Why “ballet and/or bust”?

This is kind of a random ramble…

A recent comment sort of reminded me of something that I’d been thinking about recently. I’d been thinking about the name and focus of this blog. In fact, I’ve been sort of pondering changing it, but not getting around to it, and then changing my mind, and back and forth. Reason is, sometimes I wonder if it’s still relevant to my story. I guess I should back track a little…

Back when I first started ballet-blogging (june 2014), I was in a different place than now – both literally and metaphorically. I’d been ballet-ing for a little over a year at that point, and was super discouraged. Besides the fact that I wasn’t very good at ballet, I also felt… how should I put this… ummm… externally discouraged.  I hadn’t had a very good class experience with the last session of ballet I’d taken, and felt like I was it was hopeless. I hadn’t really met a ballet teacher that was accomodating to my slowness at learning (if anything, the opposite), and I was really beginning to feel like doing ballet may not be for me (as in, I felt like others were disapproving of my choice to do ballet). But at the same time, I was doing it, so then that means it could be for me, right?

If I’d been blogging just a few months prior, it would have just been a blog full of rants (and I know – I have journal entries in my private journal that chronicle my experiences while taking that session). I was having a really hard time keeping up in class at times (especially considering how long I’d been doing ballet for), and, since I’d seen how much stronger my legs had gotten in that year or so, I blamed my lack of progress on my chest. It did seem as though that was the issue – after all, when someone falls off balance, teachers would assume that they would fall backwards, whereas I would always fall forward. I struggled with balancing for quite a long time actually, and didn’t get a reliable two-legged releve balance until around the time I’d been doing ballet for two years. In the end, the culprit turned out to be my previously weak back and core. So, although perhaps the heaviness of my boobs was the immediate cause, it was completely fixable with time, practice, and lots of conditioning cross-training work.

My point is, as a commenter reminded me, the stronger you get, the less your body’s shape gets in the way of progress. I’ve experience it firsthand, so I know it’s true. I mean, yes, sometimes progress will come slower than for someone who has less weight being carried around in certain places (and I remember how pissed I was back in first ballet session when a guy had referred to breasts as “weight”, lol. I totally get – in a dancing context – what he meant, though at the time it was perceived as rudeness by my new-to-ballet ears), and walking around  while carrying a heavy purse is enough to remind anyone of this fact (or to experience it for yourself, if you happen to not be one of us who is carrying around extra padding in certain areas). In fact, it was my discomfort at carrying my purse while standing in the same place for long periods of time that reminded me that I was going to ramble about this subject. Simply put, the closer the body’s weight is distributed to the body’s midline, the easier it will be for that person to balance. Some of us have to work harder. (I should mention at some point: since I didn’t watch much ballet before I started doing ballet, I had absolutely no idea about what body types can usually be found in ballet, or why, or anything like that.)

But, it’s not impossible. It certainly doesn’t get in the way of me doing ballet. And, even though it may not seem so obvious to some, this is a huge deal for me. I’ve never really discussed this on the blog, because it’s personal-ish and embarassing, but for years and years I hid my body in enormous baggy sweaters, ashamed of my body. If someone had told me that I would be comfortable one day prancing around in public in a skin-tight garment and nothing else with my chest I would have said they were out of their mind. I was way too embarassed of drawing attention to myself, or hearing innapropriate or mean comments, or getting stared at. I effectively put my life on hold for years while I hid and watched everyone else live their life. (Of course, other factors that I won’t get into played their part as well, but the body issues were deifinitely a big part.)

I am so grateful that due to ballet I’ve become so much more comfortable with my body. This ease in movement, this lack of self-conciousness, has been amazing.  Not that it’s always perfect, or that I have a completely healthy relationship with my body – I don’t – but the simple freedom of feeling like I can leave the house without a heavy coat in summertime is something I never had expected to experience.

So, is the fact that I am top-heavy relevant when it comes to my ballet adventures? Yes and no.  While the physical aspects – holding balances without toppling over and such – have improved so much, there are things that happen here and there that remind me that yes, it certainly is still relevant. Thigs like going to the dance store and having people just unabashedly stare at me, and my chest, as I do my shopping. It’s not even the kids, but their moms, which is really irritating – like, great way to teach your kids by example how to behave. Or not being able to easily find dancewear that fits without feeling like it’ll rip off any second. Or when the more immature dance students in my classes make comments, or if I take class with people I’ve never taken class before, and before we start I feel their eyes on me, like they’re sizing me up. I realize I don’t look like the typical ballet student, but at least once we start our barre work I can prove that I am just as serious as the next dance student.

Anyway, ramble over (for now) 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Why “ballet and/or bust”?

  1. Trippmadam

    Somehow, I can relate. I am not blessed with a dancer’s body, either. I am very tall. I am not really fat, but nobody could or would call me slim ( I never was, not even as a young girl.) My waist is rather slim, but my hips and shoulders are wide and I am busty, too. Over the years I learned to like my body, but it will never be a dancer’s body (and that’s o.k).

    Reply
    1. kit Post author

      Yes, it’s taken me a long time to come to terms with my body – I’d even go as far as to say I like it, on a good day – but I’ve gone through my share of struggles. While I’m not a heavy person overall at this time in my life, my short torso and large chest combination make me feel big and clumsy or heavy in ballet class sometimes. The irritating part is that since I have really long legs, it creates an optical illusion that I’m more slender than I actually am (in dark colors), so no one ever gets what I mean when I’m having one of my bad body image days.
      Remembering that even people with “perfect” bodies can still pick out their flaws helps me keep it in perspective.

      Reply
  2. Olivia

    I have body issues too, some days more than others. For me, it isn’t a comparison with others as much as me pressuring myself. When I see other adults in class who have regular bodies that look just fine I am reminded- to them I look regular and just fine. It is funny how I hold myself to a standard I wouldn’t dream of holding anyone else to… I love the comfort I have in class once I stop freaking myself out and start loving what I am doing. Maybe it is the anxiety part- like standing on a diving board preparing to jump. Before you do is the worst fear. 🙂

    Reply
    1. kit Post author

      You raised some excellent points!
      I do wonder if the anxiety plays a big part in my body issues…I’m willing to bet it may be a big part of it.
      That’s also interesting about the concept of holding oneself to a much higher standard than what I would expect from others. I find myself doing that quite often. While I wouldn’t say that it’s exclusively a ballet class phenomenon, something about the leotard and tights brings out the insecurities for me at a much more heightened level than if I was just out for a walk or jog in baggy sweats.
      But since I’ve gotten so much better (both at not freaking out as much about everything, and at ballet), I am very hopeful for the future. I’ve had my body issues since my teens – possibly earlier – and at this point in my life I’m adusting the best I ever have, so that makes me feel lots better. 🙂

      Reply

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