Monday Class: Yay, Chaines!

We’re in the middle of a heat wave with triple-digit high temperatures, so while I’m really growing to hate my alarm clock I’m glad class is nice and early before it starts getting super-hot.

Today’s barre was more of the usual – plies, tendus, degage, ronde de jambe, pique’s, coupes and passe. A lot of balancing in different poses as well as doing the whole tendu and degage exercises without the barre.  My balances at the barre were a little better today, which surprised me a bit because I wasn’t really feeling at 100%. I wish I had time to do an extensive warm-up before class but that would require waking up even earlier and I just can’t get myself to do that. Yet.

The center combination involved the chasses that we did last week, as well as balancing on releve while moving the arms, balancing on one leg while plieing (is that technically a fondue?), and a new way of doing pas de bouree that I wasn’t used to.  Back when I learned how to pas de bouree it involved coupe-ing the back foot, but today’s method didn’t, so I kept messing up and coupe-ing my back foot out of reflex.  The new way of doing the pas de bourres is technically easier, but the way I learned it previously seems to be embedded in my muscle memory.

As promised – or as it appeared to some students, as we were forewarned – last wednesday, today we worked on chaines.  Chaines turns are one of those ballet things that look so beautiful and ballet-ish, but regardless of how it looks, they way it feels while doing them is even more awesome!   Chaines were the first ballet turn I was ever introduced to in class, before  trying any pirouettes, pique turns, or even a demi-detourne at the barre. Of course, just like every other move I was taught the first semester of taking ballet, back then my chaines were horrible – spotting, balancing, and not crashing into the student next to me was a bit too much multitasking for a ballet newbie (or at least this ballet newbie).  Since then, I’ve incorporated chaines into almost every practice session at home, and they’ve really come around (accidental pun?).  Space limitations in my apartment limit me to only 4 or 5 chaines in a row before I have to stop and switch, so with the exception of a few times at Costco chaines-ing down the whole empty aisle – which doesn’t count. I mean, I was wearing tennis shoes! – the most I’ve ever done in a row before today was probably 4 or 5.

Today teacher had us line up against the studio wall.  She said first the “beginner”students would try (keep in mind this is a beginner level ballet class overall), then those of us who had some experience would go.  You have no idea how tempted I was to line myself up with the “beginner” students! But then they started to do their turns as teacher instructed them and yeah, it would have been a bit too basic for me.  I remember when I first started practicing chaines at home it was how I would do it, practicing my spotting while only turning my body around halfway, hands on the shoulders, feet on flat.  Back then anytime I tried to either have my arms in front of me or go up on releve I would lose my balance.  It took me about a year to be able to actually do them sort-of correctly, if a litttle bit on the slow side.

This video was my “teacher” when I was first starting to learn chaines. It breaks it down, sort of what the more “beginner” students were doing today. Sorry for the video’s  longish intro…

But it was so weird though! I’ve noticed that I tend to shy away from including myself with the more advanced students in both of my classes.  Like when teacher gives the option of more “beginner” students doing the barre without the arms and more “advanced” students with the arms, I feel comfortable doing the arms because a) I’ve been practicing with arms at home so if anything it feels a little bit more “normal” and b) at the barre I feel like I can hide.  But in center, I feel so exposed! I’m terrified that my crappy balance makes me look like it’s my first time taking ballet, no matter how much I show improvement in other areas.  So it did take a bit of courage to line up with the more “advanced” students.

How did it go? Teacher corrected me to take smaller steps, keeping my feet closer together.  This is something I need to work on, I had noticed even at home that I need to do that, perhaps even fitting an extra turn into my living room. The studio is huge though, so I think I was getting psyched out, like “I have to cross this enormous room while turning?!” so I was subconsiously trying to compensate by taking bigger steps.  I didn’t count how many turns it takes to cross the studio – all my brain power was being taken up – but I knew it was more in a row that I’ve previously done.

Spotting gets harder the more turns I do! The first few turns I’m spotting and everything is going fine and then I’ve noticed that if I lose focus I can’t seem to get my spotting back. It doesn’t help that the more flustered I get the more I can’t focus. Sometimes I really wish I could do private lessons, as it appears a big part of it is just my “stage fright” otherwise known as the fear of making a total laughingstock out of myself.

Then came sautes.  Honestly, by this point I was too tired to see if my feet were pointed with every jump, and I didn’t have a clear view of my feet in the mirror anyway.

Overall though, today wasn’t horribly discouraging or anything.  Just need to practice, practice, practice!

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