watching.

Yesterday I noticed my teacher watching me.
Not to say that they don’t watch us in class at this studio, because they do. They walk around and look at each of us to make sure we are doing the full execution correctly. Some will correct us separately, some correct the entire class in a general statement. My Monday teacher is usually the general statement type.

I missed class last Monday, and really wasn’t feeling too hot yesterday either, but I really wanted to be there and I had this notion in my head that going to dance would make me feel better. (Sometimes it does. And yesterday it did, if only for the 1.25 hours I was there) So I went, and was really wanting to do well and think about the movements as I was doing them instead of just going through motions.
I thought about what my turnout looked like, about leading with my heel, having a straight supporting leg, keeping my hips square, ribs over hips, arms strong. Ms. Lori has been challenging us with this and even though we haven’t had her for two weeks, I want to implement the things she’s been teaching us.
There was a good class full, but not an excruciating amount of people there yesterday, so our position at the barre was comfortable. As we were doing one of the combinations, I could feel my teacher watching me. I noticed her eyes in my direction, and she had stopped where she was (probably to avoid getting grand battement’d in the fact by some of the students) and was looking my way. Not just a glance, but an actual attention-focused gaze.

My first thought was, “Crap. I must be doing this wrong. It probably looks funny. Please tell me if it looks funny.” But I just tried to do my best and keep on the music and beat correctly and do the combination right.

When we went to the center, I noticed it again.
I stay on flat in this class because I’m not confident with some of the things we do. (I’m hoping to gain confidence and be able to do it next year.) The combination involved a tendu, coupe, pas de bourree, pique coupe, pique coupe, pique passe then it transitioned to a pique sous sous and a few other things I can’t remember now, but it was a lot of change of direction and keeping the energy up. It was quick.
When my group went, I noticed her watching our side of the floor. The good kids most people watch were on the opposite side, but she was watching ours. I figured she was focusing on my friend Mari who really has been improving substantially and doing really, really well overall. When we finished, I asked if she noticed her watching our direction and she said she did.
So it wasn’t just me imagining things.

The next thing we did across the floor, which involved adagio and a lot of balance and holds, was actually a really pretty piece. It felt good, even in it’s challenge. Chasse, temps lie, develope a la second, waltz, waltz, pique, pique, pas de bourree, pirouette, rond de jambe, en dedans pirouette, passe, extend arabesque, fondu in arabesque, and something else. (I might have mixed up two differen’t combos. Oh well.) Anyway, it was slow and specific and I’ve noticed my balancing ability improving so I’ve been really trying to hold balances at the barre and on the floor. I’ve also been trying to use my epaulement and have been paying attention to my head placement and all that. This time she walked over to my side and was watching. I felt her eyes in my direction again and just did my best even though I flubbed here and there. But this time, Mari was in a different group.

I’m not 100% sure she was watching. She could have been watching someone behind or beside me. If she was watching me, I’m not sure why–I could be doing something incorrectly, or holding myself in a funny way, or I could be commanding presence, or not at all. But this isn’t the type of class where someone like me is watched so intently for so long. It’s seen more as a class to practice rather than to learn new things all the time. (Many of the more advanced dancers take it to get more dancing into their week.)

Either way, I want to work harder. I  want to improve. I want to be better.

Also, my new pointe shoes were finally located and are now in my possession and sewn. I’m hoping  to be able to break them in today or tomorrow. I wish I knew more tips and trips for breaking in capezio’s, because they’re made as a “pre-broken in shoe” yet I break the shank before the box.
Trial and error I suppose.
Soon I’ll have the space and ability to practice more and really get my strength up. I’m on pins and needles.

They said I earned it.

We had our second Crows rehearsal on Friday.
I wasn’t expecting all of the girls to be there, since one of them told me she wouldn’t be able to make it, but they all showed up. We were able to teach the two girls who had missed last time the dance and changed up one part (which added this funny floppy-fish move which is kind of awesome) to make it flow better.

Since I’m just the cover, I did everything behind the other girls. It was awkward for me because this was my first experience covering, so I asked a lot of stupid questions, but I honestly just didn’t know. Ms Julie is really patient and understanding and amazing, so she didn’t make me feel stupid for my questions at all, which was really nice.
We ran it and ran it and tried to perfect it and got a little better each time. It is such a fun dance, I enjoy getting to be a part. Ms. Jane had finished the costumes so we were able to try them on to make sure they fit, and it is probably the best costume I’ve ever worn. (I also made her laugh with a boob joke. So, there’s that. I love Ms. Jane.)

After rehearsal was over, I asked Ms. Julie if she wanted me there for the Crows pictures or not. I figured that the covers usually didn’t take the picture with the cast dancers, but it’s a good deal before my Winkie Guard picture so I wanted to be sure. It wasn’t close enough to play off and show up early just in case. I almost didn’t ask, but I figured, “Why the heck not?” I’m new anyway, right? I’ve already asked stupid questions. Why not ask another?
She was sitting next to Ms. Munro, and so she got this soft look on her face and turned to Ms. Munro and said, “Well, I don’t know what we normally do? Are covers in the picture?
To which Ms. Munro replied, “Normally not, but, do you have a costume? You do, right?”
To which I said, “Yes, ma’am. Ms. Jane had enough material left over and made one in case I have to fill in for someone shorter. Don’t want to get caught unprepared.”
Then Ms. Munro said, “Well I don’t see why not. You’ve been doing extremely well, all of our covers have been picking up on their dances and working really hard.”
Then the subject kind of switched over to scheduling, because four of the six girls have something going on with the same school extracurricular activity that I thought they were missing that rehearsal for. (It ended up only being Saturday they missed.) Ms. Julie says, “This is why covers are so important; for traveling. That’s how I ended up getting my start. I was a cover and we were traveling and we lost a dancer so they put me in. Covers are so important and it’s a big responsibility to have to jump in on a moments notice. We don’t cast them lightly. And they are all doing so well; you may think we don’t see it but all your hard work doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Then Ms. Munro pipes up, “That’s it! You’ve earned it! You’re in the picture!”

And my little heart melts and explodes at the same time.

I almost cried when I got cast as this role, because I thought I just solidified my fate at how horrible I am at the audition. The fact that I got cast as two different things–even if one was just a cover–blew my mind. I was included, I was seen. Then I heard a comment that made me wonder if I was just put as the cover as a have-to. Because I’m a IV/V, and all the other IV/V’s have two roles, too, and I’m not an actual role–I’m just a cover. Maybe it was just to meet the two-role quota. I tried to encourage myself that it could have been worse and that being given this opportunity was a big responsibility, but in the back of my mind I remembered being the fill in during advanced at my old studio and how when someone dropped they didn’t put me in, they just reblocked. I wasn’t good enough. I failed. Maybe they were seeing it as a way to fill the quota and a fairly easy risk since chances are I won’t have to dance and then crisis averted.
I wanted to prove to them I could do it. I wanted to work hard to show them it wasn’t a mistake trusting me with this role. I want to be prepared just in case something does happen I don’t embarrass myself or make everything else look bad. I didn’t want to falter in the trust given to me. So I worked hard, even though I don’t really have much to work with to be able to practice. I kicked walls running through blocking in the bathroom, I pulled a muscle sneaking in a practice in the warehouse at work. I went over the steps in my mind until they were solid, mentally thinking through every step and how it transitions and pouring over the details so I could approach this confidently even though every bit of this is out of my comfort zone because I know confidence does more than talent can ever do alone.
And it was worth it.
Even if I don’t get to dance it, even if rehearsals is all I ever see of this dance, even if I don’t get to feel the swish of the dress at my knees on stage, I get to be in the picture.
And even if something happens and they don’t make enough head pieces and I have to not be in the picture or something, I would be a little sad, but that would be okay, because I got all the validation I need.
They said I earned it.

That bit of happenings meant more to me than I could ever explain or express.
Now I’m itching to work hard and continue to improve.
I wish I could afford to dance more, but I am grateful for rehearsals. Even just having that, I can see improvement.
I am hopeful.

Winkie Guards Rehearsal

Saturday was our second rehearsal for the Winkie Guards role in Wizard of Oz.
I realized this weekend that being in this role, we will be on stage almost the entire second act of the show. There are five scenes in Act II and we are in four of them.
This is incredibly exciting.

One of the girls made the comment that she was offended that we weren’t dancing on pointe.
I kind of laughed at the notion of it being offensive, but I also think I am viewing this from a different mindset than someone who has grown up in this studio and thinks in the hierarchy of things. And also, whose friends are in roles that dance on pointe.
I see it from the mindset of the shape of the show as a whole.
Winkie Guards doesn’t need to be on pointe. If anything it’s more of a contemporary role than a strict ballet one. We’re wearing jazz shoes. It just makes sense. Maybe it’s the theater brain in me.
I tried to explain this to her, that it’s nothing to be offended at because they didn’t decide this based on our ability. They decided roles based on height, took into minor consideration our levels, and what shape the scenes would make.

We learned our entire first and second scenes. I think they are very fun. Our next rehearsal will include the Wicked Witch of the West, which means that my friend who plays the witch will be there, and also my friend from class who is the cover.

The Winged Monkies are adorable, and each of us are assigned one that we kind of buddy up to. Mine ended up being my friend from my old studio, who ironically was out that day. I don’t know if Julie did it on purpose or what, but I’m excited.

We also have a Crows rehearsal on Friday, with Coco the Crow as well. The girl whose spot I covered last time won’t be here this time either. So we’ll teach the other girl who was absent this week, and then will have to teach the other girl the next rehearsal, which I think is when we’re getting more into it and adding more of the characters together. It’s not hard, it’s just fast. I hope she can pick up on it.

We’ll see what happens.
I’m excited to have more people in with us, but sad that I won’t get to take as many pictures this time around. I’m going to try and see if I can get someone to come and shoot a rehearsal, but I don’t know. I wish I could clone myself.

It just kinda sucks to be the one taking all the pictures, although it’s awesome to be able to give them to the other dancers, it sucks that the parts your in get overlooked.

I need a clone.

If you have something nice to say…

Wow! Yes, it’s definitely a different process, in terms of things not always being explained. I would have never known based on your dancing, though, if I hadn’t friended you on Facebook and found out that way.”

Say it.

This was from one of the principal dancers at my studio.
She told me about a YouTube channel for adult dancers that she and a friend have (which is amazing by the way) and asked if I started dancing as an adult.
When I told her I started at 23, 3 1/2 years ago, she said the above quote.

Now you must understand, she is one of the greatest dancers I’ve seen. Insanely talented and obviously dedicated, she has muscles on her muscles. She’s one of those that may be shorter, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by her dancing.
She also teaches the class before mine on Thursdays, and I come early to watch her with the younger girls. I feel like I can learn so much even on the other side of the one-way mirror.
And no one at this studio really knows me. They’re starting to know my name now that I did The Nutcracker, but they hardly even know that I’m not a teenager, let alone twenty-six. How would any of them know my story if they’ve never asked? They wouldn’t.

But she asked a simple question.
And her reaction has done more for my little heart than I could ever thank her for.
Because she’s right.
Starting as an adult is so very different, and you’re not always given the explanation or room to make mistakes as you are when you’re younger. Even though you haven’t been in it as long, you’re expected to know more, even if no one says anything. People my age are professionals by now, and here I am barely in it.
Meanwhile, I have this insanely good dancer taking the time out to care about the adults who start out and the struggles it brings.

Poor thing got a synopsis of my sob-story, and I’m trying not to feel stupid about saying it. It is what it is, and you either have to decide you’ve had enough and give in, or refuse to give up and take the hits as they come. I guess no one at this studio really knows so it’s weird that someone does. Oh well.
Life is life. It’s not going to be perfect.

Today is a funny day anyway. And it’s February, which always is a little more difficult for me. (And no, not because of the 14th.)

But this was really nice of her to say, and I wanted to post it on here so I don’t forget it.

Adults.

There was hardly anyone in class yesterday.
I’m not sure what the cause was for the lack of people–if there’s another bout of the flu going around, if there’s rampant exams, if they’re burnt out from rehearsals, etc.–or if I preferred it being a smaller class or not, but I made it through.

It was rough, especially after having my little dance heart stomped on this weekend. yeah, no, you’re not getting an explanation on that one. But I knew that the one way to heal from that is to get up and keep going. To face everything that hurt you. To not just cower away and let it win.

After class, two of the mom’s of two of our younger dancers that are insanely good were in the foyer waiting for the class after mine to end. One of them actually lives a bit farther out than I do and recently learned we were practically neighbors. She struck up conversation with me when my class ended, and managed to keep conversation until the class was over. No one here really knows me, like really knows me, and it was pretty cool to have someone asking me questions about myself.

“How long have you been dancing?”
“I think it’s so great that you started dancing as an adult.”
“We’re really glad you’re at this studio, why did you decide on this one?”
“Yeah, I didn’t understand the rivalry at first. Weird, isn’t it?”
“It was so great of you to take all those pictures backstage! Thank you so much! What made you think to do that?”
“Do you take other pictures? Besides dance ones? You should put up your business card!”
“That’s what so great here, they see the value. Everyone is valuable.”
“Every time we pass your house insert daughter’s name here always points it out.”
“What are your costumes like for Oz?”
“How are rehearsals going?”

Like, seriously, it made me feel good.
I guess it didn’t hit me how difficult it is to do what I do at my age. Not necessarily physically, but mentally. Although, physicality sure does play a part. There is so much that goes into it that you don’t really think about. And then not knowing anyone, and no one knowing me, sometimes the judgement feels heavy. And sometimes my interpretation of what other people think or feel is completely wrong, I just don’t know until I’m told. And most don’t know me to say anything.
It can be difficult maintaining optimism throughout.
To try and keep the spirits up for everyone else when they express self doubt.

It’s just difficult.
But, the Mom voiced it, and maybe that’s when it actually started sinking in,
“You just don’t give up.”

I could have. So many times, I could have.
But, I guess I don’t.
I want this.
It would hurt more to give up than all of these opposing pains.
I just won’t give up.

Rehearsals

I’ve been debating and debating all weekend on whether or not I would post about my first two rehearsals.
They weren’t bad, but somehow I managed to find myself crying my eyes out in my car anyway, and the feeling seems to have lingered.

I’ve decided against posting it here and in favor of just leaving it to the barely-written journal entry.

I try to be as open and honest I can in this blog since this is about my ballet journey and this weekend was part of that journey, but honestly I just don’t think I have it in me.

I don’t want to hear that it will get better, I know it will.
I don’t want to hear that this is temporary, I know it is.
But that doesn’t mean that these feelings aren’t real right now.
And they’ve thrown me a doozy of a blow.

So, I’m gonna do the mature thing (hah) and avoid it until it passes and things get better, staying away from most people and pretending I’m okay until I don’t have to pretend anymore.

Stay tuned for better days.