Saturday’s private lesson.

Saturday, I had my second private lesson with Abby.
I met her at her house, where she has just about every type of tool for ballet improvement that you can imagine. She had spoken of wanting to get me on this thing called a Bosu, but I had no idea what it was or why it was so exciting.
Until now.
It’s essentially a half exercise ball, with the other side being flat. Some people will stand on the flat side, some stand on the squishy side, which is what we did. Abby is extremely knowledgeable in what she was having me do, and showed me the proper way to stand on it for each of the exercises we did before doing them, making sure I was properly executing each movement.
Essentially, what the bosu does is it helps engage all the (correct) muscles throughout different movements. We went through a slow barre–to make sure I really got everything out of it I could–on the bosu, then after just doing enough to activate muscle memory, we took it to the normal barre to really get it into my being on how I’m supposed to transfer what I feel and learn on the bosu to the floor.
Freakin’ game changing, man.

The hardest things hands down were the grande plies. I could get down, but I could not get up without the help of the wall. At all. Like, I was stuck. A clear indication that I need to really work on the muscles under the thigh, which I had never been told should be what you use when doing developes, especially side. (Whaaaat?? The more you know.)

I got a lot of, “Good!”, “Right!” and “Yes!”‘s throughout our training, which was really encouraging. Typically, if I’m shown what’s required, I’m good about implementing it, or at least doing everything I can to strive for it. If I don’t know or I’m not shown, I do my best to do what I think is right, but it isn’t always right. This is where you can form bad habits and hinder yourself in the future. I really feel like working with Abby is filling the holes in my training that formed from jumping into this as an adult. We can be overlooked and assumed to know more than we do simply because of our age, which is a logical assumption, but also creates a difficult hurdle.
Even with just the time we spent Saturday, I can already feel improvement. I caught myself standing with better posture when I was “lazy standing” and I felt a difference in the alignment issues in my back as well. (I may need to ask if I need a thicker lift in my shoe now, since it feels like it’s straightening. Not sure if this is legit or not? I don’t know. My leg felt longer, though.)
It was also nice because the Bosu helped compensate for my uneven legs, alleviating a lot of pressure in my back when I’m standing.

We weren’t sure how sore I would be the next day, so we pushed, but took it easy, not pushing it too far. The only thing I wasn’t actually able to do was fondu’s on my right leg. My stupid knee decided it was a great idea to shoot pain under the kneecap because it hates me. Whatever.
I’ve found that this is a big source of my issues. I’ll feel the pain and hesitate in my plies and my turns and a few other things. It’s frustrating. And there isn’t much I can do about it.
Still, I was able to do everything else (save getting up from the grande plies) and my legs were definitely shaking by the end of it. (a good sign.)
The next morning, I wasn’t near as sore as I was expecting. I did, however, feel the difference in my muscles–the leg that was really tight previously wasn’t anymore–and posture as well as my back. (Back muscles were about the only ones actually “sore.”)

I’m already excited for the next time we work together. I want so much to improve. I dreamt that I was dancing and got cast for some solo role and that I was able to do the things I’m working towards now and do them well.
Then the next night I dreamt my toes kept me from being able to roll up to releve and I couldn’t turn at all and it was really frustrating.

I really want to prove myself as a dancer, not just as someone who can give good face. I want to be seen as more than that. I want to improve. I want to dance, gosh I just want to dance.
Why can’t I have classes more often?
Nonetheless, I’m grateful for the opportunities I have. For a studio and a company that doesn’t write me off for my age/skill level ration. For friends that encourage me. For friends that are willing to take the time to work with me to help me improve, while also being understanding of all the things working against me.

My soul dances, even when my feet are forced to be still.


Thursday class

There have been things in my life that have been sapping my strength and energy and focus, causing my brain to be rather cloudy and my reactions to be less than typical. I try to push through but I noticed myself losing focus during class yesterday.

(And people wonder why I try to keep my schedule rather clear. I can’t give all my time away when what I have for myself is used to tear me down to pure exhaustion.)

We had combined classes, and Mrs. Julie taught both of them. I was really excited when I found out she would be teaching. I’ve only had one actual class with her at the beginning of last semester, but I remember loving it. Then we had Oz which obviously was wonderful. We’re the same age and she’s really easy to work with, as well as a fun person, making her classes a great balance of enjoyment and work.
She pushes you. She expects no less than your best, and if you slack she’ll call you on it. But she does it all to make you better.

She worked us and worked us hard. She opened class saying that she understood this was a very mixed group, and she would give combinations starting with the most advanced. If it was too much for us, we could ask for option two and she’d give it. If that was still too much, she would give option three, and so on.
Sometimes they would ask, sometimes they were too shy.There were a few times when I asked if they wanted me to ask, but no one spoke up, so I didn’t. A couple of the girls still had deer-in-the-headlights looks in their eyes, so I asked if they were stuck on something. One of the quieter girls, who has recently started opening up, told me she just didn’t understand it. I broke it down a bit slower and did it with her, and by the end of it she had it. Sometimes just seeing the step can make things feel overwhelming, but when you can take it apart bit by bit, you see it’s not as scary as it seems and actually something you can handle.
(tadaaaaaa, life lesson right there.)

Usually on Thursdays we do Choreography and Variations, but since it was an augmented schedule, Mrs Julie did Ballet then Choreography.
I was totally okay with this. I had debated not going to dance yesterday since this week has been particularly difficult, but Elizabeth made a good point, “the kids will make it worth it.” And they did, they always do.
I did, however, leave after Ballet. My knee was hurting and I felt my back shift at one part (I had also just left the chiropractor with my next appointment being 2 weeks from now. sigh.) and didn’t want to be rolling all over the floor and make anything worse. Plus, being vulnerable is really difficult for me at this point in time since I’m so run down I can’t really make sense of things. It’s as though there isn’t a filter on my emotions, and I don’t want to be too much. Or talk too much. I can get really bad at not realizing my mouth is saying my thoughts when I get like this.
The girls were sort of shocked and sad I wasn’t staying. But I told them it was my knee and to be awesome like I knew they would be. They are such sweet girls. (Jazz hands after a combination to make Julie laugh was a pretty great memory, too.)
Some of them have been getting rather fearful recently. It’s sad to see, because you know they are incredibly talented and more than capable, but they’ve started to pick apart what they’re doing and only focus on where they fall short (or where they think they fall short) instead of focusing on what is right and building on it. Some of them are starting to hit that stage in development where this happens. My goal is to be as reassuring to them as possible to help them reach their goals and develop as few complexes as possible.

When Julie asked, I told her it was my knee, but also that Chipotle exists and I need it in my life.
She laughed.

I ended up staying to talk to Ms. Nancy, our receptionist, for a bit. She told me a few things that left me feeling very encouraged about my current standings with life, so that was nice.

After I left (and got Chipotle) Lillian text me so I went over to see her for a bit. I don’t think I’ve actually seen her face since the Beeville show, so it was really great to sit on her living room floor and laugh at her cat as she darted through a paper bag to attack a (toy) mouse while we talked about dance.

We got the schedule for how the classes in July will go, two weeks of which I will be gone. But I’m excited. I love dance, I love ballet. I wish I could do it more, but I’m so grateful for what I can do. I want to make it more of a priority and integral part of my life, but I’m not sure what that means for me quite yet.

I’m content where I am.

Next private lesson is tomorrow!

Titles are hard.

My brain is pretty clouded due to a pretty rough day yesterday, but I really want to write about class because it was wonderful.

Abby taught our first class, the ballet class.
The only class I’ve ever taken with Abby was the first Variations class, but I have watched several of the classes she taught before mine during the school year. It made me want to join the class, even though it was two levels below me. Heck, I learned just from watching! Needless to say, I was really excited to take her class.

She has a really good way of explaining things and why they’re important. She’s able to show them in a way that is clear and easy to understand. I noticed I felt the same in her class as I did in Ms. Priscilla Nathan-Murphy’s class. She would correct us directly on what we needed to fix, and help us understand how and why. I think it also helped me having had that private lesson with her, to implement the corrections in a class taught by the one who corrected me. I don’t doubt that the other teachers are capable of correcting me, because they are, but she’s looking for the specific things she knows she’s shown me and can pick them out easily if I’m not doing them correctly. It was like the private lesson was continuing in a corporate setting, and I was able to take what I had learned and apply it and know if I was applying it correctly or not.
It felt good, and I noticed improvements in my turn out and my balance.

My friend from instep, Annabelle, made it back in town from college in time for class! It was so great and so much fun having her back in class. She just got back from an incredible dance missions trip to Panama and is trying to get as much dance in as she can while she’s home from college this summer. We haven’t danced together for about two years now. It felt like home. There would be random moments during class where I would get random bursts of excitement in realizing this was reality and I could look over and see Annabelle and it made my heart so happy.

(Annabelle was the first dance photo shoot I ever did.)

Second class was taught by Ms. Heidi. We ended up learning the Scarecrow variation from Oz, which was fun. I was really hoping to have a normal pointe class taught by her, since variations class is only Thursdays and I wanted to see what she would see and correct in me (especially since her feet are amazing) but Scarecrow was fun. I really appreciated how she showed me this one part I wasn’t too certain on how it was done (and neither were many of the girls) in the beginning. I still didn’t fully master it, but learning an entire variation in a short class is hard for me anyway. I got the releve part that was hard down and that’s what I really wanted to master, but it probably helps that I had seen it during rehearsals and took pictures of it since it stuck out to me. I ended up doing most of the variation on flat. We had broken up into levels, doing different things based on how advanced we were, and she focused mainly on the 2s, and somewhat on the 3s, so us 4s kinda got left with questions. We asked if she could do it wish us, since the parts that were different for us weren’t gone over as well and sometimes complex, and she said she really wanted to watch. I don’t remember if she watched or did it, because I was just focusing on listening to her call it out and trying to make it fluid. Ms. Munro was watching, too. I didn’t really like how I felt after doing it, but I think the variation would be fun with more time to work on it. I tried to work on doing characterization to make up for what I couldn’t do or attempt, and did the part at the end that she really wanted us to try. So I left feeling satisfied, at least. And I did my front splits for the first time! Not perfect, but I was flat over so whatever.

After class, Annabelle was telling me how much she loved being there. I was a bit nervous because she was in such a zone that I couldn’t tell if she loved it or hated it. It was a good zone and she loved it. She commented on how much she loved that Abby explained the different moves in ways that were easy to see and understand. She really liked her. I don’t know if she’s ever done a variation class, but she liked the challenge it posed yesterday. (poor girl, her pointe shoes are dying.)

I just want to go on record for this next thing. I know I’ve blogged about it before, but seriously.
Hannah Hooper and Ileana just have that thing about them. That inner grace, where you just can’t take your eyes off of them. Their dancing is so clean, even when it’s still a work in progress. It’s beautiful.
It’s what you hope ballet to be when you see it.
I can’t wait to see where these girls go from here. Absolutely beautiful girls, not just on the outside. Their hearts are pure gold and they are filled with such character. You can tell they want to be there. I love it.

After class, Abby made a comment to me that I did really well. That I did everything she wanted to see at the barre, but she didn’t want to keep commenting on it since it would have been so often. It made me feel really good to know that I was improving and that I was utilizing the corrections correctly. Annabelle told me I have improved so much, which really meant a lot coming from her. She was there when I first started out–panicked state and all. It’s easy to forget how far you’ve come when you’re looking at the process day by day instead of start to finish.
But you have to start if you want to ever finish.

Guest Teacher

As I write this, my friends are in the second class with Ms. Priscilla Nathan-Murphy and i’m at work.
But, I’m grateful for the class I did get to take with her yesterday.

Let’s see if I can actually form words to explain how wonderful yesterdays class was.

Elizabeth came to class, so we got to hang out a little before which was nice. They combined the Advanced with the Intermediate, so we were able to take class together, which really made me happy.
It was really nice to get to take with dancers that are at my level or better, but I’ll get to that later.

Ms. Murphy opened class by walking to one of the center barres, which you could see made some of the girls really nervous. She said something (I wish I could remember what!) which made me laugh. I forgot for a second that I was in class with a guest teacher from, ya know, Houston Ballet, and should probably be more serious or whatever, but the laugh slipped out and she pointed at me and said, “Thank you! When I make a joke I like it when people laugh at them!”
Score. I like her already.
This also told me that she’s the type of teacher that likes to have feedback, so I tried to give verbal or visual affirmation when she explained something to show that I understood. Our class tends to be quiet, mostly because they’re taking in all the information and focused on the task at hand.

The combinations she did were very different from what we’re used to. I messed up my fair share of times, and one of the youngest in our class seemed to have a better grasp of the order than me. Poor thing, I scared her once when I said to myself, “oh! backwards.” Apparently it was louder than I thought and I saw her think she was backwards. But she was right. (I told her afterwards. She is a sweet little quiet thing. And adorable. And shows a lot of promise.)
There were a few things I couldn’t really do, but I gave it my best effort. The things I did know that she went over really found a new dimension. If that makes sense.
I knew the step and I knew how to do it, but the way she explained it really showed me the difference in doing the step and really doing the step. It showed me that tiny thing that sets apart the average from the professional. I’ve seen these dances and shot some shows and you see the difference between the levels. And I’ve wondered what it is that makes the difference. Because sometimes you see it and think it’s one thing, but it’s actually a completely different thing that gives the appearance of the thing you think you see.
This is getting confusing.
Point being, it felt really good. Things started setting and clicking and I really liked it.

She was a very hands on teacher. If there was a muscle you weren’t engaging, she would show you which one it was and how to engage it and get the proper alignment, no bars held. A lot of the class is more reserved, and not really sure about this, but she was very professional with it and told us straight out that this is how she teaches. It was never inappropriate. She did it to help us improve, and improve we did.
There was a time she corrected Cheyenne’s alignment, which I was really grateful for because it was the same thing Abby had been showing me last week. I really wanted to see it on someone who has the typical ballet body, since that’s what I’ve been used to seeing lately between editing pictures and seeing my more advanced friends dancing. Seeing it on myself just felt wrong. But before I tore myself up about it, I tried to look at it realistically, and reality is that I am not shaped like these dancers I keep seeing. Thankfully, I’m at a studio where that is okay and I’m accepted for my ability, not my proportions. On me, it felt like I was going too far forward, but when I looked in the mirror I could see that my back was straight. I wanted to see it on someone who isn’t as…endowed…as I am to show myself that it is indeed correct and that it’ll take some adjustment for it to feel like the new correct. Being able to see dancers at my level or higher and kind of compare and contrast in a positive way was really nice. It’s been a while. I like not being the best in the class. Or among the best. I like it to have enough challenge to make me uncomfortable and push me, and also be able to get the visual of it from someone. (I’m such a visual learner.)

She “picked on” a few people, which I think was really good for some of them to see that this prestigious teacher approved of them right where they were.
I was really impressed with how well the little ones kept up. Some of these things were new to and difficult for me, and they managed to go at it with full confidence, doing the best they knew how. These kids really encourage me to not be afraid. There were times they would finish and comment on how badly they messed up, and you could see they were a little upset by it. But I’d just tell them, “You tried and that’s what mattered” which I’m saying as much to myself as to them. Their boldness inspires me. How could I cower in fear when these kids are like, 11, and they’re just as afraid and going out there and trying? Aren’t I, the older one, supposed to be setting the example? And how will any of us learn if we don’t first try? The teachers aren’t expecting us to be perfect first try, which I think can get muddled when it comes to adult beginners because sometimes they can forget or just don’t know what we have been taught and what we haven’t and forget we don’t know as much just because we’re older. It’s not quite been 4 years for me yet. Dancers my age have been dancing for 15 years en pointe alone. But you are where you are, and you build from there. If you never try, you’ll never improve.

Our second class, she did what she called a movement class. We explored movement and intent, space, time, and energy that goes along with it. She started out where we just moved with our right hand leading us, then our left, then our right leg, then our left, then our head. We could move anyway we wanted, but just had to show the intent behind whichever part leading us and we couldn’t choreograph. She didn’t want it to be a dance. She broke down the different beats you can have in timing and using them interchangeably. Then she put on a slower, more fluid song and had us explore it, then a faster more choppy song. She explained levels and lines and contrast.

We got to a part where she wanted us to go across the floor and spell our names in movement. She asked my name, asked how to spell it (which, of course, it’s spelled weird. She didn’t mind) and showed how we might go about doing it. Most of the girls in our class have really long names (I’m talkin’ 8 letters) so it was quite fun. The second go around, she had us walk the space first, with intent, and then begin. She wanted us to hit all the levels and really branch out. My knees were hurting me and I considered mentioning it to her–I’m sure she’d make an exception for me, right?–but I didn’t. Because it was one time and I could handle it. And I did. And there was a point where I even heard, “good!” come from the side when I hit that level.

I did notice that when you thought about who was watching you, it didn’t go as well. She mentioned this, and told us to focus on nothing but our selves. Not the mirror, not the people across from you, not what you might look like. You couldn’t laugh, because once you did it changed the energy. She was right. When I worried about it, it effected the outcome. That’s when people had negative opinions. When I stopped caring is when it all clicked and was successful. Stop thinking so much and just dance.
You could see the difference in the people, too. Those who really focused and those who let their insecurities rise. We all have them, insecurities. Success is learning how to not let them get the best of you.

I’ve  never taken a class like this before. I’ve always had an interest in Contemporary or Lyrical type dance, but always felt I couldn’t do it without a beginner class. I had never tried. How could I go into one and think I could keep up with everyone else? There’s styles and technique and moves I don’t know the name of and the people around me have been doing it for a while. I’d love to learn, but there isn’t really anyone to teach me. I feel I’ve passed my window since I didn’t learn when I was young. This being the case, I’ve always kind of told myself I couldn’t do it and just stuck to ballet.
This class made me feel like I could do it. That not only could I do it, but I might even be good at it.
She gave us a phrase in the last few minutes of class. She split us into four groups and had us do the phrase. Not in time, not in unison. She wanted us to just do it, to dance it, to express it. Then she would tell the group to exit and point to the next group to enter. When the group before us was finishing, she made eye contact with me and gave me a nod. I nodded back. She told us to enter before she told the other group to exit, with the purpose of teaching us spacing and being aware. At the end, she had all of us come in together. It was incredible.

I can’t remember feeling more alive than that moment.

Getting behind the character I brought to the phrase. Doing it over and over and changing it up each time, but still remaining in that character, just exploring it a little more. Dancing like I was alone in the room and this was my story. Showing what it meant to me. Surrounded by people doing the same. This is who we are. This is the real us. This is when you see who we are on the inside.
This is why we dance.

One of my friends, Eloise, was there with her sister who I had seen in pictures and heard of but never met. She seemed really nice, as everyone from their family I’ve met have been, and I was glad to feel the kind vibes from her in the studio. (It’s really a thing. Reading people is fun.) When we did the phrase in groups, and her group went, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her. I tried. I tried watching some of the other people, but my eyes kept going back to her. I wanted to read the story she was telling. It was captivating.
So I told her after class. That she was a really expressive dancer and it was beautiful to watch and I couldn’t look away even when I tried. She thanked me, and you could tell it meant something to her. She shook my hand and introduced herself and was really kind. I told her I had heard about her and was glad to know she’s as nice as the impression I had gotten from hearing of her. She put her whole self into this dance, and her face would take on another level of herself, you could see it. It set her apart. It was who she is. I want to do that. I want that to be what people see in me when they see me dance. But more than that, I want to know in myself that this is what I’m bringing. I don’t just want people to think I’m a good dancer, but I want to believe it in myself.

After class was over (sad day, but my legs were pretty tired) I asked Ms Murphy if I could get a picture with her for my blog. She laughed and commented on how sweaty she looked and I laughed and said I was the same and we got one. 🙂 I didn’t want to let my nerves keep me away from doing it. This is a part of my history, my story, and I was already bummed that I didn’t grab my phone when she was working with Elizabeth because the photo op was incredible. I didn’t want to be disrespectful, though, so I stored it in my memory. I wish I could draw well. I might sketch it anyway.
She taught another class this morning that I wish I could have been in. (Obviously.) I’m really grateful for yesterday. It felt like a Bailando class, but one where I was seen. This week’s classes really left me feeling good. Hopefully this streak continues. I want to improve. I want to prove myself.

I want to keep feeling alive.

I met a new friend after class. I had met her on Tuesday, she has been taking the Adult class but has been doing the Intermediate this summer, save for the one class she accidentally ended up in the Advanced. Everyone said she held her own, though, and when I first saw her Tuesday I could tell she is good. She got her pointe shoe permission form yesterday and is getting her shoes today.

Here are the few pictures from yesterday.

Week two.

Tropical Storm Bill has been threatening the area the past couple days. I wore my glasses to work in case I got stuck here due to terrible rains, but brought my ballet clothes in hopes it would be typical and go past us.

I was right.

This resulted in me doing my first ever ballet class while wearing glasses.
I walked in and the receptionist didn’t recognize me. Granted, my hair was also down and it’s short which people still aren’t used to. A couple of my babies were in the lobby, and Cheyenne walked in shortly after I got there. I hadn’t seen her since recital so I was really glad she was there. I got to talk with her Mom and little sister while she took the tap class before both of our ballet classes. We’re in different levels, so I don’t get to dance with her, but it was just great to see her and her family. Her mom has to be one of the nicest and most encouraging people I have encountered. Yesterday, Mrs. Rowland and I were talking about parents and their support and how important it is. I get that I’m an adult and my parents may not understand why I dance and they may not particularly care to go to all of my shows, but it has taken me some time to really come to terms with this. I also told her about why Mom took me out in the first place when I was younger, even though Mom doesn’t remember it the way I do. (that happens?) She was so incredibly supportive of me and told me they would be at every show I’m in. And I know she means it.
And during class, I looked at the two-way mirror and I saw here there with the other moms, watching me. And it just meant more than I thought it would. I didn’t think I needed anyone, thought I was fine going at this by myself, and I am. No one technically needs other people. But really, you do. To make life enjoyable and to take some of the strain away, you need people. Sometimes this can be life or death and you think you’re okay and you can get through it alone and then next thing you know you’re in your head and no one can pull you out or tell you that what you think isn’t how it is and you forget that things are better than you see them right now.
You need people.
The more people I find I have, the more my heart really explodes.
I have dance friends that love and care about me.
I have older dance friends to look up to.
I have younger dance friends to encourage
And the thing with encouraging younger dance friends, is they encourage you right back. You instill that in them, you’re planting a seed, and that seed turns into a flower right when you need it most.
(Like yesterday when I was really sucking at trying doubles and Ms. Munro was watching me on it and I managed to almost get a good one and one of the girls had been watching me and she made a point to mention that it looked good after. She didn’t have to do that. Such a kind soul.)

Ms. Munro taught our class, so I was a little nervous. My back was hurting and I was wanting to implement what Abby had shown me Thursday but felt the pressure of having Ms. Munro in there. I want to prove myself to her. I want to show her that I’m improving and good enough to do these things I aspire to. I want to hold up the reputation I developed during Oz.
We did this thing at the barre where we lunged forward and did a port de bra forward and then changed the arms for back. She said, “Come on, you’re doing Swan Lake next year!”
Challenge Accepted.
(I was a little surprised she said it in this class, because most of these girls are younger and wouldn’t be able to be in the core more than likely. But oh well.)
So I determined to dance it, not just go through the motions. To show her that I can do this, even when it’s just at the barre. I want to make her notice me. I want to show her I can do this.
We do the combination, and she walks around the room, watching and correcting. She gets to me right when we do the “Swan Lake part” and says, “Good, Emilee! That’s it!”
*drops mic*

No just kidding, but it was still great. There were things that she would tell us to do and the class as a whole struggled so she would work on it until we got it; she wouldn’t move on with it being mediocre. (Thank God.) And every time she watched us each separately, when she came to me she had no corrections. I was doing it correctly. There were a few corrections during class, but nothing trivial.
She had me trying doubles, and working with me getting more comfortable in them. By the end, I had two revolutions and can build from there. She had me working on balance and control. She kept correcting my Third Position arms because I have a tendency to make them wonky. She complimented me a lot, and the group of three I ended up in was with the other two adults in the class. At one point when we finished a combination across the floor that the class seemed to find difficult, she said, “Maybe it just comes with maturity!” because we were the only ones that seemed to get it right.

She also taught our pointe class, which she used to teach us a variation. We learned a doll variation from Coppelia, which I have yet to see, but I recognized elements of from the doll scene we do in our Nutcracker. (which is my favorite.) It was a simple and really fun variation which involved characterization, so of course I had a blast with it.
We had to adjust the beginning part since we didn’t have props. We figured out a way to do it and Ms. Munro couldn’t seem to remember how to do it, so while running it she literally just said, “Just watch Emilee!” after she kept messing it up. (Knowing it one way for so long, then mixing it up, it must be difficult.)

I used a trick Elizabeth told me about, and that I think I remember seeing Lillian use, of stuffing the empty space from my gimpy toes with paper towels. And, wouldn’t you know, it helped. My toes still hurt, but not blinding pain like last time. We also didn’t dance as much, but I was in my shoes the same amount of time and I think that would make some sort of a difference. I’m hopeful.
So I was able to do the variation fairly decently. Except for this really quick part that no one could do well so I just did it on demi. It was a lot of fun.

I was able to do the pique attitude’s and different things and feel stable doing them, which made me really happy and hopeful. All in all, I left the class feeling really good. Maybe all isn’t lost.
I’m keeping up well and improving at a good rate. I’m able to execute the moves properly for where I should be. I’m not cowering away from challenges. And with Abby’s privates, I should be able to continue to improve.

Yesterday was a good day.

That time I saw the Houston Ballet.

Once upon a time, Elizabeth and Abby invited me to go to the Houston Ballet with them since they caught wind that I had never seen a real ballet before. We planned it for months and the day finally came when we all piled into the car (along with Mrs. Jane) and headed to Houston.

Great conversation and many laughs keeping us company, we made it in good time and waited around a little bit while taking in the fact that we were actually there. (That was mainly me.) I let myself get excited since this was actually happening and we were in the lobby and the stairs are huge and magnificent and it was raining a little spit but the sky was still sunny and it was coming straight down instead of slanted like I usually see it. It was beautiful.

After it stopped, we went outside to get a picture in front of the theatre. Including my polaroid of the day.

This stance started at the Wizard of Oz photo day and has followed us as sort of a joke. I had pictures of them each doing this on their separate shoots, which I edited together, but never with me in it. Perfect opportunity, right?
Little did we know it was a predecessor.

We walk back inside and a man in a white polo with a radio comes down and says,
“There’s been an incident on the stage and the show has been cancelled.”


After the initial shock, we stood there listening to what he was saying to the other workers on if it seemed there’d be hope to stick around. He told them to lock up the entire building, so we accepted our fate.
Another worker told a man that there was a fire alarm that opens these vents on the stage that were open when that rain came through and it got all over the electrical cords and lights and they just didn’t feel like it was safe to turn it on.

Darn you, rain! Why were you so beautiful if you were so evil?!

It was very sad indeed.
But thankfully, I was with great people.They also understand that sometimes things happen to help us avoid other things that could be potentially harmful or whatever and the trip didn’t feel wasted since we like spending time with each other and there was plenty of that in the car up and back.
(Elizabeth is such a great driver, I was really impressed. Especially in all the rain we went through and all the construction. Not all my friends are good drivers. She is. This does more for me than people realize.)
(I was bummed because it was one of the principal dancers last shows and I’ve always wanted to see a show where someone retired because I’ve heard it’s magical.)

We stopped for lunch before heading back and the skies could have fooled you that rain was ever there.
It’s funny, because this is why I typically don’t let myself get excited for things. (See: opening line of this blog and the concept of this blog.)  Sometimes things seem to happen that keeps me from doing the thing I’m excited about. I’ve had to learn to deal with this over the years, as unfair as it can be, but honestly I think I’m better for it. And I understand that sometimes there are unforeseeable circumstances that it’s keeping me from. (That one time the plan I would have been on went down. That time I missed the car wreck. That other time I missed the car wreck. That other other time I missed the car wreck. You get the picture.)

The drive back was just as great as the way up. I laughed harder than I have in a long time, and many inside jokes were made (inflatina, anyone?) plus encouragement given nonchalantly. Not to mention the endless, “remember that one time we went to the Houston Ballet?” to which I could honestly reply, “It’s the best professional ballet I’ve ever seen!”
I also got to tell the story of why Mrs. Jane means the world to me in a light manner and not one that seemed stupid or anything. So that was nice.

At the end of the day, I’m truly grateful that I was with people I like, and that the Houston Ballet wasn’t the one thing of the whole trip that was good or exciting. It wasn’t a complete loss.

They’re showing Manon around my birthday.
Do we dare?

Day two.

The Airess are out.
I don’t know how it is that pointe shoes feel one way in the store, and another in the studio, but it seems to happen to me really often.
Sadly, it’s money down the drain for me. Maybe I should have taken more time or care in the fitting? I don’t know. Whatever, nothing that can be done now.
(anyone need a pair of sewn size 9 hard-shanked Airess?)
(but really.)

Class Thursday went fairly decently. It was different than I was used to since it was technically a Choreography class. I thought about not taking it, but I want to take the Variations class afterwards, and I’ve never taken choreography so maybe it’d be good exposure in such an easy-going environment as that with the youngin’s.

Thankfully, there wasn’t anything too invasive, although there were moments me and my fellow IV were rather nervous about it. After explaining the basics of choreography, Ms. Heidi assigned “team captains” and split us into groups. She made sure there were captains from each level, so I was the level IV captain, and then let us pick who would be in our group until we ran out of people putting most groups with three people and a few with four.
She said the team captain had the option of being in the dance, or just choreographing it on the group. She would play the music and we would come up with however much we could in our limited time. She told us there were no rules. Technique wasn’t required in the sense of it all being strict ballet.

I picked Judy and Leah to be on my team. I easily could have picked my fellow IV, knowing she was one of the most skilled of the bunch, but I knew what it meant to these girls to be picked and I knew their hearts would be good.
(plus I actually knew their names. So, that helps.)

I asked them what they had thought or seen or felt when they heard the music. Judy said, “Rebuilding after the Civil War.” (Gosh, I love her.) She had a few counts of what she saw and showed me, which was actually really good. Leah said she thought of water flowing, which is what I had felt as well.
I decided to have Judy start out with one 8-count, then have Leah come in with the next 8-count. (kinda 16-count?) and if we had time I’d put myself into a count because they didn’t want to do it alone.
(I love these girls.)
So I took elements of Judy’s thoughts and made them flow a little differently, then asked Leah if there was anything she was better or worse at or more comfortable with since I didn’t know her ability as much as Judy’s. She’s a trooper, and was up for anything. I gave her a bit to work with and we ran it a few times before time was out. We also had to write it down a certain way, which the girls understood wonderfully (I struggled with it? But understand it. So it’s okay) and we were the last group to go.
Some of the groups were longer, some were really short. Some were more complex but didn’t really flow too smoothly, and some really showed great potential. The girls all did great with it. I was pretty impressed.
Judy and Leah were a little nervous, especially that they were dancing separately and we hadn’t really gotten to go over it all that much, but they completely rocked it. I was so proud. And Ms. Munro had been watching. When they finished, everyone was kind of quiet for a moment, but I think they were waiting for more. It was a good silence, and after we finished, it was the only one Mrs. Munro complimented.
*dusts shoulders off*
(But really it wasn’t me, Judy had the main great idea, and Leah really nailed her part. I was so proud. team awesome.)

For Variations, Abby taught us the Bluebird variation.
It. Was. So. Fun.
I was mad, though, because my shoes were holding me back, so I almost rolled my ankle umpteen times and it was frustrating.
But what I could do of it was really fun.
It was a little difficult at parts, but only because of the way I learn things. I have to go over them a bunch and figure out all the transitions before I can do it all well. By the time I had it down, my toes were dying. So that sucked. I need to find my lambs wool so I can try a few things. Because this ain’t cutting it and my toes die and it is really sad and now I’m rambling and meh.

Abby and I had a private lesson after variations. She looked at my feet and assessed the shoes and my issues etc etc.
She pointed out the issues in my alignment and showed me how to correct it. It was difficult mentally, not because of her or anything, but because it felt physically impossible to do the things she was saying. It felt flat out wrong and made me feel like I used to feel with math as a kid when I knew what they were saying but it just wasn’t clicking in my head and I wanted to claw my eyes out. (I don’t know how else to describe it?)
But the great thing is I can tell Abby these things and she helps me through them.

After picking it apart and evaluating like I do, I realized part of my issue is that it looks wrong to me because I don’t look like what I’m used to seeing of proper technique.
I’m not your typical ballet body build.
My butt and boobs stick out and there’s nothing I can do about it.
But it doesn’t make me wrong, it’s just different. It’s more obvious on me because I have more of it.

At the end of the day, I was able to see what Abby was saying and feel the difference of most of it. Part didn’t click until I felt the different muscles that were sore the next day, but they’re really difficult muscles to work.

I ended up with knots all up my back from sleeping on a too-soft bed so I wasn’t able to work on it any more yet (yep, still in pain. ugh) but I’m at least hopeful.

My right foot also still seems to favor putting weight on the little toes instead of the big toe. I turn better on this foot, since I use more of the platform and the left foot puts it all dramatically onto just the big toe, which isn’t good either.

Lots to work on.
But better now than continuing incorrectly and it being harder to fix later.


Summer classes technically started on Friday, but my first class was yesterday.
Many of the kids take during the day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday but since I work that really isn’t an option for me. It’s okay, though, since the ballet classes are in the evening.

Our teachers vary week to week. Some of them I’ve taken class from before, some of them I know but haven’t taken their class, some I don’t know at all.

To say I was nervous going into this would be an understatement.

These teachers don’t know me. They don’t know all my issues. Do I tell them, so they’re aware and understanding? Or do I keep my mouth shut so they don’t dismiss me before I can even try? I want to be pushed but I’m constantly afraid of pushing too much. Where is the balance? And will they look at me funny for being so old? Surely they know from shows that’s where I am in level. Will I look too advanced for this class? What if I do just blend in with all these tiny kids. Will that make me feel like I suck? What the heck is even gonna happen? And will the kids get too distracted having me in there? Will I get overwhelmed? I don’t want to snap at them or something if I get stressed out at anything. And these new shoes hurt my toes. Am I even going to be able to dance? What other options do I have if they don’t make the shoe I had before, and this is the requested make of the shoe from before?

I knew the only way to remedy the nerves is to face them. After all, it’s either do that or don’t dance and the later ain’t happenin’. For being as positive as people think I am, I actually deal with fear and doubts constantly. I find myself afraid to hope because I don’t want to be disappointed. I don’t want to look foolish for getting my hopes up. I’m sure this comes from some long-ingrained childhood something or another and I’m trying to figure out what is there and how it affects me and how much of it is logical and how much is ridiculous. I did allow myself to have the hope that the class would help me in the way my first audition did being with the littles.

And it did.

Most of the class is quiet and timid. Most of the class consisted of II’s, but there was still the fair share of III’s and all of three IV’s. The II’s were mostly timid, but the III’s were confident.
They faced any challenge and even asked to try more difficult things. Including this complex, double-timed petite allegro combination that we all flubbed but was great to get exposed to. The teacher wasn’t even going to try it double-timed, but let us since so many wanted to.
These are the kids that will go far. The ones that are unafraid and willing to try anything without doubting their ability. These kids are who I want to be more like. These kids make this class wonderful.
They teach me so much about myself and about life.
Even if my fears are logical, even if they’re rooted in something that has happened before, you still have to try. You have to face them or you’ll never go farther than that moment.
These kids teach me that.

We had Mrs. Vanessa for our ballet class and Catherine for our pointe. They switched rooms and did the opposite for Advanced. I had Mrs. Vanessa once when she subbed our class. She seemed nice enough, but it was rough. I thinks he had been last minute thrown into subbing and wasn’t as prepared as she’d like to be. We struggled. But I still liked her. You could see that she is a great teacher.
Her ballet class yesterday was wonderful. It was a bit of a stretch for the younger ones, but it was great for me and the other IV’s. Really pushing our limits and challenging us. She even prefaced that she would be pushing us and to just do our best, but she wasn’t gonna go easy.
I loved it.
There were a few things she did with us that I want to remember to do on my own. Things at the barre that will greatly improve strength and balance. Then there were things we did that I never would have known how to do at that age at my old studio. These kids went for it. Sure, they weren’t perfect, but the exposure to it is what makes them so good so young. In a few years, they’re going to be incredible. They already are for their level. It was the kind of combinations that would have made me extremely nervous a year ago and that our class at instep would mostly stare at in confusion. Thankfully, at this point I had done all of it before so I was able to attack it with confidence, but some of it I only just mastered or grasped this last year–some even just during Oz.
I knew by the amount of sweat dripping (literally) off my face just during barre alone that I’d be sore in the morning.

Ms. Catherine came in for pointe, and I was curious to see how it would go. I had taken her class with the V’s this year, but only did it in flat shoes. I was fine to do it flat, but pointe would have been a bit much. Granted, I was in a class full of kids who have been shown most if not all of the things she asked of us, so I just bit the bullet and did it flat to not bring the class down. I was really grateful that she was teaching the first pointe class because she knows about my back being wonky, and I didn’t know how the new shoes would fair and it was just a lot of uncertainty for me.
They ended up hurting pretty badly. Since three of my toes are really short, my big toe does almost all of the work. It’s pretty complicated and can be rather painful. It was interesting how the shoes affected my feet in some places, but not others. For instance, usually my arches are aching pretty good by the end of class. This time, they were fine. They aren’t even sore this morning. My toes are okay today, but I need to make sure the pain isn’t enough to make me hesitate when I feel it while dancing. That’s how I can end up hurt.
I don’t know if I would have made it through with them on the whole class–except maybe first class stubbornness?–had it not been for the littles. They are so encouraging and really believe in you. To them, I can do anything, and I really want to spend these few weeks believing them.
We did pique turns, which I wasn’t sure how they’d go with the troubles I was having in the new shoes. I was afraid it would be like before with the hesitation and defeat. But I actually did them fairly decently. Better than I would say is typical, at least in the stability department. I’m still too afraid to pirouette on them just yet, but I’m hopeful that they provide better stability that I can do better if I can figure out how to not let them hurt so much.

I did get a, “Good, Emilee!” from Mrs. Vanessa during Adagio, but I don’t really remember what it was for. (I think it was adagio?) I remember when she said it thinking, “She knows my name!” and then thinking how good whatever it was felt right before she complimented me. I hope she teaches more of our classes.

Next Thursday we have a guest teacher from the Houston Ballet coming in. That’s what I’m really nervous for. They don’t know me, and I stick out like a sore thumb in this class, so I’m not sure what to expect. (Between looking 15, but being 26? Whatever. I’m not really worried about it, just nervous and curious)

Elizabeth, the doll, brought me some of her elastic so I can sew my Airess shoes for tomorrow’s class. She was also helping me evaluate how the shoes worked today and what I can do to try and get them to not hurt so much. She is a true gem. I have great friends in my life.
I’m excited for tomorrow’s class and hopeful my toes will hold out. If I had the private lesson yesterday I probably wouldn’t have made it.

Stay tuned on the continuing saga of Emilee’s anxiety-stricken summer classes! (just keep it in check, right?)

Oh look! An update!

It’s been a while since I’ve had a class to post about, but never fear! Classes start again for summer today, and my first one is tomorrow.
I’m taking the intermediate level, which consists of levels 2, 3, and 4. I was torn about deciding intermediate over advanced, being that it will be geared more toward the younger ones (so I’m told?) and I don’t want my choice to cause me to be written off. But upon consulting a more advanced friend, as well as Ms. Lori, Intermediate is probably a good choice for me this year.

  • I’ve never done a beginner pointe class. What we did at Instep was close to one, but my shoes weren’t fitted right and I struggled so much that I couldn’t even finish the class in my shoes.
  • Going back to the basics is always a good idea. Plus it’ll help me know what to do at home by myself.
  • I’m not biting off more than I can chew. I’d rather be on the advanced side of intermediate than drown in the advanced class. 
  • The goal is to dance it en pointe. Even if I could do advanced on flat, I don’t want to use the time when I could be doing pointe across the hall.
  • My back is still messed up. Ms. Lori pointed out this would be better for me than pushing it too hard when it’s still pretty crooked. (Plus the chiropractor keeps side commenting about dance. He hasn’t told me to stop, but I’m terrified if I say the wrong thing that he will.)
  • I’m taking private lessons from Mrs. Abby to help me improve further.
Coming into this week, I’m really glad I don’t have to mentally prepare myself to do super-complex things that I really don’t know how to do, but I do have to prepare to be “on” in the sense that I will be with the younger levels, and they really like me. 
I love those girls, and I’m glad to get to take a class with them, but I’m a bit nervous of how it could go in a way that could show a side of weakness for me and cause anxiety. I don’t know if that makes sense. Oh well.
I’m not extremely worried about it or anything, it’s just a thought in my head.
My first private lesson will be on Thursday. I’m nervous/excited about this (more excited than nervous) and really hopeful that it will go well. I really trust Abby. She has a great way of explaining things in a way that is easy to understand and grasp, as well as motivating without making me hate myself. Plus, since we’ve become friends, she knows all of my health woes. I know she will be understanding of my limitations, but not write me off because of them. Does that make sense? My brain has been mush today. Oh well.
I got invited to go to a spontaneous pointe shoe fitting last week, but it fell through. I was both sad and kinda glad, because the place we would be going didn’t have a shoe similar to what I wear, and I didn’t want to spend so much money on something that wouldn’t do me any good when I know a shoe that does me good is down the road. 
My co worker had to go to Austin, and said if I went along, we could swing by Capezio. (what a gem.)
I emailed Amanda, who is the wonderful lady who took Jordan’s spot, and asked what she thought. She said it would be a good idea to make sure there wasn’t anything better for me now that I knew what I liked and what worked for my feet. 
For some reason, I was hesitant to get excited (I guess I do this?) in case it fell through or something, but it didn’t.
At 11:15, I walked into Capezio (early, oops.) and met with the girl Amanda said would be there and told her my feet woes and she kinda stared at my toes with an I’ve-never-seen-such-weird-feet look and it was funny. She went back to their shoe room and as I waited, I noticed that they carried the new Airess that had come out not too long ago. I immediately text my friend Elizabeth and told her. We had talked of pointe shoes at a photo shoot I did of her the Saturday before. She was the one that suggested the secondary fitting to make sure the shank breaking wasn’t due to an issue with the shoe to my foot, and mentioned how she wanted to buy a pair just to try them on then send them back. 
When the girl came out, I asked if I could try them. She said, “Actually, that’s the shoe I brought you.” 
She said they have six different types of the Airess, with two different box styles, three different shank strengths, and something else I don’t remember because I was so excited. These shoes have been pumped up not just by the company, but by many dancers in the industry. To say I was curious is an understatement.
I remember when I did the fitting in September, even Jordan made a comment about some people not liking how Capezio looked on their feet. The first thing I noticed with the Airess is how clean it looked. 
The first pair she brought out were a little small for my feet, but when she grabbed the second pair, it was near perfect. (It should be noted, I tried them on with no toe pads at first. hah.)
I went over to the barre and went on releve and the girl said, “You get over your box really well!” Which just made me feel great. 
I couldn’t really tell if my toes were scrunching or if they were just perfect, which tends to be my struggle in new shoes. If you err on the side of maybe-they-are-scrunching your shoe can end up huge and makes dancing particularly complicated being that most of my toes are midgets already and don’t fill up the shoe.
The shape of the tapered boxed, super hard shanked Airess that I tried was perfect for my wide jointed, but tiny-toed feet. I was over-the-moon-thrilled about it. So I bought them.
All in all, the fitting took maybe seven minutes, tops. 
I looked around the store for new tights and to check out their leotards when the girl mentioned that all the leos were 15% percent off. I said, “Don’t tell me that!” and she apologized, which made me laugh. (I told her to tell me that after. It wasn’t as awkward or rude as it sounds, go with me here.)
Typically I have a hard time finding leotards that are long enough for me, but this time I found three. THREE.
Two of them were simple styles, but ones I had been looking at getting online (now 15% off and no shipping!) The other was fancy. I’m really excited.
The whole rest of the day (which was a long one) I was gushing over my fifteen minutes in the heaven reincarnate that is known as Capezio Austin. I put the shoes on and text a picture to Lillian and we squealed and it’s just great. 
I have sewn the ones I had special ordered–which weren’t supposed to come in until August, but happened to make it there Wednesday and they held them for me–and have to wait til after tomorrow to sew the Airess, but I don’t really want to try those until I have Abby as a teacher. They gave me elastic for both pairs, but I have to cross mine and one is never enough, so I used both to sew the one pair I’ll need for tomorrow.
(She had noted that the shank on my left shoe twists a little, but she didn’t think it was enough to cause alarm and that crossing the elastic should fix it. Thankfully this time I sewed them tightly enough.)
One of my friends has a giant roll of elastic and told me not to get anymore, so she’s bringing me some on Tuesday. Such a gem. So I’ll be able to have the Airess sewn by Thursday’s class.
All in all it was a very productive Saturday. A trip I really needed to make happen but couldn’t figure out how I could swing it when it found its way into happening on its own. 
It’s like ballet wants me to dance it.
The loot.

They’re just so beautiful…

This is what I sent Lillian.
You’re welcome.
(please note the driver’s seat I was behind was occupied by a 6’5″ person and I was smooshed.)