Category Archives: Trip down memory lane

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.

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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.

2016 – My Year In Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like A Flashback

Once again, what a week (and I say that in both the positive and negative aspects).

Ballet’s been going well. In the first few weeks of the sessions I do a lot of remembering at what level I was at in the beginning of the past sessions and assessing my progress as I remember doing that same step back then. In Beginner class we’re doing stuff like basic weight shifting tendu combinations in center (just a la seconde) and chasses across the floor. The memory of not being able to even tendu in center without falling over is still with me, although it does feel more distant every day. I do feel like I’m trying to hold on to it though – I mean, compared to where I was when I started, my progress has been nothing short of amazing for me. If I were to lose that memory of where I was where I began, somehow the accomplishment seems less impressive to myself. When F Teacher demonstrates the chasses, for example, and she tells the class “Then you’ll be able to take the back foot en l’air,  then go up on releve, then jump it” (with a little demonstration as she says it), I almost feel like I’m transported back in time three years ago. I remember thinking ‘Yeah, right. Like I’m ever going to be able to do that – I keep falling over even with both feet flat on the floor’. But, what do you know, with enough time and practice I could! So even if I’m a crappy dancer by anyone else’s standards, I continue to impress myself. That makes me happy.

The more challenging Intermediate classes have been fun as well. So much more fun than last year! I still definitely struggle with remembering long combinations, especially the second side (and it does seem like in the moment all my own advice about remembering different phrases completely flies out of my head. I got to learn to notice the patterns!), but I feel like I’m able to jump back into it with less of a delay than before. Still not at the level needed to make it actually look like beautiful dancing beyond the first phrase, but at least I can start off and finish it in a somewhat presentable manner. Petit allegro, of course, is not even close to looking how it should, but my speed has increased enough so that I’m keeping up the tempo. I’m not trying any beated jumps yet though, just working on making my changements look nice first. Luckily, Teacher gives us the option of going at a slower or faster tempo (I usually attempt both) and of adding the beats or not.

I seem to have figured out the glissade forward (as opposed to a la second. The kind found in saute arabesque, saute coupe, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete) which was really giving me a hard time several months back.   We worked on pique arabesques, which are so much harder for me than to chasse atabesque  onto releve, and I’ve been working on getting over my fear of stepping up onto releve. I guess it happens all the time when doing chaines or pique turns, but for whatever reason I find it scarier to just pique arabesque. Even harder adding that plie while coming down off the one foot releve, and holding the balance. But by the end of my second Intermediate class of the week I was able to do a few, even on my bad balancing side.

My single pirouettes en dehors have been ok this week (well, at my regular school – at NS for whatever reason my body just did not want to cooperate this week and I did not do any full pirouettes at all), not good just ok. I’m getting around all the way pretty often, but I haven’t been attempting any more doubles. Perhaps it was a fluke, perhaps not, but either way I’ve just been focusing on getting singles with correct technique and most importantly for me, getting rid of the anxiety surrounding doing pirouettes.

All that being said, I did not end the week having a very good opinion about myself as it relates to movement (not specifically dance). As part of a certification program I’m doing, I have to take these exceptionally challenging Pilates classes on top of what I usually take. Oh man, it was awful!

During (and after) taking it, I felt the closest I had felt in a very long time to when I first started ballet – like I was old, weak, clumsy and uncoordinated (not the agile, in tune with her body person I’ve started to become since starting ballet) . I honestly wanted to cry several times, but I held it in, forcing myself to think about later on that night when I could allow myself some private time with my feelings. As it happens with me, when I repress sadness it turns into anger. So as the hour progressed I found myself angrier and angrier – and unfortunately a good deal of that anger was at myself, for thinking that a person’s body, mine, can really change. There were exercises that I couldn’t do at all no matter how hard I tried, and there were some that I could do, but worried that by doing them I was putting my body in an unsafe position. I was tempted to just leave after the mat portion, but went on to the Reformer part anyway – it was a terrible idea. I managed to get out of doing some of the exercises, but the ones I was made to do sucked. I worried that my hip flexors were going to be angry at me, or worse (due to my weird long leg-short torso ratio, my knees were somewhere around the back of my ears, while other’s knees were still out in front of them).

To make matters worse, the instructor said something along the lines of ‘some exercises aren’t for everybody. Some very inflexible people, or a pregnant woman, wouldn’t be able to do them.’ Ok, maybe I took it the wrong way, but hearing that just about destroyed my mood (I was the only one who couldn’t do that particular exercise (when she said it) in the whole room, and last time I checked I’m neither pregnant nor extremely inflexible (by this point in my 3 year stretching regimen)). It’s been days later and I’m still feeling extremely down on the whole thing. This is so how I felt when I first started ballet. The big difference is that although ballet was the hardest thing I’d ever attempted to do, I cared enough to get over the horrible inadequacy and just keep going (and nowadays I’m so glad I did). But I don’t have that same passion for Pilates – sure, it’s a great way to stay in shape and condition the body, but there’s no need for me to do the extremely challenging exercises at the harder end of the spectrum. To me this is a body conditioning method, and I wouldn’t want to risk not being able to dance by injuring myself while doing what to me is woking out.

So I’ll probably just leave, because that’s so much easier for me than talking to the instructor. I keep trying to ask myself if it is that I genuinely worry that I may hurt myself, or that my pride is extremely wounded for not being able to keep up. Perhaps it’s both.

A-Line-Ment

There’s this thing F Teacher does – or rather, wants us to do – when we come into the center. Since there’s a lot of people in the class, we’re in two groups, Group 1 and Group 2. So, Group 1’s on, and they’re doing their thing there, and as soon as they finish and are dismissed, they’re to run off and Group 2 will run in and do their thing. Except we’re supposed to be in lines of four, perfectly lined up, so it’s more like run in and be lined up perfectly immediately as soon as the other group leaves than just simply run in and do your thing.

Doing this is not one my strengths in ballet class, or even something I’m just ok at. In short, I suck at this.

I’d forgotten that this is how F Teacher does things in Beginner class, because it had been quite some time since I’d taken her class at the beginner level (and with this many number of people in the class that it’d be necessary to do things this way). But now looking back, I do remember it from when I first started and I remember being terrible at it. Back then I used to think it was because I’d only been dancing for a few days, weeks, whatever, and everyone else must be more advanced than me – that’s why I was so bad at it. It was a good reason/excuse for a while.

Except now I’m not new, and I’m not one of the most beginner students in the class and I still suck at this! So I’m sitting here wondering what I could do about improving this, like, what skills do I need to develop or what is it about this that is so hard for me. Part of it is that I worry about being in someone else’s spot (the spot they’re walking towards), so I tend to have to make sure that an area is open before I go there. And by the time I do that it may not be open anymore (because someone else took it). So then I head towards the back, because there’s room there, but since there’s open spots more towards the front that were missed, we end up shifting the lines anyway, and maybe around this point I figure out what line I’m in. Or not. And by now we’re off count.

So I’m still thinking about it, just trying to figure it out, because I want to improve at ballet (and therefore, all aspects of ballet class), if not for any other reason. Thinking hard, hard, and then I remember Modern class. Specifically, that exercise we did with a partner where we took turns to follow each other, then there was no leader specified but a leader just happened anyway – that crazyness. Is something like this what is going on – no one knows exactly where they are going to go but they just assume the spot they are walking towards will not be taken? And if so, how do you do do that?! Do people just know? I’m scared this is one of those things that “normal” people learned naturally when they were like four and I never figured out… Ugh, when not knowing how to do things in regular life means not knowing how to do things in ballet.

I realize this will probably make no sense to a lot of people, but I just wanted to catch that thought before it flies away like a bird…

And maybe I’ll figure out the secret to this and look back on this and laugh.

2015 -What A Year

As far as ballet goes for me, 2015 has been an amazing year! So many new experiences…

I started off the year taking ballet class only about twice a week on average. In February, it was my two year anniversary since starting ballet. Early on in the year, I attempted a four month session of Intermediate class. Although at the time I wasn’t ready for it, by the time summer came about I was ready to try again (and this time I got through it!). Over the past year my dancing has improved so much. I also found another local dance studio that offered open drop-in adult ballet classes, and not only that, it was more affordable than the other studio I got to. By the later part of the year I was taking class on average four times a week, though sometimes even five or six. It’s been great.

And that’s just ballet – this past year I also started modern dance classes, twice a week. I didn’t start until later on in the year, but I do think I will be continuing on with this. It was pretty cool using what I’ve learned in ballet (mostly balance, but also alignment and flexibility) to actually be somewhat decent at it (it was a beginner level class).

I saw several live perfomances, including my first Swan Lake (by the Grand Russian Ballet).  I’d been wanting to watch Swan Lake live for so long and I was definitely excited. It was great, but I’m still hoping to one day see it performed with a live orchestra.  I also caught a couple other performances by smaller local companies, which were nice. Also saw a lot of modern dance performances through my school.  Most of the time I don’t understand what it’s about, but when I do – those extremely rare times – it’s awesome.

Then I got to be in a performance, which was just incredible. A LOT of work too, but a dream come true. It was so much fun to get to wear a tutu and dance onstage. I’d been wanting this ever since I first started ballet (though I never would have admitted it, because I felt I was being unrealistic), so it felt really good to actually meet one of my goals. Now that it’s happened, I feel a lot more calm about it. I don’t know yet if I will try again for another one, because sometimes I feel like I just want to remember how amazing this past experience was, and not ruin the memory by trying to recreate it. But, I may… I’m just not making myself any promises yet. If we do repeat the same ballet we did – unlikely, but a possibility – then I’m definitely gonna try out! I’ll train as if I was going to for sure either way.

This past year early on I also started pilates, doing it pretty consistently which gave me great results in improving my dancing (specifically balancing and posture – which came from imcreased core strength) but mostly an overall increase in proprioception and the little subtleties of movement)).  Seriously, it was the best thing I could have done for my dancing and for my body overall. My posture has never been better! Possibly equally important, I discovered body rolling on a foam roller (also through pilates class). I got myself a roller and now spend countless hours torturing myself with the zeal of a masochist slowly rolling out my tight muscles and fascia, which hurts so much that it feels good. My quads are especially tight, and ever since I’ve been slowly rolling them out I’ve gotten closer to the floor than ever in my front splits.

I continued on my quest to improve my jumps, and I finally found an answer (slow jumps at home, with a really deep plie, trying to jump as high as I can while pointing my feet, landing in a deep plie and holding it without allowing my torso to come forward, straighten legs, plie, repeat).  As a result, I no longer get corrected to point my feet, as I’m finally strong enough to jump and remember to point at the same time. My stamina could be better, but if it’s any consolation, practically the whole cast was huffing and puffing backstage as much as I was (and I’m way older than them!). So I don’t feel so bad about it, though I am working to improve it. Speaking of which, I also continued running after having started last year , though I stopped for a few months before my performance (not out of choice, but after running downhill one day and my knee feeling a little sore I decided to play it safe. I mostly just run uphill now. Not steep uphills (yet), just  slight uphills.)

On the not-so-fun side of things, I also had some minor incidents (I don’t think they qualify as injuries) this past year. I slipped and fell in the rain, and landed on my tailbone. It hurt for months (but I was able to continue ballet). Then, just weeks before my performance I landed wrong in a jump and hurt my hip and thigh. The recovery break afterwards did cost me some of my strength and stamina, but I’m recovering quickly. I’ve taken class a quite few times afterwards and I’m feeling stronger.

What’s in store for next year? My goals?

I would like to continue taking class as often as possible, at least 4 days a week, preferably 5. 1 year ago if I had read that I would have been like ‘yeah, dream on!’ but things have changed so much for the better that it is actually a possibility. Both the discovery of New Studio, and now being eligible for Intermediate at Adults Only Studio helped, but also the schedule at my regular school has improved. And what I’d be paying for about 5 classes per week for a whole month comes out to about what people in nearby areas are paying for just 5 classes – total. I feel so very lucky, to have these options available, which make it actualy possible for me to take class this often. So thankful.  And just knowing that I have my barre at home helps me feel like there’s always time for a little ballet.

Wishing you all a happy new year!

Oh, and I also updated the Learning Curve page if anyone wants to check it out. Newer stuff is at the bottom.

https://balletandorbust.wordpress.com/test/

 

 

Why “ballet and/or bust”?

This is kind of a random ramble…

A recent comment sort of reminded me of something that I’d been thinking about recently. I’d been thinking about the name and focus of this blog. In fact, I’ve been sort of pondering changing it, but not getting around to it, and then changing my mind, and back and forth. Reason is, sometimes I wonder if it’s still relevant to my story. I guess I should back track a little…

Back when I first started ballet-blogging (june 2014), I was in a different place than now – both literally and metaphorically. I’d been ballet-ing for a little over a year at that point, and was super discouraged. Besides the fact that I wasn’t very good at ballet, I also felt… how should I put this… ummm… externally discouraged.  I hadn’t had a very good class experience with the last session of ballet I’d taken, and felt like I was it was hopeless. I hadn’t really met a ballet teacher that was accomodating to my slowness at learning (if anything, the opposite), and I was really beginning to feel like doing ballet may not be for me (as in, I felt like others were disapproving of my choice to do ballet). But at the same time, I was doing it, so then that means it could be for me, right?

If I’d been blogging just a few months prior, it would have just been a blog full of rants (and I know – I have journal entries in my private journal that chronicle my experiences while taking that session). I was having a really hard time keeping up in class at times (especially considering how long I’d been doing ballet for), and, since I’d seen how much stronger my legs had gotten in that year or so, I blamed my lack of progress on my chest. It did seem as though that was the issue – after all, when someone falls off balance, teachers would assume that they would fall backwards, whereas I would always fall forward. I struggled with balancing for quite a long time actually, and didn’t get a reliable two-legged releve balance until around the time I’d been doing ballet for two years. In the end, the culprit turned out to be my previously weak back and core. So, although perhaps the heaviness of my boobs was the immediate cause, it was completely fixable with time, practice, and lots of conditioning cross-training work.

My point is, as a commenter reminded me, the stronger you get, the less your body’s shape gets in the way of progress. I’ve experience it firsthand, so I know it’s true. I mean, yes, sometimes progress will come slower than for someone who has less weight being carried around in certain places (and I remember how pissed I was back in first ballet session when a guy had referred to breasts as “weight”, lol. I totally get – in a dancing context – what he meant, though at the time it was perceived as rudeness by my new-to-ballet ears), and walking around  while carrying a heavy purse is enough to remind anyone of this fact (or to experience it for yourself, if you happen to not be one of us who is carrying around extra padding in certain areas). In fact, it was my discomfort at carrying my purse while standing in the same place for long periods of time that reminded me that I was going to ramble about this subject. Simply put, the closer the body’s weight is distributed to the body’s midline, the easier it will be for that person to balance. Some of us have to work harder. (I should mention at some point: since I didn’t watch much ballet before I started doing ballet, I had absolutely no idea about what body types can usually be found in ballet, or why, or anything like that.)

But, it’s not impossible. It certainly doesn’t get in the way of me doing ballet. And, even though it may not seem so obvious to some, this is a huge deal for me. I’ve never really discussed this on the blog, because it’s personal-ish and embarassing, but for years and years I hid my body in enormous baggy sweaters, ashamed of my body. If someone had told me that I would be comfortable one day prancing around in public in a skin-tight garment and nothing else with my chest I would have said they were out of their mind. I was way too embarassed of drawing attention to myself, or hearing innapropriate or mean comments, or getting stared at. I effectively put my life on hold for years while I hid and watched everyone else live their life. (Of course, other factors that I won’t get into played their part as well, but the body issues were deifinitely a big part.)

I am so grateful that due to ballet I’ve become so much more comfortable with my body. This ease in movement, this lack of self-conciousness, has been amazing.  Not that it’s always perfect, or that I have a completely healthy relationship with my body – I don’t – but the simple freedom of feeling like I can leave the house without a heavy coat in summertime is something I never had expected to experience.

So, is the fact that I am top-heavy relevant when it comes to my ballet adventures? Yes and no.  While the physical aspects – holding balances without toppling over and such – have improved so much, there are things that happen here and there that remind me that yes, it certainly is still relevant. Thigs like going to the dance store and having people just unabashedly stare at me, and my chest, as I do my shopping. It’s not even the kids, but their moms, which is really irritating – like, great way to teach your kids by example how to behave. Or not being able to easily find dancewear that fits without feeling like it’ll rip off any second. Or when the more immature dance students in my classes make comments, or if I take class with people I’ve never taken class before, and before we start I feel their eyes on me, like they’re sizing me up. I realize I don’t look like the typical ballet student, but at least once we start our barre work I can prove that I am just as serious as the next dance student.

Anyway, ramble over (for now) 🙂