The Learning Curve (Updated 2/17)

Sort of a personal “ballet timeline”. Newer stuff added in chronological order at the end.

Not to be confused with the blog post entitled “The Learning Curve” at http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/20/

Time is such a strange phenomenon; a time period which can seem so long while living it when reexamined in memory may turn out to have lasted merely weeks. Often times I find myself pondering over my ballet past, reliving and re-enjoying the good moments, the successes, and wishing away the bad ones. Slowly through time, as they become distant memories they matter less and less. So what if people laughed at my jumping attempts first semester or I once slipped and landed on my bottom while ballet running (hmmm, should I write about this one?)? It was a long time ago!

That said, I decided to make a timeline of sorts to keep track of my ballet learning curve, especially my pre-blog ballet history. This way I may feel I relieve my brain from the exhausting task of holding on to the information – and feel awesome about how far I’ve come after having a bad class day. I must always remember – or be reminded : As I start at my own starting line it’s futile to race against someone who started elsewhere along the road. Even though we may both be headed toward the same unreachable finish line… So, enjoy the journey.

I will update in a vague manner as time passes, saving the details for the blog posts.

February 2013June 2013

Started ballet for the first time ever. Knew absolutely nothing about it – not the positions of the feet, or arms or the names of any moves.

At the start of the semester I was terrible at ballet! Couldn’t balance, even with two feet, on releve, not even for a few seconds. Couldn’t balance during any kind of weight shifts, or even plies unless holding the barre. Pretty sure I was holding the barre with the “death grip” – finger’s wrapped all the way around, gripping tightly, definitely not just resting my fingers on it lightly. Definitely couldn’t balance in center, even on two-footed flat first position or anything, unless I was perfectly still. I remember when First Teacher said something about shifting our weight forward, off our heels, and I was thinking “How?! How does she seriously expect us to do that?”. Previously I had had no idea that I was so weak.

(Read about my first ballet class ever at: http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/06/17/in-the-beginning/   and, of course, center at http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/06/18/getting-centered/ )

By the end of the semester (16 weeks later), I had learned a lot (which is probably not much of an accomplishment, since I started from scratch). I could get through a basic plie and tendu barre routine, though looking back now at the video footage I made Boyfriend take, there are so many obvious errors that I can see: my elbows were pointed and unrounded, falling below the level of my hand, my hands themselves are not arranged in a beautiful, delicate shape, just an awkward mess of fingers. I had not been able to figure out how to point my feet yet. Coordinating the arms with the legs during any of the moves was still out of the question for tendus en croix or rond de jambes, though I was managing ok with plies.

As far as center, I could manage to balance on flat while tenduing front and a la seconde, could shakily do a few other moves, sometimes losing my balance, other times not. Couldn’t remember combinations for the life of me, but I was getting better at understanding ballet-French.

On the bad side, this semester my classmates were exceptionally rude and immature, and the “best dancer” (who later ended up being a sub for a class I took) and her clique were extremely intimidating.

And let’s not forget my very public – though strangely not humiliating – final exam for my first semester: http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/reminiscences-my-first-ballet-final/

July 2013January 2014

Practiced at home, feeling discouraged by my experiences in class first semester, yet I knew that I wanted to continue doing ballet. What I didn’t want was to find myself in ballet class once again utterly unprepared and wishing the ground would swallow me.

Using my memory of the barre combinations from the semester, and the help of videos from youtube, I practiced ballet on my own. Slowly I started to improve, increasing my arm-leg coordination. By the start of my second semester – marking my one-year anniversary of my first ballet class – I was not feeling completey uncoordinated about barre. I could even sort of point my toes at last.

At the same time, other aspects of my ballet-ing were so discouraging. I wondered if I’d ever be able to tendu reliably in center without losing my balance, and I struggled with temps lie.

I practiced passe releves and pas de bourree with both hands on the “barre”, dreaming of the day when I’d be able to do any of these moves in center (you know, without immediately falling over). For now I was just grateful to be stong enough to do them at all.

February 2014June 2014

New, class notes from second semester, part 1: https://balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/flashback-notes-from-second-semester-part-1/

The semester of class with Strict Teacher. Improved my technique so much, though class with her was hard and, honestly, very stressful (As in, “I occationally had nightmares during the semester” level of stress). Still though, stressful ballet instruction is better than no ballet instruction, and I did learn so much technique-wise this semester. Finallly figured out what was going on with the hands and arms (she dedicated plenty of explaination to this), learned to stop sickling my feet in coupe (after she pointed it out to me), learned to releve sous-sus and echappe.

As far as center goes, my waltz and balancé improved much, as well as my two-footed flat balances and weight shifts. My jumps, especially my sautes were horrible, as Strict Teacher clearly let me know.

Strict Teacher was not approachable at all, and the few times I did get over the intimidation factor and try to ask a question after class she was not very helpful. She had no suggestions (with the exception of the sickling during coupe correction) other than “You’re doing it wrong”, no helpful suggestions or exercises I could do . She seemed impatient or exasperated by my clumsiness and slowness at understanding – and executing – new concepts. Clearly played favorites (but isn’t this an unfortunate fact of life, as I’ve come to find out?).

Received a lower grade than I deserved that semester and I was pretty pissed; I work really hard on my ballet technique and I scored well in the class’ written exams. Never before had I come across an activity with teachers who were so discouraging to students!

(More about Strict Teacher:

http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/61/ and http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/on-the-positive-side/ )

June 2014

Started this blog.

July 2014

Started classes at Adults Only studio with Evening Teacher. Sprained my ankle during July, so that slowed down my progress a little bit.

August 2014- December 2014

Started my third semester of ballet. So glad that I decided to keep taking class, with a different teacher. Teacher was awesome, for the first time felt as though I was taken serious as a ballet student. Improved my technique lots and Teacher was very helpful, giving suggestions for additional exercises to improve and always answering my post-class questions with a smile. Finally I feel like my learning curve is heading upward. Details in my blog posts.

Oh, and I finally made the decision to begin working out in September 2014. Much improvement in my ballet-ing (specifically my jumping) since then. I’ve heard teachers say that doing the ballet moves will build up your muscles.  That is true, to an extent, but some of us need a little extra help (hence, the working out). It may have to do with the fact that I’m not still a growing adolescent, and I’ve read that as one ages muscle is the first thing to go.

December 2014February 2015

With a reduced number of classes since the semester ended (including three weeks completely class-less in December), I’ve been doing a lot of practice on my own.  Mostly preparing for the Spring semester, and Intermediate class.

Started a very intensive Pilates course in early January. My balancing has improved so much ever since I started working on really pulling those shoulders back! Not to mention my increased core strength.  Seriously, running and Pilates were the best things to ever happen to my ballet progress!

At some point in late January I started getting closer to a full revolution on my pirouette (en dehors) when turning towards the right. It’s totally not consistent yet, maybe one out of five or so.  I haven’t been able to do a full revolution towards the left yet.

I’ve also been working on my en dedans pirouettes, which came instinstively easier at first to me, but then the improvement curve dropped off.  I mean, yeah, I can “wind up” and make a it all the way around, but I’m trying to work on doing it slow and controlled. Still working on my head spotting.

My across-the-floor turns have improved though. Besides continuing to work on my chaînes, I’ve also been working on my pique turns and step-over turns (which make me think it’s what would happen if chaînes and pique turns had a baby (you know, if they weren’t turns w/o reproductive organs and all (and my ability to go on tangents amazes me…))).  Pique turns were introduced in class later on in the semester, step-over turns was totally me taking initiative.  But they’re so fun! I’ve been practicing doing 3 or 4 (as much as living room space permits) in a row of each one, as well as mixing them up (like two step-over turns, then chaines).

At “barre”, I’ve been working on my fondue releve (en croix), and there’s definite improvement since last semester ended.  I’ve also been doing developpes starting from passe releve. It’s weird, but I find it a bit easier to balance when my leg is stretched out in front of me than in passe.  It probably means I’m doing it wrong, but we’ll see as I get corrections once the semester begins.

In center, I’ve been doing passe releves over and over, both from fifth (passe leg in front) and from fourth (passe leg starting behind), trying to get the feel of it.  I think it’s working, because I have a lot less apprehension about doing passe releves. I’m also pretty sure that my leg strength is up to par, it’s mostly a muscle memory issue by this point.

In order to be better prepared for intermediate class, I’ve also been doing a lot of good old fashioned research (youtube, LOL), trying to figure out what’s the difference between beginner class and intermediate. A past classmate told me that in intermediate class the teachers expect you to know the names of the moves, but other than that I was clueless. From what I gathered through my video research, there’s a lot more combining different moves in the same barre routine. So I’ve been trying to mix it up, not just practicing the same barre routines but having a little more variety.  (Did you know that cambre front from second position is exponentially harder than from first or fifth? I do now! Must be the fact that you can’t squeeze the thighs together, relying mostly on core strength, or something.)

Oh, and I started working on preparation for fouettes at the “barre”: going to passe releve, developpe the leg out, then kind of eh dehors circle it around to a la seconde and bring it back to passe.  It’s intense for sure!

Anyway, I’m hoping that all this prep work I’m doing will help so that I don’t feel completely freakin’ lost when the semester starts. I already have an idea how beginner class goes, but intermediate – uncharted territory. So excited/nervous!

(February 2015 – June 2015)

I attempted to update previously, but WordPress glitched and the new stuff I’d written was lost. That was more that a little discouraging (I’d written a lot!), and it put me off from updating again anytime soon. But I gotta keep this Learning Curve thing accurate, so here goes attempt #2.

This semester I attempted to do Beginner Class (BC) and Intermediate Class (IC) back-to-back.  It wasn’t a very well thought out plan.  The two classes came at the end of a long school day, and I had been cooped up in the car since the morning (my first class was at 9am, and ballet was in the evening. No option of going home in between.).  It was very difficult on me to be on campus for 12 hour long days and be able to concentrate on ballet at the end of it.

IC was challenging, very challenging.  The barre combinations were super fast, lots of arm-leg coordination, beated frappes, and in center there were steps that I’d never learned before.  I felt like I had when I’d first started ballet: discouraged and oh so clumsy and uncoordinated! This, combined with the schedule, led to me dropping out of IC after a little over a month (out of the four month term).

Honestly, I regretted it a bit after the fact, and wished that I had just stuck it out.  I felt like a quitter, but if it wasn’t working out I didn’t really want to force it.  If there is something you love, sometimes you need to give it some space, not force things.

At the same time, I was able to sit back and reevaluate my progress.  There was the whole thing of accepting that my learning curve is slower than most of my classmates’ and to not beat myself up because I don’t learn things as quickly. I made the best of it in BC and had a great time while working on technique. I started seeing some improvement on things that had been so difficult for me, like passe releve balances.  As there were some intermediate level students in class, we occasionally did higher difficulty stuff and I was able to participate.  It was a great semester, overall. The group of students in the class was a friendly, supportive bunch – no “mean girls” at all.

In mid- May I fell (outside of class) and hurt my tailbone.  While it hurt horribly for about 2 weeks, as in I couldn’t put any pressure on the area at all, it took a little over a month to feel almost back to normal.  Those first few weeks post-fall doing sautes hurt so bad.

Towards the end of the semester, Teacher let us know that over the summer there would be a mini-intensive, 6 weeks, 4 classes a week over 2 hours each.  After much deliberation – and some advice from all of you here on the internet, lol – I decided to go for it.

June 2015 – July 2015

I did the 6 week mini-intensive and it was absolutely wonderful.  I learned so much and had such a great time.  This was my first time working with F Teacher since my first semester ever, so I was able to learn and apply corrections without just being concerned about not falling over.

Just from the beginning of last semester to now I can see the progress. My weight shifts have gotten so much smoother, and I actually can somewhat keep up in center (except petite allegro – that is a mess!)  Whenever a new clas term begins I always marvel on how as little as a few months ago I couldn’t do something.  I remember this time of year last year there was no way I could do a pirouette at all, and even by the end of last year I still struggled with balancing on passe releve.

It was nice to do so much work on releve at the barre.  It was even nicer to not feel completely sore afterwards.  Though all the jumping was enough to make me sore…

This session we did a lot of work on arm and leg coordination. Not just basic arm-leg coordination, like tendu devant with arm in high fifth, derriere with arabesque arm, but only one port de bras with 8 degages for example.  Also, beated frappes are starting to make sense! This is the kind of stuff in IC that I felt horribly lost on, so it was good to get the practice.  After this session I feel like I’m much more ready to take on IC, which I will this fall.

Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t know how much of my struggles in IC were inside my head.  What I mean is, from the moment I found out I was going to be allowed to take IC I had conflicting thoughts. On the one hand, I was thinking ‘yay! I’m going to take IC!’ but on the other hand it was like ‘Oh crap! What if it’s too hard for me? What is I’m not ready? What is it goes horribly wrong?’. I think I built it up in my head to be harder than in needed to be. I’m not saying that it’s easy – I mean, it is still ballet – but I’m saying that my attitude was probably not where it needed to be. That, and I may have just had too much on my plate at the moment.  Without getting into details here (since this is a ballet blog, and that has nothing to do with ballet), I did a similar thing in a different part of my life (build something up until the intimidation of the fear of failure convinced me to quit) at around the same time, so I think some of the residual disappointment was still affecting me. It was a blow to my self-esteem, I’m not going to lie.

Getting back to the topic of ballet though, I’m so glad I went for this summer session. I had my doubts about it too, and I was so nervous before it started, but I pushed on through.  Ok, you want to know how ridiculous I am? I almost tried to convince myself that my leg hurt so that I could use that as an excuse to not go (my leg is fine)! Just because I was afraid, not of class, but of how I imagined class would be. This ‘imagining the worst stuff’, it’s got to stop.  I can’t be too afraid to live my life because of ‘what may happen’, you know?

I realize that rather than just writing about ballet I’ve been rambling about my issues again…

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to the new ballet semester. In the meantime, I’ve been really enjoying my ballet practices at home (though I do miss having a teacher around, for sure.  I try to imagine that a teacher is there to make sure that I don’t slack off and get bad habits!). I’ve also been attending some classes at other dance studios outside of school, so that I’m not just working on my own until the semester starts.

 

August 2015 – December 2015

This was definitely an interesting time period in my ballet timeline. I wanna say it’s when ballet got fun, but that comes out wrong (like if it wasn’t fun before, which it was). I guess what I mean is that since I wasn’t completely focused on my precarious balance (having finally improved enough to do weight shifts confidently and stuff) I was able to feel more like I was dancing, especially in center. In barre too, though – my musicality definitely improved.

I was taking class very often, almost daily. I don’t know if that is the reason I felt so much more coordinated, or if it was simply a sum of all the other classes I’ve ever taken finally having a cummulative effect. I suppose it doesn’t matter.

During this time is when I finally saw improvements in my jumping (specifically sautes and echappes). Not just the little subtle improvements of over the past year, but big improvements. Finally, this session I stopped being the one that was asked to repeat the jumping part of class because my jumps were so terrible (at least by the end of the 16-saute set). Even when Teacher was watching like a hawk she stopped correcting me on pointing my feet or getting out of timing. Jumps have been the bane of my existence since I started ballet, so I’m happy that at least basic jumps are going well now. Jumps with beats, umm no. I don’t even know if I should say “not yet”, or just “no”, since I’m mostly going to be taking Beginner Class this next coming months, and we only do beated jumps in Intermediate.

Speaking of which, I decided that I want to do Beginner Class for a while so I can build up strength and work on technique without risking hurting myself seriously. I landed a sissone incorrectly and hurt my hip and quad. That, combined with being constantly pressured to work in a fully-crossed fifth position, made me realize that I need to take it easier. Rather than quit or take class less often, I decided to do Beginner class instead. Of course, I’ll still do drop in Intermediate at Adults Only studio, but not the more rigorous Intermediate class at my regular school.

As I mentioned, my balance and weight shifts have improved so much. What has not improved is my speed. I found that it was the tempo of the combinations that was my biggest challenge. It felt like I could do it all, if only it was much slower. Another reason why I’m going to be taking Beginner Class, I guess. (Oh, and avoiding that obnoxious guy who feels justified in trampling over everybody – or at least me – in center – that’s another awesome reason to mostly stick with Beginner Class, LOL!)

I still don’t have an ultra long balance in passe releve at the barre, but when we get to center I am able to balance up there, so who knows what this has to do with. My pirouettes are hit or miss. Actually, by late December I have a clean single to the left (en dehors), especially when it’s mid-combination. To the right, it’s still struggling along…

Something else I struggled with this session was pique arabesque with a controlled plie down. By now I think I’ve got it (I was practicing it at home earlier, actually), but when I first started learning it a few months ago it was horrible.  The choreography I learned for the performance had a few of these, which caused me much stress. But it turned out ok.

And yes, I got to be in the school’s ballet performance. One of my biggest accomplishments so far, for sure. I mean, to go from the incredibly uncoordinated person who couldn’t even balance on flat while doing a demi-plie to being up there on stage dancing (in the corps) before a crowd of almost a 1000 people, that’s something. This shows me how so much is possible if we put our minds to it!  Hard work, determination, patience – if only I’d been capable of this kind of dedication and work ethic when I was younger. But, we live and we learn.

Another thing that happened during this time is that I stopped having that feeling of being an impostor during class. For the longest time I worried that the feeling would never go away, but it finally did.  I used to feel that I couldn’t really dance because everyone else would be like ‘get out of here! you’re not a “real” dancer and everyone can tell!’, so I would just go through the motions, feeling somewhat self-concious. That’s not happening anymore, and I’m thrilled. I have no idea what brought on this change, but I think it’s just a lot of muscle memory and repetition. If it was anything I could actually control I would probably just make a mess out of things. Anyway, I guess I just want a permanent reminder that at this point I started feeling more like a dancer and less like a dancer wannabe. In fact, this is probably the biggest improvement over the last six months. Well, this and the jumping.

Jan-Dec2016

Oops, apparently I didn’t stay up on this Learning Curve page this year (though I continud blogging). It’s a shame, because I think I really expeienced much growth this year (my third year doing ballet).

This year I started off in a mini-intensive Beginner class 4 times a week, 2 hours pr class. After that, during th Spring session I took class 4 days a week (2 Beginnr, @ intermediate) as well as a rehearsal for the show class. I alsotook two classes a week of Beginning Modern. During te summer I took a Bginner level class four days  a week,,  worked on my own doing Kathryn Morgan classes on youtube during svhool breaks. In the fall I took so many classes! 2 Beginner classes, 1 intermediate, and one labelled Int/Adv. I also had three rehearsals per week and took Hip-Hop twice a week (no Modern this session). This is probably the most dancing I’ve ever done in my life. This, coupld with an Advanced Pilates class I was taking had me in constant soreness!

This year I did plenty of performing – 1 show in the spring, and a series of show in the late fall. Well, these are the ones in the actual theater; if we count the more informal ones just in the studio then I did something like 7 pieces additionally. Even choreographed some of them myself, which really filled me with a desire to someday choreograph for the theater. I mean,I’m not going to lie, I’ve been thinking about it for years, but something about it now feels different, more possible perhaps. All I know is that I feel a need to dance and create more than I even did before.

Technique-wise, I continued improving this year. Things that really helped: doing stuff at the barre with my hand slightly off of it, this made me way strnger and improved my balance; really memorizing and working on my ‘facings’ (croisse, efface, etc); and, believe it or not, challenging myself. During th summer session, my teacher (G Teacher) gave me a variation to learn that at first I was like ‘He’s kidding! He expects m to do that!?’. Even though I thought it was beyond my skill level, I set to work learning it, practicing it, and I really pulled it off (He even said he was ‘very impressed’). It really opened my eyes to what I could potentially do.

This year I struggled immensely with the decision to go en pointe.I had been approved fot pointe by a teacher in Fall 2015, bt since these things aren’t free I didn’t go get the shoes but instead tried to make myself feel better because to be approved is in a way an accomplishment of it’s own. I mean, from where I started whenIwould losemy balance if  I would plie without holding the barre and all…

(And I wrote a bunch of stuff which WordPress glitched and erased, so we’ll see if I return and update when I get over my irritation…)

5 thoughts on “The Learning Curve (Updated 2/17)

  1. Pingback: 2015 -What A Year | balletandorbust

  2. Holly

    This is so great, it’s really encouraging because I’m in my version of your July 2013, if that makes any sense, and I’m dealing with a lot of the same problems as you did. So thanks! 🙂

    Reply
    1. kit Post author

      You’re welcome! 🙂
      I’m glad it’s encouraging. The first year or so can be really tough (well, it was for me), so I was glad to show that it gets much better!

      Reply
  3. Holly

    Also, can I copy this idea? Credit to you, of course (idk whether this is a thing you invented or not, but I haven’t seen it before, so I thought I’d just check).

    Reply
    1. kit Post author

      Go for it!
      I’m not sure if I invented it either, to be honest. I hadn’t seen one of those before, and thought it would be good to have an abbreviated history all in one page so I could refer to it when I’m feeling down about my current level, or ‘why aren’t I improving? oh, wait, I am’.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s