Back to studio

Last class of 2013 was in Dec 13, and we got back in Jan 13.

A whole month without ballet class!

On the first week, I got my pretty book with the Vaganova ballet lessons…

… ok, ok, you ballet nerds… this one:

One Hundred Lessons in Classical Ballet: Eight-year Programme of Leningrad’s Vaganova Choreographic School (Paperback)(English / Russian)

By (author) Vera S. Kostrovitskaya, Translated by O. Briansky

ISBN 13: 9780879100681 ISBN 10: 0879100680

Enjoy.

Anyway.

So I got my book and thought “If I’m in my third year, it should be ok to get a lesson from Vaganova’s 2nd one, right?”. Opened the book in the first lesson for that year (yes, it’s that specific, you’d be surprised!), prepared the iPod (with speakers, no headphones) to play the first song in Ballet Goes Pop (totally Adult Beginner’s fault, that woman keeps making me spend money) and hoped for the best.

I have to say, despite some odd counting, it went ok. I got as far as grand battements, I think.

That was day 1.

On day 2, I tried the NYC Ballet work-out. Got through the end, was really fun!

Can’t remember if I followed up on the next day or if I skipped one (December sucks), but I eventually started the second NYC Ballet. Didn’t get to the end. Another day I tried another lesson from the book, but the music and the exercises didn’t match at all and you guys… it is so boring doing ballet alone!!

All that to say that after a whole month without classes my body went back to day 1 of ballet classes for good! I can’t touch my toes when I stretch, my turnout is turned in, I couldn’t even close a fifth on the first class of the year.

People just have got to stop breaking the routine when the year end comes. It makes everything just even more depressing!

We have now had 2 weeks of classes this year, and I’m still rusty. But!

But!

Do you know what happened right before classes were suspended? Do you??

I found a 5-second balance!

Which basically means that I’m at the barre, on a rétiré, and I can be on my toes for about 5 seconds.

Whaaaaaaaaat!?!

Yes, people, FIVE SECONDS. If you’ve never tried to do that (properly, like a ballet dancer, not a child trying to be on their toes!) you don’t know how hard that is.

I’ve always wondered how people got to do it, and the truth is… it just happens. Very frustrating process, took me 3 years to find iffy 5 seconds… but I clap my hands every time I get my 5 seconds. 😀

My 5 became 2, maybe 3 when classes started again, but I’m getting better at it once more. I was so afraid of losing my balance during the break that sometimes I tried it at home, when going from one room to the other, whenever I remembered I might lose it!

Today I’ll try pointe again – we already did it last week, and boy did it hurt! Fingers crossed, guys… one of the girls said the 2014 goal is fouettés – en pointe!

Now that’s an ambitious goal.

Ballet budget – the finale

Ok, so I think we’ve covered costs for the basic things needed by new ballet students like ourselves.

But we have to consider the extras involved in our, say, education!

I mean, you’re taking classes and don’t want to see the professionals? That wouldn’t make any sense, people!

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Tickets to ballet – 2011

This year is absolutely disappointing over here – not a single international company came visiting, which means we didn’t have a chance to watch the classic repertoire. Why? According to Prima Ballerina, classical ballet productions are very expensive – costumes alone make it really difficult for any company to invest in them. Plus, apart from us ballet nerds, who goes to ballet presentations these days? (I’ll talk about this in a sec).

So this was for first year of ballet classes: Lord of the Dance, the National Ballet of Cuba, and we had Kirov in town – I’ve attended the gala and Swan Lake.

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Tickets to ballet – 2012

And these were for 2012: Giselle, with the Scalla of Milan, Riverdance, a Roland Petit gala (Carmen and L’Arlesiènne) with the Rio de Janeiro ballet company, Romeo and Juliet with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, and The Nutcracker with the Cisne Negro company (which dances this every year – it was the second time I’ve seen their version).

So I don’t have to go through each ticket to review how much I’ve spent, but I can tell you it was A LOT. I always tell people to save money for the dance season (usually the second half of the year), but it looks like no one is coming in 2013. One moment of silence, please.

One last thing that I think every ballet nerd will eventually start spending money with: books. I myself love reading about it, and have already got a bunch of them. Unfortunately, this is not like the US, where you can go to a public library and check out all kinds of books, so I have to rely on The Book Depository and Amazon. Therefore, I include this on my ballet budget.

(I was going to add a photo of my ballet books, but I was too lazy this weekend. Might do it later this week.)

So I guess that covers it all. We don’t usually think about how much money a new obsession hobby needs, and I have only one last thing to say about all this.

I am totally going to ignore the figures from this very instant. I have to focus on my ballet.

Ballet budget – part 2

Moving on with the list of ballet class essencials!

Accessories: now that’s where fashion and personal taste come to ballet class. Adults usually don’t go nuts in colors (although it would be fun having that in class), so they tend to wear black leotards and tights. Right? Do tell me if it’s different for you! So skirts and leg warmers can be whatever color or size because, doh – black goes with anything. Shorts are either black or grey, from my experience. Black makes the hips look smaller, I do know that! But these days I don’t mind wearing funky skirts, with colors and patterns. And leg warmers are so much fun! Plus, unless it’s really hot, like, you know, these past few weeks, it’s much better having them on for class. Amazing the difference they make. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I do have matching leg warmers and skirts, and no, I don’t wear shorts in class – tried to, but my bum looks even bigger and I hated it.

Now prices: skirts can be bought for about 10-15 dollars, leg warmers range from anything between 5 and 25. You should have one of each at the very least. You don’t need a let warmer but admit it, you want one now.

Pointe shoes + padding/protection: now that’s a completely separate category in ballet budget. Good part is, you don’t need it right away. When you’re starting ballet, pointes are a distant star in the night sky. But then, one day your teacher gives you the green sign and you get so-excited-about-it-omg that you don’t really give the costs a thought. You don’t care about it, to be honest, until you have to pay for the credit card.

When I got my very own green sign, after I recovered my senses and left the hospital (hee hee kidding!) I had already made some research: pointe shoes start at 30 dollars here, but my first pair cost around 45-50. Shoes only, mind you! Then another 35-40 for padding (I always think of ‘protection’, because that’s what goes between the toes and the goblins that bite our feet that come absolutely free with pointe shoes!). And let’s not think of the other things you buy because, you know, you’re in a dancewear store, kicking off a new phase in your ballet life, so why not taking that cute skirt or new leotard? Impulse ballet shopping is a reality, people.

But then you should ponder the facts: if you are about to start en pointe and you do have budget for that, why not buying the best shoes for you? Comfort-wise.

Months before I got the green sign, I remember one day before class when the teacher and the studio owner were hanging out with us in the dressing room, and the owner said we should definitely get Gaynor Mindens for our first pair. And I thought “Yeah right, I don’t have that kind of money, ma’am! Plus, it’s the first pair, I can’t spend all that in my first pair! What if I can’t go en pointe at al?!”

So there. A hundred bucks wasted in goblin-infested shoes.

Which takes us to the expensive Gaynors I proudly wear now. Yes, they cost 100 dollars in their website but – people! Remember this economics truth: the “Brazil cost”. Yep, the guys in the international news are right, things here cost more because we don’t have infrastructure, and taxes are ridiculously high, etc. etc. So guess how much those things cost here! Twice as much, like everything else. And the super fancy Eurotard padding costs around 80 dollars, my friends. Add a little impulse ballet shopping like I mentioned before and we have a credit card company getting very excited. Oh and don’t fool yourself: no one gives you free elastic and ribbons. So add 10-20 dollars to that receipt.

Transportation/parking: I don’t have to pay for parking – studio #1 has parking spots and free valet (not as fancy as it sounds, the guy keeps turning the air conditioning on just to move my car around), and I walk to studio #2 (yay! love it). But we do need gas for the car, and when I hit mine I had to take the bus to studio #1, so some money spent there. And if I had to use the parking in studio #2, I’d have to pay 5 dollars every class.

Are you keeping track of all that? How much did you spend so far?

We’re not done with math yet, though. There are some extras we should consider, too. Stay tuned!

Ballet Budget – part 1

I started thinking about this post when discussing with disneyballerina in the comments.

We need money for ballet, correct? I think everyone agrees. And I think I can safely add “especially when you start taking pointe classes”. Let’s face it, pointe shoes are never cheap, not even the ones with free goblins inside.

So I’d like to make a short list:

  • classes fees
  • leotards
  • thights
  • slippers
  • accessories: skirts/shorts/leg warmers
  • pointe shoes + padding/protection
  • transportation/parking

Does it look more or less accurate for you? Let’s discuss the items, then.

P.S.: this post was getting even longer than my regular posts (imagine that!) so I decided to break it into parts. Please proceed.

Classes fees: I honestly doubt that there are free ballet classes out there, so that should apply to everyone taking ballet classes. Since I go to two different studios, one fairly priced and other ridiculously pricey, I can say that monthly fees go from 100 to 250 dollars. I know, right?? No, the pricey one is not that expensive, but I know of other studios which go that far. Ridiculous.

Well, let’s see then: a little math. About 100 for 3 classes a week, about 200 for 2 classes. All classes last 1 hour and 30 minutes, so we have… classes ranging from 15 to 36 dollars an hour.

Leotards: I don’t like taking classes in gym clothes, although Stretchy Girl, in studio #2, feels more comfortable in them (she takes jazz after ballet, so I think it’s simpler). I could have saved a lot if I did that, because I have lots of gym clothes – used to go there as much as I go to ballet now, so that escalated quickly. But I don’t think it’s that much comfortable, and I learned to appreciate pink thights because we can actually see the muscles working during class. That is just not possible with gym clothes. So: leos. And they can be expensive! Around 50 dollars each, and I think we need at least as many as the number of classes we take per week. If you are the Master of Laundry Planning you can certainly have less than that. I’m not.

Thights: you gotta have them. A couple of times, before pointe and when it was freaking hot, I took class with a leo and gym capris. Learned that the slippers feel so comfortable when we’re barefoot! But tights are not optional if you do barre stretches every class (your leg won’t slide) or if you’re en pointe. And they cost about 15 dollars, and like leos you deserve the peace of mind of having of for each day you take classes in the week. Masters of Laundry Planning: I don’t believe you even exist.

Slippers: people, you’re taking ballet classes. You just have to have ballet shoes! It’s just that simple. And those things can cost anything, but let’s say an average of 20, 25 dollars a pair? At first I only had one pair, taking 2 classes a week. They were in leather (I still wear them in the slippery floor in studio #2), so later I tried a canvas one, and another, and… I think I have 4 pairs now, all asking for retirement. You don’t need as many, but I guess we can use the same rule as for running shoes? Let them breath at least one day before wearing them again? So if you take classes every other day, you’re fine with one good pair.

… stay tuned for the rest of the list!

Temperamental

Think about this: is there a more temperamental thing than pointe shoes?

I usually have pointe classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. So on the first class of the week, pointe shoes always feel awkward.

They feel tight, kinda hurt on the big toe, sometimes I even wonder if I got the wrong ones! And these are always my Gaynor shoes, because Prima Ballerina makes us wear pointes almost for the whole class. So over 1 hour with them on, until she asks us to use the soft slippers for some jumping and embarrassing twirling in the end.

Oh and you cannot understand how light your legs feel after 1 hour in pointe shoes, when you take them off. You should try, it’s like one of those exercises in the Army where future soldiers need to climb hills wearing heavy clothes and equipment. Once you take them off, you feel light as a cloud.

Same happens on Wednesdays, but then they are not as awkward. But you know, they’re still pointe shoes, and depending on the teacher’s mood they feel really tight by the end of class.

Then on Thursdays I decided I should try my old shoes again – the ones that had invisible goblins inside, biting my feet off while I tried to take ballet class? I thought I should try them on at least once a week, because Gaynors give me a hand going on pointe – in case you don’t know it, they are made to make it easier for us. That’s why some people are against them, because you could simply stop exercising your feet to make them stronger and you’d still be en pointe. I personally disagree, and I can be pretty lazy by the end of class. Lazy people will just fall from pointe if they don’t try enough, believe me – using Gaynor or anything else.

So two weeks ago I think I got 45 minutes of class in the old shoes – goblins were awake by the end of it, but I think it is really good having more than a pair for class. Last week I couldn’t go after warming up in them, though, those bastards were biting me hard, so I went back to the Gaynor Mindens to finish class. And by the way, I can only wear them with my heavenly Eurotard protection. Those things really know how to keep goblins away.

Now – don’t you agree? Aren’t they temperamental?? Why do they feel so awkward after a couple of days? And why do they hurt sometimes, and not every time?!

One cannot trust pointe shoes. Watch your step!

Ballet in the dark

Another day, when I arrived to studio #2, I noticed most lights were out. The guy at the reception said the power company had made some maintenance work and the cables went nuts – they were sucking power from the school instead of sending it in.

I don’t think it’s an accurate explanation of what was really going on, but the thing is – most lamps were out in the room we use.

So we were all saying hi and moving around the room when all lights suddenly went on.

‘Great! Now we can start class properly’, we thought.

When we were around half of the class – ronde de jambes, maybe? can’t remember – the reception guy came in and told our teacher that the guys from the power company were there, and the main power box (not sure how to call it) was exactly in our room. So they would come in and check the box while we were having ballet class, ok?

I found it amusing, really. Stretchy Girl freaked out a bit, saying ‘They’re coming in and we’re dressed like this?’.

Mind you, she was wearing gym clothes, not a leo, tights and see-through skirt like me and the Little Girl (she’s 17, not so little, but so cute – wants to be a doctor. Ok, I’ll call her Cute Girl).

So I automatically rolled my eyes and said ‘Stop it, you! They won’t see anything you wouldn’t show on the street’.

The guys came in and the teacher kept trying to reach the stereo buttons to play the song. We did one exercise, no problem. But those guys wouldn’t pay much attention to the power box with so much going on at the barre.

When the teacher came close to us to show the next sequence at the barre, I had to ask her to loose the …

Ok, googled everything but couldn’t find out how to write that down. One teacher says “sous plait”, the other one says “cambré avant”, I think. It’s when you fold yourself down, legs straight, all the way to the ground, then come back, bringing your back as straight and elongated as possible.

So yeah, the teacher wanted us to do that, in demi pointe, and I just pictured the power company guys staring at our bums. ‘Would you mind changing that step in the sequence, please? Just that one…’

I tell you, those guys will tell everyone at work for ages about the day they had to go to that dance studio.

Anyway, the guys went away and we continued our exercises, and then…

Power outage!

We were just wrapping up at center, but we still had one sequence to go. So the teacher asked if we had flashlights in our cell phones, and we all put them with the lights on under the mirrored wall, facing us in center, and finished class.

Ballet in the dark. For ballet nerds only.

First class

Ok, kids – sit down, I’m going to tell you a story.

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away – which translates into almost 3 years ago, in a studio 40 minutes away from home (by foot), I had my first ballet class.

A friend of mine (not that close, really, but we had a small group who e-mailed everyday) sent a message saying she was starting ballet. I had just started in a new job, wasn’t very excited about anything by then, and thinking about how I was still adjusting to my new routine, replied something like “hey girl, kudos to you! I’ve always wanted to take ballet classes since I had to stop when I was 14, so do it for me!”

And she simply replied “I am not doing anything for anyone but me. If you want to do it, just go and DO IT!”

OMG. Challenge accepted! Oh yeah!

Started looking around for places near home to take classes, found a studio really close which advertised adult beginner classical ballet and dropped by to watch some of it.

I still remember the teacher, a young man who walked around as if he was in Swan Lake or something, great posture, great technique. He was the substitute that evening, and I couldn’t help noticing everyone in class was barefoot and did not use leotards or even tights. Ended up finding out that it was not much of a classical ballet class, because after all the studio belonged to a famous contemporary ballerina. So not what I was looking for.

Found out that there was another studio just a few more blocks away from home, but classes would start at8:30 – I didn’t want to come back around 9:30 or 10 at night, wouldn’t feel safe walking home alone and let’s face it, I have to wake up at 5 am, so I’d probably fall asleep mid class! So another no.

So I went to the studio that was further from home, but still in a walking distance. Sort of. 40 minutes walk. But class would end by 7pm, so I thought it could work somehow – if I loved it!

Let me think, that was … February 2011. 28th February, just googled the dates. I think I still have my diary from back then, and I bet there is a smiley face right next to “Ballet class” on that date. I like giving myself smiley faces. I remember the date because it was the week right before Carnaval, which means … wait, I’m rushing ahead myself.

So there I went, called the studio, they said they were trying to open a new class, was I interested? Yes, ma’am! Ok, we’ll call you if it goes ahead. They called the next day, I think, so I went there for a first try.

Remember I said I would walk to the studio? It was pouring rain that day! And they said I could use socks instead of ballet slippers on the first class, so I got to do my first class in horrible dripping thick socks. I can’t remember if I kept them the whole class, but I’m not a barefoot girl, so I’d say I probably did. Felt ashamed, I won’t lie, but I was so happy for taking ballet class! I was hooked right away, take my money, where do I sign??

If I got the date correctly from my memory, it was a Monday, and so the next class would be on Wednesday – I rushed to a dancewear store before class (they have the bad habit of closing one hour before every other store on the street! Stupid them.), got 2 leos, 2 tights, one pair of leather slippers (thought they’d be easier to clean than the canvas ones) and headed to class.

Bummer that Carnaval would be next week, so I’d have to wait 10 days or so before coming back!

But I was sooo happy. 🙂

Again – ballet is hard

Yesterday, Nice Teacher told us she got dumped by the guy who wanted to go deep in a relationship with her. Even better: the guy finally understood that she was not searching for a long-term relationship with him at the moment.

But even when you are not into the guy, it’s always hard to get the boot, right?

So class was about FOCUS. Probably because Nice Teacher was trying to convince herself that she did the right thing about the guy, because she is focusing in looking for The One – and she didn’t think it was that dude.

Anyway, focus in class was all about thinking really hard about every single movement. So pliés were Really Really Hard – imagine you’re trapped between two walls, you can’t move in any direction but down, while pushing really hard with your knees to the imaginary wall behind you (“imagine there’s a ball behind each knee, you have to plié while keeping the ball against the wall”). With your tummy in, head high, long neck, engaged arms in secod.

You know. All that ballet stuff that eventually, hopefully, will be our auto mode.

And it made me realise that it’s been quite some time since I tried to think of everything at once. In ballet class, obviously, in general life I am ALWAYS thinking about everything at once!

So we went through the usual sequence of barre – pliés, tendus, jetés, up until ronde de jambes. Then without any notice, all three of us were sitting on the floor. The teacher called us to watch closely while she showed us how to engage the thigh muscles, so we went down and… couldn’t go up anymore!

We were TIRED! All that consciousness really did it for the rest of class, so Nice Teacher gave us 20 minutes of stretching exercises to finish class – but made us promise we’ll finish the barre next time.

So ballet is still hard – and I still don’t know what to do about Prima Ballerina. Let’s see how today’s class goes.

Plié against the wall

Torn

Dear ballet people, I am still torn about leaving the old studio.

Yesterday the girls from the other class didn’t show, so it was just me and one of the girls from the classical team. Haha that’s a great pun!

So anyway… before class we were talking between ourselves about why the heck the teacher was so in love with the new girls, and why they were getting all those tips and corrections and we were not getting anything really…

So when class started we mentioned (well, actually, my friend mentioned and I followed and vigorously endorsed) that we loved the corrections – please, teacher, correct us in anything you want!

And then, as usual, when there are few people in class, we all talk way more than usual – and the teacher started saying why she never touched us (you know, to put us in the right posture and things like that), because when she was a ballet student she would completely lose her balance when the teacher touched her. And that she preferred to say things out loud as corrections, because she profited from what her teachers said to the other students in her class.

We completely agreed, and said we also loved learning from corrections aimed at others, and please, please!, fire away!

And she did it, and it ended up being a great class.

So now what?! Should I stay or should I go, like the annoying song says?

Ballet is hard – in so many ways!!