Category Archives: mistakes
Since I am, by nature, a giant show-off, I joined a detachment of my fellow ballet peeps in the Pegasus Parade yesterday.
Although the weather was drizzly and blustery, the parade was fun. Even the standing-around-for-three-hours clusterfeck was reasonably fun, since I was standing around with BG, T, C, E, AB (our in-house yoga teacher), and, um, the one girl whose name I for some reason can’t remember (apologies!). We kept each-other entertained with snark, irony, and occasional earnest conversations about what we’re doing with our lives.
After a while, myAdderall wore off because I forgot to my second dose for the day, and I remembered an important equation:
me – Adderall + standing around with nothing to do^(enough time) = idiocy
Fortunately, I did not (seriously) injure anyone with my giant umbrella. I miiiiiiiight have gotten a little too enthusiastic during a bout of umbrella fencing and poked BG in the chest (regarding which: I should probably not be allowed to have a giant umbrella until I learn how to keep a lid on things 😦 ).
The parade itself was 17 blocks of ballet walks, waltz turns, random partnering exercises, spasms of grand allegro, and occasional yoga.
My foot did not make it through without getting sore at all, but it only got a little sore.
After, I booked it to BW’s class.
Have I mentioned that I ate lunch at 11:30 and then completely failed to eat anything until after my haircut, which finished up at 9 PM?
BW’s class, truncated, was an hour of barre, slow but not easy. By the end, my feet didn’t want to point and my left leg basically argued my about brushing into an arabesque above 70 degrees and then folded into attitude on what was supposed to be a an arabesque in plié. BW said, “Let’s callgood it a day and stretch—you probably haven’t eaten since lunch, have you?”
And then I realized that, yes, I knew this feeling. It was Ballet Bonk again. Evidently, BW is great at spotting Ballet Bonk.
So we stretched, and I asked BW to snap some pix for this month’s Suspend Challenge.
It’s Splits Time again, so here you go:
This morning, I opted just to do barre. My foot is finally actually healing now that I’m being extremely conservative with it, and since I have two classes tomorrow, then classes and rehearsals Friday through Sunday, I figured it would be a good idea to take it easy today.
- For values of “take it easy” equal to “do barre in Killer Class,” which is sort of like saying, “Oh, I’m taking it easy; I’m only climbing halfway up Mount Everest.” Particularly given that barre was a full hour long this morning.
Anyway, that was probably for the best. My brain was not on its A-game today. I managed to get almost every combination wrong in new and different ways … especially our fondu, which was supposed to go like this:
balloné, balloné, jeté front front front, balloné, balloné, jete side side side, balloné, balloné, jeté back back back, fondu passé developpé, fondu passé developpé, fondu passé developpé, retiré, fondu attitude, grand rond, fondu attitude
… and then reverse all that shizzle, or something along those lines.
…but quickly turned into this:
balloné, balloné, jeté side, wait, what?! balloné, balloné, jete … side for realz, I think??? balloné, balloné, jete … what the **** am I doing with my inside leg right now??? fondu all the unfoldy legs at the wrong time all the way around, retiré, arabesque, fondu attitude side, what the actual heck am I even doing right now??????!!!!, fondu developpé and HOOOOOLD.
Barring the moments in BW’s class when I sometimes fail to actually intake the beginning of some combination because I’m busy thinking about some fine point of technique and then have nobody to follow, it has been a while since my brain so thoroughly failed at the barre.
I actually asked between sides which way we were supposed to jeté first, and then proceeded to do a completely different set of wrong things on the second side.
Sadly, I had no problem remembering the adagio and terre-a-terre, even though I didn’t do them (I was stretching and watching BG dance, since he took class with us today).
I don’t know what my problem was, and I don’t think I want to know.
Tomorrow will be better. Until then, here’s a picture of my cat being extra derpy:
Modern today felt good. It was just me, and LF gave me a cool visualization thing to start with. We did lots of floor work and work with using weight and the head-tail connection to move through space. Very cool stuff.
At first my legs were like, “NO. NO, NO, NO. Nope. Screw you, buddy.” I’m experiencing the kind of achy, fatiguey weirdness that I have when my hormone levels are more out of whack than usual (read: when I’m essentially running on empty), which probably explains it. Seeing an endocrinologist is definitely in the plans for … meh, some time this year.
That said, the legs got over themselves by the of class, and I feel it was a good class overall. I finally admitted to LF that I get stressed out about remembering modern choreography, and she told me not to worry so much about it. On the last run of our final combination, I didn’t. Oddly enough, I remembered way more of it than I thought I would.
Dance Team was awesome today. They did some really good and really original work, and AS and I were really impressed. My own rehearsal also went well.
Ballet with BW was partly a private class—one of the owners of studio was with us much of the time, but had to pop out now and then to take care of admin things. Such is running a business!
Class was very intense—in a good way, as always. Interestingly, I got the exact same physical correction from BW tonight that Killer B me yesterday (or, well, one of them…). Obviously, my shoulders, neck, and chest are a hotbed of ballet problems right now.
I’ve realized that, too some extent, this grows out of a deeply internal focus. When I’m working hard, I to draw into myself mentally—and, it would seem, physically. I’m working on it, though!
Curiously, though, my legs had overcome the morning’s meh-ness … which is good, because I would have died of the rond de jambe combination alone, never mind the fondu and the grand battement, if my legs had continued to suck. The fondu/adagio, in particular, was challenging: slow fondu, slow relevé, slow fondu, extend avant then fondu attitude, hold forever, extend, sus-sous, continue pattern inside leg back, etc. The pace was what made it hard—it’s that combination of precision, restrained power, and grace that makes your blood boil at adagio tempo.
Speaking of grand battement, I realized that I haven’t been leading with the heel when closing from the back. It starts that way, then gets lazy in the last inch or two, which is no good. It makes for a lazy fifth and, over the course of the combination, works the supporting leg loose. I mentioned that to BW, and he gave me an extra set to the back only (though still finishing with plié-passé-attitude devant) to sort it.
We also did the dreaded Kneewhacker Turns, which went better than usual. Interestingly, I did whack my knee quite resoundingly once. It didn’t particularly hurt, but startled the heck out of me. I didn’t do it again, that’s for sure 😀 And, in fact, The Kneewhacker Turns that followed were whack-free.
At center we tendued (with turns) and then drilled double turns from fourth and second. BW had many thoughts my turns, all of which tie into problems I’ve been attempting to solve. My spot wasn’t as slow as it was the other day, except when I was being afraid of the Kneewhacker.
I called it a night after a nice waltzy combination across the floor. My toe had started complaining a little, so I decided to take the conservative route. Little jumps Saturday, maybe, and we’ll see how it goes from there.
After class I my fellow Bike Commuter Cabal operatives for a drink and a late supper. Ben and Jenn Folsom were in town, a rare treat for all of us. It was good to catch up with my bike peeps!
The Time of the Allergies(1) is upon us again, and D had a coughing fit at 6 AM that woke me up.
- Or, if you’re me, the time of EVEN MOAR ALLERGIES, because all times are the Time of Allergies.
Since then, I’ve actually managed to put dishes away, wash last night’s remaining dishes, put those away, make waffles (because either someone in the neighborhood was making them or I was totally hallucinating the scent of waffles, and I just couldn’t stand it anymore), eat a waffle, feed D a waffle, clean up after the waffles, and run a couple of loads of laundry.
I also failed at making tea, however: boiled the water, then forgot to actually make the tea for two hours, so had to start over. Anyway, I have tea now.
Fortunately, D picked up some allergy meds for me, so I’m breathing through my nose pretty decently at the moment. #smallvictories
Anyway, ballet-wise, I feel pretty on top of my choreography, including the Partner All The Girls! bits (actually, those are the easy bits; I really basically just stand there, look pretty, and put my hands where they need to be). However, we still have the last 23 seconds to learn, so I’m going to rehearsal tomorrow instead of going to see Wendy Whelan’s “Some of a Thousand Words.”
Funny thing is that it really wasn’t a question (because apparently my #priorities are properly aligned, or something). If we’d finished the dance last night, I might have gone to the performance instead, but I really actually want to go to rehearsal.
Fortunately, D isn’t offended that I’m opting out on my birthday present, and in fact agrees with me that going to rehearsal is the right choice. He is going to give our tickets to someone who wants to go and doesn’t have tix, which is a nice thing as well. So instead of seeing Whelan’s show for my birthday, I get the pleasure of giving someone else the chance and still getting to go to rehearsal 😀
In other news, I still have no idea what I’m wearing in the show, besides white socks and white shoes. I keep forgetting to ask, and people keep asking me, and I keep having to say, “Um, actually, I have no idea.”
BG described the tights I’ll be wearing as “awesome,” so of course I’m picturing something like this:
…But I suspect that reality will be somewhat less ornate, since all the girls are wearing pastel leos and white romantic tutus, and not so much with the bling.
In other news, today is perfect soup weather, but I forgot to buy soup, so #firstworldproblems etc. I could make soup, though, if I get desperate.
Here’s what I wore last night, anyway:
I was use-testing the socks, which are new. BG and I agreed that we kind of liked the blue tights (which are brighter in real life) with the socks, but also that they would clash with the rest of the performance.
The shirt, OTOH, is just the same shirt I wear every damn day.
Before tonight, I had managed never to really fall off the trapeze before. I’ve dumped myself off handstand-style once, but that doesn’t really count.
Tonight, I managed to take a legit fall—during my audition.
In retrospect, I made the wrong call abotu my music: instead of just going for the piece I’d intended, “La Mer,” which was a little too long, and letting them cut it off, I opted for “Beyond the Sea” (Bobby Darin’s version).
It turns out that the tempo of Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” is actually quite a bit faster than the recording I have of “La Mer.” I was tired and attempting to adapt, and somewhere along the line my brain decided halfway into an egg-to-pike inversion that I was actually doing the arabesque roll to sit that comes at the end.
Since one wraps one’s arms for the inversion in question, it’s not possible to do the roll in question without breaking said arms. I’m more afraid of breaking bones than of falling, so I basically just let go.
Apparently it was a pretty spectacular fall—and a technically-correct one 🙂 I tucked and rolled, and as a result the only parts of me that hurt are my forearms, which is what happens when you wrap your arms and then do crazy shizzle.
I popped back up and was ready to hop back on the trap before they even had a chance to cut the music (though they did, in order to make sure I was okay). I sorted my way through the rest of the trap routine, though I didn’t do the arabesque roll at the end; my arms weren’t digging that.
Ironically, the rest of the audition went pretty well, and apparently my trapeze improv looked pretty great (the fall was evidently quite exciting as well :D).
So, that’s my life for you. When I do finally manage to fall off the trap, it’s in the middle of an audition.
At least I didn’t fall down during the dance portion? I did fall down during the acting part, but that was on purpose.
Oh, also, ballet was good today, petit allegro was far less bad than usual, and we discussed rehearsals for showcase, etc.
We also had a Physical Theater workshop, and afterwards I was chatting with the teacher, and she said something like, “So, you dance ballet?”
And I said something like, “Yeah, a little modern, but ballet is really my first language and my first love.”
Then she said, “I could tell—the legs!”
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to Eat All The Food.
I’m launching a series of post on the details of technique. It’ll probably consist primarily of steps I’m struggling with, so take it with a grain of salt.
I find it helpful to write things out in an effort to get a grip on them. These aren’t so much instructions (though if they work for you, awesome!) as observations.
Tombé-coupé-jeté is a subset of coupé-jeté en tournant (if you do jazz, you might know this as a “calypso,” if I understood my classmate correctly).
As its name implies, it’s a compound step. The elements are:
- a tombé into a
- turn at coupé
- that lends its rotation to a jeté
Some form or another of coupé-jeté en tournant shows up in men’s technique a lot—QV Le Corsaire’s famous (and famously-hard) Slave variation, the Pas de Trois from Swan Lake, a whole bunch of stuff in Nutcracker, etc, etc.
Coupé-jeté pass starts at ~1:20 This guy knows what he’s about.
Also, I like the way he moves.
The tombé version is the one I’m concerned with here.
I’ve been wrestling with making my tombé-coupé-jeté consistent on both sides so I can use it in choreography without having to think about it (because thinking is basically death to my ballet technique; it makes my brain overheat and crash).
The basic mechanics, traveling right, go like this:
- Tombé onto the right leg.
- Bring the left leg to coupé while executing a turn en dedans.
- Your arms help to provide momentum for the turn.
- Don’t leave your body behind!
- Transfer weight onto the left foot. Your left leg will be in a demi-plié.
- Simultaneously, grand battement the right leg just as you would for a plain old vanilla jeté.
- Spring off the left leg.
- For men’s technique: tombé to second (you get a bigger jump, and men’s technique is basically be distilled into How To Get A Bigger Jump).
- I realized today that I kept tombé-ing to something like 2.5ième. Bleh.
- It works a lot better if you actually really do tombé to an actual 2nd.
- The turn happens in the coupé.
- NOT in the tombé.
- NOT in the jeté*.
- *The remaining momentum from the turn will cause the jeté to rotate slightly, but if you think of the turn as being in the jeté, you’ll inevitably add a rond-de-jambe, and everything will go right to Hell in a hand-basket.
- I tend to start unfurling my working leg at the wrong point in this turn. DO NOT DO THIS. It throws everything else off, and also results in a wobbly flight path.
- The right leg sweeps STRAIGHT OUT, as in grand battement, avant or to 2nd (I’m not actually sure if one is correct and the other incorrect; I didn’t think to ask JP).
- The working leg does not rond.
- I repeat, the working leg DOES NOT ROND.
- I find that it helps to think “Grand battement!” rather than “Don’t rond!”
So let’s think about how this all works on the right.
- The tombé loads the right leg, providing impetus for the turn just as the plié does at the beginning of a pirouette.
- The arms come together to add to the momentum of the turn as the left leg snaps to coupé.
- The body has to stay connected—the shoulders and hips must travel together—in order to execute this movement well. This is true for all turns, but especially true for coupé-jeté en tournant.
- The coupé builds momentum that will allow the jeté to sail along a curvilinear pathway.
- At the end of the turn, the weight is transferred to the left leg in demi-plié. The right leg sweeps straight out to initiate the jeté.
- The jump lands on the right leg. It’s possible to move right into another coupé-jeté en tournant or into another step entirely.
Here’s what I tend to do wrong when doing tombé-coupé-jeté en tournant.
- I tombé into some weird 2.5iéme kind of position instead of a clean 2nd.
- I fail to keep my hips and shoulders together.
- I try to come out of the turn at coupé to soon.
- I sometimes snap the leg up as one would in saut de chat instead of sweeping it straight up.
- I rond the leading leg in the jump to compensate for exiting the turn too early.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I did do about a million slow-motion coupé-jetés on my living room carpet while trying to work all of this out.
Anyway, now I know what I’m doing wrong, so I should have a better time getting it all sorted.
In the meantime, here’s a really good video that demonstrates coupé-jeté en tournant. I should probably note that I’ve only watched it with the sound off, so I have no idea what it sounds like 😛
*Yeah, it’s a pun, and a bad one.
I can’t sleep, so I might as well write, eh?
Mostly good barre today (or, well, yesterday). No scary turns-at-the-kneewhacker; got my RdJ en l’air back, extensions were okay-to-good. The adjusted passé/retiré is becoming automatic.
That said, the frappé was delightfully wicked: facing the barre (universal ballet code for This will either be a piece of cake or hell on wheels), singles (from flexed) en croix on flat, repeat in a sustained fondu, spring straight up to doubles en relèvé, petit battement at maximum speed for a billion (okay, actually sixteen) counts, straight into the reverse, repeat twice as fast, plié, brush out while remaining in plié, close back, other side. Doesn’t sound too hard, but it’s that “repeat twice as fast” that gets you. It adds up.
Also, my petit battement is currently way(1) better on the right than on the left. Feh.
- Or, well — the difference at double-time is definitely enough that I notice it, which is too much.
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. BW either wants us strong or dead. I’m guessing strong; he’s a sweet guy.
Also a fondu-adagio thing with all the attitudes and demi-ronds en l’air and the holding the extension à la la seconde until the legs became impervious to pain, plié — inside passé balance for eight, plié — outside passé balance forever, sus-sous, détournée, other side. This was lovely and light and painless except for that à la seconde. At one point BW shouted, “Fight for it!” and I kid you not, that gave me a second wind. Because I adore BW as ridiculously as I adore Ms. Killer B of Wednesday Class fame. Basically, if he told me to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge…
Also, at one point he touched my foot, and part of me is like I will never wash those shoes again but, to be honest? They’re kinda grungy, and they’re white, soooooooo… .
Anyway, at center we did a tendu (or dégage, or grand battement) combination that was all about body facings and épaulement and little faillis and turns from fifth. I did grand battements and doubles on the repeat, since my body finally decided to get with the program and face the right way.and my arms Asiago sorted themselves.
We then did a really nice (and simple) terre-a-terre with back-to-back turns from fourth:
chassée – pas de Bourée – fifth
chassée to fourth
Sweep through to soutenu turn from croisée to opposite croisée
sus-sous balance with port de bras
Going right, I felt good and managed two easy doubles in the first three turns, so I aimed for a triple on the third.
Turns out that you can, in fact, force a triple through sheer stubbornness, even if if you haven’t got the momentum for it, if you’re willing willing to let it be an ugly triple.
It was totally, “Around, aROUND, gorammit WE … ARE … MAKING … IT … AROUND AGAIN IFITKILLSME!”
But it was still a triple.
I made up for for it by almost careening into the mirror doing
hell turns chaînes on the left. Apparently, my ear isn’t quite up for those yet, no matter how hard I spot.
Also, I travel like a mofo. I managed to eat up the whole floor doing 2 piqué turns, 2 soutenu turns, 2 piqué turns, 4 chaînes. There was a lot of ATTAAAAAAACK! involved. I get a little excited about piqué turns sometimes. I’m even worse about tombé-piqués/lame ducks, though. Frealz.
So that was Thursday. Today it’s all about scraping the paint, then painting the paint.
It started out so well!
Barre was fine today, with the exception of one strangely derpy RdJ en l’air (which may have been the result result of trying to listen to a general correction and RdJ en l’air at the same time). Adagio, once I sorted out the part of the combination in which my imagination had inserted something completely different, was also fine(1).
- Regarding which: you guys, I used to hate adage so very much. I have come to love it. Ballet is weird. Sometimes you fight so hard with a thing that, eventually, the clutch of battle turns into an embrace.
Turns and terre-a-terre were mediocre. We did each combination twice, and in both I was a complete wreck on the first run, but managed to pull myself together eventually. This was particularly rewarding on the terre-a-terre, which involved an attitude turn followed immediately by a turn in arabesque. Just put the heel down, plié the supporting leg, and go whilst simultaneously transitioning from attitude to arabesque. No big… o.O
I’m working on not attacking my turns as if my goal was not only to murder them, but to retroactively stamp their ancestors from the face of the earth. That made the attitude-to-arabesque bit extra challenging, as the surrounding choreography meant both that one had almost no force going into the first turn but still had to manage to make it all the way around in the second. I didn’t account for that at first and backed my attack down so far that I had to do the Hop Of Shame just to get the attitude turn all the way around.
On the repeat I thought, instead, about keeping my core connected (which was JP’s general correction to the whole flailing lot of us) and actually managed to do the whole thing.
This did not, however, prevent the rest of class from becoming progressively more and more unhinged. In petit allegro, I didn’t mark the combination of even apparently take take it in very well because I was examining my knee, so that was awkward. During grand allegro, I completely blanked on the beginning of an extremely simple combination(2) and failed to go the first time; the second time, I started thinking and thus danced with the consummate grace of a drunken penguin attempting to negotiate a stairwell. As I finished, I said to no one in particular, “I’m a disaster today.”
- Edit: I feel the need to explain how how very very simple this was. Seriously, the combination was: tombé, pas de bourée, glissade, saut de chat, contretemps, same thing back forth across the floor until you run out of room.
To cap things off, JP then gave us one job: do fouettés or turns à la seconde if you’re a dude (translation: if you’re me; other dude had gone on to prepare to teach a different class or something).
Disastrously, I started out trying turns à la seconde, then decided halfway through the first one that I was doing fouettés instead.
Suffice it to say say that it went downhill from there and ended in shameful stuckness and a momentary feeling that I had no business being in Advanced class in the first place.
So, yes, those days still happen.
Next week will will be better. Unless it’s worse. But I suspect that it’ll be better, since I’ve figured out what’s irritating my knee.
We were back to BW’s Thursday class tonight after a two week break (one week for Swan Lake, one week while I was watching Pilobolus).
It was a good class. Just BB and me, so we got to do a fairly complex (and long!) barre. I tried to remember to relax my upper body, since I realized on Wednesday that when my upper body is tense, I tend to lose the ability to really control my deep rotators.
Sometimes that’s a losing battle, the upper-body-relaxing bit. Tonight, it went fairly well. Sometimes a little too well, at which point my hands when from Don Quixote! to Dead Birds 😦
Anyway, at barre, BW corrected my grand battement à côte, which I was allowing to drift too far backwards (and, like everyone else this week, got on me about my working knee not being straight in arabesque; for some reason, it has decided to choose this week to give me … ahem … attitude :V).
Curiously, I think this is a new-ish development. I’ve started doing them mostly with the arm in 3rd, because it forces me to keep my shoulders down and, frankly, just gets the danged arm out of the way. Before I adopted that approach, I used my arm as a handy-dandy guide: as long as I shot my leg to the front of my arm, I was fine. Now I need to, like, actually feel where it’s supposed to go.
Speaking of attitude, he also sorted my attitude balance-to-allongé. For some reason, I kept doing it to second arabesque. Have I always done that? Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think that I have. That said, I have no idea when I started doing it or why. For all I know, I’ve been doing it like that for a year and it originated as a way to get my arm out of the way without cracking the back of my hand on the wall or the mirror.
We also did a kajillion turns. BW noticed something weird about my spot: I was, in essence, spotting twice — like, getting stuck briefly in the mirror on the way to the actual spot. Apparently, this problem is contagious, because BB was doing it, too.
I very much get how this came about: I’m attempting to watch my turns in the mirror.
Specifically, my wonky proprioception makes it really hard for me to feel whether or not I’m actually snapping my leg to a proper open passé (or retiré, as is sometimes required), and I’ve developed the habit of attempting to catch a glimpse on the fly.
Apparently, that plays havoc with your spot, even though the hesitation it produces is minuscule.
The really annoying part of all this is that it really probably isn’t necessary. Snapping to a proper, open passé/retiré is one of the things I do naturally. There is absolutely no reason for me to be checking that in the mirror when I’m doing turns.
Keeping my foot attached at the knee until I really finish my turn, on the other hand… Eerrrrm, yeahhhhh. Sometimes I start stepping out of my turns a little early. It’s a thing.
That said, I mostly managed to stay attached tonight. Maybe the mini-spot in the middle was the problem?
Anyway, with regard to your working leg in turns, it’s fairly easy to tell whether you’re staying placed: if you can finish in a clean fifth when you do turns to fifth, you’re probably keeping your foot attached. For me, this works for turns from fifth, fourth, or second(1).
- Are turns from third even a thing?
On the other hand, if you find yourself finishing everything in a sort of sloppy 4.5th position, your foot is probably wandering. Or, at least, that’s how it works for me.
So here’s the rundown:
- Allongé from attitude: it is not the same thing as an extended second arabesque.
- Grand battement à côte: don’t let your leg drift behind you, and if you have trouble feeling where it is, do it in the mirror a whole bunch of times and figure out how to feel it.
- Turns: don’t get stuck in the mirror; the extra mini-spot just screws it all up.
Oh, and one more bonus: when you’re doing a simple combination of piqué turn – piqué turn – soutenu turn – soutenu turn – piqué turn – piqué turn – step-over turn – step-over turn, don’t get so into it that you nearly crash into the wall at the opposite corner.
Pro Tip: crashing into the corner is not how you ballet (though IIRC Nureyev totally launched himself off a stage once, in front of like all the people).
But first, Killer Class.
This morning, I took a shower for once (to clarify: it’s not that I don’t wash myself; I just don’t usually shower in the morning). While showering, I found myself thinking, “Gee, we haven’t done saut de basque in a while. It would be really cool to do saut de basque.”
Apparently, the Divine Killer B read my mind, because we not only did SO MUCH PETIT ALLEGRO (which I managed mostly to do right), but we did an awesome grand allegro combination with sauts de basque and cabrioles.
So, basically, it was an awesome day. I also learned, by the by, that I’ve been over-crossing my arabesques, which makes my penché glitchy. Killer B came over at one point and was like, “Try not to overcross,” and moved my foot over, and then it was like, “OHAI, FLOOR!” So that was awesome, too.
On the other hand, I really missed the bus on what could’ve been a meaningful thing at DanceTeam practice.
One of the girls, who is actually a really awesome dancer when she gets out of her own way (with which, being middle-schoolers, they all struggle), randomly said while I was drilling some choreography with her and her friend in a breakout group, “I feel so fat.”
Aaaaaaand, I totally dropped the ball.
There are so, so many meaningful things I could’ve said — and while it’s true that probably none of them would’ve taken hold immediately, it’s important to hear those messages.
I could’ve said, “Don’t worry, there’s no one right body for dance,” or “The right body for dance is whatever body you’ve got” (though that one can sound a touch judgmental) or “All kinds of bodies are beautiful” (though, honestly, that might be a bridge too far for someone who’s in seventh grade and wrestle with all the stuff that people wrestle at that age). I could’ve pointed her to some amazing dancers that are shaped like she is, if I wasn’t so terrible at remembering names (1)
- Honestly, I am stunnnnnned that I’m actually remembering the names of ALL my DanceTeam girls; it’s a bleeding miracle.
Instead, I sort of choked and said, “You look fine!” and then, over the course of the conversation, reiterated the things that I think are great about her dancing — she has attitude for days and she’s really expressive, which means she has awesome stage presence; that she’s naturally a great mover for the kind of dance we’re working on.
Maybe I should’ve just asked, “What makes you say that?” and tried to listen, but on the other hand, we were trying to get a lot of choreography tightened up in not very much time.
On the other hand, it’s cool that some of the kids feel like they can say stuff like that around me, given that they really haven’t known me very long. It makes me feel like, against all odds, I’m doing okay making connections and putting them at ease (2).
- Probably the smartest thing I’ve done so far was to admit that I don’t know from Hip-Hop; that they get to teach me there.
Anyway, I’m going to have to think about this: how not to be caught off my guard the next time something like that comes up, and what to say that will be both concise and, in the long run, helpful. I’ll also check in with AS about that, since she (as an actual middle-school teacher) might have some insight.
So that’s it for now. I have to run off and suffer … erm, I mean, go back to Trapeze 3 after a not-really-intentional two-week break. Eeeeeeeek.