My Ballet World – Week 2

Wow, what an amazing week. Ever have a time where you feel challenged and inspired and you just feel like even though you aren’t where you want to be, you are on your way? I hope so, because that pretty much sums up my week in ballet and its pretty sweet.

Where to start!?!?

Did you know that if you work the turnout in one leg it actually helps to work the turnout in the other leg as well? One of the very first things to go when I’m struggling is the turnout. I surrender the turnout like the French army at… hahaha, sorry, I am so not going to go there… I love France and the French. But I will turn in at the first sign of distress, absolutely, positively and without a doubt. But I discovered today that if I seriously plant that standing leg with as much turn out as I have, the working leg not only has more room to work but something to work against! It’s not easy but it works. Hole-y tights, Batman!

My little 2-year old nephew is adorable. You know that game of “where is your nose?” that you play with toddlers and they identify body parts by pointing to them? My nephew (re-named Butters because he looks like that kid on South Park) doesn’t point, he indicates the body part with movement. Eyes – he bats his lashes, nose – he scrunches it, mouth – he puckers… it’s really cute. Then, of course, he demands a cookie as payment for the entertainment that he provided. Capitalist.

I realized that I did not actually know where my shoulder is. Seriously. I must have been truly mistaken because I was not putting my shoulder over my toes when I shift weight onto the standing leg. I was either putting my upper arm or my collarbone but never my shoulder. Turns out, shoulder over toes is good; arm or collarbone over toes is not good. And if you want to turn, you really need to know where your shoulder is and where to put it! And, of course, the shoulder should always be down not hovering around the ears. I get that correction almost every class because almost every class my shoulders end up ear level. That is a bad, bad habit and even if you don’t dance, you need to get your shoulders down where they belong, they have nothing to do with your hearing and don’t belong on your head.

I’ve been guilty of just counting to the music rather than listening to it. Now you know how I feel about classical music, I live by it, but somehow it felt like trying to listen to music and dance at the same time was complicating things! Turns out musicality strengthens movement. The music can actually help you strike, float, whip or complete any of the many movements you are attempting. Mentally adjusting your body to the music shores up both the mind’s ability to remember the course of the movement and aids in the muscle memory of the movement. Double score! Plus, it’s dancing, people, beautiful music should be heard with the ears and with the soul, it deserves to be danced to.

Awesome Ballet Teacher: It’s only ballet. No one has ever been killed in ballet class. Hmmmm, so why do I sometimes feel like I could seriously drop dead of embarrassment? Ha ha ha! Actually, I’m kind of getting over it and no one is more amazed than me at that progression! I do get scared in ballet class. I get rattled with things that I cannot do, which is pretty much everything at least the first, second, and third time around. I have been walking to my car in the parking lot of the studio when suddenly it hits me what I was supposed to have been doing! I was able to do the waltz step for the first time waiting in line at Target. I told you I never danced before, not even a waltz. I come from America where we don’t bother to teach little kids cool things like waltzing. Plus I doubt any of the 22yr old-recent state school graduates that taught in my hood would have been familiar with the waltz themselves.

But getting back to ballet… this is one of the things that makes my ABT so very Awesome, he has told us that he doesn’t expect us to be able to do things right away, in fact, the expectation is that we aren’t going to be able to do it. The hope is that we try to learn the steps and keep working on them until we are able to do them. That gives me a great sense of comfort actually because I know I can pay attention, I can try, and I can work. And when that moment comes and I am able to begin to do the step, its wonderful. I am not going to be killed, it’s only ballet. **Sigh of relief**

What is really great about not having that self-imposed pressure (or teacher imposed pressure for that matter) to get it right the first time is the freedom to just go! We need to move to get muscle memory, it will come! You don’t actually have to think through the movement – just go! Sometimes a miracle happens and while you’re stumbling about your feet just find the right place to go and a light bulb goes off above your head, I know this to be true because it’s happened to me.  Other times you just stumble about, but it’s not wasted time, you are looking for it and what you look for will be found. Never look, never find. It’s that simple, so just go!

Just go! Let’s dance!

4 thoughts on “My Ballet World – Week 2

  1. So true about “just go”! Dance is something that you just have to physically try and do, and if it’s not right the first time, you just keep doing it. Maybe that’s why I get (half-jokingly) disturbed when some people in my class just stand there and stare at the teacher when she demonstrates steps etc. (Either they’re overthinking or just not paying attention, LOL.) For me, I have to be moving for my muscles to get it.

    • Ah! me too! I always follow along when my teacher is demonstrating and when he is giving us directions for the next exercise. Even if it is his standard exercise and I already know what to do, I mark it off with him anyway. Other people are stretching, adjusting their shoes, or even just watching. I mean, yes, pay attention, but watching him do it is only so much help! I definitely have to be moving to get it!

      Just go, Jeff, just go! 😀

  2. I often just stand and watch, especially at the barre. Somehow I get the pattern of the combination better that way.
    If there are unfamiliar movements or changes of body direction I have to mark, though.

    • If it works for you, more power to that method, for sure! In my beginner’s classes, it doesn’t look like this method works well for most of the class. So much so, that my teacher will often instruct the class to mark with him when just watching doesn’t seem to be working for the class as a whole.

      Thanks for reading and jumping in the conversation, I appreciate it 😀

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