Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Behold the Power of the Interwebs...

True confession time. I'm a serial googler. I Google everyone. And everything. All. The. Time. Google is equal to hours of entertainment for me, and I sincerely believe that if Google should go under, the world as we know it (or at least, as I know it) will end. I may seriously name my next dog Google. Seriously.

Anywho, there I was, Googling Favorite Teacher at Awesome Ballet School. Advance apologies for all the vague references, but Awesome Ballet School is associated with an Awesome Ballet Company - that's relevant for the rest of the story. Now, I consider my Googling powers pretty advanced, and I was not satisfied when my initial results turned up zilch. So I dug deeper and deeper into the interwebs and hit the mother lode.

Brace yourselves.

Favorite Teacher used to be a principal dancer at Awesome Ballet School. Not only that, the picture I frequently stare at in the hallway while I'm stretching because it is so freakin' beautiful is HER in her dancing prime!  But wait there's more.....I unearthed a picture of her dancing with....get ready for your mind to be blown....THE CURRENT DIRECTOR OF THE COMPANY!!! What the what???? Favorite teacher has name-dropped a few times during class, usually a tidbit about taking classes from Gelsey Kirkland and the like, but I now think she may have been holding out on us. She is no longer Favorite Teacher.....she has become.....La Danseuse. Seriously. I found a grainy video showing her dancing circa 1985 and her extensions were mad crazy awesome. Le sigh.

My Tuesday night classes will never be the same - before she was just an amazing teacher - now that I know she was also a world-class ballerina, I realize that (a) I am incredibly lucky to be taking classes from her, (b) I REALLY need to start learning more about actual ballerinas, and not just the ballets they dance in, and (c) I heart Google.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Trop de Ballet

I may have OD'ed on ballet this weekend. Beginner class Friday night. Beginner class followed by Intermediate class Saturday morning. A performance of Romeo & Juliet Saturday night. Advanced beginner class Sunday morning. What in the world was I thinking, especially since I'm on the tail end of injury recovery? Well, I'm pretty sure the inner monologue went something like this:

Friday 5:00pm
My legs: Wow! It's Friday! Let's go to class! Dance dance dance dance dance!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
My head: Well, I guess it's a healthier alternative to the usual half bottle of wine, so, what the hell! I'm in!
Legs: Awesome! Don't worry, I feel great. I could do this all weekend. Ankle feels strong, balance is coming back, let's DO THIS! Dance dance dance dance dance!!!!!
Head: Well, just take it easy. You don't want another injury. Let's just be safe, OK?

Saturday 7:00am
Head: Wow. This is early. Where's the coffee. Why are my legs this tired on a Saturday morning?
Legs: Dance dance dance dance dance dance dance dance dance!
Head:Yeah, OK, I get it, you want to dance some more. At least I'm watching a ballet tonight - that counts as rest rime, right?
Legs: Dance dance dance dance dance dance dance dance dance!

Saturday Night 8:00pm
Head: How do they lift their legs so high? They are so teeny tiny! I can't believe I can identify some of these steps! How awesome is that?
Legs: Zzzzzzzzzzz.

Sunday Morning 9:00am
Head: Oh dear god. I'm sore. A hot shower should help, right? Maybe some anti-inflammatory creme?
Legs: Dance dance limp dance so tired dance OMG dance ice pack.
Head: What the &*$% was I thinking, doing this 3 days in a row? You're a grown-ass woman!
Legs: You were right, I was wrong, this was a bad idea.
Head: Eh, don't be so hard on yourself. You did well. But I do think this means we can take Monday off, maybe do a little date night with The Bachelor and a bottle of wine?
Legs: Deal. You bring the wine, I'll bring the ice packs.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Leotard, the Witch & the Wardrobe

Sorry, boys, but this one is for the ladies. When venturing into the world of ballet, one of the inevitable questions beginners will have is, "What do I wear?" Assuming your ballet school does not have a dress code, the simple answer is: anything. Well.....almost. Let's discuss.

  1. You need to be able to move. And stretch. And bend over without displaying your nether regions to the person behind you. Find something that allows for movement but also doesn't have you tugging it up or down every 10 seconds. For this reason, a loose shirt may seem uber comfy, but is rather impractical with all the movement in ballet.
  2. Your teacher needs to be able to see the general placement of your joints. Now, some may disagree with me, but for a beginner I absolutely think it is imperative for the teacher to be able to make see both your ankles and knees to be sure you're in correct alignment in all positions. This is a safety measure as much as it is a learning tool. While yoga pants may meet requirement # 1, if they are so loose your teacher can't find your knees or see your ankles then we have a problem. Try more fitted capri pants or shorts that hit just over the knee. 
  3. You need to feel confident and comfortable. I'm sure at this very moment many of you are saying to yourselves, "But Black Sheep, I will never feel comfortable in a leotard and tights, at least not without a few cocktails and a Xanax chaser!" Believe me, I know the feeling. Start out slow - maybe you wear tights, loose shorts, and a leo with a tank top over it. After a few classes, you will realize that not only are all those layers rather warm, but it is easier for you to dance when you can see your body in the mirror. That's not to say we don't all have fat days - I have to believe even the pros have days when they had a little too much "fun" at the bar after opening night. And on those days, you reach for that trusty cami, pull on a t-shirt, or wear that ballet skirt you've had lying around. Speaking of ballet skirts, Natalie makes a fantastic skirt for those of us with less waspish waists.
  4. Finally, you need to wear appropriate footwear. Socks work just fine in a pinch, but a pair of well-fitting ballet slippers will help you feel the floor, execute turns and jumps, and do a snazzy tendu without picking up all that nasty junk on the floor. (Have you seen the bottom of most ballet shoes? Gross!) Leather versus canvas is a personal choice, but whatever you get, make sure they fit. I recommend going to your local dance supply store for an initial fitting, and once you find a pair you like, you can always pick up extra pairs online.
So there you have it. You don't have to dress like a ballerina, but I guarantee you that "feeling" the part will help you to "dance" the part. The most graceful dancers are the most confident dancers. Find what works for you and WORK IT GIRLFRIEND! For me, what "works" is a black or navy leo (slimming!), black or grey capri-length tights, and black dance shorts (think boy shorts). I start class with a shrug and leg warmers, but those normally come off pretty soon after tendus from first. One day, I hope to feel comfortable enough to rock the pink tights on days other than my "skinny days," but I'm not there yet. For me, black is still the new black.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Things I Wish I Didn't Have to Do Each Class

You know what I really, really hate? Frappes. Frappuccinos? Love them. Frappes, not so much.

That is all.

Happy Anniversary!

This week marks my one year anniversary taking classes from Awesome Ballet School. When I think back to that first class, what stands out most is that I simply felt overwhelmed. I can remember hobbling to the bus after class thinking, "Dear God. Please let me be able to walk tomorrow." Aside from calf and foot cramps during class, I found that after 5 years off, there might be a slight bit of muscle memory, but absolutely no grey-matter memory. Even the simplest combinations were impossible, and I was mentally defeated. I watched my other classmates - thin, svelte things in leotards and tights - and thought nasty things about myself. Not only was I over thirty, but I probably had at least thirty pounds on each of them. At least. On a good day.

I may have ended Day 1 in a dark cloud of despair, but boy, am I glad I stuck with it.

Dear reader, if you are starting out and struggling, please know, It Does Get Better! A year later and remembering combinations is second nature. That foot points a lot better than it used to, and dare I say, I'm starting to look a bit more graceful, which is a nice departure from my initial imitation of a cow hoofing it across the floor. Those leotards and tights? Not so scary. And the first time you nail a pique arabesque and Awesome Tiny Girl does not, you will feel like a million bucks. Trust me, it will happen.

Anywho, Happy Anniversary to me. I think this is the first of many celebrations to come!