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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Inspirational or demoralizing?


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Big Sigh...This message will sound a bit pathetic and I don't wany sympathy and I'm not fishing for compliments. I'm kind of just venting a bit and since I have no one to talk to here at work who understands, I will write it down on here as I think maybe someone will understand.


Last night I had my intermediate ballet class. We usually have our usual teacher but for some reason she was away so a dancer from a local company turned up.


Let me just say before I go off on my raving..this class was wonderful. He, the teacher was so absolutely gorgeous (not as in the attractive sense, although he was pretty handsome..) to watch as he showed us the steps he wanted us to do, both at the barre and in the center. He was breathtaking beyond anything I have seen. Every move was exquisitely done, and he was just saying 'oh you'll do it a hundred times better'.


I tried so hard in this class, but with every move I felt like I was some clumpy, awkward lump. I felt so upset during the class because I could see what he wanted us to do, but when I danced, I felt I didn't do it any justice. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed and then cross at myself.

Luckily there was one petit allegro enchainment that he did, that I found okayish and actually enjoyed. I did enjoy all the dancing, but I was just so frustrated with my body. He loves attitudes, both devon and derriere. Pirouettes in attitude, jumps in attitude, promenades in attitude the list goes on.

An attitude derriere is something I find so difficult. i find that it feels like I have so much tension in my lower back when I try and do them, and I feel so ugly performing them.


Anyway, our class has a lot of lovely dancers in it, so I kind of felt demoralized when I came out, or practically ran out of class. I just wanted to hide.


I keep telling myself that this should be inspiring to me, and in a way it is. I want to be able to dance the way some of the other girls in there dance, its just going to take time.


If I had a much bigger ego than I do now, or if I wasn't as confident of my self as I am now, I would not go back to that class. I would hide and go to a safer basic ballet class, where I feel I am more in control. But I won't. I'll tough it out in this class. I'll keep trying and trying until something good actually happens, it has to.

One day I will do an attitude that I can be proud of.


Talking of attitudes, what exercises can I do to improve them? I have been trying so hard for years it seems trying to get them to look pretty, instead I know they look awful. frown.gif



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I competely understand how you felt. I've been there a few times; I even cried after the class rolleyes.gif . I admire your resolve, and yes, you should go back to that class. If you have a friend in the class, you can suggest that you compete (in good spirit) in each combination. For example, jump higher, raise your leg higher, balance longer, etc. I did that with a friend of mine and it was great. We helped push each other toward improving our technique.

As far as attitude goes, I am going to tell you what I did and it helped me. I always had a good arabesque and attitude with the left leg in the air, but the right leg was the complete opposite. In the past 6 months I started stretching using some gymnastics stretches and it has helped me a lot. For example, with your feet parallel, lounge (sp?) forward with your right knee resting on the floor, while your left one is in the front and bent at at least 90 degree angle. Now stretch down so you feel the tigh muscle in the back leg stretching. If you feel like you are arching your back, then raise the heel of the front leg to demi point and then stretch. You can also pick up the back leg and bend it toward your back, you should really feel the stretch then. Also, I have been doing the splits with both of my legs parallel, and that has helped a lot with my arabesques and attitudes as well. Of course, please stretch slowly so you don't injure yourself. Hope this helps.

Good luck!



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Guest WendyMV

Hey Xena, I call this the Attitude helper:

Stand facing the barre with one leg (I'll use the right leg as an example) on the barre...plie slowly. Straighten your leg and slowly start to turn away from your leg (in this case, with your right leg on the barre, turn towards your left)...start bending your leg on the barre and turning until you are facing exactly opposite of where you were when you started (out from the barre) and your right leg is behind you in attitude. (You are holding on to the barre with your right hand and your left arm is out in second.) Plie and straighten slowly twice. With your left hand, grab your right hand and pull up your leg as high as you can, keeping your back arched. Then, holding your back up, slowly let go of your foot, hold the position (in attitude/high attitude) and slowly penchee over. (I really hope this makes sense!) This actually works best with a barre that is not too high or a barre that has a second barre under it that you can put your leg in attitude behind you. I wouldn't recommend trying this with a high barre or even a regular barre if you have a tight lower back...find a barre (or use a chair even) that would be level with where your arabesque is. Do you have a barre at home? I would use that and put a chair next to it so you could do this stretch (only when you're warmed up of course.) Anyhow, I have done this stretch for years and it has helped not only my attitude but my penchee IMMENSELY. Good luck! wink.gif

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Xena: I think we all know exactly how you feel, so relax. You're in good company. And I think you're in good company in as far as many if not all of us feel we do not perform to our best expectations of ourselves. I look in the mirror and dislike what I see immensely. I want a better attitude, cleaner turn, smoother glissade... But my teacher is always very complimentary. She always remarks that we look better than we think we do. I think anyone who takes this seriously is likely to be a bit hard on themselves. In this instance, you probably should seek input from someone else in the class. I'm willing to bet they think you did better than you give yourself credit for.


My favorite teacher is on a Balanchine kick (no pun intended) lately. Lots of small, fast foot movements. Very intricate. It's great to watch, frustrating to try and do, but we all psuh ourselves to get as close to what we see as "perfect" as we can. I love watching this stuff (especially when she demonstrates), but I'm always hard on myself after the combination is over. In this class, we're all very supporitive which really helps when it's over. It's nice to hear someone else say they thought I did better than I felt I did.


It may be as simple as finding the right people to do combinations with. I've found there are a few women in the class and one guy in another class I like to be with during grande allegro. We seem to feed off each others energy and put more of ourselves into the combination. It kind of surprised me the first time this happened. My teacher made this funny look and let out this squeal of delight about half way through. Whatever we communicate when we're together helps us both immensely.

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Thank you all for your ideas! Those attitude exercises I will definately try, and Ed , yes you are totally right in saying that there a few people whom I love dancing with in my class. I've only been going there 5 times so far, so its early days yet, but there are definately two boys and a girl that I totally feel the energy with when I dance with them. iTs great when it happens biggrin.gif

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I've been struggling with a sinus problem that's thrown off my balance. Yesterday was the best class I've had since mid-December. I finally was able to do pique turns again. I was very pleased with that.


My teacher usually makes the men go last. I was the only guy there yesterday so she let me go with one woman whom I've always enjoyed watching. That and we tease each other mercilessly in class. So, I was looking forward to doing combinations with her. It was so much fun. It was great how we worked together. Makes a lot of difference if you enjoy the person you're doing the combination with. We both had more fun and it showed.

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Guest Manhattnik

All this talk of teasing and playing around in class makes me wonder what I'm missing from my classes here in NYC, where it seems people come to work.


I remember being utterly stunned while taking a class during a visit to SF that the teacher would leave out fruit, cookies and other snacks on the piano from which students could top up on carbs if they felt their blood sugar getting low, I suppose. I couldn't imagine any teacher with whom I've taken class in NYC doing this, and even less imagine any student, adult or otherwise, actually noshing in class! (I rather liked this teacher, and chalked up the different class demeanor to the East Coast/West Coast thing.)


Frankly, I never find it demoralizing to be in class with dancers who are better than I am, which is a good thing, since there's a whole world filled with better dancers than I could ever be, and I resigned myself to that sad fact a long, long time ago.


Some of my fondest memories of the late, lamented New York School of Ballet were of standing behind (way, way behind) Sean Lavery and attempting to do everything just like he did. Of course, the idea, in one sense, is laughable, but I'm a firm believer in learning by a kind of visual and somatic osmosis. I remember for awhile I'd make a point of standing at the barre next to a woman with a really good port de bras, and, wonder of wonders, mine improved. A little.


That is not to excuse Xena's example of a self-absorbed, narcissistic teacher (I've had those, too -- I never go back), but rather to say I like to look on being around better dancers as a learning opportunity, rather than a cause for despair.

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I quite agree. As most of my teachers are women, there's little opportunity for me to learn from men. I've picked up quite a few things simply by watching other guys who were better than me whan they showed up to my classes.


As for the cookies and stuff in class, I think I'[d have a problem with that in a classroom.

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eek.gif Horror, i feel nothing but HORROR. What has happened to the confident dancer that once i knew (Skippy is back - I remembered how to use a computer and that it lived at my parents house). You have to remember that the people who are taking the class have had full training unlike you and i. You are a lovely dancer with lots of enthusiasm and energy for twenty people. I used to go to the advanced classes on Monday nights and the girls in the class were so good that i just wanted to hide in the corner, but it also gave me something to aim for. Its good to have someone like that sometimes as it gives you a new goal and new techniques to play with. Anyway keep that chin up and dance the way you usually do and you will be fine.



By the way you seem to be loosing your Englishness???? I noticed that you are now spelling in an American way (center - centre). I hope no-one takes offence to that, its not meant to be offensive just an observation. Hope you are well? Miss you over here in Old Blighty (Sorry about the personal note). biggrin.gif

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