Author Archives: kit

Long Time, No Write…

Wow, it’s been over a month since the last time I got around to writing on here… life’s been hectic… actually, it’s been really rough the past couple of months, for personal (non-ballet related) reasons. Immersing myself in ballet has kept me sane; so grateful to have something positive to focus my energy on when things around me  seem to be falling apart. It hasn’t been all bad – many wonderful things, both ballet-related and not – have happened, but I’ve also suffered a terrible loss in my family…and I’m still dealing with the very stressful aftermath. I’m still not at the point  that I’m able to discuss it calmly, so I won’t be getting into it on here yet.

Back to discussing ballet…

Good things:

I’ve gotten much better  at remembering combinations, pirouettes are much less scary, and overall I feel more comfortable and balanced.

On the bad side, my turnout still sucks. It’s called  starting ballet for the first time ever when you were almost 30… I will continue to work on the feeling of being turned out – engaging the deep hip rotators – but will I ever have 180 turnout? I’m not betting on it.

Combinations (that I remember):

developpe devant crosse, plie on single leg, tombe into attitude derriere, close. Repeat to a la seconde and derriere, then in a lunge do a circular port de bras/cambre. Then another day we did the same combination, except added on promenades after each of the tombes (one in attitude derriere, a la second, and attitude devant). My promenades have improved so much! This was a big goal for me last year, so I’m feeling so accomplished haha.

developpe a la seconde, fouette to arabesque, fouette back to facing front, promenade a full 180 turn en dehors with the leg extended a la seconde(!), plie supporting leg and pas de bourree, tombe, pas de bourree to the other side, and repeat the whole combination to the other side. Did I mention this was in Beginner class?! What a challenge to promenade with the leg  out in second! I noticed a tendency at first for the leg to come in, somewhere between a la seconde and devant, as I was about halfway through the promenade. But when I applied the correction of using opposition and ‘leading with the leg’, as well as having the leg carry it’s own weight, it became more possible. Fun, even.

in my other beginner classes, the ones I do pointe during, I’ve been feeling pretty challenged, We do plenty of single leg releves (from fifth to retire) in the center, as well as 1/4 (which I attempt, but definitely don’t feel comfortable with yet), 1/2 and full pirouettes (both of these which I don’t attempt yet – I am cautious when doing newer things en pointe away from the barre. I don’t know if what I would call it is “fear” necessarily, it doesn’t feel like the same feeling as back when I started and I was terrified away from the barre. Perhaps it’s just a lack of comfort, or familiarity). I’ve gotten comfortable with pas de bourre en pointe and balancé, pique arabesque, soutenus, as well as chaines, but only to the right on the chaines. I attempt them to the left too, but those need more work….way more work…

A couple of firsts – I took my first jazz class and a booty barre class (I’m aware booty barre is not a dance class, but I was curious and the place I work at lets me take any class for free, so why not). Jazz was so much fun! I’m so glad I let one of my friends convince me to go. My ballet training definitely came in handy, because we did a lot of turning and going across the floor. It was so fun to just pirouette without constantly being corrected on your turnout, haha. At the same time it was challenging because there was a lot more, umm, dancing without being told specifically what to do. I would definitely take jazz class again.   Booty Barre was not a dance class, but there were some hints of ballet  thrown in there as well. I found myself using epaulement when doing the exercises, haha. And the ladies were impressed by how far up I could battement my leg.  I had a blast, but my glutes were burning waaay more than they usually do after ballet… probably means I should regularly attend for the workout.

Our performances are coming up, so I’m a little nervous about that. This year I’m actually doing a solo up on stage (not on pointe, just had to clarify), as well as several small group dances and lots of corps. Actually, all of my performing is on flat, which is kind of a bummer, but what you gonna do…

Until next time, hopefully not too long…

Coming Up With A Title Is The Hardest Part…

Since the last time I wrote on here I’ve had a few really enjoyable classes…

In intermediate, we did this really fun center adagio: developpe croisse devant, cloche  thru to arabesque, go into attitude and promenade with the working leg going into retire by the time the turn is done, and from there developpe out again in ecarte line, bring the foot down into a pique pas de bourre, developpe same working leg in ecarte line, balancé  onto that leg, soutenu, now facing other side, chasse to a fourth position lunge, port de bras/cambre front and back, tendu close, other side. It was so pretty!

We also did tendus to work on our facings: croisse devant, en face, efface devant, close, hold; ecarte derriere, a la seconde en face, ecarte devant, close, hold; efface derriere, en face derriere, croisse derriere, close hold. The confusing part was when we got to derriere, because I wasn’t sure to which side I was supposed to angle my body next, and I ended up doing croisse when it was supposed to be efface. I got it by the last time we did the combination, but it was something I think i should practice more. We do a very similar combination in one of my beginning classes, but in Intermediate it’s about twice as fast – no time to think, just do – which really tries that muscle memory.

In Beginning, we had as center combination of  tombe pas de bourre to both sides, then this new one (to me): tombe backwards, then pas de bourre by closing in front instead of back. It felt weird to tombe backwards, as I’d actually never done that before, but I was so grateful for my improved balance that made it actually do-able and fun.

Also in Beginning we did lots of piques to prepare for pique turns, first at the barre, then in center on flat, then on releve and finally adding the turn. While I enjoyed myself, I was thinking that I would’ve hated to have been an actual, brand -new, several-weeks-into-ballet kind of beginner (like some of my classmates in that class are), which kind of confirms to me that the learning curve expected in these classes is more than I could do with the fitness level – or more like lack of fitness – I had going into ballet. So many of them have a dance, cheer, gymnastics, or sports background  that it is perhaps expected to have such a background, but those of use that didn’t start off with one can really struggle at first. At first, being the operative words – sometimes I feel like my initial struggles did serve to motivate me into working harder, and if so then it was a blessing in disguise.

Speaking of pique turns, I  did my first pique turn en pointe, then I did a few more, but not in a row. What happened was that I started to muscle-memory my way into the second turn, then my brain caught up and I realized what I was doing and when it came time to pique into the turn I just when to demi pointe. I’m annoyed because I think I could have done it, but I wimped out. But at the same time I love it that I actually did a pique turn en pointe! And I piqued onto a straight leg, which I know because an advanced dancer classmate was scutinizing my every move – she even insisted I do it with correct arms instead of just doing nothing with my arms. So far it’s only been to the right, but in general with every thing en pointe for me the left side lags behing the right by about 2 to 3 weeks, like once I become comfortable with something to the right it takes on average for my left to catch up.

I also started working on balancés and pas de basques on pointe. I’m pleased about this because they feel so dance-y and I can start to feel like I know enough steps to put together a dance. Exciting times in my ballet journey!

Since we had break from my regular school, I had the opportunity to go on down to New Studio and take a class there. It was great; the people who showed up that day have been going there for several months so we got a nicely challenging class. Short barre, then right into an adagio in center: developpe croisse devant, close, developpe ecarte, close, developpe to arabesque, rond de jambe the leg back to the front keeping it up the whole time, tendu down to fourth, pirouette en dedans (my fav!). Not only did my adagio-loving self love the combination, but the teacher mentioned that she finds en dedans easier and I was like ‘Yes! Someone understands!’ Haha.

We also did a lot of across the floor. Tombe, pas de bourre, chasse to arabesque, pirouette en dehors, pirouette en dedans, repeat, first at a slower tempo, then in double time. Then lots of waltzing and this really cool combination in which we did a saute arabesque and landed into a balance en tournant, then repeated, all the way around. We went in a circle around the room for this one and it was so awesome, like we were a corps de ballet gliding across a stage. Good times.

***

There is something else that happened that made me happy, but I feel weird just saying it, so first some background: I am extremely socially awkward and have anxiety over it. Like, you wouldn’t believe how socially awkward I am, and I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. You know those situations when two people find themselves in the same place, in each other’s way, and there’s this hesitation/pause, kind of like you’re deciding who gets to go first, and then ultimately you always let the other person go out of awkwardness? Yea, that’s me, pretty much every moment that I come across anybody… (Strangely enough, I don’t have this issue while driving, go figure)

I think I wrote on here over a year ago about how one of the most challenging aspects of ballet is when we come out to center and we have to line up and I struggle with that because I don’t know where to put myself – like I start going for one particular spot but then I think someone else wants that spot and my first reflex is to let them have it, to avoid a “confrontation” (put in quotes because while the intelligent/logical side of my brain knows it’s not, the traumatized/scared side of me thinks it is, and self-preservation, and yea…). Well, now it’s been years of training in ballet – 4 years to be exact – and I still have this issue; I’ll “back down” to people who are brand new beginners. It’s not that I don’t want to be in the front – let’s be honest, I do – or that I don’t know the combination and need someone to follow, because by now I’ve actually gotten decent at memorizing combinations, especially beginner level ones; it’s that I’m terrified of the potential drama, and I feel guilty, like I’m taking someone’s spot. One of my teacher’s said something along the lines of ‘with ballet, you have to stake your territory’ and I felt so depressed because if that’s the case, well, I’m kinda screwed…

Anyway, in one of the last classes I took, we were lining up to do pique turns across the floor. I was ready for the more,ummm, assertive, I guess, people to crowd the front as usual, but then one of my classmates said to me “You should go first – you’re more advanced.”  !!! I can’t even describe how pleased I was! This probably makes me sound like a weirdo (but let’s face it, if you’re still reading you probably already knew that about me) but I felt so validated – like someone has noticed my hard work.  I mean, in a different class I took recently, someone crowded me out of the front and they didn’t even know which leg to start on (and I’m not saying any of this to be mean), and this makes me feel like I’m not taken seriously as a dancer. Like no matter how much I advance I’ll always be the person that gets pushed around… and, being honest, I feel that it has to do with the fact that I don’t *look* like a ballet dancer. So this little moment was very refreshing and still brings a smile to my face,

A Short Update

Surprise, surprise – I actually felt up to writing here again! I’ve been well, at least physically, but you know what?  Things have definitely been worse before, and I will get through this.  While i still feel conflicted and restricted about what I can discuss publicly here, I figured there was no harm in reflecting on things I’ve been improving on…

In no particular order of importance:

— My promenades have really improved. I can actually do some pretty good promenades, both en dehors and en dedans to both sides, even after a slow adagio combination when the legs are sooo tired.  Even more impressive (to me), once,  when I realized I was promenade-ing the wrong direction I was able to fix it and start going the opposite way without losing my balance.  I’ve also gotten much better at weight shifts; we did this combination in center in Intermediate that went something like 3 tendus front, then cloche front, back into a fondue with the foot off the floor, then a pas de bourre ( i think? Or maybe a pique sous-sus, or was that the other combination…?) then reverse, but I was just thinking how before there was no way I could have even balanced during it, and now I’m able to focus on arms and epaulement. Yay!

– I’m beyond consistenly getting around on my pirouettes both en dehors and en dedans, sometimes cleaner than others but in general end with the correct leg in front, foot goes to retire correctly in the front, stuff like that. However…

– spotting; once it was identified that the problem was that I was looking through the thing i was supposedly spotting, instead of at it, that explained a lot, one of my teachers in particular makes sure that I look directly at her, makes sure im not cheating and just doing the head spot motion.  It helps, a lot. In beginning class we’ve been doing lots of chaines, and working on spotting as well.

– I got a correction to keep my chin down on releve arabesque, like at the end of chaines. It’s something I need to work on, to make sure I’m really puling up and notjust lifting my chin. I also confirmed that the rond de jambes en l’air are quick out, slow in.

As for pointe, I’ve been on my own a lot lately.  As you may know (or if you didn’t I guess now you will, haha) my school doesn’t have a pointe class, so I have to wear them during a regular class. At this moment it’s mostly just barre in Intermediate class. We’ve been doing more difficult things, like passe releve with one hand at the barre; pas de cheval a la second closing to sous-sus; balancé away from the barre and pique arabesque back to the barre. While these are all things I practice on my own at my home barre, the challenge in class is that the tempo is quicker (it *is* Intermediate class after all…).

However, I’ve also started going to Teacher’s Beginner class, during which I do pointe for the whole class (I’m also taking 2 other beginner classes without pointe shoes). We do lots of echappes without the barre and I’ve been attempting the chaines en pointe in center. We had a combination with a chasse to releve arabesque and I did it en pointe (but I can’t figure out how to come down for  the pas de bourre, bcause I keep doing a faille instead of a controlled plie down…). I’ve also been working on my pique soutenus and arabesques, in order to keep my leg nice and straight -no bent knees!

 

The Last Few Weeks…

It’s been a hectic last couple of weeks, but I’ve been continuing to take class and dance it up. since I haven’t been very good about taking notes immediatly after class, I’ll just write about whatever things seem especially memorable…

I’ve been wearing my pointe shoes for barre in Intermediate class and it’s been going pretty well for the most part – the combinations are fun but nothing too crazy. There was a combination that ended with 2 pas de cheval a la seconde. The seccond time thru closing up to sous-sus instead of fifth, required that extra push to pointe. 2 combinations involved a quick passe releve, one with a port de bras. I was nervous, but I pulled it off. I’d realized when I asked if I could wear the shoes that some of the combinatons involved passe releve with one hand on the barre, and that motivated me to get over my fear of trying it. I worked  up to it at home by doing something like sous-sus, sous-sus, passe releve, repeat to both sides while facing the barre, then immediately did the same thing with one hand on the barre before I could wimp out. I found it to be much less scary on my right foot (what else is new?) but I was able to do both sides. As of the time of me writing this, I have been able to go up to passe releve en pointe without the barre to both sides, but it’s still not something I would say I’m comfortable with…like it requires a lot of mental preparation and me going ‘ok, here i go’ to myself and taking in a big breath and all that. I keep telling myself that when I first started pointe work this is how I felt about going up to sous-sus with no barre, and that helps. It also helps to just be patient – I mean, I’ve only been en pointe for about 2 and a half months…

Center continues to be super fun – 2 balancés, waltz turn, (tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette) x3, chasse thru into chaines and finish in fourth lunge with nice arms. I love this combination, especially because ever since I went en pointe I’ve completely gotten over my fears of pirouettes in slippers. Like using the amount of force needed to get up and around is no longer terrifying, it no longer sets off warning signs in my brain screaming ‘what are you thinking?! You trying to go flying across the room?’. The thing is, it’s been a long time since I’ve had the capabilities of doing (at least single) pirouttes, but the fear because of those early, out-of-control attempts had held me back for so long… now I feel I’m past that.

Across the floor we’ve been doing (sissone, assemble)x2, saute arabesque, faille, glissade, pas de chat. Other times we do (glissade, assemble)x3, soutenu, repeat, then other side. Both are fun; the assembles are really coming along even on the left side.

In int/adv, barre combinations were mostly crazy fast, but I think it’s not impossible for my current level, just will take more work and focus. I did  catch myself unconciously falling into the incorrect tempo by going along with the classmate in front of me. Once I noticed I was able to stop it and keep from getting distracted.

The thing I’ve noticed I struggle with a lot at barre is the little rond de jambes en l’air, the kind where your leg is out to a la seconde and then you make an oval (but we’ll call it a “rond” anyway)  with your lower leg in the air. I feel like mine look really ugly… our teacher in intermediate was saying to move it out quick and slowly in – or was that out slow and quickly in? Ok looks like I’m going to have to ask her again and maybe write it down immediately this time…

Center in int/adv class is more complex with direction changes, and sometimes faster or changing tempos, but I’m getting better at remembering the combinations in general. Like I mentioned a few weeks before, a thing I struggle with is those little subtle pauses, knowing where they are and where they aren’t. When we’re there in a group doing the combination it can get a little confusing because I don’t know if others aren’t doing anything yet because it’s one of the pauses or because they have forgotten what comes next – you know, that awkward pause when you don’t know which step comes next and you’re waiting for someone else to do something? So when I do the next thing I don’t know if I’m getting ahead or it’s just right…and it can be a little frustrating. Well, whatever – ok, so I’m not a ‘real’ dancer because I can’t just ‘feel the music’, I guess (in some people’s opinion) – so what! I do the best I can, put a lot of time and effort into practicing, I enjoy taking videos of me dancing (ha, am I even allowed to call it that?), and it makes me happy… to me THAT’s real.

We did these pirouettes from second, don’t know if they’re pirouettes a la seconde, but the way they go is we tendu out to second and then do a regular pirouette from there instead of fourth or fifth (not a pirouette with our leg held out to second). I was surprised to see that they were not particularly more difficult, but then it helps that on my own I’ve been practicing going up to releve retire balance from second position (isn’t that cool when I’m able to predict what skills I should be working on ahead of time?)  The most complex part of class was when we had to reverse this combination including tendus, grand battement and chasse then pirouettes and pas de basque. The regular way had grand battements devant and we traveled to the front and did a pirouette en dehors, the reverse had grand battements derriere and traveling backwards with pirouette en dedans. The first time I attempted it I was a little lost, but I managed to figure it out to the right side.

Now, time for some real talk…where to begin…? I’d like to say that I am strongly contemplating letting this blog go. There’s a few reasons why, and I guess I should eleborate (in case anyone’s still reading, if not then at least for myself).

I often worry that the anonimity of this blog has been compromised. While I never posted any face pictures, or my location or what I think are identifying details, I think it’s only a matter of time before someone discovers you, and this makes me feel like I can’t express myself to the fullest. I know there’s this idea that one shouldn’t complain, but sometimes I feel like complaining, darnit! I’m not looking for ‘real’-life drama, so often times I just don’t say what I got to say, but then what’s the point of having a blog?! I have a bad tendency towards people-pleasing and avoiding confrontations, and this leads to me often feeling silenced (not to mention heavily taken advantage of). Yes, what I have to say is often unconventional and unpopular (if not straight-out bizarre to some); yes, some feelings may get hurt – but what about my feelings (they’re in there, I promise, underneath my stoic facade), don’t I have a right to express them in my corner of the web? Aren’t they just as important as everyone/anyone else’s?

Secondy, I wonder that I’ve outgrown this blog? I started this blog as a lonely young woman who was frustrated with just how difficult everything-ballet was; how I couldn’t tendu without falling over half the time, how I’d fall over in grand plies, how I couldn’t balance in releve for longer than a millisecond (and kept falling forward, though I noticed that everyone always assumed that if you fall out of balances you fall back), how I was just so freaking slow to learn anything, the ‘distracting’ bouncing chest (which I will forever be convinced is a problem, even at the amateur level – like why can’t I also wear cute colorful things to class occasionally like everybody else without having to worry that my body will be offending someone’s sensibilities?)  etc. None of the blogs that I came across back then were relatable to my experiences (as a “true” beginner who didn’t take a single ballet class as a child or teen; who had no prior sports/fitness background; who didn’t have the luxury of taking classes with only people in the same age group or shopping around for different schools; who didn’t have a career, or a long list of accomplishments that I could use to console myself with due to my ballet failures [I think to date my main accomplishment has been that I’m still alive, that I survived my abusive and traumatic childhood, and the aftermath, the mess that was the first few years of adulthood, and I’m still here]), so I decided to start my own since I was attempting to track my progress anyway. Many of the comments and emails I have received over the last several years – it’s almost been three years since I started this blog, wow – were from others out there who could relate to my struggles, some of you wrote about how my blog helped you, or made you feel better. And now, well, I don’t feel like that person. Don’t get me wrong, there are still many things that I struggle with, in ballet and in life, but it’s not the same. When I write about how I’m doing well, and progressing en pointe, and taking really challenging classes…I almost feel guilty… like I’m forgetting where I came from… but if I keep dwelling on where I came from and keep reminding myself, then I feel I don’t get to really focus on where I am and where I’m going…

When I first started this blog, I needed this outlet to discuss ballet so I wouldn’t bore and frustrate my now-Husband, but now, I actually know people in ‘real’ life to talk ballet with. At some point last year I realized I wasn’t writing as much because I was actually talking and interacting with people before, during, and after class. While I am still very, very much a shy introverted person, in Beginner classes people actually want to talk to me! This is new, uncharted territory for me, and I’m still adjusting, but I want to enjoy this… which brings me to…

I feel that ballet has given me so much… this has been the first time in my life that I’ve actually progressed at something, that I’ve done something that didn’t come naturally to me and it’s shown me that…I can learn things. I know, sounds rather strange to be saying at my age that I barely discovered that I can learn things, but it’s true. I was raised with the mindset that some people are good at things – or they’re not – and there’s nothing that can be done about it. And for the longest time I believed it – that some are naturally smart, or flexible, or beautiful, or strong, etc. While I now know that this is not completely true (to say the least), it’s one thing to just ‘know’ and another to actually experience it… and I feel that thanks to ballet I have experienced this. I know that if I work really hard and give it my effort – if I really want it – things can be different. This has inspired me to work on other things, in other areas, when before I would have just given up and let things be, just have thought ‘well, it’s because that’s how that person is…’ but now I’m like ‘no, I want to learn to do that too!’. So yes, I do have ballet to thank for that…I don’t know if I would call it confidence, per se, but it is a feeling that I didn’t really know before. So even though in ballet class I’ve had some unpleasant experiences, and met some unpleasant people – though I’ve met plenty of amazing, friendly, and supportive people as well – it’s been a learning experience in so many ways and for that I’m truly thankful.

By this point I realize that I’m rambling…perhaps because there’s things I want to say but can’t (refer to 4 paragraphs ago, re: anonymity or the lack of)…I’m not saying that I’ll never post again, but maybe I’m taking a break? Giving it some space…we’ll see what the future holds.

First Week, Long Weekend

Week one of a brand new regular-length session… classes no longer over two hours long, but the upside is I’ll be taking a whole bunch of classes – 2 Beginner, 2 Intermediate, 2 Int/Adv (yes, I went back…I must like it…) every week, with the option to occasionally drop in to Beginning Modern as well (if I’m not too sore and am able to get up at the break of dawn). Due  to the holiday, this coming week I’ll be missing a couple classes (but I got to sleep in, yay).

This week all my classes went pretty well. Intermediate was super fun! Int/Adv was more difficult (and also fun) but it didn’t feel as overwhelming as last fall. I think I’ve gotten better at remembering  the combinations in center! Perhaps because I’m not busy thinking about how I’m probably going to screw up… yea it’s gotten to the stage where I’m not constantly worried about screwing up.  We did a center combination with tendus and grand battements that changed facings and included both pirouettes en dehors and en dedans and I got through it without forgetting what was going to happen next. While I didn’t find myself worried about what the next step was, my weak point appears to be the timing. Like sometimes I forget a pause, or pause where there  was none. I need to work on that – while I’ve gotten better at timing and musicality in Beginner level combinations, when the combinations are of a higher level I mess up. This is probably one of those things that will get better with time (and practice) so I’m not stressing about it, just noting it for a later-date comparison. In Beginning class we did strengthening stuff, worked on port de bras, and  plie and tendu combination. We’ll be doing more in upcoming clases.

I didn’t wear the pointe shoes for any of my classes this week (but I asked to start wearing them this coming week, not for Int/Adv, obviously), but I still got some practice time to go over the things I’d learned. I managed to do passe releve with only one hand on the barre. I only did it a couple of times, but the knowledge that it’s possible will stay with me, and help me get over my fear of doing it. I’ve also gotten much more comfortable with pique arabesque in center, even getting some couple-seconds long balances in there. I figured out the problem with my chaines en pointe – the first half is fine, when I’m turning in the direction I’m looking, but the second half, when I’m turning “backwards” scares me so I don’t use enough force to not pick up momentum. But if I do use more force, I go right into the next turn. So I guess when you’re en pointe there’s no slow chaines, just regular speed? Anyway, I’ve done about 2 full ones before I scare myself and stop. I’m also doing soutenus, not the pique kind (yet) but the kind where I sous-sus and then turn in place, I guess that describes it…? I’m still having fun, and not feeling frustrated. Of course, that may have to do with not having the comparison that class can become. I’m ok with the rate of my progress, but if I see that my rate is much slower that everyone else’s I start feeling down. Ugh, you’d think that I’d be used to it by now… but oh well, all I can do is continue to work at it (both my pointe work and at not minding when all others zoom past me on the learning curve). It’s a process.

 

A Pointe-less Class, Great Week, And Some Firsts

Though by no means pointless… I don’t think I’ve ever taken a pointless ballet class…always learn something new…

This past week was a little different. To start off, the night before the first class of the week after I finished resewing my ribbons on my pointe shoes, I somehow I misplaced one of my toe pads. I then searched everywhere, literally everywhere, for them, because I knew I hadn’t been outside so they had to be somewhere, but they were nowhere to be found. After combing the area repeatedly I finally resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to be able to do any pointe work the next day. Though I was disappointed, I wondered how it would feel, as it would be my first class in over a month  that I didn’t wear the pointe shoes for at least barre.

It felt…hmm how to explain…not easier, but ‘why is this not more uncomfortable?’ I guess. Like when we did an eleve in all the positions during the plies combination, I pressed up to releve and then felt ‘is that it?’, like I knew that I could press up even higher. Springing up into sous-sus to soutenu for the second side didn’t have that extra challenge that I’ve grown to like. However, when we held a balance in retire on releve, I let go of the barre and actually balanced for a good 10 seconds! I think all my attempts at balancing on one leg en pointe (I always at least attempt it) have been helping. For comparison, last fall I was a little unconfident about letting go of the barre on one-legged releve balances, though I could balance in passe releve in center.

Afterwards, I went by the dance store expecting to get the Ouch Pouch to replace my lost one, and instead got shoes (I wrote about this a couple days ago) when I found my missing pouch.  I figured I’d just saved $20, so I could apply that towards the cost of the shoes…Anyway, the rest of my classes this week were with my new shoes.

First off, these shoes feel completely different. And by different, I mean much better. From the beginning I noticed that it was much less pressure when up on only one foot en pointe. But once I used them in class I immediately noticed that I was able to balance so much easier in first and second (I usually don’t have a problem balancing in sous-sus). Though barre went well, my first day wearing these shoes I only kept  them on for barre. Since when I wear pointe shoes for center I’ve been doing one-leg rises on demi point, I didn’t think these shoes were ready.

The next day, I decided to leave them on for center. We were working on a tendu combination using facings (since it is a Beginner class, we usually just face front, except for the more intermediate options for combinations). It was 2 tendus, 1 grand battement, first croisse, then ecarte, and efface derriere with port de bras in between, passe releve bringing the back leg to the front, tombe on front leg, pas de bourre, sous-sus. It was a nice combination and I was really excited because except for the passe releve I did the whole thing en pointe! Well the parts that involved rising, the pas de bourre and the sous-sus. Good thing I’ve been practicing my pas de bourre while facing the barre over and over and then stepping away from it a few inches because there’s no way I would have just one day decided that I was confident enough to try this in center without all that preparation.

We did a waltz-y combination: balancé x2, balancé en tournant x2 (this was a different balance en tournant than what I’ve done most commonly – in this one we turn  towards the direction we’re going and it takes 2 sets of three steps to complete the turn, I’m used to turning in the opposite direction of the direction we’re going and the turn taking 3 steps. And no, this was not traveling waltz en tournant, which we did do in a different combination), tombe, pas de bourre, piroutte en dehors, repeat starting to the other side.

The traveling waltz combination was 4 waltz en tournant, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, temps lie back to tendu, pirouette en dedans. It was really fun, because at this point I’m comfortable with waltz en tournant and that’s something that I wanted to get to, a medium-term goal you might say (the first time I ever tried an Intermediate class, one of the combinations had waltz en tournant, and as I fumbled and stumbled my way through I was just thinking ‘I want that!’ watching the more advanced dancers glide across the floor). Since I had my pointe shoes on, the pirouettes weren’t so great, since I only go up to demi pointe and was a little afraid of the amount of momentum I picked up.

Petit allegro was glissade, jete, pas de bourre, jete, ballote x2, pas de bourre, royalle, other side. This combination was pretty challenging for me, more so than the past few week’s combinations even though this one didn’t really change direction of travel. After the ballote I seemed to freeze for an instant before remembering the pas de bourre whereas last week’s transition to into saute arabesque seemed more fluid. I feel like I could really improve on this combination if we stuck to it for more time though. Unfortunately, since this was the last week of the session, we won’t…

We did emboites across the floor, first bringing our legs forward, then back. While my emboites to the front feel less weird, the ones to the back, just no…such an awkward movement! Well, at least it felt better than the last time I’d tried them. Then we did the forwards traveling ones and ended the last one in assemble. That was fun and the one that ended with the assemble to the right looked pretty good. To the left it looked funny…story of my ballet life LOL.

After this we did temps leve (saute arabesque), faille, pas de chat x2, and then this little skip (on the left leg if going to the right) with the other foot in coupe before repeating across the floor. I really enjoyed this combination once I got the pattern, but it frustrates me that my second leg in the pas de chat tends to lose its turnout. Then Teacher let us get in groups and make an across the floor combination with our group. We came up with saute arabesque, saute passe, saute arabesque, faille, pas de chat x2, glissade, assemble which was so fun (and of course I messed up the ending to the left).

Wrapping up the week (and session), we got the opportunity to do something I’d been  longing to try for a long time – partnering.  It’s a rare opportunity, but we actually had enough guys to attempt this (it wasn’t mandatory to participate). First we started by them hold us by the waist while standing behind us and shifting our weight forwards, backwards and to the sides. I don’t know about for my partners (I got to work with two guys!) but for me this took so much effort. Like I was engaging everything as hard as I could.  Then we faced our partners and they walked around us for a promenade. After this we first went up to passe releve to test out our balance and then we did pirouettes. With pirouettes it was tricky because our partner has to step back so we don’t knee them by accident, and then step closer to catch us for the balance at the end. With one of my partners it wasn’t really working out (he’s around my height when I’m standing completly flat, so don’t know if that was a factor), but with the other guy we got some good balances at the end of the pirouette. While it was fun, it was so hard though – I can only imagine how it’d be so tiring to do a whole pas de deux!

I’m hoping…that maybe it’s something that I don’t have to just imagine…I know it’s a more complicated goal than my usual (because all my improving-at-ballet goals just involve me) but I would really love to dance a pas de deux. I’m often reluctant to publicly express goals that I feel are highly unlikely to come true, but what the heck…what do I got to lose, you know? Before I felt even dumber about it, because I wasn’t even sure if it was something I really wanted to do, and making sure that it wasn’t just the idea of it that I liked. Just like how the first time I tried on a pair of pointe shoes I realized that this was something I really wanted to do. So yea, I guess let’s see what happens? (Yes, I feel incredibly ridiculous right now…but to be fair, before the idea of me going en pointe would have seemed ridiculous, so who knows what’s possible)

Speaking of pointe, this week I unlocked a couple of acheivements (for the longest time, Husband was such a gamer that we still talk about things in this household in terms of ‘unlocking achievements’, ‘leveling up’ and ‘spending our XP/MP points’ on different things…umm yeah, anyways): besides the pas de bourre in center that I mentioned earlier, I also got over my fear of doing a pique (specifically arabesque, but once I got going I did some into a passe traveling a la seconde) in center. While I didn’t try it, I almost felt like I could have done a pique turn, I was stepping into the pique by doing the little rond de jambe that preceedes turns and everything. I don’t know whether all my practice at the barre has been paying off or is it that my feet work so much better with these shoes. Perhaps both? I will say that with these shoes I’m able to actualy feel how my feet are pointed in the shoes as I’m up en pointe and I love the feeling. I’d read before somewhere that one should use the least amount of padding as possible to really “feel the floor”. I wonder if that is a different way of explaining the feeling that is the differnce between these new shoes and my old ones (with the built in cushions)?

And finally, some pictures if you’ve made it this far.

First my coupe derriere en pointe

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Left foot

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Right

A Picture is worth 1000 corrections…

Note to self: lower side arm! (No I'm not holding on to anything, but the angle kind of sucks)

Note to self: lower side arm – a lot! (No I’m not holding on to anything, but the angle kind of sucks)

Pointe Shoes Adventures

Like the title says, this is about my pointe shoes…just stuff  I haven’t had the chance to write about.

Ever since I got my shoes, let’s just say I’ve become friends with a needle and thread. After initially sewing them, and wearing them once (this was before the school session started and I was just doing eleves in first and fifth at the home barre), I realized my left one had to be resewn. The ribbon was just not where I needed it to be to help mold the shoes to my not-so-high arches when up on pointe. That time it took as long as the first time, since I was still getting the hang of it. Since then, though I’ve gotten much better – and quicker – at it. Or perhaps the time just appears to be going by quicker…

Then couple weeks ago, I resewed the ribbons my left shoe. A few days before, when I was putting on the shoes at home, one of my kitties decided to paw at my ribbons, so they had a little scratch that I was hoping wouldn’t turn into a hole or tear. Since the other ribbon had a scratch too, I switched out both ribbons on the shoe. Now that I wasn’t being impatient to put the shoes on I found the process somewhat enjoyable. I’m glad I’ve come around to liking it because I’ve found myself doing a lot of ribbon sewing since then…

My first pair of shoes (Bloch Balance European) seem to be done. My feet, especially my smaller right foot was feeling like it was sinking in too far andnot being supported. That’s when I discovered that I do need something between my big toe and rest of the foot, at least on my right foot. While I have a space between my big toe and second toe on both feet (due to my stupid flip flop habit a decade ago), my right foot feels, and behaves, completely different from my left. After putting together some common sense with good old youtube research, I realized that I was at risk of developing a bunion, and needed something for my toe gap (it being close to midnite whe I figured it out, and no chance of going to any dance store before my next class, I improvised… and used some disposable earplugs, which were the only thing available that seemed like the right size to do the job). While that helped, I still was feeling like the shoes could at any time cross the line from broken-in comfortable to unwearable.

So I got another pair of the same exact shoes because, well, up until they’d started to increasingly put pressure on my toes they’d been good, so it seemed like a good reason. Unfortunately, even though I made sure to get the exact same model, size, width, they shoes felt completely different. At the store I was able to slowly roll up to pointe very easily, which should have made me think something was up. I don’t know if this is a dumb (or simply unasked – believe me, I typed it in to my search engine of choice and nothing came up) question but I wonder, do pointe shoes become somewhat “broken in” by being tried on constantly in the store? Well, anyway, the store only carries one pair of each size in stock at any given moment, and I wanted to have a pair of back up shoes ready to go in case my first pair failed at a time when we couldn’t get to the store. So I got them and hoped that they would, in time, feel like my first pair.

Long story short… they didn’t. I wore them around at home, hoping to mold the box to my feet like with the first pair, but it didn’t seem to be working. But when I did eleves and releves the shank just seemed so flexible. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if it wan’t for the box being so uncomfortable. I started to worry…it had seemed too good to be true that I would find the perfect shoe on my first try and things would be so simple. I was also worrying because…this feels like confession time, but the reason my first shoes were so comfortable was because that model comes with a built in cushion, which combined with the Ouch Pouch really took the edge off things (ok, honestly, I’ve been feeling like such a cheater…). But, the downside is I was afraid I was now stuck to that particular model because of the stupid cushion. Except that the box of this model, even at the narrowest width, was starting to feel like it might be too roomy for my foot, like I needed a lower profile, and so, if I flattened the box it would be too wide . How stressful! What to do…

Well, through a small series of coincidences I wound up at the dance store again, and decided since I’m there I may as well try out some shoes (so strange, I usually hate trying stuff on, but for some reason with pointe shoes it’s different. Perhaps it’s the utilitarian factor?). I started with the same model I have, because the girl suggested that maybe I’d just gotten an off pair. Hmm, well I was not convinced, because the pair I tried on seemed ok, but it was just too easy to roll up, and I didn’t want to deal with that issue again. I asked for something with a lower profile and she gave me a couple different models of Russian Pointe shoes to try (I think Rubin and Alekssandra?). They were not very comfortable on my feet once en pointe (not to mention pricy), and I was starting to think that I’d just had beginner’s luck when I found my first pair. Or perhaps they’d been completely unsuitable from the beginning, but maybe I’d just wanted it to work out so badly that it did?

Then, my friend suggested I try on her shoe model (Grishko 2007), and figuring I had nothing to lose by this point, I did. Oh my gosh, as soon as I went up en pointe with them (not rolling up, because the shank was much stiffer, and the heel kept sliding off, but just stepping to pointe at the barre), they just felt so comfortable. I even experimented just being up on one leg, and still, no pain (which made me realize how unsuitable my first “fitting” [I mostly fit myself] had been, since I’d been scared to stand on one foot en pointe – perhaps rightly – but I hadn’t been able to gage how much pressure there’d be on my toe while on one leg. Since my first pair were getting more painful by the day, I decided to get the shoes. When I got home, I looked up these shoes in the pointe shoes database at PointePerfect (which is an amazingly useful tool) and saw that these are low profile shoes designed to reduce the pressure on the big toe joint. Perfect!

More sewing. First I unsewed my second pair of Bloch Balance Europeans, so I could reuse my ribbons. I managed to get the ribbons placed correctly on the first try, but ended up adding a second piece of elastic to keep the heels from sliding off. But my work was rewarded once I put the shoes on and did some barre work. I was feeling really secure in these shoes, like I could hold balances for longer, even on one leg. Even though the platform is narrower, I just find these shoes easier to work with. Then again, they are still really new, so we’ll see.

I feel pretty bad about the pair of shoes that didn’t really work out. The box appears to still be far from broken in, but at the same time I don’t feel supported. I suppose I will still use then for basic barre work at home, but there’s also the possibility that i could use these as the pair that I turn into soft pointe shoes. I know the box isn’t comfortable now, but if I knew I wasn’t going to be going up en pointe in them I could soften it up more.

And now, some pictures. I’m too lazy to take some of me wearing them while doing anything remotely cool right now, but yeah…

My pointe shoes

My pointe shoes

From right to left, my first pair of Bloch European Balance, second pair, and Grishko 2007

From right to left, my first pair of Bloch European Balance, Grishko 2007, and second pair of Blochs. Notice how the platform on the Grishko is much narrower

Why do cats like pointe shoes so much?!

Why do cats like pointe shoes so much?! Could it be the string…