ballet


Ballet is such a weird, cool system of moving! It’s so deep in Euro-American culture it’s difficult to see at first just how bizarre it is, all floaty and lilty and superhumanly graceful, even during those acts of incredible athleticism. I love how much attention we pay to our feet, the subtleties of articulation, how they move against the floor, exactly how they lift. I’ve been walking around in a constant foot meditation for the last few weeks. I love how wildly unintuitive it is, the toe-pointing, the isolation of the leg and arm motions, and especially how the arms move—all elegance and flair, which I have been avoiding for decades. I love how much my balance has improved. I’m reconnecting with the classical piano music, or whatever it is—I know ‘classical’ means something very specific to those in the know. I’m starting to see dancing when I listen to my Mozart piano sonatas while studying.

I’m still a bit cringe-y at the prancing and leaping, but less so now, and I imagine the better I get at it, the less cringe-y I’ll be.

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I am a few weeks past halfway through my 38th year, conveniently marked by my brother Damian’s birthday, and the start of my spring term. Here’s an update on how my intentions for the year are coming along.

1. Add new knowledge to the field of social psychology: I have just finished (I hope) crunching numbers for my honors thesis, and I can say that I have helped produce some new evidence, at least. It is not as sexy as I had hoped, but I have learned a whole lot about the process of psychology research, and that is the main point, as my advisor keeps reminding me.

2. Break my habit of scratching and picking my skin, including biting my lip: I have made some progress here, using a technique Reanna told me about: snapping myself with a hair band around my wrist whenever I had the urge to touch myself. My success varies clearly with my stress level. It requires mindfulness. Another insight/confusion: picking and lip biting, I can tell, are pure stress responses, but the scratching I think is more than that. I seem to be an itchier than normal person. A dermatologist told me that it was the “notoriously harsh” hand-made soap I have been using. I accepted that explanation until I realized on my ride home that he had been wrong. I only use soap on a few key areas. By his reasoning my armpits should be itchier than most of me, and they are not. Any ideas?

3. Celibacy: This has been no problem. I have not been tested, however; no one that I am aware of has wanted to have sex with me. When I first told Grace about this one, she said, “You are going to learn a lot from doing that, but you know, now that you are committed, you will immediately meet someone who will make it very challenging.” Well, not yet.

4. Dance every day, working on 1) musicality 2) vocabulary 3) style: This is going pretty well, though some days my dancing is just a token, so I could say I did. I had a big breakthrough in musicality on my fast dancing at Seattle Balboa Festival in February. The choreography I have been working on with Karly has been helping my working vocabulary. And the main reason I decided to take ballet is to improve my poise and lines. It is easy for me to get into an I-could-be-doing-so-much-more/better state. There is a guy who started in the same beginning class that I did in Eugene who really dove in and is now a rock-star dancer in Portland, winning national competitions. But I still give myself a thumbs up on this one.

5. Finish bachelor’s degree: Yes. I am on track to graduate with honors on June 13, 2009.

6. Get accepted into a couples and family therapy graduate program: Yes. I start in the University of Oregon’s CFT masters program on September 29 (happy birthday to me!), 2009. I’m very excited.

7. Maintain this blog: I have a lot more ideas for posts than actual posts, but I am pretty happy with NME so far. It has been a consistent source of inspiration for me. I get about 20 clicks a day, on average, which seems pretty respectable. The lowest I go is three (two of which are my ever-hopeful-for-a-post Mom, I just discovered), and my peak was 62 on March 31, the day after I posted the guide to my sidebar. I wonder who you all are.

8. Meditate every day: Yes. Sometimes just a few minutes, but yes.

9. Produce a record with David Waingarten: This is not going to happen this year, which I’m sad about. I love this guy’s voice and songwriting. He also makes movies, though, and that’s what he did with his time and money this year. The movie looks good, though. Here’s a preview: This Is Now

10. Record an EP with my band, Abandon Ship: This project is not on schedule, partly because of #12, below, and partly because of how much work an honors thesis is, on top of an internship and classes. I am working on it , but it will almost certainly not be done by my birthday.

11. See healthcare provider each month until all my body concerns are resolved: Yes, I have been doing this. I’ve seen a dermatologist, an orthopedist, a urologist, and two chiropractors. I’m disappointed with the results, so far. I seem to be collecting concerns faster than I am resolving them. Hmm… That makes it seem like I am on my last legs. I am quite healthy, overall, actually.

12. Set up a slick system of musical collaboration over the internet and use it regularly: This has come together much slower than I anticipated, but I have every reason to believe I will be up and running by early May. I can hardly wait.

13. Shift my schedule three hours earlier for at least one term: In bed by 11 pm: I’m very happy with this one, so far. I have not pulled it off perfectly for a term straight—my dance schedule conflicts somewhat with it—but I’d say 90% of the time I’m in bed by 11:30, at least, and that means I’m waking up naturally before my alarm 90% of the time. I love it!

14. Sing out every day: I have not been doing this as I had hoped. I am still inspired to sing out like my friend Zen Zenith, but I have not been working on it with any regularity.

15. Take African dance classes: Yes, I have taken two classes from master dancer Alseny Yansane, and they were awesome. Unfortunately, I have been having this low back pain that has kept me from dancing with that extreme athleticism. When my back stops hurting, I will go back.

16. Write at least one song per month: Nope. I have not written even one complete song. Ouch.

17. Make at least one of each item in Maya’s cookbook: Yummm. I have made four of 19 recipes: Fluffy Whole Wheat Pancakes, Super Hero Granola, Corn Chowder, and Maya’s Tomato soup. They were all excellent except I burned the granola.

Compared to me at my peak, in junior high school, I am not homophobic. I wasn’t even that homophobic then, on the full scale of the trait, but “gay” was definitely a put-down and though I didn’t know that I knew any LGBTQ folks at the time, I had the sense that they were lower on the hierarchy of normalcy than I was.

I’ve come a long way. Last fall, for example, a young woman leaned her upper body out of the passenger window of a passing car to shout “fag!” at me, and I was merely amused. (Tilke told me later it was probably because I was wearing red pants. Heterosexuals are allowed to wear blue, black, khaki, and camouflage pants.) It’s impossible to measure, of course, but if you forced me to say, I’d guess I have about 1% of the homophobia I had then. I don’t mean to make that sound like that’s a big deal—it’s just growing up. One of the main things I think “growing up” means is coming to not feel threatened by things that aren’t threatening.

But getting rid of what co-counselors call ‘oppressor patterns’ like homophobia is kind of like learning to tune a guitar; the further you get, the harder it is to do. Tiny increments that used to be inaudible to me, now sound teeth-grindlingly out of tune. It’s like my mom always says, “Whatever you focus on expands.”

I’m thinking about this because I’ve started taking a ballet class—two, actually, four hours a week—and we started right out with a move that poked me right in the homophobia, a ballet leap called grande jete. It’s a beautiful motion, but I get a little uncomfortable watching men do it. And there’s something about doing it myself that makes me squirm. And being seen doing it e,specially by strangers, set my emotional alarms off. I haven’t been able to deconstruct it much, yet. My body just shouted “wrong!”

I’m looking forward to whatever insights come from this. My first guess is that it’s fear of ridicule. Whatever it is, facing it could really help my dancing. I’m from the punk rock generation. We’re not allowed to be passionately graceful. It has to look accidentally or clumsily graceful. That is holding me back.

Here’s some amazing leaping (though I don’t think any of these are grande jetes):