Friends in the right places

My friend, Jacie, (Cheyanne’s mom) told me yesterday that Gaynor came out with a 5 box shoe, and that the local dance store had them.
Now, I don’t know how long they may have had the 5 box available, but regardless, the risk would have been rather great to just get them blindly. Anyway.
My friend Abby–the Wicked Witch from Oz last year–teaches at the studio attached to this dance store, so I messaged her and asked if she knew anything about them. I had a photo shoot yesterday, which got me out of work early, thus giving me time to meet up with Abby to see about the shoes.
(Cue all the happiness because I haven’t seen her in I-don’t-know-how-long and miss her terribly, so this was a win just stepping out of the car and hugging her neck.
She only had 15 minutes before her class started, so she got me started seeing how the Gaynor’s did.
The best part about having Abby there is that she already knows me. She knows my dancing, she knows my feet, she knows my quirks and what struggles I have. She knows about the nerve damage in one leg, the extra length the other gives, the un-square hips, the short toes–all of it.
She knows about Swan Lake. I told her what Mrs. Alex and Ms. Munro had told me. And I expressed my concerns. I asked her my questions on if she knew what I could do better or try to work on.
She. Knows. So. Much.
She put me in Gaynors, and put me in some Grishko’s, and they had the hard shanks on all, which was wonderful. I showed her my current shoes, and how I seem to knuckle over in them.
She had to rush to her class, so Mrs. Coker helped me from there. I explained to her the bit of my pointe quirks that I could, and asked her about the knuckling over and the way the shank shifts, especially on my left foot. She explained how it will do that if your weight isn’t centered in your shoe, and I asked if there was anything I could do about that. My toes being so insanely short definitely has an effect, so she tried me in a narrower shoe, but then my foot knuckles (is that what they’re called? That’s what they look like. Whatever) are painfully smooshed. It’s a very complicated predicament, as most people have either one or the other. I have two toes relatively close to the same length, then the other three are relatively close to the same, but polar opposite, length.
Rolling up is complex. Mix that in with my uneven legs, causing knee pain if I’m not super careful, and the struggle is so real.
She had me try on pretty much all the Grishko’s they had. Some were more painful, but seemed a better fit–if that even makes sense– and others didn’t put as much pressure, but I would sink right to the bottom. They were all hard shanks, which my arch was lost in, but I was able to get all the way on the box of, so I figured if those were best, I would just break them in. I was actually impressed with their shanks, because Capezio’s hardest shank was almost like perfectly broken in shoes for me now when I first wear them. Which is great, except that they don’t last long at all.

It came down to the Gaynor’s and a pair of Grishko’s. Mrs. Coker said she thinks the Gaynor’s were better, but Abby had expressed concern of them still causing me to knuckle over. She came back by with the spare minute she had between classes to see me in them again and approved vigorously. That made me feel so much better about the risk of getting the shoes.

I went to class, danced on my old shoes, and hated life.
Dramatic, obviously, but I could tell how dead those really were after having been in new shoes for the greater part of the previous hour.

When I got out of class, I had a text from Abby saying that Mrs. Coker told her that I was the hardest fitting she’s ever done. (This made me feel quite accomplished.)
We got to talking, and she was telling me what they thought about my feet. She says she doesn’t think my feet are weak–quite the contrary. She thinks my feet are actually rather strong, and that’s why I keep killing the shanks and may be why I’m hesitant to fully pull out of my shoe since it will cause me to go too far and end up eating dirt going over the top of the box. She mentioned that getting over on the box of a hard shank Grishko is nearly impossible, that she can’t even do it, which is unheard of being that she is solid muscle. Seriously. Gosh, I miss her…
She said she thinks maybe it’s my ankles that are weaker. Which would make sense. My ankles give me trouble for seemingly no reason. Especially before starting dance, I could just be walking down the street and suddenly my ankle would give out. Mrs. Coker had also told me some specific theraband work to do to help with my foot shifting the way it does in the shoe that causes the shank to shift.

Over all, yesterday made me feel so much better. I have answers, and though they may not technically have solutions, I have plans of action to try and make this work. At least I know it’s not because of laziness or lack of work or something.


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.

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.

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.

Last rehearsal before theatre week!

Yesterday was our last rehearsal in the downtown studio. The rest of them will officially be in the theatre and it doesn’t feel like this is even possible that by this time next week, Wizard of Oz will be a memory.

I don’t know if I’m ready for that.

(I am ready to be able to go to bed and not have the super buzzing-bee-cartoon-character-type music in my head all night, though, so there’s that.) (ps. that’s what the Winkie Guard Solo scene music sounds like.)


We were supposed to run it twice, but were only able to run it full-through once.
I got to do the Crows one last time, as one of the girls who is usually there wasn’t. I’m not sure where she was, but the poor girl has been sick for a while and dancing through it so maybe that’s it. I just hope she’s feeling better, poor girl has been working her butt off for this show. Of all the girls I’d have to jump in for, she and one other would break my heart.

Before and after Crows I ran the first scene with the girls in hopes that we would be able to show Julie that we mean business and are working hard. They were really showing some great improvement and I was proud of them. I think the hardest part during these studio rehearsals is their struggle with distraction. There are so many people and movement and things going on that if you aren’t completely focused, you’re bound to mess up. It’s even happened to me. The front people can’t afford this.
Sadly, one of the front girls messed up so they both got switched in the scene. It was a tough lesson to learn, but it happened anyway. The girls that got moved forward will do the part well. They know it through and through and I think the bout of necessary confidence will be great for them.
Most everything else seemed to show great improvement.

During corrections, we got chewed because a lot of the girls weren’t paying attention. (not all, but enough.)
It’s no wonder those are the ones that don’t know what’s going on most of the time. It takes a toll on everyone.
It’s exhausting to have to be the one to hold up the group, and I wouldn’t be able to without the couple other girls that are very aware of what is going on. Knowing I can bounce things off them and we can come to a conclusion is what keeps this scene afloat. If they would just do confidently what they know, they would shine. But I understand it’s hard at that age, especially with so many people watching and it being such a risk.

I sent a few of the pictures to the company principals when I got home (even though I’m kinda not supposed to?) and got to talking with my friend Abby.
She said this:

I told her how there are times I just want to shake some of the girls and scream “SHE JUST SAID WHAT YOU’RE ASKING ME LITERALLY TEN SECONDS AGO PAY ATTENTION.” But that’s not allowed. I then mentioned how nice it was to hear it, too, because before when I was involved in dance or theatre, to do what I’m doing here was a guaranteed way to get yourself stuck as an understudy. Instead of seeing all your hard work and taking it into consideration that you’d be a good person to rely on and cast in the role in the first place, they saw you as a solid back up to have for if the leads flaked like they were prone to. (yet they always seemed to pull it together for the show. All glory, no work ethic.) It’s really nice to know that working hard to make sure things still run smoothly in case something happens isn’t going to get me permanently benched, but instead will help me in the long run.
She then said:

And this is when I melted into a puddle.
For the first time in a really, really long time I actually feel like I belong somewhere. That who I am is enough just as I am. That I’m not a failure or lacking or a disappointment, but instead a valuable asset. That hard work isn’t being ignored.
(Ps. I have really great friends that are there for me when I need it and quick to celebrate me when things go well. To have such people there for the highs as well as the lows is something I cherish. You people make the world go round.)