Back ‘on my toes’ – an update on my foot!

For those that don’t know, I fractured my fifth metatarsal on August 29 during ballet class. It was pretty devastating! Somehow, though – probably thanks to all the support I got from friends, family, and teachers – I made it through. Yesterday I was allowed back en pointe (hence the pun, totally intended, in the title!) and I am very happy to report that it went much better than I had expected. There was still a bit of tightness in my left ankle, which made it difficult to achieve the same degree of range of motion as I have on my right side, but it was hardly a problem — I was still able to get over my box just fine. So, no complications I wasn’t expecting, which is really great news! I feel that by the end of the week I will feel much better and more stable up en pointe, and with my full range of motion back. If not by the end of this week, then very soon!

In honor of this major event, I decided to dedicate this post to my injury, writing a sort of timeline of my injury, from date of injury until now — cool x-ray pictures included! But before I do that, I quickly want to mention two things. First of all, sorry for being MIA since Saturday; it’s finals week! ‘Nuff said. Second, my teacher told me something really significant and important to me yesterday, that made me really proud of myself. Remember my private studio time I had last week over Thanksgiving break? Well, yesterday during class, my teacher told me she thinks that week of working on my own really helped and made a difference. I am so happy that she said that, because not only does it confirm what I thought to be true (I, too, could feel that I was able to work better the past two days as a result of last week), but it also means that I met the goal I had set for myself last week — if you recall, my goal was to really use that week to work on details and do whatever I need to do so that I can come back after break feeling like I’m really better from my injury, really back. And I most definitely feel that way! So, a pat on the back for me…

And now, the timeline! As it so happens, the fracture I had is known as a Dancer’s fracture. Needless to say that helped ease some of the pain, knowing I had acquired a true battle scar! Still, it was a long process:

[Note: I had some difficulty getting the pictures placed correctly throughout my post; as a result, all pictures mentioned are included together at the bottom of this post. I would love for them to be distributed throughout the post next to their respective date on the timeline, but I was unable to make this happen. Oh well — practice makes perfect! Maybe next time!]

August 29, evening – Date of injury; swelling, bruising, and difficulty walking noted immediately upon injury; I ended up finishing the whole class, including jumps, but found myself in tears by the time class was over, and by then I was limping.

August 30, morning –  First visit to the new orthopedist; I called early morning after a restless night of ibuprofen, icing, elevation, and compression (and lots of tears!); upon physical examination, orthopedist notices tenderness, swelling, and bruising, and diagnoses a fracture to the 5th metatarsal, confirmed by x-ray. As the x-ray shows, the fracture was non-displaced, which is an excellent thing. If it were displaced, I would have had to have surgery! And two surgeries throughout my 18 years of life is plenty already. I was put in a cast and ordered to use crutches; I was to be on crutches, non-weight bearing, for 6 weeks. Here are pictures of the first set of x-rays.

September 21 – Three-week check-up; the purpose of this appointment was to make sure the fracture stayed in place, and did not shift to become displaced. If it had shifted, it would have, as I said above, required surgery to treat. Luckily, it stayed in place, as is evidenced by the x-rays (take through the cast!)

October 5 – After 5 weeks in the cast, my foot was healing well, and I was able to get the cast removed and to begin my transition off of crutches! I was fitted into a walking boot and told to gradually come of the crutches over the first week with the boot (partial weight-bearing);  on the second week wearing the boot I would be allowed to weight-bear and go without crutches completely. This was a happy moment for me! In addition the the x-rays, I managed to snap a photo of the nurse actually in the process of removing my cast. Pretty cool, right?!

October 12 — A significant day, because this is the day I said “au revoir!” to my dear crutches. A comical picture in honor of the occasion:

October 19 – Two weeks after being out of the cast and using the boot (and one week after abandoning my crutches), I was given the “ok!” to get back to my normal life! The boot was removed and I was given a special ankle brace to wear for a week, after which I would be allowed to start dancing again. That same day, I was able to start physical therapy; in addition to exercises tailored to me, my physical therapists (PTs) also use other methods to facilitate my rehabilitation. These methods include massage and a technique called dry-needling, pictured below alongside pictures of x-rays from that same day.

October 25 – My first day back at ballet! Ok, I admit, I cheated — I went back to class one day earlier than I was originally supposed to. But have no fear, it’s all good! My physical therapists were totally ok with it, as I was progressing quickly already. My first day, I only did barre. At this point, I was also not doing anything on demi-pointe.

October 26 – Just a day later, my PTs allowed me to begin working on demi-pointe. I was really progressing quickly! It was very difficult for me to rise on to demi-pointe, especially so when it was a single-leg rise on my left leg — in fact, I could hardly do it at all! This is understandable, considering how atrophied my muscles were. For a while, I was doing my best to try to get up on demi-pointe, but was unable to actually do it well; this only lasted a short while, but it is worth noting that there was a period in the beginning when I was only rising up on demi-pointe when I was on both feet or only on my right foot. Thankfully it was a short period. It is also worth mentioning that I did have some pain still at this point. As a matter of fact, I still do now, even though it is much improved. If anyone is wondering, the pain was mostly throughout my metatarsals, around my ankle (which was extremely stiff from having been immobilized for such a length of time), and on the balls of my foot (because the muscles there were atrophied as well and so I had no padding — this made it very difficult to try to rise up on demi-pointe, because it felt as if I was putting all my weight on just the bones underneath my foot, which was rather painful.) Even though I had pain, it was all pain that was expected; my physical therapists were ok with that kind of pain, as long as I wasn’t feeling any pain on the outer left side of my foot where the fracture was. Any other pain was [is] just muscular and was [is] ok.

November 16 – After three weeks of being back to ballet, I was approved to start jumps again! By this point, I was already able to rise up to demi-pointe on only my left leg from quite some time and with minimal issues.

November 18 – My latest visit to the orthopedist! This was my 4-week follow-up. I was nervous! But it turns out there was nothing to be worried about, because after taking a look at the x-rays, my orthopedist told me she was very pleased with how my foot looks and that it’s doing really well. Needless to say, I was so relieved!

November 29 – Yesterday, which happened to be exactly 5 weeks since I had first started dancing again, I was allowed to go back en pointe! It went really well, as I said earlier, and I am so excited that I am now back to doing full classes! In honor of the occasion yesterday, here is a picture of some more needling we did in physical therapy to prepare me better for going up en pointe!

Looking back at all this, I really couldn’t be happier with my progress. It’s been a total of 13 weeks (and 2 days) since I injured myself (that’s just over 3 months), and just a day over 5 weeks that I’ve been back to ballet, and as of yesterday I am back to doing a full class each time, which is really a great improvement. Now that I did pointe yesterday and I was pleasantly surprised by it not being as difficult as I initially expected it to be, I am looking forward to what the future has in store for me even more; and, I am way more confident that I can continue with this year and all the plans I had for it as if nothing ever happened! For those that are wondering, these plans include, but are not at all limited to: participating in YAGP for the last year I am eligible; performing as a guest artist in a concert in February (most likely doing a PDD); and beginning the audition process for the many academies (mainly abroad, in Europe) that I am set to audition for (as well as, maybe, some professional theater auditions — TBD).

So, nothing is set in stone, but what with the way things are going, it looks as if everyone was right — I am coming out of this stronger than I was going in. I guess it’s true. What doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger!

I just have to share, as an example — yesterday during pointe we did pique turns from the corner. Now, I’ve always loved these and been particularly good at them…on my right side. I always had trouble with my left. Now, remember that yesterday was my first day back en pointe. But guess what? My pique turns to the left were just as good as my pique turns to the right! So I can definitely say that, if anything, something good did at least come out of this! And that is that I no longer have such a discrepancy between my ability to do pique turns on my right as compared to my left. And this is a big deal! So I am very happy. Oh, and as another note of my progress, my pirouettes have improved considerably. Yesterday they were absolutely on, and I was doing clean triples. My jumps, which I tend to excel at, at least more so than turns, are also significantly better and are improving each day.

All in all? I’m a happy girl!

If you have any questions about my injury, physical therapy, your own injuries/concerns, please do not hesitate to ask. While I am not a doctor by any means, and definitely not a substitute for one, I (unfortunately for me) have plenty of experience with injuries and would gladly share my experiences and advice with you if you ask for it. In addition, I hope that this timeline of sorts could potentially help someone who develops a similar injury — I know I would have liked to see something like this when I first injured myself, so that I might get an idea of what recovery would be like, even keeping in mind that it can vary among different persons. So, please, comments and/or questions are most definitely welcome! 

I wish you all a good day and a happy non-Thanksgiving (because break is over, and we’re back at ballet! Woohoo!)

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Reflections on This Week

All in all, this was one of my better breaks. Probably because I did my best to prevent it from actually being a break! I ended up going to the studio every day except for Friday (on Friday I was running on less than 4 hours of sleep and so excused myself from private practice with the [mostly] legitimate justification that I would be risking injury by going). I also ended up going to the gym every day (except for Friday), although that wasn’t something I had specifically aimed do — the opportunity arose because, what with school being out for the week, I actually had time to go each day before class, something I would do all the time if I could fit it in my schedule.

Still, I wasn’t as pleased with myself as I had hoped to be at the start of the week. My enthusiasm was sufficient, but nevertheless it was difficult to get myself in the studio and live up to my own expectations of working as hard and as long as I do in any normal class. It’s true that I was tired (thanks to the sleep deprivation that always seems to sneak up on me during long breaks!), but I simply do not consider that to be a valid excuse for not being my best.

The vision I had for ballet this week played out something like this: go to the studio after working out, do my full warm up, give myself a full class (focusing on a few particular movements I was specifically told to work on by my teacher), and then stay in the studio a while longer to stretch extra. What really ended up happening was a somewhat comical decline in actually making my vision come to life as each day passed. Monday was by far the best day, and I know that it’s because I was forced by compulsion motivated to be absolutely ready for my ‘real’ class in the evening; Tuesday found myself going to the studio after working out, doing my full warm up, and then rushing through a barre that hardly counted and a few sad center exercises. By Wednesday, I was doing only my full warm up, and on Thursday I completely lost it and somehow ended up only doing a halfhearted warm up. As I said before, on Friday I did not even go to the studio (for a good reason…eh…)

What did I learn? I need to schedule private lessons with an actual teacher during the break!

I’m actually not at all kidding! But aside from that, I discovered that I need to learn how to work as hard on my own as I do when I have an audience; I mean, whether my audience is my teacher, some parents, guests in a theater, or the girls from the younger levels, I end up with significantly more ‘fuel to my fire’ and I perform wonderfully. In contrast, as I have seen this week, when I’m on my own and I have no immediate commitments that require my being on top of things (ie. if I had a class or a performance later that day, I would behave as normal and work just as hard on my own), my focus fades slightly and leave the studio much less satisfied than I prefer to.

I guess I just need to suck it up, keep my goals in mind, and work through any laziness that unexpectedly comes my way (I will say that I am not a lazy person — a big reason, perhaps, why I didn’t know how to handle myself this week!) And, as I mentioned above, it would do me a lot of good to arrange for private lessons as least periodically during my long breaks to help me stay on track.

Still, I would like to be able to work independently, without the ‘threat’ of a teacher to keep me in line. And it bothers me a lot to admit that I don’t know how to do this yet; it bothers me because 1) working hard all the time no matter what has never been a problem for me, and 2) this means I lack one of the skills I must posses as a professional ballerina in the (non too far) future — or actually, right now, even though I am not yet dancing professionally.

So what do I do? I know the simple answer is to JUST DO. And so, that is what I must do. It is part of the discipline this art requires, and so I should follow that precedent and follow through with my own desires and goals.

I will say, though, that next time I know I will be in such a position where I must work alone, it would be wise of me to consider the excuses I might make for myself and make sure to prevent the possibility of falling back on those excuses. I mean to say — I know now that being truthfully tired is not conducive to an enthusiastic class! And so, I should strive more than usual to get a healthy night’s sleep for the days I know I will really need it.

So, tell me! How did you spend your Thanksgiving week? Have you ever been in a position where you had to give yourself a class or rehearse on your own? How do you keep going on those days where everything that happens the way you feel seems to be a reason you cannot do your best?

On the topic of music…

…who is your favorite composer? Without hesitation, I can say that mine is Chopin. And for the last few days, I have been especially drawn to his Waltz #10 in B Minor, Op. 69/2.

My favorite time to listen to classical music is while working out. Yep, you read the correctly! The unsuspecting people at the gym who see me pushing myself hard on the elliptical with an energized look on my face would be wrong about 98% of the time if they guessed I were rocking out to Lady Gaga at the gym (I say 98% because there is the odd occasion in which I feel more inclined to work out to more…conventional…exercise music!) The topic has come up in conversation before, and when I tell people what I am listening to I generally get a look of confusion, or the classic “why in the world…” look. Is it ignorance? Lack of exposure or education? Different interests, different personalities? It’s probably a mix of those. And what a shame, too!

Next time you work out, try it my way. Plug yourself into some Chopin or your preferred composer and lose yourself in the music. My guess is that your workout will go by quicker than ever, and that you will enjoy your workout so much that it will feel to have gone by too quickly!

I also enjoy listening to classical compositions while warming up and getting ready for class

For the record, I started listening to classical music during my workouts because I would listen to the music for variations or dances I was rehearsing at the time and I would run the pieces in my head as I worked out; I still do this all the time! The only downside to this is that you may find your hands marking the movements or your face reflecting the expressions you hope to do on stage — and that can look kind of funny to the other people working out! So just keep that in mind, or do like I do, and be indifferent to what other people think of you while working out. I’m there to enjoy myself and improve my body, it’s me time, so I choose to be selfish while at the gym and give a thought to no one but myself 😉

As a closing note on the topic of music, I would like to mention some interesting feedback and insight I received from others in response to my previous post on the connection between music and the dancer. First of all, thank you to those who left comments under the post — to read these comments, scroll down to the bottom of my last post and click the ‘comments’ link.

I opened a topic about this subject on a forum I frequent, dance.net — here is what one forum user, toroandbruin, had to say on the topic:

A lot of dancers like the music of Philip Glass. I didn’t understand this until I saw a company (contemporary in this case) dancing to one of his pieces. His works are, well the word which springs to mind is “minimalist”. Good, but sort of missing something, for me anyway. Not so when the group was dancing to it! The dance would have been OK on its own without music. It formed its own pattern. But the pattern of the dance and the pattern of the Glass music complemented and completed each other perfectly making a wonderfully rich whole. It was kind of like Gounod’s “Ave Maria” and Bach’s “Prelude No. 1 in C major” together forming one of the world’s most acclaimed pieces of music. Separately they are good, great even, but not as truly exceptional as they are together. So I realized that dance can go beyond interpreting music and add something to it.

Another point — although dancers can be inspired by music, the opposite also is true. Musicians can be inspired by watching dancers. When my daughter was taking dance the school did a performance in a mall. The next day an African drummer walked into the school to tell the jazz teacher he would really like to drum for her class and would charge a reasonable rate. The resulting class was incredible, both in terms of dancing and drumming. One of my ballet classes has a pianist who is a genius at playing all sorts of classical music adapted to just the right tempo and length for our exercises. But during our stretch we get the musician’s own wonderful “freeform” compositions which, I’ve come to realize, are inspired by us as well as we are by it.

Once you have created a dance in the absence of music, it would be interesting to have a musician friend compose a piece of music for it. 

Someone else I have had contact with online went ahead and responded to me directly on their own blog.

Dance writers have generally suggested that movement is more essential than music in dance.  Play a video of a dance performance without music, and it’s still dance.  Play it without the video, and you’re just listening to a musical performance, it is no longer dance… [to read more, please visit Green Pumpkin’s blog: http://open.salon.com/blog/green_pumpkin/2011/11/23/behind_the_magic_how_dancers_create_music]

If anyone is interested in seeing more of the dance.net discussion, here is the link to the topic: http://www.dance.net/topic/9790516/1/Ballet-General/Insight-on-being-part-of-the-music-instead-of-dancing-alongside-it-Opinions-wanted.html&replies=5

Finally, in honor of Thanksgiving, I would like to give a huge thank you to my readers so far! In the fours days my blog has been up, I have already had close to 250 views!! Please continue reading and don’t hesitate to make suggestions if you are inclined to do so 🙂

I wish everyone a successful Black Friday (do ballet stores have any deals??) and a peaceful weekend! Stay tuned for more blog posts soon about topics relevant to ballet dancers as well as random ramblings and updates on my own dancing!

It is in Something’s Absence That We Learn to Appreciate It

The topic of this post is inspired by my experience working on my own at the studio yesterday. Read on for my new insights into music as an integral part of ballet — and please, feel free to share your opinion and offer your own experiences. I would love for this to be the start of a comprehensive discussion on the matter. It is quite relevant to all dancers! But first, a quick update and summary of yesterday!

Yesterday, Tuesday, was the first day I was completely on my own in the studio, without a class to follow my private rehearsal time.  It went well and I enjoyed it so much that I am thoroughly looking forward to my studio time today! It could have gone better — I will admit, I had some trouble getting over my tiredness to work as hard as I would have had someone been watching. But I realize now that it doesn’t matter who is watching; I am there to work hard, not to work at any less than my best. I can make a lot of progress by going to the studio by myself every day, if I work as hard as I would any other day. My ballet teacher is right, I need to not be a student anymore, but rather to learn how to be a professional artist. That means learning to work because I have to, for myself, and not just for an audience.

So today when I go to the studio, I will go in with the mindset of a professional, ready to put myself to work even though no one is there to call me out on any slacking off. Slacking off — that sounds bad! No, I did not slack off yesterday (those who know me would probably argue that they don’t think I could ever slack off no matter how hard I try!) Let’s just say that barre went by really quick. Too quick!

Part of the problem was the music. I brought my ipod to plug in to the CD player. But I found myself having to continuously stop in between the exercises to change, restart, or pause the music, and I found that to be very frustrating! I like flowing through barre with minimal interruptions between exercises, and I was unable to do that while keeping track of the music at the same time. So I ended up doing barre without any music at all! And now, I can’t decide what I like better or what I hate worse: using music but having to stop constantly throughout barre to fix it, or not using music and being able to flow through the exercises but not having the beautiful music to accompany my movements and inspire them.

I think, however, that I will go the no-music route. Why? It’s a good lesson. It’s an experience I need to know how to deal with and manage. I need to learn to feel the music created from inside of me, and to translate it into my movements.

Part of the way I visualize success in my dancing is the ability to make an audience feel music when there is none, to stimulate their sense of sound even when only their sense of vision — watching me dance — is actually being used. 

Ballet requires music; ballet would not be what it is without Tchaikovsky, Minkus, Adam, Shostakovich, Saint-Saens, Chopin…

But imagine what great feats a dancer can accomplish with music if they have the ability to creatively transmit music through their motions when there is none. It is, I think, in the absence of music when we are most able to understand and develop our connection to music.

This would be an opportune time to share ilyaballet’s most recent video blog about some of the male students at the Bolshoi Academy. I forgot about it until now when what I was writing — about the music — was very similar to a situation his boys were in a few weeks ago. Their pianist was ill, and so they carried out several classes without any music at all. It turned out to be an invaluable experience, and everything Ilya and his boys say in the video rings true to my opinions, as is reflected in this post. To see the video and gather more insight into the topic, check out the video titled “5 – Bolshoi Ballet Academy VideoBlog” on ilyaballet’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/ilyaballet

So today, when I go to the studio to give myself a class, I will keep all of this in mind and really work toward establishing a deeper connection with the music by learning how to dance without music. I feel that this is a good step toward acting on what my teacher said I need to learn to do — behave like an artist, instead of like a student. The time has come for me to take my dancing to a different level. I am certain that putting myself through such an experience is exactly the way to start doing that!

And just for fun, here is proof that I did work hard yesterday even though I did not work my hardest! Can you see the sweat glistening on my face and shoulders?!

A Good Start

As I sit here reflecting on my day and preparing to put my reflections into words, my legs ache and my back is sore. And that, to me, is the mark of a productive, successful day! All day long I was up and about, just the way I like it.

I woke up fairly early (considering I went to sleep late) at 7:30 and was at physical therapy by 9. My jaws remained clenched during the entirety of my calf massage — I had some huge knots that were very painful to release. The needling that followed the massage was no less uncomfortable, although after both of those treatments my calf, albeit sore, was feeling much better!

After a quick stop at home in which I ate lunch, folded laundry, and cooked a spaghetti squash, I headed over to the gym to get my usual 30 minutes of exercise, followed by a nice long stretch. I even had an audience today! Three of the trainers were watching me stretch and left me blushing through my splits as they commented on my “excellent” flexibility. I have to say, I love stretching at the gym for just this reason! I can stretch just as well, if not better, at home or at the studio, but having someone to impress and knowing that people are watching makes me more inclined to work even harder and show off, and makes the entire process much more fun (especially on days I am so sore I doubted my own abilities to touch my toes…) What can I say, it must be the performer in me!

Right after my workout I headed over to the studio to make use of this week’s opportunities, even though I had class later tonight anyway. At first I considered starting on my own tomorrow, but I was motivated by the prospect of reporting to my ballet teacher that I had already gone to the studio on my own to hint at my enthusiasm, dedication, and determination to work, work, work until I have nothing more to work on (an innacurate commitment only due to the ironic nature of ballet in which we work with the goal of perfection, always aware that perfection can never be reached, there will always be something that can be done better, more perfect.)

So into the studio I tiptoed, unfamiliar with the emptiness of the usually-crowded building. Any hesitation or uncertainty I held flew out the window at once as I turned on my music and started to work my way through the list of my new warm up routine. Save for a few bothersome interruptions by people who were unaware that the studio was closed for Thanksgiving break all week long, I breezed through the new routine and finished it in just over an hour. I am so pleased with it — it’s perfect! I felt completely stretched out after and I love being able to go from one exercise to another very smoothly thanks to the list, instead of pausing between exercises to think about what to do next. I hate that! And so I really am happy I have a list I can refer to again. I feel much better when I know exactly what I’m doing and there is no pause between exercises.

I had originally intended to go straight to ballet (at the other studio) after my private studio time, but as I did only my warm up today I found that I had an hour and a half before I had to make the drive to the other studio, and so I came home for a quick break to relax and take a breather before getting up and moving again!

Ballet was wonderful today! Perhaps because I was properly warmed up? Hmm 😉

But really, I felt very centered today. My pirouettes came together very nicely, I could just feel the turn today. And my ankle had quite the range of motion, probably thanks to the massage and needling I had done earlier this morning at physical therapy. I felt like I made progress instead of just using all my energy to try to keep up with the exercises in class, and I really pushed myself hard today! I was exhausted before we even started barre (understandable considering I has been exercising and dancing all day up until then); to add to the difficulty, the studio was horrible hot and stuffy when we walked in, which made for a very wet me and a difficult time breathing.  But I was able to tackle it all and stay strong! See? I knew that all I needed was a good warm up routine to leave me confident that my mind and body are prepared for class. I could not be more pleased right now 🙂

Besides the usual soreness, I feel wonderful right now. Actually, I quite like the soreness in itself, too. I am so sleepy, ready for a good night’s sleep (and it is very much needed, as I have been lacking in the sleep department for several days now), and I think I might wander off to dream land before my head even touches the pillow! My foot and ankle also feel fine, as does my knee, but I do have some swelling still in my foot and ankle. It just won’t budge! It’s not acute swelling, just residual swelling from the injury that it really just trapped fluids that don’t want to come out. My physical therapists and I decided I would do a course of Aleve for a week (one pill twice a day, 12 hours apart) to really try to hit the swelling hard and push it out of there (once it’s out it should be gone completely). I do not love this idea, because I generally try to stay away from NSAIDs — or any medicine, really — unless I absolutely need it. But it’s been 4 weeks now, other methods have been helpful but not entirely successful, and I really need to have my ankle’s full range of motion in order to add back pointe, which we hope to do by the end of the month. So I agreed to do the one week. Oh, and the one week [of Aleve] starts tomorrow, because this morning I had to take an Advil for a headache I woke up with and I did not want to take an Aleve hardly after I just popped an Advil. Not good!

No pictures or videos for today, I do apologize. I would like to get some soon, but it’s proving to be difficult. Maybe I really need to set my mind to it…I will put it on my to-do list, with other really important things I truly wish to get done. I will try my best to star with the videos (and pictures) soon!

A Week to Myself

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the week of private practice I have while my studio is closed for Thanksgiving break. Ok, technically I have a “real” class tomorrow night, but I’m going to take advantage of any opportunity I have, and in this case that means going to the studio in the morning to practice by myself. And so, I do consider tomorrow to be Day 1 of this special week that I hope will prove to be  invaluable to my progress and growth as an artist, and especially to my recovery from my recent injury.

I have this week to practice everything I need to practice under the watchful eyes of absolutely no one but myself through the mirror. The timing for this could not be better, because I think that right now I need nothing more than a good week on my own to refine whatever I need to refine before jumping back into class fully and feeling like I’m back to my old dancing self.

Tomorrow I intend to implement a new warm up routine. I used to keep a paper with a long list of exercises tucked away in my dance bag, and every day before class I would go through each exercise — and if I didn’t, then I wasn’t ready for class. Over time, I learned my routine by heart and continued to do it without the aid of the “official list”, but — as does happen with everything — my routine evolved. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — I learned which exercises I absolutely had to do before class and which exercises I could skip for a day if I was running short on time; I added new exercises to my repertoire as I came across them; and so on. But overall, I am not pleased with where I have ended up right now [in regards to the warm up routine].

The past several years have held many surprises for me and have closed some doors, opened new ones, and, most importantly, have infused new experiences into my life and have broadened my scope of wisdom and knowledge. And with everything that happened, my warm up routine evolved to what it is now. And what it is now is insufficient, inefficient, uninspired.

Now, I find myself unable to warm up really well before class. I used to feel incredible after a warm up, and could tackle a hard class without hesitation and without giving a second thought to how tired, hungry, thirsty, upset, excited, fat, achy, or unfocused I might have felt on any given day. There was no question about it — it just wasn’t an option not to be on task every second I spent in class.

Of course I still behave the same way, I still enter the studio with the same intentions and the same determination to challenge myself in any way I can just to prove to myself that I can overcome even the greatest of challenges. But I find myself stuck, unable to actually put those best of intentions into action, translating my desires into movement. That said, it’s not that I am slacking off. Not in any sense of the word! I am working as hard as ever. Just something about the way my body and mind feels is inhibiting me from being the best I can be.

And I think that the ‘something’ is that neither my mind nor my body are properly warmed up before class. And so, I have come to realize that it is time to revamp my warm up routine and to, once again, make a list to which I can refer so that I can flow through each exercise and know that I am ready to work when class starts.

I spent this weekend looking for my old list and am sad to say I will not be looking for it any further, as I’ve deemed it lost. Perhaps it will turn up again someday, which would be a pleasant surprise; but I don’t need the old list in order to build a new one, convenient as that may have been. I have compiled, from memory and other sources, a list of exercises that I feel will make a great warm up. It’s a long list! But I speak only the truth when I say I am absolutely excited to go back to the old days of taking at least an hour to warm up before class. Ah, the good old days!

All of that aside, I am sure that part of the reason I feel a little off is because I am a little off. It’s been almost 4 weeks since I’ve came back to ballet after a major injury (a fracture of the 5th metatarsal — so it was anything but a walk in the park). I’ve made a lot of progress, and the only thing I have left to add back is pointe. Since I have this week to myself, in addition to getting into the habit of doing my new and improved warm up routine, it’s also very important for me to use this time to work on whatever I need to work on to feel stronger. Because my injury has left me weaker, and I don’t like that at all. Although I am physically weaker, much of the weakness is psychological hesitation and doubt. As confident as I am, I would be lying if I said I felt good about my dancing right now. I don’t — but that’s why I have this week to work on just that!

I do want to actually write down what my focus will be on this week.

  • My warm up routine
  • Body positions (how I hold and carry myself; upper body; especially my shoulders at the barre)
  • Flexibility and strength
  • Attitude, arabesque, and passe positions
  • Penche in center
  • Pirouettes and fouettes

Then I will feel ready to come back after the “break” as I was before — determined and ready to dance without even considering letting anything deter me from my path!

And so, ladies and gents, it is on this positive note that I end my first of many [lengthy] posts.