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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Something has to be done


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I had one of those moments of cruel reality dawn on me when I watched my parts in the Adult Dance Camp video that came last week. I appeared to myself as one of those apparently delusional people who turn up at TV dance auditions having no decent dance background.

For those of you who were there, I know you were distracted by your own performances and those of other buddies. My hope is you wouldn't even have noticed.

I was actually really impressed too. On the whole it was impressive for all those adults to show up, live through the week, learn the choreography, and brave the stage at all. I am beyond proud of myself for all that. Actually I like the stage so I guess there is no reason for me to be proud of going on there for me, but learning the choreography isn't so easy even if it doesn't come out looking like expected.


OK. I looked critically at myself. It was pretty much my first time ever seeing myself dance real ballet on video and I did allow that I made some nice lines during the pas de deux.


It did not however, look at all like it felt at the time. I thought I was looking pretty good. I was ready to show off the pas when I came home if the opportunity presented. Now I am kind of glad it didn't. I do not count my balance trouble against myself either for those who saw the stumbles. I have a valid medical excuse on that and I know it didn't happen on every rehearsal, or they might not have placed me in front. The ballet classes help with my balance issues.


I am not and never was one to run screaming at nasty little realities like that or swear off dance forever after a bad class. I am just not that dramatic. I think this calls for help so it never happens again. I am a bit scared that the theory that some people hold that there are those who will never improve, gain coordination, look half decent dancing, or however they say it might be true. Some parents have been known to say "Don't bother with dance lessons for that one" with some unlikely kids, but I always thought those were the ones who needed class the most. Could "hopeless" be real? Is that why teachers of adults don't bother correcting some of us most of the time? At least I have had a few corrections to lend me hope.


I considered that I was premature in attending Adult Dance Camp last summer according to their own program standards, but I went anyway because the chance might not come again.

Olddude said that he was the worst one there his first time. I guess somebody must have the honor at each session. I do not know if that was me or not at this point.

Actually, I just scraped in for qualifications with my time back in classes after my 25 year hiatus, but then they were not as picky about that as the website sounded. When I signed up I may have forgotten to take into consideration that 2/3 of my time back was spent doing barre only, and would have a negative effect on how I presented in center during class and on stage during performance. Then I have certain medical issues, but I don't think those were affecting me more than anybody else's were affecting them....if they involved pain anyway.


The trouble is that I knew pretty well that the one piece was going to look less than what I would hope for because it was a lot of fast little jumps that I could barely keep up with and some turns that I never actually felt confident with. I considered opting out with the other woman who felt her performance might ruin it for others. That made me feel awful when she said that to everyone and wouldn't be talked into joining in, and I had already had my costume made ahead of time for the performance, so I wasn't going to opt out, even with all the jumping. I think just a few of us could have used something easier on that one, but the level 2's and 3A's were performing together on the variations.

The other piece actually felt pretty good but for some places with some questionable timing. Unfortunately it looked like a few good poses, a few not as good because I stumbled, and then the rest didn't even look like dancing. I had no grace in my movement. :yucky::blushing:


I feel like I should be reporting in for ballet rehab or remedial class or something. I had classes where they taught a proper ballet walk way back in the day and gave corrections. That would be good if it existed somewhere. They stopped the beginner level class I attended last year. I wish I could find and afford semi private good hands on classes.


I really wonder if there is a way to catch up on all that missed time in center so my skill level balances out??? I was about to say I feel fine with Barre at higher levels, but unless I see that on video too, who knows? There isn't really much feedback or correction on a regular basis where I take class.


I also am a little horrified and embarrassed that I felt like the need to go from level 2 to level 3A at camp because I was so bored in the level 2 at the pace of things; except for pirouettes. I stayed in level 2 pirouette classes. I am used to a much harder level at home (like their 3B or 4)...in my head anyway. Now I know I looked more like the other level 2's than I thought and it may have been more appropriate to stay put.


What I could also use is a class for the simplest of jumps. They can be hard on my one ankle and knee because of the tibial torsion, but with proper control, and not going beyond where I know what I am doing or getting too tired, it is safe. Most of my classes have been beyond my level for petite allegro and I have opted out of that (or marked only) even when staying for full classes. I have really got to figure out something to do about that. I do not want to be skipping whole chunks any more.

Oddly, grand allegro has been easier on the leg than petite allegro. I think it is because I have so much deeper a plie on one side than the other that coming down on two legs can be a problem for the shallow side if I lose control at all.


I have actually been to only one class since watching the video. It did not go well. I was just back from time off for the seasonal crud and seriously lacking in energy. My focus was also off for my awareness of my lack of grace, which only made things worse. I could hardly keep up with combinations at the barre, much less try to make them look nice. I wore my new frilly lace skirt that I had made by one of the campers like the ones for sale at camp. I started to feel like I looked like I was there to look cute rather than to work. I was among almost all people I didn't know and got self conscious. It wasn't my day. I might just save my "camp" skirt for when I feel like class is going better and I am not psyching myself out.


I think I will practice ballet walking around the house for a while.

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I wasn't gonna be the first to comment on this, so I'm glad you did. My teacher wants to see the video. I'm afraid to show her!!!


I know *I* was working with a rather badly sprained ankle, on the ankle that WASN'T broken, plus not fully recovered from the other one -the broken one. There were few wobbles but man! it looked like I had NO turnout whatsoever in the Pas piece.


The repertory piece looked good, for our group, I must say. Except for that one lady's arm that wasn't in the right place in the one time....erm, *cough* - and that was MINE! *sigh*


I have conveniently forgotten what the variation looked like - or rather, what *I* looked like in it.


What I do have to say is....I feel I looked about average - no worse or better than anyone else for the most part. I'm pleased about that. There's a lot to say for being "average." :-)


Laschwen, do not, do not, do not beat yourself up over this. It is highly unusual to learn, rehearse and perform a piece like this in a week, for people like us.


I'm adding extra classes after Christmas to get ready for 2009 Richmond and told my teacher that if there's no intensive before I go, I want a lot of private lessons to make sure to maintain my condition (praying it doesn't deteriorate by then!!). :yucky:

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Are you able - or allowed - to put your bit on Youtube, so that we can all share?



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At the first camp I attended, in 2007, other dancers clued me in to an important secret - dance camp videos are rated on a scale of 1, 2, or 3 bottles. That's how much wine must be consumed in order to watch them!


OK, it's an exaggeration. But I swore - and have stuck to it - that NOBODY watches that first video sober.


This year was better, I watched it with my wife - not alone in the dark when nobody was home - during dinner. So only modest lubrication was involved. I agree, it's shocking how little the video resembles what is in our heads. Serendipity has seen (if she watched the whole thing) the men's variation, where it basically looks like we are just shuffling around. And I can assure you, it was exhausting - 75 seconds of completely anerobic flat out effort. So the camera is not exactly flattering. If you look closely, even the professional men who are helping with the partnering do not look as good as they did in real life. The lift I did in the Rep piece was bigger, higher, and further than any rehearsal, and I was very happy with it. On video it looks like her feet barely leave the floor for a half second.


One thing I take away from this traumatic experience is the importance of dancing "big". Easy to say, hard to do! Life is crowded and compressed, most of us have learned to keep our heads down and be inconspicuous - at work, on the urban streets, in school, it's everywhere. Ever had someone say "show me some ballet moves" when they find you take classes? There's never enough clear space around you to comply! And even studios are compressed spaces, with the mirror right in your face and the other students close enough that you are always aware of them so you don't run into them. But the theater, even a very small one, is huge by comparison; you can barely see the dancer's faces wearing stage makeup.


Of course, if we were not all of us self-critical perfectionists we'd have given up ballet long ago in favor of something easy like triathlons or astrophysics. The video is one of those cases where denial is a useful tool which you must learn to use. A dark closet to hide the DVD in helps...


Are you able - or allowed - to put your bit on Youtube, so that we can all share?



No, there is an express prohibition right at the start of the video. Plus, you would likely not live through the next dance camp...

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An addendum for Laschwen and all the rest of us:


This evening over dinner, I described this thread to my wife. You must all understand, I admire her for many things, but a major one is her ability to see situations clearly when the rest of us are losing our heads.


What she said was, "...it's like you're feeling bad that you only got a silver medal at the Olympics". The fact that we were there at all puts us so far ahead of so many others that feeling bad is basically ridiculous.


Well, there are 6 or 7 billion people on the planet - I've lost track. If, say, 65,000 are adult ballet students then we are one in 100,000 - we should worry we are not yet one in a million? Harry Potter would banish a boggart in a fraction of a second with this one!


Yes, we've been married over 35 years. Now you know something of why. :yucky:

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As a neuroscientist, I find it very interesting that we dont perceive our movements as others see them. A couple of thoughts: what we perceive are our intentions, not the results of those intentions. This is why we have to dance big - because we dont move as much or as expressively as we intend. Secondly, I wonder if in some ways our perception switches off when we are moving - so that it is difficult to truly see in the mirror what we look like - though it is only too horribly clear when we look at a video afterwards.


I use a video for dance or a sound recording for playing music, as a very basic learning tool. And perceiving yourself more as others perceives you comes with practice.



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While I haven't participated in the dance camps at Richmond, I have participated in a number of workshop performances that were videotaped. :blink: *sigh* The last one was particularly hard to watch. I hadn't performed in anything in over 2 years, and the last video I had seen of myself was from a performance of a modern piece and it didn't look half bad. :blink: Then I performed in a ballet workshop this summer. I didn't have any solos - just part of the corps (ooh - actually, I just remembered that I danced a very simple variation - I guess I blocked that out). I felt pretty good about it - until I saw the video. I just remember thinking that I looked like someone who was getting old and was hanging on for too long. The other dancers looked so young and energetic, and I looked like I could barely get my behind off the floor (and I really do feel like I normally "dance big" - one of my teachers has always pushed on that and I feel like it's one of the few instructions that I've managed to absorb over the years. Apparently it's not big enough).


For several weeks after viewing that video, I really thought about just stopping ballet.


I think Jimpickles comment about how we perceive ourselves is very interesting - and I suspect it works in the reverse as well? Perhaps we are zeroing in on our perceived flaws so much that we're not seeing the overall accomplishment.


I have to second Olddude and say we should feel good about ourselves for getting out there. Congrats to all of you dance campers for your accomplishment! -- Expecto patronum!

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I'm a professional ballet dancer. I've been dancing professionally since the end of high school, and I still haven't seen a video of myself that I was happy with. Believe me, sit a ballet company down together to watch the video of their last performance and everyone will disparage themselves. No one says, "ooh, I looked fabulous!"


You have to see the video as a learning tool--it's showing you something you can't see in the mirror-- think about the corrections necessary, and move on.

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Are you able - or allowed - to put your bit on Youtube, so that we can all share?




You've GOT to be joking!!!! :)

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Are you able - or allowed - to put your bit on Youtube, so that we can all share?




You've GOT to be joking!!!! :wacko:



Ditto that. What were you thinking Jim? For everyone? No no no no. I do understand your desire to have a look so you can render an educated opinion though.

I wish more of you were there for my session who do identify yourselves though. For the one of you who told me she is one of us but didn't reveal her screen name, I will respect your privacy rather than beg an opinion.


I did have one bit of self revelation that was amusing to me. During that first look, my extra tummy flesh didn't bother me a bit. I thought I looked pretty normal. I expected to freak at the "spare tire" when I saw it, but it was like nothing to the dancing.


As to mirrors...

I am the proud owner of the magic mirror in Snow White. It follows me almost everywhere I go. It tells me I am thin and lovely whenever I want it to. It doesn't generally follow me into ballet class, but then I don't really look in the mirror much there.

I have discovered a different power that serves me well in ballet class when we adults are mixed with the advanced teens in the summer. I can fix my eyes on one of them during barre and totally convince myself that while attempting to do the same exercises as they are doing, that I look just like them.

My brain knows it can't be true, but in the moment it feels like it is. It is kind of like acting. You have to feel and believe you are the character for a while. Meanwhile I was only watching in the first place because I don't remember the combinations so well.


Hmmm? This may be part of the problem. Maybe I should stand where I can see myself in a mirror as well? Then I could see where I don't match the lovely young dancer if I dare pay attention.

I am rather a go inside myself person in class by nature. I have been trying to pay attention to the performance things that two of my teachers emphasize that I have never been taught before....ever. One of those teachers isn't teaching my class so much any more but I can make a point of attending the other one's class more. I can't go to that inside place when the teacher is having us throw in some flair.


I did see myself on a rehearsal video when I was in the musical Nunsense in community theater back in 89. That is when I figured out that all those directions to the group about making everything we did on stage BIG actually applied to me too in spite of my generous size. I'd always been trying hard to blend in before then. I discovered I had made myself practically invisible for Oklahoma 6 months earlier, but I was just in the Chorus, and didn't see the video until the show was over for that one. I was a good 6 inches taller than everybody else in Nunsense, but I was going under noticed on stage anyway because I wasn't acting BIG yet. The costumes were great equalizers. Good thing I had time to start making things bigger. It was really fun to do too.


Um...I don't recall freaking out about my dancing in those videos. My singing was the problem area back then.

There was some simple ballet in Oklahoma. There was also some in Nunsense but I wasn't the one getting to do it. I was a "Chorus" Nun, did the voice of the puppet, and understudied. Mostly it was Jazz and a little Tap. I was ready to jump into the Nun Ballerina part if needed, but that Nun stayed healthy. I took over sister Hubert instead. That one broke her knee cap after the first 3 weeks of the run.

I really have to go find my copies of these videos and check them. Maybe is is just age? Maybe I am not really one of thooose people after all, but just looked like it that day?

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The only thing that freaked ME out in the video (apart from the feet not turned out as much as I would have hoped) was the obvious size difference between me and everyone else in the repertory/pas de deux/variation dances. I WAS the largest one there.


I'm happy to say that I won't be that way next year, and am not that size even now, thank heavens, but it was quite a shock to see how much difference there was in my size vs. everyone else's. :-(

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I think the perception factor is a big factor. I never look *quite* the way I think I look on videotape. The upside is that after a while (a couple of months, years, whatever), I look back and think "well, it wasn't *that* bad". Somehow time makes it a little better :wacko:


I do like (well, maybe "like" isn't the correct word) watching myself on videotape so I can analyze what is not working. Not sure if professional dancers do this, but pro athletes do. Our studio usually tapes tech rehearsal and the students are encouraged to watch the tape, particularly for uniformity in corps dances, but most of the time, they sit there and whine about how fat/ugly/whatever they look. They aren't able to view the tape critically and instead focus on appearances.

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I danced in a professional company as an apprentice (so I was one of the "weaker links" in the corps:) Also, a good ten years older than the other dancers at my level. The AD videotaped everything and made us watch the tapes as a learning tool.


After getting over the initial horror, I actually now regard it as an absolutely invaluable tool when preparing for a performance. We were taught to find things that are "instantly" fixable...like a slight change in angle if you appear "different" from everyone else. A surprising number of things are easily fixed. I remember thinking that I just looked horrible and I was such a bad dancer, but after a while, I could figure out *why* I "stuck out", and usually it wasn't too hard to make a visible improvement that looked better next time we were taped.


That said, the faces of gorgeous professional dancers watching themselves never looked particularly happy. LOL! EVERYONE hates watching themselves on tape. At least sometimes we really laughed hard if someone screwed up. Yep, pros do it too:) All the time.

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While I am not brave enough to use video yet, I find that photos are really helpful. Even though I do use the mirror, it's hard to maintain proper head position AND watch the mirror, AND keep up with the counts during barre while really analyzing what I'm seeing enough to make corrections. That's of course why we rely on our teachers to correct us.


I do have a barre at home, and recently had a friend take pictures of my feet (as in lay down on the floor and take pictures from different sides of my feet (knees down) in different positions on flat and on pointe. Looking at those pictures was less painful than video (where I may as well be naked) and the stills really let me look at the little corrections in each position so I knew where to concentrate.


It was also a great way to determine which of the several pairs of pointe shoes I was evaluating, were working best for me - getting me over, fitting my arches and if I was sitting in them or not.


I think video might be one of the ways we could potentially, especially as adults dancing for the love of dance, be in danger of not "protecting joy". But if you want a safer form of analysis, I suggest a good friend (maybe at your studio after or before class), and some digital pictures. I guarantee you there will be at least a few pictures you'll like, and then instead of bemoaning your lack of turn out or extension in motion, you can bask in the happiness of your pretty feet. :)

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As someone who's done theatre, let me tell you, it's so easy to hate yourself on video, even when the audience loves you.


Also, my DVD arrived, but I haven't watched it :-P Maybe when I'm sufficiently drunk.


However, my roommate and I filmed each other with our tiny digital camera during the performances, so we have an idea of how we look.

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