Several Things I’ve Noticed, And Looking Back

As my summer ballet session nears its end, this week I noticed a few things. Definite signs of progress, I’d say.

The first has to do with my balance. It was possibly there already, but during this week was the first time that I’ve felt like I didn’t have to stop and make any tiny little adjustments in order to keep my balance while doing our center tendu combination. We do two croisse devant, two en face devant, two efface devant, one ecarte, then the same with the other leg, then reversing it. Tempo’s pretty quick, so if that time to adjust was actually needed it would put me behind the music. I don’t even remember really how I came to trust myself that I could do it, that I didn’t need to take that millisecond to make sure I was really on my leg.  Perhaps all the no-hands-at-the-barre stuff G Teacher’s been having me do has helped me?

The second thing is glissades. Not just a la seconde, but also en avant and en arriere. I struggled with glissades for a long time, at first not making them look pretty but just doing them at all without losing my balance and coming close to falling. While I’ve had my glissades a la seconde for at least a year now, the ones front and back – especially back – have been slow to progress. Even though I felt like I had the coordination for them finally, it was the balance that would get me. Maybe this still falls into the first category then, since it’s mostly a balance thing. Well, either way, this week I was doing glissades in all directions and it was going just fine, only took me three and a half years to get to this point…

The last thing is my jumps. Anyone who’s been reading my ballet struggles for a while now will remember just how much jumping has been an uphill battle. First, my legs were to weak to even help me clear the floor, then I could clear the floor but my feet were too weak/I was too scared to point my feet, then I’d start speeding up the tempo because I (subconciously) just wanted to get it over with and I’d forget to breathe. And of course all the alignment adjustments needed, not losing my turnout, etc. Finally, I noticed this week that everything is lining up; I’m able to remember to breathe during my jumps, which keeps me from feeling panicky out of breath during them, which keeps me on tempo. And, when we’re finally done, I discovered that I’d  enjoyed it quite a bit, that my legs felt happy (I realize that sounds a little silly, but I don’t care) . It’s no longer the thing that causes me much apprehension – that special spot is now exclusively saved for pirouettes.

Ever since I actually started feeling like I was dancing, instead of just trying to not make a complete fool of myself, I haven’t been super fixated on progress… but it’s still nice to take note of it, I think. The same way some people like to have a snapshot of a moment in a particularly nice day, something like that.

Anyway, this ballet week was pretty awesome. In my regular school classes (the summer session) we got to do quite a bit of across the floor work. We had a relatively long (by beginner class standards) adagio, that I struggled the first time with because of my memory (you’ll notice I didn’t say earlier that I’ve noticed any improvements in remembering combinations…), but by the second class session working on it I nailed it. It was all steps I could do (demi plies with port de bras, sous-sus balance, tombe, pas de bourre, ballet walks), but the length did intimidate me at first.

We also did more across the floor jumping, temps leves (saute arabesque, saute passe), and alternating chasses with saute arabesque.

At New Studio, I had a couple of fun classes as well. We did a fun adage-y combination with developpe devant, rond de jambe the leg to a la seconde, close back, developpe derriere, carry to second, close, changement to face other corner and repeat. I really enjoyed it because I felt so steady on my single leg balance.  I was glad we did this combination first, because the next few were quite fast and I felt like I was struggling to keep up with the tempo. One of the combinations was just glissade x2, assemble, passe releve, repeat, but it was just so quick that I felt I barely had time to fit it in there. Our other equally fast combination was 2 balances, balance en tournant, pirouette en dehors, pirouette en dedans. The en dehors pirouettes didn’t go so well (as usual). It frustrates me that even though I can do them to the left much better, since we start to the right, by the time we get to the left I already have this “I suck at pirouettes” mindset. Sigh.

On a more positive note, one of the combinations (can’t remember which) included that pivot thing from facing one way croisse to the other way efface, which I barely figured out a couple of months ago, and even though I haven’t been actively practicing it often I still remembered it!

Also, I was rereading over some of my old blog posts, and I happened upon the one from a year ago almost to the date. At the time I was concerned with being “in between”, not knowing if when a teacher says something is only for more advanced people if I should try it. Also, not feeling like I was capable of actually dancing when I just felt so silly and like i didn’t even belong there.  Now, it may be that I’m only taking Beginner and Open Level class right now (not the scary Intermediate, with people who’ve been dancing for decades and are Really Good), but I find that I’m not having any of those problems anymore. For the most part I feel confident that I should try the harder option, and I have no problems with really dancing instead of just trying to go through the motions. I guess I only mention this for the benefit of my one-year-ago self, but it gets better! So that means that even though I’m struggling with some things now (like those en dehors pirouettes!), I might in the future look back and wonder what the big deal was. The reminder of the change in perspective does much to cheer me up when I’m having a difficult day.

P.S. If you’re still reading, person who found me by searching, please DO wash your leotard! If you don’t, it’s apt to get stinky, and then you may try to belatedly solve the problem by spraying yourself all over with body spray immediately before class, and just, please don’t. I don’t need that fake fruity/flowery smell burning the insides of my nostrils as I breathe in deeply during and after a particularly strenuous combination!

Public Service Announcement time: Please don’t douse yourself in body spray or perfume before going to ballet class (or yoga or pilates) or any other activity that involves a small enclosed area with no windows! It’s not fair to your classmates. We all have a different opinion of what a pleasant smell is, and it’s not cool to force your version of it upon others.


9 thoughts on “Several Things I’ve Noticed, And Looking Back

  1. Dork

    Oh you’re so right about the perfume thing! Sometimes, you can smell the cologne even when you’re walking 10 feet behind a person, I can’t imagine the horror if that same person came to our ventilated, but still windowless ballet studio! Fortunately, I have yet to experience that. Another pet peeve of mine is ultra-long hair worn open. This one I’ve experienced. Girl, this is dance class, not a L’Oréal commercial! And if we’re doing turns across the floor and space is limited… well, you can imagine. The teacher asked her to tie it pretty quickly. Do your teachers usually comment on such things or do the students have to settle it between themselves?

    1. kit Post author

      Ugh, yeah, I don’t wish that experience on anyone (except the people who do it; being on the receiving end may teach them to knock it off!), but unfortunately I have experienced it a couple of times. I made sure to stand by the fan as much as possible on those days!
      Re: hair, I would say it depends, on the teacher and the level/formality of the class. I’ve taken a class at a very laid back Adults Only studio during which a lady wore her long (hip length) hair out long and full and the teacher told her nothing. However, since it was such a basic class we weren’t turning, though it was distracting especially during cambres forward.
      At my regular school though, I’ve seen people get chewed out over a ponytail instead of a bun (and both for safety reasons and just for ballet etiquette) by the teacher. And this has been more than one teacher, so I’d say it’s a school-wide thing.
      If a teacher says nothing, but we are turning or going across the floor, I’d be very concerned about the judgment of the teacher and her ability to keep us safe.

      1. asher

        Oh, wow — the hair thing is an interesting question.

        Everyone at my studio seems to go by the signs on the door (which basically say PUT IT IN A BUN OR WE WILL KEEEEEELLL YOU, but in nicer words :D), but I am now curious as to what would happen if someone showed up with flowing tresses all unbound. Hm.

        That said, I’m with Kit on the teacher input part — the teachers are responsible both for keeping the class safe and also, to some extent, imparting the Great Cultural Traditions of Ballet, so to speak.

        Also, I was going to say the same thing that Dorky said, about scents 😀

        Recently I switched to a different brand of deodorant because the store was out of mine. In my next class, I was mortified to realize, after removing the hoodie that I usually wear through the first half of barre, that the scent was way too strong and I was suddenly That Guy :O

        I spent the whole class trying not to dance too close to anyone, just in case. Afterwards, I stopped by a different store on the way home and switched back to my old deodorant post-haste.

      2. kit Post author

        Quick question: have you ever taken class with a guy with hair long enough to put in a bun? I do wonder what is the ballet etiquette regarding a dude’s hair.
        As to the deodorant, I think the fact that you even noticed that you were being That Guy at that moment puts you way ahead of the game of all the people that either a) don’t realize they’re being That Guy/Girl or b) don’t see anything *wrong* with being That Guy/Girl. And that’s so nice of you to stay away from everyone in the meantime – at the class I took with the smelliest lady, she kept getting closer to me and I had to keep pretending it was too hot and I needed to move closer to the fan/away from her. In hindsight, it was pretty funny…

      3. asher

        That’s a good question! I’ve wondered about it as well.

        I haven’t been in class with a guy with long enough hair for that, but based on the few applicable pictures I’ve seen, I do believe that the correct etiquette is to put it in a bun/topknot.

        I played bells for a while once with someone who didn’t quite seem to grasp the problem with being That Girl. I sometimes wonder if the worst offenders have reduced olfactory sensitivity, or something?

        In other news, I now kind of want to choreography a humorous dance based on the idea of attempting to decorously sidle away from the Smelliest Dancer 😀

      4. kit Post author

        As soon as you mentioned that choreography I felt like I could see it in my head! It’d be more of a Modern piece though…
        Hmm, I think you might by quite right about the person not knowing they’re That Person because of some olfactory thing. Confession time – I used to be That Girl a decade ago, and yes, it was because I simply couldn’t smell just how much crap I’d sprayed on. Back then I used to be a cigarette smoker and my senses of taste and smell were completely shot. When my sense of smell returned to its full capacity after quitting I was amazed at how strong all smells were now. Which unfortunately means that now I can smell *everything* and it drives me nuts!

      5. asher

        I’m going to have to do a whole suite of these — “The Smelliest Dancer,” “Dancers Watching Dance,” “Dancers on the Metro” … 😀

  2. yorksranter

    This reminds me of the start of an open class where 22 people showed up. This is modern after all, so barefoot, and with the best will in the world, once we started to warm up you could really smell the 44 feet converging on centre:-0

    1. kit Post author

      I have been very lucky to have never had the pleasure of smelling 44 hot feet. Perhaps that was the reason Modern Teacher refuses to teach class at any time other than first thing in the morning, before everyone has a chance to get smellier?
      That said, I’ll bet it would have smelled much worse if everyone had been wearing sneakers and sweaty socks and then took them off. The bare feet would air out some, I’d imagine, although the next class that walks in won’t be too happy…


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