I Suck at Reading: Unboxing Books

Sometimes having stuff isn’t enough to feed our ego. People need to make spectacles in revealing their hauls from recent purchases to viewers who…. want their lives? I don’t know. It always seemed strange to me.

Yet, here I am doing just that. Well, something similar. During my process of cleaning the front room, I found a box filled with books. There are a few boxes like this floating around the house, so it wasn’t a surprise. I decided to go through the box and find books I either forgot about or have been hunting down for months. It is time to discover the hidden gems in my house.

box 1
The Boxbox 2

This is one of the largest boxes in the house, so it wasn’t a surprise to discover the mess. Sifting through the treasures made me feel like an archaeologist trying to understand my own past.

 

 

Libraries have many benefits. One of them is that they often leave books out for anyone to take. However, it is an issue. Will I ever need to know theories on race relations or working with themes across the curriculum? Probably not, but I like having the option.

Fortunately, I grew up in a house surrounded by books. My parents had classic novels that I have added to my library over the years, even if I haven’t read them. I need to get around to completing these books.

 

notebook
Notebooks

I went through a notebook phase. The allure of writing and learning possessed me to buy dozens of notebooks. I don’t think I will ever get through them all.

Not every book is filled with information or even words. Some are based on my plans of becoming more crafty and learn more about the spiritual world.

 

Who has actually read the bible? I have never even been to church. My religion starts and ends with the festivities. However, it would be nice to learn more about it.

Do you know the feeling when you know you have a book, but can’t find it anywhere? These are the two books that I have been searching for in the past few months. I even bought a new version of The Adventures Tom Sawyer before this discovery. At least I know that I was right.

I have already read these books. It was a brilliant discovery as it meant I can move it to my bookcase. That bookcase is getting closer and closer to being filled with read books.

I have no idea what these books are about, but I am interested to learn more. Why should we just stick to what we know?

As much as I enjoy fiction, I love non-fiction. If I read a lot, I might as well learn something. It can be a simple children’s book of facts or a proper book.

There are so many books in the world that I don’t know where to start. Perhaps I should begin with those in my own home.

Where do you store your surplus books?

I Suck at Baking: Carrot Cake World

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“You have to make a cake for me,” my mother insisted as she came home from work one day. Fortunately, my days are filled with nothingness at the moment so the sudden demand didn’t cause a hassle.

It is Humanities and Social Science Week and as a History teacher, her department had to celebrate. How else do you celebrate than with cake? Her colleagues happen to love a carrot cake that I make… even though I don’t care for it. I have made it a dozen times, but this time was different. Instead of circular single layer cake with icing and walnuts on top, it transformed into a rectangular double layer cake with a map on the world on top. It was the first time I felt like a proper baker and while it was not perfect, I learned a few things.

The recipe is not mine. It is originally from a primary school cookbook where students, parents, and teachers contributed their own recipes. However, I’m sure they won’t mind me sharing it on this blog where I won’t profit from it.

This was the first time I used an edible printed piece to place on top. It cost around $18 from a baker’s shop. I have eaten one before, but the piece was far too thick and destroyed the taste of the cake. This one, however, was only just thicker than a piece of paper. If the cake and icing are thick enough, you will barely taste it and it will look like a piece of art.

IMG_4042

 

Recipe

Ingredients

Cake
2 cups castor sugar                                           4 medium carrots, finely grated
6 eggs                                                                   1 ½ cups olive oil
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts                     3 tsp baking powder
2 ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda                             2 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
*2 tsp vanilla essence

Icing

160 g creamed cheese, softened                     120g unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups icing sugar                                        *2 tsp vanilla essence

Special equipment

2 rectangular squares slightly bigger than A4
Edible printed A4 map
Piping bag
Star nozzle

*Even though I stick to the recipe for every other ingredient, I am very generous with the vanilla essence. I feel like I double the required amount. Just keep squirting until you’re happy.

 

Method

  1. Find the image that you want and get an edible printing of it.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160֯ Grease trays and line with baking paper.
  3. Grate the carrots and chop the walnuts.
  4. Beat sugar and eggs into a bowl with an electric mixer until pale and thick.
  5. Stir in remaining ingredients.
  6. Evenly divide the mixture into the prepared tins.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes or until cooked. Pierce the cake with a skewer. When it comes out clean, it is cooked enough.
  8. Turn onto wire racks to cool.

 

Icing

  1. Combine the cream cheese and butter into a clean bowl. Mix it with an electric beater.
  2. Add the icing sugar bit at a time. Continue mixing until all the icing sugar is in and the mixture is smooth.
  3. Add the vanilla essence and continue mix.

Construction

  1. Make sure the cakes are cool. Place one on the serving plate.
  2. Scoop ½ of the mixture on top of the cake and gently place the second cake on top.
  3. Spread a small amount of the icing on top in a smooth layer.
  4. Make sure the edible print will fit on the cake and cut off any unnecessary parts.
  5. Peel a small amount of the edible print and line it up on the cake.
  6. Gently peel away the rest of the print while flattening it on the cake as you go. Try to do it in one attempt.
  7. Place the remaining icing in a piping bag and pipe the border. Be creative and do whatever you want. For my cake, I used the star nozzle and slowly went back and forth.
  8. Serve.

Helpful tip. Do NOT place the cake in the fridge. My mother did as soon as she went to work and…well, this happened.

cake

Fortunately, the bumps work for this piece. It turned into a more ‘authentic’ world. You see, it’s all the waves and mountains.

 

 

 

I Suck at Accomplishing Goals: August

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As you can tell, I have a pattern. I become obsessed with the idea of being proactive and actually improve my life. This lasts a week… if I’m lucky. Despite all the previous disasters, I am still going to share my monthly goals in an attempt to make some progress. I will eventually be the person I wish I can be.

  1. Make some progress on getting my driver’s license.

This one technically isn’t all my fault. I wanted to make progress in July and even went to get my eyesight tested. Just as I expected, I’m a little short-sighted. I only received my glasses the other day. Now I can actually read speed limits before I reach the sign. By September, I will receive my learner’s permit again and go on at least one lesson.

  1. Lose 3kg

Losing weight is always on my mind. It’s a little fantasy I think without putting any work into making it a reality. However, I legit need to lose weight. The theme of my dance concert is ‘recycle and reuse’. I have to wear the same costumes I wore last year and in previous years. Even though I have gained around 10kg since them. Fun.

Just for reference: I currently weight 79kg.

  1. Read ten books

My love of reading has waned in the last few months. When I have plenty of time to do it, it is the last thing I want to do. It is gradually getting better, but it is not as great as it was at the beginning of the year. As the libraries are open, I will be distracted by temporary books, but I also want to make a dent in the books I own.

  1. Complete the first draft of Circus

‘Circus’ is the name of my Camp Nanowrimo project from 2020. It’s essentially a historical friendship/family story set in the 1920s and it is the worst thing ever written. I wrote 50,0000 words in November. Since then, I have written 10,000 words. I have reached the last chapter and even though I will rewrite everything, I want a proper first draft.

  1. Run 2.5km

“I’m going to enter a 10k in 2020,” I said on New Years Eves 2019 before everything changed. My desire to run was extinguished months ago. It may hurt, but I will get into it again. Most people aim to run 5k in a matter of weeks. There’s no way that will happen to me. My goal is much more reasonable. Honestly, if I put on my trainers and go outside, I’ll be happy.

  1. Complete keyboard book

My family has had a keyboard for nearly two months. At the start, I was on the machine every day while learning the basics. I can do the melodies and started working on the chords. First, there were three – simple enough. Then there were more. I have been stuck working on the same six chords for a few weeks. I am able to remember them individually, but it flees my head as soon as I have to differentiate them. This will be completely different in September.

  1. Bake a cake

You know how I want to lose weight? Well, I also want to become a better baker. It is a tricky predicament, which has prevented me from baking in months. Any skill that I once had has disintegrated.  Perhaps this can be my reward once I lose the required weight. Though, that means I will immediately gain it again.

  1. Clean front room

If you’re fortunate enough to have a spare room, it has probably turned into a junk room. This is what our front room has become. I may be limited by the ridiculous hoarding habit of my mother, but I want to make a difference. My plan is for it to become a gym and art room, yet I am aware that it will probably just be a slightly cleaner junk room.

  1. Solve my Rubik’s cube

I have had a Rubik’s cube for months. It has been sitting in a pile of projects that I have abandoned. It is time to make progress on it. I have been debating for months on how it should be solved: Learn about it online? Try to figure it out on my own? Random guessing? It is time to embrace technology and be told what to do.

 

  1. Publish fifteen posts

‘Do you want to be a better writer? Have you tried, I don’t know, writing?’ I get this question every time I read advice on how to be a better writer. In order to find my voice, I need to research and produce as much content as possible. It appears that my posts on ballet have been the most popular, so

 

guess i

 

Just kidding. As you can see, I have plenty of other interests. However, I would like to add a few ballet posts. Fortunately, this counts as a post. I only have fourteen more to go.

I Suck At Current Affairs: The Cheese that Must Not Be Named

cheese
Photo from Daily Mercury

 

In the times of political correctness, many brands are changing their image. The infamous Redskins are now the Washington Football Team, and every other brand with a culturally questionable image has to reassess if they should stay the same or change with the times. Australia’s Coon Cheese is one of these brands, and they have decided to change the name. Of course, many people are outraged at this. It’s political correctness gone wrong! It’s just the name of cheese! And that is exactly the problem. Why does the name of a cheese company matter so much?

Coon Cheese was launched in 1935 in Victoria, Australia by Fred Walker. The original cheese had a unique ripening process and this process was created by American Edward William Coon.  This technique uses high temperatures and humidity. The company wanted to honour this man by naming the company after him. That should be the end of the story. Unfortunately, words don’t work like that.

Named after the shortening of raccoon, coon was a caricature of African-American slaves. They were portrayed as an inarticulate, chronically idle buffoons and were too lazy to change their positions in life. Think of the disgustingly racist cartoon characters from decades ago. It is not surprising that they used the same term for Aboriginal Australians. It may not be heard as often as it once was, but that doesn’t make the word is any less toxic.

“It’s not racist,” complain the white people who have never experienced racism. I have never heard anyone use the word as a slur, but I am also a white person. Therefore, I am not an expert in the area. There is another slur that should be a classic Aussie abbreviation, but it is rooted in hate and racism. No one with common decency uses it. Why should coon be any different?

The two different meanings of coon and even though we wish the two could be separate, that simply is impossible. By existing, the cheese has kept the name alive. Aboriginal people have to see it when they buy cheese as if it were nothing. It is also introducing individuals to a slur that should have died a century ago. Apart from tradition, there are no benefits to keeping the name.

There is the question as to how far it will go. Would we no longer have Sydney as a state? Maybe. We cannot change the past and some aspects of it are so ingrained in our society that it is impossible to think of any other way. However, I don’t think we need to cling to something as trivial as the name of a cheese. Racial equality might be a little more important.

Changing names will not magically stop racism. There will still be injustices by the police, from employers, and even by random people in the street. Yet, it is one of the simplest parts to fix. Does a lolly have to be called a Redskin? Do we need a Colonial Brewing Company? Can we still eat a type of cheese even if it doesn’t share the name as a racial slur? If we can’t even work on the trivial aspects, how can we make a significant change?

 

Update

curtain

The month is nearly over and, as you can see, I have not accomplished my goal of becoming a ballet enthusiast. This is mainly the result of a bad idea. I started working on a post discussing terminology. At first, I was ecstatic. I finally understood nuances between certain terms and even realised I have been overcomplicating it for years. That post is at 600 words and I haven’t even reached ten terms. If I continue at this rate, it may turn into a novel. No one wants that. I could have moved on to another post, but the terminology post sits there… taunting me.

Instead of being a ballet lover for the month, I am just going to add it to one of my many interests. There will be random posts as I explore different aspects of it, and I will share any success and fail I have for the rest of this blog’s life. This also means that I won’t be dictated by the need for ballet content. It is going to be weird and not make a lot of sense. Just like me.

I Suck at Ballet: Feet

feet

“This is a good exercise for your calves,” the ballerina on Youtube told me as I rose onto my toes for the twentieth time. My calves felt perfectly fine. It was the soles of my feet that were killing me My feet had always been so bad that I was one of the few ballerinas in my class to never achieve pointe shoe status. Though most of them also quite pointe after a few years due to the pain, so I just saved myself from a lot of pain for a small amount of time. Even though I will never be dancing on the tips of my toes, I can still improve my understanding and technique.

 

Anatomy

The bones, muscles, and tendons are crucial for footwork. It would help if I know what I am using.

Nearly a quarter of the human bones are in our feet. These bones consist of:

Talus The bone that forms a joint with the tibia and fibula to form the ankle
Calcaneus The larger bone under the talus that forms the heel bone
Tarsals Five irregular shaped bones in the midfoot that form the arch. This includes the cuboid and navicular bone as well as three cuneiform bones (the medial, the intermediate, and lateral).
Metatarsals Five bones that connect the tarsals to the phalanges.
Phalanges Fourteen bones that make up the toes. The little toe consists of two phalanges while the other toes have three.
Sesamoids A small pea-shaped bone that is embedded in a tendon. There are two sesamoids under the big toe.

Even though there are multiple tendons, the two main ones are the Achilles’ tendon and the Posterior Tibial tendon. The Achilles’ tendon connects a calf muscle to the calcaneus bone and allows us to stand on our toes. The Posterior Tibial tendon also starts at a calf muscle and continues to the underside of your foot. It supports the arch and is a key factor in stabilisation.

Similarly, while there are many muscles, there are seven that are essential for dance. This includes:

Soleus Used for walking and standing
Gastrocnemius Flexes and extends the foot, ankle, and knee
Abductor hallucis Pulls the big toe away from the body
Tibialis anterior Flexes the foot upward and turning it inward
Extensor digitorum longus Extends the toes, lifts the toes, and turn the foot outward
Flexor digitorum longus Flexes the second to fifth toes and points the toes downwards
Fibularis longus Moves the foot sidewise and flexes it downwards
Fibularis tertius Moves the foot side to side at the ankle joint
Fibularis brevis Moves the foot downward.

All of these bones, tendons, and muscles need to work together to make a strong and flexible foot.

 

Flexibility

Flexible feet both finish a clean line and allow you to go onto your toes without falling forward. This is done through what is known as plantar flexion, which is the extension of the ankle, so the foot is away from the leg. The typical person has 40-50° of ankle plantar flexion while elite ballerinas usually have 97°.

Whenever ballerinas discuss their feet flexibility, they talk about the ‘arch’. This is the curve under your foot and heel. When ballerinas point their feet while sitting down, their toes can touch the floor. As someone with flat feet, this has always been difficult. However, I like to say they are a little better than what they were at the beginning of the month.

There are many exercises that can help increase flexibility, which mainly consists of stretching. While standing, put one foot on its ball and try to move it forwards as far as you can. You can also move it over so the top of your toes are against the floor. This works on the bony part on top of your foot, or the in-step.

A lot of dancers use foot-stretchers to, you know, stretch the foot. It is an invention where you can keep your leg straight on a base while a fabric lightly puts pressure on your foot, forcing it down. It feels like this has become more popular in recent years. Honestly, a rocking chair works just as well.

 

Strength

Whenever someone discusses how difficult ballet is, the start with one key factor: ballerinas need to have all of their weight on their toes. This requires a lot of hard work and strengthening all the muscles both within the ankle and foot. A US study shows that 40% of the reported injuries in professional dance were from ankle injuries.

Most of the exercises for strengthening ankle are simply based on putting more weight onto it. This is primarily done by going onto releve in multiple positions from one or two legs. It is easier to start with two legs so your weight is distributed more evenly but also try from one leg.

A more difficult exercise that I still haven’t mastered is based on building the muscles in your toes. Lay out a small cloth or tea towel and start to scrunch it up with your toes. Like any muscle, they need strength training and eventually, they can support your entire weight. When you’re done, make sure you give yourself a nice stretch.

 

Common Mistakes

The main issues that ballerinas may have is that they do not have the flexibility nor strength required for movement. However, there are other aspects that have to be remembered to improve the overall performance.

  1. Curling toes I recently realised that this is an issue I have. When you try to point your feet as hard as you can, they start to curl up. This destroys the elegant line and causes more harm when on pointe, as this is called ‘knuckling’. Instead, try to extend your toes.
  2. Sickling This is a word that many beginner ballerinas would hear a thousand times. It is when your heel drops behind the leg, so the line doesn’t look clean. It is usually done when most of your weight is towards your small toe.
  3. Winging This is the opposite of sickling. Instead of your weight being on your small toe, it is towards the big toe.

Even if you have no interest in dance, be kind to your feet. They literally support you.

 

 

I Suck at Ballet: History

history

Despite what I might think, ballet did not start twenty years ago when I first put on ballet shoes. It has a long history enriched with European royalty. Even though the monarchy is a fading away, ballet is still a strong component in the artistic world.

The biggest twist comes at the start. Ballet did not originate in France. Instead, the origins are traced back to the Italian Renaissance. The simple moves and techniques were formalised in the 15th and 16th centuries. It only started to be a part of French culture when Italian-born aristocrat Catherine de Medicis married Henry II of France in 1533. Many noblemen and women loved the art, but there was one prince whose love of the ballet so much that it became linked with France for centuries to come.

King Louis XIV was besotted by ballet and was a catalyst in promoting the art. He played eighty roles in forty ballets throughout his life. Most famously, he played Apollo ‘the Sun God’ when he was fifteen. His main achievement was creating Academie Royale de Danse in 1661, which became a part of L’Academie Royale du Musique in 1672. Unfortunately, ballet became subservient to opera. King Louis XIV also appointed Pierre Beauchamp as the Ballet Master, and Pierre codified the five basic positions that every aspiring ballerina learns as soon as they start. During this time, it was seen as a male-dominated activity. It wasn’t until 1681 that Mlle La Fontaine became the first female principal dancer. Females would soon become as respectable as males. The L’Academie Royale du Musique eventually became the Paris Opera Ballet, which is still presenting shows today.

Ballet no longer needs to be a flourish in an operatic piece but can work as its own theatrical art form. This traces to as far back as 1717 with John Weaver’s The Love of Mars and Venus. This work is seen as a ballet d’action, which is a combination of mime and ballet to tell a story. This concept was introduced to the Paris Opera Ballet by John-Georges Noverre in 1776 after he was appointed as Ballet Master by Marie Antoinette. Movement and facial expression were no longer there just to look pretty, but also advance the plot. This decision highlights the subtlety and beauty that comes in the form of ballet.

No one wanted to be connected to French royalty in 1789, so it is not surprising that its ties with ballet were cut. However, ballet was still popular during this time and this can be attributed to Pierre Gardel. His most famous ballets include Psyche and La Dansomanie. This allowed France to remain renowned in the ballet world as it had been growing in other countries. The Marinsky Ballet of Russia was founded in 1740 and the Royal Danish Ballet was founded in 1748. In ballet’s origin country, Italy, La Scala Theatre Ballet was founded in 1778. However, France still remained the epicenter of ballet.

The beginning of the 19th century was largely shaped by romanticism. 1795, Charles Didelot invented a ‘flying machine’, which was a pulley system that made it look like the ballerinas were on point, which added to the fantasy element. Marie Taglioni is known to be the first ballerina to perform ‘en pointe’ shoes in La Sylphide 1832. However, they were little more than slippers and are not to the standard of modern pointe shoes. This still marked a significant change as it soon became the norm for professional ballerinas to dance on pointe. Unfortunately, ballet’s popularity started to fade towards the end of the century.

Russia soon became a competitor to France. The ballet companies in St. Petersburg and Moscow were under the direct patronage of the Czar. Marius Petipa was a ballet master in St. Petersburg and was a key figure in the three most famous ballets: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and The Nutcracker. He worked closely with Tchaikovsky to create the music, and know the stories are known to those who barely pay attention to ballet.

Another key Russian component is Serge Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, even though they never technically performed in Russia as they fled Russia after the Revolution of 1905. The company included Vaslav Nijinsky, Tamara Karsavina, and even Anna Pavlova. They debuted in 1909 and were a success, reigniting the French interest in ballet. They embraced ‘artistic intelligensia’ by having artists create set pieces and use Igor Stravinsky to compose music. The Ballets Russes created classics such as The Firebird and Petrushka. Unfortunately, the company did not survive after Diaghilev’s death in 1929, but their impact on the world was immense.

During the Cold War, there was tension between the West and East even infiltrated the ballet world. However, the Bolshoi Ballet visited London in 1956, and the two different styles started to learn from each other. This has continued and there are many dance schools that allow students to try multiple forms of ballet.

Ballet has also been used to inspire and create other forms of dance. They have led to the more relaxed contemporary and lyrical, which also incorporate jazz. It has even been fused with hip-hop and urban dance styles to create hiplet. Some drag queens, such as the ballerinas in Les Ballets Trocadero de Monte Carlo have promoted it to the world. Ballet has definitely come a long way from the simple steps used in the royal courts, and it is exciting to see how it can change in the future.

 

I Suck at Ballet: Posture and Balance

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Let’s start at the very beginning – the very best place to start. Before you can perform The Nutcracker in front of an audience, you need to understand basic posture and balance. These are probably the two most important aspects of ballet as you will use them in the real world.

Posture

I was always taught to avoid having a banana back. This is when you stick your butt out and arch your back. This has always been my main issue, and often lead to lower back pain. It is improving, but it is still something I need to remember.

What you need to remember

  1. Keep your pelvis tucked in. You don’t want to look like Donald Duck.
  2. Keep your shoulders back and down. Think of Quasimodo.
  3. Suck in your stomach. Try to imagine someone stabbing you.
  4. Lift the chin, but don’t tense the neck.

It may be difficult to perfect your posture, but you can start working on it at any point in the day. If you’re waiting for the bus or in life at the shops, go through the checklist. The more you focus on your posture, the quicker it will become ingrained in your mind and body.

Corsets have been known to help improve posture, but they are also outdated. Instead, try yoga. There are hundreds of Youtube videos or other online articles that can give you moves that will help. You know your major issues, so focus on them first. Eventually, you will look and feel like royalty.

Balance

Once you are happy with your posture, challenge yourself with balance. There are plenty of advanced ways to work on balance, but I still suck so I’m working on the basics. There are three ways to test your balance as a beginner; on relevé, on one foot, and on one foot on relevé.

Relevé This is to simply to rise onto the tips of your toes. To start, keep your heels together and turn the balls of your feet out as much as possible if you want it in proper ballet first position. Alternatively, keep your feet parallel to each other.

One foot You know how to stand on one foot. However, you can always challenge yourself. Have the raised knee face the front and the face the side. Move your raised leg in front of you, to the side of you, and even behind you. However, this requires you to counterbalance by leaning slightly to the opposite direction to your leg.

One foot on relevé This is just the combination of exercises one and two, but you can immediately feel the difference.

It is fun to experiment and see what you need to work on.

What you need to remember

  1. Remember your posture. This is when it is important to be as straight as possible. If one part of your body is too far forward or too far back, you will fall in that direction.
  2. Your feet are your anchor. Think about keeping your weight on your second or third toe. As soon as you move towards your big toe or little toe, you will fall over. This mainly for when you’re on relevé, but you also have to keep the weight in the right spot when on a flat.
  3. Keep your hips squared. Place your hands on your hips to make and, if needed, push down the raised hip.
  4. Focus on a point on the wall as this gives your brain a static reference point. Make sure it is up high to keep your neck elongated.
  5. Keep the supporting (straight) leg as straight as possible. This helps activates the muscles in the leg. I need a lot of strength to support all my weight.

 

There are plenty of exercises you can do to challenge yourself even more. Try it with your eyes closed or use a wobble board. Maybe one day you can even walk on a tight rope.

 

I Suck at Ballet: The Benefits

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There are thousands of types of exercise that you can do. Instead of basketball, track, or any forms of football. You can do them or you can have some fun and learn ballet. Ballet can either be dismissed as just an activity ‘for little girls twirling around’ or an intense art that requires a lifetime of dedication. Guess what? It doesn’t have to be one of those. it can just be the same as going to a pilates class. In fact, it is one of the best exercises you can do. There are many reasons why you should start ballet such as the social element, or the cardio and strength training… but there are dozens of sports that do that. I decided to go with the reasons that make it a worthwhile option. Here are just eight reasons why you should consider ballet.

 

  1. Helps with posture and balance

A signature look of a ballerina is a perfect posture. The key is to not have a banana back, which I will explain in a future post. You are taught how to stand from the very start and it is the foundation that helps make everything else easier. It is also essential for balance. These are useful in real life as they make you look more confident and can even increase energy. It decreases the risk of pain from poor posture and falls.

 

  1. Improves memory

I recently watched a Doctor Mike video and he said that dancing does not help with memory…. That was because he was thinking of grooving in the club. In dance class, you learn exercises and dances. Not only do have to repeat them immediately after being taught them, but you also have to make sure it’s in your brain the following lesson. Eventually, it becomes a part of muscle memory and you don’t have to think about every step. Dancing has even been proven to reduce the risk of dementia. Though, it might mean you’ll remember certain exercises or steps in five years.

 

  1. Improves flexibility

You might have seen ballerinas have their legs by their ears as if it were no problem. Flexibility is created by stretching, which lengthens the antagonist skeletal muscles. It can be painful at first, but eventually, the stretches can become relaxing. Not only does it make you feel good, but it increases your range of motion and decreases the risk of injury.

  1. Uses your entire body

There are some people who only work on their upper body or their booty. Why would you do that? I get bored easily, so I like to mix it up and work on everything. Every exercise that I do will help improve my dancing ability, so it all comes together in the end. It is even more efficient as you use multiple body parts for certain moves. This is what you need to consider when doing a pirouette:

  • Core is activated
  • Arms are strong and in position
  • Supporting leg is straight
  • The raised thigh is turned out and the toes are pointed
  • Make sure it’s a quick relevé
  • The bottom foot is turned out
  • A quick turn of the head for spotting
  • Shoulders down and neck elongated

There are probably other elements that I forgot, but this shows how you need to connect every muscle in your body as a singular unit.

 

  1. You get to perform

I probably wear makeup five times a year, and three of these times are at dance concerts. In fact, concerts are the only reason why I have continued for so many years. I just love dressing up and performing, even though I am not good at it. It took me until I was older to realise that I enjoy being in the back because then I just get to have fun. You get to dress up and, for one dance, feel like a proper ballerina.

 

  1. Improves spatial awareness

Stage rehearsals are 90% for spacing. It can be difficult to know if you’re exactly halfway between two people as a child or that a diagonal is perfect. However, the more you dance, the easier it is until it becomes second nature. You have to use your peripheral vision and make sure you don’t bump into people. I say this, but I still walk into things every day.

 

  1. You get to learn some French

If you only know one thing about ballet, it is probably the fact that it famously comes from France. Due to this, all the terminology is of French origin. Basic terms include ouvert (open), frappe (struck), and devant (in front of). This taste of the French language can even inspire someone to learn more.

 

  1. People think you’re fancy

Professional ballet is seen as high art and is incredibly intricate with strong yet delicate performers. Whenever you tell people that you do ballet, that’s where their mind goes. If you know me, you know that I’m nothing like an elegant girly ballerina, and it confused them for a moment. It is hilarious.

 

What exercise do you do? What made you pick it?

I Suck at Ballet: The Overture

Ballet Baby

Like most parents, my mother had high hopes for me when I was young. She enrolled me in ballet class with the hopes that I would one day become Giselle. These hopes instantly disintegrated.

Even though I understood the techniques, I have never been able to perfect them. All I cared about was socialising and exercising. It was much easier than going to a gym and I actually enjoy it. For over twenty years, I have attended these ballet classes once a week during the school term. That is over 800 hours learning the intricacies of one of the hardest dance styles, repeating drills multiple times with the hopes of improving.

I still suck. My feet are atrocious. I can’t balance and double pirouettes make me tense up in fear. I was always placed at the back during the concerts and if they could, I’m sure I wouldn’t even be on stage. Every exam was a near fail, but I continued even when the better dancers moved on in life.

Fortunately, the fun factor keeps me in ballet. We have a concert every year and while some dances were dull, others made me fall in love with ballet. Instead of classical ballets, we have danced to Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal, Paul McCartney’s Live and Let Die and even the music of Pirates of the Caribbean. It is a far cry from the pretty ballerina my mother wanted, but it suits me.

Pretty bores me. Maybe that is why I have never excelled in ballet. Even the thought of seeing a ballet makes me groan. Why would anyone want to spend ten hours a day spinning and jumping? I’m comfortable with an hour a week. However, this is probably why my abilities stagnated when I was six. Even as I plan my month’s journey, I am not looking forward to the pretty elegant aspects. That just means I need to learn more about the strong male exercises.

That’s right. For the month of July, I am going to besotted by ballet. I will start to understand the terminology, build skills, and just enrich my appreciation of the art. I am not foolish enough to think that by the end of this I will be able to audition for the Australian Ballet. As long as I suck a little less, I will be happy.

This is also a part of my life-long health journey. Fortunately, I weighed exactly 78kg this morning. I will aim to weigh 7kg. My other goals are:

  • Master a double pirouette
  • Master fouettés
  • Be able to do a bendback
  • Do perfect splits
  • Actually understand ten technical terms
  • Watch and appreciate five ballets
  • Learn – and remember – a dance.

It might be my naivety, but I am excited about this journey. Join me and watch me try (and probably fail) to achieve my goals. Who knows? It might even spark your interest in the art.