I was really looking forward to this dance semester. My dance school is offering daily ballet classes (Mon-Fri) at my own level, with all my favorite teachers. I was planning to continue with my Triple-Tuesdays, with technique classes backed up by pointe and even throw in some extra Sunday ballet at another school. Dance to my heart's content. But, unless current circumstances improve considerably, I'm forced to make drastic cutbacks on my dancing hours. I'll be lucky if I can manage two classes a week. I know it's not the worst case scenario ever, but it still makes me miserable.
We can't always get what we want - it's one of the earliest life lessons learnt. Adult dancers work, study, have families and budgets to balance. And unless you're living in Big City, daily ballet classes for adults are a rarity. You wish for more, but if all else fails, you have to settle for less. I have been here before. Back in my student days, I could barely afford the one weekly dance class. Fortunately, I had a teacher who gave me free classes in exchange for the occasional baby-sitting. And I was okay with less, as there was other stuff to keep me interested, busy and occupied.
It's not like ballet makes up my entire pie of life, it is merely a (very tasty) slice. But I would be lying if I didn't admit to the huge size of it! And it's not like there hasn't been an on-off relationship with ballet before. During the Big Break of 2003-2006 I didn't take a single class. This time around, however, stepping back does not feel right. For one, I'm in great shape and don't want to waste it. There is so much work to do, to learn and to enjoy!
One class per week is an introduction, if you are new to ballet. Like nibbling on a bite-sized appetizer. You get a taste, but it's not yet time for the main course. If you have been dancing for a long time, one class per week is a reminder of what you're missing. It's also hard work, no matter what level you're dancing. Even if you stretch and work out, you're never quite ready for class. Arabesques - ouch. Jumps - where did all the ballon go to? But once is still better than never.
Two classes a week is just enough for minimal sustenance. It keeps the systems operational, without loosing bounce or closing the doors on turn-out. There's even the possibilty of progress, especially if you focus on quality. For me, this means working on my projection, on directing the eyes, using the head and presenting myself. I also need to fix the placement of my hips - I have this bad tendency of lifting my hip when the leg goes into retiré for pirouettes. There are of course many other things to think about, but it's easier to work on one correction at the time.
Three classes a week is where you move from maintenance to pushing comfort zones. Muscles start to respond better, strength, coordination and balance keep improving. Even if you haven't danced for long, you see visible progress. It is also the point where many start craving for more. That fourth class is just around the corner..
Four classes a week is where classes become a habit, a way of life. Ballet begins to take presedence over other ways of spending your free time. And you do not mind in the least. On the contrary, it is a joy to keep the motor running and yourself dancing. And your hunger keeps growing. Surely there is room for yet another class?
Five classes a week is where it seems there's no turning back. You're hooked on ballet. For professionals and dancers-in-training it's the minimum amount of class time, for you it's the ultimate in luxury. From five it's the shortest pas to six days and double classes, to obsessing about forwarded heels and attitudes, to thinking you can't live without dance. I have been there. I am here now. Knowing about all the classes I'm going to miss makes me sad. The fact that I don't know when things will get back to "normal" makes me miserable. But two classes a week is not not-dancing, and whining about it doesn't really help. I need to look at this positively. How do I turn less into a little bit more?