Wednesday Ballet Adventures

Looking at the calender, I saw that daylight savings happens this sunday.  No more getting up before the sun for the sake of ballet…

Even us amateurs suffer for our art…

morning class

There’s no clock in the dance studio, but unless my time perception is waaay off we’ve been spending less time at the barre and more time in center. Eeeeek!

Barre was fun, however, though short.  I like how in this part of the semester barre gets more interesting (faster paced) than earlier on: using arms with everything, fondues (which if I haven’t said it enough times already, I love!), piques (fun, and then hours later your legs feel like they’re falling off), going from one side to the other without stopping, cambres on releve.

However, there’s also the drawbacks, the reasons that this part of the semester is nerve-inducing: lots of balancing (and we’re expected to be able to do it this late in the semester), one-legged balancing, and as I mentioned, longer center.

Today, after doing the degage 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 exercise twice at the barre Teacher told us to do it again with no hands (ok, no big deal, been doing ok at that) but afterward do 8 echappe releves while holding a balance after the 8th.  I tried not to think about the challenge this presented – lately I’ve been thinking that when it comes to ballet I’m my own worst enemy.  Getting psyched out by the perceived difficulty of the move is not going to do me any favors.  So I attempted to blank out my mind and do what was asked without overthinking it – since I knew that if I overthought it I would come to the conclusion that it’s not going to happen.

It went better than I expected.  My balance was a bit shaky – ok, really shaky – but the ecchapes looked ok in the mirror.  It was not easy – when is ballet ever easy? – but I realized it wasn’t impossible as it had seemed.

By this point in the semester almost every barre combination ends in a balance. I’ve been trying to prepare for this by incorporating a balance into all of my barre combinations that I practice at home.  But I need more time!

Today Teacher gave us the option of balancing in passe flat or passe releve at the barre.  This worries me; whenever we are given an option of doing something a few classes later it means we all have to do the more difficult option.  Once again, so glad this is not my first semester taking ballet – I think if I hadn’t worked up to this I would have ran out of there crying by now.

In (our new and improved, now with 40% more time, lol) center, we had a new balance (balan-say) combination.  I carefully watched everyone else’s feet and,besides the jumping, I realized why my balances take so long:  when I learned this move last semester, I learned to bring the back foot to coupe before putting it down behind and rising on it (which takes longer than just putting it on the floor).   I’m not sure if this is incorrect technique, or just a different style; Teacher has corrected me on the jumping, but has never said anything about the coupe-ing.  But the good news is that I was able to keep up in timing for once!

Good news means there’s also bad news, right? So, after the four balances, we step out, arabesque, pas de bourree.  Nothing new, not too hard.  But then, Teacher sprung a New Thing at us.  It was a turn – seemingly on two legs, but in place – which I attempted and promptly found my legs tangled with each other.  Teacher said that we are turning on the left foot (which was behind) to the right.  I’m still not getting it.  Then she says “It’s like a pencil turn,” and I’m thinking “What the heck is a pencil turn?!”

We attempted the combination multiple more times.  I still don’t understand the concept of pencil turning, unfortunately.

Lately – well, the last two classes – we’ve been doing our chaines in diagonal in groups of 3 or 4, rather than just going across the huge studio.  It’s quite a bit more difficult; we all turn at different speeds and it’s hard to not worry about crashing into someone. Today I surprised myself by finishing my turns to the right (my harder side) in a chasse and arabesque.

We were given the option of doing pique turns on the second try of chaines.  Pique turns and chaines are about the same difficulty for me, but I haven’t excessively practiced the pique turns at home so I’m a bit intimidated about doing them across the huge studio. I tried anyway, and Teacher told me to not even think about it. Ok, she wasn’t mean about it but basically told me to stick to chaines.

During sautes, I figured out why my timing is off. Apparently near the end of the sautes (so if we’re doing 16, at around 11 or so) I start going faster, probably thinking that it’s a way of getting through it quicker.  So today I worked on slowing it down and staying in timing.  Also, my feet were pointed!  My changements are still much weaker than my sautes from first though, and I have no idea how to work on that. I feel like when my feet switch I move my hips or pelvis excessively or something. So trying to stabilize the pelvis while not letting the rest of my body hunch over is tricky!

Next week, according to Teacher, we will de doing pirouettes. Oh, crap…

evening class

We had a tiny class, only 4 of us. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to a “let’s use our brains more” class because the other students were new to ballet.  But class was nice, and somewhat of a confidence booster.

My balances is releve sous-sus were nice and stable, but in first position releves they sucked. I don’t know if it’s because we did the first position balances earlier on in class and I wasn’t warmed up yet, or if releve sous-sus if is just a more stable position.

Since the combinations were very simple – due to E Teacher toning it down – I got to focus on my timing more than usual.  And since there were so few of us, we were able to just walk on over to the other side of the portable barres to see ourselves in the mirror on both sides. I really enjoyed that.

For center we did sautes, echappes and changements. Still need to work on my changements but my jumps in general are improving. E Teacher complimented us on our timing, but told us to go deeper into plie.  Said it’s a better workout. A light bulb turned on in my head and I realized that as my legs get stronger my jumps will continue to improve.

We also did chaines but luckily, no passe releve balance and pirouette combination.

So I came home and just for the hell of it, tried to do a passe releve balancing exercise. With arms in high fifth, I plied and straightened and on the 3rd one I brought my arms down the sides and went up for the passe releve balance.  Holy crap – it worked! I stayed up the for as long as I can remember with a possible exception of one time right before I sprained that ankle – in an unrelated activity – last july.

Tried it again on the right foot, which has been my weaker side for this particular thing, and I was flabbergasted to see that it worked again! I think I’ll just keep doing it tonight, just to believe it’s real. I’ll probably make Boyfriend film it so I can appreciate the length, too.

Why is this such a big deal to me? Perhaps because a passe releve balance looks – to me, at least – as such an awesomely balletic pose. To think that I could, despite my body’s center of gravity issues, actually work up to pull this off is so amazing to me.  Perhaps it means I can learn to do even other things I’d previously thought impossible.

I’ve had this fear for a while now – ever since two months or so in my first semester of ballet, when I realized that all the girls that had started as brand new at the same time as I had leveled up to being able to balance on releve and I couldn’t – that there was only so far I could get.  I figured the reason no teacher has brought it up or pretended to not notice was either because it’s a lost cause and it would be rude of them to bring it up, they don’t want to get in any “political correctness” drama, or a mixture of both.

I’d never considered that perhaps I was just really weak when I started ballet and after a while had begun to expect to fail at certain things. That I was holding back my progress subconsciously or something. It’s a really  interesting idea that I need to ponder some more.

4 thoughts on “Wednesday Ballet Adventures

  1. Paulina

    Perhaps we should not worry about other students apparently progressing faster than we do. When we speak of “learning curve”, we often imagine a smooth, steady-going process. For example, my learning curve this year was more of a wild zig-zag. Sometimes I felt I could not do anything correctly, but looking back I realize I actually did learn many things.

    1. flowergirlkit Post author

      You’re right – especially when I look back and realize that I started with absolutely zero dance training of any kind. I have learned a lot! My learning curve definitely resembles a zig-zag more than a smooth curve.

  2. annalienor

    Don’t even consider that you will not be able to learn something because of your body. Such thoughts are powerfully counterproductive. You may have more trouble and take longer than somebody with a perfect anatomy for ballet, but you can absolutely learn to balance!
    I think the secret lies not so much in greater strength as it lies in correct alignment and fine control of your muscles. You need to be able to constantly make tiny adjustments while you balance. ‘Pulling up’ off your lower body with your upper body. Holding your turnout. Think ‘push down to go up’, this image helps me.
    I know it’s very hard! I have a lot of trouble with balance as well. I noticed an improvement after working on alignment and doing Pilates exercises.
    Keep going! And be patient: Ballet is a slow process, there are no short cuts.

    1. flowergirlkit Post author

      Yes, I agree. I really need to watch out for those counterproductive thoughts. It may be harder but it’s not impossible.
      You’re right about the alignment as well; last night when I tried it and it worked I focused on what Teacher had said a few classes ago about aligning over the supporting leg when doing a one-legged balance. Also, “pushing down” with my arms while going up, that visual helps so much!


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