This is actually supposed to be a kind of ballet blog… combined with a personal blog and a sort of public journal. However, I haven’t written about ballet in ages. I write about all the other things that happen in my life, but never mention ballet in spite of almost daily classes. Maybe because the topic is so huge, or maybe because ballet is the one thing I can talk about at home without causing tension, so I tend to tell all my little frustrations and victories to my mother or Sissy and don’t feel the need to ‘write it out’. Anyway, today I will write about ballet. Especially about Mandy, my new teacher, and what I have learned from her.

At the moment, I take Mandy’s class two to three times per week. Then Belinda’s class on Saturday mornings, Rosanna’s on Saturday afternoons  and Franca’s classes on the other days. I actually had to reduce Franca’s classes and am thinking about dropping Rosanna’s second Saturday class altogether. There needs to be one rest day per week, and besides, with moving out, I’ll have to spend less on ballet classes if I want to be able to pay all my bills and eat meat from time to time. But choosing which of my eight available classes to give up feels like choosing which of my fingers to chop off… They are all good and beneficial. Belinda’s class is mostly wonderful, especially now since we have a new beginner and the class moves more slowly. Even though it is more expensive than my other classes, I want to keep taking it for the lovely music, the nice atmosphere and of course for the teacher (to not disappoint her trust in me). Franca’s classes are shorter than 90 minutes (80 minutes, but we waste time stretching and chatting) but slow and methodical. They help me to slowly build my strength and technique, but I don’t get enough corrections. I need to correct myself and not compare myself to the others and get complacent, because the others don’t seem to be as ambitious as I am. Or maybe they don’t know how it really SHOULD look? Or they have other things that are more important, like boyfriends, children, friends… (Sometimes I think I’m not normal, and that my life is sad and lonely. But then I dance and there are moments when I’m PERFECTLY happy… Maybe my life is unfolding exactly as it should at the moment. Maybe this selfish lonely phase is needed to reach the next stage… Hmm. I’ll have to think about this.)

Anyway, I wanted to write about Mandy. I discovered her a few months ago. Actually, I grew curious about this ‘other teacher’ the lady I used to hate so much took class with. (Remember GPS?) One Saturday after Rosanna’s class I was talking to an advanced student, when she mentioned Mandy. She also said that GPS took class there, and that she, the advanced student, had tried it but didn’t like her teaching style. Knowing Mandy’s name, it was easy to find her website and call. She was very friendly on the phone, saying of course I could come for a trial class and no, she didn’t mind that I was fat. So I went, and the first thing I saw when I entered the change room was GPS making tea. There is a small kitchen between the change room and the studio, with a kettle and tea bags,  and people make tea before class and take their glass with them to the barres. Weird, but cosy. GPS didn’t seem too pleased that I was there, but maybe that was just my prejudiced perception. Mandy turned out to be a small stout blonde lady with a high voice and friendly manner. After the first plié she began praising my placement, and after class she said that I had very good basics and was well-placed and asked who my teacher was (So flattering!). I wasn’t too pleased with that first class, there were many combinations that were too fast for me, and that had been a class labelled ‘beginners’! But I came back the next week and the next week, and soon noticed that while the combinations didn’t always leave me with enough time to do everything cleanly, the corrections were pure gold.


Mandy pounced on my à la seconde, which was too far to the side and had sadly already become a bad habit. (As annoying as it is, I’m kind of proud to have a bad habit. It’s so… ‘real ballet student-y’. I now have something specific to work on.) She made me practice the correct movement again and again, so that I am now hyper-aware of my position, even in other classes. I still go back to the old mistake when I have no time to think about it, for example in fast pas de basques etc. Over Christmas and New Year’s, she gave daily classes, which I took, because the other schools were closed. Her style took getting used to a little, and many of her combinations are too fast for me, or have difficult coordination. Her style is ‘a little French with lots of David Howard’ as she said. Petit Allegro is very fast, and I don’t like that. She lets her students struggle through, looking horrible. I would prefer to do it slowly and correctly first, and then speed it up. But she is the teacher, and as I don’t have to jump for another 29 kg, so I won’t worry about it now.

On New Year’s Eve, I had a breakthrough with my turns. I had been moaning about how difficult pirouettes are for me, and making excuses. In Mandy’s studio, the floor is perfect for turns. And she drilled us pirouette after pirouette, EXPECTING us to turn instead of just encouraging us, like Franca. I had to turn and turn, with corrections in between. (And with less weight and more strength, I didn’t get tired anymore!) Plus turns on the diagonal, not just piqués, but chaînés and emboîtés and one more that feels lovely, I think it’s called piqué en dehors-en dedans. And suddenly, on that day, it felt easy for the first time. I was on my leg, I felt strong and centered and light, and I just turned. It felt like floating. It was FUN! I’m by no means a good turner now, but since that day, I actually like turns (only en dehors for now, en dedans are still hard) and no longer dread them. With practice, corrections and weight loss, I even manage to turn in Franca’s class now. As soon as I realised that it was possible, I could do it. We have begun doing pirouettes at the barre with Franca, and I actually enjoy them now, too. I still dread turns on the diagonal, because you’re all alone with everybody watching and I KNOW I make mistakes, so it’s embarrassing.

There have been a few classes where I was the only one who turned up. These were wonderful, too. Private lessons for the price of a normal class. Mandy just watched my every move from the front and back and corrected every tiny thing. My barre arm shoulder, staying square at the barre, getting still higher on my standing leg, freeing my upper torso while pulling up below, feeling which muscles to use in the back of my legs, the use of dynamics (thinking up while going down and pushing down to come up, this is a BIG one),  even my face (no lip biting)  etc. etc. She only needs to come near me at the barre and I already know what I’m doing wrong (mostly). I have improved so much since I have been studying with her. And struggling in her classes, while embarrassing and painful, has helped me to be more brave. Of course, I’d like to do everything perfectly and never commit the sins of a turned-in leg or sickled foot or raised shoulder, but it is the mistakes that generate the most useful corrections. Being too scared to try will get you nowhere. This is a hard lesson for me to learn, who have never taken risks.

Oh dear… Once again, an idea has turned into a novel. Sorry, but I had so much to tell!

About annalienor

Lover of beauty, adult ballet student, deliberate creator wannabe.
This entry was posted in Ballet, Law of Attraction, Love, Moment and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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