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Progress vs Regress.

24 Jul

I feel so angry, and so frustrated. My physical therapist says I’ve definitely been making progress — my hamstring is getting strong and I’m almost at 90° with my extension (which is just around where I was before with that leg anyway) — and I have been feeling progress here and there. Then I feel it go away, and I have trouble making time for my exercises and stretches, and I get mad at myself for not being able to find the time. My brain becomes this black hole of suckiness and discouragement.

I’ve been going to physical therapy on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Two weeks ago I was able to go to my Wednesday beginner ballet class just to take barre and see how it went, and then this past Friday  I took a full ballet basics class which went pretty well, too. But I also had to miss my PT appointment last Thursdays, and have been busy most of this weekend, so I can feel myself slacking. I’m already panicking that just a few days of slacking may set me back weeks.

Today was the second Don Q workshop at my dance studio (1.5 hour class with barre & learning a variation), and I was thrilled that I could participate this time instead of photographing it as I had done a few weeks ago. I may have cursed myself before class even started, though, because I got so nervous about… well, everything. I’m aware now of what my limitations are with my angry hamstring, but I couldn’t shake this mental fog with the combination and couldn’t find my confidence for dancing in general. I’m having such a hard time reconciling “dance to my limitations” with “back off and play it safe” because the latter usually results in me being afraid to put any effort into my dancing, even just my épaulement. It didn’t help that I was starting to get back into the swing of things when I discovered something that triggered a little unexpected pain in my hamstring. I got so upset with myself, even though I know it’s not my fault and that it’s just part of learning to cope with and work around a rehabilitating muscle. It hurt even when I was just standing still, so I opted to sit out the rest of the class.

It’s hard to tell myself it’s getting better when it’s such a slow process and my progress seems to fluctuate. Even when my hamstring is feeling fine, the knee on my other leg will start to bother me (I’ve dislocated it twice and still have a bit of a muscle imbalance) or my back and hips will ache. My whole body is thrown out of whack to compensate for one measly injury, and sometimes it gets hard for me to believe I’ll be able to dance at my previous level again. I was just getting comfortable in elementary classes, and now I can barely make it through the most basic level class without feeling disappointment.

I kind of hate that this blog has become a place for me to come and whine about something that, in the overall scheme of things, isn’t too dire. I’m lucky I didn’t break an ankle or even dislocate my knee again, or something that could have taken me out of ballet completely for a much longer period of time, but I know that if I’m not careful while my hamstring heals that I could make things worse. I’m just way too impatient.

Intermission

8 Jul

It’s Friday night. Most of my Friday nights lately have been spent at the dance studio for a double-header (lyrical & ballet basics), but tonight I’m just hanging out at home. I did some baking, some stretching and my physical therapy exercises, and now I’m hanging out on the couch. As of tonight, I haven’t been to class in two weeks, and now I’m not sure when I’ll get the okay to go back.

Last week I was pretty optimistic that I would be able to go back sometime next week. Nothing really gave me cause to believe that would be the case, as I hadn’t even met my physical therapist when I made that declaration. I guess I was just feeling hopeful, and maybe a little impatient. Now I’m worried I might even be out for the rest of the summer, but I’m really hoping that’s not the case. It’s frustrating because I absolutely want to make sure my hamstring is healed and I’m cleared for a healthy return, but it’s just driving me crazy not to be dancing.

Is that reasonable? It’s possible I’m an addict. A ballet addict. I can’t be the only one.

I’ve been telling myself most dance schools take a summer break, and there are certainly many dancers who go this long between classes — so who am I to complain? It’s just strange to me to go from 4-6 classes a week on average… to none.

I’m trying really hard not to get all wallow-y, but I’m in this strange position where I’m trying to figure out what to do with my time in between. Ballet had become my source of socialization during the week, something to do after work, and now I’m going a little stir-crazy just hanging out at home. My first instinct would be to turn to another form of exercise, like yoga or pilates, but I’m not sure those would be wise options just yet. For now, I’m resigned to my PT exercises and some light additional exercise to keep me in shape (especially since I have a dress to fit into next month for a friend’s wedding, ha!)

I think what I’m most afraid of is that I won’t go back. Not because I’ll be told I can’t, but because I’ll move on. Before I came back to ballet, I’d been kind of flighty with my hobbies, never really sticking to one thing for too long. I’d get distracted and lose interest. When I decided to take up ballet again, I wasn’t sure it would last, but it did… and it went from a once-a-week hobby to a lifestyle. What if I change? What if I’m away so long that I’m too afraid to start back again?

It sounds ridiculous to say, because I believe 100% that ballet is in my blood now, but these are the things I think about when I’m sitting at home missing class.

Tomorrow I’m going to wake up and only think positive thoughts. Y’all are free to slap me if I don’t.

Dancer, Discouraged

26 Jun

Today, I did something I hate doing: I skipped a class, and one of my favourites, too. My little aches and pains were just bothering me too much today. I usually just do my best to power through, working to my current limitations and trying not to push myself, but I knew that if I went to my pointe class I would make it all worse.

But that wasn’t the entire reason I decided to stay home. I needed a good sulk, too. I’ve been feeling a bit discouraged lately with ballet, with dance in general (and with life in general, too, but that’s another blog post entirely). Last Thursday, I celebrated my 100th class at my current dance studio, and it felt wonderful. I was worried I would be let down by it… that my 100th class would feel no different to my very 1st class. It was an Advanced Beginner/Elementary level class, which I’ve been taking in addition to the studio’s Beginner, Basics, and Intro to Pointe classes for a few months now — I love the challenge the Elementary class gives me, because I am still in that awkward not-quite-beginner/not-quite-intermediate stage of my re-introduction to ballet.

Back to the point*, though. My 100th class was amazing. I felt like I had made progress, rather than just doing well enough and not looking helpless and ridiculous, but progress is such a fluctuating thing in dance. Some days it’s there, some days it isn’t. In Friday night’s classes, I found myself split: in Lyrical, I felt helpless until I watched the video of our choreo at the end of class and realised I hadn’t done quite as poorly as I’d thought; in Ballet Basics (taken in my pointe shoes), I tried my best not to let my mood seep into my performance, but it may have done just that. I did as well as I ever do, I guess, which should be well enough, but I walked out of there feeling like something was lacking. I’m too hard on myself, and I expect too much of myself, and get discouraged when I feel like I’m slipping backwards or not moving forward at all when it comes to marking my progress level.

So I took today off, and I sulked a little, and I nursed my aching hamstring, knee, and shoulder. And I worried that these aches and pains will never go away, that they’ll just get worse and my dancing won’t get any better. And I resolved to make an appointment to get a doctor’s advice on the more annoying aches, even though I’m secretly a little terrified of hearing, “You need to stop dancing.”

Because at this point, I’m not sure I ever could. Good or bad, encouraged or discouraged, dance has become so much of my life that I’m not sure how I’d function without it.

 

*Yes, I had that typed as “Back to the pointe” and didn’t realise it until I was proofing the post. If there were ever an indication that ballet has taken over my life…

Quick Pic.

13 Jun

Quiet blog, loud Twitter. I have a tendency to think (and write) in bursts, and Twitter is suited for such. Until I feel wordy again, here’s a photo.


Free Time. I Wish I Had More.

3 Apr

I got a little spoiled this past week. Between jury duty, temporary changes to my schedule, and the lack of any pressing social obligations, I was able to take a CRAZY number of dance classes. Let me break it down (numbers are duration, not time):

Sunday:

  • 1:15 Tap
  • 1:00 Pointe
  • 1:00 Hatha Yoga

Monday:

  • 1:15 Beginner Ballet

Wednesday:

  • 1:15 Beginner Ballet (done in pointe shoes)

Thursday:

  • 1:15 Elementary Ballet

Friday:

  • 1:30 Lyrical (my first class… awesome!)
  • 1:00 Ballet Basics (done in pointe shoes)

Sunday (today):

  • 1:00 Hatha Yoga (with lots of amaaaaaaazing hip opener stretches)

I only wish I had the time to go to all of these classes every week! It felt so rewarding to be able to dedicate all that time to dancing, and to be able to take my mind off of work-related stress and social life frustrations. Of course, it also brought me to some realizations about my stamina and endurance. I typically do barre in my pointe shoes during Wednesday night’s beginner class, but this time I succumbed to peer-pressure (some of it self-inflicted, haha) and left them on for the whole class. I discovered when I piqué to arabesque and retiré, I can hold the poses a little longer than I could’ve a few weeks ago (sadly, only with my left leg as the supporting leg… for now). Progress! I love it!

Of course, by Thursday night’s class, I finally started to feel the effects of working and taking classes all week… I was exhausted! But I managed to make myself go to the studio Friday night and I’m glad I did. My first proper lyrical class was fun, but for the first 20 minutes or so I felt utterly out of place. I thought, “There’s no way I can keep up,” but by the end of the class I felt I was coming along. Still not quite keeping up, but getting the hang of it. It’s so strange to be breaking some of the rules ballet holds dear, but it was also fun to find new ways to move and express myself. I am already hoping I can add the class to my regular weekly line-up.

Dream Dancer

26 Mar

I’m sitting here watching Phantom Gourmet, procrastinating just a little on getting motivated (okay, it’s 11am, so what!) and this seemed like a good time to run my mouth off in a blog post.

Anyway, I come before you today to talk about dreams. I’ve been having pretty vivid and interesting dreams all week, ranging from a trip to my family’s cottage in New Hampshire to a Pulp Fiction-esque nocturnal reverie (I blame this week’s episode of Community for that one). Last night, though, I had a lovely ballet dream. These are more and more frequent as my obsession — I mean passion! — grows.

In my dreams, I can developpé à la seconde up to my ear, hold my balance en pointe, hold my arabesque, pirouette (doubles! triples! en pointe!) … in my dreams, I am about 200% more talented and flexible than I am in my waking hours.

The first few times I had dreams such as these, I woke up disappointed with my self and with my limitations. Now I relish in these dreams! They inspire me, they motivate me, they drive me to be the dancer I am in my subconscious. At my age, I may never be that dancer, but the dreams push me to be better than I am now and that push is everything.

I’m stubborn, I’m a perfectionist… sometimes it feels as though I won’t rest until I get something right. Until then, I’ll always have these dreams. If my brain can do it, sooner or later my body will, too. Right?

Ballet Has Taken Over My Life

15 Mar

Sometimes I wonder if my neighbours can see into my kitchen windows. If they can, they may occasionally get a glimpse of me doing ballet in front of my stove. I’m not too worried about them thinking I’m crazy, though, since I’ve gone out drinking once or twice with a few of them. They already know I’m crazy. Problem solved.

It’s become part of my daily routine. Need to get something from the fridge? Arabesque or bourrée across the floor to get there. Have to turn the light off over the stove before bed? Take some time first to practice pirouettes (I’m surprised I haven’t worn a hole in the floor in that spot). Now it’s gotten so bad that I stand in relevé or turn, turn, turn when I’m waiting for my dinner to cook (or heat up in the microwave, if I’m being lazy).

Hell, I even do that last one at work sometimes.

But it all HELPS. I posted back in January that my goal for the New Year was to get over my fear of turning, and I’m pretty sure I have. I still worry about falling — it’s a lot harder to bounce back up at 26 than at 6! — but I have finally found the fun in turns. A few weeks ago, I could barely complete one pirouette successfully, but now I’m finally getting the hang of it… more or less. Tonight I almost “made it a double” starting from sous-sous! It’s so exciting to feel like I’m starting to make progress in ballet, and it’s been an interesting experience to realise that the main thing holding me back from said progress was my own fear of failing.

My only hope now is that I can be half as good in class as I am in my kitchen.

Out-of-body experience.

6 Jan

During barre last night, as we did grand battement, I watched my leg and thought, “Is this my leg? Really??” I mean, it’s not like I have amazing extension, I’m lucky to reach 90 degrees… I think it had more to do with the  fact that I was noticing the overall image of my feet, clad in European pink pointe shoes that were poking out from under my maroon stirrup legwarmers, and wondering when did this happen?! I’m starting to feel like I’m a legitimate dancer (but not necessarily a good one, ha!), even at 25 with no real hope of taking this much further than a hobby/recreational obsession. I’m a dancer, and what’s funny is that I think everyone else who knows me has known this about me since I was a child. I just never believed it, so I gave up. I’m so glad I let dance find me again.

First position.

5 Jan

Where to start? I haven’t really kept a blog in years — aside from my Tumblr, which is merely a series of reblogged ballet and Doctor Who-related photos, so that hardly counts for much. This blog originated mostly from the name, Short and to the Pointe, which was my answer to the questions “What would a TV show about your life be named?” Instead, the lightbulb went off, and I decided to bring myself out of blogging retirement.

I’ll start by introducing myself. My name is Laura, but I also go by Lola or Penguin (and many variants thereof). I’m 25, and about a year ago I made my return to the world of ballet after a prolonged absence. This winter, I began the long and arduous journey of learning pointe, something I had missed out on during my years in ballet classes as a child. Now you see where the blog title came from, no? I’m 5’1… short, and learning pointe.

With that out of the way, and with this being a new year and all, I’ve decided to start this blog with a list of my goals for the year:

  1. Improve my flexibility. I had been seeing an improvement, but due to scheduling conflicts, I had to stop attending my weekly yoga classes and one of my technique classes. After that, I found it harder to set aside time every day for stretching and I slowly saw the little flexibility I had gained start to fade away. I hope to get it back in the next few months.
  2. Become stronger en pointe. Yes, this is a pretty general goal, and I do feel like I’ve been making progress in the last month or so since I started, but there will always be room for improvement and I will always strive for it. I’d love to be more confident in balancing on my toes… I feel like I have to capacity for it, but I get spooked whenever I let go of the barre! Mind over matter, I suppose.
  3. Overcome my fear of turns. Which is more a fear of falling on my face, really. I still haven’t quite mastered spotting, and for some reason that makes me hesitant to even try (unless I’m in my kitchen in the middle of the night). I received some excellent pointers for pirouettes from my teacher a few weeks ago, and they all make sense in theory, but in practice I have about a 40% success rate.
  4. Attend more classes per week. Unfortunately, the thing about starting ballet again as an adult is that you will always have to let it play second fiddle to your professional life. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to take the classes I have been taking for the last year, but I need more… I need to feed my obsession! I’m hoping, though, that between two or three different studios, I will be able to bump myself up from two classes a week to at least three or four. It will be difficult, but worth it.
  5. Make more friends through ballet. I’ve met some amazing people through my current studio — people who share this strange love I have for dance — and I truly hope to meet more. It’s hard, sometimes, because many of my friends do not really understand. I have a few friends from my childhood ballet classes with whom I am still in touch, but our lives have gone in different directions over the last 15 years, so it’s hard to stay in touch. I’d love to be able to dance with them again someday soon.

That’s about all I can come up with right now, but it’s a start, right? Oh! And one more goal… to post my experiences (trial, tribulations, etc.) with ballet and pointe to this blog. Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment with any questions or ideas for future blog posts. I need all the help I can get!

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