Tag Archives: learning styles

My (Forgetful and Weird) Brain and Ballet

I’ve mentioned how I’m not one of those people who learns how to move easily and through  observation only – I need to practice a movement to get an idea of what I’m doing rather than just watch a demonstration.  This is fine at the barre, because I usually (discretely) mark the combinations as the teacher is doing them.  In center it can be a bit of a challenge, as we’re often lined up, packed pretty tightly, and I don’t wish to draw any unecessary attention to myself.  Usually, I tell myself that  I will practice at home, so that I don’t full-on freak out when I can’t figure out how to do something.  Unfortunately, my short term memory is not the greatest, so even though I try to jot down basic corrections in my car before coming home from class to write about it, I end up forgetting a good deal of what the teacher says.  Thankfully, my brain does seem to remember things the second time around, so teacher’s repetition and consistent class attendance have saved me thus far.

Been practicing the chasses ( as taught by wednesday morning class ballet teacher), hoping to find my balance – or at least not feel completely lost.  At some point on thursday afternoon (yesterday), one of the teacher’s corrections popped back into my head : push your ankle forward.  Ok, that helped – before I had been trying to point out my foot. We were starting from a plie, so I guess I was trying to tendu from that position and then shift my weight over to the front foot.  Any other method of moving my leg just did not seem to make any sense to my brain at the moment. I don’t know what it is, but in class my brain and body sometimes just don’t want to cooperate, especially when learning new-to-me moves. Familiar moves kind of have become etched onto my muscle memore, so my conscious brain can’t mess me up too much.

Anyway, at home, in private and with no pressure, it just clicks.  So I tried the move again, this time pushing my foot forward but not to a point, just so that it was resembling fourth position.  And then when I shifted my weight I actually did not feel off balance. That’s when I remembered that the teacher had  mentioned something about fourth position, though I don’t know why I thought she meant to go through fourth, not go to fourth.  Nevermind that she was demonstrating it while saying it, but like I said, my brain works in weird ways. It was crazy, a complete 180 of how it had felt when I had tried to do it with a pointed foot. At first it was almost unbelievable, because as I had left class on wednesday morning I had felt like I had an almost impossible task ahead of me : figure out a way to not be tipping over as we make our way across the floor in this move.

Overnight, from thursday to friday , my body apparently forgot how it felt to do it correctly, because during friday’s practice I started to feel a little off balance.  I have no idea why my body instinctively wants to point the foot!  Then I remembered more that the teacher said it was almost like a skating motion and I realized that I had been doing it way too slow. Once again I had one of those everything clicks moments.

Notice how I was slowly remembering the information piece by piece over a period of time of two days. At this rate I would be lost trying to remember everything I did if I ever did make it to one of those all-day ballet class thingies! I want to think that if given the opportunity I would still try though.

I showed Boyfriend, who said he could actually see the difference and how I was more unbalanced by doing it the pointed foot way. I then told him how during class it’s hard for me to learn brand new things, how I have to repeat it a bunch of times at home, how I wish I didn’t have that issue with learning new things, especially when it comes to movement or dancing.  I realized that any time we are away from the barre I start to panic, and this keeps me from being as focused as I could be. He said that I need to worry less about falling, so I can focus more on my body and following the instructions but I said “I can’t help it. The whole first semester I took ballet I was always tipping over, and I couldn’t do anything without holding on to the barre at all.  So whenever we’re about to do something unfamiliar I start getting nervous.”  He made me realize that I am stronger now than I was then, so there should be no reason to be always assuming that I won’t be able to do a brand new move automatically.  Hopefully I can remember this…

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We may learn differently, but we do learn

You know how different people have different styles of learning,how some are visual, others are auditory, etc? And some people learn stuff physically with their bodies? I am not one of those people.

All my life I have had two left feet.  I don’t know if this is as a result of not playing any sports or I didn’t play sports as a consequence of it.  I guess it’s one of those ” did the chicken or the egg come first” things.  But my point is, I was not one of those kids that seemed to have this amazing awareness of their body.

The reason I bring this up is something my most recent ballet teacher said in class one of the last days while we were stretching.  She mentioned that as a child she had trouble reading and was considered to have a learning disability.  Academic subjects were very hard for her and it was only through dance and movement that she was able to get through it.

Here’s the problem though: she would run class as though we were all the same as her.  If we couldn’t pull off a certain move or combination(in my case jumping higher while pointing my feet or executing the whole thing twice as fast) she would tell us that ” we must not really want to learn” and that “if we put it out there it will happen, so obviously we are not putting it out there”.

And honestly this is messed up.  I don’t see how this would be any different from one of her reading teachers telling her that “she must not really want to learn.”  We are all different, with our own strengths and weaknesses.  If my (relatively) weak legs and high center of gravity make it more difficult for me  than the average student (if there even was a way of determining what is average)  to perform a move or moves it doesn’t mean i don’t really want to learn any more than her reading difficulties meant she didn’t want to learn.

This double standard is upsetting sometimes more than others.   In my year and a half doing ballet, there have been so many times when I have felt unnaccepted  or inadequate. And this is rediculous, no adult student should be made to feel this way.  Obviously I know that I’m not doing it because Im hoping to make a career of it.  Besides my inherent clumsiness, I am a decade or two too late.  I do it because it’s fun and makes me feel good.  But the way some teachers run their classes, it doesn’t make you feel very good sometimes.  It can make you feel awful.

But a wise person once said that” no one can make you feel inferior without your consent” and  she would be as right today as the day she said it.  And so I will go on.