Running Back to Russia

Ok, so I’m not literally running to Russia. And I’m not returning until January anyway. 

But I am most certainly running! And when I think about it, I actually am running back to Russia, nonetheless figuratively.

Let me back up a bit so that I can start making some sense of this post 😉

For as far back as I can remember, I have always just known that I cannot run. There wasn’t even an inkling of a doubt in my mind – it was plain as the nose on my face that I simply cannot run, no way no how, nu-uh, not gonna do it. And it wasn’t because I didn’t want to, I just couldn’t run. It made my throat burn and left me breathless and coughing and I just did not like it at all. I wanted to like it, but at some point early on in my life, for some unknown, probably arbitrary reason, my mind declared running to be ‘just totally not my thing’, and out of my reach as something I am even capable of doing.

I believe the roots of my running complex, to give it a name, lies in my middle school days in California, where the horrible, awful gym class syllabus had as running a miserable mile once (or was it twice?) a week, an event that I remember dreading the entire day and passionately complaining about it at home. I have no idea why I got so worked up about it! Looking back, I don’t understand what I hated so much about running a measly mile, save for that it was no doubt difficult for me. That was before the days of my love story with ballet, and frankly before the days of even knowing what fitness, good health, and nutrition were. I was always athletic – I am told that from the very beginning I was always moving around and twirling and dancing and jumping and overall more comfortable being in a constant whirlwind of motion than sitting down and being calm. I see it in myself still now; in fact, it is partly due to this that I struggle to update my blog as often as I’d really like to – I have so much moving to do that the thought of sitting still for a good chunk of time to write, despite the great love of writing I have, makes me put it off in favor of something more active. I’m not complaining, though – we all know there is an increasingly critical problem of too little activity in the general population at the cost of our health. I know how difficult it is to force yourself into making something that does not come naturally into a habitual sort of thing. So, I am glad that at least I don’t have to worry about that 🙂

Speaking of my apparent tendency to be constantly in motion – and I’m going off on a short tangent here (as if I hadn’t already, right?) – I was amused just a short while ago by the discovery that my name, Noa, turns out to have a pretty fitting meaning for my personality. It means ‘motion’. Well, shucks 😀

/end tangent

Back to the topic of running. I just wasn’t meant to be a runner. It was something that was out of my reach because it was just too hard

Wait. Wait a minute. Too hard? 

Too hard?!


That’s a foreign concept for me, if there ever was one. I’ve never been one to turn down a challenge. I say that now, but apparently, as I’ve just realized, I had done it in the past! I believe that I never really realized that until now because I had decided I couldn’t run so early on – before I learned about the satisfaction of being dedicated to something and surpassing everybody’s expectations and your own in reaching ‘impossible’ heights and cherished goals – that it had become something I didn’t even think about anymore when it came to running. It was not up for argument, it was just ingrained in my view of myself that running is off-limits. 

And I had ways to justify it too. Subconsciously, if anything. After all, running is awful for ballerinas, isn’t it? Everybody knows that! Oh, the woes that await me as a dancer should I put that much strain on my knees and build the wrong muscles and, and, and…!

There is truth in that, of course, and as such I was more than happy to use that as justification for why i just cannot run. 

I am sure that by now you have gathered that something has changed and I am obviously now running. Nothing has changed, really, except for my mindset, which, to be fair, is actually probably the biggest/most significant type of change a person could go through. 

The bottom line is that I am out of shape. Coming home from Russia and taking over a month without much ballet (or anything at all, for that matter) in order to get better was obviously devastating for my movement-seeking self and, of course, for my ballet. I had gotten back up to reasonable shape as far as my ballet technique goes by the end of May (although still nowhere not quite at my best), and then the school year ended and I was confined to the limitations of summer break. While my technique had improved since coming back to classes after my rest, my physique itself is not how I like it to be, and I find myself back in the position of working toward a slimmer body and getting back to how I like to look! 

With both my aesthetic goals and my fitness and ballet related goals in mind, I went into summer break with a game plan in mind. Part of that game plan was to become a runner, to learn how to run. By the end of that summer, running would be part of my life, and seemingly from nowhere I was determined to make that happen! And I am happy to say that I seem to have made it happen, or am in the workings of it happening, anyway!

My teacher told me, some year ago, of a friend she had who was running a lot and lost a lot of weight. Before summer, she told me of another ballerina who was running 35 km a day while in the off season to stay in shape during her breaks. I think it was this, along with some other things and a general renewed sense of energy and motivation in me, that spurred me along to start running myself. And so, I did!

it’s been a month since I started running, give or take a week or so. I’ve lost track of it – because it just feels like something I’ve been doing all along, by now! It comes to me much more naturally than before, and I am stunned to say that I actually enjoy it. I shouldn’t be surprised, but considering my history with my lack of affinity toward the sport, I am. Well, that’s quite alright – one of my favorite feelings is the experience of being pleasantly surprised with myself for doing something I am proud to have done that maybe I didn’t realize I had it in me to do 😉

Almost two weeks ago I decided to run my first 5k with a good friend of mine. I had been training for a measly two weeks but was excited enough to take the plunge as I always tend to do, and it was so much fun! I’m not so concerned about time, not at all, actually. I just want to run! Maybe in the future that will be something I am driven to work on primarily. Not for now. Even without running on a competitive level, I am obviously tracking my times because…well…it’s just what you do! Anyway, we finished the 5k in just about 39 minutes, which I was happy about 🙂

Then a week and a half ago I found myself in a situation of being offered a number for the Peachtree Road Race, which is tomorrow! For those that don’t know (don’t worry, I didn’t know either until, er, a week and a half ago), the Peachtree is the biggest 10k in (I think?) the world, or maybe it’s just the US, with 60,000+ runners and many, many spectators, taking place on the 4th of July every year. I’ve heard it’s a really fun event! So many people register for a number, that they had to make the selection process a lottery-based one. Because of that, you are never guaranteed a spot just by registering. Knowing that, and playing a little bit of the devil’s advocate, I had absolutely zero hesitation upon saying, “YES, give me that number NOW!” And so, tomorrow morning I will rise at the crack of dawn (or possibly earlier), and head toward Atlanta to run the Peachtree! I happen to be in start wave F, which means I am ‘stuck’ with the faster runners, but I am so up for the challenge! My game plan? Playing tag! I think I’ll try to ‘tag’ onto someone and try to keep up with them. I am looking forward to it!

Oh yeah, one more update. I’ve settled on a major. I’m now officially a biology major, with a concentration in Physiology and Pre-Med! The dedication and ‘consumption’ mandated by ballet life, plus the rigors and equal lack of time for much else as a medical student?! What can I say, I’m one ambitious little lady. I can’t help it! I just cannot find it in me to ignore the few things I have a real passion for, and so I have succumbed to my eagerness and decided that I will take whatever difficulties arise in stride because, gosh darn it, if I want to be a ballerina AND study medicine, then I WILL!!

And I have to say, it’s refreshing and very satisfying to realize there is more to me than just ballet. I suspect I’ve known that all along, but it’s just clear as day to me now, and I couldn’t be happier about that! Ballerina. Doctor. Runner. Not yet, obviously, but on the path toward them all. And I have a feeling that in the future I will realize this is just the tip of the iceberg. That should be fun to see! 😀

Advertisements

Back in the States but Looking Back at December in Perm

Hi from Atlanta! On Monday night, I landed back in Atlanta to much excitement, many hugs, and a lot of happiness. I traveled for nearly 30 hours altogether, which made for a tiring and long trip, but the anticipation of seeing my family made the trip pass by smoothly and kept me energized!

Last week I promised I would update you all on the happenings in Perm this past months – quite obviously I never got around to that! So, let’s see, where did I leave off last time…?

The first night of Hanukkah fell on December 7 (the first day of Hanukkah was December 8, but the Jewish calendar begins every holiday the evening before). Hanukkah is a very special holiday for me – I was born on the first candle, and so it’s always been my holiday! It was very strange to think about spending the holiday all alone and away from my family and friends, and lighting candles by myself every night. Luckily, I didn’t have to celebrate all by myself, at least not on the first – and, for me, most important – night! The city of Perm has it’s own branch of Chabad, which forms Perm’s Jewish community. My family and I got in touch with the rabbi and his family before my arrival in Perm, and I met them on Jewish New Years, a very short while after my arrival in Perm. They are such nice people, and very hospitable. I kept in touch with them and shortly before Hanukkah, they invited me to their house for the first night to light the candles. It was so much fun, and it really gave me a proper holiday like it should be every year! Not only that, but they also went above and beyond by making me a birthday cake. I went home that night feeling so fulfilled, and warm, and happy, and incredibly appreciative of them for helping me celebrate my favorite holiday quite thoroughly!

The week after, on December 14, the time for Historical Dance exam had already rolled around. For exams, the class and the teacher decides on an outfit together, we get measured and fitted for it, and then it is made for us according to our measurements and specifications.

IMAG2238-1

You probably know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever seen any of the exam videos from the Vaganova Academy, for example, on YouTube. This year, our class has a light pinkish-purplish leotard and skirt. For our Historical exam, we didn’t wear the matching skirt, as in Historical we wear our black character skirts. We will wear the skirts for out Classical exam in June. I took a picture of the leotard to show off 🙂 Oh, and the exam went really well! It was my first ever exam, and it was nice to have it in Historical rather than Classical as my first.

IMAG2258

During this time, decorations went up in the school, in the dorms, in the city – everywhere! And it was all so beautiful and festive.

IMAG2257

We [the foreign students] even made a poster to put up on the school walls. Line drew the snake – she’s got some mad skills! We wrote a holiday wish in each of our languages, with a little drawing of our country’s flag next to it.

Having finished our exams, and having reached our final weekend here with all of us together, a group of us decided to hit one of the favorite restaurants here, Tsuru, for some sushi. We had wanted to go there for a while, and we decided that since my birthday and the New Year was approaching, we should finally go and celebrate them both.

IMAG2292

It was nice to go out with the festive spirit – and with a lot less stress than we had been feeling in the weeks prior, seeing as exams were mostly finished and we were all ready to finish up for the holiday break. As an added bonus, the food was excellent! [One thing America should learn from Russia, and really every other country, is to serve smaller portion sizes at restaurants. That, and the metric system.]

Line found peanut butter [practically non-existent in Russia!] and a travel mug [which I had been looking for unsuccessfully] and gave them to me as my birthday present! This was the best present of the day and I am so happy I finally have a thermos to use! We really enjoyed the peanut butter =]

Line found peanut butter [practically non-existent in Russia!] and a travel mug [which I had been looking for unsuccessfully] and gave them to me as my birthday present! This was the best present of the day and I am so happy I finally have a thermos to use! We really enjoyed the peanut butter =]

Finally, on 20 December, my birthday was here! That was fun! I already posted about it being my first birthday away from home and how my parents made it as wonderful as always, but I never did post the pictures from the rest of the day. I got so many wonderful treats and gifts from my friends at school [and not all of them are pictured – by the end of the day, I was drowning in sweets!], and it was so much fun to have cake with everyone at the end of the day! See, the school bakes a cake for each student on their birthday.

IMAG2365

Some of the birthday gifts and treats I got from my friends at the academy!

Having cake in the evening

Having cake in the evening

The day was really great, full of chocolates and cake, as you can see, and I really enjoyed my birthday-away-from-home!

IMAG2393

On my last day before going back home for the break I was out doing some last-minute shopping and I decided to take some pictures for you guys of the theater and the surrounding park.

I’d like you all to know that I sacrificed all feeling my right hand for about five minutes after taking these pictures! I had to take off my glove and WOW it was COLD. I was “only” about -25 C, however; over the New Year, it will reach -37 C and maybe even less than -40 C! I, however, will be spending the first four days of the New Year in a warm Miami temperature as my family heads there for a family vacation! Until then, and after we get back from Miami, I will be spending my break in the still-cold-yet-much-more-bearable climate of Atlanta. I’m making the most of it, knowing that soon enough I will return to even colder weather than before I left in Perm when I go back for second semester mid-January!

Wishing you all a happy [and warm!] holiday season,

Until next time!

IMAG2394

Holiday Gift for Dancers

The day-to-day happenings of the last few weeks here in Perm have been interlaced with holiday preparations – everything from decorating our dorm rooms and the school itself, to putting suggestions for foods we want for a holiday meal during the last week of school in a box they put up, to buying gifts for friends and family.

Except, ok, I haven’t really gotten too far with that last one! Buying gifts is always such a complicated process for me! I want the gifts to be perfect, but this perfectionist tendency in me always leaves me closer to reaching the deadline without a present at all [due to not being able to choose] than having a 98% perfect present [as opposed to the 100% I strive for]. This has lead me to make several outings [in the bitter cold, I might add!] to look for gifts and coming back empty handed the majority of the time (luckily, I have at least made some progress, albeit very minimal). Factor in the fact that I spent almost all of this week locked up in Isolation after catching a virus that was going around, and the harsh reality sets in at once: I am way behind on my holiday shopping!

The thing is, I shouldn’t complain. At least I am buying presents for normal people. But what do people buy a dancer? That can be tricky. Gift cards are always good – I have received gift cards to dance stores before and those were always a treat! But what about a different type of gift card…?

Most [every?] serious dancer wants to attend a summer intensive in the summer, and the majority of the young ballet world is currently refining and narrowing down long lists of summer intensive auditions they will start attending next month. But there is something else all these students have in common: the awareness that they may not be able to attend a summer intensive at all, even if they did get in. 

This, my friends, is where this holiday gift idea comes into play! SIBA, the program I attended last summer and highly recommend, has come up with a wonderful idea for dancers and their relations alike. For the first time, people can buy gift cards to go toward the summer intensive program and gift them to dancers. If that isn’t a good idea, I don’t know what is! 

Image

So, dancers! Put this gift card on your holiday wishlist and you could find yourself ever so much closer to attending a summer program this year! I know I would certainly find great use of this – I am hoping to return to SIBA this year once again because I liked it so much last year! What with still being involved in the search for funding my year-round education here in Perm, a summer program is going to be tough to afford, if at all affordable (flights are a biggie!) I am well aware that my concerns are similar or the same to those held by other dancers, so I figured that if I thought this was a good solution for me, that it might be a good solution for you, as well!

If you’re looking to buy a present for a dancer, take note

Happy holidays everyone 🙂

Summer Intensive Dreaming – SIBA 2012 is on my mind! I want to go again!

Lately I’ve been finding myself thinking back to this summer and how much fun it was and I can’t stop remembering all the amazing moments I got to experience. I actually hadn’t realized how many good memories I made until now! Now that I think about it, it was probably the perfect program to do last summer, before coming here to Russia. I feel I matured in my dancing and brought it to a whole new level – probably because the experience was such that it made me mature as a person, as well. I mean, the atmosphere was that of a professional company; the entire program is based on the idea of learning what it is like to dance as a professional. I remember noticing that this was unique to SIBA, and it’s what made me really want to attend in the first place; but I still went with expectations of what I was used to from summer programs, and so when SIBA started it kind of took me by surprise! It was a different way of approaching ballet – it was beyond just learning ballet. It was learning be a ballerina. And that’s a priceless opportunity to have – practicing how to be a professional while still a student. I’m not sure what made me think about all this now! I suppose I’ve just been thinking about my progress here and how sure I am that much of my ability to do what I am doing here comes from the wisdom and knowledge I gained this past summer. And now, I really, really want to go back to SIBA again! Maybe it’s silly to think about summer already…but I guess that’s just a testament to how enriching of an experience it was last year! I highly recommend those who are pursuing a professional career in ballet to check this program out. If I can find a way to go next summer, maybe I’ll even see you there! Haha!!

Winter is Coming. No, Wait – Winter has Come!

The snow began a few weeks ago, although I’m quite surprised at how little snow there is on the ground. I probably shouldn’t be too ‘worried’, though, as the weather forecast has us preparing to expect temperatures  of “feels like” … Continue reading

Dressing Room Writers Interview

A big hello to all my readers!

Those that read my last post will know that I received really wonderful news about being accepted to the Perm State Choreographic School. This last month has been hectic and busy and full of dancing as I’ve been away at my summer intensive in Salzburg, and while I found it challenging to make time to blog (hence my absence), I was at least able to make some progress with my arrangements for Russia. After a lot of thinking and changes of plans, I finally arrived at the decision to go to Russia in September!

Yesterday, I finished up the program here in Salzburg (with an excellent show, I might add!), and tonight I will be flying back to Israel for a short while before heading back home to Atlanta. In all, I will have been away from home for two months, and I will have about one month at home before starting my new life in Perm, Russia. It will be difficult to leave everybody, but it is what I want most! And being away from home in different countries these past couple months has really provided me with some notions of what to expect in Russia, and I can only feel glad that I at least have a month at home to use what I learned here to help me best prepare for what Russia holds for me. I know it will be more challenging than anything else I have ever done in my life, but rather than be intimidated or worried, I am actually more eager than ever to get the ball rolling and start my training there!

One of the other things I’ve been doing in my [limited!] free time here is that I have set up a Go Fund Me account. I did this in order to try to raise at least a portion of the funding that I need to go to Perm. Any assistance I can get is appreciate and very much helpful! If you think you might be able to contribute to the fund, you can find my project here. I am so thankful to everyone who would be able to help me go to Perm!

I have not found a sponsor yet, but I still hope to do so. Having a sponsor would make a world of a difference!

In my quest to find a sponsor, I came across Dressing Room Writers, a newly launched dance website with a lot of promise to develop and grow to be a wonderful resource for dancers all over. I ended up being interviewed by them, and the interview is now live online! I am so thankful and honored to have been interviewed by Dressing Room Writers, and am hopeful that the interview might spread my news and assist me in finding a sponsor!

I hope you enjoy reading my answers to some very interesting [and difficult] questions. It took me a while to answer, but that was only because it was so important to me to really give an honest and thought-out response with my opinions.  Read the interview here! Enjoy 🙂

By the way – I have another interview coming soon! Keep your eyes peeled!

Stepping it Up

I recently had the pleasure of experiencing a face-first encounter with the brick wall of reality – and boy did it shake me up!

All this time I keep talking about the future, this summer, next year – and before I know it, it’s no longer the future, it’s now! I guess all I’m saying is that when you get so caught up in planning for the future, it can be easy to forget to recognize the fact that the future will, at some point, become the present. And when you fail to acknowledge that, it tends to come as a bit of a shocker when you look at your calendar and realize that it’s time.

It is at this point that the strong hands of reality grip your shoulders and shake you up like no tomorrow, and you wonder, “where have I been all this time, what have I been doing all this time that the time went by so fast?!”

It’s April, people!! That’s insane.

A year ago, I had planned to do my auditions right around…oh, now! Then I broke my foot, and I tried to figure out when was the absolute latest that I could do my auditions, in case that I wouldn’t be ready by now. By January, I was no longer worried about having to delay my auditions, because my foot was fine, and surely I had enough time to work on everything before April rolled around.

And then, time happened. And it happened so quickly! And now it’s April, and I am not ready for my auditions.

Training for YAGP certainly took a lot of energy and time that, arguably, I could have spent ‘getting ready’ for my auditions, whatever that means. But really, I don’t think that is very true – because YAGP itself, and primarily the preparations involved in it, was probably one of the best things I could do to help me advance and ‘get ready’ [if not specifically for auditions then for my overall future], especially after recovering from such a major injury!

But, allow me to clarify; yes, it is somewhat alarming that we’re already well into spring! At least in the sense that it took me by surprise just how fast the months seem to have gone by (and continue to go by). However, I’m not freaking out. Well…maybe a little. But not like a complete psycho…haha.

So, in light of this recent insight as to what month it is already, I’ve decided to revamp my training routine so that I can be ready as soon as possible. Oh, and as far as when I will do my auditions? I don’t know! When I am ready, I suppose? A few paragraphs up I mentioned that, when I broke my foot, I tried to see how long I could actually go before it would be too late to audition – well, I figured that August is generally the absolute latest I can push it. I REALLY wanted to do them now. But, honestly, I don’t want to do them before being ready, and ruining my chances altogether.

Right now, I’m thinking to just go with the flow. I won’t throw my plans in the trash just because they didn’t work out perfectly – and I won’t forgo giving myself the credit I absolutely deserve! I might not be ‘ready’ now, as far as ‘ready’ pertains to how I envisioned ‘readiness’ a year ago – but I am so much closer to being ready than I was then! I mean, I even surprise myself when I think about it! So I am far form unhappy; if anything, I have just gained an increased awareness of the high expectations I set for myself (which, by the way, I consider to be a wonderful thing).

Maybe I will do the auditions this summer, while away in Europe. I could do that, although I wouldn’t have my teacher with me and I really feel that I need her direct help with this one. So then, I could do them when I come back in August. My only issue with this is that I won’t know what my plans are for the year until the very last minute! Maybe it’s all the better, though, to challenge my slightly overbearing tendencies to over plan and my probably-too-enthusiastic need to know exactly what I will be doing, when, where, with whom…! And so on. It’s a bit intimidating! But it can be done.

I guess, if I had to guess now, that what will end up happening is that I’ll do some auditions in May, some in the middle of summer, and some when I get back form my summer program. Hopefully that will leave me in a good place with several options to choose from. And, of course, I can’t forget that my summer program itself has a couple opportunities for advancement of training into the school year.

Regardless of when I do the auditions, right now my priority has to be doing everything I possibly can do to be ready – whenever that may be! I just have to be ready at some point. 

So, I’ve decided on a few key things that I should be doing in order to be ready!

  1. Sleep. I am making this my priority now! It influences my ability (or lack of) to do everything else well, how efficient I am in doing all of it, my moods – it’s just so important! Definitely more important than staying up to watch Game of Thrones with my family, no matter what the impulsive part of my brain tells me when I’m ‘in the moment’. I have Tivo, and my family will still be here on the weekend, so I can sleep comfortable, knowing that I will have a chance to watch it with them on a day I don’t come home so late.
  2. Pilates. I don’t know what sparked me to want to start this, but I know it’s supposed to be good for ballet dancers. I will admit I am a little intimidated by it. But I’m going to be a big girl and get over that, and start pilates! I will be satisfied and proud of myself if I do it even just once a week. My reasoning as to why I am ok with only doing it once a week? I am trying to make lasting habits, not temporary efforts to change my routine, so I need to make it manageable and enjoyable! That, as well as the fact that my schedule does not offer me the flexibility to fit in more than one class a week – even that one class is a real stretch!
  3. A better warm-up routine that I am comfortable with. I have a problem: I always try to do too much. I want to improve my arabesque, and my turnout, and my arches, and my pirouettes; and, like a good little girl, I turn to my ever-knowledgeable friend The Internet, determined to find exercises that will help me do all that and more! The determination fades a little – ok, a lot – when I print out the list of the aforementioned exercises and it is two pages long. At this point, I am usually scratching my head trying to figure out when I can fit all those exercises in; five minutes later I will give an exasperated sigh and abandon all hope of ever being able to do my exercises reap the glorious benefits. Or, I do find a way to fit it all in, but it is so impractical that   the frequency with which I do the routine declines rapidly! It’s awful, because I need my warm up before class. I used to have a solid routine down, but – and I realize this sounds stupid – I lost the paper it was written on, and I can’t find the file on my computer where I saved it! I did have it memorized, as anyone would after doing it every single day for years, but after the recent chain of injuries, time-offs, schedule changes, getting a job, starting college, yadda yadda yadda…the routine got abbreviated and shifted and messed around with and now it’s just not the same. So I made a new one. One that I think will last and serve its purpose well. But this time, I am going at it with a more reasonable approach – one of embracing an attitude of ‘go-with-the-flow’-ness. I won’t fret if I see that I need to adjust it. I will do what works for me. But at least now I will have a warm up routine I can count on!
  4. Lose weight. Well, this is the biggest one, really. But I put it last because I don’t have anything to say about it, because I don’t need to change anything I’m doing. I’m doing everything correctly because I’m not doing anything special at all, which is just the way it should be. The reality is that my body will only lose weight as quickly as it wants to lose weight, and it didn’t want to be at my goal weight by the date I had hoped it would. So I’ll just keep going and working toward being ready – and my body will be ready…when it is ready!

Today is the last day of Spring Break and so I thought it was the perfect and most appropriate opportunity to post this. I like the idea of finishing this break off knowing that I am going back into my training much more well-prepared and with goals and ways to achieve these goals. I’m excited!!

3 Weeks and a Reflection

Yesterday evening I performed as a guest artist with Susan Chambers Dance Company in their concert. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to test out my variations on stage prior to performing them at YAGP!

Backstage with my coach in between variations

Stage make up!

For the most part, it went well – I made no major errors in my dancing, and I did thoroughly enjoy it, which was very important for me (and I therefore feel it was a success in at least one way!) Technically, my performance was not where it should have been – or, not where it needs to be for YAGP! While of course I could – and should – have done better, I think it was far from a failed performance! In fact, I feel that it was successful in another way, too. If you look back through some of my other posts, you will come across several mentions of the mentality I must have behind my dancing; one area of big focus recently has been learning not to be nervous [and then everything that goes along with, and is related to, this skill]. I am really happy to announce that I’m starting to really develop this skill! Yesterday I was not nervous, I was no excited – no, I was very calm, cool, and collected, and this is exactly as it should be! After all, this is my life! Just an ordinary day, an ordinary performance, no big deal at all 🙂

Still, there is no denying that I have a lot of work yet to be done!

I have 3 weeks now to really push myself to my limits, and I assure you I intend to do nothing less than my best! And when I have the intentions of doing something, I DO IT, no matter what!

In thinking about what exactly went wrong that made my performance anything less than perfect yesterday, and in an effort to do all I can to fix my faults and do it perfectly at YAGP (and from here on forward), I was able to gather a few ‘key points’ which I can now use to make some plans for how I will best put these next 3 weeks to good use. 3 weeks is a lot of time – if I use my time wisely and efficientlly!

Problem 1: I have been treating rehearsals and stage performances differently, taking a different approach to them and going in with a different frame of mind – and it should not be so! To further expand, I have been doing this in two ways: the first is that when I am dancing during rehearsal, the thought running through my head is, “It’s only rehearsal – if I mess up I can do it again – so I will take this ‘risk’ and push myself to do a triple pirouette and go above and beyond each time,” which is not a bad way to think in and of itself; however, the problem presents itself when this frame of mind is contrasted with the one running through my head while on stage, in which I find myself thinking, “Oh! It’s the real thing now, I’m on stage, and so I must do it well, I must not mess up, or else!” This translates into self-doubt, which results in me being cautious and careful – and I end up not doing nearly as well, both because I am doing, for example, less rotations in my turns, and also because any self-doubt peaks out under all that makeup and shows itself in my performance (and that’s very bad indeed)!

The second way in which Problem 1 comes about is my laziness. Wait, what?! Yep, I said it – laziness. Now, ‘lazy’ is the last adjective anyone, including myself, would use to describe me, but I feel that there is no better word to explain what is going on here. You see, I get tired – exhausted, actually! – during rehearsals…understandably so, considering I usually have rehearsals after classes and it’s late at night. But  understandable is not excusable! I tend to let any fatigue get the best of me, and I submit to [incredibly false] self-reassurances that, “Oh, it’s alright – I’ll do it better on stage, I’ll have enough energy and adrenaline then to  really do it full out!” Of course, this couldn’t be farther from the truth! In fact, it’s completely the opposite – I need to KILL myself in rehearsal so that when I get to the stage I don’t need to give a second thought to have enough energy and adrenaline to get through the variation full out. Common sense – but it seems to escape me when I am aching and tired! Not anymore, though.

Solution 1:

  1. Treat rehearsals and performance the same exact way. They are the same exact anyway! Each rehearsal must be done as if I am on stage, and each performance will in turn be done the same as if I were in rehearsal. Not only will that result in a better performance (and overall better strength and stamina), but emotionally I will also be much improved. Technically and energy-wise, I will be stronger because of having practiced it  completely full out each and every time at rehearsal; and artistically, and emotionally, I will be stronger because of me going in with the same attitude on stage as I take with me into rehearsals – so there is no need to fear the stage any more than there is a need to fear rehearsals. Makes sense, don’t you think?
  2. Record myself during rehearsals. This will allow me to see my mistakes – and the good aspects of my dancing!! – for myself, and to better develop my performance. Seeing it for myself will also teach me more about self-correction and applying any corrections, as well as giving myself a better idea of how I actually dance [it’s funny, but now I think about it, I only have a vague “intrinsic” idea of what my dancing is like!] In addition to this, another benefit that goes along with recording myself is that it makes it more ‘equal’ to performances, which just goes back to helping me succeed in treating rehearsals and performances the same exact way, as I wrote about above.
Problem 2: One of my biggest corrections during my variations is my knees – I have trouble controlling them. They are hyperextended, but I tend not to straighten them all the way like they should be in some movements while I’m dancing. So I always need to focus on pulling my knees up and straightening them hard. I would like to do what I can to make this come more easily to me, so that I have to think about it less and that it’s just something that involves more muscle memory than…memory memory 😛 Luckily, there is an easy solution to this!
Solution 2:
  1. Do specific exercises to help strengthen and gain control of my knees.
  2. Be more mindful of my knees during class, and learn to use them properly then so that I can better apply it during rehearsal.
And honestly, I can [and should, and will] apply this same thing to my upper body and my arches, as well.
In these 3 weeks, I also will continue with my weight loss and body goals.
What else am I going to accomplish in these 3 weeks?
I’m going to focus like I have never focused before. This is the real thing, and it’s a very serious thing. There is no room for games, and no room for half-hearted attempts or any hint of hesitation. I’m taking a new approach to my dancing and it does not involve any childish behaviors or jokes.
I’m going to be calm and playful and artistic with my variations, and do them well each time. And I will look like a professional ballerina, not like a shy girl who wants to be a ballerina but is unsure of herself. NO, I am sure of myself and I will show it.
And I have a plan for how I will accomplish all of that! I intend to use every ounce of strength in me and every second of time I have to dedicate myself to this mission of sorts. I am going to try to get access to the studio some mornings so that I can go in by myself and work on everything from my exercises to my variations.
I have 4 days off now from ballet, which for once I am actually happy about and am very grateful to have. I am glad I have this time off because I hope that by resting for four days my body will heal all its injuries, namely my right hamstring. Perhaps my toe will feel better, too. I’m going to do everything I can to rest my body and help it heal – epsom salt baths, sauna, Finalgon…anything and everything to promote healing so that when I come back I can get down to things and work to my bare bones!

And so, the next three weeks are bound to be busy, but also incredibly growth-promoting and I am very much looking forward to perfecting my variations for YAGP!! I know I can do it because I HAVE done it!

I will finish this post with one last snippet of my recent epiphanies: my thought process during the actual variation is skewed from what it should be. I realized this yesterday. I realized that I was thinking about any mistakes I had made when really I needed to be thinking ahead instead! For example, instead of lingering on something that already happened [“my foot was supposed to be higher up in passe in that jump”], I need to forget about everything that I already did and go on to focus on whatever is coming next [“now I’m about to go into the hops in attitude turning around myself, so I have to remember to cross over”]. It’s something that seems like a little detail, but it will make all the difference in the world when I learn how to think ahead correctly instead of leaving my thoughts behind with things that really don’t matter any more! 

With that, I end my post-performance reflections, and I end it feeling much more clear about where I am, what I have to work on, and how I’m going to go about working on it. And I know now that I will be able to give as excellent of a performance as I wish to give by working harder, smarter, and better. Here’s to progress and success! I feel, metaphorically, like I’m plunging head-first into an unfamiliar side of the pool, much deeper. But its deepness only means that there is THAT much more to explore, that much more opportunity, that much more distance I can go further. I DO have the chance now to push myself further than ever and I am taking that chance with more enthusiasm than I’ve ever done anything else with before! And that feels great 🙂

Keep it Simple! Promise Yourself You Will.

I had been struggling with my weight for a long time. Now, I’m losing weight; my weight will always be something I have to monitor, I’m one of those dancers that will always have to diet. And I’m ok with that. … Continue reading

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?