Ballet Squid Chronicles: Finally Back!

… Sort of.

I had a pretty bad asthma attack last night, so I felt iffy about class this morning.   I went anyway and chugged and wheezed my way through barre, then called it a day.   I am still learning my limits.

This was my first go at the Wednesday morning Intermediate Class.   We had a sub who was lovely, but because I’m horrible I’ve forgotten her name already.   o.O  

She gave us a challenging barre with penchés, fouettées*, pirouettes, and half-turns à la seconde.  Not to mention all. The.  Frappé.   Starbucks ain’t got nothin’ on us, you guys.

Having missed two freaking weeks of class, I was not what the cycling world would call “on form.”  My extensions were decent, but that’s about all I can say for myself.   My turnout was Meh, my legs felt pathetic, and I dropped my legwarmers in the toilet before class so I had to dispose of them :(

They were cute, but they were just recycled sweater arms, so it’s not a huge financial loss or anything.   I think I’ll see about hitting up thrift stores for some stripey sweaters to make replacements. Maybe this time I’ll even make them the right width at the top so they’ll stay up!

Anyhow, so begins my new Ballet schedule: Claire on Monday, Brienne on Wednesday, Margie and Claire on Saturday until such time as I’m deemed worthy of advanced class.  Only next week there’s no class, so I will have to be Forever Alone with my ballet conditioning video workout next week.

Oh, also, we saw Nutcracker last weekend and I never posted my very-brief review, but I promise I will, you guys.   But you’ll appreciate this bit.

You can pick out the dancers in the audience because they’re the only ones who applaud when the corps does some crazy promenades.   Everyone what is like, “WTF, they’re not even jumping!”

Dancers be like, “Yusss, dat promenade!”

Notes
*These aren’t 32 Black Swan Fouettées — just the ones where you’re basically in arabesque and then an imaginary toe-eating beast grabs your extended toe and yanks it so you whip around to either face the imaginary toe-eating beast (if you were in arabesque arrière) or you whip around to not have to watch it eat your toe (if you were in arabesque avant**).   You know.   If you’re me.
**Or whatever you call that.

Non-Ballet, Non-Bike Things

image

Finally taking a break to do a little drawing.   He’s a young Welsh section A stallion, partway finished.   He’s really just a sketch, but he’s turning out so well I rather wish I’d thought to give him a setting.   I suppose it’s not too late!

Small World

I’m apparently cyber-stalking New Haven Ballet at the moment (read: poring over their website, apparently in an attempt to avoid finishing my math review?) and I noticed that one of their instructors, Christopher DeNofrio, used to dance and teach at Louisville Ballet (and was, in fact, the Assistant Director of our school at one time!). That was before I moved here, so I wouldn’t have known him, but still pretty neat stuff.

Wait, what’s that sound?

Oh, it’s just the ballet world shrinking again*.

Notes
*In case you’re wondering, it usually sounds a lot like Swan Lake, but right now it sounds suspiciously like the Nutcracker.

Ballet Squid Chronicles: Saturday Class, Now With 100% More Kelly!

We did Essentials this morning, which was enough for my recovering respiratory system.  Our friend Kelly came and was able to hang in throughout class.   Yay!

Barre was lovely.   A week off the bike means my hip flexors were nice and loose, so I had high extensions and an effortless full left split.   It was just like, “Oh, look, here I am on the ground!”   (The right was pretty close, but not all the way there).

Except for chaînés across the floor, we didn’t do turns today (not even at the barre).  Just little jumps followed by grand jetés.  The grand jetés were fun, as always, and I focused on keeping my upper body together and not going all squidly.

At one point one of the girls whose names I don’t know because I’m a  horrible person and I went together, perfectly synchronized but on opposite legs (this makes sense to you if you’re a horse person :D).  We looked really cool in the mirror, even if it wasn’t actually something we planned (I started on the wrong foot, somehow).

I was reminded of that cool synchronized dressage drill where you and a partner canter (with lots of collection, ideally) down the centerline on opposite leads and turn off in opposite directions at C (looks even cooler in counter-canter).  Ballet: it’s people-dressage!

Margie wanted us to focus on really traveling in our leaps.  I didn’t quite have the aerobic capacity today to manage to clear the studio in two jetés, but I got across in three every time.  A couple even looked pretty :P

In other news, my chaînés are magically becoming solid.  This feels awesome, because chaînés are basically my nemesis, you guys, and also something I shouldn’t struggle with at this point.  I made the mistake of noticing this during my first pass and promptly ceasing to spot halfway across the floor. (You know how it is: “OMG I’M DOING IT AAAAAAAUGH!”)

Fortunately, because I have bizarre ear problems sometimes and thus have tons of practice moving while dizzy, I managed to finish my pass and not fall down at the end, even if I did wind up tracking a bit diagonally.  So that was cool, too. Thereafter, I paid attention to my spot.

For what it’s worth, while Kelly would disagree, I think she looked very good considering that this was her first class back after a significantly longer break from dancing than mine. 

She has beautiful feet, and her leaps may not yet have been super high, but she did them with straight knees and pointed toes.   She also has a very graceful way of carrying her upper body and arms.  Her musical theater (like, actually-performed-in-New York musical theater!) and modern dance backgrounds come through there.  She’s also not at all afraid to ask questions in class.

I am happy to have Kelly in class and very much looking forward to watching her re-emerge as a dancer.   Exciting stuff!

Ballet Squid Chronicles: Lucky

We’re going to visit my parents in Connecticut in January, and I’ve been looking around for a ballet class to squeeze in while we’re up there. I’ve been surprised to find few options — there are adult options at a number of schools, but most seem to offer only one or two classes a week (and so many happen to be on Thursday — is there something I don’t know about Thursday?).

There are a couple of notable exceptions — Hartford City Ballet, for example, offers five adult open technique classes (and a conditioning class, which is one offering I wish we had — we do have Pilates, though).

I’m reminded again how lucky we are to have access to Louisville Ballet School’s robust adult class offerings — nine ballet technique classes per week, not counting the 6-week Intro Pointe class that happens once in a while. I’m not even counting non-ballet offerings (tap; something called “fitness fusion,” which might be ballet conditioning masquerading as a general fitness class; and Pilates, which doesn’t appear to be on our Winter Break schedule).

It surprises me that LBS, a school attached to a small company in a small city in a part of the country where the arts are vibrant but always struggling, offers such a robust adult program in what is presumably a much smaller adult-ballet market than one would expect in the Northeast. Not that I’m complaining! I’m just surprised.

I think the topic of how to cobble together a reasonable class schedule sorted has been bandied around the adult ballet boards at Ballet Talk for Dancers quite a bit, but I guess I still hadn’t realized how challenging it can be.

Any thoughts out there on why things shake out the way they do? How do class offerings look in your necks of the woods, fellow dancers? Do you think LBS’ offerings are more typical or more atypical for a ballet school in a moderate-sized city?

***
Update

The New Haven Ballet has a nice selection of Open Division classes, so I think I’m going to try to work their Friday morning class into our visit. I’d love to visit Yale’s Peabody Museum while we’re up there, so it works out nicely for me.

Scheduling; Afternoon of a Faun

I’m starting to feel human again this morning. Not quite ready for prime time, but awake and together enough to finish my homework, get some review done, pay some bills, and maybe do a little writing today. It’s good to feel like things are winding up and room is opening up for creative work. Also rather nice to be pretty convinced that this little thing I’ve nicknamed Thanksgiving Virus (which has snagged about half the people I know) is, in fact, just a little thing, and will go away on its own.

I’ve decided to repeat the math class I took this semester. I might finish this semester with a B; I might not. Regardless, I don’t feel like I’ve really mastered the material, so I’m going to repeat the class.

I’ve popped it in my schedule for Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 9:30. That won’t interfere with my plans to do class Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (ballet class: it’s funny how ballet takes over your life, and “math class” continues to be “math class,” while “ballet class” just turns into “class”).

__

In other news, if you haven’t seen the brilliant and moving documentary on Tanaquil LeClercq, Afternoon of a Faun, you can catch it on Netflix streaming, or you can rent it from Amazon‘s streaming service for $3.99 (it’s not Prime eligible, but it’s absolutely worth the $4 to see it or the $10 or so to buy streaming rights).

Afternoon of a Faun is not only a touching story about a brilliant ballerina struck down in her prime, but a keen reminder of what medicine has done for us; what we stand to lose in today’s anti-vaccination foment.

I’m not sure what further to say. LeClercq’s spirit and strength are inspiring, as are the stories told by her contemporaries and the vintage performance footage. If you haven’t seen it, watch it.

That’s it for now.

I Am Good At Three Things

  • Riding Bikes
  • Dancing
  • Obsessing About Food

Actually, I suppose I’m good at more than those three things, and there are certainly things I’m better at than I am at riding bikes and, loathe though I am to admit it, dancing (I like to pretend that I’m really awesome at dancing, in hopes that one day soon I really will be, though at the rate I’m making it to class right now, that’s going to be some time in 2075).

It so happens, however, that — perhaps because Pride Goeth Before The Fall, etc. — after boasting inwardly about how proud of myself I am for making it through one whole semester without being sick enough to miss a day of class, I have managed to come down with some nasty (but not dangerous) infectious thing during the last week of the semester.

Whereby I have now missed a class due to illness (I went to school Monday morning, discovered that we didn’t actually have math class [because my poor prof got called in for jury duty!] and promptly turned around and went home, thus missing Senior Seminar).

Which is a sentence fragment.

About which, in my present less-than-entirely-coherent frame of mind, I am unconcerned.

Anyway!

So now, having survived my Last Day of Class for this term, I’m busy lying around and not dancing because, seriously, nobody wants me in ballet class in my current condition (snotty, wheezy, full of inappropriate gastric noises, vague, feverish, “pale and interesting”). And because I cooked my brain doing maths homework and going to class, I am not trying to review for my math final right now, or to write (in case you’re wondering — nope, blogging does not count), or to do anything else that could be construed as “useful.” Nope. Instead, I’m lying around being useless and going crazy on Pinterest. And listening to my cat purring his hilarious purr, which sounds like a normal purr on the inhale and like one of those bird-shaped water-whistles that you used to get at the Strawberry Festival at the local Catholic church on the exhale.

Somehow, in my muddled, befuddled state, I have suddenly noticed that Pinterest is amazingly full of recipes for pretty miniature desserts — just the sort of thing that (again owing to my muddled, befuddled state) I am currently pretending I will make and serve to guests at the sparkly little holiday party I am pretending I will throw. Some of which simply involve dipping things that are already desserts in melted chocolate and then dipping the in colorful sprinkles, which even I can do, though I should probably wait until I’m doing being contagious and horrible.

Heck, I’m not even sure why I’m writing this. I was going to try to link to thinks on Pinterest that I am finding immensely interesting right now, but on second thought, that just sounds too hard. So, instead, here’s a link to my JustDesserts board:

It has twelve things on it now! It will probably have even more any moment now! Exciting things covered in sprinkles and chocolate!

So, um. Yeah. There we go. And in the interest of not making this post any less coherent, I’m just going to go ahead and post it without attempting to proof-read it*, and then I’m going to go pretend I’m watching a movie but probably really fall asleep because the cat is on my feet shooting out his soporific beams.

Moar ballet soon. I promise**.

Notes
*Okay, so I went back to add tags and categories and made a couple of small changes. I am a horrible lying liar.
**Seriously, I expect to be back in action on Saturday, even if I am only up to doing Essentials. Besides which, our friend Kelly is planning on joining us in class! Class with 100% more Kelly! w00t! They should seriously give me a gold star or something for my recruiting efforts. BALLET FOR EVERYONE!!!!

This Time of Year

This time of year I tend to get a little frazzled — fall semester is short, and everything seems to be happening at once, and instead of preparing for the long cleansing breath of summer break, we’re preparing for the Frenetic Rush of Holidays (which we do much less frenetically, it would seem, than many, but it’s still more than enough for me!). I’m tired, overtaxed, and irritable because I haven’t been to ballet class in Way Too Long.

So it’s easy to lose sight of those things for which I’m thankful.

So I think I’ll plunk them down here.

First and foremost, the lovely people — both in “Real Life” and on The Innertubes — who make my life so amazing.

Second, ballet, ballet, ballet. I am so freaking ridiculously grateful to live in a town with a good ballet school, one where I can take class until my head explodes, one where our teachers push us and expect us to learn the material and to grow and stretch and challenge ourselves.

Third, school. I am grateful to have the opportunity to go to school and pursue my dreams. Heck, I’m grateful to finally have some freaking idea what I want to do when I “grow up.” I am grateful to my lovely husband for having suggested Dance Movement Therapy, and I guess I’m grateful to Dance Movement Therapy for existing … and I’m grateful for the opportunity to hit up the conference this year, and immerse myself in the world of DMTs, and walk away feeling like, yes, these are my people, who understand people like me.

I’m grateful for my bicycles, and my bike peeps (even though I haven’t been on a real ride in aaaaaages). I’m grateful for the capable body that lets me ride bikes and dance. I’m grateful for the bus system that carries my bikes around on longer trips, making the bike-and-bus intermodal option so practical. I’m grateful that between the bike and the bus I can get to ballet school, no sweat.

I’m grateful for my lovely husband, who has somehow managed to remain sane in the face of my highly-strung, hyperactive, bipolar nature. It’s been a tough year in some ways, and he has been there for me at every turn. And he also looks adorable in tights ^-^

And … well, there are a billion other things. When I’m feeling grateful, I feel immensely grateful, for everything — for all the miraculous beauty of the sky and the power of nature and for the fact that the ocean exists, even though right now I’m too darned far away.

I’m grateful for the unending act of creation that is the process of life; the fact that we are free to create and re-create ourselves over and over; that it is never necessary to stop growing and evolving.

I’m grateful for my cat, who keeps my knees warm when I’m not dancing and uses his vibrating massage feature to keep them comfortable ^-^

And. Yeah. All that other stuff, too. Everything. All kinds of stuff. I’m grateful.

So there you have it; my ridiculous mildly-tipsy stream-of-consciousness I-had-a-really-great-day-today Thanksgiving post.

And thank you, all of you who read my ramblings. You’re great, too. Thank you.

Post Is Unrelated

I am something of a language nerd, and I enjoy reading articles written by other language nerds about language-related nerdery.

This morning, I ran across a good one (link to follow here) explaining where to put apostrophes in familial names on holiday cards (the short answer: don’t).   The author wondered about the source of our confusion about the use of apostrophes, but didn’t propose a hypothesis.

I’m an overachiever, so I have two.

First, many of us don’t read much — or, rather, we read text messages, news blurbs, forums, and blogs, but we spend a lot less time with texts edited by editors who know how to use apostrophes.  

We mostly encounter apostrophes in contexts in which their use is as likely to be incorrect as it is to be correct (around here, I’d argue that they’re actually more likely to be used incorrectly, but bias might be skewing my perceptions).  Seriously, drive by a strip mall and check for stray apostrophes, and chances are good that you’ll find plenty(1).

In short, we’re missing the substrate of experience that would allow us to confidently infer whether and where an apostrophe is appropriate.

Second, and much more importantly, we’re battling uphill against the power of idiom and homonym (a battle that can be won, potentially, by reading a whole lot, which helps to overcome the ambiguity of spoken English as it relates to written English).

Case in point: when we say we’re going to visit someone, we often do it using a truncated version of the phrase, “We’re going to the So-and-sos’ house” – we say, “We’re going to the So-and-so’s.”  

The context remains possessive (“I’ll be at Dave’s if you need me,” rather than, “I’ll be at Daves if…”).   This trips us up when we try to refer to our families using a plural proper name.

Because the plural and possessive forms of “So-and-so” sound alike, we forget that they’re spelled differently (q.v. other commonly misused homonyms: “too, to, two,” “they’re, there, their,” “its, it’s”).   Because we don’t have a good “feel” for the rules that govern the use of apostrophes, we choose the most familiar form – which, unfortunately, is also the wrong form.

In short, we treat family names as if they are being used within the context of a familiar possessive phrase (“The Dawsons’ house”) but apply the more familiar singular possessive (“The Dawson’s…”) rather than the less familiar plural possessive (“The Dawsons’…”).

In fact, when we say, “Happy Chanukah from the Singers,” we’re not using a possessive sense at all.

Fortunately, as with many of the arbitrary rules of English grammar, there are shortcuts to correct usage.  

The easiest way to remember whether to employ an apostrophe in a greeting is to swap out the family name (which is plural) for a personal name (which isn’t) that doesn’t end in ‘s.’   If you’re already a bit confused, names that end in ‘s’ only muddy the water.

Exchange “Good Yule from the Cunninghams” for “Good Yule from Pat.”  Make note of whether an apostrophe was required (it wasn’t).  Treat the plural name accordingly even if it ends in ‘s’  – it’s still not possessive in this context.  (For names that end in ‘s,’ just add ‘-es’ to the end: Jameses, Hearknesses, etc.)

If you’re still in doubt, of course, it’s also entirely kosher to simply write out, “Happy Holidays from the James Family.”

So that’s that.   My hypothesis, with a bit of application thrown in for good measure.

…And, yes, I know I split an infinitive back there.   The rule about not splitting them derives from a misunderstanding of the origins of the English language, contributes nothing to meaning, and, I am happy to say, is falling by the wayside thanks in no small part to the original Star Trek.

I  realize this is basically way off-topic.  I promise that I shall return to blogging about ballet, bikes, and bipolar disorder soon.

Notes

  1. I suspect that this only amplifies the problem. Business names do crazy things with apostrophes — take, for example, Chili’s. Is it “The place that belongs to Chili?” Or is it “We’re trying to name our restaurant after that key ingredient associated with Tex-Mex cuisine, Chilis?” Out in the world, you’re likely to encounter a million places with names like “Tinks” or “HotWang’s,” and it’s generally pretty unclear whether the person who name the business is simply unschooled in the correct use of apostrophes or is attempting to employ some kind of play on words (you can be pretty sure that when a business is called something like “Johnsons” or “Changs,” but isn’t actually marketing human beings, an apostrophe has been omitted). Since business names are plagued with bad puns, the context gets even muddier. It makes one long for the strictures of a language such as French or Japanese, in which nobody asks questions like these, because possessives aren’t rendered using apostrophes in the first place.

In Defense of Anecdotes

Ages ago, I found myself debating the value of anecdotes with a friend.

He argued that anecdotes should never be used because they can just as easily represent outliers as norms; I argued that they were extremely valuable as vehicles — people remember stories better than they remember reams of data.

I now realize that we were arguing at cross-purposes. He was arguing that anecdotal evidence should not be used to confirm or deny research hypotheses (a position on which we actually agree); I was arguing that anecdotes have a place in explaining the findings of research to people who don’t necessarily know a great deal about statistics and levels of measurement and all that jazz. I have no idea how he feels about that. I’ll have to ask the next time I see him.

It is true that individual anecdotes can’t tell us much about how the world actually works: if we only hear one story, we can’t glean from that single story whether that story is typical or atypical. Therefore, we can’t base statistical analyses on small samples of individual anecdotes, and we can’t make sound statements about causality or even, really, about correlations based on small samples of individual anecdotes.

When we try to ascribe causality based on anecdotes, we run into problems: for example, a book detailing how the use of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) led to one child’s “recovery” from autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) does not actually mean that ABA can produce the same results for all, or even most, kids (or adults) with ASD. In fact, most of the time, it doesn’t (this isn’t to say that ABA isn’t a valuable tool; just that it’s not usually a miracle cure) — but reading one or two books recounting the story of one or two kids who “recovered” can lead to the impression that ASD is “curable” in most or all cases and “should” be cured using ABA(1).

If, as a parent or helping professional, you read only that book, or those two books, and you decide that they represent a typical view of the world, you’ll have based your entire understanding — your entire statistical analysis, informal though it may be — on an anomaly, but you won’t necessarily know it.

A research paper, meanwhile, that looks at a sample of a couple of thousand folks with ASD and examines outcomes of their experiences with ABA will undoubtedly produce a different picture of the efficacy of ABA and the “curability” of ASD. From such a paper, we’ll be able to get a better sense of the relationship between ASD and ABA: does ABA lead to improved outcomes(2) for people with ASD? Such a study will, ideally, also answer a few other important questions:

  • How often do improved outcomes occur?
  • How much improvement are we talking about?
  • How are we even defining “improved outcomes?”

If a study is sufficiently well-designed and well-controlled, we might even be able to draw some inferences about causality(3).

Unfortunately, the results of the research in question will most likely be published only in academic journals and textbooks, only a few of which will actually be accessible to the general public, only a few of whom will actually have the knowledge to interpret the results(4).

Thus, the likelihood that the average parent of a young child with ASD will be able to lay hands directly on sound research is much smaller than the likelihood that the same parent will be able to read a popular, anecdotal book.

This is where the power of the anecdote comes in handy: as researchers and as helping professionals, we have access to data that can help us to convey information to a broader audience — and we can select anecdotes that do reflect statistical realities. We also, incidentally, are often people who are interested in stories: research, to some extent, is about figuring out the “who (even if the who in question is, for example, a chemical messenger or an invisible physical force), what, when, where, why, and how” of things. In short, results can be translated into anecdotes.

Those anecdotes, in turn, can help people feel connected to the subject at hand, which is immensely important. A bunch of dry statistics about ABA and ASD won’t really influence how most people feel about whether ABA is an important and useful intervention or not; a true story, on the other hand, will — but with that power comes responsibility. When they’re used to reflect the realities revealed by careful research, anecdotes should be told in a way that reflects those realities; a way that reflects a typical (that is, an average) experience(5).

We’ve probably all seen television ads for weight-loss products with “RESULTS NOT TYPICAL” emblazoned across the bottom of the screen. Unfortunately, biographical and autobiographical books recounting anecdotes about recovery from neurological and psychological conditions aren’t required to carry those labels.

We probably can’t (and, for various reasons, probably shouldn’t) force them to — but we can find ways to tell harness the power of anecdotes to present results that are typical, so potential health-care consumers have a better shot at making informed choices.

Notes

  1. I don’t agree with either of these assertions, by the way; nor do I agree that the ability to function just like a neurotypical person in the neurotypical world is necessarily a desirable or reasonable goal. For some of us, it might be. For others, it’s not.
  2. “Improved outcomes” as operationally defined by the study — I guess operational definitions are a subject for another post.
  3. though this is notoriously hard to do in the field of psychology as a whole due to difficulties both with ethics (we’re not generally allowed to dissect people after applying a drug intervention to see what happened to their brains, nor can we keep them isolated in stimulus-free environments, etc.) and the complexity of human subjects (even if we could keep humans isolated in stimulus-free environments, that alone could become a confound, etc).
  4. In short, this is a skill that’s usually taught at the university level, and then primarily to students in disciplines with strong research components. In the US, that amounts to a fairly small subset of the general populace.
  5. I think it’s okay to mention the outliers as well — those atypical results that look so great, or so awful — but we must do so with the knowledge that, on the whole, most of us expect our individual case to be an exception, and moreover, to be a good exception: one with results better rather than worse, than is typical. In short, we need to present outliers with several grains of salt, and we need to balance the better-than-typical outcomes by also presenting the worse-than-typical ones.
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 174 other followers

%d bloggers like this: