On ballet and productivity

Spoiler: this post is nerdy. Very nerdy. You’ve been warned.

We all had that one subject at school that we disliked, usually because we were not very good at it. So, we closed our minds to it and deemed ourselves incapable of learning it – “I’ll just find a job were I don’t need it” we thought to ourselves. The funny thing is, as we get older and enter the workforce, those subjects we avoided often come back to haunt us.

At school, I had an unshakable dislike of anything that involved maths – I just couldn’t get my head around how it applied to everyday life. My dislike for maths later spread to other subjects including economics and now, over a decade later, it has come back to haunt me. It turns out I chose a job where knowledge of economics (and business studies) is pretty important (oops), so now I’m taking evening courses.

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Contrary to what I expected, I’m actually enjoying it – especially the business studies module I am taking. There are so many interesting concepts and theories that I’ve come across that are actually applicable to everyday situations. One concept that I love at the moment is that of “productivity”. Simply put, being “productive” means getting the highest amount of output from the lowest amount of input. Every business must strive to be productive, if not they are bound to fail.

Would you believe me if I told you that this applies to ballet, too? Give me a chance to explain.

During last Wednesday’s ballet class, I reached a whole new level of frustration. I was frustrated with myself mainly and the fact that my body was simply not doing what my mind was demanding. To make matters worse my teacher kept remarking “You are trying too hard”. “Is there even such a thing as too hard?” I thought.

But she continued, saying “You need to dance smart and not hard”.

At home (as a consolation for the terrible class) I watched videos of the Prix de Lausanne winners on Youtube. I had read a few pages from my business studies course book before so I guess my mind was already in limbo between business studies and ballet when suddenly, something clicked.

The dancers in the Youtube videos were not trying to push and pull their bodies to execute the complicated ballet steps. They were using technique and not pure brawn and power.

Speaking for myself, I know that I often waste a lot of effort on being frustrated, not concentrating and using power and not skill (e.g.: using too much power in a pirouette and falling over from the force instead of concentrating on using skill and good technique). To use the words of my ballet teacher, I don’t dance “smart”. To use the words from my business studies book, I don’t dance “productively”. Both mean the same thing.

So there you have it, dear readers, a connection between (micro) economics and ballet. Who’d have thought? There is something so ironic about my applying a concept from a subject I once hated to a hobby I now love. Life is funny, isn’t it?

Ballet class is like a box of chocolates…

Progress for the adult ballet dancer is seldom a linear affair. There are “up” days when you feel like nothing can stop you – your turns are on point, your port-de-bras is perfect, you pick up the choreography quickly and your teacher keeps shooting pleased glanced your way. Those days are AMAZING.

But then, there are the other days.

The “down” days that no one likes to mention or remember, when you feel you’ve taken a step backwards or you’ve reached some sort of plateau. Those days SUCK.

I think I’ve hit a plateau lately and it SUCKS.

The good things is, I know what I have to work on to push myself to the next level – my ankles are still too weak and they sickle out when I get tired on relevé. I also need to work on keeping my core “compact” all the time.

The bad things is, some days I do well in class and other days nothing seems to work like it should.

A box of chocolates

To (mis)quote Forest Gump – ballet class is like a box of chocolates at the moment. I never know what I’m going to get (“up” day Tochi or “down” day Tochi).

But I guess that’s just part of the adult ballet game.

Have any of you felt like you’ve hit a plateau before? What do you do to get out of it? I’d love to hear your advice.

Top 10 gifts for balletomanes

The evergreen trees are up and fairy lights are twinkling form ever corner of the city – there’s no denying it’s Christmastime! If you’re anything like me and have left the gift shopping too late, do not despair – I have a gift guide for you, right here!

This post is for you other halves. You loving, patient paramours who have to put up with ballet-crazed partners (BCPs) and their weird habits (endless dancing around the house, using EVERYTHING as a ballet barre, engaging you in incomprehensible “ballet talk” at odd hours of the day…). You are true angels!

Finding gifts for your BCPs can be a daunting task – especially if you don’t share their enthusiasm for the art form. The following is a list of the top ten gifts I think most BCPs will enjoy receiving this festive season. I hope it helps!

1. Go see a show

The ultimate gift for any BCP is a ticket to see a ballet – you can never go wrong with this one. You’ve probably heard your BCP mumbling something about “Nutcracker Season” recently – the Nutcracker is THE Christmastime ballet and one most BCPs will enjoy watching. Why not get them tickets to see it?

Penny-wise tip: Ballet tickets can be expensive, depending on where you sit. If your heart is set on getting your BCP tickets to a ballet but you don’t want to pay a mini fortune to buy them, try getting the so-called “student tickets” higher up in the galleries. They are further away from the stage but cost only a fraction of the price of regular tickets. Another bonus of these seats – no one will notice if you nod off for a power nap. It’s a win-win deal!

Vienna Opera Ballet

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2. Support their “team”

Just as every sports fan has their favourite teams and players, every BCP has their favourite ballet companies and dancers. Why not get them merchandise from their favourite ballet company? Not sure which company they like? Even if they favour a foreign one, most BCPs will also have a soft spot for their local ballet company. Look for merchandise from the ballet company in the city/country they live in/are originally from.

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Sources (clockwise): Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Australian Ballet, American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet

3. Keep them warm

Ever notice how your BCP wraps themselves in layer upon layer of clothes before ballet class? That is to keep their muscles and joints warm enough to avoid injury – particularly important for adult BCPs. Help keep them warm by getting them some more layers to put on. These warm-up booties are pretty popular at the moment and can even be warn on chilly nights at home.

Bloch booties

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Penny-wise tip: Feeling crafty? Why not knit or crochet some leg warmers for your BDP? Or make some out of old sweaters?

4. Help them shine

BCPs can never have too many leotards. The difficulty is finding ones that look special enough to let their personalities shine out. Yumiko leotards are famous for doing just that and most BCPs would be delighted to own one. If you know your BCPs favourite colours you can even design a leotard just for them on the Yumiko website (click on the source link below the image)!

Yumiko leotards

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5. Clear the (foul) air

If you’ve noticed a foul smell wafting out of your BCPs dance bag, that would be the result of years of carrying sweaty clothes and ballet shoes – yuck!  It might be time to get them a new dance bag and Repetto has a few lovely ones to offer.

Repetto dance bags

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6. Ease their tension

I don’t know a single BCP who would not be delighted to get a professional massage. Massages can enhance performance by releasing muscular tension, help speed up the body’s natural recovery process and can even help prevent injuries. What is not to love? Massage styles that have been shown to be beneficial to dancers include sports massage, Swedish massage and lymph massage.

Massage

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7. Give the gift of relaxation

If he or she is anything like me, your BCP will usually return home from ballet class completely exhausted. I, for one, am always grateful for a warm bath, some relaxing music and my foot roller to help relieve my tired feet. Why not make your BCP a “recuperation kit” with a soothing Epsom bath salts, a foot roller/massage ball and a nice ballet CD? I’m feeling soothed and relaxed just thinking about it.

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Sources (clockwise): A Balanchine Album; Epsom bath salt; Foot roller

8. Capture their success

Photos make a wonderful gift for dancers and are a great memento of a particular moment in their dance journey/career. Why not book a special photo session for your BCP at a local photography studio and make them a dance model for a day?

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Penny-wise tip: The obvious way to save money on this gift is to take the photos yourself. So, if there are any avid photographers among you, why not make your BCP the subject of your next photography project?

9. Feed their inner bookworm

If there is one thing true BCPs never tire of, its learning about ballet. As you already know, they’ll spend hours watching ballet videos on youtube, searching the internet for tour dates and information on their favourite dance companies and reading biographies of ballet’s greatest dancers. Books about ballet are always a good idea! Here are a few of my favourites.

Ballet books

Sources (clockwise): Apollo’s Angels, Classical Ballet Technique, Dancers Among UsMao’s Last Dancer,

10. Support their habit

A gift that will always be well-received are vouchers for their ballet studio. They are going to take the classes anyway, why not help support their ballet habit? If you do get vouchers, just be sure to get ones for a ballet studio your BCP actually likes – they can be picky about which classes they attend and which teachers they train with.

Ballerina at the barre

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11. Continue being you (bonus)

As is usually the case, the best presents are the ones money cannot buy. I’m sure many BCPs will agree, the fact that you put up with their ballet craziness is the greatest gift of all. So, patient paramours, continue smiling when your BCP practices ballet combinations in the living room while you’re trying to watch TV. Keep letting them hog the computer all day to watch the 1 millionth ballet video on Youtube. Keep pretending to listen while they explain (again) just why they love Vishneva, Osipova and Seminova.

Your support, active or passive, is the best gift you can give.

Ballet couple, ballet love

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That concludes my list of top ten (plus one) gifts for BCPs – I hope my suggestions were helpful. To the BCPs that are reading this, is there anything I missed? Let me know what’s on your ballet Christmas wish list.

A reluctant start

So I’ve finally done it, I’ve started my blog.

I’ve spent two years many months thinking about colour schemes, fonts and making extensive editorial calenders. Each time I would find some “logical” excuse for why my ideas where not good enough and each time I would end up putting off my blog for yet another month. I can’t even begin to describe the number of posts I have written, re-written and deleted because “I could have written it better” and the number of photos I’ve taken, retouched and discarded because my hair “didn’t look just right”.

The other day, I came across a wonderful image (which I subsequently pinned on Instagram, as you would)

Learning to let go source

This image is so poignant to this time in my life that I think it should be my mantra.

I’ve decided to follow the words, “shhing” my mind and its perfectionist tendencies and just going with it.

My blog is made now and as imperfect as it is, I am happy that I’ve finally started something I’ve wanted to for a long time.

So, let the blogging journey begin!