I had myself some coffee yesterday, which perked me up pretty fast, because I could not wake up, as I am not used to 50 mg of Seroquel anymore. I woke up at 9, and by 1 PM, I still did not have my bearings, so I had to have something. In fact, I wonder if it perked me up a little too much, because normally when I drink coffee, it doesn’t really do anything for me. I normally drink it out of enjoyment, just because I’ve learned to appreciate the taste of coffee itself a little over the years. I mean, I added a lot of sugar, but even when we had work meetings and I decided to have coffee, I’d still add a lot of sugar, but that didn’t make me up. I was still at the same energy level I was when I finished drinking it. But a similar thing happened to me last Saturday when I worked Market on the River. I was already awake by the time I got there, but it’s not like I was bleary. I was just in a super crabby mood. I didn’t want anything to do with anyone, and I figured people were going to tick me off. My co-worker wasn’t ticking me off, but whenever I talked, it was all this irritable negativity. But as soon as I had some coffee just to warm me up, suddenly I was up and ready for the world, and despite the crummy weather, I had this sudden burst of confidence and desire to do stuff, to wander around–to not stay still, basically.
I know with a lot of people, this is what coffee probably does for them. I don’t know. All I can tell you is that coffee normally does not make me up, up, if that makes sense.
But today I woke up, and it’s like I hadn’t even taken 50 mg at all. I woke up at 9, my usual time, unfortunately, just because Seroquel is annoying, but my mind was sharp and racing with thoughts. I laid in bed for fifteen minutes, just so the sleepiness could drain from my body itself, but I was zipping around, ready to get my paycheck, cash my work check and AEC one, send of WSD to a Tumblr winner, and I even went to Hobby Lobby to buy new brushes, paints, canvas, and an easel. For some reason, whenever I’m hypomanic or manic, I get this strong urge to paint, probably because it’s therapeutic and I don’t have to worry about making it right. I can just mix colors on canvas, abstract fashion, and just go with it. I collected my supplies, went home, and did my Access homework. I had this sudden confidence with my Access homework, so confident I got a 99 compared to yesterday’s 89. And I can’t figure out what I did differently with today’s assignment that I didn’t do with the last one.
So I got some bad news on my ankle, the thing I talked about in the last post. I have a syndrome called OS Trigonum syndrome (this isn’t the bad news, although it’s still bad). This means that something didn’t ossify when I was younger, so I have an extra bone at the back of my heel either fused to my talus or held in place by a piece of cartilage. I think pointe work began to irritate this bone. What happens when you do plantar flexion or pointe work, this little bone gets crushed between your heel and ankle, so it gets very irritated. Jumps mostly aggravated the bone. Many dancers report it hurting during pointe work, but my injury might not be that bad…yet. But the bad news is that I was hoping I could get the MRI ASAP, get the surgery soon, and then take a break over the summer. However, apparently I’m not going to get the second opinion until July, which means surgery being delayed, and Grade V starts in the fall.
Now being hypomanic, you can imagine my explosiveness toward this news. I wanted to scream, I wanted to break things, I wanted to hurt myself because I couldn’t go to bed to escape these feelings because hypomania says you don’t want to go to bed, no matter how crappy you feel. My dad had to talk me down from it, because I couldn’t. You get so irrational, so rage-filled, that you can’t concentrate, you can’t find that silver lining. And someone HAS to talk you down from it. So there is a silver lining. I can do Session I of the grade IV intensive and learn the grade V barre work (because for some reason you do grade V barre work in a grade IV intensive). And let’s assume I get the surgery in October. I will have a month and a half to learn the Grade V exercises, get the surgery in October, and come back in January. I’ll probably be a little behind, just because they build on the exercises, but I will have at least learned those exercises; I would just have to see what was added to them.
I am going back en pointe though. I am not staying off pointe for five months, not when pointe work didn’t cause me any pain to begin with. This decision is out of sheer stubborness and the fear that I am going to fall behind in pointe work. Now if it does begin to hurt, I’ll take myself off pointe. I’ll also probably limit the jumps I do in class. Like maybe do every other jump exercise, depending on what it is. This is my decision, my choice. And even if it starts hurting worse than it hurts right now (because it’s not so severe that I can’t dance), then I think by that point, I’ll be okay with not doing anything until everything gets taken care of. As it stands, I can still dance; therefore, I will keep dancing until my injury literally tells me it is not possible to currently dance.
I have been watching ballet video after ballet video because I’ve become more comfortable with the idea that I can reach the potential I want to reach. It may not be the level that a professional can dance, but I want it to be pretty darn close. I feel like Dance Augusta is going to do just that for me.
Grade IV is perfect for me right now. Yes, I am a little more advanced, but there are some things that I need to slow down on, jumps and adagio being two of those things. At Dance Augusta, the students do the same exercises every day and add on as time goes by, so this allows the students to work on everything…and I mean everything.
Grade IV is 2 1/2 hours long. We spent our time at the barre for an hour and some change, working on everything at the barre that you can possibly work on, which didn’t exist at my old school. At my old school, we only did the basic barre work, and, really, we only treated it like a warm-up. Barre work is so much more than that. Barre is where you develop the necessary strength and technique to be able to execute moves in the center.
I took a dance intensive at Dance Augusta almost two years ago, and I thought a long barre was really odd, and, frankly, annoying, but now that I’ve matured as a dancer and have become more serious, I see that it is probably more important than center work, because the barre is where everything begins.
I was surprised with the ease in which I was able to keep up with these exercises I had never done–mostly. I did stumble a few times. It made me realize that I’d come a long way since starting dance, even if I had ultimately become unhappy with my old school. But it was nice being able to slow down. The barre exercises themselves are more intricate, so they were by no means dull like the exercises below my level at my old school, but they still give me a chance to really concentrate on my technique and strengthen everything within me. Then there were stretches, which I love, and then some strengthening exercises for the core, back, butt, and the upper body (I hate upper body exercises, even with “girly” push-ups). We didn’t really do strengthening exercises like that at my old school. Technique class was mostly just an hour, so there really was no time. Then came the center, which lasted about thirty minutes.
Now center is where I did begin to struggle, but that’s because I didn’t know some of the exercises, and it’s not as easy to keep up with center work as it is with barre work. There were a few times I had to stop and look at where the girls were in the exercise. Luckily, with the petite allegro (tiny movements), which often consist of jumps, they are slow and meticulous, which is just perfect for me, and at the same time difficult. I’m used to doing faster jump movements, which is both harder than the slow ones at Dance Augusta, and yet easier, because the faster you go, the less you have to really roll through your feet–you just don’t have the time. But it’s nice to have these jumps slowed down because jumps have always been a little bit difficult for me. I think just about every girl in my class feels that way. But with these slower jumps, I have to actively concentrate on really rolling through my feet because at my old school, even when I first began, I never did any exercises that forced me to REALLY roll through my feet–I just had to think about making mango juice with my plie. But it’s good, and I’m SUPER hoping that after the summer intensive I’ll be a much better jumper. I’m primarily a turner, so anything with turns, I’m gold.
The adagio is also simpler, too, which is what I really need. I still struggle with balance, for whatever odd reason (because you think if you can balance in turns on pointe you could stand on one freaking foot with no problem), and having a simpler adagio will better built up my balance and clean up my technique. Adagio is slow movements, and often involves standing on one leg while your other leg is doing something else. Luckily at Dance Augusta, the other leg isn’t up for too long, even though it gets back up in the air just as fast. Then we moved to across the floor movements, which were chaines. It’s basically turning on two feet to get somewhere, usually spotting an object you want to reach. At this studio, the girls are still breaking them down, and I don’t even know how to break down a chaine anymore. So I just zipped by the girls, but now I know that’s kind of a rude thing to do. At my last studio, and I kid you not, I was taught that if you were faster than the girl in front of you, that you basically had permission to not necessarily mow her down, but get her out of your way. There was this one exercise where we were doing bourrees (tiny, quick movements on pointe), where the older girls had to chase down the less-experienced pointe students, and now that I think about it, that’s the stupidest exercise in the world, especially for girls who just started pointe.
At Dance Augusta, I’ve got to slow myself down, which is probably for the best anyway. Just cleaner technique.
Now on to pointe. These girls have been en pointe for half a year, and they haven’t even started center work yet. I’ve been en pointe for two years, and I pretty much don’t need the barre anymore. HOWEVER, I don’t mind taking it slow again, because the exercises won’t make me lose my ability to do pirouettes or anything else complicated on pointe. I was really tempted to practice some difficult moves while the girls were getting their shoes on, but I refrained from doing so because that could look very show-offish. However, I’ll probably be doing them before class starts, because I don’t know how long it’s going to be before they start doing pirouettes en pointe, when they’re still learning pirouettes in 4th on flat. There are only 6 grades at Dance Augusta, so I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t be starting pirouettes in grade V (because there is some separate advance pointe class or whatever), which is what I’ll be starting in the fall. At the same time, it’s good DA is slow with the girls. Pointe work should be taken slowly, especially if you’re only doing it twice a week, that way when you come to the center, you’re not struggling as much.
At my old school, girls who have been en pointe for only a few months are already doing pirouettes. They can do them, yeah. I’m not going to deny them their ability to do them, because the pointe classes there are 50 minutes, and you can do them 3x a week. But my old school and DA have a very different mindset. At my old school, it’s mostly about fun, so being at the barre doing the same exercises and never going into the center until you’re in your second year of pointe is not that school’s idea of fun. But it’s whatever. Personally, I think pointe work should be taken slowly, because the girls at my old school are now being pressured to do more because of the roles they have been given in Roar. For example, Wind is a role that includes a lot of bourrees. One girl at my old studio struggles with them. She had to literally be pushed across the floor to do them, and yet she was given the role of Wind. That’s all I’m going to say on that point.
So, yes, pointe work is much slower than where I’m at in terms of ability, but that’s okay. I took Grade IV so I could slow down in order to be where I want to be because at my old school, you’re not given that chance unless you’re in the performing company. At DA, you will do just about every possible exercise within those 2 1/2 hours. At my old school, the teachers had to pick and choose, so you’re not always going to do jumps every single class. That isn’t what I need. I need classes where we work on all things. Otherwise, I’m not going to get to where I want to be.
What was really neat, though, is that the pointe exercises we were doing at the barre were the EXACT same exercises I did when I started their intensive a few years ago. So it was interesting to see how far I’ve progressed. I remembered how I had to stop several times during the back-to-back exercises to stretch out my calves and roll my feet because they were screaming from pain. Most of the girls had to do that, so I know how they feel, but I didn’t have to do that at all during the thirty minutes of pointe work–and you don’t really stop in between exercises. This basically means my feet are used to being en pointe, and so what was once painful isn’t painful anymore.
As you have read, I had a great first day there, and I look forward to making this place my new dance home. I’ve warmed up to the girls pretty fast, but it’s probably because I’m much more outgoing now than I was when I first took the intensive. I mean, you have to be outgoing as a marketing trainee at Southern Siding!
By the way, I was almost physically dying at the end of class. But so was everyone else. I haven’t felt that way in a ballet class in a LONG while. And, yes, I am sore as I am typing this.
Let me preface this by saying this is not a departure from my blog. Oh, certainly not. I am still trying to figure out how to build a following without busting my butt off by commenting on a million other blogs, friending those blogs, with the hopes that they follow me back, even though I understand they have no obligation to do so. I shouldn’t have to do that to build a following, because many successful blogs don’t have to. Having a lot of followers means nothing if I’m not having any interaction. But that is neither here nor there.
I call myself The Dancing Writer for a reason, and I think it’s time to talk about ballet, which I don’t do often enough to keep up with the title of The Dancing Writer. I’ve complained about it a little on Facebook and Twitter, if any of you have seen, which, I’ll take the blame for, was very unprofessional of me, but in the heat of the moment, you tend to do things you wouldn’t normally do, and lashing out is one of my faults. I rarely get angry, but when I do, I go from 0-180, which usually ends up in crying that lasts for a few hours. I do get upset, but that upset rarely leads to anger. In this case, I was immediately angry and was considering switching schools the moment I found my name.
To remain as sensitive as possible about the topic, I am not going to bash my previous school. It was a very good school. It was very fun. The teachers were great. I made some good friends there, and I have many positive memories. Being able to participate in The Roar of Love (2013) was one such fond memory I had. However, it is a recreational school, one that places priorities on company members over non-company members, which I don’t think is fair, as not every dancer there can afford the time nor money to be a company member, but it’s probably how the school earns its money to stay afloat–through sponsors and what not. And that school deserves to stay open because it has won many awards for a reason. But it might have been the wrong school for me all along, and I didn’t realize that until this year. I was blind because I started out with private lessons there with a wonderful woman named Rebecca, who made me want to start taking classes there. She was the only reason I did. She’s gone now, but I persisted in spite of her absence, because I was already used to the atmosphere and greatly adored the girls.
I never considered myself a role model to them. I didn’t sign up to be a role model. I signed up to dance. I think once I established myself as equals to them, and took them on as friends, that role model idea went out the window. And I wanted to be equal to them. I didn’t want any special treatment for being the only adult consistently taking classes and being serious about the art form. I also didn’t want the pressure of being a role model put on me. Sure, I could dish out advice to them with situations I’ve been in when I was their age, but really being able to talk to these girls and getting to know them made me realize that it’s possible to be 23 and still be able to relate to girls who are in their late or early teens. I had one who was pretty much a younger sister to me, because she did look up to me and sought me out for advice. However, she left for pretty much the same reason I did, which I will mention soon, and I miss her terribly. Otherwise, the other girls were my friends. Plain and simple. I interacted with them the way I interacted with my friends my age (albeit, I toned down the jokes and language), but I still acted plain silly with them, just as I would with friends of my age–even ones much older than I.
Even so, this year’s casting made me realize I wasn’t going to get any better, not just in casting, but in terms of skill. I have improved as a dancer, but I attribute that largely to the performance experience I had in Roar because it better taught me how to memorize longer combinations without stopping in the middle of one to remember what the next move was. However, without that performance experience, I don’t think I would have gained that betterment in my dance skills. The roles weren’t complicated, but they developed the memorization part of my brain, which I didn’t have when starting the school. They also developed that part of my brain where I didn’t need to think about what move came next. The moves were already in my muscles, so there was no need to think about them. I just did them.
Now it’s time to get down to the part that broke my heart. Last year I did not expect to be cast into Roar at all because of my status as an adult, and I was okay with that. I had no reason to expect it, so I had no expectations. However, when I received casting and decided to peruse it out of curiosity to see who received what role, I was surprised to find my name on there four times in three different roles: Flower Fairy, Spring Maiden, and Wind–2 casts. Because of last year’s casting in Roar, I felt this year I had every right to expect I was going to be in Roar–otherwise, it would have been plain cruel to not cast me. I was really banking on getting more challenging roles this year that would better me as a dancer. I could come away and say, ‘Yep! I did that role. I was able to do it, and now I’m confident I can improve as a dancer.’ That didn’t happen at all. I put so much hope and heart into casting and was on pins and needles, as was every girl at the school, about the casting. Ballet is as much of a passion as writing is, even though I have no plans to go pro.
When the cast list appeared in my Gmail, my heart jumped in my chest. However, when I perused the list for my name, I saw it only once. In cast two, as Spring Maiden, which I did last year. At the time the role was slightly challenging because it was probably a 4-5 minute piece and I hadn’t fully memorized it until the last two rehearsals, but I expected something more and didn’t get it.
At first I was angry, because I realized less-experienced girls, both on and off pointe, were getting the roles people at my level usually receive–so I wasn’t the only one upset about casting. All the girls at my level had been shortchanged (except for one), for one reason or another. But I won’t go into detail about that. All I can say is that the school probably depends a lot on sponsorships, and in order to keep those sponsors happy, they have to ensure that their children are happy at the school, lest they lose their sponsors, which are often the ones most active in the school. Casting is a HUGE deal at that school, as these girls are in 4 performances a year, and if they’re losing dancers because of casting, they could lose sponsors as well. So it’s no surprise; however, it’s very upsetting for someone such as me, who devoted two years to the school, was always able to afford tuition, who mostly attended dance classes regularly, and was very serious while in class. I especially worked hard this year, not only for myself, but to ensure I would receive a good role in Roar that would make me into a much better dancer, as I believe the girls are as good as they are because of the performances.
Some tried to persuade me not to quit, as there was always next year, but, not only did I know I was never going to get anything better, I also knew I didn’t want to stick around for another year to wind up in disappointment–again. I take ballet seriously, and I want to have fun with it, so I knew the passion for that school died when the casting came out.
I am not perfect, I still slightly struggle, but I have taken the highest level there, and I was surprised with my ability to keep up. I think I should have been struggling, but I didn’t. Even boys they pulled from an art school because they are in desperate need of boys, who had been with the school for not even two years and had never taken ballet prior to this school, were keeping up with the highest-level class. Granted, their technique isn’t strong, but they were able to keep up with the exercises. So I knew the challenge did not lie in the classes themselves, but in the performances.
So after realizing this, I had broken down in tears and could not be consoled for a few hours. I knew I was never going to get anything challenging beyond Spring Maiden, so to speak, because as the girls that move up in level and more join the company, I knew I was going to be slipped into whatever was left. Being in Roar is a privilege, and not a right, and I was made an exception when I was cast for Roar, but, even now that I have cooled off, I don’t think I should have been expected to be grateful to be cast at all, not when the prior year was better, especially considering I didn’t dance that much in the fall because of depression and hospitalizations. This year, I did dance more, so I was flummoxed. Even worse, I was not given a role en pointe, which would have deprived me of pointe work for three months. That is not a good thing for someone as serious as me who wants to improve.
As bittersweet as it is, I am moving on to another school, one that is a professional and not a performance-based one. At this school, if any of the girls are chosen to participate in The Nutcracker, rehearsal time is outside of class, and so does not eat up class time. Also, they only use certain girls–or boys–when they can’t fill all slots in their professional performance of The Nutcracker, so I won’t have to have any expectations. They also do demonstrations at the end of the year, but this is more for the parents. I don’t think I’d be allowed to be in one, but I wouldn’t be getting anything out of it anyway because I am the one who will be paying the school, so I know I am getting a good dance education and don’t need to prove it to anyone like the kids will have to for their parents. The point is that I can still participate in these demo rehearsals that are actual exercises done in class–not variations of ballet performances. This isn’t to say anything bad about my old school. This is just the reality. My old school may have never been a right fit for me from the beginning, but just because it isn’t a right fit for me, doesn’t mean it won’t be a right fit for someone else. In fact, many adults who really want to do ballet often retreat to the new school I’m going to so they can learn ballet in a more serious environment without being an exception to anything. My old school has an adult class, but it is purely recreational, purely for fun.
I am both nervous and excited. I am nervous because they have a set repertoire of exercises they do every day, so I’ll have some catching up to do. And I am excited because I know this school will help me bring out my full potential as a dancer. I probably should have gone there to begin with. After all, I did an intensive there. Even so, another reason I didn’t go to the school was because during that intensive, fibromyalgia really affected by legs horribly, and I attributed it to the intensity of the work, which is not found at my old school. However, I have learned that it is my ballet tights that aggravate my fibromyalgia, so I simply need to roll them up to my knees, and I am usually okay. I will also let the teacher know about my chronic pain condition. It has not really affected by ballet as of late, but I will be attending, twice a week, classes that are 2 1/2 hours long, so I do expect my fibro to pop up a little bit more. (Of course, my former rhume told me that without ballet, my fibro would be much worse, so you have to outweigh the benefits with the consequences. My fibro is really mild compared to a lot of cases, but I am also very limber.)
It’s not often I talk about ballet on this blog, not because I don’t think it’s interesting but because it just seems like it’d be so random compared to everything else I’ve ever written. Like I always want to relate it to my writing life somehow, but I want to be able to write about ballet just for the sake of ballet.
As you all know, I am an adult ballet dancer who has done ballet for two years and been en pointe for one year. During those two years I have progressed through five levels and am currently in level six, or what is known as the Juniors level at my dance school.
Today started the summer intensives. I did summer intensive last year at another dance school because it was closer and required less gas, but this year I’m doing it at my home school because, well, I frankly love the school better than the other one.
I’ve been away from ballet for a month, and my poor legs are feeling it. My right knee aches for some unknown reason, and the tendon in my hip feels like it’s caught on something, but I don’t think it is. I would have been able to get away with not exercising for a month if I were doing level 5, but not level 6. I seriously wish I would have just walked the darned treadmill so my leg muscles could stay used to getting worked.
But juniors was both a challenge and an excitement for me. Compared to when I tried Juniors last summer, I have improved. Barre was just dandy, but I screwed up some in the center, which doesn’t bother me. After all, if I were perfect, I wouldn’t be in class. I’d be off dancing in some glitzy company. But I felt comfortable screwing up because the teacher is Mrs. Renee Toole, and she is a peach. She introduced herself to me and everything because I was the only face she had never seen before (I never had a chance to take a class with her because I usually work on Saturdays).
I know I need to work on spacing in the center because there are two girls in the class I dance with that I danced with in Level 5, and we were crammed on one another as we did our turns and jumps. I also need to work on honing my brain in on the exercises 100% because going from simple across-the-floor movements, like pique, jete entournant, to pique, jete entournant, tombe pas de bourre, pirouette, ect… is a heck of a difference and requires that my brain be very awake so I can soak in the exercise. But ballet class was so much fun and I look forward to Wednesday and Thursday. No longer am I afraid of the higher levels as I was last year.
Pointe class was a different story. During the summer, there is beginning pointe, pointe 1, and pointe 2. I thought pointe 2 was supposed to be my main class, but when she put a fouette turn in the middle en pointe, I realized pointe 2 is my challenge class and pointe 1 is my main class. I can do pirouttes en pointe and MIGHT get lucky to pull off an outward fouette en pointe, but I am certainly not ready for fouettes period en pointe, unless they are at the barre. But even though it was still challenging, I received the benefits of a good exercise and it will help me maintain my strength for pointe work.
But ballet is just plain fun for me, and I look forward to the rest of the summer. I will blog about any milestones I come across.
I’ve spoken plenty on my writing life but hardly any on my dancing life. And I am The Dancing Writer, so it’s only fair I give my ballet a life a small spot in the limelight.
In any case, my ballet aspirations never manifested in childhood. Oh sure I thought pointe shoes were awesome and I’ve always wanted to try a pair on, but the dancing thing never grew in my bones and I was more of a soccer girl. I then became a track girl, then a horseback riding-band girl. It wasn’t until I saw Black Swan did I suddenly have the frenetic desire to dance. This isn’t exactly original. Lots of ladies like me saw Black Swan and wanted to do ballet. What sets me apart from most of them is that I actually stuck with it because after doing research, I knew ballet wasn’t going to be easy, especially getting en pointe.
Now that I have almost 2 years of dance experience, I look back at Black Swan with a different eye. It’s obvious Natalie Portman didn’t do most of the ballet work because she did rigorous ballet for six months every day, and even with all that, it is not possible to attain professional level dance skills within that time.
Anyway, I started ballet with private lessons twice a week for ten months. I moved up five levels within a year and got en pointe within ten months. I probably could have started sooner, but I never asked. When I wasn’t doing ballet, I strengthened the crap out of my legs, ankles, feet, core, back, you name it. I desperately wanted pointe because it is so beautiful. Also, I was obsessive because I started getting depressed in 2011 due to emerging fibro symptoms. I was obsessively pursuing pointe work to escape the pain. Because if I didn’t have ballet, I would have given in to the depressive feelings.
But obsession can be a symptom of depression. It was for me.
I then stopped private lessons due to rising prices and started classes with pre-teen/teen girls (who I adore, by the way). By the time I got to level five, it was time to slow down. I think a lot of adult ballet dancers reach a certain level where they peak and then find they have to slow down. Oh, yes, I will be starting level six over the summer, but level five is where I needed to hunker down and stick with it longer than any other level, especially because of pointe work. But my pointe work is strong enough that it’s almost like I’ve been en pointe for two years. After only a year, I can sometimes manage double pirouettes en pointe, and there are adult dancers who can barely manage a single or haven’t even started pirouettes because the dance studio wants them to be en pointe longer.
But pointe work is my favorite part of ballet. I don’t take for granted that I can do lots of fun things en pointe because it does take immense strength. Pointe work makes me feel beautiful and graceful, and I love my shoes because they are the perfect pair for me–and dancers will spend years trying to find their perfect pair.
But that’s a little background on my ballet life. I think it’s important all writers have another hobby so we don’t find ourselves trapped by writing day in and day out. What other hobbies do you guys have?