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First Pliés of 2018


Hi everyone! Jana here. It has been a slow process getting back to the studio in 2018! I only took two classes in the entire month of December while still taking it easy because of my metatarsal injury. I think because I know if I push too hard after a nice break for my feet then I'll just end up back where I started. I would rather ease into it instead of continuing to be totally on a break. Usually this would kill me to know I can't go 110% in class, but maybe it's new 2018 wisdom that has me accepting the scenario instead of focusing on what I can't do!

But because I hadn't exercised much at all in the past month my leg muscles were just disintegrating and I felt so grosssss. Kristin came over on Monday and we did barre with Abby on my iPad. I love the Basic Ballet Barre video for easing back into things. The super slow pliés give you time to think about placement, muscle usage, and just melting into it all.

A nice surprise was that my left hamstring that has been super tight eased up just slightly so I tried to give that some extra attention. I was hoping my metatarsal pain would be almost gone, but it's still there a bit. I think I will look into seeing a podiatrist to make sure this isn't something permanent...I don't know what I would do if that is the case....start seeing a therapist immediately!

Abby wrote a really wonderful post about her goals for 2018 that you can read here. I'm not setting any technique or fitness goals given the uncertain state of my injury, so instead I'm making it a goal to mentally accept what my body is unable to do - meaning if I'm hurting in class, either stop of modify. I hate doing that. And I hate not finishing class. I love pushing my limits in class, but I love being able to dance some more than not at all. So I'm going for the marathon, not the race. I want to still be taking class when I'm 70, and while there are things I still want to accomplish with my dancing while my body is realistically able to, I don't want to put myself in a constant state of pain and not be able to continue.

Here's to health and happiness in our dancing!

Jana

2018 Goals

Hi everyone! Abby here.

As we sit here, perched on the last edge of 2017 and about to blast into 2018, I wanted to share my goals for the new year. Sometimes I'm not about setting goals, because I don't like the feeling of pass/fail that accompanies that. Progress is progress, whether you reach a specific goal or not. However, this has been a year of giving myself a stern talking to, so I'm being a bit harder on myself.

I've shared with you several times about losing my Mom, my fellow dancer and friend, this year. This is really what whipped my butt into shape about my dancing. Mom went back to dancing in her very late 30's, after being off for almost 20 years, and danced through her 40's. At some point, I'm going to have to find the clip where she does hops en pointe for something like 16 counts - absolutely incredible. I honestly didn't realize just what a jewel she was until much later in life. I realized how wrong I was to hold myself back from going back into dancing, having made myself believe I was past it and needed to be nothing but a teacher.

My heart was broken early in the year when I demonstrated a jump in class, and quite the sad attempt it was, only to have one of my students say, "Miss Abby, I didn't know you could jump!" My students had no idea what kind of dancer I used to be, no fault of theirs. When I was 17, I competed in the one and only pageant I have ever been in, America's Junior Miss (now called Distinguished Young Women). During the section where I had to give a short speech, mine was about a quote my teacher said a lot, "'I can't' lives on 'I won't' street." Meaning, saying the words "I can't" begins with the mindset of "I won't". It wasn't that I couldn't, it's just that I was unwilling...afraid to fail. Dancing as a young person, you don't know how far you will go, but you don't set limits. You just plan on going as far as you are able. So, that's what I intend to do this year - take it as far as I can.

Here's my list, but no worries about "pass/fail". Whatever happens, happens. I will make progress regardless, but I'll also be elated if I end up being able to accomplish any of this!

1.) When I was dancing professionally, I was able to do 5-6 pirouettes en pointe. I had a consistent 4 on both sides. I want to try to get my turns en pointe back to this level.

2.) I want to get my split in my leaps back to a nice 180 degrees with two straight legs. Right now my back knee has a tendency to bend slightly, and my jump is not as powerful as I want it to be. I also want to soften the port de bras.

3.) 32 fouettes en pointe. I was able to do this two years ago, right before I stopped dancing, but it was so painful due to my hip, I would suffer for days after. Now that my hip is greatly improved, I'm hoping I can regain this skill.

4.) Overall improvement in port de bras. Although I love being a strong dancer, I always battled my arms. So, this year I really want to work on extending and softening through my arms on everything I do.

5.) Overall improvement in pointe work. I've been working to find shoes that work for me, and now have 3 types I am relatively happy with. So, I want to really work my pointe work and get this aspect of my dancing strong again.

6.) To dance the entire Sugar Plum pas, including solo and coda. To work up Lilac Fairy from Sleeping Beauty. I did this variation when I was 15 and it was an epic fail. I had regressed from the year before, partially as a result of trying to turn out and rotate beyond what I could from the hip, so I built up my glutes and was no longer aligned correctly. However, not knowing that at the time, I was just frustrated knowing that I was regressing but not knowing what to do to fix it. Doing this variation again will be some redemption, although I'm doing different choreography. To work up another variation I did as a teen - the jumping variation from Paquita. It was never a complete failure, but never a compete triumph either. More redemption needed on it.

These are lofty goals, but again, I will go as far as I can. My goals for the channel are this:

1.) To finish "The Well-Trained Dancer" series. I want to create a series that will take a new or returning dancer all the way through a basic class, with a basic set of steps. A kind of visual dictionary, but beyond that, so that they could also gain a somewhat deeper understanding of the steps.

2.) To bring more dance content to the channel overall. I want to bring a lot more tips and explanations of steps back into the rotation.

3.) To keep listening to YOU, and bring you want you want and need! So, please tell us!


Merry Christmas from Abby & Jana!



Merry Christmas, everyone! It has been one busy month for us here at BBN! We made it through another Vlogmas series, this time with 12 videos!! Cannot believe we pulled that off amid our busy adult ballet lives! If you're not caught up or haven't seen what we've been up to since December 1, here is the Vlogmas 2017 playlist!



Christmas this year will be tough for both of us - Abby lost her mother this year and I lost my mother-in-law. I'm sure some of you are dealing with loss this holiday too and our hearts go out to you <3.

We'll be taking a break from videos through the New Year, but our goal for 2018 is to get back to more dance-centered videos like tips, tutorials, and classes. We look forward to doing that! 

We hope you all are doing well and get to spend Christmas or whatever you celebrate with people you love!

Ballet Book Guide


Abby shares this brilliant guide to some of her favorite educational and fun ballet books! There's something in here for everyone, so here's a breakdown of her thoughts she shares in this video!

by Eliza Gaynor Minden

This book is like a crash course for ballet! Good for the adult ballet beginner, it's a great reference with visuals. It goes over the elements of barre and center work and as well as basic terminology, dealing with dance injuries, and the history of ballet.


by Agrippina Vaganova

Not the easiest reading, but very good information about the Vaganova technique.


by Vera S. Kostrovitskaya

This book is essentially the entire syllabus for Vaganova training. It's a very good resource for teaching Vaganova or gaining a better understand of the Vaganova background.


by Rory Foster

A book intended for pedagogy training at the collegiate level, this includes information about class structures, musicality, and other elements related to teaching. This is a good read for adult dancers, even if you aren't interested in teaching, because as adults we can take in more information cognitively, and understanding the "whys" behind teaching can help us during class.


by Gretchen Ward Warren

Your basic visual ballet dictionary with just about every ballet step you could imagine! Great reference with beautiful pictures.


by Gayle Kassing and Danielle M. Jay

This book may be good for the adult dancer who has been dancing awhile and wants to understand further the elements of class and technique. There is information on planning classes, which can be beneficial if you want to give yourself class. 


by Jordan Matter

A fun coffee table book full of photos of dancers doing pedestrian things or in pedestrian situations. This makes a great gift!


by Jacqui Greene Haas

If you're interested in what muscles you're working when doing certain movements or want to know how to cross train better for dancing, this book is a great guide with great illustrations and explanations!


by ABT Medical Advisory Board

This is the ABT guide you can purchase without taking the National Teaching Certification Curriculum courses. It goes over anatomy, kinesiology, dance related injuries, turnout, pointe work, development in health, etc. This is a very good book if you are a teacher or a parent of a dancer.


by Cyril W. Beaumont and Stanislas Idzikowski

This book covers the theory and technique of Ceccehetti by taking you through all the different elements of ballet class.

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We hope there's something on this list that suits you (or might make a good gift for a dancer!). Let us know in the comments what your favorite ballet books are!


Our Christmas Tree!



My son and I decorated our Christmas Tree together!

We wanted to share our decorating process with you. This year we opted to keep our Christmas area in a room we can shut off, to protect our fragile decorations from cats (especially our youngest). We keep our Christmas decorating fairly minimal and a lot of it is homemade, but we like the stories and memories that surround the ornaments.

Many of these ornaments were given to my son by his Spanish tutor, who we all loved greatly. She incorporated what they were into the lessons, and let my son keep them afterwards. Such a gift to have someone work with him with such love!

Other ornaments were made by my son for his Dad as Christmas presents, and we love to look back on what he made and what year it was. My son and his Dad share a love of Star Wars, so they are in charge of the Star Wars decorations for the tree, too!

Several were gifts from my son's first Christmas. He was such a loved child right from the beginning! Everyone was so excited for us, and his first Christmas was extra special. My favorite is the blue rattle with his name on it, given to us by my in-law's. It came in a wood box with his name put on it, and I absolutely love it.

The giant stocking was also from a dear friend who used it to wrap a present for our son. We will continue to hang the stocking for years to come.

I think what I love most is how such a humble little tree with it's few lights and my handmade stockings can bring my son SO much joy! It doesn't matter to him; Christmas is magical. I think we should remember this about dance as well. What we do is seen so differently through the eyes of children. We don't have to be the fanciest, but it is our uniqueness that can make us the most loved.

- Abby


Giving Yoga A Try


I've tried yoga a couple times in my life and I've never left feeling a strong desire to do it again. The first time the experience was a little too...organic for me? The male instructor was wearing short shorts and came over to compliment my flexibility (oh, the good ole days) and proceeded to stradle over my face to help me deepen the stretch. It was just a little too intense, lol.

The second time the room was super hot, which felt good for my muscles, but as you all know I am one of the sweatiest people on the planet so I was literally slipping all over my mat trying to hold a lunge. I got so frustrated, but didn't know at the time about a helpful accessory called the yoga towel.

But after a year of my body taking a beating from my corporate photo/video job, I've gotten to the point where all the massages in the world won't fix my tightness alone! It seems everyone I know that does yoga just feels really good all the time. I wanna feel good all the time!



So I went. My friend Michelle went as well so we could be newbies together. We took a calm Restore & Flow class because I want to start slowwww. Most of the class was spent focusing on breathing, which until then I thought I knew how to do... Wow, was I wrong! Lol. My heart is thanking me because I had no idea how much I was restricting my own breathing with tension!

Here more of my thoughts on the first class (I've been to a couple more since and will continue to update you!) and what I'd like to get out of yoga here!

- Jana


Fun Combos!


My metatarsals decided to cut me a break two weeks ago and I fully got to enjoy the combos in my Monday afternoon class! I made it through the entire class and only modified a few things (i'm talkin' to you, italian fouette). I'm still not holding balances as long as I would like, but they were an improvement this day compared to the previous week.

After I got home I did some light stretching to keep working on my damn left hamstring. It's SO tight. I need to do a penché comparison photo to show you just how bad it is! And then I put on my pointe shoes to do some relevés so I could work my calves a bit more without overdoing the pressure on the balls of my feet.


I've cut a small amount of the shank on these shoes to help me get all the way over the platforms. I had never done that before so I was cautious about cutting too much, but it did help some so I think I will go in and cut a bit more.

Then I headed over to our business (my husband owns & operates a micro brewery) to work on some product photos and to start decorating the taproom for Christmas!


I share all of this and more in a vlog-style video where you can also watch the center combos we did in class! Watch it here and give the video a "thumbs up" if you enjoy it!

Hope you all are having a great start to your December!

- Jana