Tag Archives: feeling intimidated in ballet class

A Rough Start And A Great Ending

At the start of the week, I was feeling rather silly about being in the Int/Adv class. Feeling like what am I doing in that class when my skill level is clearly not up to par. I’m not the most beginner person there, but a commenter here once said something wise (and I may be paraphrasing a little, too tired to to look it up, sorry): just because you’re the worst one does not make you a worse dancer [than you already are], and just because you’re the best one [in a particular class] does not make you a better dancer. Horrible paraphrasing job there, but hopefully you get what I mean. Anyway being objective, and looking at where my level  is now, I feel like I don’t belong there…

I have no intention of dropping out of it though – as long as I don’t get all introspective and think about how much my dancing sucks in the scheme of things, I have an amazing time in that class (and it’s not like there’s much spare time for thinking during class anyway…). But now that I am feeling introspective (and rather melancholy – I am probably not a fun person be around right now… ), I can’t help thinking that I have no business there, with the real dancers, the ones that actually have a future in dance, the ones who are not done with their youth and well on the way to middle age.

(I feel I should clarify that these classes are not through an adult recreational program, and there’s dancers training there who are really good, and past alumni have made it to big companies and all that. So I do feel like I’m wasting their class time or taking up space, or something. Taking these classes with the older teens/young adults is a double-edged sword; while there’s no way I would be able to afford such an intense dance course load otherwise, sometimes it just feels like a lot of pressure. And inadequacy. And this strange feeling of not belonging. Not that I feel particularly at home or like I “fit in” when I take a recreational class with only “real” adults… maybe the problem is me…) Hello, tangent!

At barre I don’t feel like i get in the way – though when I mess up obviously (like, wrong foot tendued in  wrong direction) I start to worry that I’ll draw attention to myself.  But in the center, like when doing turns across the floor, it’s pretty bad. I force myself to go faster, but my technique suffers, I feel. And I don’t want to go slow and hold up the better dancers who, for whatever reason, were not in the front of the line/group. Which may not be my fault, that the better people didn’t go forward, but I don’t want to get yelled at about it for not filling in the gap, so yeah…

Well, that was kind of a pointless ramble, but I feel better having written about it. That said, the rest of my week was actually pretty awesome. The pace in Beginner class really picked up this past week, in the form or us doing the barre one exercise after another with hardly a pause (we have a set barre for the session so G Teacher doesn’t have to give us the combination in theory) and I love it. Intermediate class, while more challenging than Beginner (obviously…) still does not fill me with the intimidation that I feel in Int/Adv. It could be because Int. class happens to be a very small class, and I don’t feel like I’m in the way. But I’d be lying if I said that the people there didn’t make a difference. The crowd in Int/Adv is more,well, advanced, and while they’re lovely to watch while in the other group waiting your turn, dancing with them is intimidating. It Int class it feels friendly and with less pressure.

As far as hip hop, there may be some hope yet? For our latest combination, instead of only working on it for a week we’ve been working on it for the past two weeks, and I’m actually remembering it now. At least as far as getting the feet and arms roughly where they should be, moving in the correct direction. H Teacher worked with me a little bit during class individually, so I think maybe I’ve made that jump between Incurable Klutz and just plain bad, and he thinks that some help will make a difference. For what it’s worth, it did.

Still, it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to, but I’m guessing that’s something that will take time. A friend told me to imagine I’m dancing alone in my room, but when I dance alone at home I want to do ballet. So that did make me question whether or not I actually want to dance hip hop. If I do, and hope to actually show improvement, I’m guessing I need to put in some outside of class time. As it is, I don’t practice hip hop on my own time, but I’m thinking it wouldn’t hurt to at least go over the combination in my head.

Another cool thing that happened this week was that through my school I got a free ticket to go watch a live performance of the ballet! It was a small touring company doing a full-length performance of Sleeping Beauty and I had so much fun. I couldn’t get over how sparkly the tutus were in real life. This was my second time watching a ballet live that is not the Nutracker. There aren’t too many opportunities to watch ballet live out where I live without having to drive out to the Big City, so even without the added bonus of the free ticket it was still a rare treat, a wonderful night.

Last night, I had a ballet dream. In my dream, I was in a full time ballet program, like the residential kind (I think I’ve been watching too much Dance Academy…), and I remember I was so thrilled because I could do every combination in class. So yeah, a peek into my subconcious – and impossible – wishes.

A Week Of Firsts

First week of the new session of classes after about a month break. I was excited, but very nervous. The main reason for being nervous was that the Intermediate class I signed up for is actually called Intermediate/Advanced. My first class with the word “Advanced” in the name! Of course, I’m nowhere close to being an Advanced student, I even doubt I’m at the Intermediate level. Petit allegro keeps me firmly grounded in the reality of my (current) ballet abilities, haha.

The first day of an Intermediate class session is always a little nerve-racking because the teacher reserves the right to send you to the Beginner class is you don’t hold up well during class. Barre went well though even though the girl right in front of me was so distractigly good that I was a bit distracted. I don’t know if other people were also feeling the intimidation of dancing with dancers that were Really Good, and if it was obvious, because F Teacher gave us a little pep talk about not being intimidated or concerned with the level of other people in the class. As it was, I was doing my best to just focus on myself and the music and not let myself get psyched out, not feel like I’m not a “real” dancer.

This is even more important in center, I think, because then there’s no hiding at the barre. Our first combination started off  with grand plie, releve sous-sus, developpe devant, developpe derriere to attitude, promenade, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors and I forget the rest. Grand plies in center still scare me if only for the memory of when I couldn’t do them without falling, so it was a shaky start but I remembered the combination. We were doing the combination in groups, so it did feel like the pressure was on.

For tendus we did tendu croisse devant x2, temps lie devant, tendu croisse derriere x2, temps lie derriere, tendu ecarte, pivot to efface, tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors. Even though I felt intimidated, especially since I wound up in the front row, I made sure to do my preparation port de bras and everything. F Teacher said “Good!” To me and since she definitely doesn’t just give away compliments I was thrilled.

For across the floor we did waltz en tournant, balance x2, tombe pas de bourre, chasse to fourth, releve in fourth, pirouette en dehors, pivot to other side efface, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, run off. Once again I amazed myself by actually remembering the combination and not horribly messing up.

I’m also taking Beginner class this session, with G Teacher from the summer session, but since it’s beginner level we mostly worked on alignment, posture and conditioning this week. Since I wasn’t ultra tired from all those classes, I stopped in at New Studio for a class. The drop-in level was pretty good that day, and we did a really fun combination in center ( 4 pas de chat with a slight pause between each one, contretemps, pique arabesque, chasse, tour jete, pirouette en dedans, sous-sus, balance x2, waltz en tournant x2, run off). We got the opportunity to mark it plenty of times, so by the time we did it as a class it was already in my memory even though it used a variety of steps and direction changes.

Another first this week, I took my first hip hop class. It was mostly unplanned – I originally had something else scheduled for that time but those plans fell through. My ballet friend mentioned that there was the hip hop class, and since I’ve been thinking of trying hip hop I figured why not. How’d it go? Well, it’s a good workout, and I had fun – I certainly laughed a lot – but I absolutely looked ridiculous!

 

The teacher, H Teacher, gave us our first combination: 8 counts of poses (we were supposed to improv our own, and I quickly asked a girl I knew to give me some pointers), then these side steps right and left, four little steps to the front, then step to the side three times quick and bring in the other leg, step the right foot forward and behind, then 1/2 turn to the left, and something called a body roll (which I could not figure out for the life of me), then bring in your right leg and jump on on leg to face front again, then this step I coluld not figure out at all, these arms movements I couldn’t remember, and then these jumps alternating legs that I could do, then 8 more counts of dreaded improv. The arms were up to us. So I looked around and it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing. I was just glad that we went over the combination enough times that at least I wasn’t going left when everyone else was going right. Safety, you know? But I definitely don’t know how to dance, and it shows. I’m ok with it, if anything because I know that it could be so much worse. Even though I don’t think what I was doing could be called dancing, I felt so in shape keeping up with all the jumping. I also think it will help me with the memorizing of combinations because since these steps don’t really have a name like every single ballet step, it’s a bigger challenge for me. And of course, if I actually get proficient in hip hop dance I’m thinking of all the awesome fusion choreographies that I could do.

Another first for this week – this one not so good – my first time being snubbed by a classmate. We were in the Int/Adv class at the barre, and this more advanced girl at the barre I was at asked a different classmate if we were using the inside leg for the second part (we weren’t), and they answered something like ‘I think so?’. I said something like ‘No, because after we do en cloche the outside leg ends up in the back’ and she didn’t reply, but asked the other person again. I repeated what I’d said (just in case she didn’t hear me?) and once again she didn’t acknowledge me at all. Rather than being upset it made me want to laugh. I mean, you must have some serious insecurity issues if you’re going to be rude for no reason to someone you don’t even know, or maybe you’re buying into the ‘prima ballerina’ attitude a little too much. Either way, it didn’t ruin my day or my class experience, but was a good reminder that there’s snotty people out there, and for me to be extra nice to the more beginner people to make up for it.

 

Some More Classes And A Drop In Confidence

In addition to the classes I mentioned in my last post at my regular school, I also took several ballet classes at the two other studios I go to over the latter park of the week and weekend. Feels good, but also feels like ‘oh crap! I’m out of clean tights and it’s barely Thursday!’

Anyway.

My classes at New Studio were different than my classes at my regular school in a big way – small class sizes. It was refreshing to actually get to see myself in the mirror during the whole class. Since the other students that showed up were not complete beginners, NS Teacher gave us some pretty challenging things to do.

We had a center combination that was deceloppe devant, close to coupe (I think it was to cou de pied), developpe a la seconde, close to coupe, developpe derriere, lower leg to tendu. lift up to arabesque and promenade, go directly to the other side. When  we marked the combination I got all the way around on my promenades on both sides, but then when it was time to actually do the combination I lost my balance – boo. But I kept my balance during all the developpes, and my extensions, at least devant and a la seconde, were not bad for me, so I was still proud of myself.

Then we did a 2 balancé, tombe pas de bourre, sous-sus balance, repeat until the music ends combination.  The tempo was fast, but I kept up. I remember for the longest time I struggle with picking up the speed on the balancés, so I was relieved to see that I’ve improved at that. However, NS Teacher mentioned that the port de bras she prefers for these is not the one I’m used to (the sweeping kind), but a different kind, sort of like a tilt of the arms. So I sucked, but I was happy about keeping up on the tempo.

We then worked on our pirouettes from the working foot in front fourth position preparation, en dehors, 4 in a row one each leg, then other side and repeat without a break in between. To my surprise, I landed the first two to the right (my bad turning side), like correct foot in the correct place, full revolution, and most importantly, I felt my head actually spotting. Then I realized what I was doing and started only getting around halfway, sigh.

Something even harder followed – two piques and three counts of chaÎnes, repeat, but instead of going across the studio we were going in a circle around the studio. It was so hard, and as soon as I rounded the first corner I lost my spot. To the left it was even tougher, and I was only getting a couple turns in a row before I had to pause and resteady. Obviously I need to learn the concept of changing your spot when changing direction. To be fair, I’d never tried turns in a circle before ever, so it could have been so much worse. But still, really made me reevaluate if I want to claim that I’m decent at traveling turns.

So, after this challenging (but definitely fun) class, I was ready for some more beginner class. I figured Basic Beginner class at Adults Only studio would fit the bill. But while it was a  fun class, I definitely didn’t leave feeling super confident.

As dumb as it sounds to admit it, I let myself get intimidated by some other (presumably more advanced) students that I’d never seen at that studio before. It started when, during barre, I noticed they were using port de bras, but since B Teacher had given the option of arm in second or hand on hip (it is a basic-beginner level class, and often there’s people who’re taking one of their very first classes ever), I wasn’t. I still don’t feel comfortable with using a port de bras that wasn’t given by the teacher who’s teaching the class I happen to be in. I was still doing epaulement and preparing, and finishing the combination with arms in low fifth, the things that people who just started sometimes forget to do. But  I was getting a little annoyed that I wasn’t getting to do more, mostly annoyed at myself for not being bold enough to do it anyway.

Then came center, and these dancers placed themselves right in the front, of course. It was a simple combination (tendus en croix then pique sous-sus and other side), so I got through it confidently, even when we split up into two groups (it was very packed, just like the classes at my other school have been)  and I could’ve sworn I could feel eyes on me.  Since it’s the level of combination that I know I can get through without making a complete mess off, I just focused really hard on not messing up, on making sure my feet were pointed and not sickled or resting any weight on the working foot and pulling up as well as I can.  But as soon as our groups turn ended I started getting anxious because  I know I’m only that confident if it’s a combination that I expect to do well, and I didn’t know what was next.

What was next was waltz step across the room, followed by 2 pique sous-sus, repeat. B Teacher gave the option of doing the turn with the waltz step, and we split off into groups. The new students volunteered themselves to go in the first group, and they did soutenus instead of the pique sous-sus. I did one of each when my group went, still worried about doing something that I wasn’t told to do, but I guess, not wanting to let them have all the fun. That was when one of them (their leader? haha) said “Can we do it double-time?” and I was like “Whaaaaaa…”   I stayed out of that (my waltz turn falls apart when we pick up the tempo, though I guess I could have done it without the turning had I not been feeling psyched out), but was I irritated? Maybe.

I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly is my problem, why I let myself get intimidated and the resulting frustration/irritation. I think it’s tied to the feelings of being an impostor instead of a ‘real’ dancer, the feelings that I thought I was finally over. I know that my techinque, at least at the basic level, is – if I may be honest without feeling like I’m bragging – not bad. But I know that I don’t have the experience of someone who did ballet for many years in the past, and I’m not just talking about technique, but also all the unspoken rules and ettiquette (like, so do you do the arms even if not given explicit permission?). So while I can feel comfortable around other beginners – even beginners that have advanced to a more advanced-beginner stage – the air of ‘belonging’ that the more advanced people have tends to make me feel inadequate. All I can do is continue to work on it, I guess.  I acknowledge that it’s my problem, not something that’s anyone’s responsibility but my own.

At the same time, I hope I don’t intimidate newer dancers during beginner level classes when there’s actually beginners, like first-time-ever beginners (and yes, the idea of me being a source of intimidation is surreal to me, because I still remember when I was brand new). Whenever I’m good at something and someone points it out I tend to tell them how long it took me to learn it and how often I practiced it and stuff. I feel like it’s the least I can do because I was once the absolute worst in the class and everyone was so intimidating and I wanted the floor to swallow me up! So I definitely don’t want to contribute to anyone else feeling bad.

Let’s see what this week brings…