Monthly Archives: October 2014

Spectators At Ballet Class

During this past wednesday evening’s class, a curious phenomena occured – (fully grown) spectators peering in at us through the enormous studio windows.  I specify “fully grown” because children observing us, their little faces pressed against the glass, are neither rare nor unwelcome. All the spectating children I’ve seen have always looked so awed, even by our beginner-level barre exercises, and it’s super adorable when they then try to mimic us.  But as for the adults, I have mixed feelings.

The first set of spectators were a middle aged man and woman.  They were walking along the sidewalk in the busy downtown district where the studio is located, and stopped at one of our windows (the studio where I take evening class has wall to ceiling windows that face out to the sidewalk).  While they are by no means the first people I’ve ever noticed slow down or stop, they stayed at the window for an unusually long time – about 3 or 4 barre combinations (yes, both sides).  At some point the man made detailed hand motions to the woman which made it obvious that they were discussing the dancer’s legs.  Then the woman started trying to copy some of the movements.  Eventually, they came into the studio’s lobby, possibly to ask for information about how to join the class.  So, hopefully we were inspirational and got some new people hooked on ballet.

The second set of spectators was a trio of skateboard-riding teenagers or young adults.  They sat on a nearby bench and gawked, also for an unusually long time.  It was a bit awkward, and it felt a bit like there should have been a tip jar or donation box or something.  I considered asking E Teacher if we could let down the blinds, but ultimately decided not to, as I figured the reason they were open in the first place was to promote the studio.  The difference between this past class and all the other preceeding weeks is the time of the sunset, I think, and while before it was bright both in and outdoors now the studio’s lighting obviously stands out in the dark of the evening, drawing them in like moths to a flame.

As luck was on my side, it was the day of the easy class and I’m glad – while they may have been staring at our bodies, at least they weren’t watching me making a fool of myself. That sounds like I may have my proirities of of whack, but it’s the way I feel. If I can’t tell the truth on my blog, where can I?

And as it turns out, I do have something to compare to, so I know how it feels.

During the first semester of ballet, I was in class one day and my First Teacher suddenly announced that we would be having visitors – an entire dance appreciation class!  With no prior knowledge of this, I was in a state of numb shock as I took my place at the barre.  While F(irst) Teacher gave us the option to stand at a barre in the furthest corner from our guests, I was too new to be in a “leading” position at the barre and stuck to the middle.  That and I was still too surprised to move.

It was at around the midway point of the semester – my first ever – so we were doing some things at the barre that were getting to be too advanced for my very beginner self.  While someone without prior ballet training may not be able to recognize correct form (like completely pointed toes, a correct passe or coupe, or the correct shape of an a la seconde arm), things like not balancing, tenduing a la seconde when everyone else tendues front, or having the wrong hand at the barre are obvious signs that you are lost.

However, in the relative safety of the barre, it was not as terrifying as my mind would have made it, had I known about this be honest, I would have probably ditched class that day.

But the real fun came in center.  During barre, possibly part of the reason I sucked so much – because by that point you’d think that I would at least have known what hand to put on the barre to start with – was because rather than focusing on what I was doing or F Teacher’s instructions I was obsessing over the horror that was to come in center. I prayed that we would have easy combinations, hopefully nothing involving running and jumping. Or balancing. Or developpes. Or pretty much anything other than demi plies and tendues either devant or a la seconde, since that was about the extent of my center ballet abilities without tipping over at that point.

I don’t remember the details; either I have repressed them or simply time has taken a toll on my memory, this being my pre-blogging days.  So while I would love to tell a humiliating tale of public embarassment, I can’t. However, since I know that right down to the last day of my first semester I couldn’t balance on anything than two flat feet or do any ballet moves at all without the barre, I know it must have been some of the clumsiest attempts at ballet ever witnessed.

In a way though, I’m so glad I went through that. If I could get through that disastrous first semester of ballet, with it’s multiple visits by dance appreciation classes – yes, it happened again, more than once –  I could get through anything.

By last semester I was feeling more confident when our dance-appreciating visitors came by as I have improved quite a bit.  Still, it did not help that at time the students act like they don’t want to be there appreciating us, at times texting or passing notes. I remember Strict Teacher even kicked out a couple people that had been snickering during one of our center routines.

This semester, so far, we’ve had no visitors. I’m glad. I still prefer if there are no adult spectators in ballet class.

Wednesday Ballet Adventures

Looking at the calender, I saw that daylight savings happens this sunday.  No more getting up before the sun for the sake of ballet…

Even us amateurs suffer for our art…

morning class

There’s no clock in the dance studio, but unless my time perception is waaay off we’ve been spending less time at the barre and more time in center. Eeeeek!

Barre was fun, however, though short.  I like how in this part of the semester barre gets more interesting (faster paced) than earlier on: using arms with everything, fondues (which if I haven’t said it enough times already, I love!), piques (fun, and then hours later your legs feel like they’re falling off), going from one side to the other without stopping, cambres on releve.

However, there’s also the drawbacks, the reasons that this part of the semester is nerve-inducing: lots of balancing (and we’re expected to be able to do it this late in the semester), one-legged balancing, and as I mentioned, longer center.

Today, after doing the degage 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 exercise twice at the barre Teacher told us to do it again with no hands (ok, no big deal, been doing ok at that) but afterward do 8 echappe releves while holding a balance after the 8th.  I tried not to think about the challenge this presented – lately I’ve been thinking that when it comes to ballet I’m my own worst enemy.  Getting psyched out by the perceived difficulty of the move is not going to do me any favors.  So I attempted to blank out my mind and do what was asked without overthinking it – since I knew that if I overthought it I would come to the conclusion that it’s not going to happen.

It went better than I expected.  My balance was a bit shaky – ok, really shaky – but the ecchapes looked ok in the mirror.  It was not easy – when is ballet ever easy? – but I realized it wasn’t impossible as it had seemed.

By this point in the semester almost every barre combination ends in a balance. I’ve been trying to prepare for this by incorporating a balance into all of my barre combinations that I practice at home.  But I need more time!

Today Teacher gave us the option of balancing in passe flat or passe releve at the barre.  This worries me; whenever we are given an option of doing something a few classes later it means we all have to do the more difficult option.  Once again, so glad this is not my first semester taking ballet – I think if I hadn’t worked up to this I would have ran out of there crying by now.

In (our new and improved, now with 40% more time, lol) center, we had a new balance (balan-say) combination.  I carefully watched everyone else’s feet and,besides the jumping, I realized why my balances take so long:  when I learned this move last semester, I learned to bring the back foot to coupe before putting it down behind and rising on it (which takes longer than just putting it on the floor).   I’m not sure if this is incorrect technique, or just a different style; Teacher has corrected me on the jumping, but has never said anything about the coupe-ing.  But the good news is that I was able to keep up in timing for once!

Good news means there’s also bad news, right? So, after the four balances, we step out, arabesque, pas de bourree.  Nothing new, not too hard.  But then, Teacher sprung a New Thing at us.  It was a turn – seemingly on two legs, but in place – which I attempted and promptly found my legs tangled with each other.  Teacher said that we are turning on the left foot (which was behind) to the right.  I’m still not getting it.  Then she says “It’s like a pencil turn,” and I’m thinking “What the heck is a pencil turn?!”

We attempted the combination multiple more times.  I still don’t understand the concept of pencil turning, unfortunately.

Lately – well, the last two classes – we’ve been doing our chaines in diagonal in groups of 3 or 4, rather than just going across the huge studio.  It’s quite a bit more difficult; we all turn at different speeds and it’s hard to not worry about crashing into someone. Today I surprised myself by finishing my turns to the right (my harder side) in a chasse and arabesque.

We were given the option of doing pique turns on the second try of chaines.  Pique turns and chaines are about the same difficulty for me, but I haven’t excessively practiced the pique turns at home so I’m a bit intimidated about doing them across the huge studio. I tried anyway, and Teacher told me to not even think about it. Ok, she wasn’t mean about it but basically told me to stick to chaines.

During sautes, I figured out why my timing is off. Apparently near the end of the sautes (so if we’re doing 16, at around 11 or so) I start going faster, probably thinking that it’s a way of getting through it quicker.  So today I worked on slowing it down and staying in timing.  Also, my feet were pointed!  My changements are still much weaker than my sautes from first though, and I have no idea how to work on that. I feel like when my feet switch I move my hips or pelvis excessively or something. So trying to stabilize the pelvis while not letting the rest of my body hunch over is tricky!

Next week, according to Teacher, we will de doing pirouettes. Oh, crap…

evening class

We had a tiny class, only 4 of us. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to a “let’s use our brains more” class because the other students were new to ballet.  But class was nice, and somewhat of a confidence booster.

My balances is releve sous-sus were nice and stable, but in first position releves they sucked. I don’t know if it’s because we did the first position balances earlier on in class and I wasn’t warmed up yet, or if releve sous-sus if is just a more stable position.

Since the combinations were very simple – due to E Teacher toning it down – I got to focus on my timing more than usual.  And since there were so few of us, we were able to just walk on over to the other side of the portable barres to see ourselves in the mirror on both sides. I really enjoyed that.

For center we did sautes, echappes and changements. Still need to work on my changements but my jumps in general are improving. E Teacher complimented us on our timing, but told us to go deeper into plie.  Said it’s a better workout. A light bulb turned on in my head and I realized that as my legs get stronger my jumps will continue to improve.

We also did chaines but luckily, no passe releve balance and pirouette combination.

So I came home and just for the hell of it, tried to do a passe releve balancing exercise. With arms in high fifth, I plied and straightened and on the 3rd one I brought my arms down the sides and went up for the passe releve balance.  Holy crap – it worked! I stayed up the for as long as I can remember with a possible exception of one time right before I sprained that ankle – in an unrelated activity – last july.

Tried it again on the right foot, which has been my weaker side for this particular thing, and I was flabbergasted to see that it worked again! I think I’ll just keep doing it tonight, just to believe it’s real. I’ll probably make Boyfriend film it so I can appreciate the length, too.

Why is this such a big deal to me? Perhaps because a passe releve balance looks – to me, at least – as such an awesomely balletic pose. To think that I could, despite my body’s center of gravity issues, actually work up to pull this off is so amazing to me.  Perhaps it means I can learn to do even other things I’d previously thought impossible.

I’ve had this fear for a while now – ever since two months or so in my first semester of ballet, when I realized that all the girls that had started as brand new at the same time as I had leveled up to being able to balance on releve and I couldn’t – that there was only so far I could get.  I figured the reason no teacher has brought it up or pretended to not notice was either because it’s a lost cause and it would be rude of them to bring it up, they don’t want to get in any “political correctness” drama, or a mixture of both.

I’d never considered that perhaps I was just really weak when I started ballet and after a while had begun to expect to fail at certain things. That I was holding back my progress subconsciously or something. It’s a really  interesting idea that I need to ponder some more.

Fitness Goals Update 4

Next week I hope to be surrounded by noveling bliss (NaNoWriMo) so I’m planning ahead and doing my next fitness update today! I’m guessing things will get a bit more hectic.  Of course, I still plan on working on my fitness goals during the month, I just don’t know how much spare time I will have for writing about them.

Running/jogging/whatever you call it – really, what’s the difference? Speed? – has been going great.  By now I’ve worked up to about 10 minutes of jogging (all after my uphill walking warm up), but since I’m not getting as extremely winded as when I first started with 5  minutes, I’m thinking I may up the time this week. I  split my jog/run into two parts, one before my jumping and one after.

On the jumps, I’ve been jumping in sets of 64. 64 jumps (8 with feet together, 8 with feet apart (sort of like a la seconde), 8 more with feet together, 8 with feet opening and closing, repeat), then rest for about 20 seconds, then the next set and so on.  Immediately after I finish jumping I begin to jog again.  This last time, just on impulse, I started to gallop chasse across the field on the way home after I finished jogging. It was so fun,and boy did my thighs burn afterward.  If I hadn’t previously I’ve really learned to love that burn, the feeling of getting stronger.

My balletish lunges have been going well, making my thighs feel so much more muscular than before.  I think I have some visibly new muscles both in the front and back of my thighs, but specially the back – I’m bulging!  When I first started doing these I was only able to do sets of 3 or 4 – and remember, I could barely do them, and used the arms for leverage. That’s how weak my legs were.  Now I’ve worked up to several sets of 10, keeping my arms either in high fifth or a la seconde. I’ve definitely been feeling stronger during class, and my one-legged moves (like fondues) have seemed so much more controlled than before.  Improvement makes me feel happy, it’s nice to see results for hard work!

Been doing about 25-30 minutes of yoga 3 or 4 times a week.  I’ve noticed that I’ve felt stronger and more stable in the poses, and have been really focusing on feeling every part of my body being stretched.  It feels so relaxing, like an all-body treat. Been incorporating more poses (postures?) than include bearing weight on my arms as well.  My upper body goals haven’t been going anywhere still…

During my last ballet class, Teacher said that the obliques are responsdible for the body maintaining stability while turning.  I haven’t started yet, but I will be looking up some oblique-targeting exercises to do. image

Speaking of an all-body treat, remember Mr. Tennis Ball?  Just this past week I discovered that he’s not only good for sore feet. I’ve been laying on a towel on the floor, putting Mr. Tennis Ball under my extremely sore and tight back and just kind of rolling around on him.  Feels sooooo good, it reaches all the spots on my back that my hands won’t reach – not to mention my hands get tired – just thinking about it I want to get down there and roll around some more. Seriously, if you’ve got access to a cleanish tennis ball – or any tennis ball-sized semi-hard ball –  you’ve got to try it!  Best massage I’ve ever had, and best of all, it’s free!

Monday Class: Passe Releve, We Meet Again

Week 10 of the semester… Ballet class starts getting harder… No idea yet what the final combinations will be.

Lots of releve-ing in one form or another today! Besides balancing (in different positions), Teacher is having us do forward and back bends on releve as well as bringing up the working foot to coupe and passe.

Immediately after doing the degages at the barre Teacher had us plie and releve quickly 3 times, holding a balance with no hands after the third. By now I’ve noticed that my legs get super shaky when balancing if I’ve been working really hard, and the degage combination is not easy.  Especially when we then do the whole thing without holding the barre.  Surprisingly, after doing the no-hands version I was able to balance today, which I wasn’t expecting because it was the double challenge of rising up quickly (I fear I’ll fall forward!) and having tired legs.

When we did releve sous-sus Teacher said “Beautiful!” – and she was looking right at me – which was probably the best compliment I’ve ever gotten in a ballet class. Happy day!

We did echappe and changement at the barre (not the jumps but the sliding the feet out while releve-ing, and switching feet when sliding back in).  Then Teacher mixed it up a bit and had us do it without holding the barre. And I was momentarily confused, thinking ‘so when you take away the barre does it become like the jumps or is it still just like a slide?’.  I mean, I know the sliding move exists – I’ve seen the dance of the little swans – but physically doing it was sort of a miscommunication from my brain to my feet.  Teacher then paid extra attention to me and my correction was to keep my knees straighter when out to second, so hopefully besides that I wasn’t totally destroying the move.  The few girls in class that are en pointe were so fun to watch during this – I love watching echappes and changements en pointe.

In center, we did a combination that was tondu forward, grand battement forward 3 times, then after the third time we plie and go up to passe releve. If you read my class post last wednesday, you know how I feel about passe releve in center (hint: not too good).  However, something about the port de bras with this made it easier – more like actually doable – today.  We had our arms up in high fifth and when we went up we would bring them down the sides.  I don’t know if it was leverage, or if what prevents me from doing it right normally is just a mental block and this provides a distraction, but today my passe releves felt stronger and more stable than usual. Which is still not saying much…

More advanced people were to do a pirouette (en dehors) the second time through.  I have a confession to make:  I’ve never officially learned how to do a pirouette (though I’ve attempted them – with varying degrees of success, mostly en dedans – here and there). It’s still a foreign concept to me – I realize spotting is involved but other than that I have no clue how to get more than 180 degrees of rotation without using my arms for extra impulse in the beginning.  If a completely stable passe releve  – the kind where you’re just hanging out on one leg for an eternity – is needed then it’s going to be a while.

While I’m thrilled that I no longer run out of breath during the saute and running combinations, I realize that my newfound endurance, while it helps, is not a cure-all for my bad jumps.  At least now when Teacher yells “Point your feet!” I’m able to keep jumping while attempting to apply the correction without feeling like collapsing. Feels less stressful at least.

The timing of the jumps is still somewhat of a mystery to me. Teacher says that we should all be jumping in unison, to the music.  But then we start jumping and by the third or fourth saute some of us are bobbing up when others are on their way down.  It would probably be helpful if I knew whether to slow down or speed up.  Usually I’m too slow, but who knows.

The last 10 minutes or so of class we hustled from one across the floor combination to another – chaines, galloping chasses, ballet running, pas de chat, more sautes, more galloping chasses and running and jetes.  My galloping chasses are getting better, but my ballet running not so much. But I actually found myself having a lot of fun and feeling like a kid (even more than usual) . It was an awesome feeling!

Really wanted to end on a positive note but this is just bugging me and I’ve got to say it: If you’re more advanced, don’t laugh when the beginners are attempting to do a move (especially if they are on the spot and all alone). Today I wasn’t the object of such amusement but I saw it happen to a newer girl.  It’s really sad; I mean just think – some people were not fortunate to take lessons as kids.  How would you feel if you were learning to read as an adult and adults whose parents put them in school as kids were laughing at your pathetic attempts to sound out the words? Not very good I’ll bet.  Add to that additional body image issues and you have yourself a recipe for disaster. So be kind and treat others as you would like to be treated. End rant.

A Novel Idea

As if I didn’t keep myself busy enough, I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo (which for those that don’t know, is a writing “contest” in which you write 50,000+ words during the month of November). Actually, I signed up two weeks ago, just keep forgetting to write about it. This will be my first time taking part and I’m super excited.  Can’t wait until November 1 so I can start noveling up in earnest!

Ever since I picked up writing last year, I’ve been contemplating writing a novel in addition to my shorter works of non-fiction.  My attention span easily flickers from interest to interest so I know that if I want to get this done I need to put the pressure on and give myself a time limit.  So I guess that’s where NaNoWriMo comes in.

According to the guidelines – which I found a few months ago when I started looking into signing up, but for whatever reason can’t find now – outlining, planning, and any preparation other than actually starting to write the novel are allowed. Good thing, for I have been obsessing over novel ideas (plots, characters, settings, plot holes) in my head for the last few months and have finally started outlining during this past month.  Don’t worry, I won’t count any of my outline words towards the final word count.  When you cheat you’re only cheating yourself – and it’s not like you win a cash prize or anything anyway.

Stories come relatively easy to me. As a child, I had several different narratives going through my head which would develop into epically long tales.  While playing outside I would basically come up with a story to keep myself entertained and when I packed up my ball and went inside I would save the part where I left off for the next day.  Then I would continue, unless I grew bored with it and switched to one of my other stories.  All of them independent from each other, featuring different characters and even taking time in different time periods.  If I didn’t like the way the plot was going I would backtrack and change it up, killing off characters, creating new ones, and generally coming up with wild scenarios.  I suppose I was a very creative child – it’s a shame my creativity was not nurtured.  Perhaps I’d already be a novelist, but better late than never, right?

I never wrote down any of my stories.  This was in the early 90’s, when not everyone – or even every household – had their own computer and the idea of writing them out by hand made me feel incredibly lazy.  These stories were long, sometimes going years at a time.

But it wasn’t just laziness.  It was also concerns of privacy.  During junior high I started writing poetry. Just the typical teenage angst stuff, nothing too good (I may be a storyteller, but unfortunately I’m no poet. At least not intentionally).  Well, long story short, my parents found my attempts at poetry (while rummaging through my backpack – traumatic!) and I found myself in a psychologist’s office.  They claimed my poems showed that I was “depressed” and needed help.  After that, I felt betrayed by writing.  It wasn’t until last year – and my own password-protected laptop – that I considered putting my thoughts on paper again.

While I’ve now written 100s of thousands of words, between my two blogs and my private ramblings, essays, and short stories on my computer, if I pull this off it will be the longest I’ve written about a single subject (you know, besides myself).

So if my blog posts degenerate to grammatically incorrect bullet points or sentence fragments during the next month now you’ll know why.  Of course, I will try my hardest to not let that happen; time management goes a long way.

If anyone would like to stalk me over at NaNoWriMo, to find out the latest happenings of my novel, my user name is flowergirlkit (all one word).

2 Classes Yet Again

Since I hadn’t had class since exactly a week ago, I was really looking forward to today.  I love practicing at home – no distractions, no pressure, no feeling on-the-spot and you get to pick the music – but you can’t beat the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, square footage by the thousands to move in, learning new moves, and the occasional correction that makes everything click.

Morning class

We had a completely different – and easier, at least for me – port de bra for our plies again, which was nice even though I’ve been practicing last week’s port de bra and finally getting the hang of it.  In this one during grand plies our arm goes to high fifth, where it stays for our forward and backward bends.  Later on, during a different barre exercise, we did forward and backward bends while in releve sous-sus – luckily, with a hand on the barre.  My legs felt stable during the bends – nice straight knees, legs tightly together, high releve – but I know without the hand on the barre I would’ve collapsed forward.  I’m so glad I’ve been practicing doing more exercises at home on demi point because at least my calves don’t get tired.  Unfortunately, after coming back up from our back bend we did have to let go of the barre, balance for a bit, then soutenu (still with arms in high fifth) and do the other side. Sometimes I mess up and have my shoulders lifted when trying to hold a balance with arms in high fifth.  Really need to work on remembering to not do that!

During our degage exercise – still at the barre but with no hands – I was focusing so much on tightening my core, pointing my foot off the ground, and not slamming my heels together when bringing the foot back in (a mistake I keep making, as no teacher before current Teacher had caught that and brought it to my attention), that I was totally off on the music. Seriously, ballet is so hard!

I was actually looking forward to center today –  though I love barre – because I was hoping to see whether  my sautes would show improvement after all the jumping practice that I’ve been doing.  The good news is that I no longer felt out of breath at the end of the 32 sautes.  My legs felt powerful!  The bad news  is that my jumping practice didn’t teach me anything about timing or quickness. It’s so much easier to just do things at one’s own speed! It’s like there’s not enough time to go down into a plie for the next jump because by then I was supposed to have taken off already for my next jump, or something. Frustrating!  But the way I see it, jumping practice has made me more comfortable with the act of jumping so I will continue to work on it.

As for changements, I’m still having trouble with them.  Once again, I wasn’t out of breath at all but switching the feet, pointing the toes in the air, landing in a plie, and not stepping on myself is just too much multitasking for me.  I definitely did feel stronger though. At home I’ve been working on my chaines to the right (my weaker side) way more than to the left, hoping to even it out. I think it worked – for once I made it all the way across the enormous studio while turning to the right without losing my spot or having to stop and restart, even finishing in 1st arabesque.  It’s awesome when practicing actually  pays off!

Our center combination – 8 balances (balan-SAYs, the rocking, waltzy-kinda move), tendu a la seconde, arabesque, bend supporting leg, pas de bourre, switch to other side – did not go so well today.  Unfortunately I keep doing a jump with my balance, it’s in my muscle memory from last semester so getting my body to remember to do it more like a step than a jump is challenging. And my arms during the whole combination felt so awkward! I like doing balances – they feel so dance-y – but, just like my jumps, it’s hard to do them on any timing other than my own.  It seems like I either do them to slow trying to get it right, and fall behind the group, or try to speed it up and then they’re sloppy.

On the bright side, after we finished going over the combination twice – oh, and did I mention that I was also practicing it while the other groups went (with Teacher’s approval; it was her idea) – I was not feeling out of breath at all.  I wonder, if this is only after about 1.5 weeks of jogging, while I have waaaay more endurance after I’ve been jogging for a while?  Of course, assuming my jogging learning curve is better than my ballet one.

We finished up class by doing the 4 galloping chasses, ballet run and jete.  Once again, left leg forward jump felt very awkward compared to right leg forward. Sometimes I feel so lopsided – for turns my left is stronger, for jumps my right side is.

Evening class

A completely different group from last week taking class today. After seeing the same classmates every single class in morning class, it’s a change of pace. I like it – for some reason it’s less pressure (and therefore less stressful, less anxiety-inducing, less self-judgment and therefore lots more FUN!).

Writing this makes me realize how much I like evening class studio’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, out of the multitude of classes they offer, there’s only  2 ballet classes and the other is full-on Advanced. In other words, they offer 1  class a week I can take, but I would love to take more classes here if they were available (ok, now I put that out there – who knows, it could happen!)

We didn’t do as much “involving the brain” stuff, as E(vening) Teacher says, at the barre as last week 😦 but class was still fun. My (two-footed) balances at the barre went pretty well, at least for me.  I managed to not mess up at any of the barre combinations, and avoid making dumb little mistakes like closing back instead of front.

Once again, I was not tired at all after we did our jumps. Considering how out-of-breath I would feel before – as recent as a couple weeks ago –  this is an awesome improvement. I realize it doesn’t sound like much – I mean, I’m bragging about not panting after doing 2 sets 16 jumps. But I have to appreciate even seemingly small  inprovements, or else I will just feel like a ballet failure. Especially because of the aspects that are not coming along.

Like my one-legged releve balances. None of this week’s barre combinations involved those – they were saved for center.  The combination went: starting from fifth (right foot front) tendu a la seconde, rond de jambe back, then be in fourth position (right foot back), passe releve bringing the right foot front, loooong balance, then back down to fifth (right foot back), then passe releve (right foot front), another looong balance,     back down to fifth (right foot back), then either piroeutte or yet another long passe releve balance.

I’ll be honest; I didn’t even attempt the passe releve balance. Instead, I just balanced on passe flat. As  E Teacher was explaining the combination, which I remembered from last week, I came to a decision – I’d rather not worry about the releve balance and just focus on making the rest of the combination look cleanish (and I think I did) than attempt it unsuccessfully yet again and look like a clumsy oaf.  Last week I had been in a more experimental/adventureous mood and the results were not pretty. I know how to quit while I’m ahead!

Passe releve balances in center are definitely a weekness of mine.  If they are what separate a brand-new beginner from a semi-beginner (someone who can make it look decent-ish – possibly even good – at barre), well, I feel like a total noob.  It is not a good feeling. It pisses me off – I practice so much and try so hard but it just takes me so long to improve.  If the jogging and jumping practice really improves my jumps then at least I’ll be ok at that.  I just hate being the worst at something in class (like passe releve balancing), and for whatever reason one-legged balances on releve are apparently easy to people with little-to-none ballet experience.

However, we wrapped up the class by doing chaines. Evening class’ studio is tiny compared to the gigantic gym-sized studio at school, so chaines-ing across (even to the right) was nothing.  I’m just going to brag: I turned faster than everyone, kept my legs close together, and didn’t lose my spot. And it felt so good, Great way to end class!

Fitness Goals Update 3

Lots of progress to report!  I’m now six weeks into my commitment to work out to improve at ballet.  Six weeks is the magic number!

After my first few days of extreme soreness, I’ve been jogging/running pretty consistently, anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. What’s pretty consistently? How about every single day for the past week (with the exception of wednesday, since I had morning class and all).  Every day, including weekends.  And the crazy part is that, after day three or so I totally began to enjoy it!

I know, my feelings toward running in the past could be summarized as “Avoid at all costs, unless you’re running for your life.” To be fair, the main reason I’ve disliked running is that I tend to suck at it. Or at least I did as I was growing up. This time around, I told myself that even if  I found it unpleasant I would give it a fair shot. Told myself that I’m doing it for the ballet improvements, so just suck it up and deal with it.  But after the initial shock to my body at being used in this way, I’m quickly finding something new to enjoy.  I love how when I first begin to run it  feels so freeing, so liberating, and it’s like a natural – instinctual yet forgotten – skill, but what I especially love is how as I start to get both more into it and more tired every other thought flies out of my mind. All that matters is the very next step.  Such intense concentration, I love it!  So different from walking; walking helps me think things out, running clears out the thoughts. Hard work but so relaxing in a way…similar to the reason why I love ballet…

What I’ve been doing is my usual walk but afterwards I go by the park. At the park I jog for a bit, then find a secluded (sometimes I get lucky and the park is completely empty) spot to practice my jumping.  The first day I just jumped a few times in sets of 32 jumps – it reminded me of how in class we do sautes in sets of 16 or 32.  Just as during sautes in class, I noticed that my first few jumps were strong but by the number 16 I was exhausted and it took every ounce of strength to  keep going.  But I forced myself to go on, and after resting for about a minute or so (or really, who knows?) did the 32 jumps again. And again.

There was no apparent improvement for the first several days. Then yesterday, as I began my first set of jumps, I felt  lighter somehow.  I went through my set of 32 somewhat effortlessly, surprising myself.  In fact, I kept going after 32 – now I realize that I should have committed to doing another set of 32- for 16 more jumps before I psyched myself out and stopped.  After that I did several more sets of 32 and at no point did I feel exhausted, or like my legs were getting weaker.  My heart rate was up, but for once I didn’t feel out of breath.

So this morning I went for it and jumped in sets of 64. And obviously I survived to tell – I feel so proud of myself!

Now, I didn’t work on any technical ballet things like having the feet turned out or the feet pointed.  My goal is mostly to get used to jumping so that in class I don’t become exhausted after only 5 jumps or so. I can’t wait to see if my sautes have improved on wednesday’s class(es).

Another drastic improvement has been my standing-up-to-getting-down transtitions.  As I mentioned in my update 2 weeks ago, I’ve been doing these really slooow lunges while keeping my arms out to second.  At the time of my last update I thought that i had improved but it’s nothing compared to the improvement by now.  Somewhere I read once that in order to see results from an exercise program it needs to be at least for 6 weeks.  They were not kidding – it’s, like, the time frame when improvement just increases drastically. My thighs feel so much stronger that before and my plies and grand plies are deeper than ever. Which is awesome since the point of all this was to improve at ballet. I’m also trying out keeping my arms in other ballet positions besides second while doing the super slow lunges.

I’m also still doing the theraband turnout exercises every day.  I want to say that my ability to maintain my turnout while plie-ing or releve-ing has increased but as for my turnout itself? It’s the same as it was when I first started ballet.

However, I still credit the theraband exercises for helping me find – and strengthen – all the hidden inner core muscles that help me feel stable when I releve.

Finding extra time in my schedule for a full yoga session more than once a week is a little bit more challenging than I thought.  But I’m still doing several poses – or is it postures, can’t remember – a day.  While this is enought to somewhat maintain my flexibility, I do wonder if I stretched or did yoga more would I become even more flexible?

My arms are not feeling – or looking – particularly more fit.  And on some level, I feel like it’s not as important. As long as my arms don’t get tired during port de bras I’m good. And yes, I know that it’s the back muscles (the lats, if I’m not mistaken) that hold up the arms in ballet, but somehow I think if the arms has no muscle and were just hanging there it be harder, like an extra load for the lats to bear.  I mean, I would love for my arms to look better, but with all the other things I have to do I don’t really see myself dedicating much more time than I already am to working them out.   In the meantime, I’m still doing the (probably inneffective) Shakeweight a few times a week. At least until something better occurs to me. Whatever.

Pull ups? What pull ups, lol, I’m still stuck at somewhere between no pull ups and 1.  Very disappointing, this is the only one of my fitness goals that is not showing progress at all.  I can’t understand why; 3 years ago I could do about 8-10 at a time and  I wasn’t lifting weights or working out. I did weigh a a couple (no more than 4) pounds less, which is now leg muscle, so I wonder if that’s the difference.  If so, I guess good-bye pull ups because I’d rather keep the leg muscle, but I’d love to have both.

Ever since I’ve been jogging/running, I’ve noticed that I’m absolutely ravenous.  Yesterday I had double breakfast and at night I just can’t stop eating! At first I thought it was just my emotional eating flaring up, but since there’s been absolutely no weight gain (no weight loss either, despite the extra calories burned) I think my body is just asking for more food. Like I’m burning through fuel at a faster rate or something.  Weird, it’s like a faster metabolism, something that I’m definitely not used to.

But I could get used to it!