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 Yelp.com 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 (http://www.nureyev-medical.org/). 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 day....no 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 dance....er....not 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 barrebarreblacksheep@gmail.com. I'll include it in the next entry!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Liebing it Up

As previously mentioned, I was recently nominated for Liebster award, which is essentially a blogger chain letter. According to the unofficial "rules" for the award, you must:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog. (Check!)
  2. List 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  4. Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
  5. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
  6. Go to each bloggers page and let them know you have nominated them.
Since I had two nominations, that's 11 random facts and 22 questions to answer....so if you never really wanted to know a lot about me, stop reading now. This will be a VERY long entry, even for an admitted lover of lists.

But come back later! We'll miss you!

11 Random Facts About Myself
  1. I was a military brat, and moved around A LOT as a kid. 13 schools by the time I went to college!
  2. I'm terrified of growing older alone.
  3. I hate green bell peppers, but love the red, yellow and orange ones.
  4. My favorite food is cheese.
  5. I did beauty pageants to pay for my last two years in college, and was my state's 1st runner up the last year I competed. 
  6. My talent in #5 was classical piano.
  7. I love cold weather (and winter) and hate hot weather (and summer).
  8. If I could meet anyone in the world, dead or alive, it would be Frank Sinatra.
  9. I love public speaking and acting.
  10. I'm allergic to shellfish shells, but not the meat.
  11. I'm a trivia junkie.
Questions from Traveling Dancer
  1. What is your best recommendation for new bloggers? Keep at it, and try scheduling your posts using a publishing tool. We all go through creative phases where we churn out content, and times when we come up dry. Persistence wins at the end of the day, and you'll be thankful you took the time to jot down a few lines!
  2. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Paris, France. It is, hands-down, my favorite city in the world. Been fortunate enough to visit 3 times, and I can't wait to go again!
  3. What types of posts and blogs do you tend to comment on the most? I'm not a big comment-er, but I love reading. When I comment, it is because a specific question is asked soliciting responses, or the blogger writes something that really resonates with me, personally.
  4. Favorite YouTube dance clip? Don't really have one.
  5. Would you give up your day job to dance? If I had the natural talent, yes. But since I don't, let's just say I'd love to have a day job that affords me the ability to dance more than I currently do.
  6. What is your favorite dance studio? I've taken classes in 4 different cities, and I must say, I love my current studio the most. But if I told you the name, the secret would be out, and Awesome Ballet School would no longer be "anonymous!"
  7. Do you like being corrected in class/what type of corrections work best for you? Absolutely. When a teacher corrects me, I know it is because they believe that I have the ability to improve, and there's no higher compliment than when a teacher takes some time out of class to help you. 
  8. Favorite book? Favorite quote? I read a LOT of books, but don't really have a favorite. I've probably read the Harry Potter series at least 5 times though, so perhaps that counts? As for a favorite quote, I don't have one of those either, but lately I've been loving a line in that new Pink song, that goes "we're not broken, just bent." I think it's a lovely way to describe a very specific emotion.
  9. Best snack between class? I'm addicted to the GNC Go Lean 25 smoothies. I take the powder with me to class along with a shaker bottle. Try the rich chocolate flavor!
  10. What's your favorite leotard? (brand, style, color) I'm currently in love with my newest purchase, the Bal Togs Mock-Wrap leotard, in "gasoline." It's a beautiful purpley-grey color.
  11. Best advice you wish you would have known when you were younger? Stop being so hard on yourself - it's not good for you!
Questions from Natalina
  1. If you could be someone else for one day, what kind of person would you like to be? For just one day, I'd like to be someone famous, just to see what it is like.
  2. What do you do when you have a bad day? When I'm being good to myself, I take a ballet class. When I'm being not so good to myself....red wine.
  3. If you didn't have to keep in count anything and anyone, what would you do? Where would you go? What kind of life would you live? I would move to Paris and take dance classes all day in order to work off all the croissants, cheese and red wine I'd consume. I'd travel Europe and just work as needed to live, not live to work.
  4. What do you want to achieve in your life? I want to make a difference - be someone and do something that inspires others, even if it is just a handful of souls.
  5. What's your dream? This changes pretty often for me, but right now, my dream is to meet the love of my life (who naturally keeps a house in Paris) and live out my years surrounded by love, happiness, and many adventures.
  6. What made you start blogging and what do you want for your blog? I've always been an avid blog reader, but never a big blogger. When I started back up with ballet a few years ago, I scoured the Internet looking for info on adult ballet classes - that's how I came across many of the blogs I current follow, and they inspired me to tell my own story, in hopes it helps answer questions for others in similar circumstances.
  7. How did you come up with your blog's name? This is a great question - I have to admit I really love a good pun, so I was trying to come up with something that involved words associated with ballet. Hence, barre barre black sheep was born - being somewhat of an outsider to the ballet world, when I first started I definitely felt like a black sheep among all the dancers. Now, I feel much more at home with my flock!
  8. Do you see yourself blogging 5 years from now? Probably - I have a huge interest in social media in my day job, and since picking up blogging in my personal life, I'll definitely continue either personally or professionally.
  9. What are some of your talents? I play 7 musical instruments, and am a pretty darn good cook.
  10. What has been your proudest moment in your life so far? This is a really tough question - I tend to be very self-deprecating, so admitting I'm proud of something is a pretty difficult task. That being said, I was incredibly proud of the first time I went up en pointe. After years of feeling out of shape and "too big for ballet," getting up there really made me re-evaluate all the negative language I use with myself. I had a pretty poor self-image, and didn't realize it. I was proud to prove that you don't need a traditional ballet/sylph body to do pointe, and I was even prouder that I was strong enough to do it myself.
  11. What makes you, you? My wit. Sometimes I'm witty, other times I simply have my wits about me. But ask anyone, and they'll probably tell you I'm one smart cookie. I think my brain is truly what defines me as a person, and I'm proud of being a bit (OK, a LOT) of a nerd.
  12. And last but not least a life question: Why did the chicken cross the road? Because that's where her ballet class was!
11 Questions for my Nominees

  1. What do you hope to get out of blogging?
  2. What is your dream job?
  3. Do you bulk-blog and schedule the posts, or do you post as you write?
  4. What three words would your best friend use to describe you on your best day?
  5. What is the one thing you want to improve on before the end of 2013?
  6. What's your biggest regret in life?
  7. What do you think is the best way to increase readership of your blog?
  8. What caused you to start blogging?
  9. I'm obviously a fan of your blog; have you ever read mine? Just curious.
  10. What's the best advice you've ever received?
  11. Where do you hope your blog will be one year from now?
Blogs I'm Nominating...I know I'm supposed to do 11, so I went to all my favorite blogs, but only 2 of them show readers the number of followers, and both were over 200 (mad props to you!!!). So, rather than nominate blogs, I'm just going to mention some blogs that I'd like to see get some recognition, because they are funny, poignant, informative, well-written, or/and all of the above. If you want to continue the Q&A, I encourage you to because I admire your blogs and would love to hear your answers. Yes, I realize this may be the end of the chain letter. But as Frank would say, "That's Life!"

Ballet-Related

Non-Ballet Blogs

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Thank You!

A quick "Thank You" to both www.natalinaland.net and www.thetravelingdancer.com for their Liebster Award nominations of Barre Barre Black Sheep!

You may have seen these around the blogosphere lately - it is a cool way of acknowledging new bloggers, and learning more about each other. My blogging friends, I am honored you'd nominate me, and sometime soon I promise to actually complete the nomination with the full blog post. In the meantime, thank you, and keep blogging!




Monday, May 20, 2013

Crazy Things Ballet Dancers Do

I'm starting this list because over the weekend I totally got called out on doing tendus while waiting in line at the grocery store. These are just a few things from my own daily life - what can you add to the list?

  • Whenever I'm on an elevator, I try standing in coupé relevé to practice balancing. It's a whole different feeling in an elevator!
  • I do calf raises when I brush my teeth.
  • When I'm on the bus or subway, I try standing in various positions (second & fourth are my favorite), and have even found that when the bus/rail car slows down, going up into relevé actually keeps you from falling over. Weird, I know.
  • My roommate makes fun of me when I do this, but anytime I microwave something at home (not at work, of course) I throw my leg up on the counter for a deep hip stretch.
  • My new favorite is to do a balancé (waltz step) while vacuuming. Looks weird, but totally fun.

This list confirms the fact that dancers are crazy.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Learning from the Pros

At Awesome Ballet School, we are sometimes treated with company members from Awesome Ballet Company attending class, and sometimes even teaching class (especially in layoff season). In these moments you get to experience, up close and personal, someone for whom dance is their entire life. It's their livelihood, their daily routine, and their all-consuming Great Love. I love taking class from company members, because the focus tends to be less on technique and more on expressing joy through your movement. I'm not saying technique isn't important, especially to beginners, but when you're an Adult Recreational Dancer, the whole emotion side of dance tends to fall by the wayside.

Last night we had an Awesome Ballet Company member in our intermediate class. Although we never spoke a word, she definitely taught me a few important lessons:

  1. Always smile. At barre, in center, even when you screw up, smile.
  2. Be humble. Even though she was by far the most talented person in class, she still refused to go first across the floor or stand in front during center. Why? She wanted to give others a chance.
  3. Focus on the basics. She even stuck around for about half of our beginning pointe class after technique class. Why? Because even professional ballerinas need to work on the fundamentals.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Fashion Police

In my last post I mentioned something about Ballet Hobo Chic, the art some dancers have mastered of looking homeless yet fabulous as they plié and stretch. While I wholeheartedly support this fashion movement, you must know when you've taken it too far. Meet the Ballet Fashion Offenders:

Hooker Tights
I don't care if you really are a hooker with a heart of gold á la Pretty Woman. When the holes in your tights are so large that a small woodland animal could climb through them, it is time to trash them. There is a girl in some of my classes who wears two pairs of tights rampant with holes. And the holes are right under her ass. It looks trashy, and ballet is anything BUT trashy. Toss 'em, honey - no one thinks you're cool because your butt has built in air conditioning.

When 17 Layers Just Aren't Enough
Ballet Hobos love their layers. From socks, shrugs, LEGWARMERS, trash bag pants, arm warmers, t-shirts...anything goes. But you know what? Those layers have to serve a function, namely, to Warm Up your body (duh). Wearing layers for the sake of layers is just ridiculous, and you become a caricature of a dancer. And when you're wearing all those layers while it is 75 degrees outside (and in the studio), everyone knows you're just a giant poser. The jig is up. Drop the act.

It's OK to Go Up A Size
This is a highly delicate subject for most of us, as there is a very fine line between wearing clothes that allow freedom of movement, yet are also form-fitting enough for teachers to view proper body placement. You have to know your body, and know what works best for your body. For example, those with a little extra "love" may want to steer clear of open backs and Lycra. Those who are a bit top heavy may want to avoid low halters or other non-supportive designs. While I'm on the subject of leotards, if it is made for gymnastics, it's not made for ballet. There's a difference. Respect that difference.

Sweatin' to the Oldies
Some fabrics and colors show sweat more than others. While sweating is a normal part of ballet, there comes a point where it just looks gross. I don't want to see your back sweat in your grey lycra leotard. I don't want to see your boob sweat (sorry guys, but it happens) in your neon yellow leotard. And I don't want to see.....well, things I shouldn't.....in your white leotard.

Underwear is not a Layer
While some may call this a personal preference, I think most dancers would agree that underwear is not an acceptable layer. In addition to creating unsightly bumps and bulges, I really don't want to see your My Little Pony underroos. I don't want to see your white granny panties. Even men wear dance belts in lieu of undies. Women, it is time to get with the program.


Friday, May 10, 2013

Make it Melt

Let me preface this post by saying I LOVE adagio in center. I will take a long, soul-draining adagio over jumps/petite allegro any day. I want to see dance that makes me weep with emotion, not dance that makes me antsy with movement. So if I can't "do" my adagio, I get really frustrated. Self-doubt creeps in, a pained expression latches itself onto my face, and I go through the motions, not really dancing. In class last night my teacher said something that really resonated with me. We were working on a pretty difficult adagio, and some people (myself included) were just not getting it.

The teacher (who is quickly becoming one of my favorites, by the way) stopped the class after the first run-through and said something like this....
"Most people groan when they think about adagio. Adagio can be very difficult because you automatically tend to focus on technique. How am I going to hold that extension? How can I do that without falling over? You want me to hold that for how many seconds?
But everyone has days when their technique just isn't there. And on those days, use them as a gift to focus instead on your arms, your épaulement, and your musicality. Those things are what make you a dancer. Anyone can do a beautiful port de bras, but if you don't do it musically, and have that quality of constant movement, who wants to watch that? I'd much rather watch a dancer whose cambré to the back is only a few degrees, but it melts, than watch a dancer who can bend like a pretzel, but who "sits" in the position."
That next run through, I focused on wrenching every bit of movement I had out of every single beat of the music, and you know what, it worked. My adagio felt different, looked different, and I even got a shout-out from the teacher on my musicality.

I'm going to try really hard to make the mental switch when I'm having an "off" day. Both my knees have been hurting recently, so I feel I have more "off" days than "on," which is frustrating. But on those days, if I can think of them as "music and arms" days, I think I will have a MUCH better experience dancing.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

We Create the Pretty

When you mention ballet to most people, they think of pretty things. Tutus. Ethereal dancers en pointe. Men in tights and lovely brocade vests. Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. But the reality of ballet is that it is often anything but *pretty,* especially as an adult dancer.

The Truth About Ballet
  1. Ballet has awesome accoutrements, like my personal favorite, LEGWARMERS! But we also have scary pink tights. They make your legs look about 10 pounds heavier. No joke.
  2. Ballet literally changes your feet. After years of being able to wear pretty much any high-heeled shoe out there, I am starting to develop my first bunion (thank you, pointe class).
  3. Ballet is sweaty. For most people this probably isn't an issue, but I HATE the feeling of dripping sweat, and if you've never experienced sweating by the end of plies, then you're not dancing hard enough. They say women don't sweat, they glisten...."They" are full of it. And just wait until you experience being hit by someone else's sweat during pirouettes. Gag.
  4. Ballet hinders your summer footwear choices. I'm pretty sure my toenails are shrinking from pointe work, which likely means those cute summer sandals I have are going to Goodwill. I don't want to scare small children with my franken-feet.
  5. Ballet makes you hurt in areas you didn't know existed. Ever had a tight piriformis? Not exactly a walk in the park. Tight psoas? Major suckage.
  6. Ballet is expensive. Between class cards, leos, tights, LEGWARMERS!, shoes, pointe shoes, pointe shoe accessories, MORE LEGWARMERS!, leggings, skirts, shrugs....it goes on and on. It's a lot of money spent to spend a few hours sweating, all the while looking like a homeless person. Seriously. Ballet people are basically very chic hobos.
  7. Ballet is hard on your body. This should be a no-brainer, but as adults I think we tend to over-estimate how much our bodies can handle. In the past 2.5 years of class, I've had an ankle injury (sub-talar synovitis), knee surgery (worn down cartilage) and two rounds of physical therapy. And I'm constantly icing, soaking in epsom salts, foam rolling and stretching to try and prevent other injuries.
So why do it?

Because it's freaking BALLET, and we are ADULT BALLET BAD-ASSES! I can guarantee that one of the first comments you receive when someone learns you do adult ballet is, "WOW! I am so impressed you are doing that as an adult!" We do things to our bodies people can only dream of. We spin and fly through the air as if it were second nature. We stretch and bend like Gumby. 

We create the pretty.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Dancing in New York

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to go to New York City for an impromptu birthday trip. Very impromptu. We're talking less-than-14-days-advance-notice-how-the-heck-did-I-get-so-lucky-with-plane-tickets impromptu.

One thing on my must-do list was a class at Steps on Broadway. Steps is exactly what you imagine when you think of classes in New York. Studios overlooking a tree-lined boulevard. Piano music drifting down to the street. Dancers stretching in every conceivable inch of space. Scarred old barres that have seen countless dancers honing their craft. Having heard about Steps for years, I almost feel like it is a sort of dancer rite of passage, trudging up those venerable steps to the second and third floor studios on Broadway.

In any case, if you ever get the chance to do the same, I hope this info is helpful:

  • Classes fill up, even during the work day, so register online ahead of time if you can
  • The studios are a little dirty and the equipment old, but you can tell they are well-loved
  • The live accompanist was amazing!
  • Drop-ins are a little pricey - $18 vs the $15 I find standard in most larger cities
  • Changing room is TINY so come to class already dressed if possible
  • Strict studio etiquette is observed. There wasn't a towel or water bottle in sight during barre!
  • You'll be thrown in with all different ages, regardless of whether it is an adult class or not, so you might be next to a 12 year old who can battement you out the front door
Steps was a great experience, but at the end of the day, I can honestly say I prefer my studio at Awesome Ballet School. And that alone is worth an $18 drop-in fee.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Big Bug from the Big Apple

I took a glorious birthday trip to NYC last week, where I was fortunate enough to take a class at Steps, the famous dance school on Broadway (don't worry, I'll do a class review later). When I came back home, however, I brought back a nasty case of bronchitis. Being the sadist as I am, I felt that after 4 days of antibiotics, surely I could try a beginner class, right?

Wrong. Note to self - ballet and bronchitis do not mix. I made it through barre and a little bit of center before my chest decided to give up and explode.

I'm pretty sure I left the upper lobe of a lung somewhere during a coughing fit. In fact, my head is still pounding. Can you give yourself a concussion from coughing too much?

For those who have had avian bird flu respiratory illnesses, when did you know it was safe to head back to the barre?


Monday, March 18, 2013

Non-Ballet Post

So I just logged into Google Reader to get all up-to-date on my fav blogs, and was notified that Google will be discontinuing Reader as of July 1st.

Sacre bleu! Quelle horreur! I LOVE Google Reader, and am very disappointed to hear this.

So, I must find a suitable blog dashboard replacement. What do you use, cher reader, to organize and collect all the bon mots from the blogosphere? Suggestions wanted...

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Pas du Ballet Fight Club (and other great ideas)

In general, I avoid street dance-style movies. Not because I think they lack cinematic merit (they do) or because the acting is terrible (it is), but because in general, I'm a full blown ballet snob. The precision, technique and je ne sais quois that ballet demands is, to me, far superior than any other dance form. Therefore, I tend to look down my nose at street dancing as the thug life of the dance world.

That said, tonight I found myself watching Step Up 2: The Streets. If you haven't seen it, it involves dance crews, which resemble whirling, twirling, legal street gangs. As I'm watching it, I realize, holy crap, I have a dance crew. You see, I have a little dance family at Awesome Ballet School where I take classes. We know all the teachers, we email each other fifty zillion times a day, and we are a general nuisance to newcomers to class. Not in a "Plastics from Mean Girls" kind of way, but in the "oh god these people are such good friends I'm now an outsider" type way. Which I guess kind of makes us the Plastics, but whatevs.


Anywho, there I was, watching bad Sunday night cinema, and this is what I emailed my dance crew:

  1. Ballet is so much more badass than street dancing. For reals. 
  2. If we were into street dancing, we would so have our own street gang and regulate the @&*$ out of "Awesome Ballet School." 
  3. Someone should produce a ballet version of Fight Club.
Seriously, where do I get this stuff? And how did I end up in a ballet gang?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why, oh why can't I remember to blog????

The best laid plans o'mice and men oft go awry....

Story of my freakin' life, ya'll! I seriously cannot remember to blog. Or tweet. It's like all the creativity has been zapped from my veins, leaving me an empty shell of a communicator. At least my flair for the dramatic is preserved, no?

Speed version of what's been going on:

  • Got fitted for pointe shoes. Big ouch, but I thought I found some winners with Gamba 93s.
  • Started pointe class, a requirement of which is that you take at least 2 intermediate classes each week, one with directly precedes the pointe class. First class? Nailed it. First intermediate class? Not so much. It's actually harder than pointe, to be honest.
  • Pointe gets harder as I realize I have extremely collapsible feet which cause me to sink into my shoes. Bummer.
  • Graduate from physical therapy. Woo hoo! Yay for speedy knee surgery recovery time!
  • Get re-fitted for pointe shoes, dreading spending another $100. Find awesome shoes (Chacott Veronese) but awesome ballet store doesn't have the length that I need. Super bummer. So I.....
  • End up stuffing my shoes with more silicone than you'd find on a California beach. Hee hee. But at least it doesn't hurt as bad.
  • Make friends with epsom salts. BIG yay.
So here is a list of questions I've been getting from people about what it's like to start pointe as an adult. If you have others, comment away and I'll include them in the future.
  1. Does it hurt? Yes. It does. But once you find the right balance of shoe, shank and stuffing (as I call it), you can minimize the pain to a dull discomfort. But it never feels like you're walking around on puffy little clouds.
  2. Can I practice at home? I wouldn't recommend it, at least until you're more technically proficient. My teacher does encourage us to wear them around the house with socks to help the shoe mold to our feet, and to practice things in demi-pointe. But that's it! Listen to your teachers - they are here to help you not hurt yourself!
  3. How should I sew my elastics? With needle and thread. Just kidding. Sew the elastics in the fashion recommended by your teacher or fitter - either a single loop or criss-crossed. I did mine crossed as I have one wonky foot that twists slightly.
  4. Any other tips for sewing? Sure! A) Have a LOT of spare time. Took me about 3 hours to do the first pair. B) Wear a thimble - I ended up poking myself a hell of a lot more than I thought I would, and bled onto my elastics. I call them war wounds, and I'm proud of it. C) Try pinning elastics and ribbons to the outside of the shoe, then going up on demipointe and pointe while seated (not standing). If the shoe feels good, mark where it hits the top of the shoe and re-pin/sew on the inside. D) If you're sewing challenged like me, use Youtube. I learned how to whipstitch by watching a video, and my whipstitching rocks.
  5. Will I be the worst in my class? Most studios tend to start people with others in a similar skill level. But honestly? You might be the worst in the class - but WHO CARES! That just means you will be able to improve the most out of anyone, and that is something to strive for.