October 8, 2011


Yesterday I had a Moment in class. The kind which not only restores faith in potential abilities, but takes you places. New places. Makes you fall in love with dancing all over again. 

We have been practicing parts of the Grand Pas Classique variation, modified to our level of course, but still a big deal for an adult dancer. Huge. Anyway, I have been watching that GPC with Elisabeth Platel over and over, admiring her brilliant technique, elegance and apparent ease. Did I mention that she is one of my all-time favorite ballerinas? Madame Platel has been to Helsinki many times, and I was once lucky enough to see her dance Giselle (partnered by Manuel Legris). Still gives me chills. Platel has also been visiting Helsinki in preparation for the upcoming International Ballet Competition (May-June 2012), as she will be teaching a master-class for a select group of pre-professional young dancers. And she has been giving courses and seminars to ballet-educators, including my own teacher.

Elisabeth Platel

Yeah, I´m digressing from my Moment. But it was Platel who inspired me, who held the wand for ballet magic. Because that was what it felt like. Pure out-of-body-magic.

So, we have been practicing said GPC variation sans the most difficult bits. It would be crazy not to, since I´ve barely graduated out of beginner´s pointe class. The first eight counts of the ballerina´s solo are almost indentical, but instead of the relevé into attitude we do a sous sous. Our teacher has slowed down some steps, and added bourrées where there are none, but it fits the music. Instead of the piqué turns in attitude we do sous tenus, but with the same arms as in the original. No pirouettes yet, and the ballonés on pointe will undoubtedly be replaced with something else. But even with the modifications there is nothing easy about it!

Post-edit: " Our teacher has (..) added bourrées where there are none." It was kindly pointed out to me that this is not correct. And yes, on careful re-inspection I can see that there are tiny bourrées in the original variation too. Ours were just more pronounced because of the slightly slower tempo. There are of course different interpretations of this variation (as many as there are ballerinas dancing it), even if they are only subtle nuances.

Dear Reader, something has changed, and for the better. I no longer fear The Variation! Yes, I´m still in awe. Okay, dumbfounded is more like it. And I will always have serious respect for anything danced on pointe. But I no longer feel like I want to go into hiding. You cannot dance and keep holding back. You cannot dive into the deep end without jumping off that edge first!

My Moment was a private little affair. Our teacher was giving instructions to the first group (our class is split into 2-3 levels with corresponding center exercises), and my group was waiting and quietly goofing around at the other end. We practice in this huge and long studio, you could pretty much have two different classes at the same time.

I wanted to try out those piqué attitude turns, because I love anything with piqués in it. Piqué into attitude and turn. Not too bad, and I keep trying. Then it just happens. I piqué into a high attitude and do a full turn around, in slow-motion. Any slower and I would have needed a prince to rescue me. It feels like gliding and floating and like I could stay up forever. I´ve had this dream before. Only at the time I was sleeping, not dancing.

Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that, you can make anything happen.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


  1. You cannot dance and keep holding back.

    Thank you for this. :)

  2. I love moments like that :)

    Sometimes I think there should be more but then I remember I'd stop trying so hard if there were...


  3. Yes those magical moments...sigh. Platel is really one of the most elegant dancers out there. GPC even modified would still terrify me.

  4. "It feels like gliding and floating and like I could stay up forever. I´ve had this dream before. Only at the time I was sleeping, not dancing."

    This brought tears to my eyes! I have had this feeling so many times when dreaming. Thanks for inspiring me before class today. I'm an adult recreational dancer and I so enjoy your thoughtful writing on ballet.

  5. Hi Alice, Knittwopointetwo and Lara..

    Thanks for your lovely feedback, it is much appreciated!

    @Alice: You are so welcome. I know it takes courage to dance full out. But if we don´t try, we will never grow into the dancer we dream of being.

    @knit.. Would you really stop trying? I don´t think so! :D Buzzbuzzbuzz! :)

    @Lara: as a fellow adult rec-dancer, I´m so happy I could inspire you with my writing! And I hope you had a really good class. :)

  6. Hi Elfie!

    Why should you be terrified? In awe, yes. Star-struck by Platel, yes. But we know already that her dancing is in a different league altogether.

    But somehow I have this feeling that there is a very lovely dancer called Elfie out there.. :)

    For me, this variation is mostly about challenging myself and learning something new. It is also fun. However, I don´t believe that I could ever come anywhere close to Platel´s elegance, so I don´t worry about it too much. I have really nothing to loose here. :)

  7. I love this! Sounds incredible. That's what I want for my dancing--to have no inhibition and hold nothing back! Give all of myself to the movement! Maybe someday...but at the moment I am usually pretty nervous and fretful in class and don't want to seem like I am trying too hard or to show off, which I know is silly, since we are all there to dance our best!

  8. Hi Hannah!

    I know what you mean.. I´ve been there. Used to think that if I would (try to) dance full out, someone might think I´m full of it. Which is of course ridiculous.

    Our teacher tells us to go for it. If we go overboard, she will let us know. There is no shame in "failing". How are you supposed to learn, if you´re not allowing yourself to let go?

    I´m telling you that any teacher appreciates a student who is willing to work hard, try harder and shows that she loves to dance!

    Hannah, you don´t have to change all at once, but maybe there are some bits and parts where you can give more or yourself? Perhaps a bigger port de bras, an elongated arabesque, a brighter jump, or a happy smile once in a while.. :)

    Thanks Hannah for commenting, I wish you all the best for your dancing. And Magic! :)


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, ...