It’s that time of year! It’s the season of chilly weather, great food, family, and of course, Nutcracker! This classic holiday ballet is just a must! If you’ve never been, I highly recommend you go check it out at your nearest ballet theater. Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without Nutcracker. Let’s talk about some history…
Why do some dancers excel faster than others? Maybe talent has something to do with it, but I believe that individual practice plays a larger role. You need time to focus in on the areas that are most difficult for you, to experiment with solutions, and solidify what you've learned. Class time is great for learning new steps, learning from peers, and gaining stamina, but it will never replace individual practice.
Every ballet class begins with plies. The plie is a time to center yourself, prepare your mind, and begin to warm up your body. But, with such a repetitive and seemingly easy exercise, it's easy to just go through the motions.
Next time you're in class, try these tips to help you get the most out of your class from the very beginning.
Pointe was something I always admired and was curious about. A friend bought a pair of signed pointe shoes from the New York City Ballet for me. They were very inexpensive, but it was such an exciting gift. I remember putting those shoes on, just to feel what it felt like. It seemed like a far away goal, and something I couldn't reach. I didn't know if someone who started dancing as late as I did could get onto pointe.
One day, Beth asked me if I was interested in pointe. I said absolutely and asked what it would take to get ready. She said she thought I was ready, and took me down to the store after my private lesson.
I remember that they put me in a pair of 3/4 shank Sansha shoes. I'm pretty sure I still have them somewhere.
The first class
I had to wait a few days for my next lesson with Beth to try them on. When the lesson came, I was thrilled. For the last 15 minutes of my lesson with Beth, we tried out the pointe shoes.
I didn't really have an idea of what to expect. We stayed at the barre for the whole time, and worked mostly on releves. I didn't realize that so much of pointe work invovled getting up and down from being on pointe. I guess I thought it was more about staying up on pointe.
I would go on to learn a lot about pointe. It takes everything in ballet to the next level. There's an element of fear and challenge that goes beyond the experience in soft shoes. It added a whole new level to my training and would deepen my understanding of many ballet concepts.
I was given the gift of very arched feet. This is just how they came. Ever since I was a very young baton twirler, I can always remember receiving praises for how well-pointed my feet were. I didn't understand why others couldn't point their feet the same way, because it was natural for me. "Just point them," I would say when my peers would ask how to point their feet like mine. In retrospect, that was probably not super helpful advice.
Nonetheless, the grass is always greener on the other side. As many of my teachers and peers have complimented my feet for their natural pointy-ness, I have had to work a considerable amount on the strength of my feet.
The year was 2007, and I was getting ready to start my senior year of high school. At the time, I was still living with my parents in San Diego. I had recently gotten an after school job as a medical billing assistant and had my own car. I decided that I wanted to start ballet. I don't exactly remember what the final catalyst was, or when I first became interested in ballet, but something compelled me to go for it.
I can't say that I remember the first class like it was yesterday, because to be honest, it was a blur of nerves, excitement, confusion, and joy. But little did I know that it was the beginning of a really exciting time in my life.
I've recently been inspired by Steven Johnson's book and TED talk and Netflix documentary on where good ideas come from. Good ideas don't come from individual Eureka moments, but instead from many years of cultivating a wide range of ideas. Over time, these ideas collide in different ways, and in these collisions, new discoveries are made. Things that didn't make sense previously can make perfect sense in light of new ideas and learnings.
Ballet is a great example of a time when this philosophy makes sense. It takes years to develop into a professional dancer, and in part, I believe that is because there are so many technical discoveries that one needs to make.
During my junior year in college, my ballet training was getting more serious. By then, I had nearly 3 full years of ballet training, sprinkled with many different styles of dance. I was studying computer science at Pace University, but really wanted to see how far I could take my dance training. So, I decided to apply for summer intensives.
Throughout the years, I've taken classes all over town (and the country), with many different teachers, in many different styles. In this post, I’ll share what I've learned from each style I’ve tried.