So… it’s been a little while since the last time I posted on here…
Since last time, I quit ballet, sort of. Meaning I’d told myself I was quitting, and stopped going to class and everything. That lasted for… oh, about a week and a half, maybe two weeks. It was tough – everything reminded me of ballet. Listening to classical music was too much for me, since it made me want to get up and dance. I stopped coming by WordPress (though the thought of deleting the blog never crossed my mind, because I feel my story must be out there, so it can serve as… whatever people make of it, be it inspirational, a cautionary tale, or a mixture of both. Either way, it’s mine, unique to me), put my leotards away out of sight (a compromise from my original idea of giving them away). I was done, or so I thought. Then one day, even though I had initially told myself that I was done, I found myself at the barre at home. Who am I kidding – I can’t leave ballet now… or possibly ever. I need this, I need to dance.
How did this all come about? In short, I’d gotten really down on myself – about my slowness at learning, my inability to remember more than 8 counts (and I’m probably being optimistic there) of a combination unless I’ve practiced it literally thousands of time, how I get so flustered then and there in class/rehearsal in front of all the actual dancers (many much more experienced, and all most definitely younger than me), how I can’t even do that simple “it’s just a single” pirouette (and being called “negative” for stating the fact that I can’t), and yes, definitely not least in importance, my body issues (specifically the bouncing breasts, but I realize that my hormones felt out of whack there for a bit, as well as the fact that I may have been physically exhausted from all the extra rehearsing and practicing). I got to feeling that I was just making a complete fool of myself, feeling like ‘what was I thinking? – I can’t dance’. I decided to drop out of our upcoming recital, because of the reasons listed above, convinced that someone like me – older, slower, less experienced, bouncier – had no business there.
At first, I felt like a weight had been lifted, and I tried to convince myself that I’d made the right choice. But it felt like something wasn’t right, like I couldn’t believe that it could be over. I was sad, really down – like the pressure I was feeling from ballet was too much, but life just felt so empty without it. Although I tried to cheer myself up by immersing myself in my other hobbies and activities, my body wanted to move, to dance. I really couldn’t figure out what a solution would be. When I thought of ballet I wanted to cry.
Thankfully – and this is the super-abbreviated version – I got a push in the right direction to go speak with one of my teachers. It was the best thing I could’ve done, she was so incredibly supportive, and I found myself back in class (and rehearsal for the show). How I’d missed it!
Yes, I’d made the right decision, I can feel it. But still, this is…complicated. I don’t really discuss my conflicting thoughts regarding ballet on this blog – I mean, I do to an extent, but not to the fullest that my racing thoughts go – but let’s just say that sometimes I have my doubts that I’m doing the right thing, and my logical brain asks me ‘why are you doing this? what is the point? all that work, all that effort, all that time, for what?’. So my brain-logic part says all the reasons why ‘no’, but my feelings-heart says ‘yes’ (as ridiculously cliche as that sounds) and I’m going to go with my heart on this one – this is a first for me, so I hope I’m making the right choice.
Since then I’ve had a few classes back, and first of all, I think the break did me good because not only did I not really lose strength, if anything I felt stronger. My first balance on releve wobbled a little bit, but by the end of the first class back I felt I’d found my center again.
In Beginner class, we began working at the barre in both legs (instead of just the outside leg being the outside leg), so it was just so incredibly fun, the mixture of alternating legs but not at the faster tempo that we do in intermediate class. For center, we did waltz step, balancés, and temps lies, all things I enjoy. It was a great return to ballet, I feel like I couldn’t have asked for a better returning class.
In Intermediate class, we’ve been working on a new step, the mazurka. It’s pretty challenging, and I still feel ridiculous while doing it, but I’ve already seen improvement since the first time Teacher gave it to us (at least with the legs, I’m nowhere close to being able to coordinate the arms). Then we did a combination with 4 mazurka steps, balancé to the front, balancé en tournant to the back, pique arabesque, sous-sus, 3 pique turns, soutenu, chasse into chaines. The tempo was not too fast, so I had a lot of fun with this combination.
We also started working on tour jetes in Intermediate. I’ve done tour jete before, at New Studio, but there we hadn’t had the step broken down and really explained. Turns out that I’d been doing them completely wrong. Teacher gave me this exercise to help prepare for tour jete that’s really been helping: grand battement devant with the right leg, left leg in plie, bring the right leg back in as I rise to sous-sus, do a half-soutenu to face the other way, and bring the other leg up in arabesque. At first I did them super slow, just to get the coordination down, and then started working on making it more fluid. I still don’t have my tour jete, but thanks to this exercise I think once I do attempt it again my technique will be much cleaner.
Another thing Teacher worked on with me was the shape of my attitude derriere. Before I’d been told to arabesque and then bend the leg into attitude, and as a result my placement was often off. She instead had me go to passe, then rotate my hip back so that my leg was behind me, but trying to hold on to the same shape. I noticed the difference immediately.
So yeah, I’m back and let’s see where the ballet journey goes from here!
(I feel like I need to clarify some things: when I speak/write of me wanting to quit ballet because I’m too slow, forgetful, old, bouncy, etc., I speak about myself and my unique situation, and am in no way saying that any/every adult beginning dancer facing these issues should let these things get in their way. I’ve read so many blogs about adult beginners discussing feeling out of place in classes with more advanced dancers, feeling like there is something wrong with them, and the answer to everything always seems to be ‘you just need to find the right class for you! Ballet is for everybody!’ (I always imagine this being said in a nauseatingly high-pitched chirpy voice, but what do I know).
Well, this being my blog and my story, I feel the need to say that this is not an option for everybody. Some people are limited by their location or finances, and can’t just go around class-hopping (or school-hopping, or teacher-hopping) until finding the perfect opportunity or fit for them. So then we have the choice of will we push on and work harder so we can keep up and go on, or give up. I’ve chosen to push on and work harder, and it has been hard, so hard, but my love of ballet keeps me going. I realize I’m rambling, but I guess all I wanted to say was that just because I get discouraged sometimes doesn’t mean I’m saying that adult ballet must be discouraging, rather that being an adult learning with a bunch of teens who’ve been dancing for what seems like forever can at times be very discouraging. And, don’t get me wrong, my teachers are amazing and most days I love my school, but occasionally I can’t help wishing I could just learn with people my age or older, who face the same struggles or body/learning issues as me.