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Bit of an unusual case, wondering how much focus I should put on start


Roseweave

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Apologies if this belongs in the other forum as it may be more of a moral support thing, but there are some questions within. It gets quite personal but I don't mind if others don't.

Lately, I've been thinking about dancing and have been focusing primarily on Ballet. I have a number of reasons why I've been drawn to Ballet that are hard to describe, but partly it's because so elegant and graceful and I tend to feel anything but. Plus, Ballet classes would really help my posture, and I want to try myself by doing something hard as I tend to slight away from doing so.


My situation is unusual mostly because of the fact that I am male to female transgendered, and have only just started hormones. I love watching the male role in ballet, but am not interested in it myself(or should it be expected of me I Would be) nor would I likely have the capability due to having female musculature amongst other things. At the moment, however, I am stuck with mostly male musculature that will take a while to reach a female level of flexibility. I am 27, and I would have loved if my issues could have been spotted before puberty before my hips fused etc. but there is nothing I can do about this.

Coming to terms with being trans, and coming to terms with what would be seen as quite a traditionally feminine thing such as wanting to be a ballerina are very different things. There are very few resources out there and the one page I found was pretty bad and seemed to include men crossdressing as balerinas for more fetishistic reasons, which was offputting for me. I have avoided overly feminine things out of embarrassment(I'm rather large with broad shoulders so it's not always a great fit), trying to be "One of the guys" despite identifying as female, not rocking the boat too far, not simply trading one gender role to another.

Lately I've come more to terms with balancing this these, it's not that I need to do feminine things to be female(the feminist in me would lynch me over this), but that it would reaffirm my identity as a feminine transwoman, which is particularly difficult to uphold. I hope this is understood, and I would appreciate that while whether or not they can become a dancer is sensitive for most girls regardless, it is so in a slightly different manner for myself, as I'm looking not only to dance but for a means to express my femininity.

Reading this forum and other things, I Feel very intimidated. My problem is that while I never expect to be a professional ballet, nor does that whole world interest me that much due to it's hyper-competitiveness(and the fact that I sort of like my feet not to have chronic pain issues, but honestly I'm willing to put up with messing myself up a bit for a good cause), I don't want just to take Ballet classes and make nothing of it either.

I'm a musician and I'm interested in the general idea of performance. What I'd like to get out of Ballet, or dance in general would be to maybe have some sort of Indie artists troupe. A lot of people compared Ballet to being a classically trained musician, in that it takes years and years of work to get to a high level. But you also get those who are able to master more basic techniques, put them to good use, and still be regarded as good musicians. I like to think of myself as making good music even though I am far from a virtuoso, I can create tracks that "Impress" people on some level, leave an impression.

I suppose I am basically wondering; realistically taking a ballet class once a week for a couple of years, would I actually be able to "dance"? Perhaps not even a case of doing ballet proper, but if I wanted to do some sort of general performance art thing, or maybe even show off a bit at a ballroom dance, could I do it? It seems like 90% of the emphasis on ballet is going en pointe and doing stretches which may be physically impossible for me and this takes years and a level of training I might not be able to afford. I also find it very hard to work hard, if that makes any sense, due to rather sever ADHD amongst other things. I am really very serious about trying ballet despite this, as long as I can get something out of it I can enjoy.

If money was no object, honestly, I'd probably throw myself at it fully, doing several classes a week, doing other forms of dance, taking singing lessons etc. and become an amazing performer but realistically that's not going to happen. I would like to at least get to the stage where I can go on Pointe, but I'll be in my 30s by then and while I'm aware it's never too late, it does drive home how much of my youth I missed and limits the amount of time I'll actually be able to make use of those skills. Not to mention my enormous feet with probably mean custom shoes. This could get costly.

The seeming binary between "professional" and "doing it for a laugh" is frustrating me, because I still want to have something to show for my efforts. I'm considering doing it anyway just to help with posture and flexibility, but if I'm spending money and putting time and effort into it I want to be able to say "I can dance Ballet" at the end of it.

I suppose in general, I want to dance, and I'm drawn to many things about ballet. If only there was some sort of alternate style that suited my needs better. What sort of styles of dance could I learn alongside it to compliment it? I've been thinking of doing some form of modern dance, maybe even hip hop dance, something that gives a bit of a contrast. But at the heart of it, I really do just want to be a ballerina(in the modern looser sense of course), if not a very traditional one. Being able to dance as a female ballet dancer would be really reaffirming for me and my lack of confidence in my gender.

I don't expect everyone to understand my position, and I realise despite my unusual case I have drifted a bit too close to some of the annoying questions that get asked too much, but I'm coming from quite a different perspective.

I would appreciate comments from people who know a bit about physiology etc. and tell me if it's realistic that I can actually ever perform anything resembling Ballet, or I'll better off just doing a few beginner lessons to improve my posture and do some other form of dance. Hearing that it takes 8+ years to train a ballerina makes me wonder if it's really worth doing even if you do not intend to do it professionally. I want people to be realistic, but I'm also worried some people exaggerate to scare off newcomers.

Sorry if this post is a mess, I'm just trying to collect my train of thought at the moment. I was really set on trying Ballet but when the reality set in that it can be far too difficult even if you do not intend to be a professional, it was quite depressing.

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Roseweave, why not try ballet, and just see if you enjoy it enough to keep going. Do it, and then decide if it's "worth it" to you or not. Maybe you'll struggle with it and decide it's not worth the struggle. Or maybe you'll be "a natural", and take to it like a duck to water. There's no way to know but to do it! Try just having fun, and see how it goes!

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Mostly money! Haha. I'll have to see if I can get a discount on doing 2 classes a week if I decide to step it up. For now I should probably find a second class in something else.

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Roseweave, one of the things which I love about coming to ballet as an adult, is that it is purely for enjoyment! I was older than you when I started ballet, and really don't have the flexibility or joint structure to excel at it. But I love it, and enjoy every improvement which I make. If I had started as a child, I probably would have found my physical limitations more frustrating, but at my age I just accept that this body is the tool which I have to work with. You don't have to do pointe work to dance, and to express yourself through dancing.

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Is pointe work realistic in my case? I'm wondering if it's harder for those who are not used to wearing high heels as that makes you use a lot of the same muscles. I am used to walking on my toes though, and I practiced it a bit this evening. I did get a bit of spasm in my right leg afterwards though, so I can easily see how damaging pointe work would be. Would it be possible to build up strength for pointe in my own time after taking some classes?

I just watched a Tokyo Ballet rendition of Giselle and I Couldn't stop looking at their feet. It was just so graceful.


Well that and the guys butts.

Edited by Roseweave
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Roseweave, check out this thread and the others "pinned" at the top of the Pointe Shoe board (listed in the "For Teens" headings): http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=7125

 

I would not focus my attention on pointe just yet. Maybe you will be able to try it in a few years, maybe you won't. You can become a lovely, female adult dancer either way.

 

Start by focusing on the basics and your evident love of dance. Make sure you are working with the best teachers you possibly can. Plan ahead for when you love it so much that you "need" two or three (or more...) classes a week. Supplement ballet with whatever forms of dance capture your interest, and seek out excellent instructors in those forms as well. Keep watching videos, listening to music, attending live performances, reading, etc.

 

Be patient, but don't hold yourself to the level of professional ballet dancers. You will be able to dance long before 8 years (8-10 years is how long it is said to take to train a professional dancer from childhood -- from about 8-18), but you might never achieve their level of skill. (I certainly haven't!) If performing is important to you, start exploring your community for performance opportunities once you have your figurative and literal footing. You might find opportunities in ballet, or they might be in other styles of dance or musical theatre. If you love to perform, or think you would love to perform, jump at whatever opportunities feel right at a particular moment in time. Hopefully you will find some that are nurturing of your passion and won't require you to be "perfect".

 

So, go for it. Start by getting yourself into class!

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, Roseweave. You'll find a great community of like-minded people here.

 

And our advice is always, always, always to start class if you want to. Just get to a studio and start. You will find that your worries about why and how you're dancing will fade away, at least for the 90 minutes of class. It's a very good way of teaching yourself to be present and in the moment. That is what I think kept me sane during my PhD -- here were several hours a week that I didn't have to think further than the next 8 bars of music.

 

That's the cheerleading and pom-poms. Now, here's being more serious, and not denying the particular struggles for adults who want to start ballet as complete beginners.

 

I think that we all struggle with the reality of what learning dance is, and the public image of the "ballerina." But that public image is a fantasy. Just that.

 

It's not real -- and the people who believe it least of all are working, professional dancers (I have two in my close family, so I see it from the inside). They see it as really damaging, to be honest.

 

And furthermore that public image/fantasy is not really very helpful to the beginning adult dancer. The reality of a beginning adult student is feeling gawky, feeling fat, feeling somehow "all wrong" in your body. Goodness me, I've been dancing on & off since I was 11, and I still feel that way a lot of the time sometimes! You have additional issues which might exacerbate that sort of psychological battle we all do at one time or another, to a greater or lesser extent. The physical "battle" is only a part of it.

 

But you also have the great experience of training as a musician, so you know that with practice, application, and a good dose of mental toughness, determination, and a sense of humour mixed with grace, that gradually, physical and artistic skills are learnt.

 

And you will need mental toughness to stop over-thinking an second-guessing yourself. Why does any of us do anything other than eat or sleep? For pleasure, for joy, for a sense of accomplishment in the thing itself, because we enjoy learning throughout life, because we like the company in a class, in a club, in an activity ...

 

I think what you might want to look for is a studio that offers a range of adult dance classes, not just ballet, and mix it up a bit To be tough (again) at 27, it is highly unlikely you'll work as a professional dancer. You'll be doing it as a true amateur -- for the love of it. So keeping the training "pure" that might be recommended for a young teen on the pre-pro track, is not a big deal for an adult.

 

The things that you say about your physicality suggest to me that contemporary dance (I think it's called "modern" in US English) -- drawn from Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, release technique & so on -- might really be a good fit for you. It's far less stererotypically gendered than ballet: indeed, a lot of contemporary dance is quite androgynous. Strength for men and women is drawn on in contemporary, and I also think that some of the floor work is kind to adult bodies which have "fixed" in the mobility of certain joints, as you've found.

 

If you could find a studio that runs a series of classes for absolute beginners which you pay for upfront, which work on a coherent & progressing syllabus, that would be your best bet. A lot of adult classes are drop in, and don't necessarily offer a week to week series of progression through the repertoire of steps and positions. Some studios do an intense weekend or week: look out for those. Also, if you read enough of the threads in here, you'll see that we're most of us (to a greater or lesser extent) a bit self-conscious about how we look & what we wear in class. And that most of us (to a greater or lesser extent) don't really care about what other people look like & wear in class! So remember that. In your situation, however, you may want to speak privately with the teacher and talk seriously about what you feel you can & can't do. Advice about men's or women's steps, for example, might be needed, but at absolute beginners' level, the repertoire is not particularly gendered. However, see my suggestion below about different types of dance ...

 

As gav advises, don't think about pointe work yet -- that is part of the unhelpful "ballerina" image.

 

I'd also advise doing other kinds of physical practice: yoga and/or pilates. These will help you feel more connected to your body and its physiology. And I don't mean that in the context of your MtF status, as I'm not qualified to comment really, just about learning how bits of your body work and connect. If you have a good teacher s/he will have some anatomy knowledge and will get you thinking about how your body works. Good Alexander Technique teaching will also do that -- an AT trainer starts with your physicality and how it works, and teaches you to use it in the most efficient way.

 

I hope you find something that you can do. But the main thing is really -- don't overthink, get to the studio!

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I think that we all struggle with the reality of what learning dance is, and the public image of the "ballerina." But that public image is a fantasy. Just that.

I think I've researched it enough to get that. I know doing professional ballet is full of drama and hardships, which is one of the reasons I'm not interested in it. But there's still something symbollic about ballet that is kind of fairytale when you abstract it from all that.

The reality of a beginning adult student is feeling gawky, feeling fat, feeling somehow "all wrong" in your body.

I'm kind of used to that, though. One of the reasons I want to do Ballet is to feel more in control of my body.

If you could find a studio that runs a series of classes for absolute beginners which you pay for upfront, which work on a coherent & progressing syllabus, that would be your best bet. A lot of adult classes are drop in, and don't necessarily offer a week to week series of progression through the repertoire of steps and positions.

I think finding the right place to do it is part of the problem. I only know one person into Ballet, she did it for years but doesn't know much about adult ballet.

As gav advises, don't think about pointe work yet -- that is part of the unhelpful "ballerina" image.

I think I admire it on it's own, though. I really like the idea of being able to get up on my toes and moving like that.

I'd also advise doing other kinds of physical practice: yoga and/or pilates. These will help you feel more connected to your body and its physiology. And I don't mean that in the context of your MtF status, as I'm not qualified to comment really, just about learning how bits of your body work and connect.

Maybe. I was sort of planning on doing martial arts which can be much the same. Maybe Tai Chi.

I hope you find something that you can do. But the main thing is really -- don't overthink, get to the studio!



This post has made me realise I really need to find the right one though!
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Good luck in your search, Roseweave. If you read in here, you will see that sometimes it takes a while to find a good fit.

 

The other thing you might do is to browse in the pre-pro forums here on BT4D and look for schools in your area. If a studio is a good training studio for pre-teens and teens, they may also have good, reliable adult classes. You can identify a few for your area (you don't need to tell us publicly!) and ring around to see what they offer.

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I have a few more questions unfortunately.


One thing I'm worried about is that ballet might not be that useful to help me generally able to dance, like if I just wanted to dance in my own time, or at a dance or at gigs, that Ballet is only safe to do on certain surfaces.

At the same time I've heard that the basics of Ballet are pretty much the basics for all dance.

I like the idea that if I'm doing Ballet for well over a year(if not significantly less) that while I cannot do what would be generally recognised as Ballet, I could still dance , to some degree, because right now I really can't.

Would I be best of in this case supplementing it with another style of dance, just so I have some form of dance I can do outside of classes? This might help build up more strength/flexibility as well as some technique. What would be best for this, something like Jazz dancing?

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Roseweave:

I just found this thread...welcome! I think I might have some answers/information for you. I teach ballet and jazz. I teach professionals, children and adult beginners. Ballet will definitely give you the basis needed for all forms of western dance and most professional dancers in other disciplines (modern, jazz, contemporary) study ballet in addition to their "Main technique". I agree with the idea that you don't have to be a virtuoso to create beautiful music. Dance is definitely similar. You don't need to be able to do ten pirouettes to be able to move an audience.

 

With respect to dancing on different surfaces: You really should try to always dance on a safe surface. Ballet does have more jumping than jazz or modern, so a "sprung" floor is important, but really, if you are going to dance...you want to be sure you are on a safe surface.

 

With respect to amount of classes, and amount of time spent studying: Every one is different. Everyone learns at a different rate. Everyone has different natural abilities. I really think, though, even if you are supremely talented, that one class a week will probably not be enough. In addition to all the information you will need to acquire, there is strenght and muscular development that needs to happen, and certain neuromuscular pathways that need to develop and go on "automatic pilot" and I'm not so sure that will happen with one class per week.

 

Supplimenting ballet with another discipline is fine...but be careful. There is a lot of bad jazz and modern out there (of course there is bad ballet as well...but I think, in general...there is less of it). You want to be sure that you are in the hands of a teacher that knows what he or she is doing.

 

Finally, the classes that are designed for adult beginners should be pretty "gender neutral" in what they teach...and I have found adult beginner dance classes to be some of the warmest, most welcoming "safe places" I have ever seen. I think you would feel very comfortable. Go and give it a shot. Find yourself a class and try.

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  • 5 months later...

Hi! Just letting everyone know I finished my third lesson on tuesday.

Finding it hard but soldiering on regardless! A little less obsessed by the idea of being a ballet dancer as I was when I made this thread, but now I've started I never ever want to stop! Onwards and upwards!

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Fantastic!!!!!!! :clapping: Glad to hear it, Roseweave!

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Roseweave, I was wondering how you were getting along. Thank you so much for coming back & letting us know you've now started class. Hope it keeps going well. Isn't it a lovely feeling, moving to beautiful music? :huepfen::clapping:

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I need to get proper dancewear soon though. Not sure were I can get some in Ireland that will fit me :(

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