Tag Archives: adult beginner ballet

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,

The center of attention

I’ll be the first to admit, my confidence level has never really been that high as an adult recreational dancer.

I seek out the barre on the side in the classroom where most of my classes are just to avoid the mirror.

I depend too much on watching my neighbor when trying to do the step in a combination, and at times, to stay on the music.

Mr. O, our artistic director and one of my main teachers, senses it and will challenge me in class.

Such was the case during Wednesday’s class.

There were 10 or us. We were to divide into groups of five with two in front, one in the center and two in back.

I began to walk to my usual back. One reason is etiquette. There are two other guys and I generally go with them. And at times, I go in the back just to be as hidden as a I can during a combination in which it’s just me and company wonders.

Nothing like being at the absolute bottom of the class talent-level wise.

In this open class, there are two teenage girls who are really close to my level.

My plan was thwarted.

Nothing like being singled out.

I was to be in the center of the group with the company girls.

Just to work on my confidence.

It was a slow, graceful, adagio combination. Walk three steps, pique twice, then pique arabesque turn (pique attitude the second time we did the combination), tonbe pas de bouree pirouette (repeat).

I actually got praise the second time we did the combination, but it was a bit scary when I was told to look in the mirror to see “my line.”

Mr. O is always quick to point out that I’m a better dancer than I think I am. And if I’m showing any lack of confidence in doing steps in a combination he knows that I know … there I times when I’m made to do it solo.

That’s scary in itself. But maybe it proves I’m not always the helpless cause I think I am.

Never forget the fun of ballet

I have a bad habit of looking at things that I did badly in class.

And Saturday was a mess.

Saute basque turns were horrible. My brain just completely shut down on a doable petite allegro combination.

Don’t get me started on my pirouettes.

But even with all of that … I had fun.

Sure, I want to get better. It would be nice to wow my teachers and my much younger classmates.

But keeping things in perspective … I’m not looking to dance professionally.

That ship sailed without me years ago.

I’m way to old … and have a ful-ltime job … to even think about being a member of the pre-pro company, which consists mainly of kids 13-18, with the exception of a couple of 20-somethings.

I still get cool parts in company productions.

So why beat myself up?

I’m in it for the fun.

There is nothing like dancing full out in a combination, even if it isn’t fundamentally correct.

I’m an adult recreational dancer. I’m 48 years old.

Yes, I want to look good when I’m performing on stage.

But when I’m in class, I’m there for the fun.

And I need to remember that.

Sometimes the beginner class is harder than the advanced one

Finally returned to class after a three-week layoff last night.

It wasn’t one of my normal classes. I had to work on Monday, so I missed the company class I take. My next regular class was this morning.

But I couldn’t wait. Since I had a rare Wednesday night off, I decided to take the open beginner class. To be honest, it was probably a good idea, a way of easing back in.

I found out quickly I wasn’t physically or mentally in ballet shape even though it was not as cardio as the company classes or the intermediate/advanced open class I take.

Even though it was labled “beginner,” it wasn’t really a beginner class. It’s a small class with only a couple of regular actual beginners. But they weren’t there.

There was one of my fellow Nutcracker party parents, a woman who once danced with Atlanta Ballet; a teenager on point who is roughly at the same level as I am, and me. And the teacher was my original teach, whom I had as my primary teacher for the first three years after I returned to ballet. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had her.

She’s a stickler for fundamentals. And when there are only three of you (two for the last 30 minutes), you get tons of corrections. I got praised for how much I’ve improved, but also got picked apart.

One thing about a beginner class, because it’s slower, the steps are bigger and because everything is broken down, your flaws are exposed (especially when there are only two or three of you in class).

My pique turns were a total mess. And my mind was working properly (I was jeteing under when I should have been jeteing over, causing me to go in the wrong direction at times).

It was a challenge. I was sore and exhausted when I was done.

Fast-forward to this morning. My steps were crisper, My brain actually worked during combinations. My turns were much better. Go figure!

And to be honest, I felt I had a much better intermediate/advanced class today because of the beginner class last night. 

Still not in great physical ballet shape, but mentally, I felt more prepared.

And on a side note, our artistic director asked me if I could get off work for rehearsal if he cast me in our company’s production of Billy the Kid. I’ve got my fingers crossed. That would totally rock!