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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Movin' On Up...


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Hello everyone....! In the past few years that I've been on these boards, I've been happy for many of you fellow adult dancers. We have dancers who have danced with companies, got great musical theatre jobs (SingerWhoMoves, where are you?), who have gone to ADC, are intensively training over the summer, starting new dance courses, who have started pointe, submitted PhDs, come back from injury, made films, started teaching, started familes (yay!) etc. I thought it might be interesting and fun to take stock and share stories.... Think of it as a mega-champagne couch, but with educational components! :(


But, I'm also putting this on the technique boards because I think with this growth/personal narrative also comes a technical narrative, that includes an understanding of our own bodies, a greater nuanced appreciation of our own techical accomplishments and challenges, and an increasing acknowledgement of the complexity of detail within technique. I'd also love to hear stories from our teacher-moderators and their experience with encouraging adult dancers through some of these life transitions.


I'll start - I'm spurred to write this because a year ago today I did an ENB/Adult Ballet Day at the RAH and thought that it would be my last class ever... Yup, I thought I was quitting, and here I am! It's been a long journey back - due to some personal issues, my dissertation and later defense, and later an ankle injury, I didn't get back into it really until mid-March. I've learned that nothing matters - number of classes, performance opportunities, 'status' - NOTHING - if there is not supported by a fabulous teacher who generally practices good training practices. I have found the strength to say NO to dancing, if these conditions are not met. It's not an easy thing to do, but so good for me in the long run.


I'm dancing with three lovely teachers right now who are encouraging and supportive. I'm very very very slowly getting back into point work with lots of intensive eyes on me. And here's another thing I've learned: sometimes, some serious time off can help one overcome plateaus. My alignment in class is so much better now because I'm a bit beyond the time needed to have to unlearn bad habits, so I'm starting a bit from scratch. This has suddenly made me an en dedan pirouette person, which is nuts! These teachers that I'm with now have been both understanding of the challenges of life (and the final days of a PhD, crazy workloads, etc) as well as understanding of my need to dance - in some ways, I guess I feel that they have a decent understanding of me as a well-rounded person. One of the teachers is a former professional that I take classes with - she heard me say that I missed performing, and invited me to come to her rep class that she teaches to some of the older teens. I learn the variations on flat, but it's been a lovely way for me to still have the opportunity to express myself through dance, and I'm so thankful that she recognised my desire to do this and treats me as a normal member of class. We've learned four Kitri variations, which has been fab (I'm doing them on demi, don't worry!)


I guess beyond the PhD I don't have a big 'movin' on up' story, but I am glad to be back dancing, and right now that feels significant enough! I'm moving in a month, and just hoping that I can find some more excellent teachers....

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I started back up a year ago. In that year I went from Intro Ballet to Ballet 3 (there are 4 levels where I attend) and I am performing this Saturday in our recital. I broke my foot doing a pirouette in January - was out for two months and so, technically, I only have danced for about 10 months all together.

I'd say this is a huge achievement on my part.

I should be up a level and starting pointe next year, I'd think - if I continue to work this hard!


Sorry, short and sweet reply.

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Great thread topic, Ami. For me, I've noticed that as I get older, I understand technique better, even if I can't do it quite so well!! Oh the irony!


I'm back in class after a rocky 18 months after a bad wrist break, and real overload at work (I wondered whether I was close to a nervous breakdown a few months ago). It's really interesting to see how much muscle memory there still is. I still "look" like my body knows what it's doing, and one of my teachers has commented on how quickly I get my strength back. Although at almost 50 I find I'm unfitter than I should be.


So I am resolving to turn my brain power on the science of getting fit again, and getting my flexibility back, without injury. Rather than just bashing away at it, which I've always been able to do before, I need to be cleverer at it. But what IS nice is that I'm getting better and better at remembering combinations.

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I was back for a while, and danced from January to June with great strides in alignment and core strength. Unfortunately, I broke a bone in my foot hiking and am out for 3 weeks, but plan to be back in July. I'm a bit frustrated with my left foot and ankle, every time I really start to see improvement something happens. It also sends me back to square one with pilates as the walking boot is too heavy to really work with. This makes me feel unfit as well. i hope to regain strength and dance again either later this summer or in the fall.

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I've been out of action for (wow) coming up on two years from a knee injury. I'm getting ready to move to Colorado in two weeks and have found an adult class once a week for an hour. I think I might take it to see if my knee will handle it. Of course if that works out for me then it'll be full steam ahead to find something more challenging because that's the way I am..........whole hog or no hog. I've started doing elliptical because my cardio is ATROCIOUS. And going from sea level to 9,000+ altitude is going to be a major change too. I'm on the downward slope to 32 and for some reason unbeknownst to me my flexibility just keeps getting better. Sometimes it freaks me out a little.



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missvjc - I didn't know you broke a bone! Yuck! How frustrating. Do you have a good physio or doctor? My physio made a world of difference in strengthening my ankle in a way that protects it, if that makes sense. Still more to be done, but it's in good shape. I also took returning to dance very very very slow, which was hugely frustrating to me, but necessary.


And WM - I didn't realise you'd been 'out' for so long. Take care of that knee! But it seems that work keeps taking you to new and exciting places, yes? That can be really helpful sometimes.

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I took some time away from ballet to study modern and contemporary dance (almost everything from Cunningham to Contact Improv to Pina Bausch to Yvonne Rainer through the ages - funnily enough, I didn't touch Graham). After performing my own dances and working closely with other choreographers in the creation of theirs, I've discovered I have this amazing new confidence. It's not that my technique is that much better than when I left off, but I feel as though I have a different relationship to movement and music than I did before. Much of the less technique driven and contemporary (ie. postmodern) dance I've studied gets a bad rap by those who believe ballet is the one true dance form, but I've gotten so much out of it. My horizons are officially broadened.

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Blaise, I've often posted here about how further study of contemporary dance forms (I did study Graham!), and particularly release-based work, have helped my ballet.


For me it's what Ami started the thread talking about -- that journey deeper and deeper into knowledge. And as an adult [perpetual] student, I don't fear "infecting" my ballet technique, because I'm never going to be a pro ballet dancer. When I have performed (very rarely) it's in contemporary choreography -- my Graham teacher was an active choreographer, and used to like making work on me occasionally.


I find that the increased freedom (or illusion of it) in contemporary actually helps me wor out for myself some of my alignment issues in ballet, and I also love the floor work using my back, and my feet. I don't have great ballet feet, and working bare foot in tendus etc in contemporary work really helps me articulate the work of my feet.


So I get a bit of what you're saying. I'd be interested to know where/how you think your technique is stronger now? As I said for me, it's working the spine, and the metatarsals.

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Oh! So a reply that's ON topic (:rolleyes:).........


I've learned to listen to my body. If something doesn't feel right then I either won't do it or will try to find another alternative. I was at a studio that really pushed me and I let them. The result was my knee injury. I have learned to turn my feet in while in first and fifth positions.....there is no need for that perfect turnout at my age.


I've also noticed that I really understand what the teachers are saying when they try to describe the feeling or movement to the young dancers. Not that my body will actually do what my mind understands and I mentally visualize, but I know what the teachers are talking about and can feel it.




PS - Ami.......it's actually my fiance's work (in management with Wal-Mart) that's taking us everywhere. We're getting married in August and will probably be putting roots down in CO. He worked there 4 years ago and was lucky enough to get back into the same store. He loves to ski......I sit at the base and freeze. ;)

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Wow. It seems like I've been gone for ages. Haven't danced since October 2007 at all. About the time that I started back to pointe work, I started having unexplained, painful swelling in my toes, and while the doctors haven't definitively said so, it seems likely that I have Raynaud's Syndrome (a really extreme vascular reaction to cold). Took me out for four months until the weather started warming up (and limited me to Uggs as my only form of footwear!)... I was thinking about getting back into it this spring since I miss class desperately, but now I am 8 weeks pregnant with my second child, and my midwife won't let me start back into anything that strenuous right now since I haven't been dancing consistently. I'm thinking about taking some "absolute beginners" classes which shouldn't be too strenuous, but for all intents and purposes I won't be able to take my regular classes again until this time next year!


So, I guess the only growth I'm showing right now is my waistline!


WendyMichelle... where in Colorado are you moving? If you're at 9000+ ft you're obviously moving to the high country and not Denver, but still, I might be able to recommend some adult classes for you when you get here. PM me if you don't want to post publicly!

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So I get a bit of what you're saying. I'd be interested to know where/how you think your technique is stronger now? As I said for me, it's working the spine, and the metatarsals.


The spine was a big thing. I've learned to release in that area and I'm much more fluid in how I move. Loosening up in your back and shoulders has such a great impact on the rest of the body's movements all the way to the tips of your toes and the ends of your fingers. Mostly, it's just a mental thing. I'm using muscles I didn't really take much notice of before and I approach even my tendus differently. I've gotten a lot stronger overall and the dancing I've been doing has been just as if not more physically demanding than ballet ever was. It's a completely different mindset. Asking your body to move in different ways isn't a "corruption" of classical technique. It's a supplement.

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We're moving to Frisco. It's between Vail and Breckridge. I found the Frisco Ballet and they are the place that is offering the once a week adult class. I've searched until I'm sick of it and can't find anything else, so if you have some suggestions that would be great!


Love the waist comment too! That was cute.


Blaise, how do you loosen up your upper back and shoulders? I carry a lot of tension in that area and suspect that is largely what the problem is with my arm placement.



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First, congrats to both rockymtdancer and WM! What an exciting time for both of you - I hope all preparations are going well. And WM, instead of freezing in the base, get thee into a hot tub!!!!!!


I guess what I was trying to get at in this thread is a combination of things - the combination of 'life changes' (whether it be moving, new jobs, entering full-time training, dancing professionally, being a mom/dad - anything!) with changes in our understanding/approaches to technique/dancing. Often we think of some of these life changes as just something we do, or something detrimental to our dancing - but it needn't always be the case. For example, in the long run, time out was an excellent thing for me. (Another thing is that it's really great to hear about all of you, what you are up to, etc... inspiring!).


WM, what I meant is that sometimes it is easier to deal with not dancing/changing hobbies/etc when you are in a new environment, not surrounded by 'dancing friends' and the like, and perhaps then less acutely aware that 'there is class tonight, and I'm not there.' It sounds like for both of us the time off has been useful - we both seem like folks who sometimes just dance even when we shouldn't, and hopefully we've really learned to take care of ourselves!


Blaise - I did a lot of modern/contemporary in undergraduate, mainly Hawkins based with a bit of Laban stuff thrown in as well. It was extremely useful for me - and really the beginning of me understanding the structure of my body and how it worked. I still find myself doing some of the warm-ups that we used to do, and some of the passive stretches. I'll always be a ballet baby first, but I'll also always carry what I learned in those classes with me.

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Blaise, how do you loosen up your upper back and shoulders? I carry a lot of tension in that area and suspect that is largely what the problem is with my arm placement.


The dancing I did asked for a lot of fluidity out of not only your upper body but every single joint. A common warmup we did was to put on some music with a strong beat and focus on moving parts of the body in isolation, one at a time, until you're thinking of moving every joint in your body at the same time. And by moving, I mean just that. Moving. No steps. Just wiggling or rolling every joint, kind of like a snake. It's important to take your time and vary the speed at which you move. Start with just the toes, then move up joint by joint. If you do this before you ballet class, people will stare at you like you've lost your mind, but it's a great way to release tension.

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In response to ami's clarification on her post...........


Since my time out I have moved to Hawaii and been here almost a year (the 26th of this month). It has been a wonderful experience and I am so glad I've had the opportunity to do this. Living here is something most people would never dream of. I had always hoped that maybe this would be a honeymoon destination but it ended up being home. I met someone on here who pointed me in the direction of some studios. I did one class back in the fall but my knee was too weak to handle it. Unfortunately, I knew the class schedule and it was always in the back of my mind, "I could be at ballet right now!" I finally made the difficult choice of not dancing. It was a sad, but somewhat cathartic, experience to go through my dance gear and gather it all up. I actually ended up donating about $600 worth of leotards, warm-ups, wrap skirts, and pointe shoes that were ordered and didn't work to the school where I took the one class. The teacher was just awesome and had an amazing personality. She actually cried when I took the stuff by one of her classes and dropped it off. She sent me a thank you note and told me that the stuff had especially helped an adult student who couldn't find dancewear on the island (and it's too expensive to order and have stuff shipped to the middle of the ocean).


I also got engaged in February and will be getting married August 15th back in TN. Both of us have grandmothers with cancer and the rest of the family is getting up there with age as well. Everything is pretty much ready.......we just have to fly in and show up at the appointed time. :angry:


As I mentioned earlier, we are moving to Colorado on July 3rd. I've already scoped out one studio and have their summer schedule (I did keep one set of clothes just in case). I'm also going to be a first time Mommy and am scared to death! We pick up our little Binki, a long haired cream colored Chihuahua that will probably be all of 3 lbs. soaking wet, on July 5th. I'm already in Mommy mode reading a book so I know what to do and look for, buying her little harness vests, a fleecy blanket, and toys. I just hope she likes me!


When I had to stop dancing in October 2006 I was devasted. I really was. It felt like a piece of me had been taken away. I had to do something with my body and started yoga, pilates, low-impact cardio, and light weight workouts. There was still an empty spot, though, that's been there up until I donated my stuff. That was sort of me accepting that I will never again dance at the level I was, if at all. It was a sense of closure on one end, and on the other I realized that there IS life without ballet and all the hectic running around after work to get to class on time, etc. I really miss it and hope that I will be able to do the once a week class I found for the summer. But I know that if my knee can't handle it that I've at least tried and tried again and sometimes it's okay to say goodbye to a part of your life that meant so much. In Oct. '06, I wouldn't have been like that and would NOT have accepted that. So my time away has been good both personally and dance wise. It's given me time to reflect on everything and the will to accept what may or may not be.



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