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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Physical Efforts


skyish

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There's a voice in my head always asking this question; however stupid it may sound, I need to ask now because I don't have the answer. Maybe nobody does...

 

We always hear about great success stories of wonderful ballet dancers, principals. Since here we have lots of Russian ballet teachers, we tend to hear more about the Russian side of the ballet world. We always hear how hard they tried to become what they are, how they turned every second of their lives into a ballet exercise, how in pain they were, how ambitious they were etc. And I never hear about, say, American or French dancers or other dancers from any other countries. The last story I've heard was about the best teacher of our state conservatory; she was also very famous in her youth and there is even a book written for her containing her pictures. And she told her story to my teacher like " I was doing the dishes with my leg up in the air on a la seconde, and my mother was watching to warn whenever the height of the leg decreased; I was watching TV on pointe doing attitude balance work, I was sleeping my feet tied in the fifth position; and you... You think that you are going to be ballet dancers only with the classes you take." Of course it is unbelievably unhealthy and useless to tie feet during sleep, but this is not the point here. The point is, even though many people would like to believe that adults are dancing only as a hobby; I have some goals and I of course would like to be the best I can ever be. However if I do not put as much effort as those people put, how can I know my true limits? Does ballet really require "that much" effort? Am I just lazy? Or is that why some people accuse us as being recreational students; because we do not go crazy and do balances and developpes everywhere? How much effort is too much and how much effort is not enough?

 

I'm taking 4 regular classes a week and a total of 10 private courses a month. And even though I'm doing turns etc. stupidly around the house, I'm never pushing myself hard to do housework with legs up in the air. I can, but I don't. I have the time and the space to work out every single day and every hour. But I don't. And I have really big goals, but compared to theirs, I don't really make any effort. But really, should I? I know that Russian teachers are pushing their students really hard as I'm really familiar with the Russian method of teaching, (seriously I have a new teacher who counts to 40 when I hold my leg up in the air and threatens to poke my heel with a needle if I drop it before 40 (I have no problems with that. I kinda like brutal education..)). But how about the rest of the world? Is that the same everywhere, or is this side of the world a little bit exaggerating? Or is the ultimate answer to that "It depends on your body and abilities" ?

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The short answer is, skyish, that yes, it is perhaps more than a little bit exaggerated, and, a great deal depends on your body and abilities.

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I know that Russian teachers are pushing their students really hard as I'm really familiar with the Russian method of teaching, (seriously I have a new teacher who counts to 40 when I hold my leg up in the air and threatens to poke my heel with a needle if I drop it before 40 (I have no problems with that. I kinda like brutal education..)).

 

Wish I had a teacher like yours! Mine is wayyyy too soft on me....due to my age, size, et. al.

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I'm not sure what Skyish is saying except bemoaning the fact (or possible fact) that she is not aiming as high as those others.

 

Can I put it another way -- are you prepared to sacrifice EVERYTHING ... including your health, your friends, your family, your income, and everything else .. for ballet - if not, you are not in the same class as the others.

 

Jim.

 

PS - added later - or it it really the lack of passion that is the concern? However (see above), passion has its price!

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Is it lack of passion? I take now about 7 hours of ballet a week, and am about to add another 1.5 hours. I'm not doing it constantly (I have a real job that takes up about 50 hours a week of my time, plus other activities), although I do cross-training of about 5 or so more hours a week for the sole purpose of aiding my ballet efforts.

 

I'm not standing in the kitchen with the leg at some higher degree, doing constant releves or any of that. Am I less passionate than those mentioned in the original post?

 

Perhaps.

 

But it is of necessity, not choice - we adult and older students simply don't have much of a future in the profession. We have jobs outside of ballet, mostly, or in some cases, are studying at uni for completely unrelated occupations.

 

I believe we are as passionate as those who started at the age of 6 and plan to be professionals. There are some among us - myself, for example - who had planned to be but due to a devastating accident, had that door closed firmly forever.

 

But the passion remains. If I could, I would sacrifice it all. But reality sets in. Adult ballet students/older/permanently-injured dancers have to eventually become somewhat practical.

 

I believe quite firmly that there are plenty of professional and successful dancers out there who did not sacrifice health and well-being for their art, and are doing just fine.

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It was not meant to be a criticism in any way - but I just wondered if that concern was in fact underlying the original post.

 

A young person, with not much to lose, and lots to gain, is in a very different position from that of a more established person, with an income, a family, a home and so on. It would be unwise to give all that up for the will-of-the-wisp that is unlikely (objectively) to succeed anyway (as you point out)

 

Giving up our dreams - or at least accommodating our dreams to reality, as we get older, is one of the hard lessons of reality.

 

Actually, I dont think it is so bad. I have had a far more interesting life than I ever imagined I would, and discovered dreams that I did not know I had (including ballet), and managed to live out many of them - to some extent at least - as I have got older.

 

Jim.

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For my part, I'd like to know the russian secrets to training male dancers.

I can't find them anywhere. It's quite frustrating.

 

Otherwsie, I'm working hard like you. I've missed the last two weeks from

a hip injury I got on the Butt Blaster trying to build my glut strength.

 

I have no aspirations at a professional career

or of even performing. If I were ever in a recital, not to mention a Nutcracker,

that would be remarkable. I just do it for the fun of it. I just want to do the

jumps & turns. When I love the choreography & the music, it's the best experience in the world.

 

again, if anyone knows where the training tips are, please direct me.

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I'm not sure what Skyish is saying except bemoaning the fact (or possible fact) that she is not aiming as high as those others.

 

PS - added later - or is it really the lack of passion that is the concern? However (see above), passion has its price!

 

Well actually it was not about the passion at all :ermm: I even think that I have too much passion for a 22 year old (23 to be) bone cancer survivor. My question was; to become what I want to be, do I really need to sacrifice every second. As Serendipity said; "some believe quite firmly that there are plenty of professional and successful dancers out there who did not sacrifice health and well-being for their art, and are doing just fine." and I want to know, by not making that much effort would I be still fine, or let's say, is there a chance for anyone to be still fine, or do I need to try extra hard thinking about those who never quit ballet in their lives and have been going on since they were 6.

 

Well it is mostly guilt that is underlying this post; I aim higher than the others (as they do not cope with other big problems like I do) but I work less than them believing in the fact that I don't need to work that hard. Still... I cannot be sure of this. :lol: And I've already sacrificed everything, I didn't graduate intentionally last year to take only 2 classes a term this year, so that I have this year as my "ballet year" because otherwise I would have been working right now as a Research Assistant (and this off year effects my future career negatively), not having the time to do anything about ballet, but saving my family from my financial burden, so they are pretty angry that I have chosen ballet over them. Friends? I'm always doing something about ballet so we cannot meet that much. Health? I've already broken every single rule that my doctors put by starting ballet. And I'm healthier than ever =) But I'm still lazy, if that is the adjective for this, to turn my every second into a ballet exercise, even in my sleep. The question is, should I remain lazy? Or should I do what others did? I'm willing to do it. But I just don't because I don't know if that is ultimately necessary;I know nobody knows; and because I'm not sure about the consequences, it may do more harm than good... I just wanted to hear other kind of success stories that don't include horrifying details.

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I think you can only answer that question yourself... For me it is all about finding the right balance in how much time I can devote to my family, work and ballet (in that order). What I do find important though, is that when I am doing ballet I give it the full 100%, both in class and at home where I practice the things that I feel are safe to practice without my teacher watching. I would love to take more classes, but at the same time not willing to sacrifice family life, and able to sacrifice my job... So I try to get as much out of the time that I do have.

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I think you can only answer that question yourself... For me it is all about finding the right balance in how much time I can devote to my family, work and ballet (in that order). What I do find important though, is that when I am doing ballet I give it the full 100%, both in class and at home where I practice the things that I feel are safe to practice without my teacher watching. I would love to take more classes, but at the same time not willing to sacrifice family life, and able to sacrifice my job... So I try to get as much out of the time that I do have.

 

Well said. :ermm:

 

I believe the key is "balance" (no pun intended), and as said here "give it the full 100%". Of course more classes are better, but not if it will jeopardize your physical well being. What good does it do to take so many classes you get a stress fracture? It also depends on your physical attributes. If you're put together like Vladimir Malakhov, then go for it. If you're put together like me (basically mama smurf), then you need to realize all of the training and lifestyle will not enable you to look like Polina when she dances, but I can still take class and get some enjoyment and life benefits from dance class.

 

I have also found a benefit to wearing pointe shoes while working/cooking in the kitchen - I can reach almost everything! :lol:

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I must reiterate dancepig's point on this subject (pun intended): More is not necessarily better.

 

When I started this school year, I had 10 hours of ballet a week. My body couldn't handle it and regretfully, I had to take it down to 6 hours. While I'm still having some issues (piriformis syndrome and one unpleasant ankle, to be precise), my body immediately performed better in those 6 hours than they had in the 10 I had before. It was a good move.

 

Now I'm going back up to about 9 (am on 7, with one real adult class in the mix!!) to see what will happen. I want to be really ready for Richmond, which is my main goal, not necessarily to be a perfect dancer.

 

If it works for the body, I'll stick with it. If not, then I'll have to go back down and leave it at that.

 

But Skyish, what is your ulimate goal? Is it truly achievable? If it isn't, what would you accept AS achievable instead? What do you truly wish to become with your dancing?

 

There are other avenues than ballet. For years, I did musical theatre instead, since ballet was out after the accident. I loved it. Still do. Would do it again if I had the time - and may still. Right now, I'm enjoying ballet, though, and would have to give up many of my classes to do musical theatre.

 

If you have multiple talents, such as jazz and acrobatics, you could do other types of dance - like those who performed on the cruise ship I was just on. They were amazing!

 

No, you don't have to be so single-minded to get where you want to get, but ballet does require more than the average once-a-week class mindset. Again, I don't think it has to be to the level of obsession, as in above-mentioned Russian schools, but you do have to be willing to go a bit more to be a professional.

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I have also found a benefit to wearing pointe shoes while working/cooking in the kitchen - I can reach almost everything! :D

 

I knew I couldn't be the only one that did this! While I'm six feet tall and don't have trouble reaching stuff, I do muti task and often wear my pointes while making dinner (how many relevés can I do while waiting for water to boil), that kind of thing. My family think it's a little silly, but the alternative is that they could be making dinner while I take another class instead.

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Let's break it down:

A book was written about this teacher by an author, and subsequently published. Publishing houses put a great deal of cash into books on the hopes that they will sell lots of copies to make their money back and then some.

 

Now, what is going to sell more copies- "I once did dishes with my leg in the air and asked my mother to check to see if it decreased" OR "I used to do dishes with my leg in the air and my mother would check it to be sure it didn't decrease"

 

Even so, here is what is missing: Dancers love to dance and love to work on their craft perfecting it whenever it strikes them to do so. However, I'd be willing to bet money that that teacher would have still had a career had she not tied her feet in 5th position one night.

 

As Serendipity said, quantity is not the same as quality. When you combine the right number of hours of ballet training by a teacher who knows what they are doing, with a body that was made for ballet, along with a brain that works well with the body, and natural abilities to apply movement correctly to music as well as an understanding of creating characters, then you have to hope that this person has passion for their art, along with a good portion of luck. Then you might have a professional ballet dancer.

 

So Skyish, if girls who started training at age 8-10 with top teachers, great ballet bodies, etc., are the ones who are able to get professional jobs as ballet dancers, then if it were me, and I had missed out on the training when I was younger, I'd have to ask myself whether a professional ballet career was going to happen for me or not. I would have to say that if their chances of becoming ballet dancers were in the 80-90% range, then my chances might be down around 20-30%. Not very good odds.

 

Then I'd have to ask myself if I could still be happy taking classes and getting as good as is humanly possible for me, without ever having the prospect of getting a job? If the answer is yes, then you'll know what to do. If the answer is no, then it may be time reevaluate how much time you're putting in to something that has got little chance of paying off, if that's what you've been wanting it to do.

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When you combine the right number of hours of ballet training by a teacher who knows what they are doing, with a body that was made for ballet, along with a brain that works well with the body, and natural abilities to apply movement correctly to music as well as an understanding of creating characters, then you have to hope that this person has passion for their art, along with a good portion of luck

 

Otherwise known as "cha-ching - Jackpot!" Oh wouldn't it be a shame if a person like that didn't dance :D

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Well :wink:

 

When you're an adult and when you talk about your dreams, it is always coming to this "going professional" issue. I know I did not write my intentions openly so it is my fault. But why is everyone thinking that the highest dream is always the career itself in ballet? Not to criticize this thought, I'm just trying to understand. :o Is it really the highest place you can ever get to? :D

 

I don't think so. I may not want a life that is built on severe competition, injuries, unfair judgments, unfair decisions, or "fair" decisions. And I know many professionals who would love to be in my place, having a university degree, a lot of job offers, and most importantly a professional life that is not to disappear with a single everyday accident that may happen while walking home. So no, I don't think I'd like to be a pro. I just want to be able to do the solo from In the Middle Somewhat Elevated for example. Well for me, it is the hardest variation I've ever seen. And it is my goal. That's why I'm obsessed with the turns because I need to turn better than OK to be able to do that. Or my aspiration is 32 fouettes on pointe... It really doesn't matter at all if someone is there to see me doing that, or not. So I don't care about the stage, or the audience, or maybe the competition itself. I just see people doing those things as if they were really natural and ordinary things and I just think, well we are of the same family biologically, and if they can do it, with enough training, I can do it. You see, that's my goal... So maybe for this also, I have the chance of 20%; maybe even only 1 out of 500 adult dancers would be able to do 32 fouettes on pointe. But why not take the chance? And why not think of other ways to speed up this process...

 

Sorry if I'm being unrealistic to want these, but I just cannot think "OK I will never be able to do those, so I quit" because I haven't gone that far yet. I'm still not seeing my limits on the horizon. And when I just think that my goals are too far away from where I am, something happens and voila, I'm able to do fouette turns now. Well I was thinking like "In the best scenario, I'd be able to do 2 fouettes 2 years later" but now I can do 6 just after 6 private courses. Why not keep dreaming about 32 on pointe then? :D

 

P.S.: Even if I wanted to, even if I were to be one of the "cha-ching-Jackpot"'s I'd never be able to go pro anyway, because here, if you did not graduate from state conservatories (highschool degree) you can never ever be a professional dancer. So yep =)

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