Some Ramblings

A variety of topics…

Lately  I’ve been continuing to focus on finding and exploring that balance between dance and life, between dreaming about ballet and focusing on the bigger picture. Since my last post I have confirmed that I love dancing, having spent a good amount of time dancing by myself, working on my own choreographies, and just enjoying myself. My foot has finally been feeling back to normal, so I was able to do more actual dancing during class instead of just marking anything harder than tendus and adagio in center. I even started jumping again, in the studio with the sprung floor.

I thought I’d write about something that I have been puzzling over for a bit this past week. After rehearsals, one of my teachers said to me that I need to have more confidence, that I need to “be proud of it” (exact words), if that makes sense. I explained that if I’m worried about losing my balance while doing that particular step, then I’m not feeling very confident, and thus, not feeling very proud. I also made sure to mention that while doing steps that I’m more familiar with I have become more confident as time goes by. He replied something about how the confidence should come first, not be a result of the familiarity with the step. Whaaaa…?

This is a rather odd concept to me, but appears to be an extension of the Fake It Till U Make It sentiment I briefly touched upon on a previous post. Let’s just say I struggle with this concept immensely (although I have managed some basic levels of “faking”confidence, such as holding my head up high and keeping my shoulders up and back, all thanks to pilates). When it’s codified ballet steps, especially beginner level steps, it’s no problem by this point. I may be terrified on the inside, or having a bad anxiety day, or something, but I’ll still hold my posture and not give into my tendency to shrink. But when it’s new-to-me steps, especially more contemporary stuff that really tries my balance in new (and terrifying) ways, I guess my inner lack of confidence bubbles to the surface…

What will I do about this? The obvious answer to me is to practice the troublesome steps more, since I did make the commitment to do the school performance (and then once this commitment is past I will cut down a little on my dance classes and practices – or not. Like I said before, I’m still trying to figure it out, so I will go by what feels right and always be mindful of my motivations). Do I believe in this teacher’s approach – confidence before familiarity? Honestly, no, not at this time. Perhaps when I’ve been dancing for longer – and the memories of falling over in center have been forgotten – then it will be a different story. As it is, I don’t know if those memories will be forgotten – I didn’t start out at a comparable level to my classmates in Beginner ballet class, but as the worst dancer in the room, not just lacking technical skill but also balance and coordination. It’s not hard for me to remember what a mess I was, actually, because my dancing in ballet class back then was worse than my current ability – or lack thereof – at hip hop dance class. So I have a nice reminder twice a week that the only way I improve at dance is if I really work hard.

This ties in to something else I wanted to discuss: there are few things I find as aggravating as someone presuming to know more about me than me (meaning where I came from/where I started from, how incredibly difficult even simple things were).  And it can be very frustrating – not to mention annoying – when I’m struggling with something and feel that I’m not allowed to express this. Many  of the people I’m around in dance classes subscribe to the idea that “you can do anything!” and that if you don’t believe this you’re “being negative”. Perhaps it started out with good intentions – I mean I really want to believe it started with good intentions – but I feel it ends up veering into blaming people for not trying hard enough, for “not wanting it enough”. Clearly anyone can see that with our different bodies, strengths and weaknesses, different steps or moves may prove to be more difficult to some of us? I mean, if the average ballet student in my class back when I first started in Beginner was able to hold a releve balance on two feet (if only for a few seconds) during their first class, but it took me over a year to do this, then obviously we did not start from the same place. It would be ridiculous for me to expect the same progress in the same amount of time, but I feel like it is a very unpopular thing to admit. It seems to me that “you’re being negative” is code for “you’re saying things that contradict my world view, and I chose to take it personal”. Or perhaps that’s why I’m not “confident” , because I don’t expect the unlikely outcome to magically occur without putting in the work … and the time. How does saying “I CAN do this!” and then falling out of it make me more “positive” than admitting “I can’t do this YET?”. (Or maybe I’m showing my age again, since it seems to be mostly the young’uns that feel this way…)

At this point I’d like to interrrupt this admittedly whiny post by saying that despite all my grievances things have actually been going well in life. I have made a friend! I’ve mentioned before how difficult it is for me to make friends, so that explains what a big deal this is. Previously I’d made a couple of ballet friends, who I enjoy talking with about ballet-related things before and after class, but it was still somehow superficial – if specialized- small-talk. But with this new friend (who has been an acquaintance for about a year, but we’ve been interacting more lately) who is also a dancer, but more into Modern than ballet, I’ve been having real conversations – sharing hopes, ideas, dreams, fears, beliefs. Conversations with substance, getting deep, which as an introvert I crave and enjoy immensely.

Among many other things, I’ve discussed ballet with her, and since she’s not completely passionate about ballet I’m able to hear a more levelheaded – and openminded – point of view than I sometimes get from my ballet friends.  She’s actually the first person (besides Boyfriend) with whom I’ve discussed in depth my choice to not pursue going en pointe as a goal. This is something else that I’ve felt that I can’t talk about with anyone – even on here, sadly, although this should be a safe place for me to express my ideas – because it’s so different from everyone else’s point (obviously, no pun intended) of view, and I’m really bad at making controversial statements. But going over it with my friend has helped me feel more secure in my decision – since I’m not pursuing a professional dance career, there is nothing wrong with me enjoying ballet in flat slippers. For a while now, I’ve had this worry that since my goal is not to get en pointe then I can’t refer to what I’m doing as “ballet” (not that everyone who does ballet recreationally IS en pointe, of course, but from the ladies who are not all I ever hear is that it is their dream and number one goal. For full disclosure, I feel I have to admit that one of my goals – which I can check off – has been to be strong enough to be allowed to do it, even if I choose not to). Perhaps instead of “ballet” I should refer to it as “flat-llet”?

Then again, I’m a big fan of ‘never say never’, so I’m not saying it will never happen. I’m just saying that with the way things currently are it is not my goal. Who knows what the future holds?

11 thoughts on “Some Ramblings

  1. Holly

    I totally get you on the pointe thing -I’m 17 and my feet / ankles are pretty good, so it makes sense that I’d do pointe sometime soon, but I’m just not interested, for an array of reasons. When an old friend of mine took her first ballet class, she couldn’t stop gushing about how excited she was to try pointe one day. Despite my undying love for ballet, I have never been able to share her enthuasiusm. All that pain, all that money, not to mention the difficulty! It has never a ‘big goal’ of mine…

    1. kit Post author

      Yeah, I know what you mean. Pretty much everyone I know in real life who does ballet goes on about how they can’t wait to get their *first* pair of pointe shoes (which is something I always have to explain when talking about it to a non-ballet person – that it’s not just a pair and you’re set, but an ongoing, possibly very frustrating (and expensive!) commitment.) And even though all this while I have been feeling like I’m weird for not accepting “But they’re so pretty!” as a valid counterargument against my reservations, I think there’s more to (recreational) ballet than going en pointe.

      1. Holly

        “But they’re so pretty!” Why is that an answer to everything? ‘Why don’t you want to be in the performance? You can wear a tutu! You’ll look so pretty!’ Like…?? Ballet has only ever appealed to me because it’s so difficult, not because it’s pretty.

      2. kit Post author

        THANK YOU!!!
        No, seriously, I am 100% right there with you – why IS ‘it’s pretty’ an answer to everything?! What attracted me to ballet was definitely the challenge, not the possibility of wearing a tutu (but I did enjoy myself when wearing one for the school show).

  2. Trippmadam

    Haha, I was on pointe when I was eleven, and I hated every single minute. (In my school, pointe was mandatory once you reached a certain level.) I gave up after one year and never went back.

    1. kit Post author

      I’m glad that as an adult dancer pointe is not mandatory after a certain level (although from hearing some of my classmates, you’d think it was…). I would continue to take only Beginner level classes if it were (and if I were allowed to, I suppose?).
      Your comment reminds me of the last time I was at the dance store. A saleslady was doing a pointe shoe fitting for a young girl’s first pair and she went into this rather intimidating lecture about how this is it, all you’ve worked hard for, and this is the point when you will decide if you will work hard or quit. I was thinking ‘this is not much for a pep talk, poor girl!’.
      If you don’t mind sharing, what were some of the reasons you hated it? And when you say you never went back, do you mean to pointe work or ballet in general (since pointe was mandatory, or at another school)?

      1. Trippmadam

        It hurt, and I thought it was boring. I’d rather practised jumps with the boys. I had (and still have) strong feet, but weak ankles, and weak ankles apparently do not help with pointe work, I went back to ballet class when I was 15 or 16, I think. My geography teacher was a former ballet dancer, and my school offered free ballet classes. Those classes I loved. Later, as a university student I fell in love with flamenco, and that was the end of my not so brilliant ballet career.

  3. Kaija

    I am 100% with you on the disgust with the “you just need to *BELIEVE IT*/be positive/try hard!” attitude about stuff that in reality just takes heaps of time and many repetitions to build very specific strength and skill. To me, it reeks of the pop culture phenomenon of “The Secret” or “Law of Attraction” mumbo-jumbo that tells people that whatever obstacles or needs that exist in their lives, they just need to “send a request out to the Universe” and the answer will “manifest itself”. In other words, the old “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” in new packaging. Silly beliefs that one chooses for oneself is fine, but when I hear/see people trying to scold people for things WAY out of their control…like major illness, injury, relationship breakup, family troubles, job loss, etc. by telling them that they just need to “be more positive”, I see it as a form of victim-blaming (“it’s your own fault…if you truly believed/tried hard it enough, it would get better”).

    I also can empathize with the feeling of falling out of love with ballet after a period of intense focus. I find it hard to strike the right balance between focus/dedication and enough remove to avoid obsession 🙂 Thanks for writing about it so honestly and so eloquently!

    1. kit Post author

      I hear what you’re saying, and yes, I really hate it when people use the concept of Law of Attraction or The Secret against others, because yes, it is totally victim blaming. Not to mention cruel – when someone’s hurting, the last thing they need is someone getting in their face and telling them it’s all their own fault. What does that accomplish?
      I am a little strange in my beliefs myself (just a little…), and I don’t think having a positive attitude about an existing situation ever hurt, but to think that something could be resolved by attitude *alone* and no actions is ridiculous to me. I believe that where we are in life at the moment is a combination of the sum of all our past choices (however ill-informed, ignorant, or immature) and some things that we just simply had no control over. Example: perhaps the reason I was so terrible at ballet to start with was because my whole childhood and much of my aduthood I made the choices to not exercise and be a couch potato so I was in horrible shape. But I couldn’t help the fact that I was born into a family with, quite frankly, a very unhealthy lifestyle, not much economic means, and during an era when there was no internet at my fingertips to learn that it could be any different. I can chose to be upset over my past life circumstances (which I would consider having a negative attitude), or choose to not fixate on them and keep going (which I would consider a positive attitude), but that doesn’t change the fact that they *happened*. Acknowledging that fact is being realistic.
      What we do with what we have is up to us (with the caveat of possibly being ill-informed, ignorant, or immature at the time of making the choice), but to not acknowledge that we all don’t have the same “things” at that point is irritating, and just a bit insulting. And seriously, if I had a negative attitude how would I have made it through ballet for this long?
      For what it’s worth, whenever someone comes at me with the whole “anything you believe you can do, you can” thing, I always reply that there are limits. If they persist, I say something smart like “ok, prove it – fly!” or “walk thru a wall!”Not the most mature way to handle it, but yea…

      1. Kaija

        I like your response…I may have to borrow it 🙂

        I also agree that different people start with a different collection of strengths and weaknesses and that so many things (previous experience/musical training/physical activities/body awareness/etc.) impact how an individual student progresses. The path and rate is different for everyone, so comparison or trying to set standards is pretty difficult, *especially* for adults who are not the more malleable “blank slate” that children are. I kind of like that adult ballet is sort of an endless journey without a timeline or a set progression. For me, it is soothing to know that I can plan ahead or strive for the next milestone…I just need to put in the work, enjoy the process, and be curious as to how it unfolds in front of me. 🙂

      2. kit Post author

        Feel free to borrow any responses! 🙂
        I do have to say though, in my case even as a very young child I was quite clumsy and uncoordinated, so I still wouldn’t have made an acceptable “blank slate”… It helps to remember that whenever I start to get regrets about not starting young.

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