Monthly Archives: January 2016

A Whole Lot Of Ballet

Oh wow, I had a lot of ballet in my life this past week! Between classes at my regular school and at New Studio, I was in class for twelve hours. It’s been pretty amazing, especially one day when I took class for four hours – including what was possibly the most challenging class I’ve ever taken (details below).

While I’ve been having loads of fun, it’s definitely been a huge reality check. The classes at my regular school are picking up in difficulty as we’re midway through our session, and the classes at NS have been with dancers who are far more advanced than me. Lots of combinations that I feel like I’m lucky to gt through it rather than focusing on making it beautiful. I mean, there’s been some of those too, but it’s been mixed in there with the times I struggle to keep up. It’s been a balance, I guess… I suck and then I don’t suck… and then I suck again. It’s pretty funny to me in a twisted way actually.

That said, combinations I remember plus comments (I did a terrible job of taking notes on combinations this week, because I managed to hurt one of my fingers  on my writing hand pretty bad (not during ballet), so I’ve been taking it easy with jotting down notes or typing. Strangely enough, it didn’t hurt to place my hand on the barre.):

In Beginner class, we did a longer than usual (for that class/level) center combination: (failli, assemble)x2, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade pas de chat, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grad jete. I manager to remember the combination, and even figured it out to the left side, but it was definitely an increase in challenge from the combinations we’ve been doing in that class. For the more beginner students there was a slightly easier version, something like switching out the first part with just tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, assemble.

Also in Beginner class, we did 2 waltz step, 2 balances, soutenu, what looked like a temps lie back, chasse into chaines. Another combination that was on the more complex side for this class, although quite fun for me. There was a version for the more beginner students as well, just waltz step without turning and a pique sous-sus instead of the soutenu. I went with both groups, to get the max of my ballet class time.

At NS we did this combination that was (2 balances, tombe, pas de bourre)x3, contretemps, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete. It wasn’t particularly difficult, but after all those tombe, pas de bourres that we’ve been doing I kept forgetting about the balances and wanting to go straight into the tombe, pas de bourre part which was so incorrect.

In Beginner class, we did a somewhat slowed down petit allegro. It was eight of these petit jestes in place, where the foot doesn’t  brush out but just goes back i coupe, then four petit jetes with the brush of the foot, with an optional temps leve for each on of the brush out ones. It was good practice to have a petit allegro that I could actually keep up with.

At NS, the “easier version” of petit allegro was 4 changements, sous-sus, pick up front foot and passe releve, pirouette en dehors, repeat. It was actually manageable for me, the tempo was not too fast. The more advanced students did a crazy fast combination that included some kind of frappes as your supporting leg fondues coninually, and this jump in which you do little rond de jambes in the air, kind of like an eggbeater. Either way, stuff I can’t do yet.

I also noticed this week that my echappe releves in center feel much more stable that ever. I used to wobble pretty comsistently when out in the echappe on releve position, but now I seem to be holding my core much better. Same does for my pique arabesque.

Now as to my most challenging class ever, I think it was a solidly Intermediate level class, not watered-down Intermediate level. Barre combinations were long, woth port de bras, and the second time through on releve. We did frappes on releve, grand battements on releve, circular cambre/port de bras on releve, and more. there was this one barre combination where we developpe up to releve, tendu down, bring the leg back up and around to the next position (from devant to a la seconde, etc), tendu down, developpe up to releve, etc, then reverse the whole thing. Our degages were so fast that there was literally no time to think about technique.

Center was rough. The tendu combination went ok: 2 tendus devant, temps lie, two tendus derriere, temps lie all in croise, then two tendus a la seconde en face, then pique arabesque, sous-sus, pas de cheval, sous-sus, other side. Then we did chaines across the floor and that went ok as well, After that though, it all kind of fell apart.

The next combination was pique arabesque, glissade, grand jete, pique arabesque, (chasse, tour jete)x2, tombe, pas de bourre, saut de chat. To the right was ok, but my tour jetes on the second side are absolutely dreadful, so that sucked. And honestly, I didn’t quite catch the combination when it was given, so I had to carefully watch the first two groups so I had an idea what to do.

Petit allegro was something like 4 changements, 4 sissones (front and back), petit jetes, and entrechat, repeat. Besides the fact that I can’t do entrechats – still – the tempo was impossibly fast for me. I flailed around a bit…

I don’t have any other combinations from that class written as they went over my head. Given the difficulty I still had a great time. It was a master class taught by a new-to-me teacher. And he was amazing! When I first entered the studio, I was quite intimidated, like ‘what a commanding prescence!’. Although pretty much everyone else in the room was much more advanced (I’m talking some pre-pros and ex-pros), I appreciate that he did devote time to correct everyone and I definitely wasn’t ignored. I’m also honored that my usual teacher thought I was ok at ballet enough to keep up in this class (not everyone in the adults class was invitedto the master class.)

Here’s some random corrections I remember:

The arms come down last when landing a jump, so the audience gets fooled that you’re still in the air. I really like that one!

In ballet, if in doubt where to look, look at your hand.

While at the barre, to prevent gripping, preferably no thumb when hand is on the barre, barre  arm relaxed. He also told me to make my a la seconde arm just a little rounder, and my hand a tiny bit softer with less tension.

Don’t let your back start going in arabesque until your leg forces it to.

Since I’ve been taking mostly beginner classes for the last month or so, it was an adjustment at first. But I did surprise myself with what I was able to do. I’ve never done that much barre on releve, one combination after another. I attempted all the combinations, even the ones that were incredibly fast and I knew that what I was doing looked nothing like how ballet is supposed to look. I proved to my body that yes, I can dance for that many hours without needed to be carried home. Most importantly, I had a blast.

And isn’t that the most important part?!


Developing That Developpé, A Trick For Balancing, And An Amazing Find

If there was something that I surely got out of my last class this week, it was this group correction from F Teacher: when doing a developpe, after the part when the foot is in retire, bring up the thigh first before the extension (once again, I’m doing a horrible job of describing it, but all I know is that since I started applying this correction my extension – in all directions but especially devant and a la seconde – got much higher). While it makes perfect sense, I had not actually been doing this before. Lift and extend works much better than extend and (try to) lift and the leg feels much lighter. I think NS Teacher had mentioned this before during her class, but it had been during center and I had been focusing too hard for the correction to make it to long term memory. But now it’s definitely stuck in there.

Also, she told us to make sure our weight is not over the heels of our feet, throwing off our alignment (while doing developpes this was said, but F Teacher is constantly reminding us to shift our weight). A suggestion was made that it should feel like we’re going up on releve, except we’re still on flat. While developpes on releve are no problem for me strength-wise (at the barre, and once  I did one one on releve in center at NS), I did notice that after she mentioned this and I started to actively shift my weight forward when doing them on flat. It appears I need to work on doing this all the time as well, and this may have to do with why my alignment is a little wacky on one-footed releve.

R Teacher mentioned to me that I’m not using my core to the fullest, and this may be what is throwing off my balance on pirouettes. Since I did feel that I was using my core somewhat, at first I wasn’t understanding what she meant. It took a practice session with me constantly checking on my side alignment to really understand, and she was spot-on – I appear to be engaging my lats more than my deep lower abdominals, giving me the appearance of my weight being back just a bit. This is something I will be working on during class now that I know what to look out for. This is the part where a beginner class will make you so sore from having every muscle in the body engaged and pulled up.

Speaking of which, something I’ve been doing to help me improve my balance further, especially with little tiny weight shifts and adjustments, is standing on my roller at home. First I would practice doing this up against the wall with my fingertips lightly resting on it, then when that seemed easy  I moved away from the wall and started working on it there. At this point I’m working on doing port de bras while balancing up on the roller. I do think this has helped me with holding long balances because I must be pulled up as much as possible to not lose my balance and fall off.

In center, we did pique sous-sus as preparation for soutenu turns across the floor. My pique sous-sus derriere (en arriere? I don’t know, other than ballet-french, I know absolutely no French) was the most precarious, but I think it may have been because I wasn’t feeling ultra confident about that one. When we did them a la seconde across the floor (like if we were going to turn,  but without the turn) it felt a bit odd because we were closing to the back, so we could do the next pique sous-sus, and if we were turning we would have closed to the front. I adapted quicker than my usual slowness though.

We did chasses across the floor as well, both to arabesque pose and into saute arabesque. So fun! Also these little leaps, not quite grand jetes but like a prance, like we’re skimming across the floor (not emboites).

For sautes we devided up into the men and ladies, for different tempos. (since we actually have like 6 guys during this session) The girl’s tempo was quick, but I think I’ve improved since last summer at keeping up with it. The guys’ tempo was slower, to allow more time for powerful jumps. After each group did the combination twice (sautes in first and second, changements, echappes), we all did the slower tempo. My legs were already tired, but I still enjoyed the slower tempo jumps, as I do seem to prefer jumping up as high as possible rather than staying as low to the ground as I can and still point my feet. I also noticed that my changements are getting more powerful, and I’m starting to see that ‘sous-sus in the air’ as F Teacher puts it.

While out for a neighborhood walk, we saw that one of the neighbors had thrown out a mirror (it had a sign that said ‘Free’ on it. In its previous life, I think it was a closet door.). Boyfriend returned in a car, picked it up, put it on the wall, and now my home barre has a (much larger) mirror to go with it! Oh my gosh, it makes home practice even more fun!

Some pictures of my home-studio-in-progress. Barre is still holding up nicely six months later.



The mirror and barre



With my old mirror next to it in comparison – quite a size upgrade



And I can put the barre lengthwise if I want to get a front view instead

Actually Dancing, and “Naturals”

F Teacher is always telling us to really dance – to feel the music – when we do our combinations, telling us that we need to begin to develop the artistry since the beginning of our study of dance. And she’s absolutely right, and I’m sure anyone who follows her instructions will become a better dancer much quickly . However, while I know she’s right, that’s not the way it’s come along for me.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even think about the artistry back when I first started, as I was too concerned with building up the strength needed to do any of the exercises to think about doing them in a beautiful way. Especially in center, even as I had gradually improved in my technique at the barre, I was too worried about losing my balance without it. I felt quite silly trying to make my movements look beautiful when I feared that any second I would have to bring my working foot down very ungracefully  in order to avoid falling over. Kind of hard to feel like I’m taking myself seriously if I’m crashing down randomly. I think even after I’d gotten strong enough to hold myself up I still had the memory of all the times I hadn’t been able to, and it was holding me back.

Thankfully though, at some point in the not-too-distant past I got over my fear of losing my balance and now I feel like I can actually feel the music without all my fears getting in the way. More and more it’s feeling like dancing instead of some strange exercise in multiple limb coordination. It’s actually looking recognizably as ballet (at least until we get to petite allegro)! Since dancing has always been either a mystery of something that I’m horrible at (or just plain refuse to do due to fear of looking -and feeling – extremely ridiculous) I’m really exciting to finally be actually dancing. It is a good time to be in my ballet timeline.

Anyway, point is, I’m not a “natural” at ballet.

You might think ‘Who is? After all, this is an extremely challenging art form.’ And it is, but at the same time there are some people, clearly beginners by their technique, who just have it – they can dance. Like this girl I took class with the other day. From the way she strugged with barre, it appears that she’s new to ballet. But once we came out to center there was something about the way she moved, so graceful and beautiful and lovely to watch despite all the technique errors. To someone who is unfamilar with ballet technique it would look like she’s doing ballet. Definitely more ballet-like than my stiff or hesitant movements of my early ballet days.

(There’s also a different kind of “naturals”, those with an anatomical facility that makes them better suited for ballet, like impressive turnout or beautiful archy feet. Like this new girl in my class with amazing natural turnout – her little toes almost touch the floor when she turns out in a seated position. While I don’t know if that helps with making it look like dancing from the beginning, I’m sure once the technique is there it does help with making a more visually interesting image.)

On to some assorted class notes from the classes I’ve taken so far this week:

In Beginner class, we worked on pas de bourres at the barre as part of our releve combination. I remember how much I struggled with these back when I first started, and I would do them at home over and over, just back and forth, pas de bourre, pas de bourre, hoping to get it into muscle memory. Hearing the more beginner students get corrected repeatedly was reminding me of back then and stressing me out!

At New Studio we did this fun combination at the barre: tendu devant, plie in 4th, releve in fourth, tendu a la second, plie and releve in second, tendu derriere, plie in 4th, releve, passe releve to the front, passe releve to the back, reverse. I found myself really enjoying this combination, though it may have been partly because the music just went with it so well.

We did a developpe combnation at center: 2 demi plies, 1 grand plie all in first, tendu a la seconde and close in fifth, developpe devant, developpe a la seconde, pas de bourre, other side. With the exception of using the correct arms during the pas de bourre, I actually did it pretty well. Lately I’ve been thinking that I do have my balance, but I need to make sure I stay pulled up if I want to stay perfectly balanced when doing developpes or promenades or I guess anything else that involves balancing on one leg while not beng completely still. So I remembered to stay pulled up during the developpes especially, managed to hold my balances every time.

Another combination we did was 2 tendus and temps lie devant and derriere in croisse, developpe devant, change to en face, 2 tendus a la seconde and temps lie, close to begin other side. I feel proud of myself that I figured out by now that F Teacher likes us to do arabesque arms when we tendue derriere, while R Teacher likes us to do croisse derriere arms (which is the downstage arm up and we look like we’re looking under it – horrible description, I know).

Across the floor we did waltz step, with no turning for the more beginner students. The tempo was nice and slow, so it was not like all my effort was on keeping up like when we waltzed at New Studio class.

We also started working on pique turns across the floor. I enjoy pique turns, and find them much easier than pirouettes (especially pirouettes en dehors – at some point I realized that pirouettes en dedans make sense to me because they are essentially pique turns that stay in place. But then, for what it’s worth, even my step-over piques  are better than my stationary en dehors pirouettes.). Since we had worked on pirouettes (or just passe releve, for the more beginner students) for about 20 minutes straight – no exaggeration, I may have peeked at the clock here and there – my legs we starting to get a tired even before the piques. R Teacher corrected my on keeping my working leg (the one that’s in retire) turned out during the turns. I’ve gotten this correction before in my stationary pirouettes, so it’s something that I really need to work on. Other than continuing to strengthen my rotator muscles I don’t really know exactly what though.

We did grand jete leaps across the floor, as well as chasses into saute arabesque, as this jump that was like a grand battement on releve but letting the supporting leg jump up off the floor then landing on what was the working leg before and going into a saute passe. It felt like skipping, but ballet-ish, and was so much fun.


It’s Official: I’m Terrible At New Things

Class at New Studio was lots of fun. It’s open level, so the difficulty varies depending on who shows up that day. Everybody that showed up this last time was sort of around the same level, so we were given a nicely challenging  (by my standards) barre and center.


Barre combination with fondues (3 fondu devant, the first with the foot barely off the floor, the second a bit higher, the third as high as we can, bring the leg back around to arabesque, holding it at that height, tendu down and close, reverse starting with fondues derriere) that felt so pretty. I just love fondues! We’ve been working on fondues at Beginner class at my regular school too, doing a similar combination (in this case, fondu devant a terre, then off, bring leg back to arabesque, fondu in to coupe ad reverse, all facing the barre).

We did a similat echappe releve combination to the one from class a few days ago. It was echappe to fourth, close to fifth, echappe to second, close to fifth, echappe to fourth, close fifth, sous-sus, reverse. This time it went much better for me, I don’t know if it was that it wasn’t the first time we did that and I wasn’t feeling completely rusty on my echappe releves, or the fact that NS Teacher insisted that  we use the mirror as we did the combination, making sure to keep our turnout in each position.

We started center with a tendu combination (2 tendu devant in croisse, 2 tendus ecarte, 2 tendus derriere, brush leg forward, failli, pas de bourre, other side) that was really fun to do (I still get a kick out of doing basic tendu combinations because for so long – back when I kept falling over in center – I wanted  to be able to at least tendu in center and make it look pretty).

Another combination we did was 4 balancés, tombe pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors from fourth, repeat. During one of the pirouettes, I did a 1 1/2 revolution. It was weird, because I know I went around at least once, but when I came down I was facing backwards (which really sucked for getting the rest of the combination done correctly). The rest of my pirouettes sucked. We did 2 pique turns, followed by three counts of chaines, repeat, across the floor after this, and at least those went ok.

Then we did 2 waltz turns, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, assemble, repeat across the floor. The tempo was much too fast for me – it was time for the pas de bourre around the time I was mid way through my second waltz turn – so I struggled along,but even then I’m grateful, once again, that I can do this kind of stuff without falling over, even when it doesn’t look pretty yet.

We then did cabrioles, which I’d never tried before. They look so impressive when done correctly, but my body just did not want to cooperate. When we did cabrioles to the front, my legs kept wanting to assemble instead. When we did then to the back my body just had no idea what I was trying to tell it to do. I remember when F Teacher taught it to the more advanced students a few months ago (I didn’t try it), she explained it as something like a saute arabesque, then the supporting leg comes up. But even thinking of it like that  wasn’t helping my body cooperate. None of the other girls there were amazing at cabrioles, but I was the worst one. That’s always a good reality check, lest I start thinking I’m actually good – whenever we do something brand new, I’m often the worst.

Beginner class at my regular school went well also. Just as I suspected, Annoying Girl (from last post) does keep it down when F Teacher is teaching, making it a much mre pleasant environment. Barre was a little more fast paced, with more combinations going from one side to the next without stopping (including one where we went back and forth between sides several times, and was so fun). We did ronde de jambes, piques with port de bras, and frappes. I really like F Teacher’s frappe combination for beginners, because it really focuses on foot articulation. I remember back when I first started ballet I could not keep up with it at all, so I would practice it over and over at home until it started feeling somewhat automatic – it took so much time! So I do feel a bit like a fraud standing there doing it all smoothly and confidently

For center we did tendus devant, derriere in croisse, then change to en face tendu devant, a la seconde, chasse to other side, repeat other side, then the whole thing with degage instead of tendu. Nice basic combination, so I worked on making it look as pretty as possible, with epaulement and port de bras.

We did a waltz and balancé combo across the floor, first without turning on the waltz, then with the turn. It kept throwing me off because I’m used to starting from B+, with the upstage leg stepping, and the downstage leg brushing on the first waltz, and we were instead going right to brushing with the dowstage leg from first. So even though in theory it’s easier, since my body didn’t have it in muscle memory it felt harder. This is also a perfect example of what I mean about me still being really slow at picking up new things. (But as i often find myself thinking, ‘at least by now I more or less have my balance, so things – even new things – are not as hard as they were in the beginning’).

Another fun thing we did was a 4 glissade (with alternating leg in front) and sous-sus combo. Glissades are somethign else that took me forever to get decent at (and by ‘decent’ I mean, able to hold my balance and not fall over while landing, but also being strong enough t push off from the one leg), but the thing that was confusng me about these was the switching of the leg. A previous teacher had taught me that glissades never switch legs, so I’d gotten used to that. This whole doing-things-that-are-not-in-my-muscle-memory thing continues to present a challenge to me, so I’m hoping this will make me a better dancer.

While I’ve been loving taking class this often (and my body hasn’t been complaining too much), I’ve been feeling guilty at times about aspects of doing ballet. With this frequency in classes my dance wear’s taking a beating, especially my tights, with most of my pairs getting visible runs by now. I don’t want to just get the cheapest ones I can find (in my case the Theatricals brand from Discount Dance) if they’re going to run after wearing them once -literally – but the times I got the more expensive brand (Bloch), I wasn’t too impressed with the quality and they stretched out relatively fast as well. I’d like something that lasts for a good while without needing to be replaced. So I don’t know yet what I’m going to do, but I feel guilty about all the hidden costs of dancing, I guess. I know this is probably an unpopular topic – dare I say even a taboo topic? – but it’s a reality in my dancing life, and I’m hoping by writing about it I can help sort the issue out. I may just end up switching to leggings for my non-dress-code classes,  but then I’ll miss those unbroken lines…


Why Is There Always One Of Those?

You know the type – insists on chattering and giggling during class when the teacher isn’t looking, complains out loud when it’s time to do exercises she doesn’t like, talks while waiting for her group’s turn, pretty much breaks all ballet class ettiquette and is a general pain to have around. Annoying, right?

So then today during class, in a pause as R Teacher prepared the music for our next combination across the floor, from behind me I hear Annoying Girl say “Why does that b**** always have to show off?”

On the inside I was like ‘What!?’ but I looked from the corner of my eye and she wasn’t pointing at anyone. By then she was saying something about “she’s not even in the front when we go to center but then when we do turns she wants to go first” (which are behaviors that decribe me; I don’t tend to go to the front when we first go to center (because I don’t want to compete for a mirror spot), and when we do turns I do end up in the front (since nobody wants to go…)).

But regardless of whether or not she meant me, I was so pissed. I can’t believe that she of all people, who acts inapropriately loud and annoying during class, would have the nerve to say that about somebody else. I mean, even before today, if someone had asked me who do I think is the most attention-seeking person in class I would have said her. True, her technique is not very good, so rather than getting attention through her dancing she does with her obnoxious attitude. But still…

As if I didn’t have enough anxiety about looking like a show off – Sheesh! The rest of class I felt a bit more self-concious the times that R Teacher asked me to demostrate any steps. Surely she can see that I’m being asked to do the step, right? Not “showing off”, what ever that means.

It’s extra dumb when I think about it, because if I wasn’t this far along in my ballet study this is the kind of student who would have completely intimidated me during class, simply because they’re so loud and annoying.

Tomorrow F Teacher teaches, and she’s definitely more old-school, so I will be keeping an eye out to see if Annoying Girl behaves the same way during her class.

Other than that, class was fun. In center we worked on balancés, at two different tempos, one nice and slow and the other pretty quick. I kept up with the faster tempo, but enjoyed the slower one more. R Teacher asked for the ‘sweeping’ port de bras so it was familiar and I could make it look pretty. We also did a couple tendu combinations (2 tendus devant in croisse, 2 tendus derriere, chasse a la seconde to a first arabesque facing the other side, close, other side) and (2 tendus devant, 2 tendus a la second, 2 tendus derriere, 2 1/2 soutenus, other side). I love doing simple combinations like these.

Across the floor we did chasse gallops, then chasse gallops with a chasse into a saute arabesque (which R Teacher had me demostrate), and grand jetes (which Annoying Girl loudly complained about). I really enjoy saute arabesques, so getting to do them all the way across the whole studio was a real treat. We also did chaines, which went pretty well for me today. I’m mostly working on not losing my spot as I get closer and closer to the item I’m spotting.



So This Is What Extreme Soreness Feels Like…

My thighs are screaming! It’s a good feeling though, the right kind of soreness, definitely not pain or anything bad. It just feels like I had a few (too many) good classes.

Yesterday I took class at my regular school, and also at New Studio,  and today once again at my regular school. This in itself possibly wouldn’t have been so soreness-inducing except that in between classes I decided to go by the Pilates studio at school and get on the Reformer for some very intensive Full Body Integration exercises. I think the exercise called ‘side-splits’ is what completely destroyed my adductors.

Yesterday’s class was also very focused on identifying our turnout muscles, and foot articulation. It was definitely one of those classes where even though it’s just beginner level technique it leaves me feeling more sore than doing quicker or more complex stuff. We also worked on chaines again, and R Teacher noticed that towards the end of my turns, when I start getting tired, I do this thing where I’m not picking up my second foot, kind of doing a full revolution on one foot instead of a half turn. It’s sort of hard to explain what I mean, but once she pointed it out to me I understood why after a certain number of turns I start going a bit crooked. It’s something I will be working on now.

I was already sore before even going to NS, but since the crowd that showed up to take class was at a more intermediate level, class was pretty fast paced. We did echappe releves at barre (it went something like echappe to fourth, echappe to second, echappe to fourth, sous-sus, each with a pause on releve, then really quick echappes without resting in between – I’m sure I looked ridiculous during these), as well as these super fast tendus. Center was fun, with a tendu en croix combination, as well as a developpe combination with promenades. Even though I was very sore and tired, I felt pulled up and balanced. I’m hoping this means my body is getting stronger or has more endurance.

Across the floor was (tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors) x3, then contretemps, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete. To the right side it went ok, but to the left I got confused and ended up on the wrong leg, with a pirouette en dedans by accident. It was fun though, and I really needed it after such a technique focused class earlier.

My other class at my regular school went well. F Teacher asked me to demonstrate to the class how to degage, and I was so nervous! But at the same time happy, because she wouldn’t have asked me to demonstrate if she didn’t think I could do it right.  Also, to my surprise, she said “Good!” to me when we did our saute combination (4 in first, 4 in second, 4 changements, 2 echappes, repeat), which feels like such an accomplishment after how long I’ve struggled with sautes. So yay, a good start of the week so far.

Now, off to roll out my soreness…

Some More Classes And A Drop In Confidence

In addition to the classes I mentioned in my last post at my regular school, I also took several ballet classes at the two other studios I go to over the latter park of the week and weekend. Feels good, but also feels like ‘oh crap! I’m out of clean tights and it’s barely Thursday!’


My classes at New Studio were different than my classes at my regular school in a big way – small class sizes. It was refreshing to actually get to see myself in the mirror during the whole class. Since the other students that showed up were not complete beginners, NS Teacher gave us some pretty challenging things to do.

We had a center combination that was deceloppe devant, close to coupe (I think it was to cou de pied), developpe a la seconde, close to coupe, developpe derriere, lower leg to tendu. lift up to arabesque and promenade, go directly to the other side. When  we marked the combination I got all the way around on my promenades on both sides, but then when it was time to actually do the combination I lost my balance – boo. But I kept my balance during all the developpes, and my extensions, at least devant and a la seconde, were not bad for me, so I was still proud of myself.

Then we did a 2 balancé, tombe pas de bourre, sous-sus balance, repeat until the music ends combination.  The tempo was fast, but I kept up. I remember for the longest time I struggle with picking up the speed on the balancés, so I was relieved to see that I’ve improved at that. However, NS Teacher mentioned that the port de bras she prefers for these is not the one I’m used to (the sweeping kind), but a different kind, sort of like a tilt of the arms. So I sucked, but I was happy about keeping up on the tempo.

We then worked on our pirouettes from the working foot in front fourth position preparation, en dehors, 4 in a row one each leg, then other side and repeat without a break in between. To my surprise, I landed the first two to the right (my bad turning side), like correct foot in the correct place, full revolution, and most importantly, I felt my head actually spotting. Then I realized what I was doing and started only getting around halfway, sigh.

Something even harder followed – two piques and three counts of chaÎnes, repeat, but instead of going across the studio we were going in a circle around the studio. It was so hard, and as soon as I rounded the first corner I lost my spot. To the left it was even tougher, and I was only getting a couple turns in a row before I had to pause and resteady. Obviously I need to learn the concept of changing your spot when changing direction. To be fair, I’d never tried turns in a circle before ever, so it could have been so much worse. But still, really made me reevaluate if I want to claim that I’m decent at traveling turns.

So, after this challenging (but definitely fun) class, I was ready for some more beginner class. I figured Basic Beginner class at Adults Only studio would fit the bill. But while it was a  fun class, I definitely didn’t leave feeling super confident.

As dumb as it sounds to admit it, I let myself get intimidated by some other (presumably more advanced) students that I’d never seen at that studio before. It started when, during barre, I noticed they were using port de bras, but since B Teacher had given the option of arm in second or hand on hip (it is a basic-beginner level class, and often there’s people who’re taking one of their very first classes ever), I wasn’t. I still don’t feel comfortable with using a port de bras that wasn’t given by the teacher who’s teaching the class I happen to be in. I was still doing epaulement and preparing, and finishing the combination with arms in low fifth, the things that people who just started sometimes forget to do. But  I was getting a little annoyed that I wasn’t getting to do more, mostly annoyed at myself for not being bold enough to do it anyway.

Then came center, and these dancers placed themselves right in the front, of course. It was a simple combination (tendus en croix then pique sous-sus and other side), so I got through it confidently, even when we split up into two groups (it was very packed, just like the classes at my other school have been)  and I could’ve sworn I could feel eyes on me.  Since it’s the level of combination that I know I can get through without making a complete mess off, I just focused really hard on not messing up, on making sure my feet were pointed and not sickled or resting any weight on the working foot and pulling up as well as I can.  But as soon as our groups turn ended I started getting anxious because  I know I’m only that confident if it’s a combination that I expect to do well, and I didn’t know what was next.

What was next was waltz step across the room, followed by 2 pique sous-sus, repeat. B Teacher gave the option of doing the turn with the waltz step, and we split off into groups. The new students volunteered themselves to go in the first group, and they did soutenus instead of the pique sous-sus. I did one of each when my group went, still worried about doing something that I wasn’t told to do, but I guess, not wanting to let them have all the fun. That was when one of them (their leader? haha) said “Can we do it double-time?” and I was like “Whaaaaaa…”   I stayed out of that (my waltz turn falls apart when we pick up the tempo, though I guess I could have done it without the turning had I not been feeling psyched out), but was I irritated? Maybe.

I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly is my problem, why I let myself get intimidated and the resulting frustration/irritation. I think it’s tied to the feelings of being an impostor instead of a ‘real’ dancer, the feelings that I thought I was finally over. I know that my techinque, at least at the basic level, is – if I may be honest without feeling like I’m bragging – not bad. But I know that I don’t have the experience of someone who did ballet for many years in the past, and I’m not just talking about technique, but also all the unspoken rules and ettiquette (like, so do you do the arms even if not given explicit permission?). So while I can feel comfortable around other beginners – even beginners that have advanced to a more advanced-beginner stage – the air of ‘belonging’ that the more advanced people have tends to make me feel inadequate. All I can do is continue to work on it, I guess.  I acknowledge that it’s my problem, not something that’s anyone’s responsibility but my own.

At the same time, I hope I don’t intimidate newer dancers during beginner level classes when there’s actually beginners, like first-time-ever beginners (and yes, the idea of me being a source of intimidation is surreal to me, because I still remember when I was brand new). Whenever I’m good at something and someone points it out I tend to tell them how long it took me to learn it and how often I practiced it and stuff. I feel like it’s the least I can do because I was once the absolute worst in the class and everyone was so intimidating and I wanted the floor to swallow me up! So I definitely don’t want to contribute to anyone else feeling bad.

Let’s see what this week brings…