December 31, 2011

Two Days Until Class

One of my favorite German words is "Vorfreude"; it literally means the joyful anticipation you feel before a happy or pleasurable event. Be it before Holidays, birthdays, last days of school, first days of vacations, two stops before your final destination, or waiting until ballet-classes resume.. Two days is how much longer I will have to wait, and my initial frustration of having no class to go to is already changing into the vorfreude of hand meets barre, cue music and plié!

Ballet keeps me on my toes, in both senses. In class I have to pay attention and concentrate, which can only happen if I let go of everything else. Leave whatever is bothering me outside, silence the naysayers in my head and suspend any disbelief. Someone might call it escapism, I call it embarking on an adventure! Ballet is exciting, sometimes even a bit scary. But you know the best adventures are. You dance, and you learn. About steps and alignment, about moving to music, of ballets and traditions, and about history and culture. Most of all, even if you were to disregard all the rest, you learn about yourself!

Someone asked me this past week if I ever get bored, since I dance so much. I do not. Get bored, nor do I dance that much. Classes are on three days of the week, you can barely call that an obsession. Okay, there are these two blogs I write and one facebook-page. But more time is still spent not dancing. I hope to change that with the coming new year! Two classes a week are for upkeep, and three classes just about open the door for advancing beyond your present level. Four days a week would suit me fine, with the occasional fifth day thrown in for good measure. This is the time to dance.

This is also traditionally the time to reflect on the past year. Ballet-wise it has been a good one, I got to dance to my heart's content and even had two wishes come true! I wished our guest-teacher Marie-Pierre would continue to teach at our school - and she does! I wished we would get to learn variations - and we are! I do not dare to voice or write what I'm wishing for next year, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed..

I was lucky this year, my attendance record almost perfect and no major upsets (though some minor aches and pains). Okay, my ankle is troubling me on occasion, but I've been given the green light to train as much as I can. You get older and you adjust, that's just how it goes. Overall I think that I've grown into a better dancer than I was last year. At least I hope so! I haven't asked my teachers about it, but Madame once said something in that direction. Though after this many years of dancing (counting 18), improvement tends to be more subtle and slower too.

When you know your basics, it becomes about what happens between those steps, turns and poses. In the words of Madame, "you have to make it interesting". Never mind that I still have to focus on turn-out, on forwarded heels and straight knees and on lengthening my back - and figure out how to turn double grand pirouettes, clean fouetté pirouettes and jump neat beated petit allegro. But to make my dancing interesting to watch has to be the biggest challenge of all!

Advancement in pointe class has been much more obvious, which is no miracle when you start from pointe zero. If you're not counting the pointe break of summer, I have had some 13 months worth of specific pointe practice. Missed classes twice. Considering I have two awesome ballet teachers (or ABT:s, as my fellow ballet blogger Lorry likes to call hers), I would have had to be absent or absent-minded not to learn something! But I still struggle with my echappés and big positions in seconde or fourth. That right heel needs a seperate invitation every time, it just does not want to forward itself! And the right knee is still lazy to stretch all the way, but it's getting better.

Dreaded echappé aside, I found out that I really like to do fast turns in diagonale! Soutenus and piqué turns, and even chaînes. I've become fairly confident with balances and just did my first controlled single pirouettes on pointe. Best of all, I no longer panic when we get to learn variations! Last class before Christmas, our teacher threw Sugar Plum Fairy at us like tinsel on a tree. It was a suitably easy-fied version, but close enough. There was no warning, no time for self-doubt to catch up. I just did my best, thinking on my feet but not over-thinking how I might have looked doing it. It was a blast, scary and exhilerating at the same time!

None of this could have taken place without my Awesome Ballet Teachers. They take us committed adult dancers seriously and reward our efforts by pushing us further than we even dare to dream of! When dance matters this much, there is nothing better. Should you be reading this (you know who you are) - I love your classes, they are simply the best!

Dear Readers, finally I would like to thank you for sticking around! I'm always eager to get feedback from you, so please keep it coming. I wish you a happy New Year 2012 and may there be plenty of pirouettes and moments of bliss!


  1. Happy New Year, Johanna!
    I hope the coming year will bring many new challenges and wonderful dance experiences for you!
    I have followed your blog from the very beginning and I love dancing "vicariously" through your posts. Keep posting! Maybe one day we'll be able to take class together. :)

  2. Happy new year :)
    Vorfreude is a pretty nice word, indeed :) I like Weltschmerz, too :D


  3. Happy New Year, Johanna!

    I'm really looking forward to wonderful dance challenges in the new year and I am so grateful to have an Awesome Ballet Teacher who makes it all possible!


  4. Happy New Year to you too.
    Thank you for a lovely and inspirering blog. I have only danced for about a year, so your blog makes me look so much forward to the things I will be able to do some time in the future.

  5. Vorfreude is a great much more positive and action-oriented than Schadenfreude, which gets too much attention :) I am also eagerly anticipating the start of 2012 ballet classes this week...I know I will thrill to getting bac to ballet but also feel the effects of the break. But it reminds me how much those weekly classes DO to my body, that I can tell the difference after just 2 weeks off. Onnellista Uutta Vuotta, cheers to another year of hard work and possibilities, and thanks for your writing...always inspiring :)

  6. Thank you Noora :)

    I like that you've been around from the beginning! And I'm sure we get to be in the same ballet class, maybe some time soon?

    I hope you get to dance this year as much as you want! Wishing you a dancerific 2012 :)

  7. Thanks guys, you are so sweet! :)

    @Louise - it only gets better, enjoy the ride.

    @Alina - you're right, another germanic gem..

    @Janet - Thank you, wishing the same to you!

    @Lorry - All hail the ABT! :)

  8. Kaija - kiitos ja Onnellista Uutta Vuotta sinulle myös! :)

    You are spot on, as usual. It's amazing how quickly our body and mind adopts to the routine of ballet. I'm itching to get back to class. Let me know how your first classes of 2012 turn out ;)

    Remember to breath, elongate and enjoy!

  9. Hello! I have been reading your blog for a while now, just catched up to this post :) Happy new year and keep up the good work, you're inspiring!

  10. Hello Lalatina,

    thank you very much - and I'm glad you've discovered my little blog :)

    Wishing you too a Happy New Year, and keep dancing!

  11. Hi Johanna, I just stumbled upon this years old post from you coming through a Pinterest post. While reading the first words I got stick to your words. They triggered something in me, even I'm not a neither ballet dancer nor something else semi professional (as what I see you after reading on your blog). I for myself started too late taking jazz dance classes at an age of 21. Later came a longer big hole w/o dancing. Life happens.
    Now I'm a 48 old guy with about ten years experience in tango argentino.

    In your words I felt more than a deep commitment to dance. I felt dancing is an important part of you and it is a attitude towards life.

    I post this here at an "ancient" post, because it's where I "met" you.

    And btw.: As a German guy I like Vorfreude too.

    Please keep 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, ...