Author Archives: JustScott

Here’s to the dance moms who support their sons

It couldn’t have been easy for her watching her son dance in a purple unitard that matched the girls he was dancing with on stage.

That was probably the worst costume ever for a teenage boy performing with his jazz class back in the 1980s, especially in the South, where boys play football.

They don’t dance.

But to be honest, I was in pure bliss dancing the choreography to the song “Shout” by Tears for Fears.

I don’t know if I truly believed my mother when she told me she liked the dance.

She was at best a reluctant dance mom. My sister dancing, that was no big deal.

But I think me asking to take dance classes, don’t think she was really all that thrilled.

I played baseball, and sucked at it. I also played high school football.

But the notion of her son asking to take ballet and jazz, well I know it through her.

My father wasn’t thrilled, that’s for sure.

But to her credit, she let me do it.

I know she was worried about what other people thought.

No one question’s a boy’s masculinity or sexual orientation when you play football.

But back then, taking ballet or any other form of dance. That’s another story.

My mom’s a great mom, don’t get me wrong.

When I returned to ballet as an adult, she seemed excited when I invited her to whatever performance I was in, whether it was the Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet or Billy the Kid.

 

I do wonder, though, what it would have been like to have had a mother who fully supported me earlier. But I’m not complaining.

I’ve know other guys whose mothers flat out did not let them dance.

That’s why I truly admire the moms of the few boys at the schools where I’ve taken class.

While I think its more culturally acceptable nowadays, the stigma still exists and is a reason parents don’t encourage their boys to dance.

It takes a truly courageous mother as well as son to embark on a dance journey.

I’ve heard some say they’ve had to put up with snide comments. Others fear, and legitimately so, that their sons will be bullied.

But still, I’ve observed mothers and parents in general, who have given their support through hours of classes, rehearsals and performances, with words, money and even put in hours helping with costumes, props and other things backstage throughout their career.

I am thankful with Mother’s Day tomorrow for the moms who have encouraged their sons when their sons have wanted to dance.

They play a vital role in the dance world.

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The night my double came back

I have always had a love-hate relationship with my pirouettes.

Some days they’re spot on. Other days, I couldn’t buy a double to save my life.

It’s been that way since I returned to dance as an adult.

And after a year away, my expectations haven’t been that great. But that’s OK. How many people are still dancing when they’re 50?

But Monday night was one of those nights when I just felt it. I was staying up long enough, I felt, what the heck, why not go for it.

I nailed doubles on both sides.

I know, it’s a modest goal.

And for once since I started back I felt reasonably well with how I did at the barre. My mind didn’t drift nearly as much. And I kept on pace with the footwork … frappes, pas de chevals, the whole works.

And centre was OK. I zigged a couple of times when I should have zagged. But my transition from pique turns to pique arabesques were OK. As were my chaine turns.

But there are steps I haven’t done in a while that I’m trying to reprocess after such a long layoff.

I want to step up my game and show these folks I can still dance, especially by the time they hold auditions in the fall for Nutcracker and the other shows they have.

Rumor has it, they might be doing Firebird.

I love the ballet. And I’d like to have more than the bit part I used to have in it back at the old studio back home.


You want me to do a “bluebird lift?” Seriously?

The first thing that came across my mind during today’s partnering class was: You’ve got to be kidding me.

I mentioned last week that it had been years since I’ve been in a partnering class. And even then, my experience is limited.

I’ve done one pas de deux in my life. And messed up.

And one to have one more shot at it.

Today, well, was a master class taught by one of the former teachers from the school who was back in town.

It was also led by a dancer with State Ballet, fresh off the Nutcracker.

The teacher from out of town, who was really good, had the pro dancer lead us through the Snow Pas de Deux from Nutcracker.

Did I mention this was only my second partnering class in eons?

We went through it in part. Boy, my promenades with my partner need work.

Near the end of the pas, there is a thing called the “Bluebird lift.”

At least in this pas.

I mentioned last week about my lack of confidence with lifts, and my lack of upper body strength in general.

I thought I would sit this part out.

“Scott, are you doing the bluebird lift?” the teacher who led the class asked.

Evidently, no was the wrong answer.

Thanks to a couple of spotters and a very trusting partner, an ancient soon to be 51-year-old not only caught a 100-pound woman, but lifted her in the air.

Much to my surprise.

“You’re really brave,” I told my partner when I lifted her back down to the ground.

“I trust you guys,” she said.

Did I mention ballerinas are fearless?

The get a bad rap. But try jumping into an aging guys arms and have him lift you above his shoulders.

I still amazed by their complete trust in their partners.

As for the regular class before, yeah, I struggled with barre again. It would help if my mind wouldn’t wander when the teacher explains the combination. Most were doable, but there are times when I wish my mind would move a little faster when remembering what step comes next.

I thought I fared well during the adagio combination. Maybe I can dance after all.

And petite allegro went OK for me. Sisonnes, how I’ve missed you.

And sense there were enough guys, we actually did a couple of men’s variations. It’s been a while since I’ve been in classes where that’s happened.

A tour-enlair? Now that’s a challenge for an old dude who hasn’t done it in a while.

But I think I did OK.

On the health front: My sugar count has dropped to its lowest level since I found out I was a type 2 diabetic.

Weighed in today after the back-to-back classes at 210.

That’s down 8 pounds since that dreaded checkup when the doctor informed me I was a diabetic, need to change my diet and exercise almost daily.

Which I do. I walk at least two miles a day on days that I don’t dance. Except Sunday. That’s the day between dance days.

My body does need a break now and then.

Thank you for putting up with the ramblings of an old dance dude few readers there are out there.

Till next time.


It’s a small dance world, afterall

Back at my old studio in Alabama, our artistic director and his wife, our ballet mistress, used to say the dance world was a small one.

Both were amazing dancers in the day, and danced with some of the top companies in the country.

Whenever one of their professional aspiring students went to summer intensives, they always met teachers or professionals who knew them.

Funny, I never thought about it applying to a recreational, adult ballet dancer.

And then I moved 1,200 miles to New Mexico.

Turns out, the teacher I’ve had for the three regular classes I’ve had used to teach two of the girls I used to dance with back, who were sisters and were my last two stage wives in the productions I was in before moving west.

One of my fellow adult students near my age who was in class also knew one of my fellow adult students (and teacher) from my old school back home. They were evidently at an adult intensive together in New York a few years ago.

So yeah, it is a small dance world afterall.

As for class Monday, I still continue to struggle relearning steps and combinations I haven’t done in a while.

And this week’s class was a small one, three ladies and me.

That meant there were a lot of corrections. That includes old ones, such as spotting on turns.

I’m also having to re-educate myself on arms during tour jetes and saute chats. My glissades, though, and saute chats were better. And I’m finally getting those cabrioles to the back.

Barre work continues to be interesting. My mind and body are still trying to keep up with the pace. I don’t mind though.

I’m almost 51 … and I’ve been out of dance for a year.\

I couldn’t rely on my neighbor since there were only four of us, and when we switch to the side not facing the mirror, yup, that was a challenge. But maybe it will make me less reliant on my neighbor.

And petite allegro was fun on Monday. Yeah, it’s still my strength, the one part of class where I can somewhat redeem myself.

Health-wise, I’m glad I’m back.

I’ve had three good workouts in the past four days (three classes on Saturday and Monday, followed by two miles of walking around the track today).

I’m now down to maybe one or two sodas a week (and those are Coke Zero).

Before I got the edict handed down by the doc, it was six cans of regular Dr. Pepper a day.

I haven’t had  a soda at work in almost a month. Now, it’s pretty much water and green tea.

And I might eat red meat once a week now.

I’m still trying to work my way into that Mediterranean diet the doc recommends.

I’ve cut down sugar tremendously.

And I’ve cut back on the portions.

I’ve decided to work toward being a little leaner and healthier by Nutcracker auditions in August.

That’s another reason I like the new studio. Adults do audition for character roles.

Maybe that gives me another goal to work toward.

I would like to be in one more Nutcracker before I hang up the shoes.

I didn’t know my last one a couple of years ago was going to be my last one (I didn’t know I would be making a radical move).

I need some closure … lol


The last time I did a fishdive lift, my partner wasn’t even born

How is this for returning to ballet for the first time in more than a year: Class No. 3 this week was a partnering class.

It’s been maybe five or six years since I’ve been in a partnering class. But we never did fishdive lifts in those classes.

The last time I did a fishdive lift was when I was 18 in a partnering-pointe class.

And I am two weeks away from birthday No. 51.

There were four men and four women in the class, counting the 30-something guy who taught the class. The other two guys and all of the girls were about my daughter’s age.

We rotated partners. I’ll be honest, I was nervous. I never really thought I did well in the partnering classes I was in a few years ago.

And partnering girls my daughter’s age has always seemed a little awkward.

But I was pleasantly surprised by how well the class went, and by how fun it was.

Other than the waltz-turn ballroom type combo that I completely butchered, I thought I did OK for an old man who hadn’t been in a partnering class for a few years.

The holding your partner while she did pirouette turns part went better than they ever did when I took those classes from Mr.O back in the day. I always thought I did pretty decent with finger turns and whip turns back in the day, and today was no different.

The weird thing? I can’t remember when my lifts were as good as they were today.

I lifted a girl over my head while she gracefully leaned back. Of the three-non teaching guys, I actually did the best.

And they’re much younger. And assumingly have more upper body strength.

Go figure.

My promenades with my partners en pointe were all in the right direction, which for me is a victory. I’ve often been more than confused doing any thing to the left.

As for the regular classes? I’m still shaking off the rust. My glissades suck, but some parts of my petite allegro arsenal seem to have gotten better.

My pirouettes need a lot of work. Getting back to actually doing a double might be a little harder than I thought.

And for some reason, I’m better at floor than barre. The teacher I’ve had for both classes has been challenging, but her combinations are doable. It’s just my brain has got to get used to putting together the combinations, and then getting the body to do them at the pace I need.

It would help if I could get in a little better shape. It would also help if I cut myself a little slack.

For an old man like me, I think I’ve done OK for the first week.

The neat thing is that maybe a few things I thought were beyond my reach when I quit class last year might be back on the table.

There is the opportunity to perform at this school for an old person like me.

And I’ve done one pas de deux since I returned to class as an adult. I messed up, and wanted one more chance at it.

Maybe if I stick with partnering class, that might be one more opportunity for an old man to do one more simple pas de deux before I really do hang up the ballet shoes.

 


Can I do this again?

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and for good reason.

I thought I’d given up ballet for good. Not long after I retried to get back into ballet, I was promoted to publisher of the small town newspaper that I was editor of.

The long drive and added duties pretty much led to that decision.

Well, something else happened that has rocked my world a little bit. My daughter and I had both been battling weight problems, so we finally decided to find a family doctor in this small New Mexico town.

I was feeling good about where I was at 50. My heart rate is good. My blood pressure was fine. My lungs checked out as I expected as a non-smoker. But because I was overweight (really, I was shocked I weight only 218, which I thought was OK for a man my age), the doctor suggested I do fasting labs.

Maybe doing that right after Thanksgiving wasn’t a great idea. I’m not going to say I’m a border-line diabetic. You either are, or you aren’t. My sugar is too high. My cholesterol is a little high, too.

It’s really not surprising. Too many sodas and too much fried food finally caught up to me.

Changing my diet was the first order of business.

The second? The doc wants me to exercise 4-to-5 days a week.

I started walking. And my cousin and I have set a goal to run in a 10K.

My daughter suggested I get back in dance.

Yeah, at 50.

But it was the only form of exercise I’ve consistently stuck with most of my adult life.

I thought about going back to one of the couple of places I’ve tried since moving to New Mexico.

They’d probably say “you again? how long before you quit again?”

Another dance studio kept popping up in my Facebook feed that encouraged people to give their classes a try after the holidays — including adults.

So I sent an email about the lone adult class listed I could take because of my schedule. I mentioned I took open classes back at my old school in Alabama, and that I had mainly character role performing experience.

Rather than receiving an email giving a little information on the class, the school director asked that I give her a call.

She was curious about my performing experience. A company was not listed on the website or Facebook page. But it turns out the school is attached to a company.

She is encouraging not only to take the class that I sought, but a couple of regular classes she teaches of which adults are allowed to take … and that includes a partnering class that includes adults. She said I could take them at my own pace.

“We also have a choreographer who needs another man for a character role for a ballet this spring about ancient Greece,” she said. “Look at me, I’m already trying to cast you and you haven’t taken a class.”

Really, even at my age, the thought of a partnering class and a performance opportunity does excite me.

And I’m looking forward to taking class tomorrow night.

But some of my doubts have already creeping in about how my skills have already eroded. Seriously, it’s been really two years since I was seriously taking class (not counting the false starts).

What if I’m too fat? What if she says, sorry, you’re not what I thought you were?

I’ve decided to try to have fun tomorrow night.

But I have to wonder … Can I do this again?

meonstage


Going to get back to work on that double

Today was week three in the incredible new world of nothing but adults ballet class.

As an adult “Ballet II” class, we still have quite a few different levels. It’s nice to be among the top of the class.

We continued to work on building up to pirouettes, and those of use (about three in a class of about 15) who had experience with turns got to try them at the end of the combination,

When you haven’t been doing ballet of any kind for six months, there is much to build back up. That includes my turns.

My old problems have returned. I still lean back when I turn. I can’t stay on releve’ long enough. And my left side, which used to be my strength, was pretty bad.

But in this new, informal without performing ballet world, the old goal still remains to hit doubles cleanly and consistently, and work up to a triple. If I can do that, I’ll have to get video of it to send to Mr. O, who once vowed to make it his life work (a joke of course).

As much as I do like the new place, I still miss my home, and the adrenaline rush of being on stage, that I confess.

The classes I’m taking are basic compared to what I’m used to, but still fun.

I didn’t look like a complete idiot during petite allegro, and was one of the better ones in class doing a two pas de chat, jump second, three changement combination that kept changing directions. At least at a slower pace, I’m not thinking about arms and head. I’m hitting those without thinking.

Of course, petite allegro hasn’t involved jete’s or glissades (things I confess I’ve never done well), so it hasn’t been a mess.

And grande allegro went well. Always been my strength. It was the same arabesque hop combination we did last week.

It was pretty basic, but still a good work out.

Class is going great. But that 140-mile round trip will pretty much limit how many classes I’m able to do.

Right now, it looks as if one class a week will have to do.