Thursday Class: Some Good, Some Bad

We did not really have class on Tuesday, so Thursday’s class was my first ballet class in over a week, since last Wednesday. It felt pretty good to be back in class, though my body has been incredibly sore all week.

For the first time in the semester we did everything with only one hand at the barre. Well, with the exception of the barre-less 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 and releve echappes.  Plies with complete port de bras and cambres.

Then 3 tendus en croix, one super slow with foot articulation, two regular speed, no arms (arms out in second).  I positioned myself so that I would face the mirror on the second side (left working leg side) because I think that’s the side that needs more attention. Sounds weird, but I prefer to face the mirror for the second side, as I think my tendus are more technically correct on my right working leg, at least the foot part. Teacher corrected me on my pelvis positioning.  A few of my classmates were having confusion issues about which side to be facing or which leg they were supposed to be using.  Though I don’t remember my first semester’s confusion that vividly (just in general), how lost I felt when I was attempting IC helps me remember (and completely sympathize with them).

We did 3 degages en croix with eleve (not releve) after each direction before the next, arm in second during the degages, high fifth for the releve. Didn’t let go of the barre for this one – that would have been … interesting.

When we did echappe changement releves we first did them with one hand at the barre then with no hands on barre, arms either out in second or on shoulders (I chose to the the arms in second). A classmate in a nearby barre made the funniest expression – kind of like a raised eyebrows “Whoa!” look – when Teacher said to step away from the barre and do them.  It went ok, I managed to not tip over, and my calves didn’t hurt at least. Teacher corrected me on my pelvis placement.

For our rond de jambe and fondue, balance in arabesque (and with leg out in front after doing it en dedans), soutenu and other side combination we had a super pretty piano piece again.  This is definitely one of my favorite combinations in this class.

New, more extensive barre stretching, similar to what we had done in IC (grabbing the foot and pulling the leg up in front and a la seconde and grabbing the foot behind us with the opposite side hand, pulling up our leg into attitude derriere, then if possible down to a penchee position.)  This was fun. Despite my sore muscles I was able to get my leg up nice and high in my attitude derriere, and I love how when i grab my foot behind me and bend forward I can bring it up much more higher. Of course, I have been working on a similar stretch at home for a few months now, so I’m sure that has a lot to do with it.

In center, we started off with our 3 grand battements with arms in high fifth, passe releve balance combination.  Teacher corrected me again on keeping my foot pointed on the way down from passe releve.  She said we’ll be doing pirouettes soon.

Chaines went ok to the right, to the left I was having trouble spotting my head quickly enough.  Then we did sautes, changements and echappes with arms at different tempos.  I find it much more difficult to stay on timing if we’re going at a fast tempo.  And I definitely have no idea how to manage to point my feet if I jump lower (to accomodate the faster speed).

Across the floor we did 4 chasse gallops, ballet run and pas de chat (instead of jete).  I find it much easier to the right side, as I did with the jetes.

We finished up with reverence. Reverence is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of class – and probably my favorite part of center.  No, not because it means it’s almost time to collapse into the car in a mess of tired, sweaty muscles and go home and rest (though I do enjoy that part, believe me.  This girl once told me she was going to go running immediately after ballet class and even though I try super hard to be respectful of others I’m afraid I may have looked at her as if she had two heads. Running after ballet? How?! (To be fair, she ended up dropping the class, as I haven’t seen her in weeks)). Anyway, the reasons I love reverance is that it’s one of the only times in BC we use epaulement, as well as it being a nice adagio-ish combination that feels very ballet-ish, graceful and pretty.  If we could just do adagio all the time I would be so happy…

As I mentioned earlier, this was my first ballet class in over a week.  I had not expected to be this sore all week, though I think that has more to do with my Pilates classes than ballet.  But I had expecxted even less that in that short period of time my ballet skills would seriously decline.

My balancing was not as stable as it had been pre-spring break, despite me remembering to engage my lats.  Teacher corrected me several times on my pelvic placement, which I had improved upon right before the break (but is now doing it’s swayback thing).  If I may be honest, I’m feeling very discouraged and sad.  Actually, now that we’re getting honest, that’s the reason I didn’t even feel like writing on the blog lately.  Here’s my train of though: if my skills deteriorated so bad after just a week or two off (and yes, I did practice at home during spring break, though not during the school week), and the semester is over halfway done then there’s only so far I can improve. I saw firsthand how much improvement I lost from the end of last semester by the beginning of the semester.  It feels like for every 3 steps I take forward I end up taking 2 back…

It may seem like I’m having one of those ballet-is-making-you-miserable moments, in which case the solution would seem logical: quit. The thing is, it’s not ballet  in itself that makes me miserable, no way.  When I practice at home and I see my perceived improvement I feel so happy, so alive. I love going over the now-familiar motions, love feeling the strength, the beauty, the music.  At random throughout the day I’ll find myself standing in a ballet pose; I’ll walk past my practice mirror and try to balance; when accompanying  Boyfriend to a boring store I’ll practice chaines and pique turns down the aisle; when I hear a beatiful song I make chorography up for it in my head; out in the field after my run I’ll do gallop chasses, saute arabesques, pas de chats; I have so much fun with it, I feel like a kid again (or at least the active, in shape kid I wish I would have had a chance to be…)

Putting it simply, I cannot imagine my life without ballet in it (which sounds super corny, but whatever, it’s the truth).

No, what makes me sad is that the way things are going there will always be a limit to how much I can improve. Just when I’m starting to get much better the semester ends and then it’s almost back to square 1. When I practice at home I pick up – and reinforce- bad habits, and to be honest, I’m upset at myself for not having enough body perception to be able to correct myself and stay in alignment. If I don’t practice my strength will decrease, but if I do practice unsupervised for long periods of time (weeks or months)I learn how to do it wrong…

In short, it won’t be real  ballet, no matter how good it feels, no matter how happy it makes me.  I can continue dancing for myself, but to try to improve at ballet is setting myself up for failure.

So yeah, been feeling very down lately. Getting into any more detail will exceed the scope of this blog, and I really don’t wanna go there, as I realize that nobody likes a downer, even if it is the truth…well, my truth.  I will try very hard to make the best of it, enjoy the rest of my semester, be very grateful that I at least have this opportunity to take ballet, because some ballet is better than none.

10 thoughts on “Thursday Class: Some Good, Some Bad

  1. Trippmadam

    Progress needs time. At least for adult dance students, there might be no such thing as linear progress. Right after the last workshop I had similar feelings. But two weeks later I realized I had made some progress. Sometimes our bodies like to do things at their own pace. Just keep going.

    1. kit Post author

      You’re right, I should probably stop expecting progress to ever go at a steady – and predictable – pace. And I guess as long as I’m doing better than my first class ever (or even this time last year, or six months ago…) it’s somewhat in the right direction.

  2. Sarah

    I’m feeling a bit down about ballet for similar reasons just lately. I moved up to Improvers Class last week, and was completely lost. It was so fast paced and the combinations were so complicated, so I’m back in Beginners, but it’s just too slow (we don’t even attempt any sort of turns or jumps!), I really wish there was an advanced beginners or something. Plus my beginners class is stopping for the summer, so I’ll only have my barre class once a week until term starts again in September. I can try the Beginners Plus class at the school that runs the barre class, but this is similar in level to the IC, and I’m guessing it is still beyond my abilities. It’s so frustrating, I feel like I’m going to be stuck at this level forever 😦 There really is a gap in ballet teaching between beginners and intermediate/improvers that needs to be addressed. Sorry for rantingon in your comments section 🙂

    1. kit Post author

      Oh, I totally know what you mean! Starting back at a basic beginner class feels so slow paced (especially when there’s no turning or jumping, or we’re always facing the barre) but when the next level offered is way too hard it’s like ‘what am I supposed to do?’. I mean, yeah, I’ll take the basic class and work on the fundamentals, but despite how much better I’m tenduing and plieing how am I supposed to ever learn the moves that you’re supposed to ALREADY know for the next level?! The gap between beginner and intermediate class is really discouraging (and annoying, LOL). I feel like it exists because teachers (or whoever is in charge of writing out the syllabus, or whatever) presume that either a) one took ballet as a child and is a “returner” and technically knows the moves, though is a little rusty, or b) one is a “true” adult beginner and the chances of sticking with it past the basic beginner level are slim to none, so why offer that level. Or maybe I’m just being negative… though it sure seems like plenty of us are noticing that there is this gap that needs to be filled.
      As for your situation, if possible, have you thought about asking to observe a Beginner Plus class so you could get an idea of the level before deciding to try it or not?
      Feel free to rant in my comments section – I’m doing plenty of ranting myself! What’s adult beginning ballet without some ranting, LOL? 🙂

      1. Sarah

        Well, I have to eat my words a bit, last night my BC was taught by a different teacher, we’ve had her before for the odd lesson when my usual teacher is off rehearsing or performing, and she’s been quite good at pushing us a bit harder, but yesterday she really cranked up the difficulty level, which was amazing!! She had us jumping lots and doing some difficult combinations (but not as difficult as those in IC). I think this is the first time I’ve ever been sweaty and out of breath in my BC class. It’s almost like she teaches at the ‘missing level’ between BC and IC. I really wish she could teach BC all the time, but she’s only going to be here for a few more lessons 😦 I might ask her if she’ll be teaching anywhere else during the summer because I’d definitely sign up for her classes.

        Anyway, I think the points you made about the gap between BC and IC are spot on. My IC class is primarily aimed at those returning to ballet after a break, or those who took it as a child. Everyone in my class had done at least 3-5 years of ballet training, which was really intimidating. Also, as you said, I don’t think the teacher thinks that anyone who attends BC is serious about ballet, they want to give it a try once or are just hoping to get fit. So where are the people who really enjoy it and who didn’t take it when they were younger and want to take it further suppose to go from there? It’s a bit frustrating :/

        As for the Beginners Plus class, I think I’m just going to jump in one day and see how I go with that. I do remember sitting outside the studio one day, waiting for my Absolute Beginners Class to start, the door had been left open and I asked the receptionist if it was the Intermediate or Advanced class and couldn’t believe it when she said it was only Beginners Plus. So I’m not to optimistic about me being able to keep up with this class either! What are your plans for classes over the summer, will you be returning to the adult classes?

        Oh dear, longest rambling ever, lol 🙂

      2. kit Post author

        Yes, regardless what the class is officially called, sometimes the teacher makes all the difference in difficulty! That’s really cool that your sub taught at the between-beginner-and-intermediate level.
        It is extremely frustrating that there is nothing for people who didn’t get a chance to ballet as a child but ARE interested in progressing beyond the I-took-a-couple-classes-but-it’s-too-hard-so-I-moved-on stage. At my drop-in class I’ve seen so many people come and go for every one that has stuck around. Perhaps it really wouldn’t be profitable to offer an in-between level? I get so excited when I see ballet lessons advertised but most of the time they just mean for children…
        I don’t know yet what I will do for summertime (besides continuing to practice on my own and probably accidentally picking up bad habits…). I may go to once a week Evening Class, but it seems like 9 out of 10 times we have brand-new beginners and the pace is so slow (though the other time the pace is awesome, like the class I attended on spring break). Sometimes I have a crazy idea of putting up an ad on craigslist looking for a private ballet teacher. I know a “real” ballet teacher would be expensive, but I figure an unemployed teen might not have anything better to do than attempt to teach me ballet. Nevermind, actually if they’re that proficient at ballet they’re probably busy attending an intensive or something… still, I can hope, right?

  3. Joyce


    Three steps forward, two steps back is still improvement though. Even if it is not as much as one would like. It sounds like you are looking at how much improvement you lost, but not looking at how much improvement you’ve gained.

    1. kit Post author

      Those are very good points: it is still improvement, and I should focus on what’s gained and not what’s been lost.
      The funny thing is, after I wrote this post I went to the Reader and saw your post about your ankle, and I felt so stupid for complaining. Hope your ankle feels better soon!

      1. Joyce

        Thanks! Turns out it was very mild and I am back in class tonight. I am on my phone hiding from the snarky tweens in the dressing room.

        Dont feel silly about complaining. We have all been there before. It probably is the nature of this adult beginner beast! It is very hard to objectively see improvement in oneself; it’s a lot easier to see the faults.

      2. kit Post author

        That’s good to hear it was only mild. Snarky tweens, LOL
        I definitely agree that it can be much easier to see the faults.

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