A question that sits on most dancers’ lips at some point in their journey is how many ballet class per week and how many ballet class should I actually be taking?How much is too much? When does it get to the point that you’re burning the candle at both ends and find yourself not being able to give 100% because you’re beyond exhaustion?
On the other end of the scale – how many hours is not enough? Should we be comparing hours with our friends and attending the same amount of ballet classes per week as our friends, or is it all personal and relative?
Here at Zarely, we’re finding out how many ballet classes you or your child should be taking (and wearing some Zarely wear in!).
It probably shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to you that the number and how many ballet classes you should be taking all comes down to you. Life is all about balance and into that, your active life.
Adult dancers, those who have work to juggle, family and friends to maintain their relationships with and things aren’t so serious won’t need as many hours as a professional dancer, who still has the near enough task of balancing relationships, but don’t have the outside work commitments.
Or, if you’re researching for your children, you might be looking into how many ballet classes for them to take.
Should they be piling every waking hour into dance?
If they love it, and they can balance school and their health, then why not go for it? As long as they’re happy and doing what they love, how many hours they’re dancing shouldn’t matter.
The main reason people will pile the hours into classes and sometimes take more than they can handle generally comes down to success. If you keep climbing the ladder of success without stopping to take a break, theoretically, you’ll reach the top much quicker than your peers.
But, let’s face it. The path of life is riddled with obstacles and hurdles which are ready to knock us down and push us over, usually when we least expect it.
Let’s say you climbed and climbed, putting in who knows how many ballet classes per week, then, you realized your discipline wasn’t right for you. You took a wrong turn and invested who knows how many hours into a class you don’t want to progress with. You’re back where you started.
Perhaps you were so intent on reaching the top and counting how many ballet classes you were taking, investing weeks, months, only to realize too late that you missed out on the journey of life on your way. Those times you skipped brunch with a friend, or a birthday for class, only to find that when you reach the top, that you’ve missed out in your personal life.
Maybe you were lucky. Maybe you noticed the elevator shaft leading to the top and took a quick ride to the top. Your intuition got you there. A lucky break. You were in the right place at the right time. Perhaps you’d only been taking 5 classes per week but something brought you here. Should you feel guilty for finding your path of success whilst your friend grafts for 20 hours per week taking classes, seemingly moving horizontally?
No matter what speed you’re climbing the ladder, whether that’s slow and steady at one class per week, or fast-paced at thirty classes per week, continuity is the key and balance is the padlock. Get them harmoniously working and you’re on to a winner.
To put it bluntly, you’re not always going to be motivated. But you have to be determined and disciplined. If you’re dragging yourself to the studio and not putting 100% in each time, is it worth it? Having a solid routine helps massively.
If you know that two evenings a week you’re going to three classes and you’re going to put 100% in, that’s far more valuable than going to the studio every night and putting 10% in.
Back when I was dancing in an academy, during rehearsal periods when we weren’t performing, we met at the studio on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesday evenings and again on Saturday mornings. Thursdays were reserved for swimming and gym. We spent 5 hours on a Monday, followed by 4 hours on a Tuesday, another 3 on Wednesday followed by another set of 4 one hour classes on Saturday morning. It was intense more than enough for me.
Dance and ballet classes are notorious for getting addictive. You’re always so close to your next goal. You’re always one class away from perfecting your next step. Believe me, it never ends. Speaking from experience, you’ll never be satisfied.
There’s always one more step or one more turn or one degree higher that you just have to reach. We’re born performers and we always strive for more. As dancers we strive for perfection. It’s instilled in our bones, there’s nothing wrong with it.
It’s when it becomes unhealthy though that we need to check ourselves. If you’re forgetting why you took ballet in the first place, you need to take a step back and reflect on why you’re taking the classes.
If you’re intrigued to know, or you’re curious about what the future may hold in a career in dancing, for professional dancers, it’s a lot more intense than my previous schedule and possibly yours now. It’s normal to dance between six to seven hours per day, equating to between 36-40 hours of classes per week. Usually, the class will begin at 10 am and rehearsals can continue until around 6 pm, with regular breaks.
That brings us to the standard guidelines. It’s expected that if a child starts dancing at a young age they can expect to join a company at around 18 years of age, which of course, comes with many years and many hours of rehearsals. So, let’s delve further.
Between the ages of 4-7, a ballet student should be attending a class once a week for the academic year, with some sort of summer intensive in the summer holidays. From age 7-8, after the summer intensive, it’s recommended that the child should increase their weekly class into two classes. By the time the child is 9, they should ideally be attending class three times a week. This should increase to 4 hourly classes by the time the child is 11.
By 12 or 13, the child should be looking at attending class 5 times a week, which should include a minimum of two pointe classes either as part of the class or as a separate half class. If they aren’t already, at age 13, it’s recommended that the child studies another discipline, either character, jazz or contemporary. This can be studied as an additional one hour class or as part of a summer intensive.
It’s at aged 13 that the child will be taking more serious classes and ideally should be attending class 6 times a week, before undertaking pas de deux classes at aged 15, preparing for company entry. No matter what age and how many classes per week they’re taking, there should always be one rest day per week.
For boys, the number of classes per week is the same until around aged 13. The core basis of the classes and the number of classes is fundamentally the same at this stage, however, as the boys’ progress and the focus needs to be on the male psyche, it will be time to search for more serious studying, preferably with a male teacher, in preparation for lifting and maintaining the masculine elements and building the camaraderie.
The same basis goes for adults - if your child is attending fewer classes but they’re putting everything into it, it doesn’t matter how many ballet classes they’re taking as that is far more beneficial than dragging them to class every other day only for them to go through the motions.
Finally, don’t forget, if you are in pain, you might be doing more than your body can take. We have to take care of our mind and body to succeed. Take rest days, practice yoga, go for a walk, read a book. Not only will you feel more refreshed, but it will also make your classes more beneficial by helping your joints and muscles to rejuvenate and refresh.
We all have a different path to follow and none of us should feel guilty for spending less or more hours in the studio than another. We all need time to recuperate and take a break. To quote my late grandfather: “you can’t run a car on any gas, so how do you expect to function at 100% without your fuel?”. So, eat right, wear the right equipment and find the right balance of how many ballet classes for you.
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