January 21, 2012

Back on the Plateau

I would love to be back in Paris, or Berlin or even back on the Prairie (never been there) - but I really don't like being back on the Plateau. The flatland of ballet's learning curve. Because inevitably there are going to be ups and downs and then a whole lot of going nowhere. Anyhow, that's how it starts to feel after a while. Even worse, you get the sense that you are loosing your footing. Literally.

I told my teacher as much, that I think I'm stuck in reverse. Not going forward. She said that I can't expect to advance with every class, not even on a monthly basis. In fact, it may take years for real progress to become apparent. Years? Years?? I'll be in retirement by then! Seriously, I am not the most patient person. But my teacher also had the good sense to remind me that sometimes it's enough to show up and give your muscles a work-out. And that "bad" days are for learning and "good" days the result of getting through those bad days!

Still, I can't help feeling frustrated. Take my pirouettes, for instance. They have always had a way of coming and going, from triples to frozen turns. One of my teachers told us that we have to be in charge of our own bodies, and decide how many turns we want to do. And that being consistent in the quality of our dancing is also key. For me though, turning is still more a game of chance. I never know beforehand whether there are going to be solid singles, teetering doubles or jackpot triples! Although in the past year (2011 included) I have been getting better, more secure - until I suffered another flare-up of frozen turn syndrome (FTS).

Now that I come to think about it, that FTS did not pop out of nowhere. Nor did the apprehension to "present myself", or giving up when faced with majorly challenging petit allegro. All of it was preceded by the limbo of The Plateau. I let my confidence be eroded by my short-comings, by comparing myself to more advanced and skilled co-dancers, and by not believing in my potential to learn and grow. It's like my teacher said, progress is not always apparent. So, even when you think you're going nowhere, you are in fact readying yourself for a change of course, and for possible new break-throughs! Which is why The Plateau is not the end of the road, but merely the beginning of another one..


  1. It´s nice to read your entry today. I´ve been feeling so frustrated lately in the ballet class too, it´s terrible. Back from the holidays and we have a new routine and of course i don´t understand what the teacher says so well (in finnish, i got used to the previous routine including the language)and can´t do it properly, then the balance...terrible balance i have. We have started the pirouettes and without balance and this week left leg I cannot even give it a try...grrrrr im so upset with myself and so frustrated!...
    But this this entry of your blog makes me in a good mood and makes me want to try and look ahead, for sure we are progressing even we don´t notice it.
    I remember when i lived in UK and was learning the language; I had these 2 months when it seemed that my english instead of improving was getting worse, i wasn´t fluent and didn´t know why. A teacher told me that sometimes our brain needs to rest, like a little break, and then it´s ready for more after a while, like a little calm before pushing ahead and improve much better, which in the end was true..Maybe it can be applied to ballet too ;))

    1. That must be it! The "brain needs to rest, like a little break, and then it´s ready for more after a while, like a little calm before pushing ahead and improve.." Thank you for passing on your teacher's wise words!

      I think there have been so many corrections and fine-tuning this year already, that my brain is going over-load. It needs time to process everything!

      I believe it's the same for you too. Right now class is frustrating, but things will adjust themselves again :)

  2. Your teacher is right, she gives good advice. Your right to when you say the plateau is not the end. Don't give up, you'll see improvement soon!

    1. Thanks Elizabeth!

      Maybe not soon, but hopefully some day :)

  3. what a wonderful, inspiring, and timely post, Johanna! i had that wonderful first class back with Ms. M, and then my second class the following week was terrible. couldn't do anything well, had horrible balance in the center, my brain just fritzed out and i got more and more frustrated and upset as class went on. and that leads nowhere, only to those thoughts of 'why do i even bother with this??" after class Ms. M talked to me and said 'you weren't doing what you WANTED to do, but you weren't doing bad." i love your statement that 'bad days are for learning, good days are applying that learning." i'm going to put that in my little arsenal of encouragement and think of it next time i'm feeling like i can't do anything right!

    1. Yes, it's impossible to get it "right" all the time - and where would the fun be in that? :)

      Ballet is both art, expression and a physical skill to practice (and enjoy).

      There is so much to learn, so much work to do - you just have to remember that ballet is cumulative dancing - you get more confident and skilled step by step!

      Thank you, Shannon, for your lovely comment :)

  4. Oh, it's so good to read this just now. I'm just back from ballet class and it was the Worst Class Ever. I don't think my teacher noticed there were other 6 girls in the studio, she was all over me during the 3 hours.
    All I heard from her was: No. Again. No. Again. No. Again. Higher. More. Higher... My gosh! I am só (mentally) devastated right now. I know it's part of the process, but I never had so many corrections as today. At a point I felt I was having a private lesson, lol :3

    1. Worst class? Sounds to me like you just had one helluva GREAT class! Any teacher willing to push you that much believes you have the potential to advance further. Take it as affirmation in your capabilities and continue to work you butt off! :)

      Of course it's really hard on your body and brain, but you can gain a lot from such an intensive teaching session. Those corrections will make you a better dancer!

      I would love a private lesson, by the way..


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, ...