Monthly Archives: December 2015

2015 -What A Year

As far as ballet goes for me, 2015 has been an amazing year! So many new experiences…

I started off the year taking ballet class only about twice a week on average. In February, it was my two year anniversary since starting ballet. Early on in the year, I attempted a four month session of Intermediate class. Although at the time I wasn’t ready for it, by the time summer came about I was ready to try again (and this time I got through it!). Over the past year my dancing has improved so much. I also found another local dance studio that offered open drop-in adult ballet classes, and not only that, it was more affordable than the other studio I got to. By the later part of the year I was taking class on average four times a week, though sometimes even five or six. It’s been great.

And that’s just ballet – this past year I also started modern dance classes, twice a week. I didn’t start until later on in the year, but I do think I will be continuing on with this. It was pretty cool using what I’ve learned in ballet (mostly balance, but also alignment and flexibility) to actually be somewhat decent at it (it was a beginner level class).

I saw several live perfomances, including my first Swan Lake (by the Grand Russian Ballet).  I’d been wanting to watch Swan Lake live for so long and I was definitely excited. It was great, but I’m still hoping to one day see it performed with a live orchestra.  I also caught a couple other performances by smaller local companies, which were nice. Also saw a lot of modern dance performances through my school.  Most of the time I don’t understand what it’s about, but when I do – those extremely rare times – it’s awesome.

Then I got to be in a performance, which was just incredible. A LOT of work too, but a dream come true. It was so much fun to get to wear a tutu and dance onstage. I’d been wanting this ever since I first started ballet (though I never would have admitted it, because I felt I was being unrealistic), so it felt really good to actually meet one of my goals. Now that it’s happened, I feel a lot more calm about it. I don’t know yet if I will try again for another one, because sometimes I feel like I just want to remember how amazing this past experience was, and not ruin the memory by trying to recreate it. But, I may… I’m just not making myself any promises yet. If we do repeat the same ballet we did – unlikely, but a possibility – then I’m definitely gonna try out! I’ll train as if I was going to for sure either way.

This past year early on I also started pilates, doing it pretty consistently which gave me great results in improving my dancing (specifically balancing and posture – which came from imcreased core strength) but mostly an overall increase in proprioception and the little subtleties of movement)).  Seriously, it was the best thing I could have done for my dancing and for my body overall. My posture has never been better! Possibly equally important, I discovered body rolling on a foam roller (also through pilates class). I got myself a roller and now spend countless hours torturing myself with the zeal of a masochist slowly rolling out my tight muscles and fascia, which hurts so much that it feels good. My quads are especially tight, and ever since I’ve been slowly rolling them out I’ve gotten closer to the floor than ever in my front splits.

I continued on my quest to improve my jumps, and I finally found an answer (slow jumps at home, with a really deep plie, trying to jump as high as I can while pointing my feet, landing in a deep plie and holding it without allowing my torso to come forward, straighten legs, plie, repeat).  As a result, I no longer get corrected to point my feet, as I’m finally strong enough to jump and remember to point at the same time. My stamina could be better, but if it’s any consolation, practically the whole cast was huffing and puffing backstage as much as I was (and I’m way older than them!). So I don’t feel so bad about it, though I am working to improve it. Speaking of which, I also continued running after having started last year , though I stopped for a few months before my performance (not out of choice, but after running downhill one day and my knee feeling a little sore I decided to play it safe. I mostly just run uphill now. Not steep uphills (yet), just  slight uphills.)

On the not-so-fun side of things, I also had some minor incidents (I don’t think they qualify as injuries) this past year. I slipped and fell in the rain, and landed on my tailbone. It hurt for months (but I was able to continue ballet). Then, just weeks before my performance I landed wrong in a jump and hurt my hip and thigh. The recovery break afterwards did cost me some of my strength and stamina, but I’m recovering quickly. I’ve taken class a quite few times afterwards and I’m feeling stronger.

What’s in store for next year? My goals?

I would like to continue taking class as often as possible, at least 4 days a week, preferably 5. 1 year ago if I had read that I would have been like ‘yeah, dream on!’ but things have changed so much for the better that it is actually a possibility. Both the discovery of New Studio, and now being eligible for Intermediate at Adults Only Studio helped, but also the schedule at my regular school has improved. And what I’d be paying for about 5 classes per week for a whole month comes out to about what people in nearby areas are paying for just 5 classes – total. I feel so very lucky, to have these options available, which make it actualy possible for me to take class this often. So thankful.  And just knowing that I have my barre at home helps me feel like there’s always time for a little ballet.

Wishing you all a happy new year!

Oh, and I also updated the Learning Curve page if anyone wants to check it out. Newer stuff is at the bottom.

https://balletandorbust.wordpress.com/test/

 

 

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Fondue

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It didn’t actually say fondue, it was made in Italy. That would have made it so much more exciting.

Wait, it’s the wrong kind of fondue It was delicious. Though it cooled down and got stiff rather than melty. I guess kind of how stiff I am before I get warmed up…

Amyway, it was so good, despite the way it stoped being fondue-y. Actually I kid of liked it once it congealed, it tasted like pizza without the bread. And now when people start talking about fondue in class – which for whatever reason is rather common -I’ll have a memory to go with it.

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Probably not the most hygienic way of eating…

Happy holidays, everyone, and may all your happy wishes come true!

The Twilight Zone Post

This post is a little oddball-y…

I had a terrible dream last night. Of course, I don’t remember all the details, since I’m too lazy to make it a habit to write down the details of my dreams on the regular, but I remember that it’s ballet related and it sucked.

I was in class, and it was tough. Tougher than usual. At some point my foot started feeling really sore, not from the top instep part near the ankle, but the bottom. The part where you balance on demi pointe – I guess the ball of the foot. The soreness was becoming pain and I was really feeling like I couldn’t finish out the rest of class.

This is the part where “real life” and “dream life” converge – I remember thinking ‘If I can’t handle this class, there’s no way I’m going to be able to handle taking Winter session (2 hr class daily) plus going to New Studio on the evenings. Not to mention, rehearsals on top of it if I choose to sign up for the next performance in the Spring.’

These thoughts made me overwhelmingly sad, and desperate.

The scene changed. Don’t remember the details of how I got there, but then I was talking to somebody, some kind of trainer or perhaps ballet teacher? I asked him what I could do – should I work to strengthen my body more through cross-training so I can be strong enough for ballet, should I make any other changes to what I’m doing? Eat more protein so that my body can build muscle easier? WHAT DO I DO?

And what did he say? “There is nothing you can do. Each body has it’s own limit, and given your history (my sedentary childhood and teenage years, I’m guessing?) and age, that’s it.” I don’t remember exactly what was said next, but I do remember feeling horribly upset.

I remember thinking that it wasn’t that he said I couldn’t do ballet, but just that there are limits to what I can do. Both that my potential is set at a certain level, and that it will take me more time to get there, since I can’t overtrain my body too much. So while I get to continue doing ballet, I can’t get all obsessive and attend 4 hours + of class in one day (especially if I plan on doing that daily).

Bear with me here: I know many (most?) people would just say to blow it off, that it’s just a dream, and who cares as it has no bearing on real life. But – and I’m really opening myself up to criticism  here perhaps (in this neck of the woods internet) – in the past I have had realistic-ish dreams like this one that have, well … somewhat come true. Not perfectly true, not all the details, just similar situations that were a little too close for comfort. Like, dreaming I was in a car accident and then it happened (although not the same kind of accident,  but it was the day after the dream), or dreaming about an awkward social situation that puts me in the spot and then surprise! class presentation is announced. Or dreaming about someone I haven’t seen in years and then I run into them at school later that day. I have plenty of other examples too, that I won’t get into because those are stories for another day and another blog.

My point is, I’m terrified of this one coming true. Or is it some kind of wake up call from my subconcious? Am I – or have I been – pushing myself too hard given the circumstances? Is there really such thing as a limit that is set in stone and no matter what I can’t overcome it? By writing about it here, did I somehow cancel it out and keep it from coming true (you know, like how they say that if you make a wish you shouldn’t tell because then it won’t come true. Ha, apparently I have the mindset of an eight year old right now)?

So many questions!

But I really hope this turns out to be nothing.

Last Week’s Ballet Fun

Although one of the places I take class at has already gone into break as of last week, the two other studios I frequent had regular class schedule this past week. So I made it out to four ballet classes (as well as a local Nutcracker performance – another ballet-ful week!). On days with no class I did barre and a very basic center (tendus, degages, passe releves, pirouettes en dehors from fourth) and some slow sautes in first, second, and changements. That’ll be my routine for the days until regular class schedules resume. Maybe some days I’ll do a video off youtube.

The classes I took were Adult Ballet (Open Level) at New Studio, and Basic Beginner and Intermediate at Adults Only studio. All very fun in their own way,and with their own challenges

Here are some highlights:

We did the tendus en croix in croisse, releve, pivot, other side center combination from last week again, as well as a similar one (on a different day) that went something like tendu devant (or was it a fondu, the kind where your working leg’s foot slides alond the floor as your supporting leg plies? I forgot…), rond de jambe to second, close back,tendu derriere, lift leg off and promenade, and end up with the other leg in front to do other side (there may have been a pas de bourre in there? This is what I get for not jotting down some notes immediately after class…) What was memorable about this combo was that my promenades actually didn’t suck (for me). I was surprised, as my promenades weren’t particularly good before my break, and I know I lost some strength. Perhaps it was the pressure of knowing that the more beginner new student was following me and I had to at the very minimum get all the way around without losing my balance that did it? Or maybe it was knowing that there was no pressure of getting my leg up any higher than I can manage for my current skill level? Either way, not my sloppiest day.

Really fun combination- (3 pas de chat, assemble)x3 first traveling right, then left, then right again, sissone devant, sissone derriere, sissone left, sissone right, 3 pique turns, chaines, ballet run away. The tempo was fast, and I mean fast. So instead of focusing on making it look pretty there was a lot of just trying to keep up. A shame, because I was really loving the music and would have loved to make this combination presentable.

We did attitude devant turns, en dehors, first from fourth then from fifth. While my attitude turns still have a ways to go, I’d previously only tried them from fourth. From fifth they were exponentially harder for me. All kinds of turns are harder for me from fifth! It doesn’t help that I got into turns from fifth with a negative attitude…

Get it, attitude?

In Basic Beginner class, we worked on pas de basque. I’ve done pas de basque before in Intermediate class since last spring, but I was going about it in a copy-what-the-person-in-front-of-you-is-doing-and-try-not-to-fall kind of way. In BB class, our teacher (B Teacher?)  broke it down for us step by step, with the port de bras included (and, I might add, that doing it with the port de bras does make it much easier, just like she told us). We practiced it all as a group, then went across the floor. This repetion of a single step is exactly what works for my body, so it went fine, although I am not familiar enough with this new cleaned up version of the step – I guess with any version of the step… -to make it look decidedly graceful. Then I remembered how much more unstable on my feet I had felt back when I first attempted the step back last spring, and I felt really good about my current level.

At the same studio I’d also asked B Teacher about the Intermediate ballet class she teaches, and she told me that she thought I would do fine in it. So I tried it out for the first time. Adults Only studio is a little out of our budget, but since there are no classes at this studio for the next couple of weeks I felt I could justify the expense. I figured if I liked it (and I did – loved it!) I could look into getting a multiple class pass instead of just paying per class as I’ve been doing. That way I’d be only spending a couple extra dollars per week but I’d get to take both classes.

The class was fun, and definitely at a more challenging level. I’d been curious what “Intermediate” meant at this studio, since it caters strictly to recreational adults. Would it be on “easy mode” with no expectation of triple pirouettes, 120+ degree extensions, and entrechats like those frequently found in my other school’s Intermediate class? Yet still offer a higher level of challenge than Beginner class, perhaps using epaulement and working in croisse instead of en face in center, using port de bras for all of barre. The technique and complexity without the intimidation, I guess. Actual adults that are over a decade past their teens, perhaps even some adult beginners. For me personally, the opportunity to work other than in first withoutgetting chewed out over my crappy turnout…

The barre combinations were really long and somewhat complex, so I got to work on my memory as well as the strength of my supporting leg. Here is a combination I remember: 2 tendus devant, tendu en croix, 2 tendu derriere, tendu en croix, 4 tendus a la second, coupe, 2 tendus a la seconde, tendu en croix, reverse the whole thing, all with port de bras. When B Teacher first gave out the combination I was feeling so overwhelmed, but then my body started to somehow “get it”, and it felt like I was doing it right out of reflex or something. It was a nice feeling, but so strange, like my body reacted before I had time to even process what to tell it to do. I’d definitely take this class again just to experience that alone…

We also had a very long rond de jambe and fondu combination that involved rond de jambes en l’air, rond de jambes with fondu/while fondu-ing, lunges into the barre, and lots of cambres. It was really lovely, and continued the theme of giving my supporting leg a work out.

In center, we worked on pique sous-sus, plie, passe releve, repeat other leg. The tempo was a bit fast, but I wasn’t feeling completely lost. Then B Teacher gave us our across the floor combination, and once again I felt overwhelmed. It was 2 pas de basque, soutenu, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot to change facing, pirouette en dedans, soutenu in place, soutenu traveling, pique turn, pique arabesque. Once we went over it a couple times I committed it to memory, but I was still a little apprehensive because of the pirouette and tempo. The first few times through, I forgot the soutenu immediately after the pirouette, but by the time we got to the second side I was remembering. Not that it made it look pretty when I did it or anything. I wish I could make a combination like this look good, but I guess it’s one of those things that will take more time and practice. Some of the parts I feel are better than others, my personal favorites being the pirouette en dedans, tombe pas de bourre preparation for the pirouette en dedans (though the pirouette en dehors itself sucked).

Also, I realized that I have difficulty with soutenus in place – not the half-soutenu like at the barre to switch sides, but the kind that makes a full revolution without traveling. I don’t quite seem to understand where the feet go. The traveling kind where you sort of pique into it, soutenu, plie, then step out again, repeat one makes sense to me, but starting from a fifth position plie I have no idea how to go about it. Non-traveling soutenus are not something I’m used to doing, so it could just be that I need more familiarity with it than actually understanding the mechanics of it.

Argh, Wrong One!

Stupid WordPress, got me all excited for nothing! I saw “pique” and was expecting pretty turns across the floor.

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Apparently there is a different usage of the word “Pique”. My mistake…

It happens.

Joke’s on me, because either way I shouldn’t have been picturing the turns. Or even pique sous-sus.  Just the quick little taps on the floor with the toes. Sharp little tap, tap taps.

A Very Ballet-ful Week

Wrapping up my week, I took two more ballet classes, Basic Beginner class and open level Adult Ballet. They were both really fun and I definitely think I’m over my fear of returning to ballet class sice my little break.

One of the things I’m having trouble with is remembering to hold back. Since I’m not feeling any pain I tend to want to throw myself into it full on, and I often need to remind myself to take it easy. Then the next combination begins and I’m trying to bring my leg up super high again or really fly in those galloping chasses across the room…

Even though I’m feeling so much better, I have to remember that I’m not at 100 % strength yet – well, the slightly shaky ankles during the first class I took this week reminded me. Gotta do more of the theraband foot exercises to rebuild my strength back to before my break. I managed to keep up my core strength by doing lots of core work and doing lots of bouncing on my exercise ball, keeping my torso upright and not letting myself lean forward on the “down” part of the bounces.

At the barre, I continued to feel like I’m remembering where I left off. These classes I had few mistakes as far as closing front or back, and stuff like that. Corrections involved working on my turnout (which I am being conservative with, at least until more time has passed since I hurt my hip. At home I’m doing turnout-muscle strengthening though), and keeping my pelvis from going into an anterior tilt. You know, the usuals…

I did feel like my musicality has improved (at least at the barre). I don’t know exactly when it happened, or who was the teacher responsible for fostering it, but I’ve definitely come a long way. This makes me happy because I’ve heard before that musicality cannot be taught, and I’d been worried. Perhaps it wasn’t something that was taught, but something that was there all along, just waiting to come out?

At center, we did pretty simple combinations, which I love because I can keep up and not spend the whole time worrying about what I’m doing next or how to not fall over. In one class we did tendus en croix with port de bras in croisse, then releve with arms in high fifth, pivot so that the standing and supporting legs switch, and do the other side. In my other class we did tendus devant, a la seconde, and derriere, then two pique sous-sus to the side, repeat other side.

We worked on pirouettes from fourth, and I was happy to see that at least my pirouettes have not gotten horribly worse (the last time I took Intermediate I had felt really off my game). They haven’t gotten better either, but after not really practicing pirouettes for a few weeks I couldn’t really hope for that.

Another really fun across the floor combination we did really let us combine different steps while still keeping it beginner and do-able. We balanced (the waltzy step) once, then did three either pique sous-sus balances or soutenus (or mix and match!), repeat, all the way across. So much fun! I worked mainly on making in clean and pretty and oh so dance-y. It was also a measure of progress for me, because I remember around six months ago I could do sloppy soutenus in center, but I couldn’t do nice slow clean ones, landing in a plie and holding it between each one, and apparently now I could. So yay!

We also did some sautes, which were not horrible, although not great either.  I have lost some of my stamina over my break, but I am still ahead of where I was a few months ago, which is a relief. Toward the end my feet were not so pointy, but a quick reminder from NS Teacher had me pointing again. My changements are not crossed enough, but that’s something that will take time, so I’m not stressing it too much.

My performance happened, and it was singlehandedly the most wonderful experience of my life! It was just absolutely incredible to have the opportunity to take part in this, truly a dream come true (except I don’t think I would have dared to dream this big back when I first started ballet). To think that I, a true beginner who took her first ballet class EVER only a couple years ago and doesn’t have the typical body shape chosen for ballet, got to dance on stage in this production alonside dancers who’ve been dancing their whole lives… it just amazes me. I am so incredibly grateful to one of my teachers, F Teacher, who put all of this together and allowed me the opportunity to be in her ballet (actually, I’d like to thank ALL my teachers, as all their corrections and help made this possible, from NS Teacher’s inclusion of bourres during barrework, to F Teacher’s emphasis on port de bras and really dancing and emoting at all times). I don’t think anyone would or could understand how much it means to me. This is one of the moments in my life that I can say that I’ve truly felt happy. I feel almost guilty about it, but I feel like now I have something amazing in my past to look back to, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt that way about any event in my past – not graduating, not meeting anyone, not any celebrations or milestones. (My many apologies to other events and people in my life)

I just felt so there. Like, for once in my life there was just definitely no way my mind could be elsewhere, and I was moving to the music and it felt like my whole body was happy. One of my main goals in ballet was to get decent enough that I could actually perform without it being a complete joke, so I definitely feel like I accomplished something. Though I tend to err on the side of modesty, I can honestly say that – especially since I worked my butt off to get here – I did a good job.

I got to wear a tutu!  *excited high-pitched squeal*

There’s a lot more details, so many more that it gets its own post:

https://balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/the-details/

And I’d like to once again mention how much WordPress’s new interface SUCKS. It took me forever to figure out how to get it posted correctly. When before it was just a simple click on a pull down menu, I just had to go through literally the whole WordPress dashboard to get this done. Argh! So much wasted time!