Q: I heard the term “ballon” to describe something a male dancer was doing and I have no idea what that is.
A: Like below, I will steal from my blog, “Ballet Terms Made Simple” : translated as “bounce,” this coveted trait, most commonly noted in male dancers (mostly because they tend to be the big jumpers), refers to a sense of lightness and ease when doing jumps. A dancer with great ballon will seem to sort of linger in the air, defying gravity for an instant. To use it in a sentence, and thus impress others with your newfound ballet acumen, you might say, “wow, did that guy have great ballon, or what?”
Q: Can you recommend any good dance novels?
A: Oh, boy. Can I ever! http://www.theclassicalgirl.com/10-ballet-novels-for-adults-youll-love/
Q: What is the difference between a stager and a répétiteur?
A: Let’s start with répétiteur – and be aware that different people apply different meanings to the term. Some say it’s interchangeable with the term “stager,” others say it’s someone who rehearses the dancers after they’ve learned the ballet’s steps. Then some say it’s the person who merely schedules all the rehearsals. Meanwhile, a ballet master often acts as a répétiteur. Whatever. You get the idea; take your pick.
And now here’s my definition of a stager, taken from my blog, “Ballet Terms Made Simple“: a choreographer’s representative, who will teach the dancers the ballet before leaving rehearsals to the ballet masters (or the mystery-laden répétiteur). Generally, they themselves will have performed the ballet many times, with aforementioned choreographer. No Balanchine ballet can be professionally performed without it first being taught by a stager from the Balanchine Trust, all of whom have a close connection to either him or his choreography.
Q: What do ballet dancers eat?
A: Okay, first of all, dispel the notion of carrot sticks and granola, black coffee, Diet Coke. Okay, maybe some of them like those things, as a preference. But dancers are not fashion models, who are whippet-thin and can subsist on 500 calories a day. Dancers are athletes. They work hard, they require fuel. So. Get that fashion model image out of your mind—gack, talk about the poorest visual image a young girl could strive to emulate—and put into your mind something like a runner. There’s an entirely different philosophy to eating when you’re a lean, mean, moving machine. You eat to fuel that machine.
But I’m not answering your question, am I? It’s a fun one to consider, as I am such a foodie and love thinking about food and my next meal pretty much all hours of the day. So I’m going to turn your fine question into a blog and answer it over there. Come join me. http://www.theclassicalgirl.com/ballet-dancers-eat/
Q: I thought ballet originated in France in the 18th century or something, but someone else tried to argue with me that it was Italian. Why aren’t the dance terms in Italian, then?
A: Sorry, you’re way off on dates. Try the late 1400’s. And it’s interesting that you should ask this because I just blogged about it. Read about it here: http://www.theclassicalgirl.com/?p=502. Or if you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to go through all that taxing work of clicking on a link, here’s the short version. Ballet started in Italy in the 15th century, as relatively simple steps in the context of court dances. The practice got nudged in the direction of the French courts in the 16th century. But it took France’s Louis XIV, in the 17th century, to get the ball really rolling, and roll it, he did, even doing some of the dancing himself. So. The Italians get credit for the first word (“balleto”) and the French win the prize for the rest, thanks to Louis Quatorze. (That’s the way you say XIV or 14 in French, BTW. Just in case that last bit stumped you. Louis was also known as the Sun King, or, in French, the Roi Soleil. Just in case you wanted to know that too. And here’s one more fun Louis XIV tidbit: he was five years old when he became the King of French, in 1643. Yikes.)
Q: What’s the big deal about “floors” for recreational ballet class? Someone told me “make sure they have a good floor” when I told them about this ballet class I was considering. The floor is wood. Isn’t a wood floor pretty much the same wherever you go?
A: Well, it could be argued that all wood floors are similar in that they’re not linoleum or carpeted (need we say these are SO not recommended for dance classes?). But there are hardwood floors with concrete beneath them (really not much better than linoleum) and then there are “sprung” hardwood floors and ah, those are the ones you’ll want to hunt down. Any studio that invests in sprung floors (built with a little something beneath them, be it polymer blocks or some other construction that allows the floor to give a little when you jump up and down on it) is going to be a studio that is concerned about what’s best for their dancers. You’ll also find some studios have a smooth black surface that looks a little like linoleum from the distance, but is most likely a “Marley floor.” (Marley has become a generic term for a black, vinyl, roll-out performance/dance surface.) Hopefully that Marley floor has been rolled onto a sprung floor. Marley surface on concrete will still jar the knees, the bones, cause shin splints and other icky maladies for dancers who work that floor hard. But I don’t think you’ll find too many Marley-covered concrete floors, as a Marley floor costs $$$, and a studio owner who’s buying it wants the best for their studio.
PS: for anyone building a home studio and considering floors, space, etc, check out the article at Porch, “Pro Tips for Setting up Your Own Dance Studio at Home,” for which I was a contributor.
Q: You say you’re a former ballet dancer. Where are the most exciting places you’ve ever performed?
A: Okay, dispel those glossy illusions. As you’ll discover through reading further down this Q&A, my dance performance career was on the modest, homespun side. All right? I’m not ashamed—I loved every minute of my performing time (mostly with the Kaw Valley Dance Theater, Lawrence, KS, artistic director Kristin Benjamin, who so deserves a shout-out here). But there weren’t a lot of world-class, professional stages involved. Sometimes there weren’t even stages, but gymnasium floors. Linoleum floors. Rephrase your question, please.
Q: Oops. Okay. Where were the more… interesting places you’ve performed?
A: Thank you, what a great question! And I’ve got plenty of great experiences in the “interesting” department. Let’s see. Aging professional opera stages: the 3000 seat Lyric Theater in Kansas City which seemed cavernous and run-down, back in 1980, but nonetheless wildly impressive to my young eyes. University stages: KU’s Murphy Hall, its very well run, almost professional level, 1200 seat theater, our company’s annual Nutcracker home. Junior high stages: in truth, a lovely little facility with ample backstage space, good sound and lighting capabilities, dressing rooms, all of which saw our company through several seasons. From there, the interesting gets even more interesting. Elementary school stages, cute and miniature, and you had three feet of backstage space on either side of the stage. Elementary school multipurpose room floors, with the kids pushed to the periphery to watch. (These latter two were actually charming events, as much community outreach as performing, followed by a thirty-minute lecture-demo. At the end of it, to see these little kids, boys and girls alike, dancing, doing these serious little sauté-chassé movements, well, it makes your heart contract.) Outdoor stages, various levels of professional productions and weather conditions. Wal-Mart openings. Yes. Performing full out, right up front there, next to the greeter. Those linoleum floors were slippery as hell. The customers would step inside, stop short when they saw us, eyeing us curiously for a minute or two, before shuffling on to buy their stuff. It was, in truth, surreal. But you know what? I was dancing, I was performing, I was with my tribe, and we all loved, loved, what we were doing. And, really, how often can you buy toothpaste, tampons and a microwave at the venue you just performed at, seconds earlier?
Q: I know all sorts of things can go wrong during a live performance, and sometimes do. What would you consider to have been your biggest onstage gaffe?
A: Oh, my dear. Oh, my goodness. This one merits more than a simple Q&A response. This is a topic worthy of its own blog. Thanks for the incentive and here you go. http://www.theclassicalgirl.com/?p=369 But only read it after you’ve finished reading the rest of the Q&A. After all, there will be a quiz at the end. You knew that, right? You think I’m kidding? Go scroll down and look. Then come Right. Back. Here to keep reading. I’m watching you. I am.
Q: Everyone knows about the Bolshoi Ballet in Russia, but there’s the other one. I hear people talking about the Mariinsky and I think they mean the Kirov, but why the name change? And which is the right one to call them now?
A: Both names have both been used and yes, they are the same company. It’s that pesky Russian Revolution that got in the way of continuity. (By the way, interesting fact: it’s the building itself, the theater, that has the name “Mariinsky.” They are simply the dancers of that theater. Or the opera of that theater. That’s how it often works in the Old World venues and cities.) And the Mariinsky is a glorious old theater. Up to 1917, it had been known by that name. Post-Revolution, it became the Academic State Theatre. Then, in 1935, the theater was renamed The Kirov Theatre, after the Mayor of Leningrad, Sergei Kirov. Fast forward 50-ish years to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and everything changed now went and changed back again. Today, the building is once again the Mariinsky Theatre, and the ballet company is the Mariinsky Ballet. But “The Kirov” still gets mentioned, usually in the same breath with “The Bolshoi,” because a lot of us grew up knowing them only by those names, and they are such esteemed institutions, best-of-the-best in the ballet world, and it gets a little tricky for the Mariinsky, to be revered for its traditional name and still hold on to the status and reputation the name “Kirov” earned through most of the 20th century. These days, however, it’s best to refer to them as the Mariinsky Ballet. (Or Orchestra. Or Opera. Depends on why you’re there in the theater that night.)
Q: How did you start up ballet?
A: My entry into the ballet world was pretty humble and inauspicious. A basement studio in a local shopping center, across from a shoe repair shop. The owner of the studio had one other teacher in addition to her, who taught tap. The studio serviced neighborhood kids, few of whom bore any real talent for the trade. I was ten. I took ballet and tap once a week, on a linoleum floor. (As mentioned in the post above, terrible, terrible surface, for the knees, the feet. Great for tap, tho!) The studio was walking distance from my house, a crucial factor when you’re the seventh of eight kids and the only one who’s insisting on ballet classes. Nothing in the equation should have led me to seriously pursue ballet.
But you know what? It worked. My love for ballet, my determination to persevere, was relentless and enduring. No fancy or prestigious studio is going to do that for you. I became very serious about it when I was sixteen, adding more classes, going to different studios. Sometimes I regret that I didn’t start younger, or in a more sophisticated facility. But, again, who’s to say that would have solved anything? It might have made me burn out faster, or wilt under the pressure of the competition. Instead, I just danced. There you have it.
Q: My niece is twelve and she’s saying she really wants to be a ballet dancer, but she’s convinced it’s too late to begin classes. (Her friends all started when they were five and six.)
A: You know, the truth is, those classes for five and six year olds aren’t really ballet, as we know it. I may be stepping out on a limb saying that, but I’ll do it anyway. Those early years, it’s about having fun with movement. After age ten, it gets more serious as the girls begin to ponder what it really means, sacrifice-wise, to be a ballet dancer. By twelve, it can get competitive, but there is still plenty of opportunity for a new student (particularly one with innate talent and the right body type) to come aboard and thrive. The lovely Misty Copeland, soloist with the American Ballet Theater, didn’t start ballet until she was thirteen.
Interesting to note that Russia’s Vaganova Academy, which trains dancers for the Mariinksy (formerly the Kirov) Ballet holds auditions for students at age ten. Period. Whether the child has previous training is irrelevant to them. What they’re judging, mostly, is body type, flexibility, feet, potential. Further, many a professional ballet school would choose an untrained twelve-year-old with no experience over a trained one with bad habits or poor, ingrained technique. In truth, more challenging for the aspiring professional ballerina to combat than age, is body type. Not just good turnout, long limbs, short waist, narrow chest, long neck, but feet. It floors me how some untrained dancers can point their toe so incredibly (my son), almost prehensile, while others will have to work and work on it (me).
There’s musicality. It’s innate. There’s the hunger to excel. Again, not something that can be taught. Most of the girls in the younger student classes will move on from ballet, come middle school, because they’ve grown a little bored with it, or their social lives have gotten busier. The ones who start later (I myself started at age ten) will have the drive to carry it through those teen years, which is the time it’s most important to be taking it all seriously.
In short, tell your niece to go for it, and give it her all. But to remember to dance for dance’s sake, not for where it might get her in ten years’ time. Ballet is soooooo competitive if you want to make dancing professionally your goal.
Q: Is it okay to clap in the middle of a ballet performance when something is really good, or is it like the symphony where you’re supposed to hold all applause until the end of the whole piece?
A: Great question. Yes, you can clap away during a ballet performance, particularly when the dancer has achieved something extraordinary and/or impressive. It’s nice to be up there performing and hear the applause after a successful lift or tricky passage. Really galvanizes you. And I’m glad you brought up the symphony and the no-clapping business, because people don’t always catch that, particularly if they’re new to classical music, or if they’re more accustomed to the ballet, or jazz music performances. Hold the applause till the end of the final movement, folks. When in doubt, just watch the musicians’ faces. During a pause between movements, they will maintain concentration, although some courteously offer a smile and a nod to the audience if there’s some renegade applause happening. But at the “real” end, there’s a certain “ta da!” of triumph, in their chin, in the way their hands fly up (for pianists) or lift their bow (for string musicians). It’s quite fun to observe, in fact.
Q: Where’s a good place to buy online dancewear?
A: I’m no shopping expert; I make my dancewear last an embarrassingly long time. But Discount Dance Supply (http://www.discountdance.com) has never done me wrong.
Q: Can I buy pointe shoes online?
A: Never, never on the first pass. You need someone who knows pointe shoes and knows feet and will intuit what is working best for you and guide you in the right direction. Maybe if you’re comfortably established with a brand/type of pointe shoe you like, but never in the early years. Pay the premium and benefit from the expertise of the salesperson. And ask around, find out where in your area to go, to the person that knows the most. Make an appointment, if you can, or at least be sure to go on a day that person is there. These women/men are just gems. Give them your $$ – they deserve it.
The same goes for ballet slippers. If you’ve been wearing the same size for a while and you know what you like and it’s available online, well, truth is, it can save you a bundle. But makers change designs and feet change in shape, and I just think there’s a lot of merit, again, to giving brick-and-mortar shop my business in regards to what will go on my feet.
A dance skirt? Tights. What the heck. Buy away, online. And few stores can keep up the kind of leotard inventory an online distributor can.
Q: I’m an adult who’s just signed up for my first ballet class. What should I plan to wear?
A: If you’re a guy, a clean tee-shirt and sweats or tights will serve you just fine. Some men opt for cut-off tights that look identical to cyclists’ attire. (No one calls that gay-looking, do they? In case that was one of your concerns.) Yes, ballet shoes are necessary, but no, they don’t have to be pink.
For women, a leotard and tights are great if you’re happy with that feeling. Some females prefer to go with black yoga pants or sweats in lieu of tights. Or shorts, or cut-off tights that stop around the calf or above. Or go ahead and throw together an outfit that doesn’t constrict you and makes you feel happy and alive. An adult beginner’s class is a very forgiving environment, you’ll find. Nothing is compulsory, the way it often is in children’s classes: black leotard, pink tights, pink ballet shoes, hair in a bun. But that’s not a bad default. The main thing is, no street shoes, no street clothes. And if you’re still uncertain about what that spells out for you, well, go peek in on an existing adult beginner class. You’ll find your answer in a half-dozen different flavors.
Me, I tend toward the classical look (what do you expect from someone who calls herself The Classical Girl?) Black leotard, pink tights, pink slippers. I always wear something extra, usually a pair of skimpy black shorts or a pair of cut-off black sweat pants. I have a fifty year old’s body, not a fifteen year old’s, and, I dunno, there’s something sort of … undressed about seeing my reflection without the protection of the little black shorts. Like seeing myself in a bikini in a full-length mirror. You just don’t want to go there anymore. Not with my genes, my age.
For women, as well, there are those filmy little chiffon skirts, too, usually in black or wine colors. They’re lovely. They’re half the fun of dressing for ballet. ((Reminder to self to go acquire one of those for myself.))
And if you guess wrong, dress wrong, well, there’s always next week. And the next. Above all (warning, dork alert….) wear a smile and HAVE FUN.
Q: I’m a student who can’t wait to dance en pointe! What does it feel like?
A: Oh, dear little one. Prepare yourself. Yes, they look so pretty, and there’s not a dancer out there who didn’t have that same shivery sense of excitement, as a young dancer, about finally going en pointe. I was just stunned with excitement to buy my first pair, sew on those little pink ribbons (get used to hand-sewing and pricked fingers; they never come with the satin ribbons sewn on. This is because each dancer prefers their own custom angle). I’d bought protective padding for the toe, which was, at first, lamb’s wool, which was always a nightmare because you over-stuff one portion of the toe and somehow create a gap on another part of the toe, and it never feels right. That said, option 2, one of those cushiony caps for the toes, had its flaws too. You can’t feel the floor. It’s like trying to write an essay neatly in pen while wearing mittens.
But, to answer your question.
I lurched upward and my two thoughts, intermingled were “omigosh, I’m doing it, I’m en pointe!” and “ow ow ow ow ow!” It was both thrilling and shockingly disappointing. Kind of like breast feeding a baby for the first time. But that, dear little one, is way too much information for you. Very TMI of me. Sorry.
You can make the shoes feel softer along the sides by wetting them with water or alcohol, and it’s always a great idea to bang the shoes against a hard surface to break them in, or I carried this little hammer with me so I could more delicately go at the spots that felt particularly rough against my feet, without slamming too much of the shoe. Once, when I slammed the shoe against a cement wall, it sort of cracked on me, and I had this long seam of no-support going down the whole box. Most important to know: don’t ever bang the toe of the shoe! That’s the one place you want to keep them stiff and firm.
Have fun! Don’t ever forget about that part…
Ta da! You have reached the end. And here’s your quiz:
The Classical Girl is…
- a) Hilarious
- b) Digressive and occasionally obnoxious
- c) Great fun to read
- d) A little dazed and confused-sounding sometimes
- e) Also known as Terez Mertes
- f) Also known as Terez Rose
- g) Also known as Terez Mertes Rose
- h) So happy you visited this blog, and over the moon that you’re reading to the very end!
- i) All of the above
28 thoughts on “Ballet Q&A”
“After age ten, it gets more serious as the girls begin to ponder what it really means, sacrifice-wise, to be a ballet dancer.”
I’ve been meaning to share this because it reinforces what you said in the Q&A about the 12 year old: I have a friend whose daughter just made it to the Dance/Ballet school at NC School of the Arts. She’s ten, and they only pick 25 girls for this very prestigious dance league. Before this, she had been dancing with a local studio and doing it for fun. The first few classes at NCSA, my friend said she DID begin to ponder the sacrifice, the hard work, the fact that this isn’t necessarily ‘fun’ anymore. And why she got picked out of a few hundred girls who applied…like what you said above…body type. She’s got that thin, elegant frame and flexibility that’s the trademark of dance. It’s great to know a kid who’s just beginning her journey into the ballet world.
Wow, the NCSA is indeed prestigious! Kudos to them both! But yes, with the great honor, comes the great competition, the great drive to excel. Hope she not only survives there, but manages to thrive and love it all! You put it well: it’s no longer about “fun.” But for countless young girls and women, something like that is a dream come true.
I’m in a bit of a kerfuffle. So today I watched my cousin dance in a dance performance with other people from the dance school, and now I really want to try and learn ballet… The only problem is… I’m a muslim and I wear a headscarf. I don’t know what to do because 1) The clothes during performances and just in general are too tight to wear with my headscarf 2) I don’t want to wear loose clothes because it wouldn’t look right and give the right effect. WHAT SHOULD I DO?!?
Please help me, thanks xx
Ayeisha, how old are you? That could make a difference in the experience. If you’re 13 or so, the class you’re most likely to be put in to might have a dress code, which might clash with your own preferences. But if you are 15 or beyond, you might be able to take an adult beginner class, in the evening, and that would be a great fit, b/c people wear what makes them comfortable, and while black leotard and pink tights still are the most common, some people will wear sweats and a comfortable shirt. I imagine the headdress would make no difference whatsoever in that environment. Now, one disadvantage of an adult class is that they are less inclined to work toward an end-of-year performance, in the way the younger girls’ classes tend to do. But here’s something to consider, as well: ballet is 95% in-the-studio working and dancing, and 5% onstage performing. The bad news is that if your goal is to be onstage doing that stuff, and THAT is what you’re dying to do, well, ballet’s not the best route. But if you want to feel the exhilaration of movement to music, well, that’s GREAT and you can do it in the studio, with comfortable clothes and with headdress. I no longer perform, and yet I get an enormous amount of the same satisfaction by “performing” the grand allegro steps across the room during the last part of class.
And one other thought: consider modern dance, as well. The rules and dress code are much, much more relaxed. Some people do so much better in modern, and enjoy its freedom of movement (and rules) so much more.
Above all, DEFINITELY give a ballet class a try! It’s a thrilling thing to do, and you will kick yourself if you never try. (But the good news is that it’s never, never too late to try.)
I have a Muslim ballet student who wears a hijab. A considerate teacher will adjust the dress code accordingly.For performances it can also be an inspiration for costuming rather than a hinderance, think La Bayadere, beautiful flowing headdresses! I am looking though for class attire that will make her feel elegant. We have a large Muslim community in Minnesota, and there is specifically designed sports attire, but not dance.
Ayeisha I hope you do take a class. Maybe maybe a month’s worth of classes and then come to a decision. It is the best physical and mental workout ever; plus you get to emote and act. Once you start to understand the rhythm of the class your mind stops being frustrated with the movements you are demanding of your body and it becomes fun. Be ready to sweat. They make it look easy. 🙂
As a former ballet dance student I have some perspective. I’ve also done belly dance up to level 3, samba, and Polynesian at another studio run by a Turkish, Muslim woman. She didn’t wear the head scarf but we did have students that would keep one on until the studio door was shut and class was started. I love both studios but I have watched the later not allow men onto the studio floor because some of the women there have religious obligations they need to comply with. This strict policy is out of respect, the best side effect of it is that if fosters community of just women makes it a safe place mentally. In a traditional ballet, tap, modern studio; most of the time there is an observation window for parents. Also since you are new, please note that many times in adult open ballet classes the men are allowed to take be in the same class as women. So it may be a question to consider when looking for a studio. Just ask if it is co-ed. Don’t assume it is because you only see women in the class on your first day. Because you may go for months with just women class mates but then a former student does a drop in class or two when they are in town back from college or where ever life is taking them. For me, I don’t mind the men being there (a man in a ballet class really wants to learn ballet, he’s focused, because guys straight or gay catch a lot of grief for being in a ballet class); but you are new and this maybe a potential issue I thought you may want to know.
Also, if you decide to go the classical dance uniform route and be placed with students at your skill level. I would call the studio and leave a voicemail for the studio owner regarding the head scarf and other uniform type concerns. The uniform is specific because the teacher needs to see you in order to correct your form. Maybe you could settle on some pallazo pants that hit just above the knee on top of your pink tights and leotard. There are definitely long sleeve leotards. I like them because I can hide my entire bra. I am large chested and have to wear heavy duty sports bras. Maybe you need a simple black wrap type vest or short sleeved shirt over a long sleeved leotard to stay within your personal preferences (you’d probably have to make this by sewing or finding a friend who likes to knit) Perhaps you and the owner or your potential teacher can look at a dance catalog together to figure it out. Call and see if they are amicable to scheduling time to do so. One of the young students/ pre-pointe students at the ballet studio I used to go to had alopecia. I know her mother addressed it with the studio owner, because I coordinated the talk, and I know that her head scarf is black or ballet pink (the pink must match the tights or else by default the student’s choice it would be hot pink) and it is part of her uniform. Sometimes, she even wears it really cute where she has the ends styled like a low bun. I think she learned how to style it from youtube.
As far as recitals are concerned… I used to hate performance as a kid. I am not afraid of crowds (I like being on stage for belly dance as and adult, which is even more revealing than ballet and I have a less in shape body than when I was a kid. Life is weird.), I just didn’t like dancing ballet on stage. As a high schooler during performance season, I would continue to come to class and learn the recital piece. There was always someone who couldn’t make it to class. So I would stand in for the practice. It helped everyone keep their lines, it definitely kept me mentally sharp, and I didn’t have to preform. During recital you can still be involved. I usually helped prep the younger girls, make-up, hair, and warm up. Or I was pulled on at the last minute as a stagehand at the recitals.
Bottom line: you have options. And when you think you don’t, you have to create them; especially if it is uncharted territory. I think most teachers would be impressed with the initiative of finding solutions. And if a teacher doesn’t want to work with you…I don’t know why one wouldn’t…good dance teachers always want new students, maybe call a different studio. Each one has it’s own personality. Be true to yourself. But be brave too. Who knows maybe you are the next dance clothes/ fitness apparel designer for Muslim women or women who just want a little more coverage.
ps. Personally I love adult ballet class. I never want to wear a uniform again. 🙂 But you do learn a great deal by sticking with people you age and level and growing with them too. Both adult and student classes are great for different reasons.
I hope this helps.
Thanks for sharing all this wonderful advice, Rene!
I started ballet when I was four but when I moved at age six I quit. Is there any way to start again? I am eleven now but really busy with other sports including running and soccer. Also many other activities consume my day. So I am pretty sure my parents will not allow any dance classes. (Or paid things) Do you have any ideas to help?
Hi Skylar, thanks for posting this question. I’m sure it’s one other girls your age probably have! You know, my response might surprise you – I’m not going to say, “do everything possible to get back into ballet.” Instead, I’ll say this. Know that ballet is waiting for you, once your schedule eases up. I think it would be hard to incorporate a ballet practice into an already full schedule, because ballet will want to eat up all your time. It’s like a jealous friend. If you loved it and wanted to do it more, you’d have to drop out of the other stuff, or else you’d feel forever torn. You can’t be really good at all three things. I think running and soccer are compatible, however. Really, I’d say, let the stuff that’s keeping you busy right now continue to do so. If you were meant to have ballet in your life, it will stay there in the background, and be like a persistent itch that finally, one day, takes priority. If it’s just a mild itch, well, that’s great, and I guarantee you, your body will be in great shape to take it up again some day. In the meantime, I’d hop on over to YouTube and consider subscribing to Kathryn Morgan’s channel. She has great episodes about different aspects of ballet and stretching and being a dancer, and being someone who loves ballet but can’t go out and take classes, for whatever reason. You might find that being part of that community keeps you tied into the ballet world, but that it’s something you can do on your own, at home, in your free time. (If you have any free time!) And you know what, the ballet stretches she suggests might be a great idea for you, because it will use different muscles than you use in soccer and running. It might be the perfect thing for not just you but your body. Check it out! She’s lovely, and a great inspiration for dance enthusiasts of any age!
Questions: does anyone knows what the step “Pas de Fleur” is? I can’t find anything about it….
No step called “pas de fleur” like pas de chat, or pas de cheval, in my mind. But here’s my hunch: in the ballet, La Esmeralda, there’s a dance called “Grand Pas des Fleurs” or something like that. So, it’s the name of a variation. That’s my guess. Here’s a YouTube link of The Bolshoi performing it: https://youtu.be/xFOyW_HyrXA
And thank you, BTW, Iris, for these good questions! I might have to do a Q&A entry for the “is the accent in jumping on ‘down’ or ‘up’?” question. It’s a great one!
Question: About jumping Can someone tell me about the accent in jumping? Is it down or is it up?
Accent is definitely up, up, up. Airborne, always. BUT – note that sometimes one’s teacher, or choreographer, might say “start on the ‘and’ count.” Which means the emphasis is slightly different from if the start were on “one”. Usually one does a little demo-plié on the “and” count. But, hey. A clever teacher might vary it to force you to think.
I have incredibly poor turnout. No matter how many instruction videos I watch, or how much I try to practice, my 1st position has a 60 degree angle and my 5th position looks like and obtuse angle that is so bad i cant even do simple tondue exersises. I always feel so depressed and self consious, and Im running out of time to improve before im off to audition for a dance college. PLEASE HELP 😖😖😖
Uh oh, that’s a tough one, Micah. Turnout is your body’s decision. If you push too hard for lots of turnout and your hips aren’t built that way, you’re going to mess up your knees. It won’t happen right now, but it will haunt you in later years. I will say this: what anyone can do is, in a tendu, pull your pointing foot’s heel forward, almost as if you are flexing your foot and pointing with your heel, although, after you get that mental/kinetic image in your head, go back to pointing the toe. A tendu with the heel coming forward is a way to “look” like there’s a lot more hip turnout going on, even though your hips might not be budging. Think of which way your kneecap is facing. If it’s facing straight ahead (this is what all my yoga instructors want me to always be doing, BTW, and I FAIL each time, because I have a very open turnout and I just automatically turn everything out, which, trust me, brings its own problems later in life) – that’s not what a ballet teacher/institution wants to see. So. Learn to tendu with your heel forward (this engages your inner thighs like mad) and it will angle the knee cap out. That should be your test.
Be good to your body and accept your hips’ limitations. I’ve heard ballet professionals complain about their turnout, so it’s not a matter of poor turnout = no chance. But, regrettably, it’s a big deal. Just be super careful of your beautiful knees. They need to last a lifetime.
Try the heel-forward trick, and best wishes to you as you prep for auditions!
Ok I need a bit of help here. So basically I’ve learn ballet for a very fair time and I started with pointe a few years ago but until now I still can’t en pointe. It’s like when I started a few mins of en pointe my feet are in exclusive pain. It’s like the worst pain ever. It’s aching a lot and it’s too much pain that my feet doesn’t work. As my feet are extremely sore, my whole body is sweating a lot. I know ballet sweats but compared to wearing soft shoes it’s another level. My face will turn red, ears burn like lava. Is it because my shoe size is wrong? (I have a really wide feet) or is my posture is wrong? My teacher told us to pull up your body like a string but I tried and it’s not working or helping? I really need help.
Hi Rosanne – finally my reply! Hmm. That much pain and effort isn’t good. Two thoughts. One is that the muscles on your feet just aren’t ready to support you, and you should spend another year off pointe, or doing the simplest exercises with the pointe shoes on, like holding onto the barre and slowly trying to rise to pointe from demo-pointe. And the point (no pun intended!) shouldn’t be to arrive en point, so much as get those muscles working and growing strong from that midway point between demi and full pointe. If those muscles ache and hurt, don’t stay long. Back off a tiny bit. But you do want to arrive at that place that’s a little uncomfortable and accustom your feet to that. I can appreciate the pain – I tried on my pointe shoes [to show off to a visitor] a few years back and was stunned by how my muscles clenched in protest. It hurt like it had never hurt, back when I danced. Well, no surprise! Those are very specific muscles that take the foot en pointe, and you have to work your way toward the process slower than you might want, or think you need to. You gotta do the boring, humbling stuff before you can take off, so to speak.
The second thing that this reminded me of, was years back, when I was wearing Capezios and having a very hard time getting up en pointe without it hurting really bad. I thought the shoe was fine and that it was me. It sucked. I’d sort of clench and hop up to pointe, kind of like the way you take off a Band-aid in one quick, jolting movement b/c it hurts so bad to do it slow. Well, my artistic director (I was in a dance company by this time and feeling pretty ashamed to be failing at this seemingly rudimentary task) caught on, watched me “roll up” en pointe – which I simply couldn’t do with those shoes. “Try Freed pointe shoes,” was her advice, which I told. Oh. My. God. Wow. What a difference with Freeds. I rolled up easily. No pain. Easy to go up and down off pointe. One of the happiest, most relieved moments of my ballet life.
So. Find a store that has a great pointe shoe person working — even if you have to drive 2 hours one way to get there. It’s worth it. Try on different makers of pointe shoes. If you haven’t seen my post, “10 Odd Facts About Pointe Shoes,” go there. (https://wp.me/p3k7ov-ov) Explain to the pointe shoe expert (they are better educated about pointe shoe fits than your teacher, I’m certain. No offense to your teacher, but a professional pointe shoe fitter is a marvel) and let them see you rise slowly up from demi-pointe to pointe.
And the good news is, if it is simply that your muscles are cramping and the pressure really hurts your feet, if you make it a point to practice at home, that simplest exercise of rolling slowly up and slowly down, for 15 minutes nightly (or start at 5 mn and work up to 15 over the course of a month) in a month’s time, that cramping will be GONE because your muscles have grown stronger. There will always be some “ow, this pressure on my toes hurts!” That, alas, is one of the things they don’t tell you when you’re young. Pointe shoes hurt. I do not miss wearing them. But oh, wow, how beautiful they look when your strong feet are dancing in them.
Strong feet, the right shoes. There you go.
hi! i’m 15, turning 16 soon. i did ballet, tap, and jazz from the time i was 4-11. the last year that i did dance i did pointe. i’ve had this feeling i couldn’t shake since i was about 13 though that i wanted to continue dancing but not tap and jazz, just ballet. of course as someone who has done pointe i loved it and was wondering if i train 5 days, about 2-3 hours at a time when i start again, how long would it take me to be able to go back on pointe? i play sports that require me to have strong legs, so if that’s any help, let me know. thank you!!
Hi Jenna, so glad you dropped a comment here. I’m tossing out a guess that you would likely need a year of ballet work before going en pointe [again]. It might be less since you’ve danced en pointe before, but those feet muscles and bones need to be re-primed. Leg strength won’t matter here; it’s all about the way your foot is when you point, arch, flex. Test it out now. Shoes off, tendu to the side, pointing the toes as much as they will go. Does it cause a cramp? (A lot of time the cramp is below the calf, closer to the Achilles tendon.) That’s where I feel the most challenge when I go back to ballet after taking a long time off. And the feet, encased in pointe shoes, slowly rolling up to pointe, yeah, that was BRUTAL for me after a long hiatus.
I would do those “roll up to demi-pointe-and down-exercises for 15 mn nightly and I’ll bet you can cut that prep time in half. And of course your teacher’s advice is the greatest guide for you. Best of luck to you!
Thank you! Is there anything else I can do before I start again? I don’t know how long it will be until I get back into class, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get closer to being ready to get back en pointe. Since I’m not sure how long it will be, is there anything I can do that will kind of “replace” the lack of me having a class?
Ooh, I found the perfect Youtube video (and channel!) for you to watch, Jenna! Kathryn Morgan has this perfect tutorial for precisely what we’re discussing here. Check it out! https://youtu.be/Pe6YxF__UOY
I have blogged about her in the past – she is such a marvel, a former soloist with the New York City Ballet, who was sidelined with debilitating thyroid issues, and will be returning to professional ballet – YAY!!! – this coming fall, as a soloist with the Miami City Ballet. Check out all her instructional videos on her Youtube channel. She is JUST what you need right now. I’ve got links to some of her most popular videos (back when I wrote the article) on my blog as well. Here’s the link: https://wp.me/p3k7ov-Iw
Hello, when I was 8 years old I danced ballet at my school, but due to family problems they took me out of that school, and for 8 years I don’t dance ballet, now I’m 16 years old and I’m online classes and things like that, but I don’t know if maybe It’s too late, I also don’t know how to tell my parents to go back to ballet … (I’m an introvert and I don’t have as much trust in my family)
Hi Catarina, and I’m so glad you have the option, at least, to enjoy online classes. I think being 16 is not too late to place and keep ballet in your life, but the odds that you could become a paid professional ballet dancer at this point are, regrettably, low. BUT, and it’s a big “but,” you can find so many ways to have a rich, nourishing experience with dance. It can be a minor in college. You can consider dance education, arts administration, dance therapy, dance history — all sorts of ways to keep it center in your life. Or simply take ballet classes into your adult years and enjoy the opportunities to dance on a non-professional basis. From personal experience, I can unequivocally assure you that it can be the richest experience of them all.
Thanks for commenting, and wishing you the best!
I just got my first pair of pointe shoes for the first time, a few days ago. any tips for sewing the ribbons and elastics?
Congratulations, Lenia!!! What an exciting time. I just Googled “sewing pointe shoe ribbons” and it came up with wonderful tutorials that will answer your questions much more comprehensively than I could. A quick secret is to fold the back fabric (around the heel) over the shank, and where that fold meets on the side is a good spot to sew the ribbon. But there’s a little angling involved, too, so again, I’d suggest a video tutorial. (I liked having a loop of elastic in back, and some people actually like elastic across the foot, so elastic is a matter of taste.)
Hi! so, Ive been dancing pretty much my whole life and now i want to cut back because school is becoming harder and harder to balance with dance. i love ballet and could never leave it completely, but school is always a priority. any tips?
It sounds like you’re making some good decisions here – good for you! There is always a place in one’s life to keep dance as a second, very beloved priority. If you’ll be heading off to college at some point, there are opportunities to work toward a degree in dance education, or arts administration. Or kinesiology. Or dance history. Lots and lots of options! In the meantime, yes, it’s good to understand that school needs to come first because it’s just a safer bet. Good for you for recognizing what should come first in your life. It’s a very personal decision, BTW, so if someone’s reading this and thinking “bad advice for ME,” they might be right.