I love people on a mission. Love your curves.
For the last few weeks my schedule has gotten so crazy I haven't been able to attend ballet class for some time now,
New York City Life can get really busy, specially in the summer, between visiting guests, summer activities, non-dance related work, special projects and the occasional hang out, not being able to make it to daily ballet class can be a common occurrence.
Although class is a fairly simple event, I think most dancers are aware that class is a special routine that is kind of sacred, and even if it happens daily, class is always full of wonderful moments, that if we are lucky, we get to enjoy on a regular basis for a fair amount of years in our lives.
So with this thought, here are the top 10 simple pleasures from ballet class i'm missing the most:
The liberating feeling of turning out for the first time of the day,
The positive contagious attitude and energy of an awesome teacher
The mental challenge of some combinations
That gradual feeling of your muscles starting to get warm as barre goes by
The relief of an exercise that was very difficult, being over
...and that moment you realize you still have one more side to go
The random life stories that the teacher tells, which somehow always help you in dance or in life
That refreshing feeling when you get a quick sip of water in the thirty seconds between barre and center
The determination to get a step that you struggled with first time around
And the relief and joy of having achieved it in at least a decent manner.
After class, having already completed your favorite part of the day although you have a whole other type of challenges heading your way.
Oh yeah! and of course, that feeling that even when you can't do anymore, if you were given the option, you would take another class literally right after it, just because its so much fun.
So there I was, my 5th time working with a company and so, I arrived confident that learning the show in five days wouldn't be any problem. I was relaxed and ready to just learn a new ballet. However, there was a twist. Most of the choreography wasn't ballet. It wasn't contemporary ballet either. It wasn't even jazz.
This choreo was a different type of movement. It had been described as contemporary to me before flying out to do the show, but that definition did not match the one in my head which was 'ballet steps/lines danced in a less classical style, to modern music'. It was more of a casual movement,
more like hip hop-ish movement that might be easily related to commercial work rather than ballet, or ballet based styles, stuff i'd never really done. And while the steps were simple enough I had a real struggle finding myself in it.
I'd never really considered myself one, but honestly this made me feel like the biggest Trina in the whole world (as in ballet-rina for those unfamiliar with the term). It was a language I'd never used, and to add difficulty, the counts/steps basically never repeated. I was out of town, with a contract to fulfill and nothing to to about it but get my head together and get the job done... and five days to learn, get used to and have the choreo right before show time, as we were going into the theater right on Monday.
Not gonna lie, while learning it, I felt like my head was going to explode, I had a constant feeling of head strain and the fact that it was completely unexpected wasn't helping. Half of the time i didn't even understand why I was doing those steps. It felt like someone was asking me to memorize a speech in Chinese or some foreign unknown language, and fast!
Flashing through my head, all the times my friends invited me to hip hop class, as well as all the times teachers told me to try different contemporary classes. All these thoughts where actually getting even more in the way of me learning the stuff.
When I felt like I might just give up, the wise words of my 'jazz Sensei' to 'get myself together and do what I'm expected and supposed to do' popped into my head, and pushed me to go forward.
I really like working with this company and although most their choreo is more ballet based, I figured being that it is a contemporary company after all, sometimes there simply would be stuff like this and i simply had to step out of my comfort zone and do what I had to do.
What saved me from being completely unable to handle this situation, was the training I got from my 'Sensei', Stephen Harding (www.stephenhardingjazz.com)
His class, besides kicking my butt and getting me in the best shape ever, helped me to learn how to learn other styles and ideas outside of the 'ballet box'.
He teaches a different (fairly long), stylistically different, choreo every class, which forces you to use your brain and develop your choreography learning skills. All of this while working on (pretty advanced) technique, pirouettes and jumps. Although Stephen's class is definitely a ballet based contemporary jazz style it always had added style challenges and details that definitely help you develop your information intake rate. I always knew his class was helping me remember choreography in ballet faster and I definitely had enjoyed that benefit. But Jazz class taught me to learn choreography that isn't ballet as well, and although the choreo for the show wasn't jazz really either, at least I had a chance at getting the job done, where before my studies with Stephen Harding, I probably wouldn't have been able to manage.
In class, if the movement was really challenging, SH would push me to finish and deliver -at least as best as I could, and lucky for me I was able to translate this into my real life experience outside of the classroom, and not just drop the towel over dancing something that wasn't classical ballet.
A lot of people like to complicate things in life way more than they should, and so this week, I bring to you a simple guide i found on how to succeed in life, in just two steps.
Lose Weight in two Steps:
1- Close your mouth
2- Start running
Successful Finances in two Steps:
1-Stop buying crap you don't need
2-Stop borrowing money
Good self esteem in two Steps:
1-Love yourself, just how you are
2- Stop giving a f**k what other people think
Self Improvement in two Steps:
1-Stop F**cking around
2-Get to work
Happy love life in two Steps:
1-Realize there's nobody that'll fit your ridiculous demands
2-Don't be afraid to be alone
Healing in two Steps:
1-Forgive yourself for your dumb sh*t
2-Forgive other people for their dumb sh*t
Public Speaking in two Steps:
1-Don't be afraid to sound stupid
2-If you said something stupid, keep talking
Good Grooming in two Steps:
1-Shower, do your hair, and brush your teeth
2-Stand up straight
Etiquette in two Steps:
1-Be polite to others
2-Close your mouth when you eat
Leadership course in two Steps:
1-Have some balls
2-Set an example for others to follow
Ethics and Values in two Steps:
1-Don't f**k other people over
2-Stop talking and start helping others
Self Knowledge in two Steps:
1-Look in the mirror
2-Tell yourself your truths even if it hurts
Emotional Growth in two Steps:
1-Stop feeling sorry for yourself
2-Stop blaming others for your problems
So there it is fellas, keep it simple, and you'll make it far!
Living in NYC is pricey, and finding work in dance in the NYC area and staying in good 'ballet shape' in between gigs (at the wonderful price of $17 bucks per open class, which you should be taking at least 5 times a week to be ready to audition for a job) is pretty much impossible on a dancer's salary alone, at least for most people who are on our own and handling all the expenses of living in the big apple.
While scholarships are available to some of us, they still usually require you to be there for anywhere between 4-6 hours per day, interfering with any possibility to have a full time job, which you probably need in order to pay for the unforgiving rents, transportation, and $4 coffees. Even for the lucky ones working for ourselves, there are still the questions of having to take class in a 'school environment' that you may not necessarily want to be in anymore, or even taking classes from teachers whose class you don't enjoy which could very well be required to. So, considering the fact that Manhattan is the most expensive city to live in in the US, saving $17 a day may put you in a position where you could consider potentially simply not continuing to dance.
In my case, a combination of all those factors, as well as being lucky enough to work on other things that pay better than the few dance gigs available in the city, drove me to the decision to quit dancing. But then after just five months of absolutely no dance, I decided to go back. Which brings me to suggest from my own experience: DO NOT JUST STOP!
Before 'quitting for good' or even taking a long break without dance class, you'd better be damn
sure you're not planning to come back, or else you may face the awful consequences.
After just five months, the padding on the bottom of my feet went flat, my flexibility disappeared, I built muscles that totally got in the way of turning out, and gained ten glorious pounds-- that since I was too out of shape to get through more than two classes a week, although I had been going to the gym and lifting weights consistently-- it seemed like I would never be able to get rid of them.
So if you are facing the decision --or the need-- not to take class, I suggest you try to discipline yourself to do a few quick things that would save you from turning into a total mess in no time, and you can do it by doing these 5 Simple Ways to Stay in Dancing Shape While you're on break.
Do a barre on your own
If you make yourself a simple 'set barre' that incorporates every exercise in plie, flat, and releve, you can stay in pretty decent shape without having to go to a full class. You can get through this in about 15-20 minutes.
You can multi-task while watching tv, doing computer work, or planning out your daily schedule.
Keep eating sensibly
Dancing burns roughly 500-800 calories per ballet class so you can figure out how much you need to adjust your eating when you aren't taking class.
Incorporating jumps in your cardio training
Jumps are one of the first things to go when you aren't using them, on 'cardio' days -or daily if possible- make sure to do at least two sets of 'warm up jumps' which should help minimize losing power.
If you go to the gym, work out on things that can still help with dance
Working out at the gym is mostly designed to 'look good' for -non dancer- standards, but not for being speedy, and flexible or move very fast, so if you follow 'normal' gym workouts, you might not only lose some of you ballet ability, but you can potentially build muscles that make it event harder to get back into the studio and just rely on your muscle memory and natural ability. Doing exercises using turn out, and lengthening may save you from having this issue, as well as help you stay strong.
Following these simple steps require less than an hour per day, cost barely anything -since gym memberships are extremely affordable nowadays- and will give you the freedom to get back into class at a moments notice, and allow you to go to an audition to book your next job or scholarship, not to mention it will save you from learning the hard way, like I did!
is a NYC based multi-disciplinary artist in the visual and performing arts,
creating expressive works through dance, painting, photography, film & design.