Monday, April 28, 2014

Whispers in the bathroom

In the beginning of February, as I bailed out of yet another class after barre, I told the instructor that I had an appointment with my doctor to see why I was feeling so breathless during class, and promised her I'd be back after we'd figured it out. This morning I took a Beginner 2 class from this same instructor for the first time since then. After barre I had a brief chat with her, and she welcomed me back, saying she'd guessed it was something more serious than just bronchitis.

One of the regulars at the school hurt her back a month ago, and she finally had to take a 3 week break from classes to let it heal. She's just coming back from that. While getting some corrections this morning she tried to use that as an excuse, but the instructor was having none of it. After class a friend reported that she'd overheard a bathroom conversation about this: I suspect someone thought the instructor should have gone easier on her, given her 3-week layoff, but she replied that she couldn't really complain since I was just back from a 10-week layoff and was just 7 weeks post-op. Hearing that gave me a smile.

As happy as I am to have things returning to normal, it's still a mixed bag. I'm occasionally screwing up combinations that should be easy. I think this is just a matter of focus, but there is a fair amount of documentation suggesting that long periods of general anesthesia can result in occasional hiccups in memory lasting months afterward. My demi-pointe still isn't as high as it was, and holding relevé for any length of time makes my calf muscles hurt. All this will pass in time, I'm sure, but it's still frustrating. And watching the Advanced Beginner class from the hallway afterward... well, let's not dwell on that.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Balletic Week

This week has been one ballet activity after another.

Sunday I attended The Washington Ballet's production of Peter Pan. Not
something I would have necessarily chosen for myself, but it was part of the subscription. However, I found I really enjoyed it. I think the throngs of kids mixed into the audience enjoyed it even more, going by the shrieks of glee and laughter.

Monday I had class at my regular studio, as I've already written. Wednesday I had yet another class, this time at a different studio, where I renewed old acquaintances and made some new friends. At the end of each of these I was tired, largely because the small class sizes meant almost constant center work, but never did I feel breathless.

Thursday was a TWB production showing off their range of capabilities to a subscriber-only audience. Pieces ranged from a classical pas-de-deux to contemporary male foursome and everything in between, and finishing with Balanchine's Theme and Variations. Quite spectacular.

This Sunday I'll be back in class yet again. I'm going to limit myself to the one Beginner 2 class, though. I am just not ready to go back to the Advanced Beginner class yet. But I expect to be there this summer.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Not good at this "take it easy" thing

Since everything was closed in honor of the pagan celebration of the vernal equinox, there were no classes Sunday. Instead I went to yet another instructor's variation of Beginner 2 this evening. I don't think we did anything we didn't do in last Wednesday's Beginner 1 — no, that's not true: I did my first pirouettes in two and a half months — but mostly it was just different. Surviving class is apparently not a fluke, so I'm going to start going on a regular basis again.

As I've written before, I'm self-competitive. In class I push myself to do my best. If I think I can make my tendus snappier, I feel that I should try. And I have. I don't have the speed I used to have, but I'm getting quicker.

There are limits, though. Circular port de bras are not comfortable, causing twinges at the bottom of my sternum. I say "twinge" rather than "pain" because I take the first signs of pain as a movement limit. This is one form of "taking it easy".

Another is taking a break during center work when I feel winded. This one is tougher for me. I feel like I'm cheating somehow when I stand aside while everyone else practices a combo. The difference, though, is that it's just a lack of energy rather than breathlessness. That should go away as I continue my recovery.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I remember this!

It's all coming back to me now: the aches in my calf muscles when I try to walk. Having to push on my chair's arm rests to get up. Falling into my seat when I try to sit down. I haven't hurt like this since... oh... the last time I whined about this a year or more ago.

Wednesday's pliés were uncomfortable and relevés worse, but I didn't expect the aches to last this long. It's just more proof that I need to restart slowly, though I find that hard to do. I ditched the idea of the classes last night or tomorrow, and have set my sights on Monday evening instead. Or Wednesday. Or both... *sigh*

I should also note what I didn't have trouble with. I didn't need to pant to catch my breath between each barre exercise. I didn't have any trouble getting my arms into high fifth, though that's about the limit of their motion at the moment. I didn't hurt during forward bends as long as I kept my back fairly straight. I didn't hurt (much) during backward bends, though that's because I stopped when I encountered resistance. Circular port de bras only twinged a little, which will probably go away with some stretching. I was far worse only a few weeks ago.

But if you see someone walking like a penguin, think of me!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First class in 10 weeks: I survived!

Taking the Beginner 1 class rather than last night's B2 (or tomorrow's AB) was definitely the right choice. I did make it through to the end, but at the end I was running on sheer determination. But I made it.

I felt a little lost at the start of barre. Traffic was worse than I expected, and though I had time to park and change I didn't have time to warm up. Then all the folk who remembered me wanted to know where I'd been, so I really hadn't gotten focused when class started.

It's amazing how fast you can forget things, and how quickly they start to come back. I had to really pay attention to the demonstrations to remember what to do. I felt unsteady, especially on demi-pointe, and my calf muscles (and my feet, of all things) kept threatening to cramp up early on. I lack flexibility, though I can't really blame any of it on the surgery specifically other than the lack of activity. In center, I figured out the adagio combination fairly easily, and my balance started coming back on the second repetition.

At the end I found myself out of breath. Not the rapid but ineffective panting of February, but the slow, tired sort of feeling you get from exertion at a faster pace than you're used to. Not surprisingly, my pulse rate was quite elevated, but my oxygen saturation was back to 98% by the end of reverence. The only thing I need to do to fix this is keep exercising.

More classes. Oh, the horror!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

32 Hours and counting...

What, me eager? Naah...

It's been 10 weeks since I bailed out of an Advanced Beginner class after barre because I felt so out of breath, even though I was breathing just fine. As I left I told my instructor that I had an appointment the next week to find out what the problem was. I haven't been in a ballet class since.

It's been 9 weeks since that appointment, during which I took a good look at my echocardiogram and said to my doc, "So I guess I'm having surgery." That day I had my dance bag in my car in the expectation that I'd go to class that night. I still haven't opened that bag, though I took it out of the car long ago.

Tomorrow it will be 6 weeks since a crazy woman with a great sense of humor and brilliant skills repaired a valve defect that I was barely aware of six months ago. Almost immediately the shortness of breath vanished, though it's taken me until now to heal enough that I can go back to class. I'm still officially prohibited from "lifting any ballerinas" (her words, not mine) for another four weeks, and it'll be months yet before I'm back to normal.

I thought about cheating a day and going to the Beginner 2 class tonight, but I worry that after 10 weeks off it would be more than I'm ready for. Tomorrow's Beginner 1 class is the safer option, and will tell me where I stand without the temptation to over-do. If I want another class in the short term I have two options Thursday and one Saturday.

For the moment, though, my focus is on tomorrow. Stay tuned for a post-class update tomorrow night...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

7 Days and Counting

In just 7 days I'll officially be allowed to go back to class.