This week was bad. The weather was cold and wet again, I was horribly sore for three days and had weird stomach pain, I didn’t lose any weight and felt bloated until Thursday, probably because of the soreness. I put a lot of pressure on myself at work and got a rude remark from a co-worker for all my pains, I felt tense and ugly and lonely and afraid and I had neither strength nor confidence in ballet class. It got a little better after I talked to Mrs. H, and now the weekend is coming and the weather is going to be gorgeous, so I hope to be able to turn myself around and feel better. I am trying hard not to worry so much, but the more you try to resist worrying thoughts, the more often they come. And since worrying is nothing else but planning a negative future event, I really don’t want to do it! Distraction helps. And telling myself that I am not powerless, that I am not a victim of life but a CREATOR. All I have to do is try to relax and think good thoughts. So… deep breath.
I also really, really want to improve in ballet. It seems that I train and train, trying my best day in and day out, and yet there is almost no progress. Why can I sill not get off the floor in those damned assemblés? How did I never notice that my second position of the arms is wrong? Why can’t I be more stable in turns and promenades, why is my relevé so sickle-y and my back so stiff? Why don’t my legs get higher? I want to improve so much, but feel that I am just fat and untalented and have a bad body, and that my teachers don’t teach me THOROUGHLY. Franca corrected or praised everybody on Wednesday but me. Does she feel that I have no potential, or does she think because I have other teachers, she isn’t responsible for me? She wastes so much time repeating the names of people who are absent or trying to read her notes and make sense of them, or chatting. If I had better classes available I would leaver her school, even though the other students are very nice. We were three students last night with Mandy, and I got many corrections and tried to apply them and show that even if I don’t have the strength or the talent, I have the will. In centre, we had to try Italian fouettés. Ok, I understand them now. But there is no way I can do them. None of us could. They are far too advanced. I see no use in attempting movements that are too difficult. You only get bad habits and it looks horrible. I didn’t manage to do the turn on relevé or even on flat without hopping about. At the moment, I wish I had a two hour class every day with a really good teacher who gave a thorough, musical, harmonious class with time for barre, turns and jumps and a focus on quality and presentation. Followed by maybe an hour’s stretching or Pilates or cross training. GFT would fulfil most of those criteria, but she doesn’t teach regularly.
I need to change SOMETHING. Maybe I need to be less aware of the other students and the teacher and not try to dance in a way I think they will like. If I study with GFT, I try really hard to use my back and épaulement and head, for instance, while I’m quite shy and academic with Franca and focus very much on turnout and the standing leg with Mandy. If the other students are good or if I dislike them, I try harder, and if they are beginners or are shy, I hold back. It’s like in ‘real life’ where I tend to show or hide aspects of myself depending on the person who is interacting with me. I always want the other to like me and think well of me, so I ‘act’, to a certain degree. No wonder dealing with people makes me feel exhausted and stressed. I am trying to change that and practice being myself with others. It works with June and Melina, but not with my teachers. I desperately want them to like me as a student and as a person. Ballet is my greatest passion and they sort of ‘have’ ballet and can ‘give’ it to me by teaching and correcting me. Or they can withhold it by ignoring me and letting me develop bad habits or not progress in their classes. I feel dependent on them, and a little like a child. Mandy is the least tolerant of different opinions and has quite extreme views on some topics, so I’m very careful there. Franca is just reserved. But she has very strong opinions on ballet technique and what is appropriate for which level. This makes it very bitter for me to hear that two of the students from my class are now in the next level while I haven’t been asked. I couldn’t go, anyway, because that class is on Tuesday when I have two classes with Mandy. The others who were asked both have good physical facility, but Smiley can’t even hold her turnout and always confuses en dehors and en dedans turns and her arms are droopy. They only train once or twice a week, too. But they have good relevé and beautiful legs which I don’t. Many of the other students can do movements better than me, for example the fouetté at the barre. I just think it seems unfair that I should work so hard and they just do it once a week and yet are better at some things. Maybe I overthink or overanalyse, or just try to do it too perfectly while it works better if you just throw yourself into it. But I must also say that I have a better understanding and, I think, better sense of line. A teacher who teaches before and after Franca’s class and sometimes watches our class confirmed this. She said I had a nice line and was working well. She also said I shoud start pointe now, only a few relevés at the barre. But no. I want to be truly ready for pointe when I begin. I want to earn it.
My dilemma in ballet is the fact that I alternate between thinking I’m good and thinking I’m horrible. Objectively, I guess, it’s something in between. I have strengths like musicality, passion and ambition and ‘a feeling’ for ballet, and weaknesses like my physical limitations, self-doubt and coordination. Comparisons with other students or professionals don’t help, they only make me bitter or conceited. I need to let go of this and use all my concentration and energy to improve my own dancing. It’s the only thing I can do, other than giving up.
I have to do more. Work even harder. Do the stupid front splits program (it won’t work if I just have it on my shelf), do my jumps and pirouettes every day after class if there weren’t enough, do relevés as many times as possible (with good form and no pain), do the hard floor barre exercises whenever I have time, use the foam roller and tennis ball, have better posture at work, sleep on my back and not curled up on my side. And lose weight.
I was very good with eating all week and made sure I had more fruit and vegetables and protein and fat. I had no sweets except two bites of cake yesterday. And all this despite feeling bad all week. I should be proud of myself, but if there’s no success on the scale it doesn’t seem like success. At the same time I’m sure my body was just holding on to water because of the extreme muscle soreness. I will continue next week.
Yesterday, I was looking at leotards. I notice more about what people are actually wearing now than I did earlier. It first started when I graduated to form-fitting tops from my previous t-shirts. They have a neckline that flatters me and this made me aware of other people’s necklines and style and cuts of leotards. There are so many beautiful leotards out there! No wonder thin adults get obsessed and buy so many. But even if I ever get thin enough to fit into them, I will still be limited to sleeves and high backs because I doubt everything will shrink enough to need no cover or support. But that’s fine. If only I can be thin and jump and turn and dance on pointe, I won’t complain about leotards.
I have been training so much for a long time now, and I start to notice things I’m missing because of it: strolling through the old town or through a park after work. Taking a walk in the forest or just sitting still in the twilight, feeling calm. Going to a museum or a concert (ok, I hardly ever did that before). Watching a football match, reading books, playing the harp, knitting, even writing. Making friends, meeting people, finding love. There is only so much time in a week. I could do all these things if I organised them into the weekends, but I seldom do. Maybe I’ll go for a walk this Sunday. And Samantha teaches in the evening, substituting for Mandy, so I want to go and maybe get a new correction.
It seems pointless to love ballet so much and be so fanatical. What good will it ever bring to others? Maybe I’ll be good enough to dance in a performance once, perhaps, one day? That’s not enough. What good does it bring to me? Ok, it burns calories and strengthens my body. But it’s such a fleeting thing, and I spend all my money on it and get back mostly pain and doubt and frustration, interspersed with rare moments of pure joy. Is it really worth it? My mind says no, but my heart says yes, a thousand times yes! I wouldn’t make it through the day if there weren’t ballet waiting at the end of it. If I couldn’t do it anymore, I would go mad. But then I already am mad, in a way.