July 5, 2015

Hiatus

It's been three weeks since my last ballet class. In the past nine years, three weeks is the longest I've gone without dance. Now I'm looking at five more weeks, at least. My best case scenario: back at the barre by the 11th of August. The more likely scenario: sometime in fall, hopefully before winter. At least I'm not sick or injured, so that's good. I'm struggling with my dance budget, is all. Classes are expensive, you could easily feed yourself for two or even three days with just the cost of a single lesson! And when you are living on a very tight budget, every non-essential luxury means significant compromises elsewhere. For instance, I love to travel. But, given a choice, I love dance more. I like pretty shoes and clothes, but if it's class or a new outfit, I'd rather shop second-hand. I get my hair cut on birthdays only, buy generic brands (which often are just as good), and happily borrow occasional clothes from my more stylish friends. Ballet class might be a luxury, but I've never considered it being non-essential. The benefits and pleasure I get from dance far outweigh any compromises or sacrifices. The prospect of not dancing saddens me. A life without dance? Unimaginable.

I have been very fortunate this past year. In addition to my regular classes, I got to participate in a 6-month long intensive workshop (part of a dance pedagogy master thesis study), totaling 129 45-minute sessions (usually 3-4 sessions at once). The workshop helped improve body awareness and placement, and I've definitely seen and felt some progress since. There was even a performance at the end, in front of a small but appreciative audience. The movement material was based on our own improvised dancing, which made the rehearsals and show extra exciting! I'm very happy I had such an amazing opportunity to learn and grow.

There have been great classes throughout the year, with wonderful teachers. I've enjoyed the exercises and challenges, just as I've appreciated their advice and personal corrections. One lesson was a slightly bitter pill to swallow, and I've had to revise and adjust my attitude in the process. Turns out that negative moods (due to stress, fatigue, insecurities, whatever) can be contagious, affecting class mates and teachers alike. Facial expressions (think concentration face, or "resting bitch face syndrome") can also be misconstrued as something else entirely, for instance, showing lack of respect. When this was pointed out to me, I was aghast... Because I had no idea of the negative impact I was making! I was letting my everyday problems affect both my focus and body language, without realising it. Needless to say, I've since made every effort to improve my attitude. The lessons you learn in ballet... Not always about technique, but just as valuable, if not more so.

There have also been new teachers, and new discoveries. When my own teacher Marie announced that she would be leaving 6 weeks early, and we would have substitute teachers for the remainder of the season, I was initially anxious. I already knew that I would not be able to dance in the summer, and I did not want my last classes to lack in personal corrections and inspiration. It's not that self-evident for (middle-aged) adults to get such detailed and plentiful attention, with some teachers tending to put their main focus on more talented (and younger) students. Not that you cannot convince them otherwise, but it usually takes some time to build a working relationship. Well, I approached class with my best attitude (no pun intended), an open mind and my usual eagerness to learn - and it worked out better than I had expected! Of course, I missed Marie; the warm atmosphere, the corrections and encouragement she would bestow on us, but Arja was just as nice - and she made me work on other areas I had been neglecting. I have been "scooping up" my abs ever since! It was also fun trying more difficult enchaînements, faster tempi and new steps. Sometimes, you need those challenges to progress!

I also enjoyed guest teacher Minna Tervamäki's classes. I only got to attend four times (out of five), but having a recently retired principal dancer share her tips and "tricks" is nothing if not special. The focus was less on academic technique, more on neo-classical and contemporary ballet (think Balanchine, Forsythe..). I did not receive a lot of personal corrections (one or two per class), but there was a lot of fun dancing to compensate! In the long run, I would be frustrated not getting personal attention, but combined with other classes/teachers, it works just fine. Anyway, you cannot rely on your teacher to spot every mistake at all times, or to hope for praise every time there's a nice pirouette or balance... It's very important to develop body awareness, and to learn how to self-correct. Do it before your teacher reminds you! Also, you have to take pleasure in your progress, with our without praise.

Then, just when I thought my classes were over, there was an announcement of a 2-week summer intensive: morning classes from Monday until Friday, at a very cheap price I could actually afford! Of course, I signed up immediately. Classes were aimed at (semi-) professionals, but some exercises were simplified to accommodate a variety in levels. We had a different teacher almost every day, and while I only got a few personal corrections, it was a really good work-out! I even got to try some never-before-turns: pirouette en dehors, opening into seconde (like a fouetté), continuing into arabesque en dehors. Did not "quite" get it, but it sure was fun trying! The intensive was also excellent preparation for the Kuopio Dance Festival's courses. My going to Kuopio was a huge stroke of luck, and definitely the grand finale of the past dance season. I've already written about it (and there will be some follow-ups yet to come), but I could not have wished for a better finish - nor could I ask for more.

What happens next, and when, is uncertain. At present, I cannot afford classes, but that doesn't mean I'm quitting ballet altogether! I just need to stay in shape until I can go back again. Walking and jogging in the nearby forest, swimming, stretching, planks and pliés, plus tendus and fondues in the kitchen, ab exercises, relevés, strengthening feet with rubberband, waterballet... As long as I do something, because it's use it or lose it! So, I try to approach every day as if I have morning class the next. Eventually, hopefully, that day will come. 


Wherever there's a "barre"...

20 comments:

  1. I am very sorry this is happening. I hope your hiatus will not be so long. But you are a dance student with a lot of experience. Therefore, I believe you will be able to work on your own for a while.

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    1. Thank you! As you get older (I'm 46), it's harder to return after long breaks... You cannot stop completely! But I try to stay in shape, maintain flexibility and strength. Many exercises you can do at home, like relevés and pliés. What is harder is maintaining motivation... I'll probably do a lot of writing to stay in a dancing frame of mind! :)

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    2. It is true, returning after a break becomes more difficult as we get older. ( I am 49). I did not want to say so,but self-motivation can be hard sometimes. So, I was wondering if writing about your experience might be helpful for yourself, but also for other adult students in a similar situation.

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    3. Yes, writing can be a form of therapy... It also helps to stay in contact with the (adult) dancing community! Last time I took a break, it escalated into three years... I believe that only happened because I was no longer part of that community (it was before facebook and blogging). Having the support of fellow dancers definitely helps with the self-motivation :).

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  2. I was a bit surprised for this "I did not receive a lot of personal corrections (one or two per class)" - I find it a bit demanding to expect a lot of personal corrections. One or two corrections per class sounds very adequate for me, more could make it almost a private class and would be unfair to other dancers in the class, don't you think so? Of course it also depends on how many people are attending the class.

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    1. Hi!

      I do NOT expect to get MORE personal corrections than other students in class... But compared to my regular classes with Marie Greve, one or two corrections is indee "not a lot". With Marie, it's normal to get corrections for almost every exercise, and no, it's not a private class. I (and I'm not the only one) might get as many corrections in a single class as I do with some other teachers in ten.... Of course, it depends on how many students are in class. But she still gives more corrections in a large class than some teachers do in a small group. The same with Arja.

      Which does not mean that those "one or two" corrections are not appreciated!!!

      I do not think I'm entitled to personal corrections, but I'm always happy when I get the attention. Whou wouldn't? I was simply stating that in this particular class, there were only a few. If you read further, you know that I still enjoyed that class. You can always learn, even when you do not get (a lot of) personal attention.

      I have also teachers who almost NEVER give personal corrections to anyone, it's their method of teaching, and I respect that. I do not EXPECT or DEMAND to get corrections from them. But I still like their classes, for various reasons.

      I've also had teachers who give corrections to some, but not others, even in a small class. They may have good reasons for doing so, but it's not so motivating being on the non-receiving end (in the long run).

      In large classes (with more than 20 students), it's of course next to impossible to give more than two corrections per student, or things get really slow. I suppose I'm lucky because our morning classes are not that big. In fact, I can say that some sessions are almost like private classes!

      Again, I would never demand corrections - but I once told a teacher that I would be happy to receive more, and she was happy to oblige.

      I only expect a lot of corrections in classes where I know it's the style of the teacher to do so.

      I'm sorry that my writing came across as something other than intended, but I hope my explanation cleared that up for you.

      Thanks for the feedback! :)
      - Johanna

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    2. I saw the photo you posted on facebook. The little girl who thinks the teacher is talking about her, that's me! I enjoy corrections, too, but sometimes I am overwhelmed with all the information. Nevertheless, I am grateful and try to apply the corrections immediately.

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    3. Big class or not - unless you get some personal (and personalized!) corrections, what's the point? I mean, if the teacher says "present your heel, keep the turnout", I am definitely trying my best and are often convinced that I am doing it right - until we had a substitute teacher who showed ME how to move MY foot and suddenly I was "Oh, I've been doing it wrong all the time." Unless you get some personal corrections, there is just no way you can improve. And I don't need to be (or want to be, come to that) the teacher's center of undivided attention, but if I am left to self-correct my alignment from general comments and "corrections" only (excluding those concerning choreography, naturally), I am bound to get it wrong as I have not been dancing since age four - no muscle-memory to kick-in and do the job... And bad habits are much harder to get rid of than learning it correctly from the beginning. I think personalized corrections are more a matter of teaching style and method rather than class size. If personalized corrections are important to the teacher, he or she will distribute them freely even if there are 25 students in class...
      Also, very sorry to hear that ballet classes are so expensive in your part of the world. Apparently I am very lucky where I am, so that taking 3-4 classes per week does not render me bankrupt.

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  3. Hi!

    I totally understand not being able to afford ballet classes and know that I am lucky to live in a big city where I can just drop in for however many classes I can afford that week (and where it only costs $15/class to dance with a renowned ballet company). However, when I do need to dance at home, I have found that Kathryn Morgan's videos are incredibly helpful. She has a few full workouts and barre routines on youtube and she also teaches online classes which you can take live, or pay a small fee for access to pre-recorded classes.

    I also have (from high school when I was a tapper who did jazz/modern for artistry) the New York City Ballet Workouts. They aren't dance per-se but they are much more ballet-focused than most of the "barre" fitness videos you can find.

    And I don't know if you've considered it, but designing a pointe til you drop shirt and using a platform like Society6 or RedBubble to handle the orders & printing for you to make some spare cash to cover your ballet costs?

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    1. Hi!

      At the moment, I wish I were back in Berlin (Germany)... Morning classes for professionals cost only 6€/class! You don't need any membershi/union card, just enough training so that you can keep up and not get in the way. I've dances for so long that I know how to adapt and modify. Really, if I had the airfare I would get on the next plane! Your class with a renowned ballet company sounds wonderful... :)

      I've watched Katie's youtube channel, lots of good advice there! I have a bit of a problem with securing a barre-substitute though. My chairs are too low-backed and not very sturdy. But I'll have another go at it! Counting today, still 42 days until my next class. I have now one weekly class confirmed, and I hope to add more in September or October. Keep fingers crossed! :)

      I remember those NYCBallet workouts! Didn't some have Peter Martins' voice-over?

      I like you idea about designing a shirt! Have to look into it :). Thanks for the tip!!

      - Johanna

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  4. Hei,
    Eikö Helsingissä kansalaisopistossa tai työväenopistossa järjestetä balettitunteja? Itselläni ei ole ollut varaa yksityisten koulujen tunneille pariin vuoteen, mutta se ei tarkoita ettenkö voisi käydä balettitunneilla.

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    1. Hei!

      Joo, kyllä niitä joissain opistoissa on ollut vaihtelevasti tarjolla. Joku vuosi tutkin ihan mielenkiinnosta, mutta silloin en löytänyt jatkotason tunteja. Tulevan kauden tarjontaa en ole vielä katsellut. Enkä tiedä kuinka nopeasti täyttyvät täällä päin, mutta vois olla varteenotettava vaihtoehto! Yritän kyllä vielä ihan tosissani oman kouluni tunneille, ihan senkin takia kun mulla on oman opettajani kanssa erittäin toimiva ja antoisa yhteistyö. Opettajalla kun on baletissa hyvin suuri merkitys - jos vain on mahdollisuus ja vara valita. Marien tunnit ovat niin huippuhyviä että olen valmis kärsimään sen budjetissani. :) Lisäksi olen aloittanut kotitreenin Kathryn Morganin youtube-videoiden avulla. Matto rullalle, tuolista kiikkerä tanko - ja hiki on tullut pintaan! Pidemmän päälle ei mitenkään ihanteellinen järjestely, mutta puolen tunnin kotitangolla pysyy jonkilainen peruskunto.

      Missä päin itse käyt tunneilla?

      - Johanna

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    2. Kävin tutustumassa pääkaupunkiseudun työväenopistojen uuteen kurssitarjontaan (alkaen elokuusta 2015). Balettia on tarjolla eri muodoissa: balletonea, balletFittia, pilatesbalettia, aikuisbalettia ikäihmisille ja aikuisbalettia tasot alkeet ja alkeisjatko. Oishan tuossa baletillista liikuntaa... :)

      Vaikka käyn toisinaan perustasolla putsaamassa perustekniikkaa, niin melkein 25 viiden vuoden treenaamisen jälkeen en haluais palata alkeistasoille pidemmäksi aikaa. Tuo pilatesbaletti kiinnostais kyllä vähän enemmän, mutta aika on ainakin mulle huono (klo 15)

      Mutta bujettirajoitteiselle aloittelijalle ne ovat tosi hyvä vaihtoehto! Ja jos baletti sellaisenaan tuntuu liian uskaliaalta (?), niin balletonen tyyppisistä treeneistä saa kuitenkin jotain tanssillista elämystä ja käsitystä baletista. Luulisin. :)

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  5. Ymmärrän toki että noin pitkään tanssineena kaipaa muutakin haastetta kuin perus tenduet ja pliet ja sautee - hypyt. Itsekin olen tanssinut 16 vuotta ja pelkästään alkeisjatkot tuntuvat tylsiltä. Onneksi täällä on myös edistyneenpää tasoa työväenopistossa ja tasokin ollut ihan hyvä. Tanssisin mielennäni myös useamman kerran viikossa, mutta valitettavasti se budjetti tulee vastaan, kun balettitunnit eivät tosiaan ole niitä halvimmasta päästä.
    Itseasiassa olin yllättynyt iästäsi. Luulin sinua nuoremmaksi. Itsekin olen varttuneempi akuisiällä aloittanut tanssija, mutta hiukan sinua nuorempi.

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    1. Jep. Uusien asioitten oppiminen, tekniikan ja ilmaisun kehittäminen sekä itsensä haastaminen on ainakin minulla oleellinen osa baletin opiskelussa/harrastuksessa... Toki, jos mitään muuta vaihtoehtoa ei olisi, menisin vaikka pelkästään perustasolle. Pysyis ainakin perusosaaminen yllä. Harmi kun baletti on niin kallis laji, etenkin kun edistyneellä tasolla treenaaminen vaatisi sen kolme kertaa viikossa vähintään! Hyvä että sielläpäin on myös jatkotasoja tarjolla.

      P.S. Minäkin kuvittelen itseni usein nuoremmaksi ;)

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  6. Sama anonymous jatkaa...
    Luin että olet opiskellut saksassa nuorena, olitko vaihto-oppilaana vai asuitko siellä pitkäänkin? Minä aloitin balettiopinnot nimenomaan Saksassa yliopistoliikunnan tunneilla. Päästiin sitten kesällä esiintymäänkin yliopiston kesätanssijuhlassa, jossa muut esiintyjät oli jotain liikuntaa ammatikseen opiskelevien tutkintonäytetöitään tai jotain vastaavaa. Opettajamme sai meidät esiintymiskuntoon lukuvuodessa ja edelleenkin sanon, että esityksemme ei mielestäni edelleenkään ollut mitään alkeistasoa tai edes alkeisjatkotasoa. No joka tapauksessa tämän opettajan ansiosta opin jete entleracen (oikein kirjoituksesta en tiedä), mikä ei liene ihan perustason hyppy, kun täälläkin sitä tehdään vain jatkotason tunneilla. Luulenpa vaan, jos minun pitäisi se nyt opetella niin en ole ihan varma pystyisinkö siihen. No se hyppy ei nyt onneksi kuitenkaan ollut esityksessämme. Esitimme Chopinin Sylfidivalssin ja treenasimme sitä monta ekstratuntia, joskus jopa 3 tuntia kerralla. Kerran hän vei meidät lopuksi kotiinsa syömään spaghetti bolognesea.

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    1. Opiskelin Saksassa parisen vuotta, mutta aloitin baletin vasta Suomessa. En tiedä olisko siellä ollut mahdollisuus harrastaa balettia, mutta yliopiston yhteydessä oli myös urheiluopettajiksi opiskelevien korkeakoulu. Nyt kun muistelen, kävin siellä sirkustekniikka-kurssilla! Pääsin kokeilemaan mm. nuoralla kävelyä :).

      Ihanaa että pääsitte esiintymään heti harrastuksen alkutaipaleella, siitä saa treenaamiseen ihan uutta inspista ja motivaatiota. Plus se koko harjoitteluprosessi, siinä oppii niin paljon. Kun mä aloitin täällä Hesassa, vain edistyneet ja semi-prot pääsivät koulun näytöksissä esittämään mitään balettiin viittavaa. Silloin ajattelinkin ettei mulla olisi koskaan asiaa lavalle... Pääsin ekaa kertaa mukaan vasta kuutisen vuotta sitten, jolloin silloinen ope otti kaikki halukkaat (vähintään perustaso) mukaan.

      Tuo jeté entrelacé on yleensä ekoja isoja hyppyjä mitä harjoitellaan, mutta se riippuu varmaan myös opesta ja koulukunnasta... Perustaso on hyvä aika aloittaa, koska sen kanssa mene aikaa. :) Varmasti oppisit sen koordinaation uudestaan, jos nyt aloittaisit taas!

      Saksalaiset opet ovat silleen mukavia, että kutsuvat oppilaitaan kotiinsa. Kokemusteni mukaan se näyttäis olevan tapa, just kurssin lopuksi. Tai sitten on menty porukalla esim Kneipeen! Vaikka siellä muuten teititellään, niin ei kuitenkaan pidetä samalla tavalla etäisyyttä kuten täällä usein tehdään.

      Musta on kiva kun opettajiin pääsee tutustumaan vähän paremmin tuntien ulkopuolella :).

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  7. Hi!
    I totally understand the frustration of not having classes, in my school we have each summer a 2 months break...
    For the cost, it is the same in my country (switzerland), about 30€ for one hour class! If you take a yearly registration though, it is about 20€ but still... It is because of that that I wasn't able to begin ballet before my 24 years old!
    I hope you will be able to return soon! If not, you can easily build a barre at home :) I just did it for about 30€ and you only need 1meter space!
    Thanks for your nice blog, I read you since the beginning :)
    Aurélie

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  8. I really like the fresh perspective you did on the issue. I will be back soon to check up on new posts! Thank you!
    A.L. - We Get Down Song

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  9. Your Post is very useful, I am truly happy to post my note on this blog . It helped me with ocean of awareness i really appreciate it.
    Catastraphy Music

    ReplyDelete

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