Tuesday, 18 July 2017

A Guide To Your First Adult Ballet Class

Ballet can often seem quite intimidating to the outsider. Most of the terminology is in French, a lot of people start class when they are just 3 or 4 years old, it has an air of elitism about it...but it doesn't have to be like this!

Ballet is one of the most beautiful art forms, giving you a chance to express yourself through movement, dance to some of the most beautifully composed music and meet some of the most interesting people. Ballet is for everyone, any age, and here I've put together a little guide to help you on your way to your first adult ballet class!

This guide is aimed at adults who have never taken a ballet class and also those who might have taken ballet when they were younger and are coming back to it as an adult.



Finding a studio

Finding a studio can be a little confusing but I promise you, google will be your best friend. The easiest place to start looking for a studio will be online. Searching for 'adult dance classes' or 'ballet for adults' in your area and also in the nearest city to you. Speaking for people in the UK, if you live in/near a major city like Manchester, London or Leeds, there are a couple of big dance studios who cater primarily to adults. In smaller towns, quite often your local dance school will hold adult dance classes one or two times a week. It's a good idea to get in touch with local dance schools and see what they have to offer. Most of the time, adult dance classes are pay as you come rather than paying for a term.

Finding your level

In general, dance classes are usually split into 4 different levels. Below is a simple breakdown of each one so you can find one you think suits you the best.

Beginners - Beginners is usually for people who have had little to no experience in the specific dance genre. The classes are a nice, easy pace and each step is explained thoroughly. A good amount of time will be spent on each exercise which gives you plenty of time to ask questions and really concentrate on getting your technique and placement just right. Ballet terminology is in French so with these classes, each term will be explained to you (you are not expected to understand these terms yet so please don't worry!).

Sometimes, you might find more advanced dancers in these beginners classes and that is most likely due to an injury or illness that they are recovering from. These classes are at the perfect pace to help with getting back to dance after injury.

Intermediate/Improvers - This level is for people who have been to the beginner classes and are now looking for new challenges and to learn new steps. The more you progress through the levels, the bigger ballet vocabulary you'll get. The pace of the class is often a little quicker than beginners and you'll be expected to know and understand some of the basic ballet terms, especially for barre work. Depending on how many years and how much strength you have built up, intermediate level dancers may also start to think about pointe work (if they choose, it's not compulsory for adult dancers).

Advanced - Advanced level is for people who have been going to ballet class for quite some time and have built up a good amount of technique, vocabulary and stamina. These classes are a much quicker pace in order to fit more exercises in and you will be expected to understand the majority of the terminology. Of course, you will still be learning new steps, more advanced techniques and your stamina will be pushed. This level is often suitable for pre-professional and professional dancers too. An advanced class can often be longer than beginners.

Open - Open level can be very hit and miss but these levels are incredibly common especially in the large dance studios. Open level is just that, it's open to everyone. You will be dancing alongside complete beginners and professionals. The teacher will usually take an intermediate level approach or adapt the class to the majority. Open level classes can be quite intimidating if you've never danced before, but they can also be a lot of fun and a chance to push yourself and challenge yourself.

What to bring to class

Traditionally, ballet dancers wear a leotard, pink tights, ballet flats and sometimes a ballet skirt and you can absolutely wear that but to be honest, nowadays you can go to ballet wearing leggings and a t-shirt. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable and are able to move. It also helps if your teacher can see your body (so leggings are great for that), purely to make sure you aren't twisting in a way that could injure you. There are so many lovely dance shops on and offline in the UK and I'd be happy to post them all in a separate post if you'd find that helpful? For me, I like to wear some leggings or tights and shorts, a leotard and a loose fitting top over that. I'm all about those layers so you can adjust as you get warmer.

Ballet shoes are more important than the clothing. Some studios will allow socks or bare feet but I'd highly recommend investing in some proper ballet flats. Ballet shoes are a lot different than normal shoes so I'd always recommend going into a dance shop to have them fitted first. After a few months of ballet, you'll soon figure out what works for you and what's comfortable.

A towel is also handy to have with you, a water bottle, cash for the teacher (correct change is always much appreciated haha!), and some warm clothes like a hoody and sweatpants for after class to keep your muscles warm.

The structure of the class

No matter what the level, ballet classes (mostly) are structured in exactly the same way.

Barre - Barre work will always come first. This is a way to start to slowly warm the muscles and wake the body up. It gives you a chance to find your centre (your balance), work out any kinks that might be bothering you and prepares you for centre work. Barre work will often build upon each exercise, gradually getting harder and working your body and brain more.

Centre - This follows directly from the barre but again, starts off slowly and gradually gets more intense, building towards jumps and leaps. Everything you learned at the barre will prepare you for the exercises in the centre. You will also cover petite allegro (small jumps) and pirouettes (turns). Centre work is usually done as a whole class or sometimes the teacher will split you into groups if the class is large.

Corner - Corner work comes last as it's the most intense. This is usually saved for grande allegro (big jumps/leaps) and sometimes pirouette exercises. The combinations are a lot more 'dancy' and you'll often go across the floor in small groups or in pairs. Very rarely will you be asked to do something by yourself unless it's a professional level class (or you have a particularly harsh teacher >.<).

Cool down - Some teachers will do a cool down at the end of class followed by the bow or curtsey. The cool down is there to relax the body and muscles and can often help to prevent tightness and injury.

Within a ballet class, you might come across some odd rules and etiquettes but it's honestly nothing to worry about. Ballet is steeped in tradition, so there's always little oddities that seem so strange when you're new but you'll soon learn to love them! If you'd like a post on ballet classroom etiquette, just let me know and I'd be happy to write that.

I really hope that you found this guide helpful and helped to answer any questions you might have had about starting ballet. Above all, ballet is not scary, it's not just for people who can already dance and it's not just for the young. Ballet is for everyone, whatever your background or age. It's fun, it's beautiful and it's powerful! So go grab your shoes and get researching them studios.

Have fun!


Thursday, 30 March 2017

Korean Skincare: The Beginners Guide (part 2)

And we're back for Part 2. I really hope that you found Part 1 helpful and helped you on your way into Korean Skincare. 

Next, we're going to dive into serums, moisturisers and sheet masks so let's go!

Step 6 - Serum

A serum is usually packaged in a little bottle with a pipette and has a much higher concentration of key ingredients than the essence. The serum is definitely a key step in customising your skincare and homing in on exactly what areas you wish to work on. There are serums for just about everything e.g. dark spots, brightening, acne, pores, anti-wrinkle. It all depends on what areas your skin need a little help with. For me, I focus on restoring the balance due to my oily/combination skin. I use the Innisfree (are you sensing a theme - I just bloody love this brand so much) green tea seed serum and to be honest, if I could only pick one product, it would be this one! This serum helps to control and balance my oil levels throughout the day, evens out my skin tone and keeps my skin looking hydrated. 

To use: squeeze a drop or two onto your fingers and apply gently to the face, covering all areas that require attention. 


Step 7 - Moisturiser

We are getting towards the end of our skincare routine now! At the very heart of Korean skincare, is hydration. Hydration is key to keeping the skin looking young, fresh and supple and this is exactly what you want your moisturiser to do. You want a cream that's going to help you lock in your skin's moisture all day, something not too heavy and something that works with your skin type. A lighter moisturiser might be better during the Summer whereas a heavier one may be best over the Winter months if you have dry skin. I use the Innisfree balancing cream and I've found this to be best for my skin. 

To use: apply small amounts on your cheeks, chin, nose and forehead, then gently massage into the skin, avoiding the eyes. 


Step 8 - Eye Cream

Yes, avoiding the eyes because we have a separate cream for that! Ok, now I must confess, I don't always do this step. Not because I don't like it but I'm still on the hunt for the perfect eye cream. The skin around your eyes can be very thin and very sensitive so you should try to avoid any heavy creams in this area. Most people will choose an eye cream that focuses on brightening dark circles or preventing wrinkles.

To use: apply a small amount onto your little finger and gently pat around the orbital bone.

Step 9 - Sunscreen

This step is incredibly important in Korean skincare and something that most BB and CC creams will have in them. There are many, many Korean makeup and skincare brands that sell sunscreen specifically for your face. These creams are much lighter than the ones you apply to your body and are often a much higher SPF. The idea of this is to help prevent the formation of dark spots, to protect your skin from damage and to reduce the darkening of acne scars. It can also work really well as a base for makeup. 

To use: the same as a moisturiser. apply little dabs on your cheeks, chin, nose and forehead, then gently massage into the skin, avoiding the eyes.

Step 10 - Sheet Masks, Sleeping Packs and Face Masks

Ok, so this isn't technically the final stage but I wanted to put it here because realistically you can apply a mask at many different stages and however many times you want throughout a week. For most people, a good time to apply a sheet mask would be after your toner and before your essence. For Sleeping packs, you apply your skincare routine up until your moisturiser and apply your sleep pack instead. This is to be worn overnight (it's just like a more heavy duty moisturiser) and then wash it off in the morning. For face masks, I like to apply these just after my double cleanse and then take a shower and wash it off there. I think I will do an entirely separate post about masks just because there's a lot of them and I just really love them. 


OK, we made it and if you managed to get through both of these posts, THANK YOU, I really appreciate it! I hope this sheds some light into the wonderful world of Korean Skincare. Like I mentioned in Part 1, I'm no expert, just someone who has used this routine for the last couple of years and really enjoys learning about Korean Skincare. I hope that you are able to pull some information out of it to help you on your way and if you have any questions, please write them in the comments below and I'll do my best to help. 

Have a beautiful day! 

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Korean Skincare: The Beginners Guide (part 1)

Korean skincare can sometimes seem a little overwhelming, especially if you are new to it. There are so many different brands and products to choose from, with weirdly wonderful ingredients all targeting specific areas of the skin. 

I would never claim to be an expert in Korean skincare but I've been using it and learning about it for the past few years and I thought it would be fun to share the knowledge and hopefully write a simple guide for beginners to follow and try out. 

Now, where to start? Maybe with a little story about how I got into Korean skincare and a little about my own skin type. I've loved Korean makeup for a very long time and my first ever product was a bunny lipgloss by Tony Moly. I first discovered it on a post by Kiki Kannibal (yes, I was a myspace kid - don't judge). Ever since then, I've been hooked on Korean makeup and have slowly built up quite a collection. Then, a few years ago on my first trip to Tokyo, I visited Korea Town and took the plunge into Korean Skincare. My first product was a sheet mask by Holika Holika for 'After a long journey' which I thought was pretty appropriate. I tried it that same night and I was honestly so pleased with the results, even my fiance noticed my skin had a little glow to it. Ever since then, I've been researching more and more products and slowly building up my 10 step Korean skincare routine. Korean products are honestly the only ones where I've truly noticed a difference in my skin, the way it look's, feels, it's texture and tone. I'm completely hooked and still learning as I go along. For anyone interested, my skin type is oily/combination, acne prone and dehydrated. Any specific products mentioned below are the ones that work for my skin. There are hundreds of others to choose from and it's just a case of trial and error to find the ones to suit you. Hopefully, this post will give you a rough guide into the wonderful world of Korean skincare and give you a little bit of encouragement to give it a go. 



 The 10 Steps To Korean Skincare

There are roughly 10 steps to Korean skincare. These steps are just a loose guide and it doesn't mean you have to follow all 10. It's a case of finding the steps that work for you and more importantly, finding the steps that your skin needs. Some people's skin really benefits from all 10 steps and others can pick and choose just a few. All the products mentioned below are things that I've found work for me but hopefully, the descriptions will give you an idea of the product you can search for, for your own skin type. Ok, let's go! 

Step 1 - Oil/Water Based Cleanser

An oil or water based cleanser is your first step towards that beautiful glowing skin. The aim of this step is to remove makeup and any other dirt that has built up over the day. Oil-based cleansers are great at just dissolving makeup but can be a little scary if you are acne prone but don't worry, that's why we have step 2.

To use: pump a little onto your fingers and massage into the skin. alternatively, pump onto a cotton pad and swipe across the skin. rinse off with warm water. 

Step 2 - Cleanser

Yes, the double cleanse! Oil cleansers can lead to some breaking out if you are acne prone (or not) so the double cleanse is essential for removing the oil and getting rid of any leftover makeup or dirt. I really recommend any of the Innisfree foam cleansers. They have a lot of different kinds for different skin types and are gentle on the skin. 

To use: if you use a foam cleanser, wet your face first and then foam up the cleanser in your hands before massaging onto your face. It's less harsh this way and to be honest, feels a little more luxurious. rinse off with warm water.



Step 3 - Exfoliator 

This step is not a daily step but rather a 1 - 2 times a week step. The exfoliator is there simply to give your skin a deep clean. It helps to unclog pores, remove any dead skin and just generally gives you a bit of a spruce up. The exfoliators I like to use are the Skin Food Black Sugar masks. I usually apply this at night in the shower because it's just easier for me. It's a lovely mask, not too harsh and it smells great too. 

To use: apply correct amount to damp skin and gently massage around. be careful, don't be too harsh!



Step 4 - Toner

The toner is definitely one of the key steps to Korean skincare and there are so many different ways to use it. Some people believe that you must apply the toner within 3 seconds after cleansing but I have to admit, I've never quite managed that. The idea of a toner is to restore your skin's pH balance after your cleanse. It also aims to reduce inflammation, tighten pores and remove any left over dirt. The toner is also there to prep your skin for the essences and serums so your skin can absorb the ingredients properly. The toner I use currently is the Innisfree green tea for oily/combination. I have just bought a new one by Innisfree for acne prone skin but I haven't tried it yet. 

To use: just pour a couple of drops into the palm of your hands and gently pat it onto your skin. some people prefer to use a cotton pad but I just find this wastes product. 



Step 5 - Essence

Ok, so we've stripped our skin with the double cleanse, given it a good deep clean with the exfoliator, restored balance with the toner so what's next? Hydration! Essences are key for hydrating the skin and I would also argue the first step in really customising your skincare to suit your needs. The texture of an essence is a cross between a serum and a toner. The essence usually has a high concentration of key ingredients e.g hyaluronic acid and preps your skin for better absorption of the following steps. I've been using the balancing green tea range by Innisfree lately but I've recently purchased the green tea fresh essence to try.

To use: apply a small amount onto the palm of your hands and gently pat/press onto the skin. 



Ok, I think I've talked enough for one blog post! I really hope that this post has been a little helpful and gives you a rough guide for your adventure into Korean Skincare. As I mentioned, I'm no expert (nor was I paid or sponsored to write this), I'm just someone who loves Korean products and has used this routine for a couple of years now. 

In Part 2 we will be discussing sheet masks, moisturisers and serums! If you have any questions about anything mentioned above or about a certain product, please comment below and I'll do my best to help. 

Have a beautiful day!