Tag Archives: stress reliever

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.

Ballet is a refuge for me

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately. Final exams and final projects at the end of the semester have just about gotten the best of me, the assignment on an 88-page graduation section to lay out at work at the same time, plus a few parental-stress issues did not make it a pleasant week.

I’ve been mentally exhausted for the most of it, so much that I slept in and missed my Thursday morning open class with Mr. O.

I came very close to doing the same for Mrs. O’s company class yesterday. Pretty much had to force myself out of bed to make it, but glad I did.

Mrs. O has two types of classes: Very intense or a teaching day.

Yesterday was a teaching day (well, all of her classes are, but even more so on a “teaching day”). She makes us focus a lot on body alignment, and will go into detail to explain the method to her madness.

She combinations she gave us helped us focus on what are strengths are, yet exposes our weaknesses (and believe me, it seems I have a lot more weaknesses than strengths).

It wasn’t a push you to the limit class (I love those, by the way), but she taught us so much that I was able to leave the stresses of life at the door (where they were still waiting when I return).

The combinations were still challenging even though it wasn’t an intense class. Even the company girls struggled … “Is the music too fast? it seems it’s going faster than you’re able to think.”

That question usually applies to me. It was directed toward the around 20 company girls I was dancing with (suddenly, the other guys have been slacking and I was yet again the only guy in class). To a strange degree, it actually made me feel better to see some of them struggle through a combination, so I wasn’t the only one.

Challenging as they are, her combinations are always fun. For me, sometimes comedic, but fun. Try to wrap yourselves around this one: balance’ turn, balance front, tombe (misspelled) back (at least I think that’s what that was called) pirouette in fourth, pique, inside turn, sutunu (yeah misspelled again) twice, chaine and pull the leg up.

And do it with mothers my age watching through the door window. Trust me, I was able to do the combination … albeit not fundamentally sound. Quite certain I probably gave them a laugh. My transition, at times, from each step in the combination left a lot to be desired.

I know I struggled, although I think I fared better than I thought I would.

Regardless, it was fun.

It was the class I needed.