The topic of today’s post is only peripherally dance-related.
To segue into it, I’ll mention a thread I ran across in one of the adult ballet student forums on BT4D. An adult beginner was asking if she (and other ballet dancers who started as adults) were doomed to look “amateurish” forever. Which sparked some ever-helpful, “Well, honey, there’s a reason why the pros are pros and the non-pros are… not” along with a fair sprinkling of, “Give it time.”
But I understood what the poster was getting at… the presentation. There are those people (not necessarily pros) who manage to coordinate everything with the music and look stunning. And then there are those who study for years upon years and only persist in looking awkward.
Some commenters on the thread started bringing up how so much of presentation is phrasing and port de bras and epaulment which was accompanied by a good railing on teachers who do not teach enough of this stuff in adult classes.
Basically, the overarching theme of this part of the thread was how much of “looking like a dancer” boils down to what you’re doing with your upper body. You can have killer arches, extensions to the top of Mt. Everest, and be able to whip out 32 fouettés like it ain’t no thang, but if you don’t sell the dance with your arms and your face then it’s just gymnastics. Similarly, your feet can go entirely wrong, but if your upper body is dancing people don’t notice the foibles so much (I’m majorly paraphrasing here).
And I wholly agree with this. I’ve really been concentrating on trying to dance every class. You know, practicing the tilt of the head at the barre, selling my tombé-pas-de-bourrées to whoever might be watching, etc. For the most part I feel pretty good about that stuff. It’s the thing a bit farther north that sometimes trips me up.
Now I could write a whole post about appropriate facial expressions based on stuff I’ve seen over the years, but my focus here is on the expression of joy: the good old Smile.
Smiling has long been challenging for me. It’s not that I’m unhappy, I just don’t feel the need to smile unless there’s a good reason to. Case in point… first grade school picture. Captured me with my mouth slightly open looking sort of dazed, sort of pissed off, sort of bemused. I still distinctly remember the situation. The photographer had tried the typical 6-year-old stuff on me, asking me to say something silly to get me to smile. Specifically: “Say, ‘Miss Piggy!’” To which I replied, “No.” I wasn’t trying to be snarky, I just thought it was an odd demand. We weren’t talking about Miss Piggy; why should I just randomly say her name… it was embarassing and I couldn’t believe he would make such a ridiculous request.
That was me.
I had my silly moments, but smiling for the sake of smiling was kind of lost on me.
Imagine my horror when, at age 8, I made my big stage debut in my very first dance recital. Teachers, backstage parents, other students all eagerly said, “Don’t forget to smile!” But… why? I had to remember the steps (especially seeing as most of my classmates weren’t likely to), which required Concentration and thus I had to be Serious. What is this smiling nonsense?
I did eventually grow up enough to realize there are occasions one must channel some joy (which may or may not be actually present) for the sake of appearances whether in photos or onstage or meeting a potential future boss or whatnot.
But while I figured this out I stumbled across another issue… adult teeth. In a not-particularly-large jaw.
It’s true. I’m a bit of a snaggle-tooth.
Nothing grave. Children don’t run screaming when I smile at them. I’ve had dates (and relationships). My friends tell me they don’t notice the crookedness, or they’ll tell me that they think it’s cute and gives me character (which, on good days, I don’t entirely disagree with).
But for around two decades it’s bothered me to some degree. Any time someone wants to get pictures it’s on my mind. I try to turn so that the camera will capture my “good side” and give either the closed-lip smile or bear minimal teeth. Candids are my nemesis.
Since resuming dance a couple years ago and doing performances that’s brought another aspect to my smile reticence. I need to smile on stage for a lot of my pieces. But I can’t help but feel shy, not knowing how much of the crookedness is showing.
Now one side of me says, jeez, Rori, no one cares. Let it go. But the other side says, hey, if it bothers you, fix it! I’m reaching the point of saying: it’s time.
My goal isn’t to conform to society’s arbitrary vision of beauty; I’m just tired of expending excessive mental energy worrying about my mouth. I want to smile when I feel like smiling and not feel self-conscious about it. I want to look at photos of me and focus on what’s going on in the picture rather than how much tooth is showing.
There’s a lot of stuff I can’t correct. But slightly crowded teeth… that’s pretty easy.
So earlier this week I trotted off to chat to one of the dentists in the office I go to. Her assistant talked to me for a bit and is going through treatment herself, which somehow made me feel more comfortable. Then the dentist herself came in and took a look-see. She assured me I could keep all my teeth (one of my pre-reqs… I had the wisdom teeth extracted a few years ago and those were the only chompers I was willing to part with) and said that mine was actually a very straightforward case. Which I kind of figured, but was good to hear. She estimated 8-10 months in treatment aligners, 6 months of wearing a retainer full-time, and a few years of wearing retainers to bed (or possibly getting a permanent retainer installed… not sure how I feel about that). The cost was higher than I would like (okay, anything higher than “free” is higher than I would like), but was in the range I expected.
I fully acknowledge that this is an issue of vanity. My oral health is not really impacted (though I do have a crack in my front tooth that overlaps from whacking it with the mouthpiece of my French horn one too many times). And hell, if we’re talking about vanity, I just saw something a couple weeks ago about a new trend in Japan where girls are having veneers put on their canines to create an illusion of crookedness because it’s “cute.” So who knows, maybe if I just hung on for a few more years my current grin would put me at the height of fashion.
I haven’t 100% decided yet, but I’m strongly leaning towards getting the aligners. It would be nice to put this issue to rest and not spend such a ridiculous amount of energy thinking about my damned teeth. Oh, and the dentist told me that she’s having a special day at the beginning of May, and if I start treatment that day (which I think means getting the dreaded impressions and photos and such) she knocks $500 off the cost and throws in a free whitening treatment. So… that might be enough to get me to commit. Though if I have to wait that long anyway I think I’ll go get a second opinion (and cost estimate) from a local, highly-experienced orthodontist.
We shall see. I’m not looking to turn this into an orthodontic blog (hence the reason I didn’t put the name of the treatment anywhere in this post), but it was something I wanted to discuss… especially since dance has played a role in pushing me over the edge of apathy to actually do something about this. If anyone happens to have experience with this topic and they want to share I’d be happy to hear them!