It’s been a sad, sad ballet month thus far. My studio was closed for Thanksgiving week, and then I had to miss a couple of classes for silly reasons. My first class in two weeks was on Monday and I was So. Sore. the next couple of days!
BUT. Now it’s back to regular ballet!
. . . until Christmas and New Year’s roll in and screw up everyone’s schedule again.
How do you keep your ballet routine over the crazy holidays??
There are many things in ballet class that I absoultely love. I love jumps, and balances. I love barrework (mostly!). Unfortunately, the things I love tend to be the things I do well and I tend to dislike things that do not come as naturally to me.
Petite allegro falls in that category.
As many of my fellow ballet students know, petite translates to “small,” and allegro is translated as “quickly” and is generally referred to in ballet as motions in which one or both feet beat in the air off the floor. Thus, petitie allegro is ballet code for “small, quick jumps.” And I am NOT good at it.
Let’s call a spade a spade: I’m tall and busty, and nothing I do is small. I can do quick (sometimes), but only if I’m very comfortable with the movement, or else “quick” just translates into awkward and sloppy. Every class during petitie allegro I feel distinctly ungraceful. Oh, and much too bouncy.
Lamenting my horrid soubre sous and changements, Gorgeous Ballet Girl (who is similarly tall, but infinitely more graceful and lovely) suggested to jump just a little higher. We have big feet, she said, and to get them pointed we need more air time. BRILLIANT. So I’ve been trying to jump just a little higher (while still keeping it “small” and “quick” – kill me now). It helps, but I’m still awkward as a baby giraffe standing up for the first time.
I’m TRYING to take small steps, I’m TRYING to move my feet quickly, I’m TRYING to be light and graceful. But honestly, during petite allegro, I’m just thankful not to be falling over my huge clumsy feet flat onto my scrunched up frustrated face.
. . . Can we please do grand jetes now??
The waltz step is hard.
Beginners often struggle with it, and I am no exception. Oh, I get the step. I know what I’m supposed to be doing. I get the rhythm. I know where my feet are supposed to go, where my arms will end up, and the corners and directions I should be travelling towards. But actually DOING it is another story.
Actually, that’s not quite true. I can do it. I have done it. But I know it’s not pretty. It’s not graceful, or fluid, or any of the lovely things the waltz step is when I watch the other girls in class perform it. Either my feet get sloppy, or I add and extra step, or my arms never quite match my legs. It’s just hard.
Until it’s not.
I feel like ballet is always this way. Something is difficult, impossible – until it’s not. Until one day you can just do it.
Last night, my waltzes to the right just clicked. It all worked. And I felt graceful, light, and lovely. The left wasn’t as great, but the whole class was worth it for that One Perfect Waltz.
On a side note, I have not abandoned Sunday Splits! I took this week’s pictures, but my phone and tablet are clearly in a fight and they refuse to cooperate to upload photos. Once they are reconciled, I will post!
You guys. Something happened last week after class. I was walking out with my ballet friend (who I shall call Running Ballerina, as she is a serious runner). Madame was talking to a new student, but motioned for us to wait for her to finish.
(I don’t know why, but I immediately got that butterfly-in-the-stomach-the-teacher-asked-you-to-stay-after-and-you’re-in-trouble feeling.)
But she told us that a couple of the women who usually do the party scene in Nutcracker were unavailable for some performances. Would we like to fill in and be part of the show this year?
So let me repeat – Madame asked us to appear, on stage, as part of one of the studio’s performances. With the Real and Serious Dancers.
Unfortunately, I have plans that take me out of town for the entire performance weekend. It’s crappy luck, because my theatre-loving heart fluttered at the thought. So sadly, I had to decline. I think Running Ballerina will do it though. She’s never been onstage, and I hope she has a blast!
Even though I can’t do the show, the point is that Madame asked me. ME. Me who has been taking ballet at the studio just over a year. Me who feels like she constantly struggles with parts of class. Not several of the other girls who have been taking classes longer. Not the other girls who are, as far as I can see, better dancers. Talk about a confidence booster!
So, alas, no Nutcracker debut for me. But maybe next year??
I really want my splits.
I know it’s silly. I’m too old for splits. Splits aren’t necessary to dance ballet. There is no class that will kick me out after failing to produce a proper split. But none of that matters. I want it anyway.
It takes time and stretching. That’s all. Keep working, and it will get there. Or so I keep telling myself. So, in an effort to reach my silly little goal, I have decided to begin a segment henceforth known as Sunday Splits.
Every Sunday, I will post photos of my splits. Hopefully, there will be improvement. But above all, I think a weekly post will force me to keep up with my stretching. Should any Sunday pass without a post, feel free to say, “Hey, KitTeaCat, where the heck are your Sunday Splits? Get cracking!”
Without further adieu, the first installment:
(Right leg front split. I think the shorts make is look closer to the ground than it actually is, but definitely my better side. Also notice Francisco in the background clearly asking “What the hell is Mama doing?” I hate him a little because of his effortless flexibility. 😉)
(Left leg front split. Long way to go. And now Loki has joined in on the fun.)
(Middle straddle split. Ewww. Needs SO MUCH work. I hate this one. And also, sorry for the lovely butt view.)
(I, of course, realize it is Friday and not Sunday. Nevertheless, I begin Sunday Splits today. Because I am a rebel. And an overachiever. And Friday Splits doesn’t have the nice alliterative ring to it.)
Ballet class follows a predictable progression. Barre work begins with plies, moves to tendu and degage, and so on. We move to center, then across the floor to end with jumps. No matter where you take class, the progression is the same. And if you take class repeatedly with the same teacher, you get a feel for which combinations come next.
Madame always ends class after grand allegro with “Lovely work, that’s all we have time for,” we applaud, she takes attendance, and we each thank her in turn.
Except last night.
Last night, after we had landed the last grand jete, Madame said “Find a place in the center.” She put on new music, stood in first position, and motioned for us to follow along.
Halfway through, I realized I was doing my first ever reverence.
What a beautiful way to end class! It was relaxing, and lovely, and thankful – even though we had no idea what we were doing. I am really hoping this is a new tradition for class.
This week marks the 1st anniversary of my first ballet class. I am now consistently taking two classes a week (and wishing for a third!). Through the year, there have been good classes and bad classes, an injured ankle, and several new leotards.
All in all, a wonderful year.
Here are some of my favorite lessons:
- I will never look like a ballerina – or, at least, I won’t look like the stereotypical version of one. I’m too tall, my feet are flat, my boobs are too big, and my shape is too curvy. But it doesn’t matter. The most beautiful dancers in my classes aren’t the ones with the perfect shape or size.
- Spotting is impossibly difficult for me. But nearly throwing up after a few chaînes isn’t so great either – so I’ll keep trying!
- Dancewear shopping is addictive. My latest obsession is with warm-ups.
- Getting away from what’s comfortable is necessary. Every new step is terrifying the first time, but can only improve after that.
- Magic can happen in tiny ways. Last week, Madame walked up to me when we were balancing in sous sus at the barre and pushed my shoulders forward a fraction of an inch. BAM! My balances were twice as long for the rest of the class!
- Adult ballet students are wonderful. This is true of my classes, and the huge blogging community I’ve discovered (that’s you!).
- I love jumping. I like big steps and big movement.
- My feline companions also love ballet. Or rather, they love napping in the window while I do my barre exercises at home.
And the best lesson of all is that the lessons will keep coming. Off to class!!