Just so we’re clear, none of the following are life-or-death situations. But we’ve all had an awkward moment in ballet class. Adults especially tend to be overly self-conscious. Rest assured, if any of these ever happen to you, know that many before you have experienced the same thing. Here are 10 potentially awkward scenarios and how to get past them.
1. Your classmates appear antisocial.
In my late teens, I used to introduce myself to everyone who walked into the studio. Some of my classmates even teased me for it. I figured breaking the ice would help newcomers feel welcome. Well, not everyone likes to chat, and that’s okay. Perhaps they’re shy, or they prefer to prepare for class quietly. No matter how well-intentioned you are, all you can do is respect your fellow peers’ personal space. At the very least, a smile or quick “hello” is sufficient.
2. You’re late.
Even if you’re a minute late to class, it can feel as if everyone’s eyeballs are searing holes into the back of your head. Even the most prompt of teachers understands that circumstances outside of your control can keep you from getting to class on time. The key is to hustle to the barre and not make a habit out of it.
3. You’re the only one who showed up.
It is very common to show up to a sparse adult class. Even typically booming classes can have dry spells, leaving you center stage all by your lonesome. In these situations, you’re always applauded for making it to class, but one of two things may happen: the teacher will decide to commence with class, giving you the rare opportunity to receive exclusive attention, or, they’ll cancel class because that’s their policy.
4. You’re younger, or older, than your peers.
Though the mission is the same, the demographics of an adult ballet class can vary. Some classes are supported solely by seniors, while others have college students filling the barres. In the case that you’re the odd man out, embrace it. This doesn’t mean you have to be best friends; just broaden your social skills. And if you still feel uncomfortable, you always have the option to try a different studio.
5. You sweat..a lot.
Everyone sweats in ballet. There’s no way around it. But some of us sweat more than others—drenched leo, frizzy hair, and flushed face. If you struggle to keep cool, have a small towel on hand to wipe your face, and a cool water bottle by your feet. And if you’re anti-bun, you might want to rethink pulling your hair out of your face to reduce sweat-cling.
6. You need to blow your nose.
If your allergies are plaguing you, come prepared with tissues or a handkerchief. Most classes will have a box of tissues on hand, but you want to avoid stepping away from the barre if you can help it. Also, there’s nothing worse than seeing your classmate sneeze in their hand, then place their hand back on the barre. G-ross. Keep a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer nearby to prevent spreading the love. Sure, you’re only human, but a little self-awareness and courtesy for others goes a long way.
7. You’re caught talking.
Adult ballet teachers are a generally laid-back bunch. They love to see everyone enjoying themselves and they often encourage conversation that will benefit the group. Just be careful not to abuse their kindness. They are still in charge of their classroom, and needless chatting between combinations can be distracting and sometimes downright disrespectful. It’s a rare and egregious moment when an adult ballet teacher has to ask a grown person to please stop talking. If this ever happens, be quick to apologize and the teacher will let it go.
8. You botch a combination.
Welcome to the club. Not even professional dancers make it through a single class without messing up. It’s part of the learning process. Of course, it’s one thing to mess up at the barre when the sole focus isn’t on you; it can be embarrassing to mess up when you’re performing a combination across the floor in front of everyone. But seriously, don’t stress. We all lose our train of thought and miscalculate steps. Remember, your classmates behind you are probably just as nervous, and your teacher appreciates it when you keep trying, instead of running to the back to cry about it.
9. You collide with your classmate.
This isn’t always your fault. Bless their hearts, but some classmates don’t understand the concept of staggering, or spacing themselves properly. Whether they’re the nicest person, or purposely rude, you have the right to speak up and ask them to give you more space. Obviously, no self-respecting adult will tattle-tell on their classmate, but asking the teacher for help in properly dividing everyone up is a non-combative way of creating the space you deserve. Crisis averted! On the other hand, if you’re the problem, be sure to apologize to the person you bump into and pay closer attention to what you’re doing. The crazy thing is, every student knows what appropriate spacing looks like; you can tell by the way they eyeball the floor, but many will still fail to adjust the distance between themselves and the other person. It’s not complicated—if it looks like you’re standing too close to your classmate, you probably are.
10. (Gasp!) You fall.
Adult beginner or seasoned professional, it’s every dancer’s nightmare. I once threw a triple pirouette so disastrous, I looked like the leaning tower of Pisa that eventually collapsed to the floor. Your time will come. And when it does, the old cliché holds true: pick yourself up and dust yourself off. Even Balanchine used to console his dancers when they fell because it meant they were giving their best. You can’t undo a fall, but if you maintain a sense of humor, you can recover gracefully.
Every time you go to class, you’re braving the unknown. By using discretion and having a positive attitude, you can learn to navigate these awkward moments.