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Highland - Adult Dancers
Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs (karma: 2)
By Katja144member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 3223, member since Sat Jul 30, 2005
On Sat Jun 20, 2009 09:48 AM
Made sticky by TheMidlakeMuse (78507) on 2009-06-22 09:53:34 Great, informative and useful thread!

Here are some common questions adults may have...please feel free to add as I know I can't think of them all!

1. Am I too old to start?
If you can dance, physically, then no. I wouldn't recommend it if, due to your age, you have arthritis in your knees or osteoporosis or something, or if your doctor doesn't recommend it, but due to your age alone, you can't be "too old."

2. What are some advantages/disadvantages of starting as an adult?
As an adult, you'll likely "pick up" the dances and techniques faster. You're more likely to be able to pay attention in class. You're more likely to be dedicated (I find this is true. I have far more perseverance as an adult than I did as a kid...so as much as I sometimes wish I'd found dance earlier, I also know it's highly possible that I would've quit after spending not much time at it anyway). Depending on your lifestyle, you may have less "pull" between dance and your other activities--no homework or after-school clubs, for example. You make your own dance schedule and priorities, rather than being pushed by a parent. You're not growing anymore, so don't need to learn to compensate for that. Your muscles and skeleton are mature, so there is not the risk of injury that comes with overtaxing still-growing muscles or still-hardening bones.

However.

Your body IS older, and you may find you don't have the flexibility or ability to avoid injury like when you were younger, so you might need to work at a slower pace. Again, depending on your lifestyle, you may have MORE pull between dance and your other activities if you have children and/or aging parents to care for, a job that makes you work long hours, a home and yard that requires a lot of maintenance, etc. your growth is more likely to be horizontal than vertical, and keeping weight off may become an issue. Your muscles and skeleton may be VERY mature!

3. What are competitions like for an adult dancer?
It depends on your area. Some people live in an area where they see several other adult dancers. Some people live in an area where they're the only one. And some have found "18 and Over" or "21 and Over" age groups! It's quite likely that, at least in the levels below Premier, you'll be in an age group that is "10 and Over" or "12 and Over" or some such. Yes, this may mean you'll be dancing against kids half your height and/or young enough to be your offspring. You might feel awkward. So what? You're there to have fun! If you were worried about your image, you wouldn't be out in public in a kilt and jacket/waistcoat or a poofy white dress or aboyne anyway!

I'll admit a few folks here have had the unfortunate experience of being told by parents that their dancing is taking something away from the kids...so what? That experience is very rare, anyway.

You may feel embarrassed if your age is published in the dance program (some comps do this) or someone feels the need to tell you how impressed they are that "someone your age" is doing this...oh well.

4. What about family support?
You may or may not have it. As an adult, you probably won't have a bunch of family members cheering you on. Frankly, I bring my mom to some competitions because she enjoys it. I don't bring my partner to any comp that isn't attached to a Highland Games because...well, he doesn't enjoy it--it CAN get boring!

So. Your significant other and/or friends may come to watch. They may not, feeling like an adult doesn't need a "cheerleader." I've gone to competitions both ways--by myself, and with my mom or partner. The former allows you to just concentrate on yourself and practice and get in the mindset and interact with other dancers; the latter gives you someone to keep you company in those parts in between your dances and to help carry your stuff :). Neither is bad.

At any rate, your friends and coworkers will likely think it's cool and enjoy hearing about and seeing pictures of your comps, even if they don't go. And the ones who think you're weird for doing what they consider "kid stuff"...well, they'll probably be outnumbered by the other kind. And you can just tell them: it's excellent cardio, and more fun than jumping rope, so why not?

5. What if I win...or don't?
I always see this as a double-edged sword, in relation to dancing against kids: if you do well, people might say "oh, it's just because s/he's a grown-up." If you don't do well...you just got your heinie handed to you by an 11-year-old. What can you do. :) Did you dance your best, regardless of your placing?

6. What about finances?
In some ways, this can be easier than it is for kids: as long as the bills are paid, no one is telling you "we're not spending that much on a kilt/lessons/going to a competition." It's your money, and you do as you like with it! Unfortunately, if you're a younger adult, you may not have as much disposable income as the older parents of child dancers. But other than that, I don't see a discrepancy. Adults have bills to pay before they can spend on fun stuff. And ultimately, it's adults who pay for dance expenses, whether it's for themselves or their child(ren). So really, kid dancers probably don't have any more money at their disposal than adult dancers (and possibly less than adult dancers who don't have children to take additional money--only needing to pay for doctor visits, clothing and food, etc. for myself means I have more disposable cash to spend on dance than someone who has to pay for themselves AND one or more kids before they have leftovers for dance--unless, of course, you dance and your child[ren] do too!), AND they're not the gatekeepers for the money. So IMO (and some may disagree with me on this), adult dancers are the winners on this one. It just may not feel like it when you're hoping for something to be left over after the rent/mortgage, car insurance, and student loans are paid and it seems like the kid dancers only have to withdraw from the Bank of Mom and Dad, but someone has to worry about those things for the kid dancers as well...it's just not the kids themselves to have to.

7. How do I find a teacher?
Sites like Highland Island have listings of teachers, or you may already know of one. Call them and ask if they accept adult beginners and what the time beginner class is. Some may not accept adults, period. Others may have a class time that doesn't work with your work schedule--during the day on a weekday, for example (I have yet to figure out how these class times work for kid dancers with working parents, either). I found this to be the case when I was looking for a teacher. However, ask if private lessons with the teacher would be acceptable instead, if it's within your budget. My teacher doesn't give classes at all. In fact, I don't even take regular lessons with her--it works out well for both of us, with her demanding grad school schedule and as an adult, I find I don't need to have skills drilled into me every week like a child dancer might, so we meet whenever I feel I need to work on specific skills with her guidance that I'm just not getting on my own or learn new dances. You may feel the same and might schedule lessons for every other week or once a month, if your teacher will allow it, and then work on the skills on your own in between, or you may find that weekly lessons help you keep on course. It's between you and your teacher.

8: How do I find time to practice?
The same way you find time to do anything! It is admittedly more difficult for adults who usually work at least 8 hours a day and don't get winter/spring/summer break like child dancers, who spend less time in school. And it's usually harder to make yourself practice than to have your parent harping on you to do it! I practice at the gym; I go and do my lifting or some cardio, and then spend 15 or 20 minutes practicing dance; longer if I feel like it. It's very convenient, as otherwise I'd be practicing in my apartment: 2nd floor & hardwood floors (to make the neighbors hate me), not as much space, and no mirrors. Sure, some people might look at me weird, but I know I don't look any more funny than the guy over there making faces and grunting while he lifts, or the woman lying on the floor with a big inflatable ball between her feet, or anyone else at the gym. Sure, some people may ask what I'm doing but largely they're quite interested--I met one older guy who immediately knew what I was doing because his wife used to do Highland! And if nothing else, the questions are amusing, like the girl who made her boyfriend come ask me because apparently she didn't want to, or my partner's former coworker who, instead of asking me while we were both at the gym, called HIM to ask what his girlfriend was always doing at the gym. And meanwhile, I have mirrors and a larger area to practice in. If you belong to a gym, or have always wanted an excuse to join one, you might consider this. I wouldn't have joined just to have a space to dance, but it's a perk on top of my other fitness activities.

9. What about outfits?
If you need or want to buy used, this will be more difficult than for children, just for the obvious reason that adults don't outgrow their outfits and therefore don't sell them secondhand as often.

68 Replies to Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs

re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By MollyMac Comments: 282, member since Sun May 27, 2007
On Sat Jun 20, 2009 10:37 AM
Total high-five for the FAQ sticky-

You left out the beer tent, though.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By Cinnawiz Comments: 3136, member since Tue Jan 03, 2006
On Sat Jun 20, 2009 11:33 AM
Edited by Cinnawiz (148620) on 2009-06-20 11:35:49
Beer tent? Whoo hoo! Where do I sign up??



Seriously, awesome post.

I'm contemplating making the splash into highland. I come from an Irish dance background, would that help me any? Also, what "equipment" does an adult beginner need to start with?
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By Katja144member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 3223, member since Sat Jul 30, 2005
On Sat Jun 20, 2009 07:12 PM
I know, I forgot to add the beer tent part and didn't realize it until it was too late to edit. :(

To start, the only equipment you need is you! You don't even have to have shoes to practice in (many people, inc. me, don't practice in shoes anyway).

As far as what you would need to start competing, all you'll need, at the very least, are a kiltie or kilted skirt (you don't need a full kilt yet), a white blouse, white knee socks, and ghillies. If you also want to do the National dances in competition, you'll need that outfit as well; you may be able to find an aboyne or white dress used, or you can have a white dress made for $100 or less, or can make your own if you can sew; all you need is a short-sleeved white dress with a full (circular or gathered) skirt. Your plaidie for the dress can be made of a woven plaid fabric you find at a fabric store.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By GaelicWannabe Comments: 212, member since Sat Jul 12, 2008
On Mon Jun 22, 2009 09:29 AM
Awesome summary of what we seem to repeat many times! I've recommended this thread to be sticky.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By Catherinemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 1677, member since Sun Jan 01, 2006
On Mon Jun 22, 2009 09:35 AM
I sent a request last week for this to be a sticky also!

Catherine
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By highlandbanshee Comments: 165, member since Fri Sep 07, 2007
On Mon Jun 22, 2009 12:44 PM
I think this covers it. I always get a laugh when kids half my age are worried that they are too old to dance.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By Villagemaid9 Comments: 17, member since Tue Apr 14, 2009
On Tue Jun 23, 2009 01:32 PM
Great sticky...

As for another FAQ regarding "am I too old"

No need to think you have to be a pro to compete - do it just for yourself and just for the fun of it......I think it will really encourage people to dance for the recreation of it.

I have been Diagnosed with MS for nine years and made a HUGE comeback this year (I stopped dancing when I was 18 and I'm now 34).

I hope that my dancing will encourage anybody at any level to get up and dance....no "guts" required....just a good ol' scot attitude of "FREEDOM!"....

-VM-
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By Katja144member has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 3223, member since Sat Jul 30, 2005
On Thu Aug 20, 2009 04:41 PM
Here's another one!

When buying a kilt, or fabric to make an aboyne/plaidie, watch the size of the sett. Some are bigger than others and better suited to adult dancers. For example, I always thought the Arisaid Hebridean looked a bit small for adults. Rose Nisbet, on the other hand, always looks way too big to me on tiny kids.

This is especially an issue with fabric-store fabric...seems the plaid fabrics there are usually of a pretty small sett, which looks funny sometimes on small kids, never mind adults (unfortunately I've found that the fabrics that have a more appropriately-sized sett are the flannels, such as those meant for pj pants, lol). So before buying fabric at the store, hold it up to yourself and make sure it doesn't look tiny, or that it's not so small that it would be difficult to identify as a plaid/tartan from the stage. For a kilt or real-tartan aboyne, see if you can find a picture of the tartan made up to see how big the sett is.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By StillDancing40 Comments: 10, member since Wed Sep 02, 2009
On Wed Sep 02, 2009 01:50 PM
Your never to old to compete. Take it from someone who knows. I'm 40 years old and recently returned to the competitive stage. It was a thrill I will never forget. To compete against kids half my age and to still place after 24 years away from competing.... that's a high that no one can describe. I would recommend to any dancer out there, compete..... just for the fun of it. Weather your in primary or premier (like me).... you will never get a better feeling inside than to know that you still can do it. Age is only a number... don't let it rule your life.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By LisaTaylorMcNeil Comments: 2, member since Sun Sep 06, 2009
On Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:47 PM
I'm so glad I read this!
Because I'm going to be starting highland for the very first time in a week or two
I'M NERVOUS!!!!

I am 29 and I haven't danced for 10yrs but before that I had 15 years of ballet training and a few sporadic years of tap, jazz and belly dancing.

with Highland dancing: I've never done this type of dancing but I've had a small taste of it back in '88 when my tap teacher choreographed a highland/tap/irish fusion stepdance number that we performed.
It was AMAZINGLY wonderful and I never forgot it but I never tried to reach out in my teens to find a school to teach Highland or Irish because of intense family and financial problems plus it looked so amazingly intimidating! so I stuck with just ballet.

But I just could not resist anymore and I have saved up some money and have been exhaustively researching where I can take adult beginner classes in the New York City area. I found one website and I'm awaiting a reply.

I've also begun researching and practicing some moves from internet video tutorials!

I don't care what age I am I want to compete and perform and I'm so excited!!!!
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By TawnyB Comments: 79, member since Mon Sep 07, 2009
On Mon Sep 07, 2009 05:39 PM
I've been "youtube" learning as well. It's actually super helpful in getting you geared up for what to expect.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By bek24 Comments: 276, member since Fri Jan 04, 2008
On Mon Sep 07, 2009 09:21 PM
I think its all well and good that you have fun and stuff but what if a late starter wanted to be a champion? I started at 16 and am now 18 and almost intermediate, I would like to do well in premier, is that possible considering all the champs probably started at like 3...?
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By TawnyB Comments: 79, member since Mon Sep 07, 2009
On Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:31 PM
I have the same goal, but I'm starting at 21. You are way further ahead in the game. I look at my other sports activities like rock climbing, and for sure I've come as far as you'd like to go with dance in a very short time. Work hard.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By bek24 Comments: 276, member since Fri Jan 04, 2008
On Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:34 PM
so you think its possible? id love to hear some real examples of late starters going far in highland, im yet to find some.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By TawnyB Comments: 79, member since Mon Sep 07, 2009
On Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:57 PM
That would be great. I definitely think it's possible. No time line for you though. You just have to keep in mind that as you get older your body ages, fast. Any injury or loss of fitness is going to make a huge difference, so take care of your body and don't train too hard, give yourself rest days, other wise you will end up no where.

Other than that, it could take you years, but I know of a girl who has been dancing for a year and is already a teacher. I have no other examples, sorry. I'm happy that you feel you can do it though. I didn't even know beginner adults could compete until earlier today. These forums are very inspirational.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By bek24 Comments: 276, member since Fri Jan 04, 2008
On Tue Sep 08, 2009 05:40 AM
wow you didnt? it is possible but ive found where I am it can get a bit tough especially as we've lost alot of the 'bigger' girls to intermediate so now theres a duty of care thing about a bigger person dancing with a little one... i dont know how it works but i just know they can decide to not let me dance (even though I only turned 18 this yr.)

I think I would like to be that person who does start late but who makes it with reasonable success. There arent any examples now but maybe I could be the example :)
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By wiccawillow Comments: 116, member since Thu Jul 14, 2005
On Wed Oct 14, 2009 11:00 AM
I am 42 and still love to compete, the eldest dancer in Holland is 60 years, so you see you are never too old.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By Dancing_Bek Comments: 59, member since Thu Sep 17, 2009
On Mon Oct 19, 2009 04:51 AM
What an awesome post!! Especially the information about the outfits! I've recently started doing Highland (with no dancing experience) and I just love it!!!
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By TamrasMom Comments: 215, member since Wed Sep 23, 2009
On Mon Oct 19, 2009 09:39 AM
I'm 41 and have committed to competing in Ottawa for my first ever Beginner competition. We're trying to gather as many beginner adults (over 28) as we can for our first competition! I'm already starting to get nervous, but I absolutely adore highland dancing!
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By Gall_Dannsair Comments: 101, member since Thu Dec 17, 2009
On Tue Dec 29, 2009 10:09 AM
I will be 41 on Saturday and I got back into SHD after a 23 year hiatus....I enjoy it, I am rusty at the moment, but the moves are still there!!!! I am in class with 10 year old novice girls and I am the only male dancer....SO TOP THAT.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By Gall_Dannsair Comments: 101, member since Thu Dec 17, 2009
On Tue Dec 29, 2009 10:14 AM
I will be 41 on Saturday and I got back into SHD after a 23 year hiatus....I enjoy it, I am rusty at the moment, but the moves are still there!!!! I am in class with 10 year old novice girls and I am the only male dancer....SO TOP THAT.
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By thaifoodqueen Comments: 49, member since Mon Dec 14, 2009
On Mon May 31, 2010 12:56 PM
Great info and encouragement. I started dancing at 41 after watching my daughter for 3 years; and after a year and a half, stopped because my DD reached Premier and the cost of traveling for her comps made my lessons out of reach. I miss it so much!
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By batd_teacherPremium member Comments: 2551, member since Mon Feb 23, 2004
On Mon May 31, 2010 01:51 PM
Met a lovely adult dancer May 22nd. Not only did she compete on that day, but immediately after completed medal testing which included 7 dances! Let's say she was +30, and a real treat to meet and watch dance.

I am hoping we can have a full fledged adult category of say, 25+ next year! Pass the word, come to Sudbury next May!
re: Adult dancers-- "am I too old" and other FAQs
By StillDancing40 Comments: 10, member since Wed Sep 02, 2009
On Fri Jul 23, 2010 12:06 PM
I just wish there were more older dancers in the Atlantic Provinces....I would LOVE to see some of my old friends dancing again....
Any one know of any upcoming competitions in Eastern Canada/Eastern USA that some of the older dancers might be attending????
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