Attitude Adjustment

So… it’s been a little while since the last time I posted on here…

Since last time, I quit ballet, sort of. Meaning I’d told myself I was quitting, and stopped going to class and everything. That lasted for… oh, about a week and a half, maybe two weeks. It was tough – everything reminded me of ballet. Listening to classical music was too much for me, since it made me want to get up and dance. I stopped coming by WordPress (though the thought of deleting the blog never crossed my mind, because I feel my story must be out there, so it can serve as… whatever people make of it, be it inspirational, a cautionary tale, or a mixture of both. Either way, it’s mine, unique to me), put my leotards away out of sight (a compromise from my original idea of giving them away). I was done, or so I thought. Then one day, even though I had initially told myself that I was done, I found myself at the barre at home. Who am I kidding – I can’t leave ballet now… or possibly ever. I need this, I need to dance.

How did this all come about? In short, I’d gotten really down on myself – about my slowness at learning, my inability to remember more than 8 counts (and I’m probably being optimistic there) of a combination unless I’ve practiced it literally thousands of time, how I get so flustered then and there in class/rehearsal in front of all the actual dancers (many much more experienced, and all most definitely younger than me), how I can’t even do that simple “it’s just a single” pirouette (and being called “negative” for stating the fact that I can’t), and yes, definitely not least in importance, my body issues (specifically the bouncing breasts, but I realize that my hormones felt out of whack there for a bit, as well as the fact that I may have been physically exhausted from all the extra rehearsing and practicing). I got to feeling that I was just making a complete fool of  myself, feeling like ‘what was I thinking? – I can’t dance’. I decided to drop out of our upcoming recital, because of the reasons listed above, convinced that someone like me – older, slower, less experienced, bouncier – had no business there.

At first, I felt like a weight had been lifted, and I tried to convince myself that I’d made the right choice. But it felt like something wasn’t right, like I couldn’t believe that it could be over. I was sad, really down – like the pressure I was feeling from ballet was too much,  but life just felt so empty without it. Although I tried to cheer myself up by immersing myself in my other hobbies and activities, my body wanted to move, to dance. I really couldn’t figure out what a solution would be. When I thought of ballet I wanted to cry.

Thankfully – and this is the super-abbreviated version – I got a push in the right direction to go speak with one of my teachers. It was the best thing I could’ve done, she was so incredibly supportive, and I found myself back in class (and rehearsal for the show). How I’d missed it!

Yes, I’d made the right decision, I can feel it. But still, this is…complicated. I don’t really discuss my conflicting thoughts regarding ballet on this blog  – I mean, I do to an extent, but not to the fullest that my racing thoughts go – but let’s just say that sometimes I have my doubts that I’m doing the right thing, and my logical brain asks me ‘why are you doing this? what is the point? all that work, all that effort, all that time, for what?’. So my brain-logic part says all  the reasons why ‘no’, but my feelings-heart says ‘yes’ (as ridiculously cliche as that sounds) and I’m going to go with my heart on this one – this is a first for me, so I hope I’m making the right choice.

Since then I’ve had a few classes back, and first of all, I think the break did me good because not only did I not really lose strength, if anything I felt stronger. My first balance on releve wobbled a little bit, but by the end of the first class back I felt I’d found my center again.

In Beginner class,  we began working at the barre in both legs (instead of just the outside leg being the outside leg), so it was just so incredibly fun, the mixture of alternating legs but not at the faster tempo that we do in intermediate class. For center, we did waltz step, balancés, and temps lies, all things I enjoy. It was a great return to ballet, I feel like I couldn’t have asked for a better returning class.

In Intermediate class, we’ve been working on a new step, the mazurka. It’s pretty challenging, and I still feel ridiculous while doing it, but I’ve already seen improvement since the first time Teacher gave it to us (at least with the legs, I’m nowhere close to being able to coordinate the arms). Then we did a combination with 4 mazurka steps, balancé to the front, balancé en tournant to the back, pique arabesque,  sous-sus, 3 pique turns, soutenu, chasse into chaines. The tempo was not too fast, so I had a lot of fun with this combination.

We also started working on tour jetes in Intermediate. I’ve done tour jete before, at New Studio, but there we hadn’t had the step broken down and really explained. Turns out that I’d been doing them completely wrong. Teacher gave me this exercise to help prepare for tour jete that’s really been helping: grand battement devant with the right leg, left leg in plie, bring the right leg back in as I rise to sous-sus, do a half-soutenu to face the other way, and bring the other leg up in arabesque. At first I did them super slow, just to get the coordination down, and then started working on making it more fluid. I still don’t have my tour jete, but thanks to this exercise I think once I do attempt it again my technique will be much cleaner.

Another thing Teacher worked on with me was the shape of my attitude derriere. Before I’d been told to arabesque and then bend the leg into attitude, and as a result my placement was often off. She instead had me go to passe, then rotate my hip back so that my leg was behind me, but trying to hold on to the same shape. I noticed the difference immediately.

So yeah, I’m back and let’s see where the ballet journey goes from here!

(I feel like I need to clarify some things: when I speak/write of me wanting to quit ballet because I’m too slow, forgetful, old, bouncy, etc., I speak about myself and my unique situation, and am in no way saying that any/every adult beginning dancer facing these issues should let these things get in their way. I’ve read so many blogs about adult beginners discussing feeling out of place in classes with more advanced dancers, feeling like there is something wrong with them, and the answer to everything always seems to be ‘you just need to find the right class for you! Ballet is for everybody!’ (I always imagine this being said in a nauseatingly high-pitched chirpy voice, but what do I know).

Well, this being my blog and my story, I feel the need to say that this is not an option for everybody. Some people are limited by their location or finances, and can’t just go around class-hopping (or school-hopping, or teacher-hopping) until finding the perfect opportunity or fit for them. So then we have the choice of will we push on and work harder so we can keep up and go on, or give up. I’ve chosen to push on and work harder, and it has been hard, so hard, but my love of ballet keeps me going. I realize I’m rambling, but I guess all I wanted to say was that just because I get discouraged sometimes doesn’t mean I’m saying that adult ballet must be discouraging, rather that being an adult learning with a bunch of teens who’ve been dancing for what seems like forever can at times be very discouraging. And, don’t get me wrong, my teachers are amazing and most days I love my school, but occasionally I can’t help wishing I could just learn with people my age or older, who face the same struggles or body/learning issues as me.


18 thoughts on “Attitude Adjustment

  1. Trippmadam

    Thank you for being so open and honest about your doubts. I still have them, occasionally, too. I have been dancing from a young age, but I did have long breaks, due to money issues or work schedules and even depression. However, there is one thing am positive about: I will always come back to dance class. Probably I’ll never be very good at dancing, but I’ll keep working.

  2. Sarah

    I’ve been going to beginners classes in a couple of schools for around two years now. I’d kind of resigned myself to just staying in beginners class lately as I have a couple of chronic diseases which sometimes make it very hard for me to get to class, mainly it’s an energy issue due to my illnesses, but I also have a lot of the same negative thoughts as you do, age, big bosoms, and I seem to take ages to pick up even simple combinations, plus financially, I just couldn’t afford it at the time. So I haven’t been to ballet for a couple of months, but then I decided to go back to two classes a week as of next month as I’ve been feeling better and I have more money at the moment. Then disaster struck, I had a bad reaction to some antibiotics and now have damaged tendons in both ankles, I couldn’t walk for a couple of weeks and still find it painful if I walk for more than around 30 minutes. I think I’ll be able to make an almost full recovery from this, but it means that ballet won’t be possible for at least 6 months to a year 😦 My rather rambling point is that I really miss ballet. I think I was starting to take it for granted and was also starting to get a bit disheartened that I hadn’t progressed more quickly than I’d have liked. But now I’d settle for being able to do a simple releve, forget about the pirouettes! I think this enforced absence has shown me just how much ballet actually means to me, it feels like there’s a big hole in my life that ballet used to fill. In the mean time I’m trying not to become bitter and avoid anything ballet. I’m off to see Swan Lake in the round next month, so I’m focusing on how great that will be and trying to stay fit enough to return to ballet eventually. I’m so glad that you’ve gone back to ballet, I think we just have to learn to be less hard on ourselves, we weren’t trained as children and picking things up, especially something as physically and mentally challenging as ballet is tough. Focus on the positives and everything you’ve achieved so far, I remember your early posts when you would talk about how you were having trouble balancing in centre. I had trouble with that too, then one day I could do it, but instead of congratulating myself, I started bitching about not being able to do a pirouette! Anyway, try not to put too much pressure on yourself, good luck in your recital 🙂

    PS I totally get what you’re saying about wanting to do class with people of your own age. When I was first starting, my classes were a really good mix of age and ability. The most recent classes are filled mostly with people in their teens and twenties, plus it’s now much closer to beginners-intermediate rather than beginners, which I think puts off a lot of older, less confident dancers or people who’ve never tried ballet which is a bit of a shame.

    Anyway, sorry for rambling! xx

    1. kit Post author

      No need to apologize – I felt I could relate to much of what you were saying. I’m sorry to hear about your health problems though, and hope you have a quick recovery.
      I could especially relate to the part about finally being able to balance only to complain about not being able to do the next thing. That’s so me right there, unfortunately. I do remember way in the beginning telling myself that I would be happy with a level of progress that is actually below where I’m currently at, but I think the “Improve, you must always improve” attitude at school is somewhat contagious in someone as… impressionable… as me, and I start to demand too much of myself. You’re absolutely right that I should focus on all the positives and what I’ve already achieved, as well as just simply the joy of ballet.
      Have fun at Swan Lake! 🙂

  3. asher

    I’m glad you returned to ballet — though if you’d decided ballet really, really wasn’t for you, that would’ve been cool, too, of course — and so glad to hear that your instructor was supportive in such a meaningful way. Thank you for saying all of this.

    You write so clearly and cogently here about your experiences as a ballet dancer who is outside what we think of as the norm in ballet … and also about the yay-sayers with the chirpy voices (I am forced to admit that, yes, I have been that guy embarrassingly often because I so badly want it to be true that ballet is for everyone, because ballet makes me so embarrassingly happy that I want to shove it down everyone’s throats share it with everyone).

    I think there are probably more of us who feel this way than the are who are have enough to just put it out there like this — which is unfortunate, because as often as not, it’s knowing that other people feel uncertain, too, that helps us keep going. Not that it’s your responsibility, of course — it’s just really edifying to see someone make the leap, and maybe that will nudge the rest of us towards talking about the periods when we feel like this, which might help us all move towards a place in which ballet really *is* for everybody (and every body).

    Also, that tour-jeté exercise sounds really helpful — I think it will make your tour-jeté really solid, when it comes.

    1. kit Post author

      I mean, trust me, I’d love for ballet to be for everybody (and every body) – provided they want it, of course – but, sadly, sometimes it’s just either not possible or extremely difficult because of circustances beyond our control. Sometimes I struggle with the question ‘Is the opportunity to dance a priviledge or a right?’ and feel guilty or ungrateful for complaining about my situation. I guess I’ll just keep dreaming of a utopia in which there’s affordable dance classes of all levels available for anyone who desires them (as well as other things, but I’ll just keep this ballet-relevant and neutral…).
      Anyway, I’ve also been the annoyingly chirpy pro-ballet person at times, so this whole thing has also had me reevaluate my own behavior in my enthusiasm to convince everyone to try ballet out.
      I also agree that if more people would be open about the difficult times, it would make those of us going through them feel not quite so alone.

  4. SJ

    Yay! Selfishly I’m glad you’re back to ballet and blogging because Really enjoy your writing and insights. Thanks for being so open with all of your invisible followers!

  5. Olivia

    I think we all have to take stock periodically. You figured out that you need ballet- that is a win. I have been off ballet for half a year. I broke a small bone in my foot and got depressed during the healing time. I just couldn’t go back. Luckily, I am in a much happier place in life now- but I still think about class and miss it. I am glad you are still sharing your perspective- I appreciate it.

    1. kit Post author

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m sorry to hear about your foot, but glad that you’re in a happier place now.

  6. nadiainherownworld

    Yeah, I also needed to hear that real talk too. It’s easy to chirp about how ballet is for everyone (I do it), that doesn’t mean that ballet is always set up to work for everyone. Anyway, I guess you know you love ballet when the only thing harder than doing it is not doing it–welcome back!

  7. Basia

    So happy you’re happy to have found your ballet feet again 😀, and that you’re back blogging.

    I was there earlier this year – took a bit of time off. I totally get what you wrote.

    One thing that I have found is the necessity to be kind to myself. I’m ambitious, but never to be a professional, and it’s okay. Keep repeating to myself that this is for me.
    It looks like you pushed yourself too much and it sucked the beauty and life out of it.
    Anyway, welcome back ☺

    1. kit Post author

      Yes, I need to remember to be kind to myself. At times I do, but then I guess I just get caught up and start to expect too much from myself. I’m trying to find that balance between not being hard on myself and expecting too much too fast, and still pushing myself at all. That’s a new concept for me – finding a balance – but I’m determined to work on it and make it work for me.For now, I’m erring on the side of not pushing very hard, and just having fun with it, but since class by it’s very nature consists of corrections, it makes my more ambitious side appear…
      Ballet – so much work!


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