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Ballet Talk for Dancers

26 and living in a fantasy

Guest babygurlesq

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Guest laurent

Dear All,


thanks a lot for all your encouraging messages. Actuallly the original intent of my message was to encourage Tracy, not look myself for support!


Of course i won't mind sharing at all my experiences with you, and each class is pretty much a new adventure, and so far i have only experienced highs...


As far as my plans go, i only have right now the baseline in mind. i am moving this weekend to the suburbs into a cheap studio. It is a first floor, long and narrow studio, so that i can jump and hang some mirrors on the walls. i am also looking to buy a second-hand ballet barre. Once settled i will have to design my own training program. I am taking classes in different dance studios, i pick and choose the teachers i like best and stick with them. i bought quite a few books about dance, stretching and anatomy, but right now i will have to switch to artist mode, that is go to the library every day and learn anything i can about ballet technique. i want to understand the why and how of everything, not just soak up information. i also plan to study also music accompaniment. i will also practise swimming as often as possible (i used to be a swimmer) for i believe it is a good exercise to stretch and it improves your flexibility (especially of the ankle). the good thing about swimming too is that you can do endurance work in aerobic mode, and therefore burn fat. It also helps develop your upper body nicely, especially the shoulders, and strengthen your back. Then i also plan to study some type of martial art (i am looking into Tai Chi right now), because i believe we have a lot to learn from Eastern philosophy. What strikes me most in ballet is how each movement is broken up into so many smaller components. Eastern philosophy teaches us that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so maybe there is another "tao" (way). Then two months from now i will have to find a waiter's job or something in order to support myself.

Right now i am attending 1-2 classes per day, at basic-beginner level. I do not plan to increase the frequency in the future, because it gets pricey. I'd rather concentrate at home. Even though i started only 2 months ago, i have quite a few anecdotes that happened to me. Being an ambidextrous, i will not linger on all the pirouettes and jumps where i turned/jumped the wrong way (and still do), something quite conspicuous during an adagio... i remember also one day i went to this Beginner class with a new teacher, and you know how sometimes some Beginner class tend to look more like advanced class. There were only girls and another guy (habitue) and me. Then at the end we did the allegro, a pretty scary stuff for any beginner. Fortunately men always go last so i always have some time to try to download what the girls are doing. Not so this time. The teacher said "Men first", so i quickly stood behind the other guy who knew what he was doing. So here we go, i try to follow him, looking at him from behind and in the mirror, and it is not an easy task. At the end of the first round, the teacher says stop and comes to me. She says: "Mister, i know that you are an handsome man, but when you do allegro, you don't admire yourself in the mirror, you look in front of you!". Everybody started laughing and i started to blush... Life is tough for a ballet adult beginner!


All right, i guess i'd better go and get some sleep if i want to be in shape for tomorrow's class unlike last week... After a copious dinner washed down with wine, i don't think i was sobber enough in the morning and went to class too early, that is i showed up at the basic class, instead of the Beginner class which is just after. I should have felt something was wrong when i saw some many new faces, and when the teacher put me in the center at the end of the barre (she wants me to be challenged i thought). As we were going through the barre exercises, i really felt it was much easier than usual, and time seemed to fly so quickly that the class was over before i knew. I started to think that i had made some quantum progress and was now ready to go to the Advanced Beginner class: that was cool. It is only once in the men's room that i learnt that i had just attended a basic class, which lasts 1h (instead of 1h30 for the beginner class).

Oh well, i guess i'll have to learn to be patient


good night!


1-2,3 2-2,3 3-2,3 4-2,3 zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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Wow, you've really thought about this!


About the going to the wrong class... at least the teacher thinks you are good enough to go at the front of the basic class, after only two months! As I said before, small successes. I actually like being at the front because it makes me work harder, there is no one to copy and I have to use my own brain to remember, not the person in front. smile.gif


And about getting a barre- My dad made me one from a wooden curtain pole, they come with wooden brackets to screw on the wall. It looks exactly like a barre. You might have to screw the brackets to a support plaque that is bigger than the bracket if you want to stretch by putting your foot on the barre- voice of experience here made the whole thing come off the wall first time around! wink.gif It's very strong now though. The curtain pole cost £8 ($12?) so, much cheaper than a real barre. Have fun!

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Guest laurent

Hey Lolly,


thx for the tip. actually i had already thought about the IKEA curtain pole but i prefer to have a "loose" barre so that i can move it as i feel in front of the mirror. i think im gonna visit the studios and flea markets for the mirrors and barre, u never know what you can find.

small successes... hmm... i believe more in the theory of "plateau": you progress on the learning curve with a succession of steep increases and valleys. you get your highs while in steep mode, and get the lows while in flat mode. i believe the classification of levels (basic, beginner, adv beg, int...) reflects this progression, with the plateau being at the junction of each level...


have a nice weekend,



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Hmm. Not sure about that- if the plateaus come when you are between levels, isn't it an artificial obstacle in your way of further progression? I just found that out a couple of weeks ago when I learned I wouldn't be taking grade 6 exam this term. I feel I could be progressing, if only there was something new to learn. (I do have stuff to work on now, thanks to Mjr Johnson smile.gif but I still feel I should take the exam!)


I would agree that at the start of a grade/level, the learning curve is very steep, especially if the class is full of people who know the syllabus. But that is just learning the enchainements, at least for myself you don't have time to concentrate on technique because you are desparately trying to remember which pas de bourree comes next! I think it is once you get past the first month or so in that level, when you have a better idea of the set exercises (or of the teacher's style, if there is no syllabus) and you can really concentrate on technique because the steps are in your head already.


For example, I just realised when I am standing in 5th croise, I lean towards the front foot, so there is little weight on the back foot. I've no idea why this is- maybe "presenting" to the audience too much as I have my head to the centre. It's not in preparation to use the back foot, I always have to transfer the weight to the back so I can use the front foot! Anyway, I must have been doing it for some time because I keep catching myself doing it now- it has become a habit. But at least I am catching it- small success.


I think progress is more of a personal thing, like even if your class works on pirouettes all lesson, one person might learn how to find their balance better, another person to use their arms, another to use their releve... but each part goes together to make your pirouette better. So each person's pirouette improves, but for a different reason. That's why i'm not sure about Easten philosophy being applicable to ballet (although I am sure it is, I just don't understand it yet!) because a pirouette isn't just a turn, it is all the things that make the turn.


Does that all make sense? Please tell me if you think i'm talking rubbish!


I hope you manage to find a barre- you are lucky to have the space to move it around, as I can barely do grand battement en cloche in my room!

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Guest laurent

the reason why you have plateaus between levels is because you are supposed to master the current level before moving on to the next one. In any subject, each level usually includes a set of components that the student is supposed to master. and it always take time to try to master things, even the most basic.

ok, maybe my theory is over-simplistic... but i remember when i was learning salsa, i came to reach different plateaus, and it was very obvious to me and very frustrating. i just could not assimilate anymore the new material. you feel you've reached the top of your learning curve.

i've had some problems with 5th too, and one of my first question was: do we always put our weight equally on both feet? i still have problems with closing my 5th in demi-plie from behind and keeping a constant-equal turn out on both legs. but im making progress!

regarding Eastern philosophy, i have to investigate it a lot more myself, but i don't think it is about doing a perfect pirouette the first time ever after 2 hours of meditation. it is more about being aware of your body and not treating it like a machine. when i was studying piano, i had a very strict Russian teacher, and she would give us tons of exercises to do to improve technique. the amount and variety of drills she would give us was just mind-boggling. yet there was another well-known indian teacher who had a completely different approach, with the same of best results. and again, i am very new to this so this is just an intuition but you can do this little test: stand in 1st position and look at your quadriceps (front thighs). unless you are perfectly balanced and "zen", your quadriceps will be contracted without you to notice: it is a nervous "reflex" that prevents you from falling forward (the same type of automatic neuro-muscular response that prevents most men from doing splits). If they're not contracted, contract them. Now look at them and try to tell them to relax. you see the muscles drop over your knee. now as you find your balance slowly lift your head to look at yourself in the mirror and check that the quadriceps are still relaxed. if they are, it means that you've found the perfect stance, IMO. Most books and teachers will tell you to contract the quadriceps and buttocks for a correct stance. it is easier to be balanced this way. the difficult part is being balanced while being relaxed, which requires a great awareness of the body. like the Tao says: "Stiff and unbending is the principle of death.

Gentle and yielding is the principle of life". And for me dance is life. ok, enough rubbish for today wink.gif

as far as battements en cloche, i don't have the same problems as you because:

- my room IS my appartment (so it is slightly bigger than a room)

- i don't do battements en cloches yet biggrin.gif

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If you do find an Eastern meditation technique which enables you to do perfect pirouettes after 2 hours, be sure to tell us all! I for one have reached my plateau with that step right now! frown.gif


I think you are right about being aware of your body and not treating it like a machine. I find it very difficult to think of everything at once when I am in class, so it is usually that awareness that gets left behind in favour of finding higher elevation or extension- even though it is that very awareness that I need to get the better elevation and extension!


At the moment I am reading Dr Seuss' "Oh the places you will go!" for encouragement and support of my dream. I know it sounds silly but it makes sense! It said inside the cover it was written as a graduation speech- it didn't matter whether it was kindergarten graduation or medical school. So, if you get the chance in the library when you have had your fill of ballet for the day... wink.gif

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Guest laurent

im not a huge fan of self-help/motivation books, but i'll have a look at it. i think it is more important to know yourself and the world around you. An accessible book about this is "Please understand me II" by Keirsey (they also have a test online). Once you recognize your true self and the fact that everyone is unique, you see the value in everyone of us, regardless of titles, power, rank, money, beliefs. You understand that it is more important to be than to have. Then you are ready to find your place in the world. You won't need any self-help books then, because unlike the majority of people who act under external pressure, your strength will come from inside, from your most profound inner-self. You will become the instrument of your destiny. Free flow. Just like when you let yourself go, dance and be one with the music... Of course not everyone is lucky enough to find their calling at age 4 (like Mozart) or even 19, but maybe it is better this way. Maybe it is better to believe that at any time your personality (a product of genetics, upbringing and experiences) can lead to an array of potential callings, so that at least we can feel that we have a choice... smile.gif

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I don't believe in self help books really either- but this is a kid's picture book... kind of anti-self help I guess! It's funny, but true in what it says.


I actually believe I am a different person now I found something I love to do- I think if I met anyone now who knew me before I was 19 they wouldn't recognise me (my personality) because my life has an entirely different focus. I don't pay much mind to external pressure because I can exert enough pressure on myself- I know what I want to do now, so I just have to get on with it! smile.gif Of course it helps to talk to people here and ask questions and they don't think you are completely loopy for caring so much about getting the perfect pirouette!

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Hi Laurent


What an amazing thing you're doing! Your courage and conviction in trying to be the person you know you truly are is admirable - an example to us all. I'm rather envious - here in the UK it's a problem finding one class a week for adult beginners, let alone one a day. It's maybe possible in London, but with the cost of living there it would be virtually impossible to devote a year to ballet as you are. But maybe that's my lack of conviction talking...!


Anyway - best of luck, and keep us all informed of your progress.


[ October 29, 2001: Message edited by: Mr Robin ]

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Mr Robin, I know what you are talking about! I looked into taking a class in London everyday, but with the train fare (London is an hour away from me) and the higher class prices there, I worked out it would cost me the same per month as I earn! frown.gif


I don't mind giving up stuff to dance- I do already- but I still need to live!


How do others work round this- getting a reasonable amount of classes at the right level, if you can't get them all in one studio, or one city?

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Guest babygurlesq



Did you ever encourage me! Thank you. Quitting for a year is JUST what I want to do. Alas - there is no way I can afford it.


And now I ahve also found the perfect teacher PERFECT PERFECT.....but I can't make most of her classes only one. frown.gif


I won't give up though. smile.gif Sorry I was away so long and that it took me so long to respond. Ihave to run but will be back later so I can read your posts more carefully and compare notes while we stretch biggrin.gif .


I'm very proud of you (sounds silly but I'm proud of any adult beginner who gets "the feeling" and throws themselves into it head first! smile.gif ) - you're an inspiration.

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Guest babygurlesq

And to everyone (LEX - thank you, thank you, thank you in particular for that story. Yesssss - I knew it was possible!)thank you as well. I will return shortly to respond.


Atti2ude - how is it going? long time no speak.....


Hope all is well. I'll be back later on.

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Guest amdewitt

Well, hello babygurlesq! You're right; it has been a while. I hope all is going well for you. You'll have to update me on the classes you decided on and let me know how they are going...


Well, I'm actually going to give you my update, but on this new thread for us newbies, Adult Beginners November 2001, so that everyone can benefit from my mistakes, LOL...

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Guest laurent

Mr Robbin,


thanks for your post and sorry for my late reply... i've been tangled up in my move and had to have my new phone line repaired...


Money, money...


funny you should mention that... in the last couple of weeks i have been ripped off by a broker, a landlord and a moving company...


When you live in a world surrounded by people with deeper pockets than yours, and for whom money is just an end in itself whereas it is only a means for you, life can get pretty challenging at times...


Yet it seems impossible for us to conceive a life without money, so much have we become dependent on its comfort, security and alleged power. For most of us making money is the definition of the meaning of life. money seems to be engraved in human nature... Rather it brings out the worst of human nature: it destroys families and lasting friendships, triggers wars, vanity and greed...


So it is up to you to choose whether you'd rather be than have. it is my belief that money never gets in the way of those whose heart's desire is earnest and pure.


As a quick finishing note, for my last day at work my boss invited me for a good lunch. i asked him if he wanted to hear my story, he said of course but i could immediately see that should he be a Martian, it would not make much difference. So i asked him: "if you did not have to earn money, what would you do with your life?". He tought for a second and said: i would repair pinball machines... At the beginning it did not seem to me that this was likely to improve life on our planet, but at least it did not cause any harm to anybody. so i inquired a bit more: are you more of a craftsman or an engineer, what is it that you like in repairing pinball machine? he said he was more of an engineer. Then he said: there this one guy near my place, he has a huge garage with hundreds of pinball machines... He buys them used at 200$ a piece in Europe, refurbish them and resell them here between 500$ and 2,000$ a piece!... *no comment*


Well, this has taken us a long way from ballet, but i guess the moral would be that if you really want something badly enough (i.e dancing ballet), money should not be a stopper at any rate...

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Hello again Laurent


Money, money indeed - don't get me started on this one! I share your distaste in the matter, and believe that most of the faults of modern society are a direct result of our obsession with money and its elevation beyond a mere means to an end.


I'm glad to say that money has very little meaning in my life - I know that fulfillment is not something that you can buy, despite what the forces of consumerism would have us believe. I am fortunate in that I work doing something that I love - I do it because it brings me true fulfillment, not because the wage it pays allows me to buy nice things.


So I don't think that it's actually money that stands in my way, but rather the fact that my heart desires more than one thing. If you were to ask me the same question that you asked your boss, I'd reply that I'd divide my time equally between the work that I do now and ballet. I want both, and I think that would go for a lot of people.


As I said before, though, perhaps this just shows a lack of conviction. It is possible that the fulfillment that I'd find in a year (or a life!) devoted to ballet would hugely outweigh the fulfillment that I currently find in work, but is it worth giving up one thing to see if another exists? The answer is probably yes, but attachment to anything - money or otherwise - is a very powerful force to overcome.


This is an interesting discussion that - as you say - touches on much wider issues than ballet alone. Perhaps we should restrict the conversation to ballet here, but if you'd like to continue the discussion on a wider level, e-mail me! My address is robin@danceart.net.

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