Is It ‘Cause Of The Turnout?

Because I just don’t get it! Having tried out more styles of dance now, I still can’t understand why practically every dancer I personally know claims that out of all the dance forms ballet is the most difficult. I mean, do they mean ‘difficult to do well’? To make it look like it’s supposed to? For people who are naturals at dancing to pick up? Or to do at all (as in, without resulting in bodily injury…)?

(Notice that by no means am I saying that ballet is anything short of extremely difficult. I’m saying that I don’t see how every other genre of dance is presumed to be less difficult or less taxing on the body.)

Well, regardless, I’m not seeing/feeling it…

Recently I auditioned for my school’s next production (multi genre, some ballet pieces). Even though I was only interested in ballet as far as performing, I let some of my classmates talk me into the idea of staying for the whole thing. ‘It’ll be fun!’ they said. ‘It’ll look more ‘professional’ I thought, letting my age show (haha).

The audition started with ballet (luckily, though I didn’t know it yet). We were given a simple, beginner-2-ish level combination (something like ballet walk, pique arabesque, faille, pas de bourre, pas de chat, soutenu, glissade, sous-sus, bourre, soutenu, chasse to arabesque finish), the kind of thing I could sort of do sloppily a year ago, almost do two years ago, and didn’t dream of doing three years ago. The nervousness I’d felt over the audition sort of melted away, and I found myself able to remember the combination pretty well. We went over it a few times as a large group, then split off to do it in groups. We didn’t even have to do the left side  which made this easier than the audition i did last year.

Regardless, many of the auditioning dancers were grumbling. I heard mutterings of ‘This is so hard!’ and ‘I don’t get this’. I assume they were there to audition for one of the other genres?

Anyway, the next lady comes out to give us the combination for the Modern part, and I guess I should have taken the fact that she was wearing knee pads as a sign. She has us start kneeling and I’d say 75% of the choreography involved either kneeling, scooting around on our knees, or rolling on to the shoulders on the floor. Not only that, it was really hard for me to remember the choreography, with the steps being unfamiliar and yes, I did end up reverting to freaking out over why I can’t do the combination instead of focusing on remembering. Around this time I started considering the possibility of sneaking out the back door quietly…

And it’s not that I dislike Modern. I took Modern last year for two sessions, but to be fair I specifically chose to take M Teacher, who only does about maybe 15% floorwork at most (not counting warm up/conditioning). This style of Modern was different. It wasincredibly hard on my body, and I found it difficult to pick up steps/moves (are they called steps when you’re only the floor and there’s no literal stepping going on?) because they seemed to blend into each other, like the roll on the floor that becomes a different kind of roll but at some point the legs swithched so you can use the back leg to push off, and roll some more, andI get lost. Oh, and there was no tempo given – we were supposed to go at our own speed while this recording of static and spoken word played.

After this was what I presume was jazz. The first half of the combination – the part when we were upright – was really quick, but after we’d gone over it a few times I found it really fun. But it was too good to be true, because  then came extremely quick floorwork. It was even worse than the Modern. There was this fall onto the side that looked terrifying, then some rolling on the floor and jump back up only to fall to the floor again, several times. Everyone seemed to not be struggling though, like during the ballet portion. I was starting to feel inadequate, like when I was new, like an impostor dancer, Also, everything hurt. I ended up sitting out the last time we went over it.  Couldn’t wait to get home and collapse in the couch and ice whatever needed to be iced – which at that point was looking like a full ice bath. I wondered if my dismal performance in the other genres had affected my audition for the ballet parts . Hoped that it hadn’t all been for nothing – because I’d have to disagree with the classmate that said It’d be fun… (Yes, I did get into the ballet portion. However, it’s contemporary ballet, so still out of my comfort zone. I’m keeping an optimistic attitude about it…)

I mentioned last time, I’ve also been taking a hip hop class. That, too, is incredibly difficult. If I had started off there instead of ballet I know I would have had a hard time. I mean I get it that the vibe is about a million times more relaxed than in ballet class, but the dancing itself is not easy. H Teacher is very specific about the placement and movement quality, and there’s so many things to think about at once, much like in ballet. At this point I’m mostly still focusing on getting the feet where they need to be, and occasionally the arms – usually a count or two behind. On some days I’m undoubtedly the worst dancer in there, but I still manage to have fun. This may have to do with the laidback vibe or maybe it’s because I don’t love it like I do ballet. Who knows?

As far as ballet, I’ve been taking Int/Adv class with F Teacher, Beginner with G Teacher, and Intermediate with A Teacher, Int/Adv class is predictably very challenging. We do some center combinations in two group, one more advanced, one more do-able. I’m doing so much better as far as remembering combinations, but my petit allegro is nowhere near allegro enough for the faster group. In Beginner class we’re mostly working up a sweat with the super slow tendus, working on technique. Intermediate class is fun because it’s at that  level that fits in between a beginner class and intermediate that I’ve taken before (though the barre work is considerably quicker and more complex than center).

I haven’t been writing on here much lately. I could say “I’ve been dancing all the time I could be writing” – and it’d be somewhat true, I’m dancing up to 6 hours some days – but that’s not it, not the whole truth at least. Part of it is that I feel I have to censor myself, or that I can’t give out details at times because I may be identified. And also, I’ve realized that some of the difficulties I’ve been facing would apply regardless of what activity I’m doing, as long as it’s not a solitary one. Rather than writing about ballet class I feel like I would have been just writing about my inadequate social development, anxiety, unrelatable worries,, and issues – and by ‘writing’ I mean whining, just whining and whining without ever doing anything about it. That ties back into the feeling like I have to censor myself part…like it’s ok to admit to the internet that just how much I sucked at ballet, but it’s not ok to admit that I think I suck at being a person…and how much…

Well, that’s a rather low note to end this on, but I’m starting to ramble and I’m tired. But yeah, I’ll write some more when I can do “cheerful” a little better.

🙂

 

A Week Of Firsts

First week of the new session of classes after about a month break. I was excited, but very nervous. The main reason for being nervous was that the Intermediate class I signed up for is actually called Intermediate/Advanced. My first class with the word “Advanced” in the name! Of course, I’m nowhere close to being an Advanced student, I even doubt I’m at the Intermediate level. Petit allegro keeps me firmly grounded in the reality of my (current) ballet abilities, haha.

The first day of an Intermediate class session is always a little nerve-racking because the teacher reserves the right to send you to the Beginner class is you don’t hold up well during class. Barre went well though even though the girl right in front of me was so distractigly good that I was a bit distracted. I don’t know if other people were also feeling the intimidation of dancing with dancers that were Really Good, and if it was obvious, because F Teacher gave us a little pep talk about not being intimidated or concerned with the level of other people in the class. As it was, I was doing my best to just focus on myself and the music and not let myself get psyched out, not feel like I’m not a “real” dancer.

This is even more important in center, I think, because then there’s no hiding at the barre. Our first combination started off  with grand plie, releve sous-sus, developpe devant, developpe derriere to attitude, promenade, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors and I forget the rest. Grand plies in center still scare me if only for the memory of when I couldn’t do them without falling, so it was a shaky start but I remembered the combination. We were doing the combination in groups, so it did feel like the pressure was on.

For tendus we did tendu croisse devant x2, temps lie devant, tendu croisse derriere x2, temps lie derriere, tendu ecarte, pivot to efface, tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors. Even though I felt intimidated, especially since I wound up in the front row, I made sure to do my preparation port de bras and everything. F Teacher said “Good!” To me and since she definitely doesn’t just give away compliments I was thrilled.

For across the floor we did waltz en tournant, balance x2, tombe pas de bourre, chasse to fourth, releve in fourth, pirouette en dehors, pivot to other side efface, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, run off. Once again I amazed myself by actually remembering the combination and not horribly messing up.

I’m also taking Beginner class this session, with G Teacher from the summer session, but since it’s beginner level we mostly worked on alignment, posture and conditioning this week. Since I wasn’t ultra tired from all those classes, I stopped in at New Studio for a class. The drop-in level was pretty good that day, and we did a really fun combination in center ( 4 pas de chat with a slight pause between each one, contretemps, pique arabesque, chasse, tour jete, pirouette en dedans, sous-sus, balance x2, waltz en tournant x2, run off). We got the opportunity to mark it plenty of times, so by the time we did it as a class it was already in my memory even though it used a variety of steps and direction changes.

Another first this week, I took my first hip hop class. It was mostly unplanned – I originally had something else scheduled for that time but those plans fell through. My ballet friend mentioned that there was the hip hop class, and since I’ve been thinking of trying hip hop I figured why not. How’d it go? Well, it’s a good workout, and I had fun – I certainly laughed a lot – but I absolutely looked ridiculous!

 

The teacher, H Teacher, gave us our first combination: 8 counts of poses (we were supposed to improv our own, and I quickly asked a girl I knew to give me some pointers), then these side steps right and left, four little steps to the front, then step to the side three times quick and bring in the other leg, step the right foot forward and behind, then 1/2 turn to the left, and something called a body roll (which I could not figure out for the life of me), then bring in your right leg and jump on on leg to face front again, then this step I coluld not figure out at all, these arms movements I couldn’t remember, and then these jumps alternating legs that I could do, then 8 more counts of dreaded improv. The arms were up to us. So I looked around and it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing. I was just glad that we went over the combination enough times that at least I wasn’t going left when everyone else was going right. Safety, you know? But I definitely don’t know how to dance, and it shows. I’m ok with it, if anything because I know that it could be so much worse. Even though I don’t think what I was doing could be called dancing, I felt so in shape keeping up with all the jumping. I also think it will help me with the memorizing of combinations because since these steps don’t really have a name like every single ballet step, it’s a bigger challenge for me. And of course, if I actually get proficient in hip hop dance I’m thinking of all the awesome fusion choreographies that I could do.

Another first for this week – this one not so good – my first time being snubbed by a classmate. We were in the Int/Adv class at the barre, and this more advanced girl at the barre I was at asked a different classmate if we were using the inside leg for the second part (we weren’t), and they answered something like ‘I think so?’. I said something like ‘No, because after we do en cloche the outside leg ends up in the back’ and she didn’t reply, but asked the other person again. I repeated what I’d said (just in case she didn’t hear me?) and once again she didn’t acknowledge me at all. Rather than being upset it made me want to laugh. I mean, you must have some serious insecurity issues if you’re going to be rude for no reason to someone you don’t even know, or maybe you’re buying into the ‘prima ballerina’ attitude a little too much. Either way, it didn’t ruin my day or my class experience, but was a good reminder that there’s snotty people out there, and for me to be extra nice to the more beginner people to make up for it.

 

Different Styles

By this point in my ballet history, I’ve had too many ballet teachers to count. No, that’s just lazy talk – says she who takes things literal – let’s see, there’s 1 (F Teacher), 2 (S Teacher), 3 (E Teacher), 4 (Teacher; who, as my regular teacher for so long, doesn’t need an initial – but it’d probably make things less confusing at times if I’d given her one…), 5 (N Teacher, like one or two times),  6 (A Teacher), 7 (NS Teacher), 8 (R Teacher), 9 (M Teacher – who I’ve only taken for Modern, but she’s technically also a ballet teacher), 10 (G Teacher), and about 3 or 4 subs (which count for the purposes of this post but I was too lazy or unimaginative to give them  initials in a way that will help me remember who’s who).

Ok, so I’ve had around 10 ballet teachers, and about half of them have been short term. That leaves around 5 ballet/dance teachers that I’ve taken class with at least 50~ times (which can be either a year at once a week, to several months with multiple classes per week). A number I am completely arbitrarily (for the purposes of this post) deciding on as enought time to get to know each other, for them to see what my most common tendencies needing correction are, and how quickly – or not – I am able to fix such things. My weird shoulders, my tilt-y pelvis, my hyperextended knock-knees, stuff like that. While perhaps it would have been beneficial to stick with one teacher for the long term, I do believe that from every teacher I’ve taken class with I’ve walked out with something valuable – a new exercise that helped me find my rotators perfectly, a new stretch, a beautiful center combination, a helpful tip, or even just a ballet fun fact. So yea, I definitely don’t regret moving around. (That all said, I think I should specify that I’ve only tried three different schools or studios, mostly because of location and budget issues.)

Anyway, I find it really interesting how each teacher has their own way of teaching, not just the style of ballet but how they go about it. This is especially true for beginner level classes – even more when it’s basic beginner/ fundamentals / essentials / whatever the most beginner level is called. Like, what they focus on, since obviously a brand-new beginner can’t be corrected on everything all at once. Do they place the highest importance on correct alignment, keeping the class at the barre facing it until they have a better idea of it?  Musicality and artistry from the beginning, even when the basic steps are about as far from being technically precise as possible? Does everyone keep their arm out in second or the hand on hip, or are port de bras and epaulement taught from the beginning?

While at this point I enjoy the variety of the different approaches and find it helpful, as a brand new beginner I know that what I preferred was a teacher who focused on alignment and precision of technique, not flashy tricks. And while I think I’ve read  that teachers should structure the class around the more advanced students rather than the beginners (does this also apply to basic beginner level?), I think that being pushed to do something before you’re physically ready is a recipe for disaster. Like balancing on releve without the barre when the ankles keep sickle-ing, and then attempting pirouettes in center. Tangent: Pirouettes are not a basic beginner step! I used to take class with a teacher who would have us do really basic barre work (like, we didn’t even take it up to releve for our retire balance, and no port de bras were used)  and then when we went to center it was time for pirouettes and grand jetes and it sucked.

The downside of taking class with multiple teachers may be when they each tell you a different thing and contradictions arise. I don’t mean the difference between where to place the toes when doing coupe, or the names of port de bras depending on which school it is, things that are both correct though different. I mean when…well, when you get asked to do something that could really hurt you, and you consult with a trusted teacher and they tell you that you were in the right. I don’t think a dance teacher would deliberately try to hurt anyone, but sometimes unfamiliarity with a student’s tendencies or limitations may be an issue? As by now I’m somewhat trained in the body (since first beginning ballet I’ve taken courses in kinesiology and human anatomy, aside from my ballet and pilates training) and have an idea of what’s normal, I know to take care of my body. That still doesn’t erase the awkwardness of being in a class and not doing the thing you were asked to do though, at least for me. I mean, really, talk about awkward! Am I supposed to say “I’m not going to do that, and I’ve asked Miss So-and-so, and she said I’m right?”, or “Miss So-and-so said what you’re asking me to do is dangerous?”, or something along those lines? That seems disrespectful and rude. So is the only other option avoidance? I hope not but it does appear to be a delicate situation.

Perhaps the reason some teachers prefer for students to stay with the same teacher is so they don’t make a habit of asking for a second opinion. Or perhaps it’s traditional to only learn from one teacher. But I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from so many people to get a more complete picture.

How’s This For A Funny Story

So, I drove myself to my regular school, with my black leotard pink tights “uniform” and plenty of time to spare, and I was so excited and happy that classes were starting up again and – surprise! – turns out I got the date wrong  and classes won’t resume for another week! Although I’d been looking forward to taking class in “uniform” again, I took myself to New Studio instead, where we had quite an challenging class.

My extension was back! After that last class the week before with the mediocre extensions, I was happy to have it back. Don’t know if it’s related, but I did give myself a nice long Pilates and Yoga session at home before class, which was out of the norm – and the day before the bad extension day I’d been cooped up in the car for hours, But yeah, in class I felt both well-stretched and strong.

A challenging extension combination we did was rond de jambes a terre, lift to rond de jambe en lair, from derriere position leg goes to passe, then developpe a la seconde (don’t remember the rest, i was too busy being happy my extension was back, it may have been the combination with a penchee, bring it up to attitude derriere and balance, or the one with failli, pas de bourre en tournant, other side ). then fondues to releve front, side back, bring leg to a la seconde, to retire and back out four counts up on releve the whole time, plie on supporting leg while keeping working leg en l’air, soutenu, other side. I really started to feel both my supporting and working leg by this point, for sure. And that was before the really slow fondues up to releve, with more of holding the leg out in extension while up on releve after doing at least 6 consecutive fondues per side.

Center was intense. We jumped a lot – 32 sloooow changements, with a sous-sus balance every eight counts, then sautes in first, second, echappes from fifth to fouth, second, and fouth, and changements, twice, at regular speed. 32 pas de chats, changing directions every fourth one, which is way harder than it looks, if for the slipping factor alone. We did a combination that included a jump called a gargouillade which appears to be (to my undeducated eyes), of course(a pas de chat while doing little rond de jambes in the air with both legs. Despite looking hard, it was actually really fun to do  attempt and I started running into the problem of … laughing. It reminded me of when I was a kid at school, someone else would do something funny (or dumb, probably, looking back) and I would get the giggle fits and not be able to quiet down long after then initial set off had happened, therefore getting in myself in trouble. This was reminding me off that because I just kept cracking up everytime we got to that point in the combination. It just looked hilarious in the mirror and it felt funny, and the whole time I was amused that I could even do a crappy attempt instead of just freezing up like I used to, or tripping over or something. I don’t think I’m much a fan of the step even while done correctly, after seeing it on youtube.

We also did tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors, en dedans, repeat. My pirouettes still remain my weakest point in center. While it does feel discouraging, at the same time I don’t mind because I know these things take time, sometimes lots of time. I mean, breaking it down to all the parts of a pirouette – I was too weak to even go up on releve on one leg at the barre until I’d been down ballet for maybe 8-9 months (and at the time still couldn’t balance on releve on two feet for any length of time ), and I’m pretty sure I wrote on here back sometime in late Fall 2014 about the first time I went up in passe releve in center, and barely about 3 months ago I had my first good barre releve retire balance (and I have not really been abl to replicate it), so yeah, these things take time. I am patient… it’s weird because I actually struggle with being patient quite a bit in other areas of life, but with ballet it feels different. Perhaps because I’ve improved so much at ballet in other areas that I know it’s at least possible to get better. I don’t think I expected to get “good” when I started, but I hoped to get to a level that I could participate in center without immediately losing my balance. At the time even that seemed unbelievable and far off, but I’ve gotten there at least. That helps me convince myself that some day when I least expect it pirouettes will become no big deal, but for now I just practice without expecting too much results.

The other classes I took were more on the basic beginner level, so mostly working on technique fo plies and tendues. I’m happy to notice that my grand plies, especially in first, have really been getting deeper. I wish I knew what exactly I did differently to improve or get stronger though, because it appears to be one of those things that did improve when I least expected. I was not happy to note that during grand plies in fourth I have a tendency to lean forward. Sometimes my torso just feels so heavy. Sigh.

Anyway, ballet classes at my regular school should return this week – this time for reals – and I think I’ll be doing Intermediate level as well as Beginner, so we’ll see how I hold up.

A Mixed Week, And Headstand Progress

If I had to use one word to describe the past week, it’d be ‘inconsistent’. Not as far as my class attendance and practicing – for that I get an A for effort – but as far as my actual dancing. I’m not too worried, because by now I’ve noticed patterns and sometimes it does appear that I’m getting weaker or my dancing’ getting sloppier right before it gets better. And besides, if all my classes went super well and it was all compliments and not corrections i would start to feel like something’s off. I guess at this point in my training I need not-so-encouraging classes just as much as encouraging ones, to keep my perspective balanced.

The biggest inconsistency/disappointment this week had to do with extensions on releve. At home I’ve been doing the  Pointe Barre video (which is by far my favorite of all the youtube barre videos that I have tried, and it is really challenging. A year ago or so, when I first started to do youtube barre videos at home, I remember I was most comfortable with the Easy Barre video, and would have been so lost on this), where my favorite combination is the  adagio (developpe devant, plie, pique attitude derriere, plie, allonge, developpe a la seconde on releve, close, cambre, reverse this time developpe derriere, pique attitude devant). I actually rewind and do the combination 2 or 3 times, I love it that much. I love the fact that I can actually do this combination without feeling like I’m about to fall over, and it actually looks ok in my mirror, and I can’t help admiring my extension because it seems so unbelievable for me considering the less-than-mediocre extension capabilities I brought to ballet.

Anyway, during class we did a combination at the barre that was not similar but did involve an extension on releve. We were bringing our working foot up from coupe to passe on flat, then rising up to releve before extending a la seconde and holding it there, then back to passe and coupe derriere. For whatever reason my extension was absolutely terrible, I felt like I’d used up all my energy just going on releve. Which made no sense because I’d done the video class at home the day before and the developpe on releve had been fine. I think the part abot having to hold it out there may have had something to do with it? But either way I did feel off.

Center varied immensely from a day with only brand new beginners (we did tendus with basic port de bras, and then sautes and changements)to a day with crazy fast combinations that were close to impossible at my current level. At some point NS Teacher had us do 16 entrechats, and then we were supposed to start with the other leg in front and do 16 more and there was just no way. I don’t think I’ve ever even done one entrechat correctly, but I tried the combination anyway. It was pretty awful. The whole time I think I was doing it in half time, taking a small rest between each jump to charge up, not on purpose but because i just can’t jump that fast yet, not even with unbeaten jumps. I also wasn’t really able to fully cross on the beats, but at least my feet didn’t do some wierd flexing thing, I guess. Another combination that day was glissades with assemble battu. I’d never tried to beat my assembles, so I was unsure about how to go about it.  NS Teacher said we didn’t have to beat them, possibly noting my apprehension, but omitting the beat sort of threw off the timing.

At home, for center, I’ve finally gotten through the entire Classic Center video (except for grand allegro, because there’s just no room, I do my petit allegro and sautes on this rubber mat thing I have that I put on the carpet), being able to do all the combinations. The way I approached it was to repeat the exercises several times in each practice session, until I started to remember them (it also helps that she goes over the combination several times). Another thing that helped was that I’ve just been going up on releve retire instead of the pirouettes (so I can devote the energy spent to pirouette anxiety on remembering the combination instead).  The combination that I’d had the most difficuty remembering was the adagio, because there’s all the changes in facings and chasses and temps lies with port de bras, and honestly at first (and second, and third, and tenth…) glance those kinds of steps majorly confuse me and I have trouble remembering them until I’ve marked them many times.  I’d set the goal for myself that I wanted to get though the Classic Center video before my regular classes resumed for the Fall and I wouldn’t have much time to practice at home. I found it really fun to work on the same combination until I was able to remember it, and then actually feel like I’m dancing it, which is something that I don’t get much opportunity for during regular classes outside of the beginner level. I’m hoping this continued exposure to a more intermediate-ish kind of combination will help if/when I return to Intermediate class. I’ve also become really comfortable with promenades in attitude.

In non-ballet-related news, I have  leveled up on my headstand skills. I no longer need a doorway to walk my feet up to get into the headstand. I’d been practicing the doorwya method for the past few weeks, and finally this week I decided I felt brave enough to try it by myself (still against the wall though). I’m still not kicking up, just getting in the clasped hands and head between the arms position, and really pulling up with my core then lifting up one leg and pushing off a little but mostly just using my core. The first time I tried it I was pretty scared, but by the third or fourth day it was starting to feel very muscle memory-ish. My next goal is to be able to do it without a wall at all, but I imagine that one will take a little more time…

Also, i never got around to publishing my yoga session thoughts, and that is because it turned into a rambling mess, and I’m still not sure what I want to say on the topic (not to mention I’m torn with guilt because I get it that yoga is Good For You, but I just don’t feel as inspired to do it as I do ballet, and I hate that you-should-know-better feeling). But I do have to say that besides the headstand progress, yoga did help me improve my flexibility even more and even out the flexibility gap between my tighter and less tight side. I’ve noticed that my extensions on either side are becoming more or less comparable, although as far as strength goes I remain uneven.

 

Some Classes, And Thoughts On Childhood vs Adulthood

This past week I continued my schedule from the week before, three classes at New Studio and then youtube classes for the other days. Mostly I’ve been concerned with not losing the strength that I gained during summer session – cutting back on class hours will do that to me. Luckily, fall session at my regular school will resume next week, so it’ll be a full ballet schedule again.

At home, I’ve been mostly working on a better, more controlled passe releve, hoping that it will traslate to better pirouettes. It appears to have worked! I’ve been doing the combinations in Kathryn Morgan’s youtube videos Easy Ballet Center and Classic Ballet Center, but during the pirouettes I just go up into passe releve instead (the floor at home is pretty terrible for turning). So then, when I was in class at NS and we went across the floor (tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors, repeat), I was actually getting all the way around on my pirouettes, even to my harder side (right). I got to be honest, I was surprised to be getting around consistently! This must mean that it’s been working though, so I will continue on with the video practice.

I had committed that I would be doing the Classic Barre this week, but then I found a newer video class called Pointe Barre. After giving it a quick view, I noticed that the combinations seem faster and more involved, so I just had to try it. It was a bit more challenging that the Classic Barre video, but I was able to keep up (except for the frappes on releve, but I just did them twice through in flat). I’ve actually gotten better at customizing the difficulty so that I can get through all the exercises, and even start to memorize them. However, I don’t know if I should be working on the same barre video to focus on technique, or if I should switch up the barre videos so I’m forced to learn to remember combinations faster.

My timing was a little bit better during class, not like how I kept starting too soon in all the combinations last week. So perhaps last week I was just having on off week after all. During sautes I got a little bit ahead of myself, but once I realized it I was able to settle back down to the correct speed. I’ve gotten so much better at remembering to breathe during my jumps instead of holding my breath, and as a result I feel like I can jump for longer and longer.

And then, something else, something I almost feel like I’m not supposed to/allowed to say… I feel like it’s as though i’m saying ‘why does everyone say the sky is blue?; it looks green to me’… but since it’s my blog I’ll say it anyway, even though it is not the experience for the majority of people (and besides, if you want the majority opinion, there’s plenty of other places to get it) – it drives me absolutely nuts when other adults keep going on and on about how easy everything is when you’re little. Or how flexible you are as a child and how it all goes away. Not that you can’t have that opinion; your opinion can be whatever you want. But I can’t stand it if someone whom I barely know (new classmate) starts going on and on to me about how this would be so easy if we were children, and don’t I remember how easy everything was back then, how can I not remember? And it’s like no, I can’t remember because it was NOT easier for me to do physical/kinesthetic things as a child. It just wasn’t my experience. And flexibility? Back then I couldn’t even reach my  knees, much less touch my toes, and my extensions would have been nonexistent – all my flexibility came as an adult (though my hands and locked knees do indicate possible hypermobility, even then). But for whatever reason people always seem to look put out when I express my truth, and it’s not that I’m trying to be deliberately contradictory, but if it just wasn’t my experience for things to go a certain way why should I lie about it? Am I supposed to lie about it, in order for them to have the piece of mind, to keep believing that their truth is the only one? Is this one of the reasons why I can’t even have simple small talk conversations with most people, because I refuse to give them the answer that they expect (if it’s not true to me), so they move on to those who will just echo their sentiments?

But if I may be honest, even though I may sound irritated or angry in my little rant, I’m actually lonely.  It can be very alienating not having anyone to relate to. I mean, sometimes they all start having a group conversation about how great things were when they were little girls and I just feel so lost, so unrelateable, like there’s something wrong with me. I often feel like no one can relate – I know what it feels like to be an adult who can do somewhat awesome things, but I don’t know what it feels to be a child who could. And since it’s presumed to be easier to do things as a child – no one expects a grown up to be able to jump and skip and dance and cartwheel – there’s this feeling of failure that I carry around with me, like I was an inadequate child, like if we were living in caveman times I would have been left by the group to die as the weakest link (I know that sounds so dramatic, but I think about stuff like that…).

Anyway, I’m trying to find something constructive in all of this….Yes, I may have been a disappointment as a child, but at least now I’m not full of excuses? Or at least since I don’t have those memories of the happiest childhood ever, it makes it so my adulthood is really fun in comparison? I feel like if I was more motivated, and social, I could turn this around and have it be somehow inspirational, to not let your past define your future. But I’m not really that motivated (except to practice ballet!) – or social – so it will be up to someone else, if there even is anyone else like me out there. There probably is… they’re just not coming to my local classes, or writing about it on the internet (yet – if you’re different that the “norm”, please share your story; we need it).

(p.s. yes, I know that it’s easier to recover from things like falls as a child, and that bone remodeling rate or cell growth slows down when one is older, and these things may apply to everyone, even me. But I’m not really talking about the physiology of it, so much as the mental/cognitive aspect of it. Even though I had healthy bones as a kid, and if I scraped my knee it would scab quickly, that doesn’t mean that I could do all the things that other children could do. I just couldn’t do it. And the whole thing about kids being fearless? Uh-uh, not this child.)

Summer Session Summary

Alternate title: What I Did On My Summer Vacation (ahhh, memories)

Even though I didn’t have much time to write about it while it was going on but a weekly little summary, my ballet summer session was pretty awesome. I learned so much and I really feel that my dancing has really progressed. It was Beginner level, but I do feel that I needed to fill up gaps in my technique in order to be better prepared for Intermediate, should I decide to take it again (and who are we kidding – I probably will).

Here’s probably the most important thing I learned: When you actually use your technique to the fullest – believe it or not – it gets easier (there is a catch though – you have to actually have enough strength in  your muscles to begin with to be able to physically do it. Back when I started, I was so weak that I couldn’t physically do a lot of things that feel like second nature now). If I’m actually holding my turnout and pulling up and not tilting my pelvis (and staying untilted at the pelvis has a huge impact on turnout) I have an extremely higher likelyhood of not losing my balance. My problems with balancing before were partly (at least – I’d say mostly, but there is that little issue of my weight distribution and center of gravity) caused by the fact that I kept losing my turnout and not pulling up. Of course, back then I wasn’t strong enough to even stand up completely straight, let along pull up, so yeah…

But anyway, I’m much stronger now, so when I remember to fully use my technique – and I’m hoping that writing this down will serve as a reminder – it results in much better dancing. I think the promenades issue is a clear example of this. Back a few months ago, I would start feeling like I was going to tip over anyway, so might as well just let it go. But now I’ve realized that when I feel like I’m going to lose my balance is a great time to pull up even more, and not let my leg drop! Same with the turnout, if I feel like I’m off balance I need to check myself and see if I’m actually holding my turnout and not bending my knees when they should be straight. Also, another thing G Teacher would constantly remind me of was having the weight on the toes not the heels – he said if the weight is on the toes I would not wobble. I really took his advice while rehearsing my dance and it was true – the change was obvious and I feel like my dancing improved so much. I’d always heard that when you rest back on your heels you’re “heavier” and therefore slower, but it was one of those things that you have to be strong enough to be able to do it first.

Another thing that helped me extremely: The turnout exercise we did (super slow (16 count) rond de jambes en l’air with a flexed foot, from fifth,  four counts devant, four counts to a la seconde, four counts to derriere, four to close on right working leg en dehors, then left working leg en dehors, left working leg en dedans, right en dedans, and repeat the whole thing with supporting leg in plie) did much to help me with my balance and stability, but also with my confidence level. In the start of the session, I liked the execise because I could really see it helping with strengthening my supporting leg and my hip flexors and rotators of my working leg, so that was all good. But then G Teacher said he wanted me to do it with my hands off the barre. At first it was very wobbly, and I thought I would lose my balance, so I held my hands very near to the barre, just in case. But by the last two weeks of the session it was like ‘I’m going to do this!’, and I held my arms confidently in second the whole time… and I didn’t fall off balance. Not even when G Teacher would come around with corrections (usually involving turning out more my supporting leg while in plie). And every day, after completing the exercise successfully my confidence would grow. By the end of the session, if he had said ‘do it in center!’ I think I could have! (well, I have at home, but you know how it seems easier to do stuff when everybody’s not staring…at least for me…)

I will say that this exercise in particular – sans barre – has the power to wring sweat from my body more than any exercise I’ve ever done. By the end of it every time I was dripping and ready to remove the warm ups, looking like I just stepped out of a sauna. So this will be a good exercise to remember this winter when i need a way to raise up the old body temperature!

Something I really liked was that I got a lot of attention from the teacher (ok, that sounds horrible… let me try to explain). G Teacher was really generous with both corrections and praise. When I take a beginner level class, often times the teacher focuses more on students that are more beginner (and I can understand why, if they need the help more), and if I’m not really being watched, how will I know if I’m doing it correctly? G Teacher often said ‘Good!’ or ‘Nice!’, but he also pushed me harder and expected more from me. And, I’ve always been somewhat nerdy, so I kind of like that feeling when teachers expect more from you, i respond to it real well.

For example, the solo at the end of the session, when I first approached him I hadn’t expected that he would have me learn a real variation. I had just been checking what we were doing for the end of session so I could begin working on one of my own chorographies if I needed to (and hoping to avoid having to work in a group to create one, because that just does NOT work out for me, as I’ve found out). So I was surprised to be assigned a real choreography to learn, and I was pleased when I ran it by G Teacher and he said he was impressed (I’m trying not to think that he was impressed because he expected much less…). Also, and I think I mentioned this before, since it was a bit fast it took me stepping out of my comfort zone. While stepping out of my comfort zone scares me quite a bit, the anticipation of it, afterwards I do I feel… not just relieved, and not just somewhat incredulous, but like I’ve grown as a person (and not just as a dancer, but that too).

And, amidst the constant correction to stop tilting my pelvis (also known as sticking out my derriere), I finally asked the question I’d been dreading to ask – more like dreading to hear the answer I feared I already knew: In order to keep it from happening through muscle memory, does it mean I have to stand with my pelvis untilted even when I’m not in class or trying to stand in a balletic manner? G Teacher answered ‘yes’. Ok, so officially no more excuses – if I want to be able to access all of my turnout and maintain my stability while balancing and turning, no more tilting of the pelvis, even outside of class. Ugh, despite the fact that an untilted pelvis makes my butt look horrible and my tummy pooch (yes, even if I hold my core as tight as I can – I have stubborn flab and loose skin left over), I will have to sacrifice whatever vanity I have left for the sake of ballet. Seems like a fair trade…I guess… I hope…?

Editted to add: Can’t believe I forgot to mention this other thing, also falling under the category of confidence – going in the front row. I think during this session was the first time that I was completely ok with going up to the front row for center work without hesitating. Previously, it had been that I could do it, if the teacher told me to, but out of my own, no way. But something appears to have changed, because now I’m ok with it. I think part of it has to do with how my own classmates seemed to accept that I’m kind of an intermediate-beginner, so that helped to reinforce it to me that even though I’m the same person who couldn’t even balance on one leg long enough to lift the other foot of the floor for a milisecond, that has changed. Which sounds really bad, because I think it sounds like I’m saying that I can only define myself by how others see me? Which is not what I’m trying to say necessarily – I define myself, in my own company (which I love); in the company of others, especially others who I find intimidating, I tend to freeze up, and so their defining of me becomes the only one… perhaps that’s closer to it. I realize it might not make much sense to anyone reading, but these are some of my struggles, and not just in dance, but in life. But it does seem that through dance I’m tackling my issues, so that helps.  Anyway, I’m hoping some of this new confidence will stick around for a bit.

I’m sure there was more, but that’s all I can think of for now. Next up, my thoughts on my yoga summer session.