December 19, 2011

Six Classes Until Christmas

I was going to write a post about my past year in ballet, about progress and hopes and dreams. But that can wait, because there are still six classes left to dance before the Christmas break. Good thing too, since I've already overdosed on chocolates, truffles and cake. And ballet is really the only "exercise" I like. And I swear these end rhymes are not intentional! Which reminds me that I still have some Christmas / Thank You -cards to write. And cookies to bake..

But, other than baking and writing and last-minute shopping and present-wrapping this week is all about the dancing! It goes like this: I enter class, stash my ballet bag inside but leave my baggage outside. If something is bothering me, I forget about it by the time we do our first tendus, pliés and cambrés. Breath, look at the hand, allongé, stretch, nose to knees - and I´m there. Nothing else matters but the dance. It's my Zen of Ballet.

It's raining outside. Been doing that for as long as I don't care to remember. This time last year, Helsinki was blanketed in snow. Frosted trees everywhere, glittering in the moonlight. I kid you not. Finland in winter usually looks like a backdrop of Nutcracker's snowflake dance. I miss the snow.

Artists of the National Ballet of Canada in The Nutcracker. Photo by Bruce Zinger.

Six more classes. 450 minutes of dancing. Have you ever noticed, or wondered, how time moves differently in class? Exercises last mere minutes, less than it takes me to check my twitter feed. Yet in class every second counts. There is no moment in dance that does not carry value. One time our teacher Marie-Pierre told us tendus should converse with the floor, and that there is a story to tell with each step. You are to move like a cat, caress the floor with your feet, and present yourself at all times, sensuous and elegant.

And let us not forget to put those heels forward, to point that popo down, to stretch the knees, and to lengthen the back! Piece of cake. But if ballet were any easier, where would the challenge and the fun be? Sure, at times it's frustrating. Pirouettes come and go, you confuse left with right, steps refuse to travel from brain to feet, you fall and bruise, you try and fail, you get up and try again. And then you have a moment. And it's bliss.


  1. My last class was on Saturday and ahead ive a long break that im sure will feel too long and terrible on the first class next year ;)Ill miss the classes so badly; i feel like you, whenever im in class (ballet or other dance) i simply forget about everything, worries, problems ...i only focus in learning and do things right (and on understanding finnish!:P hehehe).

    I thought of your blog the other day while in class, i tend to be so shy when we do some exercises in the diagonal; specially if im between the last ones or first ones,so i don´t present myself at all (on the contrary i kind of don´t straighten my neck up, kind of to hide) so i was heiii, "present yourself!!" hehehe of course the teacher said somethign too...
    Lots to work on the new year, and you know what? i can´t wait for it!

    Have a good Christmas and New Year, hopefully there will be some snow in this grey and sad Helsinki soon; and keep up with the great work, both dancing and writing the blog! :)

  2. Such an inspiring text! I can totally relate :)
    What would live be without ballet? Nothing.

    - Alina

  3. A lovely post. I like the idea of conversing with the floor. I've been enjoying my one class a week back after baby number two. I've made every second count, just as you say. I felt my strength very gradually building although my core and feet have a long, long way to go still. But they probably always will. Unfortunately the classes have already stopped for Christmas, but I'm waiting in happy anticipation as in the new year I hope to make it to two classes a week if my other half can get home in time! I'm so excited already at the prospect of having more chance to dance and to improve.
    Enjoy the Zen and moments of peace and stillness that ballet gives you. Christmas present to yourself, eh?

  4. Pure Bliss! Beautiful post, Johanna! My teacher tells us to have a "deep relationship with the floor." He also says to caress it, to feeeeeel it, and he makes this caressing motion with his hands, like a cat stretching and kneading. He also says that we have to give each step its due importance, because each movement has equal value. I love how these words stay with me.

    I've only got 3 more classes until Christmas and I'm looking forward to each and everyone. It's so true the way that time melts in class, all my worries have to sit by themselves in the corner, and all there is in ballet class is music, movement, and the sound of my teacher's voice.

  5. Thank you Baluka!

    I'm glad you're thinking more about presenting yourself in class. It actually becomes easier to dance when you don't try to hide! There is a different quality to your dancing when we just go for it - show how much you love it! Mistakes do not matter so much, you will learn and improve. :)

    Let's hope the rain will stop sometime soon. Maybe there will be snow in 2012! :) Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Dancing Year!

  6. i think this is my favorite post by you of all time. :) beautiful.

  7. I love this post. I totally have the fuzzies now and kind of wish you could bottle that feeling.

  8. @Alina - What would life be without dance? I cannot imagine! I wish everyone had the opportunity to dance, this planet would be a happier place for it :)

  9. Hi Katharine!

    Yes, youre right - ballet is my Christmas present to myself! :) But I have to thank my fantastic teachers for this gift, I wouldn't have a clue without them ;)

    I'm happy to hear there's a chance of more classes for you! You will notice a lot of improvement, core and feet included. Trust me.

    Wishing you a lovely Christmas and the best time dancing come New Year! :)

  10. Hi Lorry!

    Looks like our teachers would get along famously!
    If I'm ever in your neighbourhood, I know where I'm gonna take my classes :)

    Yesterday we had our last classes of 2011 with M-P. It was intense, inspirational, challenging and fun. At one point she told us to "make it interesting". You know, there are steps. And then there is everything that happens in-between.

    I can't wait until next year! Hope it brings us all some wonderful experiences. And bliss. Gotta have the bliss :)

  11. @Hannah and @Nellie - you guys are too sweet! :)

    Seriously, thank you so much for your lovely comments. Sometimes these posts just write themselves. Well, you know how it is :)

  12. Aww. Our last two classes of the year (last week) we did with Ballet Christmas Music--not nutcracker, traditional stuff in nice piano.

    And as for snow, well, it was over 70F today (21C?) but it did snow on Christmas once here. The traffic was horrendous. :)

  13. Hi Candice!

    That sounds nice, dancing to Christmas music :)
    We had our regular class music, except for the reverance at end of class. Can't remember which song it was, but it was lovely..

    I would not mind spending this time of the year in some place warm! There is still no snow here, and it can't really get any darker. And my feet get cold! But enough with the complaining. I'm looking forward to the Holidays, to R&R and eating lots of treats.

    Wishing you a wonderful Christmas! :)

  14. It would be so wonderful to take a class together someday!

    I was getting around in single pirouettes today! Not great ones, but pretty steady ones. It's a step in the right direction.

    Last class of the year tomorrow and I'm SO looking forward to it! I, too, am excited for a new year... I'm going to dance, dance, dance!

  15. Beautiful post and words of wisdom :) It's nice to have this opportunity to look back at what we accomplished this year in class and also look forward to what we want to improve upon in the next...and probably good that we're forced to take a bit of a rest over the holiday break. I know I always hate when classes end but then come back feeling a little rusty, yes, but also renewed and revived as my body has had a nice long time to recover. :)

    I DO see the progress though...some movements are now bread-and-butter everyday things that used to be a scary challenge, and there are also certain things that I can't do YET, but I am close that I can almost taste them and I know that if I keep working, they will be mine in the near future...always something to work towards.

    Have a wonderful holiday break and enjoy all the treats and gatherings and rest and fun, Johanna, and a big Hauskaa Joulua from a Finn in Canada :)

  16. @bead109 - Yay, good girl! :) Steady singles are the best preparation for solid doubles, which seem to be coming along in 2012!

    We had our last class yesterday, and it was everything it should be. Wonky and good pirouettes, sweat and muscle burn, challenges and moments of bliss.. Plus we got to practice Sugar Plum! :)

    Lorry, looking forward to a Year of Dance with you!

  17. Kiitos, Kaija :)

    Yes, it's nice to look back - even more so to look forward! Just think what you've accomplished so far.. And the same trend is most likely to continue! What you can now almost taste, will be yours to enjoy in no time. Well, of course it takes some time. And lots of work and perseverance. Good thing we love dancing as much as we do! :)

    Enjoy your break, rest those muscles and don't forget to eat as many treats as you can! Ballet classes will take care of any "extra" ;)

    Rauhallista Joulua :)

  18. How many classes do you take per week?

    I really enjoyed this post. I have to agree with you on how every second is valued in ballet. Class always seems to fly by-- I never ever find myself glancing at the clock, and I never find myself with time to chitchat. It's all about determination and perfection. That is why it is so beautiful! I absolutely love it, the seriousness, everything about it. :)

  19. Hi Caity!

    Currently I take 6 classes on three days of the week. Three technique classes (90 min each), two pointe classes (60 min) and one basic level class (60 min) which I do in pointe shoes.

    It's best to do pointe class after a regular class, when you're already warmed up - which is why our pointe classes are always last. 2.5 hrs of ballet is pretty strenuous exercise - but I love it! That is why I'm hoping to add one more day beginning of next year.

    You are so right about time flying by in class! Sometimes I do glance at the clock, but only to make sure that we haven't run out of time yet!

    "The seriousness" about it.. That's one point I haven't addressed before, even though it's such an inherent quality of ballet training. Which in no way excludes the fun part! We do have laughs in class, and you can see the same faces concentrating hard and then smiling happily. I love that you can be serious about ballet, without having to be dead serious. Does that make any sense at all? ;)

    Thank you Caity for your lovely feedback!


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, ...