Monthly Archives: September 2014

Monday Class: Finally, Some Foot Strength

As the semester progresses we are doing more and more barre exercises during which Teacher has us let go of the barre the second time through.  Today we let go during the degage and pique combination and during the rond de jambe,  fondu, coupe and passe combination.  We were also taking our arms of the barre at the end of most of the combinations and balancing in releve. Teacher has not yet asked us to balance in releve on one leg, but I anticipate that happening soon so I’ve started working on that more at home so it doesn’t come as a surprise. Surprises during ballet class don’t usually end well for me…

Something new we did at barre was move our leg en cloche.  The combination went something like degage forward, come back through first and degage back, then degage front, pique, and balance. Then the same thing to the back, ending with a pique and balance with the leg to the back.  While I am familiar with this movement, I was glad that Teacher said we would not be letting go of the barre during it today.

We did grand battement and changements exercise (three grand battements to the front, three changements, repeat other leg), first holding the barre then letting go.  While we waited for the other half of the class to do it the rest of us then could optionally practice it far from the security blanket safety of the barre.  It went better than I could have imagined.  Grand battements a la seconde are easier for me than en avant – I think that’s how you say “to the front”, we’ll be getting quizzed on this later – so the fact that the en avant one’s went well was encouraging.  My changements were not too shabby either; I had a good mirror spot so I was able to see the part where the thighs clap together that wednesday evening teacher says should occur.

My feet pointing during sautes was not too bad today. While I don’t always point to the fullest that I possibly can – either I forget or I get tired –  my feet no longer do that floppy lifeless thing they used to do in midair.  Or land too far apart. Also, it could have been in my head, but I think that my height during the jumps has improved as well.  It used to be that I barely left the ground.

Our balance combination (4 balances starting with to the right side, then step out our right foot and put our weight on it, lift up back (left)  foot and put arms in first arabesque, then bend supporting (right) leg keeping the back leg straight, and pas de bouree, switch and to the other side) went ok.  The feet part at least, my arms were horrible.  But I felt stable and sort of like I was dancing.

Teacher complimented me on my chaines while turning left.  For whatever reason it’s much easier for me to turn towards the left than towards the right.  When turning towards the right I kept losing my spot today, but otherwise it went ok. Now teacher wants us to actually finish (in first arabesque) when we finish chaines-ing, instead of just kind of running out of center, so that’s the next thing I will be working on.

Today I wore one of my new tights. Since I’ve been obsessing over the silky feel of the material I went with the Theatrical ones, since I just couldn’t wait to try them on (but actually wearing them to class, not just for a quick minute). I will be updating my mini-review as I get to know the tights I bought some more.

As I was leaving I saw Strict Teacher. That was kind of weird…

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Sometimes I Suck

Warning: semi-rant follows

Sometimes I suck. And not just at ballet.

If I were to say that last wednesday’s class – and all the flashbacks it brought back – have not been circling my mind obsessively the last several days, I’d be a liar.  A big liar. Truth is, I’ve thought very little about anything but that.

I hate the new fears that have awakened inside me.  I worry that I’m the worst wannabe-dancer ever, and that the only reason anyone offers any encouragement is to be polite.  Because enough other teacher’s have said what they had to say, or volumes were spoken by their silence. By now I’m wondering if Nice Teacher’s compliments are true, or if she’s just being excessively nice.  I wonder is all my “dancing” is good for is a laugh.

Living in worry, fear, and doubt is the worst.

About a week ago, I had a dream I didn’t bother writing about. Mostly because I forgot the specifics right away, leaving me with only a vague idea. In it, my first ballet teacher and latest teacher (NiceTeacher) were having some kind of meeting or something. Don’t know why or how, but I burst into the room and started tearfully explaining how much ballet means to me.  Sometimes my dreams come true in an indirect way, but now I’m paranoid: do the teachers talk among themselves about the students and their progress or lack of?

To my first teacher, I was practically invisible.  Of the whole semester I took ballet with her, she corrected me only a handful of times and, since I sucked horribly there was probably a lot of correcting possibilities. It was ok, I wasn’t expecting much, but what had made it almost intolerable were the other students in the class.

This was the semester of overhearing the loud conversations about other students body types, the semester of the live pianist staring at my pathetic attempts to jump, the semester of avoiding standing where the class’ “Best Dancer” could see me at barre (and of course she had her barre, where only those she deemed good enough to stand next to her could stand. As she loudly proclaimed more than once).  But I would have taken being seen at barre over being seen by her in center. At the barre she would just make this face, I can’t describe it in a way to do it justice, but like if you’re some kind of idiot  for not being able to do it right.  During center, then she would straight out laugh.  And point (and I don’t just mean her feet).  The teacher had nothing but praise for the “Best Dancer” despite her terrible attitude (though she may have just not noticed?).  That class had made me feel unwelcome like no other.  Like if my clumsy, two-left footed, big chested self was trying to infiltrate their exclusive dancer world and they were just not going to grant me admission.

On the last day of class, as we all sat in front of her in a haphazard semi-circle, the teacher had asked who planned on continuing on with ballet. When no one volunteered (though in my mind I already knew I would), she had started calling on people and offering encouraging words, trying to convince them.

She did not try to convince me.

It’s really hard for me to not focus on that. To think that she deliberately didn’t tell me anything because she thought that I’m just not good enough, that all the practice in the world won’t make a difference.  At the time I channeled all those feelings into sheer determination to practice and improve.

With my next teacher (Strict Teacher), I didn’t fare any better.  She did give me plenty of corrections, and I know my ballet-ing improved while I was studying under her.  But she was not sympathetic to my limitations at all.  Overall, I would say that she did help me a lot with the study of ballet.  But did I feel at home in her class? Honestly no.  When it came time to give out grades (since this is a community college class), she gave me an impossibly low grade.  As in I added up the points and there was just no way.  So I wondered, was this my second hint to get the hell out of the dance world because it so clearly doesn’t want me in it?

This summer when I took my first non-commmunity college ballet classes, I felt comfortable. Yes, I was super anxious before actually going – obsessing over what could go wrong – but after my first class I was just so happy.  This studio has been the only one where I have truly felt at home as a “true” adult beginner, not as a young adult who is already a dancer and is considering returning to ballet.  This studio has been the only place where I didn’t feel that exclusivity vibe, that feeling of not belonging.  It has been the only place where no one has tried to make me feel unwelcome.

But by having that sub from first semester the feeling has been ruined.

It is not my intention to be melodramatic.  Sometimes just talking about my feeling helps me move past them, to let them go. And no one I know in “real” life cares to hear about this 31 year old woman’s ballet class drama.  No one understands. They just say “Oh, it’s not something you’re going to do for a living anyway, who cares,”  or something along those lines.  But I care, and there’s just no way that I can explain to them how much ballet means to me, how much this obsession of a hobby has helped me make it though these difficult times.

If I didn’t love ballet so much, I would have given up by now.  Why try so hard to be part of a group that doesn’t want you in it, and all.  But I love ballet, so I will keep going.

I realize this is a pretty negative post. Sorry about that, but with the highs come the lows and all that. Have a great day and thanks for reading.

Ballet Tights! Mini- Review (Updated)

(Edited to add: I made this post to help other ballet students by reviewing some tights, not for a certain individual’s personal gratification.

Hey, weirdo: how about you stop stalking my blog and looking at my pictures of tights?! Seriously, stop being a freaking perv! There’s sites online for that. Don’t make me have to make my entire blog private just to keep your perverted self from looking at my tights pictures.

P.s. – dicussing tights – and only tights – is hardly considered “chatting about ballet”. Don’t contact me again. If you do, I will publish screenshots of every email you’ve sent me. That’s probably what you want – attention. )

 

Been feeling a little down – ok, more than a little – since my last evening class.  However, today a package arrived for me. My tights were here!

As I mentioned in my post from wednesday a week ago, my tights have been deteriorating.  As I looked around the dance studio in the mirror, I’d noticed that the shade of pink was not really pink anymore.  After KitTeaCat Does Ballet (linking feature still down for me) recommended Discount Dance Supply for discount tights, I decided to check them out. After perusing their selection of adult size tights I ended up ordering two pairs.

Previously I’d only purchased tights in person.  Don’t know if the dance store only carried Bloch tights in adult sizes, or if there is a cheaper alternative that I wasn’t shown, but both times I’ve picked up some tights  they were by Bloch.  Since I haven’t tried any other brands I went with two different brands so I could compare and contrast.

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The tights in their package. And Mudgey, reponsible for the first hole in my old tights.

The first pair was by Natalie Dancewear.  I bought their footed microfiber tights in Ballet Pink.  The second pair was  by Theatricals.  For this pair, also microfiber and footed, I opted to go with the color Prima Pink.  I don’t remember how much they cost but it was something around $4 each. The total with shipping – and I assume including sales tax, since they are based in California, which taxes online purchases by it’s residents – came out to $11.11.

For a moment I was a little worried that Prima Pink would be too, well, pink, instead of the supposedly “fleshy” color of Ballet Pink.  Nevermind that neither color is anywhere close to my skin tone.  It appears my worries were unfounded; the colors are very similar, as the pictures will show.

When I pulled the tights out of their respective packages, I was struck by how soft the material of the Theatrical tights is. It just feels so silky smooth, I just wanted to rub it against myself for a bit. The Natalie tights don’t have the same soft feeling, though both pair of tights are made of the same material (microfiber), with the same blend of 86% nylon, 14 % spandex.

I haven’t actually worn either pair of tights yet. Trying on clothes is only fun for me when I’m in a certain mood, however weird that sounds. The rest of the time it makes me lazy. Yeah, trying on the tights makes me lazier than writing  about it, go figure.   But I will be wearing them for class this coming week and I will update on how they are doing and more than just first impressions.

Due to my height/weight ratio it could go either way on the sizing but I went with the larger size.  If I were to put on more muscle on my legs I wouldn’t want to risk them not fitting.  Because I am planning on making them last as long as possible and all.

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The Natalie tights on the left, Theatricals on right. For contrast, in the middle are my discolored tights, formerly Ballet Pink.  Notice how Ballet Pink (left) and Prima Pink (right) are very similar.

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Close-up.  Now you can see why when compared to my classmates tights I was able to see how bad mine were.  Maybe throwing my tights in the wash with my black leotard was not the smartest idea…

When I wore my Bloch tights on wednesday I noticed that they were stretched out in some places but not others. It was really weird, not sure what caused it. They were a smaller size than the pink ones I later got (the discolored ones), so perhaps it happened when I forced myself into them.  At the time when I bought them I was between sizes, but I have since learned my lesson to go with the bigger size.

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Trying to show the stretched-out-ness of the black tights. As you can see, some part look more solid than others, which are more translucent.

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Another attempt to show the strange stretched-out-ness.  It’s just that I thought when things stretch out it would happen kind of evenly…

Updates! (9/29/14)

Wore the Theatrical tights. Was super glad that my in-between-sizes self ordered the next size up because these tights are snug!  They felt great though, the way I imagine a silk stocking would feel.  It was a really chilly morning but the tights did a good job of helping me conserve body heat.

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Trying to show how Prima Pink looks when it’s worn. Not too pink at all! 

(10/01/14 World Ballet Day!!!)

Wore the Natalie Dancewear tights.  Not as snug fitting as the Theatrical tights, though I’m still glad I went a size up.  Actually, I would say that on these tights the leg part doesn’t feel long enough almost, but the underwear part (don’t know what it’s called, I’m not a clothes person, sorry) is roomy.  Almost too roomy.

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Wearing the Natalie tights.  Weirdest photo angle EVER, no “photographer” (lol) today.

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And for color comparison’s sake, one of each tights on each leg.  Natalie Dancewear tights on the left leg (Ballet Pink), Theatrical tights  (Prima Pink) on the right leg.  Please excuse the non-balletish flip flops and another weird photo angle.

So, in conclusion, unless something extreme happens to change my mind, I prefer the Theatrical tights. Besides the silky feel of the material  (which I loved!) , I liked the way the tights felt snug, like they hugged my legs, without feeling like the leg portion was too short.  The Natalie dancewear tights felt like if I didn’t have my leotard to keep them up they would come down, both because I felt like the leg part didn’t go up enough, and the underwear part was a bit loose.

And that concludes my first mini-review .

June 2015

As I realized this page gets viewed quite a bit, I’m updating the info on the tights. (Maybe when I’m not feeling lazy I’ll put up some pictures)

The Theatrical tights began to run in the upper thigh are at some point early this year.  This is after being worn approximately once a week, always hand washed.

The Natalie tights have help up a little bit better. Unfortunately, they began to tear at the seams where the guset is sewn to the tights material.  It’s still just a tiny tear, but still makes me paranoid to wear them too often. Actually, lately I’ve been avoiding wearing them at all.

Lately I’ve been wearing my Body Wrappers tights. They are holding up well so far…

At Least a Positive + a Negative Still =’s Neutral

Ever have one of those days when it feels like your day got flipped a whole 180 and you’re left wondering what the hell went wrong? If not, consider yourself lucky, and if you care to see what that is like, read on.

Original half of the post (up until the beginning of evening class part) was written way earlier and has not been edited since.

Wednesday morning class

As morning class ended, I was so high off ballet happiness that I practically floated to my car. If only after every class I could feel this way – but then maybe when I do it wouldn’t feel so special… Food for thought.  But seriously, I was in such a great mood that I didn’t even notice traffic on the way home. More evidence for our thoughts influencing our reality, I guess.

What was so great about today’s class? Let’s see, not only did plenty of things go right but, more importantly, nothing really went wrong.

During the plie and tendu exercise with port de bras, Teacher very enthusiastically said “Good, K (insert real name)!”  Then as we did our tendu and degage exercise without holding the barre I felt more stable than I had when we previously tried it.  I may be closer to finding my one-legged balance (while moving the other leg) than ever before. Then we did a coupe, passe and ronde de jambe exercise, again without holding the barre, and that also went without a single wobble.  Teacher also complimented me on my releve-sous-sus balancing with arms in high fifth, which for once I did without legs shaking.  The theraband exercises are really paying off!

One thing that struck me is that when I hear Teacher say “Ok, put away the barres!” when it’s time to go to center I actually don’t get this impending doom feeling at all anymore.  Or maybe that was just today.  But I have realized that I actually enjoy center, which would have been inconceivable as little as 3 or 4 months ago.

We practiced different ways of ballet-walking across the floor.  My pas de cheval walk is feeling more stable every day, and  I’ve finally overcome my fear of looking at my reflection in the mirror at class while in center.  Before there was just this constant fear of it looking so horrible – wrong arms, wrong posture, wrong lines, wrong everything – that I wouldn’t ever want to attempt doing anything ballet related in front of anyone again. We also did this other walk that just involved tiptoeing but pointing the feet when they are off the ground and slightly crossing in front.

Then came ballet running.  I’ve written on this blog previously about my difficulty with ballet running, which is aggravated by my fear of drawing attention to my chest.   Luckily – see, today’s class was awesome – the guy that made the comment about breast-weight a few semesters ago was not in class today.  Or else I would have felt so uncomfortable, and it would have potentially ruined this so-far-perfect class day…

I know it’s irrational to let one person have such an impact on one’s mood but to feel publictly called out about an issue that I feel is out of my control (body type) is really embarassing me for me.  Also, sometimes some of the more advanced students have this mean-girls, sort of catty behavior and I just try to fly under their radar.  Thankfully, that was mostly a first semester phenomena and I have seen way more diversity the following semesters as far as body shape and size, age, and even ethnic background which is really cool. I love diversity in ballet!

Today I wore my black tights, which had been a little tight (pun?) in the waistband area last time I tried them on (2 months ago), giving my torso a sausage-like appearance.  The good news is that they felt a less tight around the middle. The bad news is that even though I rarely wear them – only one time last semester – they appear to be really stretched out or worn in the legs.  So strange, because I don’t think I’ve worn them a total of 20 times since getting them.  Oh well, they’re just my emergency tights anyway.

Rather than doing sautes (like I said, today’s class was perfect! ), Teacher spent the last few minutes of class teaching us different ways to bun our hair.  Some of the girls’ hair tends to fall out during turns so that’s what brought on our bun tutorial. Last semester, Strict Teacher taught us how to do a ballet bun, but today I also learned other ways of doing it. Looks like a ballet-hair blog post is in the near future…

Evening class

Why, oh why did I not just stay home and call it a day after morning class? I know, because I’m a ballet addict.  But seriously, I should have just taken the night off and celebrated or something.

We had a sub.  That in itself would not be a problem, escept fot the fact that it was a girl that I took class with during my disastrous first semester taking ballet!  A girl that I remember often giggling as we beginners stumbled and collided through across the floor combinations.  I’m not really comfortable giving too many specifics on this public blog – and it somehow seems immature of me to completely trash some girl a dozen years younger than me –  but I will just say that this girl is not very nice and I don’t think I would have even liked to take class with her again.  Certainly not have her as my teacher.

Unfortunately, I was already situated comfortably at a barre with the other students by the time she walked into the room.  I’m much too shy to take such bold action as to walk out on class. And, like I said, I’m a ballet addict. So I decided to stay for the class.

She asked the group how class was usually run.  Out of the 10 or so students, no one spoke up except for the 2 most advanced students. So she gives us this long barre combination that includes grand plies in fourth! Of all the times I’ve been going to this class ( I’ll later check my archives to update the exact number), about 9 classes or so, we have never so much as stood in fourth.  We had at least several students who don’t even know how to tendu, but since the 2 most advanced -one of whom is really advanced, possibly even an ex-pro – were the only ones who were not too intimidated to say anything, we went ahead and tried the combination.

It went horrible.  I was unable to find my concentration, and while I wasn’t completely messing up, I know I could do so much better. There was no way I could just focus on what I was doing when I kept having flashbacks to my first few months of ballet. I mean, I remember back then I would try to get a barre spot somewhere where she would never be in a position to see me. That’s how intimidated I felt! So out of nowhere I felt like someone who’s only been taking ballet for weeks or something.

It didn’t help that her variations of barre exercises for the more advanced students were way too advanced for me. This is going to sound so bad, but the last couple of weeks I’ve almost gotten used to being among the more experienced people in class.  Mostly because the more “beginner” version of the move is too basic, like not using arms at all or something. Well in this class it was like all or nothing: either you held your arms out in second the whole time, or you can do things that I’ve never seen in class in person before.  Like stuff the pros do in class on youtube.

The craziest thing is that thanks to the newfound strength in my legs, I was actually able to hold all my releve balances.  Every single one.  If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with the whole teacher fiasco I would have been thrilled.

Center. Ah center, I think we have a love/hate relationship. Earlier I was singing it’s praises and now… I just don’t know anymore.

We did that pas de cheval walk that I’ve become quite proficient at. Of course, she did give me a correction: to look up. In morning class I know to look up because I just look straight ahead into the mirror. But at this moment I was, however slightly, reverting to first semester behavior.

The more advanced students were supposed to do the walk for the first half, and then ballet run the rest. The idea of ballet running – and bouncing – at this movement were more than I could bear.  So I huddled with the beginner students, waiting for my turn.

What cheered me up – and really kept me from wanting to cry – was these two adorable little girls, probably around 3 or 4, outside the studio windows who were trying to dance like us.  It made me smile.

She gave out a combination that apparently the advanced students were familiar with, while the rest of us stood there dumbfounded. She told us to just leap or do something. I managed to produce a couple mediocre jetes, and I forgot my arms completely. So I guess it was below-mediocre jetes.

Then we did sautes. On my first one I pointed my feet more than I’d ever seen them point during a jump before. Unfortunately, after that I was either tired or didn’t want to bounce – or both – so I never got that height or pointing again.  For the advanced version, she like, fluttered her legs in the air or something I’ve never seen in person before.

There was no reverance. Boy, was I ready to get out of there though! Classes like these make me wonder if I’m better off just practicing at home instead.

The little girls were still dancing outside as I walked out. They were putting on a “show” for a passerby lady by that point. Too cute!

Fitness Goals Update

Since it’s been two weeks since I renewed my commitment to exercise – all for the sake of improving my ballet skills – I figured it was time for some updates. The accountability factor of writing how it’s going should also help keep me motivated, which is something that I really need.

I’ve been doing my theraband exercises almost every single day.  Besides the ankle and feet strengthening ones,  I’ve incorporated some for my thighs and turn out.  These exercises can be found on an awesome blog that I’ve found called If The Pointe Shoe Fits (which I would link to, but can’t, because for whatever reason the linking feature here on WordPress has only been working for me when it wants to, and it hasn’t wanted to for this whole month. Much apologies, and I will fix it the next time it’s working.)

Anyway, I can see a visible improvement already.  I’m one of those people who carry (excess) weight in their stomach (ugh, especially there, unfortunately), upper hips, back, arms – basically anywhere but the legs – so there isn’t really a lot of fat to hide the fact that my muscles weren’t developed enough.  The past few days though, I’ve felt like my legs looked a bit “meatier” which is good.

It really sucks, because I’m short-waisted, which translates to: my midsection always looks wide unless I’m really thin. In contrast, my legs look too long and stick-like. So the extra muscle in the legs really balances my body out.

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I cried unconsolably when I first found this picture because I realized that there was nothing I could do, it’s all genetics.  Before I lived in a happy fairytale world where everyone can reach their goals if they only try hard enough. 

My getting-down-and-back-up from the floor transitions are also showing a little bit of improvement.  It generally feels as though the movement is smoother, and I can do more of them.  They are by no means perfect – I keep clenching my arms with the effort – but way better than during last semester when I actually had to rest my hand on my thigh to help me get up or down.

Enough about the lower body. What about the upper half?

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Yes, I realize my hand looks wrong!  But the main point is me whining about my upper arms while wearing my leotard.

Still been doing the Shakeweight. In my arms I have not seen as much improvement as I would like, to be honest.  My upper arms still look horrible in my leotard when I put my arms out to second.  I’m trying to think positive and not get too down on myself but I worry that this is one of those issues that won’t get resolved.  Thought about switching to a different style of leotard, since perhaps where the sleeves end is aggravating the problem.  Perhaps a slightly longer sleeved style would be more aesthetically pleasing.  Boy, is the next heat wave going to suck… Oh and a tank-top style leotard is also out because I have to wear not one but two(!) sport bras to class in order to not feel “bouncy”, which pushes up my remaining back and underarm flab.

Right before writing this  I attempted pull-ups to see if there is any improvement in that area. Short answer: no.  Two weeks ago I couldn’t do any pull-ups and today I can kind of do almost one.  Don’t know if the problem is that Shakeweight is not very effective or if I’m just so weak that I need lots of improvement before any will be apparent.  Been debating actually going to the gym (well, the free one here at our apartment complex), and I really dislike going to the gym, so that should show how serious I am about getting some upper body strength.

Walking has been going great though. I’ve increased the frequency of my walks and I’ve actually lost a pound or two since I started this fitness semi-challenge, so that’s awesome.  Surely I’m at – maybe even above – my pre-injury fitness level and that makes me happy. Overall, lately I’ve just been feeling pretty darn happy…

Also, this time of year is my favorite, the mild weather lends itself to walking and doing outdoors stuff more than the extreme heat of the summertime. I’m glad it’s fall, which along with spring is my favorite of the seasons. Now, if we are talking about The Four Seasons, then my favorites for sure are winter and summer, in that order.

Anyway, here’s to fitness and the beginning of fall.

Monday Class: Ballin’ and Balances

Can’t believe it’s week 5 of the semester already…

Also, WordPress just informed me that this is my 50th post. I’m guessing that’s some kind of milestone or something, or else they wouldn’t have so graciously brought this to my attention. 

We did our regular barre that we usually do, plies, tendus, degages, piques, ronde de jambes. The new thing we did in during barre was bringing up our foot to coupe and passe in the back of the leg and then taking our hands off the barre to balance. While I’ve been practicing my balance with my foot in coupe and passe, I’d only been working on it with my foot in front, so it was one of those moments of uncertainty that keep occuring in ballet class.  (I just typo-ed and it said “baller class” instead, which made me giggle. Well, the way some classes cost, sometimes you gotta be a baller also?)

During grand battements, teacher corrected me on my standing leg because it was slightly bent.  I have hyperextended knees, so sometimes bending it just enough to give it that “straight” appearance but not too much is tricky.  My working leg was looking good though, and I like how I can point my feet while they are  in the air. It took me so many months to be able to do that!

Then it was time for center. Today we worked on balances. Not balancing,  though we did work on balancing as well, but the move that kind of rocks side-to-side.  Pronounced balan-say.  As soon as I heard we were going to be doing balances I got excited in that “Yay! A move I’ve done before and practiced excessively. What could go wrong?!”  As it turns out, plenty.

First of all, last semester’s teacher (the strict, scary, you-aren’t-really-trying one, from here on known as Strict Teacher) taught us to do our balances with a jump. As in, jump out onto a toe-pointed right leg, then bring in left leg to back coupe, step down onto left foot and straighten left leg and releve on it, bringing up the front right foot off the ground (remembering to point!), then bring down right foot, kickout left leg and jump onto it and repeat on other side.  Strict Teacher explicitly said that she wanted to see a jumping motion in there, lots of ballon (French for bounce).  This is the way I’d been practicing my balances since.

But, as I found out today, not every style of ballet does balances the same way.  Teacher wanted us to pas de cheval our right leg out to the side, then we bring the left foot to coupe back and straighten the left leg, releve, bring up right foot, repeat.  There was no jumping involved! The non-jumping way is actually easier that the jumping way – to be fair, I don’t like to jump – but in class the much slower timing was really throwing me off.  Last semester’s combinations involved quick, jumpy balances and today we were doing more of an adagio with balances.  Also, even though I have been practicing the balances at home for a while, my port de bras during them is very awkward.  And that’s just the arms; don’t get me started on the part where the upper body kind of has to lean in to it ever so slightly! In other words, during class that part of class I almost felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.  Looking on the positive side, at least I was doing a decent job of not losing my balance.

It could just be in my head, but I think I noticed some improvement in my sautes.  It may be all the theraband exercises I’ve been doing, or it may be that my brain is finally relaying the messages to my feet in a timely manner, but I managed to somewhat point my feet while in midair.  And I managed to land with my feet in something that almost resembled first position, keeping in mind my previous corrections to land with my feet closer together.

 When we do echappes with changements I’ve noticed that my foot-pointing concentration runs out a bit, though. It’s especially harder for me to point my feet when jumping from second position. However, by the end of the 16 counts my feet landed in the right position and my arms were sorta doing what they were supposed to.  Also, I didn’t step on myself at all!

One thing I’m grateful for is that we stand too far from the mirror to see in close detail.  The reason for this is that I’m pretty sure I make a face like I’m trying my hardest, which doesn’t look ballet-ish at all. It would also be nice if I didn’t visible run out of breath and end up panting in between set of sautes,

During chaines, I tried really hard to keep my arms in the right position – elbows up! – and to keep my feet close-ish together.  What really helped (sorry if this sounds mean) is that when it was time to go across the floor I lined up with some students that were more beginner than me.  This meant that there was no pressure in performing the chaines quickly but instead I could focus on accuracy.  We were going longways across the studio, so there from where we start it looked like a football field length away to the other wall.  Not only that, the clock that I use to spot is not there, only mirrors!  It was more challenging for sure, but not the low point of class by far. That honor still goes to sautes.   

Oh, and one of my classmates clapped for me when I finished my turns.  That was really cool of her. I think it’s the first time anyone’s ever clapped for me during ballet class. Just wanted to write that down so I can read it if I’m ever feeling really down on ballet class and/or myself again.

The Height vs. Stability Trade-off

As I alluded to at the end of my last post, this is about my short conversation with wednesday evening ballet teacher.  There was a question that had been bugging me for a bit – in fact, I as I was having trouble sleeping on tuesday night because of the heat it kept circling my mind – so I told myself that I was going to work up the nerve to ask one of my teachers.

Some background info first: As I have mentioned many, many times thoughout this blog, my balancing (while in releve) is not that great at times.  Many other aspects of ballet – my overall coordination, flexibility, timing, –  have been steadily improving throughout my 20ish months of ballet. But my balance, in my opinion, is worse than the average beginner’s.  There is nothing that sucks more for me in class – well, I can think of a few things, but not any that have actually happened – than to be one of the first people to lose their balance on releve.  Then I looked around (using the mirror, I wasn’t obvious), and noticed that many of the other students’ heels were actually not very far off the ground at all.  And I though, “If I don’t go up all the way, I guess I do feel a bit more stable.” But when at the barre – and all those times that I actually do find my center of balance – I can go all the way up. “It’s a trade-off,” I thought, “of height vs. stability.”

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I happen to enjoy looking at – and making – graphs and charts for whatever reason…

But the questions lingered in my mind : is it correct technique? Which is a bigger priority, the height (full releve) or being able to maintain stability for a sustained period of time?

This wednesday, I walked into class with my mind made up – I was going to seek an answer to my questions!

According to the teacher, if it’s not all the way  up it’s not a real releve.  Fair enough.  I’ve seen so many ballet recitals on youtube and while a high releve looks great – sometimes I almost forget they’re not en pointe – a not-so-high releve looks somewhat sloppy.

After explaining my issue ( the height vs. stability trade off), I asked if it was an ankle strength – or lack thereoff – issue.  She agreed that doing more ankle strengthening excercises would help, and  of course, more practicing. Which makes sense, because when I do my theraband excercises immediately before attempting to balance I have noticed that I’m more stable.

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A half-ass releve, heels only 4 in. off the ground. 

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A “real”  releve, or as real as it gets for me. This one was in first position.

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Releve sous-sus. My feet are too far apart, but I thought it was cool how I literally can’t see my right foot’s heel from this angle.

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And just for fun, a picture I took yesterday. Both my heel and toes are touching the floor and I was pushing up the rest of my foot off the ground far enough to fit my hand between my foot and the floor.  Just though it was a crazy thing to see my feet do, though I’m not claiming this is impressive or anything. This was taken immediately after finishing up theraband exercises.