Two-Class Tuesday: Withdrawn

“We call it passe when talking about the position, but this was an actual real passe,” Teacher said as she demonstrated a real passe, “passe means ‘to pass through’. The position is actually retire, but I use ‘passe’ even when it hasn’t passed through.”

“What does ‘retire’ mean?” a student asked her.

(And no, it’s not pronounced like retire, it’s pronounced re-tee-ray, or possiblie even more French-sounding, for anyone who’s never heard of it.)

“I’m not sure,” Teacher said. She turned to us, “Do any of you know.”


Withdrawn, I thought. It means “withdrawn”. Withdrawn, like me. More silence.

“No one?” she asked. “Well, I guess that’s your homework; look up what ‘retire’ means.”

Why did I not answer? If asked, I’d possibly respond that I don’t like to show off (But that’s not quite true.  I don’t show off, true, but that’s because I don’t feel I have anything to show off. But if I did – if I had even a fraction of the majority of my classmates’ (in IC when the story took place) ballet talent – would I? It’s easy to say you can turn it down when it’s not being presented to you…).  But a truer reason is that to me it is so sad to be the person who can correctly answer the most ballet terms yet sucks the most at doing them.

(True story: I’ve mentioned here and there how my first semester in BC was a total disaster – kind of how IC is going, I guess – as far as the dancing goes, but I seriously got like the first ever 100% on our ballet terms and history of ballet test.  And that’s the day I realized that although ballet class for me is technically at a community college, this class has absolutely nothing in common with regular college classes.  Here, study habits and flashcards were not going to help me…)

I suppose you can tell by my cheerful tone that IC was a booming success? Lol, NOT.


During plies, Teacher told me that my hip alignment (tucking my pelvis) was looking better, at least better than the last couple of weeks. We weren’t holding our grand plies down forever, so that may have helped.  Overall easy barre.

In center, we did balances, the easy waltz step with turns, chaines, sautes and echappes, and finished up with chasse gallops across the floor,  My post de bras with the balances is getting more fluid. The chaines were feeling solid, especially to the right (weird, I remember when left was my better side).   In sautes, I have a diffficulty staying in timing. While my sautes have inproved considerably since I started working out last semester, they are still not some of my best moves.  While doing chasse gallops I kept thinking about how much easier they are with running shoes on (as I usually practice them out on the field after finishing up my run) than in ballet slippers.


Very challenging and quick set of barre combinations. So glad that BC essentially functions as one super long warm up, as there’s no way I’d be able to jump right into that straight off the street. Kept getting confused as to what direction we were going, which leg was in front. Or multitasking with the port de bras. During one combination that involved both degages and piques, at some point I was just flinging my leg to the side, neither pique-ing nor degage-ing.  I caught myself though, but it was just so hard to stay focused on everything that was going on.  It’s like either I obviously mess it up (like wrong leg, wrong direction), or I mess it up in more subtle ways (like the whole bad alignment, sticking the pelvis out, and not leaning my upper body forward thing).  I think I managed to get the plies combination correct at least…

Center.  New tendu combination, 2 tendues a la seconde with epaulement alternating legs, 4 degages a la seconde also alternating legs. Forgot the rest of it, but I do remember that I didn’t completely mess it up.  I was actually getting the whole “turning your head towards the leg that will be in front” thing, improvement since a few weeks ago (and that was at barre).

A combination, possibly the extremely-difficult-waltz-step one, included promenade in center, leg bent back in attitude.  No idea which direction we went in, too busy thinking “What?! Holy crap!” when Teacher was giving out the combination.  After the promenade the leg was to go through passe (retire) to a front extension – I guess a developpe, but a quick one – then not really sure what happens, and then chaines off into the sunset (or the corner of the studio).  On the left supporting leg (right leg in attitude)  the promenade went surprisingly better than I expected – not that I had expected much.  On the right supporting leg I couldn’t really find my balance and the direction we were supposed to turn and the direction my body wanted to turn were not matching up.

Never thought I’d promenade in center; last semester I couldn’t even promenade at barre. I enjoyed that part of the combination.  As for the rest of it, I was always behind, and at times moving random. The waltz step (that I had been feeling proud of myself for practicing at home and almost getting it right plus arms) was being done about three times faster than I could keep up with.

Petite allegro (glissade, assemble, x3, pas de chat x2, pas de bourree, changement, other side) was making a little bit more sense as to what I was supposed to do. Actually doing it was another matter.I smacked my foot on the floor doing – rather, attempting to do – one of the assembles. Instead of the changement, Teacher gave the option of doing this jump, called a royale (spelling?) that looked so light and fluttery.  Looked so pretty, but I knew that I wasn’t going to be taking that option.  Then Teacher said we were going to be doing more beated jumps during the semester and I groaned on the inside.

For most of the combinations I was just hoping to hide in the back, away from Teacher’s watchful eye. I am beyond corrections, it’s just like “Hey, it’s terrible, all of it! Where to even begin?

Why did I even sign up for IC? WHY?

(I know why, but I’ll save it for a later post…)

I do like how I can do BC level stuff a little easier and more out of reflex/muscle memory. I don’t like how at times – many, many times – I have no idea whatsoever what I’m doing.  I especially dislike being the worst dancer in class.  Not that I’m even good in BC either apparently…

14 thoughts on “Two-Class Tuesday: Withdrawn

  1. Sarah

    “…it is so sad to be the person who can correctly answer the most ballet terms yet sucks the most at doing them.”

    This is how I feel in class most of the time too, I can answer almost every question the teacher throws at us, because I’m obsessed with ballet. I read books about it, read blogs, watch dvds, go the theatre to see live performances, trawl online stores for the best shoes, so it’s ironic that I’m quite so crap at actually doing it. I’ve stopped speaking up in class now because I think I must look ridiculous knowing so much and being able to do so little!

    I’m so sorry that you’re finding IC a bit of a struggle. Does it feel like it might get better with time? I remember reading that it’s better to attend a class that is slightly beyond your abilities as it keeps you interested and challenged, but when something is either to easy or to far beyond your abilities that’s when you tend to either become bored or give up because it’s too hard. Maybe in 6 months time you’ll look back on what your doing now in your IC class and find that you are able to do it much more easily 🙂 I tried one of my ‘harder’ dvds at home yesterday ( I haven’t done it for a while cos of class twice a week instead of once a week at the moment) and I could do almost all of it without holding onto the back of a chair, and I managed all the centre work without wobbling or putting my foot down for balance, yay, some progress at last!!

    1. kit Post author

      Yes, that’s exactly how I feel! I can almost imagine the agile-yet-not-knowledge-savvy people snickering about my obvious interest – no, obsession – yet lack of ability to actually dance. It’d be hilarious if it wasn’t so sad…
      I’ve also read that about something being challenging enough so it doesn’t get boring, but if it’s too challenging it begins to fall into the realm of not possible and then interest fades. Very true, and unfortunately this class is quickly falling into the “too hard, I’m better off doing something else” realm. If I may be completely honest, at times I’m dreading IC, and during class, wishing I could dissapear through the floor. I’m sure with time it would get easier, but the progression is waaaaay too fast. Perhaps if we actually stuck with a combination for more than two classes in a row, so I could actually know what is going on enough to try to do it… I feel like an idiot for even thinking I could handle it, and usually feel like crying on the way home (which then translates to picking a fight with Boyfriend once at home, complete with the crying). The dumb thing is that I have obviously improved (and continue to improve), but this level is just way too high, and my learning curve not that steep – I mean, I still occasionally tip over on two-footed releve balances. It really doesn’t help that the majority of class is dance majors, so even if they’re not perfect at ballet they have that dancer agility and quickness at remembering combinations/ choreography that comes from dancing (other styles) 8 hours a day or something. And unlike my first semester (when I couldn’t do anything, but at least it looked possible with (lots of) practice), all these new moves are just way past me.
      That’s so cool that you’ve noticed progress on your harder dvd’s! It feels so good when there is progress 🙂 Congrats!

      1. Sarah

        Hmmm, if you’re dreading going to class and crying afterwards then are you risking ending up getting to the point where you won’t enjoy ballet at any level anymore? I sometimes wonder why they don’t have more levels of ballet class to progress through more slowly, rather than these big jumps in ability between the classes. I attended an Absolute Beginners course at one school which was fantastic, but then it was expected that you’d attend a Beginners Plus course after this, with amazing dancers and complicated combinations, so I ended up in a different school attending (what feels to me) a slightly more advanced class to the AB course. We won’t even start jumps and turns until the next level up. This seems to me a much more logical way to start people off in ballet, particularly those (like me) who’ve never danced a step in their lives. I take it that there’s no other class that is somewhere between beginners and intermediate? Maybe stick it out a bit longer and see if you start to enjoy it (even in a sadistic kind of a way!), but if you’re having more bad than good classes, I’d look around for something that’s at a lower level just in case you kill off your love of ballet. Or have I got this completely wrong and you have to complete the course for college credit or something like that (sorry, I’m in the UK, so I’m not sure how it works elsewhere).

        Just realised that that maybe sounds like I’m saying you should quit, I’m not saying that at all, particularly if you think you enjoy the class on some level and that it’s improving your ballet. I don’t know, I think sometimes you know if you’re having a hard time that sticking at it will get results, and sometimes you just know in you gut that you should make a change. How long is the course?

      2. kit Post author

        I’m definitely concerned about the possibility of it ruining my enjoyement of ballet, and have been doing a lot of thinking about that. I’ll be writing more about that in an upcoming private post, so I really hope you’ll email me for the password to that. I really enjoy corresponding with you 🙂
        The course is for college credit, but as I’m not a dance major it’s not as though I’m required to take the class. I mostly take it through the college so it can be affordable on my budget. There’s 10 weeks left in the course as of this point, and it appears that there is new, increasingly complex, combinations every week (in other words, not enough time for me to memorize them to practice them at home). It appears I only learn through slow repetition, so watching something be demonstrated once and then struggling to follow the better students as they do it super-fast is not really a learning style that is working for me. If I had a video recording of the combinations, a studio bigger than my living room to practice in, and 6 months of dedicated DAILY practice time I’m sure I could physically handle it (I am strong, just very uncoordinated and SLOW), but not under these conditions.
        I totaly agree that there should be more levels. It seems a bit disorganized that in Beginner level we only get so far, and then in Intermediate we are expected to already be proficient in moves we’ve never even learned. How does the in between gap ever get filled?!
        I think this is one of those “I know in my gut” things, unfortunately, but I’ve been trying to push on because of the bad rep of “quitting”.

  2. Ilde

    You know, sometimes I wish I could have a really long face-to-face chat with you, to encourage you and to let you know how damn good you’re doing! Things like knowing ballet terminology even though you’re an inexperienced dancer is AWESOME!! Girls in my class have been dancing for yearssss and can’t get it right – and that’s a bad thing. And to tell you that you can stop berating yourself for not being this super-duper instant Margot Fonteyn – very few people are; the rest of us just enjoy ballet for what it means to you personally.

    And also to hear more about your ballet adventures! I love hearing you tell the stories. But you’re a bit far! 🙂

    Then, as a side note… interesting fact, we call a promenade “pivot”, and we call a royale “changement battu” – a changement that beats. And we call it “retire” when drawn up to the knee, and “retire passe” when passing through. We don’t use “passe” on its own. Interesting, the differences – same thing, yet sliiightly different.

    Keep it up!

    1. kit Post author

      Aww, thanks 🙂 That would be cool, but you’re right, we’re pretty far…
      I know learning terminology is important, but I just feel so embarassed by my clumsy attempts at dancing to go with it. I do realize that I’m doing just fine for someone who has only been doing this for 2 years, and NOT ONCE took a class as a child, but once in IC I feel like ‘What am I doing here? I should’ve just stuck to BC, even if it was starting to feel a bit slow for me…’
      The first day of class Teacher said there would be two groups, an easier version and a harder version, for center but she appears to have forgotten. If I’d known I’d be going across the floor with the dance majors regularly I would’ve probably quit that very day.
      That is interesting how different moves have different names. I do wonder if it’s dependent on the location or on the style. You’ve probably already mentioned, but what style do you do?

      1. Ilde

        I do RAD – I think differences are because of style as well as location..

        I took a class one day with a Cuban girl, and she taught the Checchetti method (I never know how to spell that), which differs quite a bit from RAD – like what we call a “chassé”, she called a “tombé” – but I know a tombé as something a liiiiittle bit different, albeit indistinguishable to the untrained eye. But it was interesting, hearing a Cuban girl use the French words with a Spanish accent, while we’re used to the Afrikaans / South African English accents. Thank heavens she demonstrated too. Ballet truly is an international language!

        What style is your classes based on? I wish we had more than one level to choose from. I’d also take a basics class to keep technique sharp.

      2. kit Post author

        I took a semester before with a teacher that taught RAD; I remember degages were battement glisse, and she wanted balances to be extra ballon-y while current teacher was like “No jumping in balances!”. My first teacher’s native tongue was French, so when she pronounced the terms correctly it was so hard to understand. I made sense of them phonetically at the time, and when I found out how they we’re spelled I was thinking ‘But there’s no ‘b’ in that, why does it sound like that?!’
        I actually have no idea what style we’re currently learning. Teacher trained in Canada and performed in US, but that’s about all I know…Well, I also know that it’s not Vaganova or Balanchine or RAD so what does that leave?

      3. Ilde

        I wasn’t sure of the various styles myself, so I consulted the all-knowing Google. Found this:

        (I can Google ballet forever)…

        I’d love to try out more styles, but in SA we have only RAD and Checchetti, and in my city my teacher is the best RAD and I can’t find any other classes for advanced adults – only beginners. Weird problem to have!

        PS I hope this comment lands in the right place… It’s late and I’m on my phone so layout looks different.

      4. kit Post author

        Interesting article – thanks for the link!
        Over here, my main problem is that often “adults” is considered anyone over 13…
        Are the beginner classes over in SA for absolute first time beginners, or for ex-dancers who’ve been out of dance for a bit?

  3. annabelletroy

    Jean Passepartout is a character in a Jules Verne novel; his name is a play on “skeleton key”, to pass or passe through anywhere! Words and terms are always fascinating; plus I love those trees on your blog that look like dancers!

    1. kit Post author

      Words and terms are fascinating indeed! I love pondering about how words have such a far-reaching impact on our surroundings.
      The trees that look like dancers are awesome. Wish I could take credit for the picture (I found it on the internet), but I was like “I like trees and I like dance – dancing trees would be the perfect blog picture!”
      Now whenever I see trees I imagine them dancing happily in the wind…

  4. Grace

    I took several semesters of beginning and beginning / intermediate ballet at the community college too. Center exercises for beg/Int was definitely longer and more challenging. We also had “across the floor” combos, 2 students at a time. I remember feeling angry and upset when I could not understand and follow the center adage combination. “What? I did not even fully remember or master the right side. You expect me to repeat to the left??!!” The college age dance program students are very talented. They have been dancing or doing gymnastics for more years than the average adult beginning ballet student. The community college and the teacher has a responsibility to ensure these serious dance students move forward in their dance profession. Once I realized this, I focused on learning at my own pace & what my body can do.

    1. kit Post author

      Thank you for this comment!
      I agree, the dance program students are extremely talented, and have obviously been dancing or doing gymnastics for many years. It is extremely frustrating to have class go at their pace, and a big part of why I started the blog was because I couldn’t understand why other adult ballet beginners seemed to have teachers that were much more accomodating to their beginner-ness.
      Since I know to be a pro-ballerina one needs to be in a professional dance school by their early teens, I did wonder what was up with the teachers being so hard on us. I guess I hadn’t realized that they might still be seeking a career in dance and taking ballet is sort of a requirement for other styles.
      Freakin’ community college; on the one hand ballet’s so affordable, but on the other hand I have to acknowledge that a real beginner like me who’s not hoping for a career in dance is not their target demographic at all!


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