Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Here I Go Again On My Own....

Well, OK, not "on my own," but hey, I'm definitely "goin' down the only road I've ever known".... You know, the more I think about it, Whitesnake really doesn't fit my story, but whatevs. I don't trust people who don't love classic hair band music.

I digress.

Backstory: almost four weeks ago, I was playing a little beach volleyball. Fun in the sun, working new muscles, good times with friends; it was fantastic. While running for a ball, I managed to get my big toe caught in the sand, forcing it down while the rest of my foot traveled forward. Painful to say the least. I had a little bruising and the discomfort was minimal, however, the few classes I tried taking after the injury I noticed I was doing a lot of sickling on that foot. I've come to realize that since starting pointe, my pain tolerance has definitely gone WAY up.

Fast forward to yesterday: So there I was.....all excited about going back to ballet class after taking a week or so off while I moved condos. I got my ballet bag packed up, went to work, planned out snacks and food - I couldn't wait!

While at work I thought, "Hmm...registration for pointe class is going on right now (new semester starts Monday). My toe still hurts from the beach volleyball injury....I should probably get it checked out before paying for classes, 'cause I'm a responsible Adult Recreational Dancer."

So I call up trusty and find myself a podiatrist. I go to an appointment at 3:30.

The podiatrist, who is a very pleasant young man, takes some x-rays, pokes around, and tells me, "Young lady, you have a bone cyst and a possible small tear in your ligament." He then refers to ballet as a sport, which I secretly love, since it means he understands the rigors that ballet puts the body through, as well as the amount of conditioning necessary to do it well.

I sigh, disheartened, and give him my best "TO GO HELL, DEVIL MAN" stare. Unphased by my ire, he proceeds to tell me I have to take the next session of pointe off, take the next few weeks of ballet off, and go buy ugly rigid shoes or else he will put me in a boot.

I stomp as gracefully as I can out of the office, armed with a list of orthopedic-approved shoes and a growing dread of telling La Danseuse I have to take time off....AGAIN...for ANOTHER injury.

I'm wearing my new orthopedic-looking Danskos today. I feel like an oaf, but I have to say, I'll be damned if they're not pretty comfortable...

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

PT Superstar

So I finished yet another round of PT today, this time for some posterior tibial tendonitis resulting from a torn calf muscle. Even better, I didn't even realize I had torn my calf muscle. Damn you, flexibility!

Having attended physical therapy four times in the past five years - once for a bus accident [shoulder], once for a running-related injury [bilateral stress fractures], twice for a ballet-related injury [knee arthroscopy & PTT] I feel like I'm becoming somewhat of an expert. So here, some lessons learned from what feels like a lifetime of PT.

  1. Ice is your friend. 
  2. Not only is ice your friend, but you need to get over your aversion to ice baths and ice massages. They WORK.
  3. 6:30 am is way too early for physical therapy, but you'll schedule them anyway because you're too tired after work to do anything worthwhile. Plus, you can drink coffee while you get heat/ice/massage treatments.
  4. Daily foam rolling keeps muscle tightness at bay, and increases flexibility.
  5. They will prescribe you daily stretches/exercises. While you can lie about actually doing them, they will know. They always know. They're omniscient like that.
  6. Physios are kind of like hairdressers in that you can tell them anything and they won't judge.
  7. The PT version of massage is medieval torture.
  8. You can never do enough hip strengthening exercises.
  9. If they ask whether you're willing to try Graston technique, you can say no, and save yourself a lot of pain and bruising, or you can say yes, endure a lot of pain and bruising, but get results. You'll never look at a butter knife the same way again.
  10. When not just your therapist, but other therapists in the office know you by name, it is safe to assume you are injury prone.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It's Not Brain Surgery, It's Ballet!

I love TV shows and movies about ballet. I won't even call them a guilty pleasure, because I am proud to admit my obsession with them. You should see my Netflix rental history. Anywho, when the season 2 premiere of Breaking Pointe came on yesterday, you can imagine my excitement. If you haven't watched the show, I insist you find season 1 and start watching immediately, but don't blame me if you get addicted.

I thought I'd give you a little run-down of lessons learned from the episode, which was titled "It's Not Brain Surgery, It's Ballet!" (Which, for the record, I think is a terrible comparison, but whatevs, I didn't say name it.)

  1. I need to get back to the gym. And do it regularly. I love that they showed the dancers cross training, and talked about the importance of it. It is something I don't do nearly enough of, which is probably why I'm always getting injured. Speaking of which...
  2. Everyone gets injured, even the pros. But everyone tries again. Even if it means more injury. This makes me feel better about all the times I've been injured yet, like the masochist I am, come back for more.
  3. Ballet fashion rules. Such colorful leotards in this episode!
  4. Cost of living appears to be much lower in Salt Lake City than where I live. Their apartments are much bigger and nicer than mine. I'd be jealous but for the fact they live in SLC, and I live in Awesome Big City That I Love. This is even more ironic when you consider I was born just outside SLC.
  5. There's nothing wrong with kissing up to the teacher if what you're really doing is trying to become better.
  6. There ARE straight men in ballet. 
  7. Real ballet dancers do shots. And get a little drunk sometimes and say stupid things. In short, they are normal people. This, also, makes me feel better about myself.
  8. Adam Sklute likens Ballet West to high school, in terms of corps/soloists/principals, etc. I'd say this analogy extends to adult recreational ballet too - there are definite hierarchies, even within open classes - but with much less drama....most of the time.
  9. I want to wear a rehearsal tutu. All. The. Time. 
Do you watch Breaking Pointe or other dance-themed shows? What's your favorite? Comment away!

Monday, July 22, 2013

"Thank you for being a friend..."

Last Friday I got together with the Ballet Buddies (aka Ballet Fight Club) to say goodbye to one of our own, who is moving to The Big Apple to go back to school. When you think about it, it is quite remarkable that our little group has bonded so deeply over something as, well....strange, as ballet class. Our group ranges in age from 24 to 37. We all have varying degrees of education, diverse backstories, and come from all over the U.S. Some are super-duper smart (here's looking at you, medical professionals), some are super-duper flexible, and some have a super-duper innate ballet ability that makes me green with envy.

Why am I telling you this? Because when it comes to the things you love, having a support structure of those who understand you and what you are doing is essential. If we were doing this as children, we'd have classmates who we grew up with and became friends. As adults, that bonding process is much more difficult. As we all sat around the table (after a few cocktails, natch) it seemed perfectly normal to talk about the height of our arabesques, the fluidity of balancés and strength of pirouettes.

We may be as different, diverse and motley as they come, but we have ballet in common. It is something I cannot effectively share with non-dance friends....the passion, the idiocy, the injuries, the frustration, the joy....I am thankful for my little group of Ballet Buddies, and I don't think I'd enjoy dance as much as I do without them.

My advice to you today is to talk to someone in your class. Even if it is just to comment on a particularly challenging combination, or to ask where they got their legwarmers - make a connection. Over time, the friendship will develop, and you'll be better for it. As humans we are naturally social beings, and while forging new friendships was easier when we were 7, it is infinitely more gratifying 20 or 30 years later.

To my departing Ballet Buddy: You will be missed, but we wish you the best of luck in NYC - and I can't wait to come crash on your couch. Like the Golden Girls theme song said, "Thank you for being a friend."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ballet and Self-Diagnosis

After a certain point in ballet studies, you get to know your body REALLY well. Like med student well (OK, maybe not med student, but seriously advanced anatomy student for sure). Not because you're particularly smart, but because you are so attuned to every creak, pop and pain that you immediately freak out and go on an all-night bender Googling everything under the sun.

Or maybe that's just me.

As you all know, I had knee surgery in November to clean out my cartilage and plica. Not fun. Recovery has been slow but steady, but over the past two months or so I noticed both knees doing a lot of aching.

Let the Googling commence!

Found a gold mine for dancers - The Rudolf Nureyev Foundation Medical Website ( This site is about dance health issues - BINGO! One night around 2am I finally came across a solution to my knee pain I hadn't really thought about, that it wasn't actually my knees causing pain, but tightness in the connecting muscles and tendons. After a week of foam rolling my quads, hammies & hip flexors 1-2 times per knee pain. I have now made it through two classes with no pain AND no knee brace. [does happy dance, pain free]

On the other hand, a new nagging injury has popped up. After some trusty Googling, I'm self-diagnosing myself as a potential case of flexor hallucis longus tendonitis, commonly referred to as FHL tendonitis. Now, I'm not 100% sure on my diagnosis so I have an appointment set for next week with my trusty ortho group, whom by now know me by name, but I'd say odds are 60/40 I'm right.

Sigh. To be continued....

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

3rd Time's a Charm???

Got re-fitted for pointe shoes a THIRD TIME this weekend. I really don't mind doing the re-fittings; what I mind is having to shell out for three pairs of shoes in six months. Here's what we know now about my feet and the accompanying shoes....
  1. My feet are highly compressible, with tapered toes and a narrow heel.
  2. Shoe #1, Repetto Gambas, are very supportive, but the shanks are so thick you feel like you're walking on 2x4s.  It was almost impossible to articulate the foot, and the shoes feel very clunky overall.
  3. Shoe #2, Chacott Veronese, are very easy to articulate the foot in and very "springy," but difficult to roll up in, and aren't very supportive due to the low box - no wings whatsoever. They have a much softer shank than the Gambas, and really forced me to develop strength in my foot in order to lift out of the box. But, the lack of wings has introduced me to the world of bunions. Joy.
  4. Shoe #3, Grishko Pro-Flex, have a 3/4 shank which looks fabulous with my arch, and the wings come up higher on the box so I feel more supported. Unfortunately, from what I've read online, they also break in really quickly and hence don't last as long. But they look damn good.
From L-R: Repetto Gamba, Chacott Veronese, Grishko ProFlex.
Note the different platform/box shapes, and how the vamp gets higher with each purchase!

Question for the readers - 

How long did it take you to find your pointe shoe, and how long did you stick with any particular model? I'm curious to see if others have had similar trial and error periods when they first started pointe.

EDIT 6.5.13
So, La Danseuse didn't love the Grishkos. I'm going to see what Fun Thursday Teacher (I really need a name for her!) thinks tomorrow, but my guess is that I'll be back for another fitting this weekend....Le Sigh.....

EDIT 6.25.13
Fun Thursday Teacher actually liked the shoes, but I went ahead back for yet another refitting. After an hour and a half, I ended up right back where I started. In the same Grishkos.

I sewed them and have danced one class in them - they actually felt really supportive, but I actually think the 3/4 shank is stretching the front of my ankle more than I'm used to. The front of my ankle was really sore after class.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ballet Fun-due

I fully plan on this post being an ongoing post topic. You see, cher readers, I am fortunate enough to have several teachers that I love, and if they ever leave I will probably wail on the sidewalk and rip my tights in protest. As much as I love Awesome Ballet School, it's the teachers that really make the experience amazing. Not just because they have mad ballet skillz (although they do) - I love them because they say and do some of the craziest s#*! I've ever seen during class. And you know what? It totally works.

So without further ado, I present to you the first entry in Ballet Fun-Due, aka MY TEACHERS ARE AWESOME.

How to Jump Higher in Grand Jetés
- Awesome Thursday Teacher (I haven't given her a name yet) snaps her sweater at us during grad jetes in order to get us to jump higher. "Either you get hit, or you jump higher. It's your choice."
- La Danseuse actually asked someone to lie down on the floor so that we could jump over them. After about 30 seconds of someone looking incredibly freaked out, we abandoned that tactic.
- "Pretend your pelvis is a fireball launching itself into the air." (Yes, this is an actual quote.)

Posture and Balancing
- "Your torso is an elevator that goes up and down. If you tip during plies your people will fall out. Don't kill your people!"
- "Ladies, if you're balancing on one leg, you must put your lady parts over the ball of your foot." (The most bizarre advice I've ever heard, but it's a visual that totally works. The actual quote used a word that rhymed with sha-nay-nay.....which is much funnier than "lady parts." But hey - this is PG-13.)

On Successful Adagios
- "You know why we do long adagios? Because it HURTS. Hurting is good for you. Just kidding. But not really. Those suckers hurt."

More Musings on Dance
- "Oh, it's totally possible to drink a glass of wine and that I'd recommend it...."
- "If your ponytail smacks you hard in the face, you're spotting correctly."
- On finding appropriate music to accompany a barre exercise: "I can never remember music, only steps, so each time I press play it's like a surprise."

Got something to add? Throw it in the comments or email to I'll include it in the next entry!