Comecei a 2 semanas no ballet

20 Eliza October 24, 2010 at 1:18 pm

What a wonderful article!
I always loved ballet, and took few classes when I was 32 (!), then job prevailed.
Now, at 45 I wish to go back, but I see my flexibility and stamina soooooo reduced.
Catherine (and all the teachers out there) what would you advice ? Can an adult truly achieve the required Turn-out?

21 Prue November 23, 2010 at 3:15 am

Wow your article is such an inspiration! It has totally inspired me and brought a big smile to my face that it is never too late to follow your dream and mine has always been since a little girl to do ballet and work really hard to hopefully be a ballerina and do performances on stage! God bless you that was such a wonderful article!

22 Iana B December 5, 2010 at 8:23 am

Hello, I found your post very very interesting, even though i’m a girl.
I started ballet in may at 19 years old, and i’m totally commited, dancing 4h a day now, i’m really passionate. I’m very fortunate to have a good ballet “body” and generally high ballet standards. I’m currently in a good school, and taught by a former bolshoi principal. But I would like to attend a full-time ballet school with a more complete teaching, like rambert, but preferably teaching vaganova method. I’m ready to move to other countries but I don’t know any good schools which would admit me age 19… Where did you have your scholarship ? Do you have any informations which could help me ? thanks a lot for this article and for sharing your experience, i’m looking forward to your answer

23 Ana February 2, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Thank you so much! I danced when I was very young, since my mother is a near proffesional ballet dancer, but I quit after a couple years and I regret it every day. I’m seventeen now, and your article is inspiring me to get back into classes.

24 Julian February 11, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Hi im a dancer. and started training at age 16. I am now 17 years old and ive come so far. Dancing has become my number one passion and im going to pursue it no matter how many odds stand in my way (and let me tell you quite a few have!!!) I take ballet modern tap and latin ballroom right now ive done jazz hip hop and african and i love all of them. sometimes i do feel discouraged by looking at other dancers who have had training since a young age but i never let it stop me. Im going to go proffesional in ballet modern contemp and latin ballroom and never quit because dancing HAS become my heartbeat!
TO EVERYONE OUT THERE PURSUE YOUR DREAMS AND NEVER QUIT FOLLOW YOUR HEART AND YOULL BE WITHIN REACH OF YOUR DESIRES!

25 David February 19, 2011 at 10:51 am

Go for it! Thanks for your comment!

26 Monica March 28, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Thank you for this article.
I was wondering if I was too old to start ballet.
I took ballet when I was really young for about almost a year, but my mom made me quit because I wouldn’t take my naps before going to the ballet classes.
I wanted to start in my teens but I feared I could not dedicate as much time as I needed for it because I was going to school and working. Now definately not because I have two jobs and go to college as well as work in a church. I have no time for myself anymore. I don’t want to have a career in dancing, I just want to dance for fun, so I was hoping that in my 20′s was not too late to start ballet if I wanted to. Hopefully before I have kids I want to get some skills :)

27 Amelie April 2, 2011 at 12:32 am

Hi!
My name is Amelie.
I am currently twelve years old.
i am in an Open Ballet class once a week for an hour and a half, and am going to begin advanced ballet technique three times a week (the studio is only open monday through thursday, so i would be dancing every day possible). Also, Pre-Pointe, too, probably. My teacher knows about my goal of going to the School of American Ballet before i am fifteen years old and when i am in Intermediate Pointe.
After two classes only, i am able to dance just as well (maybe so a little better in turn out and jumping, since the teacher had me demonstrate the class how to turrn out, jump, and do aerebesques properly) as some girls who are, at youngest, nine to seventeen. Only one girl is younger than me, and her mother worked with The Royal Ballet.
I am supposed to go En Pointe by next year’s September.
But am i too late to become a professional?

28 J April 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm

I just started ballet at 32. I am lean and fit…and I love it. Unfortunately, I am questioning my future with it. The Academy doesn’t understand how serious I am but I guess I have to prove myself with time. Also…can I build the necessary muscles now? I have my doubts…please talk me out of them.

29 esther April 12, 2011 at 6:12 am

i’m 17 this year and i took grade 3 ballet classes. I have started when i’m 6 but end it when i’m 9. I know i’m too late for that , but would i have a change to take dancing as my courier ?

30 Caitlin April 15, 2011 at 10:58 am

Thanks for writing this! I have thought since I was 16 that it was to late to start and now I know it isn’t! I am 19 now and going to school and working as well and I think I am going to try to start! I have always thought of ballet to be my dream. I may not get as far as I would like, but the fact that I am doing it is what I want the most! Thank you!!

31 Gustav April 29, 2011 at 11:53 am

Thinking you’re too old to start doing something
is definitely a self produced subjective fear, and
has little true basis in reality.

I started Gymnastics when i was 5, by the time
I was 10 I’d quit. When I was 12 I wanted to get
into it again but in my head this dialogue went on.
” 12!… are you crazy you’ve missed 2 whole years
there’s NO way you could get back into it seriously ”

Looking back this attitude is laughably naive. But
it raises a serious point. Because I can catch myself
and those around me applying the same logic throughout
our lives.

I’m 21 and have just had my first 4 ballet lessons.
With there being professional Male dancers around
35-40 yrs old, this is very encouraging… I have a
whole 20 MORE YEARS to dance… and by the
time I’m 40 I’ll have this man to look up to :)

http://www.shortnews.com/start.cfm?id=67725

Conservatively I have another 60 years to dance…
Perspective… It changes lives

Greetings from South Africa.

32 lauren May 1, 2011 at 11:31 am

im 14 starting balet but this article made me feel okay about starting late. but my teacher (we are evaluated if your new to see were we are placed) said i could be ing the 10 to 12 class so thats verry good and if im good enought by januarry i can still go iinto the more advanced classs :)

33 Kat May 7, 2011 at 9:32 pm

I absolutely love this and I absolutely love ballet.I wanted to start but was all too often told that I am too old to start ballet, ironically I was “stumbling upon” ballet on stumbleupon.com and thinking about how much I sincerely love ballet but how I couldn’t start because of my age, I am 15, and finding this made me reconsider.It has definitely inspired me to pursue ballet.Thank you for writing this, I’m sure it has inspired many others as well.

34 Erika Gonzalez July 4, 2011 at 11:55 am

I’m so glad I read your experience of starting ballet later in life; I’m 22 and it was always me dream to do ballet, I’m taking the classes now and it makes me inspired to know that I am still able to live out my dream; you’re right, you never know how far it will take you until you try it. Thank you for sharing your experience.
-Erika

35 Abbey July 8, 2011 at 7:32 pm

What an inspiring article! I used to dance when I was younger but then quit because I got tired of it. I am now 14 years old and Of course I regret my decision to quit. Anyway, one of my good friends is a ballerina and has motivated me to want to dance again. This article has really encouraged me as well! I plan to start classes soon. Thank you!

36 neyshawbin August 3, 2011 at 3:45 pm

This article (and all the comments by “older” beginner dancers) is so inspiring. I am 28 and thought I’d missed my chance to properly learn ballet. I want to dance because I watch passionate dancers dance and the emotion and passion that is so apparent in their performances bring me to tears. I have that same passion and am a very emotional person but I just lack skill, technique and knowledge of the art of ballet. This article and these comments have made me decide to go ahead and sign up for a beginner class. Thanks! :)

37 Austin Dance August 26, 2011 at 1:16 pm

It’s most definitely true that it is never too late to start dancing! I love what you said about having an undefined path–it makes it all the more enjoyable!

38 Clara September 1, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Thank you so very much!!! I do dream of being the girl who’s been ballet dancing since she was 5 but obviously that didnt happen & i can’t change the past. Im 15, there are no oppertunities near me but one day, I vow to dance :) thank you for letting me know that you can’t be too old :) Can’t wait until my first lesson, no matter how long off it is! :)

39 Katherine September 2, 2011 at 6:44 am

Thanks you so much for writing this .. i’m 26 and on Monday is my 1st BALLET class … and i cant wait :)

40 Mikaela September 5, 2011 at 8:24 pm

i did ballet for a few years when i was little but then quit and did ballroom and latin but had to quit that because of the money factor. i keep wanting to start dancing again but would like to try ballet because it makes me so happy. i keep getting told that im not flexable enough or strong enough. is there anything that will help ?

41 Charlie September 10, 2011 at 4:58 am

It’s never too late to try to live out your dreams. I am in my 30s and just completed my first ballet class since I was a child. I am sooooo sore and tired but I did it. I am taking a 12 week session to start. I always wondered what might have been. I want to prove to myself I could have and might still have a chance to dance professionally.

42 Michael September 12, 2011 at 12:49 am

Best motivation article in the entire web. Thanks

43 Rita September 14, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Thank you so much.
I took ballet lessons when I was really little, but we couldn’t afford it after that. Ballet and dance has always come back to me in my life. I feel like it’s my destiny to dance. And I thought I was too old to start, but now I realize if I work hard enough, I can accomplish anything. I am 16 and I really want to start dancing again!!

44 Christie October 5, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Thank you for sharing this! I’m 24 and after reading this all my fears about being too “old” went away. Thanks!

45 Daniel October 6, 2011 at 11:26 pm

This is awesome, you supplied great hope, yet in realistic terms and potrayed dedication at its finest. This really helped me solidify my decision as it did to others, thank you!

46 Mariana November 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

I have been dancing ragularly in my teens, against my parents will, than i stopped in University, my father said i will be a doctor and i should not dance. I always regreted, felt not happy in my profession, not folowing my dance dream. Now in my 48 I have decided I will follow my passion and will start ballet lessons. I am still slim and people are saying looking as 35 years old. I just feel if not now, i lost my life..Just for me to feel joy, to have flexible body. For others – please ALWAYS follow your passion, your hart..

47 Adrianna November 17, 2011 at 9:59 am

hej, jag har en fråga. Är jag för gammal att börja dansa balett? jag är 15 snart 16 år gammal och jag är ganska sträckt. har jag någon chans att börja dansa balett ?

48 Adrianna November 17, 2011 at 10:05 am

hi, I have a question. Am I too old to start dancing ballet? I’m 15 soon 16 years old and I’m pretty stretched. Have I some chance to start dancing ballet??

49 Adrianna November 18, 2011 at 9:59 am

Hi, soon i’m 16 years old and I think about started dance ballet but everyone say that I’m too old. Is it true ??

50 lulu November 22, 2011 at 10:40 pm

well i am writing this just 45 minutes before my first ballet class ever! i am 13 almost 14 and the teacher told me to try out GRADE 6!!! that is like almost the top grade. she said if i am with people my own age i will learn quicker. i am going along to see if it is the right grade. i doubt it! i am really scared. everyone will be so good! i will probably dance at the back so nobody can see me FAIL. but i am going to practice practice practice until i am just as good as everybody else. :)

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: