Beginner Ballerina Profile: Galene

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This week’s profile is of Galene, who started ballet almost three years ago because she wanted to try new things and she was impressed with the athleticism and elegance of a ballerina.

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

I started almost three years ago. I was a freshman in college and wanted to try new things.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

I took a community ballet class when I was around 5, but that only lasted a few months. I did gymnastics from ages 3 – 8, and I think that “prepared” for future Galene’s ballet experience.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

I was always so impressed with the athleticism and elegance of a ballerina, and I wanted to achieve that too.

Where do you take classes?

Joy of Motion Dance Center and Maryland Youth Ballet

What is your favorite part about ballet?

I like the barre. It’s my time to relax while still exercising my body.

What is your least favorite part?

Ballerina “fashion” … the adorable leotards, legwarmers, skirts… there is a lot of pressure to look good.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

I watch a lot of ballet videos on youtube. I like the Royal Ballet. I get to peek into professional dancers’ lives and live through them. It encourages me to try harder in class.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

I like overcoming challenges and pushing myself to new limits. The accomplishment keeps me sane.

Do you take any other dance classes?

I took one jazz class. I really struggled.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

I like to play piano.

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

Don’t give up! I really had a hard time adjusting at first. There is no easy way into ballet. When I thought something was easy, I was doing it wrong!

Beginner Ballerina Profile: Lydia Hanna

20141123_121335Meet Lydia, who just recently started taking classes! She started taking them on YouTube (which she recommends for people who can’t afford classes right away). She blogs at Lydiateachesherself.WordPress. com.

When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

Just before Christmas.  I attended a class on a date and my legs started craving the movements,  so I started dancing in my kitchen to youtube classes.

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Yes, but I got frustrated and quit.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

Because it feels amazing, and because it’s great for stress.

Where do you take classes?

Youtube!  I highly recommend it, for those who can’t afford classes right away.
I’m about to start regular classes at Broadway Dance in Manhattan. I’ve also been to drop-ins at Mark Morris in Brooklyn a few times too,  and it was lovely.

What is your favorite part about ballet?

The moment where a movement that was impossible last week suddenly becomes natural.

What is your least favorite part?

The moment where a new move is not yet doable.

Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Ballerinas like me who are older and imperfect.

What motivates you to keep dancing?

It’s fun! And it feels amazing.

What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Writing, reading, and school. I love taking classes.(I’m studying political science at Pace and I studied Literature at Syracuse)

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

Perfect is overrated.

Do you have a blog?

Lydiateachesherself.WordPress. com

Beginner Ballerina Profile: Michelle McCarthy

This week’s profile is of Michelle, who contacted me a few weeks ago about doing a profile on her ballet friend Karen (who will be featured next Friday!). Michelle reminds us so much that you need to only compare yourself to yourself–not to any other dancers! It’s amazing how much you’ve improved, even when you don’t think you’ve come that far.

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When did you start doing ballet as an adult?

 Michelle: January 2013 (33 years old)

Did you ever take lessons as a kid?

Michelle: Nope. I was interested, but I think my parents thought it was too expensive and my mother didn’t want to hang out with the “dance moms.” They did let me take gymnastics, tumbling, and cheerleading for a while. In college, I went swing and salsa dancing.

Why did you decide to take ballet as an adult?

Michelle: I was interested in taking barre fitness classes but balking at the expense. A co-worker suggested I take the “basics” workshops at her studio since it was mostly barre work. I took both 8-week sessions and became interested in ballet for its own sake (although it has been a great workout). And I’m now spending a lot more money per month than my old gym membership…oops!

 

Before class!

 Michelle: School of Contemporary Ballet Dallas.

 What is your favorite part about ballet?

 Michelle:  The combination of mental and physical challenge. I love the routine of class and the fact that no one is really paying attention to anyone but themselves. It’s been a very restorative activity for me during the last year after some rough spots in my personal life. Also, learning ballet is the opposite of being a tax lawyer (which is what I do for a living).

What is your least favorite part?

Michelle: Getting discouraged that its a lot harder for me to pick up new physical skills in the my 30s. My goal for the summer was to be able to do a single pirouette, and I’m don’t think I’m going to make it. I am getting closer though!! Also, my “old” brain has a hard time remembering the combinations (but that’s getting a little better too).

 Who/What is your ballet inspiration?

Michelle: Really, all the people I’ve met at the studio. I really enjoy that the students are of all ages and levels and taking a couple of hours to do something they enjoy. I have a “ballet friend” that I met in the basics workshops and its fun to have someone to discuss class and our frustrations and accomplishments with (because no one else is interested – ha!) The teachers as well. After taking a few classes at other studios, I can safely say that classes of all levels at CBD are tough!! But the teachers are always very encouraging, even when it must be frustrating (and hilarious).

After Class!

After Class!

What motivates you to keep dancing?

 Michelle: Getting out of the house! Ballet has become my “mommy time” activity and it gets me moving instead of collapsing onto the couch as soon as my kid goes to bed.

 Do you take any other dance classes?

 Michelle: I have taken a few modern classes and really enjoyed it. I’d definitely like to explore other styles, but am limited in how many classes I can get to in a week.

 What are your hobbies outside of ballet?

Cooking, Gardening, Book Club, and Toddler Wrangling.

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

Michelle: Stick it out when you get frustrated and only compare yourself to yourself!! I try to remember that even though I’m still terrible, I’m less terrible than 8 months ago (or even 1 month ago).

 Anything else you’d like to add?

 Michelle: Thanks for the inspiring and interesting blog.

Dealing with Sore Muscles

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The best thing you can do is stretch

Oh boy! I just finished my first class in a few weeks and I am hurtin’! It was a really strange circumstance of me leaving my studio just in time for the new studio to be closed for two weeks, then I was out of town. So It had been three weeks of no structured class. I have been stretching and trying to practice at home as much as possible but I think that there is definitely something to be said for the rigor of a structured class. I got to class a bit early to stretch and speak with the instructor and thought I was ready for anything- I couldn’t have been more wrong! Haha. It still surprises me, adjusting to my body as an adult and how it works, to see how just a little break in activity can send me right back to square one (okay maybe like square five, but still not where I was at!). I got home a sweaty mess, plopped down on the bed, and told my fiancé that I know I need to eat but I’m not sure how to go about it because 1. I can’t move my legs and 2. I’m nervous that the second I put food into my mouth I might throw up. Ok, I’m slightly dramatic but I really was whooped! I knew that I instantly needed to get on top of making sure my muscles don’t tighten up much because I knew if I didn’t I probably would be in a world of hurt tomorrow. I thought I’d share a few of my tips for avoiding that next day of crying when you drop your keys because you know how much it will hurt to pick them back up. 😉

1. Stretch it out: I like to lay on my back on the floor, stick my leg straight up at a 90 degree angle and just make slow circles of varying sizes with it. The slow motion really makes you stretch it out. Then I bring my leg straight over across my body for a while, bend it for a while, then I bring my knee to my chest. I also like to borrow some yoga moves like these here. I particularly love doing the cat, cow, child, and half downward dog because they feel so relaxing but they also really do stretch those muscles out. The key is to keep stretching throughout the day so that the lactic acid doesn’t settle in your muscles which is what makes you sore. It seems like the most obvious tip but I also think that it’s the first we forget.

2. Soak! I love a good, warm Lush Bath Bomb (or essential oil) and epsom salt bath. I find the that the combination of heat and scent take the epsom salt to the next level because you’re not just relaxing your muscles but your mind too. Personally, I get super stressed from being so busy and having a stressed mind leads to a tense body and there’s no amount of salt that can take that away. So lock the bathroom door, tell the kids or partner that you’re out of commission for 20 minutes and relax! I also enjoy partaking in a good foot soak, perfect for a dancer. I love trying new “recipes” that I find on pinterest. Today I tried one with green tea, baking soda, vinegar and epsom salt. The result wasn’t too pretty… the water, well it looked a little gross. However, my feet felt AMAZING after.

3. Enlist a loved one for a massage! This is self-explanatory and can be fun!

4. Fuel your body properly. This one is hard. There are so many different resources with conflicting ideas about what to eat in general, but when you add in what to eat for working out there are one thousand more ideas. What I have found that has really worked for my body is to have a protein AND carb heavy snack about an hour before I go to ballet. Something like bagel with peanut butter or hummus. Occasionally I throw an apple in as well. I also make sure to follow my class up with a balanced yet protein and fresh food heavy meal or snack. For example, today I had a burrito in a whole wheat tortilla with eggs inside, lots of lettuce, carrots, avocado, and cabbage. I feel that I almost always feel so much better when I have something that is substantial but not heavy. I’ve read in a few places that blueberries (or any antioxidant heavy food) work well because they soak up all the free radicals left. Anti-inflammatory foods like kelp, salmon, ginger, green tea,  and sweet potatoes are also supposed to be really helpful in telling your muscles to calm the heck down. And, of course, stay hydrated!

5. Try some topical treatments like white flower oil, icy hot, peppermint oil, or salonpas. My personal favorite when it comes to this is to, right after my hot bath, rub a little white flower oil diluted in baby oil all over my legs, bottom, back, arms, and shoulders and then bundle up in warm clothes for a while. This really lets it soak into my muscles and feels SO nice.

6. Finally, don’t be too afraid of the occasional ibuprofen or Tylenol. Sometimes the pain is just too much to manage with home remedies and that’s totally fine. You don’t have to do without!

Hopefully some of these tips are helpful/new to at least one person. What do you do to keep the aches and pains away?

-Caysie

DIY Barre–ballerinas can build too!

Before: giant pile of pipes and wood. After: beautiful ballet barre that matches my decor. Yippee!

 

I’m really excited for this post today because the project in it has changed my life. (A little dramatic, maybe, but you get the idea!) It has been so nice to be able to have a barre at home to practice my port de bras, tendus, pliés, etc. when I don’t really have time to go to a full class. I had been using my door frames and kitchen counter to balance previously and let me tell you- not so graceful looking! I had seen some Instagram posts of people using portable barres so I looked online to see where to buy one and was not super excited about price. I got to scouting for other solutions and found this lovely tutorial by Laughing Abi and I thought I’d give it a shot. As to not be horribly boring and repetitive, I’ll leave the step by step out and summarize the process and also include the little changes I made to my barre from the tutorial.

Here’s what you’ll need to replicate my barre:

  • Six 1 1/4 inch PVC cross joints
  • Four 1 1/4 inch PVC elbow joints
  •  Two  30 inch long 1 1/4 inch PVC  pipes (I made my barre at 43 inches because I’m tall. In order to change the height of the top barre, adjust the lengths of PVC that are 30 inches.)
  • Two 6 inch long 1 1/4 inch PVC pipes
  • Four 12 inch long 1 1/4 inch PVC pipes
  • Two closet rods or wooden dowels between 1 1/8 inches and 1 1/4 inches in diameter… these should be around 6 feet long in the store.
  • 8 screws
  • Spray paint (I used Valspar Perfect Finish Gloss in “Tropical Oasis”)
  • PVC glue (I used Christy’s Red Hot Blue Glue)

What you’ll want to do is assemble the 2 of the 12 inch pieces together with a cross in the center and an elbow on each end. Repeat for the other side. I glued all of those joints together for extra sturdiness. It’s optional but if you choose to do it, make sure you work fast because that glue dries in a heartbeat! From there stick the long pieces (mine were 30 inches) into the cross you just attached the 12 inch pieces to. You’ll then add a cross to the end of that. Repeat for the other side. Now you can slide in your first barre! Now insert the 6 inch pieces into the top cross joints. Add the final cross joints to the tops of those and now slide in your first barre. This is where I took mine apart again to paint it. After the paint was dry I put the barres back in where I wanted them and instead of using foam as suggested on the tutorial, I screwed through the cross joints into the wooden barre. This was my dad’s suggestion to help the whole thing from wobbling side to side. I did a screw on each side of the cross joints (8 total). I then carefully sprayed those teal as well. That’s more or less it! It was simple, sorta fun, and fast. I think I managed to finish the entire project in under two hours which isn’t bad for something I get so much use out of.

In progress.

 

Overall, I’m pretty pleased. It made practicing at home a lot easier. It also has come in handy for stretching! I must say, because of how lightweight it is it isn’t super sturdy. This means that you can’t really put much weight on it, it’s really only good for adding some balance to what you are doing. In the end, that’s really what a barre is for anyway so it is helpful not only to help you keep balanced but also to remind you not to use the barre to hold you up. Make that supporting leg do some work! 🙂 I also added a big piece of cardboard left over from when we had some bark delivered for our landscaping in order to keep my shoes from getting scuffed on the flooring. It also comes in handy for practicing in the bedroom, where we have carpet. The combo has become my own little studio that all tucks behind my dresser when I’m not using it which is perfect for how small our place is.

Using my barre for pliés and stretching in my kitchen which is right across from a full length mirror.

So there you have it! An easy, affordable, and portable ballet barre that you can make yourself. I honestly am glad that I made it. If you decide to give it a whirl, let me know how it works out! Do you have any other suggestions for ballet at home?

-Caysie

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