Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Fat Ballerina: an anatomical review

Ballet Rehearsal, 1873 (Degas)
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA

I don't know what I was thinking, but last night I went to my first ballet class in, oh, twenty years. I knew it was going to be bad, painful, humiliating, etc. - but I didn't realize HOW painful! I've taken my muscles for granted. My gosh, ballet is HAAAARRRRRRD! And I never thought of it before as a full-body work-out - it was just dance, something I loved to do - but it's also cardio (when the teacher said we were going to repeat the tendu exercise I thought I was gonna pass out - just over tendus!), stretch, toning from head to foot. I can't believe I used to be able to hold these positions and do these steps the way I used to. I used to be good at this? HOW?! My muscles, core and periphery, are so weak now. It's humbling.

And this was just an "ELEMENTARY" ballet class. Thank goodness I didn't go to the intermediate class. I feel wistful thinking I used to be like those women who were taking the intermediate class en pointe (we were able to watch them in their gorgeous studio, renovated from an old church, with cathedral ceiling and huge stained-glass windows still in the far wall). I used to go to New York regularly and take classes alongside professionals from ABT and NYCB with the amazing teacher Willie Burmann, and do his high-speed, advanced class en pointe. Those days are LOOOOOOOONG gone! I got vertigo just doing turns across the floor -that NEVER happened to me before.

This morning my abductor hallucis wants pain meds and my "turnout muscles," which were never very good to begin with, are now wondering why the heck they were roused from a decades-long sleep. Now that I am older and more schooled, I had to look up these muscles in my Netter Atlas - the prized book in med school, with its beautiful anatomic illustrations, that made me feel that I had indeed entered the world of medicine at last. (I had to use Gray's here for copyright reasons, though).


Obturator internus and externus (internus shown here)

Quadratus femoris


the Gemelli brothers, Gemellus superior and inferior (I've shown "inferior" here because I feel sorry for his name).

To think that in medicine there's both a piriformis syndrome and an obturator syndrome! As we left the class one of the adult students, an older guy, said, "Well, I'm in pain from head to toe. So it must have been good for me." I guess so! It was enough to send this Fat Ballerina home with fantasies of having a glass of Fat Bastard with dinner... :)


Anonymous said...

I used to take ballet lessons and dance en pointe. That was in another life. My muscles started hurting as I read your blog. My feet have never been the same. Have fun with your class. I'm sure your muscles will remember how to move. My pointe shoes hang by their ribbons as a reminder of those days.

rlbates said...

Enjoy both the exercise and the wine! Isn't it nice that recent studies say both are better than just the exercise? :)

mw said...

You must have been heartened (as I was) to read about exercise and aging in the NYT today

T. said...

Yes, mw, that was a great article! Though when I read, "When you have to choose between hard and often, choose hard," I thought to myself, waaaaa-aaaaaah...! :)

Part of my inspiration, besides being a life-long lover of ballet, was a dance movie I saw in which a 50-something-year-old Patrick Swayze and his extremely fit 47-year-old wife were still able to dance beautiful ballet together. The script had a few glitches but I thought the film captured a lot of the arduous emotional and physical experiences dancers have.

Thanks for stopping by - and thanks too, celloluv & rlbates! Nice to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

I'm inspired, t. Maybe after kid #2 I will take that karate class I've been thinking about since middle school...