It’s all about the attitude

This week ballet taught me an important life lesson, attitude. A lot of people describe me as a downer, always talking down about myself (a defense mechanism from when I was young and confident and often called a snobby b*tch) and an all around negative person. I’ve often described myself as an epitome of Murphy’s Law: If it can go wrong, it will. Well this year I’ve been working hard to try and change my mindset and break that thinking pattern to build a successful life. I’ve been reading book on the Law of Attraction (“The Secret”- some of it is kinda iffy, but all in all a great read), and currently “You Are a Badass” at the recommendation of one of my favorite photographers when she started a book club. Many of the things I’ve been reading talk about how your energy attracts like energy. If you go into something feeling like it’s going to fail, it probably will. If you go into something saying “yea I got this!” You have a much better chance of success. Right now in my life, I’m trying to build my photography business, work full time, and improve so much as a dancer that maybe I will someday end up with a chance to perform. So many things (that could go wrong shhhhhh! Stupid negative voice go away!!) happening at once with so many different goals. 

When I got back into serious dancing 3-4 times a week it was about 3 months ago. I started by going back to beginner classes, but quickly realized that I was bored in a lot of them. Sure I’d still leave sweaty because the barre work, but center, where I need to improve the most, was just not at the level I needed. Step out of beginner classes and they are wayyyyy above my level of needing everything broken down and demonstrated for me to understand. The classes I’m taking now are a good balance, and I’m really glad I found this studio. While it’s still faster paced, I feel like I can kind of keep up and there is something to strive for. The teacher is wonderful and answers questions and explains things if slow little me asks! 

Back to how the attitude comes into this! The past 2 weeks at the studio I felt good, barre went well, I didn’t make a fool of myself until petite allegro and a bit of grand allegro, but that’s my weak area. Last Thursday went awful and I left in tears. Everything went wrong. That morning I was late for work and stuck in crazy traffic. Work was busy and stressful with constant edits to projects that in my opinion were unnesicary and very annoying. I was exhausted on top of it. I went to class in a bad mood, hoping it would cheer me up, but it didn’t, it got worse. I got the most terrible spot at the barre, the one where you have to start facing the back of the room where there is no mirror and no one to follow. I panicked and knew it was going to be a disaster. The voice in my head said this is about to be an awful class. Awful. You’re going to fail all over the place. And guess what, I did. I was on the wrong foot through half the combos, my feet were getting tangled on each other, and my balance was off completely. At the end of class I as I held my head in shame leaving, I walked across the studio floor in street shoes and completely got called out on it. I went to my car and cried all the way home feeling like a miserable failure.

This past week, for my first class of the week, I went in with a better attitude. I acted like I belonged. I felt like I belonged. I got my spot at the barre that I like (made sure of it!) and while I still made mistakes (no one is perfect, I’ve even seen company members loose their balance and misstep!) I didn’t let them affect me, I shrugged them off and danced on. When I got a correction I applied it and worked harder. I left with a good feeling and ideas in my head on which things I wanted to improve upon next class (tonight!). What did I learn? If you go in thinking everything will go wrong, it probably will. If you go in saying I will do my best with what I have and where I am now, you have a much better success rate! So now, I’m going to give myself that pep talk before every class, as well as this great quote from Dance Academy: “Success is 90 percent hard work, 10 percent raw talent. I am not a cross. I am a tick. I don’t deviate, I don’t loose focus; this will happen for me. It has to”- Abigail Armstrong

  
See you at the Barre!

Alicia

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Ballet is Hard

Yesterday was one of those days where nothing went according to plan. But the again, what is the plan? I was exhausted at work and had a hard time focusing, and the day dragged on so slow. I couldn’t wait to get to ballet class, and get moving after sitting at my desk most of the day. I’ve been really not picking at myself lately over my weight, poor turnout and my arabesque that is seemingly falling lower than it used to, but I ordered some new dance wear so I thought that would help. Well it turns out it didn’t! I looked in the mirror and saw nothing but lumps and rolls. I felt like the Michelline Man in a leotard. Ugh. Class started out on the wrong foot (literally) because I got a spot at the barre where I’d have to start the combo facing the back wall with no mirror and no way of following someone if I can’t remember the combination (which I usually can’t) so I was instantly panicked. It just felt “off”. I’ve never started a class in this direction so I felt like I had 2 left feet all during barre and I kept ending up on the wrong foot. 

Center didn’t go much better. My arabesque was still low, wobbly and looked strained. I couldn’t balance to save my life. Petite allegro was a horror show as usual, and feelings of doubt were rushing through my head. Why can’t I learn? Do I have a learning disability? Am I slow, or even worse just plain stupid? Stop! Get out of my head and dance!!!! Don’t be a self fulfilling prophecy!! Do your best with what you have now! Don’t worry about being the heaviest in class or the lowest arabesque. You can improve that and better it with hard work. Turns across the floor went well, on the right side at least, but grand allegro was also a hot mess. It’s not that I can’t do the steps, it’s just I pick them up slow, and need things broken down at turtle pace. If that’s done and I can try it a few times I’m usually ok. The thing is it’s hard to find a class like this because the beginner classes are too slow for me and don’t incorporate much center and the intermediate/ advance classes are more for people that have been dancing a long time. With all the breaks I’ve had to take due to not being able to afford class, I haven’t been doing this anywhere near as long as it seems. I think the classes I am in now are good because there is something to strive for. But that’s how I have to think of it. Not as a “I’m not good enough because my leg doesn’t go that high” but as “that’s what I’ll be able to do this time next year”. Even if I get my left and right confused, and I can’t do 3 pirouettes that’s okay, because ballet is a journey. It’s hard. Hard work And hard dedication. I won’t give up because I feel like I don’t fit in. I will strive for that day when I will effortlessly glide across the floor in time with my classmates without feeling like I’m just in the way. I will work at it every day and continue to eat healthy and fuel my body for dance instead of skipping meals to feel thin. Doubt be gone! I can do this!  

    
   

Instagram, Ballet Slippers and Aerial Frustrations

Good afternoon dancers and dance enthusiasts! So I decided to make a big change in my life and turn my Instagram into it’s own special place for my dance and life journey. I used to have it just for aerial dance (which I’ll still post a little bit of) and pole fitness, but I feel like even though I been pole and ballet, some people might think of me as something I am not (you get where I’m going here…) because of it. It leads to frustration, anxiety, and a feeling of not knowing what is appropriate to post, especially if young dancers are following me. Though I know I am just performing an art, many people don’t approve (I was unfriended by family members over it…) So you can officially follow my dancing and lifestyle at https://www.instagram.com/aliciaaerial. I’ll be keeping my aerial posts to a minimum since I don’t really do it much anymore due to lack of training facilities, working full time, and starting my photography business. Ballet and lyrical dancing at this point(e) is becoming much more meaningful to me now that I have the means to take class regularly, and the aerial scene is becoming difficult because there are no studios close enough to allow for regular practice and there are too many politics, and favoritism in the competition scene that will probably stop me from taking the stage again. I’m sad, but I have to understand and let it go.

In the meantime, I finally solved my flat shoe dilemma with the Gaynor Minden Joy slipper! What a Joy they are! Nice and flat on the bottom, so when balancing I have no annoying lump trying to throw me to the floor. The past week I have held my balances in relevé sturdier and stronger than ever before. I may have even shocked and impressed myself! I purchased them in 2 sizes, the 39 and 40. I felt the 39’s were too small and restricting my toe movement, but now they are broken in and feel better. I’m wearing the 40’s at home until they are broken in more because they feel a little wobbly right now, but I’m sure I will like them better when they are broken in.

Tonight I am trying out the intermediate/advance class at the suggestion of my teacher. I’m kind of scared, but I’m at a level where I don’t really fit anywhere. There are still basic movements across the floor I never was taught when I started that confuse me (I’m a very visual and kind of slow learner), but I also don’t need a 90 minute class of just barre with long explanations that are given to beginners. I can dance confidently on pointe (minus pirouettes!) but have lost a lot of stamina since college and gaining 20 lbs. I have lots of work to do, diet included but I love candy. I hope you enjoy reading (of anyone is reading haha) my posts about my journey, I can’t wait to see where it can take me!

xx Alicia

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At the Ballet! Boston Ballet’s “Onegin”

I haven’t been feeling well the past few weeks, and have been working longer hours making it difficult to get to ballet class lately. I have however, been doing lots of yoga and short barre classes at home via Kathryn Morgan’s amazing videos. My birthday was last weekend, and I thought on a wim I would ask my mom if she wanted to go see Onegin with me in Boston, and she said yes! Today was that day. I’ve been watching the haunting promo videos for weeks and couldn’t wait to see the performance. After reading the synopsis and watching the videos I felt a sudden connection to the characters, because the story is extremely relatable to me.

The story, in short, is about Tatiana who meets and falls in love with Onegin. After professing her love to him via a letter she writes when she can not sleep because he fills her mind, he rejects her and tears her letter up in front of her, sending her into tears and sadness. He then flirts with her younger sister, Olga, who is engaged to Lensky, Onegin’s friend. Lensky is very upset by this and challenges Onegin to a duel, where he is then killed causing Olga’s heartbreak. Onegin is ashamed and disappears, only to reappear later at a ball where Tatiana is now happily in love and engaged to Prince Gremin. Seeing Onegin sparks memories of her lost love, she avoids him, but then the connect and he realized how wrong he has been, and he truly loves her. She still loves him but tries to push him away to be true to her fiancee. Their romantic struggle is interpreted through a haunting pas de deux and struggle within her heart. The ballet ends without conclusion, but I felt she succumbed to him, her true love.

Cast, Saturday Matinee:

Onegin: Eris Nezha

Lensky: Alexander Maryianowski

Tatiana: Misa Kuranaga

Olga: Diana Albrecht

Prince Gremin: Paul Craig

This was also my first trip to the Boston Opera House, as other ballet’s I have seen have all been smaller productions at more local theaters. My mom’s gps unfortunately chose a Washington Street in a very scary area to gps us to, so we arrived minutes before the show started at our seats. The Boston Opera house is magnificent! From the gilded dome upon entry to the stunning chandeliers, this is definitely been the most beautiful theater I’ve ever been in! I could only imagine dancing on a stage like this. The only bad thing about the day honestly was the two people in front of us were rather large and took up more than their two seats, and the woman directly in front of me was large, tall, and wore a giant bun on top of her head. Theater etiquette people, DON’T WEAR YOUR HAIR SO BIG! There are people behind you that would like to see the show as well! I was lucky to be on an isle seat, so I leaned out that way to get a good view. Also, seeing as many attendees were probably dancers, the snack bar could have had some apples or healthy snacks, anything to eat was just candy and junk. (I had a glass of wine though, don’t judge!)

In Act I the music is light and cheery along with the dancing. The girls are gossiping and imagining their future weddings. Parties and celebrations are being planned for Olga and Lensky who perform a beautiful light hearted pas de deux, showing how much they are in love with each other. You can really feel the emotions from the characters, not only are they dancers, but superb actors as well. Onegin is introduced to Tatiana, and out of courtesy invites her to walk with him. Onegin seems to be a haunted character already. The Mr. Darcy type, or just seemingly uninterested in Tatiana’s affections. They share a beautiful pas de deux in the garden which closes the act. The strength of the dancers is incredible as the pas is full of sky high lifts and held balances. There was one scene during the party where the core de ballet performed continuous jete’s across the stage in  both directions, only holding the hand of her parter, it was magnificent!I was the beginning of Tatiana’s torment. She writes Onegin a letter in the middle of the night amidst not being able to sleep, confessing her love to him. Later on she sees him at a party and he tries to give it back to her but she insists he read it. He tears up the letter and rejects her, causing her heart to break. To spite her, he flirts with Olga, which angers Lensky into challenging Onegin to a duel which he looses and Lensky dies. Onegin regrets everything and dissapears, leaving both girls heartbroken.

In Act III Tatiana has blossomed into a beautiful young woman and is engaged to Prince Gremin. She is happy and content, and there is a ball celebrating them. Onegin attends and when he and Tatiana’s eyes lock there is clearly some tension and unfinished business. They meet and dance, she tries to keep away and stay faithful to her prince but he realizes how wrong he has been and begs for her forgiveness. She still has feelings for him, and he for her, developing a love triangle. Her heart and soul are torn in agony. Kuranaga is not only a beautiful dancer but a phenomenal actress, conveying the perfect dramatic intensity that pulls at your heartstrings and brings tears to the eyes. The finale is inconclusive, where Tatiana is heartbroken and torn, and the ballet ends with her about to go mad from it. I loved that, that last few minutes of the ballet with the music, the dancing and her rushing to the edge of the stage bringing her hands to her face in angst will replay in my head for years. The cast deserved the standing ovation! Bravo Boston Ballet!

A Time for Change

Next week I turn 30. Holy crap. The big 3.0. The supposedly best years of your life. I have a great job that I love and am moving forward with my career as a designer and photographer. I finally have the ability to take dance as much as I please, and have found an amazing local studio with plenty of adult classes. I’m taking part in Kathryn Morgan’s 12 Week Challenge and feel like some weight is starting to come off and I’m getting stronger every day. But I can’t help feeling something special is supposed to happen. At 30 I expected so much…well, more. I thought I’d be married, have a house and be settled, but I don’t and I’m not. I went to college late, and it took me a long time to figure out what I want. Along the way I loved and lost, and loved again and lost again. I hurt someone who deserves someone that won’t do so. I’m turning 30 and all of that is supposed to be behind me but I feel like it is just beginning. In a way, I don’t feel 30 at all I feel like I’m turning 21 again. When I was 21 I had no clue what grown up life was. I was making good money bartending and going out all the time buying things excessively, and if I could go back I would tell myself to save that money!

I almost feel like I’m breaking free, like this is my year and my time and turn to finally be me and bloom. To write my own story and take my hold in the world. Sure, maybe not everything will go according to plan, maybe I will stumble and fall (like I usually do in petit allegro!) but it will be okay because I will be able to try again. In a way, I’d rather attempt to fly then to never know what would happen if I had never tried. 30 isn’t the end, as a lot of people wind up feeling, it is a beginning. A beginning for new dance adventures, trials, and overcoming boundaries. To improve technique and artistry and hopefully get to perform again. In my career, to grow and prosper, taking on a new business venture with photography and seeing where opportunities will take me. Life is an adventure, and I am grabbing the ribbons to see where the shoe takes me!

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“In ballet you always know where the step is, the rules haven’t changed for the past hundred years. But things can’t stay the same forever, we all have to learn new tricks even when every fiber of our body is against it” -Tara, “Dance Academy”

Right Here at the Barre

Right Here at the Barre now has a new home! I will be re-posting my last few posts from my old blog starting here!

Greetings and welcome fellow ballet addicts! I finally wanted to create a  place to document my journey back to dance and share my story. My first thought is, really? Who is going to read this? So if you are reading this then yay!

It all started when I was 3 and enrolled in ballet/gymnastics in my town. I loved the movement and still remember stretching on the floor in the studio, and seeing the older dancers watching from the corner waiting for their class as we finished ours. My first dance recital was “Animal Crackers in my Soup”…..sadly, there is video from this somewhere that I’m sure my mom would gladly dig up. Help lol. See proof below.

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Yup there it is! Me in all my 4 (or 5? who knows!) year old glory! I think I lived in that tutu and even wore it to the playground until it no longer fit and my mom threw it away :(. Anyway, I ended up sticking more to gymnastics, taking dance here and there, but it wasn’t until I turned 21 that I realized how much I missed dance and wanted to do it. I guess it started watching lyrical on SYTYCD, but I also started doing cirque style aerial dancing including silks, lyra and pole. While searching for photos of aerialists, I came across a ballerina turned pole dancer, Elena Gibson, performing pole en pointe. I signed up for adult ballet the next week to supplement my training and my dreams of achieving grace. I think I became completely obsessed! I would tendu in my kitchen and practice any moment I could, even on days I didn’t have class! I bought a barre for my house and would write down combinations to work on between classes. After a year and a half of hard work, I was invited to the teen pointe class! I was already strong and flexible from gymnastics, yoga and aerial, so once I learned technique everything seemed to move fast. Pointe was something I dreamed about before I took my first class. To me, it was mesmerizing, and I spent hours watching videos on YouTube and doing foot exercises. The class was actually not as intimidating as I thought, even though I was 4 years older then the students, I kept up remarkably and they thought I had been dancing for years (and also that I was 17 like them so yay)! People I knew started referring to me as “the ballerina” and again thought I had many more years of training than I did, probably because I lived ballet! Unfortunately I had to move, and leave the studio I was dancing at because it was too far. I started dancing at a more professional school after a little break, but I always continued to do barre and strength at home. The classes were very basic and very focused on technique. The teacher was tough and constantly correcting everything, which I liked because I felt like I was learning correctly. Unfortunately, because of financial difficulties and job change, I took about a year off from dancing, and decided to go back to school. When I went to college, I was right down the street from the Boston Ballet and began classes again. Boy was I in for a surprise when I couldn’t keep up! The combos were more complex and involved than anything I had done in class before, and I spent most of my time in the back of the room attempting to keep up. But over those years I felt like I was really dancing, learning, and getting strong again. After college, I started a job and was taking class back in Providence for a brief period of time. My dog then developed diabetes, and I couldn’t go to class anymore because it interfered with her insulin shots that I had to be home for. So I started finding ballet barre classes online, though there is no substitute for an actual teacher correcting you, it kept me strong until recently where I finally found my ballet home. I was looking for classes that were earlier that I could go to after work and would let me get home in time for my dog. After searching and searching, I found a studio that I had never heard of that specialized in Vaganova technique. They also offered 3 ballet classes a week for adults and I could go to all of them! I was terrified and shy as usual, after not having been in a class setting for a while. All the adult dancers at this studio were warm and welcoming as well as encouraging, which was refreshing and helped me feel more confident. Some of the classes are a little advanced for me, but I am determined to work harder than ever. I know I will never dance for a company, or be a ballerina, or even perform much if at all, but what I feel when dancing can overcome all of that. When you work hard and finally nail the tricky step, or double pirouette, it’s just as good as being on stage. It’s never too late to start, and never too late to dream, so I will be spending my evenings right here at the barre!

Happy Dancing! See you at the barre!

Alicia

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