Learning Ballet as an Adult: Embrace Your Ballet "Accent"

Photo by Rafa Sanfilippo on Unsplash

by Kate Feinberg Robins, PhD

Embrace Your Ballet "Accent"

I know as a linguistic anthropologist that languages are not made up simply of words, but of grammar, sounds, and cultural understandings. The same is true for ballet. 

Ballet is not about what steps we can do. It’s about how we move. 

If we know a few words (steps) and understand the principles behind them, we can communicate. If we know lots of words but don’t understand how they fit together grammatically, what they mean culturally, or how to pronounce them, communication is difficult at best.

There is a myth that both ballet and languages must be learned in childhood. 

Children’s brains and bodies do have greater plasticity. Children can speak new languages without a foreign-sounding accent. Their bodies can be shaped to the aesthetics of ballet.

But anyone at any age is capable of learning. 

Adults have a lifetime of experience that we can use to learn deliberately and purposefully. Whether learning a language or ballet, we can embrace our “immigrant” accents. We can use the wisdom of age to learn what works for us and what doesn’t, to communicate effectively with both our words and our bodies.

If we look at ballet as a language, we can shift our goal away from performance on stage to performance in everyday conversation. 

It is well within your reach to gain the conversational skills to move through your life with confidence and ease.

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