Leona Forbes spends her days working in a marine research laboratory at the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. It’s technical work that calls for focus, paying attention to details and discipline.
For class schedules, fees and additional information on adult beginner ballet classes, contact dance schools directly. Some schools in the Charleston area offering such classes include:Academy of Dance Arts Mount Pleasant. Visit academyofdanceartsmtpleasant.com or call 884-2983Ballet Academy of Charleston. Visit ballet-academy.org or call 769-6932Robert Ivey Ballet. Visit robertiveyballet.net or call 556-1343Trudy’s School of Dance. Visit trudysdance.com or call 795-8660
Monday evenings find Forbes focusing, paying attention to details and exercising a certain amount of discipline, too. But she does it in a totally different place: the adult beginner’s dance class at the Ballet Academy of Charleston.
“I am not necessarily a beginner, but because I am older, I am very happy to be doing beginning moves,” says Forbes, who took ballet off and on as a child, then returned to it decades later.
Most adults like Forbes and others have no dreams of becoming highly trained ballet dancers. Nor do they have bodies perfectly formed for the dance.
They take the sessions for fitness.
“It’s great exercise,” says Forbes. “Ballet is very regimented. Physically, it works your core and helps to improve overall body strength. Mentally, it just makes you feel better.”
The Ballet Academy of Charleston in West Ashley often gets adults who’ve never taken a ballet class before, says Corina Fimian, the school’s director.
There are those who take it because they hear it is good for your posture, she says. Others have always been curious about ballet and finally decide to give it a try.
Fimian advises those who are new to ballet to wear their regular gym clothing until they know they will stick with it, she says. New students can even wear sweats if they are tight enough for the instructor to see whether they are moving properly.
But when it comes to shoes, it’s a different matter, Fimian says. Wearing ballet shoes from the beginning is important.
Yvonne Gregory first took ballet lessons when she was 6 but stopped after five years. For the past six months, however, she’s been taking ballet lessons at the Academy of Dance in Mount Pleasant. Gregory takes the class Wednesday nights and often can’t wait to get there.
“It’s a very fulfilling way to exercise, almost spiritual,” she says. “You get in a different frame of mind when you do it. My goal is basically to get into the zone and enjoy it. You get the same calm you get from meditation. Afterward, you feel so great.
“I don’t like the treadmill or the elliptical,” says Gregory, who finds them unexciting. “There is no earthly way you could ever get bored doing ballet.”
Gregory says she has more stamina and can dance longer than she once could. She and others in the class are careful about doing their best without going too far, and instructor Larisa Dahabi helps with that.
“We do what we can,” she says.
The instructor warns the class if a move is going to be hard on their knees. She also shows them how to modify moves to make them more doable.
“I have learned to know my body,” Gregory says. “If it’s going to hurt, you don’t do it; if you are pushing yourself, then you do it.”
Gregory credits ballet classes and watching what she eats with helping her to shed seven pounds in three weeks.
Dahabi, who teaches Gregory’s class, says there are about five women who were committed as children, stopped dancing for decades and now have chosen ballet as their preferred form of physical exercise.
“My preference is toward people who have had ballet,” Dahabi says. “That is not to say I will not accept beginners. But generally they are not there (primarily) to learn ballet but for some kind of exercise. I give them a few private lessons first” to keep them from slowing the class down.
One of Dahabi’s goals is to have the women in her adult beginner’s class sweating, she says. When the class is over, she wants them to feel that they have had a good workout. Occasionally, she leads them through toning exercises after the ballet class ends.
“We don’t focus so much on pirouettes; I try to accommodate for aging bodies, the knees and backs.
“I try to make it fun and exciting,” she says.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.