February 29, 2012

Keep Calm and Pointe

After last Friday's Princess freak-out, I have since calmed down and gotten my groove back up on pointe. Took all the wise and kind advice to heart and set out to discover my inner not-quite-a-princess-ballerina. And you know what? Turns out she's not without womanly graces, and some such that on a very good day could be described as almost elegant. Which is not so bad after all! Again, I had made a mountain out of a mole-hill, or in my case, a principal ballerina's role out of one simple diagonale. My teacher gave us the exercise for technique practice and because there is some lovely port de bras to learn. Not to dance Paquita on stage. Which would be way out of my league anyway.

That's the tricky and daunting and sometime frustrating part of learning variations as an adult dancer. You know you don't quite have the chops nor the creds. You may feel overwhelmed at the prospect of having to learn and dance "real ballerina" choreography. But here's the deal: regular technique class prepares you for variations. You do bits and pieces all the time. The one difference: with choreography comes interpretation and you move away from the purely technical. For me this is a huge challenge. I try to dance as clean as possible, and that alone takes a lot of concentration. It is hard to let go of the control and throw myself into a variation. Try to be pretty and expressive. Even if it's "only" steps and hands and épaulement.

Last Monday I asked my teacher if she could help me with the steps, and we did a quick but intensive tutorial after class. The steps on pointe I had no trouble learning, it was more an issue of finding the best stepping style for my feet and abilities. The port de bras.. Well, let's just say I'm still figuring it out. But at least I'm trying and not worried about failing miserably. So what if I can't capture Paquita's charm? I will learn something, for sure. And there are always other variations to freak-out over. No, I will keep calm and pointe. Keep calm and pointe..


  1. I find it incredibly hard to believe you aren't elegant. You're a dancer on pointe. If you teacher didn't think you were elegant enough, she wouldn't put you on pointe. I have never seen an awkward girl on pointe, and I've been to a lot of studios and shows in many different countries. Just own up to your elegance, lady! :)

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, La Chanteuse!

    Still, elegance is not a given just because you get to be on pointe. Requirements for beginning pointe class are clean technique, a strong core and strong and flexible feet. Elegance is a combination of that and épaulement and a sense of style. It may be there, or still in the making.

    Pointe is a continuation of what I have learned before, but it is still difficult. Elegance is not automatically in-built, it needs to be worked on again and again. And I have seen plenty of beginning students on pointe looking awkward - nobody is perfect right away.

    But I trust that I will own up to my elegance - eventually! :)

  3. hi, Johanna! Just last night in class, Mrs. M, my intimidating teacher, said "all you can do is do the best you can at the level you are at." So obvious! Yet so difficult to remember and accept! But she's right, we do the best we can and we get better, and we are our own worst critics!! I bet you are the same way, your own worst critic. My other teacher is always yelling at me to look up--I hate looking up because i'm forced to see myself in the mirror, which just adds to that self-criticism. It seems like self-acceptance and dancing ballet, as least for ballet nerds like us, are two things that are hard to reconcile. Do your best! And give yourself a break!

  4. Hi Shannon!

    Yeah, you got that right - I am my own worst critic! Of course there is always room for improvement, but it's important to remember you can only do so much. So, we do the best we can, and that has to be good enough - at least for the time being! :)

    Thanks for the peer support <3

  5. I agree, it's hard enough just focusing on technique, which is something I tend to do.


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, ...