December 31, 2010

Best of Ballet in 2010

It´s been a good year, dance-wise. I have logged in almost 200 ballet classes, and regretted none. Looking back at 2010, these are some of my personal highlights:

Spring Recital. I loved everything about it. Not just learning the new choreography and performing in front of a real audience, but also the extra classes, rehearsals and especially the camaraderie with my fellow dancers. We danced Swan Lake´s first act, actually a pas de trois, but modified for the twelve of us. Our teacher took elements from the original, like the entrance with the tombé pas de bourrés and cabrioles, the jeté entrelacés, the pirouettes and fouetté jumps. We came in in groups of three, each dancing a slightly different variation until forming lines and circles and patterns. Rehearsals were at times a bit frustrating, because someone was always missing, and we constantly had to rearrange our groups and places. But that made it an even better learning experience! Every spot on the stage is important, whether you´re dancing a solo or not. I was just reviewing the video, and as a group we danced pretty well together.

I have not permission to post our performance here, but this video of Swan Lake (performed by the Royal Ballet) shows the original - and of course so much better! Though I´m not embarrassed about our little ballet either <grinning happily>.





Getting over "I Can´t". Last spring I started to feel like I wasn´t improving the way I thought I should. To me, it looked like everyone else in our class was more advanced, doing better, getting ahead. Whereas I was stuck, still the only one not learning how to fouettée or jump brisé volés. I can tell you, this kind of negative thinking and comparing yourself to others (in an unfavorable way) is a waste of precious dance time. Ballet is hard, and sometimes that means being out of your comfort zone. What helped was my teacher talking some sense to me, as well as an article I read by Nichelle of dance-advantage.net (click here for more). Since then I have seen the light again. I now understand that you cannot become the dancer you want to be unless you sometimes fall flat on your face! Though hopefully, not quite so literally..


Photo: my own
Starting Pointe Classes. I´ve written quite a few posts to explain why I love dancing en pointe, but here´s some more: pointe classes are exciting and fun and scary all at once! For too long I thought pointe technique was beyond me, but it´s not! I can still learn new stuff, it just takes a lot of time and practice. And I´m lucky to have excellent teachers who are not put off by adult beginners. On the contrary, I think they push us even harder because of it. Also, I´m much taller on pointe. For a short person, that alone is reason enough. 

The Best Teachers You Could Ask For.  I´ve said it before: I have been really lucky. Though I was a little worried when my teacher  Gabriella left two months ago (maternity leave). I love her demanding and fun classes! Luckily, she arranged for our equally terrific guest teacher, Madame M-P. 

Every Ballet Class. I love to dance. I love every aspect of it; the hard work, the barre work, center, adagio, pirouettes, petit allegro and grand allegro, the challenges and the rewards.. When you finally nail the triple pirouette or when your grand jeté is airborne, or you just feel the music in every step and pose - it´s sheer bliss!



Happy New Year 2011!
image by ballerinaproject




December 25, 2010

Triple Goodness in Time for Christmas!

Last ballet class before Christmas.. and honestly, I wasn´t expecting all that much. For one thing, I had had about five hours worth of sleep, been on my feet all day and as a result was feeling more than a little cranky. Also, I was running late, which meant I had no time for a proper stretch and warm up. Not the best set-up for a good class, right? Nevertheless, a dancer has to get her quota, especially before a 12 day long break.  Fortunately, once the music started to play and we did the first plie exercise, all the crankiness and weariness disappeared. Just as it always does. 

And it was a good class! This Wednesday there were only four of us, with the rest working late / doing last minute Christmas shopping / holidaying in the tropics (insert appropriate envy here). So we did the entire class as one group, which equals a pretty intense work-out. But best of all, there was time for extra scrutiny and corrections. I´m always eager to get any sort of feedback, whether it´s good or not so.. As long as it helps me to improve my dancing!

Our teacher (old-school Vaganova) gave us this challenging center exercise, with fondues into relevé, rondes de jambe, piqués and pirouettes. The double pirouette en dehors was supposed to finish with the retiré leg in tendu effacé devant. And I just could not get it right. Every time I tried, my pirouette veered off the pose. Then my teacher recognized the problem: I kept opening the retiré leg too early, and that would carry me away from my axis. So I tried to hold the pose longer, and tried again.. really focusing on the finish.. and then I nailed it! A clean triple pirouette and pose! Christmas wish-list: triple pirouettes: check.  I wonder if this works with quadruple turns too.. Can´t wait to find out what happens next year! 


Happy Holidays everyone! 
And multiple pirouettes all around!

Illustration by Rudolf Koivu.

December 21, 2010

Dear Santa, I wish..


..for higher extensions (even an inch would do), clean triple pirouettes, one decent quadruple, fouetté turns (8 in succession would be a personal record), brisé volés, heels forward at all times, improved turn-out, stretched knees on pointe, pirouettes on pointe, anything good on pointe and..

..perfect pointe shoes. Dear Santa, you don´t by any chance happen to have a good cobbler working for you? If you do: my street size is 38 (European), toes are short, and of "peasant" shape (first two equally long), feet are wide-ish, heel is round, arch medium-high, instep normal. Any color is nice, though maybe not too pink.. I did see that Grishko has a new model called "Miracle" - just what I need! Oh, wait... apparently the name refers to the shoe´s non-stinky quality, and not to some wondrous insta-ballerina property. Dang!

..to see more live performances. Next year our National Ballet is showing Kenneth McMillan´s Manon for the first time and John Cranko´s Romeo and Juliet, both absolute must-sees! I´ve only seen snippets on TV and YouTube, and I´m dying to see these ballets performed live! 


And finally, I wish for many more dance classes with our fabulous teachers Madame G and Madame M-P,  who continue to push us beyond our perceived limits in the nicest way possible. Thank you.




The Nutcracker, act 1-5. Royal Ballet (2008)



Photo above post: San Francisco Ballet: Nutcracker.


December 13, 2010

1000 Minutes On Pointe!

Just did the math: since starting pointe this August, I have had 17 x 60 min classes, totaling about 1000 minutes spent on pointe. Yay! And I´ve learned a thing or two:

  • Pointe shoes need to be professionally fitted. I bought mine 10 years ago without supervision. I did not know at the time that the shanks are too long, which is why there´s way too much bagginess at the heel. Not pretty. Also, the box of the right foot is too narrow, twisting the shank away from underneath the foot. It´s not that they are impossible to dance with, but why make things any harder? (New pointe shoes are already on my Christmas wish-list.)
  • Breaking in pointe shoes is serious business. I used the technique described by Lisa Howell, but my teacher took steps a little further and showed me how to actually break the shank at its 3/4 length (under the heel). This works for my feet. Other feet might need something else.
  • Pointe shoes are not Uggs. You can pad and tape as much as you like, but discomfort and pain are inevitable. Even when shoes have been properly fitted. But you will get used to it. I use old-fashioned lamb´s wool, though many prefer gel-tips and Ouch Pouches. Also, special blister band-aid helps.
  • Pointe shoes are not clogs either. You still need to articulate your feet, be able to roll through demi-pointe and go over the box.
  • Going over the box (without falling over) is a big deal. Also, you cannot sit in your shoes, but must pull up at all times.
  • You can´t fake pointe technique. No way. When knees need be stretched, they really have to be. Do not go up on pointe with lax knees. Also, heels must be forwarded at all times. Maintaining proper turn-out on pointe is even more crucial than it is in soft shoes.
  • Single leg relevés with passé retirés are fun to do in soft shoes. With pointe shoes, and up on full relevé? Not so much.. But I´m getting there, albeit very slowly. 
  • Pointe is not for sissies. In fact is the most difficult physical activity I´ve ever attempted to do. This includes slacklining (a form of tightrope walking), which I did way back in college. Not kidding!

    Here´s an inspirational clip from Don Quichotte, with danseuse étoile Dorothee Gilbert of Paris Opera Ballet. She is absolutely amazing!







    December 9, 2010

    Ahaa!

    Still recovering from last Friday´s ballet and pointe class.. Why? It was absolutely awesome, that´s why! Got tons of feedback from our Fabulous French Ballet Teacher, corrections, and even some praise (yay)! Best of all, I had two rare ahaa-moments. The stars must have been finally properly aligned, right along with my feet and toes. This is how I got there:


    Present your heel. Your teacher has probably taught you to forward your heel in order to maximize turnout of the working leg. The idea is to rotate from the hip joint, so that there is one continuous line, spiraling from the upper leg all the way down to the foot. A screwdriver is another popular visual image. It´s the correction I keep getting the most, and yet I struggle with it. Slower exercices are fine, as there is time enough to think and rotate. With fast dégagés, however, the heel loses its maximum turn-out at the last moment of the tendue. It´s really frustrating! At its worst, the foot looks almost sickled, not a big banana, but still. And in ballet this is very, very bad. Because as we all know, any inward sickling is a sign of improper training and or weak ankles. I´m very aware of this, and it makes me feel pretty self-conscious about my feet.



    1. winged   2. neutral   3. sickled (don´t !)
    image from www.dance-teacher.com


    My ahaa-moment. Madame had just recently instructed us how to wing the working foot in arabesque (note: the foot is not supposed to wing so much that it looks like a crease, but a beautiful continuation of the line). The effect is rather subtle, since my foot is capable of only 5-10 degrees of outward movement (as opposed to 40 degrees inward). Anyway, my  big realization  came when I figured out that if the working foot is winged just a little (even the idea of "winging" seems to be enough), the action prompts the to heel turn more forward, and hey presto: instant improved turnout. Ahaa! It is a small change with a huge difference. Even my brisés are better than ever. Why? Brisé is a traveling and beating step, and beating your legs in the air works best with actively turned out feet. All this time I had used less turn-out than I´m actually capable of! Ahaa..

    December 5, 2010

    Dancing Down Memory Lane, part 1

    Growing up in a still-divided Berlin, me and my pals treated the city as our playground, the vast parks as our forests, the streets and backyards as our domain.. even with the Wall a constant and sinister presence. In retrospect it was a creepy normalcy, but to us kids it enhanced the sense of adventure as we roamed about, our playtime blissfully unsupervised. At the time I was a tomboy, climbing trees and jumping fences and happy at that. I had no clue about ballet, neither did any of my friends.





    Victoria Park, Berlin


    The Wall, photo: Barbara Klemm












    I never had dance lessons as a child. No pink tights, no satiny ballet shoes, no recitals. But being so happily clueless, I never knew if I was missing out on anything. For all I know, I might have hated the whole ballet class experience. I was a competitive kid back then, always wanting to be the best and finish any race first. Not having a natural body for ballet (certainly not after hitting my teen years), the eventual disappointment of never being good enough would have been hard to bear. No regrets then. I´m just happy to be dancing now.

    As I wrote before, I had no clue about ballet. Fortunately, at the time (West-)German TV was overflowing with American programming, especially old Hollywood movies and musicals. And I loved the dancing more than anything. Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire were my heroes, Cyd Charisse and Leslie Caron my idols. Their movement to music was the most beautiful and exciting thing I could imagine! To this day I am fascinated by the elegance of their lines and the vigor and skill of old-school musical dancing. It made me fall in love with dancing in the first place..


    I still get a big kick out of these movies and their dance numbers. And hey, there´s more ballet in them than I remembered. Go figure..


    Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly
    An American in Paris (1951), Dir. Vincente Minelli,
    starring Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlvzGT1Ta2w












    Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. The Band Wagon (1953, Dir. Vincente Minelli):

    December 3, 2010

    My Pre-Ballet Check-List

    • Dance-bag packed and ready: soft slippers, pointe shoes, lambswool, toe tape, tights(footless, black), leo, skirt, warm-up sweater, pants and socks, hair elastic and bobby-pins, towel and water bottle.
    • snack: banana and peanut butter
    • be at dance-school at least 30 min before class
    • warm-up: push-ups, sit-ups, plank
    • stretch
    • catch up with friends
    • switch to dance-frame of mind:  think positive(" I can", instead of "I can´t"),
      concentrate and absorb.
    • turn-out, heels forward, knees stretched, back long, core strong, line plum..
    • breath, elongate, dance, live!



    “You will only get out of a dance class what you bring to it. 
    Learn by practice.”
    - Martha Graham 

    November 28, 2010

    The One About Nice Feet and Magic Wands

    The dreaded pointe shoe inspection before class.. I hand my shoes over to our Fabulous French Ballet Teacher, who immediately sees that the shanks are too hard for me. The thing is that I have fairly normal arches, but my insteps are low-ish. That gorgeous curve you see on pointed ballerina feet? I wish.. Madame then asks me if she could break the shoes for me, and hey, who am I to refuse? It takes her about ten seconds to snap the shank along 3/4 of its length. Nothing is cut off, but now there's less resistance under my arch. 

    arch

    instep
    The shoes really do feel different. It's easier to roll through demi-pointe, and I think I have just a bit more foot control. But sadly, not yet the magic trick I was sort of hoping for.  It bugs me that I still can't get properly over the box with my right foot (my left foot is better). Obviously I have to keep working both my feet, and learning pointe technique is a very slow climb uphill. No magic.



    So, ballet is not easy. What else is new? This week we are doing slow relevés, rising and lowering carefully through demi-pointe and doing plies and grand-plies while up on full pointe. I find this gives me better control of turnout and I try my best to isolate the proper muscles. But there's not much time to think as we move on to really quick échappés and single leg retirés, followed by lots and lots of quick relevés in first and second positions. Thankfully, it's not all work and no play. We end the barre with a beautiful enchainement where the idea is to be very "Juliet". I feel shy, out of my comfort zone, but at the same time it's very exciting. 

    Center work is as challenging as ever, scary and fun at the same time, but forget about looking elegant  or looking like "Juliet", for that matter! I just concentrate on not falling over. We do even more échappés, as well as single leg retirés, bourrés and a prep exercise for tour chaînés (déboulés). Now the correction I keep hearing most often is about my knees. "Stretch your knees! You have to stretch your knees at all times!" The class before it was about forwarding and presenting my heels, but now my lazy knees are the bad guys. There is so much to do, to learn and to remember! Luckily our Fabulous French Ballerina is the sweetest, most demanding and encouraging teacher you could ask for.

    After class Madame takes another look at my shoes and says she's going to bring in her old, custom-made pointes so we can see how shoes are supposed to be broken in.  It is different for every dancer I think, but she is the professional ballerina and I trust her judgement. Still, I'm feeling a bit sorry about my mediocre feet. Then Madame surprises me: she tells me that I actually have "nice feet"(!), and if I want to improve my pointe work (Yes!), I need to concentrate more on stretching my knees. Along with everything else, of course (think core strength, plum line, turn-out, coordination, épaulemant, etc..). So my feet do not have glorious ballerina arches, but they don't suck either!

    I'm in a happy place right now. Never had "nice feet" before. <insert big grin>. All I have to do is keep taking class, work hard, work harder, and then some (which I coincidentally love to do). And I'm thinking no magic is needed for that.







    Just in case things don´t work out...

    Photo: Reinhold Thiele


    November 26, 2010

    A Day Off is a Good Day to Pointe

    Ballet isn´t easy on the adult dancer´s body. 

    My muscles are still sore from Wednesday´s class, and not sleeping enough hasn´t helped at all. That´s why I plan to do some recuperating stretching today, even before I leave for class, combined with a moderate ab-workout to warm up (not my favorite way to spend time - but need those core muscles!). I like to stretch for at least a full hour, focusing on whatever muscle groups feel the tightest. Since I´m on my feet all day, calves tend to be really tired and cramp easily when we´re doing lots of relevés. I gotta be careful, because two years ago I injured my left calf muscle in the middle of an easy temps levé jump. It was the end of class, I was all warmed up and yet I felt the dreaded kick in the back of my leg. That muscle strain kept me away from dancing for a whole month. So guys, always pay attention to your aches and pains! And take the time to recover between classes. But let´s get back to the good stuff:

    It´s Friday again, one of my favorite days of the week. And to sweeten the deal even further, it´s my day off. I can sleep in, there´s no rushing to and from work, just some minor errands to run and a bit of housework (not too much). All this goodness equals more time to prep and enjoy this evening´s double bill of ballet and pointe! I´m going to be early to warm up and ready my legs, ankles and feet. Just a little bit of pilates for those all-important 26 bones, 33 joints, 100 muscles, ligaments and tendons! By the way, Ballet Scoop has some great tips on how to  "supercharge your pointework". Considering that we are doing 90 minutes worth of high-intensity ballet followed by 60 minutes of pointe class, I need all the prep I can manage. Pointe shoes aren´t exactly Birkenstocks!

    Which reminds me, I have been asked to submit my pointes (Capezio, Aerial) to inspection before tonight´s class. Our Fabulous French Ballet Teacher isn´t too happy about my inability to rise properly over the box. She suspects the fault lies with my too hard shoes. I fear the culprit are my feet. Update will follow..

    November 23, 2010

    Sleeping Beauty, I wish..

    http://www.fanpop.com/spots/ballet/links/1158100
    I were.. not because I want to dance her part on stage (hey, to be completely honest - I want to, if only I had the skills) but because I could use the time to get some serious sleep! Sadly, the days when I could pull off a full schedule, work and studying and dance included, with merely 6 hours of slumber, are long gone. Over. Finito. But you get the idea. Life moves on, you grow older, schedules conflict and sleep becomes a precious commodity.

    Never mind that sleeping is supposed to keep you beautiful - I need every bit of energy so I can still dance full out! It´s just that, après-ballet, I´m usually too hungry and wired, and it takes me too much time to wind down. And far too often I fall into the trap of TV/DVD, chatting and blogging when I should be heading to bed already. Heck, I´m doing it even now! But it´s hard not to, especially when I come home late from dance class and before you know, it is already past midnight and another tired day lies ahead..

    It´s really not the smartest idea to dance when you are sleep-deprived. Learning new combinations is a lot more difficult, as is remembering which came first.. my left or right foot, and why is everyone else going in the other direction? Yeah, just happened to me today. Tricky little tendue frappées! And forget about inching those extensions any higher! Also there´s a real risk of injury, if you don´t pace yourself carefully. Not to mention the missed opportunity to push yourself further, and work harder! So, a lot of valid reasoning to stay home and lay low. But me, I´m a stubborn person and like my ballet far too much to miss out on any classes. I have to confess that I´d rather dance bleary-eyed than not at all. Also, coffee helps.

    In an ideal world, I could take all the hours I would need to dance and to sleep. A girl can dream, right?





    Aurelie Dupont, danseuse étoile, Paris Opera Ballet

    November 19, 2010

    definition of elegant: graceful in form or movement


    It's Friday evening and pointe class. Our Fabulous French Ballet Teacher is demonstrating a seemingly simple exercise where we are supposed to piqué across the floor: "You have to present yourself.. do a beautiful port de bras..be elegant!" She looks stunning, every inch the ballerina. But me? Elegant? ON POINTE? Not so much.. Heck, I'm rarely, if ever, elegant in REAL life. Seriously, how do you learn this stuff? And where do I sign up?

    November 18, 2010

    Space(y) Pirouettes

    I have had this dream repeatedly where I keep turning, endlessly and effortlessly, counting 4, then 8, then 16, then..., well then I usually wake up, somewhat disappointed might I add, because reality never lets me defy the laws of physics and ballet. The thing is, I´m pretty much useless at spotting my turns. And spotting, it seems, is the key in succeeding at triple or quadruple or even - yikes - quintuple pirouettes! Case in point, just check out the amazing dancers from Pacific Northwest Ballet taking company class and turning their butts off:



    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8p_VB6Q7fE

    Strangely, I have somehow managed to pirouette for the past 15 years without focusing on any spot. And the truth is, you can do it without - it just doesn´t look neat, and forget about turning multiple spins! This sad fact was finally pointed out to me by my Favorite Ballet Teacher, and only because of her persistence I am slowly learning to snap my head around twice - spot ahead! Nowadays, on a good day, I manage maybe four out of 10 double turns neatly.. but finding my spot three times: impossible! Although the Triple Pirouettes do happen once in a while, that third revolution always seem accidental. Maybe it´s because I never really decide beforehand to turn thrice, and just go into the turn hoping for the best..

    Now, I have worked a lot on my pirouettes. I try to learn from all the different corrections our teachers have given to us in class. I´ve read almost every 101/article/blog/thread there is on on improving your turns. Most have been helpful. I know that there have been many glitches in need of repair, and I´ve gotten a lot better. I have learned that beside spotting your turns, a strong core, deep plié and perfect timing of all elements are what make a great pirouette.

    By the way, if you want to do the same, that is look for advice on the internet, this guide by Nichelle of Dance Advantage is one of the best:
    http://danceadvantage.net/2010/11/16/pirouette-fairy-tips/ .

    Still, something weird happens when I try to snap my head around more than twice. Suddenly my spot is all over the place. Last night, my substitute ballet teacher kindly told me in my native Finnish that "sun katse on avaruudessa", which roughly translated means that "I´m off and headed into space". Yeah, space.. and spotting.. my final frontier. It was funny, really, because aside from being a total ballet dork, I´m also a bit of scifi-nerd. For me, the best drama truly happens in space. But spacey pirouettes? Not so much.

    So, I gotta figure out how to re-write my pirouette base-code. Remove that fail-safe in my brain which prevents my head from staring just straight ahead into space. Put theory into practice. Fail 19 times and succeed the twentieth (the definition of perseverance according to Julie Andrews). Turning multiple pirouettes (as in 4 or even 5) is a sweet dream indeed, right along there with flying spaceships. But unlike dreaming of traveling through Stargates, non-spacey-pirouettes could actually still become reality! And guys, when that happens and I nail my first clean quadruple, the tab´s on me!

    Disclaimer: open tab only for first person to witness actual act of turning quadruple, and only applicable at my local pub. In this galaxy.

    November 15, 2010

    Better to do something imperfectly than to do nothing flawlessly. - Robert Schuller




    Ballet is hard. Even after thousands of tendues and plies and practice it doesn´t really get any easier. There are always new things to learn, and old stuff to improve upon. For instance in today´s intermediate class we did this new move, I hope I can explain it right: jump from 5th, the front leg opens into seconde (same arm up), and you do a quick ronde en l´air as you come down, followed by pique (with same front leg) arabesque in effacé. And repeat. Hmm.. I really need to work on these explanations. 


    Anyway, it was a new combination for me, and I just couldn´t figure it out. Am I supposed to do the ronde while still airborne? Is that really possible? If I do the ronde on landing, then what was that first jump? Sissone ouvert? Again, I´m over-thinking the steps, when we should already be doing them. Our teacher does explain, but she can no longer demonstrate full out, and I´m a visual learner.  To confuse myself further,  I´m reminded of another jump I´ve seen in Balanchine´s Nutcracker.. I think it´s called "gargouillade", but there you do the rondes with both legs, and simultaneously. Must try that sometime. But I digress. We repeat the exercise many times, and I´m doing something slightly different each time. I really hope we are doing this combination again next class so I can get another go at it ( or closer to). 


    Ballet is full of these challenges, and I love it, even though I sometimes get frustrated. I suppose it´s all part of the learning process and dancing and life in general. It´s what makes it such a rewarding experience and just plain fun. With ballet, you are never over and done!



    November 13, 2010

    Friday Evening - Happy Hour at the Barre

    Friday evening, and nothing feels better than finishing the working week at the barre! First up, 90 minutes of advanced ballet with our new ballet teacher, The French Ballerina. At times I get a little distracted, because of her insanely high extensions and wonderfully expressive port de bras. It's a great class. She is a lovely person and a terrific teacher, giving everyone lots of personal attention and positive feedback. The barre is fast-paced, with quick degagées, developpées and enveloppées, and lots of balances. In the center we do a beautiful adagio, which has me both terrified and excited. Terrified, because there's a real chance of looking totally silly, and excited because I feel like I could express something with my dancing! And I even managed to pull off a couple of triple pirouettes! The class ends late, with no time for reverance, but there's big applause and I quickly rush to change into my pointe shoes.

    I had given up on the idea of doing pointe. Too old, too late, too hard. However, after some 16 years of practicing ballet in soft shoes, I started to feel that not learning pointe would be something I was going to regret. So, when our teacher Gabriella Serra told us that she would start teaching pointe classes this August, beginners included, I jumped at the chance! Not too late after all! Pointe class turned out to be much more challenging and difficult than I anticipated, but fast-forward ten weeks and ten classes, and I'm still excited about every new exercise. Then, just as I'm getting the feel of pointe shoes (and first blisters), Ms Serra goes on maternity leave. Happy news, but I wonder what will happen to our adult beginners pointe class... Enter our new teacher, Marie-Pierre Greve, aka The French Ballerina. 

    We are all a bit dumbfounded to have such an elegant principal dancer teach our adult class. Ms. Greve retired from the Danish Royal Ballet just two years ago, at the age of 38, and it shows. One of my friends tells me that she would buy a ticket just to watch her port de bras. I've had many good teachers over the years, but taking class with Ms. Greve does feel a bit like winning the ballet lottery!

    There I am, standing at the barre, on pointe, in a really scary wide second position. Ms. Greve is sitting at my feet. She takes hold of my left foot, molding the arch and telling me to point more, and I do my best to comply. “There, you see, you can do it!” she exclaims, looking quite delighted at the result, until she sees my other foot all un-pointed and starting to turn in. At that point(e), I feel the need to apologize but instead I merely nod when she tells me that there is plenty of work to do, that I have to get stronger and that there would be no pointe for me (sorry, pun intended) if I could not get properly over my box at all times. I keep nodding my head, as my power of speech is frequently lost in ballet class. But I know what I want: to learn how to dance on pointe!

    Class is more difficult now, with quick echappées and single leg passée retirés in center. I feel my legs no longer belonging to me, and have the hardest time getting up and staying there. But Madame is très sweet, encouraging and correcting everyone. She even takes hold of my hands to help me with a challenging balance, and I try my hardest to get it right. At the end of class, my feet are smokin' hot and I'm feeling slightly disoriented. It's like I had one drink too many, in a foreign bar where I don't quite understand the language. Then, I catch my reflection in the mirror, red cheeks, glowing skin and grinning from one ear to the other. It's been another happy hour at the barre!

    Pointe in my kitchen. November 2010. 

    November 10, 2010

    Ballet on a Budget

    Let´s be frank about it. Doing ballet doesn´t come cheap. Pointe shoes cost a bundle. Ballet performances sometimes a small fortune. Taking regular ballet classes is a lot more expensive than your average gym membership. I take a minimum of three classes a week, totalling at approx. 1450 euros on a yearly basis. Considering the state of today´s economy, that´s a whole lot of money that could, and perhaps should have been spent more wisely elsewhere. Unfortunately, one of the pitfalls of being a grown-up means that you get to pay for your own classes and pointe shoes. That is after all those other bills, student loans and mortgages have already been paid for. So what if not-dancing is not an option to save money? How do you stretch a budget to accomodate enough classes and pointe shoes?

    Now, you could get your ballet fix through blogs and video postings alone. But for me, dancing vicariously merely bridges the gap from one ballet class to the next. It´s just not the same. Still, there are a lot of great tips and demonstrations on the internet to broaden dancing horizons and help to improve your technique. Check out my video links on the right to some of the best companies in the world. Sadly, they provide only snippets of ballets, but it´s still great fun.

    Some of my other favorite and easy ways to save money (and resources):
    - recycle where you can: I cut off the elastics once my soft ballet shoes are worn through. The color and width is just right for pointe shoes.
    - wear your slippers as long as possible: because I like my soft shoes to fit really snug, the canvas gets holes pretty quick. As soon as I notice the fabric wearing thin, I tape my shoes inside and out with sports tape. This really works!
    - if you wear black tights, no need to shop in the dance section. Black leggings are everywhere (and cheap)
    - take care of your pointes, always air for at least 36 hrs after wear. Also, shellac on the inside of your box works to keep the tip hard.
    - buy online, but only when you´re 100% sure of the size and model

    In the end, all the money I have put into ballet has been worth it tenfolds. You just can´t put a price on passion! I would love to read about any money-saving ideas you might have..

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