Taking Class In The Cold, Lots Of Turns, Ballottes, And Performance Anxiety

It was an odd week, ballet wise. While I had been eagerly waiting for the time to change (so I could have my extra hour of sleep), the temperature drop hit me by surprise. I didn’t go to as many classes as usual this week, and although the cold seems like an invalid reason to miss class, I just felt more like staying in with a blanket than changing into a leotard and tights. Of course, I began to feel guilty about it as soon as it’s class time, but I tried to convince myself that a little extra rest once in a while is good for my muscles to have time to repair and rebuild (thus leading to better future ballet-ing.

On the days that I did make it in to class, my choice of attire was definitely bulkier than usual. For one class I wore my leggings over my leotard and tights for all of barre, another day for all of center as well.  For modern, I wear two pairs of pants to start off with, then take off 1 layer when I feel warmed up. If I was taking the Beginner class at that school where there is a dress code (leotard and tights only, no leg warmers unless injured), I do’t know what I’d do. Luckily, Intermediate class, and Modern, and rehearsals don’t really care about following the dress code. I usually am one of the few that are in “uniform”, but when it’s cold I gotta choose between looking like regulation ballet student or staying warm and not stiff. But it felt nice to get really warm, even though I usually do work up a sweat during Intermediate class. But then by now I’ve turned into one of those people that will even sweat during Beginner class, not because it’s necessarily difficult but because I’m focusing on the details so hard.

One of my ballet classes turned into a private lesson, which was a brand new experience. I’ve taken class before when there was only several of us, so I know that it’s hard to hide when there’s less students. But when you’re completely all alone, it’s so much more than that. Since there was no one to follow, it was completely my responsibility not only to make sure I knew the combination, but that I knew how to follow the music. In a way it really drove home the concept of not being a great dancer even though there was no one to compare to. It was pretty cool though, and a great way to get plenty of corrections. My main ones are that I need to keep my chin up when balancing, and work on my turnout, and I need to close my fifth position more – the last two are related, because it’s my crappy turnout that keeps me from being able to close it better without feeling like my feet are so far away from each other that it’s turning into a lopsided fourth.

At barre for Intermediate, we did more combinations involving changing the working leg to the inside leg. We did a lot of combinations like this during my summer ballet session, but not so much in this class, so my body had kind of forgotten. By the end I was getting it, so I think the memory’s still in there. Crazy how quickly my body forgets some things (even though it still knows, just needs to be remided) – ever since I’ve been doing ballet I’ve realized that my body is defiitely lazy and will take the easiest way out unless reminded otherwise. This is another reason why I love ballet, because it forces me to work harder than I normally would if I didn’t have someone constantly critiquing my posture.

We worked on attitude turns. We did them from fourth position with the working leg in front. It was my first time trying them, so I didn’t get all the way around and I’m pretty sure I had the wrong arm up (well, there’s a strong possibility I had the wrong arm up, since I have no idea which am it was supposed to be), but they were so fun and pretty. I’m sure how it feels to do something and how it looks to someone watching are two completely different things!

One turning combination I really enjoyed included plenty of en dedans pirouettes. I was something like tendu devant, fourth position lunge, en dedans pirouette, tendu devant (other side), en dedans pirouette, repeat both sides, pas de bourre, en dehors pirouette from fifth. I really don’t like en dehors pirouettes from fifth. The en dedans pirouettes were fun, and I even got the correct foot in the front at the end of a few of them. Teacher said I still need to work on not losing my turnout during the pirouettes though.

We’ve been working on ballotte, and I think my problem is simply that I’m not strong enough yet. Teacher mentioned that they’re like those jumps in which you bring up both legs, kind of like to make a diamond in the air. Well, I’m not able to do those yet, so if I’m not strong enough to do those yet then it logically follows that I’m not strong enough to do ballotte (correctly) yet. So in our petit allegro combination, during the part with the ballottes I just kind of jump around awkwardly while kicking my legs up. It’s pretty bad, LOL. Perhaps I’m not that upset about it because I don’t think it’s a particularly beautiful looking step, so I’m don’t mind that I can’t do it well. Regardless, I am now practicing those diamond-in-the-air jumps at home. So far not so good…

I think something finally clicked regarding the glissade to the front (the kind that goes before a leap). Since it’s supposed to be a kind of brushing motion, I asked Teacher it it’s kind of like a grand jete, but you know, a lot less grand. This way of thinking about it seems to have made it easier for me to do it, for whatever reason. So when we did our across the floor saute arabesque, saute passe, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete combination it went much better. In Modern we’ve been working a lot more on leaps across the floor and chasses, prances, and all kinds of little jumps. Definitely been helping me with feeling like I can get off the floor in ballet. At the same time, it feels so different without wearing ballet shoes! Never thought such a thin piece of leather can make my foot feel so protected.

There’s something else that’s been on my mind, but I’m hesitant to bring it up, because I don’t want it to come out like I’m complaining or whining, or in any way ungrateful (and believe me, I’m not – as an adult beginning dance student with so little experience, and the “wrong” body type, I am so extremely grateful for having been given this opportunity).

It has to do with the upcoming recital. I’m feeling increasingly uncomfortable about the idea of inviting anyone to watch (meaning anyone who would be coming out somewhat on my behalf, not because they have to be there already). This is primarily because the whole program is about 2 hours, and I’m only in one of the numbers, and even then I only get to dance a little bit and I’m mostly in the back row.  When people at school have asked me about it, I make sure to remind them of this, but they’ve kind of blown it off, like ‘Oh, but it’s still fun to be in it, right?’, and the issue is not whether I’m having fun (which I am; it IS ballet, and one of my favorite pieces, so duh, of course it’s fun), but me feeling silly claiming that I’m in something when I get practically no visible stage time. People at one of the other places I take classes at have asked me as well, and I’ve said the same thing about having a small role only (and gotten a similar answer back about ‘but isn’t it fun for you?’)

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t what it to turn into one of those things where the parent goes to their child’s sports game and the child is on the bench most of the time. While I never had the oppotunity to do ballet as a young girl, I did get enrolled in other activities for short periods here and there and I remember my mom specifically asking me about ‘Why don’t you get to play more?’ or ‘why doesn’t the teacher move you up to the next level?’ (the answer is because I’m unathletic and suck at sports, but mom wouldn’t hear of it). I really don’t want to be asked ‘That’s it? I thought you were going to be dancing more!’ because I’ll feel so bad that they drove that far and had to sit there for a long time with the hopes of their daughter being a star or something. (and yes, honestly, it’ll probably hurt my feelings too 😦 )

They know I’ve been doing ballet for a couple years now, but I don’t think they have any idea that it takes decades of training to be good enough to actually get a bigger role (at least in this production). When I’ve tried mentioning stuff like this to her, she kind of gets distracted (because ballet’s not really her thing anyway), and tells me to not put myself down (which is not what I’m doing. I’m just stating a fact: at this point in my training I’m at a ok level, but nowhere near where people who’ve been doing this their whole lives are.) At the same time, I feel like I’d be a horrible daughter if I don’t invite my family.  I definitely don’t want them to feel excluded, but I don’t want them to be bored and disappointed in me either.

While I am definitely open to hearing advice – that’s why I even mentioned it at all – please keep it kind!

4 thoughts on “Taking Class In The Cold, Lots Of Turns, Ballottes, And Performance Anxiety

  1. Trippmadam

    I am wondering if we (or many of us adult dance students) worry too much about what others think of us. It is your first recital, I think? They can’t expect you to be a primaballerina and soloist right from the beginning. Perhaps you could tell them more about the number you are in, about the part you are dancing and the other numbers and the people who are dancing. Make it clear that this recital is not about you, but a showcase for all students who participate. If they still want to come, they will have no choice but sit through all numbers. On the other hand, your family might just want to be there and support you, because they love you, regardless of what you are actually doing on stage. A very wise dancer and choreographer once said, that a ballet company is like a body and each little cell is important. Your contribution, small as it may seem, is necessary to create the whole picture. And you have come a long way. I remember your first posts, and how discouraged you sometimes were. Now you have a part in a recital, even if it is a small one. It is your hard work that has brought you to this place. You have reasons to be proud of what you achieved. Your teacher and fellow students understand that. The audience in general will appreciate what you and your friends do. You are not doing this just for your mother. Recently, in another context, I had to learn something: I can just offer, what I have. I can’t make people accept or appreciate what I offer.

    1. kit Post author

      Thank you for your thoughts 🙂
      Hmm, I’m going to work more on making the focus be coming by to watch what we’ve all been working on at the school, instead of so much on it being about ME.

  2. Basia

    I totally get you. I was just thinking about how one day I might be in the school production, but would I invite anyone???
    Mum has been asking me to show her something for a while now, and I know I’d be a disappointment. I don’t think they even get how difficult a glissade is for me, which is obviously something that would look like a natural maneuver on a professional, it’s like walking.
    I’d be tempted to not tell anyone about my first stage outing. I’d have my hubby and best friend come and that’s it. And then invite the family to the second one. If they found out, I don’t think they’d have too much of a wobbly… I’d just say I was part of the backup cast… and they wouldn’t feel they’d missed a thing. Dunno what to advise you – it’s a tough decision.

    1. kit Post author

      Yes, exactly! Sometimes I struggle with very basic steps and there’s no way someone that doesn’t dance can realize how difficult it is and how much time it can take to improve. For me, especially when dancing right next to people that have been dancing their whole life, I feel like ‘That’s it? That’s all I have to show for myself?’.
      I have thought that I could invite the family to a future recital in which I hopefully do more dancing, if that happens. Now, if one day there is a production that’s composed of ONLY adult beginners and we all got great stage time, that would be a dream come true! And, with more and more adults trying out ballet for the first time, who’s to say it can’t happen…


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