Once again, what a week (and I say that in both the positive and negative aspects).
Ballet’s been going well. In the first few weeks of the sessions I do a lot of remembering at what level I was at in the beginning of the past sessions and assessing my progress as I remember doing that same step back then. In Beginner class we’re doing stuff like basic weight shifting tendu combinations in center (just a la seconde) and chasses across the floor. The memory of not being able to even tendu in center without falling over is still with me, although it does feel more distant every day. I do feel like I’m trying to hold on to it though – I mean, compared to where I was when I started, my progress has been nothing short of amazing for me. If I were to lose that memory of where I was where I began, somehow the accomplishment seems less impressive to myself. When F Teacher demonstrates the chasses, for example, and she tells the class “Then you’ll be able to take the back foot en l’air, then go up on releve, then jump it” (with a little demonstration as she says it), I almost feel like I’m transported back in time three years ago. I remember thinking ‘Yeah, right. Like I’m ever going to be able to do that – I keep falling over even with both feet flat on the floor’. But, what do you know, with enough time and practice I could! So even if I’m a crappy dancer by anyone else’s standards, I continue to impress myself. That makes me happy.
The more challenging Intermediate classes have been fun as well. So much more fun than last year! I still definitely struggle with remembering long combinations, especially the second side (and it does seem like in the moment all my own advice about remembering different phrases completely flies out of my head. I got to learn to notice the patterns!), but I feel like I’m able to jump back into it with less of a delay than before. Still not at the level needed to make it actually look like beautiful dancing beyond the first phrase, but at least I can start off and finish it in a somewhat presentable manner. Petit allegro, of course, is not even close to looking how it should, but my speed has increased enough so that I’m keeping up the tempo. I’m not trying any beated jumps yet though, just working on making my changements look nice first. Luckily, Teacher gives us the option of going at a slower or faster tempo (I usually attempt both) and of adding the beats or not.
I seem to have figured out the glissade forward (as opposed to a la second. The kind found in saute arabesque, saute coupe, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete) which was really giving me a hard time several months back. We worked on pique arabesques, which are so much harder for me than to chasse atabesque onto releve, and I’ve been working on getting over my fear of stepping up onto releve. I guess it happens all the time when doing chaines or pique turns, but for whatever reason I find it scarier to just pique arabesque. Even harder adding that plie while coming down off the one foot releve, and holding the balance. But by the end of my second Intermediate class of the week I was able to do a few, even on my bad balancing side.
My single pirouettes en dehors have been ok this week (well, at my regular school – at NS for whatever reason my body just did not want to cooperate this week and I did not do any full pirouettes at all), not good just ok. I’m getting around all the way pretty often, but I haven’t been attempting any more doubles. Perhaps it was a fluke, perhaps not, but either way I’ve just been focusing on getting singles with correct technique and most importantly for me, getting rid of the anxiety surrounding doing pirouettes.
All that being said, I did not end the week having a very good opinion about myself as it relates to movement (not specifically dance). As part of a certification program I’m doing, I have to take these exceptionally challenging Pilates classes on top of what I usually take. Oh man, it was awful!
During (and after) taking it, I felt the closest I had felt in a very long time to when I first started ballet – like I was old, weak, clumsy and uncoordinated (not the agile, in tune with her body person I’ve started to become since starting ballet) . I honestly wanted to cry several times, but I held it in, forcing myself to think about later on that night when I could allow myself some private time with my feelings. As it happens with me, when I repress sadness it turns into anger. So as the hour progressed I found myself angrier and angrier – and unfortunately a good deal of that anger was at myself, for thinking that a person’s body, mine, can really change. There were exercises that I couldn’t do at all no matter how hard I tried, and there were some that I could do, but worried that by doing them I was putting my body in an unsafe position. I was tempted to just leave after the mat portion, but went on to the Reformer part anyway – it was a terrible idea. I managed to get out of doing some of the exercises, but the ones I was made to do sucked. I worried that my hip flexors were going to be angry at me, or worse (due to my weird long leg-short torso ratio, my knees were somewhere around the back of my ears, while other’s knees were still out in front of them).
To make matters worse, the instructor said something along the lines of ‘some exercises aren’t for everybody. Some very inflexible people, or a pregnant woman, wouldn’t be able to do them.’ Ok, maybe I took it the wrong way, but hearing that just about destroyed my mood (I was the only one who couldn’t do that particular exercise (when she said it) in the whole room, and last time I checked I’m neither pregnant nor extremely inflexible (by this point in my 3 year stretching regimen)). It’s been days later and I’m still feeling extremely down on the whole thing. This is so how I felt when I first started ballet. The big difference is that although ballet was the hardest thing I’d ever attempted to do, I cared enough to get over the horrible inadequacy and just keep going (and nowadays I’m so glad I did). But I don’t have that same passion for Pilates – sure, it’s a great way to stay in shape and condition the body, but there’s no need for me to do the extremely challenging exercises at the harder end of the spectrum. To me this is a body conditioning method, and I wouldn’t want to risk not being able to dance by injuring myself while doing what to me is woking out.
So I’ll probably just leave, because that’s so much easier for me than talking to the instructor. I keep trying to ask myself if it is that I genuinely worry that I may hurt myself, or that my pride is extremely wounded for not being able to keep up. Perhaps it’s both.