Comparing apples to The Best Oranges Ever.

And now I’m discouraged about pointe all over again.
This class, Gentle Reader. It’s just way too much in the center. I think. What do you think?
I think I’m not ready to be out there, and looking around with my Judging Eyes, neither is the entire rest of the class.
Except for Best Girl. She belongs in center. She is lovely. She is the good example I look to when I want to go blaming all my equipment, starting from the floor up.
“It’s my shoes, they’re too soft. Wait, no, Best Girl is wearing her old dead pair and she can rise up into an arabesque in center en pointe unassisted. Harrumph.”
Or,
“It’s my shoes, they’re too hard. Wait, no, Best Girl is wearing brand new shoes today. They’re hard as glue-soaked wood, and yet her feet look petite and flexible and like the shoe is a smoothly-fitted continuation of her line, while the rest of us are standing around on bricks. Harrumph.”
Side note regarding harrumph: this is a harrumph of annoyance at having no comforting excuse, not a harrumph at Best Girl, who is the nicest.
Side note regarding Best Girl’s feet: there was this one time we were waiting for instructions, and she was standing with one foot flat and the other pointed, just in regular flat ballet slippers, and I looked and was thinking, ‘uh uh girl, you are totally forcing your arch against the floor, that mess can’t be real,’ and then as if she could hear my thoughts she lifted her foot off the floor and her point did not loose a even a micron of pointedness.
I’m not compare myself to her, obviously that would be like comparing apples to The Best Oranges Ever, I’m just saying Best Girl belongs out there in scary center doing pretty things while I should be getting drilled in the basics.
And I mean the really basic basics. While a classmate was making a brave attempt at across the floor, Best Girl quietly explained to me how instead of jumping onto my toes it’s more of a really fast roll-up and scoot the toe under. When she explained it I was just like ‘Gaaaaaah, why am I even here?????? I need to be in the class where we face the wall and practice rolling and scooting for a solid twenty five minutes, then reverénce and done, not this class where twenty minutes are spent in center after loosing five minutes of barre to general ribbon fussery and never being told that Spring Up doesn’t mean jump!’
Speaking of brave attempts and rising to unassisted arabesques on pointe, there was a moment where we were supposed to do something awful across the floor, then come down in fifth, then kinda brush forward up into an arabesque on pointe, and I was like Oh Hell No and Lé Assistant stood in front of me and was like, “I’ll catch you! Hold my hand, I’ll support you!” and I was so touched by the courage of this woman, I mean the only end I could foresee to this scenario was her getting crushed, but she seemed to think I could actually do it, or at any rate she was smiling in the face of certain death by crushination.
I didn’t crush her.
Mostly.
I got up into arabesque and slooooowly fell over onto her until it just seemed the polite thing to do was to get off.
Jeez.
Gentle Reader, do you take or teach pointe? Is it supposed to be like this? Like beginners out there in the center feeling scared? I feel like pointe class is supposed to be even slower and more deliberate than regular ballet class, but maybe I just want that because I’m a big coward.
If I’m a big coward you can totally tell me. Say it to my face, Gentle Reader!

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About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
This entry was posted in Ballerina Class, and other pointe-y stuff and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Comparing apples to The Best Oranges Ever.

  1. QMichelle says:

    As you know, I’m a beginner and en pointe too. My teacher is a dancer with Scottish Ballet and gets us out onto the centre after about 15 minutes at the barre! She makes us do all sorts of crazy assed things! Mostly we do pique turns, courus, or simple combinations which consist of the likes of; 2 pique turns, degage into first arabesque, glissade, glissade and finish with a pas de chat. That’s fairly typical. Although she did get us to do the Kitri variation for a few weeks, the version with 16 releves in succession! That was awful. We also do pirouettes, which none of us can do, but she gets us to these things so we are not fearful of falling. My method of coping is to not look at myself in the mirror. I don’t need to see that shit!

    • gwenyth says:

      Haha. So hard to not sneak a peek in the mirror and stare at that sh**. :)

    • Now that you mention it, the combinations we do are so simple they maybe aren’t even technically a combo of anything. Like, pique across the floor. Regular, not pique turns, dear god. Or I guess sometimes they are a tiny bit more elaborate, like balancé balancé soutenu turn and then couru off into the sunset while having arms. So that’s good, that makes me feel like they are keeping our beginneryness in mind while making their crazy-ass center requests. Ok, feeling less tossed into the deep end, thanks Queen.
      Sometimes in regular ballet class we are asked to do the Kitri jump! The one where your foot is supposed kick up from behind to hit the imaginary tambourine you’re holding overhead. We all laugh and go for it. Hopefully this won’t come up in pointe for a long long long long long time.

    • Lily says:

      This is really interesting. I’m hopefully starting pointe in a couple of weeks. The studio I go to doesn’t offer beginner’s pointe, so I’ll be doing the normal beginner’s class en pointe. I guess this means I’ll miss out on some of the basic preparatory exercises, but maybe the silver lining is I’ll be forced to loosen my death grip on the barre a little earlier…

  2. Basia says:

    Oooooh… Can’t wait to get en Pointe to be able to report back to you my own trials and tribulations!

  3. Nadine says:

    The feelings are real, babes. If you’re scared then you’re scared, and that is totally allowed to be a thing. I think you DO need more drilling in the basics, but maybe you can practice at home and/or use some Lisa Howell videos . . . ? And in pointe class, just work at your own pace, because I don’t think you have the pressure of upcoming performances or exams . . ? (Can’t believe Queen Michelle reads your blog! *genuflects*)

    • No performances or exams, true.
      My regular ballet class always starts late, which used to annoy me but now gives me at least 10 bonus minutes to practice springing without jumping before switching to slippers for class and then later back into pointes.
      I should practice at home. I probably won’t. Video research on the other hand, that could be fit in somewhere, good call.

  4. Nicola says:

    To give you the heads up, I also go to QMichelle’s class ( you have a real fan base across the northern pond), and I’ve been working on pointe for the same amount of time, although my feet are not as strong as hers. It takes a lot of time and patience to get comfortable doing anything (even tendues) in pointe shoes. So cut yourself some slack. If you think you are not yet strong enough to do it pointe, do it on demi, and learn the exercise, and enjoy the dance. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can do some of the centre exercises at the barre! People in our class do that. Because the general rule is, if you can’t do it at the barre, you won’t be able to do it in the centre. Go slow. Be patient. Do the bits you can do. I personally am a terrible scaredy cat – yet even I eventually learned to love pique arabesques, and I’m sure you will too. Just don’t mention the p-word:)

  5. guyenne says:

    It depends a lot on the speed of the class, and whether the teacher is someone who likes to focus on details or grand sweeping steps. I missed a lot of basic background details due to the first couple placed I danced at as a child, and that means I am far more tentative on pointe than people who got those details covered. Is there a pre-pointe class you could go to? That might help fill in bits for you.

    The spring up vs roll up to pointe thing is entirely syllabus dependent – some pointe shoes actually mention which you are expected to do while wearing them, and I’ve always thought spring up really is a bit of a tiny jump. http://dancers.invisionzone.com/index.php?showtopic=57764 talks about it a bit, and there’s a video link and a shoe maker link in the thread.

    • Ah, yes, he’s very Sweeping Gestures. I notice that when I’m in other classes, certain little things he will overlook in favor of the attaining bigger shape of the thing, often with the idea of going back later to talk about the little stuff. “I want you to have a little idea of the whole,” he’ll say, “Do you have a little idea?” And we’ll say “yes, a Little idea.”
      Maybe that’s part of this, we are getting a little idea of pointe, and then a little more of an idea and a little more.
      Interesting discussion on that forum there, thanks for the link.

  6. When we first started pointe about 2 years ago, in our first ever pointe class, our teacher decided that we were going to learn how to jump onto pointe. She literally had us stand facing forward, plie on our left leg with our right leg pointed out to the side, and then she sat on the floor about a foot away from our right foot and told us to jump over her leg and land on pointe on just that right foot. And here are all of us, standing there, wondering how on earth we are supposed to do that, because clearly the farthest extension of our leg is not even coming close to where her leg is, so how are we supposed to jump that far and then land on pointe? Doesn’t she see that we are all going to go sliding across the floor and then crashing face first into certain doom, if not landing directly on top of her? It was pretty terrifying for all of us, not gonna lie. If she was scared too, she never let on. That woman is made of iron.

    But I think she did it on purpose, because when we somehow all managed to do it, we weren’t as scared afterwards. It was her way of having us jump into the deep end, and it worked, because it made us realize that we can do crazy-seeming things because physics is more on our side than we thought.

    So just keep at it! Feeling scared is totally normal, and it still happens to us even after that crazy lesson, but they have you do scary things on purpose because they want to give you something to reach for. If you were able to do everything perfectly right away, you wouldn’t need to go to class, and you would miss out on that feeling of accomplishment when you finally do the scary thing without falling over. (For me it’s chainnee turns, I can’t even get halfway across the floor doing those things, and I’m always terrified I’m going to fall and break an ankle).

  7. gwenyth says:

    AB – you are not a coward! I’m amazed you try and by how honest you are about how you feel and your willingness to share your vulnerability.

    To echo berserkersabrina’s general sentiment, forwarding this video/article that made me think of quest: https://www.khanacademy.org/about/blog/post/95208400815/the-learning-myth-why-ill-never-tell-my-son-hes

    Given how you’re feeling right now, you might say “Blah! I am not a baby learning to walk!” and I totally get it. But maybe you are a ballet baby learning to walk en pointe? Ick, I swear I’m not trying to sound all new agey!

    Anyways, I am rooting for you and I know you’ll get there! Go AB!

    Your friend,

    gwenyth

  8. Christina says:

    AB, I just want to tell you that you inspire me. Lots. :-)

  9. Paulina says:

    I am wondering if this is an adult beginner thing. I took ballet as a child and a teenager and I was never scared of anything. Teacher said: jump! and I jumped. Teacher said: turn! and I turned. Teacher said: jump and turn!…
    I started taking flamenco classes as an adult, and I am such a coward, too. When I am asked to come to the front row or to demonstrate a step, I want to hide in a corner. (I had a few really bad experiences in flamenco classes, so perhaps there is a reason for being a coward.)

  10. Angele says:

    I can relate to how hard it is NOT to compare yourself to others in pointe class. Also my teacher would leave me at the barre while asking others to come out to center and I felt soooo humiliated. Then when she would ask me to come out to center I was sooo humiliated because it was sooooo hard and I just wanted to go back to the barre. Stick with it because it does get better.

  11. I take a full hour pointe class (right after 1.5 hour technique. Bleh) and I am ALWAYS sad that there isn’t more barre work. Always. It’s like, this is really hard! Give us a break! On the other hand, if you ask the teacher she will let you do stuff at the barre instead of in center, especially if you are exhausted or haven’t been there for a while. It won’t hurt to ask, right?
    The spring under thing (according to whatever pointe book my teacher read) is for releves, and straight up without spring unders are for eleve. But if you spring under you then have to spring OUT again, and that it noisy and ugly so argh.

  12. Jessica says:

    My second pointe class is today, so this is v helpful to read. I hate chaines in flat shoes, so limping through them last week en pointe, just along the barre, was terrifying as well as painful. AB, I think you’ve mentioned that you’re tall, and I wonder if that contributes to the fear. I’m very short, so I am not sure, but when I was playing roller derby, the tall skaters always seemed to be much more afraid of falling (generalizing, but it was true with several ~ 6′ players in a couple different leagues), and it made training difficult in many ways. It sounds simplistic and kind of dumb, but a tall person literally has farther to fall. I hope your pointe class gets better soon. I cried in the car after almost every Friday class from Jan. to May this year. I knew I was tired, it was the end of the week, that class was with a different teacher and more advanced students (all teens; there’s only one other adult ballet student in my whole town). I knew I must be getting better. But it was still really really difficult. I dreaded Friday afternoons. Sending you strength.

    • Ooh, we did chainés along the bar too! And then in center, Holy. Moly. My center ones were very very slow. Like half turn, check myself, half turn, check myself.
      Car crying, I have totally done that. Sending you some Ability To Find Humor Anywhere, I think that’s my one gift. Or Is It A Curse Oh Noooooooo.
      Tallness, hmm, interesting. You know, I think I’ll have to find out exactly how tall I am on the pointes, that would be good to know. I mean, falling from six feet is one thing, but falling from five foot eleven sounds a little less scary. Mental tricks, hooray!

  13. kaija24 says:

    It’s not just you, it’s the state of “adult pointe classes.” If we were children, we would spend countless hours/classes/weeks/years doing simple but progressive barre exercises to build up strength and technique. In fact, one of my teachers has confessed that teaching pointe to “the kids” in ballet school can be very boring for her because it’s simply a matter of doing enough repetitions, building strength, making small corrections and improvements with many of the same damn exercises ad nauseum for such a long time.

    This doesn’t happen with adults, first because any “beginner” pointe class is usually attended by a significant number of “returners” who had instruction/did pointe as children and are looking for a refresher. The classes tend to move at the pace of these students, so true beginner sort of get caught up in the momentum. Also, I’m sure that many studios/teachers are realistic about the amount of adult pointe students that they would attract and who would stick with it if the classes progressed gradually and repetitively like the kids’ classes do…most adults are dancing on borrowed time (we don’t have our whole athletic lives ahead of us!) and simply aren’t going to put in years of strengthening exercises. So that leaves the true adult beginners in a bit of a gap. I struggle with this too and am trying to do more strengthening/repetitive basics on my own and checking in with a nuturing teacher and a lot of staying at the barre to work on my weaknesses if I take a class (few and far between, offered and not offered, etc). :/

    • That totally makes sense, pointe classes moving at the pace of the returners.
      Funny about teaching pointe to kids being boring! Sometimes if I’m having a hard class I let my mind wander to that place where I worry that it must be disappointing, just a little bit secretly in the back of their minds, for my teachers to teach people who aren’t going to be sending them postcards from SAB or whatever. It’s good to be reminded of stuff like this, that teaching adults means not doing hour after hour of slow releves, adults are strong enough to get right in there and with-it enough to take instructions and remember them.

  14. Casey says:

    Just go slow…honestly it is better to do something at the barre instead of getting all crazy and winding up hurt.

  15. A. says:

    Your class looks hard! Does “rising to unassisted arabesques on pointe” mean that you are supposed to be doing piqué arabesque or relevé arabesque ? (english isn’t my first language) Relevés on one foot are so hard and require a lot of strenght. I spent my first classes at the barre. Tthen we only did relevés in first and second position, menées, piqués (without turning, we started turning in december) and échappés in the center

    • Relevé arabesque, although both kinds seem nearly impossible to me right now in center, better when I can face the barre and use it to stop my journey to the floor. I like that you started turning in December! Linking turns to the month seems somehow seasonal and celebratory.

  16. LJ says:

    The studio I dance in has a pretty slippery floor, and my teacher’s suggestion was to get our shoes gripped up. I took my pointes to a cobbler (a lovely old Russian guy who loves ballet and gave me chocolate bars, adorable) and he put a layer of grippy stuff on the ends of them for me. It’s kind of like having a very thin sole on the end of the shoe, just enough to give it some traction so you don’t feel like your feet are going to go flying out from underneath you. Might be worth a try to see if you feel more secure away from the barre?

  17. Hey friends, thanks so much for the encouragement. I really had no idea if the response to this post would be like: Get Out Of That Class While You Can Still Walk or more like: Suck It Up, Girlfriend, That There’s How It Is.
    I’m so glad it was Suck It Up. I feel refocused and like my trust in my teachers is confirmed and renewed. You guys are the best, high-fives all around.

  18. Zebra says:

    Out of interest, is the class any easier if Best Girl isn’t there? Was just wondering if it was partly a case of class [subconsciously] being focused on her & the rest of you coming along for the ride…

    Dearth of adult pointe classes means that what might be meant/labelled as a beginner class is The Only Class & how teachers choose to deal with that varies. Mostly with pointe options seem to be Put Up or Push Off, but Put Up is a bit more nuanced than it sounds… Definitely worth trying to talk to Smirnoff & l’Assistante to express your concerns. Lots of teachers worry about pointe students becoming dependent on the barre, so try to be specific about what it is you want/need that you’re not getting & clear that you’re not a barrenacle, Are there other members of the class who might be willing to go with you to discuss it? Something as simple as having two versions of an exercise going at the same time could work: those who need it can drill the basics; Best Girl + her peers can do their thing, with those who feel up to it attempting it as well.

    When I was figuring out piqué arabesques for myself at a pas de deux class (still trying to find myself a pointe class, but atm am too ill to do anything more than part of my weekly Associates Class, so…) I used the barre. I did them facing the barre, so the barre was there to stabilise me when I arrived in arabesque, nothing more than that, but it really helped. I was having to do it on the right, too, where Wrecked Right Ankle makes all pointework super SUPER extra hard, By preventing my right foot from actually pointing. It gets very enthusiastic about going sideways, which is Really Not So Good; but by dint of Working Really Hard & going to see an ex-RB dancer [with Quite Blatant Magical Powers] for massage, DoomAnkle is gradually getting a bit less doomful. But yes, if I can get up there on my totally wrecked side (& though I’m only 5’4″ I’m very long of leg) you KNOW you can totally do it. Backwards. (And I wasn’t doing something dodgy, though I figured it out for myself I got someone more experienced to check the end result.)

    Fear in class is tricky. A certain amount of it is good – it keeps you safe. I sometimes see adults doing stuff en pointe they just shouldn’t be & I’m scared they’re going to get really badly hurt. It also looks fugly as, frankly. Too Much Fear is bad though, as it can also lead too getting injured, because you second-guess & hesitate & stiffen up & move awkwardly. A wee bit scared is ok, but trust your body. It’s got this. It can do it. It knows the building blocks of pointe & can totally put them together if your brain will let it Do Its Intuitive Thing & apply all the stuff it’s been learning in regular ballet class for years. Brain can come in for the fine-tuning & the new bits, but it needs to give body some space. As much as pointe can feel like it is completely different, it isn’t really: everything you’ve been doing until now has been getting you ready for it. Let your brain run its checklist (am I turned out; are my legs straight; is my core activated; am I properly centred; are my shoulders in the right place; am I holding only the correct muscles; etcetcblah?) & fix the problems like you would in normal class. Brain can add in things like “keep 2nd position waaaaaaay smaller, we’re doing pointe now body” & “roll through the foot, we’re doing rises not relevés” but what it can’t do is start catastrophising. Or panicking. Or generally indulging in any unhelpful shenanigans of that ilk. Le non.

    Have decided to just hope this ungodly o’clock super sleep-deprived comment makes some kind of sense, And retreat into Fort Duvet in search of More Sleep. Lovely sleep…

    Zx

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