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Ballet - Adult Dancers
Get the Pointe Ballet Interview #50 Special Adult Issue, Featuring Elfie (karma: 1)  en>fr fr>en
By smileywomanmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 11030, member since Sat Sep 17, 2005
On Sun Jan 19, 2014 03:49 PM
Edited by smileywoman (141214) on 2014-01-19 16:04:31 DDN has code problems with contractions and hyphens which I had to edit
Edited by smileywoman (141214) on 2014-01-19 16:07:29 ..
Edited by smileywoman (141214) on 2014-01-19 16:47:33 ...
Edited by Sumayah (204191) on 2014-01-19 18:42:37 make feature
Edited by Theresa (28613) on 2014-01-20 12:55:14 Dates!

Get the Pointe Ballet Interview, Issue #50: Special Adult Series Featuring Elfie.

Image hotlink - 'http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a376/smileywoman/GTPCover50_Elfie.jpg'

Meet Elfie, a 35 year old female who has been dancing for 27 years.
DDN Name: Elfie
Member Since: May 01, 2003
Age: 35
Years Dancing: 27

Hi Elfie! Welcome to Get the Pointe - DDN Ballet Interview #50

The Basics

Q: What are the styles of dance that you study?
A: At the moment only ballet, and I've always been very classical ballet oriented, but back in dance student days our training included also contemporary/jazz. I've even studied a bit of African dance and Capoeira.**
**Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music, and is sometimes referred to as a game. It was developed in Brazil.

Q: If someone asked you, "Why Dance?" what would your answer be?
A: I think of dancing as my other way of thinking. The question seems almost as silly to me as why think with words. It's a huge part of who I am.
A: I think of dancing as my other way of thinking. The question seems almost as silly to me as why think with words. It's a huge part of who I am.



Memories

Q: How old were you when you began dance? Was ballet your first dance style?
A: I started my ballet studies when I was 8 years old. I tried to get in when I was 7, but the class was too full and they told me I was so small for my age, so it's better to wait. Meanwhile, I made up a lot of dances on my own years before, that I made my poor mother watch all the time. I had my sights set on career in ballet from a very early age . My cousin always tells me how she remembers me dancing on a big rock at their summer cottage when I was 4 years old.

Q: Did your parents make you start dancing? Was your mom a dancer, and did she push you to go further and do better?
A: Neither of my parents danced. My mom played the piano though and would have wanted to study ballet, but her mother wouldn't let her. My mom was very supportive of my dancing, but didn't really push me in it. The choice to start and continue dancing was definitely one I made myself, and I've always been very self-motivated.


Class and Training

Q: How much time do you dance during the week? (ballet and other dance forms)
A: Because of my teaching career I do not have that much time to take classes anymore (as I tend to be working when most classes are given.) I am able to take just one ballet class regularly and be able to slip in one or two more irregularly at the moment. But during the long summers and school vacations the studio is closed and I am out of work, I try to squeeze in as many classes as I can, usually about 4-5 a week. I love taking an almost daily class with just one or two days break from it. I do demonstrate nearly everything full out when I teach, so that is a lot of dancing also, but a bit different. Teaching gives me a break from thinking so much of myself and taking class is wonderful, because I get to concentrate only on myself.

Q: Do you study Vaganova, Cecchetti or RAD?
A: I've been given a very strictly Vaganova based training and consider myself a Vaganova girl. I even had the honor of studying 3 years as a dance student with a teacher who had taught at the Vaganova Academy and went back to teach there again. He was a very wonderful teacher, who I think really refined our sense of style. My current teachers come from different backgrounds, but don't teach strictly any one style.

Q: How do you prepare for class? (i.e. stretching, conditioning, mental techniques, etc.)
A: Having problems with mobility I like to do a quite a lot of stretching. I like to do a bit of core work to get a feel of my center, but nothing to the amount of tiring in a real strengthening way. Also just rolling the major joints for warming up and joint lubrication.

Q: How do you prepare your pointe shoes?
A: I step on the box to flatten it (I have wide duck feet), bend the shank from under my heel often against the barre or edge of a table with my hands, sometimes even hammer it a bit, so it bends at the right place and does not snap from too low. I have a "pointe shoe breaking in run", where leaning a bit forwards I alternate one foot on pointe and the other on demi-pointe fast to soften the shank for demi-pointe pliability. There is the sewing on of ribbons and some elastics of course. If I know I am going to be dancing on slippery surface I will have a cobbler glue a patch of suede leather to the platform, but if I know the floor is ok I will not bother.

Q: What does it mean to you to get corrections in class? And what are the most common corrections you receive?
A: I love so much getting lots of corrections! I don't believe anyone is ever ready in a way to not need them. Even if your head knows everything in theory, the real work is always in cleaning up the very basics and your body needs to be reminded of them often by a watchful eye that can see what you have forgotten to think about. The most common ones: well to stay on my supporting leg, to not to force turnout, not to let the foot open to the side at the back, not to tilt my head while spotting.

Q: What's your favorite? Adagio or Allegro and why?
A: Adagio. The music is often so beautiful, and though I don't have very high legs I love doing port de bras and I love the feeling of really getting to dance. (And I am not a very good jumper especially when it comes to grand allegro jumps.)

Q: Do you have a signature step, or one that comes easy to you?
A: No not really. I'm an ok turner, but to the left. I think I'm more known for general quality of old-fashioned lyricalness than any one particular step.

Q: After you've had a bad day, what motivates you to go to class? Does it lift your spirits?
A: I just go and just do it. Sometimes it does, sometimes in class I feel I did not do well enough and it can make me really depressed also. However, I know I will regret it if I do not go.

Q: Have you gone to a Summer Intensive (SI) before?
A: Yes, I quite often go to this dance camp for adults in the countryside. We train a lot and prepare a performance at the end of it. I really love being away from the world and concentrating just on dancing and getting to perform. We have made a stage and a studio out of an old barn and I have had many really good teachers there, and the atmosphere is usually very friendly and nice. The food is really good too!! I remember the very first year I went there and we stuffed ourselves silly with very good pancakes they had for dessert. We had a ballet class straight after that, and we could not cambre or anything and the teacher asked what was wrong and we just pointed to our big bellies and said pancakes. :)

Q: What sort of things do you do at home that help your dancing?
A: Stretching, some strengthening and Pilates. I also have a balancing board and a theraband (which I should probably use more), :P Rolling on two tennis balls too especially for my back and outer thighs where I have a lot of crampy tightness, and mental training (as in imagining dancing really well and really trying to feel the correct way of doing the movement). I believe daydreaming about dancing is very good for the actual dancing. As is watching good ballet and listening to classical music also to improve my musicality.

Q: What's in your dance bag? Can we see a picture?
A: The usual, leotard, tights, soft shoes and a pair or two of pointes, ouch pouches, wrap up skirt, warmup pants, t-shirt, woolen triangular scarf I like to use as a back warmer, woolie socks or warm slippers, some massage equipment (a Bunheads footsie roller and my deuserband...I really love my deuserband), a book I read on the bus, a small notebook and pen, and just general equipment of living such as keys, cellphone, wallet and a buscard
Image hotlink - 'http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a376/smileywoman/ElfieBag.jpg'

Q: What was the biggest obstacle that you encountered in ballet and how did you overcome it? How has it helped you become a better dancer?
A: The lack of turnout, tight hipflexors and thighs. I have just had to work very hard at it with the little I have got, and stretch like mad. I think it is a benefit teaching purely recreational students, where many do not have the flexibility either to know the difference.

Q: What dance goals are you currently working towards, and what future goals do you have?
A: As I'm getting older I'm trying to learn a bit more body friendly habits to train, as in not so much forcing my turnout and giving up a few other gimmicks I've learned to fake what I don't have. Especially in my years in the academy for a teachers degree, my training was not very body friendly for my not-made-for-ballet body, so those habits are now really strongly supported by force of habit as well as the do-it-or-there-is-the-door mentality. It's actually really hard psychologically because I tend to care more for the aesthetics than I do for my own health. Which brings me to my next point which is always a fight: the need to let go of my being so overtly negative and critical towards myself, and learning to be more forgiving. Of course I would like steadier pirouettes on pointe (especially to the right) as well as more height and flexibility on big jumps.

Q: Do you ever get pressured by your studio to look a certain way? Do you disagree with studios that do this?
A: Now that I take open adult classes the atmosphere is very relaxed and accepting of all kinds of looks, but back at the ballet academy there certainly was some pressure to look a certain way. My having some unhealthy eating-disorder-ish thinking patterns, made it kind of triggering that among the very few positive feedback I ever got was mostly compliments on being thin or the encouragement to lose weight to an even lower unhealthy weight.

Q: How many pairs of pointe shoes do you have? What is your favorite brand and style of pointe shoes (and why are they your favorite?)
A: At the moment I think I have about five pairs of pointe shoes, out of which 4 are usable and one dead pair that I save for photoshoots outdoors.

Image hotlink - 'http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a376/smileywoman/ElfieSPRING.jpg'

I also have one pair of black pointes that I don't use for regular classes. I wear mostly Grishko's Maya I. It's good for my wide tapered feet and I like the way it's easier to feel the floor in them more than other models and brands that I have tried. I like it's down to earthiness, if that makes sense.


Performance

Q: What was your first dance performance and what was your role in it? How old were you?
A: Before I even took classes I got to do a ladybug dance as a 6 year old, because I was known as the ladybug girl for carrying them around in a jar. (Poor things!) So I flew around a bit in a ladybug costume while the others sang a ladybug song. The first year of ballet our performance was some kind of polka thing we danced. I was so happy when I got to be a flower and wear a real tutu and everything!! (The polka thing was danced just wearing our usual class leotards)

Q: Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
A: Not really. I just go over the steps mentally in my head, put on make up, and do the warming up and stretching the same way I do for class. When I put on the costume I do a bit of funny warming up the face muscles (like pretending saying vowels in an exaggerated manner without really making a sound) so I do not get cramps there, especially if I have to smile a lot).

Q: What is your biggest fear during a performance?
A: ( Um, this is sort of embarrassing, but pssst: getting my periods when wearing a white tutu on stage.) But I just really like the bit of butterflies in your stomach feeling just before you step out of the wings. My biggest fear is the same as it always is when it comes to dancing--being really bad at it.

Q: What has your best stage moment thus far?
A: I sort of remember one really euphoric stage moment when I was about 11 years old. I was one of Thumbelinas faery friends for my ballet teachers Spring ballet recital. There was just something about the lights and that flowy feeling. I also enjoyed playing (crybaby) Johanna in our summer camp production of a Bournonville ballet, Kermesse in Brugges...it was a delightful experience. Johanna was just a really fun character to play and as a character role there was not too much technique to worry about, so it was just really fun!

Q: When you are on stage, do you lose yourself in the role (enjoying your experience without worrying about technique) OR are you concentrating on the steps more and overly worried about technique OR do you just say to yourself forget about everything and dance from the 'heart'?
A: I do not think it is possible to completely forget about technique and still dance well, but I really love acting and being someone else. The role is really important to me and I put a lot of thought and background work into that aspect as well. When I had to be a swan I watched real swans closely. Also, I often make up a verbal inner dialogue of what the character is saying or thinking with each movement. To me dancing from the heart comes from how much I love dance and letting it show. Forgetting about technique comes from how well rehearsed the piece is so it is really in your body (as an understudy and such, a dancer does not always have that precious luxury, but that does not mean not dancing from the heart to me.

Q: What variation would you love to do or inspires you the most?
A: Of all the variations that I have done, the Dying Swan has been a favorite because of the emotional complexity and sad beauty of it. Things I have not done, but would like to do are Nikyas snake variation from La Bayadere. Yes, I am a sucker for tragedy!

Q: If you could perform in any ballet in any role, what would it be and why?
A: Giselle definitely. It's always been my favorite ballet. I like old-fashioned romanticism and a bit of the macabre. I can relate to her on many levels: having a strong desire to dance without a good physique for it, mental health issues, and wishing to transcend the mundane living to a more spiritual existence. La Sylphide is another favorite as I've always really loved faeries, and have been lucky to have gotten to dance bits of it.


Philosophical Questions

Q: What sacrifices have you made for ballet?
A: The usual: a lot of blood sweat and tears.

Q: What sacrifices has your family made so that you can dance?
A: Well the financial one of course. And it was probably hard for my mom to often witness all the blood sweat and tears as well as tiredness and rejection and striving for the unhealthy level of perfectionism.

Q: Does dance affect your social life in any way? How? Do your friends understand?
A: I have always been a bit of loner and have not ever had the kind of friends who would make big demands on me time wise. Of course without all the time spent on dance I would have had the time for a potentially more active social life, but as an introvert that has not been that big of a sacrifice personally. I love how taking a dance class is sort of a social experience and time to concentrate on yourself by yourself- experience at the same time. I have found it very important to have a good friend outside of the world of dance, to take a break from it, every now and then.

Q: What do you eventually want to do with ballet? Can you see yourself using it as a springboard to other related careers?
A: I am so old that eventually is already here, so I teach ballet for a living.

Q: Have you ever thought about not doing ballet? What kept you going?
A: Many times due to all the physical problems ballet has caused, and the mental stress of doing something I often feel not good enough to do, but it is simply too big a part of who I am to give it up. Life completely without ballet seems empty in ways I cannot even fully imagine, and that scares me.

Q: If you could dance anywhere in the world (not only in a theatre) where would you dance?
A: If I were that level of good, the Marinsky would probably be the dream stage because I like the rich atmosphere of history and the style. However, where is not really important to me as simply as getting to dance. My dream job would be to be a professional ballet dancer (soloist) with many interesting roles, especially the beloved classics to dance. I would be perfectly happy being a soloist in an unknown small company.

Q: If you could change anything about ballet, what would it be, and why?
A: Of course for ballet to be more accepting of all body types, and that the world of ballet would put more emphasis on individuality of artistry rather than tricks, super arches, and extensions. Also, I would like to live in a more ballet friendly and appreciative world where the common people would see more ballet, know more of dance as a natural part of life, know more about dancers, and people of all ages, levels, and body types dancing. Sometimes it makes me sad that ballet seems to be limited to opera houses and a limited fan base and many people know so little about it.

...for ballet to be more accepting of all body types...that the world of ballet would put more emphasis on individuality of artistry rather than tricks, super arches, and extensions...to live in a more ballet friendly and appreciative world where the common people would see more ballet, know more of dance as a natural part of life, know more about dancers, and people of all ages, levels, and body types dancing. Sometimes it makes me sad that ballet seems to be limited to opera houses and a limited fan base and many people know so little about it.


Smileywoman could not agree with you more on this!!

Q: What is one tip that you would love to share with other DDNers?
A: Dance big and take risks without the fear of making mistakes. Mistakes are a natural and necessary part of the learning process. Find a place to train that is a safe environment for you to make mistakes. Dance to learn instead of just already being good at it.

Dance big and take risks without the fear of making mistakes. Mistakes are a natural and necessary part of the learning process. Find a place to train that is a safe environment for you to make mistakes. Dance to learn instead of just already being good at it.

AWESOME advice!!

Q: What would surprise people about you?
A: Well, some people are surprised when they learn my age. I do not know, maybe I am either so predictable or so weird that people have come to expect anything, that surprising people is probably hard for me. But I do not mind, what is important is to surprise yourself and those surprises are hopefully yet to come.

Q: How does it feel to be featured in Get the Pointe?
A: I am very flattered.

Thanks Elfie for such a WONDERFUL interview!! Signing off Maria (aka Smileywoman)

6 Replies to Get the Pointe Ballet Interview #50 Special Adult Issue, Featuring Elfie

re: Get the Pointe Ballet Interview #50 Special Adult Issue, Featuring Elfie en>fr fr>en
By Sumayah Comments: 6619, member since Wed Nov 12, 2008
On Sun Jan 19, 2014 06:41 PM
Ahh! I adore Elfie so much!
re: Get the Pointe Ballet Interview #50 Special Adult Issue, Featuring Elfie en>fr fr>en
By hummingbird Comments: 10006, member since Mon Apr 18, 2005
On Sun Jan 19, 2014 07:15 PM
Thank you so much for this interview Elfie and thank you so much for putting it all together Maria.

You are both totally awesome!
re: Get the Pointe Ballet Interview #50 Special Adult Issue, Featuring Elfie en>fr fr>en
By nycsylphmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 2083, member since Sun Jan 11, 2009
On Thu Jan 23, 2014 02:16 PM
Finally had a chance to sit down and read this awesome interview with one of my favorite dancers on DDN!

While I'm used to seeing Elfie in one of her posted magical photo sessions (that always take my breath away), I was curious about getting to know more about this dazzling beauty. Sure enough, the inside is as gorgeous as the outside.

Thank you Maria for conducting and interview and thank you Elfie for participating.

Loved.
re: Get the Pointe Ballet Interview #50 Special Adult Issue, Featuring Elfie en>fr fr>en
By Serendipity42Premium member Comments: 2219, member since Sun Aug 16, 2009
On Thu Jan 23, 2014 07:20 PM
Love it!
re: Get the Pointe Ballet Interview #50 Special Adult Issue, Featuring Elfie en>fr fr>en
By KaeDancer Comments: 33, member since Wed Jan 22, 2014
On Fri Jan 24, 2014 02:40 AM
Ah, wonderful!

I have always loved Elfie's pictures and it's so good of her to do Get The Pointe :)

Thank you Elfie and Maria for another great issue.

Kaela x
re: Get the Pointe Ballet Interview #50 Special Adult Issue, Featuring Elfie en>fr fr>en
By pols Comments: 879, member since Thu Apr 26, 2007
On Sat Jan 25, 2014 05:39 AM
So lovely to hear your thoughts, Elfie.

Thanks, Maria!

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