Monthly Archives: January 2015

Come Out To Center! LOL

I was reading this website I found, which I really wish I had read before my first class ever (and if anyone reading has not had a class yet – or even if you have – I recommend reading it as well), and it was discussing the progression of a typical ballet class.  So, at some point it says how after barre the teacher will say to “come out to center!” (I guess they don’t put the barres away as a class? Edit: Nevermind, it says clear away the barres literally right on top of where it said to “come to center”.  Guess my attention span needed work that day.), but by “center” they don’t mean literally the center of the room, just you know, away from the barres.  And it made me laugh so hard, not just the visual of everybody huddled in the exact center of the room, but also because that is so unlikely to happen.  In fact, pretty much every teacher I’ve ever had has to tell everyone that they can come forward, there’s plenty of room up near the front, that she’s not going to bite, etc. But no, we insist in hiding in the back, LOL. Which kind of sucks, honestly, as I don’t like feeling crowded in while balleting, but the front – so intimidating! (Even if it was the teacher’s idea, LOL)

Anyway, good website for beginners : http://www.danceclass.com/ballet-class.html

(I am in no way affiliated with danceclass.com, nor have I tried their products available for sale or endorse them or any other stuff (though they may be awesome, for all I know). Just stumbled across the site while searching for the possibility that maybe, just maybe a new studio that has adult ballet classes would pop up, and thought ‘This site looks super helpful for people that want to try ballet and have never taken a class! Lots of (free) info!’

Wednesday Class: In Some Things Progress; In Others, Not

Once again, my once-a-week (for now) class…

Today we had a full class, or as close full as it gets for ballet class at Evening Studio – about a dozen of us.  One of the students was walked to class by her boyfriend and E Teacher asked excitedly “Are you taking class? We need guys!” He wasn’t.  I have to be honest, when I saw that a guy had walked into the studio building I had thought ‘Cool, there’s gonna be a dude today!’, but no, there wasn’t. We haven’t had one in months!

There was plenty of first time (or first few weeks) beginners though, so once again barre started out easy. I took advantage of the super slow tendus to work on my foot articulation.  The “working through the demi-point” way of putting it wasn’t explained in a way that made sense to me until this past Fall semester (I used to think that as long as the toes of the foot never left the floor, the objective was to point as soon as possible, don’t know how to explain it better, but I used to do it Wrong), so over the last several months I’ve really been working on having my foot articulate, and go through demin-point before reaching the full point. It’s gotten way better, almost muscle memory.

Though barre started out easy, E Teacher did incorporate some more challenging aspects for us that are hovering in the land of uncertainty between beginner and some kind of beginner 2. We did several looooong balances in passe releve, once starting from flat and going through sur-le-cou de pied coupe (wrap-around), another staring from releve sous-sus and then wrap-around coupe to passe releve.  Wrap-around coupe is relatively new to me (about 6 months, my teachers before that just did the regular front-of-the-foot kind), making it not as muscle-memory controlled as some of my other ballet moves, so I loved how E Teacher insisted I do it over until I got it right – well, right-ish.  I like being pushed to do it correctly, or at least to try harder.  The passe releve part is getting easier, I was practically balancing for the whole time, at times just one of my fingers lightly touching the barre, at times slightly letting go.

I kept staring at my feet in the mirror, in something close to disbelief – I was liking them! Not just during barre in tendus a la seconde, either (which is a pretty flattering angle if you’re looking to see some pointing action, in my opinion…) When we did our center combination (ok, it was during tendus a la seconde, but it was center, not barre) I thought it was great how I was able to point my foot fully almost instinctively, without any concern for my balance, or anything. I still remember wishing the day would come when I could do something as simple as this (in center) without falling over – and it’s here! I guess I set the bar somewhat low when making goals, but whatever, it makes it more likely that I’ll reach them. And then I can set new ones…

But besides the not falling over part, I was liking the shape of the feet.  It’s like the months of theraband foot exercises have made it so that my feet not only get stronger but pointing gets gradually pointier.  I like the way they look pointed in the air as well, like during grand battements. Now if only I could remember to point during sautes.  I know I’m strong enough to jump now, it’s just a matter of remembering while being overwhelmed by the fast tempo of the music. Today we went through 8 sautes, 4 echappes, 8 changements twice – without stopping – and I felt so in-shape LOL. Definite improvement.

Since yesterday, while practicing at home, I was able to do a full revolution for the first time ever (!) on my right side en dehors pirouette from 4th, I was hoping we would get to do the tendu-plie-passe-pirouette combination. I did make it almost all the way around, but it wasn’t as controlled as the one from yesterday, which was weird as I had thought starting from 5th would make it more controlled. Of course, to the left I’m still stuck at about 1/4 of a revolution.  I wish we would do en dedans pirouettes as well.  For whatever reason, the first time I ever attempted a pirouette it felt more “normal” to go in the en dedans direction and en dehors felt like I would certainly fall over.

Today we did reverance, which we hadn’t done in a while, possibly last summer. E Teacher just tells us to follow along and it starts out easy, just a pretty port de bras, but then she takes a step, unexpectedly changes direction and suddenly we’re lost! I wish I could memorize how the reverance goes (and practice it!) because it’s totally doable if it wasn’t just sprung on us right then and there. And so pretty, too.

Before class I tried to befriend someone.  There was a new girl in ballet class who had a tattoo of something uncommon that I used to – and still am, I guess, just to a lesser degree – be into, so I complimented her on it.  She grunted back “Thanks,” barely looked at me, and didn’t say another word.  I was like, ‘Ok, maybe she’s shy, or awkward (like me). Maybe the tattoo is a sore subject. No big deal…’ and resumed stretching, but then this other girl walked in and the girl I had tried to talk to started discussing her tattoo with her. I felt like such an idiot, and made myself feel better by the end of class by the fact that her ballet technique was absolutely terrible (or at least worse that mine).  Now I feel like a total jerk, having to put down others (in my head, not aloud, of course) in order to feel better about myself. (And what if she’d been super good at ballet? Then what?!)   But I have this horrible social anxiety and it is so rare for me to reach out to people at all, for fear of rejection, so when I do and rejection happens it really sucks.  Sometimes I feel like I am truly unfriendable – and unlikeable (if not dislikeable) – I’m just so socially-awkward and different.

I think I need to stop trying to have a ballet friend and maybe when I least expect it it will happen…

My Very Long And Unfocused Swan Lake Review

My little program thing

My little program thing

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to watch the Bolshoi Ballet’s Swan Lake “live” (broadcast in theaters), which I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while.  It was an interesting experience, to say the least: some great dancing, some accidents, some unfortunate costume decisions.  I had a great time though, and have not shut up about it since!

The day prior to the show, I did a little detective work, and found out from the Bolshoi Ballet’s website that Svetlana Zakharova was going to be dancing Odette/Odile.  Now, I know not everyone is in agreement, but I think Zakharova is amazing! I love those ridiculously high extensions, her flexibility, her feet. On youtube I’ve seen her dance Swan Lake with Roberto Bolle (who is distractingly good-looking – he looks like a stereotypical  cartoon handsome prince!) and it was great, so it made me look forward to the performance even more.

We arrived at the theater, got our tickets, and went to go have a seat at about 10 minutes prior to the posted start time.  The performance hadn’t started, but they were showing backstage footage of the dancers rehearsing as a lady (I think Katya Novikova) gave the audience a bit of background about the ballet. At this point Boyfriend remarked “I don’t like the Jester’s outfit,” which I thought was a rather odd thing to hear from a guy with literally no fashion sense. Of course, I got to feel stupid later when I realized why he had brought it up (stay tuned!).  I really enjoyed seeing the dancers rehearse a little bit, practicing their jumps and multiple pirouettes. On the other hand, Boyfriend didn’t want to look, saying that watching the rehearsing would “Ruin the magic.”  LOL, silly boy! Then they cut to the orchestra pit and the music started.  The surround sound of the theater is a definite improvement over my tiny iPad speaker, though I can’t even imagine how awesome it must sound truly live. I was so excited I had to reming myself to breathe a couple times.

When watching Swan Lake, one of the part I enjoy is the Jester/Fool, who in this case was danced by Igor Tsvirko.  He hit the stage and suddenly, I understood what Boyfriend had meant earlier.  In my opinion, whoever is in change of costumes made a bad call on his outfit. Specifically, the red and black tights (red on his right leg, black on his left), which made it all near impossible to see his legs up in the air.  While watching male dancers I especially enjoy watching them do those center-split-jumps – well, all jumps, really – and during this performance it just wasn’t happening. The backdrop scenery was too close of a color match to his dark tights. (And this really sucked, because the only way I even got Boyfriend to watch ballet is the promise of lots of jumps and leaps.  At least originally, I think he’s starting to like it For Reals.) It was still obvious that he’s a good dancer though, it just would have been more visible if he’d been wearing white tights. Luckily when he did some turns that were really cool (wish I knew the names of them) with his leg out to the side his red-tighted leg was his working leg and was visible.

Overall, it was a good first scene. The party scene soloists were all very good dancers, with the Fool not stealing the show as I think has happened in other versions of Swan Lake I’ve seen.  At some point I realized that I have the music to this ballet somewhat memorized, as one dance ended I was anticipating the next.  I love how the little solo dances get progressively harder, or at least more jumpy, which to me means harder.

This ballet was in 2 acts, so immediately after the party scene the Prince (danced by Denis Rodkin) takes off on his own (in other words, this was still act 1). Rothbart (danced by Artemy Belyakov), or The Evil Genius as he was known in this production (seriously) appeared and he was so dramatic.  It was great, I loved the part when he was, like, controlling the Prince, leading him to find the swans.  I really loved the way the two dancers were almost doing the same movements, it really conveyed the whole “controlling him” thing.  This is one of my favorite scenes for sure.

So, the Prince finds the lake, and there a few swans that do a little dance. Then comes the scene where the corps de ballet swans come out, single file, go across the stage, and line up in rows on either side of the stage.  They were almost in formation,  when suddenly one of the dancers slipped and fell! I was shocked! I’vd never seen a performance during which someone fell. I’m sure it happens (obviously, as it did) but since I hadn’t seen it I just hadn’t imagined that it could.  My first thought after ‘WTF!’ was ‘Oh good, it happened when they were almost in place,’ but for the rest of the performance every time the corps was ballet-running I was so stressed  out that if someone slipped the rest of the dancers were going to trample her or trip over her.  Seriously, it’s like if someone had to fall, if it happened when everyone was almost in place it was the safest time possible. It sucks that it happened at all though, maybe the stage was slippery? It was still act 1, so it hadn’t been cleaned during intermission (assuming that they even clean the stage during intermission, maybe I’m wrong here…).

The dance of the 4 Little Swans, another favorite of Boyfriend and I, was performed well.  I love seeing them do their echappes especially, it’s my favorite part of the pas de quatre, but the pas de chats are nice too. The dancers were roughly the same height and were in unison. The dance of the 3 swans, however, seemed off. The dancer to the farthest right (my left, while looking on) seemed as though she was behind the other 2 in timing, and her movements seemed a bit more exaggerated than the other two, her plies a bit deeper, her arms just slightly slower.  Who knows, maybe it’s on purpose, part of the choreography.  But honestly, I was a bit worried that someone was going to fall (again)…

Intermission was long, Artemy Belyakov (Evil Genius/Rothbart) was interviewed and I thought that besides his dramatic stage presence he looked pretty hot in his stage makeup.  Yeah, I’m so not reviewing this on technical things that matter, LOL.

Act 2, the party.  Recognized some of the soloists from the first act’s party.  They danced well, the prince danced well, the jester danced well, and then Odile and Evil Genius appear – with an entourage! They brought 6 black swans with them, which was different.  I may have seen a version with multiple black swans before, but it’s not the “norm”.  The black swans made their appearance again near the end of act 2 when the Prince rushes back to the lake after realizing he picked the wrong swan-girl.

Let’s see, Svetlana Zakharova was awesome.  Loved the White Swan pas de deux (like when the Prince twirls her on one foot, I love how her working foot is doing little tiny beats or something the whole time), as well as the little solo near the end of the scene (the kind of jumpy one).  While I thought she was great as Odette, I enjoyed her Odile even more.  She seemed older as Odile, stronger, definitely more use of her ultra-high extensions, and sort of faster, “flashier” movements. Love seeing her pointed feet up in the sky above her head when her legs are extended.  And then, when it was time for the fouettes, I thought it was cool how she did actual fouettes instead of mixing them up with triple pirouettes and stuff as I’ve seen done in other versions. She did 29, if I was counting correctly.  Actually, before the full-blown fouettes in a row part she did a short fouette-pirouette combo that looked super cool but I was afraid that that was going to be it. It wasn’t.

The Prince was great as well, especially in act 2. Well, no, I liked him during the scene by the lake with Rothbart, and the PDD, but in act 2 he really outdid himself.  Those flying leaps around the stage! I love how right before it’s revealed that he picked the wrong swan-girl he just seems so happy! Good acting.

I was also glad that this wasn’t a happy ending version in which Rothbard is defeated and everyone lives happily ever after. Odette gets swallowed up by the 6 black swan dancers in the back of the stage area behind a dark screen as the prince falls to the floor and sobs. Loved it, so much drama!

During the introduction, I think I heard something about this version taking place in the Prince’s head, and how Rothbart/Evil Genius is the “dark side” of the Prince.  Ok, I guess…

It was a good performance, though, as I mentioned earlier, I was worried about someone else falling.  Now I just keep wondering, how often does this happen? Came home, did an internet search and was unable to turn up much on the subject. The closest thing I found was advice on what to do if you fall during a competition (Get Up and Keep Going Unless It Hurts), but nothing about pros. Can’t wait to ask Teacher about this next time I see her…

Another Fun Wednesday Class

Ever since last semester ended, I’ve just been thinking that it’s sad when you’re only taking one class a week because that makes it pretty much the highlight of the week. As in, each day I think ‘(This many) days ’till ballet class’  and I get happy when I realize it’s ballet-day.

Barre felt good today. I don’t know how to explain it, I just felt so on.  Since there was some brand-new-to-ballet students today, barre was pretty basic, but I got to work on my basic technique and timing. This helps especially during rond de jambes, which are so fun that I’ll just want to do them way too fast! Today my timing was closer to right, and I managed to not mess up on the closing of any of my tendus (the whole odd number=switch, even number=don’t switch thing) which is really an annoying mistake to make since I feel that I know better. Sometimes I just feel so unfocused, but not today – I was multitasking!

During the (extremely long) passe releve balancing at the barre, E Teacher corrected my hip alignment; I was lifting my working leg side hip, kind of leaning towards the barre.  It was a good correction, definitely something that is hard for me to notice on my own.

Today I realized that I actually enjoy watching myself in the mirror balance in releve sous-sus with arms in high fifth. It’s like, if someone told me “Quick! Do something ballet-ish!” I would confidently do that. I was also liking my ballet hands; I think having class only once a week has made it so that I end up appreciating the little things more instead of complaining about what I don’t  like. Something to think about…

In center we did the same tendu-plie-passe combination  from the last couple weeks that gets progressively harder until we’re pirouetting (en dehors, from fifth) instead of just balancing.  To the right I actually made it all the way around today, which was cool. I’ve been practicing my pirouettes from fourth, which are way easier in my opinion, but not from fifth, so I was a bit surprised. But a good kind of surprise. Of course, to the other side I only made it about a quarter of the way. I’m still working on that spotting head motion.

It’s so weird because these pirouettes are from fifth and with the foot that is going into passe in the front, and the ones I’ve been practicing are from fourth and start with the passe-foot in the back, which gives leverage or something. While these from fifth seem way harder they also seem more controlled, as in I’m less likely to go flying across the floor.

We also did a new combination: 4 balancés, tombe, pas de bourree, passe releve (optional pirouette?), repeat other side. What was throwing me off was it’s similarity to the combination we had been doing in morning class over the last semester – super similar, in fact, just a softer step into arabesque instead of tombe – and the fact that we weren’t doing arms. It felt a bit awkward balancé-ing with arms out to second the whole time.  But I felt a bit weird about doing arms because only the obviously-best dancer in the class did arms, and she also did a lot of cool awesome ballet things I can’t do yet like that sideways tilt I can’t figure out yet how to do that makes it look like it’s real ballet.

Left class in a happy mood, actually didn’t mind the traffic on the way home.

This Is Why I Do It, After All…

So, I’m home alone, sitting ummm, sprawled across my couch, procrastinating on starting my homework or beginning to fix dinner or doing something productive, listening to one of my classical music mixes from youtube on my ipod (hooked up to little speakers, not headphones), and suddenly, I just felt like dancing.

So I did. Nothing fancy, just some nice port de bras, some tendus, temps lie, rond de jambe, developpe, arabesque, releve balances with pretty arms, etc. type of stuff.  Just bits and pieces of different basic-beginner-level center combinations, really.  But I was feeling the music, so I’m going to go with it was dancing.

Ever since I started ballet I’ve been obsessed with dancing (duh), but I mean to my own creations. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve know existing ballet choreographies are beautiful and all that (and I mean no disrespect whatsoever to all the amazing choreographers out there), but sometimes I’ll hear a song and I just want to dance to it. But, like, ballet-dance, as I am a horrible non-ballet dancer.  And some of these songs are not even traditional ballet music, necessarily, but I’ll just get the little video playing in my head and I’m like ‘I want to make that dance exist! (And then probably put it on youtube, as I know my chances of performing and it being my own choreography are probably slim-to-none (and I’ll definitely take performing someone else’s choreography.))’

So, yeah, dancing.

It felt incredible, unbelievable almost.  Two years ago, even one year ago, I couldn’t do that.  Sure, by last year I knew enough to attempt it, but now I can almost believe that it’s dancing instead of just going through the motions. Like, it’s starting to look like I know what I’m doing, like I didn’t just forget my arm and leave it hanging out the side or something or forget to point my feet.  And I’m beginning to take not tipping over while on two feet flat for granted (even weight shifts), though this time last year it was still hit or miss. By now, even my one foot flat balances are pretty reliable – even including all those little adjustments the feet make to find the balance (it’s like my feet are now alive!) Sometimes when I see the lines of the muscle definition on my legs I think ‘Yeah, they’re definitely becoming dancer’s legs…’

Anyway, the point of all this is I was excited about it and wanted to share…

(Oh, and for the record, I probably would not have attempted this if my body hadn’t already been at least a little warmed up. One time I was trying to show a friend my passe releve and I hadn’t done ballet all day that day and when I went up it just felt Not Good (thankfully it felt better by the next day). I learned my lesson about always warming up before doing anything more complicated than some plies.)

Pilates, Week 2: Reform Me!

As you can (possibly) tell by the title, during the (latter part of the) week we made it onto the Reformer during class. We’re still doing basic exercises on it, mostly working our legs, calves, ankles, arms, and of course, cores, but trust me, it is challenging!

Hopefully I’m not the only person ever who thought at first glance that the Reformer looks like a medieval torture device. I was thinking ‘Is that what they use to stretch out your limbs?’

(I love how the studio has pictures of Joseph Pilates doing incredibly hard-looking exercises on the Reformer on the walls; compared to that, what we’re doing at this point looks like a piece of cake.  Mmmmm, cake… I once got this cake that was made with ice cream and coconut and it was soooo good… wish I had some right now… if the place that makes it wasn’t clear across town and it wasn’t rush hour I’d probably try to go get one… Anyway.)

During the calf leg raises and “prances” exercises Pilates Teacher pointed out that my ankles were rolling in a little bit, which I guess would be like sickle-ing on releve.  She said we have some work ahead of us! However, I seem to be getting the hang of the core tightening and breathing, so it’s not all bad. We work on the Reformers in partners, kind of checking on each other’s alignment while P Teacher makes her way around the room.  Working with a partner is fun; being socially awkward, I like having an excuse to talk to someone sometimes.

We did these arm exercises on the Reformer that were sort of like cable pull downs, as well as arm circles and curls.  I walked out of class so incredibly sore after that!

During the first half of class we’ve still been doing mat work.  P Teacher has been gradually introducing new exercises to us as well as repeating the basic exercises daily.  I think by now I figured out that the last day of the week she works us out extra hard, giving us the weekend to recover.  We’ve been using this thing called a Magic Circle which looks kind of like a steering wheel but with padding on two opposing sides.  The Magic Circle goes between our knees (while our legs are up in the air in the “tabletop” position) and then we squeeze as we exhale to work out our adductors. Then we put it between our ankles and repeat (this is the part when audible groans of pain begin to ring through the studio) and this last time P Teacher had us lay down on our stomach and do it between the knees in this position as well. Ouchers. But my behind feels so nice and tight afterwards…

For the most part, I’ve been able to keep up in the mat work.  However, we did this exercise called a “roll up” that involved laying down face up and, well, rolling up; first the head, then shoulders, then vertebra by vertebra, until (hopefully) coming up to a seated position with the back straight, all without getting any help from our legs.  I wasn’t able to make it up to the seated position, only about halfway, and then I could feel my legs trying to get involved so I went back down. Oh well, I’m just a beginner – we’ll see in a bit as my core and back get stronger.

We also do stretches for our hip flexors and hamstrings, both on the mats and on the Reformer.  It’s probably too soon to make this claim, but I think my flexibility has increased more already.  I did read somewhere that flexibility is a combination of flexibility and strength, so if I’ve gotten stronger it would make sense that I’m more flexible, I guess. I did notice today during my home ballet practice session that my hips feel more “open”, especially my extra-tight left one.

Then there’s my shoulders. I’m still constantly monitoring them to make sure they are not forward, and if they are, I bring them back.  I’ve also begun to identify triggers, like driving, that cause me to bring my shoulders forward. But my upper back/shoulder pain (which I’ve suffered pretty much continuously for years) is practically gone, which feels really awesome.

Why did I not try out Pilates sooner?!

Wednesday: Compliments, Ballet Class, And A ‘Lil TMI

Fun day today, first Pilates, then ballet…

In Pilates class this morning, I was sitting on my mat with my in legs front of me, open about, let’s see, I wanna say about 120° or so, and one of my classmates was like “we can’t even get our legs to do that!”

So, I was like “Oh, I’ve been doing ballet for, like, two years (!) so I’ve gotten a lot more flexible; my flexibility has increased so much!”

And a different girl, her friend, asks, “Is that why your feet are so archy and stuff?”

I’m thinking, ‘Me? My feet, archy?!’ and I was so happy, seriously, but instead I taught her the theraband feet exercises that I do (after pointing my feet for the group a couple times to their ooooh’s and ahhhh’s, lol), and encouraged them to try out ballet.  But yeah, someone noticed something ballet-like about me outside of ballet class; perhaps that means I’m a (real) dancer.

Anyway.

Evening class was fun, though not really challenging today. We had a bunch of brand new students, both new to ballet and new to me.  We did pretty slow and basic combinations at barre (though I totally destroyed the timing of the slow ronde de jambs – impatient me!), and in center we did the same combination as last week but without the pirouettes.  E Teacher had me be in the front row (eeek!) so I was worried that I would mess up – thus embarassing us both (me for my clumsiness, and her for her error in judgment in thinking I could be in front row) – but I didn’t.

Sautes. I think the last time I did an actual saute-echappe-changement combination – (attempted) pointed feet in midair, ballet arms – was last year.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been jumping plenty to keep conditioned for the real sautes, but since I don’t have anywhere outside of class to practice jumping in ballet shoes and last week we ran out of time in class, it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to do sautes.  At least now I can remember to land in plie and it no longer sounds like a crashing elephant.  I think once I saw a ballet teacher wince (though she attempted to hide it) when watching – and hearing – some of my horrible heavy-landed sautes.

I really want to practice this foot pointing thing more, as I hope to get it into muscle memory.  By this point I don’t think it’s lack of muscle strength that causes my difficulties but bad muscle memory patterns that need to be overridden. Which brings me to…

Balancing.  Ever since I’ve been putting my shoulders back, my balances have improved so much.  You know how ballet teachers always say to lean forward, not back? Before I felt like I was already leaning forward, but I think it was just my shoulder positioning that was making me feel that way.  But yeah, my two-footed balances are getting super long and stable now that I have my shoulders back and I can actually lean forward. During my one-footed balances I’m afraid I’m too focused on what the working leg is doing to devote my full attention to shoulders. Hopefully once the “shoulders back” thing becomes  muscle memory it’ll be easier…

And now, the TMI part.  Ok, so I have a few pair of “dancing” underwear – basically, the leg openings are high enough (higher than the leotard’s) that they won’t be visible through my tights – but today I forgot that I had ballet and was wearing regular underwear.  Then I remembered that I read somewhere, possibly a dance forum, that the tights are the underwear (or so the dancers say). Ok, why not, I’ll give it a shot…

It was awesome! As much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes have this fear of looking in the mirror because I won’t be happy with what I see. My “lines” are different, to say the least, but besides the lines I worry about the bulges, the kind that happen between the waistband of the underwear and the waistband of the tights or the waistband of the tights and the bra strap.  With one of those taken out of the equation I looked so smooth, which helped me focus more on my placement and less on my body image anxiety. It was a nice change 🙂

But yeah, class was fun.

Fitness Goal Update 9

Still at it, doing my best to be in shape, 18 weeks later!

Cardio:

Running/ jogging about 5 times a week.

When the weather permits, I’m still running/jogging outdoors at the park.  I’ve been doing interval running – jogging part of it, sprinting (or as close as I get to sprinting, lol) the other parts – for anywhere from 16 to 22 minutes, depending on how I’m feeling. The other day (Sunday?) the park was kind of flooded so I ran uphill on my old walking route. It went pretty well, I wasn’t even more exhausted than usual or anything. Soon I will put my fitness to the test and try going for a run on this one very steep mountain with a paved road I know about.

Previously I’d been apprehensive about running on a surface harder than grass, sand, track, or treadmill, but I got myself a new pair of running shoes a couple weeks ago and ever since then it’s felt like I’m running on air. I was long overdue for a pair of running shoes…

My running shoes. Such an improvement over the shoes I had previously been running in!

My running shoes. Such an improvement over the shoes I had previously been running in!

On the days that are just too rainy to run outside I’ve been running on the treadmill at my apt’s gym.  I read that running with no incline on the treadmill is comparable to running downhill, so I always set the incline to 2 or so.  I’m going to start working up to a higher incline though. Right now, my mile time (on the treadmill, no idea about outdoors) is at around 9 minutes, which is better than my high school time but definitely nothing to boast about. Not that I’m a particularly boastful individual, or anything, but I do get a kick out of feeling younger than I did at half my age…

I’ve still been doing jumping jacks, immediately after my run, 100 of them. Then I’ve been doing squat jumps, but only about 20 before it feels like my legs are on fire, and “gallops”.

Strength:

Ever since I started my Pilates class last week I haven’t been doing much strength training at home, just stretching (and doing a Pilates mini-session on weekends).  After my posture assessment during Pilates class I realized than I’ve probably been performing most of my strength  exercises in bad form, so I’m taking a short break on that so I can get my posture and alignment right (those darn shoulders!).  Honestly, just writing right now that I’m “taking a short break” made me feel so lazy! But 2 hours and 15 minutes of Pilates daily is enough (non-cardio) exercise, right?

My backbridge is still struggling along. On some days I feel like I can’t do that push that it takes to lift my head up off the ground, other days it seems effortless. No idea what it has to do with, or if it’s just a mental block still.  On the days that I do get myself into a backbridge, I’ve been practicing rocking back and forth on my hands and feet and tapping my feet. Still haven’t attempted to take a foot off the ground yet, but I am able to stay in the position for longer every time. And I do feel so much more flexible when I cambre back.

In other news, about a week ago I taught myself to do a cartwheel (with the help of youtube videos). It was the first (successful) cartwheel I’ve done in my life! Hooray!

And I have ballet tomorrow! Yay!

Pilates And Me, End Of First Week

End of my first week of Pilates.

So far, I love Pilates class! Love, love love it!  I come out of there each day feeling nicely sore, though completely relaxed.  I think it’s all the deep breathing, only to exhale and squeeeeeze the belly button in as hard as possible.  Yes, simultaneously sore and relaxed and there’s even nice soft ambient music, sometimes classical, playing softly in the background. Feels like I’m at a spa or something – or how imagine a spa would feel…

I am so glad I went in. I’d signed up because last semester in ballet class Teacher had mentioned that Pilates is good for dancers (even us amateur dancers). So I’d signed up, but as the day came closer I started to get a bit anxious.  Just like ballet class almost two years ago, a new First. And I started to worry about some of the more practical details some of us girls worry about: what do I wear?

Surely I couldn’t show up in ballet attire (though if someone who is not terrified of attracting attention were to do that it would be awesome!)?  But would a baggy T-shirt be ok? I remembered this exercise class I tried attending once back the first time I went to college, back when I was very overweight, and being intimidated by a majority of the class being very slim and athlelic, some of them displaying a six-pack.  A leotard I can do, for the same reason I can’t do many workout wear tops: a leotard keeps the stomach covered (or at least any of the styles I buy, lol).

Well, I sucked it up, faced my fear and went in there.  My outfit was a compromise: a T-shirt on top, black yoga pants on the bottome.  I got there, saw that there was diversity in body types, and started to relax.

Pilates is very focused on the core, I find out. So far it feels good.  I’d been starting to worry that the AB-wheel exercises I’ve been doing at home may have been making my abs grow outward (however weird that sounds), so I like the focus in Pilates of squeezing them inward. Apparently it’s supposed to feel as though your core muscles make a muscle “girdle” for your spine and stuff. That’s pretty cool, and I can already start to feel it, especially in the sides (I guess obliques) area.  And we haven’t even done any reformer stuff yet, just mat work (which is really fun!).

But while the ab benefits are great, there’s been another unexpected (to me) benefit: shoulders.

My shoulders are a mess! I’d noticed within the last year – though the problem most definitely extends since my  early-to-mid-childhood, but at the time was obscured by all my extra padding – that from a front view  my shoulders sort-of curve inward in a  crescent-like line from shoulder to shoulder. Never been a part of my body that I  like, but figured I couldn’t do anything about it. I mean, I’ve tried to straighten my back out (when I remember – which is about 50% of the time – and I try especially during ballet class), but I’m not even talking about my back I’m talking about my shoulders. Which are easily 2 inches forward of where they should be pretty much all the time! And previously to taking this pilates class I had no idea that this was going on. It’s called a fatigue position or something which just sounds so unappealing, ugh.  Whenever teachers have said “Shoulders back!” I guess I hadn’t really understood what they meant. Kind of how for the first year or so I had really no idea what it meant to point  the foot (as opposed to just flexing the ankle)…

Anyway, the thing I’ve been finding the hardest so far is keeping my shoulders back.  It’s not in muscle memory yet, but I find myself so conscious of my shoulders as I go about normal activities throughout the day. Every time I remember I pull them straight back!

(While writing this blog post, I’ve already reminded myself four six at least 20 times. Once I remember, pulling them back feels so good…)

By now I discovered that this shoulder forward-hunching appears to be responsible for my constant tight, sore feeling on my upper back/shoulder area. I’d previously blamed this pain on my bra strap digging in, but now that I’ve been putting my shoulders back consciously the pain has been diminishing and I’m still being dug in to by the same strap. Also, having my shoulders forward appears to be the cause of this stubborn under arm/upper chest flabbiness that seemed to never go away.  If I can manage to remember to keep my shoulders back,I may even feel comfortable in a tank top soon (assuming the weather was warm, of course).

Check out the difference:

shoulders back!

shoulders back!

Shoulders curved

Shoulders curved forward

We’ve also been using balls! Both a small dodge-ball-looking ball to squeeze between our knees, and tennis balls to rub the feet. As I’ve previously mentioned, I looooove my tennis ball, rubbing my feet on it and also my back (coincidentally, at the spot where it hurts from hunching my shoulders forward). Oh, and also these really big balls – I think they’re used for ab work – to support the feet for some of the students without sufficient ab strength yet (luckily, all my past few months’ worth of exercise has keep me from falling in that category; so far I’ve been able to do all the exercises, but in my pre-exercise condition half a year ago I probably wouldn’t have. At least not the double- knee raises…).  But I’m glad to see that there’s modifications available to make it possible for all different kinds of people to try it.

I’m so glad I decided to try this class out. If you have not already done so, I recommend that everyone, regardless of current state of being in shape or not, try out Pilates.

Back To Ballet In The New Year

Finally! My first class back since almost a month ago!

First thing I found out was that the studio raised the rates for the drop-in class by $2 – I guess new year, new prices?  Luckily I didn’t just bring exact change today…

Anyway, I was so excited to be back in class!. There were about 8 people in class today, some of them new to me, but apparently not new to ballet, as E Teacher didn’t teach at the brand-new-beginner level – which makes for a nice, semi-challenging class.

Our barre combinations were fun, somewhat complicated, with changes in tempo.  Like, 6 slow degages, then 3 fast ones, or 1 super slow rond de jambe, 4 slow ones, 3 fast ones.  I like it, keeps the brain engaged, and keeps it from becoming an autopilot kind of thing. We also did those circular port de bra cambres that I like so much, and lots of one-legged balancing.

At first, I was feeling a bit apprehensive about doing the one-legged balances on releve.  My two-legged releve balances were stable today, but since the longest I’ve been able to hold a one-legged balance on releve at home has been to about a (very quick) count to 20, and the balances we hold in class are superlong, I knew I couldn’t last.  Then E Teacher basically told me to get up there, so I did, LOL.

In center, we did a combination which got progressively more difficult.  As in, the first time through we tendu to second, bring it back in while plie-ing, then bring the foot up to passe and balance, no arms.  Repeat, other leg. Then the second time through, same thing but with arms (start with arms in middle fifth, open to second while tenduing, bring in the same arm as working leg when bringing it back in, back to middle fifth for the balance). The third time through, with arms, and the passe balance on releve.  The fourth time, with a pirouette (en dehors) from fifth instead of the balance. Fun!

In this combination I was able to see that I have, in fact, improved.  I remember about 2 months ago (possible 3, I’ll have to look it up – the benefits of blogging) I was having a lot of difficulty with passe releve balances, especially during combinations. Well, let’s be honest here, even when it didn’t involve a combination…Anyway, today I was doing just fine. Having a bit of difficulty coordinating the arms at times, yes, but the balancing in passe releve was actually not bad.  They were quick balances, yes, but very controlled; I clearly went up, held it there, then came back down without just falling out of the balance.  You know, looking like I meant to do what I was doing…

So, not necessarily good, but definitely not horrible either.

The pirouettes from fifth are a different story. I’ve mostly been practicing them from fourth, both en dehors and en dedans, but hardly from fifth (I should really get on that…). I was able to only get around about a quarter of the way when turning to the right, about halfway/ 3/4’s or so to the left.  However, E Teacher praised me for the effort, which was nice. (Yes, I happen to like praise 🙂 )

We then did a three glissades to the right, assemble, other way, assemble combination. Glissades finally “clicked” for me a couple months ago – possibly after the last time we did them in this class, actually – when a new explanation of how to do them just gave me a better sense of what we’re going for; apparently the key is always to use your plie. That was probably supposed to be obvious, but sometimes I need to be reminded. So, the glissades went well, the assembles did not.  I’d previously only done assembles to the front, and today’s were to the side, so I looked like I was flailing around. Not cute.

But I didn’t mind by that point.  It was a fun class, I got to see that I’ve been improving, and I was just so glad to be back in a class!

Until next Wednesday, more practicing at home and pilates. 6 weeks until Spring semester starts and I’ll be doing lots more ballet!