Middle-aged and Older Men’s Surging Interest Revealed Through a 50-Year-Old Reporter’s Experience | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Middle-aged and Older Men’s Surging Interest Revealed Through a 50-Year-Old Reporter’s Experience

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I heard the words learning ballet from several male friends in their 50s. Is ballet becoming popular among middle-aged men lately? When I searched on the internet, I found ballet classes that say men can attend even if they have no experience. What reasons do male students have for attending ballet classes?


A 50-year-old writer and journalist, who had previously had no connection to dance, conducted an interview at the Barezonance Tokyo Ballet Studio Shinagawa Takanawa Branch in Tokyo’s Takanawa.

A male journalist in his 50s takes on male ballet.

The most common reason is to improve posture.

The ballet studio in Shinagawa is located about a minute’s walk from Takanawa-Dai Station on the Toei Asakusa Line and about a 10-minute walk from JR Shinagawa Station. Lessons tailored to the participants’ skill levels are offered from Monday at 11 a.m. to Sunday evenings around 8 p.m. When the door opened, a female teacher greeted me for the interview.

“When I searched online, I found quite a few ballet studios that say ‘men welcome’,” I asked a simple question, to which the teacher surprisingly replied, 

“Most likely, almost all studios should allow men to participate. They just might not be advertising it.”

I see. In that case, the possibility of men attending, including those not actively promoted, might be unexpectedly high. In fact, at this studio, male students account for over 10 percent of the enrollment. It’s uncertain whether this is a large or small proportion, but in each class of 5 to 10 students, there’s always at least one male student.

Furthermore, when asked about the age range, the majority are in their 40s to 50s, with some men in their 20s as well. What’s intriguing is why they decided to start ballet in the first place.

I asked the teacher again,

“I’ve had some who started because they love ballet, but overwhelmingly, most want to improve their posture. Some were inspired to try it after seeing their daughters learning ballet,” she responded.

Certainly, I can relate to concerns about posture. 

I’ve noticed my own slouching reflection in the glass or mirror nearby during work. It’s not a flattering sight, and it feels like I’m aging prematurely.

Are there actually male students whose posture has improved through ballet?

“Many of those who continue with ballet show clear improvements. Some who initially had rounded shoulders, with both sides slouching inward, transformed into individuals with noticeably improved posture within just a few months. Also, engaging in whole-body movements such as jumping and spinning to music can induce a moderate level of fatigue, promoting better sleep,” she continued.

In one’s 40s to 50s, issues like insomnia and shoulder or back pain might trouble them due to menopausal symptoms, but it seems these could be alleviated as well. Interestingly, among the younger male students in their 20s, some come to learn ballet to apply it to other hobbies or sports like contemporary dance, rhythmic gymnastics, or kickboxing.

“Especially in beginner classes, we emphasize thorough stretching to prevent injuries. This not only improves flexibility but also helps students focus during lessons, making it easier to relieve stress and switch between work and relaxation,” she added, explaining additional benefits beyond posture.

The trial lesson begins! First, thorough stretching.

Next, the eagerly awaited trial lesson begins. This lesson is a short version of the Pre-Comfortable Ballet class, designed for beginners to experience. Reservations for the trial lesson can be made for ¥2,200 via the studio’s website.

Attire (rental fee: ¥300) and ballet shoes (same: ¥100) can be rented on the day of the lesson. If you decide to join, there’s a registration fee of ¥3,000, and a lesson fee of ¥2,800 per session. Purchasing a multiple-session ticket is more cost-effective than buying individual sessions, and there’s also an option for monthly tuition. Additionally, for those who want their own ballet shoes, they can be purchased at the studio for the very affordable price of ¥1,000.

While there are no specific clothing requirements as long as it allows for easy movement, it’s recommended to wear form-fitting attire for the lower body so that foot movements are clearly visible.

Ballet shoes for men and women

At first, stretch. Take your time, spending 30 minutes during the lesson. Start with light stretching, then massage and tap muscles in the order of thighs, calves, and the tops of the feet, gradually loosening muscles and the body.

“Next, bend the body forward. Exhale slowly, making the body long and slender, relax the body, release the tension in the hands, letting them hang down to the floor. When returning the body, focus on inhaling through the nose.” (Same source)

It’s important to be aware of your breath while moving your body. Indeed, stretching while exhaling gives a tangible sense of the body becoming more flexible.

Next, attempt forward bends, side bends with one leg bent, and the most challenging, the straddle forward bend, said to be the toughest for those with stiff bodies.

“Reach out your hands as far as you can, within your limits. Feel your body melting towards the floor.” (Same source)

The teacher’s words are comforting. It seems like the body moves naturally in response to those words. However, despite it being only about 15 minutes, tiredness sets in.

“When doing this stretch for the first time, it can be tiring on its own. However, since you’re stretching muscles that aren’t usually stretched, your muscles will loosen up and your body will feel warm.” (Same source)

At first, it was chilly in short sleeves, but gradually, that didn’t bother anymore.

Relaxing the calves with the palms of the hands
Stretching out the stiffness of the body through bending and stretching.

Basic lesson on fundamental movements of the feet.

Next, it’s finally time for the basic ballet lesson. First, you learn the positions of the feet, First Position, Second Position, Fourth Position, and Fifth Position, which are fundamental. Using these four positions, you dance to the music.

Starting from the small knee bends of Demi-Plié and progressing to the deep knee bends of Grand Plié, you repeat these movements.

The first step is to stand on the bar.
Following the teacher’s lead, a reporter performs a grand plié.

When I try it, it’s tough. It’s similar to a squat, so it really works the knees. Then comes the Relevé, maintaining balance on tiptoe while performing the Chassé, a sliding movement to bring the feet together. This really strains the calves.

Keeping up with the series of movements is challenging, but watching the teacher’s demonstration helps me keep pace. Since the teacher’s posture is so elegant, I find myself striving to emulate it. Perhaps that’s what’s most important. Midway through, the teacher compliments me, and despite it being my first time, I start to feel accomplished.

“In an actual lesson, we’ll perform four more variations at the barre. After that, we’ll dance without it. By using the hands and arms, you can reduce the strain on the legs by effectively engaging the upper body. It truly is a full-body workout, I believe.” (Same source)

This session is a condensed version of the regular lesson, but the teacher’s guidance on each movement helps me focus and experience the ballet lesson fully.

In actual lessons, there seem to be more female participants compared to males, but here, I can concentrate without worrying about others and potentially alleviate stress from my daily work. Some office workers even come for lessons in between work to refresh themselves before returning to work.

I’ve heard that many male participants are eagerly preparing for performances in large halls. 

Improving posture, balancing on one leg, and leaping higher with turns—all of these skills make ballet more enjoyable. Trying it out, I find myself wanting to take that first step into ballet as well.

Moving my body to the music.
Thirty minutes into the lesson. I’m getting better and better at it.
  • Interview and writing Tadakazu Nishitani

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