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…

6 thoughts on “Some More Classes And A Drop In Confidence

  1. abc

    I know exactly what you mean! I´m a late beginner, too. I spent two years in adult beginner classes and it was always hard for me to decide whether I should stick to the exercises given or make it a little harder for myself. Forutnately, my teacher usually told each person individually what to do and what not to do. Now, I´m in advanced classes with pre-pro teens and my teacher sometimes simplifies the exercises for me so that I´m not too overwhelmed….! I also tend to watch the more advanced people in the class and compare myself to them. I also need to remember to focus on myself only!!
    My advice for you: Do what you feel comfortable doing. If you´re comfortable adding arms and still do the exercise correctly, your teacher will not object I think. Concerning intimidating others: After my experience, beginners are intimidated by the whole surrounding anyways, also, it´s harder for them to spot the difference between you and the more advanced dancers, they need to concentrate on themselves. What helps them much more is encouraging words before and after class (which I missed when I started out)!

    1. kit Post author

      First off, much respect to you for taking advanced classes with the pre-pro kids! I’m definitely not there yet, not just technique but obviously all these attitude adjustments I need to make.
      I realize that encouraging words before and after class are probably the most effective at making new people feel welcome, but since I’m the world’s shyest person I can’t bring myself to do that. Which sucks, because I don’t want to appear stuck up, but when you’re super quiet and shy like me, I sometimes come across that way.
      While I do agree that focusing on what one is doing is the way to go, I have managed to pick up little things from watching the more advanced people, and sometimes watching the more advanced people can be very inspirational for me.

  2. meetatbarre

    “Then I realized what I was doing and started only getting around halfway, sigh.”
    I SOOO relate to this 🙂

    Also, I think it’s rude not to do the arms as set by the teacher, regardless of your level. And my stricter teachers will stop the music and call people out if they do arms different from what was asked for. These are, of course, my favorite teachers.

    1. kit Post author

      Hmm, that’s what I had a feeling about – that it’s rude to not do the arms specified by the teacher. I’ve also had some teachers that would call people out if they were doing something different, so it’s a little weird for me when we’re in a more laid back class (the class I wrote about is the kind where there’s no individual corrections or anything that will scare away the really brand-new-to-ballet people. Like, someone could be kicking rather than doing tendus and there will still only be “in general” group corrections).

  3. abc

    I know exactly how you feel! I am a late starter too and had the same problem when I was in Adult Beginner classes for 2 years. Now I´m in advanvced classes with pre-pros so my teacher has to modify some exercises for me… I also have to be careful that I don´t get caught up in comparing myself to them and concentrate on myself…. Still have to learn that though.
    My advice: If you´re comfortable doing port de bras and still manage to do the footwork, then go for it. I´m sure your teacher won´t object. I think the beginners in your class feel intimitated by the the whole situation anyways (and concentrate on themselves), you shouldn´t worry about them (but I know what you mean). A few encouraging words before or after class will make them feel more welcome (speaking from experience).

    1. kit Post author

      Sorry for the double post, the blog doesn’t post comments until I’ve approved them…
      Oh, and regarding doing the arms when the legs are doable, I think this teacher in particular wouldn’t mind, but I wouldn’t want to try that on a teacher that might! Usually I just focus on technique and make sure to engage all my muscles when the barre combinations are “easy” for me. I guess it was just that other people were doing arms… and there I go again not just focusing on myself, haha.


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