Category Archives: ballet class

Pirouettes

If there is one step that has been a constant source of frustration for me in my journey as a dancer, I would say it is pirouettes, specifically en dehors, even more specific from fifth. Not that I’m saying other things have been *easy*, most definitely not, if it was easy it wouldn’t be ballet, but pirouettes just hold that place for me. Part of it might be how slow progress has come. I mean, i started off with literally no balance, no ability to jump while doing anything close to pointing my feet, but those things have come; I’ve been able to do my 32 changements (often times twice with only 8 counts of rest, first starting with the right foot in front, second time starting with the left) while pointing my feet for about two years now, and I’m not sure at what point i was able to hold a superlong balance in a high releve on two feet in any position, but these are things that I would say I’m comfortable with. I don’t take them for granted – I don’t think I could ever take them for granted – but I’m well past the point that I freak out when these things come up in class.
Pirouettes though, are different. Part of the problem is that I can tend towards being a perfectionist – all the parts have to be there to make the whole. To me, its not *really* a pirouette if the foot is not pointed and up at retire, for example. Rather than focusing on getting around, I obsessed over getting up to that high releve, getting that working leg up to a high passe, having my arms in a strong middle fifth. I sometimes see classmates get around, twice even, but the working leg is completely turned in, the foot flat against their supporting leg, or down by their ankle rather than by their knee, their elbows drooping down. To me that is not really a pirouette – just my opinion, of course…if someone is dancing just for fun who am I to criticize their technique? But, speaking for myself, I know that it was the attention to all these little details that has slowed my progress.
There was also the fear factor, of course. As someone who would fall forward out of balances instead of backward, I was apprehensive about giving that extra push to get up onto that high releve on one foot. What helped me out with this the most was, strangely enough, going on pointe. Getting used to that extra push that is needed to get up on pointe really helped me get over the fear of what-might-happen if I pushed up too hard. The change was almost immediate- within several weeks of first geting my pointe shoes I found pirouettes (on flat) were more… I’m not going to say *easier*, but perhaps less foreign? I found myself getting around with minimal effort. I realized that before I had been attempting to compensate with momentum for my lack of being up on my leg, which was then backfiring and throwing me off balance. All I know is, a year ago (before going on pointe) whenever we did consecutive pirouettes from fifth it was utterly hopeless and now… well they’re definitely not perfect but my supporting leg manages to last through the whole series of releves and I don’t throw myself completely off balance. I’ve realized that not a whole lot of momentum is needed for a single pirouette (a correction I often heard, but that moment when you finally internalize a correction and make it yours is magic). As for doubles, I’ve done them accidentally, but they don’t count (re:perfectionist); I would only count them if they were completely *intentional* the result of spotting my head a second time not just a fluke caused by excess momentum…

Speaking of spotting… ugh, what a difficult thing! It’s not the head motion necessarily that’s the problem, it’s that you actually have to be looking *at*something. Actually looking *at* something has been one of the things that I’ve struggled with in more recent times, now that I can’t really complain about things like balance. It’s scary! I mean, what if you accidentally look at *someone*, like make eye contact? Can’t relate? Must be nice to not have terrible social anxiety… but I’m working on it and it’s been getting better… on my own time (outside of dance class) I may still sometimes leave my glasses off purposely in order to avoid knowing if anyone is looking at me when I’m having a particularly anxious day, but in class I am all eyes up and focusing. Perhaps it will one day translate to the “real world”? In the end it is just muscle memory…

And now, a little bit of class notes.

We did a really fun adagio: grand plie in fifth, sous-sus and arms come to high fifth,open to second, developpe ecarte derriere, rond de jambe to devant with facing change as arm changes; developpe ecarte devant, rond de jambe facing change as arm changes; tombe pas de bourre, releve in 4th, pirouette en dehors, pas de bourre en tournant, pas de basque into arabesque, deep lunge and circular port de bras, attitude promenade en dedans, releve into arabesque and run off. Second time we did from right side to left back to back. My memory for longer combinations has improved so much!
Waltz en tournant, ballote x2, ballone x2, tombe pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, chasse to releve arabesque, hold balance, faille and chasse thru to releve arabesque on other leg. This combination was trickier, especially because of the ballote and ballone. Mostly the corresponding arms, the leg part is getting a little more familiar. Unfortunately, I’m off jumping for a few weeks for health related reasons, so improvement on those ballotes will have to wait…

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Back At It (For Now)

I was reading over some of my old posts, like c. late 2014 kind of old, and i realized something – actually, several things…
1. I’ve come so far, so incredibly far. I mean, its hard to explain accurately without photographic or video evidence just how terrible i was at ballet when i first started, or even back when i first started blogging. The average new-to-ballet classmate is already better after a few weeks than i was after a year and a half. Sad. But at the same time, it was this very disadvantage that made me work harder… so it was a blessing in disguise… I’m a huge believer in blessings in disguise…
2. I love writing about ballet, if anything for the sole purpose of being able to come back and *read* what i wrote about ballet. I continue to be my own biggest fan… perhaps this makes me egotistical, but I’m past the point of caring about that…
3. I’m a bit sad that I haven’t been doing much writing about ballet for the past year or so… unfortunately, in the not-too-distant future i may be on a dance hiatus, but for now i will cherish the time I have and do my best to hold on to the memories…
4. (bonus point) i read something on social media that went something like “if you quit now you will be back where you started, and back when you started you would have done anything to be where you are now”… Ok I’m probably butchering the quote but something along those lines and reading over mg old posts I’m just like “yes! Exactly!” and i am so incredibly grateful that I didn’t quit, that i believed in myself… I dont know if i ever even believed that i would get to this level that I’m currently at, but it’s nothing short of amazing for me
(Side note: i was having a long talk with one of my teachers and she calld me a “success story” as an adult beginning dancer. That felt like wow…)

Anyway, all this talking (writing) about my current level, and no actual descriptions of where I’m at… so, where am i?
Im currently taking about four ballet classes a week (2 int/adv, 2 beginning), plus two beginning modern classes. Int/adv is difficult, but I don’t feel in over my head. Barre and center are so much fun. The kind of combinations we do in barre are similar to the kind of stuff in Kathryn Morgan’s advanced barre on youtube, for reference. I actually attempt the pirouettes at the barre, and my balance on releve on one leg lasts several seconds on a good day.
Center is so much fun! Combinations like tendu devant croisse, grand battement, grand battement on releve, close in sous-sus, land in fourth, pirouette en dedans, tendu derrière croisse, grand battement, then on releve, pirouette en dehors, tendus and grand battement a la seconde, pirouette a la seconde, soutenu, other side. Or balancé front and back, en tournant, waltz en tournant, tombe pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, temps lie back, pique turns x2, step over turn, chaînes, chasse to releve arabesque, faille, run off. Consecutive pirouettes from fifth en dehors in center – and i can actually do them. Grand allegro- sissone, faille x2, glissade assemble, brise x4, glissade pas de chat, sissones en croix (so hard! So fast!), run and fouetté. Im not saying it’s perfect, but I’m doing it!
Beginning class is also lots of fun. I like to challenge myself by doing the barre with my hand either lightly on it or not touching at all. Even though it’s beginning, our teacher lets us use port de bras and epaulement, so that keeps it fun. In center we do lots of waltzing and balancés, tendus and pas de bourres. So fun to continue to work on the basics.
There’s things that I don’t really expect much improvement on though, like turnout. I mean, i can do clamshells with resistance until forever and all the pilates turnout exercises in the world and while the muscles get stronger and stronger, the flexibility in my hips is set. I can hold my turnout, but it’s not very good. Same as my splits. I’ve made peace with this fact, but it’s so frustrating when a know it all teenager who’s being doing ballet since they’ve been walking comes along and harasses me about it. So hard to remain civil about it…
Modern class is lots of fun in a different way. I’m finally at the point where i don’t feel like doing ballet when we have to improv! I’m actually enjoying the opportunity to move my body in new and unique ways. Floorwork has definitely become less scary, though my transitions from the floor to standing could still use work – I’ll blame my disproportionately long legs. But going from standing to the floor is ok, because I definitely have the upper body strength. And I finally figured out how to do a body roll without lookign like I’m having a seizure.
As far as pointe, I don’t have a pointe class to go to, but i keep working on it at my home barre, and occasionally at work, taking advantage of the studio time. The floor there is marginally better than the floor at home, so i do a little bit of center. Not much though, because the floor there is still not optimal for pointe and i like to play it super safe. My barre pointe work has gotten better though, I continue to get stronger and more comfortable. I love the feeling of being on pointe, love how my shoes hug my feet, love how it feels so magical to lift up and out, no longer making contact with the floor. I think I mention to all my friends how it doesn’t hurt, how the pressure of standing up on releve for a long time is arguably more “painful” than being up on pointe. It seems like this is a taboo thing to say because everyone always goes on about how much it hurts, but this is my experience and, like I’ve said before, if i can’t express myself truthfully on my own blog then where? Anyway, I’m sure its just because my shoes are a perfect fit for my feet, not because of me – I still continue having a low tolerance for pain.
Anyway, this year i am not performing, which is another blessing in disguise… I will explain that one later, eventually . I will say that at first i was very upset about this development, but the support of my dance friends has really helped me out. That’s another thing, I’ve made some amazing and supportive – not to mention talented – dance friends. And the other day one of my friends mentioned that she’d heard one of the faculty members discussing how much they’d enjoyed my piece that I choreographed this past summer. I found myself surprised and pleased about that.
Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone who expressed their condolences in reply to my last post, I really appreciate it.

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.