Monthly Archives: December 2016

2016 – My Year In Review

Wow, what a year! Perhaps not the best ever for me, but it’s up there. Definitely the best since I started ballet, thought there were some rough patches. Contrasts – it wouldn’t be good without the bad, beauty without the  beast the ugly. But altogether, I am content, I am happy.

Looking back over my last two Year Review posts (something about the end of the year puts me in a reminiscing kind of mood), I almost feel like I have nothing new to say.  In 2014 I started ballet-blogging, and even though I’d been doing ballet for  a year then, it was around then when it had started to make sense, rather than just being repetition for strength building sake. 2015 was the year that I went from 2 – maybe, rarely, 3 – classes a week to 5 or 6 and showed much improvement. It was also my first time perfoming, my first year having lots of fun dancing instead of just trying to stay on my feet. Compared to that, it seems like now it’s just more of the same.

Wait, I did just get those pointe shoes last week…like I said, it’s like I almost don’t have anything new to say…(oh my gosh, I love my new shoes so much!!!)…let’s see what this year will hold, but I will say that the last couple of weeks have been fun.

Anyway, this year I did two different “official” shows with my school, as well as more than a handful (seven, to be exact) of performances for the class (which don’t count as a show to me, but they’re an excellent opportunity to get a video). Of those, 4 were choreographed by me, of the others 2 were based on existing choreographies on youtube and one was a collaboration.

I started hip hop dance, and discovered that I am absolutely terrible at it. As terrible as when I started ballet (except that at least I’m not falling over constantly), and while it was awkward, I had lots of fun. Still dreaming about making that fusion choreography – maybe this next year (ok, perhaps that’s too ambitious, even for me, but hey, sometimes you really do got to dream big and be surprised.)

In ballet class, I continued to work on my technique, as well as my artistry (oh gosh, that almost sounds so pompous… like I’m taking myself too seriously… next I’ll be saying I’m an artist). While I’ve learned to keep my head up, I continue to struggle with what my teachers call my “external focus” – apparently I have a tendency to go into my own head instead of focusing on something there in the room. This will be something that I will continue to work on this coming year. I’m not expecting it to be easy, but I have a feeling that my troubles with spotting are related to this, so if I ever want to have any hope of multiple turns (and not just by using excessive force) I better get on that.

Speaking of multiple turns, this year I did my first double pirouette n dehors. Sadly, although I did more than one that day, it was an isolated incident. Refer to spotting issue mentioned above…

I have steadily been improving though. My balances on releve on one foot have gotten longer and more frequent, My jumps off one leg have become  more powerful. I keep up more and more in petit allegro (until we get to those sissones en croix, then I lose it). And the promenade in attitude with allonge up to releve – possibly the step I struggled with the most last year – finally became a reality (in fact, developpe devant, cloche to attitude derriere, promenade in attitude, allonge in releve has become one of my go-to sequences.

On the not-so-improved side of things, my beated jumps still don’t have much of a beat to them. And then, there was that time when I quit ballet for a couple weeks last spring – that was definitely the low point of the year for me.

My skill level has gotten to the point that I can pinpoint what I’m doing wrong, and how to fix it (at least in theory; whether I can actually fix it in practice with my current strength level is another story). But I keep working on it – like I’ve said before, I believe in practice, repetition, and muscle memory. Just to clarify though, I don’t simply practice for the sake of improving, but because dancing (paricularly ballet, since I am a mess in all other styles of dance I’ve tried) makes me feel so alive. Why wouldn’t I want to do it all the time? As someone who’s not, who never has been a “talented” person in life, I feel like there’s finally something that I can be proud of, something that I’ve poured my effort, my heart, my soul into and gotten results. Sure, I’m not “good” compared  to a pro, (or a pre-pro)  but I’m good for myself, and that’s enough for me.

On the not-dance-but-still-movement side of things, this year I became a certified Pilates instructor. While my passion remains ballet, pilates has been such a huge help in this process; without pilates I would never have come this far. So I hope to share some of my enthusiasm for both of these things in the coming year.

So, sending off the year – and looking forward to the new one – with a lovely picture taken by my little sis.

Ballet pose and a bright blue sky - my kind of day

Ballet pose and a bright blue sky – my kind of day

(I will choose to ignore that not-so-turned-out working leg and instead focus on my back, haha)

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Super Short Update: Practicing & Pointe

As my regular school’s still on break until Monday, I continued to practice at home with the help of the friendly internet. For barre I alternated between Kathryn Morgan’s Barre For Balance And Core and Pointe Barre videos (not on pointe). For center, I did the Easy Center and Classic Center videos by Kathryn, as well as a new video I discovered, Strength Building Center Pointe Combos (also not on pointe) by Ballerinas By Night, which I like because it had lots of echappes and sous-sus. Also, since I’ve done some of these videos so many times that I have memorized the combinations, I like to use the music to make some of my own combinations up and do them.

As for pointe, I’d be lying if I said that I was able to stay away from them once  they were finally sewed correctly. So I’ve been doing some barre work, eleves and releves, and the exercises I’ve seen on videos (like rolling through the feet and tendu, point, and push over the box) and … well, I love it. I am so surprised because before I tried it I had no idea I’d feel this way. I discovered how to tape my toes to reduce the curling tendency of my longest, second toe and while I wouldn’t say it’s comfortable, it’s quite bearable. Of course, that’s on two feet – on just one it’s more difficult (obviously). Which reminds me, I should start doing 1 footed eleves with no barre (without the pointe shoes) for additional strength. Speaking of strength, ever since I started working with the shoes my demi-point balances feel so much stronger, like now I’m really  getting up over my first and second toes and my ankles are aligned better than before. It even looks like I can point my feet more!

While I’ve been having a blast with ballet by myself, I am missing the class environment. In particular I miss grand allegro-type combinations, since I don’t have that kind of room to work with at home. I found a playground to do a tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete and saute arabesque, saute coupe, but it’s just not the same…

Finding A Balance…

To change one’s mind is to grow – I heard that once, and hope that to “grow” implies to change towards the better…not talking about negative growth, or worse, some kind of exponential decay…

I consider myself a complicated person, and what makes me tick is complex. Things such as following tradition blindly, because it’s “the next step”, because everyone’s doing it – or wants to do it – or “because it’s pretty” alone are not what makes me spring into action at my wise(r) (not-so)-old age. In  fact, sometimes these things have the effect of creating  resistance, as I instinctivly clutch to my individuality  – sometimes to my detriment. I wonder, what would have motivated me? Perhaps If somone would have told me that it feels like you’re about to levitate, just take off in flight.

What on earth am I blabbing about? Well, um… I guess what I’m trying to say is… I sort of went en pointe.

I know, I know,, I said I was not going to go for it, and I sincerely meant it. I could have listed off any number of reasons why not: it was not even one of my goals when I started ballet; I’m not a pre-professional student; they’re so expensive (especially if I went to the dance store everyone recommends); it’s an ongoing commitment; it’s a pretty big risk considering I may not even be able to get up on pointe physically; my second toe is my longest, and tends to curl; if I fail (meaning not able to even go up) it’ll be so wasteful (both money and a sad pair of usused shoes sitting there); the list went on and on. I told myself that since it wasn’t like it had been a life long aspiration, I just wouldn’t bother with it… but I’m not gonna lie, the curiosity remained. (For the record, I was okayed for pointe by a teacher over a year ago, and I’ve been taking classes at the same frequency or more since then, so no worries about not being physically ready.)

But then, a friend let me try on her used shoes. The curiosity had been gnawing at me for some time by this point, and there was no way I was going to pass that chance up! So I slid them on, faced the wall, got into first position, and pushed up into a releve… and kept pushing… higher and higher. I didn’t get over the box, I don’t think, but that feeling of being suspended up higher than ever before as I pushed, I coudn’t stop thinking about it. I obsessed over the next time I would get to try her shoes, decided that next time – hopefully there would be a next time! – I would go for a balance. The first time I had been so excited that I forgot to even try for a balance.

Waiting was agony. I continued to replay the feeling in my head. My resolve to not go for my very own pair weakened. I realized that if I’m just going to be obsessing over it in my head without giving it a chance, well, that was just going to set me up to be miserable and bitter.  Obsessing over whether I should or not and the implications was turning into one huge waste of energy! Something I struggle with immensely in life is moderation, and not knowing when to stop – it can manifest as either perfectionism or an addictive personality. It can be such a problem that I often err on the side of abstaining (‘perfect abstinence is easier than perfect moderation’, a quote that I wouldn’t say I live by, but refer to often – it’s saved my life. Without it, I would not have ever even found dance. I remember life before and it was a dark place of hopeless despair) to simplify things. But I have to understand that if I do this once, my head – or reality – will not implode. If I make this somewhat selfish decision (selfish because there are other financial obligations that we have, and I can’t put this one into the category of “needs”) my life will not turn into a rampant orgy of mindless consumerism. If I decide to go for this, it will be a true test of my commitment to…everything. (Don’t expect this to make sense to anyone, lol. Why can’t a purchase of shoes just be a purchase of shoes?! yeah, yeah…)

I figured out ways to tell myself that it will be ok. I’ll try to get cheap (relatively speaking) shoes, I’ll be extra careful during the fitting to make sure I’m getting a pair that I can tolerate (I realize trying them on and doing a few releves may not compare to using them regularly – or it might since I’m planning on sticking to barrework for now, and for a while) and not let the salesperson bully me into the wrong pair. I’ll take good care of them, let them dry out between uses. I’ll go at my own pace, not have any unrealistic goals or expectations. I did some research, much that I still remembered from back before I’d decided this wasn’t even an option.

So Boyfriend Husband said ‘let’s go get you those shoes right now’! And by total coincidence I ran across this coupon I had to a dance store, so that about settled it.  Once at the dance store, I headed over to the floor display of shoes, grabbed some that looked big enough, and was in the process of trying on the second option (the first was much too big, the profile was too high), when a salesperson came over. I explained that it was my first pair ever, and hopefully showed that I knew what I was doing by discussing things such as the profile of the shoe and width of the platform (research!). He brought out different pairs of shoes for me to try, and I went up to the little barre to try them out.

As it happened, the second shoe I tried (Freed, didn’t get the model) fit great, but since my feet are apparently almost a whole size in discrepancy from each other (of course something like this would happen, like it’s not bad enough my second toes are the longest) it would have meant buying two different pairs. I don’t know why my mismatched feet mattered so much with the Freeds compared to the other shoes I tried. All I know is that with these the larger pair fit my left foot perfectly, but was falling off my right, and the smaller pair fit my right, but I just could not get my left foot into it (it was a total cinderella stepsister moment). With the other pairs of shoes I tried, the difference between the feet felt more subtle,

Speaking of which, what else did I try? Immediately after the Freeds I tried this horrible pair with a narrowd platform that felt slippery like rollerskates (didn’t catch the name, just wanted them off!), then several models of Blochs (including the ones I ended up getting, the European Balance), and then, per my request, Gaynor-Mindens. When I first came to the decision of getting point shoes, I strongly considered GM’s because of the durability of the shank. However, I was skeptical from the beginning, because I know one of my favorite – and trusted – teachers is not in favor of beginners/first timers starting pointe in these shoes, and I’d heard that they sort of “prop” you up on pointe. Whether this is true or not I didn’t get to find out because as soon as attempted to put  on the first pair my feet were like ‘No! These are not the right shoes!’, it was that much of a reaction. So the guy brought me a second, slightly bigger pair so I could at least walk over to the barre and try them. So I did, but they were still really uncomfortable and they hurt. I mean, i realize this is not supposed to be comfortable, but since I knew how the other pairs of shoes felt I didn’t want to settle for more pain than necessary. So I got the Blochs, since getting two different sized pairs of Freeds to match the mismatched feet would have been unthinkable…now I’m wishing I wrote down the model in case – if these Blochs are worn until shoe-death, of course – I do stick with this long enough to feel like I’ll use both shoes of each pair. And sometimes the dance store runs buy-one-get-one-half-off sales…far off in the future, of course.

The shoes!

The shoes!

 

To keep costs down (yes, we got the Ouch Pouch – an additional $20), I decided I would reuse the elastics from an old pair of ballet slippers. Now, as for the ribbons, I kind of ran into a problem. We hit up the fabric store and not only is nylon thread extremely hard to find, but all the ribbons were the wrong color. So much selection, so many colors and not one of them was close to ballet pink. Don’t want to use the “c” word here, but it seems really odd to me that the only way to get ribbons that color is through a dance store (or online, but still, through a dance brand). Well, what am I going to do? Use what I found!

Sewing the ribbons was not fun. I don’t care how much the irritating lady in the video chirped on about it being a rite of passage, and blah blah, I just wanted to get them ready to wear. Still, it took m over two hours to get them sewed.

Pinki really wanted to help...

Pinki really wanted to help…

So that was my story of how I came to find myself on pointe. For what it’s worth, I will say that I don’t regret this. Just doing slow eleves in parallel and first at the barre is amusing me for now. As this is all uncharted territory, I don’t have any goals yet; I know it may be a very long time, if ever, before I can actually dance in them. It’s weird, but I don’t see it as the ‘next step’ in ballet so much as a different, but related, hobby. I’m still very enthusiastic about dancing on flat shoes, while at the same time I’m enjoying the feeling of just pressing up onto pointe. And holding yourself up there, every muscle engaged – it’s such a workout! At a minimum, I’ll get stronger and my releves on flat slippers should improve.

With a tube sock over the shoes to keep them clean

With a tube sock over the shoes to keep them clean

 

Break, Return, Comparing Videos, And A Ballet Movie

Here’s a fun fact: I haven’t taken an actual ballet class going on two weeks. Most of this is owing to the fact that my school – and possibly every school in the surrounding area – is on break until next year. But you know me; I’ve never let that stop me, and school breaks are usually a time to work on my own on the things that are too fast-paced during class (like double frappes, coordinating quick legs with slow arms, and all those other things which make no sense at first in normal-time). But for most of this break, I’ve been resting up, taking it easy. By the end of this past session my body was in serious need of some recovery time. My logical-practical side said to rest, my artistic-illogical side wanted to ballet some more. Being a baby about pain – or the possibility of pain – logic won out, for a bit…

Today, though, I took myself back to the barre. Just my home barre, with Kathryn Morgan’s Easy Ballet Barre on youtube, but it felt so good to dance again. I had to follow it up with the Easy Center video. Depending on how I’m feeling tomorrow will decide if I stay with the Easy videos for the next week or so or go straight into the Classic barre and other more intermediate-level barre and center videos. Even though I’ve been keeping up my strength by doing pilates, my overall stamina has already taken a dip. I’d hate to see how fast it all goes away if I did nothing at all. Same for my flexibility – I felt so stiff, even though I have been still doing some form of stretching, like the aforementioned pilates and the very occasional yoga (don’t get me started on my guilt for pretty much abandoning yoga again…).

I just can’t get over how wonderful it felt to just dance though! And since I hadn’t worked on these particular combinations since the last time I was on break almost 5 months ago, I was surprised to see that they remained in muscle memory, but not only that, I’ve improved since then.  My home studio/kitchen’s crappy floor, however, has not improved. I’d love to have a place to regularly practice when the school’s practice room is unavailable or on breaks, but for now I’ll just be glad that I at least have the practice space I do have.

***

Something cool that came out of the end of the session was some informal performance opportunities. What I especially like about informal performances is the chance to get a video to show my non-dancer friends and family (who will then be totally impressed by the simple fact that this grown up got through an entire dance routine without falling on her derriere and know nothing of techinique), as well as for me to scrutinize. For what it’s worth, Boyfriend seemed captivated by the video, saying I was “very graceful” (!) so perhaps this means my dancing’s ok? My family will be rather amused when they watch it.

I think that video is one of the most useful tools available to gage my progress as a dancer. The obvious reason would be that it provides an objective “memory” of where my dancing skill was around that time. Take for instance, around two years ago; I thought I was getting much better at ballet because I was past the falling over at every instant phase, but I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. Now, watching the videos from back then it’s so easy for me to see what was wrong (where to begin!), but at the same time so hard to describe. And very hard to teach, since verbally I mostly respond to anatomical corrections, and there’s more to it than that. I think in the end, the learning method that worked for me was to watch the advanced people, and get the nerve to copy them without being told.

I watch the videos ot only to see the numerous mistakes made, but also  the things I did right. And I guess what it comes down to is, which stick out more to me – will I focus on the failures or successes? While that may feel like a rhetorical question, it is one I ask myself often. It may seem like I don’t have very many successes – at this point in my ballet story I barely have a single pirouette (on a good day), and my technique, once we speed it up, is at times quite sloppy – but I’ll consider the fact that I’m still dancing a success. I love dancing so much, and for the first few years of dancing it definitely didn’t love me back. Perhaps it still doesn’t, but by now I don’t care because I have enough love for both of us… or something like that.

Having new videos made me decide to go back and review all my past videos of performances or rehearsals, to compare as much as to reminisce. It’s been such a fun journey! From back when I knew what I wanted to dance but there was no way I could physically pull it off to now when I still know what I want to do, even if I still can’t do it. But there’s also so much that I can do, and my ballet vocabulary has grown so much.

When I first started ballet, my expectations for myself were low. I mean, I couldn’t hold my balance, so there was no need for far off goals when something simple would be a challenging goal in itself. I dreamed of the day when I’d been able to do more steps without falling over, but I also dreamed of the day when I would feel comfortable in class. I didn’t know which of these things would come first, but there was nothing to do but continue to practice. That continues to be my strategy – just practice. I’m not delusional enough to think that I have “talent” (not sure I even believe in the concept of talent, just a premature maturity/ intelligence, and a physical facility) but I know that I do believe in repetition and dedication, and the unexpected results.

***

Browsing Netflix , I came across a newish dance movie High Strung, another of those ballet/hip-hop fusion movies, this one with the added twist of an amazing violinist on the run from the law. Since I’m always on the look out for a new dance flick, I settled in to watch and it was very entertaining and action-packed.

I found the main character, Ruby, relateable in her struggles with picking up Contemporary (not-so-relateable in that she’s an amazing dancer who can also whack her head with her leg like it’s nothing). There was the stereotypical mean bunhead character, and the dancer who has so much “talent” but can’t be bothered to go to class and would rather stay out all night (ugh, I hate this concept in movies! I feel like it promotes the idea of someone putting in no effort and still coming out on top). Pretty standard dance movie/ tv series, except for the addition of the violinist who plays for tips by the subway tracks and hangs out with a hip hop crew. The dance and music sequences were great, including several battle scenes, both dance battles and violin playing battles. Writing about it is making me want to go watch it again!

Mini-Review: Dance Paws and Capezio Ultra Soft Tights

I’m gonna do a 2-in-1, because if I wait to write these mini-reviews separately it probably won’t get done…

Anyways.

Dance Paws, in the package

Dance Paws, in the package

First up, Dance Paws. These are my first pair of Modern dance “shoes”, or as it says in the package “protection for the bare foot”. While I made it through a year of beginner modern without anything like this, I did notice toward the end of my second session that there was just no way for me to turn more than a half turn in my bare feet since my feet stick to the floor. I tend to have very ‘gummy’ skin, and even if I build up a callus it almost immediately peels off before it gets thick enough. (And I’ve seen, backstage, the aftermath of someone’s callus cracking  *insert horrified face*). As I tend to be resistant of buying new stuff unless I absoutely need it (‘need’ being subjective, since obviously I’m not going to be eating them or living in them…), I made it through the modern classes just doing half turns and dealing with it. But for our performances there was going to be quite a bit of barefoot turning, and the least fun place for a meniscus tear would be on stage in the theater in front of everybody, so off to the dance store I went. I filed it under the ‘cheaper than knee surgery’ category…

That said, these are not cheap! Although they utilize much less material than ballet slippers, they cost over twice as much. Craziness! Especially because they look really simple, like the kind of thing anyone with a sewing machine can whip up in a half-hour, tops. Just a little bit of meshy material, elastic, and a suede (or imitation suede) sole.

Top view, bottom view

Top view, bottom view

Did they work? Yes, much better than I expected. I tried them on in the dance store, but it’s not the same. I tried balancing up on releve a few times, but you can’t really dance around at the store. And since it was cold in our rehearsal room, too cold for me to go barefoot, I didn’t get to  actually start dancing in these until our last dress rehersal already at the theater (which was surprisingly warmer than the studio). And once we started, I didn’t notice them at all. Since I find split-sole ballet slippers to be uncomfortable, I’d been worried that these would feel the same way, but they don’t, they’re much more comfortable. The sole doesn’t get in my way for balancing at all, my turns went well, everything was fine. So yes I would recommend these, though I don’t know how the other brands of modern shoes out on the market compare. (Since trying them on entails sticking your bare toes through the little toe holes, i don’t know if these are a case of you-try-it-you-buy-it. Seems pretty unsanitary otherwise…)

***

Capezio Ultra Soft tights

Capezio Ultra Soft tights

Next up, Capezio Ultra Soft tights. These were a recommendation from one of you readers about a year ago, when I asked about tights that were more durable and didn’t run after one wear (like those awful Theatrical brand tights…). Of the ones recommended, these were the only ones I found at the local dance store so I picked them up back then, but I’d been waiting until I needed a new pair (like a performance) to finally wear them.

In short, I love them! Right out of the package they felt much thicker than pretty much every other brand of tights I’ve tried (that would include Bloch, Theatricals, Body Wrappers, Natalie Dancewear). They fit pretty snug, and I got the size L/XL, so that’s one potential downside (not for me personally – a snug fit makes me feel like a superhero!). While being snug as far as the circumference of the legs (and I’ve posted my leg measurements before in my knee pad post – my legs are not on the larger side at all compared to regular people, apparantly huge in dancer terms), there is plenty of room as far as length, so perhaps sizing is based more on length? I was just glad I followed the height-weight chart in the back and didn’t try to squeeze into the S/M. I got the footed tights, but it’s possible the different styles have  different fit, so if i ever try out one of the other styles I’ll have to remember to update this.

As for the color, these are really pink. I know all pink tights start out life as the pinkest they’ll ever be, and gradually begin the process towards gray, but these did seem even more pink than my last new pair of pink tights (Theatricals). It’s a nice pink though, just a little startling at first.

Don’t believe me? Here’s some photographic evidence:

Clockwise from R: Capezio pink tights (new), Theatricals pink tights (new-ish, Theatrical and BodyWrappers Tights (very used)

Clockwise from R: Capezio pink tights (new), Theatricals pink tights (new-ish, Theatrical and BodyWrappers Tights (very used), feline friend

The Theatrical tights in the center are a pair that I had been saving since our performance last June and barely started wearing recently, so the color has not faded yet. I included the very used tights in the picture to show how grayish the pink tights get after lots of wears and washes. As youu can see, the pink of the Capezio tights is much more vibrant. If the color lasts through washes then these will be the perfect tights! However, I’m planning on putting them away for a  while and just wearing my older tights to class in the meantime in case I need new-looking tights for another performance.

And, just for fun, a ballet slipper comparison picture, featuring another feline friend.

image

When they said “clean the floor with your shoes” for tendus they weren’t kidding…

There was just no way I could get those shoes clean without accidentally scraping pieces off them!

A Different Class And Some Performing

Been neglecting this blog again… just been so busy and… yeah… I guess I’ll discuss my week a little now.

I went to a different class, Beginner level, that I hadn’t been to, but with a teacher I have taken many times before (I hadn’t taken her class in a bit because of scheduling conflicts and I really miss it). Besides getting a great correction about not throwing my weight back while doing pirouettes – which is a bad turning habit I have in general – I came out of it having had a pretty awesome time.

So much so, that I started to wonder why was it that I had so much fun… There’s the obvious reason: it’s a beginner level class! While I love my Intermediate level classes, beginner class is that time when it seems like maybe I might actually be doing it… somewhere close to good? Which makes me feel weird saying it, like in a how-dare-I-say-I-did-good-in-ballet kind of way, and that really sucks. But anyway, getting past that, I love taking beginner class – the barre exercises are manageable enough that I can focus on all the little details (which results in me possibly working even harder and sweating like crazy), and in center petit allegro is actually doable (changement, echappe, changement, echappe, soubresaut x2, pas de chat, changement, reverse). I can go in the faster group! Good times!

But the thing is, besides my Intermediate classes, I already am taking a beginner class a couple times a week – I got to thinking, why am I not having the same happy, fun experience there? (And this is by no means a commentary on either of these teachers, they’re both great.) I realized it’s a classmate issue – a mixture of different attitudes leads to a completely different class experience.

At this point I feel like I should mention that I’m not a jerk – hopefully at all times, but definitely in ballet class. As this was not my regular class, I didn’t go in there with an attitude (not that I usually do);I went in there fully conscious that it was a beginner class and maybe, just maybe, the people who regularly take the class would feel threatened by someone who was slightly more intermediate-beginner than them showing up and acting like they’re some kind of “real dancer”. I don’t do the things that I sometimes see more advanced dancers get away with – I help put the barres away; I ask the people there (if applicable) if I can stand at a place at the barre; I don’t insist in going in the first group; I don’t stare – or worse, snicker – at people who make mistakes; if asked I offer help; I’m friendly to anyone who talks to me – in short, I try to be a decent person, not a prima donna (or a wannabe prima ballerina LOL). I remember being worse at ballet than anybody else in the class, and that keeps me in the mindset that, under the wrong conditions, ballet class can be a terrifying place. I don’t want to contribute to making it scarier, more intimidating, to anybody – that’s just not what I’m about. I know some people, when they get better than the average person at something they like to hold it over them – that is not me! Ok, so I’ve moved up the ladder a little, but I don’t want to hold that over those on the lower rungs; I want to help them up. Like I’ve said before, whether this is a quality or character flaws, who knows, who cares…

That said, in the beginner class I take regularly I feel some tension.  There’s a few people who make me feel uncomfortable, I feel like they stare at me in a not-so-friendly way, sometimes make comments, and then I feel guilty for being ok at beginner level ballet combinations, and it just makes class not as fun as it could be… like it turns into a competitive vibe and I’m not interested in competing but it just seems like others are and it just feels… awkward and horrible. So I haven’t been really getting my ‘fun ballet class’ experience, unfortunately. Perhaps this is my own fault for noticing and caring… but sometimes it makes me so mad! It’s like, no I’m not doing the barre exercise facing the barre with no hands to show off, I’m doing it to get stronger and improve my balance. Argh!

***

In other news, it was peformance week, for my school’s show. For the most part it went alright, although I almost twisted an ankle during one of the performances. Thankfully, I’m strong enough that even though I stepped on it wrong, it didn’t fully roll and I was feeling much better by the next day.  This year I found myself much more nervous that last year. I’m not sure why, except that perhaps last year a part of me didn’t believe it was real, and thought that at any point I would wake up from the dream (and since I’m dreaming why be nervous?). Well, also this year we had at last one fewer dress rehersal, so that may have had something to do with it.

However, I’d also say that I had more fun performing this year (which almost makes no sense to me since last year we totally went the classical ballet route with one of my favorite ballets and this year it was more original contemporary works). Part of it comes from having slightly more experience as a dancer, and being more comfortable with the steps. At the time of the performance a year ago I’d only taken one session of intermediate level ballet and lots of things I struggled with at the time are now completely in my comfort zone (like controlling pique arabesques or super quick weight shifts into a balance).

It was fun, but in a way I’m glad it’s over? I’m still unsure about whether I want to continue in the  ‘performing arts’  (but of course I want to continue to dance, as I’ve mentioned before). At my school most of the dance as far, as performing goes, leans more towards modern than ballet. To be honest, at some point I start feeling like there’s something wrong with me for still preferring ballet to modern. i get used to hearing my classmates say that ballet is so ‘technical’ – which it is – and limiting (which I don’t think it is, but perhaps I just can’t understand what they mean by ‘limiting’) and that modern isn’t, but that doesn’t make it easy (contrary to their implications)!

It’s really frustrating because I actually find modern to be much more difficult than ballet. I get it that you don’t need as much ‘technique’, but I just find it hard. If anything, the technique aspect of ballet makes it more do-able, like I know what I’m striving for, even if I can’t do it yet. With modern I just feel lost. Like I don’t have that ‘creativity’, which then makes me feel like I’m a screw up as a dancer (and, if I may be honest, as a person – is being creative all it’s cracked up to be? Is to be creative to be human?). Maybe modern’s just easier for people who are not as hopelessly uncoordinated, shy,  and body unaware as me? Ballet, and all the codified steps – the either-it’s-right-or-it’s-not aspect – is so helpful to me, like, for the first time in my life I can dance! The fact that I love to make my own choreographies makes me feel like I am creative, but the fact that I rely on ballet steps alone makes me feel like I’m not – like I can only create out of already existing things, just rearranging, in a way. This is so confusing! I apologize for my ramblings, but as you can (possibly) tell, I’m just trying to figure things – or myself – out.

I still have a couple of performances left, but these are not in the theater, just us performing our own choreographed pieces for the class. One of them is completely done, I’ve just been working on cleaning up the details. The other ones still need work, but I’ve been so busy with the show and all the rehearsals that I haven’t had much time. So that’s what I’ll be working on for the next week or so. After that, a well-deserved break, and then we’ll see.