Archive | March 2013

You CAN Polish This Turd

“You can’t polish a turd.” I love this metaphor. I use it anywhere it fits in a conversation. Sure, it is a little vulgar, but it has real meaning. It means there are certain things that are bad, period, and there is nothing you can do to make it better. However, I use the saying somewhat differently when referring to myself. I say, “So you CAN polish a turd!!” Yes, sometimes I refer to myself as a “turd”. I usually say it jokingly when I do something good to poke fun of myself. I’m so silly.

I had my ballet 1-2 class last night. We have been rigorously working on our recital dance and the General finally completed the dance last week. The music has a somber tone, and like the Thursday pointe class, it has a haunting feel to it. The choreography is pretty and fits well with the music. The costumes aren’t my particular favorite, but I had it tailored so at least it fits better.

The General was running through the new choreography with the girls that were missing last week and afterwards she asked that me, Ms. Disney, my little sister and one other girl to go sit in the waiting room. All I can think of was, “Rut ro. What did I do now?!” I really didn’t think that I was in trouble per se, but I always feel that way when I am asked to leave a room by someone with authority. Its the 8th grader in me, I suppose. HA! As we sat, we could hear the General tell the girls that they need to step up and work harder to learn the choreography and make it look presentable at the show. The General says this to everyone all of the time and rightfully so. We can all work a little harder to look better. Who wants to look sloppy on stage? “Not I” said the fly. Then the General emerged from the studio. Yup, it was our turn to get the speech. I expected us to get the same type of motivational dialogue. My dancing is not absent of flaws, even at this level. Instead, the General said something a little different. She said (and I am paraphrasing here) that we are doing fine, but because we are adults and need to make sure that our performance is perfection because the audience will be unrelenting with us. Their expectations on how the adults should perform is substantially higher compared to girls. At this point, she will be polishing and fine tuning us so we look our best on stage. When the conversation was over we went back into the studio to continue practicing. But instead of practicing the number in our normal groups (we split up the room into two), we did something different. Me, Ms. Disney, my sister and the other student practiced along and the other students were instructed to watch us. “Me? Watch me? Are you sure?! Well, I better not mess this up then.” We danced, they watched.

I took a couple of things from this moment: While the General wasn’t screaming to the rafters “You ladies look perfect! Don’t change a thing!” She singled us out to tell us that we looked good enough not to worry about significantly. Yes, for once, I am not a dancer she needs to worry about. At least in this particular dance. I am used to being the dancer who needs improvement, because I started dancing so late in life. This is to be expected; I have a lot of growing to go. At that particular moment I was not the immediate problem. I did not need to go in for additional classes or practice more at home. I was doing OK; I was keeping up. I felt proud of myself.

Also, for the first time, the General used me as a part of an example as to how a dance should look. I have never been used an example before. There are always dancers that are better than me in class, so I never expect to be an example. Ms. Disney gets singled out in that class all of the time (lucky). But so far, I have never been asked to show others how to dance. That is unheard of! Until now. That small gesture boosted my confidence and I believed I danced a little better last night because of it. It may be a long time before the General asks me again to be an example in class, but at least I had my moment in the sun. This turd has been officially polished; even if only temporarily. I am all shiny and I am feeling more like a dancer and less like a turd today.

*Happy.

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Get to the Pointe

We started working on our pointe dance a couple of weeks ago. The choreography is really pretty. The song has an eerie “haunting feel” and is a pretty addition to a lyrical number. Our costumes are kick ass (short, black and laced – reeeear!). This is the first number and I think it is going to set the tone for the entire performance that day.

“Get to the Pointe LB, what is the problem.” The problem? Me. I am the problem. We added a turn combination (2 soutenus into a pas de bourrée, x3) and I am falling all over myself. I feel like such a failure right now. I have been doing pointe for almost a year and I still struggle with my feet. It doesn’t help that we are turning in a circle to our right. I am significantly stronger to my left. To add insult to injury, the newer girls to pointe are actually keeping up with the combinations. I am not jealous; just discouraged with myself. Why am I so handiquacked?! When will ballet or pointe start getting easier? Will it ever happen or should I just be resolved to the fact that I may never be “good” at ballet?

Anywho – I know what you are all thinking. “LB, get your head out of your butt. It is impossible to master ballet in five years, let alone one.” And, you are right. I guess I am used to getting constant feedback. In ballet, you rarely get compliments. Most the time all you can expect is criticism. One thing I have NEVER gotten since I started ballet is a compliment. Oh how I long for one. I have, however, have received criticism. But, it’s actually a good thing. The General has explained that she criticizes when she cares. She said she wouldn’t say anything if she didn’t desire me to be better. That is nice to know.

I have to keep the faith. I need to become more comfortable with my personal rate of advancement in ballet. No one else is worried about how quickly I am improving, so why should I? (At least, I don’t think so.) The sooner I get comfortable with my abilities, the better I will feel about my position at the studio. Pointe is hard and so is ballet. The people who are seen dancing on TV and the internet (and even my studio) have been practicing ballet for years. I still have time to improve; there is no rush. At this rate, I should be struggling less with my turns en pointe and be an all around better dancer. That’s not too bad.

There. I feel better now. 🙂

Arms – Boo on Them

Why are arms so hard for me to master? It’s not like I am mastering anything at the moment, but you would think that arms would be the easiest to accomplish. It’s not. Well, at least for me. The General reminds me often that I need to work on my arms, and despite my best effort, I still seem to struggle. There are so many things to remember when you dance ballet its hard to keep it all straight sometimes. Legs, arms, hands, toes, butt, chest, hips, and where they all go, add choreography and technique and BAM, you have ballet. So hard. So very hard.

I wish I could look “fluffier” when I danced. You know, like a leaf floating in the wind as I transition from one movement into another in a dance combination. I move more like a bull charging towards his pasture. “OUT OF MY WAY COWS, CAUSE HERE I COME! I AM GOING TO EAT ME SOME DELICIOUS GRASS!” I know – that is not nice to say and is not a fair depiction of my dancing. My point is, I am more “bull” than “leaf” when I dance. I think it is my muscular build that prevents me from looking as soft as I would like. I am quite “manly”. HA! I can’t help it. But not all ballerinas are soft looking. Take Diane Vishneve.
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Diane Vishneve is an exquisite dancer and is very, very muscular. She is considered to have “unconventional lines” for a professional ballerina. Well, at least that is what one dancers said about her in the documentary “Ballerina”. [My fav BTW. If you haven’t already, watch it. So awesome.] I identify with Diane as a dancer. Now, I am not saying that I am an amateur version of Ms. Vishneve, but what I can say is that I enjoy her unconventionalism and can appreciate the athleticism that she bring to her performances on stage. Ms. Vishneve is like a bull/leaf hybrid. Powerful, but pretty. She is the type of dancer I strive to be. I am aware that I am going to need a lot more training to achieve my genetic goal. I have power. Need more fluff (and the means to control said power). Blech.

Moving on, back to arms. Arms, arms, arms. Going to keep working on them. The performance is coming and I don’t want to look like a bull(‘s ass).

Moving Forward!

I am feeling a little accomplished this evening and I desire to share it with my loyal readers.

You know how I posted that I started doing the Asylum workout? Well, I have officially done the program for two weeks. Now I did not do the 6 videos a week like the program suggestions. I have ballet and kids people! I did do 3 videos week. Today marked my completion of all of the videos and starting them all over. When I did the first video the first time, I was winded after the first 5 minutes and my lungs felt like they were going to catch fire! This time, however, I did the video without getting winded! No lung explosions here! I felt stronger and was as to keep up with the Asylum crew. Well, for the most part! It felt so good. All of my exercise fanatic followers out there can totally feel me right now. I am on a fitness high and feel F-I-N-E. 🙂

The other accomplishment happened during Monday nights class. The dance in that class requires us to do a right pirouette. It used to be a double but the General changed it to one because we still have some young girls in the class that have trouble with two. Umm – me included. Anywho we were practicing our pirouettes at the end of the class and son-of-a-VonDruke I was pulling doubles like no ones business!! I was like “Wheee look at meeeee!” Once the pressure was gone, they became easier. I wish I could let go all of my tension while doing my turns. Life would be easier.

I also came to another realization. This time last year I couldn’t do one pirouette let alone two. Sometimes I forget how far I have come in he last 12 months. I may even take it for granted. While I know I have leagues to go, I still have accomplished quite a bit and for that, I am proud. Really proud.

I can sense that sometime soon I will refer to myself as a “ballerina”. That is a term that is earned and I don’t believe should be used loosely. I will know when that time comes, but I believe in my heart, my time will come. Not quite yet, but soon. 🙂

Master-of-MY-House

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I love the play “Le Miserable”, don’t you? The first time I experienced this play was when I was 20-something years old. My father in law took me and my husband to the play and since then it has been one of my favorite musicals.

So, I was kind of invited to attend a master’s class. It was held by a non-profit organization called Ballet in Cleveland, which its only purpose is to bring ballet back to Cleveland. Pretty cool, huh? Ballet in Cleveland was founded by the beautiful and talented, Jessica Wallis. Jessica and I have tried to get together to exchange stories, but our schedules have been unable to sync up. Anywho, Jessica invited me and Ms. Disney to go to a masters class that was being taught by professional ballerina Alison DeBona, who is also one of the dancers in the show Breaking Pointe. PRETTY COOL, HUH?!

The offer was wonderful, but I did not think I was able to attend. I had a 2 hour make up class on Sunday that I could not miss and I didn’t want to spend too much time away from the family. Well, my husband didn’t want me to miss the opportunity, so he made arrangements so I could go with Ms. Disney. Wasn’t that sweet of him?! Hey DOES love me! For those who are curious about my experience, here is my story.

I did not sleep well on Friday night; I was very excited. Well, more so nervous. I didn’t want to look like a buffoon and I had no idea what caliber of dancing was going to be present in the class. I picked Ms. Disney up and we anxiously traveled to the destination. Ms. Disney and I concluded that we would likely be doing a lot of barre exercises, which was fine with me. I like the barre and we never get to use it in class anymore! I was more nervous to dance in center. I know my ability to pick up combinations is slower than others and I didn’t want it to show. Regardless, I was ready for whatever.

We arrived at the studio and made our way inside and that is when it hit me – this is NO JOKE. THIS IS AN HONEST TO GOODNESS MASTER’S CLASS. The entryway was filled with young, thin, beautiful ballerina hopefuls waiting to sign in and take their place alongside their friends inside the studio. From the entryway you can see the dancers who have already signed in and paid their fee. No kidding – they looked like they were extras in a ballet movie. All of them warming up, stretching, adjusting. Their hair in perfect buns, their bodies perfectly toned and their faces as fresh as the morning dew. Do I sound dramatic? I apologize, but that is exactly what was laid out before me on that Saturday afternoon. I analyzed their movements in awe as I waited to sign in. I looked over to Ms. Disney and said with clenched teeth, “Let’s get out of here. This is insane. What did we get ourselves into. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this.” Ms. Disney whispered back, “You can do this. It’s OK. Just relax.” I cannot believe how calm she was. I was literally on the verge of having a panic attack and she might as well been waiting to get seated at an insurance seminar. Nothing was phasing her. I, on the other hand, was panicked for a number of reasons. One: I was probably the oldest student in there. Two: I was CLEARLY the least experienced and Three: There was apparently a dress code and I didn’t get the email. I was supposed to wear pink tights and a black leotard. I was wearing black tights and a black leotard. I did NOT want to bring anymore undue attention to myself. All I wanted to do was disappear in the background and be unnoticed the entire duration of the class. Clearly, that was not going to happen now.

We signed in, placed our belongings in the locker room and proceeded to the barre. Correction – the FAR end of the barre. So far that I was almost inside the curtain that was drapped at the end of the barre. I started to stretch. I can say one thing about myself, I have become pretty flexible over the course of the year. I can straddle stretch like no ones business, which was noticed by a lady who was observing the class that was seated to my left. As I splayed my body to the floor with my legs outstretched in opposite directions she said, “Ouch”. Ouch is right lady, Ouch is right.

Then she appeared. It was her – Alison DeBona. She was so tall, so thin and so very, elegant. I could feel my body tighten up. “What am I doing here? I am wasting her time. Please sweet, baby Jesus, don’t let her notice my suckiness. PLEASE! She then instructed some of the dancers to go into the basement and get chairs because there was not enough room at the barre for everyone to dance. I thought to myself, “I could be a good sport and offer to get chairs, but why in the hell do I want to do that?! This is no place to be a hero and if anyone needs to be stationed at the barre for extra assistance its ME.” I was still in the corner by this point and I had no intention on moving, no matter how squished I was.

After a few comments from Ms. DeBona, the class began. To make a long, long story short, the barre exercises were nothing less than MORTIFYING! Ms. DeBona did exercises from her company and the combinations were lengthy and challenging. Even the port de bras were difficult! I struggled to get through them, not only because they were intricate, but because I was squished at the end of the bar and had NO room to move. I was embarrassed. Ms. Disney did great. She has always had a knack for picking up combinations quickly. I probably would have done better if there was someone in front of me to watch when we did the exercises on the left. Every once in a while I would glance over to the girls stationed on my left side and see how they were faring. As expected, it was just another day in the office for them. Well, what I could see. I wondered – where they struggling to remember the combinations? Were their frappés less like a “frappé” and more like a “frapp-achino” like mine? I couldn’t tell from my vantage point and none of them were verbally displaying their frustration. Good Lord that is a real NO-NO in ballet world!

Then it was time to move in center. I was TERRIFIED! If I struggled at the barre lord knows what it was going to be like in center! Ms. DeBona divided the class into two groups and me and Ms. Disney were separated. To my dismay, my group went first. Boo. I had the deer in headlights look when she told us what exercise was first: grand battements. OH SWEET BABY JESUS I HOPE I DON’T FALL OVER. I was no stranger to this exercise, but I was still worried I would look like a fool. The piano started to play and away we went. I realized the student’s version and my studio’s version were different, but I quickly adjusted. Wouldn’t you know it, I didn’t do that bad! I kicked pretty high and my foot is always pointed. My feet have always been something I could be proud of. I never forget to point. Yeah me. And the other students? Well, they may be poised at the barre, but away they were are intimidated as I was. Grand battements seemed to have been challenging for everyone and that was the one thing I didn’t look too lost doing.

After that uplifting moment, it was smooth sailing from there. I felt more confident and willing to try. There was two highlighting moments: (1) I did a double pirouette to my left and I almost fell over. Not a shining moment, but it was nonetheless recognized by Ms. DeBona. She put her hand on my shoulder (yes, she touched me!) and said, “Let me help you, hold on.” Then she made a little announcement and made an “example” out of me. AHHHHHHHH! Scary, scary, scary. I am not going to lie. I said, “No, that’s ok. I don’t want to be an example.” She replied softly, “It’s ok. That’s why you are here.” …..I am here to learn. From a current, professional ballerina. The second professional (next to my current instructor) that has ever taught me. She wants to teach ME ballet…….I think I’m going to faint. She then told me to put my weight on my non-supporting leg before I did the pirouette. Holy son of a mongoose if that suggestion didn’t do the trick! HOOOORAAAAY! (BTW – she prefaced the suggestions with the comment, “You actually turn very well”……ME?! TURN WELL?!…heaven.)

2. The last combination we did included a glissade into (small) jette, (medium) jette, (BIG) JETTE, I was scared because I hadn’t leapt in months. I wasn’t sure how I was going to look, but I was going to do my best. Ms. DeBona instructed that we only do three jettes, but I noticed that all of the girls did four or more. The hell if I was going to do more than three! You ask for three and that is all you are getting. Me and Ms. Disney was one of the last to leap across the floor. Glissade, (small) jette, (medium) jette and (BIG) JETTE we went! As soon as the last jette was done we walked off the floor. As expected, Ms. Disney made it clear across the floor. Ms. DeBona said, “You see that?! She (Ms. Disney) made it across the floor. THEY (ME included) are working.”…..I was included in that statement. Ms. Disney may have cleared the floor, but for my stature, I was close behind. To be apart of that compliment felt…awesome!

What I learned. A couple of things.

(1) I have a lot to learn. As soon as you feel comfortable in ballet, you are challenged to be better. It is truly exhausting, but worth while. Why? Because you are never stagnant in ballet. Never, ever, ever. You are always learning and always improving. That is what makes the sport more interesting, fulfilling and challenging. That is what compels dancers to stay, and unfortunately, also drives some of them away.

(2) I am not as terrible as I thought. The girls in that class were AMAZING. However, I was strong and able to keep up in center. I thank the General for that. She has made us work in center since the fall and now I can hold my own without a barre. That made me felt like I belonged in that class. Even though that feeling was only slight.

(3) No matter where I stand or what I do, I am never going to be the woman who disappears in the background. I always stick out like a sore thumb. If it is not my long black hair, bright red lips or flashy shoes, it will be my mouth or attitude that gives me away. I can’t help it. No matter how insecure I feel, I cannot blend in. Do you know the saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the oil?” I am oh so very, squeaky. Even when I don’t intend to be. My “squeak” is my defence mechanism. When I am my most insecure you can hear my “squeak” “squeak” “SQUEAK!” Blah. I hate that about me sometimes. Talk, talk, talk. Laugh, chuckle, joke. God, I wish I could be more serious sometimes. More elegant. To no avail, I cannot. Deep in my soul, I am a rough and tumble kind of girl. I squeak. (Damn it). The master’s class was no exception. The benefit – I got to talk to and learn from a “master” ballet dancer. Doesn’t sound so sucky now does it? That’s how I got into my current studio too – I squeaked. “I want to take ballet. Do you teach adults?” and later, “Oh yeah, I want to learn pointe. Is that possible?” The General gave me opportunities because of that squeak and I am forever grateful. Squeak, squeak, (squeak).

(4) I was NOT the oldest one in the class. There was a gentlemen who was in his early forties starting ballet as an adult like me! Yeah! We are not alone adult beginners, we are not alone.

(5) I cannot wait for the next masters class. I don’t care how hard it is, I am so proud that I was able to participate in such an event. I felt like a real ballerina for an hour and 1/2. I felt apart of something really incredible and I will never forget it. Jessica made it possible by extending her gracious hand to me and Ms. Disney. That was so nice. So very, very, nice. Now I anxiously await the next opportunity.

This one is going in the memory book. I know I will be telling the grand children about this event in years to come. So cool…..yeah. 🙂

PS – Ms. Disney is on the right (GREAT pic of her), Alison is in the middle (der) and I am the tiny little thing on the left. I love that shirt. I know – I’m so cool. HA