Tag Archives: ballet is hard

Is It ‘Cause Of The Turnout?

Because I just don’t get it! Having tried out more styles of dance now, I still can’t understand why practically every dancer I personally know claims that out of all the dance forms ballet is the most difficult. I mean, do they mean ‘difficult to do well’? To make it look like it’s supposed to? For people who are naturals at dancing to pick up? Or to do at all (as in, without resulting in bodily injury…)?

(Notice that by no means am I saying that ballet is anything short of extremely difficult. I’m saying that I don’t see how every other genre of dance is presumed to be less difficult or less taxing on the body.)

Well, regardless, I’m not seeing/feeling it…

Recently I auditioned for my school’s next production (multi genre, some ballet pieces). Even though I was only interested in ballet as far as performing, I let some of my classmates talk me into the idea of staying for the whole thing. ‘It’ll be fun!’ they said. ‘It’ll look more ‘professional’ I thought, letting my age show (haha).

The audition started with ballet (luckily, though I didn’t know it yet). We were given a simple, beginner-2-ish level combination (something like ballet walk, pique arabesque, faille, pas de bourre, pas de chat, soutenu, glissade, sous-sus, bourre, soutenu, chasse to arabesque finish), the kind of thing I could sort of do sloppily a year ago, almost do two years ago, and didn’t dream of doing three years ago. The nervousness I’d felt over the audition sort of melted away, and I found myself able to remember the combination pretty well. We went over it a few times as a large group, then split off to do it in groups. We didn’t even have to do the left side  which made this easier than the audition i did last year.

Regardless, many of the auditioning dancers were grumbling. I heard mutterings of ‘This is so hard!’ and ‘I don’t get this’. I assume they were there to audition for one of the other genres?

Anyway, the next lady comes out to give us the combination for the Modern part, and I guess I should have taken the fact that she was wearing knee pads as a sign. She has us start kneeling and I’d say 75% of the choreography involved either kneeling, scooting around on our knees, or rolling on to the shoulders on the floor. Not only that, it was really hard for me to remember the choreography, with the steps being unfamiliar and yes, I did end up reverting to freaking out over why I can’t do the combination instead of focusing on remembering. Around this time I started considering the possibility of sneaking out the back door quietly…

And it’s not that I dislike Modern. I took Modern last year for two sessions, but to be fair I specifically chose to take M Teacher, who only does about maybe 15% floorwork at most (not counting warm up/conditioning). This style of Modern was different. It wasincredibly hard on my body, and I found it difficult to pick up steps/moves (are they called steps when you’re only the floor and there’s no literal stepping going on?) because they seemed to blend into each other, like the roll on the floor that becomes a different kind of roll but at some point the legs swithched so you can use the back leg to push off, and roll some more, andI get lost. Oh, and there was no tempo given – we were supposed to go at our own speed while this recording of static and spoken word played.

After this was what I presume was jazz. The first half of the combination – the part when we were upright – was really quick, but after we’d gone over it a few times I found it really fun. But it was too good to be true, because  then came extremely quick floorwork. It was even worse than the Modern. There was this fall onto the side that looked terrifying, then some rolling on the floor and jump back up only to fall to the floor again, several times. Everyone seemed to not be struggling though, like during the ballet portion. I was starting to feel inadequate, like when I was new, like an impostor dancer, Also, everything hurt. I ended up sitting out the last time we went over it.  Couldn’t wait to get home and collapse in the couch and ice whatever needed to be iced – which at that point was looking like a full ice bath. I wondered if my dismal performance in the other genres had affected my audition for the ballet parts . Hoped that it hadn’t all been for nothing – because I’d have to disagree with the classmate that said It’d be fun… (Yes, I did get into the ballet portion. However, it’s contemporary ballet, so still out of my comfort zone. I’m keeping an optimistic attitude about it…)

I mentioned last time, I’ve also been taking a hip hop class. That, too, is incredibly difficult. If I had started off there instead of ballet I know I would have had a hard time. I mean I get it that the vibe is about a million times more relaxed than in ballet class, but the dancing itself is not easy. H Teacher is very specific about the placement and movement quality, and there’s so many things to think about at once, much like in ballet. At this point I’m mostly still focusing on getting the feet where they need to be, and occasionally the arms – usually a count or two behind. On some days I’m undoubtedly the worst dancer in there, but I still manage to have fun. This may have to do with the laidback vibe or maybe it’s because I don’t love it like I do ballet. Who knows?

As far as ballet, I’ve been taking Int/Adv class with F Teacher, Beginner with G Teacher, and Intermediate with A Teacher, Int/Adv class is predictably very challenging. We do some center combinations in two group, one more advanced, one more do-able. I’m doing so much better as far as remembering combinations, but my petit allegro is nowhere near allegro enough for the faster group. In Beginner class we’re mostly working up a sweat with the super slow tendus, working on technique. Intermediate class is fun because it’s at that  level that fits in between a beginner class and intermediate that I’ve taken before (though the barre work is considerably quicker and more complex than center).

I haven’t been writing on here much lately. I could say “I’ve been dancing all the time I could be writing” – and it’d be somewhat true, I’m dancing up to 6 hours some days – but that’s not it, not the whole truth at least. Part of it is that I feel I have to censor myself, or that I can’t give out details at times because I may be identified. And also, I’ve realized that some of the difficulties I’ve been facing would apply regardless of what activity I’m doing, as long as it’s not a solitary one. Rather than writing about ballet class I feel like I would have been just writing about my inadequate social development, anxiety, unrelatable worries,, and issues – and by ‘writing’ I mean whining, just whining and whining without ever doing anything about it. That ties back into the feeling like I have to censor myself part…like it’s ok to admit to the internet that just how much I sucked at ballet, but it’s not ok to admit that I think I suck at being a person…and how much…

Well, that’s a rather low note to end this on, but I’m starting to ramble and I’m tired. But yeah, I’ll write some more when I can do “cheerful” a little better.

🙂

 

Lesson Learned?

This past week I didn’t take too many classes, because of a combination of the long weekend, family events, and rehearsals, so by the time I got to class I felt a little rusty in my technique. As luck would have it, the first class I took in four days (and only second in about a week, because rehearsals) was Intermediate, so I came out feeling   somewhat discouraged. Lesson is, if I haven’t taken my regular amount of class in a couple weeks, perhaps Intermediate is not the way to go, especially if it’s the end of the session (with a higher difficulty level).

Barre went ok, sort of. I remembered the leg changes of working leg from outside leg to inside leg and the slow port de bras during quick rond de jambes. While I wasn’t able to replicate that super long balance in retire on releve from last week, I did hang up there  for a little while, several seconds.

Center, in short, sucked. I wasn’t feeling paticularly confident, and Teacher was overwhelming me with the new combinations and too many corrections. She usually does the same combinations for the week, but since I’d missed the last class before I felt lost.

The first combination was (as well as I remember so I might be missing something) balancé x2, pique arabesque, promenade, passe, developpe devant in efface line, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dedans, sous sus. I was all over the place, struggling with the promenade about half the time, not sure how to prepare for the pirouette. Of course this was all complicated by the fact that I can’t remember the combination until like the fourth run through…

During pique turns across the floor, Teacher corrected me on my arm going too far behind me, but when I tried to do it without having my arm there I felt like I wasn’t getting around enough. Ugh, I hate it when I realize that  something I thought I was getting better at I was doing wrong all along. Especially when I think that the reason I was doing it wrong was to compensate for weaknesses in by body, and I’m not strong enough yet to be doing that particular step at all…The way Teacher words the correction, “Stay up longer so you can get all the way around” cracks me up because it’s like ‘I’m trying to stay up!’.

We did these turns while doing little temps leves and the other foot in coupe devant, I think. It was hard for me, really hard. Not the turning part, but the one-footed jumps. Teacher kept calling out corrections to me by name, but I couldn’t really understand what she wanted for me except to jump higher perhaps (because it’s hard for me to separate jumping while pointing my feet to jumping higher and harder). I was apprehensive about it because, as I mentioned in my last post, if I fear that I’m not strong enough to land a jump safely I don’t jump it as hard as I can. It was stressing me out though, because I feel like sometimes when things are way beyond my current level I should just … I don’t know, work on a preparatory version at the barre for a month or five until my body has a general idea of what’s going on. I told Teacher, “I don’t think I’m strong enough to do this yet,” after about the twentieth attempt, which is probably a huge ballet faux pas, but it was the truth and, I felt, relevant to the situation.

We’re not even going to get into how much I sucked at petit allegro (can’t remember the combination exactly, but it was fast, and the second time through we were supposed to beat our jumps, which is something that I’m still afraid to try because I think at this speed I’ll get my feet tangled together or something). I was mostly just trying to keep up and go the correct direction in the traveling jumps to not crash into the others.

This is around the point that I wonder if I’m not ready for Intermediate, because I still feel as lost as I did when I first tried Intermediate class a year ago. Beginner class is so fun, but it doesn’t get challenging until the latter weeks of the session. I feel like I’m at the level of  between-the-end-of-session-in-Beginner-class, and the beginning-of-the-session-in-Intermediate. It’s a tough place to be; people that are more advanced than me danced for years and years as children, and other beginners I know (and take class with) have only been doing ballet for around a year. So I feel like I’m still in that no man’s land between beginner and intermediate that I was in a year ago. Yes, progress in ballet does come rather slow for me…

I know I’m not a ballet teacher (obviously), but I really do feel like it’s not particularly productive for me to be attempting things that I clearly can’t do and am nowhere close to be able to doing. Perhaps with children – “normal” (ugh, hate using that word) children, not a spacially uncoordinated child such as I was – it’s a different story and they do well by just being thrown in the deep end (which didn’t work for me as a child either, this being thrown off the deep end, because then I would cling on to the swimming instructor and pull them in with me…). But as an adult, I definitely don’t think so. If I think it’s not safe for me to do something, I’m going to be reluctant to do it (and especially so soon before the recital).

I hope all of this doesn’t sound bad, like I’m criticizing Teacher (because that’s not my intention – I think she’s been a great Teacher and I owe much of my progress to her and her patience with my detailed-and-at-times-dumb questions)), but I really think it’s hard  (or maybe even impossible) for her to undertand how my body works and responds, not only as an adult beginner but as a person who was inactive and  in terrible shape during my early years (when other people were building muscles and muscle memory). I realize that I’m not that much “older” in the grand scheme of things, like old enough for muscle loss to have significantly occured – if at all – but the fact that I wasn’t building muscle during my prime years does worry me, like I have a much lower maximum potential of total top strength (not to mention bone density, and that really concerns me, especially as far as the force of landing jumps is concerned…). Or perhaps I just have a much lower tolenrance from pain than this dancer high tolerance for pain I’ve heard about. I don’t like thinking these things because then I feel like I have no business dancing, like I’m not really a dancer,  like I’m trying to force the unnatural (well, any more than ballet already is forcing the unnatural). I realize that probably makes no sense, because I’ve tried talking about it and I seem unable to articulate what I mean. But I guess I just want there to be a record that I felt like this at this point…

I’m not trying to sound all down about any of this though – I’m not contemplating quitting ballet all the way, nothing like that. Just thinking that perhaps I should stick with Beginner class only for a bit again and work on the fundamentals. I know I had the same debate with myself at the end of the last session last December, and I ended up taking Intermediate anyway (because  Teacher had asked me, not because I’m a good dancer but because if not enough people sign up the class may get cancelled). And I just may take it again, I’m just frustrated at the moment. In Beginner class I feel like I can actually do some dancing, but at the same time the first 2/3 or so of the Beginner class session can be too slow paced. Wish we had an ‘Advanced Beginner’ class!

Next session at my regulal school starts in a couple weeks, so we’ll see how that teacher is. In the meantime, I’ll be taking class at New Studio and perhaps – hopefully – Adults Only Studio,

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.

Anyway.)

New Class, Soreness, And More Crappy Pirouettes

Another busy week with plenty of dancing, after last week’s almost-break. Predictably, I’m very sore – ha. I’ve been rolling out my roller and tennis balls like crazy. Some of it just needs time to rest though, like my bottom. This week, in Modern M Teacher had us doing much more floorwork, and my behind is especially sore from rocking back and forth on it as we rolled from one side to the next. The thing we did was like a spinning in a circle, but on the floor (from the middle laying down to each side coming to seated, then using our arms to rotate. I can’t come up with a better way to describe it) and it made me so dizzy. I guess there’s no such thing as spotting your turns when you’re on the floor! I was dizzy enough that I was grateful I was already on the floor, actually.

This week I took a ballet class, Beginner, with a somewhat new to me teacher I’ve mentioned before, G Teacher. He seemed to recognize me/remember me since the last time, so that was kind of nice. It was a good challenge and change of pace to take an unfamiliar barre, because with my other teachers, even if they change it up slightly from class to class, I still somewhat recognize their “patterns”. G Teacher’s barre is just so different to the other classes I’ve been taking, and I’ll make sure to ask what style of ballet it is next time I make it in to that class (which I don’t know when it’ll be exactly, since the time is quite inconvenient for me).

At barre, the grand battement combination included that swivel leg thing where you grand battement a la second, then bend the leg and turn in and bring it across the body and then back out, you know, that thing. The newer beginners looked mystified, even after it was demonstrated a couple of times. I don’t blame them – the first time I saw that in person it was like ‘what is that?!’ It’s one of those things that gets more fun with familiarity, and feels so good (I especially like doing it after a grand battement on releve). There was also a rond de jambe conbination that had the ronde de jambes with fondu and port de bras, like the ones we do in Intermediate.

In center, we did lots of glissades (just one after another all the way across the floor), and then tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete over and over. This is a Beginner class, and we usually only do that in Intermediate, so it does seem that G Teacher’s beginner class is more advanced than F Teacher’s or Teacher’s. Either way, I really like – and find very helpful – the amount of repetition in center. By the end of class I was feeling pretty confident about all the steps we’d done. During the glissades, G Teacher told me “Good!” (and for once, I didn’t start messing up immediately afterward), and I do feel proud of how far I’ve come in glissades.Back when I first started ballet I couldn’t glissade at all because I was too weak and my balance was terrible. I wasn’t able to land glissades without losing my balance and tipping over. Then, once I was able to land, I was able to start working on pointing my feet and all that. And now, my glissades, at least a la seconde, are not bad if I do say so myself…

In Intermediate class we did  4 balancés, pique arabesque, plie down, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, soutenu, hold sous-sus balance, other side. Focusing on the good things:I can hold the balance after the sous-sus well, also the plie down from the pique arabesque. Bad things: I’m a little hesitant about my pique arabesque, and the pirouettes to the right are more often than not terrible. That said, I actually landed a pirouette en dehors from fifth to the right (basically, my hardest pirouette), which was nice. To my better turning side (left), I’ve actually felt a little off lately, weird.

We also had a tendu combination that I can’t remember, but it was different from the tendu combinations we’ve been doing. It included a pirouette en dedans, among other things.

This week, across the floor we did saute arabesque, saute coupe, saute arabesque, faille, pas de chat x2 instead of the usual combination. Teacher had us focus on making sure our working leg’s foot was super pointed when we jumped off it for our sautes (technically, temps leves,  I guess). The ones in arabesque are much easier for me to point my feet during, but the ones in coupe not so much – Wonder why? It was the same way to both sides, so it wasn’t a right-left side imbalance.

At home, I had Boyfriend film me going over the choroegraphy as full out as I could in our kitchen to see what specifics I need to work on. Well, specifically I need to work on my attitude devant (higher, more turned out, just cleaner. Actually, this week both Teacher and NS Teacher pulled my leg higher during my attitude balances, so maybe it’s a hint), my bourres (smaller, tighter, and quicker steps), and, of course, that piroeutte en dehors that I’ve mentioned before. Ugh, I’m pretty discouraged about that part right now honestly. Advice, both requested and unrequested, had not been helping me. And yes, I can intellectually undetstand the concept of ‘I’m overthinking it and trying too hard’, but that’s not helping me to put in action ‘under thinking and not trying hard enough’ or whatever would be the opposite. Or maybe I’m just supposed to go for a happy medium, something like thinking and trying just the right amount? But seriously, so frustrated!

But – there’s the bright side –  in addition to practicing my pirouettes, I’ve also been working on my placement and balance, just trying to make sure I have a solid muscle memory platform to build on (and my balances in center on releve retire have improved so much, as a nice bonus).  Since I’ve gotten told by teachers to use a smaller fourth position, I’ve been working on that. I have disproportionately long legs, so it feels really strange, and not too far from a really bad fifth. However, it does seem to keep my alignment in place, so I’ll trust that my teachers know what they’re talking about. I also practiced rising up to passe releve, balancing, and closing in front in fifth, then I did it with closing back into fourth, before trying my pirouettes again. One thing I noticed is that I come off my highest releve some time during the turn, and that’s what may be causing me to fall out of it. So, just to rule out that it’s not lack of strength that is the issue, I made myself do something like 24 single leg releves and eleves (no, not all at once on one leg – I’m not going to lie and pretend I’m at that level of strength – though that is a goal I’m working towards. I did three sets of eight, alternating legs with a pas de bourre). I think I’ll be doing this often, as well as my rotator muscle exercises. I should do the feet theraband exercies (flex and point with articulation) as well, but when I do them it almost feels like they’re not doing anything. Maybe I need to switch to the heavier resistance band, or just do more of them.

Even if it doesn’t improve my pirouettes, I’ll have freakishly strong and powerful feet. Which is kind of cool.

… Or Maybe I Do…

… but knowledge (though it is power) does not automatically “fix” the problem…

*Sigh*

A little while ago I mentioned in one of my posts that I’m learning some choreography, and it just got harder because it now includes a (single, en dehors from fourth) pirouette. You know, presumably clean, with good technique throughout and a flawless finish – not my tipping-over-or-barely-making-it-around-if-at-all brand of pirouettes. Which is understandable, since it will be before an audience, and all that.

So, my initial reaction was ‘ok, I will work on it, but be very prepared with a back-up plan, which is in high probability going to be needed…’. Then I set to work on it, not really expecting much. That part of the combination/choreography is (other steps), chasse, pirouette en dedans, tendu out to second, close fourth, pirouette en dehors from fourth, saute arasbesque, saute coupe, ballet run 4 counts, 3 quick soutenus, bourre, 2 pique turns, etc. Very heavy on the turning, and the music’s pretty quick. I’m wasn’t having trouble with all the other turns once I learned to anticipate what was next, due to having memorized the choreography. On pique turns and soutenus I tend to get sloppy only after doing maybe 6 or so at a minimum (maybe I get tired? dizzy?), so just a few in a row is not intimidating. But the pirouette en dehors, since it’s the thing that I’ve been struggling with the longest, it just has Intimidation written all over it.

A little over a week later, and I’ve actually pulled it off. It’s not a hundred percent reliable, but during my practice sessions I did manage to do it – the whole choreography, in time to the music, not just the pirouette – at all (and more than a couple of times) which is more than I was expecting this soon (because the amount of practice time I’ve done so far is only a small fraction of the time I’m expecting to spend on it). But the best part is that since my body has felt that it is possible to do it (and eventually, yay muscle memory!), there’s really no excuses I can make about it being too difficult or beyond my level. It becomes a matter of ‘will I invest the amount of time and energy needed to make this happen, or not?’ not ‘what’s the point of even trying since there’s just no way that’s even possible?’ or ‘ok, I’ll try, ’cause it’ll be funny, but I’m not expecting much.’

It did make me wonder what else can I do that I think I can’t…

I mean, I know some people like to go one about how ‘you can do anything!’ but when the laws of physics are involved I always wonder if that still applies. But then, in the words of R Teacher “If you can master ballet, you’ve defied the laws of physics.” So who knows…

More Dance-y Fun, And Some Challenges

It was a very dance-y week, with four ballet classes, two modern classes, a rehearsal, and lots of practicing. If I include all the time spent practicing, I think I danced something like fifteen hours! My body held up pretty well, even though the weather remained gloomy and wet. Perhaps because the temperature hasn’t dropped as much it didn’t affect me as much.

Beginner ballet classes this week were more focused on working on the fundamentals, with the entire class doing the same exact combinations regardless of level.

On the one hand it’s easier, because the at the barre there’s much less port de bras, and in center the steps are beginner level (for example, waltz is not en tournant, and passe in on flat). On the other hand it’s harder because it’s so slow and everything has to be just so… precise. And as a not-completely beginner in the class, I feel an expectation to do it correctly. Also, since I’ve been doing the slightly more challenging version of every combination, I’ve commited those to memory, not these. This is only relevant to the fact that we’re going to be tested on these combinations sometime in the near future, and we’re expected to do it without F Teacher calling out the steps.

We’re told that preparing for exams is like an audition, and that she will treat is as such so that we can be prepared for that. I temember my first time taking ballet, I used to think how unlikely (and, given my skill level at the time, ridiculous) the idea of me ever being at an audition was, but here we are, 3 years later and I’ve actually auditioned – and performed in – performances for my school, so yeah, you never know where life will take you…

I also had my midterm exam for Modern, a performance, in small groups, before the class of a combination we’ve been working on for a few weeks.  I hadn’t done a class performance since the end of my last ballet session a few months ago and I’ve come to realize that I really love performing. That feeling – the racing heart rate, am-I-about-to-pass-out? rush right before the music starts as we wait there before our audience – I think I love it. As an introvert with some kind of social anxiety, who can be terrified of interaction unless it’s people I’m comfortable with, and gets really uncomfortable in crowded or group/social situations, I feel this is my only release, my only time to have attention focused on me and me actually enjoy it. Or something. I worry that it’s just a cover up for underlying problems that I should be working on (my anxiety issues, shyness, social awkwardness, overcoming the childhood truamas that actually contributed to these issues…), but for now I’m just going to dance and see where this goes. Anyway, performing’s such a thrill, and I’m glad that there’s at least a couple more class perfomance opportunities coming up in the nearish future.

The combination itself for the Modern class exam was not challenging, especially since it’s the same exact combination we did last session 6 months ago or so. The parts that are the hardest for me involve the contraction movements, since they’re still somewhat new to me, but I’ve improved much since last session. There’s this part where we do a jump (like a saute arabesque, but with less technique) and land in a way that we drop to the floor and roll over sideways, and it’s much less scary this time around. Floor work is something that still continues to intimidate me a little, but since it’s my second time taking Modern it feels a lot less foreign. I’m still glad that my first dance experience was with ballet, because it provided such a solid foundation for Modern, as opposed to the other way around. And,o of course, there’s the whole being able to rely on the barre at least a little thing; I definitely couldn’t have done Modern back when I first started dancing.

This week, Intermediate ballet class was just plain hard. I don’t know if Teacher turned up the intensity level or if it was just me, but I found myself struggling more than usual (for that level class).  To start with, Teacher was using the CD that F Teacher always uses, and that was thowing me off quite a bit. Especially when the piece we always use in Beginner to do 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 degages was being used for this complex-ish tendu combination, something like 3 devant with outside leg, 1 derriere with inside leg, 3 a la seconde with outside leg, 1 devant with inside leg, 3 derriere with outside leg, 1 devant with inside leg, 3 a la seconde with outside leg, en croix with outside leg, reverse, soutenu for other side (I may be missing a section in there, it’s not like I had the combination perfectly figured out). A lot of our barre combiations include switching the working leg from the outside to the inside leg in different patterns, and I usually am able to get it by the time we do the end of the first side (we usually mark the barre combinations before doing them, at least halfway). But the music was really really throwing me off.

During frappes (3 single frappes devant, beated frappe derriere, 3 derriere,  1 beated devant, 6 super quick beated frappes a la second in this weird pattern that I haven’t quite figured out, temps lie away from barre a la seconde, pique onto retire on releve back at the barre, and once again I’m possibly missing something in there) I slammed my toe into the ground. That kind of sucked, but it didn’t get in the way of m finishing out class. I think I’ve improved on the pique onto releve retire since last time we did that at the barre (because for whatever reason it feels scarier at the barre than center).

Center was where the challenge really was though. The first combination was ok, just 2 tendus and a grand battement in the usual croisse devant, ecarte, derriere pattern, then brush the working leg forward and pas de basque, chasse, pirouette en dehors, other side. The hardest part was the piroeutte en dehors (more on my pirouette woes in a bit), but other than that the combination felt quite do-able. The pas de basques that Teacher has us do are different from the ones we do with F Teacher; Teacher’s are like rond de jambe-glissade-chasse (I’m really breaking it down here, but the moves just flow together) and F Teacher’s are like rond de jambe, coupe the other foot behind that one, then step it through in front of the other one. I like doing both kinds, but I think both versions of the step have a completely different energy quality to them from each other.

Across the floor combination was pique arabesque, rise up on releve on the other foot with the other leg in attitude devant, pique arabsque, releve attitude, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dedans, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, attitude derriere pirouette, hold balance in attitude, plie, pas de bourre, other side. Ummm, yeah, I’m not there yet at this level, and was having trouble remembering the combination. I think if I had time to mark it – slowly- about 20 times I’d be able to get it, but obviously that doesn’t fly in a class environment. I kept getting confused on which leg was I supposed to pique arabesque or releve on attitude devant on (like, did the legs switch? was it always on the same leg?), then forgetting to tombe, pas de bourre after the pirouette en dedans. And holding the balance after the pirouette in attitude devant was not going to happen since I wasn’t even getting around all the way.  It was still a fun combination to attempt though.

Petit allegro was only in group, not a slower group and a faster group, and that reduced my chances of getting it remotely close to right. The combination was (glissade, assemble)x2, echappe, changement,  4 sissones ferme, alternating sides, pas de chat, pas de bourre, other side. I was getting confused from the beginning because I kept ending up with the wrong foot in front, and Teacher wanted to to do the arms for the sissones (which apparently open in the direction you’re traveling), which confused me further. Then we reversed the combination, and by this point my brain was just mush, so I just kind of clunked along one count late. Honestly, it’s much more fun for me when we can go in 2 groups at different tempos, because this way I feel like I’m not even learning, just struggling along. I should really just practice this combination at home, but center combinations change so often in Teacher’s class that there’s never a guarantee that if I memorize a combination it’ll help me the next class.

Speaking of practicing, I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, as I have been getting access to a place to practice lately that’s larger than my little home kitchen studio. Mostly been working on choreography for our upcoming class shows, with different classmates. For one of the pieces we’re working on, my classmate insisted on adding a pirouette (en dehors, from fourth and not fifth thankfully) to the choreography that I had come up with. I explained that I don’t know if I’ll have a reliable pirouette by show time, and I could also have the alternate backup choreography ready to go, just in case. She said something like ‘it’s just a single pirouette, you’ll be fine by then, don’t be so negative’. I was somewhat annoyed, because I don’t like it much when my being realistic is mistaken for negativity. I don’t have a negative attitude – if I did, I doubt I would have ever gotten this far from where I started. But I’m also realistic in the amount of time it took me to improve, and how slow progress can be. She mentioned something about how she’s been dancing less time than me and has a clean pirouette which, if it was intended to motivate me, had the opposite effect – it was a reminder of how slow my learning curve is. I often feel that no one at my school can truly understand how difficult it has been for me to pick up ballet, what an uphill struggle it has been every step of the way. But I agreed to practice my pirouettes more, and I will (and have been since this happened). At least I get to do it to my stronger side, which I do get a clean single occasionally, something like one of of every 3 or 4 (which drops to one out of 10 when under stress…). The main problem, as I tried to explain to her, is that it’s not reliable when I’m going to be able to pull it off. But, I’m doing my part and practicing.

Either way, I love working on choreography so much. Repeating the same movements over and over enables me to achieve this level of comfort that I’m not able to when doing a combination that I’ve only done a couple times. It’s especially exciting when putting the little phrases of movement together and ending up with minutes worth of dancing. It feels so awesome for me, and it’s something I wanted to do since I first started, to be able to dance. 

A-Line-Ment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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