Tag Archives: defying the laws of physics

… Or Maybe I Do…

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


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

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

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

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

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

Why “ballet and/or bust”?

This is kind of a random ramble…

A recent comment sort of reminded me of something that I’d been thinking about recently. I’d been thinking about the name and focus of this blog. In fact, I’ve been sort of pondering changing it, but not getting around to it, and then changing my mind, and back and forth. Reason is, sometimes I wonder if it’s still relevant to my story. I guess I should back track a little…

Back when I first started ballet-blogging (june 2014), I was in a different place than now – both literally and metaphorically. I’d been ballet-ing for a little over a year at that point, and was super discouraged. Besides the fact that I wasn’t very good at ballet, I also felt… how should I put this… ummm… externally discouraged.  I hadn’t had a very good class experience with the last session of ballet I’d taken, and felt like I was it was hopeless. I hadn’t really met a ballet teacher that was accomodating to my slowness at learning (if anything, the opposite), and I was really beginning to feel like doing ballet may not be for me (as in, I felt like others were disapproving of my choice to do ballet). But at the same time, I was doing it, so then that means it could be for me, right?

If I’d been blogging just a few months prior, it would have just been a blog full of rants (and I know – I have journal entries in my private journal that chronicle my experiences while taking that session). I was having a really hard time keeping up in class at times (especially considering how long I’d been doing ballet for), and, since I’d seen how much stronger my legs had gotten in that year or so, I blamed my lack of progress on my chest. It did seem as though that was the issue – after all, when someone falls off balance, teachers would assume that they would fall backwards, whereas I would always fall forward. I struggled with balancing for quite a long time actually, and didn’t get a reliable two-legged releve balance until around the time I’d been doing ballet for two years. In the end, the culprit turned out to be my previously weak back and core. So, although perhaps the heaviness of my boobs was the immediate cause, it was completely fixable with time, practice, and lots of conditioning cross-training work.

My point is, as a commenter reminded me, the stronger you get, the less your body’s shape gets in the way of progress. I’ve experience it firsthand, so I know it’s true. I mean, yes, sometimes progress will come slower than for someone who has less weight being carried around in certain places (and I remember how pissed I was back in first ballet session when a guy had referred to breasts as “weight”, lol. I totally get – in a dancing context – what he meant, though at the time it was perceived as rudeness by my new-to-ballet ears), and walking around  while carrying a heavy purse is enough to remind anyone of this fact (or to experience it for yourself, if you happen to not be one of us who is carrying around extra padding in certain areas). In fact, it was my discomfort at carrying my purse while standing in the same place for long periods of time that reminded me that I was going to ramble about this subject. Simply put, the closer the body’s weight is distributed to the body’s midline, the easier it will be for that person to balance. Some of us have to work harder. (I should mention at some point: since I didn’t watch much ballet before I started doing ballet, I had absolutely no idea about what body types can usually be found in ballet, or why, or anything like that.)

But, it’s not impossible. It certainly doesn’t get in the way of me doing ballet. And, even though it may not seem so obvious to some, this is a huge deal for me. I’ve never really discussed this on the blog, because it’s personal-ish and embarassing, but for years and years I hid my body in enormous baggy sweaters, ashamed of my body. If someone had told me that I would be comfortable one day prancing around in public in a skin-tight garment and nothing else with my chest I would have said they were out of their mind. I was way too embarassed of drawing attention to myself, or hearing innapropriate or mean comments, or getting stared at. I effectively put my life on hold for years while I hid and watched everyone else live their life. (Of course, other factors that I won’t get into played their part as well, but the body issues were deifinitely a big part.)

I am so grateful that due to ballet I’ve become so much more comfortable with my body. This ease in movement, this lack of self-conciousness, has been amazing.  Not that it’s always perfect, or that I have a completely healthy relationship with my body – I don’t – but the simple freedom of feeling like I can leave the house without a heavy coat in summertime is something I never had expected to experience.

So, is the fact that I am top-heavy relevant when it comes to my ballet adventures? Yes and no.  While the physical aspects – holding balances without toppling over and such – have improved so much, there are things that happen here and there that remind me that yes, it certainly is still relevant. Thigs like going to the dance store and having people just unabashedly stare at me, and my chest, as I do my shopping. It’s not even the kids, but their moms, which is really irritating – like, great way to teach your kids by example how to behave. Or not being able to easily find dancewear that fits without feeling like it’ll rip off any second. Or when the more immature dance students in my classes make comments, or if I take class with people I’ve never taken class before, and before we start I feel their eyes on me, like they’re sizing me up. I realize I don’t look like the typical ballet student, but at least once we start our barre work I can prove that I am just as serious as the next dance student.

Anyway, ramble over (for now) 🙂

Back To Double Dose of Ballet

See Tights

See Tights Run

Run Tights, Run!

My new tights have a run already. What the hell!

My new tights have a run already. What the hell!

Just trying to find humor in the fact that after wearing them only, like, 3 times my new favorite tights have a run in them already, as I discovered when it was time to get dressed.

wednesday morning class

The new port de bra for our demi plies at the barre is still unfamiliar and awkward for me.  It’s almost feeling like the patting-your-head-while-rubbing-your-stomach feeling.  We start with arm out in second and it doesn’t come in until we are at the bottom of the plie, then low fifth when we go up.  On the next plie it goes to middle fifth on the bottom, and opens to second when we come up.  The time coordination is the part that gets me, I keep wanting to bring in the arm prematurely and then I’m ahead of the count.  Will excessively work on it at home for sure.

On our tendus we did a lot of slow foot articulation stuff.  Tendu-ing out to second, flexing the toes and then the foot, then pointing the ankle (but not the toes), and finally the toes.  While the ankle flexing part is not a problem, my toes didn’t want to cooperate on the toe flexing.

We did releves sous-sus and then brought one foot up to coupe.  Strengthwise it was ok, didn’t feel like much of an effort. Then Teacher said to let go of the barre and try to balance as long as possible.  I let go and promply started to fall forward, reminding me of a felled tree – someone yell “Timber!”.

The expected learning curve scares me.  Things that are introduced in class one week – no pressure, most people mess up – are then expected to be drastically improved several weeks later.  That is not my learning curve; it took me about 6 months to be able to pull off any two-footed releve balance at all, for however short a time.  Even now I still struggle with my balance on two-footed releves at times (though magically it always works out at home, when I’m alone).

It sucks, because most teachers approach it from the premise of “if you’re not balancing it’s because you tend to fall backwards.”  I tend to fall forward (because of the chest, weight distribution), so when I releve I make sure to not go up too quickly, that way my momentum won’t push me over, while at the same time making sure to  not fall back.   It gets desperately discouraging at times, especially seeing how other, much newer, people don’t have trouble with the balancing part.  But then I see pictures of full-term pregnant women balancing either on releve or en pointe and I’m like ‘no, there’s a way. I just have to get even stronger.”

We did a flexibility exercise with a partner, involving developpe-ing to the front and a la seconde, but the catch was that after you developpe your partner pushes your leg up, to the limit your flexibilty can stand. Then we had to use our strength to keep our leg that high and sloooowly – with control – bring it back down.  Imagine my surprise when my partner kept pushing my leg up and it was past my head and it still didn’t hurt! And I still remember when I couldn’t even touch my toes – an unflexible child can grow up to be a sort of flexible adult!  Once she let go I was able to keep it up there and lower it slowly with no problem.  Yay, maybe there is strength in me after all!

During sautes I did feel less out of breath and exhausted, though that’s probably mental because I don’t think my 2 days of (very little) jogging have made that much of a difference.  But I am interested to see how my endurance for jumps will improve after I’ve been jogging awhile.  My sautes were ok – feet somewhat pointed – but the changements and echappes not so much. However, looking on the positive side, I no longer step on myself when I do changements and after the changement and echappe combination I did end up with the correct foot in front.

Across the floor we did 4 chasses (the galloping kind), ballet run and jete.  On the right side it went ok, my jetes with the left leg in front could use some additional improvement.    But it was so much fun, sometimes big movements are just what I needed!

wednesday evening class

Double checked and made sure I had my wallet AND my shoes.

We had a small class today, all with some ballet experience, so as Evening Teacher says “We can do stuff that involves the brain more.”  It was a change of pace, and for the most part I kept up.

We did fondues, which I love.  We did the kind of fondues where the leg straightens so that the working foot is in the air, not the floor, which are even more fun. We also did the rond de jambes that are combined with a fondu, as well as plenty of rond de jambes en l’air.

Something I like about this class is that E. Teacher uses music that changes tempo midway. So we do stuff like 8 slow degages and then 6 in double time or two tendus and then a pique on the third.  It’s nice to mix it up a bit; I would say “keeps it interesting” but it’s already interesting.  Ummm, I guess it increases the interesting factor.

We did lots of frappes also, which was nice.  Such a weird motion at first – the flexed foot and all – but now that I got used to doing them they’re ok.

During our grand battements en croix we did something different: after front, side, back, on the next side one we were to turn in to the barre with both our supporting and working legs bent and then straighten the working leg back out, then tondu it in releve sous-sus, soutenu, and other side.  The “turning into the barre with bent legs” move looks super intimidating but E. Teacher broke it down enough to make it possible.  I love the “no pressure” vibe in this class, as I’ve said before.

My only problem at barre was that E. Teacher wanted us to take a long balance in passe releve, which I can only hold for about two seconds (on left working leg) and not at all on the right leg.  So I alternated between holding passe releve with one hand at the barre or balancing with no hands on flat passe.

We did changements, echappes, and some kind of jump to fourth position that I’d never done before.  This was probably part of the whole “engaging our brain” thing. Unfortunately, my brain was occupied with trying to jump period, so I probably looked like I was doing lopsided jumping jacks or something.

During center, there was all this balancing in passe releve and then pirouette craziness that I pretty much messed up on.  Since barre went so well I took it all in stride.  So I can’t balance at all, no big deal, I can fondu! Or something like that…

At least I’m feeling cheerful tonight though.  I was feeling a little upset after morning class (re: my lack of balance) if the truth must be told, sometimes my flatlined learning curve just really gets me down.  Makes me feel like my efforts are hopeless, like I’ll never be decent at ballet. Such a sad thought…

Long Weekend Updates

After waking up from a lovely ballet dream in which I literally flew, I realized that I haven’t updated this blog in an unprecendented-for-me long time. The dream was awesome, by the way. I was like twirling, twirling, twirling, and then I was like twiling while up high in the air or something. Perhaps I was part of a pas-de-deux and that was the part where my partner lifted me in the air and spun me around or something. It was so exhilirating though, if only I could feel that in “real” life! But I guess that’s why I dance, so I can get close to it.

We had houseguests over the long weekend, so that threw off my schedule a bit. I’m not too crazy about long holiday weekends. I would prefer if everyone had a shorter work week so that every weekend would be a long weekend. That would be great! Unfortunately, I’m not in charge of those kinds of things, so the 5 day work week remains the norm for now.

One of our guests brought over an adorable puppy. Unfortunately, said puppy was also very hyperactive, incontinent, and clumsy. I spent a good part of the weekend making sure the puppy wasn’t chewing through my shoes or books (he loved destroying paper), leaving puddles everywhere on my wooden floor, and otherwise disturbing the peace. He did manage to knock over and break one of my practice mirrors, which really sucked! Luckily,Boyfriend managed to glue it back together and it’s semi-functional – and we avoided the seven years of bad luck. On a side note, I never fully appreciated, or even realized, how well-behaved our own dogs are!

It was somewhat difficult finding time or space to practice ballet with guests over. I realize it may sound bad (antisocial, Boyfriend would say), but I’m really glad to have the place back to ourselves so I can get back to my regular routine. Last night I got to have my first home ballet practice since last tuesday (though I did have class on wednesday) and I was so happy, though I did feel a little off balance. When you’re trying to climb the learning curve it’s so easy to just slide back down!

I have class tomorrow – might even try again for two classes – so I need to get this balancing situation stabilized (did I just make an accidental pun?).

It has now been six weeks since I sprained my left ankle and I can finally say that I am back to my pre-fall fitness level. I’m routinely walking my regular morning route and the ankle had not given me any trouble. The weirdest thing happened though: my right ankle, which I injured in a car accident a few years ago (but have not reinjured) began feeling a little funny. Thing is, after it had stopped hurting months after the accident it had been pain free for almost two years. I found it coincidental that after I hurt the left foot the right foot would start to act up. I’m going to go with it’s something psychological, like a phantom limb pain. It’s not even really like full-blown pain, just like a feeling of my attention being focused on that part of the body (whereas usually I don’t focus on a part of my body unless it’s hurting).

Also, WordPress at random keeps erasing blogs from my list of blogs I follow. It’s really annoying and I wish I knew how to fix that glitch. Anyone else experience this or know how to fix it?

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.