Tag Archives: fear of falling down

Week 3: Ambivalent

To be completely honest, this past week didn’t have the same yay-everything-is-awesome-in-ballet-land feeling that the previous couple weeks had. That’s ok, plateaus are to be expected; perhaps they will help me appreciate the times of great improvement even more. But that’s not it, not really… I mean, I did improve at some things this week, after all, but… I don’t know… I feel somewhat unsatisfied, I guess, for lack of a better word (I’m sure there’s a word for what I’m feeling, I just don’t happen to know it, haha). I’m sure this is just a low mood, so I’m working my way through it regardless.

Actually, just writing that down helped me better articulate what I’m feeling (which I will now share, uncensored): I’m frustrated. Frustrated because I’m aware that I hold myself back; frustrated because I have low expectations for myself, because then – if I keep my goals low – I won’t have to face much disappointment (and won’t grow as much either, on the downside); frustrated because though I’m willing to work hard and put in time and effort, I hate pain and discomfort and am not willing to do things that will result in these, or similar, feelings; frustrated because even though I know that these thoughts are erroneous and counterproductive, I can’t seem to stop thinking them, wondering what was I thinking, why do I bother, why try if I know I’m going to fail, if I’m always  going to lose, simply because that’s what I’m used to, been used to all my life, and it’s too late to change the script now. (or IS it?…)

Yeah, some dark, low thoughts indeed… but I’m not going to lie – sometimes not everything is happy and cheerful. Sigh. We’ll get through this as we always do.

It’s kind of dumb, but I think part of the reason I’m in this mood is because the room I use to practice at my school was not available this past week, so I didn’t get to do any extracurricular dancing. Some of the happiest times I have involve just me and my headphones, working my way though a variation or crafting my own choreographies. I mean, the creative process for me begins at home, and I do walk through different segments of my dances at my home studio space, but even though it’s great for marking the choreography and nitpicking details, there’s no room to actually dance full out, using all of the space. I think I need my actual dancing time to calm my inner turmoil. It doesn’t  help that the weather’s been sucking, making it impossible to go for a long relaxing walk, or work in my garden.

Anyway.

This week I continue to wear the pointe shoes at barre. That fondue up to sous-sus from last week seemed much less scary. I don’t remember if I’d specified, but that was from a fondue devant, the kind where the supporting leg is bent and the working leg is off the floor out to the front. This week I added in a sous-sus from a fondue derriere and it was much less scary. Don’t know if it’s because I’m getting used to it or because it’s easier less difficult from this position. There was also a single leg rise up from either arabesque or a degage devant position (it was after our rond de jambe combination, so from arabesque after going en dehors, and from the devant position after going en dedans) and I was too scared to rise up to pointe, instead just going up to demi-point. So then I tried it with both hands on the barre and it still felt like a bit much. I do think I’m strong enough, but I’m pretty terrified.

The first time I took class during the week went along as normal, with me switching out to slippers after barre. But then Teacher said how about we left our pointe shoes on for center and do the center combinations near the barre, so we can use it to assist with the more difficult parts. These difficult parts turned out to be a pique sous-sus (in the combination it was a soutenu, but she said to substitute it with a pique sous-sus), and a chasse to releve (on pointe) arabesque then pas de bourre. The first day attempting this I was able to do it all to the right side, but to the left I was too scared to do the chasse to releve arabesque, only rising to demi. The next day I pulled on my (metaphorical) big girl panties and made myself do it.

Then the class did chaines across the floor and Teacher had us do them on pointe at the wall barre. It was scary at first, then awkward, then just slightly uncomfortable in that pressure-on-the-toes way. I also did some chaines off the barre while wearing the pointe shoes but just going up to demi pointe (I guess my shoes are broken in enough to do this now, but I do wonder if doing stuff in demi point  in them will break them down faster?). When the class worked on pique turns across the floor I did pique passe releves along the wall barre. Once again, to the right side it felt much more secure than to the left (like a crazy discrepancy – to the right it felt like I’ve been doing this forever, to the left I was terrified). It’s funny, up until very recently I would have said that without a shadow of a doubt my left foot is stronger, after all I balance much better on it on flat and demi point with soft shoes, do better promenades on it and everything. And my right foot was the one I messed up in a car accident years ago (though the left ankle was the one I sprained when I very gracefully fell down the stairs) But pointe work has shown that it is actually my right side which is much stronger, weird.

Then we worked on pirouettes, and since I still had my pointe shoes on I attempted to do some on demi point (because there was no way I was going to try a pirouette en pointe at this, umm, point in time. Perhaps I should have been working on just rising up to pointe in passe at the wall barre at this time). To my surprise, I found that pirouettes on demi point feel much more stable for me in pointe shoes than flat slippers. Not only that, balancing on demi point in general felt more stable with the pointe shoes. I guess I’ve officially decided that once these shoes die I will deshank them and wear them to class sometimes instead of my soft slippers.

Then it was time for sautes and petit allegro (chagement x2, echappe, glissade, assemble, pas de chat, coupe, pas de bourre, other side) which meant it was time to take off the pointes. I mean, I think Teacher would have let me leave them on, but I think I have some sort of mental block at the idea of doing the whole class en pointe (even though, who are we kidding, I was either using the barre to help me or only going up to demi, so it’s not like I was really doing the class en pointe, just merely wearing pointe shoes…).

But we all gotta start somewhere, right? To be honest, I never thought I would be doing this much with the pointe shoes already by this point in time (I would have been content with just doing eleves, releves, and sous-sus at the barre for the next six months or so – there’s those low expectations I mentioned earlier…). It’s been exactly one month to the day since I first slipped the shoes on. I remember on the way home from the dance store, Husband asked me if I thought it was going to be like starting from scratch as a brand-new beginner again and I said ‘Maybe, but I hope not. But if it is, it’s ok.’  Well, one month into it, I’d say that it’s not like starting from scratch, but at the same time I can see how my fears of trying new things rear their ugly heads. For example, even though I’ve been practicing it with just one finger from each hand resting lightly on the barre (so not much support), I get quite scared of springing up to sous-sus or releve in 1st with no hands. I feel like I need to go through the motions of it thousands of times on my own before I can do it confidently in class in front of everyone. In class there’s not enough time to repetitively work on the same thing, so this is something I need to put some time into on my own.

On the positive side, I did meet my goal of doing a half soutenu on pointe with no hands this week, I even did some away from the barre after working on springing up to sous-sus with no barre. I did not meet my goal of bringing my feet up to coupe with no barre, but I did let go of the barre while up in retire on pointe, so maybe we can consider that goal halfway met? I continue working on my bourres with no barre while doing port de bras. I know for an upcoming goal I would like to do echappes with no barre, but I don’t believe I’m ready yet. Perhaps then for now my goal for the week will be to improve on that chasse up to releve arabesque, and springing up to pointe on one foot.

As far as non-pointe work, this week I really concentrated on working on glissade assemble. To the right I’m not bad at this sequence, but to the left it feels sloppy. So after class I went over it repeatedly, both sides just back and forth, and I’m feeling much more confident about it. We worked on chasse, saute arabesque across the floor and I got a correction on not losing my turnout, so I will be paying more attention to that. Also, after class I worked on these pas de bourres that we would do in Int/Adv class last session, the kind where you plie your supporting leg and the working leg kind of degages out a la seconde, then it comes in to sous-sus (the pas de bourre part), and the other leg then degages out to seconde as your supporting leg plies. I think F Teacher called them pas de bourre en dessus and en desous. Anyway, ever since I slowed the steps down I feel like I’ve been improving on them, because at the speed we would do them in Int/Adv class I was mostly just flailing around and trying to not fall behind (thankfully, not trying to not fall, period). I guess I should just be grateful for that.

I think I’ll end this post now, before it becomes a novel…

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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