Life: Stepping Onto The Stage

A little more than a year ago, I returned to the ballet studio after a long break from all forms of theatrical dance (note that I didn’t say all forms of dance, period: historically, every time an opportunity to own the floor has arisen, I’ve grabbed it by the horns and spun it like a top).

I didn’t see that as the Beginning of Something, because of course we almost never* spot the Beginnings in the ongoing string of serial novels that comprise our lifetimes, but that’s what it was: a Beginning.

*I think we most reliably notice them when they coincide with a life-milestone recognized by our culture — a birth, a death, a matriculation, a graduation, coming out, a wedding, a divorce… Those ones are easier to spot.

It was a beginning that had been much-rehearsed and much-prepared-for, in a way.

I’d made a lot of changes in the three years prior: met the love of my life; figured out I was unhappy not just with my job, but with my entire career path; left a stable job with decent pay and fair opportunities for advancement; left the field in which I’d accrued all of my meaningful professional experience; returned to school; got married (another Beginning); finally started to get my head around the fact that bipolar disorder was a thing in my life whether I admitted it or not, so I’d better just admit it; etc.

I had been doing a lot of foundational work on myself. Returning to ballet was the outgrowth of that foundational work.

What I didn’t expect was the transformative effect of that return to the studio.

If you’d asked me before I returned to ballet what kind of dancer I expected to grow into, I probably would have pointed to the most fluid, most gender-bending member of the Ballets Trockaderos and said, “I’m going to be him.” If you’d asked whether and how I expected ballet to transform the rest of my life, I might have said, “I dunno, I’ll be more fit, I guess?”

Instead it turns out that, as a dancer, my style is traditionally masculine in the balletic sense (I’m trying to figure out how describe what I mean, here), and that ballet has sent its tentacles into every nook and cranny of my life. Surprise**?

**Anyone who saw me performing either gymnastic floor exercise or ballet as a kid probably wouldn’t be surprised at all, come to think of it. Why am I always the last one to get the memo, even when the memo concerns myself? Likewise, anyone who has been Into Ballet for a while is probably enjoying a knowing snicker at the naivete of my initial thoughts about how ballet would impact my life.

I suppose I can’t be entirely surprised that ballet just kind of took over. That’s how I roll. I don’t do hobbies; I do consuming passions.

That said, I was quite surprised when ballet almost immediately eclipsed cycling. Somehow, I expected them to coexist. Instead, cycling has been recast in a subservient role — still wildly fun, still great for keeping up the cardio and getting from here to there, but let’s not overdo it, because it’s bad for the turnout. Casual centuries are still A Thing from time to time, but racing? Not so much.

Perhaps more genuinely surprising is the fact that I — perhaps not the most incendiary of flamers, but still sufficiently alight to say of my husband, “His steadiness allows me to be the airy-fairy faggot I was built to be” — feel so at home and “right” and comfortable as a danseur.

Historically, I’ve found it kind of awkward to be who and what I am: this boy who is not “straight acting” and has no desire to be, but who nonetheless doesn’t fit neatly into the “total flamer” box either.

I recognize that this is mainly because the limits we’ve drawn around that box are, well, silly — and, actually, quite sexist, in a “flamers are like girls and girls aren’t bold and athletic” kind of way. I’d like to see someone tell Misty Copeland or cycling great Marianne Vos that girls aren’t bold and athletic!

I can’t help but toss an eyeroll at the over-compensating “straight acting” types — not the ones who are just being themselves, but the ones who are trying too hard; the ones who make “masculinity” into some kind of cult object and wear its trappings like ill-fitting trousers while cloaking their own feminine or androgynous sides in shame. The problem is, I also don’t quite fit the mold at the opposite end of the spectrum … and, curiously, queer culture seems to leave precious little room for the recognition of anything else (okay, except bears, wolves, and otters — but I’m not any of those).

I am someone who by his nature likes categories and wants to belong to at least one, but I am also someone who appears to have been created specifically to defy categorization. I am eternally consigned to some kind of purple area, when all I want much of the time is to know whether I’m red or blue. Yea verily, this hath vexed me: I have really, really always wanted to fit somewhere. It never occurred to me that maybe part of what I missed about ballet was that I fit.

Ballet embraces a kind of bouyant masculine grace (which, by the way, doesn’t necessarily have to be constrained to male dancers; more on that in another post; G-d help me, I am backlogging myself with “…in another post” posts lately!) that is at once strictly counter-cultural in our modern age of male buffoonery and strictly classical in the sense that gentlemen were expected, Once Upon A Time, to know how to cut a caper or a rug and how to recognize a well-cut suit.

So I am learning to live into this kind of weird masculine grace that’s apparently a native part of my being — I say “weird” because I have, of course, thought of myself as male, but not particularly as an exemplar of any flavor of masculinity; that has, simply put, never been one of my aspirations. And, in so doing, I am learning to live into the whole of my being more thoroughly.

In short, I am feeling at once more whole and more real and developing a burgeoning sense of agency that threatens to topple my lifelong assumption that I would live out my days as a sort of domestic, dependent figure.

Scary stuff.

I say all this by way of a discovery: earlier today, I read a really cool article on Serious Eats called Friday Night Meatballs, immediately Had A Sad because it reflected something I’ve always wanted to do but felt I couldn’t because The House and Where Will People Park and Nobody Wants To Visit Our Neighborhood and Nobody Ever Comes To Our House, etc…

Then, immediately, I thought, “Well, why don’t I do something about that?”

Like, point the fourth, there? Of course nobody ever comes to our house. We never invite people to our house. Maybe if we invited people over on a regular basis, people would come to our house. Maybe that’s how all this works!

You guys, what the heck is happening to me?

It used to be that I would get to, “…but the house” or whatever and stop.

This isn’t to say that our current house is ever going to be ideal for entertaining. It’s not: but that’s life. I can’t practice big jumps in my basement, either, even though it’s the largest clear-span space in the house (our living room, meanwhile, is roughly one tour-jete across, if I keep it small). I make do: turns in the kitchen (because that, as we have established, is what kitchens are for), the occasional big jump in the living room, adagio in the basement. Balances everywhere, on every possible surface.

So packing ten people in for a sit-down meal in our dining room probably isn’t going to happen, at least not unless we get rid of the china cabinet and buy a different table. So what? Who cares? That’s why the human race invented this little thing called “the buffet.” It worked a treat for our family holiday shindig, and I’d like to do more of that: china and food on the dining room table, however many people arrayed on sofas and loveseats and chairs and giant ottomans in the living room. It works, and it actually feels rather nice and friendly.

I’m going to give this a spin, though first I’ll have to get off my butt and finish the Great Spring Break Cleaning.

I’m feeling this way about my life in general. You figure out what you’ve got and you go from there; there’s no point in worrying about what you don’t have right now. I don’t know if coming from a background in which I pretty much had everything made this harder or easier to learn — like, seriously, it seems like it should be easy to learn how to live on a much smaller income. You just spend less, right? But, in fact, it’s actually not all that intuitive when you’ve grown up never really having to worry about the expense of anything.

The difference is that when money really is no object, you can usually make things happen the way you envision them by just laying out some cash. When money is an object, you have to be a little more flexible and a little more creative. You have to learn how to work with what you’ve got.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

You take what you’ve got and you make the most of it, and while you’re doing that you figure out how to make the next step towards realizing the whole of your vision. Except in the most dire of circumstances, you cancel out the negative side of the equation (our dining room is definitely too small!) by recognizing a positive (but our living room is a really fun place for a group of people to hang out!). Then you figure out how to use that positive to meet your goal.

That’s the secret, apparently. That’s what keeps the here and now from seeming like nothing but a grinding wait ’til you get to where you want to be (now, if I can just figure out how to apply this kind of thinking to our bathroom, which I despise with the fire of a thousand suns, and to the fact that our kitchen feels like the most isolated room in our house…).

It’s like the principle of keeping Shabbos: from every Friday at sunset to every Saturday at sunset, the perfected kingdom of G-d is already present; sacred time descends upon and perfects our imperfect world. We invite the Perfect Someday to be here with us, now, and for a little while even our imperfect world is lifted up and perfected. Things still get spilled and little kids still burst into tears for mysterious reasons, but those things happen in the context of the Perfect Someday, and they too are sacred events.

In a way, Sarah Grey’s Friday Night Meatballs, with its recognition that the house is going to be messy and that you might be asked to read picture books, is its own Shabbos***. The world doesn’t stop being imperfect and chaotic (this isn’t to say that having to read picture books, by the way, is imperfect: it just probably isn’t what people think of when they think “Friday evening dinner party”), but for a little while, a different kind of perfection — a transcendent perfection — is invited in.

***Oddly enough, I hadn’t finished reading the article when I wrote this post — but author Sarah Grey calls out the same association!

I’d like to live my life a little more like that. I realize that’s what I’ve been hunting, in my endless journey for a spiritual practice that answers the calling of my soul: something that lifts up the Holy Sparks in all things. I just didn’t realize that it’s been sitting right here in front of me all along. (Voila! Isn’t that always where it is, though?)

It really helps to have an Organizing Principle, of course: Zen, or Yiddishkeit, or Catholic mysticism, or Quaker discernment, or secular humanist discernment, or bike racing, or ballet. Some organizing force that helps you untangle the threads and gather them together and weave them into a tapestry (and to know with ease that there will be imperfections in the tapestry). For whatever reason, Bike Racing didn’t really work for me — perhaps because it wasn’t my Vocation, in the old-school sense of the word.

Ballet has become exactly that in my life. Ballet is, at the moment, a kind of functional Kashruth. It is the thing that helps me decide, and at the same time it’s a sacred aspiration. This is, I think, the heart of the ballet aphorism, “I can’t; I have class.” What we are saying when we say, “I can’t, I have class,” is that we serve a higher calling, and that calling comes before so many of life’s distractions****.

****Of course, it’s possible to misuse this calling; to hide behind it in unhealthy ways — but the same can be said of any calling. To use a calling as an excuse to hide is wrong.

I am not living the kashruth of ballet perfectly, of course, because I am human and because I am just learning: but still it is working in my life, opening roads for wholeness that weren’t there before. It’s like pruning a tree, in a way: you prune away the suckers and the weak branches, and you are left with a strong and graceful tree that bears good fruit.

Ballet is the thing for which I am willing to shove everything else to the side, to make sacrifices that a year ago I wouldn’t have thought possible (Give up bike racing? Take any old job just so I can afford my training? Do :::shudder::: upper-body work?!).

I don’t think I would actually have bothered seeking out medication for my ADHD if it weren’t for ballet — but I realized that I need to get better at handling the other stuff in my life so I can keep dancing and so I can achieve my long-term goal of becoming a Dance-Movement Therapist, and I realized after a while that I wasn’t going to be able to do it without help.

I don’t know if, without ballet, I would have ever been as comfortable being who and what I am. I would have continued to feel weird, out of place, even in the outsider community that is the queer universe. I would have continued to hem and haw about having surgery for my gynecomastia, forever suspended between “living with this body limits me and makes me uncomfortable” and “the whole idea of surgery both makes Denis uncomfortable and reinforces the idea that there is only one right kind of male body.” I would have gone on not deciding until the accumulation of years rendered a decision for me. Ballet makes that decision easy: this is the thing I need to do to be able to move with freedom and strength. I can’t imagine regretting it, but I can absolutely imagine regretting not doing it.

Then again, that was the first bit of wisdom I learned from Denis: in the long run, you rarely regret what you do — instead, you regret what you don’t do.

So, yeah. I think I’m going to finish cleaning the house and try my own Friday Night Meatballs experiment, though maybe I’ll do something other than meatballs (but maybe not). We’ll figure out where to put people and where to put people’s cars and so forth (and if my friends come, they’ll probably come on bikes anyway).

I also think I’m going to keep working on moving forward, on stepping out onto this stage. Because, bizarrely, that’s what this all feels like: so much of my life, up until this point, has been rehearsal.

Now we step onto the stage. Now we take our place before the eyes of the world.

Now we begin to dance.

Danseur Ignoble: Intermediate Class, Now With More Fiber

I finally bit the bullet and returned to intermediate class today.

But first I failed to eat breakfast, so I bought some protein bars (mainly because they were fairly low in sugar).   I had plenty of time before class, so I wolfed one down.

Then I noticed a message on the side of the box: “Increase fiber intake gradually to avoid gastric distress.”

Huh.

I did not proceed to check out the fiber content (update: I did check it after I got home — 20% of your daily diet intake per Bar!   No wonder.   I mean, that’s great, but maybe better after class, here).  

I didn’t want to know.   Sometimes — particularly on the way into I(ntermediate) C(lass), Brienne’s IC especially — ignorance is bliss, or at least survival.

Barre went well.   As a body, Brienne’s students adore her because she works us like a bunch of cart-horses while providing great guidance and corrections.   We suffer under her tutelage and emerge better dancers.

Oh, and her barre is often a full hour long.  Spin class got nothin’ on Brienne’s barre.

It turns out that I haven’t lost my ability to learn long combinations and execute them, though I am somewhat out of shape physically.

I suffered like a bike racer through the final fondu adagio (we did, like, three separate slow fondu combos; mine got ugly towards the end) and then somewhat half-assed the frappés, even though that combination was fun (frappe x4, grand battement x2, all the way around and then avant with the inside leg).

At center, it turned out (no pun intended!) that all the work I’ve been doing on balances has greatly improved my turns.  They’re now solid in combinations, as long as I don’t psych myself out.

We did a little warm-up thing with tendus and pirouettes from fifth, then some really nice adagio that I freaking well did right (including a double from fourth, Bwahaha!) on the first try…

And then, like a voice from beyond, my stomach spoke.

It spoke inaudibly, but its message was clear: Danseur Ignoble, you are just about done for the day.  It was quite firm about that.

I made it through the second side of the adagio combination, but by the end of the first-side repeat my guts were in knots and I was starting to think I might vomit.   My leg was also quietly suggesting that it was close to done –and I still needed to haul groceries home on the bike.  For that matter, even my brain wasn’t so hot by then: it was busy trying to keep my guts in line, and I soon forgot the combination I’d just done so successfully a moment before.

My leg, my guts, my brain, and I limped through the rest of the adagio.   We skipped the allegro: the guts weren’t having it, and the leg felt sufficiently fatigued to suggest a good stopping point anyway.

Needless to say, I followed up my class with an unexpected pit stop.   Oy vey.

At any rate, all’s well that ends well.   I’m feeling much better now.

And I have learned a valuable lesson: when choosing a pre-class breakfast bar, fiber content is probably as important as sugar and protein content.

Today’s corrections:
1. An effective one for keeping the supporting leg really turned out while in a relevé balance (can’t remember how she said it, but it worked and I’ve got it in my body now).
2. A deeply useful one for hitting the accents and a good line in frappé. Somehow, I haven’t been thinking of where the “picture” is in frappé,perhaps because I keep thinking of it as a passing step, which is a silly thing to think anyway in ballet. In ballet, there’s always a “picture.”
3. An excellent one for being musical and expressive in adagio without squinching up too much in the “small” moments.  This one you really had to see.  Maybe I’ll make a video?

Even though graduating is, like, terrifying in its own way (I used to kvetch about never finishing anything; now I’m kvetching about how scary finishing is!), I can’t wait to be done with this semester so I can get back to doing Brienne’s class on a regular basis.   Also Brian’s Monday class.

Between the two of them and Margie’s and/or Claire’s Saturday classes, I think I’ll be in very good shape when it comes time to do the audition component for various DMT programs.   I’m gaining a confidence in my body that I really never expected to achieve (learning to loooooove yourself, it is the greaaaaaatest loooooove o-of all, amirite?).

So that’s it for today.  Stay on the ball, dancers!

On Work: A Demanding Work Environment Is Not The Same As A Dehumanizing One

Recently, someone on Quora posted a question about the pros and cons of open-plan offices. Quora member Michael O. Church offered a thoughtful, intelligent answer, and buried within that answer was a gem:

…the negatives of these office spaces are under-reported, because people are afraid of appearing weak (like they “can’t handle” the stress of a “demanding” work environment).

— Michael O. Church (emphasis mine)

…And I thought, “Eureka!”

Right now, I’m job-hunting. I have the luxury of being picky, to a certain extent: we don’t need my income to keep a roof over our heads and food in our mouths; its primary purpose is to pay for ballet and surgery and, later on, to start whacking away at my student loan balance in the interim between my graduation and the beginning of grad school.

This means that when I look at job listings, I do a fair bit of reading between the lines. I’ve gained enough experience in the world to mostly be able to figure out which potential employers have unrealistic expectations*.

*Employers: when your list of desired qualities reads like the ingredients for an “everything and the kitchen sink” pizza, you are very likely looking for someone who doesn’t exist. This isn’t to say that folks you hire won’t try to be that pizza — but for all but a very, very few, the effort will be enormous and unsustainable. Fortunately, most jobs don’t actually require everything and the kitchen sink.

Usually, these expectations are totally benign. People making hiring decisions are faced with a difficult problem, and it’s much harder to figure out which positive, desirable traits are really necessary to succeed in a given position than to simply list every single positive, desirable trait that exist in the panoply of positive, desirable human traits.

However, there is a less-benign trend as well — one less related to hiring and more related to retention: the trend of mistaking a dehumanizing work environment for a demanding one.

In short, every work environment is demanding in one way or another. After all, if it wasn’t demanding, we probably wouldn’t call it work!** Some work environments, however, are not reasonable about their demands.

This is, by the way, probably related to the language we use when it comes to ballet class, training for bike races, and exercising at the gym. In ballet, we work. On the bike, when I was on a serious ride (as opposed to just tooling around for fun) and I wasn’t making the effort, I would say to my self, “Come on, get up. Work.” When we go to the gym, what do we do? We work out (girl, look at that body).

Here, we can draw an analogy to romantic relationships.

In a healthy relationship, there are good times and bad times, and it behooves both partners to, well, work on the relationship.

In an abusive relationship, the recipient of the abuse winds up doing all the work, and also doing far more work than a human being should have to. The answer, in that kind of situation, is to leave (though it is so very, very hard to do, especially when one’s emotional, spiritual, relational, and financial resources have been crushed and drained). Maybe the abuser will change, maybe he or she won’t — but sticking around to find out doesn’t usually get that job done.

It is not uncommon for abusive partners to deride their victims as “weak.” They often act as if their own behavior is perfectly fair and reasonable (generally, I would argue, because they actually believe that!), and as if those whose lives they transform into living hells just don’t have the spine to handle the pressures inherent in a relationship.

None of us who are reasonable, decent human beings agree with them.

However, we often let our working environments get away with exactly the same thing — because, in short, as workers, we generally don’t have very much power.

This isn’t to say that everyone who feels that his or her job is too demanding is right. There are many very fine employers in the world who treat their employees with the full complement of human decency.

However, as culture, we have come to accept some pretty unreasonable demands — we have, in fact, allowed ourselves to enshrine them as virtues. The Protestant Work Ethic has run amok, and we’re all paying the price.

For example: many of us complain about unreasonably long work hours, but we also pride ourselves on working them — even when it has been demonstrated time and again that longer hours don’t equal greater productivity, and that humans fare better overall when they have more balanced lives. We tacitly or not-so-tacitly regard the ability to survive (note that I don’t say “thrive,” because most people frankly don’t thrive under such conditions) as a mark of honor.

Likewise, we enshrine busy-ness as if it was itself the pinnacle of productivity. It’s not. Mere busy-ness indicates nothing: anyone who has ever been handed a sheaf of genuine busywork knows that. Yes, someone who is in the middle of tackling a challenging project may, in fact, be very busy — but being busy doesn’t mean any of us are actually achieving anything. Nonetheless, we’ve so enshrined busy-ness that we now regard with suspicion our neighbors whose personal lives are quiet and calm and offer room for stillness and reflection. We’re supposed to be busy, aren’t we? Doesn’t being busy mean we’re “making it?”

Perhaps even worse, we don’t seem, as a culture, to discriminate between the inherent pressure of competition (which can be a formative force as long as it’s kept in balance) and the completely unnecessary pressure of poor sportsmanship. We regard ruthlessness as a virtue. It’s not: one can succeed in business without being a complete ass to one’s fellow man. Cutting throats and stabbing backs may, on the surface, appear to be a necessary component of doing business, but it’s not: and we shouldn’t make a virtue of it. When we do, we guarantee ourselves a life lived on high alert.

Even criticism — a normal part of any work environment; we all make mistakes and we all have to learn new skills — can and often does become a problem. Criticism is important and necessary; we all need to know what we’re doing wrong so we can fix it. It can, however, be delivered in human-friendly ways: and anyone who has ever been a student would probably agree that a teacher who snarls is less effective than one who guides.

This isn’t to say that the ability to live through all this stuff doesn’t reflect a degree of moral fortitude. Strength is still strength: but imagine how much more we could do if we didn’t waste so much of it just surviving, eh?

The problem of the open office is that it’s a busy-looking place wherein people tend merely to survive and are derided as “weak” if they find the conditions counterproductive (for what it’s worth, I think it might be possible to organize open-ish offices in a way that might work for human beings, but that’s a topic for another time). This problem is also the problem of our work culture as a whole: we are, too often, asked to survive in an environment that we wouldn’t tolerate for a second in any other relationship; we are derided as weaklings if we find it inhospitable to human life.

This doesn’t mean we should all be molly-coddled and packed in down all the time, of course. It simply means that, as a culture, we would do well to learn the difference between motivation and scare tactics; between busyness and productivity; between weakness and merely being human.

Come to think of it, these are problems of our society at large, aren’t they?

Dear Internet,

I have a lot of homework this week and a website to build. Do you think you could just, like, quiet down for like two days and stop producing awesome new things that I have to read so I can catch up?

Thanks,
Your Increasingly Delinquent Danseur

It’s Creative Arts Therapy Week, You Guys!

…And I am being a Delinquent Danseur. So I’ll open with some super-brief Class Notes:

Barre
Another new student this time (with amazing feet!). She shared my barre, and I proceeded to do the degage combination wrong because muscle memory (it was almost identical to one we use frequently in more advanced classes, but with slight differences — closing the balancoire front where it would normally close back, etc). I hope I didn’t confuse her too much! My grand battement was also wigglier than usual in the middle at moments, but not horribly so.

My balances were much better today. I am basically practicing nothing but balances at home. I am ridiculous. Need something in the fridge? Open the door. Coupe. Balance. Need something in the cabinet? Open the door. Passe. Balance.

Goings-Across-The-Floor
Because Louisville is one very Catholic town and it was the day before St. Padraig’s, we learned a couple of Irish dance steps (in the famous words of Willem DeFoe: “Kinda makes ya feel like Riverdancin’!”).

It wasn’t “ballet proper,” but it was fun; ridiculously so. Sometimes it’s good to mix it up a little and relax.

One step was basically a very kicky, bouncy, fast-traveling Pas de Basque; the other was sort of like saute-passe, only the working knee points straight ahead instead of straight out to the side. Fun stuff, and a nice change of pace. Of course, being Dancers Who Try Very Hard, we all tried to do them with our arms in correct Irish Dance form, and hilarity ensued (because, you guys, that involves fighting every Ballet Instinct you have ever cultivated).

By the end of class, we were all grinning like a pack of six-year-olds in a Pixie Stix factory.

Interesting note: it’s amazing how light you suddenly feel when you relax a little — which is, as always, something I need to work on (“Don’t make it happen, let it happen!”).

…And that was it. My leg was fine (I kept the little traveling jumps low), and I had a great time. Denis predicts that this will be my last week as a rehab student; while I’ll need to continue re-strengthening my calf, I’ll probably finally get permission to do big jumps for real next week. YAAAY! I miss my grand allegro! (Okay, so I may or may not have practiced tours-in-the-air a couple of times in the kitchen…)

~~~~

Okay! Now onto the whole Creative Arts Therapy Thing!

So it’s Creative Arts Therapy Week! That means we get to celebrate everything about Creative Arts Therapy!

As such, I’d like to point your attention to the ADTA’s blog, where you’ll find a fresh entry about becoming a DMT!

You’ll notice that there are now seven accredited DMT Masters’ programs. Sara Lawrence has been in the process of gaining accreditation, so it’s good to see that they’ve made the cut. For a number of reasons, I’ve got my sights set on Drexel in Philadelphia, but it’s always nice to have more options.

Anyway!

Not so long ago, I really underestimated the value of the creative arts therapies — I like to tell people about how my knee-jerk response to Denis’ suggestion that I become a DMT was, “Dance therapy? …That’s for hippies.” It turns out that the more we learn about how the brain changes in response to experience, the more value we begin to see in things like art therapy and dance therapy.

However, the neuropsychological potential of DMT is only part of the picture (you guys, it’s hard for me, Mr. Neuroscience-Is-Everything-And-Everything-Is-Neuroscience, to write those words!).

To be brief: I know that for me, even outside of the formal context of Dance-Movement Therapy, dance is a critical part of the therapeutic process in ways that reach beyond measurable changes in levels of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor and so forth.

Ballet has boosted my confidence immensely. Spending several hours every week moving while barely clothed in a room full of mirrors and near-strangers has really forced me to think about my relationship with my own body (this hasn’t always been easy or comfortable, but it has been valuable). Learning to regard my body as capable (in some ways, exceptionally so) and trustworthy has also done wonders for me.

The class schedule adds order to my sometimes-chaotic life and gets me out of bed on my worst days. Numbering myself as a member of the broader communion of dancers bolsters my identity in ways that I can’t begin to express or explain. Knowing that I have class in the morning (or evening) is, likewise, protective against some of my less-helpful impulses: we have established that drinking can really hose things up for me, mood-wise, and ballet class bears such powerful emotional salience as to override the desire to go out and get hammered (or, well, have three beers, if you’re me).

We don’t yet really know how to measure things like that empirically with the tools of neuroscience, but their value is immense — even, perhaps, immeasurable. The process of healing and growth involves both discrete, measurable, empirical factors and factors that remain far more subjective and mysterious.

As a culture, we might not put much stock in those subjective and mysterious factors — but that doesn’t mean they’re not real. It’s likely that we’ll figure out how to measure them with the tools of neurobiology some day, but I don’t think that really matters. Growth and healing are evidence in their own right: when a paralytically-shy kid begins to emerge from his shell, or a hostile young lady learns to trust other people a little more, we may not always really grasp what’s going on a biological level — but we know for sure that something’s going on.

I can say that the little experience I’ve had with DMT in action — the practical portions of Linnie Diehl’s introductory intensive at 2014’s ADTA conference — has been transformative. There’s something magical about the process of moving together as a group, and there’s another level of magic involved in doing so under the guidance of a wise and experienced therapist. Literally never in my life have I seen such a bond of trust and fellowship blossom so quickly among a group of strangers.

I’m sure that, too, is something we’ll eventually figure out how to measure empirically with the tools of neurobiology. However, even if we never do, the value inherent in that process must not be underestimated.

I am not someone who naturally feels comfortable joining a group — I harbor a lot of distrust leftover from a childhood in which I was a perpetual outsider. Within the framework of DMT, however, dance is an amazing tool to combat that bred-in-the-bone distrust of groups: when you move together under the guidance of a qualified Dance-Movement Therapist, it’s not like distrust evaporates — it just tends to slip away when you’re not looking.

Once you give yourself to the process, as a participant, you can’t hold onto distrust. Connections get made before you realize it’s happening, and you become part of a whole greater than yourself.

That’s the feeling I love in ballet class — there’s a part of me that just absolutely grooves on that thing where we’re like ten or twenty or thirty little cells in this animal that is Class; another part that loves the sense that what I’m doing right now is the same thing that every ballet dancer, everywhere, does and has done since the dawn of the art (not that I usually think about that in class: there’s no time for philosophizing!).

Dance-Movement Therapy can impart that same sense of unity, and its tools provide the means to invite participants to step out of their own comfort zones. I’ll be the first to say that I was wildly uncomfortable with the mirroring exercise we did at the start of Linnie Diehl’s intensive — I was afraid, some how, that I wouldn’t be able to do it. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to connect; that I wouldn’t be able to follow other peoples’ movement patterns. Even though I’d done a similar exercises in acting and modern-dance contexts, it just seemed daunting, somehow.

I think I was also afraid I’d somehow do it “wrong,” and immediately be told that I had no business trying to become a DMT! (I was also afraid I’d find myself excessively hung up in the formal language of ballet, but that’s a different problem.)

Knowing that everyone else was trying and struggling, working to connect, sometimes succeeding and sometimes not, right along with me made that much easier. I was able to know that because Linnie Diehl was there to guide the process, and because afterwards we talked about how it went.

By the end of the warm-up, our little group of would-be DMTs was moving together, trusting each-other. I’m sure there are all kinds of perfectly good scientific explanations (hello, oxytocin!), but ultimately, it doesn’t matter why Dance-Movement Therapy makes that happen.

It simply matters that DMT does make it happen.

Getting Stuff Done

Last night, I streamed Fauré’s Requiem and scrubbed the ceiling fan in the kitchen.

I could, realistically, have spent the time sitting on the couch and chillaxing, but cleaning the ceiling fan sounded more interesting. I had already spent nearly four hours sitting down to watch an opera, after all.

The Great Polishing of the Fan took an hour. The thing was filthy, coated with who knows how many years of aerosolized cooking grease (probably not that many, though, because Denis doesn’t cook — before I showed up, he ate out a lot). I worked steadily, singing. The cat supervised, as cats are wont.

While I was cleaning I realized that it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to conceive of starting a project like that, let alone of getting through it without feeling like I was going to explode — like, seriously, since before the summer term when I scheduled two intense classes for one six-week session and completely cracked afterwards. Even back then, I did a lot of starting things and then getting overwhelmed.

It feels weird to be able to simply finish things. This is not something that has ever been all that possible for me. It’s weird to just come up with a project and bang away at it ’til it’s done. It’s equally weird to be able to walk away from a project, come back, and pick up where I left off without first spending half an hour remembering where, precisely, that was in the first place.

It’s a good kind of weird. Slightly jarring, in the way the first year or so of my relationship with Denis was: this sense of always waiting for the other shoe to drop; waiting for it all to go off the rails. So far, things seem to be under control.

~~~

Working on catching up all the leftover projects has made me realize exactly how tough last year was for me. It’s strange, because there have certainly been years that I would have described as, perhaps, experientially harder — but last year, I was clearly not functioning so well in a lot of ways. A lot of stuff took a back seat.

In the long run, that’s probably a good thing. I’ve spent most of my life driving myself pretty hard (and, sadly, often to insufficient effect), and while perhaps screwing up your finances and horribly neglecting vast swathes of domestic responsibility aren’t the best way to do it, sometimes a rest is needed.

This is one of the major problems with American culture: we seem to think that if work is productive, even more work will always be more productive — which is not, in fact, at all the case. Our culture and our economy are structured in such a way that restorative rest is rarely possible, and yet they’re actually essential to being happy, healthy, and productive. This is doubly true for those of us who live with mental illnesses.

I’ve heard it said that mules are smarter than horses, because a horse will let you work it to death (caveat: not so sure about some of the horses I’ve known!), while a mule will simply up and stop when she’s good and done, and no amount of haranguing will convince her to do otherwise.

Part of me wishes I’d bitten the bullet and hopped back on the ADHD meds sooner. Part of me recognizes that, if I had, I probably wouldn’t have addressed some stuff that needed addressing. I guess I needed to kind of fall apart to realize that I couldn’t just hold the universe together by force of will alone, and that, in fact, it’s okay not to be able to do that.

Zen focuses a great deal on the idea of no control — that, really, control is an illusion; that efforts to grasp it are futile. Last year was one hell of a good example. Not to say that it was entirely a wash — I had some great experiences last year; ones that are now driving the forward-going direction of my life. But I definitely took a lesson in how illusory control really is.

~~~

I’m still having trouble initiating tasks that involve sitting down and using my brain instead of standing up (or, as I did this morning, crouching on the floor) and using my body — writing excepted. In theory, increasing the dose of my medication might help with that, but honestly I don’t really want to do that.

I’d rather see, first, if I can build that skill through experience. Right now, it’s hard for me to start those tasks in part because I associate them powerfully with frustration and failure. This is why I can muscle through the “sitting down” part when I need to do homework, but not always when I need to work on the filing or the finances.

The thing is, I’ve managed to undertake quite a few onerous sit-down-and-brain tasks in the past couple of weeks. While starting is still quite hard, I’ve found that I’m much better at finishing them now — and generally without gaining a splitting headache for my efforts! Cracking out two months’ of financial catch-up in the course of maybe four to six hours was huge. Huge. In the past, that would’ve taken a solid two days — and it would’ve been a thousand times more miserable.

Denis has apparently been pretty impressed with how things have been going for me as well. On Wednesday, I went and got my hair cut by myself. This was the particular thing that felt like a real signifier to him: the thing that he focused on when we were talking to my therapist this week. He mentioned a couple other things, but he kept coming back to that point — in part, I suppose, because it involved making a plan to do a thing I don’t usually do by myself, then executing that plan successfully. This, from the Boy Who Doesn’t Plan.

Getting a haircut by myself really is kind of a big deal in my world, since getting my hair cut is something I have historically found highly stressful for reasons I don’t quite understand. I also figured out how to communicate what I was looking for to the stylist, who in turn did a fantastic job implementing it — so there’s another reinforcing experience.

So, in short, as I build positive associations with sit-down-and-brain tasks (and others that I find stressful, like getting haircuts), I think I’ll find it easier to initiate them. Meanwhile, I’m finding that I tolerate Adderall quite well at the current dose, and being that I’m very prone to developing side-effects (though far less so with stimulant meds than with those that involve depressant mechanisms), I think I’d rather not tinker with it right now.

~~~

At the end of March, I have another appointment with Dr. B to check in about the meds. Unless she feels very strongly that my dose should be increased, I think I’m going to request that we keep it right where it is.

I don’t think medication is a magic bullet for me (it might actually work that well for some people, and that’s great). It does, however, work rather better than I’d hoped — and I find that I don’t really want a magic bullet, anyway. I want to be functional enough. That’s it. And I think I’m getting there.

So that’s it for now. Back to preparing all the paperwork and so forth for our meeting with our accountant.

Quick update: via Fat Heffalump, check out The New Empowering School, a ten-week workshop series for people who like to move it, move it, whether they’re professional dancers or folks who are usually marginalized by dance culture.  The stated goal of the project is to “create space of permission, discussion, transformation and revelation through languages of the body-mind. We want to create a space where otherness is celebrated as standard – a place to come worship the wonder that is you!”

You guys, this sounds like a really, really amazing thing.  I don’t think I’ll be able to make it to London (and stay there for ten weeks), but seriously, this is a fantastic idea. Imagine what could happen if people go to this workshop, take home the best of it, and start sparking similar workshops around the world!

Edit: In other news, I just finished last year’s finances.

It feels weird.

On to catching up this year!

Danseur Ignoble: Mining the Elements (Friday Essentials Notes)

I am still making the most of my long purgatory in Essentials, (not so-) patiently working the basics while rebuilding the strength in my calf.

We had a new guy today — it was his second class, but I missed Monday evening, so we hadn’t met before.   He’s an enthusiastic student and looks like he’ll stick around, which is great.

As I was heading down to the bus stop, we chatted about classes, and how Margie’s class is well worth taking no matter how long you’ve danced (though our new guy was really totally new).

I was reminded yet again how a basic class is never a waste of time. Even the most advanced dancer can stand to check in with the essential elements of his or her technique from time to time.  

Just as importantly, perfection is an ever-receding goal.   In ballet, you will never learn absolutely all of the technique perfectly.   Thus, it’s very heartening to revisit your strengths.

Today I really focused on bringing musicality into my port de bras and épaulement.   I also worked on one-foot relève balances, particularly on developing a better proprioceptive sense about my back.   My right calf is still weakish; by the time it’s strong enough for serious work, I hope to have my back well and truly sorted.  I am practicing balances like crazy at home, too.

I should stipulate: I can balance quite well as long as I’m moving (so my turns are better than my static balances would imply), and I can definitely balance for a few seconds at a time. 

I can also generally balance longer when I step into demi-pointe.  It’s rising to élevé or relève that seems to add the difficulty.  Too often (just as when I was learning to track stand on the bike), I do fine until I notice that I’m balancing. 

So it’s a question of finding my center and staying there as I balance.  And, like, not doing whatever, “Oh, hey, look at that!” micromovement it is that knocks me over when I succeed!

Our Ballet Anniversary is coming up.   I feel like I’ve had a couple setbacks, but overall I’ve gained a lot of ground as a dancer, especially in terms of musicality and expression (which were not my strengths as a kid: I got by on natural grace, but didn’t really make the effort to develop it). 

I think that’s really good progress: what I admired in Tony when I first ventured into Beginner class was his grace, his musicality.  I said I’d be pretty happy if, after a year, I was where he was then.   I feel like I’ve attained that goal; like I’ve transformed from overwrought squid into, you know, something like an actual dancer.

The 17th, our actual Ballet Anniversary, is a Tuesday, so we won’t be in class on that exact day — but I hope to be back to working jumps, maybe, which will make a nice end to my first year back in the studio.

A year ago, I wasn’t sure where I was going.   Now I have a goal and a long-term plan to reach it, and ballet is part of that plan.

Pretty cool stuff.   I’m actually looking forward to the future.

That’s good progress, too.

Danseur Ignoble: The Elephant in the Room — On (Not) Talking About Diet In Ballet

First, though, a quick question for my fellow bloggies:

How do you manage ideas? Like, when you come up with a good idea for a post, and you really want to write about it, but you don’t have time to address it just now, what do you do with it? Do you add it to a list? Start a new post, pop your idea in there, and save it as a draft?

In short, right now, I’ve got lots of ideas, but also a rather strangely large number of things to accomplish, and I’m not sure I’ve hit on a good idea-management strategy. Right now, I seem to be using the “start a draft” approach, but I’m not sure whether that’s wise. For whatever reason, my list of unfinished drafts actually sort of fills me with dread. Go figure.

~~~~~

Okay, now for the sensitive stuff.

In the Default World, as it were, there’s an ongoing conversation about body size and weight, about food as a source of pleasure and as a source of fuel — and while it’s still largely dominated by voices of what one might imagine as the Body Establishment, we’re starting to hear a lot more from other corners — for example, from fat activists like Ragen Chastain at Dances with Fat and Kath at Fat Heffalump, from members of the medical community who are saying, “Hold on, maybe we’re looking at the wrong parameter; maybe we can’t directly measure health by measuring body size,” and even from plain old regular people who are tired of all the hoopla and just want to figure out how to enjoy their lives and be as happy and healthy as they can.

However, in the Ballet World, we’re still not really talking about it much, and we’re really, really not talking about food.

I should stipulate: professional companies tend to have advisors that address these issues, as do pre-pro schools. However, those of us in the Adult Amateur Ballet Community At Large, the area — especially where diet is concerned — is still largely Verboten. Like, we all acknowledge that, in ballet, Body Size is A Thing, but we also don’t want to give anyone a complex about it; meanwhile, we’re terrified that any specific thoughts we share about eating will spawn a rash of anorexia diagnoses.

We’re all very aware of some of the problems that can and do arise around the question of weight in the Ballet World. We’re all very aware that, for whatever reason, the modern Western world doesn’t beget too many people who fit the current Classical Ballet Body Type mold. We’re all very aware of the temptation to use drastic means to squeeze into that mold. We’re all afraid of accidentally pushing vulnerable people over the line and into those drastic means.

And yet, as a result, we also find it difficult to discuss the very measures that might, for a great many of us, act as prophylaxis against resorting to drastic measures: we find it difficult to discuss fueling strategies, difficult to discuss the challenges that different body types bring to the studio or the stage (and I’d argue that there are unique challenges associated with almost any body type, including the one currently enshrined as the Classical Ballet Ideal), and difficult to discuss how to cope with those challenges (whether they be joint strain, risk of osteoporosis, or just possessing a set of knobtastic knees that sometimes seem like they won’t get out of the freaking way — oh, wait, I might be projecting, there).

I suspect that we’ve developed a sense that acknowledging the challenges unique to a given body type sort of delegitimizes that body type as a vehicle for dance. There are too many stories out there of people being told they should simply quit dance because they weren’t blessed with the right body for it — people who loved dancing, who wanted to keep dancing, but who too often weren’t able to find a place where they could continue.

We’re all afraid, I think, of touching those nerves. For adults, ballet is already a counter-cultural pursuit. It’s neither “useful” in the purely-practical “this is going to make me lots of money” sense (though, in fact, ballet offers immense health benefits for dancers of any shape), nor is it casual (with rare exceptions). It tends to turn into a life-consuming passion, one for which non-dancers kind of look at us askance. Somehow, to them, watching TV for ten hours a week doesn’t seem strange, but dancing for ten hours a week does.

To be fair, part of the argument in favor of TV is that you can do it at home with your family at relatively little expense — I get that. But the long and short of it is that, as adult dancers, a lot of us already feel like we’re always fighting an uphill battle to prove to the universe that we have a right to belly up to the barre.

When we start addressing some of the problems of body type, we’re already coming from a defensive posture. We’re already fighting against a societal claim of illegitimacy — one that comes from both outside the studio and sometimes from within, as well.

On one hand, from the outside, we get the message that we have no business dancing at our age, whether that age is 19 or 95, unless we’re professionals. On the other, from the inside, sometimes we get the whole “you’re not a real dancer” thing — especially if we’re truly raw beginners with absolutely no experience or if we diverge too widely from the standard Classical Ballet Body Type. This makes the whole idea of saying, “Hey, I have this body type, and I’ve noticed that people with my body type have this specific challenge in the studio…” exceedingly uncomfortable. It’s just a shade too close to that old message, “People who are built like me shouldn’t dance.”

~

Bike racing shares a few characteristics with ballet.

First, if you do it as a hobby, people think you’re nuts. To be fair, this is a label that most serious bike racers pretty much embrace publicly in a way that amateur dancers often don’t (though we do, within the confines of the Ballet World, acknowldge at regular intervals that We’re All Mad Here).

I suspect that, in the US at least, that particular flavor of Crazy is more broadly accepted if it involves competitive sports. While cycling isn’t as warmly embraced in the US as it is in much of the world at large, it’s still clearly a competitive sport, one with well-defined competition opportunities for people of all ages (and one in which people in the higher age brackets are often formidable competitors). Nonetheless, cycling as a sport is still fringe-y enough in the US that people are shocked to learn that you spend twenty hours a week like, you know, riding a bicycle? And you don’t get paid for it?

A few years ago, people felt similarly awkward around amateur MMA or Muay Thai enthusiasts (I know, because I was one at the time; I loved Muay Thai and wouldn’t mind taking it up again, if the day were only, like, six hours longer); now that everyone’s doing P90x (which seems to be somehow loosely associated with the world of combat sports), tough mudders, and so forth, a fanatical embrace of combat sports has gained a kind of legitimacy.

It doesn’t hurt that it’s something you do in a community: we learn MMA and Muay Thai skills in classes at organized schools, and the best part is that we can usually bring our spouses and kids along for their own classes. Like cycling, meanwhile, combat sports also offers plenty of competition opportunity for adult amateurs. Sure, it’s expensive and time-consuming: but you can win, like, a trophy or a belt buckle or something! To the American mind, that kind of makes it all make sense, I suspect.

Meanwhile, ballet is fringe-y without offering any overarching structure by which adult amateurs can measure our achievements. We don’t have our own Prix de LAAusanne (see what I did there? AA for Adult Amateur?). We don’t even have the equivalent of the weird competition-dance circuit that those of us in the High Art World of Ballet (myself included) kind of love to hate. We might walk away from our hours in the studio with exceptional poise and grace, and sometimes even with very lean and fluid bodies — but we don’t get “ripped” in the way that people who go to the gym and lift weights for fun do.

And, just like in cycling, we spend what the rest of the world perceives as an inordinate amount of time in the studio. Ballet is a harsh mistress, but we love her so. That’s suspiciously close to the way cycling aficionados tend to describe their bikes.

Second, cycling culture has powerful, deeply-ingrained standards about body type. Professional cylicsts, like professional dancers, tend to be extremely lean. Amateur cyclists — racers especially, but also those who don’t race — are subject to a sort of inherited pressure to be lean.

Seriously, in no other American sub-culture are you likely to hear someone kvetching about his arms being too muscular. The demands of training at anything beyond the entry-level both select for and produce lean bodies; in very competitive areas, even the most rank Cat 5 amateurs tend to be far leaner than their non-cyclist peers (seriously; hit up a cyclocross race in the freakishly competitive Ohio Valley Cyclocross Series, and you’ll see what I mean).

Combat sports enthusiasts, meanwhile, don’t have quite the same problem: yes, weight is a legitimate concern (since competitions are organized by weight category), but the hard-and-fast upper limits are still very much in line with people of average build, and how your body’s shaped matters a whole lot less in the gym than how much ass you can kick with the body in question. Or, at least, that was my experience.

Meanwhile, competitive bike racers really are kind of expected to cap out at around 170 – 180 pounds, and the selection pressures only increase as you progress through the ranks. A lot of high-end racing equipment isn’t designed to handle riders heavier than that. The idea is that the lighter the total weight of bike, rider, water bottles, kit, and whatever else you might need to have on hand, the easier your job as a racing cyclist will be. Moreover, the slighter you are, the less wind resistance you’re going to create — and simply pushing through the air is actually where you do the vast majority of your work as a cyclist.

Third, bike racing culture is a niche culture within a niche culture: just as there’s dance culture, and then there’s ballet culture, so there’s cyclist culture, and then within it, racer culture. A lot of non-racing cyclists think all racers are arrogant, jerk-faced wankers (to be fair, some racers regard all randonneurs as grade-A weirdopaths and all commuters as dirt); some non-ballet dancers seem to think all ballet dancers are uptight, arrogant, jerk-faced wankers (to be fair, some ballet dancers regard those ballroom-dance types as plebian socializers and all modern-dance aficionados as wannabes whose technique couldn’t cut it in ballet).

In short, to the outside world, both amateur bike racers and amateur dancers are the Weird of Weirds. You’re not just weird, you’re an especially devoted, obsessive flavor of weird that owns a lot of suspiciously fancy stuff and uses a lot of foreign words. Mon dieu!

Lastly, both cycling and ballet share high energy demands and a history of disordered relationships with food.

The major difference, as far as I’ve seen, is that bike racing culture is really pretty free to discuss food and diet, and does so constantly, sometimes in nauseating detail. There is, perhaps, less sense of illegitimacy imposed upon individual riders — and, as such, less risk of being cast out of the circle if one admits that one is a few pounds (or even many pounds) heavier than one would like to be, or that one resents one’s muscular arms. The discussion of how best to fuel for training, for performance, for recovery, for the off-season, for the pre-ride, for the post-ride — that discussion never, ever, ever, ever ends. Food may be the only thing cyclists talk about more often than bikes.

Dancers, meanwhile, also need to think about how best to fuel their bodies — but forums for discussing how to do so are almost impossible to find. Some of the best online communities for adult amateur dancers have explicit rules against talking about diet, for fear that the discussions in question will devolve into “How To Starve Yourself And Still Keep Dancing.” The standard answer is more or less, “Eat a balanced diet and bring your specific concerns to your health-care providers.”

That’s a very legitimate approach, I think, to dealing with nutritional questions from adolescents in pre-pro programs. In short, the nutritional needs of growing dancers are immensely complex, and most of us have no business trying to advice them; likewise, adolescent dancers are just as subject to the immense pressures to maintain the Classical Ideal as adult dancers, but generally less-equipped to cope with those pressures. They are more likely to lack the resources and experience to make well-informed decisions about whose advice to follow; they may not yet have acquired the critical-thinking skills that will later help them distinguish between a sustainable plan for healthy eating and what amounts to a quack diet, but they are more likely to have people in their lives to help them with these decisions.

Meanwhile, amateur adult dancers (who my very unscientific analysis suggests tend to be self-possessed individuals with pretty good minds) are less likely to have people in their immediate lives who have both the time and expertise to offer any kind of insight into fueling their bodies, but are more likely to have critical thinking skills to help them distinguish between sound fueling strategies and wacky starvation plans.

Perhaps part of the problem is that ballet is an art first, an athletic endeavour second. As an erstwhile half-baked bike racer, I’d go so far as to say that bike racing is an art, but I’d be remiss if I failed to state plainly that it’s an athletic endeavour first. Dancers are encouraged to think of themselves as artists; cyclists as athletes.

Athletes are free to regard their bodies as machines and to think about them accordingly.

Artists? Well, maybe not so much. We are invited to transcend the limitations of our mortal frames: but we are not explicitly invited to examine those limitations, especially not as adult amateurs who must already combat the idea that we’re not “real dancers,” and therefore not “real artists.”

Perhaps it follows from there that we can’t freely discuss what is, ultimately, an immensely important topic: what kind of fueling strategy will help us feel the best in the studio, on the stage (if we’re so lucky), or after class? What works? What doesn’t work? What works for some, but not others? Flatly put, how much should we be eating, anyway, when we’re dancing six or ten or sixteen hours each week?

Inevitably, some of us will want to trim down a bit; others might want to build some muscle or fill out our curves. It would be good if we could talk to each-other about these things: in part because sometimes it’s that very possibility that allows people who are slipping in to the realm of Drastic Means — of disordered eating — to get help before the problem gets out of hand.

It would be good to know that there was a forum where we could ask what might seem like stupid food questions (“Okay, I just did two hours of class. It really is okay for me to have an ice cream cone, right?”) and ask about other dancers’ strategies (“Guys, do you find you get less sore if you eat after class?”) or even to figure out who to talk to about specific questions that might need input from a professional (“As a male dancer who spends two hours a day dancing and does a fair bit of throwing other dancers around, who do I ask about making sure I’m getting enough protein? Dietitian? Family doc? Personal trainer? Wizard?”).

One of the strengths of the bike-racing community is the way it handles questions like these. There’s a huge aggregated knowledge-base out there pertaining to fueling strategies for racers at all levels, and bike racers are free to talk about it all they want. They even talk about eating disorders (which kind of makes sense in a sport that has itself more than once been described as “a very expensive eating disorder”) and reach out to help members of the community who struggle.

I think we, as adult amateur dancers, are mature and wise enough to do that for each-other. True, dance-specific nutritional strategies are less broadly-studied than sport-specific nutritional strategies — but a lot of us in the Adult Amateur Ballet World are pretty good researchers. We are capable of putting our peer-reviewed journals where our mouths are (though, guys, just so you know: there are better fueling strategies than eating peer-reviewed journals, and besides, they tend to be kinda dry and dense).

The question is, where do we start talking about this, and how?

Danseur Ignoble: How Will I Survive??!!!!111oneoneoneoone

(Okay, yes, I’m making fun of my own internal histrionics, but seriously.)

Today I discovered that (perhaps unsurprisingly, given that The Mother Ship — AKA IU Bloomington, AKA IU Prime — has an excellent ballet program) we not only have access to an extensive library of books about ballet, but that most of them are available online, for free … as long as you’re an IU student.

Needless to say, I wish I’d thought to look earlier. Because, seriously. SO MANY BOOKS. SO LITTLE TIME. Where do I even begin?

I will be the first to admit that I’m both completely stoked about graduating and also kind of, like, “Yeah, but, seriously … not be a student for, like, a year and a half? HOW???? HOW WILL I LIVE WITHOUT ACCESS TO ENDLESS SUPPLIES OF PEER-REVIEWED DATA AND FREE SOFTWARE AND ZILLIONS OF BALLET BOOKS AT MY FINGERTIPS?!”

And now this.

You guys, I just don’t think I’m gonna make it.

Go on without me.

I’ll be fine.

:::sniffle:::

In related news:
#firstworldproblems

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