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.