Tag Archives: adult ballet dancer

Being a little nostalgic

When the Internet was out the other night, got a little nostalgic from my performing days.

This the opening scene from our production on Billy the Kid, the only video clip I’ve ever put on here of me dancing.

Trying to regain the fire

I’ve found my dance home in New Mexico.

BRT in Albuquerque is the closest I can find to my home in Alabama.

The Thursday night class I’ve been attending has been as much a challenge as I’ve ever expected for an open class that includes really only adults.

The guy who teaches the class teachers really similar to my teachers back home.

Maybe it’s because I’ve only been dancing about once a week, but my technique seems about shot.

Maybe it’s because I’m dancing at about 5,000 feet above sea level, or I’m getting close to 50 … or the fact that I’m just not in shape, but I don’t seem to have the energy I once had.

I want to plunge back in. I’ve danced at a higher level, and I want to show that.

But the energy thing has been an issue. So has being 70 miles away from class, and there is no other class to be found in the small community south of Albuquerque.

Or the fact that my body is also adjusting to a first-shift job after working a second-shift job that I chose to sleep in on a Saturday morning rather than go to a beginner class that starts at 9:15. From the lovely town I live in, that would mean leaving at 7:30 a.m. just to make it.

That’s a hard thing to do when you savour sleeping in on a weekend.

There was a time when being ballet-obsessed meant that really wasn’t the case. I mean, who needs sleep when you can dance?

At one point a few years back, I danced five days a week and could keep up with company kids and harbored performing dreams and goals like they did.

Now, I’m not sure really what I want.

I do want to dance at least one more day a week. And there are only two options, Wednesday night beginner class or Saturday morning beginner class.

Both present challenges. And I do wonder how slow the classes are. I love the more intense classes even though my energy level is lower and my technique is shot.

Seriously, I want to scream in class “I can dance better than this.”

And I’m also unsure of myself nowadays, and I’m unsure of my goals.

Do I want to just enjoy class? Do I want to perform? Can I be happy just taking class without performing?

And the performing option is one available at BRT. There are auditions for parts in the Nutcracker and other BRT company performances.

August 22 is the big day, and there is an audition for adults performing character roles (I haven’t noticed many guys dancing in open classes at BRT, but the audition is actually city-wide, so I don’t know about the competition).

I do know this, I need to get back dancing more if I’m even halfway serious about auditioning. I want to show I can do much more than I’ve shown in class.

A tearful goodbye to my ballet family

It dawned on me as I was driving to the ballet school for one final class that it will be 10 years this fall since I first walked into the studio for the first time as I returned to dance as an adult.

I was nervous, thinking it was absolutely crazy to be trying ballet again at the old age of 39.

I found myself in a class of some amazingly encouraging, inspiring women who redefined my definition of beauty. I was content taking class, and fellowshipping with them in the lobby. I was content with class, how it was cool that it destressed ne. It was good exercise.

I had no desire to perform, but a friend talked me into being in the party scene with her in The Nutcracker, and I was bit by the performance bug.

Around the second year I was there, our school changed artistic directors and brought in a new ballet mistress.

Suddenly, ballet went from being just a hobby that was good exercise to becoming a passion where I set goals I never thought I’d set.

I went from being in class with adults around my age, to routinely being outnumbered in classes full of company kids. Because of the shortage of male students, I found myself in partnering classes, working with girls who were my daughter’s age and eventually performing a pas de deux myself.

And I went from being a deer-in-the-headlights party dad in The Nutcracker to performing as a Chinese lion, priest, brawling cowboy, frothy hairdresser and court man in Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Firebird, Dracula, Billy the Kid, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

I also ended up helping with fundraising and performing tech crew duties when I wasn’t on stage performing.

My ballet family expanded from a wonderful group of ladies that I still call friends to dance teachers, company kids, parent-volunteers and the wardrobe ladies.

I’d been focused on my move to New Mexico that I ended up missing a lot of classes at the end.

But I felt the need to make one last class.

I was surprised by Mr. O as we left barre for center work when he entered the room with a plaque to show his appreciation for the work I put in at the ballet.

Mrs. O, our ballet mistress, taught the class. I gave her a tearful hug when class was over.

And I said a tearful goodbye to friends and faculty before walking out of the building. It was tough because the school was overrun with parents and kids registering for fall.

I do not know where my dance journey will lead from here. I hope to find a challenging open class in Albuquerque and build some relationships there.

But now, I’m kind of sad.

I started my journey just renewing a hobby. And somewhere along the line I gained a family.

Pictured is a scene from our performance of Billy the Kid. I’m the brawling cowboy on the right.billy

Everything was beautiful at the ballet

This really isn’t about the song, but there is a line that really is true for me.

The ballet studio is home for me.

It’s a home I didn’t visit as often as I would have liked since Christmas break.

But I’m finally getting back in a ballet-groove with classes Thursday, Saturday and today in addition to rehearsal on Saturday.

I didn’t realize how much of a boost ballet gives me until I stopped giving in to the fatigue of long work and college hours and started forcing myself to really get back to class.

Going to class refreshes me mentally. It’s restoring my energy physically.

And it’s been flat out fun spending time with what really is my ballet family.

Among the tidbits from today’s class from Mr. O:

Two things make a dancer: Technique and movement quality.

We worked on movement quality today, how we should look in our transition steps, in arm movements, walking.

Sometimes we get so caught up with technique we become mechanical, at least that’s been my problem.

I needed to have that lesson thrown at me today. My part in Sleeping Beauty doesn’t have a whole lot of dance steps. But there is a movement quality that is needed.

And that’s what I’ve liked about the three classes I’ve attended since Thursday. Each have had a different theme, from body alignment, to proper technique to movement quality.

And one of the cooler things is that I’ve noticed I haven’t beaten myself up on what I struggle at, or things I can’t do that I should be able to do.

I think I’m finally learning really just to enjoy class.

Not all beginning classes are equal

If you’ve read my blog long enough, you know I have a love-hate relationship with beginning ballet classes.

I love the technique building part of it. Fundamentally, I know I need to get better.

The pace of the class, that’s a different story. After taking intermediate, advanced and company level classes, there are times when I loathe the pace.

I love to move. I love doing complicated combinations across the floor during center work (something I never thought I’d say when I returned to dance as an adult).

Most of the beginning classes I’ve had in the past few years, we’re lucky to be off the barre with 15 minutes to spare in class.

Because of sickness and wacky weather cancellations, I wasn’t entirely looking forward to taking a beginning class Monday night, But I worked too late Sunday night to make my usual intermediate open class on Monday morning.

It was my first opportunity to move, to take class in two weeks,

I was expecting a painstakingly slow, OK here are the positions and tendu kind of class.

I was pleasantly surprised by the class I got.

It was taught by a former company dancer I once danced with in class. She moved back home this year after graduating from college.

The tempo at the barre was actually more intermediate, even though the combinations were basic. It was really cool.

And we hit center halfway through class. I was totally shocked.

We worked on the fundamentals of a pirouette to be honest that I sorely needed,

But then we ended up moving through somewhat complicated combinations across the floor for a beginner class. There were five of us. Two ladies who had some experience and two ladies who were pure beginners, and myself.

I felt sorry for the two pure beginners, But I was enjoying the chance to finally get to move, to finally get back into a routine.

I also had a chance to focus on technique. I’m flat-footed, so it was an eye-opener to me that I dance a little too much on my heels. And it was a jog down memory lane to get a refresher on the eight facings.

I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things, but the weather may not be cooperating.

We’re expecting a somewhat rare snow storm in Alabama to hit just as tomorrow’s open advanced class is ending, Since I have a commute and have to cross a bridge to get to class, it may unfortunately be a no go,

When Nutcracker tunes are stuck in your head …

One glance at the rehearsal schedule made me realize that what little down time I have over the next few weeks has disappeared.

Last Saturday, we had Act II rehearsal from 4:0-5:30. I worked split shifts to make it. It’s my favorite part, being in the Chinese dance the the finale waltz. I am by far the oldest dancer in Act II.

I was worn out when I walked out of work Saturday night around midnight. Two of my co-workers have quit. The workload on Saturday is usually a bear under normal circumstances. Now, it’s tough.

Sunday is normally an off day. But both people who quit worked on Sunday. We rehearsed the party scene for the first time (well, the children have already been rehearsing). But this was the first time the “parents” were thrown in.

So, I’ll strolled into the studio at 11:15 for a rehearsal that started at 11:30. Party scene rehearsal ended at 2 … and then for the next 90 minutes, it was time to practice my most brutal part … being “bed boy” during the battle scene.

What is “bed boy?” He’s the poor dancer under Clara’s bed, moving it across the stage making it appear to move like magic. Yeah, that’s me. It’s grunt work, too on the knees, very little vision, moving across the marley, making sure I’m aware of what part we’re at in the battle scene score (Got to be the longest in Nutcracker).

I staggered out of the studio at 3:30. Back in the office at 4, cursing me ex-coworkers for the fact that I wasn’t done for the day. I strolled out of the office at midnight.

I had every intention of making the 9:30 open class. But I watched The Walking Dead before hitting the bed. I was still feeling the rehearsals (and still hearing the music) when I woke up. I had a college class at 11:30 that I normally race from ballet class to make.

But I felt my body needed the extra couple of hours sleep to recover.

I have an open class Wednesday, and just looked on the rehearsal schedule and was surprised to see we’re running Act 2 Complete on Friday night after I get off work.

And then, after company class from 10-11:30 on Saturday, it’s back at it with Act II from 11:30 to 1:30, and rehearsal for our Gone Wild performance before staggering back into the office for another eight hour shift.

I can say why God rested on the seventh day. But my rest won’t come on Sunday. Party scene is 11:30-1:30, followed by battle scene from 1:30-2:30.

And then there is work.

I’m not complaining. My girlfriend said “Well, you’ve signed up for this.”

I did not sign up for having two ex-coworkers quitting in addition to the regular work, college work and dance load.

I love ballet. I love performing in The Nutcracker, even if the music does rattle around in my head until February.

And there are no rehearsals again until at least Dec. 1, which will allow my body to recover.

And other styles of music to creep back in my head.

The title “dancer”

I remember the first time I was called a dancer. My first year taking ballet as a teenager, my first teacher, Sherrie Siebert, told all of us in the class we were dancers.

Only I didn’t feel like it.

I was surprised to be called dancer by my modern dance teacher at the University of Alabama, Edie Barnes, when I went into her officer to inform her I was going to have to drop her class because I cracked my ribs.

I caught me out of the blue. I felt like I just stumbled around in her class.

And I have a lot of respect for her. She took a mediocre dance program that was modern dance-oriented, and turned it into one of the most respected ballet-led programs in the country.

I remember being in class one day a couple of years ago when Mr. O asked the class full of company kids what a dancer looked like. He then pointed to me … and said “that’s what a dancer looks like.”

And it meant a lot.

It wasn’t that I was the most graceful, talented, or athletic. But I outworked everyone in class.

I think sometimes we think the title dancer is a title you “earn” by dancing at a high level with a respected company.

But it dawned on me on the way to class today that being a dancer is more about our approach, and how we think of ourselves when we dance.

I was asked by a neighbor as I carried my dance bag out to the car if I was going to the gym.

The answer was no. I was going to the studio.

I wasn’t going to exercise, although I did indeed get a very good workout.

I was going to practice my art.

No, I’m not Baryshnikov, Carlos Acosta, Ethan Stiefel or Jonathan Cope.

I’m too old and not talented enough to ever reach their heights.

But I go to class to practice, to work hard, to try to create something beautiful when I do get my time on the stage. And, of course, there are times in class when I feel as if I’m dancing for God’s pleasure, even on the many days that I stumble.

I know I can give Him a good laugh.

I credit my current teachers, Mr. and Mrs. O, Susan K. and other teachers at the ballet school for pushing to the point where I do feel like a dancer.

The last couple of weeks, we’ve done more dancing than we’ve done all summer. And even though I still struggle with turns, I realize more and more I’m doing steps now that it takes years to perfect.

“Don’t think it, dance it,” were the words Mr. O told us today when he gave us a pretty complicated combination.

Amazingly enough, I was able to do that, and did it as well as some of my company dancing peers.

I’ve realized today how truly I’m blessed.

I’m blessed to have teachers who truly take me serious as a dancer. When I thought today about whether to dare about signing up to audition for the company, I’ve realized I’ve danced more roles and participated in more ballets than any other “Open Division” student since the O’s arrived.

And while I’ve sort of bemoaned the lack of fellow adult dancers, and the lack of other male dancers this summer, a conversation today with some of the company kids in class about various teachers at the school reminded me how truly wonderful those kids are and how I’m blessed to dance with them.