Tag Archives: ballet teacher

Different Styles

By this point in my ballet history, I’ve had too many ballet teachers to count. No, that’s just lazy talk – says she who takes things literal – let’s see, there’s 1 (F Teacher), 2 (S Teacher), 3 (E Teacher), 4 (Teacher; who, as my regular teacher for so long, doesn’t need an initial – but it’d probably make things less confusing at times if I’d given her one…), 5 (N Teacher, like one or two times),  6 (A Teacher), 7 (NS Teacher), 8 (R Teacher), 9 (M Teacher – who I’ve only taken for Modern, but she’s technically also a ballet teacher), 10 (G Teacher), and about 3 or 4 subs (which count for the purposes of this post but I was too lazy or unimaginative to give them  initials in a way that will help me remember who’s who).

Ok, so I’ve had around 10 ballet teachers, and about half of them have been short term. That leaves around 5 ballet/dance teachers that I’ve taken class with at least 50~ times (which can be either a year at once a week, to several months with multiple classes per week). A number I am completely arbitrarily (for the purposes of this post) deciding on as enought time to get to know each other, for them to see what my most common tendencies needing correction are, and how quickly – or not – I am able to fix such things. My weird shoulders, my tilt-y pelvis, my hyperextended knock-knees, stuff like that. While perhaps it would have been beneficial to stick with one teacher for the long term, I do believe that from every teacher I’ve taken class with I’ve walked out with something valuable – a new exercise that helped me find my rotators perfectly, a new stretch, a beautiful center combination, a helpful tip, or even just a ballet fun fact. So yea, I definitely don’t regret moving around. (That all said, I think I should specify that I’ve only tried three different schools or studios, mostly because of location and budget issues.)

Anyway, I find it really interesting how each teacher has their own way of teaching, not just the style of ballet but how they go about it. This is especially true for beginner level classes – even more when it’s basic beginner/ fundamentals / essentials / whatever the most beginner level is called. Like, what they focus on, since obviously a brand-new beginner can’t be corrected on everything all at once. Do they place the highest importance on correct alignment, keeping the class at the barre facing it until they have a better idea of it?  Musicality and artistry from the beginning, even when the basic steps are about as far from being technically precise as possible? Does everyone keep their arm out in second or the hand on hip, or are port de bras and epaulement taught from the beginning?

While at this point I enjoy the variety of the different approaches and find it helpful, as a brand new beginner I know that what I preferred was a teacher who focused on alignment and precision of technique, not flashy tricks. And while I think I’ve read  that teachers should structure the class around the more advanced students rather than the beginners (does this also apply to basic beginner level?), I think that being pushed to do something before you’re physically ready is a recipe for disaster. Like balancing on releve without the barre when the ankles keep sickle-ing, and then attempting pirouettes in center. Tangent: Pirouettes are not a basic beginner step! I used to take class with a teacher who would have us do really basic barre work (like, we didn’t even take it up to releve for our retire balance, and no port de bras were used)  and then when we went to center it was time for pirouettes and grand jetes and it sucked.

The downside of taking class with multiple teachers may be when they each tell you a different thing and contradictions arise. I don’t mean the difference between where to place the toes when doing coupe, or the names of port de bras depending on which school it is, things that are both correct though different. I mean when…well, when you get asked to do something that could really hurt you, and you consult with a trusted teacher and they tell you that you were in the right. I don’t think a dance teacher would deliberately try to hurt anyone, but sometimes unfamiliarity with a student’s tendencies or limitations may be an issue? As by now I’m somewhat trained in the body (since first beginning ballet I’ve taken courses in kinesiology and human anatomy, aside from my ballet and pilates training) and have an idea of what’s normal, I know to take care of my body. That still doesn’t erase the awkwardness of being in a class and not doing the thing you were asked to do though, at least for me. I mean, really, talk about awkward! Am I supposed to say “I’m not going to do that, and I’ve asked Miss So-and-so, and she said I’m right?”, or “Miss So-and-so said what you’re asking me to do is dangerous?”, or something along those lines? That seems disrespectful and rude. So is the only other option avoidance? I hope not but it does appear to be a delicate situation.

Perhaps the reason some teachers prefer for students to stay with the same teacher is so they don’t make a habit of asking for a second opinion. Or perhaps it’s traditional to only learn from one teacher. But I’m glad that I’ve had the opportunity to learn from so many people to get a more complete picture.

My Last Once-A-Week Class

Today’s class was smaller and less crowded than last week, I think there was 8 or 9 of us. Few new people, few familiar faces (including that mean girl that didn’t want to talk a couple weeks ago, lol).  I’m assuming it was mostly newer beginner people because we did the slow barre combinations again, and E Teacher was really emphasizing the whole “keep your legs straight when you close a tendu!” and “degages barely come up off the floor!”. And we didn’t take lots of super long balances with arms in high fifth.   I got a correction on not sticking my butt out during grand plie in fifth – that’s a tricky one for me.

Once again, we ran out of time for frappes. However, we had time for an extra center combination, so I guess that makes up for it.

During the tendu-plie-passe balance combination, E Teacher gave the suggestion that when we bring our foot up to passe we should do it quickly, even when we’re not going up in releve. Just to get that quick springing up with one foot in passe motion down, I guess.  I will definitely be working on that. I’ve gotten used to bringing it up slowly (unless I’m going up on releve) back from the days when I couldn’t balance on one leg at all.  Now that I can sort of balance I need to work on doing it quicker.

My sautes were ok today, I didn’t go ahead in timing, I used my plie, I (sort of) remembered to point my feet.  E Teacher said she’s seeing progress – I’m gonna pretend that was directed at me, lol.

We did the 3 glissades, pas de bourre, repeat other side combination.  I kind of surprised myself, because E Teacher said the music was a bit fast – and it was – but I still managed to do it, almost like if it was in my muscle memory already. Very cool.  I kept wanting to do the arms though (E Teacher wanted them out in second), it just feels more natural that way.

We did the preparation for jetes with arms in 1st arabesque again, and the best student did that across the floor combination that involves a jete at the end that I have no idea what it’s called – or how to do it, for that matter. I assume it’s a common combination though, as Ex-classmate Sub (from a few months ago) expected us to know it.

While leaving, I saw that now there was TWO boyfriends waiting for their girlfriends in the little waiting area couch outside our class.  So funny, if I’d brought Boyfriend, I’ll bet he would have left having had met two new friends.  Seriously, Boyfriend will make friends with people while I try on clothes or use the public restroom (true story), he is just so social.  The exact opposite of me, LOL.  If boys like him didn’t exist, girls like me would never get asked out (’cause of course I’m too socially awkward to do the asking, not that girls can’t ask, because they can and do. Just not this girl…). Sometimes I think that we complement each other so perfectly (and other times I think there’s no way an extrovert will ever understand me.  I fluctuate between the two…)

Then I said my goodbye’s to E Teacher (I have some schedule changes coming up), we chatted a little bit about school and ballet teachers (small world!), and I left.

It was a good night 🙂 Starting next week, more ballet!

Wednesday Classes, Dancing In The Now

In order to not hit traffic (which increases by the minute, it seems) and be late, I usually leave home for ballet class fairly early, which means that I then get to sit in my car in the parking lot for about 45 minutes waiting for Teacher to arrive and open the studio.  Not one to waste time, I use that time for eating my breakfast and, unless I have to study, reading a book.  My latest read falls into the “motivational/self-help” category, and as I sat there reading and shoveling slices of plantain in my mouth, the words I was reading really hit home. I had a realization, an epiphany, you might say: if all we have is now, then it’s pointless to be concerned or obsessed about the “future” – or the past for that matter . In other words, applying it to ballet: dance because you’re loving it in the Now, feeling it in the Now, living it in the Now, not just dreams and wishes of future improvement (though it may still happen!), with “if only’s” and regrets,  with thoughts of “one day I’ll be good enough”, or with memories of past failures (hello, first ballet semester!).

No, I’m going to do it because I enjoy it, because I love it! How lucky I am to get to be doing something I love to do. I felt so grateful for even having the opportunity. So with those thoughts fresh in my mind, I happily walked to class.

morning class

Today we did promenade (which means to walk) at barre, after we did our developpe derriere. It basically involved keeping our leg out in arabesque, and then raising up on our toes – just a little, not a full releve – and somehow turning in a series of little up-down up-down movements.  It was my first time ever, ever, ever attempting to do this move, so I know it looked a little clumsy – ok, a lot clumsy. I started out with my leg in a nice arabesque position and then by the time I had completed my turn it was either way lower than when I’d started or not directly behind me or bent slightly.  Don’t know how far I’ll get on practicing this one at home, either; the floor in my apartment, though wood, is not as slick as the floor in the studio.

My petit battements still need work. It’s so hard to keep the knee still while swinging the lower part of the leg in and out, alternating front and back.  My First Teacher had taught us a similar move, also done immediately after frappes, but it involved a flexed foot instead.  I wonder if they’re similar moves, just different styles of ballet? Regarless, I’ll bet they’re a great thigh workout!

Today I also soutenued without holding the barre several times! I was pretty excited. And then, while holding a balance after 8 plie releves with arms in high fifth, Teacher came by and said “Now lean forward slightly, it’ll feel like you’re going to fall forward but you won’t,” So I leaned and she was right!

In center, I was watching the mirror when we did two changements, echappe, two more changements, echappe, etc. and it did not look right at all! Since my sautes have gotten so much better, I’m thinking it may be as much of a multitasking problem as it is a lack of being in shape problem.  If I could have the studio to myself I would practice them obsessively in slow motion (or in sets of 4 at a time or something), so I could get used to how it feels without the added stress of timing… or people watching me bounce.

The 4 balances, step to arabesque, pas de bourree, passe releve (optional pirouette), other side combination continues to come along, looking more graceful, fluid and dancey.  The passe releves are getting more and more stable every day. If we have the passe releve pirouette combination in evening class I think I may finally go for that elusive en dehors pirouette.

We also revisited the 3 grand battements (front, right leg), passe releve and bring foot down behind, 3 grand battements (front, left leg) passe releve and bring foot down behind,  3 grand battement derriere (left leg), passe releve and bring foot to front, 3 grand battemnts derriere (right leg), passe releve.  The passe releves, especially on my left supporting leg, felt stable but I’m still working on really “kicking” my leg up  without feeling thrown off balance.

Chaines went well.  There is not so much of a discrepancy between my stronger side and my weaker side as there was in the beginning of the semester. In fact, at times I even find myself forgetting which is my weak side which is awesome.  For me a lot of things are mental, and if I psych myself out by thinking “This is my bad side” before starting it tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’ve been making a more concious effort to not put too much thought into it!

It’s funny, because one of the other girls – my “partner” for critiquing the balance combination – and I were talking about chaines and our weak side. She said she can turn better to the right, but she’s left handed; I (usually) turn better to the left, but write right handed.  It cheered me up to know that at least one other person is “backwards” when it comes to stronger side vs. dominant hand. It really irritates me how I have this big hang up about not wanting to be the “only one” that is a certain way, though. It’s irrational, and I know some other people (like Boyfriend) are the opposite; they want to be “unique”.  I still have so much to learn about maturity…

evening class

We had a sub today. No, not that sub, my ex-classmate from my first semester, of that horrible class two months ago.  This sub happened to be one of the studio’s owners and she was awesome! Lot’s of explanations, interesting barre combinations, really supportive and friendly vibe and absolutely no pressure yet encouragement.  I would definitely take more classes with her.

We did fondues at the barre (a rare thing in evening class) and not just any fondues but the kind in which the foot doesn’t touch the floor at any point after it has left the ground from the initial fondu.  My favorite kind!  I really need to find out if there’s a name for this particular kind of fondu… Anyway, that was really fun, and I liked feeling it in my supporting leg – and my turnout muscles as we held an extremely long passe releve after fonduing (fondueing?) en croix both en dedans and en dehors.

I successfully soutenued with  no hands on the barre a few times times (well, technically 4 times, if we want to get specific.). Keep this up and I may call it consistent!

In center, after chaînesing (look, I learned how to put the little accent thing on the “i”!) in both direction, Owner Teacher announced pique turns. Awesome! I’ve been practicing them at home hoping that I’ll get the green light to do them in morning class some day, so it was really cool to have the opportunity to practice then in an area bigger than my living room. Today I discovered that, unlike chaînes, my left side is not my good side. The pique turns to the right were not bad, but on the ones to the left I felt unstable and forgot to keep spotting.  I will practice more, but it was so fun. I love the feeling of turning – well, when I remember to spot, that is.

Oh, and if anyone wants to read about The Other Sub, here’s some links (yes I’m aware there’s a better way to link involving clicking on the text in the post; WordPress hasn’t let that function work on my browser since, like, 3 months ago. Sorry.:

The Class


The Aftermath


Wednesday Class, Now With More Sniffles

Only made it to one class today. Despite yesterday’s sore throat and today’s sniffling I managed to last (and do pretty good (for me))through a pretty demanding morning class.  While I have no doubt that I wouldn’t collapse or anything during evening class (which is usually much easier), I decided to stay home and catch up on my studies and writing.   Besides, I can’t think of many things more embarassing than running from the barre for a tissue for my runny nose!

(Actually, true story, that totally did happen to one girl like a year and a half ago.  We were all mid-plie or mid tendu and she just bolted out the door. I remember thinking I was so glad it wasn’t me – especially when she returned and F Teacher started asking her if she was ok.  Way too much public attention for me, I feel like I would have passed out!)

It could just be me, but I think our barre combinations are getting longer. We’re spending a lot of time in center compared to barre, so while we’re not doing as many exercise, the ones we are doing are longer. It really works out the memorizing moves part of the brain.  I do wonder if knowing how to physically do the moves makes it so that the brain has more “power” to memorize, because back when I first started I absolutely sucked at remembering the combinations, my concentration being occupied by doing the moves.  Now, I usually take the leading spot at one of the barres so I can see myself in the mirror  (which sounds so conceited and wrong, in just about any context other than ballet.  I promise, outside of ballet class I’m not a mirror hog; I actually get freaked out when people see me looking at myself in a mirror outside of a ballet setting. It’s just one of my many weird quirks.) which means that I better have the combination memorized.  For the most part I do! I guess now the moves are in muscle memory.

After we did the 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 exercise twice, Teacher had us plie and releve 4 times with no barre, with a long balance on the fourth. It was the weirdest feeling, like I thought I was going to wobble and tip over but I squeezed my core and pulled up and it felt like I was willing my body to do it, and it worked!  It kind of set the tone for the rest of the class, because my balances were not bad (for me) today.

I liked how we spent a lot of time on releve at the barre, doing cambres both forward and back, and passe releve and coupe releve, as well as echappe changements.  Being on releve is actually really fun for me – as long as it doesn’t involve balancing – because my calves don’t get tired.  Since back when I started ballet they used to burn, it’s a sure sign that I’ve gotten stronger.  Which reminds me, Teacher referred to echappe changements as “pushups for your ankles” – I should do more of both!

In center, my 4 balances (balan-says), step into arabesque, pas de bouree, releve sous-sus, other side combination is coming along.  It may have had to do with the timing of the music being slowed, so I didn’t have to rush my balances. Especially the coupe to the back part, which starts looking sloppy if I rush it.

The 3 grand battements devant with arms in high fifth, then passe releve while bringing the arms down the side combination was also looking better today.  My balancing in passe releve has really started to improve ever since I’ve been thinking more about shifting my center of gravity to be lined up over my supporting leg.  Today, on my left leg I stayed up for long enough for Teacher to say it was “much better.”  Also, I’m able to do it  bringing up the foot from either the front of the back, and I was feeling as stable as ever.

I did a few half-pirouettes (en dehors, from fifth), and felt stable. If I could figure out the spotting part I think I could actually make it all the way around.

We did glissades, which Teacher wanted to be extra jumpy – they reminded me of sissones.  I think each of my ballet teachers has taught us how to glissade a different way.  The cons of having multiple teachers, I guess.

My sautes seemed higher off the ground than before (which is really not saying much, since before I could barely leave the ground).  By the time we got to changements I was running out of steam apparently.  My changements are not very good, but much better than as little as two months ago for sure.

When doing chasse gallops I could feel my feet touching while in mid-air. While I was moving too fast to see in the mirror, I do wonder if that means I was doing it right. Teacher had said that we are supposed to touch our (pointed) feet in the air…

No class next monday, so I’ll be practicing on my own until a week from now.

World Ballet Day Wednesday

First of all, happy World Ballet Day and happy October!

Morning class

Rather than have class we watched streaming footage from World Ballet Day.  I’m primarily a youtube ballet watcher – I haven’t actually been to a professional ballet performance in real life before, yet – and I enjoy watching company class videos as much as full scale performances, so I was having a grand old time.

It was awesome watching ballet with other people who also like ballet! In a way, it’s like now I know why people who are into sports look all disappointed if they ask me if I’m into it and I say “Well, I’ll watch it if it’s on, but I won’t seek it out, and I could care less who wins or loses.” It’s just more fun when the other people watching it with you are as into it as you are! Now I know…

We were all specially into the part when the company men were doing their jumps and turns.  I love how the men in ballet are able to jump so unbeliebably high.  It was also nice watching ballet with someone knowledgeble about it (Teacher), so we could ask random questions about the pros.

I know it wasn’t like a regular ballet class, but it was still a great way to spend a morning.

Evening class

Evening class went well. Our regular teacher was back (yay!)

Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself. The good news is that I remembered my wallet so I was able to attend class. The bad news is that I forgot my ballet shoes at home.  Why does it seem like I always forget something?

I have this checklist on (one of – those things aren’t big enough for all those veggies) our refrigerator(s) that reminds me what to pack for lunch for school, so my absentminded self won’t leave an item behind.  Before I had that list I seriously used to pace around the kitchen, wasting like 20 minutes, trying to remember what to pack (and often I would forget something anyway. Which is not good since I only eat food I bring from home, for budget and/or health reasons.)  Anyway, I think I need to make a ballet class checklist also.

So I did class in my socks today.  As I’ve previously mentioned (I think…) balancing is easier for me while wearing socks or barefoot than while wearing my slippers, so I got to take advantage of that.  Nice long balances today, even while moving the arms. It is also so much easier to point my feet without my shoes since I wear full sole slippers.

In class I didn’t really make too many mistakes, or maybe it was just that I didn’t get many corrections.  When balancing in releve sous sus with my arms in high fifth I had my shoulders high, so I got corrected on that.  But mostly the teacher focused on correcting the newer students that were not keeping their legs straight while tonduing or sticking their butts out while plieing.  I always do that thing of whenever a correction is given to anyone I check to see if it applies to me, so I still feel like I’m learning either way.

In between classes I did do a home practice session since I am getting used to my double dose of ballet wednesday.  Let’s see, what can I report? My degage and piques without holding on are getting more stable every day, and I’ve discovered that I love doing balances (balan-says, not balancing) to the Sleeping Beauty waltz. The timing just seems to fit perfectly. I’ve also been practicing “finishing” after my chaines. Teacher said she wants us to chasse and then 1st arabesque arms, but so far the best I got is to tendu one of my feet – for some reason usually the left leg regardless of which direction I was chaines-ing – back while doing the arabesque arms.  But I’ll get there!

Monday Class: Finally, Some Foot Strength

As the semester progresses we are doing more and more barre exercises during which Teacher has us let go of the barre the second time through.  Today we let go during the degage and pique combination and during the rond de jambe,  fondu, coupe and passe combination.  We were also taking our arms of the barre at the end of most of the combinations and balancing in releve. Teacher has not yet asked us to balance in releve on one leg, but I anticipate that happening soon so I’ve started working on that more at home so it doesn’t come as a surprise. Surprises during ballet class don’t usually end well for me…

Something new we did at barre was move our leg en cloche.  The combination went something like degage forward, come back through first and degage back, then degage front, pique, and balance. Then the same thing to the back, ending with a pique and balance with the leg to the back.  While I am familiar with this movement, I was glad that Teacher said we would not be letting go of the barre during it today.

We did grand battement and changements exercise (three grand battements to the front, three changements, repeat other leg), first holding the barre then letting go.  While we waited for the other half of the class to do it the rest of us then could optionally practice it far from the security blanket safety of the barre.  It went better than I could have imagined.  Grand battements a la seconde are easier for me than en avant – I think that’s how you say “to the front”, we’ll be getting quizzed on this later – so the fact that the en avant one’s went well was encouraging.  My changements were not too shabby either; I had a good mirror spot so I was able to see the part where the thighs clap together that wednesday evening teacher says should occur.

My feet pointing during sautes was not too bad today. While I don’t always point to the fullest that I possibly can – either I forget or I get tired –  my feet no longer do that floppy lifeless thing they used to do in midair.  Or land too far apart. Also, it could have been in my head, but I think that my height during the jumps has improved as well.  It used to be that I barely left the ground.

Our balance combination (4 balances starting with to the right side, then step out our right foot and put our weight on it, lift up back (left)  foot and put arms in first arabesque, then bend supporting (right) leg keeping the back leg straight, and pas de bouree, switch and to the other side) went ok.  The feet part at least, my arms were horrible.  But I felt stable and sort of like I was dancing.

Teacher complimented me on my chaines while turning left.  For whatever reason it’s much easier for me to turn towards the left than towards the right.  When turning towards the right I kept losing my spot today, but otherwise it went ok. Now teacher wants us to actually finish (in first arabesque) when we finish chaines-ing, instead of just kind of running out of center, so that’s the next thing I will be working on.

Today I wore one of my new tights. Since I’ve been obsessing over the silky feel of the material I went with the Theatrical ones, since I just couldn’t wait to try them on (but actually wearing them to class, not just for a quick minute). I will be updating my mini-review as I get to know the tights I bought some more.

As I was leaving I saw Strict Teacher. That was kind of weird…

Sometimes I Suck

Warning: semi-rant follows

Sometimes I suck. And not just at ballet.

If I were to say that last wednesday’s class – and all the flashbacks it brought back – have not been circling my mind obsessively the last several days, I’d be a liar.  A big liar. Truth is, I’ve thought very little about anything but that.

I hate the new fears that have awakened inside me.  I worry that I’m the worst wannabe-dancer ever, and that the only reason anyone offers any encouragement is to be polite.  Because enough other teacher’s have said what they had to say, or volumes were spoken by their silence. By now I’m wondering if Nice Teacher’s compliments are true, or if she’s just being excessively nice.  I wonder is all my “dancing” is good for is a laugh.

Living in worry, fear, and doubt is the worst.

About a week ago, I had a dream I didn’t bother writing about. Mostly because I forgot the specifics right away, leaving me with only a vague idea. In it, my first ballet teacher and latest teacher (NiceTeacher) were having some kind of meeting or something. Don’t know why or how, but I burst into the room and started tearfully explaining how much ballet means to me.  Sometimes my dreams come true in an indirect way, but now I’m paranoid: do the teachers talk among themselves about the students and their progress or lack of?

To my first teacher, I was practically invisible.  Of the whole semester I took ballet with her, she corrected me only a handful of times and, since I sucked horribly there was probably a lot of correcting possibilities. It was ok, I wasn’t expecting much, but what had made it almost intolerable were the other students in the class.

This was the semester of overhearing the loud conversations about other students body types, the semester of the live pianist staring at my pathetic attempts to jump, the semester of avoiding standing where the class’ “Best Dancer” could see me at barre (and of course she had her barre, where only those she deemed good enough to stand next to her could stand. As she loudly proclaimed more than once).  But I would have taken being seen at barre over being seen by her in center. At the barre she would just make this face, I can’t describe it in a way to do it justice, but like if you’re some kind of idiot  for not being able to do it right.  During center, then she would straight out laugh.  And point (and I don’t just mean her feet).  The teacher had nothing but praise for the “Best Dancer” despite her terrible attitude (though she may have just not noticed?).  That class had made me feel unwelcome like no other.  Like if my clumsy, two-left footed, big chested self was trying to infiltrate their exclusive dancer world and they were just not going to grant me admission.

On the last day of class, as we all sat in front of her in a haphazard semi-circle, the teacher had asked who planned on continuing on with ballet. When no one volunteered (though in my mind I already knew I would), she had started calling on people and offering encouraging words, trying to convince them.

She did not try to convince me.

It’s really hard for me to not focus on that. To think that she deliberately didn’t tell me anything because she thought that I’m just not good enough, that all the practice in the world won’t make a difference.  At the time I channeled all those feelings into sheer determination to practice and improve.

With my next teacher (Strict Teacher), I didn’t fare any better.  She did give me plenty of corrections, and I know my ballet-ing improved while I was studying under her.  But she was not sympathetic to my limitations at all.  Overall, I would say that she did help me a lot with the study of ballet.  But did I feel at home in her class? Honestly no.  When it came time to give out grades (since this is a community college class), she gave me an impossibly low grade.  As in I added up the points and there was just no way.  So I wondered, was this my second hint to get the hell out of the dance world because it so clearly doesn’t want me in it?

This summer when I took my first non-commmunity college ballet classes, I felt comfortable. Yes, I was super anxious before actually going – obsessing over what could go wrong – but after my first class I was just so happy.  This studio has been the only one where I have truly felt at home as a “true” adult beginner, not as a young adult who is already a dancer and is considering returning to ballet.  This studio has been the only place where I didn’t feel that exclusivity vibe, that feeling of not belonging.  It has been the only place where no one has tried to make me feel unwelcome.

But by having that sub from first semester the feeling has been ruined.

It is not my intention to be melodramatic.  Sometimes just talking about my feeling helps me move past them, to let them go. And no one I know in “real” life cares to hear about this 31 year old woman’s ballet class drama.  No one understands. They just say “Oh, it’s not something you’re going to do for a living anyway, who cares,”  or something along those lines.  But I care, and there’s just no way that I can explain to them how much ballet means to me, how much this obsession of a hobby has helped me make it though these difficult times.

If I didn’t love ballet so much, I would have given up by now.  Why try so hard to be part of a group that doesn’t want you in it, and all.  But I love ballet, so I will keep going.

I realize this is a pretty negative post. Sorry about that, but with the highs come the lows and all that. Have a great day and thanks for reading.

At Least a Positive + a Negative Still =’s Neutral

Ever have one of those days when it feels like your day got flipped a whole 180 and you’re left wondering what the hell went wrong? If not, consider yourself lucky, and if you care to see what that is like, read on.

Original half of the post (up until the beginning of evening class part) was written way earlier and has not been edited since.

Wednesday morning class

As morning class ended, I was so high off ballet happiness that I practically floated to my car. If only after every class I could feel this way – but then maybe when I do it wouldn’t feel so special… Food for thought.  But seriously, I was in such a great mood that I didn’t even notice traffic on the way home. More evidence for our thoughts influencing our reality, I guess.

What was so great about today’s class? Let’s see, not only did plenty of things go right but, more importantly, nothing really went wrong.

During the plie and tendu exercise with port de bras, Teacher very enthusiastically said “Good, K (insert real name)!”  Then as we did our tendu and degage exercise without holding the barre I felt more stable than I had when we previously tried it.  I may be closer to finding my one-legged balance (while moving the other leg) than ever before. Then we did a coupe, passe and ronde de jambe exercise, again without holding the barre, and that also went without a single wobble.  Teacher also complimented me on my releve-sous-sus balancing with arms in high fifth, which for once I did without legs shaking.  The theraband exercises are really paying off!

One thing that struck me is that when I hear Teacher say “Ok, put away the barres!” when it’s time to go to center I actually don’t get this impending doom feeling at all anymore.  Or maybe that was just today.  But I have realized that I actually enjoy center, which would have been inconceivable as little as 3 or 4 months ago.

We practiced different ways of ballet-walking across the floor.  My pas de cheval walk is feeling more stable every day, and  I’ve finally overcome my fear of looking at my reflection in the mirror at class while in center.  Before there was just this constant fear of it looking so horrible – wrong arms, wrong posture, wrong lines, wrong everything – that I wouldn’t ever want to attempt doing anything ballet related in front of anyone again. We also did this other walk that just involved tiptoeing but pointing the feet when they are off the ground and slightly crossing in front.

Then came ballet running.  I’ve written on this blog previously about my difficulty with ballet running, which is aggravated by my fear of drawing attention to my chest.   Luckily – see, today’s class was awesome – the guy that made the comment about breast-weight a few semesters ago was not in class today.  Or else I would have felt so uncomfortable, and it would have potentially ruined this so-far-perfect class day…

I know it’s irrational to let one person have such an impact on one’s mood but to feel publictly called out about an issue that I feel is out of my control (body type) is really embarassing me for me.  Also, sometimes some of the more advanced students have this mean-girls, sort of catty behavior and I just try to fly under their radar.  Thankfully, that was mostly a first semester phenomena and I have seen way more diversity the following semesters as far as body shape and size, age, and even ethnic background which is really cool. I love diversity in ballet!

Today I wore my black tights, which had been a little tight (pun?) in the waistband area last time I tried them on (2 months ago), giving my torso a sausage-like appearance.  The good news is that they felt a less tight around the middle. The bad news is that even though I rarely wear them – only one time last semester – they appear to be really stretched out or worn in the legs.  So strange, because I don’t think I’ve worn them a total of 20 times since getting them.  Oh well, they’re just my emergency tights anyway.

Rather than doing sautes (like I said, today’s class was perfect! ), Teacher spent the last few minutes of class teaching us different ways to bun our hair.  Some of the girls’ hair tends to fall out during turns so that’s what brought on our bun tutorial. Last semester, Strict Teacher taught us how to do a ballet bun, but today I also learned other ways of doing it. Looks like a ballet-hair blog post is in the near future…

Evening class

Why, oh why did I not just stay home and call it a day after morning class? I know, because I’m a ballet addict.  But seriously, I should have just taken the night off and celebrated or something.

We had a sub.  That in itself would not be a problem, escept fot the fact that it was a girl that I took class with during my disastrous first semester taking ballet!  A girl that I remember often giggling as we beginners stumbled and collided through across the floor combinations.  I’m not really comfortable giving too many specifics on this public blog – and it somehow seems immature of me to completely trash some girl a dozen years younger than me –  but I will just say that this girl is not very nice and I don’t think I would have even liked to take class with her again.  Certainly not have her as my teacher.

Unfortunately, I was already situated comfortably at a barre with the other students by the time she walked into the room.  I’m much too shy to take such bold action as to walk out on class. And, like I said, I’m a ballet addict. So I decided to stay for the class.

She asked the group how class was usually run.  Out of the 10 or so students, no one spoke up except for the 2 most advanced students. So she gives us this long barre combination that includes grand plies in fourth! Of all the times I’ve been going to this class ( I’ll later check my archives to update the exact number), about 9 classes or so, we have never so much as stood in fourth.  We had at least several students who don’t even know how to tendu, but since the 2 most advanced -one of whom is really advanced, possibly even an ex-pro – were the only ones who were not too intimidated to say anything, we went ahead and tried the combination.

It went horrible.  I was unable to find my concentration, and while I wasn’t completely messing up, I know I could do so much better. There was no way I could just focus on what I was doing when I kept having flashbacks to my first few months of ballet. I mean, I remember back then I would try to get a barre spot somewhere where she would never be in a position to see me. That’s how intimidated I felt! So out of nowhere I felt like someone who’s only been taking ballet for weeks or something.

It didn’t help that her variations of barre exercises for the more advanced students were way too advanced for me. This is going to sound so bad, but the last couple of weeks I’ve almost gotten used to being among the more experienced people in class.  Mostly because the more “beginner” version of the move is too basic, like not using arms at all or something. Well in this class it was like all or nothing: either you held your arms out in second the whole time, or you can do things that I’ve never seen in class in person before.  Like stuff the pros do in class on youtube.

The craziest thing is that thanks to the newfound strength in my legs, I was actually able to hold all my releve balances.  Every single one.  If I hadn’t been so preoccupied with the whole teacher fiasco I would have been thrilled.

Center. Ah center, I think we have a love/hate relationship. Earlier I was singing it’s praises and now… I just don’t know anymore.

We did that pas de cheval walk that I’ve become quite proficient at. Of course, she did give me a correction: to look up. In morning class I know to look up because I just look straight ahead into the mirror. But at this moment I was, however slightly, reverting to first semester behavior.

The more advanced students were supposed to do the walk for the first half, and then ballet run the rest. The idea of ballet running – and bouncing – at this movement were more than I could bear.  So I huddled with the beginner students, waiting for my turn.

What cheered me up – and really kept me from wanting to cry – was these two adorable little girls, probably around 3 or 4, outside the studio windows who were trying to dance like us.  It made me smile.

She gave out a combination that apparently the advanced students were familiar with, while the rest of us stood there dumbfounded. She told us to just leap or do something. I managed to produce a couple mediocre jetes, and I forgot my arms completely. So I guess it was below-mediocre jetes.

Then we did sautes. On my first one I pointed my feet more than I’d ever seen them point during a jump before. Unfortunately, after that I was either tired or didn’t want to bounce – or both – so I never got that height or pointing again.  For the advanced version, she like, fluttered her legs in the air or something I’ve never seen in person before.

There was no reverance. Boy, was I ready to get out of there though! Classes like these make me wonder if I’m better off just practicing at home instead.

The little girls were still dancing outside as I walked out. They were putting on a “show” for a passerby lady by that point. Too cute!

Monday Class: Ballin’ and Balances

Can’t believe it’s week 5 of the semester already…

Also, WordPress just informed me that this is my 50th post. I’m guessing that’s some kind of milestone or something, or else they wouldn’t have so graciously brought this to my attention. 

We did our regular barre that we usually do, plies, tendus, degages, piques, ronde de jambes. The new thing we did in during barre was bringing up our foot to coupe and passe in the back of the leg and then taking our hands off the barre to balance. While I’ve been practicing my balance with my foot in coupe and passe, I’d only been working on it with my foot in front, so it was one of those moments of uncertainty that keep occuring in ballet class.  (I just typo-ed and it said “baller class” instead, which made me giggle. Well, the way some classes cost, sometimes you gotta be a baller also?)

During grand battements, teacher corrected me on my standing leg because it was slightly bent.  I have hyperextended knees, so sometimes bending it just enough to give it that “straight” appearance but not too much is tricky.  My working leg was looking good though, and I like how I can point my feet while they are  in the air. It took me so many months to be able to do that!

Then it was time for center. Today we worked on balances. Not balancing,  though we did work on balancing as well, but the move that kind of rocks side-to-side.  Pronounced balan-say.  As soon as I heard we were going to be doing balances I got excited in that “Yay! A move I’ve done before and practiced excessively. What could go wrong?!”  As it turns out, plenty.

First of all, last semester’s teacher (the strict, scary, you-aren’t-really-trying one, from here on known as Strict Teacher) taught us to do our balances with a jump. As in, jump out onto a toe-pointed right leg, then bring in left leg to back coupe, step down onto left foot and straighten left leg and releve on it, bringing up the front right foot off the ground (remembering to point!), then bring down right foot, kickout left leg and jump onto it and repeat on other side.  Strict Teacher explicitly said that she wanted to see a jumping motion in there, lots of ballon (French for bounce).  This is the way I’d been practicing my balances since.

But, as I found out today, not every style of ballet does balances the same way.  Teacher wanted us to pas de cheval our right leg out to the side, then we bring the left foot to coupe back and straighten the left leg, releve, bring up right foot, repeat.  There was no jumping involved! The non-jumping way is actually easier that the jumping way – to be fair, I don’t like to jump – but in class the much slower timing was really throwing me off.  Last semester’s combinations involved quick, jumpy balances and today we were doing more of an adagio with balances.  Also, even though I have been practicing the balances at home for a while, my port de bras during them is very awkward.  And that’s just the arms; don’t get me started on the part where the upper body kind of has to lean in to it ever so slightly! In other words, during class that part of class I almost felt like I didn’t know what I was doing.  Looking on the positive side, at least I was doing a decent job of not losing my balance.

It could just be in my head, but I think I noticed some improvement in my sautes.  It may be all the theraband exercises I’ve been doing, or it may be that my brain is finally relaying the messages to my feet in a timely manner, but I managed to somewhat point my feet while in midair.  And I managed to land with my feet in something that almost resembled first position, keeping in mind my previous corrections to land with my feet closer together.

 When we do echappes with changements I’ve noticed that my foot-pointing concentration runs out a bit, though. It’s especially harder for me to point my feet when jumping from second position. However, by the end of the 16 counts my feet landed in the right position and my arms were sorta doing what they were supposed to.  Also, I didn’t step on myself at all!

One thing I’m grateful for is that we stand too far from the mirror to see in close detail.  The reason for this is that I’m pretty sure I make a face like I’m trying my hardest, which doesn’t look ballet-ish at all. It would also be nice if I didn’t visible run out of breath and end up panting in between set of sautes,

During chaines, I tried really hard to keep my arms in the right position – elbows up! – and to keep my feet close-ish together.  What really helped (sorry if this sounds mean) is that when it was time to go across the floor I lined up with some students that were more beginner than me.  This meant that there was no pressure in performing the chaines quickly but instead I could focus on accuracy.  We were going longways across the studio, so there from where we start it looked like a football field length away to the other wall.  Not only that, the clock that I use to spot is not there, only mirrors!  It was more challenging for sure, but not the low point of class by far. That honor still goes to sautes.   

Oh, and one of my classmates clapped for me when I finished my turns.  That was really cool of her. I think it’s the first time anyone’s ever clapped for me during ballet class. Just wanted to write that down so I can read it if I’m ever feeling really down on ballet class and/or myself again.

Another Double Dose of Ballet

Obviously wednesday is quickly becoming my favorite day of the week…

Wednesday morning class

Now that this teacher’s barre combinations are becoming more familiar to me I find I’m better able to work on doing the moves right instead of just remembering how the combination goes.  We did plenty of balancing with our foot in coupe and passe, both with arms in middle and high fifth.  Teacher also went into more detail about coordinating the arms with our plies.  The demi plies’s arm movement is nothing new, but for grand plies we are to take our arm (which should already be in second) and raise it up a bit, straightening our fingers a little. The arm stays there while we go into demi plie and then when we go into grand plie the arm comes in an an almost sweeping motion to low fifth. We then bring the arm up through the center as we rise back up to demi plie and straighten up as our arm goes back to second.  Lots to think about, if I ever heard this during my first semester of taking ballet my brain was too busy focusing on maintaining my turnout during the grand plies to even think about arms.

During barre, teacher actually said “Good!” to me when we were doing releve sous-sus with balancing, and it startled me so much that I came back down instead of staying up in releve.  But I was still pretty pleased.

On to center. Teacher said we were going to work on ballet walking, and if I’m not mistaken  (which I could be, since as I’ve previously mentioned, my short-term memory sometimes is crap)  she said what we were doing  was called a pas de cheval.  And I totally recognized it as the “fondue walk from wednesday evening class which meant both that I wasn’t freaking out because it’s a new, unpracticed-in-private thing and I could actually do it without losing my balance.  The feeling of relief that washed over me was incredible! Of course there’s still things to work on, like making sure my arms in second while walking don’t look “like a scarecrow” as teacher told someone, but the feeling off there being no pressure and “What if I can’t balance at all?”  wasn’t there and it was great.

Chaines across the floor were practiced again.  This time teacher didn’t correct me on the distance between my feet, so hopefully that means I did at least a little bit better than on monday.  She did correct me on my arms though, first saying that the circle in front of me was too big (or was that too small? Well, the point is, it needs work!) and then about my elbows.  I was a bit confused so I did something that’s out of my comfort zone and stayed after class to ask.  She clarified  that what I was doing was dropping my elbows, and showed me the difference, so now it’s clear what I need to work on.  She said “other than that it’s beautiful” which was really, super nice of her.  Even if she was being too nice it totally made my day!

In sautes, I think my pointing of the feet is improving gradually. Wednesday evening class is smaller – and the distance to the mirror is also closer – so I’ll be able to focus on my feet in the mirror and check to see how the pointing is coming along.  Teacher corrected me on landing because I always seem to land with my feet further away from each other than in first. The crappy thing is that since I live in a second story apartment and have neighbors living directly under me I can’t practice sautes at home (well, I could, but when I land it sounds like an elephant crashing down and all I can think is “if someone lived above me and did that daily I’d be super pissed and treat others as you want to be treated,” so no)  which means all the saute practice I get has to be in class.  Since I only take classes on mondays and wednesdays I do wonder if I would improve faster if I had another practice day in there. It’s a long time from wednesday to monday!

The low point of class was when we were standing in center awaiting instructions and my inner critic was like “You call those tights ‘ballet pink’? That’s more like ‘faded discolored ballet cream’.” It’s true, my tights have either faded from too much washing and wearing or something because they are looking really beat up. Besides the holes and runs that I previously tried to stop with nail polish, there appears to be almost space between the individual threads.  I don’t really want to spend $16 (plus 10% California sales tax) on a new pair but I just may have to.  Not yet though.  I have been thinking of either wearing the ill-fitting black tights to evening class or not even wearing tights and a leotard to it, since only about 20% of the class does on average.  Morning classes have a dress code though, so I need my dancewear to last for those.  At the same time, wearing my leotard helps me make sure that my back is straight and all the other alignment issues that street clothes hide, so I may just wear it anyway.

Oh, almost forgot. One of the more advanced girls did – rather, has been doing, but her class attendance is a bit sporadic – barre in pointe shoes and the rest of us were totally watching curiously.  Today I was watching her do her releve sous-sus. Pointe shoes are loud!

Wednesday evening class

I’ve come to the conclusion that I should do a preliminary “barre” warm up at home before evening class. At least a few run through of plies in every position and some releves. Having had another class 6 or 7 hours before is not warm up…

There was 10 people in class, including 2 who never had tried ballet before.  One of them was a guy who did other types of dance and the other was a lady with no dance experience.  For whatever reason though it felt like the teacher was going through the barre kind of quick with minimal explanations, which was strange given the two beginners.

The new lady and I shared a barre. During our little stretch break we had the chance to talk a little.  We talked about the ballet learning curve, I encouraged her to be patient,  and assured her that it does get (at least a little) better.  By the end of class she didn’t seem too encouraged though.

The music the teacher played for ronde de jambes was really nice, and vaguely familiar.  The timing was weird though, and I found myself a beat too fast or too slow. Actually, both happened (too fast and too slow) during the course of the exercise.

We did glissades, a move which after a few months or so of practicing became do-able and eventually, even fun. We hadn’t done them in this class before on the days I’d attended.  The combination was something like 3 glissades to the right (left foot front, no feet switching), pas de bourree, then 3 glissades to the left and pas de bourree.  Pretty simple, but a nice opportunity to not feel clumsy outside of my living room. The pas de bourrees also did not involve the coupe  at the end, only in the beginning. I wonder if this is like a “beginner” variation of it or if my first teacher’s version was just extra hard.

On the sautes, the foot pointing seemed to be about the same as last week still. However, I did manage to not step on myself during the changements, which was good.

My across the floor fondu walking (pas de cheval?) went well.  For whatever reason I have really improved on it in the past  week or so.  Not once did I feel like I was going to lose my balance, which was a nice feeling. The first time I ever tried that move  was in wednesday evening class, a few weeks ago. Perhaps even a month. And then I just realized “I blogged about it! I could look it up.” But I’ll finish writing out first, before I forget.   But anyway, the first time we tried it, I was really having trouble balancing, though I did understand what we were supposed to be doing.  (Editted 9/19/14:  Ok, looked it up. My introduction to this move was on 8/13 which would place it at 5 weeks before this class.)

Then we did jetes. The ones with my left leg in front were terrible! The right ones were mediocre (in other words, not good, but luckily no one in today’s class were particularly great either)  but at least I kind of knew what I was doing. Except I  wasn’t doing it good enough. The left legged ones, for whatever reason my brain was done cooperating. The weirdest thing is, I just did a few right now to verify that I wasn’t getting the legs mixed up, and my left one was now almost equally mediocre as my right.

Reverance in wednesday evening class is so weird.  The way it usually works is the teacher tells us to copy after her and then she does this crazy hard – though beautiful – port de bras combination that absolutely none of the students can do.  She just tells us to follow along as best as we can.  In all my other ballet class, reverance was taught to us by the teacher, and then we did pretty much the same thing every time.

After class, since I was already having such an interesting day, I decided to do something out of character again and ask the teacher a question after class.But I will be saving that for a later post…