It’s past four o’clock and I’m sitting at my kitchen table with some coffee and my feet in an ice bath (because the top of my right foot and the bottom of my left foot are hurting off and on. Besides, it’s extremely refreshing on a hot day). I am finally feeling like myself again, after ten days full of depression, negative thoughts and fighting with myself. I need to do something about these strange moods, I can’t miss ten days of my life every month and I can’t keep sabotaging my weight loss. I’m going to ask my doctor about it when I see her.
My plan for this week had been this: Taking the ‘Summer Intensive’ class everyday but Wednesday (because I’d promised to come to another class then) and the class at Deep Well two nights a week. Mandy is away, but Samantha is the substitute. And I wanted to do the Front Splits Program every day.
Well. What I did was this: I dragged myself to the Summer class at noon on Monday, extremely nervous. The class was very full, and at the barre I ended up between a shirtless boy (who was very flexible but left puddles of sweat on the floor) and a hyper-motivated teen with extremely long thin legs who kept stretching and practicing at an enormous tempo between each exercise. The barre was very fast and I had some trouble remembering unfamiliar transitions. In the Centre the long-legged teen didn’t leave me enough space, so I almost bumped into the piano (oh, I forgot to say we had live piano, which was nice!) or had to do my steps in the little alcove. It’s a strange studio, very long and there is a little alcove at one end. Then we did pas de bourrées and pirouettes on the diagonal, and it was quite fast and I felt so watched and judged and kept worrying about how I was doing and how I looked that all my turns were shaky and I know I did much worse than usual. This ruined the rest of my confidence and made me angry at myself and that of course made everything worse. What saved the day was that the teacher remembered me from last year and came over after class and told me I had made progress, and she had also noticed my weight loss. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to do the Summer Course, to see how much I have improved and, if possible, to show the teacher. But I wasn’t satisfied with myself and felt as if I had made a fool of myself. This school is mostly focused on modern dance and hip hop and jazz, on a semi-professional level, so my figure drew more strange looks than in the recreational schools I am used to. Before class I didn’t dare to warm up or stretch because I felt like such a ‘wannabe’, taking ballet class with this body. Last year, I was almost 40kg heavier, but I didn’t mind! Now I do. I told Mrs. H about it today, and she said that with the weight loss, I am beginning to see myself as part of ‘normal’ society, as comparable to others and no longer isolated. When I was very fat, I felt I seldom compared myself to others in ballet. I knew I couldn’t do many things because I was fat. I could do certain things remarkably well for being so fat. I never even compared myself to other women or noticed their figures. I never felt visible as a woman. I hardly felt like a woman at all. Now all this is changing. Mrs. H said it would be helpful to write about it and observe my reactions to such situations.
After that class I went home and felt bad about the class, and I was feeling depressed anyway, and fat, so I had another binge. On Tuesday, I felt horrible, sad, ugly, fat, tired, still full and as if I couldn’t face a single person, let alone a classroom of thirty dancers. I didn’t go to class, and I regretted it all day, but I just could not do it. I spent the day behind closed curtains on the chaise longue, watching youtube videos and in the afternoon venturing out to buy more food for – yes – another binge. I felt so miserable that I was just waiting for the day to go by, really, distracting myself and covering up my misery as best as possible.
Yesterday, I felt better and took the other class in H as promised. The Cliché Ballet Teacher was the substitute for absent Belinda. We were only four students and I felt safe and sheltered enough to do my best. CBT is a Hungarian ex-prima ballerina who knew Nureyev and Baryshnikov, and while she is over sixty and overweight, she still wears short summer dresses and loves to perform when she shows the steps. We did an ‘oriental’ adagio with deep lunges, cambrés and stylistic port de bras. It would have been fun if CBT could have set the combination, but she changed it every time, completely carried away by the music. If I hadn’t felt so safe, I would have thought it stupid and embarrassing to perform, but I managed to open myself a little and enjoy it. We also had to do pied-à-la-main-stretches, and I can now do them!
Today, I had to get up early to see Mrs. H. I took my ballet things with me, determined to be brave and go to class later. Mrs. H made me feel better about it, and I had already noticed the depressed thoughts were growing less and energy and interest were returning. I went clothes shopping after the appointment. At my current size, I can shop in places like H&M that have much cheaper clothes than the plus size shop I used to visit. I bought two tops and a beautiful cardigan for the price of a single, simple top at the other shop. It’s not worth buying better quality, because my size keeps changing. One of the tops I bought was from the normal size department! And the cardigan is still too small, but I had to buy it. It has a beautiful colour, a deep golden yellow, and the entire back is fine knitted lace. It is such a delicate but simple garment, something I would love to wear, something that would express a large part of who I am, and I can’t wait for the day it will fit me. It’s going to be difficult finding a style, once all the normal clothes will fit. There are so many in just one shop, I felt completely overwhelmed. No wonder normal women always complain they have too many clothes! With this many choices and these low prices, it’s easy to buy too much.
I made it to class, too. When I entered the building, my heart was beating so loudly! But I was determined to face my fear and make a better impression this time. There were many of the same people from Monday. Samantha was there, too, though I luckily didn’t see her until after barre. I did do better. Many of the combinations were the same, and I didn’t have such annoying barre neighbours this time. I also saw that while many of the dancers could move fast, jump high and turn multiple pirouettes, they weren’t very well trained in ballet. Something about the arms, the head, the air. There was one woman, lovely figure, otherwise very good technique, who kept her head absolutely straight with her gaze always on the mirror. She didn’t even use her head in poses like écarté, and écarté without the head is absolutely dead. So, her dancing didn’t look like ballet. Another woman had very lovely legs and did triple pirouettes, but she ’emoted’ so much, always looking up to the ceiling, or alternately at herself with an admiring gaze, that it looked ridiculous. Ballet shouldn’t look arrogant. It shouldn’t look stiff. The teacher told us, just like last year, to think of Audrey Hepburn for our expression: elegant and lovely, but never arrogant. (The men, she said, should use Sean Connery). To my eyes, Samantha had the best expression. She wasn’t showy, but pure and elegant, and she did a lovely, controlled triple pirouette in the last combination where it was appropriate, instead of squeezing it in like some others. So yes, I felt more confident because while I am not (yet) as fast or as stable as some of the others, I noticed that I have had quite good ballet training. The turns worked better, too. I was by no means at ease or comfortable, but I could concentrate on dancing (mostly) instead of worrying. I am going to continue working hard, not cheating, working cleanly, form the inside out. One day, I will be a beautiful Poppy.
I took two more classes last night (from Samantha). If I had stayed at home, I know I would have eaten, so I didn’t give myself the chance. By the third class, my calves and feet were hurting, but I got some good corrections. Imagining I was looking with my nose, not my eyes, to make head movements bigger. This is difficult, it feels like I’m overdoing it. And not having weight on my working leg/curling my toes under in tendus. I know that, but sometimes do it anyway. I felt shy with Samantha as the teacher, and I think she felt shy correcting me. She gave a very fast, difficult combination that I just couldn’t do. The others struggled through, but it looked horrible. I just can’t move that fast when I don’t know what to do. I got lost and missed parts of it. I must do the steps slowly to get them into my body, and then I can speed up. The combination was two pas de valses, chaînés ending with a tour piqué en dehors which I have never done before, then a quick half-turn, piqué attitude, arabesque, pas de bourrée, chassé and pirouette en dehors. I struggled with the transitions and the piqué attitude. I have no balance in that pose, grrr. It looks so easy when Samantha does it.
On the way home, we were in the bus together and talked. She asked me questions about my classes, because over the years we met in many different classes. I also told her I had trouble with my confidence, especially when there are really good dancers in class, and she said she felt the same way when she danced with pros. It was a good conversation. Samantha is really extremely NICE and has a great passion for ballet. I feel a little less intimidated by her now, but I can’t get rid of the feeling completely.
Then today, there was the last summer course class. There were only twenty people this time. It went a little better than yesterday, but once I made a stupid mistake and felt mortified. I did manage a few ok turns and at least one good en dedans pirouette for which the teacher praised me. The adagio went very well, and I tried to be a tiny bit more expressive. When we were in line waiting for the diagonal, a girl tapped me on the shoulder and asked me whether I had been taking a lot of ballet during the year, because she remembered me from last year and I had made great progress. That made me really happy! In the end, there was a huge applause for the teacher and pianist, and when the teacher left later, she gave me a thumbs-up and said ‘good work’. I don’t think I’m that good, but my insecurity is certainly showing, and she could see I was trying to overcome it, so she acknowledged that, I think. I want to go back next year, at normal weight, and with more progress to show her. Maybe double pirouettes, more confidence, and certainly jumps!
After class, June (who was there, too) and I stayed in the studio, stretching and talking for a long time. I like June. She can be a little odd, but I think it’s sweet. I wish we could be friends. She seems lonely, sometimes. She drove me halfway home later. I was sad to leave. The school is closing and moving to a new building next week. I was there only three times this summer, and one week last summer, but I have already grown roots. That studio was the place where I experienced some scary and some inspiring moments, and it somehow stands for the happiness of last summer and the beginning of a great passion for ballet that led me to weight loss and taking a lot more classes and generally all the changes of last year. I was glad that June took pictures. I’ll ask her to send me some. She wants to come to class at H tomorrow, if her foot is ok. She had a doctor’s appointment this afternoon. The gorgeous French teacher will be substituting.