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!)

2 thoughts on “Flashback: Notes From Second Semester, Part 1

  1. Ilde

    So here is a good example of how terminology differs for basically the same thing.

    What you call B+, we call “preparatory position”. But this begs the question… what is A+ position? What we call “bras bas”, I think you call “fifth en bas”. Your “middle fifth” is our “first”, while your “fifth en haute” is our “fifth”. Not sure where your first is (hands low, next to the thighs, I think?)… but I know there are quite a few more names for the positions other than the ones I’m used to in RAD.

    Regarding those floor exercises – they sound excellent! Think I’ll try them too.

    Isn’t it great how far you’ve come!

    1. kit Post author

      Oops, I think I should have specified that S Teacher taught RAD, but at time when I originally wrote this I was filling in the names of stuff I didn’t know from what I remembered F Teacher said. You’re right, she did refer to what I know as middle fifth as first. I think our first IS right next to the thighs, lower than low fifth (which I guess would be “fifth en bas”?), but it may be slightly higher than low fifth, though not quite middle fifth. Looks like I need to ask, lol.
      The exercises are really good, I still do them before each class as part of my preparing-for-class routine. While I didn’t really like S Teacher’s teaching, I do appreciate the fact that she taught us the floor exercises (F Teacher didn’t, so it was my first exposure to them outside of youtube), and that she spent such an exceptionally long time on working on our port de bras and shape of the hands. If I’d never taken her class I still wouldn’t know what to do with them!
      It is pretty great how far I’ve come 🙂 If only I had notes from first semester – it’d read something like “I had no idea ballet was this hard. I can’t do anything! Not even stand on my own feet”. I do remember that F Teacher corrected me on having my barre-arm too close to being behind me, but I felt if I didn’t do that there was no way I was going to balance on one foot (in flat).


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