Tag Archives: fun with ballet

Just Hiding Behind Beautiful Movements

There was something F Teacher said the last time I saw her that has stuck with me. It was our end-of-session class performance day (not to be confused with The Show of my previous post) and as the different students presented their short dance pieces, she gave constructive criticism as each finished.

I’m paraphrasing somewhat (if I can’t remember a few steps in center combination you think I’m going to remember a whole motivational speech?!), but she said something along the lines of “when you’re a beginner at dance, you have to give more of yourself to make your performance interesting, or fun, because the techinique’s not there, and there’s only you. But as you get more advanced, and you have more technique, and there’s more things you can do, you run the risk of being able to hide. You just hide behind the beautiful movements and don’t reveal any of yourself at all, and that’s not as entertaining.” (Remember I’m paraphrasing; the original quote, complete with her method of delivery, was about a million times more awesome)

Reason that this stuck with me is because… I think she’s right. At least in my case, but who’s to say that it doesn’t apply to others as well. Now it’s time for my long-winded explanation of why…

By this point in my dancing experience, I’ve mostly done ballet with a little bit of modern thrown in the mix. I wrote a post last year before comparing the difficulties of the two, but that post just dealt with the physical difficulty, actually doing the steps (and balancing without falling over). Taking the physical difficulty out of the equation – assuming we’re strong enough to do both equally well – I still believe that modern is much more difficult for me than ballet.

Reason is, in ballet it seems to me that there is the correct way or the wrong way, and all that’s left for me to do is to work towards the correct way. In modern, it seems there are so many different ways that are all technically correct, and it’s up to me to choose which (and I am one indecisive person). Those times when M Teacher would leave it completely open for us to decide what to do, they were very challenging for me. In ballet class, if the teacher says walk, you know it’s a ballet walk. In modern class, M Teacher could say to walk and it can mean a number of things – walk facing front or back, leading with your shoulders or pelvis, level up high or down low – you decide. In ballet, the port de bras is more or less codified unless the choreographer says other wise, but modern is so open. There were many times during modern when M Teacher would tell us to walk around while moving our arms and I seriously couldn’t think of anything to do with them besides swan arms. In short, I think during modern class I mostly do ballet with bad technique (because we’re not corrected on technical stuff as much).

Getting back to discussing performances, back when I first started dancing I wanted badly to choreograph. I would listen to music and imagine what I would dance to it, if only I was able to. And now, I have improved to the point that it is feasible that I could hear a piece of music and choreograph a short dance to it. This is something I enjoy extremely, something I find quite exhilirating.

But still – I guess I’m never satisfied? – I worry that the dances I make are boring. Perhaps all I am doing is going through the movements, never really revealing myself in the process (or maybe I am revealing myself, and the truth is that I am a bore, a coward, or both). I often feel guilty of the fact that I enjoy watching beautiful dancing. Not necessarily expressive dancing, or dancing that tugs at my heartstrings and elicits an emotional response – though I do find enjoyment in that too (provided I can actualy understand it) – but just beautiful movements, connected still shots of beautiful poses, as beautiful music plays.

Is the fact that I like my art “pretty” rather than expressive a character flaw? This is one of those times when I wish I could be as self-assured as others make themselves out to be, just “I like what I like, whatever”, but I’m not. I grew up feeling like my opinion was never valid, and the feelings of invalidation and self-doubt are still there – I fear they’ll always be there. Often I feel like I’m missing something, like others can see things that I don’t, understand things I can’t. All I want to do is make pretty art that is beautiful to look at – is that so wrong?

(not wrong, just boring)

Does it make me simple-minded to find it NOT boring to look at beautiful things without searching for a deeper meaning? Boyfriend says that perhaps it’s because I barely discovered dance as an adult and all my modern-loving classmates have danced since they were kids, so by now they’re over the concept of just making pretty movements, whereas all I ever wanted was to be able to move gracefully and I’m still stuck on that phase of my development. His explaination makes sense… somewhat. Another part of it, still having to do with having found dance as an adult, is that to me dance is my (only) form of escapism – I dance to forget the troubles, and the ugliness, and the sometimes horrible truths of my existence. I dance to feel happy, to feel free. So when I dance, I like to create beauty, just simple, uncomplicated beauty.  There’s enough ugliness being created out there, no need for me to add more to it (or so I feel) .

Of course, things could change as I get more experienced in dance – and life. Perhaps I’ll look back on this post in the future and be like “What were you thinking?!”, and feel so much superior to my in-the-past version of me. Stranger things have happened.

Anyway.

We ran out of time and I didn’t get to dance for the class, which was a relief as I was worried about the constructive criticism (because not only do I fear that my choreographies are boring, but I know my technique is not all the way there yet either). But I did get a video of me dancing my piece that I had prepared, and that makes me happy. I’m still contemplating making a youtube account to post some of my dances, but making no promises.

Advertisements

Show Time

My recital finally happened! Now that I’ve had a couple days to think it over and digest it a bit, here’s some thoughts (organized in a somewhat random fashion, just as I remember). This time I’m going to leave this post public, and stop being so paranoid about people figuring out who I am or where I dance (the last recital post was private, but I realize not everyone who reads this has the password or is too shy to email me for it – hey, I’m shy too!).

First, background info: Unlike our last recital last December, which was a multi-genre all-evening affair (of which our half-hour ballet piece was a part), this recital was entirely ballet – classical and some contemporary. We had 5 pieces in which the entire corps de ballet danced (excerpts from Giselle, La Bayadere, Swan Lake, and an original piece) as well as about a dozen solos or dances in small groups.

After  our first big corps piece, we had to quickly change out of our tutus and into our ballet skirts to go back onstage for a piece with just three of us – and by quick I mean quick (more about that later). This piece in particular (Nikiya’s entrance, from La Bayadere, with three dancers instead of one) was one that I thoroughly enjoyed rehearsing, and I had rehearsed it so many times that by now it was almost automatic, just my body responding to the music without any need for conscious thought or planning. It starts of relatively slow, with a lot of pique sous-sus balances, a half turn and balance in releve retire, and beautiful arms, with a lot of bourres. I remember at the moment right before the music picks up for the fast part thinking “Oh crap! I’m exhausted and the fast part is barely coming up! Got to pull it together!” And somehow I did – the faster timing, the bourre turns, the soutenus, finishing in time with the music. Although I haven’t seen any video from this dance I heard from some people watching that we did a good job – and I think I’ll choose to believe them.

Immediately after this there was another costume change to get back into a tutu, and we didn’t make it. I remember I was putting my tutu on in the wings with the help of a classmate and I see the corps run onstage for the next piece and I was like “I got to go – I’m onstage!” and tried to run onstage with my tutu not fully fastened (my classmate held me back, and probably kept me from making a complete fool of myself as my tutu came off onstage, so much belated thanks to her (though at the moment I was like “LET ME GO!!!” lol).  Once the tutu was finally on, we planned a strategic entrance for the latter half of the dance. It was like that scene in The Turning Point (which is on Netflix, and if you haven’t seen it and enjoy ballet, you must) when Leslie(?) is shoved onstage by that other lady in the middle of Swan Lake (except, you know, we weren’t drunk, though that would have added to the hilarity, I’m sure). Anyway, from what I heard our entrance wasn’t as obvious to the audience as it was to me. I’m sad I missed dancing the first part of that dance though 😦

Our two next corps pieces (Entrance of Wilies from Giselle, and entrance of swans from Swan Lake) went off without a hitch (at least as far as I know. Well, actually, there were a couple small mistakes, but nothing too noticeable.) It was beautiful – all of the pieces dancing in the corps were beautiful, all of us in our white tutus completely filling the stage. So lovely! I think this time around I had more of an opportunity to actually enjoy it while being onstage instead of it being over before I know it. I mean, when you look at the time length of each piece, these dances are short. But I do remember having the memory of looking out at us moving in unison to the music and my heart just filling up with all the beauty of it. Yes, all the hard work, all the struggles, and the stress – it was worth it.

Then, the low point of the show (for me). We missed our cue for our duet. This time, we were backstage putting on the finishing touches  when I hear our music start. Crap!  I ran to the stage, having already missed the first 10 seconds or so (of a 1 minute and 50 second dance), and immediately after entering the stage realize that my costume was incomplete – I’d left part of it backstage. There was nothing to do but just keep going, so I did. The late entry to stage and my missing pieces of the costume had me feeling so off my game, and I don’t even want to know if it was very apparent. From this dance there were a few videos, but I haven’t watched them (by choice) because honestly I am so disappointed that it went this way (and that I missed my stage cue – again!). I’ve heard this dance called “the weirdest pas de deux in ballet” before, so even if done right I knew it was odd. But with this dance the costume was a big part of the visual appeal, so I am sad that it failed. To make matters worse, this was the last piece I was in for a while (until our finale), so I got plenty of backstage time to beat myself up over it.

Something I really liked this time around is that we were able to watch the parts of the show we weren’t in from the wings, which was really nice. Last recital we’d had to go all the way backstage and downstairs when we weren’t due onstage for the next piece, and I had been really sad that I didn’t get to see all my classmates dance. This time I got to see it all, and it was wonderful. So many beautiful and inspiring dancers, I sometimes feel like I have to pinch myself to see if it could really be true that I get to dance with them. From when I first started ballet I wanted to perform but it seemed so unlikely that I’d get to so I didn’t dare say it aloud. Now it’s happened twice, to some of my favorite scenes, and it’s incredible.

I think the worst part this time around was that we only did one show, unlike the recital last December in which we did four nights in a row. There was no time to iron out the problems (like those superquick costume changes), or to tell myself that I’ll get it right next time. My feelings keep switching from being happy that we pulled it off and I got to dance (again) on stage in a real theater,  to being sad that I messed up on my duet (and the other missed stage entrance). As far as the messing up, I mean the late entry to stage and the incomplete costume, other than that I remembered all the steps and didn’t fall or fall out of my balances or anything, so I really should be grateful. But I am really bummed out over the costume.

Ok, I was supposed to be a cat. Who’s ever seen a cat with no freakin’ ears?! Arrgh!!!

Anyway, that’s all I can think of saying about the recital for now (though if anything else pops into mind I’ll probably edit and add on). I’m also done with school for the summer so I’ll probably be posting my random rambles a little bit more as I try to catch up on everything I’ve been too busy to write about – or not (my offline journal and other online blog need love too).

What Might Possibly Be The Cutest Ballet Costume EVER!

Youtube surfing ballet again…  and when I find ballet mixed in with cute kitties, that’s two of my favorite things right there!

In the middle of this video of Sleeping Beauty Act 3 by the Royal Ballet, there is the most adorable costume ever. So cute! Wish there was a full length ballet about kitties like these.

image

A kitty!

image

I’m not very good at taking screenshots of videos…

And  a few more screenshots

 

I definitely recomment watching the video, my screenshots do not it do it justice (ha, like if that even needed to be said). The kitty dance begins at 9:34, but the entire video is really fun to watch if you have the half half hour to spare. The rest of the dancers are absolute gorgeous and talented as well. The wedding pas de deux at the end is so beautiful.

 

2015 -What A Year

As far as ballet goes for me, 2015 has been an amazing year! So many new experiences…

I started off the year taking ballet class only about twice a week on average. In February, it was my two year anniversary since starting ballet. Early on in the year, I attempted a four month session of Intermediate class. Although at the time I wasn’t ready for it, by the time summer came about I was ready to try again (and this time I got through it!). Over the past year my dancing has improved so much. I also found another local dance studio that offered open drop-in adult ballet classes, and not only that, it was more affordable than the other studio I got to. By the later part of the year I was taking class on average four times a week, though sometimes even five or six. It’s been great.

And that’s just ballet – this past year I also started modern dance classes, twice a week. I didn’t start until later on in the year, but I do think I will be continuing on with this. It was pretty cool using what I’ve learned in ballet (mostly balance, but also alignment and flexibility) to actually be somewhat decent at it (it was a beginner level class).

I saw several live perfomances, including my first Swan Lake (by the Grand Russian Ballet).  I’d been wanting to watch Swan Lake live for so long and I was definitely excited. It was great, but I’m still hoping to one day see it performed with a live orchestra.  I also caught a couple other performances by smaller local companies, which were nice. Also saw a lot of modern dance performances through my school.  Most of the time I don’t understand what it’s about, but when I do – those extremely rare times – it’s awesome.

Then I got to be in a performance, which was just incredible. A LOT of work too, but a dream come true. It was so much fun to get to wear a tutu and dance onstage. I’d been wanting this ever since I first started ballet (though I never would have admitted it, because I felt I was being unrealistic), so it felt really good to actually meet one of my goals. Now that it’s happened, I feel a lot more calm about it. I don’t know yet if I will try again for another one, because sometimes I feel like I just want to remember how amazing this past experience was, and not ruin the memory by trying to recreate it. But, I may… I’m just not making myself any promises yet. If we do repeat the same ballet we did – unlikely, but a possibility – then I’m definitely gonna try out! I’ll train as if I was going to for sure either way.

This past year early on I also started pilates, doing it pretty consistently which gave me great results in improving my dancing (specifically balancing and posture – which came from imcreased core strength) but mostly an overall increase in proprioception and the little subtleties of movement)).  Seriously, it was the best thing I could have done for my dancing and for my body overall. My posture has never been better! Possibly equally important, I discovered body rolling on a foam roller (also through pilates class). I got myself a roller and now spend countless hours torturing myself with the zeal of a masochist slowly rolling out my tight muscles and fascia, which hurts so much that it feels good. My quads are especially tight, and ever since I’ve been slowly rolling them out I’ve gotten closer to the floor than ever in my front splits.

I continued on my quest to improve my jumps, and I finally found an answer (slow jumps at home, with a really deep plie, trying to jump as high as I can while pointing my feet, landing in a deep plie and holding it without allowing my torso to come forward, straighten legs, plie, repeat).  As a result, I no longer get corrected to point my feet, as I’m finally strong enough to jump and remember to point at the same time. My stamina could be better, but if it’s any consolation, practically the whole cast was huffing and puffing backstage as much as I was (and I’m way older than them!). So I don’t feel so bad about it, though I am working to improve it. Speaking of which, I also continued running after having started last year , though I stopped for a few months before my performance (not out of choice, but after running downhill one day and my knee feeling a little sore I decided to play it safe. I mostly just run uphill now. Not steep uphills (yet), just  slight uphills.)

On the not-so-fun side of things, I also had some minor incidents (I don’t think they qualify as injuries) this past year. I slipped and fell in the rain, and landed on my tailbone. It hurt for months (but I was able to continue ballet). Then, just weeks before my performance I landed wrong in a jump and hurt my hip and thigh. The recovery break afterwards did cost me some of my strength and stamina, but I’m recovering quickly. I’ve taken class a quite few times afterwards and I’m feeling stronger.

What’s in store for next year? My goals?

I would like to continue taking class as often as possible, at least 4 days a week, preferably 5. 1 year ago if I had read that I would have been like ‘yeah, dream on!’ but things have changed so much for the better that it is actually a possibility. Both the discovery of New Studio, and now being eligible for Intermediate at Adults Only Studio helped, but also the schedule at my regular school has improved. And what I’d be paying for about 5 classes per week for a whole month comes out to about what people in nearby areas are paying for just 5 classes – total. I feel so very lucky, to have these options available, which make it actualy possible for me to take class this often. So thankful.  And just knowing that I have my barre at home helps me feel like there’s always time for a little ballet.

Wishing you all a happy new year!

Oh, and I also updated the Learning Curve page if anyone wants to check it out. Newer stuff is at the bottom.

https://balletandorbust.wordpress.com/test/