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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Making the transition back into ballet


La_Bailarina

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I guess I belong over here now! So hi everyone!

 

I graduated from undergrad this past May with a double major in dance and biology. By second semester senior year, I really started moving away from dance for a variety of reasons. Injuries, both old and new, were starting to catch up with me; I spending more and more time in the lab trying to finish my honors thesis for bio; and I was just straight up burnt out and done with dealing with the inevitable drama. I'm now working in a biology lab and am getting geared up to start applying to MD/PhD programs late this spring.

 

By the time graduation rolled around, I was ready to take my last ballet class and never set foot in a dance studio again. My heart really just wasn't in it anymore. Over the summer, I started taking class every now and again--probably two or three times a week. Then I started working on a new project at work and any free time I had quickly disappeared...and my attendance in class dwindled to maybe once every two weeks. I just finished up doing a few shows of Nutcracker with a local company and it's really made me miss dance in a way I didn't think I still could. I need to get back into class on a regular basis--I'm realizing I miss it far too much.

 

 

How do you guys balance it all? I've been working about 50 hours/week, taking a course, and rehearsing--doesn't leave much time to get to open classes. And I'm scared--I know that I've gone backwards technically since graduation.

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I started dancing as an adult so I could be completely off base in what I'm going to say. My sense is that for people who essentially grew up in dance, people who took class almost every day and who regularly performed in school sponsored productions, dance is thought of as the totality of that experience. To do anything less than that is insufficient, unsatisfying, and leads to a degredation of ability. That totality also means spending an absolute minimum of about 12 hours a week.

 

For people who I regard as adults--people with jobs who live on their own or with spouses or significant others and who pay their own way--devoting that time is a significant obstacle. Depending on your job and other responsibilities, it may be impossible. If it is impossible, then you just have to set your priorities and allocate your time in ways that allow you to do what you want to do. And remember you can't do it all. Most adults wish they could do much more than they can possibly do.

 

For people who have had a significant dance education, they need to realize that after about 10 years of dedicated practice, their improvement in physical skill is not likely to improve in any noticable way. Also, to maintain physical skill requires less practice than does improving physical skill. In that sense one making the transition from dedicated practice to adult practice means that doing what one does in younger years isn't really necessary for one's adult years.

 

Though I wasn't a dancer in my younger years, I was an athlete who competed at a reasonably high level who had a full time job and a family. I'll be the first to confess that I probably didn't work as hard on the job as I could have, at least not in the time on the job sense. I looked for opportunities to train. I trained at noon time whenever I could. One of the sports I did was bicycle racing and I commuted to work year around, taking the long way to make itwas an hour trip. The other sport I did was weightlifting. I converted my basement into a gym and trained there three of the six days I trained, which eliminated comuting time to the gym and at least gave me some presence at home. I only mention these to illustrate the idea of creating your own times to work training segments into a work and family environment.

 

If I were you, I would spend some time thinking about how I would want my life to be in 5 years. Imagine a typical day, week, month and year. Take a pen and paper and schedule every hour of one of those typical weeks. Rest those thoughts for a week or so and then look at what you wrote. Ask yourself if it is reasonable. Attack the thoughts you had. Once you are happy with what you have, work backwards. Think about 4 years from now, then three years, two years, and nest year. Don't be too concrete. You may change your mind along the way, which is perfectly fine. My sense is that the act of planning is good, even when the plan you come up with isn't so good. The best of plans usually change as you learn more and other factors come to bare.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've been in a similar situation.I danced 8 hours a day, 6 days a week from 13-23. At 23 I was injured, and after some time off, went down to about 3 classes per week. I kept my level pretty well for about 7 years, when I developed a neuroma in my left foot that had complications (instability caused nerve damage and a broken bone). It took three years for me to come back from that, and am now almost back to pro level, but I noticed that as soon as I work myself too hard, something goes. Whether it's my ridiculously hypermobile joints causing problems or my muscles depends on the season, but now I've learned my lesson. I'm not a working dancer anymore, I don't have to train like one. I just try to maintain a difficulty level I like without going overboard. I cut pointe out when I injured my foot and have mixed feelings about restarting. Yes, you might end up losing some technique, but if you had it and work on it, like for a show, it will come back pretty quickly. I cut out petit allegro until pretty recently and it's like riding a bike- I'm beating jetes and assembles and entrechat-quatres again and even doing exercises and reversing them right away. Just ease into it. Take an open class on the weekend, or after dinner. Listen to your problem areas- is it your hip? Take a break when those areas say enough. Stretch lots. Good luck in finding a way to make things work for you! And welcome to the grown up section.

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Thank you guys!

 

I have yet to get back into class (between holidays and trying to get away from work for a few days to see friends out of state it's just been chaos at work) but it's one of my new year's resolution to stop being afraid and just do it. Hearing your experiences definitely has helped--to go into class knowing that my technique probably won't be as far gone as I'm imagining it is is very comforting. Now I just need to find the time...if only there were more hours in the day!!

 

I'm not a working dancer anymore, I don't have to train like one. I just try to maintain a difficulty level I like without going overboard.

 

This though is what I know I'll need to keep in mind. I know my body most likely won't be able to handle it and I know I need to not let myself get pulled back in--as much as I still love dance, it's not my end goal any more and what is needs my full attention at the moment. My hips get iffy in the cold (or if I'm taking a lot of Graham) but I'm more concerned about my back--I took a BAD fall off a horse back in March, landed (so I'm told) on my back and was dragged for a bit; I'm told that all is fine now but it's just not the same as it was.

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I have found you just have to make a priority of things you really want to do. And honestly there are times in life where the fun things have to take a backseat to real adult work (bah humbug but it is true).

 

As far as worrying about the technique you may have lost you have to look at it this way. The longer you stay out the more you lose. That being said be very careful when you start again with your back and hip. Unfortunately as we get older it seems like it is easier to reinjure yourself and sometimes takes forever to heal from injuries

 

Good luck and have fun!

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Hi, Bailarina! I'm 26, so it wasn't long ago that I was in your shoes as a new college grad, trying to figure out how to balance all the pieces of my new grown-up life.

 

One of the hardest adjustments for me was realizing I had to set priorities, even though it isn't easy. I was involved in a zillion different things during college. Now, with four ballet classes a week and additional time commitments for rehearsals during performance season, dance is kind of my one "thing" outside of full-time work and family life (I'm married, but no kids). However, I find that motivating. It really inspires me to give my all when I'm in the studio or on stage. Even though I'm well beyond the point of considering a professional career, I find a passion and meaning in ballet that I didn't used to experience as a child or teen.

 

Other than setting priorities, my best advice is to be patient with yourself. Your body might look and feel different than it used to; it might warm up slower or take longer to recover from injuries. I've been a terrible culprit at pushing myself to do too much, too soon after an injury, and I've learned to just take it slow. In the long run, you'll be happier and healthier for it, both mentally and physically!

 

Best wishes as you start your adult dancing life!

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