Thursday, October 1, 2020

Blog 48 Epilogue


On July 10, the students of La Bayadere received an unexpected and abrupt email from Lyda. We were stunned. 


Dear students and parents,


From August on, I will no longer be working at La Bayadère. The board of the Almere Foundation for Dance Art has not been able to find a successor for me, which means that the lessons will no longer be available from September.


It has been a tough decision for me emotionally. I started La Bayadère 27 years ago and have always put my heart and soul into it. To end like this is not how I would like it to be, but after exploring all the possibilities, continuing is no longer an option.


I want to thank everyone very much for all the wonderful years together. The best thing about teaching is to see how students develop, not only in the field of ballet but also as human beings. I have watched you all grow, and you can be proud of what you have personally achieved.


In Almere, I know of no teacher who teaches the way I do. But feel free to do a trial lesson anywhere. You may be able to find someone you want to continue with ballet lessons.


If you prefer to be taught by me, that will remain possible. I want to continue teaching in Utrecht. Are you interested in the lessons in Utrecht? Send an email back before August 1. Then you will receive more information about this.


I wish everyone the very best and hope to see you again, is it not in Utrecht than anywhere else. Bye!


With kind regards,



I wrote to her:


Dear Lyda,

I find this shocking and will miss Bayadere terribly. 

But I understand this must have been very difficult for you to decide.


With loving kindness,



How shocking that this real talented and dedicated woman had to decide to quit.

Was it the impact of Corona, no lessons, no income, was it the decline in students?


I decided to wait and stop for the moment with my ballet aspirations.

Utrecht is no option for me right now. But maybe soon things can change.

For now, this is the end of La Bayadere and my ballet lessons.  

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Blog 47 The last blog

In my first blog, I wrote that I wanted to make you part of my journey and experiences and troubles in mastering some of the elementals of ballet. 
You walked with me this past year and were my partner on my traveling through this vast landscape that we call ballet.
Ballet has become a part of my life. A dream that has come true. A bit late, but whatever!

I'm making the next step in my professional life. I have a few new obligations in my job to meet and talked this over with my teacher Lyda. So after careful consideration, I've made some decisions. 
It's time now for me to rearrange a few things. Though my professional life as a manager puts a considerable claim on my free time, I succeeded up to now to continue to take part in 2 lessons a week and write a blog. 
I will continue my ballet lessons, but I will stop writing a blog. I need a clear mind.
So I can focus better on the new opportunity and use my spare hours for the dancing itself, instead of using them to write. 

I hope that I have inspired you, I wish and hope that my adventurous journey has inspired some of you to make that next step too. Maybe in ballet, or perhaps in realizing that other dream you have.
We are all capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. But then you have to hunt your dreams without fear. 
Courage will push you in new directions, it will allow you to accomplish new things, and become the source of constant personal growth and success.

Only the very few become a prima ballerina. For all the other practitioners' ballet has the capacity to be an art of life, that will keep them healthy, fulfilled, mentally, and physically. 
It's all there, you just have to grab it.

I also hope that the teachers that have read my blog understand how blissful and grateful it can be to teach ballet to older and elderly people. It is rewarding, I'm sure about that. But it requires a different mindset. I challenge you to try that new road!

I also encourage men to have the guts to enter that classroom, where you will discover that ballet is far more than only feminine. As a male dancer, you will find out that there is a vast array of necessities when you want to thrive as a dancer. Strength, tenacity, balance, musicality, and so much more. Very masculine indeed!

I know that people all over the world read my blog, from the US to Russia, Japan to South America, Australia, and the Middle and the Far East. And of course in Europe, from Finland to Italy. That's what Google Analytics tells me.  My blogs have been read thousands of times!
I'm so grateful for this acknowledgment of my personal journey by people all over the world.
Above all, I'm grateful for my teacher Lyda, who, without any constraint, opened her network for me, so people all over the world could read my weekly journal. 

Lyda, I pay homage to you, you are a terrific coach and a hell of a teacher in Russian Ballet. You introduced me to that beautiful classic art and opened doors for me. You are a wonderful person, and I hope to keep entering that door at Bayadère for as long as we live. My blogs are a tribute to you, and to ballet. It's a gift of life.

It is time to move on now. Thank you, all of you.
God bless you!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Blog 46

Next week Dutch children have a week off, enjoying Spring Vacation. So next week there will be no lessons at Bayadère. 

The Monday lesson was a kind of wrap up of the last 5 weeks. Lyda used minimal verbal instruction, and we managed to perform the exercise at the barre in 35 minutes.
In the center, we practiced the tendu marché; with every step backward, we had to turn our head in the opposite direction of the foot we were moving. So when we "marched" the left foot en tendu to the left, we had to simultaneously turn our head to the right.
That's what I call a tough job if you are not used to doing so in daily life. It's precisely this kind of moves that keep you developing new pathways in your neurological system; ballet is very useful to rejuvenate yourself.

After the practice of exercises like assemblé and glissade, 4 changements in combination with two emboités, we proceeded to the diagonal and did the pas the cheval.

Pas de cheval means horse's step. A rather peculiar exercise! The right foot of the working leg extends in pointe tendue devant, with a little hop on supporting leg the right leg bends and stretches (as if pawing the ground), weight is transferred to the right leg. At the same time, the left does a little développé derrière and paws the ground (the transfer of weight from one leg to the other occurs during the hop.) 

The second lesson this week was based on character dance, a stylized traditional folk or national dance, with the uses movements and music that have been adapted for the theater.
Character dance is part of the classical ballet repertoire. 
I must admit that I'm very fond of Russian tradition and music.
Even the Russian language is intriguing, with that beautiful Cyrillic alphabet.
I like the physical labor you have to put in to dance. And character dance has something swirling; what an intense experience! 

I invite you to give a comment on my blog. Or to contact me at the e-mail address: if you have a particular question or issue you want to share with me. I promise I won't bite!

And now it is time to relax! 
A week off. So no blog next week!
My next blog will be on March 1.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Blog 45

I missed one of the lessons again due to my work. Yep, that’s quite frustrating for my progress in ballet. And of course, for my focus. 
I am a grown-up person. I’ve obligations to attend to. And one of them is earning an income. Luckily, my job can be satisfying. But guarding the balance in my life with respect to working, performing sports and ballet, and spending time with family is necessary.  Sometimes, this is easier said than done. 

In earlier blogs, I wrote about a variety of exercises. Now it’s time to say a few things about the frappé, one of our custom exercises at the barre.   
We begin by standing in a wrapped cou the pied position, the heel of the working leg in front of the ankle of the supporting leg, then extend the working leg sharply en avant to 30 degrees without brushing or changing the shape of the foot. The frappé is a sharp movement and is performed dynamically. In the frappé, more time is spent in the final, outstretched pose of each frappé than in getting there. And then return the working leg in the same way. 
Of course, also à la seconde and derrière.

I always carefully look at Lyda while we perform the frappé, she is my role model. Up to now, I’m still taken by surprise with each frappé she makes. It’s a kind of quick reflex action. All the time, she seems to do a frappé exactly 1-speed millisecond earlier than I do. 
The frappé is also a terrific exercise to train the turn out of my upper thigh. Cause positioning my heel in front of the ankle of my supporting leg with the rest of my foot fully wrapped sur le cou the pied requires a considerable turn out of my upper thigh. And that isn’t easy.

We practice chainé in almost every lesson. We make a series of turns in the same direction on the diagonal. With our feet in demi-pointe.
I have to whip my head around quickly and focus on a specific spot in the classroom with each rotation of my body; otherwise, I will become dizzy. Yet, dizziness is my fate every time again. At the end of the diagonal, that is, if I succeed in maintaining a straight line, I sometimes have to grasp the barre or the wall to stop me from tumbling down. 
No need to drink any alcoholic beverages Lyda says, just do a chainé! 
Every now and then, Lyda wants us to do the chainé en relevé.  She slowly introduces more techniques to enhance our skills. 
As with all other movements in classical ballet, the challenge of turning is to make it look effortless. That’s what I call a real master challenge!

In a business meeting, I talked with my colleagues about my sports and ballet activities. And look at what happened. They became enthusiastic and asked me to organize a boxing clinic and ballet lesson somewhere in 2020. Would it surprise you if I say to you that the male colleagues want to box and the females want to experience a ballet lesson? I asked them to do both. Then I asked Lyda if she is prepared to give a ballet lesson, and she too reacted with lots of enthusiasm. A few days later, my daughter and her friend asked me when they can join in a trial lesson. And the same question came from my oldest son. 
Is something happening here?

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Blog 44

It is so intriguing to discover how well Russian Ballet is thought through. I experienced this quite intense in this week’s classes. It gives me a strange sense of proudness that I’m taking part in this beautiful art!

Thursday, we practiced the cambré. Cambré means bent over. A movement curving the spine forward, sideways or backward. We did the backward one.
In a backbend, your fulcrum descends down the spine. It initially supports the weight of your head, then more and more of the torso, as the bending becomes more extreme. And then stay in balance! That bending backward is quite an exercise. I can hardly make a proper backward bend. My shoulders and upper back are stiff. But so is my spine. And of course, the muscles of my back need to be trained.

I discovered (again) that I’ve got some work to do. Lyda gave me a few exercises to practice at home. The exercise starts with you lying on your belly, prone, hands beneath the shoulders and the legs in a slight second position. Push off, gently raise your torso, arms loose from the floor, stretch them in front of you and hold this position, as high as your torso can get, 8 counts and then release slowly. Do this a few times. Then gradually raise your legs, turned out, and your feet pointed, hold it as high as you can for 8 counts, and slowly lower. Again a few times. The crescendo of this exercise is that you slowly lift both torso and legs, hold it for 8 counts, and slowly lower, do this say 3 times. 

We practiced the temps lié in the center, Lyda said this was the official version, but it is also the simplest version. For you know: I’m a beginner.
You start standing in the fifth position croisé, the right foot front. Then do a demi plié, both arms in the first position. Your right foot glides forward into croisé, your left foot remains in demi plié. Then shift your weight on to the right foot and point your left foot behind. Bring your left arm up and your right arm out to the side. Bring the left foot from behind into the 5th position en face in demi plié, shifting left arm into the first position, right arm remains in the second position. Slide the toe of the right foot to the side, leaving left in demi plié, shift weight on to outstretched right leg (opening left arm into the second position), with pointed toe slide left leg into the 5th position front in demi plié. Drop your arm into a preparatory position, and repeat the whole movement on the left foot.
Mind the transference of weight onto the front leg that is accompanied by an oppositional extension of the back leg (pointe tendue derrière croisé), the back foot pushes the weight onto the front foot. So exquisite and elegant.

We had some chit chat in the classroom about the Bolshoi Ballet Company. Lyda showed us some pictures of young ballerina’s training the cambré, or arabesque. The alignment of the head, torso, arms, legs, and feet gives it its artistic beauty. So perfectly aligned! And she told how the young students grasp every moment to train their flexibility. The boarding school has carpets all over the place, so students can do their stretches on the floor.

And it’s time to buy new black tights. Lyda advised me to try another brand so I can feel the difference in texture, and fit.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Blog 43 A fun lesson

I could only attend the Monday evening class this week. An unexpected meeting came up on Thursday that lasted through the evening, so regretfully I had to text Lyda that I could not come. So only one class this week. Is the glass then half empty or half full? Half-full I would say. Moreover, we had a fun and relaxed class on Monday.

We practiced the regular barre exercises plié, tendu, jeté, ronde jambe, developpé, fondu, and frappé, of course, accompanied by that beautiful piano music. I'm still surprised by the many possible variations in these movements. As Lyda puts it: "I can think up of an endless variety of movements, I'll be able to surprise you until you're 100 years old."

The fondu is an intriguing kind of exercise. To achieve the quality of "melting," both legs need to stretch and bend at the same rate. The right foot moves from the 5th position to sur le cou de pied, and the left foot simultaneously does a demi plié, its knee turned out. Then the right knee opens forward (en avant) with the toes pointed on the floor, the left one straightens out and extends in the knee joint simultaneously with the right one. The right foot returns to sur le cou de pied, and the movement is repeated à la seconde, en derrière. A very controlled movement, très lentement, where the working leg successively and smoothly unfolds as the supporting leg straightens. As if you move when standing in a swimming pool. The resistance of the water makes you move slower.

Yes, I've learned that a swimming pool provides a perfect playground for a ballet dancer. Mind you, when you want to practice the developpé the water helps you to maintain your balance and lift your leg. But it also provides the extra resistance if you want to train on strengthening your muscles.

One of the students, Marion, lent me the book "Winter seasons, a dancer's journal," written by Toni Bentley. Toni wrote this book at the age of 22, as a young ballerina and member of the corps de ballet of New York's City Ballet, during the time Balanchine was the choreographer. She did not perceive herself as a successful dancer. She knew she would never become a principal or soloist. That feeling that her career had stagnated led her to take a long, personal look within, and she began writing a journal covering the City Ballet's winter season between November 1980 and February 1981. She left the City Ballet, but returned later. This experience taught her that the dancer's life is ingrained in her character; it was impossible for her to leave. Though still in the corps she rediscovers the joy in her role. Her life is simpler now, her energy directed toward her dancing. It touches me that though she didn't accomplish the top, she knew to reconcile with herself and find joy in ballet again. Ballet can be very competitive if you want to become a professional dancer. There is a downside to ballet when you look at it from this perspective. But this doesn't interfere with my love for this beautiful art.

This week Lyda added a link on the Facebook site of La Bayadère to a story of an older woman, Michelle Herman, who started ballet at the age of 62. It's an inspiring story. As a kid, she took modern dance classes for five or six years. She discovered classical ballet now, she is older and is in love with it. I can wholeheartedly recommend you to read the testimony of her new passion. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Blog 42

I have to pay special attention again on my placement cause this was the second time this month that Lyda had to correct me in my placement. The knee of my working leg is slightly bent.

I understand the importance of correct placement. It really uplifts your performance. So here is a rehearsal, to remind me of the elementary lessons learned, but apparently seeping away. A wake-up call!
In a correct stance the weight of my body has to be correctly centered over the feet, with the armpit and the hipbone vertically aligned, shoulders low, the ribs in and flat, thus controlling the lower back and stabilizing the vertical placement of the torso directly on top of my supporting legs. In the aplomb stance, the patella is in an uplifted position, and this is a result of the contraction of the quads. You need to develop your quads in ballet to lift up your legs. Strengthening your quads requires exercising over some period of time. And these exercises are, in fact, the regulars of each lesson, tendu, jeté and so on. The trick is to perform the exercises with contracted quads, keeping your patella uplifted, so you build up strength. 
And looking in the mirror, of course, I tried to correct myself. 
I also noticed that a proper placement helps when you have to keep balance standing on demi-pointe.

And this brought me back to another eye-opener. When in tendu, I seem to have my working leg a bit bent in de knee. It's hard work for me to stretch that knee. Until Lyda remarked that my working leg was not properly turned out. So when I focused on turning my leg more out, the bent knee simultaneously became a stretched knee. 
And again, I discover that it is not yet part of my system that in ballet, all movements are performed with the legs turned out. 

We practiced the pas de chat (step of the cat) extensively in the Monday lesson. 
When going to the right on the diagonal: right leg fifth position back: the right leg is lifted to high retiré (not touching the supporting knee) as the left leg pushes off the floor and is lifted to a high retiré. The landing occurs on the right leg with left leg closing in the fifth devant. We did this in a series to the same side. Lyda added a special nuance with respect to the starting position: the right leg in the 5th position in front, from then on, as mentioned above. 

And then the assemblé (to put together, assemble) at the barre: the jump from one foot onto two. There are times when the assemblé seems to be so easy, but this day it was not. There are times when body and mind don't seem to work together.

On Thursday, we had a real ballet workout lesson. I loved it.