Warning: this post is rant-y and whiny. If you’re easily irritated by rants (don’t blame you at all if you are), don’t read it. My whining is really irritating.
You hope for it, you expect it, you know it’s impossible or nearly so, but still there is a glimmer of a chance. And then that much anticipated thing does not come. Disappointment follows.
I’m now in a state of post-disappointment. For the whole beginning of the year, I anticipated moving to intermediate level. Last week, I finally worked up the courage and decided to stay after class and ask my wonderful ballet teacher if I could join the intermediate class just for a class or two, just to see if I can make it. But that day, my teacher did not start with the usual plies and tendus. Instead she wanted to talk about progressing in ballet. It appears that some students from the basic beginner class join the more advanced classes without having permission from the teacher. When the teacher asks them to drop back a level, these students take her recommendation as a form of personal criticism. Needless to say, I didn’t feel like presenting my question after her speech.
“This is not like school,” my teacher said as she surveyed her class. What she means by this, I assume, is that once you’ve been a year on a certain level, you don’t simply move up one grade like you do in school. “You might spend 10 years in basic beginner,” she said. I gulped. 10 years at the basic beginner level! Other, more experienced, ballet bloggers have told me this over and over again. The basic beginner level is one of the most important aspects of an adult beginner’s education. This is the level where you learn your tendus, fondues, grand battements and developpes.
I am under no illusion here. My extensions haven’t reached 90 degrees. I can’t yet quite hold my turn out during extension. I can’t manage a clean single most of the days. So I shouldn’t even aspire to be in the intermediate class. I know this.
And I’m lucky to be taking class at all. I should be grateful for the opportunities that I am given. Yet sometimes being a ballet student at the basic beginner level feels like slogging through thick melted rubber. You keep working and working and sweating and sweating. Exercise after exercise, class after class. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t make that arabesque higher or that shabby pirouette into a clean one. Sometimes you feel like for every step you take forward, you move ten steps back.
The frustration with being forever-basic beginner always begins in autumn, when new “graduates” from the absolute beginner level arrive. And then we have to start all over again relearning how to properly place yourself in a tendu, how to execute a fondue, how to do an arabesque. It’s all good review of course, and necessary.
After my class, it is time for the intermediate students to come in. Sometimes I watch as they do their across the floor series. Arabesque sautees, assembles, pas de chat. It’s like flying across the floor. I want to be there, in that class, flying across the floor. Johanna from PTYD helped me see this issue in another way. Being in the basic beginner level doesn’t mean you suck, it means you something to aspire to. And good things are worth the wait and the work, right?
It seems I’ve been having some kind of case of “Too Fast, Too Furious.” From my one class per week as a beginner nearly three years ago, to more than four classes per week (unfortunately there are no more classes available at my level where I live), I feel like I’ve been speeding on the fastlane. This insatiable desire to dance comes with a price (and I’m not talking about the mountain of bills that my dance school sends me). In the past year, I’ve pulled my hamstring, injured my hip and had problems with my Achilles tendon. Some days I feel like taking of my ballet slippers and throwing them from the fourth floor of the studio and onto the head of a poor passer-by. Yet, I keep going, for those rare magical moments when the body, music and space become one.
If you made it this far, thank you for reading!