Tag Archives: beginner ballet

Wednesday: A Full Moon And A Full House

Well, at least a full ballet studio…

You know how last week I said that Evening Studio was about as full as it could get (and right now I wish this browser would let me do that “embedding a link” feature, ’cause it sure would come in lovely right now…)? Apparently I lied – today was packed! We have these little portable barres that usually hold a person per side (on super slow days, a person per barre and we walk over to the other side to do the other side. So not Traditional Ballet Class probably, but whatever, it’s nice to have the mirror for both sides.) and the studio fits about 6 of these without it becoming likely that someone will grand battement their neighbor in the face (or butt, I mean, you’d need really high extension to reach a fellow adult’s face, right?).  Today all barres were full and then people kept coming! A few of the ladies volunteered to use the rail holding the barres together or other miscellaneous fixtures, and we were on our way.

Now, this is probably due to a larger sampling of people, but today’s classmates were friendlier! I’m not saying I met my new BFF (lol, apparently I’ve been texting my little sis too much) or anything today but a few people actually spoke to me.  There was also other people talking to each other.  It was different; nice, but different. I could get used to it…

Barre was more or less the same as last week. Nice and basic to work on technique fundamentals.  During grand battements, I was watching the mirror and kept alternating between being amused by my pointed feet (in second) and worrying about kicking the lady behind me’s foot when going to the back.

We ran out of time to do frappes, which probably made some students happy (and others, disappointed).  I don’t mind doing frappes, since I obsessively worked on them at home after being completely lost in class during first semester.  That said, it took about a year and a half for me to feel comfortable with them, that weird motion, the flexed foot. Besides, in this class we only do them out to second so they’re not that big of a deal.

Did not make it all the way around on my en dehors from fith pirouettes during the tendu-plie-passe releve combination. I’m going to blame it on the change in the combination (at least to the right; to the left it’s totally me). During the first few times through (the ones without the pirouette) E Teacher wanted us to not do the arms so as to not confuse the beginners. But for the pirouette, those of us who were going to attempt it were to do the arms.  My brain decided to have a mometary lapse and I couldn’t remember the arms – having done no arms on the rest of the combination – until a second too late. Which means then I was late, which means I (felt like I had to) rush on to the pirouette without really thinking about it.  So I kind of sucked. But at least I tried it, I guess.

Also, the pressure of not being all the way in the back: not conductive to stress-free pirouettes. But the back is so crowded that I did find myself inching forward, somewhat begrudgingly.  I think my ideal dance studio would have a room so big across that the students would still have room – and mirror space – even in the back!

During sautes, I was having fun. Too much fun, as by the end I wasn’t even on timing, just enjoying the jumping. Enjoying landing in a plie and just pushing back up. Even remembered to point my feet about halfway through.  Was really happy about that, as before I started working out I used to be too exhausted with just getting off the floor to even think about pointing my feet.

We practiced jetes, or more accurately, some kind of preparation for jetes. Just step with left foot, leap onto right foot, repeat. Arms in first arabesque. With so many of us crowded into the room we were going every four beats of music, which I had mistakenly thought meant every four jumps. So I was a bit late on it.  My partner and I were the thrid group from the front to go, so there weren’t that many examples to follow. Instead we were the ones being followed! So weird!

It get’s me thinking – I feel like it’s so much easier to improve physically at the moves -through lots of hard work, practice, patience – than it is to change the ideas in my head about my ballet-ing.  What I mean is, to myself I will always be a beginner, however much I improve.  No matter what, I doubt I’ll learn that dancer attitude (and no, I don’t mean the attitude involving the bent leg going into developpe) that so many of the more advanced students come with. That confidence.  While my confidence level is at an all-time high these days, I spent the vast majority of my life being a very unconfident person. Almost three decades of habit can’t get erased immediately (and if anyone says differently, I challenge them to show me how.) Besides, I tend to confuse confidence with arrogance, and I desperately try my hardest to be humble in other areas of my life, so to put the humility aside for a few hours a week is just a bit out of the old comfort zone.

I’ve been improving so steadily now, but I fear at some point this attitude problem won’t let itself be set aside for later.  Will it be like I hit a wall then, unable to get past it unless I tackle it head on? Or will I be able to “muscle through” it, improving my technique, getting stronger and stronger, while my attitude remains the same?

We will see how this all plays out…

On the way home there was this beautiful full moon, had to take a picture of it.

Except my camera on this iPad kind of sucks... Well, it was gorgeous in person

Except my camera on this iPad kind of sucks… Well, it was gorgeous in person

Oh, and I updated my Learning Curve page, on mostly what I’ve been up to the last couple months, if anyone wants to check it out (you’ll have to scroll down through the older stuff first, obviously, but I didn’t want to feel all “false advertising” and stuff, LOL.)


Spectators At Ballet Class

During this past wednesday evening’s class, a curious phenomena occured – (fully grown) spectators peering in at us through the enormous studio windows.  I specify “fully grown” because children observing us, their little faces pressed against the glass, are neither rare nor unwelcome. All the spectating children I’ve seen have always looked so awed, even by our beginner-level barre exercises, and it’s super adorable when they then try to mimic us.  But as for the adults, I have mixed feelings.

The first set of spectators were a middle aged man and woman.  They were walking along the sidewalk in the busy downtown district where the studio is located, and stopped at one of our windows (the studio where I take evening class has wall to ceiling windows that face out to the sidewalk).  While they are by no means the first people I’ve ever noticed slow down or stop, they stayed at the window for an unusually long time – about 3 or 4 barre combinations (yes, both sides).  At some point the man made detailed hand motions to the woman which made it obvious that they were discussing the dancer’s legs.  Then the woman started trying to copy some of the movements.  Eventually, they came into the studio’s lobby, possibly to ask for information about how to join the class.  So, hopefully we were inspirational and got some new people hooked on ballet.

The second set of spectators was a trio of skateboard-riding teenagers or young adults.  They sat on a nearby bench and gawked, also for an unusually long time.  It was a bit awkward, and it felt a bit like there should have been a tip jar or donation box or something.  I considered asking E Teacher if we could let down the blinds, but ultimately decided not to, as I figured the reason they were open in the first place was to promote the studio.  The difference between this past class and all the other preceeding weeks is the time of the sunset, I think, and while before it was bright both in and outdoors now the studio’s lighting obviously stands out in the dark of the evening, drawing them in like moths to a flame.

As luck was on my side, it was the day of the easy class and I’m glad – while they may have been staring at our bodies, at least they weren’t watching me making a fool of myself. That sounds like I may have my proirities of of whack, but it’s the way I feel. If I can’t tell the truth on my blog, where can I?

And as it turns out, I do have something to compare to, so I know how it feels.

During the first semester of ballet, I was in class one day and my First Teacher suddenly announced that we would be having visitors – an entire dance appreciation class!  With no prior knowledge of this, I was in a state of numb shock as I took my place at the barre.  While F(irst) Teacher gave us the option to stand at a barre in the furthest corner from our guests, I was too new to be in a “leading” position at the barre and stuck to the middle.  That and I was still too surprised to move.

It was at around the midway point of the semester – my first ever – so we were doing some things at the barre that were getting to be too advanced for my very beginner self.  While someone without prior ballet training may not be able to recognize correct form (like completely pointed toes, a correct passe or coupe, or the correct shape of an a la seconde arm), things like not balancing, tenduing a la seconde when everyone else tendues front, or having the wrong hand at the barre are obvious signs that you are lost.

However, in the relative safety of the barre, it was not as terrifying as my mind would have made it, had I known about this previously.to be honest, I would have probably ditched class that day.

But the real fun came in center.  During barre, possibly part of the reason I sucked so much – because by that point you’d think that I would at least have known what hand to put on the barre to start with – was because rather than focusing on what I was doing or F Teacher’s instructions I was obsessing over the horror that was to come in center. I prayed that we would have easy combinations, hopefully nothing involving running and jumping. Or balancing. Or developpes. Or pretty much anything other than demi plies and tendues either devant or a la seconde, since that was about the extent of my center ballet abilities without tipping over at that point.

I don’t remember the details; either I have repressed them or simply time has taken a toll on my memory, this being my pre-blogging days.  So while I would love to tell a humiliating tale of public embarassment, I can’t. However, since I know that right down to the last day of my first semester I couldn’t balance on anything than two flat feet or do any ballet moves at all without the barre, I know it must have been some of the clumsiest attempts at ballet ever witnessed.

In a way though, I’m so glad I went through that. If I could get through that disastrous first semester of ballet, with it’s multiple visits by dance appreciation classes – yes, it happened again, more than once –  I could get through anything.

By last semester I was feeling more confident when our dance-appreciating visitors came by as I have improved quite a bit.  Still, it did not help that at time the students act like they don’t want to be there appreciating us, at times texting or passing notes. I remember Strict Teacher even kicked out a couple people that had been snickering during one of our center routines.

This semester, so far, we’ve had no visitors. I’m glad. I still prefer if there are no adult spectators in ballet class.

Ballet Back-to-School

Nothing says “Back to School” like an alarm set for 6 a.m. after a nice long, lazy summer vacation!  I’ve been ready to get back to taking more than 1 ballet class a week though, so  as much as I enjoyed the break, I’m ready to go back.  

To ballet class, at least.  I’m a feeling a bit more ambivalent about the rest of the back-to-school stuff, we’ll see.  

I’ve been stressed out this weekend, worrying mostly about getting a spot in ballet class.  I wrote back around registration time about my eagerness to get back to ballet class.  Unfortunately, I ended up caving in to pressure and attempted to sign up for academic classes first, so I ended up on a waitlist for ballet rather than guaranteed registration.  Since this semester ballet class is with a new teacher, I had no idea what her policy was on adding people. So today I made sure to be there on time regardless, in case people got cold feet and didn’t show up (there’s been a few each semester).  

 Turns out my worries were for nothing (I love it when things turn out right!).  The teacher was cool and let us waitlist people into the class.  While I did take all my ballet stuff today, I didn’t change into it because I know from experience that the first day we don’t usually do much – if any – dancing.  But just in case we did some stretching (which we did), I wore some comforable yoga pants.  The girl sitting next to me had the same socks as I did so that was pretty funny.


My ballet gear: leotard, pink tights, emergency black tights, slippers, hair ties, hair nets, bobby pins, homemade lotion for my elbows, brush.

The teacher passed out the class sylabus (sylabi?) and I was pleased to see that there is no class midterm, only a final at the end of the semester.  It is such a relief! Ballet midterm is super intimidating – or at least it has been the past few times I’ve taken this class. She didn’t discuss the final, but I wonder what it will entail: will we choreograph our own piece as we did with one teacher, will the whole class learn the same dance and then perform it one at a time as we did with another, or something completely different?

We got out some mats and we did some floor barre exercises.  I like that the semester ballet classes start out this way because we can work on identifying different muscles that we may have not known we had. We practiced turning our legs in and out and pointing our feet while sitting down.  We lay on our sides, bent our legs and brought the top knee up and down. Easy at first, but then I really started to feel it. Then we picked up both feet, keeping them together, and brought the knee up and down again. Fun!

The teacher had therabands, which I’ve never used before, and we did different stretches with resistance for our feet to practice articulating.  We also stretched out our legs (I believe specifically she said our hamstrings), also using the therabands. These theraband things are nifty – I’ll probably look into getting one for home use.

The teacher reminded us that we will be learning the correct French terminology for all the moves we’ll be learning (which of course I already learned the first time I took the class). We then stood up and went over basics, for anyone who had no ballet experience. We reviewed the positions of the feet, the positions of the arms. I am so happy that I don’t feel completely lost about the arms anymore. I’m not saying that I got it down, but I remember as recently as the start of last semester (February 2014) I had no idea what I was doing when it came to arms. Now at least I know that the elbows are supposed to be rounded, hands no higher than elbows, shoulders down.  Actually executing it correctly rather than intellectually knowing, that’s another story.

My classmates are a diverse bunch, different skill levels, body sizes and shapes, though probably all younger than me (unless someone has an anti-aging secret they’re not sharing, lol).  I recognized some people from past semesters. The guy from when I was just starting out, who referred to  certain parts of a woman’s anatomy as “weight”, is in the class (yay, awkwardness) as well as a few people from last semester. This semester, it looks like there’s only two guys in the class, down from last semester’s seven.

Since technically we get college credit for this class, there are written assignments – good thing I love to write! Our first assignment is to write out our dance experience and goals we have for the semester.  Which will probably end up getting posted to this blog…




The day I didn’t lose my nerve

As I have previously mentioned, so far  my ballet experience consists of classes that I have taken at my local community college (and, of course, lots of practicing at home). That’s where I took my first ballet class and I hadn’t ventured elsewhere due to several reasons, a big part of it being money. At the communtity college you get 14 weeks worth of ballet, 2 times a week for about $50. Can’t beat that (well, actually you could if you audit the class at the community college).
But I found out recently that there is a dance studio nearby that offers ballet. It met my requirements: it was affordable-ish ($10 per class), less than 20 minute drive from home, and they offer a beginner’s class. Still though, I’ve put it off and just continued my practice at home.

I don’t suffer from procrastination. What I do suffer from is anxiety, a crippling anxiety that keeps me from veering too far from my routine, from what is known to me. Yet it unpredictably and unexpectedly lets up, and those are the times when I have actually do something for the better:when I decided to go back to school, when I first ever signed up for ballet, whenever I have stood up to my friends and relatives on any issues that I believe in. In other words, many good decisions have been made by me at times when my anxiety was not in control.
Today was one of those times. I had pondered trying out that new dance studio last week, but ultimately I had let my inner critic disuade me. I told myself that I could just wait the next month or so and just continue taking classes at the college.
But today I told myself that I was going to go in and take this class. If it went horrible then at least I know that I tried.
With my anxiety, it’s the little “what-if”s that get me. I was discouraged from going to class because of doubts about what to wear, for example. At my regular classes we have a uniform or dress code, so that part is easy. At this new place, not so much. There was no dress code mentioned on their website and I had been unable to reach them on the phone. And then, to make matters worse, my pink tights have a hole in them, thanks to my adorable cat Smudgey, and my black tights that I bought when I first started a year and a half ago fit a tiny bit too snug (due to putting on leg muscle, I hope). At $14 apiece I was not planning on getting new tights until these were literally falling apart. At school I know we are allowed to do this, but at a new place? How awkward!
Also, I’m used to taking ballet class in the morning, so I usually just have a super light breakfast but this new class in in the evening so it would for sure be after dinner. And I don’t know how I feel about wearing a leotard on a full stomach.
And, since in the college classes we had all started class at the same time (though some people had years of experience), and in this class it wouldn’t be that way, I guess I had the general fear that was if the class was way too advanced for me. What if I got lost in every combination and looked like a clumsy oaf?
But today was the day I faced all of that.
After trying on both, I ultimately decided to wear the pink tights, despite the tear. I arrived at the studio nice and early. By this point, since I had already made the decision (I really think the deciding part is the worst), I felt like I was on autopilot. I didn’t know if they had a changing area, so I wore my leotard and tights under my clothes. So glad this week isn’t as hot as last week!
Me trying out the black tights.
My poor torn pink tights 😦
So as for the class…
I had so much fun! I am so glad that I faced my fears and didn’t let them hold me back.
The teacher was super friendly and nice and not intimidating at all. So that was really cool. The class had a very chill, laid back feel to it. There was five of us students, all adults. I was the only one wearing a leotard! Yet strangely I did not feel weird, I felt like a ballerina.
The combinations at the barre were not hard, but since they were new to me it was a bit of a challenge. It was awesome though, nothing that I can’t handle. Plies and grand plies in first, second and fifth. Tendus, degages, rond de jambe, frappes, some balancing in releve. Some developes but no fondues.
Now center, my favorite, lol. (sarcasm) Well, it wasn’t horrible. The port de bras and releve combination was do-able, but unfortunately I’m one of those people that needs to do a lot of repetition before they can do something right. So it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. We did some balancing in passe releve, and I’m so glad that I had been able to do that recently, or else I would have probably been intimidated. We did sautes and changements, which at least I was able to do in timing. I need to stop forgetting my arms though.
And I even got some compliments from the teacher!
So will I be back? HECK, YEAH!
Hoping that the tear isn’t obvious from a distance, lol.