Overcorrecting, Bad Habits, The Fear, And Some Improvements

Last class I took, Teacher corrected me on my foot alignment. What was unusual about this correction was that she said I was supinating my foot, whereas not too long ago my problem was pronating and not lifting my arch. Apparently I’ve been overcorrecting – since I knew that my problem was pronating, I worked on it to the point that it was too far to the other side.

But it did make me think that I tend to do that – overcorrecting – a lot. Other specific examples I can think of is raising my chin too far in arabesque arm and head position, or slightly tilting my head if I’m just supposed to turn it (like spotting). Luckily, Teacher gives great corrections during class and always catches me. But no sooner do I fix a bad habit that I seem to get a new one. Sometimes I don’t feel very body aware at all (though much better than the pre-ballet days, so I suppose do have some body awareness. Even though at times it seems like none).

As I’ve already mentioned before, I think, whenever it’s a completely new move to me I am absolutely terrible at it. Even if it’s something I already know, the slightest deviation from how it’s originally done will throw me off, like if I have trouble recognizing the pattern. It seems I can only do steps that I’ve learned how to do, and without already knowing it, I’m  lost. This is especially apparent in Modern or Intermediate  ballet class, when we do things that we didn’t do last session. Suddenly, I feel as lost as any brand new beginner. Due to my habit of learning choreography by watching the same small segment of a video over and over until I can mimic it, I seem to be having an even more difficult time learning choreography on the spot and in person. In class I almost feel like yelling “pause!” and hitting the imaginary pause button to sit on the side-line and observe many times until I can actually figure ot what I’m telling my body to do. I’ve stared, perplexed, at a series of movements, thinking ‘what just happened? What did she do?!’ And then I work on seeing what each individual part did, the legs, the torso, the arms, the head, before I can make sense of it as a whole. I wonder if a lot of actual adult beginners struggle with this much more than adult returner beginners who danced for several to many years as children? At a recent class I took I was working over the step very slowly until it made sense to me and noticed that other classmates were intently following along with me, and that happnes a bit now that I think about it, so maybe.

A big part of it, why it’s so difficult to learn new things (I’m specifically thinking center and grand allegro type stuff here) is that I’m scared. If you’re used to being extemely uncoordinated, awkward, and unathletic for almost three decades, the fear of failing at something that will result in load of pain – or worse, injury – is there, you know. I do tend to err on the side of caution, one of the reasons why my sautes were absolutely terrible for so long – I was afraid to really jump and push against the floor because I feared I didn’t have the strength to land safely. Especially since my balance back then was so bad that I would travel farther horizontally than vertically while trying to jump… If sautes alone were the scale we use to rate progress, I’ve improved so much. Under Teacher’s watchful eye I even managed some changements without losing my turnout. I noticed in class this week that I’m starting to not fear sissones, but I know I need to find a good compromise between being not being afraid of landing weird again and playing it extra safe. Same goes for tour jete – I haven’t actually hurt myself by doing or attempting to do one, but I can definitely see that my fear of doing so holds me back.

To end on a good note though – and to me it is a really good note, because this has not been easy for me – Teacher corrected me on my alignment when balancing in retire at the barre, and it made all the difference. She said to shift my shoulders (and weight) forward, which has always seemed counterproductive to me because my umm, weight, is in front and I always feel like I have to compensate by being more back. But I did it anyway and it seems I’m finally strong enough in the core because I balanced up there for, like, forever. I had my seond arm off the barre and perfectly placed the whole time and everything, as stable as if I’d had both feet on the floor. I started counting one-one thousand, two- one thousand, etc, and I made it all the way to 15-one thousand before my calf finally got tired and I brought the working leg down to sous-sus. I’ve never held a balance one one leg without the barre long enough for my leg to get tired, so I was super excited. I wasn’t able to do it on my right foot, but still, yay! It’s possible – even with my off center of gravity, it’s possible!

Another cool thing I learned this week was that pivot thing, the one between finishing a pirouette en dehors in fifth and switching facings for the pirouette en dedans that we always do in Intermediate. Since previously I hadn’t taken a class where it was actually taught  (instead of it just being expected that you know it), I’d always just kind of struggled to follow along. But this week I had a crummy week so I  treated myself to a basic beginner class at Adults Only studio, and it was taught. Instead of from a pirouette we did a passe on flat, then arabesque with right leg in back (like if we had just landed a pirouette en dehors to the right), then then pivot to the other side. Ok, I admit the first few times I was as lost as anyone, but then A Teacher mentioned that the arm that was out to the side when we were in arabesque was the one that comes up, and suddenly it makes sense. I practiced it about a thousand times since then and now I feel totally comfortable with that move to both sides. So yes, it definitely pays off to take a class with a different teacher occasionally, and for this beginner, especially a more basic beginner level class. Great way to fill in the gaps in my training.

4 thoughts on “Overcorrecting, Bad Habits, The Fear, And Some Improvements

  1. sselig@cox.net

    Dear Kit,

    I cannot tell you how grateful I am for your posts and for sharing so many details with us. Fear worries me also. I want to continue ballet without injury. Can you recommend therapy–just your opinion–on why alignment still is such a struggle. I so have some scoliosis, but I feel blocked about arabesques and stability, in fact any pas derrier(e) is stiff. Thank you again in more ways than we can all count. We appreciate you.

    Sincerely, Suzanne (sselig@cox.net)

    1. kit Post author

      First off, thank you for all the kind words! 🙂
      I personally do not have scoliosis as far as I know, although Teacher did ask me if I did, and she checked my spine when I said that I didn’t think I did. What prompted this was my uneveness from right to left – besides being stronger on one side, it almost appears as though my torso is shifted slightly to one side. Most likely my bad postural habits of years and years are to blame (and despite wanting to get better, I do continue laying on to my side on the couch or carrying my bag over one shoulder, out of habit).
      I can’t say enough how much Pilates has helped me with my alignment issues (my main ballet Teacher is also a certified Pilates instructor), but I know that with scoliosis there are specific concerns that need to be addressed in order to not aggravate the issue. While I have read that it is not possible to “fix” scoliosis with exercise, I’ve also been told that working with a knowledgeable Pilates instructor will reduce the risk of injury as well as help the body come into a greater sense of balance. I am not certified to teach (yet), so I feel a bit irresponsible giving my opinion (also, I don’t know if your scoliosis is an S-curve or a C-curve), but primarily the work would consist of doing abdominal/core work while supporting the upper body, back work (which for me was a bigger piece of the balancing/alignment puzzle than just abs), and lots of stretching of the sides of the torso. I know that for arabesques there is a lot of back strength involved, but I’m not really sure how this would be different in someone with scoliosis. Does one side feel less stiff for pas derrriere or are both about the same?
      In my opinion, to avoid injury it’s better to go easy and not demand too much of the body (even if the teachers do – only you can know how you are feeling), listen to your body, learn to recognize when its asking for rest, and give it time and patience. Good luck!


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