Monthly Archives: January 2015

A small part in Sleeping Beauty

After sickness, personal matters and a large college work load, I finally returned to ballet class for the first time in 2015.

There was little mercy for the old man who hadn’t been in class since the week after Nutcracker. Even though there are more adults in the Monday open class than there are in the other morning classes I take, Mr. O’s class was pretty physical.

And I’ll be honest, it took a while for the ballet brain to kick in after a long, tough barre. Ended up on the wrong leg in a combination, so I did a pirouette in the wrong direction. I also shortened a petite allegro combination and ended up going the wrong way and almost collided with one of the company boys in class.

But other than those little mishaps, I thought I acquitted myself quite well for an old guy who has been out a month.

Seriously, I’ve pledged to just enjoy class and not take things too seriously this semester. I even thought about taking a break from performing.

But when your artistic director asks you if you’re interested in a small part in a full length Sleeping Beauty the company is doing, really how can you refuse?

It’s a small part (a court person), probably mainly character and little dancing. Supposedly there’s not as demanding rehearsals with this one. So yeah, with my busy schedule, agreeing to do the part was pretty much a no brainer.

You learn so much more and appreciate story ballets once you’ve been in them. This will be my seventh different ballet to be in. That’s a bunch for an old recreational dancer like me.

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Drawing assignment part 1

shoe

In my drawing class, we had to pick an item from life, draw it and describe it, and write what it represents, what emotions and memories it brings.

We then have to revisit the item and redraw it from a different perspective a couple of days later. I haven’t reached that point yet.

My object is an old ballet shoe (it might look like a warped canoe).

It’s primarily a charcoal drawing with some graphite on the inside.

Here are my thoughts about the object: As an object, it’s dark on the outside, graying on the inside. It’s flimsy. It has wrinkles. It has holes. It’s a bit worn, but still capable of being used. It’s lightweight and somewhat flexible and best used on a somewhat slick floor.

When it is worn, it can bring joy to its wearer and those in an audience. It helps an artist express himself. It can be a symbol of gracefulness, beauty and strength. It can literally and figuratively help some leap … a great distance or for joy. It can help the wearer turn in movement or in emotion. Like it’s appearance, it can have a dark side. It can be a symbol of judgment, bullying or ridicule from someone who doesn’t understand the art form. It can make the wearer hide or hold back the artist within for fear of being labeled something they are not.


Why ballet?

I’ve known for a while that I’m not exactly a guy who lives inside the box.

Most men my age who are active do things such as softball, golf or maybe bowling. Some are a little bit bolder and still play some soft of sandlot football … although when you’re approaching 50, that might can be physically punishing.

But then again, if you’re really hard core, so is ballet.

I’ve actually been taking stock in that, re-examining my goals, when it comes to that.

I haven’t been back to class since December, an amazing thing for those who know me. Sickness and personal matters have meant only one class since the end of Nutcracker.

I miss it. I intend to plunge back in on Wednesday and just enjoy moving and being in class.

There are so many reasons why ballet shouldn’t be my favorite hobby, or passion, especially when you are male, and you’re old.

1. Ballet is unforgiving for those of us whose bodies don’t fit the stereotype. There is at least one mirror in any studio you take class, and sometimes there are as many as three. If you are hard core enough to wear anywhere near the proper attire … it is extremely difficult if you have body image issues. And while poor body image is often more thought of for girls or women, they exist for men. I’m overweight and I cringe when I see myself in a mirror, especially when most of the people I dance with are in really good shape.

But even if you choose to cover up, the mirror exposes really how “bad” of a dancer you are, especially when compared to others in the room. It exposes your lack of technique or flaws.

2. Ballet is difficult. Trust me there are easier dancer forms. I’ve taken jazz, modern, hip hop and have experienced ballroom and contemporary either as a teenager or adult. And ballet doesn’t come as easily as the other. I’ve have been in a struggle to consistently do a double pirouette (spotting it seems eludes me), one really nice tour en’lair (much less a double) and don’t get me started on doing a coupe’ jete leap with a turn or just about any complicated petite allegro. And even things I can do, tour jetes, pique turns, chaines, balance’s can look horrible if done with bent legs, feet not pointed, or the arms and head doing the wrong thing.

3. Stereotypes die hard. I put up with bullying when I danced as a teenager and in college. Even the lighter stuff nowadays “Do you wear a tutu … how is the ballerina doing today?” Even though ballet has come a long way from when I dance, there are still the questioning of sexual orientation or really how much of a normal dude you are.

I used to hide the fact that I danced. I don’t any longer. Kind of hard when you’ve performed in eight Nutcrackers, Romeo and Juliet, Firebird, Billy the Kid, Dracula and Cinderella. Still not as much “in your face” about. And it gets tiring telling people that no, I don’t wear a tutu, or a leotard (not since I was a kid) and that male dancers aren’t called ballerinas … although I’ve since embraced it, sure call me a ballerina if you like … lol And no, guys don’t normally go en pointe (more power to you if you do).

4. I find myself constantly in class with kids, including the few adults, who are pretty much young enough to be my children. Moreso this year than in the past, it can be a little uncomfortable if you are a guy. Women, maybe not so much …

So why do I do it? Why do I have a longing to get back in class? Why don’t I embrace other dance forms which can at times seem more fun like I do ballet?

Maybe it’s kind of hard to explain.

1. Ballet is my refuge. I live a stressful life. It is for me an escape. Once I walk in class, the struggles of being a parent, an over-worked newspaper page designer and stressed out back in college student are left at the door. For 90 minutes, it’s nothing but ballet. Nothing like getting lost in the music. For me, it feeds the soul.

2. Ballet works both the mind and the body. That’s important to me. My father withered away with dementia and heart problems. The fact that you’re working the mind as much as the body in ballet to me will pay dividends long after my final class is over. And the health benefits? Unless you’ve been a professional dancer who has been a little bit pushed too far past the limit, the benefits are numerous. My back has been strengthened because of the lessons of posture and proper body alignment. It used to go out about twice a year. That rarely happens since I’ve been doing ballet as an adult. Yeah, I’m a little overweight, but I’m a lot more limber than most men (and a lot of women) that I know. And my knees, because of the work, are in a lot better shape than most people my age.

3. The camraderie can be amazing. I was the only man in classes with a bunch of soccer moms for about three years. My definition is beauty was redefined by a group of ladies aged 20-something through about 70. They were encouraging and inspiring. As a single parent, I got tips galore. Even though I no longer dance with many of them, they’re still my friends. They are the reason I stayed with it when many beginners seem to flee after a few classes.

4. There is no feeling like it when you are dancing full out, when you nail that grande allegro combination … and you feel like you’re flying. Or when you are dancing in a flowy balance’, waltz turn, pas de bouree, pirouette combination. I will confess that I do love those “beautiful” combinations.

Even in classes where I completely sucked as a dancer, I’ve always felt better, my spirit up lifted when I left than when I first entered the door.

That is why ballet.