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Ballet and body image

12 Jun

I, like millions of other little girls, grew up dreaming of being a prima ballerina. As soon as I was able, I began checking out the same three books about ballet from the library over and over and over, poring over each page, each photo, each dance step tutorial. My favorite was about a deaf girl who kept the beat of the music by feeling vibrations through the floor. Soon I had every position memorized and began using my dresser as a ballet barre. I begged my parents to send me to lessons – reasoning it was only fair that I take ballet, as my brother took baseball and we should each be allowed to have one extracurricular hobby.

Tutus are rad.

Modern tutus are affordable and come with stretchy waistbands so even non-ballerinas can pretend to be ballerinas in the privacy of their own homes.

I loved everything about ballet: the dancers’ strong, long limbs; their high, tight chignons; the grand pianos in the practice rooms; their romantic performance skirts; their utter fanaticism – skipping high school to study dance, shipping their preadolescent selves off to Russia to become the very best at a dying art, eschewing the pubescent party scene to practice plies and pirouettes.

Little did I know that while Little League is nearly free, ballet lessons are expensive. I took a single year of classes before my parents gave up the budgetary ghost, during which I learned many useful facts:

Pippi

  • Pirouetting to the left is harder than to the right
  • Tights + leg hair = itchy
  • I am more flexible than the average person, but not more flexible than the average ballerina
  • I have a perfect point
  • If part of your Halloween costume as Pippi Longstocking involves wire hangers in your braids, and you don’t have time to change before class, your braids will scrape the wall during your barre work, and probably leave a mark

The most important lesson I learned, though – imparted to me personally by Madame Instructor herself, a wizened old woman and an expedient disciplinarian – was that I simply did not have, and would never have, the “body type” of a real ballerina. It’s hard to fathom how the teacher could have possibly drawn any conclusions about my suitability for – or interest in – an adult career in professional dance based off of my 9-year-old body, but there you have it. And thus one of the many seeds of body hatred was sown in my innocent little mind. I was not thin enough, not rich enough, not good enough for the one thing I wanted more than anything else: to dance, dance, dance.

So, were there any evil grown-ups in your childhood life that tried to squash your dreams for no good reason? And do you remember a particular moment when your self-image (body- or otherwise) was thoroughly cemented in your wee childlike mind?

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Pop hits of the whenever

18 Jan

Here are some random songs with which I’ve been enamored at one point or another in life. Most of them started out as a sort of ironic love, and then at some point the irony left and the love remained. So if you were less awesome than I am, you’d be afraid to admit you like these:

Oh, Phil Collins. I have a factory copy of your Greatest Hits. It was actually among the first CDs I ever bought myself, along with my first real CD-playing stereo (an upgrade from the tape deck boombox and the discman from my little brother). All the boys make fun of you, Phil, but you know what? At the end of the day, you may be short, pudgy and balding, but you’re still a rock star.

I came to Journey late in life. Not too late to realize the AWESOMENESS that is Journey, though. Haters gon’ hate, I don’t give a poopie. STREETLIGHT PEOPLE, you guys. Streetlight people. WERD.

Fleetwood Mac RULES. Everyone knows Landslide (or at least the Smashing Pumpkins cover), and Go Your Own Way, but I didn’t find out about Rhiannon until Steve Jobs invented Pandora. Just kidding, Steve Jobs didn’t invent Pandora. Anyway, Stevie Nicks, woooo!

EDIT to include Peter Gabriel. How could I forget the man who does duets with Kate Bush AND Paula Cole? Hot.

And that’s all you get for today. What are some embarrassing songs you like? It’s notable that embarrassing songs are suddenly cool when sung at karaoke night. Keep this in mind, internet people, next time you’re drunkenly pawing through those giant directories of karaoke songs to sing at the local watering hole. The cheesier, the better!

Soundtrack for junior high

14 Dec

There comes a time in everyone’s lives where we have to stop listening to Dad’s record player and Mom’s piano and develop our Very Own Taste in Modern Music. For me, this happened in middle school. Sure, I also worked on maintaining my love of post-1965 Beatles and early 19th-century Beethoven, but around about the 7th grade, I began receiving music from outside sources – friends, boys and other bad influences.

Here’s some stuff I started listening to then:

I first learned of Tom Petty via a mixtape. Then, a boy gave me “Wildflowers” on cassette. It’s hard to choose a favorite from that album, especially with so much creepy fodder like “Cabin Down Below,” “Honey Bee” and “House in the Woods,” but here’s one (of the many) I dug:

Much later, I would make a foray to a faraway city to see Tom Petty live with a selection of friends given to shenanigans. Naturally, shenanigans ensued.

My nascent love of Tori also began in middle school with a mixtape with two Tori songs on it. First, “Mr. Zebra” which is quirky and therefore suited my pubescent misfit image well:

And second, Caught a Light Sneeze, which is just awesome. I can’t find a video or audio clip of the studio version, so you’ll just have to imagine it. Tori would also be my first concert, which I went to with my dad, as I was too young to drive, or even have friends who could drive.

What middle school girl’s music list would be complete without some Cranberries, huh? I purchased not one but TWO Cranberries tapes with my allowance money at the local emporium after listening to some on, you guessed it, a mixtape. Here’s one from “No Need to Argue” (no, it’s not “Zombie.” Why is that the only song anyone remembers from the Cranberries?):

The Cure’s Lovesong, which I also bought on casette:

Much later I discovered Tori’s cover of Lovesong and almost died of awesomeness.

Bonus track: My favorite Beethoven song (cliche, sure, but it’s popular for a reason):

There was a lot of other really horrible stuff I listened to, but this is the stuff that stuck in my mind, and wasn’t too humiliating to post on the internet. What did you listen to when you were a youngin?

Day Seven: Gold star for me!

21 Nov

Starting with Friday, I spent the weekend doing Scary and Challenging Things, some of which were on my List of Doom:

No. 56: Take a hip-hop dance class:

After my epic failures at taking dance classes in the past few weeks, it’s understandable that I almost didn’t go to this class on Friday. I had to drag my mopey self out of my safe, safe bed to go out. I posted several apocalyptic tweets about how 100 percent sure I was that it would be a horrifying, humiliating experience. Not so! Teacher lady was super-awesome and friendly and so were the other students. We danced to Michael Jackson. Or rather, they danced, I stumbled around and, miraculously, was mostly able to keep up.

Also: Forcing internet strangers to sign up for stuff with me is, as it turns out, an excellent way to trick myself into doing things that are terrifying. Also it helps with goal No. 38 (below). Although technically I suppose I could cross this goal off my list now, I think instead I will modify it to “go to hip hop class every week until I can dance like a crazy mad dance fiend.”

No. 38: Organize one meetup per month

Above dance class was attended by two shiny new members of my dance meetup group. Yay! One of the people I’ve known for years, the other was a brand-new to Portland beginning dance enthusiast. WOOT! The internet truly is a grand place. Afterward we went to Produce Row and had fancy drinks. Fancy!

No. 72: Go to Barre Method class

On Saturday I got up relatively early and went to a Bar(re?) Method class. It was absolutely divine. Usually I hate the Pearl, but apparently yuppie jerkalopes sleep til noon on Saturdays so I managed to find a parking space easily, and only got hassled by one middle-aged botox victim in a North Face technical jacket with a tiny dog on a leash.

The bar studio was amazing. The people at the front desk were actually friendly and gave me a tour instead of looking at me like I was an alien (which sometimes happens when you are a new person at a fitness or dance studio – go figure). Then I got into the classroom: Plush carpets! Clean mirrors! Personal attention! Very few other people! Amazing workout! Still sore! Going again Tuesday! Seriously you guys – the teacher remembered my name AND that I have a back injury AND remembered to tell me about modifications for stuff that hurt. YAY!

No. 43: Go on 52 hikes

Sunday: I rounded up the Special Ladyfriend and the Roommate and we went trek-trek-trekking. I had to wear three pairs of pants to stay warm and I almost popped my leg fully out of its hip socket, but we made it a full 4/5ish miles through the woods, merrily kicked our way through giant piles of leaves, and only saw three or four other people, all smiling, mostly with adorable dogs. Dogs! Yay! This means I have only 51 more hikes to go…

In conclusion: Go me! Also: Please say nice things in the comments! It will keep me motivated to do other things from The List of Doom. Like visit y’all. And send y’all postcards.

The Evolution of Dance: Part One

27 Sep

I, like millions of other little girls, grew up dreaming of being a prima ballerina. I wanted to dance so badly I could taste it. As soon as I was able, I began checking out the same three books about ballet from the library over and over and over, poring over each page, each photo, each dance step tutorial. My favorite was about a deaf girl who danced, keeping the beat of the music by feeling the vibrations through the floor. I kept reading, and soon I had every position memorized and practiced, knew that my toes were well-constructed for one day going en pointe, and began using my dresser as a ballet barre. I begged my parents to send me to lessons – reasoning it was only fair that I take ballet, as my brother took baseball and we should each be allowed to have one extracurricular hobby.

I loved everything about ballet: the dancers’ strong, long limbs; their high, tight chignons; the grand pianos in the practice rooms; their romantic performance skirts; their utter fanaticism – skipping high school to study dance, shipping their preadolescent selves off to Russia to become the very best at a dying art, eschewing the pubescent party scene to practice plies and pirouettes.

Little did I know that while Little League is nearly free, ballet lessons are expensive. I took a single year of classes before my parents gave up the budgetary ghost, during which I learned many useful facts:

  • Pirouetting to the left is harder than to the right
  • Tights + leg hair = itchy
  • I am more flexible than the average person, but not more flexible than the average ballerina
  • I have a perfect point
  • If part of your Halloween costume as Pippi Longstocking involves wire hangers in your braids, and you don’t have time to change before class, your braids will scrape the wall during your barre work, and probably leave a mark
Via

The most important lesson I learned, though – imparted to me personally by Madame Instructor herself, a wizened old woman and an expedient disciplinarian – was that I simply did not have, and would never have, the “body type” of a real ballerina. It’s hard to fathom how the teacher could have possibly drawn any conclusions about my suitability for – or interest in – an adult career in professional dance based off of my 9-year-old body, but there you have it. And thus one of the many seeds of body hatred was sown in my innocent little mind. I was not thin enough, not rich enough, not good enough for the one thing I wanted more than anything else: to dance, dance, dance.

… to be continued

In order to lighten the mood after that depressing little tale (to be continued at a later date, I promise), here’s some darn good dancin’ muzak, which is very likely among the songs I was listening to right before I rocked the mic like a vandal and wrote this:

Appropriately schoolgirl-y, no? Interestingly, I had no idea this song was a) popular, and b) had a video until I tried looking it up for this post. I’m still not sure if the above is the “official” video or not, but the one about the underdog soccer team winning a game seemed a bit more appropriate for y’all than the one of the strung-out ladies mooning over men in suits while writhing in lingerie.

So, were there any evil grown-ups in your childhood life that tried to squash your dreams for no good reason? Did you ever wear a Halloween costume to ballet class (what was I thinking?! But how awesome is Pippi Longstocking? Answer: 12 on the 10-point awesomesauce scale.)? And do you remember a particular moment when your self-image (body- or otherwise) was thoroughly cemented in your wee childlike mind?

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