Last week, I tried out an adult ballet class at the National Ballet School, here in Toronto. It was a small victory me. I had attended ballet classes for years as a little girl but by the time I was 11 or 12, they’d not only stopped being fun but were downright traumatic. Our teacher taunted the girls in the class who, like myself, were chubby (or, as I liked to think of it, still carrying around a little baby fat!). I definitely did not have the archetypal dancer’s body…which did not put me in good stead with my instructor.
I don’t have that body now either—and neither did my classmates last Wednesday night. Yet there were no taunts from the instructor, but only a smile and helpful guidance through a series of bar and floor exercises that had most of the muscles in my body purring after an hour. Better still, the class was extremely diverse: There were men and women, 20-somethings and 70-somethings, some who were completely new to ballet and other, such as myself, who were revisiting dance after many years. And then there was the music. Live piano. (Need I say more?)
I signed up for the trial class because I was becoming bored with my exercise routine and wanted to find something new to participate in this fall. But I also did it because I associate ballet with grace and good posture. For years after I danced as a child, I had great posture. People would comment on it, and I’d be one of the few in the school gymnasium each morning sitting comfortably on the floor, cross-legged with my back straight and head high. I wanted to find that comfort in my body again, especially since I’m sitting in front of the computer most of the day.
But ballet offers numerous other health benefits from cardio to strengthening and elongating various muscles. And, according to a study published in Osteoporosis International in 2006, it helps build bone mineral content because it places mechanical load on your bones. The study was done in 8 to 11-year-old girls, underlying the importance of keeping your daughter or younger sister active. Her bone health later in life may depend on it.