Tag Archives: challenges

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.

Double Dose of Ballet Wednesday

It’s wednesday, you know what that means! Two ballet classes, one day again.  Also, bringing my weekly ballet class total to 3 classes, a new record for me.

Wednesday morning class

As this semester progresses – I can’t believe week 3 is already over – something I find myself thinking quite a bit is “I love the way this teacher teaches class, but I’m so glad it’s not my first semester taking ballet!”  Class has been so much fun, but if it was my first semester I would have been so miserable and discouraged.  There are so many things that this teacher has us do without holding on to the barre that there was just no way I could do until I had been practicing on my own at home for a while.  Like grand plies in center, degages without the barre, balances in releve for a long time, chasse to arabesque with arms, and I’m sure there’s other moves that I can’t recall right now, but those are all things that at this time are possible but challenging.  A year and a half ago? Just downright impossible for me. 

 So far though, this teacher is my favorite teacher I’ve had at community college ballet (I’ve had three different ones here).  She’s really nice and I love when she demonstrates a move because it just looks gorgeous.  I believe she said that she’s an ex professional ballerina and I think that is so cool to take class with a retired professional dancer teaching.  Her feet, extensions, and turns are amazing!

Today, after our warm up plies and tendus we did a different tendu exercise that included rond de jambe, so that was really nice.  Rond de jambe is one of my favorite barre moves – and I can actually do them right, so that might have something to do with it.  No, it’s because I like them that I made myself learn to do them right, like it would be a shame to ruin such a pretty move.  They remind me of drawing circles in geometry class. 

The port de bras that we do at barre during our tendu combinations is nice.  Besides just bending to the side (I think that’s technically called a port de corps but anyway), and to the back, we also this this like circular arm movement (it’s really hard to describe) in which we take our arm out to side and then bend back, kind of following our arm, but our upper body kind of does a circle too.  It was just as hard to perform it the first time as it is to describe it , but luckily my first time with that move wasn’t today but a few weeks ago in wednesday evening class.

Apparently the leg swings through first into attitude devant then back through first to attitude derriere have a name : en balancoire, which means like a seesaw.  Today teacher passed out a list with over 70 ballet terms on it, so that’s the only way I knew how to spell that, I didn’t acquire awesome French spelling overnight. 

When we did grand battements a la seconde, I was facing the mirror and when we all kicked I was like “Is that my leg!? OMG!”  To be fair, it is a beginner class, but I could kick higher than a lot of people, and the initial shock was just incredible.  Besides the height – which honestly isn’t that impressive, just about chest height, but it’s impressive for me – it was also cool how my leg did not come crashing back down to the floor, but landed gently, the way teacher said it should be.  She actually said “Good!” to me!   Now, to be fair, this was holding the barre.  If I had to do a grand battement without the barre I would probably (though hopefully not) fall on my face.  Given this teacher’s love of doing things while letting go of the barre, I could see barre-less grand battements in my near future. Hopefully not too near…

In center, we did the same combination we’ve been working on for the last few classes.  I have to say, the idea of a grand plie in center is scarier than the reality of it at my current skill level, but I still get sooo nervous before doing it.  Teacher is so nice, and says that it’s ok if we fall, so it’s not even that there’s a lot of pressure or anything (unlike last semester’s teacher) but I still don’t want to look all clumsy.  

Of course, with that in mind (not wanting to look clumsy), we had a new across-the-floor move today.  Teacher said it was a chasse, but wednesday evening teacher calls a different move – an almost skipping, hopping, traveling move, where the same leg stays in front – a chasse.  This morning’s chasse involved starting in plie and then sliding one of our heels forward to fourth position and then pushing off with our back foot.  While doing first arabesque arms, unless the coordnination was too much for the particular student.  The arm coordination was not a problem for me, as I always practice stepping into arabesque at home with the arms as well.  The problem was that I’m used to stepping into arabesque from standing in first position and this move involved moving/sliding  our foot forward while plie-ing and then pushing up to straighten our leg in front. Balancing was a bit hard to come by on this part and I felt so much better when one of the girls said that she wasn’t able to balance. That makes two of us!

Obviously, I will be obsessively working on that move at home until my next class with this teacher.  

We did many sautes,  echappes, and changements today, though less than last class.  If I had to guesstimate I would say we did 64 of them total, based on the 8 counts.  The foot strengthening exercises may be helping because I felt as though I could point my feet in the air just a tiny bit more than on monday. Yay, inprovement (however minuscule)!

Teacher said next week we will be focusing on turns and she mentioned chaines, at which point I saw a fellow student make a panicked expression.  I’m guessing she doesn’t much care for chaines, while I’d rather turn all day than have to jump. It’s crazy how we all have our own individual strengths and weaknesses!        

Wednesday evening class

There were 10 of us for class today, 9 ladies and 1 young man.  Before class one of the other ladies started a conversation with me and apparently one of the other students,  whom I had previously thought was her friend, is her daughter! That is so cute, I would’ve loved to have that kind of relationship with my mom.  But no, my mom is still passive aggressively hinting that she’d rather I not take ballet, so that’s not going to happen.  I’m starting to recognize some of the other students at this studio so slowly but surely I’m getting comfortable.  Feeling like part of the group is not a prerequisite for me to have a good class, but it sure helps!  

I like how even though this is a basic beginner class, at the barre we work up to using arms instead of just leaving them in second.  It definitely makes the tendu exercises way more interesting.  Since things like keeping my leg turned out while tondu-ing or remembering to not bend my knees are things that I’ve known and applied for a while, it can get a bit boring if we don’t incorporate arms.  Sometimes when just starting a class with a different teacher I mess up because I’m not familiar with the exercise – and my memory can sometimes suck – but I feel like I’m familiar enough with this teacher’s combinations now that I can focus on actually trying to dance, rather than how many times am I going to tendu in each direction.  Or especially things like the circular motion port de bras I mentioned earlier, which I’m finally starting to feel confident about.

We practiced the wrap-around coupes a lot today, slowly bringing the foot up to passe and then back down, possibly because we didn’t do developpes since there were too many brand newish people.  My wrap-around coupes have improved a bit since I was first introduced to this way of coupe-ing back a couple months ago when I first came to this studio.  Back then the movement was completely foreign to me (like if everything in ballet wasn’t at first!) but now I’m able to do both styles of coupe. I may post progress pictures in the near future if I remember, can’t right now because my “photographer” is not home.

My center sautes were a visible improvement over last week.  I actually saw pointed feet, and it happened more than once.  We then did echappes and chagements.  It’s a bit harder to point my feet when we do echappes and I start the jump from second, but I’ll get there.  For changements, the teacher said that when we bring the legs together we should squeeze them together in the air. I tried doing that and kept landing on top of my own feet.  No, I know your supposed to literally land on your own feet but what I mean is I kept landing kith part of one foot on top of part of the other foot.  This is something I need to work on, but at least the pointing of the feet is sort of coming along. Continuing to do the theraband exercises every day should show some results by next wednesday hopefully.

We also did jetes across the floor. Last time I attempted a jete was before my ankle incident – I had been too afraid to attempt any jumps that involved landing on only one foot – but I wasn’t afraind and went for it. There was no pain at all.  That doesn’t mean it looked right, of course.  I need to figure out a way to get that back leg straightened, but I’m glad I didn’t freeze up and not jump as I’ve seen happen to other people (including one lady today).

Another great ballet day, despite the chasse fail in morning class. The positives just happen to outweigh the negatives regardless!

All that weight

“That’s a lot of weight to carry,” I heard a voice say, as I sat on the floor of the dance studio, stretching before class.

I blushed.  Even though I had not been mentioned by name, and had been looking down at the floor so I had no way of knowing if this person referred to me, it was awkward.  They had been discussing breasts and previous to this I had never in my life heard anyone refer to boobs as “weight”.  And so, as far as “carrying weight”, well I had a lot to carry.

Before signing up for ballet, I had been so excited about my weight loss that I didn’t stop to think if my top-heaviness would be a problem.  Short story: it was.  Quick physics lesson:  When an object’s center of gravity is located closer to the top of the object than the bottom, it becomes more and more unstable the closer it is to the top, assuming the bottom doesn’t compensate for it.  Well, I was the picture of instability!  In real life (meaning while not in ballet class), I had a habit of leaning back slightly to compensate for the weight.   Especially since my bottom half does not match my top half.  That went out the window the first time the teacher corrected me on my posture.  “lean forward, shift your weight to the front  onto your toes, not your heels” she said.  I heard, I understood the words, there was just no way that my body was going to be able to physically pull it off.  I resolved to work on my back and core strength.

So, this was the first  time it came to my attention  that my body type(shape?) was going to present an additional challenge.  At the same time though, I was super motivated.  I would show them!  When there’s a will there’s a way and nothing strenghthens my will like a challenge.

I would do ballet,  my “extra weight” and other’s opinion of it be damned.