First Class Story…

I am going to preface, this is a long post. I wanted to remember everything so I apologize if I ramble or go on and on and on…and well you see…

As promised, I said I would write a better post about my first ballet class. I was WAY tired and just couldn’t do much more than I did so here are more of the details!

As, many of you know this wasn’t my first ballet class ever, I took about 10 years of classes when I was younger, and then a few years ago I took some classes at the same studio I just returned to Monday night.

The whole day was just magical for me. I had a great day at work and then I got home and I was like a little kid so excited I could barely stay still. My husband and son had a good time seeing me buzz around the house with excitement. I could hardly wait to start getting ready so I did my hair first and put it in a nice ballet bun. Then I got dressed and put my new Prima Soft tights and leo on. The tights were awesome, great quality and very comfortable  The waist band didn’t dig or pinch. Definitely going to buy some more of those  I almost could not believe I was finally wearing my ballet clothes! My studio doesn’t have a formal uniform policy for adults but most of the adults do wear traditional ballet clothing. Plus, wearing traditional ballet clothes for ballet class is what I am used to. I needed the freedom of movement and I refused to feel ashamed of my body.

I decided I needed to leave about 45 mins before class started because I was not 100% sure what to expect with parking (the studio is downtown) and I did NOT want to be late. Plus, I wanted some warm up time before class for my back and wonky left ankle (thanks to my hard-headedness in not getting better care for a sprained ankle 3 years ago).

So I get there and open the door and there is this daunting staircase ascending heavenward before me. “Yay!  Built in warm up!” I said jokingly to myself. As I ascend the steps, it’s like I am walking back into the world which I walked out of so many years ago, and it was like it hadn’t changed. The heaviness of the air. The smell of the studio: sweat, well worn wood, and lycra. It was glorious.

I am there about 30 mins before class starts and the level 5 dancers have just finished class and some are rehearsing a piece, which I assume is for the spring showcase. They were very good dancers and I enjoyed seeing them practice.  I chatted with a few of the mothers in the lobby and I mostly didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t want to go in the back changing room since many of the girls from the class were chatting and so forth. So I stayed in the main lobby. I didn’t want to be the awkward new person invading. The back studio was open so I went in there and did some plies, easy stretches, and warmed my ankles up. I noticed not a lot of people were coming into the studio and I started to get nervous that something changed with the schedule or I was having a total out of body experience and I showed up on the wrong day. Then a young girl in what looked like her early 20’s came up and was having a quick bite to eat. I thought she could have been waiting for someone from the level 5 class or she could be in the adults class? Thankfully she was in the adults class.

When it came time for class to start there were three of us: me, the younger girl, and a lady older than me.  So I was right in the middle! From talking with them they are the regulars and that the class will be small. It was good having just three of us because we got lots of attention from Ms. Dorothy. She is a spitfire of a teacher and I loved it! I noticed from the level 5 girls when they left there was great respect and admiration for her. I also remember when I took classes there before she was a strict teacher but very positive. I do well in those environments. Plus that is what my previous ballet instructors were like. Because of that, I knew her studio was the one I wanted to return to in coming back to ballet.

Now when it came time for class to start and I took hold of the barre, the world just melted away and all I had was that studio. Like a veil had lowered shielding me from everything but myself, the floor, and the barre. I almost could not believe I was finally standing there. Tears welled and I wanted to pinch myself. I did not think or worry about anything outside of that rectangular room. It was as if my muscles and bones remembered what to do and took over and my brain went poof. Really. Because I couldn’t remember a combination to save my life. I was very grateful I was between the two other dancers to follow along. I never had trouble with that before but I sure did that night! Ms. D didn’t do a basic beginners class, that is on Thursday nights, remarkably I was able to keep up. Words and movements came back. Ms. Dorothy remarked that I had excellent training before, thank you Anna-Marie Holmes and Deena Laska! The other lady in the class remarked the same as well. I felt my face turn even redder than it already was from the ronde de jambes! I received corrections and positive remarks, especially on my third pass of pique turns across the floor. Yah, I gotta get better at spotting, talk about d-i-z-z-y. In that pass it was like my balance came back and they were much easier and I got a big “good!” from Ms. Dorothy. I learned I lean forward in my plies and to use my plié more in other movements. It was awesome! I really came away from the class that I learned something and improved. I really expected to have a harder time in the class but it was challenging without being out of my league. So I call that just right.

I only had one incident with my back. I did an attitude arabesque with the left leg and it did not like that one bit. I had to lower my leg immediately and for a moment I thought that was it. Done For. End of Story. Call It a Night. Amazingly, my back rebounded and didn’t bother me at all for the rest of the class.  I have trouble standing and doing the dishes and because of that I thought I would get pretty bad discomfort dancing but that wasn’t the case. Give me some tendu’s and battements and my back was quiet as a mouse. In reality, I feel like the class was good for my back. It has actually felt better since Monday! I was gracious with my left ankle and didn’t push it like the right foot to really work my relevé and pointing. When we did some jumps in center I really went easy and didn’t push it. I was tired by the end of class and could have easily tweaked something so I worked against myself by not pushing it too much on the first night. I was scared to injure myself and then not be able to return again. By the time I got home my left ankle was a little sore and tight feeling accompanied by some swelling. I got it elevated and iced it and took some pain relievers that also helped with swelling. I think the icing and elevation was key. The next morning it was only slightly swollen and did not hurt at all. I really felt like I had a good range of motion too. As a precaution, I wore my really good and sturdy ankle brace for the next two days and avoided wearing my cute wedge heels to work that I love. Like my back, my ankles feel better and I feel like there is more strength and mobility in them too.

You may also be wondering how sore I was the next day. Ms. Dorothy was so cute and told me to please not hate her the next day. I was sore but not as bad as I thought I’d be. It was mostly in my hips and legs which is a good thing. I loved knowing I worked those muscles well but not over the top. I think they were happy to be back in a ballet class too!  I know my heart and soul were too.

I can not WAIT for my next class on Monday. I really hope at some point I can add in another class during the week but at this point I think one is just right to get me started. I have also been better about my eating habits again and working my way back into that. At times when I saw my reflection in the  mirror I was shocked to see what I saw. I just wanted to refuse to allow myself to accept that that is what I look like. I don’t look into my full length mirror at home too much and I guess you could say I avoid mirrors that show more than the shoulders up. So I haven’t developed a mental image of my bigger self. Weirdly, I still think of myself when I was 130 lbs 10 years ago. Talk about denial! So looking at myself in tights, leo, and a chiffon skirt is a little jarring in the studio but I really don’t want to develop negative thoughts as I think that will be self sabotaging. I have what I have and gotta work with it. Beating myself up is not going to work and will just add more hills to the journey. OK, I may make a joke or two to get a laugh outta myself. Like when I saw myself in the studio mirror for the first time and I immediately thought, “You look like a marshmallow stuffed into a sausage casing.” and then mentally guffawed. I wasn’t really being mean to myself, just making light of it and it also allowed me to have a moment to laugh and hold off the angry village of nasty mental  comments ready to charge in with their pitchforks. So I concentrated on looking for what I could do well in the mirror like my port de bras and presence. Instead of accentuating the negative I wanted to exemplify the positive.

So, that was my first class. I hope you made it this far in reading and for that I commend you dear reader. Thank you for coming along with me! I loved my first class and I felt like I returned home and ready for many more!

Ballet Class Was…

FREAKING AWESOME!!!!!!!!

My muscles feel like..

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But my spirit feels like…

GrandJete8

I will write more on the class soon…for now…need to get into a hot shower and soothe this tired, achy, and happy body. 🙂

This is Dedicated to “Mrs. L”…

I received this back in October during my self imposed exile

Mrs. L's Drawing with the real life zebra leg warmers she knows I love so much.

Mrs. L’s Drawing with the real life zebra leg warmers she knows I love so much.

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In case it’s hard to see in the picture, her letter reads…

Rachael is a beautiful ballet dancer.  She loves to dance. And she also needs to get back to writing her ballet blog because lots of people, including her awesome bff “Mrs.L,” really like reading about her journey regardless of whether or not she’s currently enrolled in classes.  Seriously though, she inspires people, me included.  I hope she realizes that.

This is a work of art from my dearest friend, Mrs. L.  She sent it to me  for encouragement.  That is something she gave to me on so many levels and more than even I may realize.  I also think it’s awesome that she gave her the zebra legwarmers that I love so much!

When I received it, I was really stunned that anyone would do something like this for me.  I was a bit overwhelmed and it brought tears to my eyes reading it and seeing all the detail she put into it.  It made me face something she knew I loved but was hiding from.  It took me awhile to even show this to my husband because it hit such a deep place inside of my heart. I needed some time to just process it. It’s not easy for me to expose my deepest feelings and hurts to anyone but she has a keen eye on what’s going on with me like I had a giant bulls eye on my forehead.

I told her many times I was going to post about her drawing and I kept putting it off and off.  Over the past months, it just didn’t seem like the right time.  I think mostly I wasn’t ready to share it and I needed it to myself for awhile.  I would think about blogging and then think about the drawing.  I would think about ballet and feel the twist of not knowing when I will be able to dance and even if I should pursue it at all and then I’d think about the drawing.  It was always there as a reminder that I can do this and to keep pushing forward, even though the bleak feelings I had wanted to tell me otherwise.  It was like a ray of light in the darkest of places.  For many reasons, this drawing and the meaning behind it, are why I did return to blogging and to taking up ballet again and not just giving up completely.

So, on the eve of going back to classes.  This is to say thank you for all of your support, Mrs. L.  You’re the best friend I could ever have and I couldn’t have done it without you.

Okay, I need a tissue now….

Grinning at My Grishko’s

Ka-BAM!

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Sha-ZAM!

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These are my new Grishko Performance flats and aren’t these shoes just pretty? Such a soft pink color.  I love, love, love how they make my feet look.  They just hug every curve of my foot and don’t bunch up anywhere. The sole on the ball of the foot has some cushion and is plenty wide and I feel very “stable” in them. They are super comfortable and I just couldn’t be happier!

Hello!

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See how well they molded to my foot?

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I absolutely love there is Russian on my shoes!

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With my classes starting Monday, I decided I really did need some new flats, despite that I already had two pairs.  I am now the owner of three pairs of ballet flats.  I decided I needed new shoes because when I took ballet classes a few years ago the flats I had bothered the sole of my left foot.  The pads on the ball of the foot just were not wide enough for my elephant feet.   This pain continued as I wore them to do some of my ballet workouts over the summer.  So I decided then that I needed a new pair.  You may remember that I bought the Bloch Pro-Elastic, which I ended up not being really happy I bought.  The cushion in the sole was great but the fit was all over the place.  I don’t blame the shoe, I blame my hurriedness when I bought them and going to a store I was not familiar with which is not where I bought my Grishko’s. In my city we have two dance shops. Not long after I got them home and did a few ballet workouts I realized the fit was just all wrong.  Too much bagginess in the heel and my foot was actually moving in the shoe.  I knew I couldn’t do a traditional ballet class in either of the shoes I currently had.  Thus, the decision to take a Happy Time trip to the ballet store!  This time I went to the dance shop in town that fit me for my first pair, which were a perfect fit, and no one could have predicted the issue I had with the sole of my left foot.  Plus the service I received there was just beyond amazing.  Her store is just a dancer’s dream!

I really can’t say enough in the importance of finding a dance shop that is very knowledgeable when fitting you for ballet shoes.  My local shop is Pirouettes and I am now a steadfast customer for my dance life!  The customer service is the kind that is so good you know the term “Customer Service” is inadequate.  The shop owner gave me her undivided attention and really listened to my left foot issues and then fit me with the Grishko Performance in a 38 C.   She also selected amazing new tights for me too, Prima Soft’s.  The prices were spot on and I really couldn’t be happier.  I also got a new pair of black stirrup leg warmers that fit me well and she I sifted through the legwarmers until we found just the right pair.

The shop owner also gave me some great advice on my shoes.  When I tried them on the first pair were too tight and we went up half a size.  They still felt a little snug in my toes and she told me if your wishing they were just a touch bigger what I need to do is put them on at home, mist the fabric and then wear them at home for a few hours.  So the shoes will stretch to mold to my foot.  I have done that (actually wearing them now as I type…I was a total nerd and put some socks over them to keep them clean just so they can get dirty in ballet class!)  Let me tell you, that has worked perfectly.  The places it was snug feels just right and my feet are really comfortable now.  So, I just wanted to impart that information since it worked so well for me.

I also have to say, the shop owner treated me just like any other dancer.  There was no judgment or taking me less serious.  I felt like she treated me like I had been a dancer for years and had every right to be there.  She didn’t treat me like I was a silly ‘ol fat lady wanting to take ballet and rush me off because she had more important dancers to get to.  Nope, I was as valued a customer as any and had just as much right to be doing what I am doing and that really meant something to me.  I don’t look like your typical ballet dancer, I used to, but not anymore, and her welcoming and not judgmental attitude was just wonderful and really helped my confidence in returning to ballet classes.

Again, I think everything is pointing in the direction that things happened the way they did for a reason and I am where I am supposed to be at this moment.

2 days to go!

I’m Packing It Up…

I’m packing it up…

…to go to ballet class…

Polka Dottie is ready to go!

Polka Dottie is ready to go!

Guess who is starting ballet classes on Monday?  Oh yeah….ME!

It feels SO good knowing this ballet bag finally has a destination. 🙂

It also feels awesome to press publish on this post that I have been wanting to write for nearly a year now!

All the Single Swan Ladies…

Cloud and Victory is awesome…check out this video mash up they did of La Scala’s Swan Lake, starring Svetlana Zakharova and Roberto Bolle, and set to that most immortal and classic of tunes, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”.

Enjoy!

Ballet Boo-Yah!

So, the universe is telling me ballet classes are in my near future…

1. There was gorgeous ballet dancing at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics with not just one but two superstars of Russian ballet, who I adore, Svetlana Zahkaraova and Diana Vishneva.

2. Also, I found these pretty legwarmers at my local Dollar General for $2.50…yeah baby….Ballet Boo-Yah!  They even have nice turn out…

Ballet Boo-Yah!

 

So, all this MUST mean the universe is funneling me towards starting ballet classes, right?  Right.

Olympic Ballet

I know I am a few days late on this but if you caught the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Sochi, Russia you saw the gorgeous ballet dancing that was center of the worlds stage.  I was awestruck by the beauty, grace, and artistry.  What a way to start off the athletic competitions!

Svetlana Zakharova was just effortless in this piece.  I loved the ballroom dancing as well!

I was floored when I saw who was dancing.  I could recognize those banana feet anywhere!

I was floored when I saw who was dancing. I could recognize those banana feet anywhere!

 

Her acting was so superb!  Look at that extension!

Her acting was so superb! Look at that extension!

Diana Vishneva I thought really brought a lot of personality to the “Peace Dove” presentation.  At first, honestly thought it was a little weird.  I was like, “Are they jelly fish?  Look at the squishies!”  As it went on, I got into it and saw it differently.  It was really breathtaking!

Diana Vishneva as Queen Peace Dove

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Peace doves

Here is a link to see the “Peace Dove” in it’s entirety..

Now excuse me while I will be glued to my TV for the next few weeks while the Olympics are on because I am an Olympic fanatic and I can’t get enough of almost any event!

Icons from My Past…

I ran across these pins while on Pinterest on the same board and I could hardly believe my eyes…

A Very Young Dancer by Jill Krementz

A Very Young Dancer by Jill Krementz

This book was SO formative for me as a young girl and ballet dancer.  It holds a special place in my heart and childhood. I think I read it 36,852 times before I was 12. How I DREAMED to be Clara in the Nutcracker and to dance with The School of American Ballet. To read a book about a girl who did, and who she danced with, was like a magical real life fairy-tale to me. The book follows Stephanie, a 10 year old student at SAB and it tells of her first-person account of her behind the scenes story of playing Clara in the Nutcracker, from casting to final curtain.  It was published in 1976 and has amazing pictures!  Jill Krementz is a photographer first and foremost, so pictures are the focal point of the book and they do not disappoint.  You will find pictures of Peter Martins, Patricia McBride, David Richardson, Carol Sumner, and last but certainly not least, Mr. Balanchine himself.

For many years I longed to have a copy of this book but could never find one.  About 8 or 9 years ago, I came across a copy of this book at a book sale and about died.  It wasn’t in the greatest of conditions but I couldn’t purchase it fast enough.  It was like I was able to go back in time and purchase a time block from my childhood. Even though I am 38, pulling this book off of my shelf today and looking through it, it brings me back to my 10 year old self still wanting to be Clara.

**Update**  One of my commenters let me know of an article updating about Stephanie from the book and what she’s been up to since the book was released…

On the same user’s Pinterest board was this…

NYCB

NYCB Art by Edward Gorey

This piece by Edward Gorey  was given to me by one of my favorite ballet teachers, Deena Laska (She was an amazing teacher), when I was about 8 or 9. She didn’t have room for it anymore and thought I would like it. Well, YAH!  It’s not a poster but made of a fine terrycloth material on a wooden frame and was about 3 feet wide and 6 feet tall. It was BIG and I loved it. I wonder if it is still in my parents basement? Now and again, I think about it and where I would put it in my house now. It really is a cool piece of ballet “art”.

Maybe these are small things but they were the icons of my childhood.