Book: The Ballet Companion


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Parents & Teachers > Ask A Dance Teacher > Maria Calegari's Response


Dear Maria,

My daughter is 12 and is a very enthusiastic dancer. We live in the Oman, which has a very small ballet community, and my daughter is the only one at her level, so she has most of her classes on a one to one basis with her teacher. We are lucky that her teacher is very experienced but we feel she really needs to be dancing with others her level or above so she can really get where she wants to be. Do you feel at her age a ballet school would be a better option?

Dear Dancer,

You raise an important question for your daughter's training. Although I feel one to one is a very valuable experience, ballet has a lot to do with group work and group energy. You just cannot get that in a private study environment.

In the group work you learn a lot from other dancers as well, and the energy in the classroom is much greater. This is extremely important for dance.

My advice would be to concentrate on an additional option for next year when your daughter is 13. Also, summer programs are another valuable option, when your daughter is ready. As a mother your instincts are right on!

Best wishes,
Maria Calegari


Hi Maria,

This is my 9th year of doing ballet and I started pointe around 3 weeks ago, which I only get to do once a week for around 15 minutes. I've read on the internet that you are not supposed to practice at home but when I get to class, it hurts a lot so I stop and then I have less time to improve my pointe skills. It seems like it doesn't hurt the other girls as much as me and sometimes I try so hard that my legs start shaking. Could you please give me some safe exercises to practice at home?

Dear Dancer,

I so appreciated your message about painful pointe work, as I can remeber it was very painful for me as well. You did not mention your age but I think you must be quite young. This can be a factor in your comfort level. We all grow at different rates and if your bones are growing, which they are, it can be a painful time for pointe work. You could have an orthopedic doctor take an x-ray of your bones to see how they are doing. I can remember the first year was incredibly difficult, but it was much better the second year. You will see it will improve, so hang in there if you can.

I agree that it isn't a good idea to practice your pointe work at home but one thing you can do is just wear your pointe shoes around the house for awhile to let your feet get used to being in them more often. It really helps. Also make sure your shoes aren't too hard. The right shoe is so important! It's my opinion that the Gaynor Minden pointe shoe could improve your pain level a great deal. They are very comfortable shoes but give you all the support you need. It's something to think about.

Wishing you all the best in fullfilling your dance dreams,
Maria Calegari


Dear Maria,

I’ve been a dancer for 20 years and a dance instructor for 5, but I recently took a year off to focus on my 2-year-old son and other responsibilities.  I’m scheduled to teach an adult ballet class this summer, and I’m a little worried that I may not still have what it takes. How can I get myself back in shape and ready for my students in a few months? Also, do you have any advice on teaching adults? Most of my classes in the past have been children’s classes, and I’d like to adjust my teaching style to suit a more mature group of students. Any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Dear Dancer,

I loved your e-mail because I can really relate to your situation of being out of shape and getting back to teaching. I think we all feel this anxiety at one time or another. I do have some suggestions for you.

First for yourself: start walking even if it's just 15 or 20 minutes a day. Do you have a group of friends to exercise with? It can be more fun as you will laugh a bit more!

Do you have a local ballet school where you can take an adult class? Or better yet, start at home with just 15 minutes. I really mean it—that's plenty to begin with. Just do the first part of the barre up to rond de jambe. And this is very important for adults to keep the leg on the floor or just off for at least a month or so. This will prevent injury and surprisingly you still get a lot out of those tendus. Do arms as well. Gentle stretches are great in front of the TV.

I think the point is not to overwhelm you or your body so cross training is the best, as it should be for adults as well. A little of this and that. For the adults, divide time into 15 or 20 minute intervals and change the format. For example, the barre is only 15 minutes. Then move on to just movement exercise, like walking in different rhythms. Or just arms, even on the floor- then simple stretches- then some simple abdominal type exercises. But with that, be very careful. So in this way it is fun and safe.

I hope this helps you out and good luck,
Maria Calegari


Dear Maria,

My passion is ballet and my dream is to dance in a world class company. Even though I have expressed this to my parents, it seems as though they are making no effort to "move dance up on the priority list." I think they still want me to go to college. How do I tell them that I am going to dance and would love to have their support without scaring them? How can I tell them I don't want college, but want to dance?

Dear Dancer,

Thank you for your thoughtful and well written message. You express yourself so well and in such a mature manner that I wondered how old you are !

Now all you really need to do is to try this excellent way you have of communicating with your folks. I wonder—have your parents actually said no to a future in dance? Also, you mentioned that you "thought" they wanted you to go to college. You need to know.

So, really it sounds like you need to have that talk. Perhaps it is easier to talk to one parent at a time instead of both? If it is so much on your mind it would be good to talk it through. And make sure that you have all your thoughts ready so that it is easier to actually say them.

It's wonderful that you love dance so much. As you know it's a very competetive field. More dancers than actual jobs. Also it's difficult to be objective sometimes about your own dancing. So maybe another suggestion would be to discuss your hopes with your dance teacher as well to see what he or she thinks are your possibilities. And then even have your parents talk with your teacher.

So, go slow but take some steps on your own behalf. Let us know how it goes !!

Maria Calegari