January 12, 2011

Ups and Downs in Ballet (Class)

Well, turns out this week is quite the roller-coaster. It´s only Tuesday, and already there have been some minor and major upsets, as well as some very exciting news! Here´s the news: there will be a ballet recital! And yes, I´m in it! 

On the down-side - or up-side (the jury is still out on that one) - the choreography will be danced on pointe! This adult-pointe-beginner on stage, on pointe. What the hey did I get myself into? But more on the recital and all that later.. The upsetting news came when we heard that one of our advanced level ballet classes got cancelled due to too few prepaid heads in class. The time-slot was not the best (7:30 pm), and the group small to begin with. Also the original teacher left (new baby) and the new teacher did not really have the chance to attract new students. But the classes themselves were fine, very challenging and interesting.

Up and Down.. On the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. 
Then there was today´s ballet class, which unfortunately falls into the "downs"- category as well. I guess you should not take class when you are tired and certainly not when your brain is already over-worked from learning the New Job. Oh yes,  I have a new job! That was my New Year´s resolution from 2010. Find a better job and more time to dance. Check. And check! But I digress, again. Back to today´s class. So, tired and brain-fried and almost late after skating over frozen and slippery roads (without the actual skates), I was still quite happy to be in class. The barre went relatively well, I tried to concentrate on my shoulders (keep them down!) and keep my back long and my feet pointed. Not overly challenging, but a good start nonetheless. But I just could not keep it up! My energy was too low and that´s when I heard this comment, about a particular young talent still having ambitions (and therefore deserving extra attention). What then does that make us adult dancers? Unambitious? Not self-seeking? Not hard-driving? But we do too! Have ambitions that is. Why assume otherwise?

According to one definition, having ambitions means that you have a strong desire to achieve a particular goal. And in ballet there is plenty to be desired. It´s also what drives me and keeps me coming back for more. Even if I´m not having the best time of the day/week/month/whatever! I believe that many, no, most of us adult dancers have ambitions regarding ballet (and other dance styles) - it doesn´t mean we dream of dancing Swan Lake (well, of course we dream, but dream only). I´m talking about realistic goals, such as improving your turn-out, higher extensions, cleaner pirouettes, better epaulement.. The list is long! On a personal note: my goal in the near future is to advance in pointe well enough not to kill and/or embarrass myself on stage (getting off alive and in one piece is good enough)! I want higher extensions. Clean pirouettes every time. A lot of other things.

However, stupid me, hearing that we lack ambition (should not have listened), kind of lost my focus there. Come to think of it, must add this to the list of my goals: develop thick skin! Dancers need this, not just on their toes. But I did not concentrate and our teacher rightly picked on my poor execution of an allegro combination. Glissades are level 1-jumps, but I have had the tendency to do them sailor-like, swaying from side to side, as if walking on deck in rough seas. (No offense to any real sailors out there!) Instead your jump should be in the air with both feet pointed at the same time. It´s something that has been worked on, corrected and practiced. But when I am tired and dancing sloppy, I fall back into my old habit. Ship ahoy, matey! 

Now, the real downer was that I seem to have used up all my credit with this teacher. As I will apparently never learn to execute those glissades properly, she does not think it prudent to correct me anymore. It is also "the reason why I do get corrections from the new teachers." They still have the energy and interest to teach me (not spoken out loud, but implied). I suppose she got up on the wrong foot too. As for me, I kind of lost it after that. Didn´t cry or anything (I cry only when watching sentimental movies. And when there is death. Ballet is not that serious.), but for the remainder of the class I danced like death warmed over, and feeling like sh**. 

Now, I don´t want to tout my own horn, but aside from those recurring sloppy sailor-glissades, I really don´t suck that badly. I know that I´m far from perfect, heck, I´m not even on the same planet as "perfect"! Nevertheless, I have been told on more than one occasion that I do pick up corrections quite well and that I am not beyond learning new stuff. I like to believe that is the truth. From time to time I even get praise from my teachers. Go figure. Sure, sometimes I am too tired or achy to bring my 100% game to the class, but I´m "just" a recreational dancer after all. We are allowed a bit of leeway in our dancing or the attempt thereof. And maybe our ambitions are not always that visible, but trust me, they are lurking underneath, waiting to be nourished and welcomed to the spotlight! 

Dear reader, if you have made it this far, thanks for sticking with me and letting me vent! Next post will be all about the first pointe class of 2011 and the impending recital and all positive (while still being real). I do like to finish my posts on a happier note, so I recommend that you click here for some ballet-fun:

WAIT: there is a long musical intro at the beginning, but you can fast-forward straight to mark 01:47.


  1. Vent away! In your position I would be equally as miffed. I think teachers of all sorts forget that students of the adult variety face the same ups and downs that they do. We have bad days, stressful days, days where we didn't sleep last night because we had too much on our minds. Gone are the worry-free days where all we needed to think of were our hobbies. However, we do things like dance for the pure joy in them. So as much as it may irk you to be picked on (or quite the opposite, neglected) when you're already down, remember that you do this for YOU, and nobody else. And keep the joy. Thank you for your comments on my blog earlier, by the way. I'm so hooked on yours!

  2. Thanks, Kim! Wise words.. We all have bad days, and I like to think this teacher was having one too. I hope she didn´t quite mean what was said. I do like to know when I´m not doing something right, but we all make mistakes. And often we make the same mistakes over and over!

    My joy in dance is not diminished, it was just the one miserable and vent-worthy class..In fact I´m really looking forward to this Friday, first pointe class of the year! Madame M-P is teaching. Yay! :)

  3. Great post and lovely blog, thanks!

  4. That comment was SO out of order. When it comes to ballet, you are one of the most ambitious and hard working people I know. And my god, you pay for your classes and corrections.


  5. Thanks to you, anonymous!

    Kris: I´m actually blushing.. You are so nice! I fear that sometimes I want it too much. :) I think M-P once said (it was directed at the whole class), that you can´t do 100% intensity all the time. Your muscles will actually tense up if you try too hard, and movement will be anything but fluid and beautiful. Something about pacing yourself..

    ..and yes, we pay for our classes. Though I think that you also have to earn some of the continued feedback. But it shouldn´t take more than showing up (regularly), working hard, paying attention and having a positive attitude (at least most of the time). Since we all take ballet class voluntarily, and dance for our own joy, that is the easiest part! =)

  6. Hi Johanna!
    I'm sorry you had a bad class, but I think it's safe to say that we've all had our share of "bad" comments from teachers. Thank you so much for your previous post with the video of Finis Jhung. I watched his pirouette video on YouTube and realised that for several years I have been making one sigle mistake that has resulted in super bad pirouettes consistently! SO THANK YOU thank you thank you!!!!!! I think I will have to order a Finis Jhung ballet DVD :)

  7. Noora: yes, there have been many interesting comments over the years, though not lately. I guess I was caught off guard! But if the comments are not helpful at all, it´s best to move on. Which I´m doing already. :)

    I´m curious, what was the pirouette mistake? I´ve watched all his free video bits too, and found one particular helpful with pirouettes: en dehors, when turning, really open up to the side before the relevé. Works for me, as I´m often too slow to fully open the passé retiré leg.

    If you do buy the Finis Jhung DVD, please share! Not the video of course, but your review of it :)


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, ...