The Little Things: Part Two

Part two of why we should take pleasure in the little things. To me, taking an interest and appreciation for the little things in life is what keeps us sane as dancers. We are constantly working hard and the next day we work harder. We have an endless need for improvement and that can take a lot out of us.

In order to not lose it, I believe we need to find appreciation for the little things. Now this doesn’t mean we need to take a hobby because heck, we don’t even have much time for hobbies as dancers. I’m just saying find those small things that are in everyday life that bring you happiness.

The first thing I would look for some sunshine in is the seasons. Like every other person, I love the warm days of summer, but nothing gets me more excited than the fall and winter seasons. I can’t wait to pick pumpkins, carve them, pull on a sweater, and drink some tea. I can’t wait for snowflakes to fall in my hair and listen to the snow crunch beneath my boots. It may not be much, but the weather and seasonal norms of winter and fall just make me happy.

Another thing to take joy in are the pretty things around us. Flowers are great, they aren’t rare or expensive (the latter is debatable), but they are nice to look at. It’s always nice to have a bouquet on my desk (even if they’re dead).

Plane views are just another thing I really like. You get to see your world from a whole new perspective and it is awesome. Obviously plane views and flowers might not be your thing, but just try to find something you wouldn’t mind staring at all day.

The next thing I encourage you to delve into is music. Music can make my food better in the blink of an eye. I listen to it getting ready to school, walking to school, studying, cooking, doing chores, and every other time of the day. Try and find something not on the radio that is a little different and special to you. It makes just a little bit cooler when you meet someone else that likes it.

Lastly find something you love to eat or drink. It may seem silly, but I’m serious. For me, it is coffee, I realize some people may think I’m too young to enjoy coffee, but I assure you I’ve done my research and it’s perfectly fine. Having that one little thing you enjoy to eat and can make your day is kind of great. If all it takes to make you happy is a certain donut or vegetable with dinner then great! To be able to be content for the day because you got that pear from the farmer’s market is a-okay.

All I want you to get out of the post, is to take care of yourself and find something that pleases each sense. We don’t get a lot of free time, but if we have a new artist to listen to, something to munch on, something to stare at endlessly, something to feel good on our skin, and a scent dancing into our noses we’ll be just dandy. See you this Friday and don’t forget to share with friends!

You Are What You Eat?

There is a quote that goes “First we eat then we do everything else.” by M.F.K Fisher. I feel that this quote is true and that sometimes ballet dancers and everyone else should be reminded of it.

To me this quote says that we are fueled by our food and must eat to fill the tank before we start the day. This is a good way to see our relationship with food if you ask me. Food is what fuels us and gets us ready for the day and keeps us running through it. Of course there are other things food can serve as, but that is a different conversation.

I feel like society and young dancers especially think they need to eat for the body they want instead of eating to fuel the body they have. This notion of eating a certain way for a certain body type is definitely an impression given to dancers by society.

I remember I was at a party and wasn’t eating much because I wasn’t hungry, but someone there made a comment along the lines of “Trying to keep your ballet figure?”. I’ve also come across an Instagram account where the girl shares what little she eats and the captions consist of how she is thinks is overweight at 110 lbs. She believes she must be skinnier for ballet. It’s upsetting to see this girl keep from eating and have people make comments like the one from above.

My point in sharing this is just to give a friendly reminder that we shouldn’t eat a certain way in hope to obtain a different figure. Instead, we should eat to take care of our body and give it the fuel for those long days at the studio.

Beyond eating enough, we need to eat the right things. Obviously you shouldn’t just eat brownies and tacos, but you also don’t have to avoid them entirely. We can eat those things and others while being healthy as long as we eat the proper portions.

Overall my advice is to most importantly, eat enough and secondly eat what you want in moderation. Food is your fuel not your fattener and sometimes we forget it in the slim world of ballet. We are hard-working athletes that need energy, so let’s eat up!

I hope you found this post helpful and check back next week for another post!

 

The Little Things: Part One

On this cold St. Patty’s day I’m writing about the little things, part one of two. Ballet is something that we devote a lot of our time to and sometimes we need a break. Sometimes to take a break, we take pleasure in the little things. The little things I do to relax that are ballet related include reading Pointe magazine and going to see Bolshoi Ballet in cinema.

Pointe Magazines

Pointe magazine is one of those great sources of information for dancers that also entertains. After a long day, it is so nice to just sit down, grab some tea, and read Pointe. Whether your reading about a new up and coming choreographer or tips for auditions, Pointe always manages to keep you interested. It is an easy way to stay in touch with the dance world while relaxing.

Pointe has such a wide variety of content, too. Some of the most helpful stretches and exercises I know, I’ve found in Pointe. In addition to that, Pointe gives advice for your dancing, tells about events in ballet, and doesn’t just focus on the big companies. Pointe looks at ballet dancers and companies everywhere, not just the major ones. To see more about Pointe check out the link at the bottom of the page.

Ticket

Ticket for the next Bolshoi performance

Another great thing to check out is the Bolshoi Ballet performances that they show in theaters. Knowing that I’ll probably never see one of their shows in person, this is such a great opportunity. The show is projected in great quality and gives you the view of a front row seat. I’ve been able to see two shows so far this year and I’ve enjoyed both a lot.

I first saw The Golden Age. The dancers were wonderful at portraying their character. You truly felt a dislike for the antagonist and a sympathy for Lyuska. Aside from the acting, the dancing was incredible. The dancers brought the technique and artistry together with ease. The second one I saw was the classic, The Sleeping Beauty. It held all the wonders The Golden Age did, but with its own excitement. Look below for Bolshoi’s link.

I hope you enjoyed the post and get to go relax with a “little thing”. None of this post is sponsored, just things I enjoy, that you might too. Check back Monday for a post on how what we eat intertwines with ballet.

http://pointemagazine.com/

http://bolshoiballetincinema.com/

Sewing Pointe Shoes

Final post about shoes before moving onto a new topic. This post will be about how I sew my shoes and my tips for sewing shoes.

Let’s start with supplies:

  • sail needle
  • normal needle
  • elastic drawstring
  • dental floss
  • pointe shoe ribbons
  • pointe shoe elastics
  • scissors

I always start by sewing on the elastics and ribbons and then replace the drawstring. I do this because once the elastic drawstring is in, it is much harder to sew on the ribbons and elastics.

First, pull out the cloth drawstring (if you have one) and then put unsewn shoe on the foot. Test where you want to sew elastics. I sew mine criss-cross, so there is more support and to avoid twisting. You must also be sure that the elastics you use are meant for pointe shoes because they are stronger. If you use other elastics it will be harder to dance and you may eventually have to switch them to pointe shoe elastics.

Where I sew my elastics is shown in the images above. I sew both of the elastics to the back of the shoe first. Once both elastics have been sewn to the back, I sew the fronts with the ribbons.

A great trick for sewing the ribbons, to avoid them ripping off like I have often struggled with is to not cut the ribbons. It seems a little weird and like it might not be comfortable, but give it a try. I can’t take credit for this idea, it came from my friend Sarah. With the elastics and ribbons sewn as I described, the shoe should look like this.

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I always sew my elastics and ribbons with square stitching. This doesn’t take much more time, but allows for a lot more strength.

Once all the elastics and ribbons have been sewn I use the sail needle to put the elastic drawstring in my shoes. I have to do this because it is the only way I can get shoes to fit right. I also use dental floss to stitch my shoes because it is way stronger than thread and is much cheaper than the special pointe shoe thread. I also want to recommend the Suffolk ribbons once again because they are my absolute favorite.

I have also dabbled with darning. I used the sail needle to stitch with thick thread around the platform rather than covering the whole platform. It was nice to try, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. It took a little too much time and didn’t make enough of a difference.

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Partially sewn shoes

I may not have brought a lot of new tips to the table, but I hope you found something new and helpful in this post. Come back this Friday for a new post and don’t forget to share this post with others!

Suffolk Pointe Shoes

suffolk pointe shoes

For my third post in the shoes series, I’m talking about my current pointe shoes. Right now, I wear Suffolk’s Stellar shoes.

To start these shoes are very nice looking. The satin is slightly pinky peach. They have a cloth drawstring that I usually replace with an elastic one to help the shoe fit better. I am slightly obsessed with Suffolk’s ribbons. The brand’s ribbons are the same on each side, with a slightly dull look. This means less pancaking and no worries about sewing a ribbon on the wrong side, which I love.

Part of the reason I started wearing these shoes is because it has helped with the twisting I previously discussed in my Bloch shoes post. The twisting doesn’t even occur in these shoes. They are very strong, which I personally like. Since they are strong, I recommend breaking the box in beforehand. I always do this because if I don’t I’m sure to get blisters in class. You want to be careful when doing this to avoid over breaking in.

These shoes have been really good to me. I never had problems performing in them, they last awhile, and shape to the foot well. They are a little more expensive Bloch, but it is worth it because of the decent life span of the shoes. The Suffolk shoes are really nice and if you are looking for something new check out the brand because I know a lot of people who like them other than me.

I hope you enjoyed the post and come back next Monday for final post of the shoe series!

 

Flat Shoes

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Capezio Cobra

A little late posting, but today’s subject is flat shoes. A lot of people focus on pointe shoes, but flat shoes are very important too. For most, about the first five to nine years of their dancing is just in flat shoes. Some wear leather and some wear canvas. There are so many brands it can make your head spin, so here is my take on flat shoes.

To be very generic, you can go two ways with flat shoes; leather or canvas. When I first started I wore leather shoes for dress code, but if I did not care for them. They have the benefit of lasting much longer than canvas shoes, but that is the only pro I can think of. I have found that leather is usually more expensive, but it isn’t always the case.

Canvas shoes are my preferred because they are generally cheaper and because of the look. Leather shoes do not look bad, but I think canvas shoes are more flattering. They fit the foot and shape to them to show off the arch cleanly. Going beyond leather and canvas you can go with split sole or full sole. In terms of flat shoes I would recommend a split sole because like the canvas it shapes to the foot well.

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Capezio Cobra ballet flats box.

Right now I am wearing Capezio’s Cobra flat shoes. They are canvas with split sole and come pre-sewn. The pre-sewn elastics are great, any time avoiding sewing is a plus. If you’re worried they may be sewn wrong for you, I haven’t experienced any issues, they have always fit right. I have really enjoyed them and recommend them to anyone who wants to try new shoes. After going through three pairs of them I may try something new because I always like to try new styles when it comes to ballet garb.

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Capezio Cobra shoe inside out

Sorry about the late posting, but I hope this post was helpful! Don’t forget that dress codes may permit certain shoes and everyone has their own preferences. Stay tuned for Suffolk pointe shoe post this Monday!

 

Bloch Pointe Shoes

Starting a new series on shoes this week. The first shoes I’m going to talk about are Bloch shoes.

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All of my Bloch shoes.

Bloch shoes were my first shoes. I wore Bloch European Balance, like many starting dancers. They were a great starter shoe. Not that these shoes aren’t good for wearing as a more experienced dancer, but they are better as a harder shoe. The reason they are better starter shoes is because they are very hard, which I personally think is a good characteristic for dancers new to pointe.

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First pair’s box.

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First pair of shoes.

One thing I really appreciated about these shoes is that they helped my feet not twist. My feet tend to twist in shoes and there are few shoes that fit right and can stop it. Of course as my feet grew stronger and more accustom to pointe the shoes weren’t able to prevent twisting as well.

I always felt very supported on these shoes and enjoyed wearing them. My first ever on stage pointe performance was in European Balance and I’ll always have special place for these shoes.

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My one and only non European Balance shoes that are still Bloch.

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The box, that doesn’t even go with the shoes.

I did wear one pair of Bloch shoes that weren’t European Balance. These shoes were ones that my studio was selling along with other custom shoes company members that were no longer dancing had order. They fit just fine, but I have no idea what they are because they are custom and the box doesn’t go with them.

Well, younger, not as experienced Ella had decided she really needed to break in these shoes. I over broke them in, so much so that the nail in the shank actually came out. Now this isn’t much of a problem for older dancers, but for twelve-year-old me it was.

I hadn’t even had one class in them and they were useless to me. When I did take class in them, it was no easy task. I soon got rid of those shoes and that has to be my most embarrassing mistake with pointe shoes, so to any newcomers pointe, be careful when you break in shoes!

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I hope you enjoyed reading about Bloch shoes and my embarrassing mistake. Come back this Friday for a post on flat shoes and don’t forget to follow, like, and comment!

Flexibility

Talking about a topic that I relate to a little too well, lack of flexibility.

We all at some point in our dancing careers lacked flexibility (unless you were lucky enough to be born with it) and I think we can all agree it sucks. While flexibility is such a vital part of dancing, I think it isn’t being seen something it isn’t. It has become another way for dancers to compare themselves with one another and to self depreciate. Through social media revealing only the most flexible people on the popular accounts, the common dancer feels lesser.

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My right side splits.

I personally have struggled with flexibility my whole life. It has definitely made me feel bad about myself as a dancer that despite how much I work to be flexible I could only get my rights side splits in the last year. I constantly stretch, but my body just isn’t built that way. It was and still is hard for me to see more flexible people praised and put first because their bodies were capable of what mine was not.

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My left side (almost) splits.

I’m not saying flexibility shouldn’t be such a big part of ballet, but I do think it should be looked at differently. Everyone should continue to work towards those oversplits because it does matter in the dance world. You should always be stretching to get those better lines, but you shouldn’t feel bad that your body isn’t as flexible as someone else’s.

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Middle splits

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Middle splits

To put it short, I just want dancers out there to know that you are not a lesser dancer for being less flexible.Don’t beat yourself up about flexibility like I did, but work hard instead to achieve it. Lacking flexibility doesn’t take away from you dancing, it’s just that having it can add to you dancing.

I hope you enjoyed this post, feel a little more comfortable in your skin, and keep working to gain flexibility! Stay tuned for a new series of posts on ballet shoes starting Monday and remember to follow below.

 

Oklahoma City Ballet Intensive

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My last day at OKCB with some friends.

The summer of 2016 I attended Oklahoma City Ballet’s summer intensive. It was a very good experience with its flaws. I went for two main reasons. To spend time with my grandparents in Oklahoma and to save money on an intensive. This intensive was the best option for me because I could stay with my grandparents and not have to pay for housing. I sent in an audition tape for OKCB and heard back very soon. I believe I heard back after about a week. One thing I really appreciated about OKCB is that they would always answer emails I had with questions before the intensive in a timely manner.

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My schedule for week three.

A day at OKCB was fairly busy, starting with either yoga or Pilates at nine, which was followed by technique. After class you would have pointe then a pretty long lunch break. The afternoon would then be followed by two either none ballet classes, partnering, choreography, or variations. I thoroughly enjoyed these afternoon classes because they introduced me to a lot of new aspects of dance. My first day at OKCB I took my first hip-hop class, which was just a great way to break the ice for a bunch of bunheads at their first day of a 3-6 week intensive. I also took my first partnering class at OKCB. That class was great. I had a really good partner and the staff went at such a good pace that pushed us newbies without overdoing it. I can honestly say that first partnering class gave me a whole new look and appreciation for ballet I had never had before.

Another thing that was “introduced” to me at OKCB was musical theater dancing. This was such a blast and a great way to have fun after a long day of ballet. To me it was basically jazz with more theatrics to it. The last new thing OKCB gave me a look at was choreographing. We got into groups where we had to work together to bring our visions together to form one piece. This class was so beneficial to me even as someone who may never be a choreographer because it made me think out of the box to explore what dance meant to me, more than you would by doing someone else’s choreography.

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Picture from piece I choreographed with peers (I’m in the middle, front).

Another thing I loved about OKCB was the teachers. It was primarily company members teaching us and I enjoyed that a lot. Each teacher gave us such different perspectives and nuggets of knowledge from their differing trainings. None of them had the exact same education as the next, so they each brought a new thing to the table for us to think about in class. It was nice to have so much to soak up from so many different people.

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Last day at OKCB.

The last thing I have to talk about is the environment of OKCB. This place felt very welcoming from the beginning. The moment I walked in and had placement class there was a girl five years older than me that talked to me and helped me relax in this brand new environment. That summarizes the atmosphere at OKCB pretty well. It definitely wasn’t big happy, perfect ballet family, but everyone was open. People were just willing to talk to one another and make things a little more comfortable. It was a subtle, but helpful warmth in the atmosphere. I will always be grateful for that girl who talked to me even though I was so young because while it didn’t seem like much it eased my first day nerves a lot.

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I hope you enjoyed this little bit about Oklahoma City Ballet summer intensive. There is also so much more to this program, but I can’t write it all, so if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments. Moving on from the summer intensive theme, so check back Monday for the next post!

GRB and Small Summer Intensives

Continuing with my summer intensive theme this week. I am going to talk about two things. First, why you should consider a smaller intensive. Secondly, my experience at Grand Rapids Ballet summer intensive.

Small summer intensives are great. Going to a smaller company’s intensive is something you should really consider any summer. To give the first, obvious reason, cost. Smaller summer intensives are way more affordable, which if you are like me, makes all the difference. While the reason they are usually more affordable is a lack of housing if you find a smaller intensive by a relative you can stay with it really is a nice break on the ol’ piggy bank.

Secondly, the more individual attention. Going to a smaller intensive allows for much more personal attention with usually smaller classes you will find yourself getting more attention than you would it at a big name intensive. You know by the end of the intensive your name tag has no purpose.

My last reason to consider a smaller intensive is that they are less strenuous. Now I understand that is one of the benefits of summer intensives is that they are, intense, but just think about it. Some summers are busier than others and going to a five-week long, 9 to 5 intensive one summer may be easy one year, but overwhelming the next. With summer being the only “off-season” of ballet don’t feel like you need to cram it with a lengthy intensive, but instead give your body a break. It isn’t bad to want to do a small intensive over a big one when there is school summer work, rare family vacations, or summer jobs.That is my take on smaller summer intensives, while they don’t provide some things big intensives provide like housing, they are great for when you need a break year.

Two summers ago I went to Grand Rapids Ballet summer intensive in Michigan. It was a great first summer intensive. I got a lot of individual attention I can be sure I wouldn’t find at other places. They also brought in teachers that gave you a lot of new and varying perspectives on dance. I had Sabi Varga, a dancer that started out in Hungary to Nicole Ciapponi with a more traditional training experience teaching me while at GRB.

My most cherished memory from going to GRB was being introduced to contemporary. I looked forward to contemporary so much, it was different from the typical modern and I loved it. Thom Dancy was my teacher and he showed me a whole new side to dance to love and appreciate. It is always the things you don’t expect at these small summer intensives that make them so great.

It was a really great experience and I have no regrets about attending a smaller intensive. Smaller intensives may not be your taste, but if you’re looking for something different and more doable you should consider them. I hope you enjoyed this post and check back Friday for my last summer intensive post, discussing my experience at Oklahoma City Ballet.