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 (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


  1. Moi Johanna!
    Löysin sun blogin vasta tuolta Krissen balettiblogin kautta. Ja oiettä mikä ihana yllätys! Balettiaiheisia blogeja ei voi olla liikaa! :) Odotan innolla uusia postauksia.
    Ihanaa tanssivuotta sulle ja onnea triploista! ;) Oikeasti maailman ihanin tunne on, kun tekee sen ekan hallitun triplan!

  2. Ja muuten, olisiko pitänyt jättää kommentti englanniksi?! :O
    Ja hei, tee postaus kaikista vaatteista mitä käytät tunnilla ! ;)

  3. Kiitos Elisa!
    Voit kommentoida suomeksi tai englanniksi. Blogilla on kyllä myös lukijoita esim Yhdysvalloissa, joten siinä mielessä englanti on kivempi. Mutta älä anna sen estää! :)

    Vaatepostaus? Hmm.. ajattelin jossain välissä tehdä tanssi-kassi jutun, siis kuvan kera. Pitää vaan hommata uus kamera. Täytyy kyllä miettiä tuota treenivaate-juttua, kiitos ideasta! :)

  4. Hi Johanna!
    I lovelovelove that you have improved your ballet without doing en pointe! That is so rare here in Italy.. Everybody just wants to do en pointe immediately after having their first class because that is like ''real ballet''. I think it's stupid and that is why I stopped doing pointe allmost right away after starting. I felt like I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. So I quit and went back to basics. I had danced about 1½ years after trying and it just was too short time of training. And now, five years after that, after 7 years of training alltogether, I'm doing pointe and I'm loving it! I started doing pointe again last august and I found out I't was the best decicion to get all the basics easy for me before starting pointe. I feel like I know what I do. My knees and ancles hurted when I first tried. Now that I handle stuff without pointe I can do pointe a lot easier. I'm so happy about that! I'm better en pointe than friends who have danced en pointe for 4 years, even after only ½ years of training myself.
    So happy dancing and keep on writing! I love your blog! And you are from Finland! I love that! I've allways wanted to visite there.. :)

  5. Hi Valeria!

    Good for you! I just can´t believe teachers would even allow their students to go on pointe after such a short time. Although every dancer is different, and some will advance quicker than others. Still, it is of utmost importance to learn the basics first. And well enough!

    For adults that means usually 2-3 years of regular training (2-3 times weekly the minimum). And even then, I would get the permission of a qualified teacher first. Like I said, everyone is different. There was no reason for me to wait 16 years, in fact I´m sure 7 years of pre-pointe training would have done the trick too. LOL. But I´m really glad I have all that experience :)

    Nevertheless, there are sensible guidelines around that help determine whether or not someone is ready for pointe. I think these should be mandatory for adult dancers as well. Otherwise you might just learn poor technique and worst, even end up hurting yourself!

    I´m happy for that you made such a sensible decision and are now able to progress and enjoy your experience en pointe! Also, how nice to have a reader from Italy! Guess what, our ballet teacher is Italian too :)
    Hey, and if you ever come to Finland I will see you in class, yes?

  6. Moi taas Johanna!
    Kommentoin nyt tänne ettei Kris kyllästy kokonaan. Eli kiitos niistä tossuvinkeistä! Tuo tossujen muokkaaminen voisi olla kätevää. Inhoan liian leveitä tossuja mutta kun muutakaan ei voi.. :D Hmm.. Tiedätkö saako B Morphia jostai Suomesta? Tai sitä suosittelemaasi pehmeää pirkävarpaisille? :D Kuulostaa molemmat tosi hyviltä.

  7. Hi!
    Jeah, if i get there I could try some lessons. I just don't know my grade there but I think I could ask. But it's not any likely that I can come there to a trip any soon. But I'll try! Who is your teacher, btw? :)

  8. Hi Johanna and what an amazing dance year you've had!!
    I've always hated changing dance teachers, and I was particularly sad when my ballet and contemp. dance teacher left the dance school. Her classes were always really small, but she gave very detailed and individual comments. Her teaching was geared to the progress of the individual, which is something that cannot be said for the huge beginner/intermediate level classes at the school. I've also taken classes with Gabriella(she's great, and such an encouraging teacher) last summer, and she was very calm and gentle, and less scary than some other ballet teachers I've had. Nevertheless, Madame M-P sounds amazing as well, and she has so much experience with performing ballet!
    Your spring recital sounds amazing. I wish we would have done something from Swan Lake, but we did the Russian Dance(the candycane dance) from the Nutcracker, with hoops. I like the choreography, but at time it felt like I was a truck trying to dance. Going to your knees and then jumping up while holding a hoop above your head is really difficult for a tall bulky person :(. Anyway, please post soon again. Is there any chance we could see a glimpse of your spring recital somewhere?

  9. Hi Valeria!
    Well, we are not going anywhere :) If you do come to Finland, summer is the best time. Unless you like the cold and lots and lots of snow! My teacher is called Gabriella, but I don´t post last names here to protect privacy. Of course if you take classes in Helsinki, you would know here anyway..

    I know what you mean.. It´s really difficult if you have to change teachers, whatever the reason. Especially if you really like the classes. But sometimes change is a good thing! You will learn different things from a new perspective. And luckily there are many good teachers out
    there :) As for the spring recital, there will be no glimpses anywhere. Sorry! Maybe next time ;) But yours sounds amazing too! So much fun! I have never danced with props myself.

  10. Elisa,
    Ainakin mun ystävä on ostanut tossunsa Suomesta. Liike taitaa olla Seinäjoella.. Voin kyllä ottaa selvää. Mutta eikös Grishkolla ole paljon erilaisia leveyksiä myös? En valitettavasti ole vielä mikään tossuekspertti, joten neuvoisin kysymään sekä opettajalta että varaamaan ammattisovittajan kun ostat seuraavat tossusi :)

    Blochin tossuja tilaan aina netistä. Jos uskallat ostaa sovittamatta, mun luottokauppa on dancedirect. Yleensä tossuja voi käyttää vaikkei ihan natsaisi 100%. Tai sit ne voi myydä eteenpäin..

  11. Siis tarkoitin pehmeitä tossuja! Kärkitossuja pitää tietenkin sovittaa aina omaan jalkaan. :)

    Non-Finnish readers: Just in case you were wondering, we were having a discussion about soft shoes for long toes and pointe shoes for wide feet. And trying to figure out what is available here in Helsinki.

  12. Ihania ajatuksia Johanna! Osaisinpa itekin miettiä asioita joskus noin positiivisesti... Mun vuoden parhaita on tietysti myös olleet kaikki Gabrin tunnit ja se kevätnäytös, jossa oli hiukean kivaa teidän kanssa. Ja tottakai Kuopion kouluun pääseminen, vaikka kaikki odotukset ei ole ihan täyttyneet. Onneksi pääsee aina välillä tekemään oikeaa balettia Helsinkiin ;)

  13. Would just like to say that I just discovered your blog and am very much enjoying it! It's good to hear that there are other late starters in ballet, and that you can still dance recreationally and still be en pointe! It's so tiring to hear from people that it's impossible to go en pointe unless you train competitively- this is what 99.5% of the instructors in my town say!

  14. Hi I am beginning ballet as a teen (16). I have a lot of natural facility: good turn out, "correct" body, bla bla. The only thing is my feet! I have arches but not banana feet, and my ankles are VERY stiff; I can't get a straight line from my shin to my toes! Eventually, in a long time haha, I would love to do pointe, but for the mean time, I just want to have prettier feet! Any tips?

  15. Hi!

    Some feet you are born with, and sadly not all are (ideally) suited to pointe work. Bones and ligaments cannot and should not be stretched, that way you will end up doing more damage than good. HOWEVER, you can still improve on what nature has gifted you. ALL the exercises you do in ballet class help to strengthen and align your feet the correct way. It won't happen overnight, but you will see gradual results eventually. Patience!

    You can also try to warm and loosen up your feet before class. Use a tennisball or your fingers to massage the soles, wriggle the toes, circle the ankles. Flex and point your feet, always going through a full demi pointe. Think: heel - ball - toes. Keep knees stretched. Try to visualize that the line of your feet doesn't stop at the toes, but that energy shoots out, reaching further away. Also remember that the heel is always forwarded - you don't ever want to make a curved banana shape with your feet (not talking about high arches/insteps).

    Like I said, be patient and persistent. Your feet will get better with lots of class time! :)


To That Special Ballet Teacher

To that special ballet teacher, who not only teaches you about technique, but helps build your confidence, nurtures your inner artist, ...