A Different Class And Some Performing

Been neglecting this blog again… just been so busy and… yeah… I guess I’ll discuss my week a little now.

I went to a different class, Beginner level, that I hadn’t been to, but with a teacher I have taken many times before (I hadn’t taken her class in a bit because of scheduling conflicts and I really miss it). Besides getting a great correction about not throwing my weight back while doing pirouettes – which is a bad turning habit I have in general – I came out of it having had a pretty awesome time.

So much so, that I started to wonder why was it that I had so much fun… There’s the obvious reason: it’s a beginner level class! While I love my Intermediate level classes, beginner class is that time when it seems like maybe I might actually be doing it… somewhere close to good? Which makes me feel weird saying it, like in a how-dare-I-say-I-did-good-in-ballet kind of way, and that really sucks. But anyway, getting past that, I love taking beginner class – the barre exercises are manageable enough that I can focus on all the little details (which results in me possibly working even harder and sweating like crazy), and in center petit allegro is actually doable (changement, echappe, changement, echappe, soubresaut x2, pas de chat, changement, reverse). I can go in the faster group! Good times!

But the thing is, besides my Intermediate classes, I already am taking a beginner class a couple times a week – I got to thinking, why am I not having the same happy, fun experience there? (And this is by no means a commentary on either of these teachers, they’re both great.) I realized it’s a classmate issue – a mixture of different attitudes leads to a completely different class experience.

At this point I feel like I should mention that I’m not a jerk – hopefully at all times, but definitely in ballet class. As this was not my regular class, I didn’t go in there with an attitude (not that I usually do);I went in there fully conscious that it was a beginner class and maybe, just maybe, the people who regularly take the class would feel threatened by someone who was slightly more intermediate-beginner than them showing up and acting like they’re some kind of “real dancer”. I don’t do the things that I sometimes see more advanced dancers get away with – I help put the barres away; I ask the people there (if applicable) if I can stand at a place at the barre; I don’t insist in going in the first group; I don’t stare – or worse, snicker – at people who make mistakes; if asked I offer help; I’m friendly to anyone who talks to me – in short, I try to be a decent person, not a prima donna (or a wannabe prima ballerina LOL). I remember being worse at ballet than anybody else in the class, and that keeps me in the mindset that, under the wrong conditions, ballet class can be a terrifying place. I don’t want to contribute to making it scarier, more intimidating, to anybody – that’s just not what I’m about. I know some people, when they get better than the average person at something they like to hold it over them – that is not me! Ok, so I’ve moved up the ladder a little, but I don’t want to hold that over those on the lower rungs; I want to help them up. Like I’ve said before, whether this is a quality or character flaws, who knows, who cares…

That said, in the beginner class I take regularly I feel some tension.  There’s a few people who make me feel uncomfortable, I feel like they stare at me in a not-so-friendly way, sometimes make comments, and then I feel guilty for being ok at beginner level ballet combinations, and it just makes class not as fun as it could be… like it turns into a competitive vibe and I’m not interested in competing but it just seems like others are and it just feels… awkward and horrible. So I haven’t been really getting my ‘fun ballet class’ experience, unfortunately. Perhaps this is my own fault for noticing and caring… but sometimes it makes me so mad! It’s like, no I’m not doing the barre exercise facing the barre with no hands to show off, I’m doing it to get stronger and improve my balance. Argh!

***

In other news, it was peformance week, for my school’s show. For the most part it went alright, although I almost twisted an ankle during one of the performances. Thankfully, I’m strong enough that even though I stepped on it wrong, it didn’t fully roll and I was feeling much better by the next day.  This year I found myself much more nervous that last year. I’m not sure why, except that perhaps last year a part of me didn’t believe it was real, and thought that at any point I would wake up from the dream (and since I’m dreaming why be nervous?). Well, also this year we had at last one fewer dress rehersal, so that may have had something to do with it.

However, I’d also say that I had more fun performing this year (which almost makes no sense to me since last year we totally went the classical ballet route with one of my favorite ballets and this year it was more original contemporary works). Part of it comes from having slightly more experience as a dancer, and being more comfortable with the steps. At the time of the performance a year ago I’d only taken one session of intermediate level ballet and lots of things I struggled with at the time are now completely in my comfort zone (like controlling pique arabesques or super quick weight shifts into a balance).

It was fun, but in a way I’m glad it’s over? I’m still unsure about whether I want to continue in the  ‘performing arts’  (but of course I want to continue to dance, as I’ve mentioned before). At my school most of the dance as far, as performing goes, leans more towards modern than ballet. To be honest, at some point I start feeling like there’s something wrong with me for still preferring ballet to modern. i get used to hearing my classmates say that ballet is so ‘technical’ – which it is – and limiting (which I don’t think it is, but perhaps I just can’t understand what they mean by ‘limiting’) and that modern isn’t, but that doesn’t make it easy (contrary to their implications)!

It’s really frustrating because I actually find modern to be much more difficult than ballet. I get it that you don’t need as much ‘technique’, but I just find it hard. If anything, the technique aspect of ballet makes it more do-able, like I know what I’m striving for, even if I can’t do it yet. With modern I just feel lost. Like I don’t have that ‘creativity’, which then makes me feel like I’m a screw up as a dancer (and, if I may be honest, as a person – is being creative all it’s cracked up to be? Is to be creative to be human?). Maybe modern’s just easier for people who are not as hopelessly uncoordinated, shy,  and body unaware as me? Ballet, and all the codified steps – the either-it’s-right-or-it’s-not aspect – is so helpful to me, like, for the first time in my life I can dance! The fact that I love to make my own choreographies makes me feel like I am creative, but the fact that I rely on ballet steps alone makes me feel like I’m not – like I can only create out of already existing things, just rearranging, in a way. This is so confusing! I apologize for my ramblings, but as you can (possibly) tell, I’m just trying to figure things – or myself – out.

I still have a couple of performances left, but these are not in the theater, just us performing our own choreographed pieces for the class. One of them is completely done, I’ve just been working on cleaning up the details. The other ones still need work, but I’ve been so busy with the show and all the rehearsals that I haven’t had much time. So that’s what I’ll be working on for the next week or so. After that, a well-deserved break, and then we’ll see.

Some Ramblings

A variety of topics…

Lately  I’ve been continuing to focus on finding and exploring that balance between dance and life, between dreaming about ballet and focusing on the bigger picture. Since my last post I have confirmed that I love dancing, having spent a good amount of time dancing by myself, working on my own choreographies, and just enjoying myself. My foot has finally been feeling back to normal, so I was able to do more actual dancing during class instead of just marking anything harder than tendus and adagio in center. I even started jumping again, in the studio with the sprung floor.

I thought I’d write about something that I have been puzzling over for a bit this past week. After rehearsals, one of my teachers said to me that I need to have more confidence, that I need to “be proud of it” (exact words), if that makes sense. I explained that if I’m worried about losing my balance while doing that particular step, then I’m not feeling very confident, and thus, not feeling very proud. I also made sure to mention that while doing steps that I’m more familiar with I have become more confident as time goes by. He replied something about how the confidence should come first, not be a result of the familiarity with the step. Whaaaa…?

This is a rather odd concept to me, but appears to be an extension of the Fake It Till U Make It sentiment I briefly touched upon on a previous post. Let’s just say I struggle with this concept immensely (although I have managed some basic levels of “faking”confidence, such as holding my head up high and keeping my shoulders up and back, all thanks to pilates). When it’s codified ballet steps, especially beginner level steps, it’s no problem by this point. I may be terrified on the inside, or having a bad anxiety day, or something, but I’ll still hold my posture and not give into my tendency to shrink. But when it’s new-to-me steps, especially more contemporary stuff that really tries my balance in new (and terrifying) ways, I guess my inner lack of confidence bubbles to the surface…

What will I do about this? The obvious answer to me is to practice the troublesome steps more, since I did make the commitment to do the school performance (and then once this commitment is past I will cut down a little on my dance classes and practices – or not. Like I said before, I’m still trying to figure it out, so I will go by what feels right and always be mindful of my motivations). Do I believe in this teacher’s approach – confidence before familiarity? Honestly, no, not at this time. Perhaps when I’ve been dancing for longer – and the memories of falling over in center have been forgotten – then it will be a different story. As it is, I don’t know if those memories will be forgotten – I didn’t start out at a comparable level to my classmates in Beginner ballet class, but as the worst dancer in the room, not just lacking technical skill but also balance and coordination. It’s not hard for me to remember what a mess I was, actually, because my dancing in ballet class back then was worse than my current ability – or lack thereof – at hip hop dance class. So I have a nice reminder twice a week that the only way I improve at dance is if I really work hard.

This ties in to something else I wanted to discuss: there are few things I find as aggravating as someone presuming to know more about me than me (meaning where I came from/where I started from, how incredibly difficult even simple things were).  And it can be very frustrating – not to mention annoying – when I’m struggling with something and feel that I’m not allowed to express this. Many  of the people I’m around in dance classes subscribe to the idea that “you can do anything!” and that if you don’t believe this you’re “being negative”. Perhaps it started out with good intentions – I mean I really want to believe it started with good intentions – but I feel it ends up veering into blaming people for not trying hard enough, for “not wanting it enough”. Clearly anyone can see that with our different bodies, strengths and weaknesses, different steps or moves may prove to be more difficult to some of us? I mean, if the average ballet student in my class back when I first started in Beginner was able to hold a releve balance on two feet (if only for a few seconds) during their first class, but it took me over a year to do this, then obviously we did not start from the same place. It would be ridiculous for me to expect the same progress in the same amount of time, but I feel like it is a very unpopular thing to admit. It seems to me that “you’re being negative” is code for “you’re saying things that contradict my world view, and I chose to take it personal”. Or perhaps that’s why I’m not “confident” , because I don’t expect the unlikely outcome to magically occur without putting in the work … and the time. How does saying “I CAN do this!” and then falling out of it make me more “positive” than admitting “I can’t do this YET?”. (Or maybe I’m showing my age again, since it seems to be mostly the young’uns that feel this way…)

At this point I’d like to interrrupt this admittedly whiny post by saying that despite all my grievances things have actually been going well in life. I have made a friend! I’ve mentioned before how difficult it is for me to make friends, so that explains what a big deal this is. Previously I’d made a couple of ballet friends, who I enjoy talking with about ballet-related things before and after class, but it was still somehow superficial – if specialized- small-talk. But with this new friend (who has been an acquaintance for about a year, but we’ve been interacting more lately) who is also a dancer, but more into Modern than ballet, I’ve been having real conversations – sharing hopes, ideas, dreams, fears, beliefs. Conversations with substance, getting deep, which as an introvert I crave and enjoy immensely.

Among many other things, I’ve discussed ballet with her, and since she’s not completely passionate about ballet I’m able to hear a more levelheaded – and openminded – point of view than I sometimes get from my ballet friends.  She’s actually the first person (besides Boyfriend) with whom I’ve discussed in depth my choice to not pursue going en pointe as a goal. This is something else that I’ve felt that I can’t talk about with anyone – even on here, sadly, although this should be a safe place for me to express my ideas – because it’s so different from everyone else’s point (obviously, no pun intended) of view, and I’m really bad at making controversial statements. But going over it with my friend has helped me feel more secure in my decision – since I’m not pursuing a professional dance career, there is nothing wrong with me enjoying ballet in flat slippers. For a while now, I’ve had this worry that since my goal is not to get en pointe then I can’t refer to what I’m doing as “ballet” (not that everyone who does ballet recreationally IS en pointe, of course, but from the ladies who are not all I ever hear is that it is their dream and number one goal. For full disclosure, I feel I have to admit that one of my goals – which I can check off – has been to be strong enough to be allowed to do it, even if I choose not to). Perhaps instead of “ballet” I should refer to it as “flat-llet”?

Then again, I’m a big fan of ‘never say never’, so I’m not saying it will never happen. I’m just saying that with the way things currently are it is not my goal. Who knows what the future holds?

Still Around…

Well, I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth, but I haven’t posted in a while. During this time I’ve been doing lots of thinking and pondering, trying to figure things out. To be honest, I don’t know if I should even publish this post, but perhaps getting it out will sort things out a bit.

Umm, I guess rant/whine alert…

I’ve been going through some things, and …it’s complicated. For now, I’ll just say that I’m still dancing, still taking class, and will probably continue to dance under some capacity for as long as I am physically able. Hey, even if it’s in your living room – or kitchen, in my case – and with no audience, it’s still dancing. It’s my little expression of happiness and nothing can take that away from me.

That said, my relationship with dance at the moment is quite rocky. I don’t expect anyone to understand – and I am admittedly being ambiguous on this very public forum – but like I mentioned earlier, I’m going through some, well, things … I feel like I have been abusing dance as a drug, using it to keep my mind occupied … I have used dance as a distraction from things better not mentioned here, and while I am forever grateful about how much it helped me make it through some of the darkest episodes, there comes a time when I cannot keep running, hiding. I feel that things have come around a full circle and I need to remember what else is important to me, what else matters, what came before dance…

It’s time for me to make some tough decisions… and so, in the future I may possibly be cutting back on the amount of classes I take, on the amount of time spent practicing, obsessing. Simply put, I’ve come to realize I don’t like the person that it threatens to turn me into – an insecure, unsatisfied, yet competitive person – and I don’t know how much longer I can resist against the tide. Being a misfit is a vulneable place, and I feel I cannot grow into the person I am to be if I’m constantly feeling out of place. I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I tend to be impressionable, and I know my weaknesses enough to know that the smart choice is for me to create some distance. Where I am in life compared to my fellow classmates is so different, so much further along, but when I’m there in class, in the moment, I can almost forget that fact. This inevitably leads to disappointment ; while I’m not too old to dance for fun – I don’t believe anybody is too old to dance for fun – there is no future in it for me as anything other than fun. And, I sincerely believe that there is more to life than having fun – I have to manage all my other responsibilities and work on myself, not just constantly be seeking enjoyment.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely don’t regret having started ballet. Thanks to ballet I have discovered that my body can do amazing things, that there is such an incredible capacity for strength, commitment, and passion inside of me. And that’s the issue right there, i think; while I’ve proved to myself just how far I can get if I set my mind to something (in this case learning to ballet), I feel that I have been focusing my efforts in  the wrong direction. If that passion, commitment, and  (mental) strength were applied towards bettering my circumstances in other ways, who knows what could happen?

(I’m sure this if a very popular sentiment to express – not. LOL. I don’t really care, this is my truth, and if you can’t express your truth on your own blog, where can you, right?)

Well, anyway, I’m not quitting dance, I don’t think I could ever truly quit dance. But I am reshifting my focus a bit. While I plan on finishing up the current class sessions that I have signed up for – and paid for – I will be taking it easier after that.

Another thing that is a factor in my decision is injuries. I don’t mention every little ache and pain on here (mostly because I’m not seeking advice on those topics), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Especially when the weather cools down, then it seems like there isn’t a day that does by without something managing to hurt – my hip, my foot, etc. – and every year it appears to be getting worse. My body seems to be requiring me to treat it with special care, and it’s frustrating. Since I didn’t grow up as a dancer, I don’t have that high tolerance for pain that dancers supposedly have, and not knowing if I can trust my perceptions of pain (or if I’m just being a baby…) is even more frustrating, and a little scary.

I feel that it may have been foolish of me to sign up for the school show, since I require a lot of repetitive practice to learn my choreography and my body just isn’t wanting to cooperate (especially with the colder weather). Ok, fine, I’ll be honest – it’s downright heartbreaking that even though I’m willing to put in the time, effort and practice, my body then fails me. This is compounded by the fact that other (much younger) people squander away their time and then complain to me about how they don’t improve even though they aren’t willing to put in the work. I feel myself becoming bitter and angry, and I don’t like that  side of me… While I’ve told myself in the past that the “mature” thing to do is stick around and “be the bigger/better person”, and deal with irritating people,  it’s hard (duh), and I honestly wonder if it’s even worth it…

Not that rudeness and immaturity is limited to ballet classmates, of course. In hip hop class, this past week we had to work in groups and one of the people in my group kept making passive agressive remarks about how she didn’t want me there (she kept saying ‘if it was just the rest of us, we could do this or that’, and she gave me attitude whenever I asked a question). Actually, I think that was when I made the decision that I was over it. As an adult, I don’t have time for these immature brats and their childish drama.

But am I any better? In a different class, I saw a classmate do something really rude to a fellow classmate, and I didn’t have the nerve to say  or do anything about it. Does this make me horrible? Perhaps.  He/she who doesn’t stand up against something wrong is condoning it, right?

I feel pretty low about it even now. This just adds more fuel to my argument that I need to create some distance around myself.

***

This wouldn’t be a ballet-blog post without me discussing some ballet-related stuff – the past few weeks have been rough though. I’ve lost some strength because I had to stop working on releve for a couple of weeks, due to some foot issues. I did barre, and then marked center combinations, wishing that I could be dancing. Once I was able to dance again – hooray for adagio! – I was so happy (and that’s how I know I can’t completely quit dance), and I felt like I won’t take dance for granted again. Also, it wasn’t ballet but I also participated in my first flash mob a couple of weeks ago and it was really fun.

Keep Your Head Up!

‘Keep your head up! Look up!’ Is one of the most common group corrections I hear called out during class. Apparently, this is something that many people struggle with, and i can completely relate. When I was new(er) – I mean, this went on until I’d been ballet-ing for over two years – this was something that I really struggled with. If looking up and keeping my head up and shoulders back were something I struggled with in regular life, how was this supposed to change (for the better) when I was wearing awkward clothing and constantly losing my balance?! Simply put, I couldn’t.

What changed? You know that expression about faking it ’till you make it? Let’s just say I’m still faking it, but hey, it works! I do got to say that this is easier said than done…and I definitely wasn’t able to pull it off until I felt more sure of my balance. But I think I finally have this looking up thing somewhat under control. Now if only I could improve on that external focus thing I keep hearing about…

This past week all my classes were pretty challenging, each in a different, appropriate-for-that-level way.

In Int/Adv, we did several long combinations, one of which I  remember enough to share here: Walk slow 3 steps, releve walk faster, run, pique sous-sus, developpe croisse devant, developped a la second, chasse to arabesque, pormenade in aattitude, allonge, sous-sus, tombe, pas de bourre, releve in 4th balance, pirouette en dehors, pivot to prep for pirouette en dedans, soutenu, pique arabesque, walk, pique arabesque, run off.

We also did sissone while changing facings, faille, assemble which is so fun and I remember a little over a year ago just freezing up and not being able to do these in center when it was my turn  (instead I did some weird cross between a glissade and looking like I was falling down), so it’s a definite sign of improvement. I still get confused about the sissone arms though (which way do the arms open?  Better clarify that with a teacher, and write it down so I can remember…), but the jump itself is not too bad.

In Intemediate class we did an adagio: pique sous-sus, developpe devant croisse, pique sous-sus (change facing) developpe a la seconde, pique sous-sus en arriere (change facing) developpe derriere, promenade in attitude, allonge, pas de bourre, soutenu in place. Soutenus in place are finally making sense to me!

We worked on our facings and I realied that tendu efface devant is to devant while facing en face is what ecarte derriere is to a la seconde and  croisse devant is devant as ecarte devant is to a la seconde. (Hope I explained it right) I’d had an idea about this, but having the knowledge has made my facings more precise.

I worked on my beated jumps at the barre for a bit, and could really see some improvement in the mirror. I’m hoping if I keep uo the practice at bar it will translate to center.

In Beginner, we jumped, a lot. Previous to this we had been mostly working on barre work and ballet walks and tendus, so the change to sautes, balances, and tombe, pas de bourre was nice. For sautes, we did this exercise when you saute landing count 1, then hold plie for 2-4, then saute twice on 1 and 2, hold plie 3-4, etc. all the way to 4 sautes then repeat.  Of course, my calves were absolutely dying the whole weekend…

 

The Silent Treatment…

As a brand new dancer, I didn’t quite know what to make of being ignored in class. I remember, several months into it, thinking that it may mean that I was doing everything right at the barre – which sounds  really ridiculous, I know, but I had zero experience with ballet class culture, or ettiquette outside of that class. As time passed, since I did not get any personalized attention, or corrections, it was up to me to take initiative and apply the corrections that I heard others be given. Of course, at that level of experience it was hit or miss; a correction such as ‘arm at the barre in front of you, never behind’ is obviously easier to apply than ‘pull up on your standing leg! Reach energy past your fingers!’.

Eventually though, I started to get the feeling that if the teacher doesn’t correct you it might be a very subtle way of telling you that you aren’t good enough, and even with correction you still won’t be. I mean, before, when I couldn’t tell a point from a sickle I could lie to myself that I wasn’t getting corrected because I was doing it right, but once my ballet-vision was honed enough that I could see mistakes, it was obvious that wasn’t the case. For the record, I don’t consider it ignoring if I notice the teacher only gives general group corrections, but when it’s a teacher that is very hands-on I wonder if I’m giving off a ‘don’t approach me’ vibe, or if they feel that I’m not teachable. Or worse, not worth their time.

Since my second teacher did not offer me personalized corrections much either – though she did correct my sickled foot in coupe, and I’m grateful for that – I did start feeling apprehensinve about getting the same treatment from any future teacher I ever tried. My third teacher was the general-group-correction type, but then I met Teacher, who was super specific with her personal – and physical – corrections and got me whipped into shape in no time (it was during my time taking classes with her that what I was doing began to vaguely resemble ballet instead of some strange exercises in arm and leg coordination).

And,well… I really hesitate to discuss this publically… but lately in one of my classes I think I’m being ignored. And honestly, I don’t know how to feel about it. Is it that anything that could be corrected (Faster! Higher! Hold your balance longer!) is something that is beyond my physical ability, as judged my the teacher? Should I trust the teacher that if she sees anything that is within my control to fix that she will tell me? But it’s hard to just trust the teacher when you feel that they might look right past you, and therefore your mistakes might just be invisible…

I’ve read articles before about what to do if you would like the teacher to pay you more attention, but those articles are mostly geared towards teens and pre-pro kids. I feel awkward asking this particular teacher to pay me more attention, because while I don’t like it, I understand that I am not a high-priority student for her. There’s no possibility of me having a career as a dancer, and it’s not her responsibility to satisfy people’s hobby aspirations. But (and I feel like there’s no way to say this without sounding at least a little mean, but I’m trying not to/it’s not my intention) there’s other people in there who also don’t have a possibility of a career and it seems like they get a little more attention? So I start to think it means there’s something wrong with me…

This also brings up the question, what IS the limiting factor when determining who can possibly have a dance career, however short-lived, local/regional, or unpaid (which, as unpaid, would not technically count as a career, per se, but I basically mean dancing with a company, I guess, even if it was not the way the person earns a living). Is it strictly based on age? I know some dancers continue to dance well into middle age, but they did not start as adults so that’s a different story.

Well, anyway, before I go on more tangents, I’d just like to say that when I get corrected often it helps me see how I still have so far to go, while still believing that it’s possible, that the teacher believes I can do it, that I WILL do it. And I do think that just as I am aware of how far I’ve come, raising the expectations will keep me working harder and that’s something I want. But what am I to do, but keep working, working, working, and be grateful for all those teachers that do think I’m worth their time…

A Rough Start And A Great Ending

At the start of the week, I was feeling rather silly about being in the Int/Adv class. Feeling like what am I doing in that class when my skill level is clearly not up to par. I’m not the most beginner person there, but a commenter here once said something wise (and I may be paraphrasing a little, too tired to to look it up, sorry): just because you’re the worst one does not make you a worse dancer [than you already are], and just because you’re the best one [in a particular class] does not make you a better dancer. Horrible paraphrasing job there, but hopefully you get what I mean. Anyway being objective, and looking at where my level  is now, I feel like I don’t belong there…

I have no intention of dropping out of it though – as long as I don’t get all introspective and think about how much my dancing sucks in the scheme of things, I have an amazing time in that class (and it’s not like there’s much spare time for thinking during class anyway…). But now that I am feeling introspective (and rather melancholy – I am probably not a fun person be around right now… ), I can’t help thinking that I have no business there, with the real dancers, the ones that actually have a future in dance, the ones who are not done with their youth and well on the way to middle age.

(I feel I should clarify that these classes are not through an adult recreational program, and there’s dancers training there who are really good, and past alumni have made it to big companies and all that. So I do feel like I’m wasting their class time or taking up space, or something. Taking these classes with the older teens/young adults is a double-edged sword; while there’s no way I would be able to afford such an intense dance course load otherwise, sometimes it just feels like a lot of pressure. And inadequacy. And this strange feeling of not belonging. Not that I feel particularly at home or like I “fit in” when I take a recreational class with only “real” adults… maybe the problem is me…) Hello, tangent!

At barre I don’t feel like i get in the way – though when I mess up obviously (like, wrong foot tendued in  wrong direction) I start to worry that I’ll draw attention to myself.  But in the center, like when doing turns across the floor, it’s pretty bad. I force myself to go faster, but my technique suffers, I feel. And I don’t want to go slow and hold up the better dancers who, for whatever reason, were not in the front of the line/group. Which may not be my fault, that the better people didn’t go forward, but I don’t want to get yelled at about it for not filling in the gap, so yeah…

Well, that was kind of a pointless ramble, but I feel better having written about it. That said, the rest of my week was actually pretty awesome. The pace in Beginner class really picked up this past week, in the form or us doing the barre one exercise after another with hardly a pause (we have a set barre for the session so G Teacher doesn’t have to give us the combination in theory) and I love it. Intermediate class, while more challenging than Beginner (obviously…) still does not fill me with the intimidation that I feel in Int/Adv. It could be because Int. class happens to be a very small class, and I don’t feel like I’m in the way. But I’d be lying if I said that the people there didn’t make a difference. The crowd in Int/Adv is more,well, advanced, and while they’re lovely to watch while in the other group waiting your turn, dancing with them is intimidating. It Int class it feels friendly and with less pressure.

As far as hip hop, there may be some hope yet? For our latest combination, instead of only working on it for a week we’ve been working on it for the past two weeks, and I’m actually remembering it now. At least as far as getting the feet and arms roughly where they should be, moving in the correct direction. H Teacher worked with me a little bit during class individually, so I think maybe I’ve made that jump between Incurable Klutz and just plain bad, and he thinks that some help will make a difference. For what it’s worth, it did.

Still, it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to, but I’m guessing that’s something that will take time. A friend told me to imagine I’m dancing alone in my room, but when I dance alone at home I want to do ballet. So that did make me question whether or not I actually want to dance hip hop. If I do, and hope to actually show improvement, I’m guessing I need to put in some outside of class time. As it is, I don’t practice hip hop on my own time, but I’m thinking it wouldn’t hurt to at least go over the combination in my head.

Another cool thing that happened this week was that through my school I got a free ticket to go watch a live performance of the ballet! It was a small touring company doing a full-length performance of Sleeping Beauty and I had so much fun. I couldn’t get over how sparkly the tutus were in real life. This was my second time watching a ballet live that is not the Nutracker. There aren’t too many opportunities to watch ballet live out where I live without having to drive out to the Big City, so even without the added bonus of the free ticket it was still a rare treat, a wonderful night.

Last night, I had a ballet dream. In my dream, I was in a full time ballet program, like the residential kind (I think I’ve been watching too much Dance Academy…), and I remember I was so thrilled because I could do every combination in class. So yeah, a peek into my subconcious – and impossible – wishes.

Like A Ballet Brainteaser

Now that we’re about a third of the way through the session,the difficulty has really picked up in Int/Adv and Intermediate. Well, I guess in Beginner too – I always get extremely sweaty in that class, working on technique at this excrutiatingly slow speed. And by now I feel that whatever strength I lost in the inter-session period I have regained (I want to say ‘and then some!’)

In Int/Adv though, the tempo is usually rather quick, both in barre and center. Lately, F Teacher has had us do diferent variations on the 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 theme. One of them was still facing the barre, but  afterwards we did three quick degages in first, followed by flexing the foot and quickly beating/closing fifth in front, back and front, then temps lie and then the other side. Yeah, so I may have been  a bit lost on that one, hoping we’ll repeat it in another class…

The other version we did was not facing the barre, and it was 8 degages devant, taking the full 8 counts for the arm to arrive in high fifth, then 8 degages a la second with the arm taking 8 counts to get there, 8 derriere with the arm slowly going to arabesque, then a la seconde, and then repeat the whole thing with 4 degages, then 2, then 1, then soutenu for the other side. The first time F Teacher had us try it, it was so fast that most of us were all over the place. So then she picked us a slower piece of music, and it started to become do-able but still really hard.

Another brainteaser-ish aspect is changing facings at the barre. For example, after our four on dehors rond de jambes (with port de bras so the arm takes the four rond de jambe’s worth of  time to make the transistion through all the positions), with each rond de jambe we pivot, so that at the end of the first one we’re facing away from the barre, then after the second on we’re facing the opposite side, after the third we’re facing the barre, and by the time we close the fourth one we’re facing the way we were. These are challenging not only because of the changing facings/instability aspect, but also timing it so that we’re facing the next direction as the rond de jambe closes. And, of course, going the right way since we do these en dedans as well, with the pivots taking us the opposite direction… I mean, it took me about a year and a half to realize that the slow port de bras follows the same direction as the quick rond de jambes, so yeah… (at my most paranoid times, I imagine some of those quick-natural-dancer-people coming across my blog by coincidence, and reading confessions like these while snickering at my slowness and seeming ineptitude…)

Center has also been getting progressively more difficult (but so much fun; I hate to sound like I’m bragging or gloating, but center – even center in a difficult class – has stopped being the time of class to dread, quite the opposite), with combinations including several direction changes of travel, a quicker tempo overall (both during the combinations themselves, amd also the way we very quickly switch groups from one to the next – picture those company class videos on youtube, that quick) and a variety of turns in even the first combination. Here’s an example of one such combination: 2 tendus croisse devant, 1 tendu efface devant, 1 tendu ecarte, fouette to arabesque, chasse to arabesque, coupe back foot, then bring it up to attitude and promenade to other side, allonge, sous-sus, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot, pirouette en dedans, repeat with degages instead of tendus, and attitude pirouette for pirouette en dedans, other side.

Waltz combinations are a little trickier. They usually start with waltz en tournant and balancés, then F Teacher changes it up every class. One time it was a series of pique arabesques in a circle, followed by pique turns and a series of chaines. To the right we marked it as a class several times before breaking into groups of three, to the left we didn’t mark. It started out alright, but once we got into the pique arabesques it seemed we each went a different way and chaos occured.

We also do piroeutte drills, including one when we’re supposed to do pirouettes continuously/consecutively while the music plays (supposed to prepare us for fouette en tournant, I believe F Teacher said). These are hard but they take out some of my overthinking associated with pirouettes, at least some of the time. They’re from fith, which besides being more difficult, helps me to work on bringing my retire foot to the front of my knee (lately I’ve noticed that on pirouettes from fourth sometimes I get lazy about bringing my foot all the way to the front instead of (incorrectly) in the back).

In Intermediate class, the combinations are less complex, but it does help bridge the gap between Beginner and Intermediate. We’ll do tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette, repeat, or balance, balance, tombe, pas de bourre, repeat. Also our passe releve, pirouette and promenade combination for strength. However, sometimes things get a little more dificult. Lately we’ve been working on fouette (not en tournant …yet… hopefully not for some time, I don’t think I’m ready yet…) across the floor. It goes something like, step, step, fouette saute, step, step, fouette saute, repeat, all the way across the floor. I’ve gotten over the fear factor, but my coordination is still off and I get confused which way I’m going.

Speaking of getting over the fear factor, I did some beated jumps! Mostly royalles, entrechats are still harder for me. I attempt them, but my feet end up not-so-pointed in there. F Teacher said we should have our  entrechats by this level, but I clearly don’t. I’m going for it more though, so I do feel like I’m (slowly) improving. As for the royalles, it’s much harder for me when the left leg is in front, so I’m still trying to figure out if it’s a strength discrepancy from left to right issue. Perhaps I need to work the left side more at the barre at home with some quick footwork exercises? I’ve been working on my left side as it is. Lately I’ve been taking a spot at the barre in class where I can see myself in the mirror for the second side (left), because I feel like if I have the mirror to answer to it makes me really work hard. There’s also the advantage that since we usually face the mirror when marking the combination, by being on that side I get to work that side just a little more. I can see how always marking on the same side can contribute to one side becoming much stronger than the other.