Week 4: In The In-Between Stage

Have you ever had that awkward moment in class when the teacher says something is “for the more advanced students” or “not for the more beginning students” and you have no idea if it applies to you? Like, should you try anyway, even if you think that if you do actually do it, it will be super sloppy? Should you only avoid trying something (instead taking the easier option) only if to try it would be to risk serious injury?

More and more I find myself truly not knowing in what category to place myself.  I mean, there’s been stuff that I feel for sure I could do, like fondus on releve en croix, that I’ve gone ahead and done even though it was the harder option. Or using the arms when doing a tendu combination.  And in center, obviously I’m not going to try the doing a cabriolet mid-combination, or entrechats or royales.

Today in center, F Teacher gave me the choice of which group I wanted to go in, the easier version or the harder.  The harder group went first and while it was all steps I know how to do, it was much too fast and I got lost about halfway through the combination (though I did remember the tip I read a while back on someone’s blog – no idea who, so if it’s yours, let me know so I can give you credit 🙂 – that as long as you get the last step right it looks less horrible. Or something like that. At least I ended with the correct foot in front, I guess.

Then I went with the easier group.  And it was, in fact, much easier. It was nice to not be guessing about the next step – though when we did the left side I did momentarily forget what was next..  It seems to me that a big part of the problem is that I just can’t seem to memorize combinations. Short and basic ones, sure, but anything involving more than 6 steps or so, not. And it sucks. I mean, the harder combination was so fun! There was even a pirouette en dedans from fourth – my favorite kind of pirouette (and the only kind in which I can get all the way around and end with the correct foot in front). I wish I could remember the whole combination, so I could practice it and make it better, but if I remembered it I would have probably been dancing it better.

Anyway, I don’t know if this means the more advanced versions are not for me.  Afterwards, we did a saute arabesque, saute passe, saute arabesque, saute passe, run in a small circle (whatever this is called), saute arabesque, alternate legs after running again to a daute arabesque on the other leg, glissade, 4 brises or assembles (yes, assemble was the “easier” version), pas de chat, other side combination.  It was pretty fun, but as I’ve mentioned in other posts, my assembles are not very assemble-y and my arm transitions from middle fifth to arabesque need work. The more advanced people did cabriolets. I think I’m a long way from doing that…

At barre, we’ve been doing a lot of work from a plie position, like tendu and close in plie, they stay in plie for two more tendues.  We’ve been doing more stuff on releve, as well. The frappes have gotten ridiculously fast, and we’re switching it up, like instead of en croix we do three front, three back, en croix, then four  a la seconde, then reverse.  It’s so hard to not get lost, and thinking about which one is next while also actually doing frappes instead of just swinging your foot at the ground is a huge challenge.

F Teacher also worked with us on the concept of it being a dynamic movement, to try to project energy out through your fingertips when doing arabesque arm, that kind of thing.  Honestly, it’s something that I struggle with. If I had to summarize it in my own words, I would say to do the moves like you mean it , not like you’re just marking the combination or, in my case, like you feel like an impostor in ballet class.  I think I have a fear that I’m taking myself too seriously and that if I really try to do it I will look ridiculous.  But it’s something that I need to work on, I just don’t know where to begin.

Overall, I think the level of combinations in class (so far, there’s still a couple weeks left) is a good fit for me, though I don’t really know where I fit in the whole scheme of things. Beginner or beginning-intermediate/ beginner 2?  And everyone in this class has extensions of at least 90°, which is intimidating, just a bit.  I’ve been stretching my butt off, but the discrepancy between my flexibility in my right leg and left leg seems to increase daily… At least by this point I’m not really feeling like ‘why am i even in this class’, which is a good sign. I’m feeling more like ‘I’m not very good at ballet, but this is still probably the funnest summer I’ve ever had’. And yes, I know that “funnest” is probably not a real word…

14 thoughts on “Week 4: In The In-Between Stage

  1. imitationballerina

    I know what you mean! Sometimes I like the combinations that are hard because it challenges you and makes you better. On the other hand, the easier combinations are more fun because I feel I can let go and dance without having to think the whole time “what comes next??!”

  2. arienlair

    Try treating memorizing a combination like playing a game. Go on YouTube and look for a beginner class just to try and see if you can pick up the combinations. If you are watching another class get started or finish up at your studio, so the same thing. It gets better, and once your brain wires into learning combinations, you will have a hard time not automatically learning them and doing them in your head when you watch someone else!

  3. Trippmadam

    I have been there. I usually opt for the easier version (if El Maestro lets me do this, which is not always the case), but I watch the difficult version closely and sometimes try it at home after class. Maybe I should not do that, but after all those years of dancing I have realized, that I am a slow learner, and I do not want to be a nuisance for those who are faster. (And long combinations, don’t get me started…)

    1. kit Post author

      I try to do that too (practice the combination – or at least what I can remember of it – at home), because I’m also a slow learner. The only problem is that we do a different center combination almost every day! In the past I’d relied on having the same, or a very similar, combination for several weeks.
      I feel terrible when I feel like I’m holding the faster students behind… and so inadequate 😦

  4. Sarah

    “… to do the moves like you mean it , not like you’re just marking the combination or, in my case, like you feel like an impostor in ballet class.”

    This is how I feel in every single class I take! When will we feel like we belong in a ballet class, or is this something that never goes away? I also feel like long combinations are beyond my abilities to remember, which is so frustrating. It does make me admire professional dancers even more though, how do they remember all the steps that make up a three hour ballet, and also put emotion into their performance?!

    1. kit Post author

      Yeah, I’ve been feeling a bit glum about this lately… I do worry that it’s something that takes years to go away, if at all. Or that perhaps it’s needed to start at a very young age (even if one quits for years and then returns to it) to be able to “learn” this. Like, I work so hard to be able to even do the steps without falling over, and articulate my feet, and try to hold my body in alignment, but it all doesn’t matter because if I don’t do it correctly – and I don’t – it doesn’t look like ballet. Very frustrating, specially because I have no idea how to practice or learn what I’m supposed to do to make it look “right”.
      I admire the professionals so much, not just for remembering the long combinations but also for being able to pick up the new combinations immediately. And just for their dedication as well – I love taking ballet class, but the first time I felt ‘I’m tired, I wish I could take a day off’ (I didn’t), I realized that I enjoy having an option in the matter. The idea of mandatory class Every Single Day All Day sounds overwhelming, though having the *option* to take class daily sounds great…

  5. JustScott

    I’ve been in the in between spot more often than not. There are days when I love the challenge, and will do the advanced combination. And then there are days (more lately) that I’ve done the easier combination. Back at the school I attended back home, there were times when I was expected to do the advanced combination. Hey, do what makes you feel more comfortable. That’s the wonderful think about being an adult dancer. The choice is often ours.

    1. kit Post author

      That’s true – as adults, we do get more choice in the matter than a child (specially a child heading down the road to being a pro, I’d assume). Though I have noticed that when it’s a teacher who has become somewhat familiar with me teaching, most likely I will be asked if I want to do the more challenging one. I love taking on the challenge of a more difficult combination, but there’s been days when my body was screaming for the easier one.
      It’s nice to know that other adult dancers have found themselves in between levels. Most of the people I’ve taken class with are either one level or another, and I was starting to feel like I was the only one in between!

  6. thebloggingballerina

    Never be afraid of really going for it! My teachers always taught me, if you’re going to mess up (and we all do it, even the most advanced dancers), do it beautifully! Pushing yourself to try harder things, even if it’s overwhelming at first, will eventually get you to the next level where you can remember combinations more easily and do them without thinking. It’s not that you’re bad at memorising combinations- when you’re a beginner, you always think about what’s the next step; with time, the sequences of movements becomes natural, so you don’t have to think “oh, what was after the glissade?”, allowing you to move on to faster and more complex exercises. So keep it up! And I often join in class with adult beginners, and you can see that whilst some are great technically and others have good co-ordination, it’s not the most accomplished dancer who draws your eye, it’s the one who performs. Use your arms and your eyeline, at first it will be hard because you have to think about it, but as your whole body becomes involved in the performance of the exercise, the movements will feel instinctive and natural, and it looks beautiful.

    1. thebloggingballerina

      I use the term ‘beginner’ as in someone who has started or re-discovered ballet as an adult, not to say you are completely new to it because clearly you’ve progressed beyond that and know a lot of the technical stuff!

      1. kit Post author

        Oh yeah, of course 🙂
        Though I do feel very beginner-like at times, I’m so glad that I’ve gotten beyond the first few months stage of beginnerness.

    2. kit Post author

      You’re right, a lot of the complications seem to be a result of me having to think about the next step ALL the time! I am hoping with enouugh time and practice it will become more natural.
      I completely agree also about it being the dancer who performs that draws the eye, as opposed to the most technically proficient. Unfortunately, since I feel awkward doing the moves – and messing them up, lol – I find it difficult to perform at times, I just feel too silly. I do like performing for the mirror though!


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