Monthly Archives: January 2017

Conquering The Fear… Sort Of

I think I can tentatively say that this past week was much better…

After last week’s (admittedly whiny) post, I gathered myself together, took myself to my home barre and decided to face some of my fears head on. I mean, there’s things that are not in my control but the least I can do is practice, right? As I’d mentioned, I was afraid of being completely off the barre for pointe work, specifically quick   releves and echappes to second. So, after a warm up barre in slippers I put on my pointe shoes and started to go through my eleves, releves and echappes at the barre, at first with my hands resting on it, then with just a finger resting on it. Then I forced myself to step back from the barre, gave myself a little pep talk, and before I could wimp out, quickly sprung up in sous-sus, followed my my first echappes completely off the barre! Even though I pulled it off, once I stopped to rest I had to give myself another pep talk before doing it again. So it’s still not something that I felt confident about, but at least I knew it was possible? I didn’t know it yet at the time, but good thing I forced myself to take this next step because during our last class of the week, Teacher asked us to step away from the barre for our echappes combination and for once I didn’t feel that deer-in-headlights feeling when she has us do something new while I’m wearing pointe shoes.

This week we continued with similar barre combinations from the last few weeks, except adding on longer balances in sous-sus, coupe, retire and attitude on releve (which meant all the way on pointe for me). And yes, I even let go of the barre a little bit while up on one foot but no super long balances or anything yet. After our frappes combination we did petit battements on releve. I do think my eyes got wide when I realized what we were going to be doing, but once doing it I found that for me they are much more difficult on demi pointe. Teacher’s always mentioning how it is much less stressful on the body to be in a higher releve than a lower one, and I think the same thing goes for being en pointe instead of in demi pointe. I mean, yea, my big toe was hurting, but my calves were not even feeling it compared to all the times I’ve done this on releve in soft shoes.

By now I feel more comfortable leaving on the pointe shoes for center. Of course, I’m still doing passe releve facing the barre, still scared to do it with one hand at barre (and of course in center). However, I’m not longer using the death grip at the barre when doing 1 foot passe releves or the chasses to releve arabesque (side note: why do the chasses to releve arabesque feel much less terrifying than the passe releves? I mean, they’re both a rise up on one foot from two). I’m feeling patient with myself, I mean back when I first started ballet I practiced passe releve facing the wall every day for about six months before I attempted it with only one hand on it, both for lack of strength and fear reasons. So why should I assume that my progress en pointe should be any faster?

Since there’s a mixture of levels in the class, when the newer beginners work on tendu, close, passe releve in center I do that combination near the barre (so I can use the barre for the passe releve part), and then when we do the more beg-int combination I come out to center and do the single leg rises or pirouettes on demi, two leg rises en pointe. This week we did tombe (in efface line) pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, chasse into chaines. I substituted the soutenu with sous-sus en pointe, because even though I can do the half-soutenu to switch sides at the barre (detourne?) with no hands, I still haven’t figured out how to do the full revolution soutenu while en pointe. I asked Teacher about this last class, and she said that the hardest part is the sous-sus, so if I’ve got that part I’m good to go, so we’ll see how it goes next time I practice. For now, it’s like half soutenu and half bourre turn…

I  continued with the chaines en pointe along the barre. They’re starting to feel much less scary, thankfully. I was thinking about how when I first started learning chaines, I would put my hands on my shoulders and just slowly do half turn and pause , gradually speeding it up as I improved. It suddenly struck me that if I can hold a balance in first position up en pointe then I should be able to slowly start working on chaines off the barre, using a similar approach. I don’t want to feel like I’ve become too dependent on the barre after all.

During pique passes at the barre (to prepare for pique turns), one of my classmates mentioned that I was making it harder on myself by traveling out too far. I told her that yea, it feels like I’m pole-vaulting, but if I don’t go out that far I feel like I will slide on the tip of my box instead of getting over it. I asked Teacher about it and she said to think of it as pushing off my second leg to get up there quicker and  to also think of pointing my toes more of my landing foot so I don’t feel like I have to launch myself out as far to get over the box. I will work on applying those corrections in the coming week.

This week, I actually kept the pointe shoes on for the jumps and petit allegro parts of class. I was surprised to find out that sautes and changements are not any more difficult while wearing pointe shoes. If anything, I was really liking seeing my pointed feet in the mirror. Petit allegro was glissade (right), jete, glissade (left), jete, pas de bourre (left), pas de chat (right), entrechat, royalle, other side. As I’ve mentioned many times, beated jumps are hard for me, but I think I’m starting to feel a little more confident about them. By that I mean that I’m actually attempting them mid-combination, as opposed to just taking the easier route (substituting changment for royalle or soubresaut for entrchat). One correction I got was to close my glissade a little quicker. I think I’m struggling with this because all the times I practiced glissades I would go really slow to really feel like I was pointing my second foot, and when I try to speed it up my second leg kind of drags behind a little. Doing glissade jete over and over quickly while wearing pointe shoes makes me feel like I’m tap dancing…

We  did temps leve (saute arabesque) chasse, temps leve, chasse, repeat all the way across the studio while alternating legs. Then we incorporated ballet run and grand jete into it. I took off my pointe shoes before that last part because I just wasn’t up to running and grand jete-ing while wearing the shiny, slippery shoes (though I did leave them on for one go across the floor of temps leves and chasses). However, one day when we had a slightly shorter class I technically kept the shoes on the entire class all the way through reverance (which, by the way, was lovely: cambre forward in croisse, come up and cambre back with the arm closest to the barre up, chasse backward to tendu devant, bend towards the pointed foot as you extend the arm the length of the leg, step forwards into B+ and curtsey, ronde de jambe the back leg around to do the same to the other side). I did feel like I’m getting over my mental block of keeping the shoes on for the whole class.

This week I also had the opportunity to do lots of practicing on my own – and with a ballet friend – at school. I worked on pique turns and chaines with my slippers on (since during class I’m usually working on the preparation to do these en pointe I don’t get to work on them on flat as much as I’d like). We also worked on pirouettes and stepover pique turns. I haven’t been doing pirouttes in my soft shoes lately because I’ve been wearing the pointe shoes (and turning in demi pointe), and that may have been a factor in my pirouettes suddenly coming out way better! As in, holding a balance after instead of falling out of them, actually attempting a double just by spotting without using extra force (I made it about 1 3/4), going from one side to the other consecutively. I don’t know if the improvement is from working with pointe shoes (even if on demi point) causing me to be more hyperaware of technique and that translates to stronger pirouettes, or getting over the fear of attempting pirouttes in flat shoes since they’re scarier – or supposed to be – in pointe shoes (even on demi point, just because of the satin being slippery) and I’ve in theory attempted them, so if anything I’m doing something that should be less difficult.

I ran through one of the variations I’m working on (a simplified version of Swanilda’s variation from the first act of Coppelia – when she’s trying to get the doll’s attention) a few times, as I’m trying to make sure my stamina’s up to par. In general, the variation’s going ok, but I’m still feeling a little clumsy on those pas de bourres en dessous and en dessus. Other than that I’m pleased that I have memorized it already, just need to clean it up, possibly speed up those turns…

After that, we put on some music and then just improvised and randomly danced around. It was so much fun! I love ballet improvising, and having a large space to play with. Confession: I couldn’t resist putting my pointe shoes back on and dancing around with them a little bit. I didn’t do anything crazy that I hadn’t done previously, and did lots of stuff on demi point (because all I’m doing en pointe in center is bourres, two-legged balances and echappes to second) but it was so surreal to look in the mirror and see that I was dancing in pointe shoes. I mean, seriously, when I got these I was already thinking that it was ok if I didn’t get to fully dance with them, I was just going to enjoy my eleves and feeling so lifted. And I had never really planned on going en pointe – honestly, when I decided to start ballet I didn’t even think of it as an option, I just wanted to do a beautiful barre routine with my slippers and call it a day. Dancing in the center, was still nowhere in sight for a long time. I’m so happy I didn’t quit back then, when everything about ballet seemed impossible.

(readers, sorry for the long post length… Just saw the word count and was like :0

Advertisements

Week 3: Ambivalent

To be completely honest, this past week didn’t have the same yay-everything-is-awesome-in-ballet-land feeling that the previous couple weeks had. That’s ok, plateaus are to be expected; perhaps they will help me appreciate the times of great improvement even more. But that’s not it, not really… I mean, I did improve at some things this week, after all, but… I don’t know… I feel somewhat unsatisfied, I guess, for lack of a better word (I’m sure there’s a word for what I’m feeling, I just don’t happen to know it, haha). I’m sure this is just a low mood, so I’m working my way through it regardless.

Actually, just writing that down helped me better articulate what I’m feeling (which I will now share, uncensored): I’m frustrated. Frustrated because I’m aware that I hold myself back; frustrated because I have low expectations for myself, because then – if I keep my goals low – I won’t have to face much disappointment (and won’t grow as much either, on the downside); frustrated because though I’m willing to work hard and put in time and effort, I hate pain and discomfort and am not willing to do things that will result in these, or similar, feelings; frustrated because even though I know that these thoughts are erroneous and counterproductive, I can’t seem to stop thinking them, wondering what was I thinking, why do I bother, why try if I know I’m going to fail, if I’m always  going to lose, simply because that’s what I’m used to, been used to all my life, and it’s too late to change the script now. (or IS it?…)

Yeah, some dark, low thoughts indeed… but I’m not going to lie – sometimes not everything is happy and cheerful. Sigh. We’ll get through this as we always do.

It’s kind of dumb, but I think part of the reason I’m in this mood is because the room I use to practice at my school was not available this past week, so I didn’t get to do any extracurricular dancing. Some of the happiest times I have involve just me and my headphones, working my way though a variation or crafting my own choreographies. I mean, the creative process for me begins at home, and I do walk through different segments of my dances at my home studio space, but even though it’s great for marking the choreography and nitpicking details, there’s no room to actually dance full out, using all of the space. I think I need my actual dancing time to calm my inner turmoil. It doesn’t  help that the weather’s been sucking, making it impossible to go for a long relaxing walk, or work in my garden.

Anyway.

This week I continue to wear the pointe shoes at barre. That fondue up to sous-sus from last week seemed much less scary. I don’t remember if I’d specified, but that was from a fondue devant, the kind where the supporting leg is bent and the working leg is off the floor out to the front. This week I added in a sous-sus from a fondue derriere and it was much less scary. Don’t know if it’s because I’m getting used to it or because it’s easier less difficult from this position. There was also a single leg rise up from either arabesque or a degage devant position (it was after our rond de jambe combination, so from arabesque after going en dehors, and from the devant position after going en dedans) and I was too scared to rise up to pointe, instead just going up to demi-point. So then I tried it with both hands on the barre and it still felt like a bit much. I do think I’m strong enough, but I’m pretty terrified.

The first time I took class during the week went along as normal, with me switching out to slippers after barre. But then Teacher said how about we left our pointe shoes on for center and do the center combinations near the barre, so we can use it to assist with the more difficult parts. These difficult parts turned out to be a pique sous-sus (in the combination it was a soutenu, but she said to substitute it with a pique sous-sus), and a chasse to releve (on pointe) arabesque then pas de bourre. The first day attempting this I was able to do it all to the right side, but to the left I was too scared to do the chasse to releve arabesque, only rising to demi. The next day I pulled on my (metaphorical) big girl panties and made myself do it.

Then the class did chaines across the floor and Teacher had us do them on pointe at the wall barre. It was scary at first, then awkward, then just slightly uncomfortable in that pressure-on-the-toes way. I also did some chaines off the barre while wearing the pointe shoes but just going up to demi pointe (I guess my shoes are broken in enough to do this now, but I do wonder if doing stuff in demi point  in them will break them down faster?). When the class worked on pique turns across the floor I did pique passe releves along the wall barre. Once again, to the right side it felt much more secure than to the left (like a crazy discrepancy – to the right it felt like I’ve been doing this forever, to the left I was terrified). It’s funny, up until very recently I would have said that without a shadow of a doubt my left foot is stronger, after all I balance much better on it on flat and demi point with soft shoes, do better promenades on it and everything. And my right foot was the one I messed up in a car accident years ago (though the left ankle was the one I sprained when I very gracefully fell down the stairs) But pointe work has shown that it is actually my right side which is much stronger, weird.

Then we worked on pirouettes, and since I still had my pointe shoes on I attempted to do some on demi point (because there was no way I was going to try a pirouette en pointe at this, umm, point in time. Perhaps I should have been working on just rising up to pointe in passe at the wall barre at this time). To my surprise, I found that pirouettes on demi point feel much more stable for me in pointe shoes than flat slippers. Not only that, balancing on demi point in general felt more stable with the pointe shoes. I guess I’ve officially decided that once these shoes die I will deshank them and wear them to class sometimes instead of my soft slippers.

Then it was time for sautes and petit allegro (chagement x2, echappe, glissade, assemble, pas de chat, coupe, pas de bourre, other side) which meant it was time to take off the pointes. I mean, I think Teacher would have let me leave them on, but I think I have some sort of mental block at the idea of doing the whole class en pointe (even though, who are we kidding, I was either using the barre to help me or only going up to demi, so it’s not like I was really doing the class en pointe, just merely wearing pointe shoes…).

But we all gotta start somewhere, right? To be honest, I never thought I would be doing this much with the pointe shoes already by this point in time (I would have been content with just doing eleves, releves, and sous-sus at the barre for the next six months or so – there’s those low expectations I mentioned earlier…). It’s been exactly one month to the day since I first slipped the shoes on. I remember on the way home from the dance store, Husband asked me if I thought it was going to be like starting from scratch as a brand-new beginner again and I said ‘Maybe, but I hope not. But if it is, it’s ok.’  Well, one month into it, I’d say that it’s not like starting from scratch, but at the same time I can see how my fears of trying new things rear their ugly heads. For example, even though I’ve been practicing it with just one finger from each hand resting lightly on the barre (so not much support), I get quite scared of springing up to sous-sus or releve in 1st with no hands. I feel like I need to go through the motions of it thousands of times on my own before I can do it confidently in class in front of everyone. In class there’s not enough time to repetitively work on the same thing, so this is something I need to put some time into on my own.

On the positive side, I did meet my goal of doing a half soutenu on pointe with no hands this week, I even did some away from the barre after working on springing up to sous-sus with no barre. I did not meet my goal of bringing my feet up to coupe with no barre, but I did let go of the barre while up in retire on pointe, so maybe we can consider that goal halfway met? I continue working on my bourres with no barre while doing port de bras. I know for an upcoming goal I would like to do echappes with no barre, but I don’t believe I’m ready yet. Perhaps then for now my goal for the week will be to improve on that chasse up to releve arabesque, and springing up to pointe on one foot.

As far as non-pointe work, this week I really concentrated on working on glissade assemble. To the right I’m not bad at this sequence, but to the left it feels sloppy. So after class I went over it repeatedly, both sides just back and forth, and I’m feeling much more confident about it. We worked on chasse, saute arabesque across the floor and I got a correction on not losing my turnout, so I will be paying more attention to that. Also, after class I worked on these pas de bourres that we would do in Int/Adv class last session, the kind where you plie your supporting leg and the working leg kind of degages out a la seconde, then it comes in to sous-sus (the pas de bourre part), and the other leg then degages out to seconde as your supporting leg plies. I think F Teacher called them pas de bourre en dessus and en desous. Anyway, ever since I slowed the steps down I feel like I’ve been improving on them, because at the speed we would do them in Int/Adv class I was mostly just flailing around and trying to not fall behind (thankfully, not trying to not fall, period). I guess I should just be grateful for that.

I think I’ll end this post now, before it becomes a novel…

Week 2: Testing Out My Comfort Zone

As anticipated, class increased in difficulty for the second week of the session. Nothing too extreme – we’re still firmly in Beginner territory – but enough for me to be glad that this isn’t my first ballet session ever. My learning  curve is flatter than that…

I wore pointe shoes for barre for all the classes, which did prove a bit challenging because of the increasing difficulty pushing me out of my comfort zone (which previously was working on two feet). Barre included a fondue devant up to sous-sus – yes, a releve on one foot. I was approaching it cautiously, which besides being incorrect also made it harder. It was my first attempts at releve, not eleve, on one leg. The first day we worked on it I was hesitant and, honestly, a little scared, but by the second class doing this I was feeling more confident. For now, my right supporting foot seems to be stronger.

We were also working on soutenu at the barre when changing sides. This was also new to me en pointe, and a little scary at first but once I got the hang of it I just kept going up into sous-sus, doing a soutenu to the other side, coming down, and doing the same thing again. Yes, it is that fun, I promise. Balancing in 1st, 2nd, and sous-sus, on point is sometimes easier than other times (and easier towards the end of barre once I have my alignment completely sorted out). Definitely not comfortable letting go of the barre completely for echappe releves yet, but I am discovering the perfect amount of force needed to spring up to pointe without it being a jump up. I love the end of the grand battement combination because  when we turn for the other side after the three grand battements en croix everytime we changed direction we would do two quick changements, and when we changed directions it was like changement-changement-sous-sus-soutenu and it was so fun. (I’m pretty sure that was a run on sentence, but but it was out of excitement…)

At the end of last week I set a goal that I would do some bourres en pointe off the barre this week. Initially letting go of the barre was a little scary (is there a theme here?) but I got over it and did some bourres with pretty arms (mostly swan arms, but also going through the positions). Been doing that after barre every day. I also did a completely spontaneous promenade in attitude while wearing my pointe shoes and that amused me. My goal for this week will be to pick up each foot up to coupe while on pointe without the barre. And – maybe this too ambitious, but what the heck – to do the barre soutenu to the other side with no hands. I’d like to clarify that for goals I don’t set any that I think will be unsafe, just a little out of my comfort zone (meaning I’m strong enough to, but just being a baby).

For across the floor we had a couple new combinations (walk x4, passe balance on flat, developpe devant, walk x2, pique arabesque, plie, pas de bourre), including a waltz combo that included a pirouette en dehors from fifth for the more difficult version. Pirouettes from fifth suck for me, so I wasn’t feeling too confident by then. But then in the back I was able to do some pirouttes en dehors from fourth in which I even stayed balanced on releve after making the turn. Then we did chaines across the floor, and I (re)discovered that it’s even harder to do just chaines across the whole studio than to do them in a combination because it’s more of them in a row.

For jumps we did changement x4, echappe x2, changement x4, pas de chat, coupe, pas de bourre, soubresaut. Teacher then changed the final jump to entrechat, and once again, there went my confidence. Ugh, beats are still something that have much to improve on. I did get a correction on front leg losing the turnout when landing, so I have a concrete thing to pay attention to.

Across the floor we did chasse gallops x4, ballet run, grand jete. While I am by no means great at grand jetes, I’ve noticed that they’re not as awful as they used to be (especially with my right leg in front). There’s hope yet…

 

Quotes Challenge!

Earlier this week, I nominated myself (lol) for DorkyDancing’s (at http://www.dorkydancing.com) 3 days, 3 quotes challenge, but I’m also tweaking the rules a little: 1 post, 9 quotes (sorry if that ruins the effect), and if anyone reading wants to nominate themselves, please do 🙂

I didn’t really know where to go with this, but I thought it sounded like fun. That said, these are some quotes that I find meaningful, relatable, that I’ve either pondered on or that have helped me enjoy life to it’s fullest. As this is mostly a ballet/dance blog, I decided to start off with some dance-related ones, but the rest are out there ’cause I’m weird like that. I’m not going to apologize for myself and the way I am, but just thought I’d give a heads up on that. Anyway, hope someone finds these inspiring, thought-provoking, or both.

1 “In another life i could fly, so in this one I dance” – Tara, Dance Academy episode 1.

When I first started watching this show, this quote jumped out at me. It immdiately sucked me in, which is rare for a tv show, and it remains my go-to for dance-related entertainment (with the exception of, you know, actually watching a ballet…

2 “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

While I like the reference to dancing – and sometimes do find myself dancing to music in my head, perhaps appearing insane to everyone else – to me this quote has a deeper meaning – that one’s actions can be nonsensical to someone who doesn’t understand our motivations.

3 “When you are not practicing, remember, someone somewhere is practicing, and when you meet him, he will win.” – Ed Macauley

This quote can come across as ultra competitive, but I find it both motivational and comforting. Motivational because it’s a remininder to practice when I’m being a procrastinator, and comforting because I realize and accept that I don’t practice as much as humanly possible, and therefore I can’t rationally expect “to win” (whatever that means) at whatever I’m doing which takes off the pressure that I sometimes put on myself. And this doesn’t just neecessarily apply to dance; I actually first came across this quote on a syllabus for a trigonometry class, but find it applies to pretty much everything.

4 “Open your heart; your mind will follow” – unknown, possibly misheard. I guess this is my version of “free your mind and the heart will follow” which is apparently a quote that previously existed. Well, I like my version better and believe it to be true; I believe a closed heart can get in the way of our mind functioning at our full potential.

5 “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” – Franklin D Roosevelt

Without going into any detailed explainations I’ll just say I believe this one to be literal truth. I just wish that I didn’t keep forgetting this…but I’m getting better at remembering.

6 “In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.”
~Brennan Manning

I actually came across this quote very recently (like, during this week kind of recent) but it was one of those moments when I was like ‘yes! that’s it!’. Anyway, it’s really personal – more personal than I’ve gotten on this blog, but let’s just say I’ve had a lot of personal growth in the last half-decade and when I look back to where I was ten years ago I am astounded. However, even though I have faced up to my (many) mistakes and tried to rctify what I can, I do carry a sense of shame about my past. But I have come to the realization that our past – however regretable at times – when contrasted with our present can seerve to give hope to those who are struggling whre w once were. Or something…since I’m not trying to get too philosophical here.

7 “Long is the road, and hard, which out of hell leads to light” – John Milton, Paradise Lost

Similar to my thoughts on the last quote actually…let’s just say that I feel like I’ve had to go through hell in order to finally emerge out the other side. It’s ben a long, hard road, but worth it.

8 “Reality is an illusion, albeit a persistent one” – Albert Einstein

Another one that I believe to be literally true…but I won’t be getting into that right now.

9 “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” – William Blake

I see this as an explaination for the previous quote. Once again, beyond the scope of this blog, but a quote I love.

And there you go. Now I guess anyone reading it can get a better picture of where my thoughts are when I’m not obsessing about ballet. Perhaps this will better explain why something as difficult as ballet, which requires such an extreme amount of focus and obsession dedication is actually an escapist activity for me.

(Here’s to hoping I don’t feel too vulnrable and have posting regret and tak this down/make it private)

DIY: Converting* Tights

*don’t know if what I made are called “convertible tights” or “stirrup tights” or what… I just know they started off tight-life as generic footed tights and now they’re…not.

Anyway.

As I wrote in my last post, I was having a little dilemn/ma [oh my gosh, I looked up how to spell this word while writing this post and found this site, http://www.dilemna.info that will just blow your mind if you’re into that sort of stuff, which I am] about what to wear for class – all my tights are footed and I discoverd I like the feel of bare skin against my pointe shoes. Teacher was kind enough to tell me about the tight-surgery they used to perform in her school or company, so I figured I’d give it a go. I found a pair of my most used-looking tights (in other words, full of runs, holes, and probably long considered unwearable to any non-dancer), and went at them with some scissors.

The results are not pretty – it was my first try, after all – but I wore them for class today and they worked out great for pointe barre. Of course, since they’re not actual convertible tights, I still had to wear socks over them once I changed back into slippers. To be fair, I don’t actually know firsthand how convertible tights feel, so for all I know I would feel like have to wear socks over those too…

image

Before and after

I used a BodyWrappers tights for this experiment  project because, in addition to being my most, frankly, messed up looking pair of tights, at the toes and heels they appear to be… let’s see how to describe this… not reinforced necessarily but… like the weaving is going at a perpendicular pattern to the rest… I guess that’s the best way I can put it? Anyway, this made me think – correctly apparently – that if I cut within that area it wouldn’t turn the tights into one long run. So far I’ve only done this to tights that have this distinction, so no idea if it would work with a different brand.

Teacher told me that they would leave a strip of tights material to go between the 1st and 2nd toe, so I left a thin strip (I’d say around a 3/4 inch when the fabric is unstretched, but if I had to do it again I’d leave about twice that, for aesthetic reasons) when I cut off the toe section. I also cut off the heel, leaving a thin border of the material.

Top view. The stirrup-y thing (in toe socks, because there's no way I'm showing my ugly toes online LOL)

Top view. The stirrup-y thing (in toe socks, because there’s no way I’m showing my ugly toes online LOL)

And a side view of the heel

And a side view of the heel

And in shoes

And in shoes

As you can see, the ankle hole shows quite a bit of skin, and while the instep is covered, I think while actually dancing the top may come untucked (I couldn’t tell during class because I was wearing skintight legwarmers). So as far as performing or anything where a neat look is needed, these need some  work. But like I said, it was my first attempt!

Back In Class In The New Year!

This week was my long awaited return to real ballet class, instead of the youtube video kind. I’d missed going to class so much! This session, my school’s only offering Beginner level, but since it’s the short session the classes are much longer (slightly over 2 hours!) and daily during the weekdays (unfortunately, due to other responsibilities, I’ll probably only be able to make it 3 times a week though). I haven’t taken a short session class with Teacher before, so it’ll be interesting to see how the difficulty level picks up as the session progresses.

Class went well the first day. Teacher sent me to the wall barre with the other intermediate (!) level people (I know, I almost can’t believe it myself) so that we could work with one hand on the barre while the newer people did the exercises facing the barre. We did plies, slow tendus, degages, releves, eleves and prances, and rond de jambe combinations at the barre. Then we stretched, swung our legs en ballancoire and got off the barre for center.

Being at the wall barre is a little strange still. We don’t get to see ourselves in the mirror, and there’s no barre to put away since it’s stationary. But the lack of mirror space might make it easier to not overuse the mirror, so I guess that’s the upside.

Center was fun. We did an adagio port de bras (port de bras right arm, left arm, plie, releve balance, temps lie a la second right, temps lie a la seconde left, grand plie, repeat other side), then lots of ballet walks across the floor, followed by a short combination (ballet walk x3, hold in arabesque, lift the leg off, plie on supporting leg, and pas de bourre, repeat other side). We then did chasse gallops across the floor and a saute combination (4 in first, 4 in second, 4 in first, 2 echappes). Teacher then gave the option of a faster tempo group, and doing changements instead of sautes in first. Class finished up with a lovely reverance.

So, afterwards I asked Teacher how she would feel about me taking barre in pointe shoes (it was a different teacher who’d told me I was ready for pointe, but I really trust Teacher’s opinion, and I’ve taken class with her so much over the last couple years that she knows my weaknesses and strengths, and she always pays attention to my alignment in class). She asked me if I’ve done pointe work and I told her that I’v mostly been doing eleves and releves at home with my home barre. She told me to bring my shoes the next day so she could look at them. I was so nervous the rest of the day! There was the problem of logistics – at home I like to wear my pointe shoes over my bare feet (with the ouch pouch) and for class I usually wear my footed tights. I decided to wear some footless leggins under my leotard and my pink tights on top, that way I could remove them if necessary.

The next day, I took my shoes. I was worried that Teacher would have an issue with the ribbon color not matching the shoe perfectly (she was ok with it), but she just had me put the shoes on and roll up to pointe. She said I was getting over the box (yay!) and then when I took them off she told me about how she would sew the ribbons on her pointe shoes and how to flatten the box a little to make it more comfortable. Ok maybe that happened before I put the shoes on, I don’t remember as I was so nervous and excited at the same time. She said I could start that same day, so I ran off to the changing room to peel off the footed tights and tape my second toe before class started.

When I took my place at the barre, I brought along my slippers and a pair of socks in case I didn’t make it through the whole barre on pointe (spoiler alert: I made it!). Teacher had said I could do barre facing the barre if I wanted but I ended up doing the plies, tendus, degages and rond de jambe combinations with one hand on the barre (well, to be completely accurate, I attempt to do them with my hand slightly off the barre for the added challenge except for the actual rise on pointe in which I rest my hand lightly on it). I faced the barre, as did the whole class, for the releve combination (releves, eleves, prances, forced arch stretch, hold balance with no hands in releve in both parallel and first) and was able to get a nice balance up there for both parallel and first. In between combinations I worked on rolling up to pointe and slowly rolling back down, and afterwards, in that little time-space between barre and center I did some bourres at the barre before changing into my slippers for center. Even though I can hold my balance up on pointe on two feet without holding the barre, I’m still not brave enough to bourre without the barre. Maybe by next week…or is that too optimistic?

I really enjoyed taking the barre on pointe though. I especially liked the feeling of resistance when doing the slow tendu combination (tendu to demi pointe, full point, demi point, close, plie, x3 en croix) and having to work through the shoes. And my feet feel so much stronger already (I think I said that in a recent post, but even more now). I was working on my balances on releve on demi point at home, and I noticed that I can get up now even higher and feel almost like I’m suspended in the air. It was a strange but awesome feeling. Basically, I was up on releve and then I was thinking about how if I had my pointe shoes on I would have to press over the box, so I went up on releve even higher, almost forward – as if to press over the imaginary box – and at first my weight almost pitched forward too far (sigh, top heaviness) but I stabilized with my core  and suddenly, all those correctons about having your weight forward made perfect sense and I was just balanced perfectly. So then of course that’s all I wanted to do for the next five minutes or so…

Ok, I’m not even going to downplay it – it was an amazing ballet week! I am so happy, and so grateful for everything; to my Husband for being extra  supportive and giving me this final push to just get the shoes already and follow through on this, to Teacher giving this opportunity to do pointe work in her class (my school doesn’t have a dedicated pointe class, so any pointe work is at each individual teacher’s discretion). And yes, even grateful to my friend who let me try on her shoes and opened up the possibilities.

(As much as I want to just end on a good note, there is something somewhat ballet-related that is upsetting me but I’m not ready to write about it in detail yet. I don’t see the point of whining about how different people have different strengths and how there’s some things I just can’t do (maybe at the moment, maybe ever) if I’m doing nothing about it – and no, it’s not a particular step or anything that might just take more time and practice (so mysterious, lol). As it relates to a goal of mine, I feel I need to do a lot of soul-searching and realize if I really want to do this (and everything it entails – the good, the bad, the ugly… or if it’s just the idea of it that I want. Perhaps I’ll go into this in depth in a later post, if I don’t feel too ridiculous about it…) In the meantime, I cheered myself up by beginning to  work on two variations that I hope to perform at the end of the spring session.

An Unintended Consequence…

of going en pointe is that my mom umm…likes me a little bit more.

Ok, sounded mega-pathetic. Let me backtrack – my mother was blessed with not one but two daughters who, to her chagrin, just could not care less for “girly” (ugh, hate using that word – it’s as if to say that me not having an affinity towards certain things makes me less of a girl, or now, woman) things such as shoes, clothes or style. Even though my mom tried getting me into uncomfortable “cute” shoes and unpractical “fashionable” clothes, I much rather have comfortable sneakers, skater shoes, or running shoes (or my regrettable flip-flop days long past…) and a T-shirt, jeans or leggins. Unfortunately, in her quest to make me more “feminine” (once again, ugh for stereotypes…) she never enrolled me in ballet, but that’s another story…

Anyway, when I showed my parents a short video of me doing eleves, releves and echappes en pointe at the barre, my mom said something like ‘you’ve been wanting those shoes for a long time, haven’t you?’. And she looked…proud. Not because of my moves, but because I admitted to wanting the shoes. Weird, but I’ll take it.

I decided to not ruin her moment, not clear it up that to me they are tools, not fashion accessories. I mean, I’m happy – let the lady be happy, too.

(For the record, for the most part my family is super supportive of my dancing ever since they realized that ballet isn’t Just A Phase, about …maybe a year and a half ago…)