So You Think You Can Dance?
Going back to the barre with Ballet Austin's Community School
As a former dancer, I've generally steered clear of dance classes for adults because of slim offerings that tend to be elementary in level. But recently (admittedly, after getting misty-eyed while watching auditions on So You Think You Can Dance), I purchased a block of classes to Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School and decided to give recreational dance another chance.
Since I haven't danced regularly in six years, I made it back to the barre for what I thought would be a simple, slow transition into a new summer dance routine. I started with Ballet Fit, a class that relies heavily on barre work, is open to all fitness levels and requires no prior dance experience.
Taught by Kaitlyn Moise, Ballet Fit was a fast-paced hour of cardio: part ballet barre, part Pilates, part strength training and part push-ups. With a little help from Madonna, we moved through a complete, but basic, ballet barre that incorporated plies, tendus, battements and plenty of port de bras.
Basic strength training elements were interspersed throughout, from Theraband arm moves to Pilates ab work and a good amount of planks. My limbs were shaky for a solid hour after the class and my body was more sore the next day than it has been after any run.
Whether your ballet vocabulary is of the novice or advanced variety, Ballet Fit has definite benefits. If you’re a trained dancer, it’s an accessible way to return to the roots of your technique, and if you’re new to dance, it’s a non-threatening way to get into a studio and break a sweat.
Just give yourself a class or two to adjust to the routine and get past the initial muscle soreness. (All those plies can make walking a bit of a challenge.)
After a well-deserved day of rest, I moved away from the barre and into an advanced modern class. Led by Cheryl Chaddick, the class incorporated Graham and Limon-inspired choreography with a traditional class structure that included live piano accompaniment. We moved quickly through 90 minutes of challenging center work, floor work, adagio and traveling combinations.
The class required a working knowledge of modern dance principles and a high level of comfort in quickly picking up phrases... even if that meant occasionally ending up on the wrong foot.
Though clearly an aerobic workout (no water breaks here), the focus of Chaddick’s class wasn't burning calories and getting fit; the focus was on body-awareness, refining technique and trusting your movements.
What I typically find so intimidating when entering a new dance class is the unknown that can exist with the style, the teacher and the classmates. But what I found at Ballet Austin, especially in Chaddick’s class, was an accepting environment that pushes dancers — no matter the level, age or individual goal — to accept unknowns in the studio and challenge their limits.
Outside of ballet and modern, you'll find contemporary choreography, Zumba and even beginning hula on Ballet Austin's summer schedule. And since all classes are taken on a drop-in basis, it's an easy way to step outside of your comfort zone to try a new technique or just find your home at the barre again.
Ballet Austin's Butler Community School offers classes seven days a week. The drop-in class schedule is available here.