Friday, March 29, 2013

Where I'll Be Tonight

My tickets for tonight
Tonight I'll be seeing Center Stage's production of The Wizard of Oz. I'm excited to see the show and I have high expectations. Center Stage is an excellent studio and they have the good fortune of having my friend Melissa as their ballet director. Melissa has been making regular mentions of the rehearsals on Facebook, so I know they've been working really hard on this show.

If you're in the area, there may still be tickets available. The show is at Timpview High School and starts at 7:30. It's going to be a great night!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

On Teaching My Own Kid

Teaching 6-year-olds is fun
I was really nervous to teach my daughter's class because I really, really don't want to turn into a psycho dance mom. But we've both ended up really liking it. We've settled upon a slightly schizophrenic approach to class (which is ironic considering how I specifically don't want to be a psycho dance mom). Mother-and-daughter is one relationship; Miss Chelsea-and-dancer is a completely different thing.

I like that I get to see her progress every single week, but I miss out on watching the demonstration classes. I like that I know exactly what's going on in her dance education, but I don't want to get used to that because I won't be her teacher forever. I love spending time with her doing something we both enjoy, but I want her to have her own thing too.

I was nervous my daughter would be a little sassy or less respectful because, duh, I'm her mom. She's only sassed me once and I handled it just like every other time a little kid gets mouthy in class. (I give them a small sideways hug and ask "Is that how you speak to a teacher?" It's worked every time.) And given her age, being mouthy once in two years is simultaneously age-appropriate and very good.

I was nervous I would be harder on my own kid than everyone else's. Every once in a while this happens. But my daughter saves her comment for when we are in the car going home and then she says, "You know, mom, I'm not your assistant. It's okay for me to not be perfect." She's right.

When I tuck her in at night I always ask, "How was ballet class?" I don't think she appreciates this because her response is usually, "You were there. You know how class went." I explain that I know how I thought it went, but I also want to know what she thought of the class. If I didn't ask how class went I wouldn't know that standing next to C bothers her because he is distracting, or that A is her favorite ballet friend right now. I wouldn't know that her favorite step is balancé, or that she misses doing the freeze dance game like she did in pre-ballet. 

I'm glad I touch base with her. It helps reconcile the strange mother/teacher split we live with.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


image courtesy of
I've decided to do more work on acting in my classes. Not me acting--helping the kids develop acting skills. Right now we're doing guided improvisation at the very end of class.

Kids never cease to amaze me with the things they come up with. Some weeks everybody basically looks the same (example: in every class I asked to pretend to be one of the seven dwarfs, every kid just marched around). Other times I am delighted by the range of movement kids come up with.

And then there are the times when the kids just plain outsmart me. Some kids don't like acting or improvising, and they get pretty ingenious when it comes to getting out of the exercise. I'll tell you right now that if you ask a group of children to pretend to be an underwater creature, and your goal is increased movement vocabulary, there are a few things you should outlaw:

  • No coral. Coral don't do anything.
  • No kelp. Kelp are stationary with a little bit of waving around.
  • No anemone. Never mind the part where I was impressed a kid so young could say "anemone"; these things move less than kelp but more than coral.
Kids are smart.

Monday, March 25, 2013

My Feelings on My Daughter Taking Ballet

my daughter during the tech rehearsal for Brigham Young University's Snow Maiden
Clearly, I love ballet. And obviously I want other people's kids to take ballet. But I will admit to having mixed feelings about my own daughter starting classes. Mostly I was worried that I would put too much pressure on my young child. 

(I remember a mom walking into the studio after I had finished teaching a class and saying to her 9-year-old "Was that how a winner dances?" "No," the poor girl answered. "Then do it again, this time like a winner," the mom demanded. I don't want to be that mom.)

But after her asking many times over many months, and watching her dance along with Swan Lake just about every afternoon, I finally signed her up. I'm glad I did. She has had a wonderful time. Last year she even auditioned for (and danced in) a production by the local university's ballet program and it was a great experience for both of us.

I still remind myself to back off and just let her have fun. So what if she isn't the best in the class? Dance is supposed to be fun. I'm still worried I might go over the "crazy, no-fun, dance mom" edge and I work to stay far away from it every day.

My other concern with signing her up for classes was that I didn't want her to feel like she had to dance. I often teach girls whose mothers are really the ones who want to be in class. This is why adult beginner classes are so great--it's never too late to dance! But when the child is in class to live out the mother's fantasy it almost never goes well. I wanted to give my child space to develop her own interests. As it so happens, right now her interests dovetail nicely with mine. But I remind myself that someday she might pick a different hobby and I want to be okay with that.

Did I bring too much baggage into this decision? Possibly. Being a mom is hard, and we're all working to make the right decisions. One of the hardest parts is that there is no universal right answer. We just do the best we can.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


image courtesy of
Apparently this is the season of my life where I want to try all kinds of new things. I would love to try a Bollywood class! Sure, I have a couple of DVDs by Hemalayaa (and I love them) but I'd like to join a class. After all, for all I know I'm doing the movement completely wrong. There's an Indian dance studio about 30 miles away but I'm not sure I can swing the commute. On the bright side, I'm going to a Holi celebration next weekend--maybe someone there will be able to help me!

Bollywood seems like a great fit for me. It's not as formal and uptight as ballet, but not . . . hip-hop. Don't get me wrong, I have great respect for hip-hop dancers, in large part because I'm absolutely lousy at hip-hop. But Bollywood seems like it might be a great way for this ballerina to finally find her groove thing.

And it always looks like so much fun.

Friday, March 22, 2013

"Affordable" Classes

image courtesy of
"Can you tell me where to find affordable dance classes?"

Guys, I really hate this question. There are so many reasons I hate this question. Let's put aside my grumpy mood for the moment and just talk about what "affordable" could mean here.

Affordable often means a particular percentage of a family's disposable income. Since I don't know your income or the percentage you're willing to part with, I can't answer this question.

Affordable is also a combination of factors. There's the monthly tuition amount, gas money getting to and from class, and the time commitment. Oh, and the expertise level of the teacher (which may or may not matter to you), not to mention how much your kid wants to take the class.

Sometimes people use the word "affordable" when they really mean "six-week course". It helps if you ask for what you really want.

In the above scenarios, I can't answer the question well because I don't know your situation intimately enough. But those are all pretty easy situations to be in. There are other times "affordable classes" conversations are much more uncomfortable for me.

Sometimes the question is a veiled way of asking me to give a discount. Personally, I can't do that. I do not own my own studio; I am a subcontractor and the class fees aren't set by me. Sure, I could rent some space and give you a private lesson at a discounted rate but it would cost more than the class fee you're trying to get out of. In cases like these, you should be talking directly with the studio owner or director.

Sometimes people start with "affordable" and then jump right into offering to pay me in homemade bread or French lessons for my kids or something. While I love bread, and I think that small-scale trade economies can be very beneficial in some instances, I never agree to this. Mostly because I can't pay my bills in a child fluent in French. But I've noticed that people who suggest a trade payment tend to try to sell you on the arrangement long after you've said the first no.

And then there are the times when this gives someone a chance to explain why they aren't taking class from me. This one doesn't bother me.

I'm not going to be annoyed if you take class from someone else. Honestly. I'll be interested to hear about the good things happening at your studio. If everyone took from me I wouldn't know that Brigham Young University has an amazing boys class or that there is a studio based out of someone's home nearby that specializes in beginning classes. (Which I can't link to because I can't find a website for them, but if you leave a comment I will ask my neighbor for the phone number.) I'll just be happy you're dancing.

I will happily recommend studios to you but they will always be based on the qualities of the program, never on tuition rates. I'll let you decide whether or not the classes are affordable.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Trying Something New

I decided I wanted to try something new; dance in a style I'd never tried before. I found a modern group called Artists, Interrupted who were looking for a dancer and it seemed like a perfect fit. I have learned a lot of things.
  • This is the first piece I've been in where the music is tertiary, at best. The entire piece was choreographed and rehearsed without ever using music. We finally ran the piece with the music at our last rehearsal, just to get a vague feeling for it. (We perform on Saturday.) The music is kind of the same note over and over, with no discernible phrasing and no difference in intensity or volume. So it doesn't matter that I utterly ignore it when I dance because no one else is bothering to count it either.
  • This is the first dance I've been in that is so closely tied to text. The choreography is based off of a Shakespearean sonnet and each word gets a movement--one movement, no more and no less. I'm used to telling a story based on text. I kind of feel like Jeffrey Tambor in Muppets From Space during his "welcome to Earth" bit.
  • I learned that there isn't a map of the Salt Lake City Public Library online. Sure, I know where the building is, but I'd like to know where to find the Urban Room. And I wonder if it was named after Urban Meyer? 
  • I'm trying really hard to look less "ballerina" and more . . . whatever it is I'm supposed to look like. I may not be succeeding here.
All in all, I'm glad I tried something new. If you want to come watch, the performance is this Saturday (March 23) in the Urban Room of the SLC library at 1:00 p.m. It's free.

And there's no picture for this post because I don't have an attractive picture of me from rehearsals.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Newest Breathtaking Dying Swan

I love ballet but we have nothing that compares with this Dying Swan. I am torn between wanting to learn how to do this and seriously doubting that this is physically possible for me. It looks like I'll become an adult beginner soon.

I am completely mesmerized by this.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Auditions Remind Me of Baking

photo courtesy of
(And in this context I mean auditions for specific shows more than auditions for summer programs.)

There are tons of articles out there with good advice for auditioning (get plenty of rest, eat a good breakfast, wear a leotard you feel comfortable in, etc.). To all that, I'd like to add my own perspective.

Cut yourself a little slack.

The people casting a show are kind of like bakers. They already have a recipe in mind. They already know what ingredients they need, and in what quantities. 

The dancers are (obviously) the ingredients. If your personal flavor is chocolate but they're casting for a fruit tart, you probably aren't going to get the part. Does this mean that no one likes chocolate? No way. It just means that you weren't the right fit for that show. And what if there are three dancers auditioning who are kind of peppermint-y? They can't all be cast--too much mint overpowers the rest of the ingredients. Does that mean peppermint is bad because it's so strong? No. The Girl Scouts wouldn't have nearly such a stronghold on cookie sales in March if it weren't for peppermint. (Confession: Thin Mints are one of my favorite things ever.)

The hard truth is that sometimes you don't get cast. Sometimes it's because your technique genuinely wasn't good enough and it's important to honestly admit that to yourself. But once you reach a certain point it's more likely that you didn't get the part because you wouldn't fit the costumes they already had made, or they really needed someone with a different style, or sometimes it comes down to something like hair color. There will be many times you aren't selected because of reasons that are out of your control.

You are still a good dancer. By all means, keep going to class and getting better. But remember that you're good.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Catalogue of Pointe Shoes

All the shoes I currently carry around
For my very first post I explained why I am not a pointe shoe expert. However, I have since been asked what kind of pointe shoes I wear. I currently wear a Grishko "Elite", size 4 1/2 XXXX with a medium shank. I like them. I like the flat profile and that my toes and metatarsals aren't at all constricted in the box. 

(Thanks to a director who required me to wear a shoe that didn't fit [yes, the same jewel of a director who also made me weigh in], I have nerve problems in my left foot so it matters a lot that my metatarsals are happy.)

In the interest of full disclosure (because for some reason some people like this much information) here is the list of every pointe shoe I've ever worn:

Sansha--I can't remember what particular shoe I wore; this was almost 20 years ago. Anyway, my first teacher suggested Sanshas so that's what I got. I couldn't tell you if they were a good shoe or whether or not I liked them because they were my first shoe. I didn't think much about them, I just wore them.

Freed--After I switched to a strict ballet school I was told that I must wear Freeds. Every dancer in the school was required to wear Freeds and you had to have them fit by the lady at the on-site dance store. I think I found the maker I liked on my third pair. Anyway, one year the workers at Freed went on strike and there was a shoe shortage right before Nutcracker so I was forced to wear a shoe that was one size too long and too narrow ("they will cancel each other out and you'll be fine" except that, no, it wasn't fine). I continued to wear Freeds until my maker retired.

Freed Studio II--a friend of mine (who wore the same Freed maker as I did) really liked these shoes so I tried them. I don't like them. They don't feel good on my feet.

Chacott "Veronese II"--I tried these because I heard they were similar to Freeds. I was satisfied in them for a while.

Grishko" Elite"--after surgery to remove a nerve from my foot and two pregnancies I decided it was time to admit that my feet were drastically different than before, so I abandoned my quest to find a shoe like the Freed maker I liked so well and just found an entirely new shoe. Like I said before, I like this shoe. But if you're thinking of switching from a shoe like Freed (which are excellent right out of the box for things like rolling through 3/4-point) to a Russian shoe like Grishko (which are great for springing up and down) you should know that it is a very different shoe. Not bad, just different.

All that said, I'm curious about Gaynor Minden shoes. I might try those next.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Where I'll be Tonight

I'm excited to be seeing Provo Civic Ballet tonight! This preprofessional company always delivers a beautiful show. Since my husband is busy with graduate school, I'll be taking my daughter to the show and she's just as excited as I am. My little girl is getting a little burned out on ballet classes so I'm glad that there are elements of dance that she's still enthusiastic about. I'm not sure if this performance will inspire her to continue her training or if she is transitioning into a lifelong audience member, but either way tonight we will have a great time.

Oh, and if you'd like to come the performance is at the Covey Center for the Arts.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Faster Internet!

photo courtesy of
Yesterday our internet was upgraded to fiber. Win! Also, I got to have this conversation:

Installation Guy: I know you from somewhere.

Me: [blank stare]

IG: Seriously. How do I know you?

Me: Well . . . we had some trouble with our connection when we first moved in. Did you come out to work on it then?

IG: No. I've never been to this house before. But I know I know you.

a few minutes later
IG: What's your job?

Me: Um, I teach ballet.

IG: I knew I'd seen you before! You're my daughter's teacher!

In all truth, if I'd know that a student's dad was going to be in my house I would have made an effort to clean it first. But he's a cool guy and professional so I'm sure he didn't bother judging my housekeeping skills. And I have an a super-fast connection now. 

I love living in the future!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

So . . . This is a Thing

Slippers by Cynthia King Dance
I've honestly never thought about this before, but it turns out that you can buy vegan ballet slippers. I prefer canvas slippers anyway, but I suppose the suede soles aren't exactly cruelty-free. I do wonder what the soles of these shoes are made of. 

So, yeah. Vegan ballet slippers is a thing.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Diets Are Not the Answer

photo courtesy of stock.exchng
I trained under a director who made us weigh in weekly. Rumor was that if you weighed 110 pounds or less you were allowed to partner. Experience taught that if you looked like you weighed less than 100 pounds you didn't have to weigh in.

Needless to say, I've spent (wasted) a lot of time dieting. I've been so hungry I couldn't think straight. I've met horribly unrealistic and probably dangerous calorie goals. I trained myself to look at pictures in cookbooks instead of actually eating food. After a while I just stopped feeling hungry at all. I've gotten professional help.

When I think back on that poor girl (and I was under 21 for almost all of it) I just want to hug her. It is so tragic to think that weight is that important to anyone, and I know I'm not the only one who has felt that way. Weight is that important to someone right now.

(In all fairness, I do not blame my director for my issues with food. I am the one who chose to internalize messages, I chose to put ridiculous amounts of pressure on myself, and I distorted my own thoughts. But the weigh-ins didn't help.) 

Okay, that was then. I am now a happy, healthy woman who has worked very hard and decided not to waste another moment on a silly diet. I don't even own a scale. I thought I had put this all behind me.

Then I had a daughter of my own. 

In college I heard that girls as young as seven were going on diets and feeling pressure to be thin. "Surely not all seven-year-olds," I thought, "those girls must be the rare exception." No, not so much. My own little girl was seven when a classmate first introduced the idea of dieting and the importance of being thin. When I found out what was going on I truly felt physically ill. I want nothing more for my child (and yours) than for her to grow up confident that she has a special gift to give the world. And no one's gift is how they look.

This is such an overwhelming topic. How can I protect my sweet little girl from this unnamed, ever-present pressure to look a certain way--especially when I couldn't even protect myself? I don't pretend to have all the answers. All I have is one decision:

I've decided that the Beatles were right when they sang "love is all you need."  Love is what I need to hold off this pernicious voice that tells us to look a certain way in order to be "good enough." I'm not talking about increasing my love for my daughter--I have that in spades. What I was missing for so long was unconditional love for myself. The key is to love myself just the way I am. Right now. With "imperfect" weight, blemished skin, unfinished goals, whatever. 

I love myself it won't matter who says what about diets, because I won't listen. But this doesn't just help me. I truly believe that love multiplies and that if I love myself without conditions, I can love and accept you, too. If we love ourselves we can stop comparing ourselves to each other or to air-brushed/styled/professionally-crafted standards. We can simply be ourselves. And our daughters will see that whoever we are is "good enough." Whoever they are is good enough. We will build their strength and resilience by showing them our own.

Our daughters deserve to live this way. And so do we. Love is what I have to offer.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Picking a Class for Your Preschooler

Me explaining a sauté
A number of people have asked me about how to pick a dance class for their preschooler. I'm about to be a little blasphemous here but here's my take: If your kid is under the age of eight we don't need to worry so much about amazing technique being taught. If you can find a teacher who trains gorgeous dancers, so much the better. But when I picked a teacher for my daughter, when I recommended a studio for my niece, and when I give friends my opinion on where to take their kids it all comes down to three things.

  1. Is the commute something you can comfortably do?
  2. Is the cost of lessons affordable for your family?
  3. Does your gut feel good about this teacher for your child?
You don't need to have any dance expertise at all to make these decisions. You just need to know yourself and your kid.

Number three is so important. A dance teacher can be a powerful influence in your child's life so it absolutely matters how you feel about them. And a good teacher for your friend's kid might not be a good teacher for yours. For example: I have a pretty loud voice and a fairly large personality. When I get excited (say, by three-year-olds accomplishing something new) those tend to get even bigger. If your preschooler is afraid of adults with loud voices I am not the right teacher for you right now. I am a good teacher, but not the right fit for you. 

It's better to find the best teacher for your kid. We'll all be happier.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Geek Cred Challenged

my plush salmonella

Someone recently asserted that I am not geeky. I beg to differ. Being geeky really just means you're exceptionally enthusiastic about something. So, really, I'm geeky about ballet, science, grammar and bedtime. But in case you want to know how stereotypically geeky I am, here's a (non-comprehensive) list. 

I have a poster illustrating subatomic particles in my spare bedroom. While I don't own anything Hello Kitty, I do have a Hello Schröddy T-shirt. And a Soft Kitty plush toy. (That one was a gift. I don't actually like cats but my daughter thought I needed a stuffed animal.) I also have a plush salmonella microbe. It lives in my kitchen because I think it's funny. There is also a Batman poster in my kitchen.

I have seen every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation multiple times. I have read The Nitpickers Guide for Next Generation Trekkers, The Physics of Star Trek and A Brief History of Time. My husband has conversational Klingon cassette tapes and I haven't "accidentally" thrown them out. My ringtone is Felicia Day's "Do You Want to Date My Avatar?" and the last time I sewed elastics on some ballet slippers I watched episodes of "Tabletop" the whole time. 

I have test tube-shaped cookie cutters. I've been to TEDx. My husband gave me a copy of 1984 for our first Valentine's Day and I liked that. I know why some people dress up as Darth Vader the day before Cinco de Mayo. The last time my internet went down I had to explain to the customer service rep what Cat 6 cable was.

I named my cell phone "Aki", my desktop is "Kissy Suzuki", the iPad is Vesper Lynd, and the external hard drive is "Pussy Galore". You Only Live Twice is my favorite Bond movie, but if you've been keeping track of which movies those names came from you've probably already figured that out.

I think you might have been keeping track of which movies those names came from.

ThinkGeek is one of my favorite catalogs/websites. In addition to the other products from that site mentioned, I also have ninjabread men cookie cutters, a Self-Rescuing Princess shirt (I earned that one) and a BSG shirt. I currently have 1,000 geek points awaiting redemption on the site and at least three Timmy stickers floating around.

Whenever someone uses my toaster I refer to it (the toaster, not the act of toasting) as "frakking". I think it's a travesty that "Firefly" was cancelled and if I ever get to go to lunch with Joss Whedon I'll probably be so excited the event will be nothing but me choking on my beverage. And then I'll brag about it. I've already asked for permission to use an xkcd comic on my headstone. I know where my towel is.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Misadventures in Leotard Shopping

You guys. I cannot believe how hard it is to get the leotard I want. I can't tell if I should laugh or scream. Mostly I'm just sitting here dumbfounded.

A few months ago I decided that I was going to replace every leotard that I got in high school. (It is embarrassing how long ago high school was. It was time to let them go.) So each month I have been getting one new leotard. I now have a beautiful charcoal gray one with cap sleeves and an asymmetrical neckline, a black one with lace (not the oh-so-popular lace-back one you're thinking of), and a lovely slate blue one with a cowl neckline. But every time I shopped for a leotard I just couldn't forget the green one I once saw.

I get Pointe Magazine's e-newsletter and they often feature new leotards. Months ago they featured a beautiful emerald green leotard from a new company in China. When I first saw it I clicked on the link to buy it, but there must have been some error in translation because the website wanted $3,000 for it. It didn't seem worth the bother to work out the issue. After all, how hard could it be to find a beautiful emerald green leotard? 

Answer: so hard! Nothing I've seen has compared to that lovely leotard and, since I am replacing my very last high school leotard this month, I decided I was going to figure out a way to get it. (Short of maxing out several credit cards, that is.) Googling "Chinese leotard companies" wasn't helpful. Neither were "emerald green leotards" or "sweetheart neckline leotards" or any of the other search terms I entered. So I went to my email account and pulled up every Pointe e-newsletter I had. I started with January of 2012 and worked my way closer to the present. At last I found the link to the leotard I wanted. (Bonus: the link still worked. I took that as a sign that the company was still solvent.)

They still make the beautiful leotard. But there was no "add to cart" option. No "buy it now." For the first time in the history of the internet, no one was willing to take my money. I clicked over to payment options, only to find they didn't accept credit cards. Nope. If I wanted to do business with this company I had to either wire the money through Western Union or open a bank account in Hong Kong. I'm still wrapping my brain around it.

Another peculiarity: the preferred way to contact the company is to post a message on their message board. I am entirely too lazy to do that because that would require me to check back again. The onus would be on me and I just don't think it should be that hard to offer someone my money.

(Note: I'm still not entirely sure how much one leotard will cost me.)

I am astounded.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I ❤ Parent Observation Days

                                                                                                                  photo courtesy of stock.exchng

There are so many reasons I love having end-of-year parent observation classes.

  1. Parent observation classes are free. There aren't performance fees, costume fees or tickets to buy.
  2. I can get much better pictures of my kid dancing.
  3. My kid basically dances the entire time. I'm not sitting through a two-hour show waiting for one particular two-minute dance.
  4. These classes showcase everything dancers have learned over the year; choreography on stage doesn't incorporate every single element.
  5. These classes give me a chance to observe the teacher too. I think it's important to feel really comfortable with the teacher.
  6. Parent observation classes happen in an environment kids are already comfortable in. It's much more fun for everyone when kids aren't nervous.
  7. We don't have to spend a lot of class time learning choreography. That means we get to spend more time on classwork, which means the kids look even better when it's time for the observation class. It creates a positive feedback loop.
  8. It's a nice chance for the teacher to get to know the parents. Sure, we see you in the hallway, but it's always nice to make a connection. And in this instance we connect over how wonderfully your kid is doing.
  9. Having an audience motivates kids to work just a little bit harder than usual, so the classes are lots of fun to teach.
  10. It's a great chance to teach parents a little bit about what their kid is working so hard on. Many parents don't have a dance background so it's nice to do a little outreach.
  11. When the class coincides with kids moving into another level or a new teacher coming in, it's a great way to introduce the kids to the new teacher. They get to see the teacher while the class still feels very familiar and the new teacher gets to see exactly what level the kids are at.
  12. My boss always orders really yummy cookies for the parent observation classes.
There are other reasons, but my brain stopped working once it remembered how much I love those cookies.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Even Ballet has a Dip

                                                                                                                          photo of my own little dancer

First of all, yes, I am referring to Seth Godin's book The Dip. For the purposes of this post you should know that everything worth doing has a Dip. The Dip is the part in between being a beginner and being a master. It isn't much fun, but it's part of becoming the best. (And the book is definitely worth reading.)

It's always interesting to me to see when the Dip is going to kick in for students. It's not dependent on age or even years of training. It happens when a student becomes aware of just how much they've accomplished (usually a lot) but doesn't have the context to know how far they still have to go (always a lot farther).

The Dip usually resolves in one of three ways: 1) the dancer sticks it out and eventually reaches a level where things feel fun again. 2) the dancer decides that this is not worth the work and quits. 3) the dancer decides that the Dip is because the teacher is sub-par and they search elsewhere for a teacher who can skip them past this stage. 

I am against resolution 3.

Granted, some teachers are better than others. And not every teacher is great for every student. So I have no problem with you searching out the best teacher for you. But be clear about why you're looking around. If you're at a school with a good track record for producing the kind of dancer you want to be, you should seriously consider staying there. No teacher has a shortcut to excellence. The only way for you to become truly accomplished is if you do all the hard work along the way. All of it.

And "fun" is going to mean something different when you get through this. When you're first beginning ballet is fun partly because it's so new. You get new tights! New slippers! New leotards! You're learning new steps all the time. You're getting to know your body in a new way. But during the Dip you feel like your tights are dirty, your shoes have holes, you're sick of every leotard you own and you start thinking that if you have to hear about "using your plié" one more time you might scream. 

When it gets fun again part of the reason it's fun is because everything is familiar. The clothes, the vocabulary, and most especially your body. It's fun because it's part of you and there's nowhere else on earth like class. There is a freedom that comes with knowing what you're doing.

How much work does it take to get through the Dip? I can't say for certain, but I know that I did more than 30 glissades last week alone. It absolutely gets fun again, but the only ways out of a Dip are to quit or to push through.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Why I am Not a Pointe Shoe Expert

                                                                                                                                                                                                photo from stock.xchng

Yes, I wear pointe shoes. Yes, I teach ballet. Yes, I can tell you if the shoes you bought fit acceptably.

But I will not tell you what kind of shoes to buy.

Do you know how many different shoes there are out there? Discount Dance has 167 hits for "pointe shoes" (okay, some of them are for ribbons or Jet Glue, but you get the idea). And there are plenty of brands that you can't find on that website. So you can imagine how wide the possible selection is.

And then there's the issue of your feet. Are they wide? Narrow? Wide at the toes and narrow at the heel? Do you have super-flexible arches? How long are your toes?

And there are a bunch of personal preferences to consider as well. How hard do you like your boxes? How hard do you like your shank? Do you want a shorter shank? And the lists go on.

Do yourself a favor: get fit by a professional. And I don't just mean someone employed at a dance supply store. Find someone who really knows pointe shoes. And really knows about a lot of brands of pointe shoes, not just what they wore in high school. Most places around here charge a pointe shoe fitting—which seems reasonable to me. After all, you could be spending a lot of their time only to find the shoe you want, go home, and buy it online. A fitting fee at least compensates them for their time. But the fitting fee alone doesn't tell you if you're working with a shoe expert.
  • A shoe expert will take as long as necessary to do a good fitting; a salesperson will get frustrated after about the fifth pair.
  • An expert will consider every brand they carry in that store; a salesperson will push you towards whatever they have overstocked. (For this reason, I do suggest you look for a store with a wide selection of brands and sizes.)
  • An expert will tell you if they don't have your size in stock. Sure, there's a really good chance that you'll buy the shoe elsewhere, but they care about the fit. A salesperson will tell you how to compensate to wear whatever size shoe they have. (I am totally against buying a size longer + narrower or adjusting padding, etc., to make up for a bad fit. Totally against it.)
  • A expert feels genuine satisfaction when they help you find the right shoe. A salesperson feels happy that they get a commission.
Then there are things that experts and salespeople both may do. Both may suggest customization of a shoe. This usually means a custom order and a higher price. I'm not offering an opinion here because, again, I don't know your feet. I will say don't let them bully you in to a shoe you aren't reasonably confident you'll like. Because custom orders can't be returned.

An expert or a salesperson may require an appointment for your shoe fitting. Or they may not. I've had excellent fittings (and lousy ones) either way.

The best way to tell who the best fitters in your area are is word of mouth. And the word around here is that the best place to get fitted is Dance Boutique in Heber City, UT. Sure, it's about a 40-minute drive from my house but that's where I'm planning to take my daughter when it's time for her first pair.

P. S. The ribbons and elastic are always sold separately.