I know I have danced enough for the day when…:

A. class is over. 

B. the third class of the day is over.

C. I have officially burned enough calories that I need to eat breakfast again. And lunch. And dinner. 

D. I lie in bed reading and can still feel my muscles firing while my brain works through the choreography. 

E. My legs are on fire, O G-d, whhyyyyyyyy
…The correct answer, of course, is, “F. NEVAR.”

(In reality, this post was inspired by the thought, “I’ve only put in six hours today, my legs should definitely not feel this sore.O NOES I HAZ AN OUT OF SHAPE!”

Yes, I am ridiculous. Also, pretty sure sure there’s ground glass in my turnouts.) 

5, 6, 7, 8 — Boy, Can We Procrastinate! 

I am clearly confused about life right now. 

I’ve jumped into an assistant-coach gig for a middle-school dance team, which is a huge leap out of my comfort zone, what with my background being strictly ballet & modern of the kind that tends to foam at the mouth when someone mentions “dance as a sport.”

That’s not where I’m confused, though. 

While I may be something something of a knee-jerk mouth-foamer about about the concept, I’ve realized that, with the right coach, Dance Team can be a way into dance as art for kids who might otherwise never have a chance. The coach I’m working with, a friend of mine from the increasingly tiny world of dance and aerials, is that kind of coach. Likewise, she and I come from essentially opposite dance backgrounds, and know how how to work together to take advantage  of that, so we make a good team.

I’m totally drinking the Kool-aid, there. 

No — what I’m confused about is this: why am I still scraping the paint on the house when I should be firming up the piece I’m choreographing for the team? 

Or, well … Okay, I’m not really confused. I know what’s going on. I’m just confused about why I’m letting it happen. 

Basically, I’m terrified. I’m afraid I’m Doin’ It Rong; that the dances I create are stupid. 

This is also part of what keeps me from finishing my longer choreography and writing projects. Every now and and then, I experience a spasm of lack of faith in my own vision. 

I don’t, I should note, most faith in my ability as a writer (sadly, the same cannot be said for my flaming case of Impostor Syndrome about dance): I’ve had too much success not to know that I can put words together beautifully; I just fall into fits of thinking my stories are stupid. Then I freeze for an indefinite period of time, after which I return to my projects and continue work. 

Anyway, today I should be making a dance, but instead I’m busy being afraid to make a dance. (I should be making plans for auditions for next year, but I’m paralyzed about that, too.)

I’m writing this so I can see how silly this all is. Maybe someday, I’ll read this and laugh at how silly I was. 

After all, it’s not like I have to go win the Prix de Lausanne the day after tomorrow (besides, I’m over-age for that). I just have to come up with a dance for a group of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who all seem like hard workers with good attitudes (or mostly-good, which is good enough).
Regardless, I really need to up my procrastination game. Who procrastinates by scraping paint, anyway, FFS? 

Apparently, I do.

There’s also this other thing. Maybe you can relate. When everything starts coming together and landing in my lap, which is totally happening right now, part of me (of course) feels grateful and excited … but another part starts looking around to see if the Universe is trolling me. Like, “Was that a real pat on the back, or did some divine force just stick a kick me sign on there?”

…Which is also totally happening right now (sorry, Universe).

I’m going to force myself to proceed as if there is no Kick Me sign; as of there’s no possibility of any such thing.

It just might take me a little while to really start believing it.    

Modern Monday: Amazingly, Modern Is Not Ballet (Go Figure, Eh?)

So I’ve decided to stick with modern for the time being. I’ll try to add a second class in somewhere, though it may mean taking class somewhere else, with someone else, maybe, if Friday mornings just prove to be impossible.

I’m still flailing my way back into it. I felt a little better today (even though I started out with a knee I somehow tweaked whilst watching ballet, rather than whilst doing ballet) — a bit less like a cartoon character broadly approximating modern dance; a bit more like, you know, a dancer who’s adapting from one discipline to another.

There were only two of us today, so Modern T gave us both some really, really specific guidance. For me, a big part of it was a question of how I’ve been using my back, shoulders, and head. This was, in every sense, a MOAR MODERN, LESS BALLET kind of day.

I think this is particularly hard for me at this particular moment in time because, right now, I’m all about the back, shoulders, and head in ballet as well. My legs more or less know what to do with themselves most of the time, so now I’m really working on bringing the rest of like, basically everything up to speed.

As such, I spend a lot of time thinking about port de bras, epaulement, placing my back and pelvis, and all that jazz (or, well, all that ballet, since I don’t actually do jazz).

This morning I had to basically force myself to shove all of that onto the back burner and do something else entirely — or, well, all the same things, but in a completely different way. Grounding the spine, in particular, does not come easily to me (because hypermobility).

On the other hand, all of this made several of the things we did in our floorwork make a lot more physical sense, so there’s that.

This was definitely a “struggling to remember the combination” kind of day. I feel less frustrated about it than I used to, though. My experiences in ballet — in which I’ve now developed a pretty strong ability to pick up choreography on the fly — have taught me that it’ll come. I just need to get the vocabulary into my body so I can start thinking about phrases instead of just individual “words.” I was starting to get there at the end of last semester and during the Mam-Luft intensive, so I know I’ll get there again.

All in good time.

Anyway, today I’m going to go help my friend AM (whose modern:ballet ratio is the opposite of mine) with dance team auditions. She teaches and coaches at a middle school. 

Should be interesting — I haven’t been inside a middle school … well, more or less since I graduated from middle school. It’s a tough age for kids, and I think dancing is a good way to get through it.

Depending on how things shake out, I may be jumping in as assistant coach for the rest of the year. I told AM I have no idea what I’m doing, and she said, “That’s okay; even though I was on a dance team and earned 6 national titles, I don’t have any idea what I’m doing either!”

So, basically, we can be clueless idiots together, the blind leading the blind leading the … well, hormonally-challenged, socially strained, and probably also blind. Fortunately, AM is a qualified English teacher, so she at least has prior experience working with kids in this age bracket.

As for me, I have discovered that kids often like me reasonably well because I take them seriously and don’t talk down to them (in part, I suspect, because I was raised by adults who didn’t believe in treating kids as if our thoughts and dreams and so forth were less important than those of adults). I hope that’s still the case, and that I haven’t become the annoying kind of adult in the interim between the last time I interacted with kids on a regular basis and now.

Anyway, this could be interesting.

After Dance Team it’s dinner, scrape the trim on the house, and then … honestly, I can’t even remember. I should probably check the online calendar and see if I’m supposed to be dangling from the ceiling in one way or another tonight.

Tomorrow, my goal is to finish scraping and get painting, and then I’ll be going to a Flexibility & Mobility class and to Acro 2.

In other news, I’ve invented a new word (if only in my head). Linguistically, it’s a terrible one — but it’s a useful one.

The word is eyerollment. Think of epaulement, and just replace epaule- with eyeroll.

Eyerollment is, for the most part, the wrong way to use your head in ballet.

Perhaps because we’re frequently reminded that the eyes follow the hands, when we’re learning to use epaulement, often we lead the movement with our eyes — literally rolling the eyes first, and then turning the head only when the eyes can go no further.

That, my friends, is eyerollment at its worst(1).

  1. At its best, it’s something that can add a touch of character — this weekend’s Swan Lake included at least one imperious “Guardian Swan” who somehow managed to use a small degree of eyerollment to convey grace, gravity, and superiority).

The best fix I’ve found for eyerollment is to think of the eyes pushing the hand instead of the hand pulling the eyes. 

If the eyes roll  around in their sockets, they’ll lose contact with the hand and won’t be able to push it. So you keep the eyes mostly fixed and turn the head to use them to push the hand.

I wish I could remember who suggested the idea of pushing the hand instead of pulling the eyes. It works really well for me and largely prevents the host of stupid things I routinely do with my head when I forget to think about it that way.

Coincidentally, nixing the eyerollment also prevents that ridiculous thing where you go into, say, first arabesque and then just roll your eyes to look out over the extended hand. If your eyes are more or less fixed, you are forced to use your head — and, in my experience, you’re less likely to do something crazy with your head, since your eyes aren’t all over the place.

So, basically, in short, ballet is a good reason to be glad we don’t actually have eyestalks, no matter how useful they might seem.

I’m off to middle school in a few. Wish me luck!


Another moment from yesterday’s class with JP:

“In sus-sous … You know what a mullet is? The hairstyle — short in the front and long in the back. That’s how you want your body to be; it helps you balance.”

I borrowed this and used it with my class today (properly credited, of course). They’re just starting to learn sus-sous.

It works — they did a great job even though sus-sous felt weird and new.

After class, Aerial A said I’ve come a long way as a teacher, and that my explanations work now.

That means the world to me.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It certainly is in this case. I crib constantly from the lessons my teachers give us, and i do that because their teaching works.

Anyway, it turns out that I can be taught — and not just taught to dance, but taught how to teach effectively.


Last night turned into another 2-hours-of-sleep fiasco because Reasons.

Denis got up and drove me to class so I wouldn’t kill myself or anyone else on the way. I left my legwarmers in my car, and started class feeling disgruntled because A) sleep dep and B) changes in routine are not exactly what we thrive on in ballet, and part of my routine is legwarmers.

However, it was one our rare classes with JP, and I love the way he teachers. By the time we got through the first tendu, I had forgotten that I was supposed to be having a bad day.

As a result, barre went beautifully. I realized that my prioprioception needs updating: at one point I glanced at myself in what I thought was an arabesque at roughly, I don’t know, 70 degrees and discovered that it was above 90. Which was partly, “WTF*” and partly “Such arabesque. Very Geometry. Wow.”

  1. So, like, “Where’s the Femur?” :V …Okay, I’ll stop. No, wait, that’s a lie. I won’t stop. Ever.

I lost my braings a little during the grand battement combination, but that was simply a function of thinking there were supposed to be MOAR ATTITUDE SWINGS. They just felt so good, which is nice, because for reasons I still don’t comprehend, I have wrestled with cloche en attitude for the past, like, two years.

Adagio was faaaabulouuuuus. When did I become, like, an Adagio Specialist? (In addition to being a jumper.) Even the adagio turn was A) nice and B) properly adagio. There was a renverse that just kept automatically being beautiful.

Waltz and terre-a-terre turns got a little wild. I started attacking my turns(2) like I was trying to kill them, even as JP reminded us(3) NOT TO DO THAT.

  1. I kind of feel like, in ballet, there are over-attackers and under-attackers. I am definitely an over-attacker. Most of the people I know in class seem to be under-attackers. It would be interesting to study if attack in ballet class correlates with, I don’t know, impulsiveness or trait conscientiousness or something like that outside of class.
  2. Which is to say: reminded me. You know the general correction that’s really an individual correction? That’s pretty much how JP does class. He rarely issues individual corrections directly; instead, he issues a general correction while somehow managing to make eye contact with everyone who really needs that specific individual correction.

    And then it was time for petit allegro. And, um, yeah.

    You know how brisee means “broken?”

    Yeah, um, well… So mine were really good, for values of good equal to literal. For values of, like, actual ballet, though, they were horrible.

    I think I did one actual brisee today:/ We did that combination twice in each direction, should’ve been a total of eight brisees.

    Grand allegro went a bit better. I lost the end of the combination on the first pass, but filled it in for the most part by the end (I kept forgetting the tombe-coupe-jete/cabriole that was supposed to change the direction — specifically, the tombe part). Apparently my jumps were high and looked good. I didn’t think they were particularly high, but it’s really hard to watch yourself doing entrelaces. Unless, like, you video them.

    So I made it to the end of class and didn’t die, but my brisees were like zombie brisees. Oh, well.

    That’s it for now. Overall, a good class, and I still feel like I’m moving forward. Especially barre-wise.


    We had a minor extended-family emergency tonight,  but it turns out everything is okay. Anyway, notes are finally up. 

    That Just Happened

    Scene from advanced class.

    We’re preparing for terre-a-terre. JP counts us up and says, “There’s, what, nine of you? So maybe five and four.”

    We start arranging ourselves.

    From somewhere in the pack, a timid voice pipes up, “Um, there’s ten of us.”

    JP pauses for a sec, then says, “Nine, ten, whatever. I can only count to eight, anyway.”

    PS: notes forthcoming, but life craziness had intervened. They're on my tablet.

    Also, Swan Lake was awesome. Awful lot of, "OMG, that's my teacher!" (Or classmate. Or friend. Or all three.)

    Wednesday Class: Perception versus, um, Perception?

    I had a good class today, for the most part — my turnouts were turnt, port de bras ported, etc. For once, I managed not to rack up the greatest number of “support your elbow” reminders in class (instead, for me, today was all about “Lift out of the hips sockets!”).

    Adage felt shockingly solid. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I’ve more or less completely stopped sucking at adagio? Part of it was definitely the music. No idea what it was, but it was beautiful, and I was like, “Ohhh yeah, feeling this music, w00t,” and not all like, “OMG OMG I HAVE TO GET MY LEG UP NOW AND NOT FALL DOWN OMFG. OMG NOW I HAVE TO ROND EN L’AIR. CRAP, WHICH ONE IS THIRD ARABESQUE??!!! O NOES O NOES.”

    (Some of that, BTW, was simply the effect of finally being able to feel confident about remembering which arabesque was which. It’s amazing how much just NOT HAVING TO THINK helps with arabesques.)

    Turns terre-a-terre were just like, “Doubles, sure, why not?” on the first pass. Like, doubles happening without even thinking about it. Just: Ohai, that was a double! Ohai, that one, too! On the second pass, I was busy thinking about a transition detail (a part that went tombe-pas de bourée-fondue arabesque-to-relevéfailli through, turn en dehors, pivot with rond de jambe) and threw out a mix of singles and doubles, but that was okay.

    By the time we got started with jumps, though, I was feeling tired (in fact, I already felt a little cooked after grand battement). I made it through the warm-up jumps and the first petit allegro combination (in fact, that one went shockingly well in terms of remembering what was supposed to happen — it was just, like, there when I needed it, pas de basque and everything).

    But then we got to our last combination, which was basically medium allegro, and it was jsut like … bleh.

    My assemblés sucked. I felt slow and heavy and imprecise. Beats happened (more or less by divine intervention, as far as I can tell), as did, by some miracle, this jeté-coupé-balonné thing that I didn’t think I even had. Beyond that, though, the whole combination felt, I don’t know, dumpy. By which I mean, more or less what I think a dump truck would feel like if it tried to do medium allegro.

    After class, though, I said something to Ms. B about feeling way out of shape, and she replied, “Well, you didn’t look out of shape!”

    So, basically, my perception was that I was a gigantic mess by the end. Hers, on the other hand, seemed rather otherwise.

    I guess this says a lot about how often we only see the worst in ourselves.

    And then, this was another of those classes that, looking back, I realize I couldn’t have done a year ago. Not like I did today. I would have made it through, but it would’ve been harder, and I wouldn’t have danced as well.

    Bit by bit, we move forward.

    Anyway, that’s it for now. No class with BW tomorrow because Swan Lake is happening. I’m going to see it on Saturday. Can’t wait!

    Remembering the Combinations: Don’t Freak Out

    I’m reading this great book, Raising the Barre: Big Dreams, False Starts, and My Midlife Quest to Dance the Nutcracker. It’s about author Lauren Kessler’s adventure into a professional production of The Nutcracker as a busy, successful, middle-aged journalist, teacher, writer, wife, and mother.

    She writes about her experiences attempting to re-learn ballet after a long hiatus (she danced from age 6 to age 12) — including the challenge of trying to remember the choreography. Even at barre.

    Of course, as a dancer, I could relate. Who hasn’t struggled to remember the choreo? Even, like, legit professional dancers sometimes struggle to remember the choreography.

    There are days that it seems like the only reason we have higher cognitive functions is to allow us to attempt to remember the choreography (and to torture ourselves when, inevitably, we fail).

    Anyway, reading about Kessler’s choreographic struggles reminded me how, back when I started dancing again — or, well, when I moved up to Beginner Class from Ballet Essentials — basically every class was like O G-D I CANNOT REMEMBER THE CHOREOGRAPHY I AM GOING TO DIE NOW.

    And that made me think about how easily I nailed down completely-new combinations under a completely-new (to me) teacher last week in Florida, and how on the occasions that I find myself taking Beginner class or the Monday or Friday Intermediate classes, I almost never struggle at all anymore.

    Even in Killer Class and Advanced Class, these days, I really only struggle when we’re working with steps that are new(er) and hard(er) for me.

    And that, in turn, led to a revelation:

    If you’re struggling to remember the choreography, don’t freak out.

    It means you’re pushing the limits of your own comfort zone; challenging yourself with things that are new and hard, and that’s awesome!*

    *Okay, sometimes it just means you’re having an off day.

    So, basically, if you’re struggling to remember the choreo, it doesn’t mean you suck.

    It just means you’re expanding your comfort zone.

    Of course, fat chance I’ll remember that during my next Modern class, heh.

    Things Left Unsaid

    A long time ago, my Step-Dad said to me, “You won’t be able to keep eating like that when you get older.”

    At the time, it pissed me off. I was like, What does he know? Who is he to tell me how I can and can’t eat?

    And, in point of fact, there were a lot of things he didn’t know — which, if we’re really honest with ourselves, is pretty normal even for parents who live with their kids, and my Step-Dad wasn’t living with us yet at the time (in fact, he wasn’t even officially my Step-Dad yet, though he’d been in my life for several years by then). Kids are independent beings — the more so they older they get — and while it’s important to know the important stuff, it’s impossible to know all the stuff.


    If I remember correctly, I was working my way through an entire stack of Saltine crackers, rabbit- (or possibly typewriter-)style: gnawing my way horizontally across the cracker, then back the other way, until each cracker was gone.

    Basically that’s what I lived on during the day — Saltines, ramen noodles, Chunky soup, sometimes hot dogs, the occasional grilled cheese sandwich(1).

    1. True story: it took me until I was like 18 to figure out that if you put butter in the pan or on the outside of the bread, your grilled cheese sandwich will taste a bazillion times better. I persisted in not understanding this even though I regularly ordered clam rolls or hot dogs at Friendly’s largely because I loved what they did with the buns. Apparently, I imagined that this was some kind of unknowable Restaurant Magic. Seriously, childhood self: WTF?

    I mean this, by the way, more or less literally. This was during a long stretch (read: my entire life) during which I found it nearly impossible to fall asleep before 2 AM and thus rarely woke up with enough time to eat breakfast; during which, to compound matters, I found most of the offerings of my school’s cafeteria singularly inedible (okay: in fact, I had never found school cafeteria food at all edible). Had it not been for the deli cart that sold little sandwiches on Kaiser rolls, I would have eaten literally nothing during any given school day.

    So, basically, I would come home and shove Saltines (or ramen, or Chunky soup, or hot dogs, or… and almost always or rather than and, by the way) into my face because I was more or less starving. But, of course, my Step-Dad didn’t know that. He came from a world in which kids eat breakfast at home and lunch at school and maybe a snack in the afternoon. He had no way of knowing that one of those things wasn’t happening at all and the other was happening, but inadequately.

    And I had no way of explaining any of this, because it was all just normal to me. I didn’t think there was anything weird about the fact that I never managed to fall asleep before 2 AM, for example — that’s just how it had always been. Your own normal is your own normal, and as a kid it’s not always easy to tell when your normal, like, maybe isn’t.

    Normal, that is. It’s still yours.

    Anyway. I digress.

    So, basically my immediate response, because I’m a hot-headed little prick and frankly it tends to be my go-to, was anger. I did not welcome what felt like unfair and undue criticism from someone who still, at the time, seemed like an interloper(2).

    1. This wasn’t, by the way, his fault: I think he did a very reasonable job, under the circumstances, trying to integrate into a family in which it is both fair and actually pretty accurate to say that the kids had more or less been raised by cats up until then. In case you’re wondering, cats don’t do a great job teaching you how to human. I love cats, but in some ways they make lousy humans. Anyway, my sister and I weren’t having any of it.

    In fact, all I heard was unwelcome criticism. I didn’t hear the part that went unsaid: that this guy, in fact, actually cared about me.

    The content of the message, of course, is debatable in 2016, in a world in which we’re beginning to see the question of body diversity very differently than we did when I was 12 or what have you … though I suppose a steady diet of Saltine crackers is probably less than ideal from a nutritional perspective, at any rate.

    Even in the last few years, we’ve really begun to rethink the way we approach nutritional issues with kids (if not, sadly, so much with adults). We recognize that, in a world already rife with soul-destroying messages about size and weight, we have to be really thoughtful about how we talk to them about food and body size and everything in that whole arena.

    So surely there could’ve been a more body-positive way to have that conversation — one with a little more “Hey, Saltines are great, but you could probably use some hummus or something to go with them so you don’t get scurvy, because scurvy is going to make gymnastics/skiing/horsebackriding/dancing pretty hard,” and a little less, “Whoa, there, buddy — you’ve gotta learn to slow down, or you’re going to get fat when you’re older,” with all its unspoken implications about the validity of fat bodies.

    But, at the end of the day, cultural baggage notwithstanding, there was that other, more important message — the one that’s so hard to hear, so much of the time, when the people who love us offer what they very sincerely intend as constructive criticism.

    It’s the message that goes, “Hey, I want you to be healthy and happy, because I care about you, and I want you to avoid these pitfalls that I’ve fallen into myself.”


    Things have changed a lot in the intervening years. My Dad died when I had just turned eighteen. My Step-Dad was an unexpected ally: he understood my hurt, my anger, and why I wandered around wearing my Dad’s Air Force jacket all the time. My Mom and Step-Dad married when I was nineteen (like so many other important events in my life, including my own birth, that involved a major blizzard: does anyone wonder why I scheduled my own wedding for May?). My sister and my Step-Dad reached a detente, then an accord.

    I realized, most importantly, that my Step-Dad makes my Mom happy, and that they work well together, and that, in the long run, that’s what matters.

    We are still a family that talks in ellipses; a family in which so much is left unsaid. After a while, you learn to kind of hear between the lines. You figure out that, sometimes, “Hey, you should put something warmer on,” really means, “I love you; don’t get frostbite.” That, sometimes, the Yankee stiff upper lip makes it hard to pronounce the words.

    Not to say that everything’s perfect now. On our trip to Marco Island, I was kvetching about my eternal nasal congestion and how it makes sleeping difficult, and Step-Dad piped in with, “Especially when you get older, you should make sure to get checked for sleep apnea.”

    From somewhere in the depths of my psyche, my preteen self awoke and bristled and almost said something like, “OMG DAD SRSLY?!!!”

    And then I took a breath and realized that I was missing, once again, the thing that went unsaid: “Hey, I’ve had a couple of friends who’ve really suffered with this thing. I care about you, I worry about you, I don’t want you to have to go through that.”

    I’m not sure if I gracefully said, “Oh, thanks, yeah, good idea, I will.” I think I said something more like, “Oh, yeah, I know a couple people with sleep apnea, it sucks.” I don’t actually remember, because I was really kind of busy being annoyed at myself for being annoyed in the first place.

    But I hope that, whatever words made it out of my mouth, that my Step-Dad heard the things I left unsaid.

    That he heard, “Thank you. I love you, too. That means a lot.”

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