Posts Tagged ‘dance’

Getting Old Fast

When I was at the Kentucky State Fair in August, I saw a booth that asked, “When was the last time you felt your best?”

I could identify that time pretty easily. Late May, 2009. It was my first dance recital after coming back to dance class, and I felt strong and healthy and confident.

Immediately after that, I started experiencing joint pain when I exercised. First my hips, and then my knees. Joint pain led to weight gain. I began to feel so exhausted, all of the time, that I went to my doctor and demanded to be tested for anemia. It was negative. Ever since then, I have started to feel old and creaky and tired. It was made even worse this past summer, when a pulled muscle in my right leg bothered and inhibited me for 10 weeks.

When I first went back to dance two years ago, the idea I had was that I would be kind of bad at first, but that I would get better and better as I got back into shape and into practice. Instead, I am starting to feel like I am only getting worse. The turns are getting harder, not easier, and tap dancing, oh, it is so hard on my knees.

I am wondering how long I’ll really be able to dance. Can really keep up with the whippersnappers anymore? Maybe instead, I need to start eating dinner at 4:00 and going to bed at 7:30. At some point, I am really going to bring the class down as a whole, and it’s going to be foolish for me to be up on stage in a costume, limping pathetically while everyone around me moves like a young gazelle.

Growing up is the pits.


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Senior Class

The class I’m in at my dance studio is called the “senior class.” It is not name that has ever been officially assigned, but it gets used by all the dancers anyway. It is the most advanced class, and the class that typically opens and closes the recital.

Years ago, when I first started at the studio, I remember watching the senior class in awe, marveling at how talented they were and how grown-up and cool and fun they were. I have more vivid memories of dances I watched the senior class do than of dances I did myself. There was such a mystique that surrounded being a part of that class.

My (younger) sister was asked to be a part of the senior class well before I was. I wasn’t terribly offended, and was somehow able to accept that, though she’s three years younger than me, she was a much better dancer than I was. I knew that she deserved to be there, and that I didn’t.

But, you know, it irked me a little. After all, I was in college–one of the oldest people at the studio!–and I had never gotten the opportunity to graduate out of my class into the senior class.

So, while I wouldn’t say I devised a scheme, it’s true that a plan did come to me.

In my last year of dance before I went away to college (not knowing when I started the year that I would be transferring to another state), I maneuvered my way in. I told my dance teacher that I would be joining a choir that met at the same time as my current class, and that therefore, I needed to be in a class that met at a different time. Leading her to say, “Well, then I guess I’ll have to put you in the Wednesday night class.” The senior class.

This wasn’t a complete lie on my part, because I really did think I would be joining the choir. It just so happened that the person who told me about the choir exaggerated the degree to which the choir was looking for new members. And also, I never auditioned.

So, I got my coveted spot, and I worked hard to show my dance teacher I was serious about being there. I practiced my tap dance repeatedly in my apartment hallway, undoubtedly driving my neighbors crazy. And I don’t think, at the time, my teacher regretted letting me join the class, at least not too much.

Maybe she had just been waiting for me to ask, and had assumed that because I never said anything to her about wanting to move classes, I was perfectly content where I was. But I can’t help feel a little bit guilty about the play I made.

This is probably why, even now, I put pressure on myself to improve, improve, IMPROVE! It’s also probably a part of why I experience so much low dance self-confidence now. (In addition to my lack of talent, basic coordination, flexibility, balance, and strength.) I used trickery to worm my way into the senior class! So even now, years later, I feel like, if I’m going to deserve to be there, I have seriously got to earn it.

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The dance recitals were on Sunday, and like always, no matter how much time I spend worrying about them, they went fine. We didn’t do as well as we did in the spring, but, most importantly, as always, they were lots of fun.

When my dance teacher asked my sister and me last year if we might be interested in re-joining this class, she cautioned, “And you know, re-joining that class would mean that you would be doing recitals again.” As if recitals were something we might want to avoid!

It’s exciting to perform, of course, but the best part of recitals is the renewed group camaraderie that comes from sharing dressing rooms and putting on lots of make-up and the taking of pictures and having spontaneous dance parties while waiting backstage. I always wind up having a conversation with someone in my class that I’ve never really talked to before.

It’s funny that I get so hyped up about dance recitals, because my dance studio is an interesting combination of laid-back and perfectionist. It’s not someplace you go for classical training or if you want to be a competition dancer. It has the feel of a cozy, comfortable neighborhood studio, where you go if you want to have some fun dancing. At the same time, at least in my class, there are people who are committed to the class and committed to dancing well, so we still put pressure on ourselves to try and be good.

At this recital, we weren’t great, but we were good. It gave me some extra inspiration to improve, and now it’s going to be kind of nice to have three weeks of a break from dance, during which I will undoubtedly indulge a little more freely with delicious foods, like the tortilla chips I enjoyed last night with chili and lots of sharp cheddar cheese.

Unfortunately, the plans of my sister and I for a post-recital celebration were totally ruined. After the last recital, we got Chik-Fil-A to celebrate, which is the sort of treat in which we almost never indulge. This time, our plan was to order a pizza and start watching season 5 of “Lost.”

However, none of our local video rental establishments had the first disc of season 5 of “Lost.” And I realized that the nearby pizza place we wanted to order from doesn’t do delivery–only carryout. By the time we got home we were both way too tired to even consider going back out to pick up a pizza. So instead, I ate leftover white rice and we watched the Christmas episode of “iCarly.”

Not quite as awesome as last time–but still pretty good.

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“So You Think You Can Dance” was the perfect summer TV show. It was a fun and festive way to spend summer nights. Then, FOX moved it to a fall primetime spot, and my beloved summer show is bordering on “dead to me” territory.

They made all sorts of fancy changes to the show, which just aren’t working. They got a new set, with an awful new stage. They made Adam Shankman the permanent third judge, which is getting old. He was always my favorite judge, but I miss the variety of the revolving door of judgment. They lost Mia Michaels, who was one of their best choreographers.

The biggest problem, though, is that this season’s top 20 dancers are either unlikeable or uninteresting. Most of them are great dancers, some of them are so-so dancers, but almost all of them are annoying. Anyone who gets in front of a camera and says on national television, “What America doesn’t know about me is… that I feel most alive when I am helping other people,” makes me want to vomit. Sweetheart, that’s called exploiting volunteer work in a painfully unskilled attempt at pandering to a voting audience.

The judges have taken up the mantel of trying to convince everyone–the audience, the network, the viewers at home–that this season’s dancers are truly talented and compelling to watch. The feedback after almost every single dance has been, “That was beautiful, you were wonderful, and you are X type of dancer, so you should not have been able to do Y style!” That feedback is ridiculous, because the whole point of the show is to find a dancer who is talented and capable at doing every style. Meanwhile, my sister and I have been sitting at home yelling, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME. DID YOU REALLY NOT SEE HOW SLOPPY THAT WAS?”

I appreciate that the judges are stuck. They can’t say every week, about almost every dance, “Wow, that dance was okay, but it wasn’t awesome. And wow, did we sure make some mistakes in picking this top 20.” The judges’ comments have become worthless and occasionally infuriating.

(Partly infuriating because of the way they regularly picked on Evan Kasprzak last season, when he danced way better than some of these season 6 yahoos.)

On this week’s episode, miracle of all miracles, there was actually a legitimately awesome dance. For the first time this season, I was shocked and amazed and excited. Then I watched the dance four more times, and mourned for the show that used to be able to regularly create greatness like this:

I owe “So You Think You Can Dance” a lot. It was the thing that inspired me to go back to dancing myself, which has been wonderful for me, even when I’m experiencing low dance self-confidence like I am this week. But this season, it has become apparent that SYTYCD is getting ready to grand jeté over the shark. The one great dance is a ray of hope, but it’s not enough.

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Speaking of cookies, I am sure you are wondering, how has my “four in four” project been going? My attempt to get in better physical and mental shape for my dance recital, and lose four pounds in four weeks while I’m at it?


Not… awesome.

It’s amazing how much more difficult it is to accomplish those things when it’s the Christmas season. When I was on Thanksgiving break, did I want to go to the gym? Hardly. I wanted to get a piece of pie from The Pie Kitchen and take it with me to see New Moon. I wanted to fry up leftover mashed potatoes in butter to make potato pancakes. I wanted to sleep late and decorate my house. And I somehow always forget that while I’m sitting, watching TV, I could use that time to stretch out my very stiff right leg.

Plus, I don’t believe I have ever in my life been good at going to bed early in order to get a full night’s sleep.

Contributing to my laziness is the fact that I’m not in love with the dances that my class is doing this semester. Last semester, we danced to “Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse (which, for added inspiration, can be found on the Twilight soundtrack). It was a tough, kick ass dance that I really, really wanted to get right. This semester’s big dance is to “Fame” from the recent movie soundtrack. I’m not quite as inspired by that one.

Last semester, I had the challenge of feeling like I had to prove myself of being worthy of being in the class. That anxiety is still there, but it doesn’t exist to the same degree. I know I’m still at the lower end of talent and ability in the class, but I don’t feel like my dance teacher is going to kick me out, either. While dance is no less fun and important to me, some of the novelty has worn off.

Maybe most significant in my lack of behavioral changes is that the costumes this time around are more flattering. Potential humiliation is a great motivator.

Excuses, excuses.

My dance recital is in a week and a half. I have got a week and a half to get myself right for it, which at this point means that practicing the dances takes top priority.

It’s hard to do, because there are two floor surfaces in my house–carpet and ceramic tile. Neither of those are good to dance on, at all. Last semester, we regularly had class for an hour and a half on both Wednesday and Thursday nights. This semester, I don’t think we’ve had more than one Thursday rehearsal. I am realizing how much I depended on that extra practice time. It not only helped me learn the dances better, but it helped me feel more confident in my movement overall. Last night in class, I felt shaky and off-balance and off-kilter and clumsy. It’s so frustrating to feel like I can’t make my body move correctly.

For those of you attending my dance recital, I believe it is time for you to lower your expectations.

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Four in four

My dance recitals are four weeks from today.

Since the weight-loss extravaganza that preceded my spring dance recitals, I have allowed myself to relax a little too much. Over the summer, my exercise consisted of reading by the pool and then going for a leisurely 20 minute swim. The numbers of the scale have edged back up, but more annoyingly, I have lost a lot of hard-won muscle.

This weekend, I had my time to do nothing and be sick. (I have decided that) I’m done being sick, and tomorrow begins my four weeks of preparation. What will that entail?

Going to the gym
For some reason, my right hip has been bothering me when I use the elliptical, which has been keeping me from getting in as good of a work out as I need. The hip thing doesn’t seem to be getting progressively better or worse, so I need to find ways around it–using a bike instead, or maybe spending more time going in reverse on the elliptical, which doesn’t bother my hip as much. Another crucial piece of going to the gym is using weight machines again in an attempt to regain some of the muscle I have lost. “Going to the gym” is a crucial component–it’s about getting in better shape as a whole so I’m able to perform my dances with more strength and energy.

I HAVE LOST SO MUCH FLEXIBILITY. I’m not sure why this has happened, but for example, I have one particular muscle in my right leg that honestly feels like it has never been stretched out before in my entire life. I have not been diligent about stretching, but if I’m going to continue to dance, this is something I need to continually work at, because I’ve never been particularly flexible, and becoming more so would certainly add to my self-confidence.

Practicing the dances
Fall semester is a lot shorter than spring semester, and I do not feel very confident in the dances this time around. I have four weeks to become confident. My tap dance in particular is a struggle, because you can’t fake tap, and I struggle with the coordination necessary for that style of dance.

Not “dieting,” because I am pretty happy with my diet as it exists right now. But I need to start reigning in the baked goods, cutting out some of the processed soy I’m eating, and getting back to a more vegetable- and legume-based diet.

I need to try and get more sleep (this is an ongoing life goal) so that I have the energy to do all these things.

I’m hoping that if I do all these things with some consistency for the next four weeks, I might actually lose four pounds and gain some muscle and some at the same time. And therefore, be strong and confident in time for my dance recital.

My dance recital is nothing of huge consequence, but it’s a specific date for which I have a specific goal–to get on stage in front of friends, family, and strangers, and to dance well. There are few things I love more than having a goal to work toward.

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So I Think I Can Dance

To continue on the theme of performance and a lack of natural talent for just one more day:

I have said before on this blog that I am not a talented dancer. (Wow, four days into NaBloPoMo and I am already repeating myself.) My mom started me in dance because she recognized that I was a clumsy, uncoordinated kid, and she hoped ballet would train it out of me. But after years of dance, I still don’t have a good sense of balance. I can’t pick up choreography easily, or easily mimic my dance teacher. And I still do things like bang my head into the barre, which I did in class tonight.

I danced for years, throughout grade school and high school, because it was something I had always, and I never thought to question whether or not I enjoyed it.

Now, more than ever, more than all those years when I thought I was going to be a star on Broadway, I actually really love to dance for the first time. It’s something I chose for myself, and it means more, because of that.

One aspect I think I enjoy so much is that it sort of feels like I am back in school (and going to school will probably always be one of the things I do best). I attend a class, which challenges me. I come away from it with homework, whether my homework is to practice the choreography or to get my ass to the gym, because the dance costumes, oh, they are so small and fitted. And then, I’m also hanging out with a bunch of people in high school and college (and a few others who are finished with school).

Maybe it’s because I have to pay for it all now myself. No one who knows me would ever accuse me of being free and easy with money, so if I am going to hand over $50 a month for classes, plus the cost of costumes, tights, shoes, recital fees, and registration fees, to say nothing of the make-up, new sports bras, and dance clothes, I had better damn well be enjoying the crap out of myself.

But really, if I’m being honest with you, dear internets, all the bullshit that people say on “So You Think You Can Dance” about dance being a release and an outlet for your emotions and a form of expression–that’s all actually kind of true. I think the reason I love dance this time around is that I finally have the confidence to embrace it in such a way that I let it be all of those things for me.

Dance has become really the only consistent thing in my life that challenges me in a positive way, and makes me think when it’s over, hey, I really can’t wait for next week when I get to do this again.

And now, I promise, tomorrow’s post will not mention stages, dancing, performing, or music in any way.

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