My Ballerina Story: Vince Svitak

100_1022First, let me say that ballet has been a passion with me since I was a kid. I remember going to Radio City Music Hall in New York for the first time on a field trip in school to go see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. I thought to myself that I would like to dance like them one day — that’s when my passion for dance began. Ever since the show, I have had dreams of dancing en pointe and performing.

But being the shy kid that I was, I never followed that dream to take classes. So as I grew up, I just put dance in the back of my mind and went into the Navy.

What made me want get into dance as an adult?

Unfortunately, I got the chance to start ballet after a second chance at life after having an accident in 2012, when I was T-boned in my car. I was able to get back on my feet cause of my experience in the Navy, I was trained to get back on my feet without the help of physical therapy, but something still didn’t feel right with me and felt weak from the accident.

I wanted to do something, but going to the gym wasn’t something I wanted to do. Going to the gym, you do the same exercises over and over again. So that is when I  decided I’d check into ballet classes because it was something I always wanted to do, and I knew you always were learning something new when you go to class.

20141217_143959Even though I knew ballet wasn’t going to be easy and I knew may not become a professional, like my two favorite dancers, Polina Semionova and Mikhail Baryshnikov, I am finally following a dream I wanted to do.

Now, that I am taking my classes, I have finally found the happiness that I’ve been looking for since I was a kid. So, if people want to look at me and judge, that’s fine because ballet is something I want to do and enjoy. Even my teacher says she sees the hidden ballerina in me come out because I have the passion for ballet when I come to class and sees me getting better every class!

Since I started going to ballet, I advanced in November ’14, to go en pointe, and have slowly progressed in my classes. Ballet has opened me up to feel the happiness that I was missing in addition to the great exercise it gives me to keep fit and to enjoy life more.

I’m here to say, if you have a dream, don’t let anyone stop you from following it cause then it may stop you from finding the happiness that you were looking for!

Guest Post: Turnout in Your Twenties

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It was the fouettes that got me.

My ballet obsession would be nothing without the film Center Stage. There’s that moment at the end of the performance where she just spins like a carefree top, making it look so effortless and liberating…I wanted to do that.

I started learning ballet rather late in life, the ripe old age of 24. After musing about it for a few months, I’m a little embarrassed to say that a tumultuous break-up was the catalyst for my first class. I needed distraction and a way to express all I was feeling. I got that and then some.

My first time at the barre I felt like an imposter.

Before my first class, I observed dancers stretching in full splits, working their turn-out, and doing so with a calm expression, exuding a sense of confidence and experience in their motion. Not knowing anything beyond “first position,” the next hour and half proved to be one of the most physically challenging times of my life. However, it also proved to be a sincerely exhausting mental work-out.

I’ve heard many dancers say that they dance because of the moment when “it all fades away,” except for the music and their movement…there’s some sort of magical ‘zone’ they find themselves in, like a safe place to just let everything else go.

Naturally, I knew I wouldn’t find it right away, my own little zone. But I wasn’t quite prepared for the amount of mental work it takes to get through even one ballet class, my head swimming with French terms, combinations, and of course, massive self-doubt.

Where could this alleged zone of freedom possibly exist in all the confusing thoughts buzzing around my brain?

Not to mention, when I started out I felt like an oaf.

The mirrors flanking every inch of the studio served as a constant reminder that I tower over most other women in the class, at my sky-scraping 5’10” height. But, in time, I’ve learned how to have more control over my long limbs (developing muscles I never even knew I had!) and now when I feel myself slouching to be shorter, I raise my spine up with pride. I work through my frustrations with my height and remember that though I stand out, I will have an immediate presence and I try to find strength in that length.

Dancing requires one main thing: movement. Tall, short, thin, curvy, slow, fast. The ability and love of expressing ones’ self through the body is something to be respected. No matter if you’re 5’4” or 6’0”. No matter if you’ve had a thousand ballet classes or are just rising to relevé for the first time.

In the past year, I’ve seen some beautiful glimpses of my little zone of freedom, where my brain stops thinking and my body continues moving…pushing out the stressful noises and the worries of what’s going to happen next year, in a week, in 5 minutes. I won’t hear the ring of my nagging cell phone, I won’t read a ‘catastrophic’ email, or a text saying I’ve missed a deadline. My little zone is a moment of pure elation held exclusively for me, that I can find when I stop doubting myself and let go.

 Check out Beth’s blog Trees and Toes.

Guest Post: Ballet Skirt Tutorial

IMG_3825I wanted to share a ballet skirt I made, inspired by all the wonderful printed skirts I see on professional Ballerinas. This was a fairly easy project, I’m by no means an advanced seamstress, but it does involve a sewing machine. The skirt is pretty one size fits all, but you could always add, or subtract depending on your measurements or desired fit. For a bit of background, I’m a US side 6, and my model in the photos is a US 4. 

You will need:

1.25 Metres polyester chiffon (you can use silk as well, but you will need to hem it by hand)

3 Metres of 2-3cm ribbon

Thread

Scissors

Sewing Machine

Pins

Candle

1. Draft your pattern. I used an old ballet skirt to draft a rough pattern on some wrapping paper I had lying around. You can easily follow my pattern, just draw out the waist measurement and work from there. I also always draw the right side of the pattern, mark the centre line, and then fold to make the left (think of it like making a construction paper heart) to give completely symmetrical results. You can play around with the shape as well. Lengthening the back (the dotted line) will make it longer in the back, and shortening it to the same length as the front will give an even line all the way around. Also make sure to try on your pattern before cutting, that way you can make any adjustments before cutting the fabric.

2. Lay your pattern on the fabric as shown, by cutting on the diagonal (as shown) you are making it bias cut, which gives it that super great drape. Pin in the corners, bottom and top. Carefully cut around the pattern.

3. Take your ribbon and find the middle point and mark with a pin. Find the middle point of your skirt, mark with a pin. Match the two middle points, and fold the ribbon evenly over the top of the skirt and pin in place. Work in both directions, making sure that the top of the skirt is sealed in the ribbon, and pinned securely.

4. Sew along the bottom edge of the ribbon; I used a zigzag stitch, and backstitched at both edges.

5. At this point your skirt is pretty much done, but you still have that pesky bottom hem to deal with. You can painstakingly hand stitch a rolled hem, but I opted for the easy out and burned it. Because it is synthetic chiffon, it basically just melts, preventing it from fraying. I’ve heard a wood burning tool works great for this, but I don’t have one, so I just lit a candle and carefully held the edge near it, not in it, and waited for it melt before moving on to the next section. I also tested it first on a piece of scrap fabrics, because different fibres respond differently. If the burning technique doesn’t work, you could also buy some of the fray stop products available at any craft store.

So there you go, any easy Saturday afternoon adult ballet project!

Skirt Pattern

Visit Nicola’s blog here.

Guest Post: How I Became A Runner

(Editor’s Note: It must be guest post week here at ABP! Today’s is brought to you by Laura Roeseler of Project Lovely Laura on why she started running as part of a Girls Gone Sporty Ambassador Blog Exchange. Make sure you head over to her blog then to read my post on why I started running!)

Laura Roeseler post-10K Race (1)For as long as I can remember, I’ve despised running.  The memory of achy legs, burning lungs, and disappointment are seared into my brain from childhood gym classes.  I could never run a complete lap during the timed mile, much less the entire mile.  I only ran when I thought the gym teacher was watching and I almost always finished last.

Having been overweight nearly my entire adult life, I decided to get serious about my health last January and much to my surprise, I decided to start running to lose weight.  I’ve met some amazing runners in my life and I am always intrigued by their passion and determination.  I could never understand what would possess someone to run, but there was always a small voice in my head thinking If they can do it, why can’t I?  I downloaded the Couch-to-5K app and set off on a path that changed my life.

If you aren’t familiar with it, the Couch-to-5K program is designed to get beginners to go from sitting on the couch to running a 5K (or approximately 30 minutes) in 9 weeks.  The first day of the program consisted of 9 intervals of 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking.   I didn’t even think I could complete one interval, much less 9, but I decided it was worth a try.  Running was exactly as difficult as I remembered; each second was a struggle and I checked my phone obsessively to count down the seconds to my next walking interval.  I ended up completing all 9 intervals that first day and I was sweaty, out of breath, and incredibly proud of myself.

As I progressed through the weeks of the Couch-to-5K program, I was faced with an ever present battle of mind over matter.  I would look ahead to the scheduled intervals and think that each was impossible.  Never once though, did my legs give out and I quickly learned that my mental strength was holding me back in my running, not my physical strength.  I was always able to complete the intervals, although sometimes I had to repeat a day or a week to build up my strength.

I deviated a bit from the Couch-to-5K program last summer and decided to try my own interval training.  Shortly after changing gears, I ran a mile non-stop for the first time in my life, which was a huge milestone.   I ran my first 5K in September 2013 and followed with my first 10K on October 13th.   Crossing the finish line in those races was incredible; I was elated and felt such a sense of accomplishment.   Those races did more for my self-esteem than I can ever express.

late Summer 2013 iPhone pics 048I will be running my first half marathon in early April and while training is challenging, I love pushing the boundaries of what I thought I was mentally and physically capable of doing.   I love the sense of incredible accomplishment that running provides and the self confidence that it gives me.  I’m more confident as a mother, wife, friend, and in my professional life and I know that I can do anything I set my mind to!

 

 

6 tips for the new runner (or those getting back into it)

Renee - First half marathon(Editor’s note: This week’s guest post is part of my Elf For Health Challenge. I’m participating in a blog swap where we swap blogs with someone else who will write about her expertise for our blog. I was paired with Renee Beck, who shared her expertise about running.)

I’ve been running since I was 14 years old. I ran cross country and track in high school and college. I’ve run countless 5Ks, a handful of 10Ks and 10-milers, and two half marathons. No, I’m not bragging. I’m telling you that after all of that running, there are days when it’s hard. It hurts. So why do I keep lacing up?

 Running gives back what you put into it. If I push myself, I’m rewarded with faster times, a healthier (and fitter) body, and a feeling of general awesomeness. Plus, it doesn’t matter if you run 10 feet or 10 miles: You’re a runner. Here are six tips for the new (or newly returned) runner:

  1. Start slow and steady. I love the Couch to 5K program for those who are just getting started. I’ve also used it after taking time off. You only have to do three days a week, so it’s easy to complete and feel accomplished.

  2. Take the scenic route. This is the time to bust out your favorite route. I love running by the Under Armour corporate headquarters in Baltimore.

  3. Crank up the tunes. I know that some people like to run without music, but when you are getting into the groove of things, it can really help to have some motivational music. (Check out this post for my top 10 favorite running songs.)

  4. Enlist a buddy. If you can, a friend into running with you or go with a running group. It’s much easier to hit the pavement when someone is waiting for you.

  5. Know that every run can’t be a good run. It’s a running law or something. You can have the best run of your life one day and then struggle each step of the next. One foot in front of the other; it will get easier.

  6. Prepare in advance. If you know that you have a busy schedule ahead, look at your timeline closely to see if there are any openings for a run. I add runs to my to-do list so that I also get the satisfaction of crossing it off!

Plus, once you’re a runner, you’ll be able to understand this video: http://youtu.be/ef3cF6rln30.

Visit Renee’s blog, www.reneebeck.com.

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