Monthly Archives: July 2013

That intensive week … yeah … that’s not happening.

Had the money put away. But then life happens. My son’s car needs major auto repairs.

Yeah, the joys of being a single parent.

I’ll have to be content with the open classes that week, and try not think what if?

The good thing is that the regular session is right around the corner, which means settling into a routine, being challenged by company wonders and preparing for the beast that is the Nutcracker.

Ballet stereotyping … part deux!

A boy who danced with our company who graduated this spring landed a dance and theater scholarship at a university in Florida.

His Facebook post today: The mother of his future roommate called housing because she just found out her son was going to be rooming with …. drum roll … a dancer!

Seriously? Where do these people come from?

Beginning-intermediate confidence boost

I’ll go ahead and say it, I will be glad when the company kids return from summer intensives far and wide.

They challenge me. And I miss the pace of the class when they’re all there.

But I’ve come to appreciate the open beginner-intermediate class I’ve attended the last two Tuesday nights as makeups for missing the classes I’m signed up for this summer session.

My habit of watching other people and my musicality (or the lack thereof) have been two of the things I’ve needed to work on most, along with spotting and my tendency to be a little sloppy when dancing with the young ones.

Tonight even moreso than last week, there has been no one else to look at for a reference. Despite the fact there were two teenage girls who dressed the part, the two most experience dancers in the room were me and a preteen girl who is in Ballet IV.

I was, as scary as this sounds, the leader of the class tonight. Even the preteen girl watched me at times to remember the combination and keep in time with the music … that includes a combination that included balances’, a pas de bouree and a pirouette (the preteen girl and I were the only ones who’d ever done a full pirouette before). 

The combination was relatively a simple one, yet my balances’ have always sucked (to be frank). Yet I was the one who kept on dancing when just about everyone else temporarily stopped in the middle of the combination, and restarted by the timing of my balances’. In years past, to be honest, despite knowing the combination, I would have stopped, too, without another dancer present to keep me in time with the music and to use as a reference point.

It may not sound like much to more experienced dancers out there (especially if you’re a professional dancer or young pre-pro company dancer who might be reading my blog out of sheer boredom). But the fact that I was the leader, the fact that I kept dancing when others had stopped and the fact I was actually in time with the music is as much a major breakthrough as doing triple pirouettes would be.

I’m hoping I can carry some of that confidence and musicality into the intensive week if I’m able to take it and the company classes when they get cranked up at the start of the season.

And by the way, I’ve found this class extremely helpful when it comes to cleaning up technique!

Amazing … if not a bit creepy

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook. The dancer’s really spider-like, to the point that’s somewhat scary for a person who’s been bitten by a brown recluse

Trayvon Martin, ballet and stereotyping

This post isn’t about whether or not the jury made the right decision in acquitting George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin.

As a former news reporter who covered a few trials, I can tell you that unless we were in the jury room, we have no idea about the evidence those six women in Florida had to consider when coming up with a decision. Only they know the truth about the factors involved in their decision and how they applied the law in coming up with an acquittal.

But there is one undeniable fact: Had George Zimmerman not come to the conclusion that Trayvon Martin looked like a potential burglar, the Florida teenager would still be alive today.

What does this have to do with ballet?

Because, especially for a male ballet dancer, being stereotyped or profiled hits very close to home.

Two incidents in my life are very clear in my mind, both involving security guards at the theater where we perform our major productions.

Don’t get me wrong. The security guards are welcome during our performances, especially when young children are participating (and there are a bunch during Nutcracker season).

Two years ago, I went from the stage to the lobby to check in after warmups. Adult volunteers who are chaperones for the children, who are part of the tech crew, make up crew or who  are wardrobe assistants wear badges to let people know they’re supposed to be on stage or backstage.

It’s a good system. I’m not complaining.

Dancers and other performers, on the other hand, aren’t given badges.

I exited the stage door to go to the check-in desk like I was instructed to do (so they’ll know that every dancer is present for the performance).

As I attempted to go back in the stage door, the security guard who happened to be sitting across the hall when I checked in, refused me entry, telling me I’m not supposed to be back there.

The mom at the check-in desk assured him I was supposed to be, which should have been end of the story. It wasn’t. I was asked three times by the same security guard over the next two days if I was “supposed to be back there.”

Needless to say, I spent the rest of performance week in the wings, on stage, in my dressing room, or in the hallway where our wardrobe and makeup stations were. I didn’t want to deal with it the entire week.

That was really the only time that happened until one of our spring performance days this year when we were doing Billy the Kid.

I went to check in at the table after warmups.

Just as I’m about to re-enter the stage door, the security guard (not the same one) asks the moms at the check-in desk: “How do I know if they’re supposed to be back there if they’re not wearing badges (comment directed at me)?”

Dance mom at the desk who has my back: “If they come through that door, and they are sweating (which I was after warmups), they’re a dancer.”

Me thinking: “Yeah, that and the fact that I’m wearing warmup pants, tights underneath, T-shirt and ballet shoes should have clued you in.”

I get it. As an adult, I don’t fit the ballet image. I’m not 15-20 years old, I don’t have a chiseled body and I also happen to be a guy.

I understand the idea of keeping children safe, As a single parent, no one understands that more than me. But I almost felt about six inches high having to go through something like that.

And if that wasn’t enough, I have in both my youth and as an adult, had people question my sexual orientation. Or question whether I’m really “one of the guys” because ballet is considered a “feminine” pursuit.

Those stigmas led me to quitting at an early age. They don’t really bother me that much now.

It’s part of the challenge if you’re a guy and you like ballet

Too bad you can’t turn on a sign that says: No, I’m not gay; yes I like manly things like baseball, football, hockey, soccer (and there are a few other male dancers who like those things, too); no I don’t do it to pick up woman (in the non-pas de deux sense); seriously, I do it because I love dance.

I realize male dancers aren’t the only ones in ballet who are stereotyped.

Maybe the skinny girl in class isn’t anorexic. Maybe the dance mom who spends hours at the studio is really a helpful volunteer and not some obsessed loon like you see on “Dance Moms.” It’s also possible the girl who weighs a few extra pounds can still make a very beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy.

And that 30-something year-old woman in class trying to do double pirouettes isn’t some whacked out person trying to relive their childhood.

It is after all, entirely possible to be passionate about ballet and not just be a patron in the audience.

The moral of this story? Get to know people before you pass judgment on them.

I dance better “full out”

Today was a prime example. Because we were a mixture of ages (from preteen to 60+), experience and abilities,  we half-time combinations and then those of us with a little more experience danced full out.

Maybe it’s because I tend to overanalyze and make sure I’m doing things fundamentally correct when we half-time things. Maybe it’s because I was taught to do steps bigger when I was a beginner that the light bulb came on when one of my teachers taught me about “range of motion” when the music calls for quicker motion. Glissades, jetes, ect. don’t have to be nearly as big, you adjust to the music.

Whatever the reason, I tend to do less thinking and more dancing when the pace is uptempo, and I fare better. It’s the reason I can struggle in a beginner class on Monday, then turn around and fare better in company class on Saturday morning.

I have adult friends who fret whenever a teacher calls for an uptempo, and I can understand their feelings.

But for me, it’s becoming more and more: “Bring it on!”

Which adult ballet camp are you in?

The other day, I posted about trying out a new teacher in the open-beginner class.

During our stretching, to give her a better idea of how to plan her classes, she asked each of us about our experience. She’s new. She hasn’t had a chance to get to know the really hard core adult students.

The responses were mixed. You had the absolute beginner who was serious about the ballet experience she was pretty much dressed to full dress code. You had a couple of ladies who admitted they had some experience but were really in it for the exercise. Then you had a couple of us who had been dancing for a while and were about the same level.

It made me fully appreciate those who are willing to teach adults, especially beginners. With kids, things are pretty simple. If their mothers didn’t force them into class, their dream is to perform, to make their school’s company and if they truly work hard and are talented enough, to dance professionally.

The same cannot be said for adults. Unless you’re young enough, and uber-gifted, the dream of dancing professionally sailed away before you made it to the dock.

It seems to me there are three types of adult ballet students. They are:

1. I’m in it for fitness: Ballet is just another creative way of exercise. Throw it a little Pilates, a little yoga, and they’re even more happy. Some would prefer to stay at the barre the whole time. There is nothing wrong with being in this camp. Ballet is an amazing form of exercise.

2. I’m in it for the exercise, but I do want to do ballet: You want to dance. You like corrections, and you’ll follow them to a point, but hey come on, you’re an adult, your body has limitations. It’s fun, but hey, you’re not too serious about it, though. And don’t even ask you to perform in front of people. It’s just not happening. You have goals, but you don’t really fret over not being able to do a double-pirouette.

3. I’m in it for the full ballet experience: Don’t cut you any slack. You’re a dancer, an artist who also loves it for the exercise and all the other health benefits, but you want to be treated as seriously as those company kids you may end up in class with. And yes, for some odd reason, you want to perform. You want to be included in company performances. And you beat yourself over the head when you can’t bust a double anything cleanly.

I’ll be honest, when I returned to ballet as an adult, I was content in the No. 2 category. Most of the ladies who were in the original classes with me and I call dear friends remain in that category if they’re still dancing (and some of them sadly are not).

But somewhere along the way, after being dragged kicking and screaming into my first Nutcracker performance, and being motivated by an artistic director who challenged me to do much more than what I was doing, I find myself in group No. 3.

That’s why I appreciate those who would teach adults like me. We’re such an eclectic group.