Monthly Archives: April 2015

Tuesday Class: When It Picks Up A Little…

Had a pretty good class.  I’d forgotten how much more fun BC is during the second half of the semester!

We did a different port de bras for plies, the one I found so confusing last semester (starting from arm out in second, stetch out the hand and arm(like if doing a grand plie) when going down for the first demi plie, bring arm to low fifth when coming up from first demi plie, bring the arm to middle fifth (first?) when going down for second demi plie, open arm out to second when coming up from second demi plie,), and it was so much easier this time around, like second nature.  Yay, progress! Teacher didn’t come up behind me and shift my pelvis into correct position, so I’m taking that as a good sign as well. When we  balanced at the end of the plies combination I felt as though my balance was a little better than last class as well.

Which reminds me, Teacher made a remark about how it’s better to fall forward than fall back when balancing.  I would love to ask clarification on this (since I usually fall forward when I go off balance, rather than back), but honestly I would not like it to turn into an awkward movement.  It often feels like my chest is the elephant standing in the corner of the studio, the thing that must not be mentioned  or acknowledged in any way…

New – still pretty basic,but slightly more challenging – tendu combination.  From first, en avant, a la seconde, and derriere 2 tendus, third tendu flex the foot before pointing it again and bringing it back in. After tendu derriere, we tendued devant and closed fifth, tendu a la second and close fifth derriere, tendu derriere and close fifth, tendu a la seconde and close first. Repeat in en dedans direction.  I liked how it was slightly more complex than our usual BC tendu combinations, but not a super fast speed like in IC.

We did a long rond de jambes a terre and en l’air combination, going both en dehors and en dedans twice.  After the rond de jambe en l’air, we would bring our pointed foot down to the floor out in tendu, close in plie, and then rise up to a passe releve “balance” (in quotes since I don’t think a single one of us let go of the barre).  We worked on passe releve at the barre quite a lot, actually – which you know means that we were going to be doing plenty of that in center.

Finishing up our barre, we did more of those fun foot-in-hand stretches.  I love doing these, they make me feel so flexible!

We started off center with a balancé combination, similar to what we’ve worked on before (4 balances with arms, step into first arabesque, pas de bourree) but this time adding on a releve sous-sus balance the first time through, and  passe releve balance the second time. I continue to work on keeping my foot pointed on the way down, but in general my passe releve balances are getting more stable.  (I’m going to try to not be jealous of any brand new beginners that can balance already, as when I had been balleting that long I couldn’t even rise up in one-legged releves.) My balancés have gotten much more fluid as well, though to be fair we were going at a pretty slow tempo.

During chaines I was remembering to engage my back and it totally helped with stabilty.  I wish I could say that engaging my back during turning is in my muscle memory but that would not be very true.  It’s one of those things that I know I’m supposed to be doing, but when I find myself in class, lined up with the other students and Teacher tells us to go it’s a little nerve-wracking.  So I forget what I’m supposed to be doing and focus/freak out about the (seemingly) immediate objective of Cross The Enormous Studio – And Quick!  Today though, as I started my series of turns I was like ‘Ok, arms? Check. Back? Check Spotting? Check’ and tried to not think to much about the fact that other people turn way faster than me, or the possibility of a collision.

After we did a few sets of regular sautes, Teacher told us to split up into 2 groups for our echappe, echappe, echappe, soubresaut, soubresaut repeat combination. The first group was going to go at a slower tempo, then other group at a faster one. Or we could choose to do both (I did both).  During the slower tempo, I was able to focus on stuff like pointing my feet and landing in plie.  My jumps from a la seconde, like to close the echappes, have gotten much stronger than a few months ago.  And for whatever reason, I find it much easier to point my feet in soubresauts than sautes from first.

At the faster tempo it was hard! I was able to remember what kind of jump I’m doing next, and land with the correct foot in front, but other than that it was sloppy.  My feet were nowhere near pointed, and I may have been losing my turnout. However, it was so much fun! By the end of going through both combinations twice I was really feeling like I was getting a cardio workout.

We ran out of time for reverance, but it was ok – I was exhausted.

Thursday Class: Some Good, Some Bad

We did not really have class on Tuesday, so Thursday’s class was my first ballet class in over a week, since last Wednesday. It felt pretty good to be back in class, though my body has been incredibly sore all week.

For the first time in the semester we did everything with only one hand at the barre. Well, with the exception of the barre-less 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 and releve echappes.  Plies with complete port de bras and cambres.

Then 3 tendus en croix, one super slow with foot articulation, two regular speed, no arms (arms out in second).  I positioned myself so that I would face the mirror on the second side (left working leg side) because I think that’s the side that needs more attention. Sounds weird, but I prefer to face the mirror for the second side, as I think my tendus are more technically correct on my right working leg, at least the foot part. Teacher corrected me on my pelvis positioning.  A few of my classmates were having confusion issues about which side to be facing or which leg they were supposed to be using.  Though I don’t remember my first semester’s confusion that vividly (just in general), how lost I felt when I was attempting IC helps me remember (and completely sympathize with them).

We did 3 degages en croix with eleve (not releve) after each direction before the next, arm in second during the degages, high fifth for the releve. Didn’t let go of the barre for this one – that would have been … interesting.

When we did echappe changement releves we first did them with one hand at the barre then with no hands on barre, arms either out in second or on shoulders (I chose to the the arms in second). A classmate in a nearby barre made the funniest expression – kind of like a raised eyebrows “Whoa!” look – when Teacher said to step away from the barre and do them.  It went ok, I managed to not tip over, and my calves didn’t hurt at least. Teacher corrected me on my pelvis placement.

For our rond de jambe and fondue, balance in arabesque (and with leg out in front after doing it en dedans), soutenu and other side combination we had a super pretty piano piece again.  This is definitely one of my favorite combinations in this class.

New, more extensive barre stretching, similar to what we had done in IC (grabbing the foot and pulling the leg up in front and a la seconde and grabbing the foot behind us with the opposite side hand, pulling up our leg into attitude derriere, then if possible down to a penchee position.)  This was fun. Despite my sore muscles I was able to get my leg up nice and high in my attitude derriere, and I love how when i grab my foot behind me and bend forward I can bring it up much more higher. Of course, I have been working on a similar stretch at home for a few months now, so I’m sure that has a lot to do with it.

In center, we started off with our 3 grand battements with arms in high fifth, passe releve balance combination.  Teacher corrected me again on keeping my foot pointed on the way down from passe releve.  She said we’ll be doing pirouettes soon.

Chaines went ok to the right, to the left I was having trouble spotting my head quickly enough.  Then we did sautes, changements and echappes with arms at different tempos.  I find it much more difficult to stay on timing if we’re going at a fast tempo.  And I definitely have no idea how to manage to point my feet if I jump lower (to accomodate the faster speed).

Across the floor we did 4 chasse gallops, ballet run and pas de chat (instead of jete).  I find it much easier to the right side, as I did with the jetes.

We finished up with reverence. Reverence is quickly becoming one of my favorite parts of class – and probably my favorite part of center.  No, not because it means it’s almost time to collapse into the car in a mess of tired, sweaty muscles and go home and rest (though I do enjoy that part, believe me.  This girl once told me she was going to go running immediately after ballet class and even though I try super hard to be respectful of others I’m afraid I may have looked at her as if she had two heads. Running after ballet? How?! (To be fair, she ended up dropping the class, as I haven’t seen her in weeks)). Anyway, the reasons I love reverance is that it’s one of the only times in BC we use epaulement, as well as it being a nice adagio-ish combination that feels very ballet-ish, graceful and pretty.  If we could just do adagio all the time I would be so happy…

As I mentioned earlier, this was my first ballet class in over a week.  I had not expected to be this sore all week, though I think that has more to do with my Pilates classes than ballet.  But I had expecxted even less that in that short period of time my ballet skills would seriously decline.

My balancing was not as stable as it had been pre-spring break, despite me remembering to engage my lats.  Teacher corrected me several times on my pelvic placement, which I had improved upon right before the break (but is now doing it’s swayback thing).  If I may be honest, I’m feeling very discouraged and sad.  Actually, now that we’re getting honest, that’s the reason I didn’t even feel like writing on the blog lately.  Here’s my train of though: if my skills deteriorated so bad after just a week or two off (and yes, I did practice at home during spring break, though not during the school week), and the semester is over halfway done then there’s only so far I can improve. I saw firsthand how much improvement I lost from the end of last semester by the beginning of the semester.  It feels like for every 3 steps I take forward I end up taking 2 back…

It may seem like I’m having one of those ballet-is-making-you-miserable moments, in which case the solution would seem logical: quit. The thing is, it’s not ballet  in itself that makes me miserable, no way.  When I practice at home and I see my perceived improvement I feel so happy, so alive. I love going over the now-familiar motions, love feeling the strength, the beauty, the music.  At random throughout the day I’ll find myself standing in a ballet pose; I’ll walk past my practice mirror and try to balance; when accompanying  Boyfriend to a boring store I’ll practice chaines and pique turns down the aisle; when I hear a beatiful song I make chorography up for it in my head; out in the field after my run I’ll do gallop chasses, saute arabesques, pas de chats; I have so much fun with it, I feel like a kid again (or at least the active, in shape kid I wish I would have had a chance to be…)

Putting it simply, I cannot imagine my life without ballet in it (which sounds super corny, but whatever, it’s the truth).

No, what makes me sad is that the way things are going there will always be a limit to how much I can improve. Just when I’m starting to get much better the semester ends and then it’s almost back to square 1. When I practice at home I pick up – and reinforce- bad habits, and to be honest, I’m upset at myself for not having enough body perception to be able to correct myself and stay in alignment. If I don’t practice my strength will decrease, but if I do practice unsupervised for long periods of time (weeks or months)I learn how to do it wrong…

In short, it won’t be real  ballet, no matter how good it feels, no matter how happy it makes me.  I can continue dancing for myself, but to try to improve at ballet is setting myself up for failure.

So yeah, been feeling very down lately. Getting into any more detail will exceed the scope of this blog, and I really don’t wanna go there, as I realize that nobody likes a downer, even if it is the truth…well, my truth.  I will try very hard to make the best of it, enjoy the rest of my semester, be very grateful that I at least have this opportunity to take ballet, because some ballet is better than none.

Wednesday Class: Fun, Fun, Fun!

As I’m still on Spring break and there’s no class schedule conflicts, I was able to take Wednesday evening class at Adults-Only Studio.  I realized how much I miss going to this place. It was so much fun, and the difficulty seemed a little higher than the last few times I’d been there (which is a good thing), but to be fair it’s been a couple months.

At first I did feel pretty anxious, as there was a bunch of brand new people – and by “a bunch” I mean it was a full class, about a dozen people.  I was the only one in a leotard and tights. While I feel the most comfortable taking class in a leotard and tights – and the one time I tried taking class without my “uniform” I felt so unballet-ish – I also feel awkward being the only one wearing them.  Like I take myself too seriously or something… like a “hey, this is basic-beginner ballet class – what, you think you’re auditioning for an intensive/performance or something?” kind of feeling. I really don’t like that feeling… (and I’m still learning trying to learn the concept of “don’t notice anyone else, and just do you”. It’s hard, I tell you!  Damn this anxiety! (Seriously, if someone gives me (what I perceive to be) a mean look I can feel myself shrinking back into myself – which is really counter-productive if you’re trying to do ballet and appear “taller” and specially “confident”, LOL))

Anyway (enough about my personal problems).

We did plies with one arm at the barre, full port de bras including cambres.  I love how it was in this class ( a few months ago) that I learned than when you cambre away from the barre in second your arms go through middle fifth on the way back.  When I took IC I’d seen that that was, in fact, how the more advanced students do it, and I was pleased that I had known that. I’d forgotten about the super long balances (and I mean long it feels like half a minute!) we do in releve at the end of the barre combinations in this class.  Thanks to my back/core, I was staying fairly steady, even when not warmed up yet.

After the super slow tendus facing barre we did tendus en croix with full port de bras. This was nice – the times before that I’d come to Evening Class (EC?) we’d only kept the arms in second so it was nice to get to use them.  This was actually more advanced than what we’ve been doing so far in BC (where we’re still not using the arms with our tendus at barre), and so fun.  I’d forgotten though that E Teacher’s combinations often include 4 tendus (or degages, or battements) instead of 3, so I was getting a little confused when going a la seconde. I mean, I know that when it’s an even number you don’t switch on the first one and when it’s an odd number you do, but I guess I’d gotten used to operating purely on muscle memory.  By the time we turned around to do our other side I had gotten the hang of it, sort of.  For sure by the time we did degages en croix with arms. We balanced both in passe flat and passe releve.  I’m still not up to putting my arms in middle (or high) fifth for the passe releve balance, but I’m easing into it by having a super light touch on the barre.

For our rond de jambes combination, we did 2 slow rond de jambes and then 3 quicker (en dehors), 2 slow and 3 quicker (en dedans), then cambre forward and back, then  angle towards the barre, tendu back leg (the one that had been the inside leg) and fondue front leg into to a lunge position, then cambre forward and bring both arms up in high fifth and cambre back, recover and balance in 2nd arabesque.  This combination was so fun! Loved it! Wish we would do more stuff like that in BC…

Then it was time to stretch, which is not really lead, we just kind of do our own thing. I always take the opportunity to do my pretty leg-up-on-the-barre-and-cambre-towards-and-away stretches from BC, plus some en ballancoire leg swings to loosen up the hips.

We then did this combination that was kind of a fondue developpe (as in, we developped, but starting from a bent supporting leg) en croix with arms. We didn’t stop after the first side, but closed to fifth, did releve sous-sus, soutenu, and other side (see, it’s that higher difficulty stuff I was talking about). Then we did frappes facing the barre, just a la seconde.

For our grand battements en croix w arms we also did a soutenu and other side without stopping. At least by this point I was remembering that we were doing 4 to each side, and to close back in front after my first one a la seconde. I was also remembering to keep my back/core engaged to not let my upper body slump forward when battement-ing to the front.

In center we did the tendu a la seconde, close and plie,  passe releve balance, other side, then repeat with pirouette (from fifth en dehors) instead of the balance. My pirouettes sucked – what else is new? – but I was able to recover from the failed pirouettes in time to do the other side without messing up the timing too much.

Then we did a really fun combination: glissade 3x (towards the right, right foot stays in back), pas de bourre, other side (now left foot stays in back). I think I really enjoy doing glissades – well, at this speed, not like that crazy glissade-assemble combination we were doing (more like I was attempting to do) in IC.  When I first started ballet, and for the first year or so, I couldn’t do glissades at all ( a combination of not being able to balance and my legs being too weak to push off with just one leg) so I do feel a bit accomplished doing them. Pointy, pointy feet!

And for across the floor we did  step and  jete.  It was much easier with the right leg in front, but fun either way. Then we did reverance, which I was sort of able to mimic correctly what E Teacher was doing.

So yeah, I had a super fun Wednesday evening! 🙂

A Gift…


Today, I received a package in the mail.  What could it be?

I hurriedly opened the wrapping. Classical Ballet Technique – no way!

My new favorite book!

My new favorite book!

Apparently, Boyfriend  was listening a few weeks ago when I mentioned that Teacher had brought in the coolest book for us to look at after class, and how awesome it would be if I happened to have said book in my possession… I mean, I only did mention it about 30 times that weekend and all…

It’s great (at least what I’ve looked through so far), the closest thing to a ballet textbook I’ve seen.  And I happen to love textbooks. Of course, now I know that my (lack of natural) turnout, body proportions, and (lack of) flexibility are hardly ideal for a ballet student, but what else is new?

Detailed pictures of do’s and don’t’s, names for moves in different schools of ballet, plenty of explainations. Yeah, this book’ll keep me busy for a bit…

Flashback: Notes From Second Semester, Part 1

This week I have spring break, and therefore, no college ballet class (and no class notes). However, for your ballet-related reading entertainment, here is Class Notes From  My Second Semester. While I was not blogging yet, I took (at times detailed, at times not) notes on what we did in class so I wouldn’t forget. And to assess my progress as time goes by. Kind of like how I’m doing with the blog, I guess…

Anyway, without further ado, here it is copied word for word.  Comments from me will be in italics throughout.

Week 1

Today, after a long delay that seems like forever, I finally had my first formal ballet lesson since last spring semester. Which ended last June (Ed: june 2013) so we’re talking about a 7 month break! Of course, I’ve been busy practicing on my own, but it was nice to be back in class. The last time I began a term of ballet I didn’t previously have any ballet experience whatsoever, so it was a lot harder to keep track of the movements (keep track? more like actually do them without falling over!), remember the counts and steps, and just overall not feel completely lost.

Well, what a difference a year makes! This time around I almost feel a tiny bit confident. Not that I’m saying that I’m super proficient or anything. Kinda like this: Last year, imagine I started school and I didn’t even know how to read or my ABC’s. This year, knowing my ABC’s and how to read words means that I might actually be able to read my first whole book (Ed: yeah, you got overconfident there, girl…)! So while I can tell that I have improved tremendously, I know I still have my work cut out for me.

These are the things we worked on today:

We did alignment stretches sitting on the floor, legs out in front of us: Point foot, turn out, flex foot, lift entire leg off the floor, point foot. All while keeping our back straight which is so much harder for me sitting down than standing up. Then we laid down and flattened our backs against the floor, to get a feel for what it’s like to not arch our back.  The floor hurt, and no matter how hard I tried I could still slide my hand in between the floor and my back (Ed: I don’t have this problem now…).

Then we pulled out the barres. We did plies, releves, tendus to the side and front facing the barre, then tendus to front with arms in second, and tendus to the second and third positions of feet (Ed: No 5th position I see…).  This was review for me, but it’s always good to review the basics. After going over each exercise a couple of times we put away the barres for our first center work.

For center, we worked on our port de bras (again!), plies, releves, and sautes.  Then it got a little bit more complex: sautes with a 180 turn, saute in parallel and land in 1st, saute in 1st and land in 3rd. I completely surprised myself by enjoying this part of class; last year center had been my least favorite part of class for sure. Mostly because at barre I would start to feel somewhat graceful only for that grace to be lost in center. My balance was terrible and really messed with my confidence. But if practice doesn’t quite make it perfect at least it makes it possible.

Another issue last year was that I had been afraid of jumping.  Part of it was because of my ankle. Last year I was still afraid that it wasn’t strong enough and that I might reinjure it (from landing wrong because of the whole balance thing).  By now I’m pretty sure that my ankle has recovered its strength.  The other reason was because jumping leads to bouncing. However, this year I came equipped with not one but two sports bras, so I was ready to go.

The very last thing we did was reverance. It consisted of doing a tondue to the side and then taking the other foot and putting it behind the foot that had tondued (Ed: Huh? You mean “coupe”, last year self? Or B+ position?)

So overall, it was a fun class back. I am totally looking forward to what else I may learn this semester and improving at ballet. I am a little concerned about making my hair stay in its bun, since my other teacher last year wasn’t quite so strict on it. I’m totally with putting up the hair in a bun, it’s the part where I hear “hairspray” or “gel” that makes me anxious. Which is a whole other topic for a different essay… (Ed: I am happy to announce that my buns always stay put and NOT ONCE have I had to use hairspray or gel. Yay, my thick unruly hair is good at holding bobby pins at least…)

Week 2

We did our alignment exercise again, plies in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. We worked on tendu devant, a la seconde and derriere. Grand battement devant.

In center, we did port de bras, sautes and echappes.  Across the floor jumps that i was not able to catch the name of (Ed: and now I have no idea. If I had to guess I’d say it was chasse-gallops, but who knows.  Reverance.

I was corrected on my posture (I was swaybacking it), and told to work on shifting my weight forward.(Ed: I wonder if this was the day that while S Teacher was telling me about my posture (to shift more and more forward, beyond the point which it was comfortable and I thought I was going to fall over), one of my nearby classmates had  gestured towards my chest. S Teacher caught that and said “Your body shape has nothing to do with your posture” or something like that. Awkward.         

Week 3

Work on body alignment: buttocks in and tight, lean forward, chin up, tight stomach/core (Ed: as I learned recently though, there’s more to a tight core than the stomach…) Work on keeping legs straight and turned out, work on lifting up ankle to prevent sickle. When plie-ing, make sure to press knees outward, and keep buttocks tucked in.

For tendus, keep leg turned out, keep hips square, make sure foot slides across the floor, leg stays straight. For devant and derriere, toes of foot in tendu should be directly in front/ back of supporting foot.

Grand battement devant and a la seconde: keep hips square, foot should not come crashing down.


port de bras combination: open arms to second, then third (right), third (left), brava (Ed: I think this meant “bras bas” or something like that. It’s basically like preparation, I think), high fifth, second, step plie (right foot), hold, step plie (left foot), step plie right again while lifting and lowering the arms, quick little steps backwards, brava, repeat in other direction. (Ed: I’d forgotten all about this combination until I reread it.  Now I wanna get up and practice it. I’m sure I can do it much better now…)

Saute combination:  releve, saute, saute, releve, saute, half turn (toward right), saute, half turn (so now facing front again), saute in first 2x, saute in third 2x, saute parallel, plie, repeat other side (Ed: Whew! just reading that made me tired! Dang!)

Across the floor: step-hop (like a skip) across. Remember to point your feet!

Step-hop, step-hop, step, step, step, step-hop, with and without arms. Arms went (middle fifth, second, middle fifth, second).

Practice half turns with spotting. Turn halfway while skipping (and spotting). (Ed: These were so hard! They were supposed to be to ease us into chaines turns, but, at least for me, chaines  are easier)

Notes: Jumping is hard and makes me out of breath. My legs are somewhat strong and don’t hurt, it’s mostly the aerobic-ness of it. Spotting is hard when you’re on the spot (no pun intended), at home I can kind of do it. To help remember the combination it’s a good idea to break it into smaller parts, repetiton and muscle memory helps tons as well. By now I’m starting to muscle memory the tucking the butt in and leaning forward part, my arms are looking way better, and I think my turnout has improved since I started tucking in and pressing my knees outward during plies.  I feel a little uncomfortable during allegro because of my boobs and bouncing. In sautes I worry that if I jump with enough power my boobs will come crashing down when I land and it’ll hurt. I need to remember to point my toes.

Week 4

New exercise on the floor to teach us how to pull our ankles up, prevent sickling: sit with your feet together, knees apart, and try to lift up you ankles while pointing down your toes. Try to bring the feet closer to you while continuing to do that.

Grand plies at barre for first time this semester. We did fondues, and releve sous-sus as well.

In center we worked on “shouldering”, en face and croisse to either side. We did sautes, saute half turns, echappes, sobresaut, and changements. More preparations for turning.

(Ed: this weeks entry is rather short. I have a feeling I was overwhelmed. S Teacher’s class progression is so weird. On the one hand we barely started doing grand plies at this point, on the other hand we did all kinds of jumps and scary center stuff. The preps for turns are harder than the turns themselves, in my opinion…)

There was no week 5

Week 6

New things:

Degages or battement glisse, from 3rd devant thru first to derriere, thru first devant, close 3rd, repeat a la seconde and derriere. Fondue and fondue with leg kick out to a point (don’t know what it’s called), devant, a la seconde, derriere. Releve sous-sus and soutenu in grand battement combination.

Center: Balances (the waltzy move) with arms

Saute combination: saute, saute, 2 saute to turn, saute to first, to second,to first, third x2, first, repeat other side.

Assembles: jump and kick out one leg, try to bring other leg together in midair.

(Ed: I remember this day! Assembles are super hard, but at least we only did them forward. They’re even harder a la seconde. I remember at the time I was having a really hard time with the releve sous-sus and soutenu as well. I went home and practiced over and over!)

Thursday Class: Still Holding Up

Well, the arms/lats/core connection continues holding me up…

We did LOTS of super long balances on releve, going from arms in middle fifth to high fifth, then slooowly opening them up to the sides ( “Get taller!” calls out Teacher) and finally coming down into plie.  These long balances with moving arms used to always get me, as it felt that right when I had found my balance the motion of the arms would upset my center of gravity and down I come.  But with the engagement of the lats, much more stable.  Before I felt as though even though my abs and turnout muscles were fully engaged I was folding over from the top half – no more!

An added bonus is that since now my balance is not so precarious – because even on flat using the back has helped – I am able to work on lifting the arches of my feet.  I think this class was the first time Teacher didn’t correct me on my fallen arches.  She also mentioned to me that my back was looking much better at as well, yay!

About the whole using your back as part of the core and the amazing improvements I can’t help but feel why did nobody tell me! But the thing is, as with other non-ballet related things in my life (that once I discovered the secret to I was like ‘why did I not know this sooner?!’), people did technically tell me. I just seem to have a comprehension problem until I have that “Aha!” moment and make it my own understanding/knowledge. I don’t know how to explain it any better, but let me just say that this realization takes a lot of (both literal and metaphoric) weight off my shoulders; one cannot truly know/comprehend something until one is good and ready, and nothing else will hasten the process. (Please don’t mind my tangentiality. Even if this makes sense to no one but myself, it needed to be said. For me.)

Besides the many long balances at barre, we also did a couple new combinations.  We did piques with our degages en croix (facing the barre), and I really liked seeing how my coordination has gotten much better (as well as my legs getting stronger, as I wasn’t sore after the piques at all).  We did a fondue en croix and then 3 rond de jambes a terre combination that has the most beautiful piano music to go with it.  I especially love rond de jambes – and fondues – so it was nice to have them both in the same combination. That and the lovely music made it feel very dance-y.

In center, we added on to our 3 grand battements with arms in high fifth and passe releve balance combination: now after doing both sides we grand battement derriere 3 times and passe releve.  My grand battements derriere are not as strong as the ones to the front (obviously, as I’ve never met anyone who battements better to the back than the front (though they may exist, in a mythic land with unicorns and flying piglets…)) but they’ve gotten better since last semester.

Actually, speaking of grand battements, when I did my home practice session on Friday, I noticed that if I do the lat engaging thing it keeps my upper body from sort of collapsing on itself when I battement front.  This was something that I was having trouble with, and had almost given up on ever improving, so I’m glad to see that things are looking up.

My sautes were better than Tuesday’s class – maybe that day I’d just been a little tired? My feet were pointing at least, though Teacher corrected me on my landings (I was raising my heels at times, and lots my turnout a little). Chaines turns to the left were weak though I did manage to hold my balance in my finishing arabesque pose (once again, thank the lats!).

In our 4 chasse gallops, ballet run, and grand jete combination, remember I’d said that I was going to try going in the front of my little group of three? Well, that proved a bit harder than expected, as people always rush to the front spots (unless they’re shy), and me – being shy – usually end up in the back.  So we went across the floor that way (me in the back) and I totally felt restricted, like I couldn’t use my longes strides (or whatever you’d call the gallop version of a stride) to the fullest extent (and at one point I smacked someone’s hand accidentally with my right boob – awkward). I think one of the other people in my group noticed (or maybe I was too close to her personal space) and she offered for the second side if I wanted to go in front. Ok, sure! It went much better that time (except for the fact that it was to the left and my jetes with left leg in front suck compared to my right).  Actually, on the right side I was able to land on one leg in plie and actaully hold the balance, which shocked me (in a good way).  Once again, I’m giving credit to the back muscles.

During the last few minutes of class, someone I’d never seen before came in – probably for IC – and she looked so officially ballerina-esque.  I think my classmates felt that way too because I noticed we kept looking curiously in her direction as she started to warm up while we waited our turn. After that this one male dancer that took IC class with us once – the one with the awesome beated jumps with hang time – also came in. It was so tempting to ask Teacher if I could stay and observe IC just to get an opportunity to watch these dancers (probably pros or ex-pros) take class. But I was worried she would ask if I was staying why didn’t I just take class rather than observe so I didn’t.

Oh, and we did reverance (a rare occasion with Teacher).  It was a pretty port de bras, then chasse slide side and chasse slide front, foot goes behind in B+, and curstsey, other side.  To be honest, my curstseys suck – I think I’m doing more of a fondue movement, bending my front leg while sliding my back foot along the floor. Other people are bending the back leg as well, not keeping it straight. Off to youtube for clarification!

Tuesday Class: Using The Core

Learned something new…

“Use your core!” I’ve been told countless times.  I’d always taken this to mean my abs, and taken my terrible balance as indication of either weak abs or completely forgetting to squeeze/engage them in the spur of the moment.  Over time, I gradually remembered to contract my abs and seen a small improvement in my balance (though stronger ankles and feet may have something to do with it too).  But not an extreme improvement by far (and my balancing, especially when releveing quickly, was really hit or miss).

Earlier today I was reading in my Pilates textbook something about how your abdominals will support you, but it’s your back extensors holding you up.  I remembered reading a few months ago that the core includes not only the abs but also some of the back muscles. Suddenly all of Teacher’s analogies about imagining “pushing down” on something with your arms to use your arms to help you balance on releve made sense.  And by core it didn’t just mean squeeze your abs! Couldn’t wait to try it in class!

Of course, between the time I figured this out and class were several hours, and I was close to forgetting that I’d even had the thought at all, if it wasn’t for Teacher reminding us to use our lats and feel our arms push down.

After plies with port de bras we did tendus with one hand on the barre, though no port de bras yet. At some point, possible after the 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 degages with no hands, we did 8 releves, holding a long balance after  the last. Remembering to use my back muscles, I was able to hold the balance! I think this may have been the piece of information I was missing, the key to why I could never balance no matter how much I worked out my core. I’m really excited to see if this holds up – and holds me up – in future classes.

In center, we did the 3 grand battements with arms in high fifth, plie and passe releve balance (while bringing arms down to the sides, yet not in the usual a la seconde position) combination again. My passe releve balances have come a long way since last semester and I’m pleased about that. Still working on keeping my foot pointed on its way down…

My chaines turns were ok, to both sides. Lately I’ve been working on keeping my arms in a nice middle fifth position  in front of me, and it’s possible that this made me engage my back muscles which improved my turning stability. Was able to finish the series of turns in first arabesque with my working leg off the floor and hold the balance.  Not bad.  It’s been one of those things that I can do at home but then when I’m in class I screw it up for a while now.

Sautes were horrible however. I was having a lot of trouble with them, my feet were not pointed and I felt as though trying to point them while remembering to land in plie while not leaning forward was too many things to multitask.  Then we did a 3 echappe changement, pas de chat, other side combination that was kind of fun. I think I do enjoy jumping, it’s just so difficult for my body. Perhaps after enough practice on the jumpboards in Pilates class I will have the muscle memory to jump with pointed feet and land in plie.

We finished up with a 4 chasse (the gallop kind), ballet run  and grand jete across the floor combination.  It was fun, though I felt limited for space; my chasses seem to take me traveling forward quite a bit.  When  we line up to go across the floor, 3 at a time, I end up usually in the back behind the other two.  While I’m more comfortable in the back, I hate feeling like I’m going to land on the person in front of me. Maybe it’s time to consider going in the front.


The other  kind…

Despite the gorgeous scenery, obviously ballet was on my mind.


Every time we passed one of these signs I couldn’t help wanting to check on my turnout. Obviously I was forgetting the part where I was currently sitting on my “turnout muscles”…




Hey - as a slower dancer, I resemble that!

Hey – as a slower dancer, I resemble that!

And a few completely non-ballet related, but beautiful regardless. pictures I took.


A lake! A few ducks but not a swan in sight…




Notably absent from post: A picture of my turnout.

Thursday Class: The Right Kind Of Motivation

While I can’t speak for anyone else, I can tell you that watching a ballet video for me is the equivalent of having a double shot of espresso for the average adult – I get all hyped up and I want to dance (or at least attempt to dance)!  In between some of my classes I study in the library, not in a desk but in this open-area lobby they have with chairs, as that’s the only part of the library in which eating is allowed (and for me studying without food is like running without air). There is also a tv., which was driving me nuts during the first few week of school, but sometime in the last month whoever is in charge of changing the channel put in on the public access arts channel. Which means ballet (as well as opera, other styles of dance, or simply a live orchestra. Of course, the sound is off, so that defeats the purpose of that last one…)!

So I was settled comfortably in my chair, my books spread out before me, and I glance up – and see that it says Tchaikovski. My attention fully focused now, I read that it’s the Black Swan pas de deux with Maya Plitsetskaya and Valery Kovlun from 1973!  Ok, looks like my homework was going to wait…

Here it is for anyone that wants to enjoy it. With sound

(Maya Plisetskaya is an amazing dancer, 48 years old at the time the video was filmed.  I really like her version of Odile, though it is a different choreography from what I have gotten used to seeing.)

As they only showed the pas de deux, it turned out I had plenty of time for homework. And then off to ballet class!

At barre we once again did a mixture of facing the barre and one hand on the barre stuff, with the occasional barre-less stuff.  Our plies were facing the barre and when we turned sides to do the left almost everyone forgot how it went at some point (I noticed because when I did my cambre back and looked past my arm I saw a bunch of people hurriedly put their arm up and cambre).  It was funny, reminded me of my first semester when I had absolutely no idea what was going on during barre.

For tendus, we did tendus en croix then let go of the barre and temps lie to the right side, then other foot.  I definitely could not do temps lie during my first semester, and it took many months of me doing temps lie in all direction repeatedly in the living room to get somewhat stable. We did lots of degages once again, as well as piques.  The second time through we let go of the barre for the degages, which is something that I’d gotten used to by now.

Then we did echappe changements (the releve kind, not jumps) from fifth.  We did something like three sets and then hold the balance, like last class. Then Teacher told us to step back from the barre and do it with no hands. A moment of panic, cut short by the start of the music.  At least she said we didn’t have to hold the balance, just do 8 echappe changements in a row. Arms either hands on shoulders, hands on waist or a la seconde “if you can make them look pretty”.  As I wasn’t concerned about my arms but tipping over I went for the a la seconde arms. It went better than I expected, maybe my second position wasn’t as wide as it could be, or my fifth a little more closed, but I didn’t tip over or fall off balance. My arms were fine.

In center we did the 3 grand battements and passe balance (passe releve the second time) combination from last semester. I’ve been practicing it at home all along, so it’s gotten much better.  Teacher told me as much, before telling me to work on keeping my foot pointed on the way back down. That is something I’ve noticed needs work, as I think I exhaust all my concentration on the way up to have any left for the way down. For the  longest time I came down by falling off the (attempt at) balance, so it’s not as though I have much practice in lowering myself down gracefully.

It was a turning day for me! We did our chaines diagonally instead of across the studion, which normally feels  way harder for me.  And lately my turns have not been going particularly well even across.  My turns felt stable, I was actually spotting, and remembering to not drop my elbows. We were going across the floor in groups of three.  Which means that we’re relying on the other two people not swerving into our path or crashing into us.  Ever since I actually did collide with someone a few weeks or a month or so ago I’ve really gotten over my fear of crashing, seeing that it’s not as bad as I had imagined it (nobody fell! we didn’t go flying!). Still, when one of my classmates’ rapidly spining forms came too close for comfort I did let out a squeal. How balletic, I know, LOL.

Before doing a combination, Teacher told us to practice our balances, telling us during our balances to make sure we pointed our feet every time they come off the ground.  In one of those rare moments, she was actually looking in my direction when I did my slow-tempo-very-foot-pointed balance and said “Good!”.  From there I did the tombe, pas de bourree, finishing up in releve sous-sus with arms in high fifth. It was pretty good, actually (ugh, I worry I’m sounding all cocky here – I swear I’m not trying to!) as I finally got the hang of the coordination for the tombe pas de bourree, making sure my supporting leg was bent while my working leg was perfectly straight (and foot pointed), then going through the sous-sus position twice during the pas de bourree, as Teacher said to do. I think the reason doing these pas de bourree is so confusing for my body is because during my first semester I learned (and then practiced at home up until last semester) how to do the other kind of pas de bourree in which you put the back foot in coupe before releve and putting it down. So the kind where you step to the side to switch feet – though simpler, in theory – kind of throws me off. In IC we used both kinds and I always felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

For our balance combination, we did port de bras, two balances, then put our leg behind in B+ position with the opposite arm up high, then fondued on our front leg which cambre forward, then close to fifth and other side. It was a nice, slow combination, a change of pace from all the sautes, echappes and changements.

It was a good ballet day!