Tag Archives: cabrioles

The Fear Of Falling Holds Me Back

While this post does have the ballet tie-in, somewhat, it is pretty tangential…

In the last couple of weeks of my beginner yoga course – which is now over as well as my summer ballet session – we started focusing more on inversions, which as it sounds, involved inverting the body. Which means the equally fascinating and terrifying concept of being upside down (as well as any time the heart is located above the head, according to Yoga Teacher). But it’s the truly upside down – like vertically – stuff that I’m mostly referring to.

In order to prepare for a headstand, Y Teacher had us practice interlocking our hands, placing our elbows the correct distance apart, and then lifting our hips up while pulling up with our backs and shoulders, feet still on the ground. So far so good. She has us practice the next step – do the above while facing away from a wall that is leg distance away, and then walk your feet up the wall. Still so far so good, and quite fun in that head-rush-y kind of way.

Then came the next step – do it facing the wall and basically end up in a headstand with your feet resting on the wall. :0 What?! There’s no in-between baby step…? She did say that none of us were required to try, and you could sit out, or do downward dog, or practice the previous step. Which I kind of wanted to do… but I had told myself that if this class provided the opportunity for me to learn once and for all the technique to being Upside Down, I was going to take it! Besides, pretty much everyone else in the class was going to try it, so I didn’t want to miss out. Y Teacher told us we could try getting up ourselves, or we could wait for her to come around and assist us.

I took the second option, and when she came around she said something like “this should be easy for you, you’re very strong”. I agreed  (that sounds awkward, but I wasn’t going to say ‘no, I’m weak’…) and told her it was a fear issue. She had me get into the practice position, lift up one of my legs as high as it could go, and sort of held it there as she guided my second leg up. And I was upside down – really upside down, not like any half way point, or just my head below the heart – and honestly it was so cool that as soon as i came back down I immediately couldn’t wait to do it again. Which Y Teacher cautioned against, something about doing a headstand repeatedly in one session dehydrating the body…and my upper back and triceps were pretty much done anyway. So the next day…

We did handstands instead. The extra length of the forearm makes it seem as though the floor is so far away and it was so scary. I wanted to get up into the pose, once again same reasons as before, but once I got up it was too much. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t find it as awesome as the headstand, but I’m willing to give it time, especially when I think of how slow my ballet progress was.

We did headstands another day, and still I couldn’t get up without Y Teacher’s help. I did attempt it though, except I was too scared to kick up into it, so I put one of my legs up and then tried to hop with my other leg. I don’t know how I though that was going to work, looking back, but at the time I guess I thought by getting one leg on the wall the next would follow. Except I would have had to kick my legs up harder, which I’m scared of doing.

I asked Y Teacher if there’s anything I can do since I can’t get up by myself. She said something like “you can’t, or you won’t?” and again mentioned that it’s not a strength issue. I again said, “but I’m scared…” and she mentioned some of the other poses I’ve been able to do which are hypothetically as scary and can lead to falling on ones face (she specifically mentioned this side plank pose in which you grab on to your top leg’s foot with your top hand and balance). I don’t remember what I said, other than I’m scared to kick up my legs and fall sideways, but she did show me this way to get up that involves a doorway and walking your feet up. I felt… empowered – while I’d loved getting into the headstand in class, I’d felt a little sad that I couldn’t get into the pose without assistance.

So of course I want to try at it home the next day. I found this nice wide doorway and set up to do it and… it’s still terrifying. I got up to the point where both my feet are high up, one on the opposite doorway, one high above me in the air, and I’m technically upside down, but not completely vertical, at a slant something like a seventy-five degree or so angle I’d say. And I start feeling a little panicky, because I have no idea what to do next. Boyfriend was nearby, and asked me “do you want me to help?”. I said yes, and he guided my feet, first the top one that had been so close and then the second one. I was happy to be upside down (at home!), but disappointed that I still couldn’t do it by myself…

I was determined to do it myself (with the doorway) in class the next time, under Y Teacher’s supervision. This time, I was able to identify when the problem began: when my first foot left contact with a surface, my second leg was afraid to follow unless the first foot found a foothold (which definitely made me think of ballet, as I’ll explain later). I made myself stay calm as I sought out the wall in front of me with the top foot. Once I found it, I lifted my second leg off the wall behind, and I almost felt like a snap together as my second leg joined the first. Things were well, until it came time consider getting down. In all the excitement I hadn’t even considered that part. Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as I had feared (I have a history of being more afraid to get down or on the downhill part than climbing up or the uphill, for reason which I don’t know or understand yet).

For now I’m still getting up into a headstand by using a doorway. I figure I’ll look at it as how in ballet we depend on the barre when we’re beginners, and then once we’re stronger and more confident we don’t use the barre as much. Once I’m super confident with the walking up the doorway method I’ll try to kick up into the wall or use my core strength to bring up my legs, and then eventually work up to doing it wall-less. Once I’m more comfortable with the upside down part I’ll see about moving on to the handstand (and then other cool things that are not yoga but involve being upside down, like walking on my hands or a walkover (which also involves being able to sustain the bridge pose and push up out of it). Yes, I have not yet given up on my inner 8-year-old’s dream of doing a walkover. Perhaps I’ll never get there, but I have set a goal.)

As for the part where I was reminded of ballet, I think the fear of letting go of the floor I’m having here is related to my difficulties with cabrioles (and by extension, all beated jumps except for royalles). That feeling of one foot already being off the ground or unsupported, and then bringing up a second foot to meet it, it scares me. I mean, I can bring my legs together off the ground if the objective is to come down altogether, like in assembles, but for whatever reason it’s different here. My teacher’s expect me to try the cabrioles, even if not high off the ground (which makes it even more scary because now I feel like I’m more likely to land wrong), so that means they do consider me strong enough to do it. I wonder if they also feel that it’s not that I can’t, it’s that I don’t want to…?

(Which is a tough way of putting it, but in a way Y Teacher had a point? I mean, there wasn’t a physical reason why not, so I can see why someone would say ‘you don’t want to’, but at the same time, when you’re the person it’s happening to, and it sure feels like you can’t, it can be really hard to hear that the only thing getting in the way of you is You.)

Well, for now I’m going to continue working on conquering the fear of headstands, and hopefully that will lead to me feeling braver overall.

PS. I will probably write another yoga post about my experiences in the course in general at some point soon, as well as a summary of my summer ballet session

Annoying Classmate, But Overall A Good Week

Recently, I took a class with a new classmate who was.. a little irritating. Ok, a lot! Since I was in an extraordinarily chill mood already as it was, it still turned out to be an extremely fun class, and didn’t really give it thought until later. (I have this worry deep inside that if I had not been in such a great mood as it was, it would have been a disatrous situation)

The reason this lady was so irritating (to me) was that she kept putting herself down in a repetitive and contradictory way (and maybe also because I thought that she had looked at me in a not-so-friendly way in the lobby, though due to my anxiety I can’t really trust myself on that call at the moment). Like, “I’m so not flexible!” as she does the splits or brings her leg up to barre level in arabesque, or “I’m terrible at this!”  (no you’re not, trust me) or “I haven’t done this in forever, I’ll probably struggle to keep up” over and over as she, in fact, does. This all made me feel inadequate because if someone’s more flexible than me, and they say they’re not flexible, what does that make me?  I like to think I’m not that inflexible – I mean, my yoga teacher called me flexible and she’s seen it all! And besides, when people constantly bag on themselves like that, I think they’re just fishing for compliments, which is soooo annoying. Either that or trying to put everyone around them down. Perhaps this all goes back to how I can’t relate very well to people, or understand social cues, so many times I’m just left wondering ‘huh? what was that supposed to mean?!’

I also felt incredibly awkward because I’d taken my usual barre spot near the front (where I usually get put anyway by NS Teacher, so brand new beginners can follow), and she gets directly behind me while saying that she’ll just follow. And maybe I’m just weird or whatever, but I feel so nervous and on the spot being at the barre right in front of someone new who does not need someone to follow – like if they’re thinking ‘why am I following her?’ and I just feel even more pressure than if it was someone who truly needed to follow. Yeah, hard to explain that one, but in conclusion, by the time we’d gotten through the second combination I was feeling beyond awkward.

After a relatively short barre, it was time for center. It was a small class, just three of us, so at least we’d all go across the floor at the same time. We did tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, assemble, sissone, balance en tournant, chasse en arriere, pose, repeat, across the studio and a combination I can’t remember that involved balances and a pique arabesques. The whole time I was terrified of a combination heavy on the pirouettes being given. Luckily, instead we moved on to jumping.

Even though for the longest time jumps were the part of class that I looked forward to the least, ever since I actually figured out how to point my feet in midair I’ve come to somewhat enjoy them. Except for the beated ones, those still suck. Our combination included none of those, just a very long configuration of sautes, changements, and echappes, with a balance in sous-sus at the end. It went well – like I said, it’d been a really fun class.

Then I went home, and told Boyfriend about it, how I’d felt inadequate, and how it’s annoying when someone has the habit of putting themselves down while showing off at the same time. I said how it’s even worse when it’s a stranger, because I’m extra shy and weird around new people as it is, but if they are acting like how this lady was it’s just, like, distractingly irritating. And yes, I admitted that part of my irritation was rooted in jealousy because I still don’t have my splits all the way down (and possibly never will, because if stretching regimens can bring me from nowhere close to a several inches away in a few months, but there’s been no progress since then in years, that may be all my body’s willing to give me, and I’m ok with it, most of the time), and it makes me want to scream when someone can do something and still puts themselves down about it while I’m struggling. I said something like “At least when they’re your friend and they do that you can call them out on it. Or if they can do something awesome you can’t do, you can still be happy for them because they’re your friend – even if you’re a tiny bit jealous – and you don’t wonder if they’re giving you a dirty look the whole time!”

I think he replied something about how normal people will befriend the person theyre intimidated by or something. Oh well,  “normal”  sucks anyway.

My classes at my summer session at my regular school are going geat though. This week G Teacher really picked up the pace, having us go through the entire barre pretty much without stopping between combinations. I love it! We’ve also been doing more center work and across the floor. We’ve been working on tombe, pas de bourre; on pique sous-sus in all directions (I guess en croix); on soutenus and chaines; and, of course, lots of ballet walks and bourres. It was really fun when we did tombe, pas de bourre back and forth, left and right, because it felt so waltzy. I’ve never done just tombe, pas de bourre without it being a preparation for the next step, like glissade assemble, or something. So that was nice, a way to see how sometimes steps fit together in ways I hadn’t thought of before.

During the soutenus, G Teacher corrected me on my second leg (not the one that piques, but the one that closes onto it) turning in. He was really watching, instead of just giving the correction and walking away, and so I was able to make adjustments until he said “like that!” It was a foreign feeling, making me think that I have been turning with my leg turned in this whole time. Something new to work on! Reminds me of how two years ago I was learning to temps lie in all directions and I would lose my turnout every single time, like my foot would go completely parallel. So I had to really focus on keeping the muscle engaged, nothing passive about it at all. This is sort of like that, but while turning and on releve. The fact that I was able to figure out the temps lies while holding my turnout eventually reassures me that I can improve at this,  just need lots of time and repetition.

We also did my favorite temps leve combination (saute arabesque, saute coupe, repeat), after doing chasses across the floor. I was having so much fun and one of my classmates said “You look so happy!” which is not something I’m told often (Boyfriend says I usually look either upset or worried, which is something I really dislike about myself, but I just don’t know (yet) how to make a neutral-to-pleasant relaxed face). But I was happy to hear that, because I’ve seen how sometimes people have that look of exertion or concentration while dancing, and I knew I want to avoid that…

So then G Teacher suggested I do cabrioles in place of the saute arabesque, and my smile slipped right off. Ok, no, it wasn’t that dramatic, but there was the change from ‘ok, I got this, let’s just make it even better! (and have fun, of course)’ to ‘ummm… I’ll try it?’ And if I’ve learned one new thing recently, it’s that it is not truly ballet without confidence. Unfortunately, I find it incredibly hard to be confident when I’m… not. All the stuff I can already do, it’s in muscle memory, but when it’s not there I look like an idiot and I know it. So I get over the awkwardest part of that phase by practicing in private until I have a rough idea of what I’m trying to do. And I’m honest about it to anyone who asks, too – I didn’t get my chasse jumps and saute arabesque, saute coupe by taking class and learning it then and there in front of ALL THESE PEOPLE; I would get up early and go to the park and practice them after jogging. Same goes for my barre work – hours and hours of practicing at home, slower and slower at first if that’s what it took. So, naturally, I expect to learn new stuff by taking it home and going over it at my own pace. Then, once I have a rough draft, I submit it to my teachers for corrections, and it’s all good from there. In short, if I don’t have a rough pattern for a move, it seems like I just can’t do it.

Anyway, back to the cabrioles… one of my classmates pointed out that if I’m not afraid to do assembles – and I’m not – then in theory cabrioles shouldn’t scare me either. True, just got to remember to open the leg again after they beat. Perhaps that will work.

Also, I found out that at the end of the session we’re going to have a small performance for the class, yay! G Teacher gave me a solo to work on and I’ve been going over it repetitively to memorize it. So far it seems that other that reduce the number of turns per four counts of music I’ll be able to do it directly from the video without too much modifying needed. I’m pretty excited about that.

So I guess overall I had a great week in ballet!

‘En De-don’t’s, Fun Turns, And Scary Jumps



It was another incredibly fun ballet-filled week. The class tempo level picked up a bit, resulting in lots of calf soreness. Seriously, I think all week my calves felt completely solid, like no give at all when I would press into them with my hands. It was a job for the tennis ball for sure.

G Teacher is really pushing for the whole class to learn the ballet terminology in French. He’ll randomly quiz different people on what step we’re doing, and what direction. I remember he asked someone what direction we were going, and they were like “En de… dont ?”, which is a closer approximation to en dedans that I would have had after three weeks (back when I first started, I thought F Teacher was saying ‘on the dot’, and ‘on the rough’ for en dehors, which I realize makes no sense, but yeah) . Then, when we did  our rond de jambes, I forgot the combination (my own fault, for spacing out when G Teacher was giving it), and rather than stop and look around I followed the person in front. Who, of course, was going the wrong way, so G Teacher corrected me ‘No,  we’re going en dehors’. It was ‘an en de don’t’ indeed!  I made sure to not forget that combination again (for the record, it was 1 4 count rond de jambe, 2 2 count rond de jambes, and 3 1 count, all en dehors, then repeat the whole thing en dedans, then grand port de bras (circular cambre) in both directions, and long sous-sus balance).

We also learned an extremely fast frappe combo: 2 en croix, 1 en croix, soutenu, other side. I’m pleased that my frappes have really improved, especially those tricky frappe derrieres. I no longer feel like I’m going to stomp my toe on the floor. I still think of the “strike” in the frappe being more like striking a match than striking something with a stick – it helps me a lot.

In G Teacher’s class we have a set barre, but some of the exercises are so long that it’s hard to keep track or not mix them up… like is this  the one with the long balance at the end, or not? Or the one that we stop in between both sides, or go right to the next one?

We also worked on fondues (he let a few of us go up to releve) facing the barre: fondue, stainghten in coupe, fondue, leg out devant, fondue, staringten, fondue, leg a la seconde, fondu, straigten, fondu, leg arabesque, fondue with leg out still, pull in it to sous-sus, other side, then repeat whole thing en dedans. I hadn’t worked that much on releve in a while, and it was a workout!

For our rond de jambe turnout exercise at the barre, G Teacher came around and said to me “You should be doing with no hands”, which I then attempted. It was a challenge, but I willed myself to not lose my balance and got through the rest of it without the barre. The exercise, which I think I mentioned a few months ago back when I first took G Teacher’s class, is a slow (16 count) rond de jambe en l’air with a flexed food, first en dehors right foot, then en dehors left foot, then en dedans left foot, and en dehors, right foot. Then you get to do the whole thing with the supporting leg in plie.

We did lots of jumping this week, enough to make up for not jumping the other ones. First up, saute combination: plie releve 3 times, hold plie, 1 saute, hold plie, straingther, 1 saute, hold plie, straingten, 2 sautes, hold plie, 3 sautes, hold plie, 4 sautes, hold plie and slowly straigten for 4 counts. It was a brain teaser, but I happen to prefer slow sautes so I liked it.

Then we had an echappe combination: start croisse in fifth, echappe to fourth changing facing to croisse other side, close to fifth, echappe to second en face, close fifth, repeat the above twice, then 3 changements and repeat the whole thing to the other side. I had a classmate take a video of me, and I was shocked to see the whole thing was 28 seconds. 28 seconds! But when you’re jumping it can feel like half an hour. We also did echappes to second while traveling forward (all the way across the studio), hands on hips, and those were hard!

This week I also went to New Studio, for 2 classes.  One of the days, as I was parking outside the studio, I saw that there was a few advanced dancers there, and for a brief second I contemplated turning around and going home. But I reassesed the situation, and it was more lazy than tired, so I went in. And yes, NS Teacher gave us a more challenging class, like barre stretch with no hands on releve, and super fast degages with port de bras, fondues up to releve and fouette at the barre.

In center our first combination was balancé x2, balance en tournant, pirouette en dehors, repeat. I kept messing up because I would do a chasse into preparation with the pirouette, instead of just going into the pirouette, which was way harder (after NS Teacher corrected me on that I was struggling way more with it).

Another combination we did was cabriole devant, temps leve (1 legged saute in attitude derriere), tombe ,pas de bourre, attitude pirouette en dedans, repeat. This combination was fun. That does not mean I’m saying that it was easy, or that I could even do it right, just that I enjoyed really moving around after doing more beginner classes recently. My main difficulty with it was the cabriole. Cabrioles frustrate me because I don’t even know where to begin. I think I’m scared of falling, so even though I can get my legs to touch in midair, i always bring my top leg back down too, sort of like a really ugly assemble. I always get corrected ‘Don’t bring the top leg down!’ and I feel like ‘I know! But I’m scared!’.

The rest of the combination was so fun though. That temps leve in attitude looked intimidating, but it was actually so much fun, and my attitude derriere has improved so a lot in the last few months. The attitude pirouette was also fun, and because it was en dedans, I actually had a hope of getting around for a single. The most advanced dancer in class was doing maybe 5 or 6 revolutions in all her pirouettes, which was amazing to watch in person. She also has incredible feet. The things we notice!

So yeah, cabrioles scare me. But, this weekend we went to the lake again, and I got an idea. I decided to work on my jumps in the water, that way there was no fear of falling and getting hurt. I managed to work not only on my cabrioles but on my entrechats and royalles. It was very encouraging (not to mention fun!). At least now I know I can do it under conditions of reduced gravity.

It’s Official: I’m Terrible At New Things

Class at New Studio was lots of fun. It’s open level, so the difficulty varies depending on who shows up that day. Everybody that showed up this last time was sort of around the same level, so we were given a nicely challenging  (by my standards) barre and center.


Barre combination with fondues (3 fondu devant, the first with the foot barely off the floor, the second a bit higher, the third as high as we can, bring the leg back around to arabesque, holding it at that height, tendu down and close, reverse starting with fondues derriere) that felt so pretty. I just love fondues! We’ve been working on fondues at Beginner class at my regular school too, doing a similar combination (in this case, fondu devant a terre, then off, bring leg back to arabesque, fondu in to coupe ad reverse, all facing the barre).

We did a similat echappe releve combination to the one from class a few days ago. It was echappe to fourth, close to fifth, echappe to second, close to fifth, echappe to fourth, close fifth, sous-sus, reverse. This time it went much better for me, I don’t know if it was that it wasn’t the first time we did that and I wasn’t feeling completely rusty on my echappe releves, or the fact that NS Teacher insisted that  we use the mirror as we did the combination, making sure to keep our turnout in each position.

We started center with a tendu combination (2 tendu devant in croisse, 2 tendus ecarte, 2 tendus derriere, brush leg forward, failli, pas de bourre, other side) that was really fun to do (I still get a kick out of doing basic tendu combinations because for so long – back when I kept falling over in center – I wanted  to be able to at least tendu in center and make it look pretty).

Another combination we did was 4 balancés, tombe pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors from fourth, repeat. During one of the pirouettes, I did a 1 1/2 revolution. It was weird, because I know I went around at least once, but when I came down I was facing backwards (which really sucked for getting the rest of the combination done correctly). The rest of my pirouettes sucked. We did 2 pique turns, followed by three counts of chaines, repeat, across the floor after this, and at least those went ok.

Then we did 2 waltz turns, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, assemble, repeat across the floor. The tempo was much too fast for me – it was time for the pas de bourre around the time I was mid way through my second waltz turn – so I struggled along,but even then I’m grateful, once again, that I can do this kind of stuff without falling over, even when it doesn’t look pretty yet.

We then did cabrioles, which I’d never tried before. They look so impressive when done correctly, but my body just did not want to cooperate. When we did cabrioles to the front, my legs kept wanting to assemble instead. When we did then to the back my body just had no idea what I was trying to tell it to do. I remember when F Teacher taught it to the more advanced students a few months ago (I didn’t try it), she explained it as something like a saute arabesque, then the supporting leg comes up. But even thinking of it like that  wasn’t helping my body cooperate. None of the other girls there were amazing at cabrioles, but I was the worst one. That’s always a good reality check, lest I start thinking I’m actually good – whenever we do something brand new, I’m often the worst.

Beginner class at my regular school went well also. Just as I suspected, Annoying Girl (from last post) does keep it down when F Teacher is teaching, making it a much mre pleasant environment. Barre was a little more fast paced, with more combinations going from one side to the next without stopping (including one where we went back and forth between sides several times, and was so fun). We did ronde de jambes, piques with port de bras, and frappes. I really like F Teacher’s frappe combination for beginners, because it really focuses on foot articulation. I remember back when I first started ballet I could not keep up with it at all, so I would practice it over and over at home until it started feeling somewhat automatic – it took so much time! So I do feel a bit like a fraud standing there doing it all smoothly and confidently

For center we did tendus devant, derriere in croisse, then change to en face tendu devant, a la seconde, chasse to other side, repeat other side, then the whole thing with degage instead of tendu. Nice basic combination, so I worked on making it look as pretty as possible, with epaulement and port de bras.

We did a waltz and balancé combo across the floor, first without turning on the waltz, then with the turn. It kept throwing me off because I’m used to starting from B+, with the upstage leg stepping, and the downstage leg brushing on the first waltz, and we were instead going right to brushing with the dowstage leg from first. So even though in theory it’s easier, since my body didn’t have it in muscle memory it felt harder. This is also a perfect example of what I mean about me still being really slow at picking up new things. (But as i often find myself thinking, ‘at least by now I more or less have my balance, so things – even new things – are not as hard as they were in the beginning’).

Another fun thing we did was a 4 glissade (with alternating leg in front) and sous-sus combo. Glissades are somethign else that took me forever to get decent at (and by ‘decent’ I mean, able to hold my balance and not fall over while landing, but also being strong enough t push off from the one leg), but the thing that was confusng me about these was the switching of the leg. A previous teacher had taught me that glissades never switch legs, so I’d gotten used to that. This whole doing-things-that-are-not-in-my-muscle-memory thing continues to present a challenge to me, so I’m hoping this will make me a better dancer.

While I’ve been loving taking class this often (and my body hasn’t been complaining too much), I’ve been feeling guilty at times about aspects of doing ballet. With this frequency in classes my dance wear’s taking a beating, especially my tights, with most of my pairs getting visible runs by now. I don’t want to just get the cheapest ones I can find (in my case the Theatricals brand from Discount Dance) if they’re going to run after wearing them once -literally – but the times I got the more expensive brand (Bloch), I wasn’t too impressed with the quality and they stretched out relatively fast as well. I’d like something that lasts for a good while without needing to be replaced. So I don’t know yet what I’m going to do, but I feel guilty about all the hidden costs of dancing, I guess. I know this is probably an unpopular topic – dare I say even a taboo topic? – but it’s a reality in my dancing life, and I’m hoping by writing about it I can help sort the issue out. I may just end up switching to leggings for my non-dress-code classes,  but then I’ll miss those unbroken lines…