Third Private Lesson

Because Abby is awesome, she squeezed in one more private lesson before these last two classes of mine before I leave Friday for Europe.

I had told her about my pirouette struggles, so she told me to make sure I had my pointe shoes with me.

Lillian was able to come, too, which made it really fun. Abby had us doing similar things simultaneously, then switch, which were cause of some really hilarious moments at times.

We alternated; one on the bosu, one on the exercise ball. We went through the normal kind of things on the bosu–what we worked on last time–to get really warmed up and reiterate the proper alignment. Most of the things on the exercise ball were rather difficult, mainly because the muscles it required for balance were very confused as to why they were being utilized. Once we got the hang of it, we were rockin’ and rollin’.

There was this one part where we used the exercise ball to help with stabilizing our arabesque. Abby had told us how she had worked with Alexis on this and she surprised her and lifted off the ball and stayed in this absolutely beautiful arabesque. This made me feel pressure. I have to keep working hard and keep improving and not fall behind.
When it got to be my turn at the exercise ball, Abby said I was looking really good. I was able to lift my leg off the ball and hold it there for a while. My left (I guess left? Whichever side you consider it…) was a little weird, but I’ve noticed I’ve been having trouble keeping square on that side and Abby pointed it out. It also felt different than the other side, I could feel that it wasn’t the same, so why couldn’t I fix it? The leg that’s up is the leg on the crooked back side. I could feel whatever it is pressing against each other. It didn’t necessarily hurt, but I could feel it. Maybe that is part of the issue? She was able to help me get a feel for how it should be and hopefully that will help.

We moved on with pointe to try and help me with my pirouettes. I could feel myself starting to panic on the inside in a way that happens whenever I can’t fully grasp a concept. It is one of the worst feelings I can think of, especially when I’m unable to communicate what I don’t understand about it. I don’t really know how to explain this, but I can remember it happening when Dad would try and help me with math. He would get frustrated and I would get frustrated and then I’d shut down and complexes developed.
I don’t want complexes to develop in ballet.
Abby began by explaining pirouettes–basic breakdown type stuff, making sure nothing was missed. I asked her about the spiral versus scoop methods of getting onto your box in a pirouette which got kind of confusing. I’ve seen both, and I think I’ve learned both, but I’m still so new in the knowledge of pirouettes that I don’t want to learn the least effective one and have to relearn something later. (does that make sense? Anyway.) She told me to not focus so much on what my foot is doing, instead to focus on your core and maintaining the proper position for turns rather than how your foot gets there.
This made me start to freak out on the inside. How would that help me? The last time I tried to just go for it, I rolled my ankle. I can’t afford that.
I kept quiet, and she kept explaining. Meanwhile, Lillian was trying to implement what she was saying. I missed part of it, falling inside myself and zoning out in my fear, but I managed to pull myself out and somehow Lillian doing these things out of the corner of my eye made something click with what Abby was saying. I thought of seeing Ileana with her beautiful balance and turns in class. I thought of how you could see how she maintained it. I thought of how I must look judging on how I feel when I turn and that connected into being what could cause everything else to fall apart.
Don’t think about what your foot is doing. Maintain proper alignment and you’ll turn.
She demonstrated further and it all seemed to settle in my head. I haven’t gotten to try a turn yet, but I feel like I have a better understanding of what it actually is that I’m trying to achieve. Keep that position, you can turn forever. I’m hoping to try it today.

She also stressed the importance of getting in the habit of rolling down out of releve. This is also something that isn’t solid in me yet and I want to develop the good habit of doing. I have to get the feel for it and build the muscles to do it. I have to get the muscle memory of it in my brain, make it be what is the comfortable thing to do rather than something that makes me nervous.

I noticed while working on my left foot that it felt different than my right. It gave me that frustrating feeling again. I needed to know why this was happening so I could figure out what to do about it. I know it’s not right, how do I fix it? What is not right about it? I mentioned it to Abby and she watched me. We connected that this is the foot that tends to balance on the far side of the box rather than the whole box, which makes me feel really nervous and unstable. My foot just does it. So I tried working with my foot to make it not do that. But why is this one different? Then I remembered.
Nerve damage.
I asked Abby if the nerve damage on the right side of my left knee could play into this at all.
That’s it.
It doesn’t affect anything else that I know of, but that little section of messed up nerves is causing certain muscles to not engage the way they need to like the other knee does. It’s why I feel that almost blank spot on my foot–where I know I should feel something working but feel nothing. It’s why I struggle on that side.
(STUPID CAR WRECK.
Dancing would be so much easier if it had never happened.
The whole situation is entirely too stressful. )
(Anyway.)

We also talked about en dedan turns en pointe, but thinking about it now I can’t remember specifics? Which probably isn’t good… I know we worked on the movement of going from fourth to passe like you would in a turn.

Anyway.
I’m hoping class will be good tonight. I’m not sure who is teaching so I’m not sure what really to expect. I guess we’ll see.
This week will be my last week of summer classes if I remember correctly. Not sure if they’re doing anything in the interim of July ending before fall classes officially start in August.

I’m hopeful that I can still improve.
That working hard produces results.
That this isn’t all there is for me.
That even though I’m older, I’m still learning.
That dreams are still possible.

(Ps. Here’s a picture of my feet.)

(A heck of an improvement from even last year. Woohoo!)

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.

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.

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