Tag Archives: ballet and body type

Summer Session Summary

Alternate title: What I Did On My Summer Vacation (ahhh, memories)

Even though I didn’t have much time to write about it while it was going on but a weekly little summary, my ballet summer session was pretty awesome. I learned so much and I really feel that my dancing has really progressed. It was Beginner level, but I do feel that I needed to fill up gaps in my technique in order to be better prepared for Intermediate, should I decide to take it again (and who are we kidding – I probably will).

Here’s probably the most important thing I learned: When you actually use your technique to the fullest – believe it or not – it gets easier (there is a catch though – you have to actually have enough strength in  your muscles to begin with to be able to physically do it. Back when I started, I was so weak that I couldn’t physically do a lot of things that feel like second nature now). If I’m actually holding my turnout and pulling up and not tilting my pelvis (and staying untilted at the pelvis has a huge impact on turnout) I have an extremely higher likelyhood of not losing my balance. My problems with balancing before were partly (at least – I’d say mostly, but there is that little issue of my weight distribution and center of gravity) caused by the fact that I kept losing my turnout and not pulling up. Of course, back then I wasn’t strong enough to even stand up completely straight, let along pull up, so yeah…

But anyway, I’m much stronger now, so when I remember to fully use my technique – and I’m hoping that writing this down will serve as a reminder – it results in much better dancing. I think the promenades issue is a clear example of this. Back a few months ago, I would start feeling like I was going to tip over anyway, so might as well just let it go. But now I’ve realized that when I feel like I’m going to lose my balance is a great time to pull up even more, and not let my leg drop! Same with the turnout, if I feel like I’m off balance I need to check myself and see if I’m actually holding my turnout and not bending my knees when they should be straight. Also, another thing G Teacher would constantly remind me of was having the weight on the toes not the heels – he said if the weight is on the toes I would not wobble. I really took his advice while rehearsing my dance and it was true – the change was obvious and I feel like my dancing improved so much. I’d always heard that when you rest back on your heels you’re “heavier” and therefore slower, but it was one of those things that you have to be strong enough to be able to do it first.

Another thing that helped me extremely: The turnout exercise we did (super slow (16 count) rond de jambes en l’air with a flexed foot, from fifth,  four counts devant, four counts to a la seconde, four counts to derriere, four to close on right working leg en dehors, then left working leg en dehors, left working leg en dedans, right en dedans, and repeat the whole thing with supporting leg in plie) did much to help me with my balance and stability, but also with my confidence level. In the start of the session, I liked the execise because I could really see it helping with strengthening my supporting leg and my hip flexors and rotators of my working leg, so that was all good. But then G Teacher said he wanted me to do it with my hands off the barre. At first it was very wobbly, and I thought I would lose my balance, so I held my hands very near to the barre, just in case. But by the last two weeks of the session it was like ‘I’m going to do this!’, and I held my arms confidently in second the whole time… and I didn’t fall off balance. Not even when G Teacher would come around with corrections (usually involving turning out more my supporting leg while in plie). And every day, after completing the exercise successfully my confidence would grow. By the end of the session, if he had said ‘do it in center!’ I think I could have! (well, I have at home, but you know how it seems easier to do stuff when everybody’s not staring…at least for me…)

I will say that this exercise in particular – sans barre – has the power to wring sweat from my body more than any exercise I’ve ever done. By the end of it every time I was dripping and ready to remove the warm ups, looking like I just stepped out of a sauna. So this will be a good exercise to remember this winter when i need a way to raise up the old body temperature!

Something I really liked was that I got a lot of attention from the teacher (ok, that sounds horrible… let me try to explain). G Teacher was really generous with both corrections and praise. When I take a beginner level class, often times the teacher focuses more on students that are more beginner (and I can understand why, if they need the help more), and if I’m not really being watched, how will I know if I’m doing it correctly? G Teacher often said ‘Good!’ or ‘Nice!’, but he also pushed me harder and expected more from me. And, I’ve always been somewhat nerdy, so I kind of like that feeling when teachers expect more from you, i respond to it real well.

For example, the solo at the end of the session, when I first approached him I hadn’t expected that he would have me learn a real variation. I had just been checking what we were doing for the end of session so I could begin working on one of my own chorographies if I needed to (and hoping to avoid having to work in a group to create one, because that just does NOT work out for me, as I’ve found out). So I was surprised to be assigned a real choreography to learn, and I was pleased when I ran it by G Teacher and he said he was impressed (I’m trying not to think that he was impressed because he expected much less…). Also, and I think I mentioned this before, since it was a bit fast it took me stepping out of my comfort zone. While stepping out of my comfort zone scares me quite a bit, the anticipation of it, afterwards I do I feel… not just relieved, and not just somewhat incredulous, but like I’ve grown as a person (and not just as a dancer, but that too).

And, amidst the constant correction to stop tilting my pelvis (also known as sticking out my derriere), I finally asked the question I’d been dreading to ask – more like dreading to hear the answer I feared I already knew: In order to keep it from happening through muscle memory, does it mean I have to stand with my pelvis untilted even when I’m not in class or trying to stand in a balletic manner? G Teacher answered ‘yes’. Ok, so officially no more excuses – if I want to be able to access all of my turnout and maintain my stability while balancing and turning, no more tilting of the pelvis, even outside of class. Ugh, despite the fact that an untilted pelvis makes my butt look horrible and my tummy pooch (yes, even if I hold my core as tight as I can – I have stubborn flab and loose skin left over), I will have to sacrifice whatever vanity I have left for the sake of ballet. Seems like a fair trade…I guess… I hope…?

Editted to add: Can’t believe I forgot to mention this other thing, also falling under the category of confidence – going in the front row. I think during this session was the first time that I was completely ok with going up to the front row for center work without hesitating. Previously, it had been that I could do it, if the teacher told me to, but out of my own, no way. But something appears to have changed, because now I’m ok with it. I think part of it has to do with how my own classmates seemed to accept that I’m kind of an intermediate-beginner, so that helped to reinforce it to me that even though I’m the same person who couldn’t even balance on one leg long enough to lift the other foot of the floor for a milisecond, that has changed. Which sounds really bad, because I think it sounds like I’m saying that I can only define myself by how others see me? Which is not what I’m trying to say necessarily – I define myself, in my own company (which I love); in the company of others, especially others who I find intimidating, I tend to freeze up, and so their defining of me becomes the only one… perhaps that’s closer to it. I realize it might not make much sense to anyone reading, but these are some of my struggles, and not just in dance, but in life. But it does seem that through dance I’m tackling my issues, so that helps.  Anyway, I’m hoping some of this new confidence will stick around for a bit.

I’m sure there was more, but that’s all I can think of for now. Next up, my thoughts on my yoga summer session.

Attitude Adjustment

So… it’s been a little while since the last time I posted on here…

Since last time, I quit ballet, sort of. Meaning I’d told myself I was quitting, and stopped going to class and everything. That lasted for… oh, about a week and a half, maybe two weeks. It was tough – everything reminded me of ballet. Listening to classical music was too much for me, since it made me want to get up and dance. I stopped coming by WordPress (though the thought of deleting the blog never crossed my mind, because I feel my story must be out there, so it can serve as… whatever people make of it, be it inspirational, a cautionary tale, or a mixture of both. Either way, it’s mine, unique to me), put my leotards away out of sight (a compromise from my original idea of giving them away). I was done, or so I thought. Then one day, even though I had initially told myself that I was done, I found myself at the barre at home. Who am I kidding – I can’t leave ballet now… or possibly ever. I need this, I need to dance.

How did this all come about? In short, I’d gotten really down on myself – about my slowness at learning, my inability to remember more than 8 counts (and I’m probably being optimistic there) of a combination unless I’ve practiced it literally thousands of time, how I get so flustered then and there in class/rehearsal in front of all the actual dancers (many much more experienced, and all most definitely younger than me), how I can’t even do that simple “it’s just a single” pirouette (and being called “negative” for stating the fact that I can’t), and yes, definitely not least in importance, my body issues (specifically the bouncing breasts, but I realize that my hormones felt out of whack there for a bit, as well as the fact that I may have been physically exhausted from all the extra rehearsing and practicing). I got to feeling that I was just making a complete fool of  myself, feeling like ‘what was I thinking? – I can’t dance’. I decided to drop out of our upcoming recital, because of the reasons listed above, convinced that someone like me – older, slower, less experienced, bouncier – had no business there.

At first, I felt like a weight had been lifted, and I tried to convince myself that I’d made the right choice. But it felt like something wasn’t right, like I couldn’t believe that it could be over. I was sad, really down – like the pressure I was feeling from ballet was too much,  but life just felt so empty without it. Although I tried to cheer myself up by immersing myself in my other hobbies and activities, my body wanted to move, to dance. I really couldn’t figure out what a solution would be. When I thought of ballet I wanted to cry.

Thankfully – and this is the super-abbreviated version – I got a push in the right direction to go speak with one of my teachers. It was the best thing I could’ve done, she was so incredibly supportive, and I found myself back in class (and rehearsal for the show). How I’d missed it!

Yes, I’d made the right decision, I can feel it. But still, this is…complicated. I don’t really discuss my conflicting thoughts regarding ballet on this blog  – I mean, I do to an extent, but not to the fullest that my racing thoughts go – but let’s just say that sometimes I have my doubts that I’m doing the right thing, and my logical brain asks me ‘why are you doing this? what is the point? all that work, all that effort, all that time, for what?’. So my brain-logic part says all  the reasons why ‘no’, but my feelings-heart says ‘yes’ (as ridiculously cliche as that sounds) and I’m going to go with my heart on this one – this is a first for me, so I hope I’m making the right choice.

Since then I’ve had a few classes back, and first of all, I think the break did me good because not only did I not really lose strength, if anything I felt stronger. My first balance on releve wobbled a little bit, but by the end of the first class back I felt I’d found my center again.

In Beginner class,  we began working at the barre in both legs (instead of just the outside leg being the outside leg), so it was just so incredibly fun, the mixture of alternating legs but not at the faster tempo that we do in intermediate class. For center, we did waltz step, balancés, and temps lies, all things I enjoy. It was a great return to ballet, I feel like I couldn’t have asked for a better returning class.

In Intermediate class, we’ve been working on a new step, the mazurka. It’s pretty challenging, and I still feel ridiculous while doing it, but I’ve already seen improvement since the first time Teacher gave it to us (at least with the legs, I’m nowhere close to being able to coordinate the arms). Then we did a combination with 4 mazurka steps, balancé to the front, balancé en tournant to the back, pique arabesque,  sous-sus, 3 pique turns, soutenu, chasse into chaines. The tempo was not too fast, so I had a lot of fun with this combination.

We also started working on tour jetes in Intermediate. I’ve done tour jete before, at New Studio, but there we hadn’t had the step broken down and really explained. Turns out that I’d been doing them completely wrong. Teacher gave me this exercise to help prepare for tour jete that’s really been helping: grand battement devant with the right leg, left leg in plie, bring the right leg back in as I rise to sous-sus, do a half-soutenu to face the other way, and bring the other leg up in arabesque. At first I did them super slow, just to get the coordination down, and then started working on making it more fluid. I still don’t have my tour jete, but thanks to this exercise I think once I do attempt it again my technique will be much cleaner.

Another thing Teacher worked on with me was the shape of my attitude derriere. Before I’d been told to arabesque and then bend the leg into attitude, and as a result my placement was often off. She instead had me go to passe, then rotate my hip back so that my leg was behind me, but trying to hold on to the same shape. I noticed the difference immediately.

So yeah, I’m back and let’s see where the ballet journey goes from here!

(I feel like I need to clarify some things: when I speak/write of me wanting to quit ballet because I’m too slow, forgetful, old, bouncy, etc., I speak about myself and my unique situation, and am in no way saying that any/every adult beginning dancer facing these issues should let these things get in their way. I’ve read so many blogs about adult beginners discussing feeling out of place in classes with more advanced dancers, feeling like there is something wrong with them, and the answer to everything always seems to be ‘you just need to find the right class for you! Ballet is for everybody!’ (I always imagine this being said in a nauseatingly high-pitched chirpy voice, but what do I know).

Well, this being my blog and my story, I feel the need to say that this is not an option for everybody. Some people are limited by their location or finances, and can’t just go around class-hopping (or school-hopping, or teacher-hopping) until finding the perfect opportunity or fit for them. So then we have the choice of will we push on and work harder so we can keep up and go on, or give up. I’ve chosen to push on and work harder, and it has been hard, so hard, but my love of ballet keeps me going. I realize I’m rambling, but I guess all I wanted to say was that just because I get discouraged sometimes doesn’t mean I’m saying that adult ballet must be discouraging, rather that being an adult learning with a bunch of teens who’ve been dancing for what seems like forever can at times be very discouraging. And, don’t get me wrong, my teachers are amazing and most days I love my school, but occasionally I can’t help wishing I could just learn with people my age or older, who face the same struggles or body/learning issues as me.


Some New Things

Well, experiences, really…

In addition to my usual dance classes, this week I took a class taught by a new to me teacher (umm, let’s go with ‘G Teacher’). It was labeled a Beginner level class, but it wasn’t quite as Basic Beginner level as the Beginner class that I’m currently taking. I found it quite fun, but there were a good number of brand-new beginners who appeared lost. One of the other students was kind of helping other fellow students during class.

The barre combinations had port de bras, and it was a different one than the common beginner-level port de bras (like arm in high fifth for tendu devant, arabesque for tendu derriere, etc.). It was pretty though, I remember it involved the arm coming up straightened to the side at some point – I’m having trouble describing it, but it looked so graceful when G Teacher did it. I did a decent job of mimicking it, and the combinations were not particularly fast, so I had no trouble keeping up.

Some of the exercises were on the more challenging side, and I wish more teachers would include stuff like that in their classes. We did these ronde de jambes en l’air with a flexed foot, so that we could really feel our working leg lengthening out. Then after doing it both en dehors and en dedans with both legs, G Teacher had us do it while our supporting leg was in plie! The thighs were really feeling it then, but we were nowhere near done.

Another exercise I remember was grand battements en croix, two at regular tempo, then the third we were to hold the leg up and then slowly lower it back down. While doing port de bras, of course. So, like I said, not really at a Basic Beginner level, more like beginner 2. Good for strength building though.

Center was really fun, though definitely would have been torture previously than the past year. A combination we did was chasse to arabesque, bring the back leg up and balance in retire, promenade, tombe, pas de bouree, repeat other side. I had fun and actually got all the way around some of the times, as promenades in retire are easier for me than in attitude derierre or a arabesque.

Then we did something I’d never done before – we got in partners and we did partner-assisted promenades. Our partner had their hands lightly under our upper arms while standing  behind us,  we balanced on high releve retire, and then they slowly moved us around. It was such a strange feeling, and the discrepancy in balance from my better leg to my other one was apparent. But I liked it (especially on my good side), and would love to experience it again, and on a larger scale.

So now I’m wondering if that’s even possible. Partnering, I mean. I guess I realized that I would really like to learn partnering, but I know how unlikely that may be  – it’s not like the girl-to-guy ratio is anything smaller than 30:1. And I’m not a small girl by ballet standards which also limits the possibilities (both height-wise and amount of force needed to lift me as opposed to someone lighter). Also, the whole thing may be irrelevant, as I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do partnering who isn’t en pointe.

But it would still be nice… At home I tried to get Boyfriend to hold my hand and walk around me as I balanced in retire on releve but he wouldn’t play along. Sigh, that sounds really pathetic… but it’s the truth – it happened – and it illustrates how much I would enjoy even basic partnering without any lifts (though that too would be fun if it wasn’t a physical risk to anyone).Anyway, it was fun to get to try and experience that in this class.

Aside from that, during Intermediate class Teacher really pushed us and  I did a couple royales, and attempted the entrechats during our petite allegro. I was pretty pleased about that. Also, during Modern class, when M Teacher had us hold a balance on releve in second, she had us close our eyes to make it harder and I was actually able to hold the balance. Balances in second have always been harder for me than in first (just how in first it’s harder than sous-sus) so that was a surprise, but a nice one.

Maybe This Is What I’d Been Waiting For…

I find myself having a lot of fun during class, really enjoying it. During the combinations that I can sort of do, during the combinations that I can’t do, and the ones where I’m nowhere close to be able to do – it doesn’t really matter. Even in Intermediate class where the tempo is often much too fast, and in the moment I forget one whole ‘phrase’ of the movement, I still find the fun in it. Even though the classes at my regular school are not too much on the recreational side (meaning people that come in for the exercise and don’t particularly care about improving, just having fun), the mood feels somewhat lighthearted. New Studio class is definitely on the recreational side though, and laughter while forgetting half the combination and just jumping randomly is not only not frowned upon, but expected. I think the mixture of both environments is good for me, one more serious, one more laidback, both an enjoyable time.

It irritates me that it took me getting this comfortable in class for me to find the joy in all of it. I spent so much time in the past looking forward to the future. I can see it in my old blog posts (because I do spend a ridiculous amount of time reading through my blog posts – no one better to internet stalk but yourself. No, being serious though, I enjoy my blog because for the most part it is a safe place for me to read about a ballet experience without any unpleasantness accidentally creeping in. Anyways.), that I was always looking to improving, and almost forgetting to have fun along the way. There were so many times when I went home upset because I couldn’t balance, and I could ballet so pretty as long as we stayed at the barre. Center was always a clumsy mess, very discouraging. I feel like an awful person for not having been able to find the joy even in that situation – here I was learning a beautiful art form, being able to do something that I never got to experience as a child. But no, I was being ungrateful.

But, on the other hand, at least I’m happy now? I’m definitely not saying that I’m good at ballet, just that at least now it feels like during class I’m actually doing ballet instead of just trying to not fall over while attempting to point my foot.Most importantly, often times I even forget about the shape/type of my body being unballetic. It’s like me feeling like I kind of know what I’m supposed to do cancels out me feeling  like all anyone can see when they look at me is my unballetic shape, so I can finally feel neutral, and from there I finally was able to feel good. I have a feeling the whole body image thing plays a big part in this, and I guess I feel like I’m at the point that when other students watch me dance they can look past the body shape and it’ll actually be about the dancing. Or maybe I’m just dreaming.

In Beginner class, F Teacher divided us into several groups, so there’s always an audience. It’s not just paranoia that has me worrying about what people think as they watch me, it’s an irrefutable fact that people are watching. But the thought of being watched is much less terrifying now.

Beginner class there’s two tendu combinations, one more basic beginner level and another more challenging one. The basic one was tendu a la seconde, weight shift to both feet in second, tendu back to first, repeat on the other side, then 4 alternating tendus a la seconde, all closing in fifth. The more challenging one was two tendus devant croisse,  two tendus croisse derriere, en face tendu devant, a la second and derriere, two chasses forward, change to croisse for other side. So yes, more challenging but not like combinations in intermediate with pirouettes or promenades or deep lunge cambre port de bras mixed in with the tendus. Those promenades really get me. It seems like I can do it when we mark the combinations, but then when we actually do it I don’t hold my core and wobblyness occurs.

In Beginner class we also worked  a lot on glissades. The easier version was slow glissades a la seconde, and by slow I mean each part of the step was isolated: plie in first, slide leg out with pointed foot, land in plie in that foot and transfer the weight, close in first, straighten legs, plie for the next one.Actually, the slow tempo doesn’t  make it sound very easy. But for the harder version we did glissades en croix (I really need to work on my glissade derriere especially) to both sides with a sous-sus balance in the middle.

In intermediate we had a balancé combination with 4 balancés with different port de bras, pas de bourre to a fourth position lunge, push into attitude derriere and promenade en dedans, allonge, lunge, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, other side.The hardest part was definitely the promenade. I really don’t like promenades, though they look so impressive to watch.

At NS there was a really pretty combination (that I forgot to write down, I feel like I’m missing a part of it there…) that went something like 2 balancés, pique arabesque, faille, pick up pas de bourre, repeat to the other side, then 2 pirouettes en dehors from fourth.

In Intermediate we’re doing petit allegro in two tempos, one a little slower and one that’s more, um, allegro. For now it’s just (2 changements, echappe)x2, (glissade assemble)x2, 2 soubresauts (faster group does entrechat instead), repeat to other side, for both the slower group and the faster group. In all of the classes I attempt both options, just to maximize my ballet class studio time. And building stamina can’t hurt.

And since I’ve been getting really bad about taking class notes, that’s about all that I can remember at the moment from my ballet week.

Which reminds me, I still haven’t finished watching Flesh and Bone (our DVD player broke a few weeks ago…), but there is a girl in one of my classes who is totally a dead ringer for the main character. It’s pretty uncanny.

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) 🙂

Getting (Somewhat) Comfortable…

So, I’m still taking class (Adult Ballet, no level specified) at New Studio, my third week there now, and class is as challenging as ever.  However, I think I’m starting to get into the groove a bit.  Or at least with all the stuff I’m messing up on I somewhat have an idea of why or how I’m messing up… and that’s good, right? I figure it’s improvement to be able to at least recognize what the issue is.

As far as barre goes, I’m starting to get the hang of the general pattern barre combinations go in this class. The port de bras is different from what I’ve gotten used to in all my other classes, more… I don’t know… dramatic. In all my other classes we would just do arms in high fifth or a la seconde at barre,  but here there’s definitely more going on.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely beautiful to look at, it’s just been giving me a bit of trouble.  But like I said, I’m starting to feel much less lost. I also get confused because when we fondue or developpe devant, our arm opens out to second instead of high fifth, and that’s taking me more to get used to than I would have imagined.  And the tempo for our plies is so fast! While the slow plies we did in summer session were a heck of a workout (and I think my turnout muscles definitely grew), I’m now finding it hard to stay on timing with these quick ones.

At the end of each barre combination we take a long balance on one leg and NS Teacher comes around and gives some very hands on corrections, which I really like.  Hands on corrections are the best, in my opinion, because sometimes I hear a correction and think I’m applying it but my interpretation of it and what my teacher wanted are not the same thing. With hands on corrections there’s no room for ambiguity, and that helps me a lot.

The barre stretch portion of class is pretty hardcore as well. After we plie and bend towards the leg, NS Teacher has us lift the leg off the barre 8 times before finally having us just hold it up on the ninth count and then bring it to arabesque.  It’s challenging, but I’ll bet it really helps with the leg strength.  Last class I took though I noticed that everyone else uses the high barre for their stretches (except for me). That motivated me to start using the high barre when I stretch at home. Perhaps I was just being lazy? I mean, I am able to stretch with the high barre, it doesn’t hurt or anything, so perhaps I should be pushing myself harder instead of just coasting by in the comfort zone.

Now, as for center combinations, they are challenging! Or is it that it just seems that way because of the port de bras? I don’t think I have done any correctly all the way yet… but I do feel like I’m getting closer that when I first started coming here.  I do feel a little alarmed when she says 2 at a time for across the floor. The worst part is that there’s not enough room in the back to mark the combination extensively before it’s my group’s turn.  This usually results in a mess, lol.  There’s one thing that’s been going through my mind though: I’m so glad that this class is not the level I started at when I was brand new to ballet. While my across the floor combinations need work, at least by this point I don’t often fear losing my balance on basic moves.  I mostly need to work on timing, remembering combinations, and the (unfamiliar)port de bras.  And pirouettes, of course. When going to the left I keep switching to en dedans pirouettes instead of en dehors beacuse the tempo is just so quick that I do what comes more instinctively.

Last class we did an extended petite allegro – lots of jumps! One of the combinations we did  8 sautes in 1st, echappe to 2nd and 8 sautes in 2nd, 8 changements, then brush out (I guess like a very small glissade that doesn’t travel?) and petite jete x2, and 3 quick jetes, then whole thing again to the left. Next we did a combination  with  8 changements en face, 8 changements while turning to the right (8 changements = 1 revolution), 8 en face, and 8 changements while turning left.  Since in the past I’d done only 4 changements per revolution, I completed my turn way too fast. However, I was super proud of myself that I didn’t run out of breath during the whole petite allegro segment (though I suspect I was not on tempo by the end).  

Also, it was a bad idea to wear my spaguetti strap leotard – now I remember why i don’t wear it to my regular classes with a dress code. During the middle of my changements I had to adjust it really quick because I was scared everything was going to pop out! But that was pretty awkward, and I worried everyone noticed in the mirror when I hastily yanked up the top of my leotard.  I resisted the urge to adjust during the second combination, but I was pretty anxious about it.

After class, NS Teacher spent some time after class going over the across the floor combination with a few of us, and I actually did some decent almost-pirouettes (from fourth). Meaning, I got around all the way, kept my foot in passe (retire) devant for the whole revolution – the only thing missing was that perfect landing with the arms in arabesque and the leg stretched out behind me.  Also, and this is somewhat of a big deal for me, when we tried the combination for her I actually didn’t mess up in the freezing up way I do when I know for sure a teacher is watching. She even said “Good!”.  I tend to freeze up and make a big mess of things when it’s my turn and I feel on the spot, so this is a big step for me. It made me wonder if I’m actually feeling comfortable in this class…

Don’t know yet if I’ll still be going here for class once semester starts. I’d like to (since I’m starting to feel at home, and all), though if I do, and still go to Adults Only studio,  I’ll be taking class 6 days a week – wow!  Last year I never would have dreamed that I could even have the possibiity of taking class six days a week! New Studio is much more affordable than Adults Only studio, but I love how in Adults Only studio we get to drill the basics in basic beginner class.  Well, we’ll see what my schedule looks like once the semester starts, but I am excited about the ballet opportunitites.

In other news (home practice), I totally did a royale! I was praticing soubresauts, and I remembered that F Teacher had said that a royale was just a soubresaut that changes feet before landing.  While doing my soubresauts I was feeling pretty strong, and I was really enjoying the feeling of my thighs coming together in mid air, like jumping up into a tight sous-sus. So I decide to just go for a royale and I did it! Then did it like eight more times just to believe it was really happening. Still no luck on an entrechat though… (Funny ballet history factoid: King Louis XIV invented royales because he couldn’t do entrechats… they even named them after him! )

Big Ballet, Have You Watched This?

… and if you have, what’d you think?

While searching youtube for ballet a couple days ago (literally typed “ballet” into the search bar), hoping to find something besides my usual favorites, I came across Big Ballet. Curious, I clicked on it and was instantly hooked, ending up watching all three episodes that night.  Now watching it all the episodes through for a second time…

I tried embedding the videos, but for whatever reason it’s not working right now. As I’m much too tired to try to figure it out right now, it’ll have to wait for a later date. But all three episodes are found on youtube.

This is the first I’d heard of there being a reality show about a group of larger amateur dancers who are trained to put on a recital, a short version of Swan Lake. After a  quick online search, I found that apparently not everyone believes this show is a good idea believing that it exploits overweight women.  The women (and there was also men too, though they were not really big in my opinion, though bigger than a typical male dancer, I suppose) in the show looked absolutely thrilled  to be there, so I don’t know about that.

In general, I love this show.  Some of these dancers are really good, and I find it really inspirational to see people with different shapes from the dancer “norm” body (seriously, in the comments for one of the videos someone said something like “But some are not even ‘big’.” and someone replied “Yeah, but in ballet that’s considered too big” or something like that) dancing so beautifully and being trained to perform. They seemed so happy while dancing, too, and several (at least) expressed how it was a dream come true. I hope this doesn’t get taken the wrong way, but watching some of the more allegro sequences I thought ‘if these ladies can jump and turn so well then I have no excuse blaming my poor technique on the weight of my chest.’ I’m amazed at how strong they are!

Another thing I really like is all the shots of people wearing regular clothes doing ballet moves out in public. It’s nice to be reminded that there’s a lot of us ballet amateurs out there, and to see people doing ballet outside of class.  Feels good to know I’m definitely not the only one.

However, I think it would have been nice if the show could have been focused on all amateus who don’t fit the body norm, not just large people (but then I realize they wouldn’t have been able to use the title “Big Ballet”).  While casting, even before the first audition phase I believe, people were turned down for not being big enough, which just seems wrong. The ballet body ideal is so specific that there are many – would be accurate to say most  of the adult population – of us who don’t fit it, despite not being of a BMI higher than 25 or 30 or what ever the cutoff was ( they said sizes 12-22, but I have no idea how that matches up to American clothes sizes). My point is that if there was ever something like this near me – the performing amateur ballet thing, not the reality tv part – I would love to audition, and it’s seriously messed up if I wouldn’t be big enough, though I’m obviously not small enough for ballet either…

At times some of the other people on the show made some pretty insensitive comments (I’m thinking of the ex-Artistic Director specifically), regarding ballet dancers and body type. So discouraging!  Also, I noticed that Wayne Sleep  kept pointing out how they are so talented, but it’s been their size that holds them back. That made it a little bit less releatable for me because besides not having the “right” body type for ballet I also don’t have much talent… but like, those of us without much talent can feel a need to dance too, you know?

(I hope I’m not just horribly missing the point here…)

Criticisms aside, an enjoyable eway to spend a few ballet-related hours!

Flashback: Notes From Second Semester, Part 1

This week I have spring break, and therefore, no college ballet class (and no class notes). However, for your ballet-related reading entertainment, here is Class Notes From  My Second Semester. While I was not blogging yet, I took (at times detailed, at times not) notes on what we did in class so I wouldn’t forget. And to assess my progress as time goes by. Kind of like how I’m doing with the blog, I guess…

Anyway, without further ado, here it is copied word for word.  Comments from me will be in italics throughout.

Week 1

Today, after a long delay that seems like forever, I finally had my first formal ballet lesson since last spring semester. Which ended last June (Ed: june 2013) so we’re talking about a 7 month break! Of course, I’ve been busy practicing on my own, but it was nice to be back in class. The last time I began a term of ballet I didn’t previously have any ballet experience whatsoever, so it was a lot harder to keep track of the movements (keep track? more like actually do them without falling over!), remember the counts and steps, and just overall not feel completely lost.

Well, what a difference a year makes! This time around I almost feel a tiny bit confident. Not that I’m saying that I’m super proficient or anything. Kinda like this: Last year, imagine I started school and I didn’t even know how to read or my ABC’s. This year, knowing my ABC’s and how to read words means that I might actually be able to read my first whole book (Ed: yeah, you got overconfident there, girl…)! So while I can tell that I have improved tremendously, I know I still have my work cut out for me.

These are the things we worked on today:

We did alignment stretches sitting on the floor, legs out in front of us: Point foot, turn out, flex foot, lift entire leg off the floor, point foot. All while keeping our back straight which is so much harder for me sitting down than standing up. Then we laid down and flattened our backs against the floor, to get a feel for what it’s like to not arch our back.  The floor hurt, and no matter how hard I tried I could still slide my hand in between the floor and my back (Ed: I don’t have this problem now…).

Then we pulled out the barres. We did plies, releves, tendus to the side and front facing the barre, then tendus to front with arms in second, and tendus to the second and third positions of feet (Ed: No 5th position I see…).  This was review for me, but it’s always good to review the basics. After going over each exercise a couple of times we put away the barres for our first center work.

For center, we worked on our port de bras (again!), plies, releves, and sautes.  Then it got a little bit more complex: sautes with a 180 turn, saute in parallel and land in 1st, saute in 1st and land in 3rd. I completely surprised myself by enjoying this part of class; last year center had been my least favorite part of class for sure. Mostly because at barre I would start to feel somewhat graceful only for that grace to be lost in center. My balance was terrible and really messed with my confidence. But if practice doesn’t quite make it perfect at least it makes it possible.

Another issue last year was that I had been afraid of jumping.  Part of it was because of my ankle. Last year I was still afraid that it wasn’t strong enough and that I might reinjure it (from landing wrong because of the whole balance thing).  By now I’m pretty sure that my ankle has recovered its strength.  The other reason was because jumping leads to bouncing. However, this year I came equipped with not one but two sports bras, so I was ready to go.

The very last thing we did was reverance. It consisted of doing a tondue to the side and then taking the other foot and putting it behind the foot that had tondued (Ed: Huh? You mean “coupe”, last year self? Or B+ position?)

So overall, it was a fun class back. I am totally looking forward to what else I may learn this semester and improving at ballet. I am a little concerned about making my hair stay in its bun, since my other teacher last year wasn’t quite so strict on it. I’m totally with putting up the hair in a bun, it’s the part where I hear “hairspray” or “gel” that makes me anxious. Which is a whole other topic for a different essay… (Ed: I am happy to announce that my buns always stay put and NOT ONCE have I had to use hairspray or gel. Yay, my thick unruly hair is good at holding bobby pins at least…)

Week 2

We did our alignment exercise again, plies in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. We worked on tendu devant, a la seconde and derriere. Grand battement devant.

In center, we did port de bras, sautes and echappes.  Across the floor jumps that i was not able to catch the name of (Ed: and now I have no idea. If I had to guess I’d say it was chasse-gallops, but who knows.  Reverance.

I was corrected on my posture (I was swaybacking it), and told to work on shifting my weight forward.(Ed: I wonder if this was the day that while S Teacher was telling me about my posture (to shift more and more forward, beyond the point which it was comfortable and I thought I was going to fall over), one of my nearby classmates had  gestured towards my chest. S Teacher caught that and said “Your body shape has nothing to do with your posture” or something like that. Awkward.         

Week 3

Work on body alignment: buttocks in and tight, lean forward, chin up, tight stomach/core (Ed: as I learned recently though, there’s more to a tight core than the stomach…) Work on keeping legs straight and turned out, work on lifting up ankle to prevent sickle. When plie-ing, make sure to press knees outward, and keep buttocks tucked in.

For tendus, keep leg turned out, keep hips square, make sure foot slides across the floor, leg stays straight. For devant and derriere, toes of foot in tendu should be directly in front/ back of supporting foot.

Grand battement devant and a la seconde: keep hips square, foot should not come crashing down.


port de bras combination: open arms to second, then third (right), third (left), brava (Ed: I think this meant “bras bas” or something like that. It’s basically like preparation, I think), high fifth, second, step plie (right foot), hold, step plie (left foot), step plie right again while lifting and lowering the arms, quick little steps backwards, brava, repeat in other direction. (Ed: I’d forgotten all about this combination until I reread it.  Now I wanna get up and practice it. I’m sure I can do it much better now…)

Saute combination:  releve, saute, saute, releve, saute, half turn (toward right), saute, half turn (so now facing front again), saute in first 2x, saute in third 2x, saute parallel, plie, repeat other side (Ed: Whew! just reading that made me tired! Dang!)

Across the floor: step-hop (like a skip) across. Remember to point your feet!

Step-hop, step-hop, step, step, step, step-hop, with and without arms. Arms went (middle fifth, second, middle fifth, second).

Practice half turns with spotting. Turn halfway while skipping (and spotting). (Ed: These were so hard! They were supposed to be to ease us into chaines turns, but, at least for me, chaines  are easier)

Notes: Jumping is hard and makes me out of breath. My legs are somewhat strong and don’t hurt, it’s mostly the aerobic-ness of it. Spotting is hard when you’re on the spot (no pun intended), at home I can kind of do it. To help remember the combination it’s a good idea to break it into smaller parts, repetiton and muscle memory helps tons as well. By now I’m starting to muscle memory the tucking the butt in and leaning forward part, my arms are looking way better, and I think my turnout has improved since I started tucking in and pressing my knees outward during plies.  I feel a little uncomfortable during allegro because of my boobs and bouncing. In sautes I worry that if I jump with enough power my boobs will come crashing down when I land and it’ll hurt. I need to remember to point my toes.

Week 4

New exercise on the floor to teach us how to pull our ankles up, prevent sickling: sit with your feet together, knees apart, and try to lift up you ankles while pointing down your toes. Try to bring the feet closer to you while continuing to do that.

Grand plies at barre for first time this semester. We did fondues, and releve sous-sus as well.

In center we worked on “shouldering”, en face and croisse to either side. We did sautes, saute half turns, echappes, sobresaut, and changements. More preparations for turning.

(Ed: this weeks entry is rather short. I have a feeling I was overwhelmed. S Teacher’s class progression is so weird. On the one hand we barely started doing grand plies at this point, on the other hand we did all kinds of jumps and scary center stuff. The preps for turns are harder than the turns themselves, in my opinion…)

There was no week 5

Week 6

New things:

Degages or battement glisse, from 3rd devant thru first to derriere, thru first devant, close 3rd, repeat a la seconde and derriere. Fondue and fondue with leg kick out to a point (don’t know what it’s called), devant, a la seconde, derriere. Releve sous-sus and soutenu in grand battement combination.

Center: Balances (the waltzy move) with arms

Saute combination: saute, saute, 2 saute to turn, saute to first, to second,to first, third x2, first, repeat other side.

Assembles: jump and kick out one leg, try to bring other leg together in midair.

(Ed: I remember this day! Assembles are super hard, but at least we only did them forward. They’re even harder a la seconde. I remember at the time I was having a really hard time with the releve sous-sus and soutenu as well. I went home and practiced over and over!)

Two Class Tuesday: Dancing In The Dark

Alternately titled “Gee, I Really Suck At Ballet”. (And I’m exhausted and had no time to proofread, so yeah…)

In B(eginner) C(lass), we did the no-hands tendus and degages and I noticed that I’ve gotten much more stable since last semester.  Possibly as a result of all the core strengthening I’ve been doing.  My balancing has improved as well, as I noticed during our releves in center (in first, sous-sus is much more stable) that I was keeping myself steady, even while doing port de bras.  We did the easy waltz step, both with and without turns as well.

Plenty of sautes, some echappes and changements.  When we switched lines I found myself in the front for the sautes, echappes and changements and that was not cool.  While I prefer being toward the back (so long as I can still get a little “window” of mirror space) during center, I’ll deal with being towards the front, but with sautes it’s super uncomfortable.Felt like I could feel the whole front of my leotard bouncing up and down, and even my little sweater couldn’t disguise it.  The woes of the non-typical-ballerina body!

In I(ntermediate Class) we did a really fast tendu combination, followed by another fast tendu combination, followed by yet another fast tendu combination.  All involving either changing the working leg (like two tendus front with right leg, two tendus back with left leg, then switching it up somehow in a way that if I could figure out how to explain enough to write it down I’d probably have an easier job actually doing it.) or changing direction (like doing croise, efface or ecarte) or a a super slow port de bras to go with lightning fast tendus. It was beyond challenging, I was late often and most likely closed the wrong place – which really did not help if the next move was a soutenu and I had the wrong leg to the front.  But yeah, so hard, definitely feels reminiscent of my first semester when it seemed I couldn’t get one single combination right.

The spot I usually start at barre is facing the mirror for the first side. I’m starting to think this may be a bad move (and, strangely enough, I think I did figure this out last semester, but in my time away from class I appear to have forgotten…) because that leaves me no one to follow.  I just may change this up and start on the side that gets the mirror for the second side and see if things improve a little bit.

So then we’re in the middle of yet another challenging barre combination when, all of a sudden, the lights went out (hence the post’s title). I had been concentrating so hard so that maybe this would be the time that I get this combination right, that at first it was like a stunned pause.  Since the enormous dance studio has no windows it was plunged into blackness, nothing visible except the emergency exit sign, looking farther away than usual.  After a couple seconds – that felt much longer – my classmate’s voices began to ring out and it felt slightly less creepy (Though only very slightly – I did have a few panicked moments of freaking out that someone had cut the wires and was planning to kill us , like “The Great Ballerina Massacre Of 2015” or something. The power was out for minutes (apparently all thoughout campus), and Teacher was just about to dismiss class, when the lights came back on just as abruptly as they’d gone out. Class continued.

Center was pretty disastrous. Just when I’d been getting the hang of the tendu combination Teacher switched   it up – now instead of the 2 tendus and temps lie it’s 2 quick tendus, a degage, and two grand battements before switching to the next direction (derriere with the other leg, and a la seconde in ecarte with the original leg).  It sounds easy written out like that, I guess.  But as my learning style involves lots of sloooow repetition, I was just not getting it.  Can’t say I’m too hopeful about getting it for tomorrow’s class, as I haven’t had any time to practice at all.

There was a glissade, assemble, glissade, assemble, saute de chat x2 pas de bourree, glissade, assemble, changement combination that was about 3 times faster than I could possibly do it.  It’s like, I know how to do glissade, and assembles and pas de chat but doing them quickly and strung together like that it so hard. I’m pretty sure I looked like an idiot.

Then came the saute,  changement, echappe, pas de bourre combination that by now I was too exhausted mentally to even remember.  And this waltz step which is a million times harder than the one in BC.  Seriously, I didn’t even use arms, that’s how bad I had no idea what I was doing.  At least the saute arabesque, saute coupe, saute arabesque, saute coupe, saute arabesque x4 across the floor combination went ok – well, ok by my somewhat low standards.

I feel like instead of focusing on how much I’m sucking I should mention some good things:  I’ m reliably going up into passe releve and actually balancing for a couple seconds in center; I’ m getting around all the way on my pirouettes a good amount of the time, both en dedans and en dehors; I actually ended up facing in the correct direction a couple times (that one’s directly related to the pirouette’s mentioned above).

Given the amount of time I’ve been dancing – or attempting to dance, depending on how I see it on a particular day – and my age, I’m doing great, I’d say.  Comparing, let’s not even go there…