Stacey Margaret Jones: Fitness Odyssey – Ballet for Beginners


Visit Stacey Margaret Jones Bio PageI have a dim, clouded memory of taking ballet when I was about 4 years old, of coming home and practicing the moves, feeling very graceful and girly. I asked my mother this week why I didn’t continue with it. She said she thought I didn’t enjoy the classes and didn’t like to go. She didn’t think it was worth it to push me into it when there were other things I enjoyed.

Actually, I remember that I had too much trouble with right and left and the teacher didn’t feel I was ready for instruction that was largely dependent on that knowledge. Now, about 40 years later, I’ve almost mastered directional skills, and I felt ready to try ballet again.

For our recent Fitness Odyssey outing, Angel and I took an adult beginner ballet class at Next Level Elite Dance Company in Little Rock. I’ve been looking for such a class for a little while, as some of my yoga, Pilates and Jazzercise experiences have made me more interested in dance as a physical art form.

The one-hour session with Next Level instructor Kristof Waltermire flew by, or, perhaps I should write that it pliéd, tondued, rond de jambed and releved by. Angel and I were the only two students in the session, and because we were absolute beginners, we received foundational instruction on first, second, third and fourth positions for our feet, and the positions for our arms and hands.

Kristof taught us simple routines using the basic positions and skills, showing us how to align our bodies to achieve ideal form, which we then practiced to music. I learned how much strength and grace is involved in the control that epitomizes beautiful ballet and could feel that even the simplest moves required total-body concentration.

And, oh my goodness, I felt so pretty and feminine during the workout! We did our barre exercises and ballet routines in front of floor-to-ceiling mirrors, which can definitely be intimidating, but I found it really gratifying as I watched my foot sweep outward, toe pointed and then move to my knee in the passé position. When Kristof corrected my form or movement, I could see the difference in the grace of the movement, rather than just feel it. That ballerina – however basic she was – was me!

Angel agreed: “I absolutely loved my introduction to ballet,” she said. “I have no aspirations to become a ballet dancer, but what woman wouldn’t want to feel more balanced and graceful in her everyday life?”

Kristof was the perfect instructor for us. He engaged us as intelligent adults, who just happened to have no background in what we were there to work on. He wasn’t patronizing, and he challenged us appropriately. His knowledge and expertise were apparent, but not intimidating.

And it was a workout, because all that grace and beauty require real effort. I was surprised how much I was sweating, even though I wouldn’t classify our activity as “cardio” at the pace I was going. This lesson also was “no impact,” which is great for me as a runner.

It reminded both Angel and me of our experiences with yoga and Pilates, the emphasis on elongation, alignment, specificBallet for Beginners main muscle engagement, mindfulness and practice. At one point, Kristof said, “You never master ballet.”

Angel thought that while the ballet lesson was incredibly complex, she found it less “academic” than Pilates or yoga, which engaged her more deeply. “I can see how the skills involved in ballet can build over time to give a real feeling of progress and accomplishment,” she said.

The art of the practice and pursuit of that ideal energized and attracted me more than I anticipated, even though I was excited about the class from the moment Angel and I bought our slippers. This is what ballet offers that other workouts like barre, spin or strength training don’t: balletic achievement equals beauty. Just look in that big mirror and watch yourself be beautiful.

And there’s an added benefit: ballet slippers! “Those little pink ballet shoes are just adorable,” agreed Angel. “I can’t think of another type of workout where you can look super cute while you’re doing it”

Next Level Elite offers a range of classes for various experience levels of dancers and sponsors a dance force. This review is for its adult classes, which include ballet, hip hop, contemporary, “Ladies Heels and Seduction” (18+), conditioning, stretching, and tap. These classes are one hour long and are (an incredibly reasonable) $12 per session. Participants can sign up online or message for reservations.

The studio is small, so even if the class were full, it would be highly personalized. One thing I loved about studying ballet is that I really enjoy the music: up-tempo, classical piano. Yes, it’s a little thing, but it takes me back to my childhood, during which my mother’s beautiful playing of such music often filled our home.

This single class made both of us aspire to become better, even at just the few things Kristof showed us. After the class, Angel said how much she wanted to return, to improve, to enjoy, to grow.

After 40 years, I think I’m ready to really give ballet another try.


What:  Next Level Elite Dance Co. beginner ballet class


Located: 7701 Cantrell Road, Little Rock

What to wear: Form-fitting clothing, pulled back hair, inexpensive ballet slippers (We bought ours from the very friendly and helpful Cherise at Footlights.)

Degree of difficulty: Targeted to the members of the class. Challenging, but not brutal. Like yoga and Pilates, we found it difficult, yet humane.


If you have a fitness studio or teach an exercise class you would like Stacey Margaret and Angel to try, send an email to and invite them!

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