February 1, 2012

New Visions

Last Friday I got fitted for my first contact lenses. That same evening I saw myself in the big studio mirror for the first time without soft focus since my mid-twenties. It was like reverse photo-shopping. Dorian Gray and all that. Fast forward to the future. Oh, well. I could of course opt out and return to looking at my "younger" mirror image, but there really is no turning back. Especially since 20/20 vision is so much better for spotting those pirouettes! It's a bit of a trade-off, but I think I'd rather face my lines than give up on multiple turns. But would it kill anyone to install more flattering lighting?

You may wonder why I waited for so many years?  For one, I can't wear glasses and dance at the same time. I tried but it was hugely distracting and not practical at all. Mostly I wear them for watching TV or when I'm traveling in strange surroundings. Whenever I want to see past 2 meters with clear precision. Ballet class, on the other hand, is familiar territory, and I could probably do a basic barre blind-folded. Although at times it has been problematic. If the teacher is on the other side of the class-room (we have big studios), and looking straight at me - I cannot tell. I'm afraid that because of this I might on occasion have come across as stand-offish. And if she's giving me advice or a correction without saying my name, I know only for sure if I noticed the error myself. To be on the safe side, I take all corrections personally anyway. 

When I got back to ballet some five years ago, I never considered my nearsightedness to be an issue in ballet class - other than for the reason I just wrote above. Until I started to wonder if my lazy pirouette-spotting could have anything to do with it. I turn well enough if we're in the smaller studio, or if we're going in the diagonal and I can focus on the wall at each end. But if we dance in the bigger studio it's much more difficult. It's even worse if we have to turn facing the mirror. How are you supposed to spot when you can't focus your eyes? Still, I was weary of getting contacts. I hated the idea of putting some foreign object into my eyes.

Finally, my teacher gave me the necessary push and told me to consider contacts. Which I then did. Booked myself an appointment and braved the moment of first contact. Well, turns out I have excellent control of the eyelid wink-reflex and very good hand-eye coordination. Got that lense in on my first try! It was kinda awesome to find out about this previously un-known skill! ;) The lense felt a bit odd, but not itchy or otherwise unpleasant like I had feared. What a relief!

First class was a new experience. After I got over the initial shock of seeing myself so clearly in the mirror, I enjoyed the sensation of fully visualizing my surroundings. I could see other faces across the room! I could focus from a distance! Now, if that could have been followed by quadruple pirouettes.. But not quite there yet. I have to readjust myself first, learn to dance again outside of my own little space. After class my teacher told me that she saw a difference already. I had appeared more "present". Before, she could not always tell if I was concentrating on my turns or not, as I often looked "inward". Now, there seemed to be a new kind of certainty.

There's another added bonus. I became immediately aware of the many faces I tend to make in class! You know, the lip-biting and furrowed brows, the weird expressions we make when we stumble or screw up.. It may look funny, but you're not supposed to show your mishaps on your face while you dance. Ballet is a performing art, and our expressions are part of the performance. Though I'm not one to plast a perma-smile on for class. A relaxed, alert and happy looking face is plenty enough!

P.S. Last Tuesday my dearly missed and long awaited triple pirouettes made a come-back. There was one, totally out of the blue, and another one which just kept turning. Two, not more, but a promising start nonetheless. I am excited to see where this is going!

12 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new eyes! Having extremely poor vision myself, I can't imagine trying class sans contacts...although, there are definitely days when I wish I COULDN'T see all the things I mess up!

    It's a whole new world - enjoy it!

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  2. Thank you! :)

    There might be days when I forget my new vision improvers, and I will cope well enough. But you are so right, it's definitely a new world within my old world!

    Hahahaa, even if we could not see all our messes, our teachers would be kind enough to let us know :D

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  3. I think everyone is guilty of making faces when they dance. I know I am! It's a hard habit to break, but necessary. I usually make a face during a really difficult step, or when I make a stupid mistake.

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    1. ELizabeth, I think everyone is allowed the occasional Funny Face :) We just have to avoid making a habit of it. Which is really hard, like you said! I wish my first teacher had made me aware of this, but back then the perfomance was never really brought up. We were told to move to the music and dance, but facial expressions have always been optional.. ;)

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  4. I always wore my glasses to class - it's my distance vision that's a bit wonky so certainly in bigger studios I needed them to be able to focus if my teacher was at the other end. Also I'm so in the habit of wearing them that I tend to forget I am doing... I did have a moment of epiphany just before Christmas though that they were kind of holding me back on my turns as I was in mortal fear of them flying across the studio (à la the occasion they once flew across the dining hall at school) - that was when I stopped wearing them for centre.

    Face pulling is a crucial part of class, non? I don't understand anyone who can get through it with a perma-smile... ;)

    Hurrah for the turn-return though!

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    1. There are others who wear glasses, but I've never seen any flying across the studio. But I can see how that could hold you back..

      I think a perma-smile would look quite mad.. ;)

      Thanks, Nellie!

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  5. hi, Johanna! I've worn glasses since I was in 2nd grade, and wear them while dancing. I've never had any problems with them coming off--in turns, penche, jumps. It's all fine. The difference in my seeing myself in the mirror tho, is that I hate looking at myself! One problem I don't have is messing up my facing or epaulment b/c I am looking at myself in the mirror. The problem is does create, however, is that I look down instead!! I'm trying to get over it, focus on what's right about my posture instead of what's wrong with my body. And one last note, because I know you will appreciate it--I had the BEST turns I think I've ever had in class last night! I did four beautiful (single) turns from fourth (tendu devant, inside turn, arms to high 5th). they were calm, controlled, just the right amount of speed, perfectly centered, and closed right to 5th!!! it was sooooo exciting! now i just have to analyze what i did differently to get them and keep doing it!!! :)

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    1. Hi, Shannon!

      I got my glasses relatively late, at 24 or so.. And only need them for distanve-vision, which is why I've always been a lazy glass-wearer. But I'm glad they work for you :)

      I get the part about looking in the mirror. Try instead to look "through" yourself, if that makes any sense. Check your mirror image to correct your alignment, not to find fault with everything you see. The mirror is very much a tool like the barre, nothing more. Imagine the audience behind it. Look and dance past your reflection. :)

      Woooot! Congrats on your clean turns! That's just wonderful, I can imagine how you must have felt :)

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  6. I wear contacts to class, too. Or glasses, occasionally. Everything is fuzzy for me if I don't! I'm glad you took the leap and tried contacts--you get used to the feeling of them pretty quickly and forget you even are wearing them. I love contacts. :)

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    1. I'm still adjusting to my improved vision in class.. Now I find it's easier to spot from a distance, and harder up close. Basically my previous dilemma, but reversed. Funny.

      Thank you for commenting! :)

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  7. I remember the freedom that contacts gave me in my late teens. Congrats and cheers to the freedom. I personally was too lazy to wear them to dance class cause i used hate wearing them in work so last year i got brave and got laser!

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  8. Thank you, Emma! It has made a huge difference already :)

    I would consider Lasik, but it's too costly for my measly budget. But I've seen quite a few friends benefit, and it sure makes your life easier!

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