Ballet Workout Number 9

Niagara Falls has nothing on me, that’s how much I’m sweating.

Our trainer walks in, catches my eye and gives me a smile. I’m recognized and I instantly know that I can’t move to the back of the room. My place is here, front and center. Well, her place is front and center, mine is slightly to the side. I have accepted the prima ballerina inside me waiting to burst forth and will continue working out. With great workouts comes great sweating.

I missed the previous class, but it’s gratifying and energizing to see that my body seems to remember something. This time I actually manage to sincerely smile at my reflection in the mirror before the sweat obscures my vision. It’s nice to see what I hope really is a straight back and how we all do exercises in sync, as if we’re participating in a performance we hadn’t discussed with each other.

There is slightly less choreography this time and the larger parts of what we did previously have been broken down in to smaller ones. We’re concentrating in greater detail on steps, toes, fingers, and really making an effort, hence the sweating. I’m sorry, I’m writing too much about sweating in this post, it’s making me perspire.

Occasionally our trainer shouts, “Is that ballet? That’s not ballet!” Well, the question we might want to ask ourselves, really, or that we don’t yet trust ourselves to ask her is, what is ballet?

I don’t get as much attention as last time, except for my tendus. “I’m doing this,” our instructor says, sweeping her foot in a graceful arc behind her. “And that’s not what you’re doing.” But of course I remember the instruction about aligning my outstretched foot with the tip of my nose when I bring it back. Got it, got it.

This time I also manage to sometimes pick up my arms and do movements along with moving my feet, switching correctly, so score!

We finish with our hands and feet on the floor, our bodies bent upwards like triangles. “Nothing is supposed to be bending,” the trainer calls out, and I know this is leveled at me. I can’t see what’s bent, because I’m looking down, but I venture a sideways glance at the mirror and am rewarded by a total vision. Red face, sweat dripping down the sides, glasses slipping down my nose, hair all over the place, legs bent at the knees. “Go further forward with your hands,” my trainer says. I do. “Futher!” I do. But only so far. “This is the dog, from yoga, you know?” I didn’t know, I’m woefully misinformed where yoga is concerned, but then, I’ve only just accepted my inner ballerina.

Advertisements

Ballet Workout Number 8

I’m a star. I think I just have to accept it. You have to come to terms with fame, otherwise it will swallow you up and then spit out the stuff it doesn’t like for the world to trample on, leaving nothing behind, nothing. I am not being dramatic. I’m being realistic. I’m being prepared.

I wanted to stay in the back of the class, but our trainer made me come forward.

After last week’s ballet workout number 7, I stayed true to my decision and moved towards the back of the gym. Our trainer nodded in my direction and said, “Can you take two steps forward, you’re standing right by the bar.” I looked behind me, and sure enough, there was a girl standing contentedly right by the bar. Speaking of which, why aren’t we using the bar? When I turned my head back around, my trainer was still looking at me expectantly, and then repeated, “Come forward,” waving her hand encouragingly. I came forward and it was more than two steps. Either she likes me, or I simply radiate raw, at the moments somewhat deeply buried talent, or both. Or she thinks I’m a special case and is giving me particular attention so I understand. Or she’s simply doing her job. But clearly both of us share the belief that one day this will be me:

We mostly follow the same routine as last time and it’s not as overwhelming, nor is the speed with which we change between exercises. I’ve had a whole week to calm down, after all. It’s also inspiring to see the precision and grace of our trainer’s movements. Within seconds of doing our deep, deep plies, though, I get approached, and I can’t get what I’m doing wrong with my back and its lower part. I think my butt is just bigger and curvier…and that’s just the way it is. Another learning curve. Ha! I know, but I couldn’t resist.

When I face the mirror sideways and we do a “check” on our position, the trainer is happy. I forget it promptly when we face the mirror full-frontal again. I’m sure it will come back as I continue discovering my inner star.

We reach the this time slightly less complicated sideways position with feet pointing in different directions and start adding up steps, and while my switches might not be the most swan-like, I certainly manage to follow the choreography, flinging up the right arm and leg each time. It’s still hard to concentrate on both my legs or feet and my arm movements at the same time, so I keep them on my hips for most of the class.

Valuable information learned includes the fact that you don’t show your thumbs when you raise your arms in the first position, and during front tendus the line of your outstretched and curved foot should be aligned with…the tip of your nose! “Your nose is not here!” our trainer tells me encouragingly, pointing at her cheek.

I find myself touched by this disclosure of definitely insider ballet details, because while many of us might be new to the workout, we are not treated inferior. Rather, we are obviously treated like we can learn, regardless of what we came to the workout for or what our level of expertise is.

 

 

 

Ballet Workout Number 7

“Your hips and shoulders, this is all one line, OK?”

I’m getting way more attention than I bargained for, but with the glittering confidence born during previous workouts I have positioned myself almost directly behind our trainer. Well, tough! I can see her clearly and I can definitely see my whole body in the full-length mirror. And she can see me. I’m just an introvert and I wasn’t expecting this, you know?

It’s hard to distinguish exactly how my shoulders and hips should be aligned, because at the same time I’m straining not to drop my “long arms” (“Keep them long, keep them long!”), which already feel like logs, and not slip on one foot while aligning the other. Did I mention my knees were bent?

The trainer attempts to nudge one of my slipper-clad feet in the right direction, but I can’t cooperate and balance without abandoning the whole position. “Don’t work against my hand!” she says encouragingly. I explain about slipping – sorry, explain? I grunt and gasp. I’m told conspirationally that to train in ballet slip-ons is “scheiße” and to go barefoot or find slip-proof socks. Thanks, but no. And after my happiness about finding the slippers, we’re sticking together.

Since I’m still struggling with alignment, my trainer clearly thinks I don’t understand her instructions, because the next thing she says, also encouragingly, is “Quadratisch, praktisch, gut!” As flattering as it is to be compared to one of Germany’s most famous chocolate brands, it’s not enough. I want to tell her which flavor I think I am, but she moves away to the back of the gym to see who else’s hips are lying. I can practically feel the relief of the middle section of the class that they weren’t noticed. On the other hand, they might be too busy sweating.

We mean business. The trainer’s movements are fast, beautiful and the speed of switching between exercises is literally breath-taking. No classical music this time – thumping tribal and gypsy beats fill the room. I want to do what I normally do at a silent disco party, which is go all out, but I can’t. I have to deep, deep plie, then straighten my legs and raise my arms with the grace I’m still sure I possess, then fold them down the middle of my chest (after a few minutes I finally get how to do this) and deep, deep plie once more.

Everyone is making an effort to keep up and I feel a surge of affection towards my classmates. Our trainer is as bendy as a twig and shouts that we’re supposed to be having fun, she wants to see it! We’re doing a quick mix of tendu, step and throw it all out, arms and one leg, switching sides, and I’m focused on following the girl in front of me to keep up with the pace.

During another exercise that involves swinging and switching your arms while your feet are doing something else, I discover that there is a limit to even my multitasking. “Why are you doing it with the same arms?” the trainer asks. “Well…why not?” doesn’t seem like a suitable answer in this case, so I politely say I’m trying.

Balancing on tiptoe with my arms raised above my head refreshes the feeling of glamour and power, as we fill the gym with our various music box ballerina likenesses. Our trainer says that, unfortunately, we don’t have time for exercises on the mat and I silently utter a prayer of thanks (judge me, I don’t care, there’s no POINTE, hahaha). We stretch a little and breathe, which helps with my minor case of sensory overload.

I’m also proud of how I apPLIEd myself, despite my TENDUncy to quietly stick to the back at first. Sometimes you just have to work on your ATTITUDES, and obviously you might get some back.

Don’t you just love what I did there?

 

Ballet Workout Number Six

I am a swan. My graceful movements are transporting me across the gym. I extend my long arms, one in front of me, one behind me, and I’m not a swan anymore. I’m Odette, y’all!

Imagination is a wonderful thing. In reality I’m sweating from my head down and my legs and arms feel slightly heavy. Our trainer (yet another different one today) is seriously nice. She explains and demonstrates the moves she wants us to make as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to do them, seemingly with complete faith that we will all be able to execute these lovely ballet components. I immediately like her for it. “Long arms, long arms, keep your arms long!” At 5’10, I hope I’ve got that one covered. OK, I know what she means.

I can’t really see what I’m doing, because I’m concentrating on not falling and not crashing in to the women jumping ahead of me. I therefore don’t really now if my moves are lovely, but I’m having a lovely time.

We are lining up in fours and prancing across the gym with varying degrees of…style. I watch, fascinated, as the first few participants seem to do exactly what we were instructed to do, and it looks amazing. We cover the gym in multiple directions – diagonally, straight on, back and forth. I never stop moving, and though it feels like Odette might have turned back in to a walrus instead of a swan, I decide that in my own little show she’s a happy walrus.

To my delight, standing up on tip-toes and balancing while extending my arms upwards and to the sides is working out better and better, as is following the familiar (yes, that’s just what I do now) choreography bits with tendu. We’ve spent most of the class doing exercizes standing up, so that was an interesting switch. I wonder which part of my body I’ll feel responding tomorrow.

A few tell-tale crunches once again pop around the gym once we bend our knees in our first plies. I lower myself extra carefully, not wanting to join the soundtrack, and watch our trainer position her knees turned outside, looking like an upside-down letter T.

I’ll just work on my long arms for now.

 

 

 

Ballet Workout Number Four

I’m already on number four? Unbelievable!

I forgot my towel, but hey, this isn’t a sweaty workout, so I’m sure I’ll be fine. It’s about stretching and poise, right?

Within 10 minutes I’m eating my words. The leg raising exercises seem more complicated this time around, especially when I’m on my knees, trying to maintain elegant positions of everything that’s not in the air while coordinating that which is. The angles to which our trainer can bend herself are mind-blowing. And she talks at the same time, while I try, again, to breathe in and out correctly, and not giggle from slight nerves.

“Other way,” she says suddenly. I would have jumped, being startled, but I can’t, because I’m on my back. One leg is bent at the knee, the other is stretched out behind me, and I’m supposed to reach around my side with one arm and try to touch the (almost) straight leg. “The other way,” our trainer repeats. I start awkwardly rearranging my legs, trying to look like I do this on a daily basis. “No, no, your legs are in the correct position, it’s your head, your head, look the other way!” OH.

Just the evening before, my friend and I had been talking about how nice it was that you could get used to things in the class without being watched or called out (I have no problem with instructions, I’m just attached to my own headspace for a while before I can process them properly). But since we are markedly fewer participants today, we are there to see and be seen.

And seen we are. Details emerge, like how to hold your elbows during the warm-up arm wavy arm movements I like to do so much. It’s easier to distinguish ourselves in the mirror and therefore we’re more in sync as Tchaikovsky plays in the background. We’re our own little ballet company.

My abs, or what currently passes for them, are groaning in protest, but I do my best, sweat trickling down my face, managing not to pant. This time my choreography bit in the end is not half bad and I feel nicely ironed out when class ends.

Ballet Workout Number Three

Today’s ballet workout was, simply put, so good.

I had made some improvements after my last class. It turns out the bun you twist your long hair into either needs to be high up on your head or it needs to be flatter, coiled elegantly against the back, most likely secured with pins (not too skilled in this area and might get overwhelmed by a YouTube tutorial).

I made these logical conclusions all on my own after not being able to lay my head down properly when we did exercises from the back. As a result you end up feverishly sticking your hair up in a sloppy scramble, while trying to stretch your legs up in the air and pay attention to when you’re supposed to be breathing in and out. Today I came with a side braid! Problem solved! So what if some of it comes out behind my ears. I’m a primadonna and there’s no stopping me.

I also ordered a pair of ballet slip-ons on Amazon, after seeing them on other women in the group. The product info lists a tip suggesting I order a size larger, so I do. As soon as they arrive, nude-colored and with extra leather pads sewn on the soles, and I put them on, I understand. While stretchy and bendy, they sit snugly on the foot and my own size would definitely have been too tight a fit. As I walk out of the changing rooms to wait until the gym opens, I see some of the participants in socks glancing at my footwear the way I did during my first ballet workout. Look and learn!

The shoes are a better solution for me than socks and, to me, my stretched out feet look better in the mirror, further inflaming my romanticized ballerina fantasies, which is, of course, why I picked a ballet workout in the first place.

The trainer from my first class appears, red lipstick, bright smile, neatly coiled hair and black exercise clothes. SHE does everything in socks, but then she also bends forward from a sitting position three times further than I do, while giving us instructions on how to breathe and what to do. The by now more familiar French terms sprinkle the workout session and it feels good to stretch properls. Bits from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty play, the sparkling beauty of the music mixing with the sound of all of us breathing in and blowing out.

Slight crunching sounds accompany our almost in-sync pliés and we are told to not go deeper than we can. There are more participants this time and I can’t quite see our instructor, so I end up copying the movements of a girl I recognize from my first ballet workout, the one in serious-looking rehearsing-dancer-inspired gear. She’s clearly good at this, and it also turns out she has a friendly face.

I mess up the minor choreography in the end again – how do you switch between the tendus properly? But I love all the arm movements accompanying the sequence. I am a star, I AM the ballet, I’m… Oh, class is over. We clap. Just like at the end of any good performance.

Ballet Workout Number Two

Today’s workout is kicking my butt… Actually, no, my butt is fine, but other parts of my body, like what I thought were my non-existent abs (surprise!) or my arms are feeling the burn. Welcome to ballet workout number two. I’m doing this thing!

Once again, I’m not doing actual ballet, I’m doing a ballet workout, which incorporates elements of ballet training (on a very minor scale for us beginners with possibly no previous physical ballet experience). But it’s fun to see family and friends’ eyes light up when I mention this type of exercise, and whenever I raise my arms above my head, “I feel pretty, oh so pretty”. Bring it on!

The trainer is different this time and there is no classical music. The routine also varies a little, but that’s fine, because all the magazines tell you it’s good to “switch it up” and “go for variety” as far as your workout is concerned. We start with standing warm-ups and exercises. That childhood question, “How long can you stand on your tippy-toes?” is quickly answered as we’re instructed to do so. Can I? Yes. Can I raise one leg while doing so? Hell no.

But I’m not to be deterred. In my blissful headspace, I look like this:

In reality the trainer notices me discreetly lower my outstretched arms to my hips when we do various combinations of tendu and plie (quick French lessons included in workout!). “Yes, yes, do that to control yourselves, to see where your back is!” she calls out encouragingly. I hope my back is where it’s supposed to be, though I need a few seconds to decipher what “Bellybutton towards your spine!” means. Additional interesting statements include “You have an apple between your chin and your chest!” and “There is a glass of water standing on your back that you need to keep upright!” Well, then, I would be soaked, because my butt is sticking up in the air like someone is pulling it up by a wire. I think I’m just too tall for anything nearing push-up status.

We lie on our backs and are asked to stretch one leg upwards, then grab the back of our calves with our hands and stretch. I just manage to get past my knee and know that there is no way I will make the rest of the distance. I turn my head to look at the floor-length mirrors covering the opposite wall, and spot one bent leg, like a grasshopper, sticking out among a sea of straight ones. Yep, me again, blazing my own trail. What do these women do? Is it because most of them are shorter than me? Do they have decades of yoga behind them?

And another thing. Trainers might look just like you when they enter the gym, but then they start doing exercises, all while talking and explaining them, and you realize they are either aliens or unicorns.

The stretching takes care of the kinks I brought along from a week at my day job and I order some ballet slippers (not shoes) for the next class. Because that’s what I do now, this workout thing and this workout gear stuff.