Search Results for: mercietchatons

Beginner Ballerina Profile: Nikki from Mercietchatons: 100th Post!

photo 2This week’s ballerina profile is Nikki from Mercitchatons. She seems like a great fit for Adult Ballerina Project’s 100th post because she was one of the first adult ballet blogs I came across and inspired me to do a 30 day split challenge (and we’ll both be doing another one in April!

Adult Ballerina Project: When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

Nikki: I started at 26.

ABP: Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

 Nikki: Yes, between the ages of 3-8 I was doing ballet. I remember it very fondly and never let the idea of it go when I left. I only left because of family financial difficulties.

ABP: Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?
Nikki: I wanted to go back to ballet when I was 16/17 but school got in the way and a lot of other things to. I finally got around to it in my mid 20s. I can’t explain the full reason of wanting to go back to ballet other than doing what you do at the barre. It’s so engrained in you and you either love it or hate it and become a ballet robot and need to do you tendus and dégagés like it’s nobody’s business.

 ABP: Where do you take classes?

Nikki: I go to Alderwood Dance Spectrum. It’s a city north of Seattle. The school’s been there for many years and the Director/Owner is a great woman and dancer. I love the children and fellow students I dance with and I couldn’t ask for a better place to dance. I don’t ever feel judged or competitive.

ABP: What is your favorite part about ballet?

Nikki: There are so many parts of ballet I love. I love expression through slight movement. I love doing barre work, monotonous brain exercises that you eventually learn as second nature. It’s physical building aspect. The music. The history.

ABP: What is your least favorite part?

Nikki: Mostly my personal limitations and becoming extremely frustrated with it. Which isn’t ballet’s fault. Just my adult brain and body. Memorization is hard to. One month you’ll have all the positions down and proper when requested, and then you don’t do it for a month and focus on something else and then you completely forget and they ask you out of the blue and you’re like “durrrr… croise … what direction arms- where?”

ABP:Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Nikki: Zenaida Yanowsky, she’s tall which is very unusual for a principal dancer to be. She shows great character and excellent execution in her technique. Yulia Stepanova, a very little known corphyee in the Mariinsky theater. She’s absolutely gorgeo . Phenomenal. She’s strong, beautiful technique, and her epaulment is gorgeous. Evengnia Obratzsova, she’s so cute, so small, so fragile, yet a beautiful emote-r ballerina. In my growing theme you can see strong technique and emotional elegance are my favors and the students of my school, they’re beautiful sweet girls and boys who are very interested in what they do and how to do it better.

ABP: What motivates you to keep dancing?photo 1

Nikki: The idea that I will feel bad if I do not go. That I will lose progress I had gained two folds. That I always need to get better and work harder. That by coming to class, the girls and boys who look to me for answers, will have them and be inspired too to keep being beautiful as they are.

ABP: Do you take any other dance classes?

Nikki: Not currently, no. I may take hip hop depending how my schedule opens up. Usually though if it does open up, it would just be more ballet classes. Maybe a contemporary class too- HAH! Ideally my Teacher would want me to take tap- yea no thanks.

ABP: What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Nikki: I’m literally an art school drop out. I spent most of my HS career collecting college AP credits for fine art. So I dabble in illustration, painting, drawing, etc. I also sew, as I spent time at the Art Institute of Seattle. I learned how to draft patterns and sew by industrial standards. I like to bake and make obscene sugar cookies.  I also collect all things Mickey- well, almost. I limit myself so my house isn’t swamped in the stuff. Lets just say I’m a Disney fan.

ABP: What advice would you like to give to those who want to start ballet or have just started?

Nikki: Warm up and care for your body. I know you want to get better and stronger but as adults our body is not adjusted to strenuous repetitive activities. Use leg warmers and clothes to keep you warm, and warm up 15-30 min before you even start barre. Stretch any free moment you get, and do it frequently. Love and care for yourself and my favorite things to keeping me happy after a hard class is hot both, epsom salt, and a glass of wine. Cheesecake too for good measure 🙂

ABP: Anything else you’d like to add?

Nikki: Know it’s okay to mess up. To be slower or to work out what they’re doing slower. Your body has not been doing ballet for 12 years of your life(and if you have, well you’ve been on break maybe so…). You will work your way there and always remember you are magnificent and someone is always watching!


To Return or Not?


Many adult ballet dancers take a break for various reasons like work, family and school obligations, health issues and financial constraints. Returning to ballet after any hiatus is often difficult. Even harder for me was deciding whether or not to return. Until 10 months ago and despite having Morton’s Neuroma, I attended 2-3 ballet classes per week. Non-surgical treatments (Epsom Salt soaks, acupuncture, acupressure, cortisone shots and even ultrasound guided radiofrequency ablation – which is sounds scarier than it is) helped temporarily, but eventually dancing full-out become impossible. Rolling up onto demi-pointe was painful; even everyday walking in comfortable sneakers hurt. If I stood high up enough on my toes (e.g., en pointe or on 3-inch heels), I could roll through and past the neuroma in the ball of my foot. However, in flat ballet slippers or low heels (like 1-inch character shoes), my weight rested squarely on the ball of my foot, radiating pain to my third and fourth toes.

Stubbornly, I kept trying to dance but eventually stopped; I had to stay on flat or mark steps whenever I put weight on my left foot. After years of avoiding surgery for Morton’s Neuroma, I finally gave up and gave in. Due to work and family obligations, however, I couldn’t fit surgery in for another 5 months! During that period, I missed ballet but also felt strangely relieved too, no longer rushing to and from class squeezed in between meetings and errands.

In the meantime, on other adult ballet blogs I found similarly ambivalent feelings towards ballet. Last year Nikki (profiled on ABP) of Mercietchatons also had surgery and during recovery wrote, “You’d think I’d be dying to go to dance. But I don’t. I want to be normal again most of all.” Nikki returned to class but noted, “sadly a lot of the Adult Ballet-er blogs I followed have gone silent.” I was touched by the insightful, articulate and self-aware posting by Zoe (also profiled on ABP) of Bush Ballerina on why she decided to stop dancing this summer. Blogger Rheumatic Princess admitted, “I’m in such a ballet funk. I really just don’t want to go at all, right now.

5 months post surgery: I’ve endured a slow but steady recovery that progressed from barely putting weight on my left foot and using my hands to bend my toes to walking 2 miles and pointing my toes unassisted. Physically, I may be ready to return to ballet but ask, why?

My reasons for “why not” are:

  • Money (gas, parking, class fees, gas)
  • Time (a 45-minute commute each way to and from the studio for a 1½ hour class)
  • Preparation (changing on the run; remembering necessities like a water bottle, shorts to wear over my leotard, change for parking, etc.; putting up my hair at red lights)
  • Guilt (I’m not a pre-professional teenager and thus have trouble justifying devoting so much time, money and energy to ballet).
  • Fear (Will my foot hurt? Will I be able to dance?  If so, will I ever return to my previous level?)

My reasons for “why” are:

  • I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t try at least a couple of classes again
  • Ballet is one of the few forms of exercise I actually like
  • Ballet is a unique pursuit among 40-something suburbanite women (that I know)
  • I love and miss dancing ballet

During recovery, the only ballet step I’ve executed outside of physical therapy and on my own at home was relevé (on both feet) to put away dishes in the kitchen. I’ve tried to relevé on my left foot alone only a few times and for no longer than 2-3 fraught seconds. Was I really ready? A professional ballerina friend was encouraging but advised, “Take it slow and don’t be frustrated by not being able to do what you used to do.”

Fast forward to after my first class back, which I’ll discuss in another post: I enjoyed it! I survived class and fulfilled my 3 criteria of success:

  • I didn’t fall or hurt myself
  • I didn’t hurt or make anyone else fall
  • I didn’t get in anyone’s way

The disciplined barre exercises, muscle memory/ingrained technique for combinations (on both sides), live piano music, and my welcoming teacher and classmates all made me feel like I returned home after a long trip. I’m rusty, weak and out of shape, but at least I’m back.

Image via Flickr User Kryziz Bonny via Creative Commons License 

Liebster Award!


First of all, thank you so much to Alice in Danceland for nominating me for the Liebster Award that’s been going around the blogosphere again recently. I’ve been nominated before but didn’t have the time to take part at the time–but now I do! The rules are as follows:

Here are the rules for accepting the award:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
  • List 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  • Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
  • Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
  • Go to each bloggers page and let them know you have nominated them.

11 Random Facts:

  1. I began dancing ballet a year ago.
  2. I also recently began running and fell in love with that as well.
  3. I’m obsessed with Hello Kitty and once tried to start a Hello Kitty blog.
  4. Before starting Adult Ballerina Project, I ran a blog called A TV and A Girl about my obsession with TV. My friends make fun of the blog title and started calling me Avatar Girl.
  5. The only reason people ever ended up looking at that blog was because I did a video tutorial on how to do Quinn’s braid from Glee. It got a surprising amount of hits on YouTube for how crappy the quality was.
  6. I don’t have cable and instead I watch almost everything on Netflix. I just finished Fringe, I’m trying to finish up Bones.
  7. When I do watch TV, I watch Scandal using my crappy TV antenna.
  8. I have super flat feet which has caused a lot of shin splints during both ballet and running.
  9. I’d be lost without my foam roller and compression socks.
  10. I’m working on doing more freelance writing now that I’ve graduated.
  11. I also love turtles.


11 Questions asked by AliceinDanceland:

  1. What is your favourite to-go stretch or exercise? Pigeon’s pose or downward facing dog. Pigeon’s Pose for my hips, downward facing dog for my shins.
  2. Favourite genre of music? alternative rock.
  3. If you could attend any professional academy or university in the world, which would it be? Hmmm…this is a weird question to answer since I just graduated. But probably Columbia for journalism grad school.
  4. If you could live in any other time period, what would it be? Can I chose the future? I’d want to see all the new technology that develops.
  5. What is your favourite social media site and why? Twitter. I love that I can tweet a lot more than Facebook updating.
  6. What is your favourite dessert? Fried ice cream. My mom made me an awesome fried ice cream cake for my graduation.
  7. What do you miss most about your childhood? Not having any responsibilities.
  8. What has been the biggest challenge in your life thus far? I think trying to find a full-time job will be a huge challenge I now have to overcome.
  9. What is one thing you want to improve about yourself? I want to both improve in running and ballet–and get better at updating ballet.
  10. How do you like your water? Plain? Infused with fruit juice? Seltzer? Plain!
  11. Any plans for the upcoming summer? Part-time internship with Campus Philly, freelancing, hopefully a job.


11 Questions for the Blogs I nominate:

  1. Why did you start blogging?
  2. If you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring 3 items, what would you bring?
  3. What is the significance of your blog title?
  4. What are your other hobbies?
  5. What are your summer plans?
  6. What is your favorite fruit or vegetable?
  7. Who is one celebrity you are dying to meet, alive or dead?
  8. If you could  change to any career, what would it be?
  9. What is your favorite animal, and why?
  10. If you had to give up a form of social media, which one would you give up?
  11. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?


11 Blogs I nominate:

  1. The Active Gamer
  2. Under the Purple Magnolia Tree
  3. LoveBallet89
  4. Ballet Shoes and Mickey Ears
  5. Live and Be Awesome
  6. The Spicy Mermaid
  7. Back to the Barre
  8. Some Assemble Required
  9. The 109th Bead
  10. Thanks and Kittens
  11. Diary of a Slow Runner

Squat and Plank Challenge and April 30 Day Challenge


Through the Sweat Pink Ambassador network I found an awesome Squat and Plank challenge–which I figured would be super useful for helping to get my core muscles and my legs into better shape. It’s being run over at Live. Sweat. Sleep. Repeat. (you can find the chart on her blog!).


Plank on The Mat

Plank on The Mat (Photo credit: lululemon athletica)


It starts off fairly easy–but at the end of the 6 weeks it gets more intense (Hello 3 minute plank!). I’ll probably be adjusting to do more squats each day (say, like 3 sets of X) and cutting the plank time in half of what’s planned and doing two of them instead (I’m a wimp, okay? And planks are tough.)


There’s also a super awesome Facebook Support Group for it as well which I’m part of. Motivation for a workout challenge never hurts.


I’ll also be doing another 30 Day Challenge for ballet-related muscles (the idea sprouted from Thanks & Kittens). Like she recommended, I’d suggest working on whatever you feel you need to. Back Flexibility? Splits? Turns? Do it. I’ll be making a slight adjustment and making my goal to wake up every morning and do this runner’s yoga regime, since it will help with my hip flexibility as well as help prep me for running.


If you’re doing either of these challenges, let me know and if you have a blog, link me to your challenge posts! I love hearing about how everyone else is doing and we can motivate each other.


My Christmas Present: Pointe Shoes

pfMerry Christmas/Happy Holidays from Adult Ballerina Project!

Recently, the studio I go to, Major Moment (as part of Philly Dance Fitness) has started offering a Pre-Pointe/Pointe Workshop every month. The first two workshops I missed, in October because of my left ankle’s injury and in November because of a second bad case of tonsillitis.

Finally, in December, I was able to make it to the workshop.

My ballet instructor told me to not buy shoes before attending the workshop in December (although most girls wore pointe shoes for the workshop, about five of us did not). It  was held after our regular Saturday class so that we would be warm. We worked on exercises at the barre to help strengthen our feet and ankles as well as get used to pointe shoes. This is one of the reasons one of my main goals for winter break is to work on ankle strength. Yes, I know it’s not going to happen instantaneously and it’s going to require a lot of work, but I feel like I’m up for the challenge, especially since I should have more free time during my Spring semester at college.

When I return to Philly in January, the workshop will be offered twice a month, covering a lot of the same things.

For Christmas (with the help of my parents), I got my first pair of pointe shoes, which are Grishko “ProFlex” Pointe Shoe. Discount Dance describes them as

 ProFlex is ideal for dancers who wish to build strength through use of a flexible shoe, find it challenging to reach full pointe, or require a quick break-in for performance. 2007 models fit a remarkable variety of feet, with an anatomical form designed to relieve pressure on the big toe joint, based on targeted studies of foot shape and pointework dynamics. 2007 ProFlex is lightweight and comfortable, with a somewhat tapered box and medium platform, supportive yet non-constrictive medium-height U-shaped vamp, and 3/4-length pliable shank. Shank: Flexible.

Getting fitted for them at the Rosin Box wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it was going to be. When I arrived, the owner asked me some simple questions such as where I took classes, if it was my first time in pointe shoes (it was) and how often I’d be on pointe. He helped to pick the shoe based on the fact I’d only be doing very basic barre work en pointe two times a month. He also determined that I had “normal people feet.”  The first shoe he pulled out (the ProFlex shoe) fit pretty well. Going up en pointe for the first time was weird. While I tried on a couple more pairs, I settled on the ProFlex. Everything else felt weird and just not right.

Since I’m obviously no expert on pointe shoes, I asked everyone for advice about a month ago. Some of the best advice that appeared in the comments follows from this post.

From Purple Magnolia:

Some of the things it’s really good to think about when actually have the pointe shoes on are:
Are my feet completely in the box?
Is my big toe touching the end of the shoe without any backward pressure? (Make sure you clip your toenails before you go to be fit)
Are my toes being tightly held together, or are they on top of each other? (They should feel tightly held together)
Can I wiggle my toes?

Oh and make sure you were tights, and clip your toe nails before you go. It’s also a good idea to get pointe shoe fittings done at the end of the day as your feet are at the widest then.

The other thing that I think is quite important is that your fitter knows theat you’re a first timer for pointe. There are some shoes, like gaynor minden and shoes with 3/4 shanks that are not really suitable for beginners. 3/4 shanks because it takes a year or so to build up the strength and control in the intrinsic muscles of the foot to a good level, and beginning dancers in 3/4 shanks often ending up sinking down onto the back of the shank instead of fully supporting their weight through the whole foot. Gaynor mindens because they are quite a customised shoe and really until you’ve experienced a few pairs they’re not worth the extra cost.

From Legal Ballerina:

(1) Do not be scared, but I understand why you are. If your teacher said you are ready for pointe, you are ready. Do not question him/her. Let your teacher’s confidence in you give you the strength to power through your own feelings of self-doubt, ok??
(2) Don’t be intimidated about how it feels when you try pointe shoes on for the first time. It is a real weird feeling and it takes some time getting used too. Don’t worry; you will get used to it.
(3) Do not be surprised if your first pair of pointe shoes (i.e. size, maker, etc) ends being your “perfect” pointe shoe. Once you are en pointe for a while you will really understand your feet and what your needs are.

From mercitchatons:

Fitting was interesting. You want it to hold you firmly, but not squish you so when your foot is flat on the floor it doesn’t cramp. You can’t demi at the store and it’s kind of important to know how the shoe will break in when you go through demi. If it breaks in a certain way and is uncomfortable you’ll most likely have sore feet and or serious blisters. Don’t let this discourage you though. Usually your first pair will fit well until they are broken in and you need to get a whole new pair and realize what you’re starting to look for in a shoe.
Make sure your foot isn’t sinking and that there isn’t excess fabric bunching around here or there. It’s better to have a fitting shoe than a pretty shoe. But excessive bunching means the shoe is probably too big. Listen to what your foot/body says, they kept giving me metatarsal support/winged shoes and every pair was uncomfortable to me. She finally stopped. Do not go on other peoples recommendation of shoes that they love, it doesn’t mean it will work for you. You can always try their suggestion, but know it may not work.

If you have anymore advice, feel free to leave it in the comments!

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