Monthly Archives: September 2016

Since Last Time…

It’s been a few weeks (I think?) since I wrote any class notes, but there’s actually been stuff to write down, just busy-ness combined with a healthy dose of blogging apathy. Anyway, since I last wrote some class notes I have:

Actually consistently landed some pirouettes en dehors, both from fifth and fourth (and then noticed and psyched mysel out…). Yeah, I was surprised, en dehors is not my best kind, but as a whole I am feeling much more confident about them. My en dedans pirouettes – the kind that feel easier for me – have been pretty much reliable… hope that didn’t jinx it…

Then I landed some  prouettes in attitude (en dedans). Still though, they’re a mystery to me – the ones I’ve landed have felt purely by chance – although I did look up on youtube the Kathryn Morgan tutorial for these. They’re hard, however, arabesque pirouettes are harder…

I’ve gotten really comfortable with en dehors promenades (I’m used to going en dedans, so now I can do both), possibly because of this little combination from Intermediate: (tendu a la seconde, close in plie, passe releve)x2,  (tendu a la seconde, close in plie, promenade en dehors)x2, (tendu a la seconde, close in plie, pirouette en dehors)x2. All on the same side  – often twice thru – before doing the other side, major strength building there.

We also do a similar combination, but for 1/4,1/2 and full pirouettes instead. And I got happy when I realized that this means I can do at least 16 consecutive full releves on one leg in center. Sometimes at barre (especially in Int/Adv class), on one of those ultralong single leg balances on releve, after the third combination or so of having to do this I feel like I just can’t anymore and I feel like I’ll never be strong enough, so to be able to find the strength to do that in center is just like… incredible. I still remember when I couldn’t even do one single leg releve at the barre (never mind center). When ever I tell people in person they don’t believe me – “But you’re so strong!” – and that annoys me a bit. I feel like I need to hold on to my identity of the-girl-that-started-off-weak-and-terrible, and I’m still working out my issues on that. I don’t see a resolution to that anytime soon though…

My waltz en tournant has gotten much more fluid, especially at hyperspeed or doubletime or what ever it’s called (the tempo we do in Int/Adv class). I’ve grown to really love waltzing.

It hasn’t been all improvement and such, of course.  Apparently gotten into the (bad) habit of opening up too much when I tendue a la second, like my hips are no longer square to the front. Two different teachers have corrected me on this in the past week, so it means I need to pay some serious attention to this.

Ballet running still sucks. I don’t quite mean the slow, somewhat dreamy run off at the end of the combination with the windmill arms, but this quick, almost urgent kind of run, the kind that leads to a pique arabesque or sous-sus mid-cimbination. Don’t know how else to describe it…the Best Dancer Girl in Int/Adv class (the one that was rude to me a while back) does it perfectly, but she’s ridiculously good. There’s a lot of great dancers in that class, but she just takes it to a different level. I’m doing that thing when you learn from someone despite not liking the person, because I think having someone in class who is at a really high level can be really educational. Of course, this is Int/Adv class; in Beginner I think it would  make the atmosphere kind of intimidating.

My futile attemps at dancing continue in hip hop class. I had to miss a class at the beginning of the week because I wasn’t feeling well, and when I returned for the next class I was hopelessly lost (new combo every week). I do like that H Teacher allows us to videotape the combination, so I’m planning on learning them on my own at home (if I find some time that’s not allocated to ballet!).

I’m also still a really slow learner, despite the fact that I can remember longer combinations now in ballet. I still need to go over certain parts of choreography over and over, dozens of times, in slow motion until I can attempt it at anything approximating normal tempo (more on that later). Also – and I found this out in Pilates, not ballet, but it definitely applies as well – I’m distressingly bad at following without some sort of visual or physical cue. What I mean is, when the teacher gives a combination or directions, if they demonstrate it it’s ok, or if I’m able to mark it (preferably with my feet, but I can deal with that obnoxious hand marking if needed) it’s much better. But if it’s 100% verbal, I kinda… I don’t want to say zone out, but yeah…either that or I’m trying to make sense of it, and I can’t so I have to make a little video of it in my head to try to understand and then I’m behind. Once something’s in my muscle memory it’s not such an issue, but mostly when learning new things. I can’t say that I like this about myself…but whatever. The way I see it, at least I’ve figured out a way that works for me (as opposed to not being able to do it at all), so I’m not going to feel bad that I don’t learn the exact same way as everyone else. I’m just going to enjoy the dancing.

So yeah, in order to learn my choreography (contemporary ballet) for the school show and be able to actually pull it off, I need to practice – a lot. The other day, one of my classmates made a comment, something along the lines of ‘Must be nice – at least you have lots of time to practice, some of us don’t’ or something like that, but I felt I could detect some passive-aggresive tones in there. It made me upset, to be honest. I mean, it’s not like I tell people ‘must be nice to have had parents that put you in dance as a kid’ or ‘at least you got to dance when you were young’ or ‘must be nice to get stuff quickly and be so strong without working at it’ or anything else indicating bitterness about the diferences between us. I don’t know, perhaps I’m being hypersensitive, but I really dislike it when people make it out as though my situation (as far as dancing goes) is somehow perfect. I mean, I started ballet for the first time as few months before I turned 30, and it was such an uphill struggle, still is much of the time.

But apparently I decided I valued it enough to prioritize it above other things (I have no social life to speak off – but then evenif I didn’t have dance I probably still wouldn’t), and yes, I practice, I watch videos repeatedly searching or all the subtleties, I obsess. It may seem contradictory, writing it here publically and all, but I feel like it’s no one’s place to judge me on the amount of practicing I do or the amount of energy I devote to dancing, they should just focus on themselves. Boyfriend makes me feel better when I rant to him though; he says ‘they’re just jealous because their hobby’s not really ballet – it’s buying oufits to wear to ballet class – and they’re mad you actually practice and improve!’  That sounded like a cheap shot, but sometimes I get really upset when someone says something ignorant to me and I don’t stand up or myself.  I should work on that…


Is It ‘Cause Of The Turnout?

Because I just don’t get it! Having tried out more styles of dance now, I still can’t understand why practically every dancer I personally know claims that out of all the dance forms ballet is the most difficult. I mean, do they mean ‘difficult to do well’? To make it look like it’s supposed to? For people who are naturals at dancing to pick up? Or to do at all (as in, without resulting in bodily injury…)?

(Notice that by no means am I saying that ballet is anything short of extremely difficult. I’m saying that I don’t see how every other genre of dance is presumed to be less difficult or less taxing on the body.)

Well, regardless, I’m not seeing/feeling it…

Recently I auditioned for my school’s next production (multi genre, some ballet pieces). Even though I was only interested in ballet as far as performing, I let some of my classmates talk me into the idea of staying for the whole thing. ‘It’ll be fun!’ they said. ‘It’ll look more ‘professional’ I thought, letting my age show (haha).

The audition started with ballet (luckily, though I didn’t know it yet). We were given a simple, beginner-2-ish level combination (something like ballet walk, pique arabesque, faille, pas de bourre, pas de chat, soutenu, glissade, sous-sus, bourre, soutenu, chasse to arabesque finish), the kind of thing I could sort of do sloppily a year ago, almost do two years ago, and didn’t dream of doing three years ago. The nervousness I’d felt over the audition sort of melted away, and I found myself able to remember the combination pretty well. We went over it a few times as a large group, then split off to do it in groups. We didn’t even have to do the left side  which made this easier than the audition i did last year.

Regardless, many of the auditioning dancers were grumbling. I heard mutterings of ‘This is so hard!’ and ‘I don’t get this’. I assume they were there to audition for one of the other genres?

Anyway, the next lady comes out to give us the combination for the Modern part, and I guess I should have taken the fact that she was wearing knee pads as a sign. She has us start kneeling and I’d say 75% of the choreography involved either kneeling, scooting around on our knees, or rolling on to the shoulders on the floor. Not only that, it was really hard for me to remember the choreography, with the steps being unfamiliar and yes, I did end up reverting to freaking out over why I can’t do the combination instead of focusing on remembering. Around this time I started considering the possibility of sneaking out the back door quietly…

And it’s not that I dislike Modern. I took Modern last year for two sessions, but to be fair I specifically chose to take M Teacher, who only does about maybe 15% floorwork at most (not counting warm up/conditioning). This style of Modern was different. It wasincredibly hard on my body, and I found it difficult to pick up steps/moves (are they called steps when you’re only the floor and there’s no literal stepping going on?) because they seemed to blend into each other, like the roll on the floor that becomes a different kind of roll but at some point the legs swithched so you can use the back leg to push off, and roll some more, andI get lost. Oh, and there was no tempo given – we were supposed to go at our own speed while this recording of static and spoken word played.

After this was what I presume was jazz. The first half of the combination – the part when we were upright – was really quick, but after we’d gone over it a few times I found it really fun. But it was too good to be true, because  then came extremely quick floorwork. It was even worse than the Modern. There was this fall onto the side that looked terrifying, then some rolling on the floor and jump back up only to fall to the floor again, several times. Everyone seemed to not be struggling though, like during the ballet portion. I was starting to feel inadequate, like when I was new, like an impostor dancer, Also, everything hurt. I ended up sitting out the last time we went over it.  Couldn’t wait to get home and collapse in the couch and ice whatever needed to be iced – which at that point was looking like a full ice bath. I wondered if my dismal performance in the other genres had affected my audition for the ballet parts . Hoped that it hadn’t all been for nothing – because I’d have to disagree with the classmate that said It’d be fun… (Yes, I did get into the ballet portion. However, it’s contemporary ballet, so still out of my comfort zone. I’m keeping an optimistic attitude about it…)

I mentioned last time, I’ve also been taking a hip hop class. That, too, is incredibly difficult. If I had started off there instead of ballet I know I would have had a hard time. I mean I get it that the vibe is about a million times more relaxed than in ballet class, but the dancing itself is not easy. H Teacher is very specific about the placement and movement quality, and there’s so many things to think about at once, much like in ballet. At this point I’m mostly still focusing on getting the feet where they need to be, and occasionally the arms – usually a count or two behind. On some days I’m undoubtedly the worst dancer in there, but I still manage to have fun. This may have to do with the laidback vibe or maybe it’s because I don’t love it like I do ballet. Who knows?

As far as ballet, I’ve been taking Int/Adv class with F Teacher, Beginner with G Teacher, and Intermediate with A Teacher, Int/Adv class is predictably very challenging. We do some center combinations in two group, one more advanced, one more do-able. I’m doing so much better as far as remembering combinations, but my petit allegro is nowhere near allegro enough for the faster group. In Beginner class we’re mostly working up a sweat with the super slow tendus, working on technique. Intermediate class is fun because it’s at that  level that fits in between a beginner class and intermediate that I’ve taken before (though the barre work is considerably quicker and more complex than center).

I haven’t been writing on here much lately. I could say “I’ve been dancing all the time I could be writing” – and it’d be somewhat true, I’m dancing up to 6 hours some days – but that’s not it, not the whole truth at least. Part of it is that I feel I have to censor myself, or that I can’t give out details at times because I may be identified. And also, I’ve realized that some of the difficulties I’ve been facing would apply regardless of what activity I’m doing, as long as it’s not a solitary one. Rather than writing about ballet class I feel like I would have been just writing about my inadequate social development, anxiety, unrelatable worries,, and issues – and by ‘writing’ I mean whining, just whining and whining without ever doing anything about it. That ties back into the feeling like I have to censor myself part…like it’s ok to admit to the internet that just how much I sucked at ballet, but it’s not ok to admit that I think I suck at being a person…and how much…

Well, that’s a rather low note to end this on, but I’m starting to ramble and I’m tired. But yeah, I’ll write some more when I can do “cheerful” a little better.



A Week Of Firsts

First week of the new session of classes after about a month break. I was excited, but very nervous. The main reason for being nervous was that the Intermediate class I signed up for is actually called Intermediate/Advanced. My first class with the word “Advanced” in the name! Of course, I’m nowhere close to being an Advanced student, I even doubt I’m at the Intermediate level. Petit allegro keeps me firmly grounded in the reality of my (current) ballet abilities, haha.

The first day of an Intermediate class session is always a little nerve-racking because the teacher reserves the right to send you to the Beginner class is you don’t hold up well during class. Barre went well though even though the girl right in front of me was so distractigly good that I was a bit distracted. I don’t know if other people were also feeling the intimidation of dancing with dancers that were Really Good, and if it was obvious, because F Teacher gave us a little pep talk about not being intimidated or concerned with the level of other people in the class. As it was, I was doing my best to just focus on myself and the music and not let myself get psyched out, not feel like I’m not a “real” dancer.

This is even more important in center, I think, because then there’s no hiding at the barre. Our first combination started off  with grand plie, releve sous-sus, developpe devant, developpe derriere to attitude, promenade, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors and I forget the rest. Grand plies in center still scare me if only for the memory of when I couldn’t do them without falling, so it was a shaky start but I remembered the combination. We were doing the combination in groups, so it did feel like the pressure was on.

For tendus we did tendu croisse devant x2, temps lie devant, tendu croisse derriere x2, temps lie derriere, tendu ecarte, pivot to efface, tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors. Even though I felt intimidated, especially since I wound up in the front row, I made sure to do my preparation port de bras and everything. F Teacher said “Good!” To me and since she definitely doesn’t just give away compliments I was thrilled.

For across the floor we did waltz en tournant, balance x2, tombe pas de bourre, chasse to fourth, releve in fourth, pirouette en dehors, pivot to other side efface, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, run off. Once again I amazed myself by actually remembering the combination and not horribly messing up.

I’m also taking Beginner class this session, with G Teacher from the summer session, but since it’s beginner level we mostly worked on alignment, posture and conditioning this week. Since I wasn’t ultra tired from all those classes, I stopped in at New Studio for a class. The drop-in level was pretty good that day, and we did a really fun combination in center ( 4 pas de chat with a slight pause between each one, contretemps, pique arabesque, chasse, tour jete, pirouette en dedans, sous-sus, balance x2, waltz en tournant x2, run off). We got the opportunity to mark it plenty of times, so by the time we did it as a class it was already in my memory even though it used a variety of steps and direction changes.

Another first this week, I took my first hip hop class. It was mostly unplanned – I originally had something else scheduled for that time but those plans fell through. My ballet friend mentioned that there was the hip hop class, and since I’ve been thinking of trying hip hop I figured why not. How’d it go? Well, it’s a good workout, and I had fun – I certainly laughed a lot – but I absolutely looked ridiculous!


The teacher, H Teacher, gave us our first combination: 8 counts of poses (we were supposed to improv our own, and I quickly asked a girl I knew to give me some pointers), then these side steps right and left, four little steps to the front, then step to the side three times quick and bring in the other leg, step the right foot forward and behind, then 1/2 turn to the left, and something called a body roll (which I could not figure out for the life of me), then bring in your right leg and jump on on leg to face front again, then this step I coluld not figure out at all, these arms movements I couldn’t remember, and then these jumps alternating legs that I could do, then 8 more counts of dreaded improv. The arms were up to us. So I looked around and it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing. I was just glad that we went over the combination enough times that at least I wasn’t going left when everyone else was going right. Safety, you know? But I definitely don’t know how to dance, and it shows. I’m ok with it, if anything because I know that it could be so much worse. Even though I don’t think what I was doing could be called dancing, I felt so in shape keeping up with all the jumping. I also think it will help me with the memorizing of combinations because since these steps don’t really have a name like every single ballet step, it’s a bigger challenge for me. And of course, if I actually get proficient in hip hop dance I’m thinking of all the awesome fusion choreographies that I could do.

Another first for this week – this one not so good – my first time being snubbed by a classmate. We were in the Int/Adv class at the barre, and this more advanced girl at the barre I was at asked a different classmate if we were using the inside leg for the second part (we weren’t), and they answered something like ‘I think so?’. I said something like ‘No, because after we do en cloche the outside leg ends up in the back’ and she didn’t reply, but asked the other person again. I repeated what I’d said (just in case she didn’t hear me?) and once again she didn’t acknowledge me at all. Rather than being upset it made me want to laugh. I mean, you must have some serious insecurity issues if you’re going to be rude for no reason to someone you don’t even know, or maybe you’re buying into the ‘prima ballerina’ attitude a little too much. Either way, it didn’t ruin my day or my class experience, but was a good reminder that there’s snotty people out there, and for me to be extra nice to the more beginner people to make up for it.


Different Styles

By this point in my ballet history, I’ve had too many ballet teachers to count. No, that’s just lazy talk – says she who takes things literal – let’s see, there’s 1 (F Teacher), 2 (S Teacher), 3 (E Teacher), 4 (Teacher; who, as my regular teacher for so long, doesn’t need an initial – but it’d probably make things less confusing at times if I’d given her one…), 5 (N Teacher, like one or two times),  6 (A Teacher), 7 (NS Teacher), 8 (R Teacher), 9 (M Teacher – who I’ve only taken for Modern, but she’s technically also a ballet teacher), 10 (G Teacher), and about 3 or 4 subs (which count for the purposes of this post but I was too lazy or unimaginative to give them  initials in a way that will help me remember who’s who).

Ok, so I’ve had around 10 ballet teachers, and about half of them have been short term. That leaves around 5 ballet/dance teachers that I’ve taken class with at least 50~ times (which can be either a year at once a week, to several months with multiple classes per week). A number I am completely arbitrarily (for the purposes of this post) deciding on as enought time to get to know each other, for them to see what my most common tendencies needing correction are, and how quickly – or not – I am able to fix such things. My weird shoulders, my tilt-y pelvis, my hyperextended knock-knees, stuff like that. While perhaps it would have been beneficial to stick with one teacher for the long term, I do believe that from every teacher I’ve taken class with I’ve walked out with something valuable – a new exercise that helped me find my rotators perfectly, a new stretch, a beautiful center combination, a helpful tip, or even just a ballet fun fact. So yea, I definitely don’t regret moving around. (That all said, I think I should specify that I’ve only tried three different schools or studios, mostly because of location and budget issues.)

Anyway, I find it really interesting how each teacher has their own way of teaching, not just the style of ballet but how they go about it. This is especially true for beginner level classes – even more when it’s basic beginner/ fundamentals / essentials / whatever the most beginner level is called. Like, what they focus on, since obviously a brand-new beginner can’t be corrected on everything all at once. Do they place the highest importance on correct alignment, keeping the class at the barre facing it until they have a better idea of it?  Musicality and artistry from the beginning, even when the basic steps are about as far from being technically precise as possible? Does everyone keep their arm out in second or the hand on hip, or are port de bras and epaulement taught from the beginning?

While at this point I enjoy the variety of the different approaches and find it helpful, as a brand new beginner I know that what I preferred was a teacher who focused on alignment and precision of technique, not flashy tricks. And while I think I’ve read  that teachers should structure the class around the more advanced students rather than the beginners (does this also apply to basic beginner level?), I think that being pushed to do something before you’re physically ready is a recipe for disaster. Like balancing on releve without the barre when the ankles keep sickle-ing, and then attempting pirouettes in center. Tangent: Pirouettes are not a basic beginner step! I used to take class with a teacher who would have us do really basic barre work (like, we didn’t even take it up to releve for our retire balance, and no port de bras were used)  and then when we went to center it was time for pirouettes and grand jetes and it sucked.

The downside of taking class with multiple teachers may be when they each tell you a different thing and contradictions arise. I don’t mean the difference between where to place the toes when doing coupe, or the names of port de bras depending on which school it is, things that are both correct though different. I mean when…well, when you get asked to do something that could really hurt you, and you consult with a trusted teacher and they tell you that you were in the right. I don’t think a dance teacher would deliberately try to hurt anyone, but sometimes unfamiliarity with a student’s tendencies or limitations may be an issue? As by now I’m somewhat trained in the body (since first beginning ballet I’ve taken courses in kinesiology and human anatomy, aside from my ballet and pilates training) and have an idea of what’s normal, I know to take care of my body. That still doesn’t erase the awkwardness of being in a class and not doing the thing you were asked to do though, at least for me. I mean, really, talk about awkward! Am I supposed to say “I’m not going to do that, and I’ve asked Miss So-and-so, and she said I’m right?”, or “Miss So-and-so said what you’re asking me to do is dangerous?”, or something along those lines? That seems disrespectful and rude. So is the only other option avoidance? I hope not but it does appear to be a delicate situation.

Perhaps the reason some teachers prefer for students to stay with the same teacher is so they don’t make a habit of asking for a second opinion. Or perhaps it’s traditional to only learn from one teacher. But I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from so many people to get a more complete picture.