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Ballet Talk for Dancers

An unexpected ballet student who keeps going back.


Laschwen

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I used to be a regular around here. I was taking classes for some years and even wwent to adult dance camp. I was thrilled when shortly after camp in 08 a wonderful teacher I had approached me and one other student and casually asked if we were ready to start some pointe work. That was at the end of the spring semester. She did not come back in the fall. That was that.
No other teachers around here teach adults beginning pointe.
So much for the shoes that I spent 3 or 4 years looking for finally being in my posession after a long wait for a special order....They are still unused.
As to being unlikely, unexpected, or not belonging...: This was the same teacher whose jaw dropped to the floor when she first encountered me before class one night. I introduced myself. She looked up and the mouth fell open.
It was shock. I understand this. It has happened before, although usually less dramatically.
The first think that makes me seem unlikely as a ballet student to most people is my height. Let's just say I am very tall.
I was told from early childhood that I was too tall for ballet. I did not care. I never wanted to be a pro. I just wanted to dance.

In my junior year of high school my phys ed class was ballet wwith a teacher who welcomed tall girls....and it was 1977 when I met her. That was still unusual then.
I visited her last spring when visiting Louisiana. She is still teaching at my old high school.... I showed her my dance camp photos and thanked her for instilling in me a lifelong love of ballet. I never counted my kiddie-classes as a start once I had the real thing in high school; 90 min 3 times a week... Wish I'd had it daily.

I was tall but I was, on paper anyway, underweight in high school. For the open mouthed teacher a few years ago the opposite was true about my weight. Truthfuly, without mentioning numbers, one would expect me to be a football player before ever dreaming I might go to a ballet class if one looked at my stats right now.
Did my size stop me then or more recently? No.
Some might think I had lost my grip on reality or I was a glutton for punishmeent but I found the teacher with the open mouth to be a wondeful teacher who was especially helpful to me in my first few weeks with her class. I was never ignored.

Fast forward since she left the area.
Gas prices go crazy and it is 25 miles to one class and 35 to the other.
Hubby does not like it.
$200 a month suddenly starts going to the vet for a beloved dog with serious kidney trouble.

We expected that to last just a short time but it went on for over 2 years for one dog and then it started for another one a while after the first one passed. The crappy economy did not help either.
I reduced frequency at first but I had to sacrifice all my ballet classes eventually.

 

So here is me now:
I am 52 and not 44-45 like I was when I started over the last time. The time before that I was about 31- 32 and the 10 year break was nothing compared to the 15 year break since the year of classes I had at 32.

And to add to the unlikely ballet student status: I went UP a dress size during this hiatus; two since dance camp if you measured a little over a year ago when I was almost 15 pounds heavier than now. Some of my dancewear might not fit. I could still knock down most of the football players whose height and weight get announced during college football games....probably. I would not try it. My body could not take it.

You may assume the usual variety of aching body parts that go with older dancers, plus the bad back they say goes with my height, and a tibial torsion that makes my plies look lousy and causes me to have an abnormal gait, and a touch of numb feet. Don't shoot me. I have worked around all that before.


This all still adds up to me being a very unlikely candidate for ballet.

 

So who cares?
Who says only the young and slender people who do not have a list of reasons to avoid strenuous activity should be the only ones who get to dance? Dance is innate. Everybody should get to dance however they like.

Who says those who train in ballet should have peforming or being professional as their end goal? Do we deny people their recreational golf?

That would be silly.

 

So.....During my time out I found some very local alternative dance classes to keep me from going insane but it is time to go back. This is despite those so called reasons to stay home: out of shape, too heavy, too old, too broken from old injuries or what have you. It is time. I just have to wait for a beginner class to start up in August. It has been a while and though I know enough in my head to teach beginners pretty well, my body will not betray this for quite some time, if ever.
Those ballroom classes I took were fun while they lasted and I did not suck at it.
I went back to tap class and had lots of fun and even performed last weekend, but that does not the spot in me that needs ballet.
OK. Bolero came close.... It uses ballet type arms but I still need a barre first, dang it.
I did try one so called ballet class that is much closer to home than the good ones I was going to previously because it was during the daytime on a Saturday and I could ride my scooter to save gas. I went once. The teacher actually asked another student to confirm what a tendu was, had us doing grande battements after 10 minutes of barre, and did center combinations on one side only.


So now the money thing is not as bad as it used to be.

The ballroom classes are gone now so getting the hubby to agree to putting ballet back in the budget is more likely if I am not thinking of doing both. I would like to keep the tap and keep lobbying that teacher to start some local adult ballet. She knows how to teach it but is very occupied with kids classes and favors tap.
Added age or maybe the joy of impending menopause has caused me to lose the ability to give a crap what anybody thinks of how I look in a ballet class. If you don't like it, don't look... unless you are the teacher of course.
(It would still be sensible to go back to one who knows me already at first.....)
I will get stronger once I am there.

I can work out in a pool for the summer and go to Zumba or something to get sweating regularly s I do not kill myself in August.

Some weight will come off.,,,maybe. Who knows with my crazy hormone status?

I own a barre for home use now too.

That supposedly irrational part of me that wants to go through the process that turns others into ballerinas will be fed.

It is all good.

 

Will I ever get back into those pointe shoes? Maybe-Maybe not?
I will know if and when my stiff old half numb feet cooperate enough, when my weight is reasonable enough to try it, and if there is any hope of having classes outside dance camp I can find.

I will just go to class and think about all that later. My first goal will be getting ready to go back to camp.


I read here somebodies questions about excess weight and going en pointe earlier tonight. Here is the thing with me. I may never weigh what I did when i first went en pointe in high school, but when I tried it a bit 5 years ago my body was stronger than I was as a kid even though I was much older and much heavier. It was a close call for me mentally but I figured it was worth a shot while I was under the supervision of the expert teachers at dance camp. When better? ...
Unfortunately the shoes I brought to camp despite much trial and error before going were a "close but no cigar" fit and I did not feel secure in them. I never left the barre. I did get great fit advice there as a result.
If it happeens in the future I have the best possible shot at being ready that is available to me now....assuming my feet do not change size....again. That is another treatise I call "My magic growing in adulthood feet"

 

 

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Hello, Laschwen, and welcome back!

 

Thanks for telling us your story -- it's inspiring and reassuring, that the exacting art and craft of ballet (and all dance forms really) is open to all. Hope you find a good class soon!

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You Go! I love your never give up attitude. It is true dance is innate -- it will never leave you :) I also hope it works out for you to get back to class soon!

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Laschwen, I loved reading your post and I'm intrigued by the way that ballet has a hold on you.

The thought of taking a adult ballet class briefly came to mind so that perhaps I would have an understanding of the "magic" of ballet. Not sure how the teenage DD would react!

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I want to add my admiration at your determination and respect for your optimism!

May it all be good!

I absolutely love teaching adults, and I do not care a hoot what size or shape they are, as long as they want to be there and are willing to learn!

 

Dance is for everyone, too true!

 

 

-d-

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I absolutely love teaching adults, and I do not care a hoot what size or shape they are, as long as they want to be there and are willing to learn!

 

Diane, thanks for saying particularly this. As a long time member here, you know how we adult students get all worked up about our sizes & shapes -- it's great to hear such enthusiasm and acceptance from a teacher.

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I hope your dog is all right.

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Thank you so much for sharing your story :)

 

I just tweeted about similar experience earlier this morning.. Last weekend, I went to a ballet technique fundamental class (smaller class; really step-by-step instruction with individual instruction). As a child I struggled with my body image, and at times got ignored in ballet classes because I didn't have "the ballet body" (which meant back in those days, thin and tall-ish) even after I went on pointe. During class, my teacher kept telling me that I had beautiful feet! You don't know how encouraging it feels to be complimented by a ballet teacher after so many years of self criticism (and criticism by others too).

 

It's inspiring to see people not giving up on ballet just because of age, someone else's criticism, injuries/disability, etc. It's liberating to realize that as adults, we have different goals. :)

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Thank you for sharing your story. I was a professional in my youth and when I retired from performing, I didn't dance a step for more than 10 years. When I came back to dancing (although not tall) I was VERY LARGE. I was dancing for about 2 years before the weight started coming off, but I was dancing fairly well. I walked into one of the "professional schools" in NYC where I hadn't danced for about 13 years. No one recognized me (which was for the best). I signed into an intermediate class. I took a spot at the barre. The teacher (who I did not know) came up to me:

 

Teacher: "Have you ever danced before?"

Me: "yes"

Teacher: "Ballet?"

Me: "yes"

Teacher: "recently?"

Me: "yes"

Teacher : quietly rolled her eyes.

 

I will never forget the look on her face when I did my first plie.

 

She recently recommended me for a job in a TV commercial...they needed an "older dancer". LOL

 

I wish you lived closer to me. I teach a lot of "adult" classes. I would be honored to teach a student who loves ballet as much as you do...and quite frankly, I wouldn't give a hoot about your size. Good luck

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Welcome back Laschwen! I've been more away from BT4D than not, myself, since 08, so I have only just returned, and am only sporadically on here now. But I remember your handle, and I hope you enjoy ballet just as much now as you did the last time we were both posting on here.

 

I, myself, have not taken class in quite some time, and it's past time for me. Life has made getting to take classes untenable, but I had an hour and a half, and a small appropriate space in my house, so I just gave myself my first class in quite a while two days ago. It was...a sobering experience. But happily, not enough to stop me. :)

 

Anyway, go you! Keep us posted, yes?

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Oh how disconcerting it is to be back her after way too much time on facebook since 09 and find myself looking for a like button.... I appreciate all you comments. Willimis, I wish you or anyone who loves teaching adults would locate themself near me since I cannot locate myself elsewhere. I keep my eyes open. That is how I run across places that have pointe class on their schedules but no technique classes listed. None. The one place told me the kids get ballet in their other classes. Oy. Just Oy.
I hate to report that when I was last at Dance camp we had 4 dogs, 2 yorkie litter-mates, a Yorkie-Poo (the oldest) and one Yorkie-Bulldog rescue of uncertain age. The only one we still have is the rescue. We think he is around 12 now. It has been about a year and a half since the last of the other pups left us and we miss them. They lived long and happy lives, the one despite a couple of years of home care involving sub-Q fluids being given to him daily. He seemed to know it made him feel better and he had good quality of life for longer then even his Vet imagined was possible. The sacrifice was worth it to have our babies as long as we could.

We are all subject to things that happen to us or our loved ones on occasion.
As to my progress.... I have had two days so far this year where I was able to get in a pop - up pool in my back yard where I began to do some plies, releves and stretching in between lounging around and skimming leaves in the sun. On day 2 I got out of the pool (52 inches high) and coming down the wobbly ladder I slipped and fell. The damage could have been much worse but I was almost to the bottom and landed on some foam underlayment that extends past the edge of the pool. I just landed in an unfortunate position and twisted/sprained my knee. I am on the injury train now for an as yet undetermined amount of time which will certainly slow me down a bit. My rehab will be at my new barre at least. I know exactly what to do for it and I have done so and am continuing doing it. We all know the drill with ice annd staying off our owies. We all know the frustrations too. I am looking at an alternative to that crummy ladder for the pool for when I can go in again. A boost on a cooler and another cooler with a brick in it inside to land on might be just the thing.
I both believe and can't believe the eye rolling.....
I do enjoy the sense of community we get here. I may not know anybody in town who has experienced this kind of thing but I know there are others out there because of this site. This is a great place to share the good things too. Love the commercial recommendation too.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I sympathize with you plight of not having teachers for adults. I find myself in a similar situation. Had to take a hiatus for a few years because of personal issues but never gave up at returning. Unfortunately where I currently live the nearest classes for adults is over 70 miles one way just for one class and doesn't guarantee that pointe lessons being offered. I am not giving up and lad you are not either. There is a market out there for all ages and sizes. Not everyone wants to be a pro and even if they do. More power to them! Finding something you enjoy doing is a wonderful thing. More power to us all! :)

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  • 1 month later...

So my summer plan for getting back into shape for ballet class did not quite work out but it is just a delay.

Did I mention anywhere that the diagnosis of that knee injury included the word fracture?
Mmm Hmm.
I did not find out right away (long story) but when I did the surprise of the day was that, at that point, the treatment was "gentle movement to tolerance"... Walker optional...but still needed for any distance.
I rejoined the Y and started going to a chair exercise class for seniors where the most disturbing thing the first day was realizing I am now qualified to be there and not necessarily the youngest person in the room like I had been in the past when going for fibromyalgia management or after foot surgery.
I followed that class with water exercise that I used to do until it became a lot of time spent for only a little bit of exercise... I switched to Zumba then. I cannot do everything the class does just yet and what I do does hurt, within reason, but I am pleased to be able to do something to get the rehab started. It will hurt now or or will hurt later. Might as well be now. I am officially still fractured until the 19th, with conformation of healing to be determined about a week after that. I was told I can do anything I feel like, but not to expect to feel like dancing until the 3 month mark. We shall see.
I will be in the vicinity of the Saratoga Adult dance camp for part of their week and I am tentatively scheduled to take the final day's technique class... minus the jumping most likely. At the very least I will go see the performance the day before and do a little visiting.
If I believe I can handle it at the time it will be my first day back to any kind of dancing. After that there is supposed to be a new adult class starting, thanks in part to my nagging, at my neighborhood school and when I can I will go back to tap. The Moms got interested in more than just ballet after the last recital so unfortunately it won't be a full real class, but I do approve of the teacher I believe will be there. I had already made a request of her about joining her older kids class before I found out. She only responded by telling me there would be a combo ballet and jazz class for adults...A couple of weeks later I pointed out to the new owner (on fb) that she should call me if that class does not fill up by mid-September when she posted there were still a couple of spots left in it.
The adult class may not be a full class but her technique is sound from what I have experienced, so I think it will be more of a ballet warm up and a little jazz. As long as there is no rolling on the floor I will probably be happy enough with it in addition to my tap class. I will still need to start going to the next town for a real class once I am strong enough again.
So far I can do some demi plies in 6th pain free but not pain free in second. It is a start.
One additional complication and huge morale buster did come along though. I hurt my shoulder in the senior citizens chair class on the third day in there. 80 year old people do the same thing injury free. That is bad for my morale.
It has just not been the best summer for me..... I did not even get to hang out in my pool. It sprung a leak and died a few weeks after the fall and we never even got to figuring out how to get me in and out by then. At least it was still in it's warranty period... I will eventually get a refund.

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Uh boy.
Class is set....very short.....Alternating classes one for Ballet and the next for Jazz. Different teacher than the one I hoped for. She is great at Jazz and contemproary. No clue about her ballet background. Would take lyrical from her in a heartbeat after seeing her perform with the college dance theater for 4 years... They do not do much ballet over there but I think she grew up with it. Must check bio on website...

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