Duet was excellent today – success! And, several pictures (but not from duet)!

In my last post I talked a lot about how I was having some trouble in duet; having had very little previous experience meant that I had more things at once I had to think about and that I had to focus harder than usual on each of those thoughts – and let me tell you, even in a normal technique class, although many things become automated and instinctual after so long, you still have plenty to think about and a lot of focus is still required – so, you can imagine that it proved to be an extra challenge for me. I’m always happy to take a challenge (actually, I wouldn’t hesitate to say I feed on challenges, ha!), but it’s understandable that it was somewhat intimidating (although I don’t feel like that’s quite the word I’m looking for).

I don’t know if writing about it is what pulled the trigger for things to start coming together for me in that class; all I know is that today – despite a really shaky start to the day – I had made such an improvement in that class and I was so relieved! Proud of myself and excited, yes, but most of all relieved. Mainly I just felt calm and able to focus, and I found myself just looking at the combinations, learning them, thinking about where I should put and how I should hold my arms and what relationship my position has to my partners, and then I just did the combinations. I was able to do that because what I wasn’t thinking about was “I don’t know what I’m doing, I didn’t understand that last movement he only marked, what if I mess up, I hope my partner has patience for me, please please please let me do this combination well…etc.”, which actually left room for me to be able to just think (calmly, not frantically) about what is actually important, and I was able to just do it!

That really helped bring my spirits up from earlier than morning, because in classical I wasn’t at my best, to put it that way. It was just one of those days, I suppose! I am tired when I wake up in the mornings: class starts at 8:30, which I think is insanely early; in the morning I make sure to wake up between 5:30 and 6:00 to allow myself enough time to warm up and do everything that needs doing before class. It’s not that I need two and a half hours to warm up, although if I have the time then I will always gladly find more ways to do it by adding exercises and stretches, it’s just that having an amount of time that I know is more than enough keeps me calm in the morning and lets me enjoy my warm up as I do it because I don’t have to worry about fitting all my exercises in. It gives me just the right amount of time to do everything I need to do and allow some time for any early-morning mishaps, so that I am not stressed [and these days I have learned to make a conscious effort to control my stress levels and not let them get out of hand]. For various reasons that I won’t go into for fear of making this post overly-lengthy, I’m usually exhausted by 9 or 10 pm and most days I try to be in bed by then; however, despite my best efforts, I more often than not only end up falling asleep by 11 or 12.

I don’t think it’s surprising, then, that some mornings I find the thought of planting my face back into the pillow much more appealing that getting up and getting moving. The reality is that once I start my warm up, I am totally fine – it wakes me up and I enjoy it and I completely forget that not long ago at all I was debating getting out of bed at all! The hard part is just getting up and starting to do stuff. But the other reality is that I don’t always remember to tell myself that when I wake up; delayed gratification is a skill I am rewarded with for having, but occasionally instant gratification is just the name of the game! This particular morning I held a thorough 2-minute debate with myself and decided that I would resign myself to a very short warm up right before class started and that I would sleep until the dorm people came to wake us up, which ended up being around 7:10. Surprisingly, I didn’t freak out, but I just had a really hard time in class – emphasized by having a larger breakfast than I am comfortable with right before class and lingering tiredness and what-have-you. Today was Wednesday, and on Wednesdays and Saturdays we skip barre, do it all in center, and then do pointe. That is killer. I also happened to be breaking in a pair of new pointe shoes today, which gave me some trouble (speaking of which, any tips for making a shoe a bit smaller? No drawstrings and it’s a big bigger than I’d like around the edges). So I was not happy with my work in class today!

I went to my room, took a magical potion and a half hour nap, and woke up ready to rock, apparently, in duet. And that’s what happened!

Later today we had rehearsal; I was schedule for three rehearsals in a row, one right after the other. My second one was rehearsal for the variation I was told to prepare for the school’s upcoming competition. Originally I was doing Medora’s first act variation from Le Corsaire, but I wasn’t so excited about it and all week I was thinking about a different variation that I’d want to do instead. Today I came to rehearsal ready to ask to switch my variation – I remembered the Peasant Pas variation from Giselle, and instantly knew it was the one I need and want to be doing right now! I was right – it went so well!!! I was absolutely thrilled! My main corrections were to turn out more and to use more epaulment. And my absolute biggest correction was to be calm, and not use so much excess energy for movements by being tense, nervous, stressed, or whatever. I was actually surprised to hear that from her because I was feeling so comfortable with the variation itself that I made a conscious effort to just have fun with it and perform with my face and play with my movements as well, which I did. So I don’t know what she saw through my dancing that she in fact spotted that as being something that was actually holding me back and making it harder for me to dance from overly tensing my muscles, but she did notice it and she was right! Once I took all of her corrections – including being calm – I loved the variation even more! It was wonderful! I felt wonderful and free and so happy 🙂 And you know what, maybe even more rewarding that all that, my teacher seemed happy with me too and seemed to have enjoyed working with me instead of getting frustrated like with some others before me (it was really interesting to see the difference between the girls that kept making the same mistakes over and over again and had her screaming and them in tears by the end, and the girls that applied the corrections at once and didn’t make any faces or complain, to which she was much calmer in handing out corrections and nicer in them since she was pleased).

And that was my day! Aaaaand, that’s the end of this post…because it’s almost bed time. I don’t want to be tired tomorrow! 😉

I’ve included some pictures below – enjoy!
Until next time!

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Too much stuff to share from the condensed events of the past two weeks!

It does not feel like I’ve been here for only two and a half weeks! But I mean that in a good way – not in the sense that I’m bored or don’t like it here and time is dragging by…because that is most certainly not the case! Rather, I mean in the sense that I don’t feel new here; I feel like I belong and like I’ve been living here since forever. It’s a good feeling!

I think it goes without saying that much has happened since my last post! On my first day of class – which was actually a Tuesday because on Monday I was allowed to watch, as I mentioned in my previous post – I was greeted first and foremost with the steepest slope I’ve ever danced on! Ok, in all fairness, that was actually the only slope I had ever danced on. In Perm, much to my surprise, the floors were not raked; not in the school, not in the school theater, and not in the big theater. Here, however, the floors are definitely raked 🙂 I knew that ahead of time, but I had so many other things to think about that I forgot about it and only when I entered the studio I remembered: “Oh, yeah…!” I was the teeniest bit apprehensive since I had never danced on such a floor, especially for turns on pointe. As it turns out, I really like the floors here! Turning on pointe is fine, somehow; actually, if anything, I feel more stable in my turns here. My jumps are better which I am so happy about because I’ve always been a good jumper, but I had lost some of my jumping ability lately because I wasn’t doing as much. Even on my first day, when my body felt so out of shape [and let me tell you, that is an understatement if there ever was one], my jumps felt fairly alright – and they’ve been getting better day after day since then! My teacher told me once that it’s very fun to jump on that floor going downstage; she was right! But, as a matter of fact, my jumps aren’t just better because the floor is sloped downwards. Nope! Even when we’re jumping in place or side to side – and therefore on the same level of height on the floor – I’m jumping higher and more…”naturally”, I want to say. So, I’m very happy!

Remember how I said my body felt so out of shape? I didn’t do enough during the two weeks of holiday break, so that is mostly to blame; it was emphasized, I’ve no doubt, by the 30 hours of travel and the 12 hour time difference and all the other goodies that fall into the category of adjustment. Anyway, being out of shape, that was the catch. During my first class, I was enjoying myself so much during jumps that I didn’t think twice about the fact that I was not at full strength and that I would need to hold back a bit in order to ease into the full workload. Instead, I jumped right in [pun most definitely intended]! The result? Half-way through jumps, in the middle of an assamble back, I felt my back catch and do something weird and immediately I knew I had done it again. I mean, what else is new, right? It’s a pattern I’ve repeated too many times to want to count: I have a break from ballet; I don’t end up doing enough on my own to stay in shape despite the most sincere intentions of coming back with a 160-degree arabesque and 32 fouettes I start getting restless after a few days without class and antsy after a week, until my eagerness to go back to class is about as strong as a blood-thirsty vampire starved for days; finally the day arrives to go back to class and I’m so impatient from going too long [read: 2 days or longer] without class that my body goes ahead of my brain and I end up injuring myself. Ta-da! Lesson learned? Finally…? I hope so! Or, better yet, I hope I just know better than to take long breaks now (but it is unbelievably difficult to find classes during holidays…I know, I know, do class by myself…I’m working on that one).

Anyway, it turned out to be no big deal – a huge relief, since I’ve been battling my back on and off for the last year and a half or so. The amazing thing to me was that I had back pain for months on end between June and November 2013 that I was treating with frequent physical therapy including not only exercises they had me do but also lots of manual work that they did on me (massage, e-stim, dry needling, ultrasound, manipulation/mobilization techniques, I even went as far as to do internal PT/muscle release, and finally – what gave me the most relief – iontophoresis, a patch that uses electrical currents to pass steroids through my skin to the affected area). It took so long for it to get better, although it did eventually get better. But it was bad for so long, some days bad enough that it hurt to get out of bed. It really sucked. Back to the point I want to make, though – in Perm, Fall 2012, I also had some back issues at some point during my time there. Several days of going to our school’s doctor for massage, heat therapy, and 20 minute of laying on spikes (serious), my back was better than ever. Just for the fun of it, I’ll throw in a mention of my ankle which also hurt there but was completely pain-free within a few days of treatment (2 or 3 days not dancing, wearing a compression bandage, and a special cream…and massage therapy…)! All of this to say that, guess what? My back is completely pain free right now. I don’t know what kind of magic is in the school doctors’ hands here and in Perm or in the air in Russia, maybe. All I can say is that I went to our doctor for three days in a row for massage and a special cream and it got better and better until it was finally gone altogether. AWESOME! But maddening at the same time, seeing as how much of a struggle I had with the same injury while in America.

Back problems aside, now that they’re nonexistent…

Everything for me here has been just super!

Some bullet points:

  • Our school has its competition in February/March, and I was told to prepare a variation for it; initially I showed Medora’s first act variation from Le Corsaire, but I’m considering switching to a different one; maybe the peasant pas variation from Giselle or one of the two variations from the scene in Swan Lake that the girls do (not swans).
  • I’m trying hard to learn (…and, I guess, first of all choose) some scenes for acting that I will perform in the exam at the end of the year. I can’t say how it’s going yet as I’ve yet to actually decide on some for sure, and I haven’t really started practicing. It should be interesting, at the very least, because I’ve only ever learned variations, never acting scenes from ballets. However I think it will be much more than interesting, I think I will love it, and I am really looking forward to really getting to work on it!
  • Duet. Duet, duet, duet. It’s difficult! My experience is limited to two summers several years ago, so basically none 😉 I do like it, actually, very much so. I just have a lot of catching up to do with it and I think the fact that my confidence in duet is not high enough is probably hindering my ability to actually do as well as I could be doing! I’ve only had a few classes so far, so at the same time I shouldn’t get ahead of myself by evaluating myself in that class so early, with so little practice! My biggest issue at the moment is that for some reason, while I have no problem remembering combinations during classical, I have been going mad trying to remember each combination he gives us during duet! Why is it harder? I don’t know. I don’t think it’s because I’m psyching myself out, because it’s not that I feel particularly nervous. Maybe it’s because it’s not just me, myself, and I dancing, but also someone else with me. Maybe because I’m trying to figure out where to put my hands and how to hold them at the same time. Maybe because if I come off pointe during a turn it affects my partner too and not just me – like I have me and him to worry about, and not just me. Well, really, I don’t know why! I guess the most reasonable explanation is that it’s just almost entirely new to me. Even though, is it really, since it’s part of ballet, which is he farthest thing from new to me? Anyway. My second biggest problem is that during pirouettes I sometimes can’t finish the turn. I discovered that when I just go up to a pirouette but barely turn, like enough force for a single or maybe a double, it goes much better, because all I have to do is spot, keep my position strong, and balance (and even then he’s supporting me), and he just keeps on turning me. I’m going to try to remember that this week. Remember not to jump up on pointe (which I accidentally found myself doing a few times and it ruined it), remember that I don’t need a lot of force, and remember to remember the combination 😛

 

I’ve written way too much already, so I’ll stop here for now. I think if I blog more frequently, then I can make my posts shorter, which is better for you and better for me 🙂 When I blog in more infrequent intervals and a ton of stuff happens, I want to share it all! And most of the time it doesn’t all fit. So, I’ll try. Now that my internet is working properly (don’t even get me started…that was a different adventure altogether), it should at least be possible to post more!

До свидания!

Russia, Take Two – SIBERIA!

As you might remember if you’ve been following my blog – albeit me not being terribly active on it the last year or so – soon after coming back home from Perm I began making plans to head back to Russia. As things turned out, the idea of going to Novosibirsk grew on me and it became the better option for me (rather than returning to Perm). For many months I did not know if it would even be possible for me to return to Russia, so it remained but a dream until a couple months ago, when my dream was realized yet again and it was decided that I would go back. I can’t even begin to express how happy I felt and what a relief it was to know that finally I could get back to life! When I started telling people I would be going back, many people asked me if I would be blogging about my time here again. So, after several requests, here I am!

At the moment, I don’t know if I will be able to stay for longer than a semester, due to financial strain, to put it eloquently. All I can do at this point is to make the most of my time here, whether it be six months or, if luck turns in my favor, one and a half years; to tightly grasp onto this chance at realizing my dreams again and to never let go; to get back in shape and continue improving beyond anyone’s expectations, especially my own, while keeping my own expectations high; to squeeze myself dry from sweat everyday by working harder than what I know to be my limits; and to enjoy every minute of my time here and wherever else I may find myself in the future!

And that’s what I’ve been doing, so much as the circumstances have allowed, since my arrival here on Friday early morning. The first few hours here were difficult for me, I won’t lie; it was still early morning and, as it was winter break until today, the dorms were quite empty and quiet. After 30 hours of traveling, roughly 6-8 hours of poor quality sleep over the prior 3 days, and a 12 hour time difference, I was trying to find my bearings and get ready for the day ahead. Unpacking proved to be a challenge, as my roommate (who is many years younger than I am – which is another thing altogether!) already had her stuff all over the place, so she made what space she could and I was forced to think of how to cleverly organize my stuff – the result of which was that I ended up putting it all back into my suitcases, and I’ve been living out of suitcases since then in the hopes that I will be able to change rooms (my roommate and I both agreed we would both be more comfortable that way, and we’re going to talk with the people in charge tomorrow). All of that, plus the excitement and stress that comes with being in an entirely new place by one’s self – well, naturally I was a bit overwhelmed at first and I had my moments of anxiety in the beginning. But, the sun rose and I my confidence rose with it as I met more people and was pleasantly surprised that everyone I met commented on how good my Russian is and how much easier it is for them! That felt nice, because I was worrying about my Russian 😀 I forced myself to stay awake all day and I kept myself occupied with a trip to the store for some essentials; getting lost inside the school (it’s big!); being shuttled off by the воспитательницы (‘dorm moms’ is probably the closest translation) to the столовая (dining room) for a breakfast of some type of каша (porridge) with worrying amounts of butter ladled onto it, two pieces of bread with, yet again, an alarmingly large chunk of butter and 3 slices of cheese on top, and very hot, very sweet, very nice tea; three more equally calorific meals; and then one final trip to the store during which I was able to set up my internet modem which I surprisingly didn’t miss so much! Yesterday I also set up my phone and I’ve come quite a long way from where I was upon my arrival, to say the least. I’m still not quite settled in 100%, but I keep reminding myself that it’s silly to expect everything to be in its place after less than a week of being here! Realistically, it might take a few weeks. That’s ok!

Today was the first day of classes and I was placed in second course, which is excellent because in Perm I was in second course also and, as I left in January, I very much hoped to be able to finish second course in its entirety while I would be here. My hope is that circumstances will improve and allow me to finish not only second course, but also third course, and graduate as was my original plan in Perm. So, fingers crossed for that! Anyway, I met the [artistic] director today and he is very nice (a notion which I already had from my email and phone conversations with him before). He showed me to my class, where I met my teacher and the other girls in my class – today, I didn’t dance, I only watched; my class starts early at 8:30, and because Shelemov (the artistic director) only came to get me a bit after class had started, he told me that since it’s my first day I can just watch. So that’s what I did, and tomorrow I begin really!

By the way, the girls in my class are so nice! I am so happy about that, because instantly I felt welcomed and like part of the class and not like an outsider, which I must say was the case in Perm. Not here, though – I sat with them at lunch, they helped me understand how to get to the Grishko store [to which I’ve yet to go, but plan to go tomorrow because I need character shoes and a skirt], and all in all we got to know each other some and I went back to my room later feeling so happy and satisfied and I wanted to jump up and down and yell, “Hoorah!” Maybe it’s because I have some basis in Russian language now and can communicate with them much more easily than I was able to with the girls in Perm at first; but I don’t think so, it’s quite obvious somehow that it’s more than that. All I can say is that the girls in my class here just seem kind and happy-go-lucky and they welcomed me with genuine questions about me, and it was not this way in Perm. I’m just happy that I’m happy! 😉

All in all, this feels like a really good place for me. I feel good here. I like the city, or what I’ve seen of it so far – big, with stuff to do (not that I think I’ll have any trouble finding stuff to do what with all the training here!), and sun, lots of sun! That’s important for me, because it was quite difficult for me with so little sun in Perm, so of course I was pleasantly surprised when I realized just how bright the sun shines here. It’s just great!

Well, that’s enough of a post for now. I have to go meet my roommate so we can try to figure out how we might be able to set up our rooms in a way that’s comfortable for us both. And later I have to run to the store for more stuff – it never ends! I’m trying to spend as little money as possible, and some things are unavoidable (for example character shoes and skirt, which I expected to get from the school like I did in Perm, however this turned out not to be the case!), but I do try my best within reason, and without compromising my comfort too much 🙂

Пока! Bye for now!