Ballet, Commitment and Vacation

After a long pause I am finally able to return to this blog. I thought I would be making this comeback with a different type of post, but sometimes life trumps your plans. I’ve talked about this before, that dance, ballet, is a life-long commitment, not a stop on the way to something else. If you want to be good, you have to stick with it in your best and your worst moments. Because that’s what you do when you love something(or someone) enough that you want to make it a permanent part of your life.

Because I love ballet so much, I have kept with it in some bad moments, and many ungraceful ones. Because I love ballet so much, I am now taking a 2 week break from it. Let me explain.

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Most people around me have heard(more than they would like, probably) how much I love ballet.

And for me, that was a commitment, just as much as any relationship is. I went to classes at first, when even the simplest things were hard, and I couldn’t believe I could ever call myself a dancer. I went to some classes when my mood was down, when I was stressed, when I had sore throat. I went to class when I was fantastically happy, and when it was an ordinary day and I was feeling in a standstill about my improvement.
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I sprained my ankle! pt. 1

So here it is, the post I have been meaning to do since the last Tuesday. Last Sunday I sprained my ankle coming out of a pirouette. I was just starting to really improve on the way my single pirouettes look too. Here I will share some of my experience with it as I go along, and learn the best way to handle this.

Sunday

We are getting back to re-learning our cabaret routine and improving on it, and I come to class excited. I even bring my long red gloves and black beaded necklace to class. I’m going all-in. Dance has been so great lately- especially since I’ve been stretching lately. At the same time, we got 2 new barres and now we start each class at the barre, which I love. I’m building my strength up.

We have gotten to the pirouette portion of class and get to doing them on the right leg, en dehors. I wobble out of one pirouette, which is of no surprise to me, so I try again. I feel I am going down, and this time, I know something is wrong. I know I have done something different than my usual falling. My ankle rolls in a wrong way and I feel it as I am going down.

The pain is intense, and I stay on the ground for a while. My first thought while squinting in pain on the ground, is ‘I’ll have to miss half a class, what a shame’. I’m in pain, but I still don’t get the repercussions of it.

By the end of class, my ankle is a little swollen, and I am thinking of it as a ‘little sprain’. I am in pain all the way back home, but I am still thinking all I need is 2 days for the swelling to go down. I never in my life sprained or broken anything, and since “sprained ankle” sounds like such an every-day thing, I am under the false impression that it’s not a big deal.

Monday

The next day is my personal hell. I think- good, I work at home, I will just put my feet up for the swelling to go down and work and do else as usual. The swelling, which was bigger than my fist last night, has gotten down a bit, and I’m thinking that’s all there is to it- minor inconvenience. It’s anything but.

The whole day, my foot is in pain, my quads and knees and muscles are cramping from the constant feet elevation and the unequal balance when I walk, and I am having fever and huge headache at the same time. Concentrating on anything is hell.

Tuesday

DSCF2982This day is better. I have regrouped a little. I can finally walk more easily, the swelling is down a whole bit more, and I generally feel decent. And optimistic. That is of course, until I go to ultrasound to check things “just in case”. Turns out, I have Grade II sprain (which I suspected by the symptoms and reading through a dozen articles on sprains) and I have been close to fracture actually.  Continue reading

Dreams Are About…Humility

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I spend the better half of my life, firmly believing that a dream or a goal required mostly strength. Dedication. Letting yourself believe you can achieve…whatever it is.

What I didn’t understand until now is this: dreams require above all for you to have humility. Especially the bigger dreams, those dreams for which you will have to work day in and day out for years. Take dance for example: you’d think it requires strength, getting up and training each day, perfecting every move.

That may be true in the initial stages. You’ve found something you love that has the possibility to make you really happy. You feel on top of the world. It seems easy, getting yourself to dance class, training any free chance you get. What can be better than that? You’re in love with it, and it comes effortless.

But then life sets in.

You’re busier, tired from training your body in the middle of a busy day. You have less time. Finding time for dance class means you have to make a compromise in some other areas of your life. There are days when you are really sore, and getting yourself to another training doesn’t seem as appealing. Your initial progress plateaus and you are wondering if you will ever be as good as other people- it always looks so easy when you see someone great doing it.

Will I ever feel as effortless, will I ever even look anything close to this? you wonder.

You catch your refection in the mirror, and you realize you’re no where near how you want to look like. You’re pushing yourself harder and harder. You get frustrated when you see people who have done this less than you have, but seem to achieve certain things easier. So you push yourself to look like them, and consequently overwork yourself, without achieving much, and you grow more frustrated. You’re pushing your body too much, and your body is pushing back and resisting in any way it can- soreness, tiredness, stiffness, injuries.

And then comes the next stage- you have done it for a while, so you HAVE to be able to do certain things. You have to be able to do them correctly, effortlessly and with grace, not tumble and wonder why did you think you can do this. New people come along, and some of them can do that THING, that you have worked on for a year and you still can not do. Frustration is starting to become often and the greatness and limitless potential of your dream is becoming harder to remember.

THIS is when you have to take a step back.

THIS is where humility needs to come in.

You have 2 choices here: Continue reading

What to do WHEN you’re sore: 11 remedies and solutions to help with muscle soreness

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You know that amazing feeling when you dance or train or stretch, and you feel so good about your improvement, that you forget how hard it is? And then you wake up in the morning unable to bend in certain places, and feeling sore and in pain everywhere…

YEAH. We all know that feeling.

I still remember how the first few weeks upon taking jazz ballet, I was regularly returning home after class, and going directly to bed. At 7PM. I hadn’t eaten much, but I only had the desire to eat half an apple before taking a nap for at least 2 hours. Muscles I didn’t know existed were paying me back for ignoring them.

If you have ever consistently trained your body to do something, you probably know the feeling. If you have never exercised much and you suddenly start training 3-5 times a week, soreness is pretty much your new best friend. Now, there are some things I learned about soreness on the way to getting here, but I would like to first share the things that you can do when you are sore.

When I first began, I thought I’d just get used to it and NOT get sore after a while.

NOTE: I will expand more on that on the next part of my article, but I would just like to say that some soreness IS expected. It’s a sign that your muscles are growing, so it’s totally normal.

Then our yearly concert came closer, and I started panicking about being in good shape and good technically for it. I changed my exercise routine from 1h to 2-3 h a day, and each day became a challenge on it’s own…I had to figure out my ways around exercising while still being that sore. Here are some suggestions and a little simple breakdown of why and how those things may help:

(topical/to apply)

1. Muscle relaxers (gels/creams)

Now, for the days when you are extremely sore, especially on exact parts of your body, this is my go-to solution. This is your sort of…shortcut for when you are really sore and stiff and need to exercise anyway.

Any gel for relaxing muscles will relief a huge part of the soreness instantly + they are usually cooling. The one I usually use is Fastum Gel and it’s working well for me. Continue reading

Dance and the Importance of Dressing for “the Job”

You stay at the door of the studio looking at the upper class dancers preparing. Stretching, warming up, greeting.

They are all dressed in leotards, with their hair pulled up, wearing white pantyhose and pointe shoes.

The Ballerina by Martyn Boston

The Ballerina by Martyn Boston

You are looking at them like they are aliens from another world, which will immediately recognize that you are not one of them, you do not belong…You look at yourself in the mirror, dressed in the best you can master up(black tights and tight black t-shirt, with hair in a ponytail) and you know you’re not a dancer. You could dress like them, but you’re not ready. Even if you did dress like them, you would still not belong. You have your reasons(and they are all good reasons!):

A. Your technique doesn’t look anywhere near theirs.

B. You need to lose weight before you can get into anything resembling leotard or pantyhose…

C. What is the point in bothering making your hair in a bun? You will never look like any of them. (reference point A. and B. again)

And so you dress in the best you can do, and you keep telling yourself that you are doing the best you can do in your class. That “best” doesn’t feel anywhere near good enough, but then again, you’re “not a dancer”….oh, wait…. that’s me…actually, that WAS me, about half a year ago…. Continue reading

How It All Began: Dance, Depression and Other Disasters

Photo by Suzy Allman in the Vogue Article "Ballet Beautiful"

Photo by Suzy Allman in the Vogue Article “Ballet Beautiful”

“So I travel back, down that road,

will (it) come back, no one knows,

I realize…it was only just a dream…”

Nelly, Just a Dream

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever wanted to achieve? What is the biggest, most impossible dream you had? That one thing, that you always wanted, but never thought you’d ever have? See, for me, that was always dance…

Not even ballet in particular, dance. Hip hop, lyrical, jazz, classical ballet…I just loved dancing from the time I was 5. And I was told that I wasn’t born for it (meaning I had the wrong body, or not enough talent, or both), and that I’d grow out of the idea eventually.

I did, for a while, although dance was always there on the background of my life. I watched every dance movie. I tried some dance clubs in university, and eventually gave them up. In any case, when it came to dreams, I never second-guessed following mine. I wasn’t always sure in myself, but I was always sure in one thing- I have to try fighting for the things I want, or else I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life. I don’t think I’m the best at things, but when I get a dream, I am ready to work on it as hard as it takes for as long as it takes. When I want something, I go for it, ALL in.

But life changes, evolves.

By the time I take my first dance class last year, a lot has changed. I have just came out of a period of a lot of changes, a lot of falls, and about a year of depression-may be even 2 years. By that time, I am barely certain in anything I am doing. I have also just gained about 30 lbs over my regular weight. I’m 5’5” and 154lbs at the time, and fact is, for a year, I have had no exercise and minimal movement at all. I’m all kinds of “out of shape”. During the depression part(combined with social anxiety, as it happens) I had squashed my self esteem and sense of self down and down, until I couldn’t recognize myself. So at some point I stopped dreaming outrageous things, I stopped imagining being the best, or extraordinary. I would have been content with being regular, but at that point I was sure I am way below. I stopped being able to imagine …anything beyond my current reality at the time.

Ground Zero

I always imagined my journey with dance will begin with a dream. It would begin with imagining myself being amazing dancer, and throwing everything I can in working towards that.

THAT is not how it goes.

Since I have squashed my self esteem that much down, I am unable to at all see myself as a dancer. NOT-happening. But, I do go to a dance class- 1 dance class, random dance class that I found on the internet. Not because I can entertain the idea of truly being a dancer- I can barely entertain the idea of wearing tights at the time. It’s just pure instinct. I’m still pretty depressed, low on money, reluctant to socialize in a new city, and completely unsure in everything about me. My life is a mess. THIS is not the time for dreams.

But I’m tired of just going through days waiting for something to change. I’m tired all the time, in fact. It’s September 2013, I’m 24 years old, and I’m tired all the time. Hopeless. I have lost hope, just as my life has finally becoming better. By that point, I’m just too tired to trust that things will ever be normal. Me, the girl that was all about dreams. So I randomly look for things on internet and somehow get to the idea of dance class. Not because I think I can actually do it, but simply because I need to get out of my head a little. When I go to the first class, I am sure I don’t belong there. I am even more sure that this is the worst time to do this. Forget being a dancer, I simply can not even imagine being in that class, even though it’s recreational. I don’t want to get to know the people there, or care about them. I don’t believe I can fix my body. Nothing about this seems right.

I can’t dance, period.

A part of me remembers, though. Somewhere down, under the depression and the insecurity, a part of me remembers that once upon a time I used to dream. And dance was a part of that. So if there is anything that can get me out of the hole that I have dug myself into, it should be dance. Even though I don’t believe I can do it. Continue reading

Welcome to the Adult Ballet Harbor!

Hey there,

If you are here, I will assume we already have something in common: we love ballet dancing.

You may be 13 years old, or 30, or a 100 for all I care. You may have danced before, and stopped for some reason. You may be an absolute beginner. You can have any profession you want, any lifestyle. But you are here, because you, just as I, have decided to start(or return to) ballet dancing as an adult. As someone just like you, I wanted to create this blog as a harbor of sorts.

I know how hard ballet can be, if you haven’t started as a child- or if you haven’t been in a studio for 15 years. It can be hard to integrate in your life, tough as hell, and extremely unsettling. But I promise you, stick to it for long enough, and you will see progress. This site is to mark the progress of my training, share some of my struggles, and offer as much advice and help in your journey as I can. If anything, this will always be the place where you can come so that someone can tell you this:

YOU CAN DO THIS!

I don’t care who you are, or your age, your profession, your personal circumstances. If you love ballet dancing, you should go for it. I can’t promise that you will become a professional- no one can. But I can promise you that if you stick to it, and love it, and continue practicing, you CAN become really good. That is what I know, for sure.

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