For those who have suffered stress fractures (and worse) during the course of the Winter season and performances. This may help to speed your healing process somewhat. Purely a labor of love….
For those who have suffered stress fractures (and worse) during the course of the Winter season and performances. This may help to speed your healing process somewhat. Purely a labor of love….
We do not see ourselves as others see us, do we? Sometimes we form a somewhat higher opinion of ourselves than is warranted in some areas, and at other times we see ourselves as having all of the possible faults, and none of the attributes-sometimes we are very hard on ourselves, and do not let ourselves shine through. We stifle ourselves, for lack of a better word. We look, but we fail to SEE. Seeing really is an ART. We can emerge, like a butterfly, from a cocoon, or possibly, we feel we could fail to metamorphosis into a butterfly? NO, we all morph into butterflies.
But, at this stage of growing up, it is important to pat ourselves on the back for jobs well done and realize that all of those jobs cannot lie on the same plane, some things have to give, to make room for the important ones. One cannot take every little thing so seriously and sometimes when you realize this and stop beating yourself over the head for it, things fall into place [
AH, EXCELLENT book]
as they should and you can just coast along, enjoying the ride for a change. It is about enjoying life, one day at a time.
You know you have to jump off, but you can become (almost) entirely relaxed about the point at which you need to jump. You can pause TIME. Use time more efficiently, when you do not worry-practice deliberately not worrying-and then you can become expert at it, like the dancer who can complete 64 beats of the feet in the air before landing-not recorded since Nijinsky, but absolutely possible to DO! Like taking your hat off when the string breaks and setting it down, with composure, dancing on, as if that were your intention all along. And eventually, it just happens, you realize there are at least two of you in there, one who knows what to do when the other has %^&*(up. You then jump as fast and as hard as you can, while you can, because you can, and you LIKE IT! LOVE IT! Bask in that power.
Appreciate every moment, but then lie down. Look up at the trees with the sun shining through them and watch the wind gently moving their boughs, rustling their leaves, do an encore. Take your bow. You deserve it. And wait for your next chance! But there have to be those moments when you enjoy the fruits of your labor, when you stop worrying about the future so much and enjoy the present. That present is NOW-in case you hadn’t noticed. Don’t apologize for being you. Be you. Make that a you you like to be though. That elephant up there loves himself. You can tell. He just does and I bet he doesn’t even think that he is an elephant!
It is necessary as a young person to pass through this phase, because it allows us to make all of these glorious mistakes, waste all of this (valuable) time feeling all kinds of feelings, sometimes losing the sense of the present, and the joy in it, with our faces pressed to the glass, and we emerge a swan ourselves in spite of all of our efforts to thwart the process! But do not let some adult like me tell you not to have and enjoy all of those feelings, too. They are yours. What would happen if we went along with the process? Did not rebel? Would we achieve more, watch time passing, be more aware of what is happening around us. Doubtful-it wouldn’t be life and adolescence and youth any other way. Is it like a sixth sense? Kind of. Knowing those who have all gone before us as we continue to go.
The process is important in all phases and one should relish those opportunities for change and excitement and new things. For knowledge. New insights will come at every turn, so turns and twists are very important. Without them, no change, no excitement, no epiphanies can occur. Motion makes change and action makes motion. It is the unstable part of youth where we begin to fear the possibility of the future passing us by-don’t let it-not-a-second! Think of all of the other possibilities! For 20 years later, those of us who do not fully live, regret what we did not do, will have unfulfilled expectations. We will remember when we could have amounted to so much, done so much, if only we had given it out all when we had all to give…..and that fear, for it is the only valid one, somehow gives us the momentum, if not the incentive, we need to move ahead, for surely nothing happens if we sit still-time passes us by as we feared.
(It is short and meant to be read out loud, spoken to hear the rhythm)
Edward FitzGerald's Translation (1889). 1 Awake! for Morning in the Bowl of Night Has flung the Stone that puts the Stars to Flight: And Lo! the Hunter of the East has caught The Sultan's Turret in a Noose of Light. 2 Dreaming when Dawn's Left Hand was in the Sky I heard a Voice within the Tavern cry, "Awake, my Little ones, and fill the Cup "Before Life's Liquor in its Cup be dry." 3 And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before The Tavern shouted--"Open then the Door! "You know how little while we have to stay, "And, once departed, may return no more." 4 Now the New Year reviving old Desires, The thoughtful Soul to Solitude retires, Where the WHITE HAND OF MOSES on the Bough Puts out, and Jesus from the Ground suspires. ***** 5 Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose, And Jamshyd's Sev'n-ring'd Cup where no one knows; But still the Vine her ancient Ruby yields, And still a Garden by the Water blows. 6 And David's Lips are lock't; but in divine High piping Pehlevi, with "Wine! Wine! Wine! "Red Wine!"---the Nightingale cries to the Rose That yellow Cheek of hers to incarnadine. 7 Come, fill the Cup, and in the Fire of Spring The Winter Garment of Repentance fling: The Bird of Time has but a little way To fly---and Lo! the Bird is on the Wing. 8 And look---a thousand Blossoms with the Day Woke---and a thousand scatter'd into Clay: And this first Summer Month that brings the Rose Shall take Jamshyd and Kaikobad away. ***** 9 But come with old Khayyam, and leave the Lot Of Kaikobad and Kaikhosru forgot! Let Rustum lay about him as he will, Or Hatim Tai cry Supper---heed them not. 10 With me along some Strip of Herbage strown That just divides the desert from the sown, Where name of Slave and Sultan scarce is known, And pity Sultan Mahmud on his Throne. 11 Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough, A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse---and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness--- And Wilderness is Paradise enow. 12 "How sweet is mortal Sovranty!"---think some: Others---"How blest the Paradise to come!" Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest; Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum! ***** 13 Look to the Rose that blows about us---"Lo, "Laughing," she says, "into the World I blow: "At once the silken Tassel of my Purse "Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw." 14 The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon Turns Ashes---or it prospers; and anon, Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face Lighting a little Hour or two---is gone. 15 And those who husbanded the Golden Grain, And those who flung it to the Winds like Rain, Alike to no such aureate Earth are turn'd As, buried once, Men want dug up again. 16 Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai Whose Doorways are alternate Night and Day, How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp Abode his Hour or two, and went his way. ***** 17 They say the Lion and the Lizard keep The Courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep; And Bahram, that great Hunter---the Wild Ass Stamps o'er his Head, and he lies fast asleep. 18 I sometimes think that never so red The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled; That every Hyacinth the Garden wears Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head. 19 And this delightful Herb whose tender Green Fledges the River's Lip on which we lean--- Ah, lean upon it lightly! for who knows From what once lovely Lip it springs unseen! 20 Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears--- To-morrow?---Why, To-morrow I may be Myself with Yesterday's Sev'n Thousand Years. ***** 21 Lo! some we loved, the loveliest and best That Time and Fate of all their Vintage prest, Have drunk their Cup a Round or two before, And one by one crept silently to Rest. 22 And we, that now make merry in the Room They left, and Summer dresses in new Bloom, Ourselves must we beneath the Couch of Earth Descend, ourselves to make a Couch---for whom? 23 Ah, make the most of what we yet may spend, Before we too into the Dust descend; Dust into Dust, and under Dust, to lie, Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and---sans End! 24 Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare, And those that after a TO-MORROW stare, A Muezzin from the Tower of Darkness cries "Fools! your Reward is neither Here nor There!" ***** 25 Why, all the Saints and Sages who discuss'd Of the Two Worlds so learnedly, are thrust Like foolish Prophets forth; their Words to Scorn Are scatter'd, and their Mouths are stopt with Dust. 26 Oh, come with old Khayyam, and leave the Wise To talk; one thing is certain, that Life flies; One thing is certain, and the Rest is Lies; The Flower that once has blown for ever dies. 27 Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument About it and about: but evermore Came out by the same Door as in I went. 28 With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow, And with my own hand labour'd it to grow: And this was all the Harvest that I reap'd--- "I came like Water, and like Wind I go." ***** 29 Into this Universe, and why not knowing, Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing: And out of it, as Wind along the Waste, I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing. 30 What, without asking, hither hurried whence? And, without asking, whither hurried hence! Another and another Cup to drown The Memory of this Impertinence! 31 Up from Earth's Centre through the Seventh Gate I rose, and on the Throne of Saturn sate, And many Knots unravel'd by the Road; But not the Knot of Human Death and Fate. 32 There was a Door to which I found no Key: There was a Veil past which I could not see: Some little Talk awhile of ME and THEE There seemed---and then no more of THEE and ME. ***** 33 Then to the rolling Heav'n itself I cried, Asking, "What Lamp had Destiny to guide "Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?" And---"A blind Understanding!" Heav'n replied. 34 Then to this earthen Bowl did I adjourn My Lip the secret Well of Life to learn: And Lip to Lip it murmur'd---"While you live "Drink!---for once dead you never shall return." 35 I think the Vessel, that with fugitive Articulation answer'd, once did live, And merry-make; and the cold Lip I kiss'd How many Kisses might it take---and give! 36 For in the Market-place, one Dusk of Day, I watch'd the Potter thumping his wet Clay: And with its all obliterated Tongue It murmur'd---"Gently, Brother, gently, pray!" ***** 37 Ah, fill the Cup:---what boots it to repeat How Time is slipping underneath our Feet: Unborn TO-MORROW, and dead YESTERDAY, Why fret about them if TO-DAY be sweet! 38 One Moment in Annihilation's Waste, One Moment, of the Well of Life to taste--- The Stars are setting and the Caravan Starts for the Dawn of Nothing---Oh, make haste! 39 How long, how long, in infinite Pursuit Of This and That endeavour and dispute? Better be merry with the fruitful Grape Than sadden after none, or bitter, Fruit. 40 You know, my Friends, how long since in my House For a new Marriage I did make Carouse: Divorced old barren Reason from my Bed, And took the Daughter of the Vine to Spouse. ***** 41 For "IS" and "IS-NOT" though with Rule and Line, And "UP-AND-DOWN" without, I could define, I yet in all I only cared to know, Was never deep in anything but---Wine. 42 And lately, by the Tavern Door agape, Came stealing through the Dusk an Angel Shape Bearing a Vessel on his Shoulder; and He bid me taste of it; and 'twas---the Grape! 43 The Grape that can with Logic absolute The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute: The subtle Alchemist that in a Trice Life's leaden Metal into Gold transmute. 44 The mighty Mahmud, the victorious Lord, That all the misbelieving and black Horde Of Fears and Sorrows that infest the Soul Scatters and slays with his enchanted Sword. ***** 45 But leave the Wise to wrangle, and with me The Quarrel of the Universe let be: And, in some corner of the Hubbub coucht, Make Game of that which makes as much of Thee. 46 For in and out, above, about, below, 'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show, Play'd in a Box whose Candle is the Sun, Round which we Phantom Figures come and go. 47 And if the Wine you drink, the Lip you press, End in the Nothing all Things end in ---Yes--- Then fancy while Thou art, Thou art but what Thou shalt be---Nothing---Thou shalt not be less. 48 While the Rose blows along the River Brink, With old Khayyam the Ruby Vintage drink: And when the Angel with his darker Draught Draws up to Thee---take that, and do not shrink. ***** 49 'Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays: Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays, And one by one back in the Closet lays. 50 The Ball no Question makes of Ayes and Noes, But Right or Left, as strikes the Player goes; And He that toss'd Thee down into the Field, *He* knows about it all---He knows---HE knows! 51 The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it. 52 And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky, Whereunder crawling coop't we live and die, Lift not thy hands to *It* for help---for It Rolls impotently on as Thou or I. ***** 53 With Earth's first Clay They did the Last Man's knead, And then of the Last Harvest sow'd the Seed: Yea, the first Morning of Creation wrote What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read. 54 I tell Thee this---When, starting from the Goal, Over the shoulders of the flaming Foal Of Heav'n Parvin and Mushtara they flung, In my predestin'd Plot of Dust and Soul 55 The Vine had struck a Fibre; which about If clings my Being---let the Sufi flout; Of my Base Metal may be filed a Key, That shall unlock the Door he howls without 56 And this I know: whether the one True Light, Kindle to Love, or Wrathconsume me quite, One Glimpse of It within the Tavern caught Better than in the Temple lost outright. ***** 57 Oh, Thou, who didst with Pitfall and with Gin Beset the Road I was to wander in, Thou wilt not with Predestination round Enmesh me, and impute my Fall to Sin? 58 Oh, Thou, who Man of baser Earth didst make, And who with Eden didst devise the Snake; For all the Sin wherewith the Face of Man Is blacken'd, Man's Forgiveness give---and take! KUZA-NAMA ("Book of Pots.") 59 Listen again. One Evening at the Close Of Ramazan, ere the better Moon arose, In that old Potter's Shop I stood alone With the clay Population round in Rows. 60 And, strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot Some could articulate, while others not: And suddenly one more impatient cried--- "Who *is* the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?" ***** 61 Then said another---"Surely not in vain "My Substance from the common Earth was ta'en, "That He who subtly wrought me into Shape "Should stamp me back to common Earth again." 62 Another said---"Why, ne'er a peevish Boy, "Would break the Bowl from which he drank in Joy; "Shall He that *made* the Vessel in pure Love "And Fancy, in an after Rage destroy!" 63 None answer'd this; but after Silence spake A Vessel of a more ungainly Make: "They sneer at me for learning all awry; "What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?" 64 Said one---"Folk of a surly Tapster tell "And daub his Visage with the Smoke of Hell; "They talk of some strict Testing of us---Pish! "He's a Good Fellow, and 't will all be well." ***** 65 Then said another with a long-drawn Sigh, "My Clay with long oblivion is gone dry: "But, fill me with the old familiar Juice, "Methinks I might recover by-and-bye!" 66 So while the Vessels one by one were speaking, One spied the little Crescent all were seeking: And then they jogg'd each other, "Brother! Brother! "Hark to the Porter's Shoulder-knot a-creaking!" 67 Ah, with the Grape my fading Life provide, And wash my Body whence the Life has died, And in the Windingsheet of Vine-leaf wrapt, So bury me by some sweet Garden-side. 68 That ev'n my buried Ashes such a Snare Of Perfume shall fling up into the Air, As not a True Believer passing by But shall be overtaken unaware. ***** 69 Indeed the Idols I have loved so long Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong: Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup, And sold my Reputation for a Song. 70 Indeed, indeed, Repentance oft before I swore---but was I sober when I swore? And then and then came Spring, and Rose-in-hand My thread-bare Penitence apieces tore. 71 And much as Wine has play'd the Infidel And robb'd me of my Robe of Honour---well, I often wonder what the Vintners buy One half so precious as the Goods they sell. 72 Alas, that Spring should vanish with the Rose! That Youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close! The Nightingale that in the Branches sang, Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows! ***** 73 Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire, Would not we shatter it to bits---and then Re-mould it nearer to the Heart's Desire! 74 Ah, Moon of my Delight who Know'st no wane The Moon of Heav'n is rising once again: How oft hereafter rising shall she look Through this same Garden after me---in vain! 75 And when Thyself with shining Foot shall pass Among the Guests Star-scatter'd on the Grass, And in thy joyous Errand reach the Spot Where I made one---turn down an empty Glass! TAMAM SHUD (It is completed.) *****
Self loathing passes, too, many of the doubts, and all the uncomfortableness of the onset of maturity, with the acceptance of ourselves, but not complacency (!). We need to kick if only to make sure we still can. This process takes time and energy itself, and if we can just keep busy, active, focus our energies into the positive, second by second, minute by minute, day by day, we pass through it, and it cannot depress/suppress us so much if we use some of the indomitable will we possess innately, to repress IT, to conquer IT, and our own self-doubts. It is important however, now, to keep moving, to keep busy, and to keep dancing, pressing on, because we must go through the whole inevitable period of self-examination, self-prejudice and fault-finding in order to come through it a learned person, knowing the most about ourselves (whom we should know), a stronger person and one more grounded in who we really are and what we can really accomplish if we put our mind to it, and to finally realize that after our heartbreaks and changes, we are complex and fascinating and beautiful people, and not a shell, like the ones held up in photographs and poses, not fake and pasty pearls,, made shiny for the instant, but sea-hewn and rock hard, with mirrored finish and indomitable strength-the challenge is to be a better, stronger person and to emerge loving our faults, embracing them, and liking ourselves better for them, for they are actually our strengths-sometimes it is slow going, just a little of ourselves better each day, like washing an arm or the neck, with love, a little bit better every time, and a little more, if not love, then respect and awe, because we alone did it-made it through. It is us.
Our perseverance teaches us that we were better than we thought we were, and that there IS improvement in the way we see ourselves. Self-loving, self respecting and generous in our accomplishments to ourselves. Thankful. It requires bigger thinking. Huge thinking. And yet simple logic-a stronger brain. Some can articulate and some do not.
More importantly, we will emerge from this journey to find that we are still in the running-the race is not run, there is still time and even more importantly, more and better races, to be proud of not only how much we have accomplished, but realize we do possess that extra bit of mettle necessary to make it through the fire and survive and go again. All of this is coming, the hard part is looking it in the eye and moving forward with the courage and conviction necessary to achieve even half of what we set out to do, first we leave the gate, and then finishing up the rest of it like dessert because we finally realize we do have room and the ability! Then we look back and go, “Wow. What if I had stopped? It is about hanging on, baby. It is about the survival of the fittest, not just being super flexible and posing. It is about dancing and spirit and tenacity. A dancer is not born, a dancer is made. It is about hard work, now more than ever! It is about love, too.
I guess I was told in my twenties by my then husband, that my body changed (all the time). I couldn’t see it. I was a little vexed with him. But he was honest, though I did not (want) to realize it at the time. Sometimes I dieted, but usually I didn’t have to=the less I got on the scale or thought about it, the less I ate. Before I knew it, I was slim again. Svelte. Once told no one rocked the little black dress better! I didn’t think that day would come, but it was true. I just had not seen it all along. What a waste! Worrying about anything, never made it happen, or unhappen, but it took experience even to know that. Discipline is a part of it, but like other areas of life, you have to find solutions that work for you, aren’t really sacrifices, and it takes a while to prefer the taste of some foods over seemingly better-tasting ones. You can choose healthy and still taste good! If weird things aren’t your bag, by all means don’t eat things you don’t like. People were eating healthily before Whole Foods! Diets also aren’t meant to be permanent=that’s why you start eating better and you just learn to eat better forever. But in our teens, some people develop weird eating disorders and issues because of fad diets, body image issues, peer pressure, media, and the rest-sometimes their parents foist those problems upon them, because they want to create phobias like “your teeth will fall out!”, “you will put your eye out with that!”, “you do not want to be FAT!”. But there is fact and fiction. Nature guides us, too. That is why it is important to eat what you like, and use moderation in all things.
Teenagers do not see the rest of their lives, they only see the right now this minute and it is because of this that they are vulnerable to all sorts of things. When we realize there is a tomorrow and another slice of pizza or a bagel in the FUTURE, we do not look at the one today as if it is going to be the last one EVER! Trust me, at forty I was sick of Chicken, Beef, and Pork so Fish became much more appealing, and other options sprung up! Vegetables and other foods became interesting and playful until I was not eating very much neat all of a sudden, only sporadically. Nature must have intended it that way. Having worked in a bakery, I can say honestly that I hate baked goods! I had my fill of Napoleans, Cannoli, cakes and pies-For the most part food is ever plentiful and ever available. A cornucopia awaits, never empty! I completely gave up fad diets when I realized that I could honestly eat a favorite food once a day for the rest of my life and it would always be different, never ending, and the thought kind of bored me, like ohhh….kind of like the number of restaurants in New York-you can go to a different one three times per day, and STILL never try all of them in your whole life.
The key is to see if we want it as badly in 5 minutes or this evening, tomorrow, or on Saturdays or Sundays, teaching restraint and perspective. Mostly perspective. That way, by 6pm, tomorrow or Sunday, something nearly always looks better, and we begin to see how whimsical our choices are on the spur of the moment. When we are craving something, and fail to see how recent exercise or physical need might be the culprit-that our bodies crave certain foods, at certain times, and why. Unfortunately, I do not know a good book on this subject, but I do know of a writer who deals with it in dancers specifically. I have posted several articles by her from her blog. She is full of good advice and offers recipes and facts on food. But the information is everywhere and in our brains there is common sense. You have to eat right. Live right. Eat a wide variety-variety is the spice of life! Take care in preparing your food, eating your food and enjoying your food. Sit and eat. Don’t run and eat for then you just feel hungry and as though you haven’t eaten at all. Mealtime should be a ritual. A time to sit and relax, and eat enough. Don’t overeat. Don’t try not to eat, rather eat something good and juicy, healthy, enriching, flavorful, whatever. Eat less, but eat more! Enjoy food. It nourishes you!
We all prefer to see ourselves as we once were, whether that was a nubile young thing, a mature teenager, “in my twenties”, “before I was married,” and it goes on, so that by the time we are 51 or 94 we are able to (at least) pick and choose which body we want to be, which period we most liked and ALL of them have reasons to be liked, eventually. But we are much more than a body. I would much rather be someone, if I could, and not just her body! We just have to be mature enough it seems to finally LIKE all of them that we are, that we have been. And you will. In time. For me, it did happen young, it has happened, and now I am perhaps too comfortable with myself….Sometimes I wish I could just pick any one of those former selves and be that for a night out, a day in class, at the beach, in my paddling pool, again. But I realize I am all of those, too, and much more. I am a complete package and to extract one of those different bodies is impossible, because a human is an organism and changing all the time. Those images are literally in our mind like a snapshot in time. Our image of ourselves might be static, but we are never just as we remembered anyway. We are live actions figures and not dolls!
We really were different and changing all the time, like the sea. As women, we change daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and as different systems in our bodies take over, work on their own for different reasons, from birth through life, such as when we bring a life into the world, and as we get older, we change sometimes drastically. Would we deny our baby’s good health by fretting too much over our own self-image during gestation? Cheat the wisdom of old age? No, it would spoil the emotional moment of our lives, and risk our baby’s health. Why would we treat ourselves differently? Risk our own health? Worse?
We don’t want to interfere or to control that body too much until we are perfectly comfortable with its ebbs and flows. It can take care of itself. We just have to learn what those are. They have a rhythm too. We just have to love it and deal with it. Some cultures celebrate all those changes! Some people never learn acceptance of themselves. They do not realize these things. They do not love themselves-it isn’t the food. Their behavior is boring and repetitive and predictable. I cannot imagine thinking about it all of the time, worrying about it all of the time, wasting time feeling bad with what-ifs and denying myself things I like-in moderation.
Sometimes it takes less time to control radical changes, other times , sometimes more, but I wish I had known then what I know now-that at least is unanimous among people. In the case of adolescence, people make it through. I remember looking in the mirror in a store changing room after my first child and going, “What the???” Even that changed and healed. Passed. A few years later, back into my stride, someone commented about how (based upon my appearance) it really was true that dancer’s bodies just sprang back, at how amazing my physique was, but I saw all my faults-or were they? It was at that point that I began to think differently, realizing I was good. Okay. Better even. Like scars, maybe our faults or perceived flaws, give us a kind of character, a chance to build on them, to strengthen, to love, they are a marker of where we have been even, cliche, but true. Unavoidable and part of life, so why fret life? But, so do all of those mental phases and other memories, which become associated with times of our lives and are woven into the fabric of US, who we become, and cannot be separated. Don’t get lint in your warp! So make the most of them, enjoy what you can, and take time to smell the flowers. Make good memories, too. Eat what you want. My mother was good at telling me not to worry. She said I did not have to worry about getting fat. She was right. At my age it is when I look into the mirror to make a physical assessment, it is not like it used to be and yet, I am surprised that I do not look as bad as I feel. Sometimes I check and make myself laugh-I am still there, I am still me. Thank GOD. There was a time when I would not always like what I saw, I was too critical. I just didn’t see me! Now I do, and I am happy to greet ME!
I see the chubby girls with glowing skin, beautiful eyes, buxom beauties, so to speak, I see the slender girls with knowledge that they meet a certain body type, and I see natural beauty in all sorts of people, and less beauty in that which is continually thrust before me in media etc. I remember once closeted in an elevator in college with a bohemian film type and he prefessed his deep regard fo me and my Rubenesque (Rubens was a painter of scantily-clad and fleshy nymphs) figure. I was not Rubenesque, but even if I was to him, I was loved! I was appalled and fairly ran from the elevator. I see the marketing industry changing and attempting to glamorize fat, and obesity in order to market fashion for it. So the focus on weight has shifted from one end of the spectrum, to try to capitalize on people being fat, in other ways, and I do not mean weight loss centers-I mean fashion and money. Keeping them fat is big business nowadays. They even try to market fat food to fat people!
I do think people need to be disciplined and eat what they need and not waste the food on the planet. I think fat is fat, and if you love a person you want them to be healthy, not fat. If someone you love gets fat, would you leave them? But that goes to values and people. We should love people not ideals. But when someone is perfectly healthy and not fat, and is just seeing fat which is not there, which is their beautiful body and that person is not fat, I am concerned with what that person is worrying about and why they think they are fat. Obesity is a health issue. Dancers are healthy….
I would tell someone they do not look fat, I would not judge, I would say, “you look fine.” I tell anyone the truth who asks. Eat right. You are healthy. You’re you. What are you worried about. You are perfectly normal. And I do not like ballet companies who only hire dancers that are of one body type because usually they are not all good dancers. Boring. If I wanted to see a lot of strings on the stage I would cover it with silly string (and save alot of money-and make a statement). Lines are not about weight, and dancing is not about weight (partnering IS), but here I might insert good partner and bad partner-people who do not want to lift their own weight, let alone other dancers. Tall girls weigh more than small girls-they just do. There is someone for everyone. Ballet is about ART and art is not about modelling or fashion-art is not pop. Art is about truth and beauty and other things. It is about strength and agility, stamina and interpretation. It is about entertainment, and not only one person’s who is creating the piece. It is for the world and the whole world is not going to judge by image. They judge by talent, ability and beauty and many other things. It is not all orgiastic claptrap and perfect bodies. That is pretentious and real art, passionate art is anything BUT pretentious! They do not want to admit it, and say, “so and so is just g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s!”, and what they mean is “I am saying the right thing.” But they speak false. If truth is beauty, and beauty is truth, how can truth be false or false be beautiful…..? That is as much posing as anything and that is not art. No matter how deep they try to make it appear to be, some of it is just like a 45 minute fashion show and I do not find that moving, or relevant-except in context possibly, or meaningful. It is certainly not a forever theme. It is not real. It is not engaging. It is not interesting. It’s not even history. It is more a political statement than anything and art is not, or should not be, politics. It is boring! Perfect bodies have not necessarily been perfect artists-they have been perfect bodies. That is all. Not always perfect dancers. Some just can barely dance! Dancers have muscles and strength. They have to. Rarely do the two combine…..I love imperfections. They are unique! If you look hard enough, everyone has them. But don’t dwell on them-look at the dancing! And keep on dancing!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Perfect little cherub mine! What was important about this year? Ooh, too much to really go into detail about completely. A thinking year, rather than a writing one. What am I thankful for? Me. I am thankful for me. I am sitting at my desk, really a makeshift bingo table, surrounded by a mound of paperwork and receipts that I have to pile through, and too soon the holiday will be over and I will have to get down to business. But right this minute as I look at the reflection of the Christmas-treeless house in my toaster (which is on my desk), I am thankful for the people in my life. I am thankful to be able to accept celebrating Christmas without the fru-fru which is associated with it, and instead of looking at the meaning, finding the meaning. I have three pine cones and just two of them are on the tree currently, but the other has not fallen far away from it as it turns out. Pine cones are usually near the pine tree, but sometimes I have found one well away from any pine tree, but I always notice a pine cone-I know what it is. It stands out. I never really understood what other parents went through when a child left home, even to go to a boarding school-same thing really. In fact I have never approved of boarding schools. Once they are gone, there is always another program, another school, another reason, until they are truly gone. Don’t want to think about that! My daughter is finally home on her winter break.
I am trying to get as much out of her as I can and it is not enough information, not enough cuddling, not enough of all that is her-like a lemon that you just cannot keep squeezing because it only has so much juice. I am waited to see if she had it in her to go back, on her own. What she would do. So many questions-NO answers, only action to keep on track, keep moving forward. Sometimes sadly, one can never go back. Only in our minds. That process of looking back is a dangerous one in a way, signalling no new action ahead.
Sometimes it would be hard for a teenager to ever think that one day, they might want to go back to those days when they were with their siblings, their parents, grandparents, pets, their friends, their first loves, their naivete and innocence, but I see it very clearly (almost) now, and rushing over the rocks and coals at 15 becomes sitting on them and looking around at 100. You want to hold everyone, every moment, every nuance, look around, enjoy the tapestry that has been your real-life, cherish those memories. Right now you are busy making those memories. Maybe it is not too wise to look back too soon, for we might get into the habit of it, slowing down, thinking before we act. BAH!!!
She came home for only about 10 days and was fully encased in a stage of adolescence which I remember well-the one where you think the worst of yourself, the best of yourself, you complain, you cheer, you whine, you laugh, you are sick with a cold and things could not seem to be good at all, now or ever, and the next minute is the best time of your life-and she left not even four months ago as my baby girl. She still is though and she wants to say so, she instead says, “Mom, stop babying me.” I do not know what to say to her. I have changed, too. Sort of. But in this particular stage of adolescence you might feel miserable and you feel as if everyone sees the changes too, but they don’t. Your body is changing, you have matured suddenly, as if you just came out of a cocoon, and you are not sure the world is trustworthy or going to let you be what you want to be more than anything no matter how hard you try. Some of the things you have banked on carrying you through, fail the test of time, and you realize you are judged on more grown-up, serious merits, like whether you can deliver, and then, later, with aplomb. Other facets of yourself you have not even discovered yet, let alone polished, and it is often difficult to see those even as they appear day by day. Sometimes you feel you have wings to fly, other days you a a grounded bird.
I remember her speech when she was little, and Barney, the cat, little tiny toys and dolls, the dress-up and dancing-there was a song she sang all the time with a little lisp-“butterfee, butterfee, fee fee aweeee!!!!” and it literally brings tears to my eyes. I am a softy and ridiculous! And now right before my very eyes, as it probably should be, she has to become a young woman-there, while I am here. I do not want to miss any of it, for my own reasons. Entitlement-need I say more? While she has been gone I have let myself go-hair tousled and put hurriedly into a clip, the same shirt for sometimes two days before I notice anything, the same old clothes, food, dinners, shoes, and sights and sounds. Sometimes I do not even look at my nails. Depression, but I have been here before, and occasionally when I do think about it, I am surprised at myself, it not being worse than it is (pat pat pat), and just feeling sorry for myself and enjoying it-and that is okay-to a point. But my job isn’t really done yet, is it? I did say I was an artist, and crazy, for lack of funds does not make me an “eccentric.” It is though I am in mourning or just want to be-now if I could put that to good use. I want to be happy for her, want to encourage her, but a selfish little part of me just stands there stubbornly wanting her to melt down, admit she was wrong and needs me by her side. Quit. I am kidding myself. I find I don’t really want her to do that after all, so it becomes selfish again, and I realize that to be there for her, I have to be there for myself. Like myself, if I truly want her to succeed. The truth is she didn’t even notice. Maybe I was too officious, too smothering, too coddling, too close. Maybe she just knows I love her and feels basically secure !!!! I am sure that is it actually.
I think her mind was on more practical matters. She didn’t even admit to herself she missed us until well into the Fall semester, and then, she said, one day she just realized that she did. She missed her teachers, and me and her brothers, and her father and her cat. Even great-grandma, but she is stable and confident. So we all just miss her, really. She has moved on a little bit. But we are all part of her fabric, intrinsically. But right now, and that is the important point, is that moments should be treasured. All of them, good and bad. They all count for something later and they are all important, I think. Don’t be a would of/could of person. Do it all, if at all possible. Do everything you want to, can dream of. Don’t be shy. Open the door of opportunity.
She wanted to be here, but she didn’t want lectured or prodded or poked and she didn’t want to take ballet class! Her foot was swollen, hurt, she had calluses on the bottom of her feet which she would not let me treat, so I had to sneak lotion on them in the middle of the night (which worked wonders). Every muscle of her body hurt and she was waiting for her achilles and her knee to stop hurting (they did). Sometimes you HAVE to show them that the medicine WORKS. Proof, or they just will not cooperate….She did not last a cup of coffee in the mornings with me, to pump her for information=would not be pumped, and refused to chit-chat about what I wanted to. She was seemingly up before the crack of dawn and busy well into her day by the time the rest of us awoke. She wrote, she watched tv, she cuddled. She needed to do a million of things-nothing at all to my eyes, but little rituals to ground her, so she knew where she stood. She took what she needed from us. She brought up subjects to talk about on her own and finally I got the rhythm and the drift of her a little better. She is light years ahead of me as usual, planning, thinking, doing, busy all the time, growing. I took her to see a few friends and she was different, more mature, more confident-still sweet and nice as usual, but more ladylike. She had a far off look in her eyes sometimes. What was that???
Nothing I said to her was correct once we got past the niceties of missing one another and not having a chance to see each other for almost four months. I could say nothing right. She waved her arms and flew back onto her perch if I mentioned the wrong thing, led the conversation away from where she was willing to go, and cut me off if I persisted by flying off thusly to her sanctuary. So, I was forced to entice the little birdie with something to make her stay, keep her close as possible, and I simply gave in-my life to hers, as always, life is too short to argue. It does not have to always be my way, my answers, my questions. I just handed her the lead and said, “ok, you drive.” She is ready. At fifteen. Now I can just watch and put in a word here and there, but I do have to try to be careful what I say. It went much better after that.It was just a matter of who was to be boss, that’s all. I was content to be the neck that turns the head. But, she does have the lead and she knows it.
I told her it was all a phase, which it is, and I somehow think she already knew, but this is for her to know I knew she knew and what little advice I can give on certain subjects-to mothers/fathers or daughters.
She has decided on things, like her height is only going to be 5′ 4″, whether it gets to be taller or not, and her weight is going to be less than 115 pounds. She did really want two leotards and I got them for her. Very pretty ones on her. She bought two pairs of point shoes (not Repettoes!), and she refused everything else-choosing dental floss over the Bun Heads stock sewing kit, which she pronounced a “waste of money.” She said she didn’t think she would do the Winter Workshop at her school because she got back late, wouldn’t be cast in any good roles with those teachers, and because she needed time to work on her schoolwork, money, and she wanted to do auditions for Summer programs. Sometimes she just likes to be accepted, she doesn’t really want to go. She likes the experience, too. She prefers a one-on-one relationship with a good teacher over the three weeks of variety-it’s like a tease sometimes she thinks. Variety. She has certainly had that this year! Oh, and she was very sick when she came home. Flu, fever, tired and stayed in bed (mostly) the first few days.
Christmas Day she got a text from her aunt, whom she has been staying with. It said,”Please call your cousin today and wish her Merry Christmas or something. She is expecting you to.” She slept. Then, about 5pm another text read,” Don’t bother now, she is in bed. I am extremely disappointed in you.” This missive put her into a nearly hysterical spin, and tears, and she said she thought it was entirely thoughtless, cruel even and typically inconsiderate of the fact that she was sick, at home with her family, and apparently she felt safe in her cubbyhole, resenting the interference, the fact that even here, they could get to her. Even now. It almost resulted in her not being asked back and all that implies, but she took control of the situation after vetting and it worked out quite well, thankfully. I think she even missed them a little bit and they her. But she needed a place to go, to be alone, be with those who she felt really loved her and just be alone. Of course she wants us all there. She wanted someone entirely on her side. Me. She said so. What choice did I have????That she wasn’t a full-time politician? Just to be left alone-pretend they didn’t exist for TEN DAYS!!!!. Well…. yes, and no, I thought. It would only take her 10 minutes to make her “political” phone calls and be done with it. But that wasn’t the point, was it? By watching I was learning. No where to go and be alone. Important. But they in turn, are doing her a HUGE favor, taking responsibility for her, and I am grateful, even if she is not (thoughtfully) so.
She is no saint, but she is my baby. She did not have time to win them over, make them a priority and she was realizing that she could not make everything okay, make everyone like her the way she wanted to be liked-she didn’t have time, and even if she did, there were probably one hundred things she would do first, and she doesn’t care if everyone likes her.
I realize they will all take those values with them everywhere they go, that I must have done something right because they really are all terrific people, not just kids anymore. They are not dullards. Some adults or will be soon, and I have to shift gears. But I am not a sports car and I do not hit 60 in under 3 seconds anymore-or maybe I can. Maybe I can hit 60 if I give myself a chance. Maybe I just thought I was a sports car all along-it’s all perspective. Maybe this is the time for me to think of me and I am getting a window of opportunity of my own.
My daughter was having these little fits all over the place and when I told her that she could just be herself, a brat, and do all the things she could not do at her aunt and uncle’s, she just seemed to relax. She didn’t want to talk about ballet, school, nothing that I wanted to hear about-she said she had told me already. She really had, I just wanted to hear it all again. She is 15. 15, and needed to come home and let down for a little bit. Now my mother would have known that-gotten that, much more quickly than I did, or maybe not. Maybe I just don’t think I am a sports car. I might even be more like a toyota-low maintenance, but just goes, even without the oil changes. I am not a car at all! But sometimes I feel like one.
We should all be able to let our hair down at home, be who we are. It is very hard living somewhere else, under a different set of house rules, and surely everyone else to us seems more crazy than we are-there is that. Our normalcy- and it goes to who we really are, where we come from and all that. If we can laugh at it, have some good times, make some friends, take a joke, tell a joke. It’s all part of a topical patois that infects everyone. You can’t help looking around at everyone else, comparing yourselves…. She has had no one to nurture her, kiss her booboos, stretch her, nag her, and encourage her. There is jealousy at home and there, everywhere and she is tough. Support her, even minimally, and she does very well. Quite well. She has been doing it all herself and she is proving quite capable. She can’t be different, but hopefully she won’t read this yet and by the time she does, she will be. That is just the way it is, a little bit of this, of that, all goes into the melting pot, and out comes: “VOILA!” an independent person.
She came home a little lost, messy, tomboyish, rough on the edges and very tired (and sick), but she left like the queen! New coif, shoes, new boots, health and beauty supplies, shmancy leos, new point shoes and a proper wool coat. We broke the suitcase! So she had to take two of mine-and a new bookbag, so that weight can be distributed more evenly (in the future). It seems the next step is to give her a little more control over her own schedule, life and priorities. Help her help herself even further. If only I had a volunteer-but no one takes the place of a mother, really.
She went back in good condition, feeling that the thorough rest to her muscles (completely) would put her in good stead once classes started back. People were truly disappointed she did not come to class. No doubt anxious to compare themselves to her. Yet, that is not a bad thing. She just would not be budged and then it was also the money. She needed things. Considering the abilities of all the other dancers she sees everyday, their experience with performance, the requirements of learning new technique, a new mode of thinking, new teachers, new expectations, especially of learning and performing contemporary ballet, partnering, new choreography, and a totally new environment all around, as well as the continued conditioning and strengthening to improve upon the particular attributes and physical qualities of a classical ballet dancer which she deeply aspires to have down pat, and which she does not see in herself (all of the time), she is doing pretty well, well enough to go back for another semester! I think that in itself is incredible! Back into the ring! It is my daughter I am speaking of and not someone else-I need to remember sometimes who she is after all and there is nothing to indicate she would be someone else even after four months. She is a trooper.She is a true fighter. Ahem.
So to round off the old year, I bring a new concept to my blog-the ballet haiku! More haiku should be written about ballet. I am going to get busy, but it is hard to write a meaningful haiku……
Once there was a baby
her arm was broken at birth
she has made progress!
Technically-this is correct haiku form, but prettier as
Once a baby angel fell from the sky
and in her fall her wing was broken
now she flies!
Dancers are strange children. For what other persons would set out to achieve the impossible, inch by inch, seeking a kind of perfection and freedom which allows them to communicate to others more artfully, those existing ballets created for bodies conditioned for performing these unbelievable and frequently imperceptibly impossibly difficult steps and combinations of steps? To the untrained eye, this intentionally looks easier than it is. But as they attempt to achieve more and more of the masterpiece that remains in the dancer‘s brain, only the very successful are considered to be so, and no one but a consummate artist can detect many of the imperfections and flaws contained therein. Certainly, no one but ballet dancers understand this, or stand united on the subject. Modern dancers detest it. The public doesn’t get it. And the trick is after all of that, dancers are forbidden to let you see their hard work. It is truly an art only really appreciated, deeply, by the best. And only they can criticize it, develop it, or lay at our feet the secrets of it. For most dancers themselves, you will find, find it difficult, if not impossible to explain, not all of it, anyway. They try. Misogynists or mystics?
That photo is of Jose Limon. Sometimes, my thinking (and writing) delves into deeper, or more technical, areas where I am not an expert, but have concerns on the subject. Problems and experiences we have had may help to serve other people similarly facing such issues. That is by no means stating that I am, or have become, and expert on the subjects noted. It is very possible that I am wrong in stating some things, but I am thinking it out as I go-is there any other way? It is merely a line of thinking that I have found, or measures, which may prove to be, helpful to others. So I think, in this instance, I will share this. My daughter, has for some time been dancing and she is a hard worker. Because she started later, and had to learn so much to be caught up and prepared for her age level of dancing, she has traversed, in instances, very quickly, the long-practiced maneuvers, steps and poses of other ballet students, who frequently do not understand WHY they do things, or WHAT they are doing, but they do it everyday. So this is good for them, too. In addition to speeding up her practicum to achieve her dancer-sylph, she had had to work on her various short-comings.
All dancers have them. Each one, each area of the body needs to be fit, balanced and prepared for the hard work to come. getting to that point is obviously frustrating for even the best dancers (and the keeping it of it is also a repeated task). All dancers find they have some shortcomings. As the years, or levels, pile up, the dancing becomes more difficult, requiring the basic ability to execute various steps, and combinations correctly, and then more ability, and ultimately-perfection. But even at the preliminary stages when working, quickly, or more rapidly than they are accustomed to, and throughout your dancing career-however long that may be-foundation is forgotten in the moment of dancing, and you just dance as fast or as well as you can. It would admittedly be, a very tedious process, if one had to stop every minute or so, and correct oneself, be corrected, or think about it, but that is what needs to be done, and what should be done, but it is NOT what is done beyond the basic level for many dancers. This is how most injuries occur.
Over-training is another common way to injure oneself. In order to become better, faster, it is very easy to get hurt and when you add on to that any other frailties, anatomical differences, technical abilities or shortcomings, it is a recipe for injury of some kind, all kinds, and we are finding-most kinds. One injury, when working at so high a level of training, can spiral outward, on the mend, with less than active (not as active) muscles, and result in consequential injuries, either to the first, or new. You almost can’t stop, but then you HAVE to. Most injuries will get worse if you continue to dance on them making the recovery time inevitably longer and the possible injury itself-worse. My daughter’s injuries nearly all fall into this category, for nothing is essentially wrong with her-thank God. She is not deformed, has straight legs and only some hyperextension issues, which believe it or not is becoming more noticable with stretching and straining to become a ballerina. When anything is overstretched, it is a problem. Always.
She will have to watch out for these and many other injuries in the future, but for starters, these have been enough. In a nutshell, too soft pointe shoes (little support) resulted in an achilles injury (and a failure to really work her feet to make them stronger). While taking it easy on that (for months) and stretching to become able to do higher poses, achieve more turn-out and better grand jetes, she torqued her knee (and after 21 performances of Nutcracker, or something very close to that). Mind said, “turn-out” in plie, and knee refused. Overtraining and fatigue, I thought immediately. Then, while recuperating from that (80%) is about all I could rein her in-she experienced a deep groin pain preventing her from turning out at all, for no apparent reason. Many days had I suspiciously eyed her laying on the floor in the butterfly position, and thought,”too passive”, but….I was right, and wrong.
The hip injury is getting better, but for many weeks she has not been able to do much (involving turn-out) that does not cause pain. Oddly developpes do not hurt, while a simple ronde a terre-does, and a tendu! Movement of the whole leg in the hip joint. The hip. I came up with this after much research and found that most hip injuries in other dancers are down to five and we did want to rule-out the femoral fracture (Harkness/NYU). Whew! But all of them which did mention a pain, were on the outside or front of the hip and not deep inside it. The bad ones were deep, but, we knew it was
getting better and was not related to hip popping, so that ruled out all the rest except the femoral fracture-common to dancers, and she did not feel it was broken (she would deny it if it was!). They are very easy to break actually and require surgery…. Movements to the side hurt more and above the hip line in front??? Only certain positions means certain ligaments or muscles. Sometimes you can feel warmth (none), notice swelling (Ibuprofen), but she didn’t and neither ice nor heat were particularly effective. A warm bath might help, but it did not.
All of these things should be noted, and a journal should be kept following injuries so you can remember the activity associated with it that causes (caused) pain. My dancer cannot always recall what she was doing when it happened, especially if it becomes worse after class-could have been anything! A doctor will ask. The more you know, the better diagnosis they can give. Dancers do not like to think about their injuries, let alone, keep a journal of them. Morbid, but effective. Tell them to try recording it on their phones. Most Android phones have this capability and the recordings will show up in S Memo (or in Apps) and Media-they can find that; it is very handy for the lazy speakers. I did not say “lazy dancers.” These notes record by voice, too. Tell them to tell their phone to “record a memo.”
Her second injury, to the knee, I felt sure was related to her turn-out issues. I did not expect it was a turn-in issue. But is is. She has a great turn-out, but a poor turn-in. The doctor confirmed this, and we also ruled out hip or foot problems-basically they are perfect for life. We are still learning about dancing. Too much turn-out (stretching) has resulted in two injuries from weak turn-in-specifically the adductors and the hip muscles. If one is over turned out, and the body has to suddenly transition to a turn-in, and does not react quickly and forcefully enough-the counter-muscle strains-the one that helps you control turn-in and turn-out. Over turned-out-funny. In stretching, most dancers fail to realize strengthening has to be done in equal amounts as stretching, of the same muscles, for support and control. Teachers do not explain this. At all. And apparently, not effectively, especially for young students who have short attention spans.
For anyone involved in the serious study of dance, no doubt, the discussion of turn-out has arisen in class. You probably know by now if you have good or perfect turn-out because you will have heard it from teachers. It’s the next thing down from “feet.” Remarkably, many successful dancers have notably deficient turn-out. It is the actual foundation of all classical ballet. It is stated by doctors that the ease at which it is obtained (sometimes) appears to be correlated with the age at which dancing is begun. In short, turn-out is relative to ballet, therefore, it will be stated by some that it should be learned early. It is and it is not. Let me re-state that many professional dancers turn in all the time-they fail to remember to turn-out. It is perhaps the conditioning of it, not physiologically, but mentally, that makes it more well-remembered by the earlier you start, but in fact, that has to do with memory and not actual ability to turn-out. There is also functional turn-out and structural turn-out. Even those very rare students with “perfect (structural) turn-out,” turn-in (do not have good functional turn-out). It is not only one part of the hip that is actually responsible for how much turn-out one has, and actual deformity-again, popular in ballet (only), does occur, and is therefore deemed “perfect.” FURTHERMORE, it is just as important for dancers with this turn-out to remember, all the time, to turnout at the correct times-and they don’t! Children who do not want to work on turn-out are quick to notice this in professional dancers as “okay,” but it is not, necessarily. Everyone is different!
Perhaps they can exhibit better turn-out, which is nagged about in the studio, but face it, when they get on stage-they forget. Any dancer is only trying to remember 6,000 things on stage, and as you watch most of them, particularly soloists, you will notice they turn in, frequently, or you will notice that they do not exhibit their perfect turn-out, except when at the barre in first position or in plies, in second. Ligaments change, and dancers have to not only stretch to initially achieve turn-out, and exercises to strengthen it-do not stop at the barre (I’ll tell you why), but most dancers have to maintain their own degree of turn-out by stretching daily and remembering to reinforce turn-out in the studio and while dancing, all the time, for the rest of their lives.
As people get older, much older, all of their ligaments and muscles begin to deteriorate, so not exhibit the same elasticity as when they were younger, but dancers continue to dance, turned-out, or turned-in, and they continue to get nagged about it, until it is second nature, for the most part, for them to remember to turn-out or they get beyond the point professionally when any teachers complain about it anymore. That is one indication of a professional-not having to be taught anymore. It is up to the dancer to work on it, keep it and nurture it. Holding turn-out is how you refer to it in class and that is exactly what it means. Therefore, it is not the degree of turn-out which is extremely important in all dancers, but their ability to control it; that requires strength! And the lack of control causes injuries. Wait and see or get on it now, to prevent injuries.
Dancers with perfect turn-out also turn-in, because of strength issues-not just memory loss or forgetfulness. It is the body’s natural inclination to do so, and the mind of a dancer must think about so many other things, occasionally (LOL), that sometimes it can just go-that is why you train to control it, so it goes where you want it to, and how far you want it to.
There are many exercises in ballet, poses in variations, and most importantly, but never mentioned,transitions in classical ballet, which cannot be accomplished without injury to a dancer who does not possess adequate turn-out to do them. Perhaps more importantly, not turning-out first and then failing to hold the required degree of turn-out can be dangerous if not life threatening, then dance threatening (and this is the worse of the two-for dancers!). This is anatomy and physiology, and fact. It is fairly safe to say, then, and I do, that all dancers turn-out excessively, whether good schools tell them to or not, they learn to, it is conditioned in other ways, even if teachers tell you they do not force turn-out. They teach turn out, refer to turn-out and yell, “TURN OUT,” and they have to if they teach Ballet.
Notice the “over turn-out” in first position? Slightly? What is too much for many persons is simply put, too much without control. I always releve (turned-out) in every position, just to check that my alignment is correct and that the right muscles are engaged, and that I can releve from that position. It is evident when doing this, if you feel awkward, or forced, that you are! Fix it-turn a little tiny bit in and gain control from that position before you open further. Practice making transitions and moving from these positions, think of variables, so that when the time comes, it is no sweat-you have done that before, and the body remembers it. Sometimes, I also attempt a plie from whatever position this happens to be, all of them, to make sure there is nothing wrong, to see what I can do, and to strengthen infrequently used muscles that may contribute to a better position in the end, by cautious means. What a lot of teachers mean by teaching turn-out young is that they can put dancers in over turned-out position and due to the laxity of the muscles at that age they do not readily see injury-that does not mean that it is not occurring, only that you can’t see it. Ask Mikhail Baryshnikov about his knees and forced turn-out and I am sure you will get an earful. I have found, over the years, that my habit, hard to instill or demand in others, fixes almost any turn-out problem, assures that I can execute the position(s) correctly (with the correct amount of turn-out), in transitions, or quickly, without hurting myself, and that after years of doing it, I have no issues or injuries! It’s like falling, with practice, you can learn to fall without injury, or with substantial reduction of injury. Falls happen-practice. After years of doing this, and I am much, much older than any of you reading this, it helps strengthen those muscles directly associated with each position, the best. How do you learn to surf? You surf. Is there exercise for learning to surf or be a better surfer? Yeah, surfing. How do you build up the muscles used in surfing? Surfing. Practice, practice, practice-not repeat, repeat, repeat! Also, holding these positions is easier after many repetitions, and many years. I have good balance from it in most ballet positions, and I haven’t really danced as hard as you are for 30 years! But I still do the exercises….
If, as a dancer, you attend a new class, and the teacher has you do something for which you are not physically prepared to do, you will fall out of it. That is the best sign, this muscle is not trained. Train it by doing the exercise over and over. Do not think to use the fail-safe quadriceps for anything except stability and pumping-force. The Amish say, there is always another way, and there is almost always another muscle that needs work when your quadriceps engage to protect you-they do not jump into action unless it is to protect you from a major tumble-from everything. The finer muscles responsible for controller finer movements-are ignoring you, not engaging, not working, because you haven’t trained them to listen. Most dancers think they have no faults, are not lazy, but mentally, there are things we just do not bother to do. We ALL do this. We also rely on routines and it is virtually impossible to do all of the exercises you need to do in one routine, so make list and rotate them-less chance for injury! It is hard, harder than 64 small jumps in center, all of them a foot or more off the ground, and then again, because it seems so easy we just take it for granted, but I bet you can do those jumps. Working and strengthening the finer muscles is hard, because these muscles are hard to find, hard to visualize, and they all work together at times, making the isolation of them very difficult to sort out, or the use of them fathomable. They are truly not as complicated as they seem, but you have to take the time and think about them, research them, practice using and finding them-or try to-and prevent injury.
Adequate turn-out for dancers is that degree of turn-out required for that dancer, based on his/her body structure, bone shape (especially the femur, acetabulum and pubis) which determine the range of movement of the hip, and also the ilio-femoral ligament, obturator externus (front-see picture below), and piriformus, gemellus inferior, obturator internus and externus (front), which in addition are responsible for the strength of the hip movements. Overstretching in the butterfly, for example, which virtually no teacher will tell you is harmful (“do it 3x a day!”), but it is. It is when you do not strengthen the hip, or stretch the hip sufficiently in the opposite direction. But enough is said about this to beginning or ambitious dancers who
must stretch to attain a better degree of turn-out and they need to be particularly watchful, especially if they are teenagers. No exercises are specifically given for it in ballet class. Repeated 2x per day, these stretching exercises can overstretch the adductors, resulting in serious groin pain in the student, usually deep in the tissue, where ice and heat may have little impact. Ibuprofen can help, but must not be relied upon for daily use. The pain can be so severe the dancer cannot turn-out-that is actually the key to the cause of this pain, for most other injuries to the hip result in different kinds of pain inside or outside the hip, but not affecting the turn-out per se.
From all of the material I have read about possible hip injuries, it is my own conclusion, and that of a venerable dance doctor, that without sufficient strength in the adductors, and overstretching present, a sudden twisting or turning can result in a straining of the muscles of the groin and on the inside of the upper thigh if they lack the tone to prevent overstretching. The pain in the upper thigh is frequently called “rider’s strain,” and is caused by too much stretch of the adductors when doing movement a la seconde (Dancer’s Book of Health, L. M. Vincent). It is said that some dancers, with ligament laxity, may even feel the thighbone “go out of joint.” This continual dislocating may lead to joint degeneration, so the importance of good muscle conditioning and avoidance of over stretching cannot be ignored! He says to “always seek control more than height”, and when warming up, do not risk strain by caving in to the temptation of placing the leg on the barre for the first stretch. Check with your dance teacher/physical therapist before performing these exercises to make sure they do not interfere with your goals.
Interestingly, students who feel that they do not possess enough turn-out can fall prey to this type of injury if their leg is inclined to drop “backward,” so they will often find that their turn-out is not lacking, but rather their ability to control it is. These types of exercises will help, but for specific muscle attention (there are six sets- count them- of muscles and ligaments responsible for turn-out, and a few other muscles besides) it would do to look up and verify which muscles to strengthen, what each set does, and the individual ones, and to go over where they are, when they are used and what to do to strengthen each one and each group, just to prevent injury and to be aware of this rather complicated area of the body, prone to injury in female dancers with a high level of ballet classes, training or just plain dancing. There are classes, sometimes, led by physical therapists (and dancers) to integrate whole body strengthening and conditioning to prevent injury in the different parts of the body that ballet dancers are susceptible to. These injuries are particularly a problem for adolescent students for growth and hormone reasons. Look no further than the Nureyev Foundation in Switzerland, to locate a dance doctor (a real one-not a quack) in your area, or a dance-trained physical therapist, who can help you discover more about your dancing body and its limits, as well as its possibilities!
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place a light medicine ball or soccer ball between your knees. Keeping the ball in place by squeezing your knees together, squat until your knees are bent to 90 degrees and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Push your hips forward and straighten your knees to stand up. Make sure that you concentrate on pushing your knees in against the ball throughout this exercise.
Sit on the machine with the leg pads against your knees and your legs as far apart as comfortable. Press against the pads and push your legs together until the machine arms touch. Pause for one to two seconds before slowly returning to the starting position and repeating. This machine can strain your muscles if you are weak here, as most dancers are, it is advised to put it on its lowest setting and do no more than 12 reps the first several times, working up to three sets of 10 or twelve. Dancers also have to be careful not to bulk up-so many of these exercises have to be done in moderation, compared to general athletes, or those trying to get into shape. Dancers have a preferred shape, and need to remember to work the opposing side EQUALLY. In this case, that means, to put the pads on the outside of the leg and reverse the exercise. Most dancers will find it is easier to press the pads out (a no-brainer), than in. That is where you need work!
This one is easy, so you will really feel “the pee” muscles working. My daughter hates it when I say this. Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor (also on the bed or while you are waiting for lights to change to green in the car-anywhere and from any position). Place a large pillow between your knees. Keeping your head on the floor and your arms by your side, press your knees together and squeeze the cushion as hard as you can for five seconds. Relax slightly, but keep the cushion in place. Push your knees together again and continue repeating for the desired number of repetitions. Only a few will be possible at first, so do not overdo it. It is more important to hold it for 5-10 seconds than to repeat it often. It is also more challenging. Work up!
Many dancers experience imbalance between the hip adductors or inner thighs and abductors, the hip and gluteus muscles. To counter this muscular imbalance, here is a stretch which needs to be held at least 30 seconds. Personally, I do not recommend “adjustments” like pulling the leg (performed by some over-zealous chiropractic offices, and frequently, without any warning!).
1) On floor or mat, lie face up with arms extended at sides
2) Lift one leg straight up then bend knee and hip to 90 degrees flexion
1) Lower bent knee leg to opposite side toward hand.
2) Hold stretch for 30 seconds, maintaining 90° flexion in hip with both shoulders flat on the floor.
3) Repeat with opposite side.
Although some of the same muscles come into play with athletes and the general population, dancers refine their use, and rely on a good deal many more muscles than does a football player, and also work at a higher level of training each one for specific uses not understandable to most orthopedic doctors unless they are also dance professionals. A dancer also uses them a lot more and a lot more turn-out stretches, means a lot more and tougher turning-in exercises. My argument here is that most of these types of injuries are turn-in injuries, rather than turn-out injuries, actually. A good modern (basic, then intermediate) technique class-Graham or Horton is best and can also work absolute wonders to this balancing act; it can act as the antithesis to ballet, thus working all of the needed muscles in a dancer’s range, while being easy on the body, when exactly properly performed, and done at least four days per week for any significant results. Since this is not available or possible for all professional dancers (who do not have the time to become modern dancers), many of them rely on yoga. Yoga is everywhere and gets you in places nothing else does, but is not as active as modern, and not dancing.
Elizabeth Sullivan writes this post and it is very, very welcome for dancers who have virtually no (well-intentioned) advice for eating properly for ballet. Mothers are concerned that their dancers are eating enough of the right foods to prevent injury, replace what is lost while sweating, and with the concern of the body image in a healthy and pro-active way. I think Ms. Sullivan zealously tries to assist dancers in maintaining a positive body image while eating the right foods (and enough of them) in order to prevent weight and health issues. A well-fed dancer is a happy dancer! I have not found better or more helpful information anywhere and recommend her blog highly. Keep on dancing!
Dancers are creatures of habit. Why wouldn’t we be? Our art form demands it: we take technique class every day, do roughly the same exercises in the same order every day, and work on the same things over and over again. As creatures of habit and repetition, it’s natural that we would carry that thinking into our diets. How many of us eat the same thing for breakfast every day, because it’s fast, easy and we can predict our body’s reaction to it? Don’t worry- you’re not alone. When you have a strong, clean diet of whole foods, habit is not necessarily a bad thing. But we can all benefit from adding some variety to our diet and here’s why.
Think about kiwis and oranges for a minute: not only do they look and taste differently, but they also have different nutritional make-ups. We think that oranges are high in…
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Just a quick note to Shah Khan’s insightful Yale Graduation reading and his discussion to the graduating class about success. Is failure the key to success as he (and I) believe? Are people, who are learning from their mistakes, more likely to reap more success in the end? Are people who are generally more afraid of failure more likely to succeed? Is success sometimes accidental, or always? I quote, you always learn more from your failures than you do your successes and to truly appreciate success you have to experience failure-but I am not sure who said these things, so ingrained are they!