Monthly Archives: November 2014

NaNoWriMo: How I (almost) Wrote A Novel

This year, I took place in Nanowrimo, the month-long writing contest that doesn’t fail to turn November into an even more interesting month than usual.  The objective is to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch (outlining and planning are allowed, however) in a month.

Early on this past Thursday afternoon (Thanksgiving) I cashed in my chips verified my word count, because I started to get anxiety that if I didn’t do it right then I would either forget to do it over the weekend, or the file would get corrupted, or my laptop would die or any other unlikely – though possible (and unfortunately, some even repeatable from the past) – scenarios that would result in me not winning or, more importantly, losing the work that I have become so close and attached to over the last 20-something days. Yeah, I have come to regard the novel as something tangible, something I can get attached to. Weird…

My downloadable winner's certificate

My downloadable winner’s certificate. Boyfriend spelled “unnamed” wrong, LOL

So I verified it and was declared a winner. Now, the reason I hadn’t verified it sooner – and would have continued to delay, were it not for the previously mentioned anxiety – is that though I have crossed the 50,000 word threshold, it doesn’t feel complete.

Besides the obvious editing for both grammar and continuity issues, there is so much more description that I would like to get into that I feel I have barely scratched the surface of. Off the top of my head I can think of at least three scenes that I would have liked to include. Some are so specific, right down to what sign was on the wall, the expression of a character’s face, but I figured that to delve so deep into one scene when I had a whole plot to unfold would just – I don’t know – slow me down.

It’s hard to explain; on the one hand, I knew that I preferably wanted to write the 50,000 words, just to prove to myself I could, but on the other hand I wanted to make sure the story in my head was told.  And deep down I realize that for the tale to truly be told, if I want to do my characters justice – not to mention my parallel universe – it would take at least double that many words (who am I kidding; probably even more than that.).  The thing is, I’m not willing to make that commitment, at least at the moment.  I have too many other interests and/or responsibilities.  And it’s not just that; I can’t focus on just one project,  I just get bored or something like that that is so hard to articulate.

It’s not the writing itself either. I celebrated when I first hit 50,000 words by taking a break from the novel and …writing, and it felt so incredibly good to be writing about something because wanted to, not had to.  I even came up with numerous ideas for short stories and novels.  I love writing, I was just so over dedicating all of my writing time and effort to that novel.

Perhaps I lack maturity; perhaps I’m commitment-phobic. I still would like to see the novel completed. But since I technically verified the word count and won’t I feel like I have no deadline. So I may just procrastinate as I tend to do. That’s the reason I decided to even enter in the first place; with a deadline I thought surely I would complete the novel. And I did, a very bare-bones at times and detailed at others version of it.

When I first started writing the novel, I did so in a goal-oriented frenzy (some days writing 6 or 7,000 words) that can only mean one thing: there will be a burnout period. And yes,predictably, the day after I hit 50,000 I did not write a single word for the novel for several days. I even started to fear that I would not return to it ever and I don’t know what made me return to it at all: the desire to bring my story to life or the fear that it was either now or never. At the same time, I’ve grown to care about what happens to my characters, and the world I’ve created. Such an odd last few weeks…

When I had a clear defined goal, it was easier to just make myself get it done.  Afterwards, I just felt overwhelmed. It’s like there’s so much potential but I just can’t make myself focus and channel all my energy in only one direction.  And deep down, I worry that I may prefer unfinished projects; after all, every story I have ever created has not had an ending, just an endless combination of convoluted plot lines and complex characters.

My novel doesn’t even have a freaking title! That’s how indecisive (or whatever word is more appropriate) I am.

Ragardless, though, I won! That’s so cool. I do feel like I accomplished something, though not necessarily all I had set out to do. Unfortunately, I can tend towards an overachieving perfectionism at times, which causes me more frustration than anything else. Still working on it…

Wednesday Class; Some Exciting News!

A few weeks ago Teacher had announced that she will be teaching both beginning and intermediate level ballet next semester, back to back. So today, as I lingered after class to purchase a new theraband – away from other classmates prying ears (LOL) – I casually asked her if I could take both. And she said yes!

I was beside myself with excitement, but I kept my exterior cool demeanor – yay, introverts and our “powers” of Keeping Calm on the outside!  But I seriously wanted to do a little happy dance or something.  She said I need another semester before doing only intermediate, but that’s more than ok with me.  It’ll be two hour and a half classes in a row with a 10 minute snack break in between – 3 hours of ballet!  The best part is that it’s not on the days of my wednesday class (or else there’d be a time conflict), so I can continue going there too.

Up until the part when she said yes I had been worried she was going to laugh and say “You’ve got to be kidding!” or something along those lines…I had actually been putting off asking for that reason for a while now…

morning class

It was slightly less cold today, so my joints were not revolting as much as they have been the last couple weeks.

With the exception of our first combination (plies) we did both sides without stopping, by switching with soutenus.  Teacher also had us balance in first position releve, let go of the barre, cross over to sous-sus and then soutenu several times without holding the barre.

A new combination for tendues that involved 2 regular tendues then tendu to plie in 4th when going front and back, and in second when tenduing a la seconde with a brand new port de bra that involved the arm up in high fifth when returning back from the plie was challenging the first time through, fun tehe second.

We did 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 degages without the barre only today – no “practice” run through holding the barre – and afterward (also barre-less) 8 echappe releves, with a balance in the final echappe releve. My balance was actually pretty good today, way less shaky.

During our really fast tendus with piques (4 quick tendus, 8 piques) en croix, Teacher said “Good timing!”. Yay! Unfortunately, even though last semester Strict Teacher was really on us for our posture, this semester I keep finding myself sway-backing and get reminded/corrected on this often. I really need to stop standing in a “stick out your butt” kind of way at all times, not just ballet class, to get rid of this habit…

My fondues into releve were much better today. Still can’t balance on releve with no hands on the barre when my leg is outstretched in front or behind me, but today I was able to raise up much easier than on monday.  I made sure to squeeze my core so I wouldn’t tilt towards the barre when my leg was in front or away from the barre when my leg was in arabesque.

For center, we used a nice slow waltz for our 4 balancé, step into arabesque, pas de bourree, passe releve balance (optional pirouette), other side combination.  The slower tempo made it much more possible to stay on timing and it was so fun.  I’m still just working on the passe releve balance for now, since my pirouette still only goes around about halfway (see, why I was worried Teacher would laugh at the idea of me in intermediate; an “intermediate” student who can’t pirouette and still (occasionally) falls out of (two-legged) balances, not to mention my unpointed changements and soubresouts).

The echappe, echappe, saut de chat, soubresout, saut de chat, changement, other side, combination was faster today, and pretty much the whole class was lost the first time through. The second time through was much better, though.

Pique turns to the right are coming along, and I’m starting to get comfortable with spotting and doing them one right after another. To the left they are slower and I still pause in between each one.  My passe/retire position with my left leg up is not as open as with my right leg up – for whatever reason my left hip is tighter and won’t open as much – so my pique turns to the left don’t look as nice as the ones to the right. I’m hoping the theraband turnout exercises will eventually even out my leg turnout discrepancy.

evening class

Looks like tonight I didn’t make it in to evening class. Several out-ot-town friends were in town and I ended up helping them make – and eat – delicious foods and drinking hard cider.  And I wasn’t even sure if we were having class tonight for sure anyway…

Fun Monday Class, But The Cold Hurts!

Another fun class day! Teacher reminded us that after this there are only 3 more classes for the semester (this wednesday and next monday and wednesday) and then our final. So sad 😦 !

Once again, the cold was causing me to feel stiff, especially my bad ankle (not the left one that I sprained last July (which is doing great, like new); the right one that I hurt in a car accident 3 years ago).  As soon as I was warmed up it felt fine, and continued to feel fine throughout class – so much that I didn’t even remember that I have issues with it.  Due to the cold (excuses, excuses, LOL) I left my little warm up sweater on the whole class, and I felt so much more comfortable with my body – and by body I mean chest.  If I’d known all along this was what it takes I would have just gotten a warm up sweater the day I got my very first leotard!

At barre, after doing our rond de jambe and fondue combination, the second time around we were to fondue into releve. So instead of just fonduing and straightening our legs (the working leg en l’air), we also releve’d on our supporting leg. Now, I’ve been working on my passe releve from coupe at home, so I thought ‘Oh, I’ve got this’ but it was not as easy as it looked (well, duh, it’s ballet ); apparently the added challenge of straightening my leg away from my body made it so much harder to go up in releve. At least the first time through, by the second time it was a bit better.  Was not able to balance in the releve arabesque (arms in third arabesque) and definitely not in whatever it would be called when you’re in releve with the other leg stretched out in front of you (arms also in third arabesque).

I’m not feeling discouraged, oddly enough; I know I’m a slowish learner and it took me months and months to build up the strength to even passe releve – and that was facing the “barre” (at home, the barre is a countertop or the wall).  Today we did our releve arabesques with one hand on the barre, so it’s expected that it’d be harder.  It felt really fun, though, the beautiful coordinated folding and unfolding movements that look – when done correctly – so balletish (balletic?).

Teacher said that my cambres back are looking “Much better!”. I’ve been really focusing on not scrunching my neck but feeling like I’m pulling my head both up and out as my back bends. It is somewhat challenging, and the first time it felt so foreign. I’m one of those people who tends to look down or hold their head down somewhat – though not in ballet class, more like the rest of the time outside of class – so perhaps the muscles in my neck had not been getting an all-day workout before.  Even though in ballet class I try to hold my head up high, as soon as I leave the studio I continue to catch myself looking down.

In center, after we worked on our usual balancé combination – which I can do well at a slower tempo, quickly not so well – Teacher introduced a new jump.  The first time I head her say it, I thought she said Supersoak and I was thinking ‘Like the early 90’s water gun with a refillable tank you strap on your back?’. But no, it was actually soubresaut, which is a jump from fifth in which the feet don’t change but come together in the air (like a sous-sus mid-air).

The combination was 2 echappes with changement, saut de chat, soubresout, saut de chat, changement, other side.  The good news is I finished with the correct foot in front. The bad news is my soubresauts and changements look terrible: flexed feet in the air (or at least not as pointed as I can), not crossing over on changements.  It was fun though, and I really enjoyed the saut de chats – which actually looked somewhat decent. Also,  I was not panting or out of breath at all; in fact, I was ready for another round. Yay, newfound stamina!

My sautes continue to improve.  Today after the first run through of sautes, Teacher said we were going to do them again to a slower timing, which made some of the more experienced students groan (the rest of us are too new to know a difference).  Apparently done slower they are more of a thight workout, and it may be true because by the end my thighs burned – but in a good way!

Today Teacher broke down pique turns for those of us that had never officially been taught how to do them.  She said to take our leg and sort of rond de jambe it out then passe releve onto it and turn.  I went with the newer students and we went nice and slow, rather than connecting the turns into a series (like chaînes).  Spotting with pique turns is still tricky for me, but I’m working on it.

Pique turns are way easier than pirouettes, in my experience. It could just be that I like the across the floor part of center…

Wednesday Classes, Dancing In The Now

In order to not hit traffic (which increases by the minute, it seems) and be late, I usually leave home for ballet class fairly early, which means that I then get to sit in my car in the parking lot for about 45 minutes waiting for Teacher to arrive and open the studio.  Not one to waste time, I use that time for eating my breakfast and, unless I have to study, reading a book.  My latest read falls into the “motivational/self-help” category, and as I sat there reading and shoveling slices of plantain in my mouth, the words I was reading really hit home. I had a realization, an epiphany, you might say: if all we have is now, then it’s pointless to be concerned or obsessed about the “future” – or the past for that matter . In other words, applying it to ballet: dance because you’re loving it in the Now, feeling it in the Now, living it in the Now, not just dreams and wishes of future improvement (though it may still happen!), with “if only’s” and regrets,  with thoughts of “one day I’ll be good enough”, or with memories of past failures (hello, first ballet semester!).

No, I’m going to do it because I enjoy it, because I love it! How lucky I am to get to be doing something I love to do. I felt so grateful for even having the opportunity. So with those thoughts fresh in my mind, I happily walked to class.

morning class

Today we did promenade (which means to walk) at barre, after we did our developpe derriere. It basically involved keeping our leg out in arabesque, and then raising up on our toes – just a little, not a full releve – and somehow turning in a series of little up-down up-down movements.  It was my first time ever, ever, ever attempting to do this move, so I know it looked a little clumsy – ok, a lot clumsy. I started out with my leg in a nice arabesque position and then by the time I had completed my turn it was either way lower than when I’d started or not directly behind me or bent slightly.  Don’t know how far I’ll get on practicing this one at home, either; the floor in my apartment, though wood, is not as slick as the floor in the studio.

My petit battements still need work. It’s so hard to keep the knee still while swinging the lower part of the leg in and out, alternating front and back.  My First Teacher had taught us a similar move, also done immediately after frappes, but it involved a flexed foot instead.  I wonder if they’re similar moves, just different styles of ballet? Regarless, I’ll bet they’re a great thigh workout!

Today I also soutenued without holding the barre several times! I was pretty excited. And then, while holding a balance after 8 plie releves with arms in high fifth, Teacher came by and said “Now lean forward slightly, it’ll feel like you’re going to fall forward but you won’t,” So I leaned and she was right!

In center, I was watching the mirror when we did two changements, echappe, two more changements, echappe, etc. and it did not look right at all! Since my sautes have gotten so much better, I’m thinking it may be as much of a multitasking problem as it is a lack of being in shape problem.  If I could have the studio to myself I would practice them obsessively in slow motion (or in sets of 4 at a time or something), so I could get used to how it feels without the added stress of timing… or people watching me bounce.

The 4 balances, step to arabesque, pas de bourree, passe releve (optional pirouette), other side combination continues to come along, looking more graceful, fluid and dancey.  The passe releves are getting more and more stable every day. If we have the passe releve pirouette combination in evening class I think I may finally go for that elusive en dehors pirouette.

We also revisited the 3 grand battements (front, right leg), passe releve and bring foot down behind, 3 grand battements (front, left leg) passe releve and bring foot down behind,  3 grand battement derriere (left leg), passe releve and bring foot to front, 3 grand battemnts derriere (right leg), passe releve.  The passe releves, especially on my left supporting leg, felt stable but I’m still working on really “kicking” my leg up  without feeling thrown off balance.

Chaines went well.  There is not so much of a discrepancy between my stronger side and my weaker side as there was in the beginning of the semester. In fact, at times I even find myself forgetting which is my weak side which is awesome.  For me a lot of things are mental, and if I psych myself out by thinking “This is my bad side” before starting it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve been making a more concious effort to not put too much thought into it!

It’s funny, because one of the other girls – my “partner” for critiquing the balance combination – and I were talking about chaines and our weak side. She said she can turn better to the right, but she’s left handed; I (usually) turn better to the left, but write right handed.  It cheered me up to know that at least one other person is “backwards” when it comes to stronger side vs. dominant hand. It really irritates me how I have this big hang up about not wanting to be the “only one” that is a certain way, though. It’s irrational, and I know some other people (like Boyfriend) are the opposite; they want to be “unique”.  I still have so much to learn about maturity…

evening class

We had a sub today. No, not that sub, my ex-classmate from my first semester, of that horrible class two months ago.  This sub happened to be one of the studio’s owners and she was awesome! Lot’s of explanations, interesting barre combinations, really supportive and friendly vibe and absolutely no pressure yet encouragement.  I would definitely take more classes with her.

We did fondues at the barre (a rare thing in evening class) and not just any fondues but the kind in which the foot doesn’t touch the floor at any point after it has left the ground from the initial fondu.  My favorite kind!  I really need to find out if there’s a name for this particular kind of fondu… Anyway, that was really fun, and I liked feeling it in my supporting leg – and my turnout muscles as we held an extremely long passe releve after fonduing (fondueing?) en croix both en dedans and en dehors.

I successfully soutenued with  no hands on the barre a few times times (well, technically 4 times, if we want to get specific.). Keep this up and I may call it consistent!

In center, after chaînesing (look, I learned how to put the little accent thing on the “i”!) in both direction, Owner Teacher announced pique turns. Awesome! I’ve been practicing them at home hoping that I’ll get the green light to do them in morning class some day, so it was really cool to have the opportunity to practice then in an area bigger than my living room. Today I discovered that, unlike chaînes, my left side is not my good side. The pique turns to the right were not bad, but on the ones to the left I felt unstable and forgot to keep spotting.  I will practice more, but it was so fun. I love the feeling of turning – well, when I remember to spot, that is.

Oh, and if anyone wants to read about The Other Sub, here’s some links (yes I’m aware there’s a better way to link involving clicking on the text in the post; WordPress hasn’t let that function work on my browser since, like, 3 months ago. Sorry.:

The Class

http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/at-least-a-positive-a-negative-still-s-neutral/

The Aftermath

http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/sometimes-i-suck/

Cold Monday Morning Class

So cold in the morning, glad I just got one of those little flimsy dance warm-up sweaters! It looks like it wouldn’t keep anything warm, but when you’re freezing it does the job.

Little warm-up sweater. Remember, staying warm is about not letting the body's heat escape, not about the sweater providing heat.

Little warm-up sweater. Remember, staying warm is about not letting the body’s heat escape, not about the sweater providing heat.

Today, at barre, Teacher brought up a correction that I hadn’t received before – though now I realize that I’ve probably been needing it for a while: when I cambre back I scrunch my neck. Teacher said “Don’t keep your neck scrunched!” but I was having a hard time understanding what she meant until she got hands-on with me.  I like how at community college ballet classes the teachers are hands-on when necessary. Nothing scary, like the stories I hear about hitting a fallen elbow with a ruler, or slapping the side of your face if you’re not spotting correctly (!), or anything like that, just a good hands-one placement correction.  I think all my best corrections have involved some physical placing, sometimes spoken verbal learning and I just don’t mix.

After class I asked Teacher if there where any exercises I could do for the neck scrunching problem. She suggested that I put my hand behind my neck and then practice putting my head back, feeling the head go back and out at the same time.  The upper back/neck area is an area I carry a lot of tension in – my bra straps, especially my sport bras, kill me – so I’m going to be working on this area some more.

When we did our leg-on-the-barre stretches, today for the first time I used the higher barre! Well, only when putting up my right leg, the left was feeling just a bit too tight.  It felt kind of cool to have my leg up so high for once!

We passe releve’d at barre a lot today, as well as did longer barre combinations involving lots of releves. We also did both sides of some barre combinations without stopping in between, by doing soutenu turns to switch sides.  Luckily, we were allowed to hold the barre; I’ve technically done soutenus without hands before – with arms in high fifth, even – but it’s not a move that I’m confident about yet.

In center, for our 4 balance step, arabesque, pas de bourree, passe releve (or pirouette), other side combination, Teacher divided us into two groups, and assigned us a “partner” in the other group to watch us and let us know if there were any obvious corrections we needed. My partner told me that other than the arms when doing the passe releve – going from arms in third (prepare) to middle fifth (when up in passe releve) to arms in second (when preparing to do other side) – it was looking good!

These partner critique things are a somewhat nerve-wracking – it’s necessary to use lots of tact, I think.  There’s such a fine line between constructive crticism and just criticism sometimes.  I’d hate to go really hard on critiquing someone who’s only been ballet-ing for a few weeks, especially about center work.  It’s not necessarily about doing it incorrectly because you don’t know better, but more like not being able to hold your balance. So I focus more on things like hands (no “broken wrists”) or fallen elbows.

My passe releves are getting stronger and more stable every day.  I’ve been able to hold balances of varying lengths, as well as bring the foot from the back (from fourth) to passe, and then back in fifth.  My right leg standing left leg in passe side is still my stronger side for this move, but my weaker side is coming along too.

Sautes were looking pointy, but still not quite right.  There are so many intricacies to sautes, sometimes I wonder if the only way to get them right is to have been doing them since childhood.  If it’s not the lack of foot pointing, it’s that the feet land too far apart. If the feet land together in first, then they were wrong by coming closer in midair.  If all the distances are correct then the timing is off. If I land all the way down in plie, then I sound like a crashing elephant, but if I try to land lightly I feel like I’m not putting my heels all the way down. Arrgh, so frustrating sometimes!

The good news is that I’m consistenly landing in plie between jumps, pointing my feet, and definitely not running out of breath, even after multiple sets of 16 soutes. Progress is good…

Only two and a half weeks left in the semester. Then I’ll be down to one class a week (plus home practice) for a little while until the next semester starts. Unless I can find a different class to join, something not over an hour away otherwise inaccessible.

My New Shoes!

Haha, that's not my shoe! It's the free keychain that came with one of the pairs of shoes.

Haha, that’s not my shoe! It’s the free keychain that came with one of the pairs of shoes.

This past monday, since there was no school (ballet class or otherwise) for me, I took the opportunity to  make the long-anticipated 2-hour-plus drive to the Big City to check out a dancewear store. So much to see! 3 hours of rummaging  and trying things on later I came out with 2 pairs of shoes, some leotards, and a few other goodies.  This post will focus on the shoes; more to come on my other finds later.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about trying out split-sole shoes.  On the day that I forgot my shoes for evening class I had the opportunity to try out some cloth split-sole shoes and I really liked how the arch is way more apparent.  When I got my first pair of ballet shoes back when I started ballet I knew nothing about ballet shoes – or ballet, for that matter – so I had just gone with the first thing that fit. Actually, I have a confession: my first ballet shoes came from Payless Shoes, not a real dance store! To be fair, at the time I had no idea that I would still be doing ballet this much time later.

It’s about time that I got some “official” ballet shoes (tangent: is it pretentious or just plain innacurate to refer to them as “shoes” rather than “slippers”? Is the term “shoes” reserved for pointe shoes? Are both terms actually interchangeable?).  Also, for a while now I’ve been wondering, is it me or is it the shoes. (Answer: A little from column A, a little from column B)

image

Anyway, at the dance store I picked up 2 pairs of these shoes, by Sansha. The store had a pair of each size to try on, so I didn’t open the pairs I actually got until I was home.

Brand-new clean shoe!

Brand-new clean shoe!

Bottom view - split-soles!

Bottom view – split-soles!

The first thing I was struck by – besides how pristine and clean and pink they were – was the fact that the elastics were not sewed (sewn?).

Unsewn elastics

Unsewn elastics

I told Boyfriend “Look! The elastics, you have to sew them yourself! These shoes are legit!”

And he’s says, “Wait, it’s a good thing that the elastics are not sewn? Isn’t that, like, bad craftmanship or something?”

“No! It means they’re real ballet shoes! These shoes are for reals!” I seriously couldn’t get over the fact that I now own some real ballet shoes from a real dance shoe manufacturer (which looking back now seems kind of a dumb thing to get over-excited about. Ballet tends to make me giddy and regress my age by about 25 years. Whatever.).

So while I was thrilled with the new shoes, then came the challenge of actually sewing the elastics.

My sorry excuse for a sewing kit

My sorry excuse for a sewing kit

I used safety pins to pin where I thought the elastics should go, all the while hoping that I wouldn’t stab my foot or something.  Boyfriend suggested I use a Sharpie to mark off on the elastic where I need to sew, but I didn’t want to risk staining the shoes before I’d even worn them. That would’ve majorly sucked.

Safety pins near foot, perhaps not the wisest idea...

Safety pins near foot, perhaps not the wisest idea…

My final sewing job was not perfect, but I was really eager to get these on my feet and practice in them. So I may have rushed it a bit. It did not help that even though I was all “Yay, I’m sewing elastics like a “real” ballet student! LOL, at the same time I was in a hurry since rather than responsibly sewing them the night before I forgot and and had to rush through it before practicing time. I’m still not sure if I sewed them right, and Boyfriend said they look lopsided. But they are staying on my feet, so that’s the important part, I think (I hope?).

I wore the shoes to wednesday evening class. Compared to the thick leather (possibly pleather?) material of my last shoes, it felt like there was nothing between my foot and the floor. But not the same as being barefoot, either. So odd at first, but then I’ve just grown so used to my last shoes, and will probably continue to use them as well. For now I’m mostly going to use the new ones and see how I’m feeling about it by next class on monday.

Even if I decide that I prefer my original slippers, at least now I can say that I’ve tried them and sometimes it’s the opportunity that matters. The choice.

All done!

All done!

And I really like how they came with this little mesh bag for storing them, or taking them to class! Super cute and convenient.

I'm in love with these new shoes!

  “Real” ballet shoes have their pros!

Wednesday : Two Classes and New Shoes

morning class

For plies, Teacher let us do the port de bra of our choice today! I used the port the bras I’m most familiar with (start with arm in second and bring it in when going down in demi plies, back out when coming up, stretch out and slightly lift to bring all the way down on grand plie) and not having the added stress of “Am I doing this right?” made it so much easier and even beautiful.  I love when it feels like beautiful dancing rather than just a very difficult exercise routine – when it’s like I can feel the music, not just hear it.

Still, today took forever for me to feel warmed up, and then suddenly it just felt too hot in the studio. Weird.

Teacher introduced frappes and petit battements to the class. My frappes are ok – we do them all the time in evening class and I practice at home – but the timing of the petit battements was really throwing me off.  We were doing them facing the barre, probably because it’s the first time we’ve done them in this class, but from what I could see without the mirror most of my classmates were lost too.

We had a visitor in class – one  student’s friend, I think – so I was feeling a little apprehensive about center because of that.  Otherwise, I found myself looking forward to center.  It’s been a week since I’ve had an enormous studio to dance in, after all.

Center was actually pretty great today!  The 4 balances, step into arabesque, pas de bourree, releve sous-sus, repeat other side combination was looking like dancing.  I’ve really been working on it at home and I was glad to see that it looked so much more fluid.  It felt like I was dancing “for reals” instead of just going through – or attempting to go through – the motions.

Our 3 grand battements with arms in high fifth, plie and passe releve, then other side combination had a new twist today: after we finished the second leg (left), rather than doing the first leg again to the front we were to grand battement our left leg back 3 times and then bring it to passe releve and bring it down in front, to do 3 grand battements derriere with the right leg.  After the initial shock of “OMG we’re going to grand battement derriere in center!” , which I’ve never attempted, it went ok.  I would like to see my derriere grand battements as high as my devant or a la seconde, but we’ll get there. The passe releves are steadily improving and I’m happy with that.

Chasse gallops have really been improving ever since I’ve been practicing them on the grassy field.   I can feel luch more power in my legs that wasn’t there before. Then Teacher mixed it up and had us do something that went like: a chasse gallop, then a sort of skip with our other foot in coupe, then chasse gallop other foot and a sort of skip with the foot in coupe, just continuing to alternate legs.  It was my first time doing this, so I got confused a few times about which leg am I on and I just kept the arms still.  Not hard, just involves coordination and, for me, lots of practice.

My sautes looked pretty good today; my feet were pointed, I was landing in plie, and my feet were not landing too far apart from each other.  I still need to work on the timing though…

evening class

8 of us for evening class today, 2 brand new, a few familiar faces.

At first, I felt a little off because I was wearing my new split-sole slippers – which I will be writing about in more detail in a future post, as well as other ballet-wear adventures.  I’d saved them to wear for evening class rather than morning class because evening class is only 1 hour and mostly barre. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about running across the studio until they are broken in. Don’t know if it was the split-sole-ness or the cloth-ness but the floor just felt so Right There compared to my usual shoes.  It took me a couple barre combinations to get used to it.

As typical for evening class – unless there’s only a few of us and we already know basics – we mostly did plies, tendues, degages.  We went slow but for once I was glad, as I was really getting a kick of of the visible articulation that is so much better displayed in split-sole shoes. We also balance quite a bit in this class, mostly in first or releve sous-sus.  Once I got used to the shoes I was able to balance really well, though lately I’ve been noticing that I’m much more stable in releve sous-sus than first.

During grand battements, E Teacher corrected me on my grand battement derriere. She said that I wasn’t putting enough “energy” into it, that I was just slowly lifting it up rather than kicking it up.  She’s given me this correction before, I think about 3 months ago, but since she had also given me other corrections that day I may have forgotten. The ones to the front and a la second are more kick-y though, it’s just the one to the back. I think I’m afraid that if I kick it I will bend my knee or something.

My sautes were good, but by the time we made it to changements they were looking very unpointed.  Changements are much harder than sautes and echappes, in my opinion.

We finished up by doing chaines, which in evening class are enjoyable since the studio is not enormous. Still, it’s bigger than my living room so it’s the perfect size.  In this class we usually go to the right – my weakest side, so it’s good to get the extra practice – but today E Teacher surprised me by saying “Ok, now to the left” after we had chaines-ed to the right twice.  I like how this studio has plenty of things that stand out for spotting, like a clock, several exit signs, and even the (2 non-mirrored, non windowed) walls are painted with colorful silouettes of dancers or something.

As we were taking the barres back to the storage room – because that’s how we roll in this class – one of the new students made a comment, something along the lines of “Which one of you is a “real” ballerina?”. This  would have been fine if she then hadn’t followed up by pointing out different ladies in the class, which led to a discussion of some of the student’s bodies. Awkward, and it kind of soured my mood, although I’m trying to not let it. Being reminded of how I don’t have the expected body type for ballet brings my mood down some days, while other days it spurs me to work even harder with a defiant attitude of “I’ll show you!” – the attitude that got me through my first year or so until I really started to see improvement,  It’s ridiculous feeling this way, probably, but what can I say? It’s how I feel.

It really sucks because just a few weeks ago I was saying on here how this studio was the only place where I had felt complete acceptance.  When people say that I don’t look like a dancer it makes me feel like they are saying that I have no business there. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive – ok, I’m probably being too sensitive  – and I’m not going to quit ballet over it, but things like this really bug me. And the fact that it bugs me bugs me even more!

Other than that, I really did have a great ballet day today. 🙂

Fitness Goals Update 5

Another Fit Tuesday (get it? like Fat Tuesday, but Fit rather than Fat), time for another goals update!

Overall, my fitness goals are really coming along! This is what I’ve worked up to by now:

Cardio:

When I started running/jogging, about a month ago, all I could handle was jogging to the park and then doing one or maybe one and a half laps.  By now I’m up to running to the park plus 7 laps! Uninterrupted, as I’ve been doing my jumping all the way at the end of my run now.  I’m doing over 15 minutes of running without stopping, which is a huge deal for me. Hadn’t ran for that long since maybe P.E. class in jr. high, or maybe never.

Running is so fun once I get the rythm of it down. I find it incredibly relaxing.

Still, I haven’t been able to recreate the feeling after my first run, as I gasped for air with ragged breaths.  Besides increasing the duration of my run, I don’t know what else to do to get there again.  The way it is now, I feel a little tired, but like I could keep going given the right motivation – which could be as simple as the thought of something yummy. Homemade mashed potatoes, here I come!

After finishing up running comes jumping.  Rather than continuing to do wannabe-ballet jumps, I’ve been doing jumping jacks – both the regular kind and the kind where you touch the ground every time  your feet are in the “open” position, bringing your arms up when the legs close.  The main reason that I switched out the kinds of jumps was that I didn’t want to get into bad habits by doing “ballet jumps” but not being able to practice them correctly. Ever try pointing your feet in tennis shoes?!

I’ve been doing about 100 jumping jacks per workout session (5-6 days a week).  Afterwards I do little “gallops”, 4 sets of 8 on each side, alternating sides.  Although I keep telling myself that I have to work up to doing more sets, I’ve been stuck on 4 sets of 8 for over a week now; my legs just feel rubbery and exhausted by the time I’m nearing the end of my 4th set.

Today I also tried doing these sideways jump-gallops that I saw on a youtube exercise video.  Perhaps I was doing them wrong because they didn’t feel like much of a challenge…

And then I skipped home. Because skipping is fun – and the weird looks you get from others for being an adult skipper are classic! At least if I’m in a good mood…

Strength:

I’ve still been doing my slow lunges with my arms either in second or high fifth, to help me with my getting on and off the floor transitions.  Lately, I’ve noticed that after we do our leg-on-the-barre stretches and get on the floor to stretch some more, Teacher asks us to stand back up gracefully with no hands. Could this be a harbinger of things to come? If so, luckily, this time I will be ready!

Remember in my last update I said that I was going to start doing something for my abs, as Teacher said that  strong obliques are the key to stability during turns? Well, first I started doing that exercise where you lay on your back, spread your arms, put your legs up (straight), and then slowly lower them from side to side, making sure to not twist the upper body. Did about 10 of those to each side. Then I follow up with bicycle kicks, around fifty of them.  This was all I did for abs for the first few days – not bad – but then I started thinking of something better.

I found this thing called an Ab Wheel, which apparently Boyfriend and I purchased around the time of the Shakeweight and pull up bar, and then forgot about.  I thought ‘what the heck…’ and decided to give it a try.

The Ab Wheel!

The Ab Wheel! And it only cost about $5!

This thing works! My abs are now in a state of permanent soreness.  I’ve always heard that the abs can be worked out daily, so that’s what I’ve been doing. To use this thing you get on your knees (I use a pillow under them) and then grab on to the handles and roll away, using your abs to stabilize you and roll back in. I’ve been doing these “rolls” both straight out in front of me and at a sideways angle to work out the obliques.  For the first time in my life I’m seeing what looks like the beginnings of ab definition – and this is only after about a week.

After determining that Shakeweight is all but ineffective on me, I’ve instead been doing push ups.  I’m too weak from the upper body to do regular ones, so I do the modified, on-the-knees version.  After doing – more like attempting to do, by the end they’re looking not so good – about 20 or so I stop and the soreness lasts all day.  But in general my form is good; I make sure to not stick out my butt or let my stomach hang down.

Yoga has been going great! My flexibility appears to have increased, especially when it comes to my back.  I’ve found that I really enjoy the pose where you lay on your back and bring your legs up and over your head, resting your feet behind you.  I also like having my legs pointed straight into the air, trying to balance that way for as long as possible.  My legs have also been increasing in flexibility, and I’ve been practicing lifing my leg over my head – and keeping it held there with no hands for as long as possible.

Overall, I feel like I’m getting to be in great shape. I’ve noticed that walking uphill is no big deal now that my legs are stronger.  Hopefully soon my upper body will catch up, but I may have to look up more specific workouts for that. I’m sort of getting Boyfriend on the fitness bandwagon too, which is good. We both eat extremely healthy but that only takes you so far, as I’ve found out…

Coolest Socks Ever!

… and they’re ballet pink!

See? Color match!

See? Color match!

A few days ago, while deep in the middle of my cold (from which I’m mostly recovered – yay!), I was looking through my sock bag looking for something to keep my feet warm while I sipped on mint tea with honey.  I was just expecting a pair of generic kneesocks – nothing fancy, just trying to keep those extremities warm – when down near the bottom I felt something particularly soft and warm. Pulling it out, I was delighted to see that it was a pair or socks with “toes” in them, apparently a long-forgotten present. Somehow, ballet pink becomes cooler when you actually do ballet!

It's weird, they're like wearing nothing at all. Except, you know, warmer.

It’s weird, they’re like wearing nothing at all. Except, you know, warmer.

More pictures of the ballet pink toe-socks (or whatever they’re called).

I was trying to take a picture of one of the ankle-strengthening exercises Strict Teacher taught us.

I was trying to take a picture of one of the ankle-strengthening exercises Strict Teacher taught us.

I wonder what would happen if I wear these with sandals?

I wonder what would happen if I wear these with sandals?

Apparently like this.

Apparently like this.

So… what if I tried doing balletish things with them?

I could really get used to how these socks feel...

I could really get used to how these socks feel…

Releves felt so stable in these socks!

Releves felt so stable in these socks!

pointy, pointy foot - I really wish I could wear something like this for ballet sometime...

pointy, pointy foot –
I really wish I could wear something like this for ballet sometime…

image

next time will be on releve…

My cou-de-pied.

My sur le cou-de-pied.

Unfortunately, they don’t come with anything grippy on the bottom for traction.  Center in these would be a bad idea!