An injury.

I’ve been sulking in my apartment for the past few weeks, because of a hamstring injury. The weather outside has been fitting to accompany my mood: brooding grey skies ready to unleash a cold, wet watery fury on the few brave people attempting to a have a summer picnic on the beach.

From the very beginning of my brief relationship with ballet, I have had problems with my legs. My hamstring, especially the top part of the hamstring tendon that attaches to the sitbone has been inflamed and irritated. The pain, a nagging literal “pain the rear” has been growing steadily worse and worse over the course of the year. I’ve been ignoring it, because of the fear that the imagined conversation that I keep replaying in my head will come true

Dr. Orthopedist: Well, well, what do we have here? You’ve injured your hamstring. Tell me, what is it that you do as a hobby?

Me: um, I take ballet lessons.

Dr. Orthopedist: *raises eyebrow*

Me: [in my mind] ok, ok, I’m not exactly your perfect ballerina body type.

Dr. Orthopedist: In light of your test results, I really recommend that you change to something more “suitable” for your adult body.

Someone will tell me I have to quite ballet. That’s what I was afraid of. And it seems that my stupid fear of facing the Dr. has really led to this nightmare coming partially true. Two weeks ago, I woke up in the morning, to find the sitbone area extremely sore. Even sitting on the chair was pain. After several futile attempts to ice the living daylight out of the area, I finally conceded defeat and signed up to see an orthopedist.

The gist of the meeting was clear. I have to take it easy. Start from scratch. Not even from scratch, from the “minus 5 level” [yes, those were the exact words of the Dr].

Dear blog readers, I apologize. I am not at my most eloquent right now (if I ever am eloquent). A blogger friend and fellow adult dancer, Lorry at Bead109, has written a beautiful account about her own experience with being injured as an adult. I really recommend her post.

Now, I’m going to get up and get some more ice for that hamstring.

Why the lack of pictures?

If you’ve been reading this blog (a huge thank you to all you readers), you’ve probably noticed that there aren’t many pictures to accompany these posts. There are a few reasons for why I keep my posts bare.

Number one: I don’t take any good ballet pictures and I don’t have the opportunity to produce good ballet pictures.

Number two: The only pictures I do have the rights to are picture clouds and snow fall. No matter how much I like them (they’re embarrassing, really), they don’t say anything about dance, and you’d be like “what on earth does this picture have to do this with this post?” if I tacked one onto my posts. So I just don’t do it.

But, you exclaim, the internet is filled with gorgeous pictures of ballet dancers, pointe shoes, tutus, you name it, Google Pics can probably find it. And that takes us right to reason

Number 3: I don’t feel entirely good about taking pictures from Google Search, Pinterest or Weheartit and tacking them onto my post. Many of the pictures circulated on these picture sharing sites have been posted there without the permission of the model and the photographer. In many cases, the photographer is not even mentioned on the picture, and hence the person who put in hours of hard work to produce the perfect picture does not get any credit. While sharing pictures for the sake of admiring the beautiful work of others is ok as no one is directly profiting, I feel like posting these pictures onto my blog without explicit permission from the photographer would be taking advantage of this person’s hard effort. After all, posting pictures is often done to embellish the site and encourage more readers to visit the blog and thus directly profits the blog owner without giving any credit to the owner of the photograph.

 

There. I just thought I wanted to share this with all of you. I am ok with posting pictures that have been released into Public Domain. There are some real ballet gems to be discovered in the old archives.

 

Open and closed

My regular teacher Mrs. G is on summer leave, and we have substitute, the enigmatic Miss S. Miss S used to be a dancer with a big national ballet company. She is petite, molded from graceful turns, pliant, soundless jumps and a love for musicality. Before class, she stretches in an empty ballet studio, the music gently trickling from the stereo, the lights are turned off. The studio is plain and ascetic, filled by the presence of is this former dancer, clad in black teaching attire, stretching in the dim glow of the late afternoon. The moment is so translucent, devoid of worldliness, that students hesitate to go in.

Miss S has a very peculiar style. She begins her class by having students stand away from the barre, gently stretching their body, neck, head and ankles. The barre is light and focused on dancing instead of incessant technique drills. “Breathe,” she instructs us as we perform the final allonge in the plié series. Breathing brings an atmosphere of calmness, a finality before the arm settles into the lower preparatory position.

Last week, at the end of the plie section, Miss S gave a very interesting correction to a fellow dancer about her port de bras during dancing. “You are doing your movements very closed,” Miss S said and proceeded to demonstrate. When opening your arms from the first to the second in the port de bras, it is not merely a movement, but an opening with the whole upper body, chest, head and neck included. Even though you are exhaling at that same time, you have to think about opening. The way she demonstrates it is graceful, elegant and elevated, like the opening of a flower.

Closing also has its own accent. With a simple inclination of the torso, one can demonstrate so much, and it is the contrast between the open and closed poses that make a simple plié exercise truly breathtaking. Although, I was first put off by the light barre section and the warm-up exercises I considered odd, the amount of musicality and expression that Miss S teaches her students is absolutely astounding. I am happy to have had the privilege of taking Miss S’s class.

Beating the Ballet Blues

This should be an entry in Urban dictionary

ballet blues

n.  A state of disappointment and mild sadness regarding one’s progress and ability at ballet. Applies particularly to students who have begun ballet as adults

So you’ve got the ballet blues. How to beat it?

1.       Look at how far you’ve come.  Recall that wee, scared beginner who couldn’t do a proper plié and did not know what a battement tendu was? Look where she/he is now. Sometimes we get so engrossed by always going forward, always being better, jumping higher, being more flexible we forget how far we’ve come. Just two years ago I couldn’t do a decent tendu to the back in the center without completely falling over. Now I can at least get the leg a couple of centimeters off the floor.

2.       Read dance blogs.  Reading dance blogs by other adult beginners is a sure way to beat the Ballet blues. There are some inspiring individuals out there.
3.       Watch a full ballet. Even if there are no companies performing in your vicinity, you have an internet connection (I know you do, how else would you be reading this?). We adult beginners of post-YouTube world are lucky. There is such a wealth of performances available on YouTube, everything from contemporary ballet choreography to classical full length ballets. Here are some examples

 Swan lake (Svetlana Zakharova, Roberto Bolle)

Sleeping Beauty (Bolshoi, 2011)

The perfection of the pro dancers can be depressing, but watching them dance gives one something to aspire .

4.       Don’t compare yourself with other dancers in your class! This is a bad habit that I cannot seem to beat. You are dancing in your body, and you have your strengths and your weaknesses. Someone has high extensions, someone else is good at petit allegro. It’s just a fact. Work on  your weak points and take pride in your strengths.
5.       Read a ballet inspired novel. OK, there aren’t exactly a lot of them out there (at least that I know of), but there are some pretty good ones. I recently read Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay. It had some beautiful scenes from the life and training of a ballerina.
6.       Watch Dance Academy. This might work only if you’re a sucker for sappy teen rom coms, but this series actually gets me inspired to dance. Pst, it’s on YouTube.
7.       Watch pros train. These videos always inspire to get back into ballet, even when I feel like I totally suck.

A Day in the Life of a Ballerina
8.       Read and reread this gem of an advice. I hope the original poster doesn’t mind me copying it here, but there is no better way (or at least I can’t come up with one) to say it.

Now I have no natural talent for either dance or music, but I do have one talent that I’ve brought to both sport and dance. I just keep showing up. I’m a natural persister or plodder. And in persisting you let time work its magic. Your expectations surrender. You accept yourself for who you really are and the talent level you have. Yes, you want to improve, but more so you want to enjoy the moments you are in class, rehearsal or on stage. I don’t know that they ever go completely away, but bouts of dancer’s depression become fewer and fewer and last for shorter periods of time.

                                                                                                                                -Username “Garyecht” from this thread on the forum Ballet Talk for Dancers.

9.       Whatever you do, don’t quit!