Monthly Archives: June 2016

Opposites Attract?

Considering my latest post was about how people learn at different speeds, I have a little story…

Yesterday, I looked up from my tablet to see Boyfriend do something that resembled a chaines turn from Modern, a single traveling turn, as he crossed the living room. I did a double take, but by then he was in the kitchen. “What was that? Did you just twirl across the living room?!” I asked, more incredulous than anything.

“Huh? Yeah, I guess I did,” he replied.

“Do it again!” I watched as he repeated the movement. Sure enough, it resembled the turns we’d done in Modern class, the ones that took most of us half the session to figure out. “How’d you learn to do that?!” I demanded.

He shrugged. Apparently one day he’d been walking forward at work, and had turned to the side to check on something while still walking, looked behind himself and figured that doing a complete 180 was more efficient than turning back the way he had in order to continue walking. “And besides, you’re always practicing ballet, so maybe I saw it there…”

So there you have it: not only does my Boyfriend have stronger and more flexible feet than me, he learns dance through osmosis as well. I guess opposites attract?

Last week, I started my ballet summer session with G Teacher who, if you’ve been reading along, you might remember that I took a couple of classes with a few months ago, but the time of class didn’t really fit into my schedule. This new session is at a slightly better time (meaning: after hitting the snooze button a couple of times, I ask myself “Do you really love ballet? Prove it!” and drag myself up to get ready for class). Officially it’s Beginner level, but I did notice when I took classes with this teacher before that the level does go a little higher than other teacher’s Beginner class. This is the class where we did those partner-assisted promenades that gave me the idea that I wanted to try partnering (which was a whole ‘nother story…).

We did plies with full port de bras, super long tendu combination facing the barre(en croix, but alternating side, slow tendus, slow tendus closing in plie, demi-point slide out to tendu, fondus a terre), then quicker tendu combination (three slower, then two faster). Then, after the first couple of days we went on to doing those tendu combinations with one hand on the barre. We also did a degage combination that went tendu devant, lift leg up so toes come off the ground, tendu down, close, repeat a la seconde, and derriere, then chasse devant, and reverse with chasse derriere this time.

Center work was mostly ballet walking, first with no arms then with port de bras. Then, to add extra challenge, we did ballet walks backward, which I’d never done in a class before but, since I have this habit of ballet walking front and back repeatedly in the kitchen at home while I wait for the stove timer to go off, it was actually in my muscle memory (yay!). We also did tendus a la seconde closing in fifth (or third for the more beginner students) with alternating legs. One day we did bourres all the way across our huge studio, twice. The dance studio at my regular school is about three times bigger than the studio at NS, even bigger than the stage we’ve performed on. So this is officially the farthest distance I’ve ever bourred across, and it was intense – if I was any weaker I would have thought my ankles would give out. Still fun and dance-y though, especially when adding port de bras.

I also went by New Studio for a couple of classes there this week. One of the classes was very barre-centered. My classmate was wearing pointe shoes, so NS Teacher had us do pre-pointe strengthening exercises after our regular plies and tendus. One I remember involved tendu to demi-point only, then bending the working leg and “forcing” the ankle over the anch (which my friend wearing the pointe shoes said was really challenging), en croix. Another exercise involved rising up without plies (eleve) 8 times and then holding the balance on releve, which once again, was not that challenging while wearing flat slippers.  I mean, it wasn’t easy but my classmate with the pointe shoes seemed to be doing a lot more work. It was a great opportunity to see how my balancing has improved so much though.

The other day at NS we  worked on fundamentals at the barre but also did a center pirouette combination (that went tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors from fourth, pirouette en dedans, sous-sus, run off). Those landings on the en dehors pirouettes are still getting me, but I did land the en dedans one correctly. NS Teacher didn’t call out any corrections about my working/passe leg turning in, so hopefully I did alright.

Another thing I (re)started this week, in the name of cross training, is yoga. If you’ve been reading along for a while, you might remember that I wrote a post back almost 2 years ago – feels like yesterday – about the similarities (through beginner’s eyes) of some yoga poses and dance. (link, if you want to check it out: http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/getting-reacquainted-with-yoga-and-jogging/       )

I’m a yoga beginner, having previously just done yoga at home off of  videos (and video games) and my friend’s instruction, but my ballet training and pilates has helped me so much that I am keeping up quite well in a formal class. Of course, not with the remembering parts so much – I wouldn’t be able to tell you the names of most of the stuff we did –  but with the balancing, alignment, flexibility and stuff like that. Since I signed up for a full session of yoga as well as ballet for the summer, I’m hoping by the end I’ll be familiar enough with it to continue cross training at home.

So far, the biggest challenge has been that we work in a parallel, almost turned in, position (not actually turned in, but the instructor cues us to feel as though our thighs are rotating towards each other). And when we lay there in corpse pose at the end I have a hard time quieting my mind so instead I think of ballet choreography. Which is probably not what I’m supposed to be doing…

(results not typical)

Alternate title: Progress in mirror is farther/closer than it appears (like those warnings on car mirrors, but more lame)

This is a post that I’ve been sitting on the fence about writing for a while now, a couple months at least. The reason for the delay is mostly because I was so ridiculously busy, and I didn’t want to just write whatever I could slap together in spare moments and have it be misconstrued. Also, I wanted more time to think about it, to possibly pull myself out of whatever dark mood I may have been in that would have me thinking those things – if after giving it time I still had something to say then maybe there was something to it. Or, as always, perhaps I’m just weird.

Anyway. Ramble start:

Whenever a classmate in class compliments me, or asks me to help them with their ballet after class, whatever they’re struggling on (port de bras, ballet walks, balancing, etc.), something I always do is mention how long it took me to “unlock” said skill.  Why? Because it’s the truth.

I don’t know what it has to do with exactly, perhaps my childhood and how I was never good at anything athletic or physical. I just feel a need to acknowledge how much work – how much sweat and tears  – went into it, above all feel the need to clarify that I am not “good”, that I instead worked so extremely hard for however far I’ve gotten.  As a child I was told I had flat feet, as a child I would fall over if I tried to run quickly (I found out recently this was possibly because of my hyperextension and locking my knees), my posture was terrible (my mom would call me “the vulture” as I sat in my characteristic pose, hunched over a book), I was extremely inflexible and clumsy, all that stuff I always write about. But people in class, they don’t know all this – all they see is that they are brand-new beginners and I seem to know what I’m doing.

So, I tell them. And – this part’s really hard for me to explain, without this turning into a novel – I honestly believed that I was telling them for their own benefit as much as for mine. For me, it’s an opportunity to set the record straight, for them, a way of lowering the pressure on them – like, ‘of course you can’t do it yet, it takes this long!’ (no, I did not say that part out loud). You see, I have this annoying urge to be helpful. Whenever I see an underdog, I root for them. It’s just my nature – perhaps because I’ve grown to identify with the underdog, not with the “winner”. I’m the kind of person who has screwed myself over to help someone else out – whether this is a quality or a character flaw is still to be determined or debated. But, what I’m trying to illustrate is that I want nothing but the best for my fellow dance students, want them to meet goals as I have, and if there’s an opportunity to help out after class or something, I’m all over it. (And no, I’m not annoying and go up to people unsolicited and start offering my opinion or anything like that.)

Then one day, as I explained to a classmate how to pas de bourre (and, what helped me, and how long it took to get, and how she’s already so much better at ballet than when I’d only been ballet-ing for three months like her) in the locker room after class, I had a thought: what if I’m not helping them out by telling them all it took, what if, if anything, I’d been hindering their progress?

This thought didn’t come completely out of nowhere. The night before, I’d watched a video on youtube about a late starter who had started ballet at 17, having never danced before, and was now in a pre-professional school two years later, and planning to audition for a company in another two. Not only that, she didn’t even take a class more than twice a week for about the first year.So here I am telling brand -new beginners that it took me two years to have a stable-ish balance on releve on two feet, and still can’t pirouette on most days, so ‘don’t worry about it, it takes time’. For those classmates who are still young enough to have a career as a dancer, am I better off keeping my progress – or lack of – to myself?

From reading the comments, people were saying that that young lady’s story is “inspiring”. Maybe it’s because I can’t relate but … I just can’t relate – I mean it’s cool and that’s great for her and all that, but I can’t say I feel inspired. When I was a very discouraged brand-new beginner, stories about people starting from “zero” (which now I know really meant that they had done a different style of dance, or at least musical theater in childhood, or color guard during high school – basically, it wasn’t from couch-potatoland, it was from something athletic) and making it to a career – which apparently my regular school has had a few off  – were not inspirational; instead they made me wonder what was wrong with me. But then, even if I had started a decade earlier, I wonder if I would have improved faster. Probably not, given how I was in even worse shape then, but if I knew then everything I now know… well, I do wonder at what could’ve been…

Anyway, I feel a little guilty for not being inspired by the story, like I’m being an immature envious little brat, which I probably am.  I hate it when I have irrational feelings like that about ballet progress, but as much as I try to talk rationality into myself sometimes the class environment brings out competitiveness – and insecurities.  I will continue to work on it.

In the meantime, perhaps I should keep my stories of slow progress to myself? I fluctuate between ‘ yes, stop for the common good!’ and ‘no! I have a right to share my side of it, and besides, they did ask me for help’, tell myself that I’ll just keep the explaination factual, but before I know it I managed to have a conversation with some one – not just someone, but several people (which is a feat for me in of itself) – and it came up how long I’ve been dancing and all that. And the whole time I’m like ‘oh my gosh – people actually want to talk to me! It’s so bizzare and I feel somewhat guilty for almost enjoying it, thinking ‘if this is how things had been a couple decades ago or more perhaps I wouldn’t have this fear of people and terrible anxiety and self-doubt. Maybe that’s what they mean in all those ads for ballet for children about developing confidence!’ and then I have to stop that train of thought because, honestly, unless there’s a time machine available to me there is absolutely nothing I can do about the past, so I may as well not waste more time dwelling on it.

At least I’m dancing now – at last – and at a skill level that I don’t mind most days (the exception would be on audition days). I dance and I’m happy, inspired by the music.

More Videos, More Classes, Still Not Remembering

This week I kept up the same routine of 3 classes at New Studio, supplementing with Kathryn Morgan youtube classes. This was my first week of summer vacation proper (last week was technically finals week, but I’d finished early), so I had more time to do even more video classes. I also found and did a few Pilates video classes, because unlike ballet which I just want to do every day – no excuses or motivation needed – I actually need that extra push to get off the couch and get my work out in. Don’t want to lose the strength I’ve gained, but even then I don’t feel so motivated, so I’m really glad to have discovered the world of youtube videos!

Classes at New Studio went well. I really like how NS Teacher gives plenty of hands on corrections, but at the same time there vibe feels laid back compared to my regular school. Even on the day when there was some way more advanced dancers there it still felt laid back. I also like how if there is a huge gap between the most advanced dancer there and the most beginner she’ll give us different levels of the same combination across the floor. This is a skill that I think it’d be nice if more teachers had, the ability to tailor the class to the different levels there (too many teachers seem to either cater to the most advanced or the most beginner, leaving us middle students either lost of unfulfilled).

Combinations I remember were across the floor temps leves (saute passe, saute arabesque)x3, chasse, tour jete, chasse, tour jete, pirouette en dehors, sous-sus, run off. Another one was start in B+, step out the back foot and then sous-sus and bourre towards the front foot, then turn while switching feet to repeat the whole thing. This was so fun because even though it was not a hard combination it felt so dance-y, especially when adding the port de bras and stuff. *Boyfriend just interrupted me to say “You were smiling while you were typing that”, LOL*

We did two saute combinations, one slow one fast. The slow one was a good tempo for me,  and really emphasized the plie portion. The fast one had entrechats in it, which I am horrible at, and I saw that my feet were getting not-so-pointed. I haven’t really had any improvements in my beated jumps over the past year actually (not that I had before that either). I don’t really know where to begin on that, I mean do I keep practicing them wrong just to built up strength (but risk building muscle memory of the wrong thing), or am I strong enough but it’s just something in my head (like the fear of landing wrong). It’s possible that I’m strong enough, because I’ve seen people that are weaker than me or get tired quicker be able to do them. I can do more sautes, correctly, than ever before, but when it comes time to add beats it just turns into flexed feet flopping around. Well, for starters I’ll work on my royalle, since that feels easier to me than entrechat.

As for my youtube video classes, this week I once again did the “Easy Ballet Barre” and “Easy Ballet Center” as well as the “Classic Ballet Barre, 2” and “Barre for Turnout” and “Barre for  Core and Balance”. The difficulty of all the barre videos except for “easy” is pretty tough, especially towards the end of the video, but I managed to pull through – with some modifications. Like the part where there’s was something like pas de cheval devant, releve on coupe, then two pas de chevals on releve with a mini rond de jambe en l’air, and repeat on croix, or something like that – I was all over the place. While the difficulty of the videos starts off similar to the Intermediate class I’d been going to, by the end I definitely think it’s at a much harder difficulty.  I am happy that I’m strong enough to be able to do combinations on releve at the barre, but my coordination does go down. Any frappes or rond de jambes while on releve are a complete mess.

As for center, I attempted the “Classic Center” video and, well… I guess it comfirms to me that I am still very much a beginner. Certainly makes my choice between Intermediate and Beginner at the same exact time slot a whole lot easier! I could do the first combination, but after that I was horribly lost. I switched to the “Easy Center” to finish my ballet session – love that video, by the way – but I did take some time later on to sit through the rest of the “Classic Center” class to see what the deal is. So, it seems like the first few combinations are definitely steps  I can do, I just can’t remember what comes next and then I’m behind and catching up sucks. The combinations feel so long! I know if I were to take a few hours and study the videos I’d be able to do the combinations correctly, but doing them immediately after being given them – like in a real class scenario – is currently impossible for me. I don’t think I’ve seen much improvement in this area over the past year either.

The thing I wish I knew the most is, is it because I’m a beginner and I’m still not familiar with ballet (at a little over three years of dancing), or is it because I’m not a child/teen? Like, is it because I’m an adult that I can’t remember a full sequence of steps, or it is just because I haven’t been doing it that long? Are beginner-children/teens better at memorizing combinations than beginner-adults?  By now I’ve proven -at least to myself – that I can take a combination or piece of choreography that’s several minutes long or more, study it at home on my own time for many obsessive hours, and be able to do it in class/rehearsal/ a show, but I am so slow at learning them in “real time”. While I feel like I shouldn’t care, like I should just be grateful that I’ve even gotten to perform at all, I am somewhat upset that my slowness at learning in person may be a big reason why I don’t get considered for longer parts.  If it’s just because I’m still a beginner then I can feel better that it may get better in the future, but if it is because I’m not super young – and I’m not getting any younger – then maybe it’s time to… one of two things: either learn to be grateful for at least getting to do the “beginner”parts, or stop having delusional dreams of performing. I worry that I sound whiny – I’m not whining, I just like to know where I stand, like to know the reasons for things and then see if there’s something I can do about it or not. To know that if I’m failing it is because of things out of my control, not my undedicated lack of trying, or msguided effort.

I also wonder, is learning choreography this way “cheating”? Am I screwing myself up more in the long run? I mean, I get the instant gratification of learning and performing a dance, but then I get even worse at remembering the combinations in class. Is the only way to get better at following along in class to stop doing it the slow, step-by-step video way? Even if that class-only learning style just doesn’t seem to work for me?

As you can see, I’m full of (possibly rhetorical?) questions today…

Classes, Video Classes, And WordPress Problems

My WordPress Reader has been down for a week now (previously when it was down it was only for a few hours, during busier times I guess, and the problem was solved by turning my tablet off and back on), and all my attemps at fixing it have been useless. Also, I can’t access my draft posts, or even my published posts unless I go to my site directly. Since WordPress’ customer service is practically nonexistent (I know about the help forum, but my questions never get answered), I have no idea what to do from this point. I know this is super off topic but, any one out there reading this who’s paying for the premium service (when you get your own url, like http://www.yourblog.com), does that get you a response with customer service or a more user-friendly interface? Although I’d rather save my money, it’s been getting so inconvenient to even write a post – not to mention read other’s posts, which I haven’t been able to access since the Reader went down – that I may consider it if it’s worth it. From the beginning I didn’t want to blog with blogger/blogspot because I’m kind of not a Google fan, but WordPress’ glitchiness is making me regret that.

Anyway, back to talking about ballet…

Over the past week I took several classes at New Studio, as well as some youtube Kathryn Morgan classes on days without class. Since classes at New Studio are much shorter than classes at my regular school (1 hour vs 1 hour and a half) I’m considering doing the “Easy Barre” video on class days as well, if I have time. One of the things about NS is that it’s open level, so the difficulty of class changes depending on who shows  up. So it can be a super-easy-mostly-barre kind of class or an extremely difficult class with petit and grand allegro and lots of long combinations in center. And there’s no way of knowing which it’ll be until we’re about 10 minutes into the class (I really don’t want to play ‘spot the beginner, spot the ex-pro’ beforehand).

This past week it was 2 mostly easy classes and 1 that was a great fit for my current level (in other words, we didn’t have the day when the difficulty gets pushed up extremely). As fas as center goes, the most challenging things we did was a quick combination with balancés (one right, one left), two soutenus right, contretemps, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, assemble, repeat to other side and a straighforward – if long – saute combination (8 in first, 2 in second, 4 echappes, and 4 changements, repeat). Both combinations went well; I was especially happy to see that me feet stayed pointed thoughout the whole saute combination, and that even though the other combination was fast I managed to stay on it.

We did a lot of work at the barre, working on our plies and turnout. Since I’m one of those dancers that believes in always reviewing the basics no matter what, no complaints here. Actually, I think if I regularly only took an Intermediate level class with no basics thrown in there I think it’d be a disaster for me  – it appears I haven’t been doing ballet long enough to have everything so engraved in muscle memory that if hold up even at high speeds.

Which brings us to the youtube video classes… One day I did the “Classic Ballet Barre 2” video, and while I was fine for the first four or five combinations, by the end I was lost. Which gives me two options of where to go from here: I can either do the same video daily until I memorize it (both in my muscles and brain), but not really feel like I’m at that level because if I was in class and these combinations were thrown at me I’d be lost; or I can do the “Easy Ballet Barre” and just modify it to make it more challenging if needed, like adding arms, or maybe do it in double time (this is that gap between beginner and intermediate that I was whining about in a recent post, popping up again). To be honest, the second option was the one I took last time I gave myself class, but I do think I’ll try both, sort of how I’ve been taking both levels at school. As far as center, I’m still doing the “Easy Center” video, especially because she gives several options for increasing difficulty, and the level reminds me of the end-of-session time in Beginner class with the harder combinations. Perhaps I’ll attempt the “Classic Center” video sometimes soon again and see if it makes more sense to me than the last time I tried it around a year ago.

Ok, more whining about the in-between-beginner-and-intermediate gap: I found out recently that my regular school is going to be having the Beginner class at the same exact time as Intermediate, on purpose (supposedly to keep student dancers in the appropriate level, without the possibility of the time conflict excuse). I think this is a terrible idea! Perhaps I’m being selfish, but I think this does not help the in-between-levels dancer at all. Originally I’d been planning on taking both classes, as I did this past session. But if they’re at the same time I have to choose, and that’s a hard choice. I did ask ‘Have you considered offering a Beginner 2 or Advanced Beginner class?’ and the answer was ‘That would be Intermediate’, which may be true on paper but in actuality is nowhere close – there’s a mile of difference between the end of Beginner and start of Intermediate, as I’ve complained about a million times on here.

Luckily, I still have a couple months to think it over and decide (this is for Fall session, Summer session this year will be just Beginner).

Somewhat related to what I was just saying, in class recently NS Teacher refered to me as an Intermediate dancer and I was so pleased (though I don’t believe her – I mean, clearly I’m not at that level yet – I just think it was relative to the newer people that were there). But still, somewhat encouraging!

Just Hiding Behind Beautiful Movements

There was something F Teacher said the last time I saw her that has stuck with me. It was our end-of-session class performance day (not to be confused with The Show of my previous post) and as the different students presented their short dance pieces, she gave constructive criticism as each finished.

I’m paraphrasing somewhat (if I can’t remember a few steps in center combination you think I’m going to remember a whole motivational speech?!), but she said something along the lines of “when you’re a beginner at dance, you have to give more of yourself to make your performance interesting, or fun, because the techinique’s not there, and there’s only you. But as you get more advanced, and you have more technique, and there’s more things you can do, you run the risk of being able to hide. You just hide behind the beautiful movements and don’t reveal any of yourself at all, and that’s not as entertaining.” (Remember I’m paraphrasing; the original quote, complete with her method of delivery, was about a million times more awesome)

Reason that this stuck with me is because… I think she’s right. At least in my case, but who’s to say that it doesn’t apply to others as well. Now it’s time for my long-winded explanation of why…

By this point in my dancing experience, I’ve mostly done ballet with a little bit of modern thrown in the mix. I wrote a post last year before comparing the difficulties of the two, but that post just dealt with the physical difficulty, actually doing the steps (and balancing without falling over). Taking the physical difficulty out of the equation – assuming we’re strong enough to do both equally well – I still believe that modern is much more difficult for me than ballet.

Reason is, in ballet it seems to me that there is the correct way or the wrong way, and all that’s left for me to do is to work towards the correct way. In modern, it seems there are so many different ways that are all technically correct, and it’s up to me to choose which (and I am one indecisive person). Those times when M Teacher would leave it completely open for us to decide what to do, they were very challenging for me. In ballet class, if the teacher says walk, you know it’s a ballet walk. In modern class, M Teacher could say to walk and it can mean a number of things – walk facing front or back, leading with your shoulders or pelvis, level up high or down low – you decide. In ballet, the port de bras is more or less codified unless the choreographer says other wise, but modern is so open. There were many times during modern when M Teacher would tell us to walk around while moving our arms and I seriously couldn’t think of anything to do with them besides swan arms. In short, I think during modern class I mostly do ballet with bad technique (because we’re not corrected on technical stuff as much).

Getting back to discussing performances, back when I first started dancing I wanted badly to choreograph. I would listen to music and imagine what I would dance to it, if only I was able to. And now, I have improved to the point that it is feasible that I could hear a piece of music and choreograph a short dance to it. This is something I enjoy extremely, something I find quite exhilirating.

But still – I guess I’m never satisfied? – I worry that the dances I make are boring. Perhaps all I am doing is going through the movements, never really revealing myself in the process (or maybe I am revealing myself, and the truth is that I am a bore, a coward, or both). I often feel guilty of the fact that I enjoy watching beautiful dancing. Not necessarily expressive dancing, or dancing that tugs at my heartstrings and elicits an emotional response – though I do find enjoyment in that too (provided I can actualy understand it) – but just beautiful movements, connected still shots of beautiful poses, as beautiful music plays.

Is the fact that I like my art “pretty” rather than expressive a character flaw? This is one of those times when I wish I could be as self-assured as others make themselves out to be, just “I like what I like, whatever”, but I’m not. I grew up feeling like my opinion was never valid, and the feelings of invalidation and self-doubt are still there – I fear they’ll always be there. Often I feel like I’m missing something, like others can see things that I don’t, understand things I can’t. All I want to do is make pretty art that is beautiful to look at – is that so wrong?

(not wrong, just boring)

Does it make me simple-minded to find it NOT boring to look at beautiful things without searching for a deeper meaning? Boyfriend says that perhaps it’s because I barely discovered dance as an adult and all my modern-loving classmates have danced since they were kids, so by now they’re over the concept of just making pretty movements, whereas all I ever wanted was to be able to move gracefully and I’m still stuck on that phase of my development. His explaination makes sense… somewhat. Another part of it, still having to do with having found dance as an adult, is that to me dance is my (only) form of escapism – I dance to forget the troubles, and the ugliness, and the sometimes horrible truths of my existence. I dance to feel happy, to feel free. So when I dance, I like to create beauty, just simple, uncomplicated beauty.  There’s enough ugliness being created out there, no need for me to add more to it (or so I feel) .

Of course, things could change as I get more experienced in dance – and life. Perhaps I’ll look back on this post in the future and be like “What were you thinking?!”, and feel so much superior to my in-the-past version of me. Stranger things have happened.

Anyway.

We ran out of time and I didn’t get to dance for the class, which was a relief as I was worried about the constructive criticism (because not only do I fear that my choreographies are boring, but I know my technique is not all the way there yet either). But I did get a video of me dancing my piece that I had prepared, and that makes me happy. I’m still contemplating making a youtube account to post some of my dances, but making no promises.

Show Time

My recital finally happened! Now that I’ve had a couple days to think it over and digest it a bit, here’s some thoughts (organized in a somewhat random fashion, just as I remember). This time I’m going to leave this post public, and stop being so paranoid about people figuring out who I am or where I dance (the last recital post was private, but I realize not everyone who reads this has the password or is too shy to email me for it – hey, I’m shy too!).

First, background info: Unlike our last recital last December, which was a multi-genre all-evening affair (of which our half-hour ballet piece was a part), this recital was entirely ballet – classical and some contemporary. We had 5 pieces in which the entire corps de ballet danced (excerpts from Giselle, La Bayadere, Swan Lake, and an original piece) as well as about a dozen solos or dances in small groups.

After  our first big corps piece, we had to quickly change out of our tutus and into our ballet skirts to go back onstage for a piece with just three of us – and by quick I mean quick (more about that later). This piece in particular (Nikiya’s entrance, from La Bayadere, with three dancers instead of one) was one that I thoroughly enjoyed rehearsing, and I had rehearsed it so many times that by now it was almost automatic, just my body responding to the music without any need for conscious thought or planning. It starts of relatively slow, with a lot of pique sous-sus balances, a half turn and balance in releve retire, and beautiful arms, with a lot of bourres. I remember at the moment right before the music picks up for the fast part thinking “Oh crap! I’m exhausted and the fast part is barely coming up! Got to pull it together!” And somehow I did – the faster timing, the bourre turns, the soutenus, finishing in time with the music. Although I haven’t seen any video from this dance I heard from some people watching that we did a good job – and I think I’ll choose to believe them.

Immediately after this there was another costume change to get back into a tutu, and we didn’t make it. I remember I was putting my tutu on in the wings with the help of a classmate and I see the corps run onstage for the next piece and I was like “I got to go – I’m onstage!” and tried to run onstage with my tutu not fully fastened (my classmate held me back, and probably kept me from making a complete fool of myself as my tutu came off onstage, so much belated thanks to her (though at the moment I was like “LET ME GO!!!” lol).  Once the tutu was finally on, we planned a strategic entrance for the latter half of the dance. It was like that scene in The Turning Point (which is on Netflix, and if you haven’t seen it and enjoy ballet, you must) when Leslie(?) is shoved onstage by that other lady in the middle of Swan Lake (except, you know, we weren’t drunk, though that would have added to the hilarity, I’m sure). Anyway, from what I heard our entrance wasn’t as obvious to the audience as it was to me. I’m sad I missed dancing the first part of that dance though 😦

Our two next corps pieces (Entrance of Wilies from Giselle, and entrance of swans from Swan Lake) went off without a hitch (at least as far as I know. Well, actually, there were a couple small mistakes, but nothing too noticeable.) It was beautiful – all of the pieces dancing in the corps were beautiful, all of us in our white tutus completely filling the stage. So lovely! I think this time around I had more of an opportunity to actually enjoy it while being onstage instead of it being over before I know it. I mean, when you look at the time length of each piece, these dances are short. But I do remember having the memory of looking out at us moving in unison to the music and my heart just filling up with all the beauty of it. Yes, all the hard work, all the struggles, and the stress – it was worth it.

Then, the low point of the show (for me). We missed our cue for our duet. This time, we were backstage putting on the finishing touches  when I hear our music start. Crap!  I ran to the stage, having already missed the first 10 seconds or so (of a 1 minute and 50 second dance), and immediately after entering the stage realize that my costume was incomplete – I’d left part of it backstage. There was nothing to do but just keep going, so I did. The late entry to stage and my missing pieces of the costume had me feeling so off my game, and I don’t even want to know if it was very apparent. From this dance there were a few videos, but I haven’t watched them (by choice) because honestly I am so disappointed that it went this way (and that I missed my stage cue – again!). I’ve heard this dance called “the weirdest pas de deux in ballet” before, so even if done right I knew it was odd. But with this dance the costume was a big part of the visual appeal, so I am sad that it failed. To make matters worse, this was the last piece I was in for a while (until our finale), so I got plenty of backstage time to beat myself up over it.

Something I really liked this time around is that we were able to watch the parts of the show we weren’t in from the wings, which was really nice. Last recital we’d had to go all the way backstage and downstairs when we weren’t due onstage for the next piece, and I had been really sad that I didn’t get to see all my classmates dance. This time I got to see it all, and it was wonderful. So many beautiful and inspiring dancers, I sometimes feel like I have to pinch myself to see if it could really be true that I get to dance with them. From when I first started ballet I wanted to perform but it seemed so unlikely that I’d get to so I didn’t dare say it aloud. Now it’s happened twice, to some of my favorite scenes, and it’s incredible.

I think the worst part this time around was that we only did one show, unlike the recital last December in which we did four nights in a row. There was no time to iron out the problems (like those superquick costume changes), or to tell myself that I’ll get it right next time. My feelings keep switching from being happy that we pulled it off and I got to dance (again) on stage in a real theater,  to being sad that I messed up on my duet (and the other missed stage entrance). As far as the messing up, I mean the late entry to stage and the incomplete costume, other than that I remembered all the steps and didn’t fall or fall out of my balances or anything, so I really should be grateful. But I am really bummed out over the costume.

Ok, I was supposed to be a cat. Who’s ever seen a cat with no freakin’ ears?! Arrgh!!!

Anyway, that’s all I can think of saying about the recital for now (though if anything else pops into mind I’ll probably edit and add on). I’m also done with school for the summer so I’ll probably be posting my random rambles a little bit more as I try to catch up on everything I’ve been too busy to write about – or not (my offline journal and other online blog need love too).

Lesson Learned?

This past week I didn’t take too many classes, because of a combination of the long weekend, family events, and rehearsals, so by the time I got to class I felt a little rusty in my technique. As luck would have it, the first class I took in four days (and only second in about a week, because rehearsals) was Intermediate, so I came out feeling   somewhat discouraged. Lesson is, if I haven’t taken my regular amount of class in a couple weeks, perhaps Intermediate is not the way to go, especially if it’s the end of the session (with a higher difficulty level).

Barre went ok, sort of. I remembered the leg changes of working leg from outside leg to inside leg and the slow port de bras during quick rond de jambes. While I wasn’t able to replicate that super long balance in retire on releve from last week, I did hang up there  for a little while, several seconds.

Center, in short, sucked. I wasn’t feeling paticularly confident, and Teacher was overwhelming me with the new combinations and too many corrections. She usually does the same combinations for the week, but since I’d missed the last class before I felt lost.

The first combination was (as well as I remember so I might be missing something) balancé x2, pique arabesque, promenade, passe, developpe devant in efface line, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dedans, sous sus. I was all over the place, struggling with the promenade about half the time, not sure how to prepare for the pirouette. Of course this was all complicated by the fact that I can’t remember the combination until like the fourth run through…

During pique turns across the floor, Teacher corrected me on my arm going too far behind me, but when I tried to do it without having my arm there I felt like I wasn’t getting around enough. Ugh, I hate it when I realize that  something I thought I was getting better at I was doing wrong all along. Especially when I think that the reason I was doing it wrong was to compensate for weaknesses in by body, and I’m not strong enough yet to be doing that particular step at all…The way Teacher words the correction, “Stay up longer so you can get all the way around” cracks me up because it’s like ‘I’m trying to stay up!’.

We did these turns while doing little temps leves and the other foot in coupe devant, I think. It was hard for me, really hard. Not the turning part, but the one-footed jumps. Teacher kept calling out corrections to me by name, but I couldn’t really understand what she wanted for me except to jump higher perhaps (because it’s hard for me to separate jumping while pointing my feet to jumping higher and harder). I was apprehensive about it because, as I mentioned in my last post, if I fear that I’m not strong enough to land a jump safely I don’t jump it as hard as I can. It was stressing me out though, because I feel like sometimes when things are way beyond my current level I should just … I don’t know, work on a preparatory version at the barre for a month or five until my body has a general idea of what’s going on. I told Teacher, “I don’t think I’m strong enough to do this yet,” after about the twentieth attempt, which is probably a huge ballet faux pas, but it was the truth and, I felt, relevant to the situation.

We’re not even going to get into how much I sucked at petit allegro (can’t remember the combination exactly, but it was fast, and the second time through we were supposed to beat our jumps, which is something that I’m still afraid to try because I think at this speed I’ll get my feet tangled together or something). I was mostly just trying to keep up and go the correct direction in the traveling jumps to not crash into the others.

This is around the point that I wonder if I’m not ready for Intermediate, because I still feel as lost as I did when I first tried Intermediate class a year ago. Beginner class is so fun, but it doesn’t get challenging until the latter weeks of the session. I feel like I’m at the level of  between-the-end-of-session-in-Beginner-class, and the beginning-of-the-session-in-Intermediate. It’s a tough place to be; people that are more advanced than me danced for years and years as children, and other beginners I know (and take class with) have only been doing ballet for around a year. So I feel like I’m still in that no man’s land between beginner and intermediate that I was in a year ago. Yes, progress in ballet does come rather slow for me…

I know I’m not a ballet teacher (obviously), but I really do feel like it’s not particularly productive for me to be attempting things that I clearly can’t do and am nowhere close to be able to doing. Perhaps with children – “normal” (ugh, hate using that word) children, not a spacially uncoordinated child such as I was – it’s a different story and they do well by just being thrown in the deep end (which didn’t work for me as a child either, this being thrown off the deep end, because then I would cling on to the swimming instructor and pull them in with me…). But as an adult, I definitely don’t think so. If I think it’s not safe for me to do something, I’m going to be reluctant to do it (and especially so soon before the recital).

I hope all of this doesn’t sound bad, like I’m criticizing Teacher (because that’s not my intention – I think she’s been a great Teacher and I owe much of my progress to her and her patience with my detailed-and-at-times-dumb questions)), but I really think it’s hard  (or maybe even impossible) for her to undertand how my body works and responds, not only as an adult beginner but as a person who was inactive and  in terrible shape during my early years (when other people were building muscles and muscle memory). I realize that I’m not that much “older” in the grand scheme of things, like old enough for muscle loss to have significantly occured – if at all – but the fact that I wasn’t building muscle during my prime years does worry me, like I have a much lower maximum potential of total top strength (not to mention bone density, and that really concerns me, especially as far as the force of landing jumps is concerned…). Or perhaps I just have a much lower tolenrance from pain than this dancer high tolerance for pain I’ve heard about. I don’t like thinking these things because then I feel like I have no business dancing, like I’m not really a dancer,  like I’m trying to force the unnatural (well, any more than ballet already is forcing the unnatural). I realize that probably makes no sense, because I’ve tried talking about it and I seem unable to articulate what I mean. But I guess I just want there to be a record that I felt like this at this point…

I’m not trying to sound all down about any of this though – I’m not contemplating quitting ballet all the way, nothing like that. Just thinking that perhaps I should stick with Beginner class only for a bit again and work on the fundamentals. I know I had the same debate with myself at the end of the last session last December, and I ended up taking Intermediate anyway (because  Teacher had asked me, not because I’m a good dancer but because if not enough people sign up the class may get cancelled). And I just may take it again, I’m just frustrated at the moment. In Beginner class I feel like I can actually do some dancing, but at the same time the first 2/3 or so of the Beginner class session can be too slow paced. Wish we had an ‘Advanced Beginner’ class!

Next session at my regulal school starts in a couple weeks, so we’ll see how that teacher is. In the meantime, I’ll be taking class at New Studio and perhaps – hopefully – Adults Only Studio,