Bored as Hell

How I feel everyday I’m surrounded by the other ballet students…. my flexibility is going very well but the fact that these girls are just pulling it out from the get go XD THE BETRAYAL IS TOO MUCH TO BEAR

This was a post from an adult dancer who was sharing his flexibility frustrations in his ballet class. 😞

Maybe you can relate if you’re struggling to meet the “ideal” flexible dancer image.

See my no holds barred response below.

My response:

Quite honestly. I’m bored as hell with all the flexibility hype (and other tricks of the trade). Now while I do work on my flexibility daily, it’s not my main goal (or one that I want my students to have).

Seeing these kinds of dancer’s pics or videos showing super flexibility or multiple pirouettes – while indeed impressive – makes me always ask, “Yeah, but can they dance?” Can they move and connect with the audience? Can they show emotion? Do they know how to move their body to express the music? Do they connect with other dancers onstage?

I may be impressed with a dancer’s technique and extentions for maybe 2 mins., but if they’ve got nothing else to give – no musicality, no dimensions, no connection and emotion, then you’ve lost me. I’m looking for the nearest exit door. I’d rather leave than have to sit thru a monotonous performance of someone’s high kicks and/or multiple turns. Tell me a story for f**k’s sake. Make me feel something.

The dance world has been too wrapped up in how high you can extend your leg than how beautifully you can present it. I would much rather see a beautifully extended leg at 45 or 90 degrees that has a quality of movement than one at 180 that has no beauty to it.

Keep working on your technique and flexibility, absolutely. It is a lifelong quest. But remember it’s not what makes you an artist. Or what keeps the audience in their seats.

Committed to the Practice not the Product

I have been totally immersed in the book The Practice: Shipping Creative Work by Seth Godin. It is both inspirational and filled with practical insights.

The idea I’m hooked on right now is committing to the practice (the process) of your creative work without focusing on the product (the end result).

I have to admit this is a concept I struggle with. I have always been extremely goal-oriented, needing to reach one goal after another. The end result was the most important thing to me and the steps it took me to get there were nothing more than obstacles I had to overcome as quickly as possible.

I certainly didn’t take the time to enjoy the process or journey towards my destination. I felt if I wasn’t achieving my goal in a timely manner, it was a useless pursuit – or if I didn’t reach the goal I set, I was a complete failure.

I didn’t take the time to celebrate my small successes or achievements and I felt discouraged with every mistake I made. I certainly didn’t appreciate the practice and all I learned along the way. I was too obsessed with reaching my goal and moving onto the next.

Returning to my dance training after such a long period of time was challenging. I knew I had to begin at the beginning. I was so out of shape and feeling way past my prime. All I knew was I needed to be dancing again.

So I set my schedule and began my training. I did set some small incremental goals, but had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my dancing – what my purpose was. Did I want to perform again? Coach?

I didn’t have any “big picture” in mind (insert scared sh**tless here). But as Seth says in his book, “It’s juggling. Throw and throw and one day the catching will take care of itself.” I took this as not only will I develop my skills, but also that my purpose will become clear to me as long as I continue to commit to the practice.

Another nugget of wisdom from Seth’s book is committing to the practice regardless of how you feel. To practice even if you don’t “feel it”. You know “inspired”, “in the flow” or as Seth puts it, “to show up when the muse isn’t there”.

And so I did and I am.

I am committed to the practice, not the product of the day’s training. I’m committed to the practice whether I feel like it or not. I’m committed to the practice even when it’s a crappy practice (and there have been many crappy practices). I am committed to the practice even though I have no idea what the hell I’m going to do with it.

I have to admit, this is freaky territory for me. Giving in and trusting the process without having an end goal in mind is totally new to me. But it’s also been very freeing and I have enjoyed and am more in tune with my training and dancing than I have ever been (insert joy here).

Once finished, I know this is a book I will return to. I think the ideas Seth Godin puts forth are timeless and applicable with every step of my journey.

I truly recommend this book if you are on a creative journey!

1 Way to Stay on Target & Motivated in your Training.

How do you stay on target and motivated in your dance training?

I love scheduling.

I’m a list maker so scheduling (and checking off that to do list) is in my nature. So one way I stay on track and motivated is scheduling my training. I do it every Sunday night for the following week.

Scheduling and setting my weekly goals gives me clarity, keeps me on track, and I love seeing my progress! Plus I don’t have to think about what I need to do or when because I’ve already set it (and I don’t have time to talk myself out of it 😋) .

This is my 9th week returning to my dance training. I hadn’t danced in 4 years! What’s been so motivating is seeing my progress from week to week.

Week 1 I could barely push out an hour a day. Now I’m up to 6 hours and returned to pointe work 🩰 2 weeks ago.

There’s def. been some ups and downs and discouraging thoughts. Even some tears shed and some doubts…And sometimes I don’t hit all that’s on my schedule, but seeing the progress I make (no matter how small) keeps me encouraged to keep going and keep moving forward.

So plan out your training! And watch your progress!

Improving your Leaps as an Adult

Do you want to improve your leaps, but afraid you’re too old or weak to do so?? Here is my suggestion (based on my own experience) to a dancer who had the same concern:

Question: “any ideas on improving leaps at a late stage. I have weak knees and now a weak ankle. A long time ago I was told by a physical therapy coach to ‘take aerobics or something’ because I was not light on my feet even though she knew I took ballet?! I’m not blessed with dancer genes but the exact opposite.”

Suggestion: oh man, do I get that!! When I returned to my own dance training after years of not dancing, I can tell you my jumps were gone! I had no endurance and absolutely no strength. I couldn’t even manage 16 sautés without getting out of breath, and I barely got my feet off the floor. It was very discouraging .😔

But I decided instead of being discouraged (which is never a friend to progress), I wouldn’t focus on my jumps, but instead, focus on strengthening my barre work and improving my endurance.

So I worked to develop the strength in my feet, in my pliés and relevés. I worked to increase the speed of my foot work, on coordinating the use of my breath, and improving the strength and coordination of my upper body.

I focused on strengthening the basics (just like I teach my beginning students), and I practiced my jumps at the barre focusing on my alignment, control, and having a good solid plié.

**For weak knees and ankles I would also suggest doing ankle exercises with a theraband, and work up to 20 relevés on 2 feet both in parallel and turned out. Make sure you are rolling through your feet properly and never force your turnout – your knees should always be tracking over your 2nd toe.**

I also worked on my cardio endurance with tap dancing (which is also great for footwork and speed, hops and jumps – plus it’s a lot of fun!).

And for better extentions, I added in yoga.

Once I felt stronger at the barre, I got back to jumps center floor, and I really surprised myself at the progress I had made. My jumps and leaps were so much more effortless and I was regaining my height and speed. 🎯

So put your focus on strengthening your technique at the barre – facing the barre in front of a mirror to pay attention to your alignment and control.

And take up a tap class to build up that cardio endurance (and just to let loose) and yoga to improve your flexibility.

When you focus on the nailing those basics, you’ll be surprised on how quickly your jumps (and all your dancing) will benefit.👍

In the mean time, don’t get discouraged. Progress is still progress, no matter how slow. And taking the time to develop your dance technique properly will benefit you with a lifetime of joyous dancing (and leaping).

You don’t have the body to be a dancer…

Have you ever been told that?

I have – ever since I was young. I was short, muscular AND curvy (I got hit with the double whammy), and didn’t have the “perfect” turnout.

I remember feeling so dejected. I saw all these beautiful dancers I took class with who were tall, lean and straight like an arrow.

I just didn’t fit in.

I began to hate my muscles, my curves, the width of my shoulders and thighs. “Thunder thighs” is what I remember being called.

I thought I should just quit and get a “real” job.

But when I danced. When I got on that stage, it was magical. Once that music started, the joy I felt was indescribable.

And so despite it all I kept dancing, because I had no other choice (If you’re a dancer you know what I mean).

And the audience noticed.

The audience, didn’t say, “She doesn’t have the perfect turn out”. No one gave a sh#%. They weren’t sitting there measuring the circumference of my thighs. They wanted to be moved. To feel. To be swept up in a story. And I was applauded for my power, presence and passion on stage.

And I think my body type actually helped me to have that power and presence. And I began to love my strength, my muscles and how my body looked and moved.

Too many talented dancers have been rejected by the ballet world because they didn’t fit that “perfect” body type. And these outdated notions of what a dancer should look like has caused so much damage to the mental and physical health of many dancers (and has set up unrealistic and unnecessary expectations of what it means to be a great dancer). Plus, it has deprived audiences of great talent!

The world is a different place and talent comes in all shapes. The ballet world needs to catch up and catch on if it wants to remain relevant.

So, if dance is in your soul, keep dancing! And find the beauty in who you are! You aren’t like everyone else (thank God) and it may be your differences that bring out into the world exactly what it needs.

Train hard. Gain the skills and technique you need to be the best dancer you can be. BUT, don’t sacrifice yourself, your health or your dreams for some outdated notion of what a dancer should look like.

I think if more dancers would refuse to submit, then the ballet world would have to change.

Challenge Yourself Today

Coming back to training after closing my studio and getting back into my groove was tough!

I hadn’t really trained. I mean reeeally trained for almost 4 years.

I was sluggish, out of shape, my diet sucked and honestly I felt really discouraged. But I was determined to begin again. My body and soul needed to be dancing!

It was a very slow start. I was barely able to finish an hour of class without being breathless and my feet and legs killling me! (and honestly it was hard just staying motivated). There were days I just bent over my barre and cried.

But I made a promise to myself and I reminded myself that it was okay to go slow. Just do a little everyday and each day just add a little more. Just 1 more exercise, just 10 more minutes. Miserably thinking “God I’m so frikkin’ out of shape.” But encouraging myself to just keep going. (I often have arguments with myself).

So, I put down the remote control, planned out my schedule, set some short term goals (as the big goals felt just too farfetched at the time) and started eating to fuel my body and not my emotions and stress.

With patience, self care and mindset work (and a whole lot of faith things would improve), I was back to dancing full time. Though I’m not completely back to my former dancing self, I know I will be and my new goal is to be even better!

Yeah. It’s tough. You don’t feel good about yourself. You don’t believe you can do it. But you can. You can can can! Just start a little everyday. Combat any judgments that pop up and make sure to celebrate every bit of progress you make – big or small.

It’s not too late to begin again! But you have to start.

I challenge you today to do just 5 mins of what you love. Just 5. And see how you feel? Just get the ball rolling!

Don’t Forget your Supporting Leg

Yes, every dancer wants great extentions and beautiful lines.

But in our efforts, let’s remember the most important leg is not the “working leg”, but the leg we stand on.

Without a strong supporting leg, it doesn’t matter how high your leg goes if you’re wobbling all over the place. You’ll never be able to sustain it.

Think of it as a flag on a pole. If the pole isn’t secure into the ground the flag can’t fly freely and the pole will fall down.

When your supporting leg is secure, you can hold that arabesque or extend that beautiful

So in your next class focus on pushing down thru the floor with your supporting leg/foot and keep that downward energy flowing. You’ll feel it, you’ll be more secure and you’ll allow your working leg to move freely!

Train your Turnout without Cheating

While this exercise can be done without the turnout board, a turnout board is nice for its smoothness and to measure your progress (this one has degrees of measurement so you can track your progress!).
You’ll see that one of my legs has more turn out than the other and I want to work on equalizing both sides as much as possible.)

👉1. Stand with feet facing forward (in parallel)

👉2. Make sure you’re engaging your abs and standing in neutral spine (don’t tuck hips under or stick your bum out)

👉3. Engage your feet and legs by pressing into your feet evenly, feeling the full foot on the board or floor

👉4. Rotate your legs outwards keeping everything engaged as mentioned above. Don’t bend your knees, but keep pushing down thru your feet as you rotate your legs. (Make sure your feet are still pressing down evenly onto the surface you’re working on).
You’ll activate your “deep 6” (your turn out muscles) (this is Good!) and Not the big muscles of the glutes (which would be cheating.)🙂

👉5. Return back to parallel position (in ballet this is also called 6th position)

👉6. Repeat 15-20X

👉7. Option to add resistance bands as you feel stronger.

💗Tips: hold on to barre or chair for support if needed.