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Ballet Talk for Dancers

First class

Guest plain-dancer

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Guest plain-dancer

Well, finally. Intro to Ballet II started its new session, and I was there.


I'm full of mixed feelings. I've been living in ballet fantasy-land for so long, 18 years now, reading everything, dreaming, and daydreaming, watching, researching and imagining, that it was strange to actually be there, and equally strange to be so bad. I've always made so much of the little ballet I had...I had to eke out those tiny portions to keep it alive for me over so many years...that I sometimes forget, or am dishonest with myself. Honestly...I had a year of ballet at 5 years old, then I took maybe 2 dozen lessons with a horrible Dolly Dinkle who put me on pointe after a week when I was 19, one class at a good pre-pro school, and then I took maybe 5 lessons at another studio, a year later.


And. That. Is. All.


And I forget the truth about that. In my head, I've always been taking class. So I realize now, for all intents and purposes, today was really my first ballet class, and I should use that to gain perspective on how things went.


But even so, it was humbling. I did very well at the barre, I think. I got a lot of corrections, the teacher is hands-on and very helpful, and I managed to keep most of them from exercise to exercise. That was encouraging. The center-barre (is that what it's called?) where we did tendu, arabesque, etc without the support of the barre, was not great, but not bad. Interestingly, my develope to the front and side were worse than anyone else's, but my develope to the back was the best! Moving across the floor was hard. I lost my confidence a few times and did that lame thing where I stopped halfway across the floor, confused and red in the face. I didn't want to do that -- I wanted to stay confident, even when I messed up -- but I reverted to my old shame-faced ways. I can't change it now, only try for better next week.


I also tried not to feel self-concious that I was the largest in the class. I'm not fat,(5'8, 140 lbs) but I really was jiggly. Myself in pink tights in front of the mirror...ooooh. The top half looks like a dancer. My arms are long and graceful and my port de bras already almost halfway decent. My neck is long, my eyes are big, and my head is small and neat. If I can keep my shoulders down and my breastbone up, I smile, because it's pretty. Then my eyes travel down to a slender waist, and then down...to a big round soft pair of hips and a round pear of a behind...and down to soft, wide, jiggling thighs. Oof.


I've decided to be good and just take this one class a week for now. I know I need more than that, but from all the reading I've done and on the advice of people I respect, I am not going to mix teachers at this early stage. I found a quote from Cecchetti:


"If you feel that you are not making progress do not hastily leave your teacher. There is a trite epigram, which states that one mediocre master is worth more than three good ones. A mediocre teacher, however limited his knowledge, will teach all he knows. Now let us suppose that you are in the care of teacher A; you are dissatified with your progress and pass to the care of teacher B. Now there is nothing upon which a good teacher prides herself so much, as the superiority of his {sic} own method. The first question you will be asked is: "From whom did you receive your previous training?" You will naturally reply A. Your reply will immediately arounse his animousity towards A, and he will tell you that A's method is of no value, and the sooner you forget his principles, the better it will be for your knowledge of your art. But in course of time you may find that even with B you do not make the progress expected. Again you change your mind and pass to the care of C. In a very short time you will be so confused with the new method of C and the lingering remnants of the teaching of A and B, that you will know nothing of either the methods of A, B, or C."


Now, I don't think that my teacher is by any means mediocre, but I think if this advice goes for three teachers in a row, it probably goes triple for three teachers at a time.


I took the Intro II class because the Intro I class, taught by the same teacher, conflicts with my work-study shift. I talked to the work-study coordinator and the teacher yesterday. They don't really want me to change my workstudy (I'm comitted for 3 months) but they said to try tonight's class, and if it was too hard, then we'd talk about changing it so I could take Intro I. One good thing was that after tonight's class the teacher said I was good enough to stay in Intro II. The sad thing is, I wish I could take I and II at the same time! But what I am going to do for now is take the whole eight weeks of Intro II, even though it is just once a week, and squeeze every drop out of it that I can. In the meantime, I am going to join a gym and do what aerobic excersise I can, three times a week, to try to burn off some of this extra "softness". I think the elliptical trainer should be good for that -- low stress on the joints. (I'd love to get someone else's point of view on this). I'll also be stretching every night (out teacher went through a good routine of stretches with us). And I'll attend floor-barre 2 or 3 times a week. I've been told it's not necessary, but in the two weeks I've been doing it I've already noticed a difference in my flexibility, it's different enough for "real" class that I don't think the teaching method can conflict, and it's also really good for my mental health, to be doing more than the one class a week.


Then, after eight weeks of the gym 3 times a week, floor bar two times a week, and class once a week, I'll re-evaluate.


I took a few ballets on video tape out of the library to remind me, in the meantime, that ballet is not just me jiggling and turning red in class! :blushing:

Edited by plain-dancer
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Plain Dancer- I know exactly how you feel.

You sound like you have a good outlook on it all though. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much better you will feel about yourself after each subsequent class.

Elliptical and floor barre sound like a great way to supplement too- but I'm not expert. B) (I Do find elliptical a great way to get a cardio/fat burn workout without stress on the knees..)

I say hang in there, and enjoy your beautiful port de bras, your love for ballet will come through! And don't look at the parts you think are jiggly! :devil: Is there a uniform for this class? Because pink tights are not very forgiving, and I think some black tights might help you feel better (speaking from experience.. ) Also some sweet knit warmup shorts or a cute skirt. :blushing:

Congratulations on making it to the day you've been dreaming of for so long.


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Guest plain-dancer

Thanks for your warm words, Sandi!


There is no uniform, but I've read many many times that pink tights make it easier for the teacher to see what you are doing, especially in the early stages. And I did get several corrections about my knees that I don't know if she'd have noticed if I was wearing black tights. I wore a skirt into class, but there was a fan going very strongly near the barre, and it kept blowing my skirt upwards. :blushing: It was so distracting that I finally just got mad and took it off, and I found it was easier to watch and make sure to keep my hips square without it. So I guess I'll just suffer the jiggle till it's gone! :blink::wub:


I feel better this morning than I did last night, and am really looking forward to next week!

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Hello Plaindancer! I guess I've told you before that I love to read your posts! I don't know how many times I have felt that same "deer in the headlights" feeling in the middle of a combination I thought I knew. In time I have learned to "wing it", as I imagine you will also eventually learn to do (and if you can do it gracefully, you may not even get corrected).


I had a conversation just yesterday about how ballet teaches one how to accept failures and imperfections in oneself whilst still striving for excellence. I used to think the two were mutually exclusive of the other. How frustrating to realize that my desire for perfection was so tainted by my own imperfections as a dancer. Patience and passion intermingled together over time and long hard work, lots and lots of hard work, molds us into ballet students and perhaps someday, into true dancers. Some of my non dancing friends call me a "ballerina". I can't consider the thought of myself being in the same group of women who have spent most of their lives training to be called by that name. And they would even consider themselves still in "training".


I guess what I'm trying to say is that IMO ballet is not about being perfectionistic but about striving for excellence. The prior defines an inability to accept something that is not perfect and is frought with continuous sources of frustration and anxiety.( After time, that situation usually makes a person want to give up or makes them "stuck" in a negative state). The latter accepts the imperfect self but does not stop practicing and striving for the ideal, despite failing to meet that ideal time after time. It's the "striving for" that defines, not the "getting there". Ask any dancer what their weaknesses are and they'll be able to tell you far more than any of us amateurs (speaking for myself, of course) would ever notice by watching them. But they know their imperfections intimately and have learned to manage them by practicing the ideal over and over again, sometimes not ever actually reaching that ideal.


You don't sound like you're being perfectionistic, actually. In fact, I have felt the same way as you so many times myself. But, don't forget to accept yourself, especially if your frustration seem to be dragging you down and you start to lose motivation for the ballet you have dreamed for so long. Keep that "fantasy ballet" in your minds eye,it is the ideal to always motivate you to dream and express yourself, it's part of what ballet is all about. Now, just gradually add the work, patience and time.


I hope I don't sound like I'm being too preachy. Let us know how you do.



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A couple of things I was thinking as I read your post:


1. You've been practicing visualization for years. Now your body just has to realize that you know how to dance. :devil:


2. Center work is hard the first few classes. I instantly turn dyslexic when we get away from the barre! :wink:


3. Don't worry about the jiggle. Just find the "skinny mirror" and stick to it like glue! :shrug:


Have fun!



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Guest plain-dancer

Both of you, thanks so much for your posts! I love the camraderie of this board.


I just got the "Ballet Fit" book, and I'm finding it's really worth it, even though I'm wary of doing their "workout" at home before I have more classes. I'm deathly afraid of messing up and making bad habits. It's so hard to be patient...it reaaally bugs me to do just one class a week. Spoiled! I've been reminding myself how desperately I wanted even one class when I was 11, and counting my blessings.


But oh...my...god. Tonight was work-study and Damian Woetzel came in and did the intermediate class. I got so flustered signing him in that I messed up the sheet and had to fill out a whole new one. My god! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! I peeked at the class through most of the end of my shift and he was amazing. I think I was the only one that was having a fan-girl freakout though. Everyone was way too cool to let on that they noticed. I've been going "aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh!" in my head every four minutes since. It's like being a 15 year old again.






Okay, with that smilie overdose I will go stretch.

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Awesome!!! :huepfen:

Great to watch fantastic dancers (and cute ones too) in class!

I'm looking forward to hearing about your future classes (and future star sightings. :blush:

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plain-dancer—I love my star sightings too! I never would have imagined when I was younger that I could watch these dancers, take class with them or change in the same dressing room without being an amazing dancer myself! It really helps me to relax and have fun. After all, I'm not going to be Michele Wiles; I can just admire her dancing.

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I get so flustered every time Damian's at Steps I want to hide :blushing::wub: .

I think he's probably used to (and likes) being gawked at...I notice he always picks a spot right by the doorway for barre and center. :wink:

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