October 29, 2011

Eyes on Me

Note: "Eyes on Me" is not the sequel to "Eyes on the Prize". My ego is not that huge, no need to deflate it. Anyway, that last post was about pirouette spotting and chasing multiple turns. Not about declaring myself a prize. ;) But I could use an ego-boost nonetheless! Or learn how to fake it in class, instead of looking like I´d rather dance into hiding. "Dance like no one is watching." What is that quote about anyway? Feeling free to express yourself and not fearing judgement - which is a good thing, I´ll give you that. But you can´t dance ballet in your own little bubble, not if you want to captivate your audience (imaginary or not). Gotta own that stage, darlings!

Yesterday we continued to practice the GPC variation in pointe class. G (our teacher) is gradually replacing some of the modified steps with the original steps, and it keeps getting more challenging every week. We are now doing the exact same version from 06:20 until 06:47 (video below). Piqué attitudes are still replaced with piqué soutenus, and there are no en dedans pirouettes. But the tombé coupé developpé (or is it fondue relevé?) at 07:06 is now being introduced into the mix. Yesterday I got to try it for the first time in center! Failed a couple of times, tried again, failed better and then almost got it! Cool. :)

Pointe technique is difficult. Remembering all the detailed port de bras, épaulement and where to look while on pointe - even trickier. It is so tempting to keep your eyes on the mirror to check what you´re doing, or look around at the others to make sure you´re dancing the same steps at the same time! I am making some progress, even remembered to look right, then left on the first piqué step. But the hardest part of all is looking straight ahead, and inviting your "audience" to look at you! You need some ballerina attitude for that. And a healthy amount of self-confidence and self-esteem.

What I need most is to rid myself of the belittling noise in my head: "You´re not good enough. Who are you kidding, pretending to be a ballerina?" That stupid fear of looking like I´m trying too much. Too often I feel that as an adult ballet dancer I have to make some sort of a disclaimer: Yes, I know my ballet is pretend-play. Yes, I know there is no foreseeable future where I would dance a variation on pointe, on stage. Yes, I know that given my age and facilities, not likely to happen. But it´s so much fun to practice, and so exciting to learn all these new steps! Do I really have to apologize to my imaginary audience for not looking and dancing like a pro? Nope, I didn´t think so!

In the end my teacher told me not to be shy, and that I dance beautifully. I should just go for it and capture my "audience". Okay then, deep breath and.. all eyes on me!


  1. you´re so right! ballet is for everyone, it´s about the dancing, the learning, the progress, all the things we love about it. we are no pros and we will not become pros. so we aren´t in it for the money. (not that professional dancers don´t love what they do) but ballet is more than to practice some movements and exercises to show them later on stage. it´s ballet!
    we dance because we want to and because we love it. so shut up inner head-noise and imaginary audience because we are dancing and you are not!!! ha!

  2. Your dancing is not "pretend play"! You are a dancer and work in every class to become better. Dance is not about the audience (and doesn't require one), it is about you and the movement. When you spoke of your pirouettes your joy seemed to come from how you felt when everything came together. Just because you will never be paid to do it does not make it "pretend." You are a ballerina!

  3. Hi Lola!

    In a way we have it much easier than the pros. We don´t have to impress the AD, the ballet mistress or the choreographer, nor an audience. We don´t have to be in the theatre from 10 am to 10 pm, delivering our best perfomrmance every night. Our livelihood does not depend on how well we dance.

    We take ballet class because we love to dance, no matter what our abilities and ages might be. The reward is in the dancing itself, in the challenges, the progress and those wonderful moments we get to experience from time to time.

    But you know what - I´m ready to wow my imaginary audience! :)

  4. Hi Melancholy Swan,

    I have to admit I´m wary of calling myself a "ballerina" - it´s something that is traditionally reserved for the artists, not the amateurs. My teachers are real ballerinas, and I have way too much respect for them and the art to go and call myself one. But, "ballet student" - that I can live and dance with! :)

    Of course, when I´m in class the dancing is for real, not pretend-play. I´m not imagining those steps and pirouettes. But I´m no Platel either. I take my hobby seriously, but it´s not serious. You know?

    In a sense ballet is my adult play-time, where I get to pretend to be a ballerina. At times my dancing comes pretty close to the real deal. Which is already more than this dancer could ask for! :)

  5. I love hearing about your pointe class...I hope to be lucky enough to find one like yours someday (when I get much more skilled!) and it sounds like this variation practice is really pushing you to try harder, push further, get out of your comfort zone and that is where real progress happens.

    As for the voice in your head, one of my teachers called that "the Shitty Committee", and said that to really give over to making art, one has to learn how to silence that inner critic, which is easier said than done, but if you keep working at it, progress comes incrementally, just like ballet!

    And you know how I feel about doing something simply for the sake of self-discipline and for the sheer sake of daily practice of something just for your own growth and self-satisfaction. Adult ballet is a much better use of time and energy than watching TV or buying handbags (in my opinion, anyways!) or going to church and no one feels the need to justify THOSE "interests" to some higher purpose. If it gives you joy, increases quality of life and decreases worry, it's worth doing just "because". :)

  6. Hi Kaija,

    I hope too that you find your class! But if you´re studying ballet at NBC, it should be possible. Right? :)

    I so love how your teacher called it. From this day forward I will tell my "shitty committee" to shut the h*** up! :D

    But I won´t fire my inner critic just yet, I need her to keep me on my feet. ;) But I will tell her to tone it down!

    You´re so right, ballet is never a waste of time. And if something isn´t worth doing badly, it´s not worth doing at all! :D

    Thanks for your lovely comment!

  7. I keep thinkin if adults playing football, for example, have this nasty voice of "who do you think you are" ringing in their head? I doubt it, instead they have their eyes and thoughts in the ball. What's the ball to a ballerina? Partner, if there is one? Music, perhaps?

  8. Hi Aija,

    good point. Although their "Shitty Committee" would be whispering something along the lines of "so you think you can bend it like Beckham?" ;)

    I´m sure even hobby footballers dream of more skill and more goals. And I´m sure many take it very seriously. But I think it´s foremost about the game and the fun.

    Don´t worry, that inner critic is not a constant noise in my head. Most of the time I´m happy with what I got and how I dance. It´s only when I´m asked to step outside my comfort zone, and into ballerina territory..

    But hey, if ballet were any easier, they would call it football! :)

  9. Sadly, NBC doesn't offer pointe and does not plan to in future. Apparently they did at one point and there were "liability issues" with people who got hurt and blamed the school and also problems with a) people who did not want to submit to pre-approval and assessment or b) did not pass the pre-pointe assessment and demanded that they be able to take the pointe class anyways. Sadly (though understandably), the powers that be decided it just wasn't worth the hassle :(

    I'm just grateful that my current pointe class exists and is operating sort of below the general radar at present! :)

  10. I should add that my comment above pertained to the adult evening classes only; obviously the pre-professional children and young adult residency classes include LOTS of point :)

    (Adults can be much more badly behaved at times, I think)

  11. So many of our limits are maintained by our mental attitude, our expectation. If we can concentrate on a different thing, for example on how good it feels to dance full out with joy and expression, we can shut the other voice up (for a second).

    I am only a beginner, but have been experimenting with this lately. At home, when nobody is watching, I dance better because I dance without this "disclaimer" (as you call it) in my expression.

  12. Hi Kaija,

    not every adult understands that ballet is not just any hobby. Sure, you make the decision to begin ballet and attend classes. But not everything is for the ballet student to decide, adult or child.

    The teacher is the authority, and we respect that. If my teacher tells me I´m not yet ready for something, I won´t complain or go against her. Instead I ask how I can improve!

    Pointe requires so much more than the desire to prance around in pointe shoes. Only a professional, responsible and caring teacher can estimate your readiness. There is just no pointe (pun intended) to practice without the necessary foundations: physical and technical readiness, and time to commit yourself.

    It´s a bloody shame that those adults did not have the better sense to understand that!

    But I´m glad you get to do pointe somewhere :)

  13. Hi Alienor,

    that´s a wonderful way of looking at it - and of dancing! It does feel best when we dance full out, without hesitation and worry. It also looks different!

    Everyone of us can focus on that feeling of joy :)


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, ...