September 20, 2011

Present Yourself!

So I finally did the near-naked thing in ballet class. Dear Reader, before you skip a beat,  let me assure you. It was not the wardrobe malfunction kind, where you forget to pull up your leo after hurrying (back) to class. And where the first one to notice you all Josephine Baker-like is the only guy in class, sweetly asking you if you did not forget something. I swear this has really happened. Fortunately not to me. Phew. Although, once I had almost too much of a reveal when I was in a very deep cambré to the back. Yay for flexibilty, not so much for too much of cleavage.

Which reminds of a story about the courtesans of old Venice, told to me by my opera-singer/dancer friend. Apparently, when business was not going so well, said ladies obtained permission to display their bounty over the window-sills - thus inspiring new fashions of deep cleavages. And apparently an image helpful to singers and dancers alike. Do not open your ribcage, but stack it over the sill. There you go.

Present yourself! This instruction is repeated to us class after class. Don´t show off your boobs (save this for later), but your jambes, pieds, talons, bras, épaulement, head and eyes. Own your dancing body, and then own the stage. Present your gorgeous arches, heels and legs and upper body. Engage with your audience, imaginary or not. It changes everything, even in class. A dancer who looks down at her feet, loses the line. A dancer who does not look beyond her elongated arm, is closed off in her own little space. It shows.

Yesterday, I started my class as usual - that is in my now-favorite warm-up romper. Comfortable, warm, cozy, hide-it-all. Usually I discard any extra wear after our plié exercise, but I had figured out that you can roll the legs up and and the top down. It´s a very pro-dancer-y look. Really flattering only on a skinny ballet bod, but I like to use my imagination. Anyway, I had planned to toss the thing in my bag right after barre. Which was really no option, as we were all hot and red-faced and sweaty by the time we did our frappés(how´s that for a lovely ballerina image?). But, after I had stripped down and was reaching into my bag for my ballet skirt - there was none! I must have left it in the locker! Our teacher gives us no break between barre and center, so I could not go to look. No choice but to suck it up. Literally.

So, there I stood with nothing between me and the mirror except for one black leotard and black leggings. I did also wear a long-sleeve, cut-off top made out of old black tights, which made my upper half all modest and covered. But. My butt, that is. All exposed to the world. I was admittedly unnerved. In ballet class you spend substantial time to keep that popo in a plum line, with your tail-bone pointed down. Which suits me just fine, I´ve never been one to flaunt my derrière. Not that anyone in class was looking or could have cared any less.

I decided to go for it. Present myself. It´s a bit like jumping off from a high spot into deep water. Either you dive in or you butt out. And I gotta tell you.. Although I was acutely aware of my every little line and curve, it was not so bad. In fact, it made me work harder. Dance better. This time, less was like totally more. But(t) enough is enough. By the time we were doing our pirouette exercises across the floor, I was mentally exhausted and changed back into my trusted romper. Baby steps, darlings. Baby steps..

Photo above post: Lana Jones of Australian Ballet. Photographer: Justin Smith.


  1. Add this to the list of things I've never thought of before, but will probably never forget. Plus your right, the romper is so totally pro.

  2. I Have to come to some class with you, so you can stand next to me in dance gear and feel small ;) Because you are very much a dancer-lookalike, I say :)

  3. Chris - what exactly will you never forget? The visual of courtesans offering their cleavage? ;)

    I do hope it´s the idea of presenting yourself in class - you know, elegant line, confidence and aplomb and such..

    That romper might the best piece of clothing I ever bought, I think even my extensions have gotten higher since. :D

  4. Hi Iepukka!

    If you´re talking height, then yes, sure. Come stand next to me in class and I will feel even shorter! Which would actually be fun, because when G is teaching, I feel like a giant standing next to her! :)

    Otherwise I try very hard to focus on the dancing itself, and less on any possible dancer-likeness.. But: when you get to dance a lot, your posture and body changes anyway. Always for the better! :)

  5. Hahaha! I enjoyed this post! Yes it's slightly unnerving having to suddenly reveal more than you intended.. It took me months before I ventured out into class wearing my very, very short ballet skirt. (those damn Capezio sizes!) I haven't yet even dared to think about going without! Perhaps it's one of those things like jumping into a cool lake, you'll just have to do it quick, otherwise you won't do it. The thing is, in class no one even notices what you're wearing (unless it's something really garish!) because they're all too busy concentrating on themselves. We shouldn't worry - and just present ourselves proudly, derriere and all! And like you said - it may even make us work harder! Hmmm..I'll keep your example in mind! : )

  6. I actually have a smallish problem with my cleavage, which keeps on showing, no matter what I wear as a top etc. Should probably wear a turtleneck to be appropriate, but don't want to :( That would be a choking feeling and not nice while one tries to dance.

  7. Kudos to you for taking the plunge and doing class sans skirt! I have yet to do it...I always go with the shorts or skirt but then I look back and remember when just wearing real tights and not looser leggings felt daring and exposed. My dancewear preferences have definitely shifted as I've gotten more confident in my dancing and in my body :) You have inspired me to keep pushing!

    And it's funny how "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" (and isn't there a Finnish version that loosely translates to 'the water is the same on both sides of the boat')...I envy you ladies with cleavage as I am nearly flat. Honestly, I only wear a bra these days to contain my nipplies...LOL! I suppose that we all obsess over our own selves...I know I am harsh on myself but very complimentary when I look around class and see others (X's lovely arabesque, M's gorgeous leotards, B's crispness in petit allegro, N's perfect ballet bun).

  8. @Iina: I´m tempted not to feel for you and your very gorgeous ballerina-slim body and mile-long legs!

    But. I know that in ballet class it´s a very different kind of exposure. We are not judged by our curves, boobs and wobbly bits, but we are appraised for the lines and movement we hopefully create.

    In ballet every moment, every breath, every move counts. It´s damn easy to look totally silly in the process. :D

    @Iepukka - No need to go all turtle-neck! A little cleavage has never hurt anyone, as long as the girls try not to escape their confines mid-class! ;)

    How about wearing a pretty pink sports-bra, with a lovely wide-strapped tank leo, and a semi-sheer top on top?

  9. @Kaija: Thanks! This is actually more of a Second Coming.. Way back in my early twenties I danced in minimal wear all the time, and my dancer-bod-confidence was better than ever!

    Then I danced less and finally not at all, but ate the same plus too many treats = roundness and super-curves ensued! Now, as I´m back to dancing more (treats are still on the menue), the extra weight has come off. Wonderbra cleavage included.

    It has taken me five years since I came back to ballet to regain that former body-confidence. Almost.

    But I´m really glad my example inspires you too!

    BTW: The Finnish version translates into "ruoho on aina vihreämpää aidan toisella puolella" - which is "the grass is greener.." word by word. :)

    Yeah, it´s funny how we are so harsh to ourselves. I never look at my fellow dancers´ perceived flaws. But I do notice Saara´s beautiful eyes & smile, plus her clean lines, E´s amazing quadruple turns and lovely smile (again), U´s impressive épaulement and pretty skirts (and smile), K´s perfect bun and leggy legs..

    It would not hurt to be equally appreciative of our own unique features! :)

  10. Really enjoyed this post! You are a girl with many talents, I say...
    Good point that it made you work even harder!

    I think we have been discussing earlier of the "dress to the part" issue? Well, on wednesday I was in my beginners street class in leggings and a tank top - appropriate for a contemporary class, even for a ballet class, but felt totally wrong to shake my bony booty to J-Lo in tight lycra :P I was so relieved to pull on tights, leo and microshorts to ballet class :)

  11. Nice post, i laughed and i feel what´s coming next in my dancing too :) Im right now a beginner 2 ;) and still dance in those kind of yoga trousers with a sleevesless shirt..although my mind is telling me that i should use something more appropriate and that even if i feel a bit uncomfortable "near-naked" as you said, maybe that way feels better while dancing. Many of the other girls/women in my class wear the propper attire but well, they are younger too...anyway, i think ill give it a try.

    Im really happy i found this blog; it was a surprise to see that you are finnish and living in Helsinki and that you write in english! :)) Im myself foreign living in hki so this is a great surprise to get all this info and even more know about your teachers.
    By the way do you know if in your studio they have any ballet class in english?? Im attending to classes in finnish, the teacher often forgets to explain certain things but well, im kind of leaning the language at the same time as dancing although it´s even more tiring as i need to really pay a lot of attention, not only to what she said but also her movements in case i didn´t get her words...
    Anyway, congratulations on your blog, it´s really amazing, you have a follower here!

  12. Hello Baluka!

    Thank you very much, I´m glad you found my blog :)

    How about black leggings with shorts? It´s really important for your teacher (and yourself) to see those knees properly. It will be much easier for you to stretch your legs if you have a good visual. :)

    Do not worry about being "older" than the younger girls. I´m old enough to be the mother to some, but I don´t really care. You do not have to dress "age-appropriate" - you dress to dance!

    In our studio (Footlight) Marie-Pierre teaches her classes in English. Gabriella is also happy to translate, or to speak Italian or French or Spanish. And I´m sure our other teachers can instruct you in English too. We do have foreign students, and as long as you tell your teachers that your Finnish is stil limited, there should be no problem.

    Of course once you learn ballet-French, it does not matter where you take class. You will always know what to do! :)

  13. THank you for the info!! now im seriously considering changing school. (i actually looked in the page but the classes are full...ill try in January again).
    And about the leggins, you convinced me! Ill get the black ones and go to my class on Saturday with them, can´t wait!

  14. @Baluka - you are welcome! :)

    I think H&M still sells some cheap hot-pants/shorts to wear over your leggings. They cover your bum but don´t get in the way. ´

    Sorry, I forgot to mention that Marie-Pierre´s classes are full. Not likely to change in January. But there is room in Gabriella´s Monday beginner´s class. Like I said, she´s happy to give personal corrections in English/French/ Italian/Finnish.. And she´s a very good teacher. Experienced, strict, precise and lots of fun :)

  15. Follow you on twitter; great blog! thanks for all the sharing you do, its fun to read!

  16. Hi Whitney!

    Thank you very much,it has been fun writing. :)


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, ...