When I arrived at the studio on Monday, I whipped out my class card and was totally shocked to see that my card was full and I would be using my free class!
The class cards are buy ten, get one free, but it was actually my 13th class since starting ballet again. There was a free class day and then I paid for a single class before purchasing the class card. Lucky number 13!
I continue to love Monday classes in a different, yet complementary, way than Wednesday classes. They are actually very similar in structure and difficulty. Sometimes I forget which one is supposed to be the “intermediate” one (it’s Monday!). Taylor mentioned that the Saturday class she teaches is “intermediate” level and explained that it’s the same as her Wednesday class, but the only difference is she’ll involve the inside leg in combinations at the barre. Ha! I hope to go on Saturdays next year when I buy my unlimited class card.
We did frappés and fondues en relevé (after rounds of doing them on flat) and then Calla had us do a bunch of plié-relevés at the barre in parallel and then first, and then she incorporated some into centerwork as well. My calves were almost too burnt out to do a decent pirouette after that. But I loved it—it’s like Calla is feeding right into one of my main goals! And the emphasis on calf and ankle strength comes at a good time when I’m feeling a bit stronger and can start to push myself more without burning out completely.
It was another small class, which meant a lot of exercises done in one group, which again meant an accidental cardio work out. For some reason it was fairly toasty in the studio and I actually dripped sweat onto the floor of my place at the barre. I usually sweat a lot in class, but it’s rare for it to physically drip off my body like so much rainwater.
I was coming off a stressful weekend caring for one of our cats, so maybe it’s not surprising that at one point, I said “pas de chat” when I meant “pas de bourée” when clarifying a combination with Calla (at first we were going to do a pas de bourée, but then she changed the steps). Ugh. I knew something sounded wrong but kept repeating myself. My question was, “So there’s no pas de bourée?” but I kept saying, “So there’s no pas de chat? No pas de chat??”
Technically there was no pas de chat either.
The next day, Tuesday, I decided to go to class again! Because of the aforementioned sick cat, we ended up staying in on “Halloween Saturday” instead of going to a costume bar crawl as planned. So on the off chance we decide to use our costumes and go out on actual Halloween (and thus I would skip Wednesday’s ballet class), I wanted to get a second class in for the week. I found a class that fit my schedule at a different studio. I had been to one class at this studio before but hadn’t been super enthused about it. The studio is technically closer to my house, but traffic is always backed up on the way there. It’s less than 2 miles away but takes 15 minutes to drive there. Crazy.
Anyway, I went and it was okay. I don’t know what it is about that place; it just doesn’t feel right. I arrived and it looked like I was going to be the only one there, which honestly is always my worst nightmare. Luckily two other women showed up. The teacher was very young–like maybe an actual teenager. But she was good! I don’t know. This was another class labeled “beginning ballet” that was really not. I think that was what went wrong with my enjoyment of the class: I had hyped myself up for a slow, back-to-basics class. This sounded nice since I was tired from work and sore from all the relevés on Monday. So when barre started and the combinations were somewhat complicated, I had to pivot my mental stance and summon my “dance brain” on short notice.
One of the women there was less experienced and requested that I move in front of her at the barre so she could follow me. That was kind of nice! It’s nice when you feel like you are totally floundering around to get a reminder that you have actually learned something at some point.
Barre actually went pretty well, after I realized I was going to have to use my brain. We got to center and everything kind of fell apart. The less experienced woman left, so it was just me and one other dancer. After class, I overheard her talking to the teacher, and it turns out she danced in college and then joined a company! She left ballet for a few years and was coming back. When I heard that I was like, well DUH I felt like a dang buffoon next to her!
I have this sort of hangup sometimes that I’m not sure is my paranoid anxiety speaking or if it’s ever true. But so many times in ballet classes, I can hang in there for a full, tough barre, holding my own with the best of them, more or less. And then in center and diagonal exercises, like I said, it all falls apart. Center work reveals all those weird blind spots and gaps in my training and technique that are a result of the hodgepodge way I learned ballet. It’s not often there is a barre exercise I haven’t seen before at this point, but then in every other class there will be a portion of grande allegro or a turning combination where I’m like uhhh what is that? What was that weird little hop? Sometimes I can stop and ask for a breakdown but sometimes I’d rather just get on with class and do my best.
I think my struggles after barre are partly because it’s pretty common to eat up class time with a long barre and then skimp out on center work, especially in adult beginning ballet classes. So I’ve been exposed to a much greater quantity of barre than I have to center work of any kind, over my dancing lifetime.
Another really good way to learn all kinds of random steps outside of barre exercises is in performances. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in three as an adult dancer (two were in college), and anything you do in a performance is pretty much with you for life I think, because of how many times you run through it before the performance. I finally nailed a turning waltz, my former nemesis, because there was one in my last adult ballet recital. But performance opportunities are few and far between for adult students! Which sucks! I basically hate performing (stage fright) but I would do it again in a heartbeat because you just learn so much, you get to experience amazing camaraderie and the overall experience (besides the two terrifying minutes on stage) is so much fun.
The paranoid part that I mentioned is this needling thought I have after class sometimes where I imagine I detect disappointment from the teacher, after I do a nice barre and then basically flail for the entire second half of class. I get this sense of them thinking, “…Oh.” and I swear sometimes they will fall silent/suddenly ignore me after giving me a bunch of great corrections during barre. Like, “Oh, nevermind. She cannot be helped.”
I brush it off and I keep going to class but sometimes that’s how I feel. Like an unmet expectation, like a bombed audition.
Obviously that is not a great feeling, but somehow I don’t really mind it haha. It really lights a fire under me. I want to feel throughout the entire class the way I feel at barre. At barre I make a mistake and I know exactly what mistake I made and why I made it. I missed those three quick single frappés to the side because my muscle memory kept making me want to do doubles instead. I used the wrong leg because I was thinking too hard about my arms and zoned out on the actual step. But it’s a different story going across the floor, when it’s not that I can’t remember the step, it’s that I don’t know what it is or how to do it. That’s what causes the flailing. The only solution is to keep dancing. Exposure combined with practice. I’m going to try to ask more often for breakdowns for unfamiliar steps that pop up–but getting a breakdown is just the start. You have to get that step into your muscle memory, and that takes a lot of time and effort (like doing a turning waltz 10 times a class every week for two months to prepare for a performance!).
Despite all of the above downtrodden inner monologues about how I suck, I did manage to generally enjoy the class–especially since the studio was huuuge. Or maybe my “home” studio is just super small. At my regular studio we are always in the corner doing steps in place trying to get in one more pirouette with our nose to the wall. Even as I was missing steps and off the music, I loved being able to let loose and try to jump as far/high as possible.
Also, at one point the teacher asked if we were familiar with 8-8, 4-4, 2-2, 1-1-1-1 (this is a common dégagé combination where you will face the bar and do the step eight times with the right leg, eight times with the left, then four times to the right, four times to the left, and so on, ending with one to each side four times). The one of us with less experience was not familiar and said, “Sorry what? What was that?” and once she understood, she said, “I didn’t know what you were saying! I thought maybe it was your phone number!” Then we were all laughing.
Call me! 884-422-1111
Has anyone watched Maniac on Netflix? “What’s that thing they say in dance? Those dance numbers?” “5, 6, 7, 8?” “That’s it!” #dancenumbers