Weekend Updates: Art, Ankles and an Old Poem

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1. I’m really loving this series of ink-drawn ballerinas on book paper and mixed media. They’re by Romania-based artist Emanuel M. Ologeanu, who sells these and other prints on Etsy. These would look perfect in simple black frames on the walls of my dream room — ballet barre and mirror on one side, writing desk and bookshelves on the other, sprung wooden floor, big bay window letting in the light, with a cat snoozing on the windowsill. Sigh. I did say dream room, right?

2. My mild, grade 1 sprain is healing quite nicely. Three weeks ago, the doctor said I had “angry scar tissue” in my peroneal tendons and quite a bit of tenderness in my posterior tibialis, which she taped up. I’ve also been seeing a Restorative Exercise specialist who analyzed my walking pattern and immediately noticed: collapsed arches and overpronation, especially in my left foot; overactive quads; and weakness in my hips, especially the left gluteus medius which, among other things, is responsible for balancing on one leg. It’s disconcerting how easily these experts can read my body — as if it were an open book, an appliance with usage history and faulty warranties — while I’m obliviously illiterate to my own body’s functions. How could I not have realized that every time I balance on my left foot, my ankle bone forces its way inward and I put all my weight on my big toe, my little toes almost lifting away from the floor? That’s one unstable tripod. It’s a wonder I’ve been able to pull off clean pirouettes on that side! Anyway, we’ve been working on waking up the arch, finding “neutral foot,” redeveloping ankle mobility, strengthening the turnout muscles and improving balance. Hard work — but it’ll be good in the long run, especially if I want to keep dancing for decades.

3. I went back to class, after a couple of weeks off. I’m taking it slow: Señor’s Level 1, Madame C’s Level 2, and Miss Amelie’s Beginner ballet at Studio C — which was my first ballet class almost 2 years ago! I really appreciate Miss Amelie’s slow, almost excruciating, focus on tendus and articulation of the foot. I really need to go back to basics now with my new lessons in alignment.

4. Miss E, my pointe teacher (who has been really supportive when I told her about taking a break from pointe because of my sprain), emailed a bunch of us with big news. She’s thinking of bringing together her adult students to work towards taking the Intermediate Foundation ballet exam using the R.A.D. (Royal Academy of Dance) syllabus. This excites me for several reasons. It’ll give me a concrete, external goal to work for — since none of the studios I go to have recitals or performances for adult ballet students, all we get are teachers’ comments and our own (sometimes warped) sense of accomplishment to mark our improvements. Secondly, when I was a student in the Philippines, I studied R.A.D. style, and took my Grade Four and Grade Five exams. It was a big deal, with the British examiner and a live pianist coming to our studio. I got a Merit grade for both exams and was working to take my Pre-Elementary exam when I quit dance at 13. This’ll be like a continuation of my dance history, with something concrete to show for it! I’d have to commit to Monday and Wednesday weekday classes though, which are a bit iffy — right now, I have a flexible work schedule, but that could all change in the fall. Plus, there’ll be a basic Pointe component to the exam — Miss E says it’s really easy, and I can learn the combinations on demi-pointe until I regain full ankle strength — but what if I’m not strong enough? The exam will be sometime in November, so we’ll have at least three months to prepare for it. I’d like to do it, and I think I can do it, but I’m also a little nervous. Tum ta tum (finger tapping).

5. I dug out an old poem I wrote when I was 18! That was 14 years ago! It’s not great literature, but it’s ballet-inspired! And it serves as a reminder — not just that I can write better now, hopefully, but that one should never ignore the calling of an art form that captivates one’s mind and soul.

A Dance Lesson

Remember that the earth
moves under your feet
as you dance, turning
in a constant pirouette
even as you spin
across the studio floor.
Bear this in mind
as you pivot on one toe:
the secret is to find
your center strength
to keep you from falling
as you turn around yourself.
And even as your leg
swings skyward into
a graceful arabesque,
keep one pointed toe
steady on the ground.
For you are a dancer,
and though your movements
mimic grace in flight,
you must always return
to touch this earth
that dances under your feet.

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9 thoughts on “Weekend Updates: Art, Ankles and an Old Poem

  1. Ballet is an art form dependent on the suffering of the artist. I had only done basic ballet, myself, so I didn’t know this until I taught a ‘nearly professional’ (she was accepted to the National Ballet of Canada and Jofffrey during her year with me). Her feet were always bandaged, and her mother (a medical doctor) told me stories about her being a gymnast and called ‘lazy’ when later x-rays showed she’d been competing with a broken pelvis. Tough cookie and an incredibly beautiful dancer.

  2. Hi Shawn, thanks for stopping by. Dancers are generally tough cookies, though the passion shouldn’t have to be based on suffering. Hope your former student has found healing and fulfillment!

  3. Your dream room sounds dreamy 🙂
    I hope your ankle continues to heal up nicely. I like the sound of your Restorative Exercise specialist. Hmmm (strokes chin). I switched myself over to minimalist shoes a year or so ago (not the ones with toes though, I’m too proud for those) because they are all that BoyMowgli would keep on his feet and it’s totally improved my balance and alignment. The neutral foot is an important and real thing to find… I think I may find me one of those specialists. 😉

    • Thank you, sweetie! 🙂 What are these minimalist shoes you speak of? I just invested in a pair of Birkenstocks the other week (after years of finding them too clunky-looking). My feet on the cork footbed: aaaah, relief. If only I could wear them all through the Canadian winter… As for restorative exercise, I was skeptical at first, but am finding the alignment work really helpful. A friend says it’s similar to osteopathy, without the manual manipulations. Hope you can find someone in your area!

      • Minimalist shoes are a whole “thing” now, but they’re really just doing what Birkenstocks do which is eliminating the heal-to-toe drop that most shoes have. They’re a bit wider in the box (is that even a word outside of pointe shoes?) and let your foot just be neutral.
        The ones we wear are Merrel Barefoot.
        They take some getting used to, because they’re also super flexible… so you really are just walking through your FOOT, with a sole to protect you from pokey stuff.

        I may try the hikers next although they do have a 4mm “drop” that’s still pretty small and almost neutral… worth a try and better for hiking than our tiny thin runner/trainers.

  4. The dream room sounds dreamy! That’s great to hear that you’re back in class after your sprain, and working to get your alignment better than ever. Your upcoming RAD exams sounds like fun (and a lot of work, but in a good way), something to look forward to, kind of like a recital. And I really loved the poem. Fourteen years ago, huh? That’s pretty cool, I wish I’d saved old writings of mine to compare years down the line. Well, better late than never!

    • I missed being in class sooo much during my break! Yeah, I’m pretty excited about the RAD training. Except for the fact that there’s a uniform for the final exam…ugh. :p Thanks for the kind words about the poem! Tip to self: always archive everything. 😉

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