Tag Archives: Adult ballet students

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…

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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.

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

image

Left foot

image

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)

Conquering The Fear… Sort Of

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 3: Ambivalent

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

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

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

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

Anyway.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 2: Testing Out My Comfort Zone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

DIY: Converting* Tights

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

Anyway.

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

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

image

Before and after

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

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

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

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

And a side view of the heel

And a side view of the heel

And in shoes

And in shoes

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