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.

How to Build 10 Foot PVC Ballet Barres

This article comes from Kelly on how to make full-sized PVC ballet barres, great for a studio or at home.

 

This is the instructions/ measurements for ours that I made for Pulse Dance Studio in Bedford:

Barre measurements:
59.5″ cross bars (x2)
9.25″ spacer (x3)
27″ (adult) 16.25″ (baby) legs (x3)
10.75″ feet (x6)
(4) 90 deg. cross fitting
(3) 90 deg. tee fitting
(8) 90 deg. elbow fitting
(28) 8×3/4 screws
(1) can of PVC glue
1 1/4 in PVC pipe was used when we made these (it was the heavier kind from Lowes)
Cut PVC carefully to make everything even. I used a table miter saw. Dry fit and mark. Glue top elbow, spacer, and tee together (we didn’t glue to leg so we could swap out legs if we needed more tall ones or more short ones) glue feet. Dry fit bars and legs and drill holes straight through fitting and bar for screws so they can be disassembled if needed. Put in screws, you’re done!
Makes one ten foot double barre out of PVC 🙂

Taking It on the Road: Ballet Away from Home

Hotel room stock photo

This past year, I’ve had occasion to do a lot of travel. Most of it has been business, some has been personal, and all of it has presented me with a challenge if I want to practice ballet. A handy chair or railing can substitute for a barre, but you probably don’t want to do grand jetes in the hotel corridors.

Here are a few solutions I’ve found to the “Where can I dance?” problem:

1. Local Dance Studio: If you have transportation, Google the area ahead of time. Don’t be discouraged if the only thing you can find is a studio that requires students to sign up in semester-long blocks of classes. Sometimes you can get permission to join a class on a drop-in basis.

2. Local Gym: Some memberships give you access to facilities in other cities, and most gyms offer day passes. Even if a gym doesn’t have a dance studio, you can often make use of a fitness room when there isn’t a class. If you want something more private, consider appropriating a racquetball court. Gyms often have several of these and they make great private spaces for floor work.

3. Hotel: This one is hit and miss, but here are a few things to try:

• Your Room: If you are in a suite, you may be able to move the sitting room furniture out of the way and dance in the privacy of your own room.

• Pools and Exercise Rooms: Some hotels have a separate area of the fitness center for yoga and aerobics classes. Be sure to also check out the pool. Many hotels have a poolside area for small functions. You should not dance on bare concrete, but a thin carpet with low nap will often work just fine.

• Ballrooms/Conference Rooms: Sometimes you can find an unlocked door to a ballroom or conference room. If it hasn’t been set up with too many tables and chairs, you’ve got yourself a dance studio. If all the rooms are locked, explain your situation to the front desk. They have heard stranger requests than yours and may be happy to help.

A Few Considerations:

1. Scheduling: If you are angling for an empty conference room, your best chance of success will be weekday evenings and weekend mornings, so plan accordingly. This may mean skipping the drinks and heavy hors d’oeuvres at a conference reception, or skipping a reception altogether and meeting a few colleagues for dinner and drinks after your dance practice.

2. Music: If you don’t like dancing while wearing earbuds, consider buying a speaker for your mp3 player. I use the iHome 3.5 mm portable speaker, but there are many options out there.

3. Shoes: Unless you have made arrangements to attend a ballet class, leave the pointe shoes at home. You don’t know what kind of floor surface you’ll be on, and you don’t want to spend your vacation or conference covered in bruises and nursing a sprained ankle. Bring several different types of ballet slippers if you can. The shoes that are your go-to at home might be too slippery or too grabby for the dance space you find. You might even have to dance barefoot or in socks.

In sum, dance practice is very doable while away from home, but requires creativity and flexibility. Luckily, this is what ballet is all about. Just remember to get outside and see a few sights while you’re away, too. Have a few adventures, because when you get home the last thing your non-ballerina friends will want to hear about is your perfect pirouette by the hotel pool.

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