Monthly Archives: May 2015

Thursday Class: Hot

We had no class on Tuesday – though I did enjoy a nice practice session at home – so Thursday was my first class in a week.

The weather got hot (finally – it was feeling more like fall than late May), making it harder to stay cool, especially towards the latter part of class.  This may have been the first time ever in ballet class when I’ve actually found myself sweating.  Out of breath, sure, has happened many times (especially back before I started running), totally sore, also yes, but never actual sweat. Of course, I was wearing my little sweater (they call them warm ups for a reason…) but I’ve just gotten so comfortable taking class with it on that I can’t imagine doing it without. So yeah…

We did a new combination with our rond de jambes: 4 rond de jambes en dehors, then brush the foot through  first to the front en cloche, then back, then front, hold, close, 4 rond de jambes en dedans, brush foot through en cloche, then end with foot behind and balance in 3rd arabesque. It was a nice combination, a bit challenging on moving the leg en cloche in correct timing. Actually, the timing of the rond de jambes was a little faster than usual, which also added to the challenege. The balancing part was ok, I balanced better on my second side (right leg), which was a little different than what I’m used to. In general my balancing was strong this class. It’s so unpredictable – going into class I never can guess ahead of time if it will be a good balancing day.

We did frappes on croix, then soutenu and other side.  It was a little tricky, closing from a frappe right to a releve sous-sus for the soutenu and then on the other side having the foot flexed and ready to frappe.  Also, it was 4 frappes in each direction, so there was the whole don’t-swich-the-first-one thing to think about.  It was fun though, I like doing stuff that is somewhat tricky so I can pat myself on the back that I can even do it at all. I remember my attemps at doing frappes my first semester – horrible!

Around the time we put the barres away for center, several dancers who sometimes take the next class (Intermediate) came it and began to warm themselves up in the back.  I have a strong suspicion these dancers are either pros or ex-pros, and I think one of the guys is en pointe.  Anyway, our first center combination was our 4 quarter pirouettes, 2 half pirouettes, and 2 full.  We start facing the front, quarter turn to the side, then quarter turn to the back, and I see one of the possibly pro dancers doing some ridiculously flexible stretch on the floor with his legs up by his ears (and he was wearing a sweater tied around his waist, with the arms placed strategically on the area where his dance belt is/would be. And then I noticed the other pro male dancer was sporting the same look. Is this a thing? For extra coverage while stretching? I though dance belts were designed with modesty in mind? Does the fact that I even noticed make me out to be a total perv? Not that it was distracting in the least… LOL).  We quarter turn twice more, and now we do our half turn to the back.  This time he’s in a completely different, also ridiculously flexible stretch, this one involving sort-of circling his legs out along the floor and bringing them back up rapidly.  By the time we’re on our second full pirouette – well, my attemps at a full pirouette – he’s down in completely perfect splits.  It was just like ‘Wow!’ because we have some people in class who are somewhat flexible, and even I myself sometimes get considered a flexible individual (especially by non-dancers, LOL) but these dancers (and this guy in particular) are just on another level.  It amazes me. I mean, I’ve watched youtube videos of pros taking class – actually, I love watching pros taking class videos – but seeing it right in front if you just makes it so real.  It was so intimidating fumbling through the pirouettes (and the rest of class) knowing they were there. It’s not like they were watching us or anything, they were mostly focused on their warm-up, but I still get embarassed. The whole concept of “That girl sucks at ballet – why does she even bother?” combined with my special brand of anxiety over being observed.  I guess I still feel so out-of-place at ballet class, unless everyone is on a very beginner level.  I don’t have much confidence in my dancing abilities, though I still have fun with it and continue to try.

When we did chaines from corner to corner I went in the last group.  It was not the wisest decision. First of all, there was only 2 of us (which in itself is not a problem, in IC we even went completely alone), but the other girl is really new (first semester) so, understandably, she turns really slow.  When we got to the other side we were supposed to finish by chasse-ing and then balancing in 3rd arabesque.  It’s usually no big deal, just a quick balance and then get out of the middle of the floor and get in line for the other side. The problem was that I had to hold my balance for much longer, since I finished crossing the floor much quicker and had to stay while the other girl finished and Teacher corrected her on her turns and chasse and arabesque. Holding the balance for longer, especially after all those turns (especially to the left) was certainly a challenge.

During our 4 balancés, tombe, pas de bourre, then other side combination, Teacher corrected me on my turnout. I tend to lose some of my turnout while moving, especially moving quickly.  It’s so hard to apply a correction when you’re in the middle of motion!

Jumps were definitely better today. During the 16 sautes and then 16 changements, Teacher told us “Much better on the timing!”, and being honest, it was usually me who was screwing up the group’s timing.  I’ve gotten much better at not speeding up towards the end, and actually staying on the same timing as everyone else.  I was trying to focus my attention more on making sure my feet were landing in the correct position and pointing in the air, not just jumping for the sake of jumping.  Like, being really deliberate in telling my body what I wanted it to do.  When we did 3 echappes, pas de chat, pas de bourree Teacher actually complimented me on my jumps, and I was looking in the mirror and the jump did look really powerful. Possibly the best echappe I’ve ever done!

Left class feeling pleased with my improvements (though frustrated by the areas that show no improvement). Feeling sad over the (rapidly) approaching break for the summer though. Teacher mentioned that there will be a session of IC taught over the summer, but it won’t be taught by her so I don’t know if I’m up for it.  I really dislike this aspect about me, but if I can’t feel at least comewhat comfortable it’s hard for me to relax enough to concentrate on what I’m doing.  If I don’t feel comfortable with the teacher I don’t know if I will just make a great big mess of things.  On the other hand, it is  almost daily and affordable ballet classes. Arg, what to do?!

Thursday Class: Sometimes Challenge Is A Good Thing

Had another great class, with the level heading more towards an intermediate-beginner level.  I was loving it!

We started our tendus en croix, and Teacher said we were going to do the combination 2 times through, but then she switched it up on us and said “Other side!”.  I think that meant we were to do a soutenu to switch sides but I was caught unprepared and didn’t go right into the soutenu as I should have. When we finished the second side I did a little bit better though.

Rond de jambe combination was a little more challenging (though still very fun to do!): 3 rond de jambes en dehors, chasse outside leg forward, lift up inside leg in arabesque and balance (this was the challenging part, oddly enough, because I’m not used to lifting up the inside leg for the balance, although it is actually much easier to execute than lifting the outside leg), close to sous-sus (this was another challenge; like, do I close to fifth and then releve sous-sus, or close directly into the sous-sus?), cambre devant and derriere, then 3 passe releves, 3 rond de jambes en dedans, chasse derriere, lift inside leg devant to balance, close sous-sus, cambres, 3 passe releves.  I really likes the complexity of the combination, long yet still slow enough that I managed to not get lost.  It was great!  In the end we ended with a superlong balance on releve sous-sus, which is my stablest balance still.

Then came the real challenge, something I’ve never attempted at home before.  I have to admit, it was kind of nice getting that momentarily panicked feeling of ‘Oh crap – can I do this?!’, as long as it doesn’t degenerate into thinking ‘What am I even doing in this class?!’ (it didn’t).  We did our frappes, just 6 a la seconde, then temps lie to the side of the working leg, 6 on the other side, temps lie.  Then Teacher says “Hands off the barre!” and we did it again.  Having never tried barre-less frappes, I was startled.  No time to be startled though, the music was starting!  I think I did the first two a bit hesitantly, as I didn’t want to fall off balance. But then I felt stable and did the rest a little bit better.  It’s not particularly harder than doing them with the barre, just as going the 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 degages without the barre is not much of a big deal anymore. I guess this just confirms that I need to continue stepping out of my comfort level.  Then fact than I didn’t tip over makes me so happy though!

We did developpes en croix with arms.  The hardest part here was staying on the count with the music.  I love doing developpes when I practice at home (usually do them with my fondues, like fondue en croix en dehors, developpes en croix en dehors, fondue en croix en dedans, developpe en croix en dedans), so I have a good general idea of where the arms go and stuff, but actually knowing where everything is supposed to be at each different count, not so much.  From what I remember, Teacher said that count 1 is at coupe, count 2 at passe, count 3 leg is out, and 4 it’s closed.  I think my problem is that I like to really linger on the coupe and up to passe part, so then I’m late on the count. But I just love doing stuff in slow motion, feels so much more graceful and pretty…

Finishing up the barre portion, we did grand battements en croix with arms.  I really enjoyed seeing how high my legs go up, especially in grand battements a la second.  I do womder though, if Teacher is going easy on the corrections for these. E Teacher used to always correct me on my battements, either I wasn’t really “kicking” my leg, or my hips were getting out of alignment, or my upper body was going forward when I grand battement devant (which I’ve really fixed by learning to engage my lats).  Teacher doesn’t really give me corrections on them (she does on a lot of stuff though, so it’s definitely not that she’s ignoring me), so I wonder if E Teacher was just pickier, or if I’ve actually improved on my technique…

We started off center with 1/4, 1/2 and full pirouettes again. A general correction Teacher gave us is to really go for the passe releve instead of slowly getting up there. It was a good reminder, as I’ve heard that correction before but forgotten.  Something funnier that Teacher said was “Keep your arms out in front in a beautiful circle! Don’t hold them against you like you have a stomachache!” I LOL’ed so hard at that (but it’s true – if you pull your arms in close it does look like you have a stomachache!), and even though the holding the arms in close part didn’t apply to me, still I was more mindful of my arms.

Chaines to the right went well, to the left I was not getting my head around quick enough to spot.  I must have a lopsidedly-muscled neck…

After sautes and changements we did 2 echapes, 2 pas de chat, pas de bourree combination.  I think what made this combination tricky was that even though we start to the right, the pas de chats would take us to the left  (since we only did 2 echappes instead of 3, and we pas de chat toward the back leg), and there was a lot of people going in opposite directions and almost colliding. I actually got it right though! Well, I got the directions we were going to right, technique-wise it needs work (of course).

Across the floor we did chasse gallop, saute coupe on right leg, chasse gallop, saute coupe on left leg, again on the right leg, then ballet run for four counts and saut de chat.  It was fun, remeinded me of one of the across the floor combinations we did during my brief stint in IC.  To the right it went well. To the left, I used the wrong leg for the saut de chat, and Teacher had all of us that did the wrong leg go back and do it again after everyone had gone. So intead of a group of 3 it was a little mob of ballet people prancing across the room.  So fun though!

There was time for reverance this class.  I love the adagio-ness of it. Still need to work on my curtsey though, as I do more of a fondue (keeping the back leg straight).

So yeah, as I’ve already mentioned I really love this point in the semester when stuff gets more challenging.  Really wish it could be this way the whole semester through. At the same time, I’m terrified of what they’re doing over at IC (rumor has it it’s beated jumps!). Due to schedule conflicts, next semester (still months away), I may have to take IC if I wish to keep dancing though the school.  Don’t know yet, as I’m having mixed feelings about it.  I guess at least I have time to do lots of thinking about it…

Tuesday Class: Definitely A Better Day

Had another fun class, feeling much better from last week 🙂

It was one of those I-love-ballet-class days…

Tendu combination was complex enough to make it more interesting than usual with slow tendus with lots of articulation, tendus at different speeds, and using arms for tendus en croix. Can’t remember exactly how it went, but it may have been the slow tendus en croix, then quick tendus en croix with arms with some plies in there.  During it I kept up really well, and I was glad, though I wish I could remember exactly how it goes so I could practice it at home.

Rond de jambe combination included a passe releve balance on flat after 3 en dehors a terre and 1 en l’air, and then a passe releve (attempt at) balance after the same number en dedans.  From there we were to bring our foot down into sous-sus, then cambre front and back.  I love this kind of stuff, since this is the kind of stuff I practice at home. It’s great to actually get to do stuff like this in class and get corrected on possible ways I’m doing it wrong and stuff.  Ok, that and I love having an enormous mirror to watch  myself sort of doing ballet in right in front of me.  If I had mirrors like that at home I’d be so motivated to practice every single day even more than now. Anyway, it was a nice combination.

During the barre stretch and foot in hand stretch part of class I didn’t have to worry that I was showing off by keeping my leg up, as there was this really advanced male dancer took class with us, and there his is one barre over with his foot up over his head. It was pretty cool to watch him do barre though, so flexible and graceful.

We used arms for our grand battements en croix, which made it funner – and of course, more challenging.  Muscle memory is nice to have though, and using arms is something I’ve gotten used to by now.  When demonstrating, Teacher told us where the leg goes relative to the arm when doing grand battement a la second, and I think she said behind but now I’m not  so sure and I wish I’d written it down faster.  Behind is  where I do them to anyway, but it’s nice to know if you’re doing it right.  Some teacher had said it didn’t matter whether it went behind or in front, and that had seemed odd. Like, rarely in ballet is something just left up to where ever the dancer feels like it, I had thought, but maybe I’m wrong…

During pirouettes, Teacher identified the reason for my crappy pirouettes (though ok quarter and half pirouettes): I was not spotting at the end.  She said I start out spotting ok, but then lose it – which was news to me, as I didn’t even realize I’d been managing to spot at all.  Spotting almost makes sense when doing across the floor turns, like chaines or piques, but for stationary turns I just can’t seem to get the hang of how to spot. Does this mean that when doing across the floor turns I wasn’t really spotting? Was I just pretending to spot?  So confusing, though I’m sure I’ll have fun figuring it out.

We did the full pirouettes from 4th instead of fifth, which used to feel easier in the past. By now we’ve done so many from fifth that they’re both feeling around the same difficulty. I haven’t practiced my passe releves from 4th in a while, now that I think about it…

Ballet running practice was next.This time we ran with our arms in third, which is a million times less awkward for me than with arms in second for obvious reasons.  I’m pretty sure that did not have any effect on my ballet running though, as it remains terrible. It looks so pretty when done right, and there’s a couple classmates who’ve really got it down.  This one lady in particular is so entertaining to watch do pretty much anything (I’ve mentioned her before as the lady with the perfect attitude derriere), but especially her running and grand jetes. She is amazing.

Sautes went much better than last class. I caught myself starting to speed up the tempo, and forced myself to slow it down.  Working on taking each individual jump at at time, just focusing on pointing those feet, landing with the feet in something at least resembling the position they’re supposed to be in. All this stuff that i could be focusing on, instead of just getting high off the floor as many times as quick as possible.  If I keep it up I’m sure my body will eventually figure out what we’re doing here…

On another, sort-of-related  note, I’ve been working more on my toes, trying to activate all the muscles that spread the toes out, or stretch them out.  I’ve been thinking of taking before nd after pictures of what happens, to see if there’s any improvement.  Maybe see if any improvement in my ablity to stretch out my toes results in an improvement in my dancing. So we’ll see if I get around to that anytime soon…

Thursday: Ugh, What A Day…

Don’t worry – there is a happy ending (ballet class) in there…

Day started off like any other (recent) Thursday: I got up early, packed up my school stuff, ballet bag, and food for the day, and headed off for my long day at school.  I get there, and there is absolutely no parking, as apparently there’s some kind of event going on at the school. Had to park clear across the street on the opposite side of campus as any of my classes in the overflow parking lot – how annoying.  Go to my morning class without incident, and I’m back in my car having lunch when it starts to rain.  Did I mention that I have no umbrella, raincoat, or even a plastic bag to hold over my head in the car? (Well, I had my ballet bag, but the point was not to get my ballet gear wet.)  By this point I’m more than a little irritated…

So I start my long trek to my second class of the day, and I’m trying to walk at a brisk pace to minimize the level of soaked that I’m getting (though I think I remember reading somewhere that if you run in the rain you get wetter than if you had walked the same distance. Well, either way, it was cold, and I didn’t want to linger outside for too long.).  I don’t know exactly how what happened next happened – one second I was walking quickly along, the next I’m flying through the air.  The good news is I didn’t land on my knees, or sprain an ankle. The bad news is than I found myself on my derriere in a shallow puddle.

(It’s ok, go ahead and laugh.  I’d be laughing too if it hadn’t been so embarassing (which is probably why it’s funny.)

I got up as quick as I could manage, without slipping and falling again.  Now besides my entire hood and front of my sweater being soaked, so was the back of my pants. Goody. Trying to preserve whatever was left of my dignity – and so grateful that I hadn’t worn even more light-colored pants – I walked (at least I wasn’t limping) slowly to the nearest restroom. Washed off my hands and spent about 15 minutes drying off my clothes under  the warm air hand dryer (and it worked! Best idea ever.).

A few hours later came ballet class. Well, after another soaking by the rain on the way back to the car, which was still parked across the street on the other side of campus. By this point my behind felt a little sore, but I chalked it off to the cold, and since I could walk normally I went to class. (Besides, Teacher had spotted me earlier, so ditching was not really an option.  And I didn’t want to go to class just to observe.)

We started barre and my body felt fine, no soreness or any stiffness out of the ordinary.

For tendus we used arms (yay!), 1slow with articulation, 2 regular speed en croix. I love it when we use arms!

After 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 twice, we immediately went into lots of releves and eleves, then echappes without really having an opportunity to rest. I wasn’t tired from my calves, just glad we were facing the barre so there was no pressure to hold a balance. It’s like one of my strong points in dancing is my strength, but my weakest point is my balance.  I’m still using my core but on some days I just can’t find a good balance (at least in first, sous-sus is no big deal.)

We did 3 ronde de jambes a terre and 1 en l’air, then fondue passe balance, second time around with passe releve (attempt at) balance.  I tried letting go of the barre for a couple seconds, but so far my passe releves in center are much better than those at barre.

We worked on frappes again, different combination: 3 frappes, on the thrid one instead of closing back we did 2 piques and then close with a flexed foot to do the next side.  It was fun.  I really enjoy doing piques, and when we do a combination that is not super slow and I still manage to it ok (like the correct foot going to the correct place at the corrrect time kind of stuff, not necessarily that everything was perfect) it is a big ego boost. I really need to focus on what I’ve improved on so that i don’t get discouraged.

After barre stretches and leg swings, the last thing we did at barre was grand battements and 3 changements. Around this time I realized that jumping freaking hurt.

Luckily, Teacher announced that we were going to start off center with the same adagio combination from last class (3 pas de cheval, 2 balancés, tombe, pas de bourre, bring back leg to passe and developpe devant, releve sous-sus, chasse towards the side of the leg in front, repeat other side), and since I (sort of, at first I forgot that the releve sous-sus comes after the developpe) remembered the combination  I got to be in the front line, so people who weren’t there last class could follow. It was a little nerve-wracking, but I managed not not mess up too much.  My timing was a little off, but then, I think we were all off on timing.  It was so much fun though – I love longer combinations, especially when they consist of moves I can do.  A few months ago and before I think that level of combination would have been disastrous, to be honest.

After that we did our 4 quarter turns, 2 half turns and 2 full pirouettes combination.  The quater and half pirouettes continue to be fun – and doable – but the full pirouettes are so hit or miss.  I’m convinced the spotting is a bigger issue here than a stable passe releve, especially since lately I’ve been balancing on passe releve in center for around the time it would take to complete a revolution (though at barre my passe releve balance isn’t doing too well, as I mentioned earlier).  I work on keeping my arms connected to my core, going up in a really high passe releve and it works out fine for the half and quarter turns, but when it comes to doing the full pirouette I overcompensate and end up using too much force.  Some of the times I got all the way around I landed with my legs a little overcrossed, or apart from each other. Definitely something to keep working on, but considering how much more I sucked at pirouettes and passe releves a few months ago, I’ve improved.

Then came the jumping. We did sautes (16), changements (24), echappes and pas de chats.  I had really been planning on focusing more on my technique for my jumping this class, making sure to not speed up towards the end, forcing myself to point my feet, really just work hard.  Unfortunately, due to my fall it was taking all my concentration just to get through them.  With every jump I felt more and more sore.  I was silently praying that Teacher wouldn’t notice me where I was hiding in the back, and i wasn’t jumping up with full power, trying to minimize the impact on the way down.  This may sound really dumb, but at times I was thinking ‘I feel like a real dancer, dancing through the pain (but of course with horrible technique).’ I guess saying that is an insult to dancers… Well, anyway, I made it through.  In hindsight, if I’d known how much it was going to hurt  landing jumps I would have probably not gone to class…

Thankfully, by the time I got out of class it had stopped raining (temporarily), so I managed to crawl in to the car somehow (by now it hurt to lower down to a sitting position).  Drove home, hobbled upstairs (Boyfriend helped me carry my stuff upstairs, how sweet), Boyfriend examined me for bruising or swelling (there was none), rubbed some of that arnica massage oil that I made last year for my sprained ankle all over my lower back and bottom, and  went to sleep.

(And yes, I learned a lesson in all of this: I now have an emergency rain coat and hat in the trunk of the car in case any more situations like this occur.  As for learning to watch where I’m going, I’m still working on it.  But how was I supposed to know it would be extra slippery where I stepped?)

I’m happy to report that I’m feeling much better now, 2 days later.  And in a few hours Boyfriend and I are going to go see a live ballet by a local company.  Can’t wait!

Tuesday Class: Fun Dancing, Bad Feet

Had another fun class. Really love these later weeks of the semester!

New port de bras for plies: arm starts low, goes only to demi-second (that’s what Teacher called it, basically not as high as a la seconde) for two demi plies, arm up to high fifth whle doing eleve,arms out to second and then all the way down for grand plies, repeat in second and in fifth (with cambre towards the barre in a la seconde, cambre devant and derriere in first and fith), tendu to first, then circular cambre, plie, arch stretch, and balance.  I was feeling pleased that I actually remembered all of it even though this is the first time we do this particular combination (at least this semester, and I would have to go through my archives to see if we did it last semester), it means my ability to remember combinations is getting better!

A new thing we did this class was frappes.  We did them en croix which was pretty cool because I think last semester we only did them a la seconde.  We did tendu  a la seconde, bring back the foot flexed, then 4 frappes in each direction. Today I feel like I like frappes, at least these simple ones. I’m still working on the ones that switch or beat at home (and slowly I’m getting the hang of them).  Teacher also demonstrated the pointed foot ones – my first time ever seeing them, though I’d heard of them – though we didn’t try them.

When we did our barre stretches and foot-in-hand stretches, after we had our leg stretched out and up a la seconde, Teacher said to try letting go of the leg and see if you can hold it up there. I let go and the leg just continued to float there (though I did worry that it was looking show-offish) until I controlledly brought it back down.  Don’t know if I’m using the correct muscles to keep it there, but at least some muscles in me are strong.

In center, we started we a new adagio combination: Port de bras, 3 pas de cheval devant (otherwise known to myself as the “fondue-walk”), close to fifth, port de bras to second, 2 balancés, passe back leg to developpe devant while bringing arms up to high fifth, releve sous-sus, and chasse to the side of the back leg while bringing arms down through middle fifth (first?) and ending up with the arms up high in an open position (which I don’t know what it’s called, but I’ll look it up at some point in my copy of Classical Ballet Technique), other side.  It was a really nice combination, beautiful music and simple enough in difficulty that I could really dance instead of worry about what I was next or how am I going to ruin it by not balancing.  Loved it! I always make sure to remember center combinations so I can practice them at home (and eventually get good at them, from repetition alone, as doing a combination only a few weeks at class and then going on to a totally different one does nothing for my improvement) since “real” combinations from class just feel more official than any random stuff I make up – glad to have another one to add to the list!

We practiced pirouettes, first doing 4 one-quarter turns (going up in passe releve and only turning to the side), then 2 half turns (this time facing the back of the room, and then to the front), then 2 full pirouettes.  The good news was that the 1/4 turns were super easy, and the 1/2 turns were almost as easy. As for the whole revolution, I can get around, but not really land cleanly. I don’t think I’ve ever done a clean piroeutte, being honest, though I do get around around 50% of the time.  Also, I’m going up in passe releve like it’s no big deal (which is only a big deal because I was struggling with this so much last semester).  I still haven’t gotten the hang of spotting for pirouettees, as well.

It was not really a good jumping day, just seeming like everything was going wrong.  In regular sautes from first (16 of them), Teacher called out “K, where’s your first?!” (since I have a tendency of landing with my feet slightly separated, nowhere near being second, but not touching together at the ankles either) but at least I was managing to point my feet.  We moved on to changements (also 16) and now my correction was that I wasn’t crossing the feet over enough on landing – and of course foregetting to point my feet.  So then what do I do? I start going faster, which besides throwing me way off tempo, also makes it even more unlikely that I’ll manage to point my feet.  I’d noticed before that my timing for jumps sucks, but this is the first time I’ve made that connection that when I realize I’m doing it wrong I start to do it faster (I think in my head I’m thinking that if I do it faster I’ll get that number of jumps out of the way quicker… go figure).  Now that I’ve actually realized that I hope to be able to work on fixing it, like ‘don’t jump faster, jump better’ or something.

For the next combination (3 echappes and pas de chat, repeat other side, x2) I was trying really hard to watch the timing, while also pointing the feet.  And I was feeling pretty exhausted and out of breath as well.  I’m not completely over my cold yet, after all.

In other exciting news, I made a ballet acquaintance/friend!  Honestly, I’m a little hesitant to say “friend” (when does someone become a friend anyway? Especially if you have trouble making friends, are horribly shy, and more than a little awkward), but what I mean is the girl I shared the barre with and I had a nice ballet-related conversation prior to Teacher’s arrival.  We got into discussing favorite leotards (and I gave her the tip of going to the discount outlet where I’ve gotten most of my stuff), favorite teachers (Strict Teacher is scary, LOL) and just gushing over ballet in general.  It is so cool to actually discuss ballet-related things with someone in person – not that I don’t enjoy writing about and reading about ballet-related stuff on the blogs, of course.  It was nice to meet someone whose been doing ballet about as long as me through the school, made me feel less like I’m a total weirdo. (Seriously, most people who I come across ask questions such as “Ballet? Why are you taking that? You’ve taken it before? Why are you taking it again, did you fail it?” and can’t seem to wrap their heads around the concept of ‘I’m taking it because I like it. And taking it again because (well, besides because I like it) I want to continue to get better. Ballet’s not something that you get good at in a couple months (or even a couple semesters, or years).  And I take it through school because it’s nice to be able to afford it.’ I try to not get too exasperated though, and once in a great while I even meet someone who says “Hey, that’s pretty cool!”)

And in (somewhat less exciting) other news, lately I’ve been feeling quite a bit discouraged.  The reason? My feet.  Though my feet are pretty strong, thanks to all the theraband exercises, my toes are, for lack of a better word, weird.  A few months ago I wrote about how my fingers are either double-jointed or something, giving them the ability to bend crookedly (They say a picture is worth a thousand words…link at the bottom of this post). Unfortunately, my toes seem to have some of the same ability, except there it becomes a problem.  It is extremely hard for me to stretch out my toes without them bending. I can point my feet (especially when doing adagio and at barre), but my toes themselves have a tendency to scruch up.  My second toe is constantly bent, and my fourth toe is halfway under my third toe.  It is possible for me to stretch out my toes manually, but the muscles that should be there to make the toes stretch on their own are very underdeveloped.  I am hopeful that I can work on this by teaching my toes the correct muscle memory to stop being scruched up, but I know that it will take a very long time (if it’s even possible).  And let’s not forget my falling arches (which have gotten better, but still, I’ve had to work so hard to get to this point).  Out of all the hobbies in the world, why did I have to pick the one that my feet are horribly unsuited for?!

(Because ballet is awesome, that’s why)

Well, despite these setbacks there has been progress, so I will continue to ballet on 🙂

Tuesday Class: Sniffle, Sniffle, Plie, Plie

Despite coming down with a monster of a cold over the weekend (which practically had me bed-ridden for a day) that I’m still fighting off, I managed to make i through Tuesday’s class without too much trouble – or coughing or sniffling.   And it was a pretty awesome class, if I do say so myself…

Before our plies we did this exercise facing the barre that we would do in IC: slow tendu (from first), close in plie, slow tendu, flex, point.  I think this was so we could work on our foot articulation especially.  After than we did our plies with full port de bras and cambre front and back, and circular cambre after going through plies in all feet positions.

For the first time in the semester we did our tendus on croix from fifth with arms! It was pretty cool, though the newer students were a bit confused about the arms.  After going through the tendus en croix twice, we balanced in releve sous-sus, my favorite – and most stable – releve balance.  During the combination Teacher came around and said “I want to see you working in fifth, not third. I think you can definitely close in fifth.” It was a good correction, I was like ‘It means she believes in me!’.

(Around this tiime Teacher gave us a lecture on ballet class etiquette: some of my fellow under-the-weather students were leaving the barre mid-combination and then returning also mid-combination (which honestly, surprised me, as in I know better.)  Teacher said “You must wait until the combination is done to return to the barre.”  At this point I realized that I have actually absorbed quite a bit of ballet class etiquette in my 2 years of ballet, and I had a quick reminiscence of how intimidating it is to be a brand new ballet student and not know any of these sometimes unspoken rules.)

Before going on to degages with and without hands on the barre, Teacher had us partner us and do this exercise where our partner holds down our foot by the instep and we’re supposed to “push” their hand off with the force of our degage, to help us to learn to use the strength in our feet. My partner commented/complimented me (well, I’m taking it as a compliment 🙂 ) on my feet and how strong both they are (I guess some people have drastically mismatched feet), though she did say that on the way back in I have to relax my foot so that I have that much power available to me for the next degage.   I was still thinking ‘Yay! My feet are strong!(Thank you, theraband!)’  and this girl is en pointe, so I presume she knows about what’s consdered strong for feet.

The degages themselves felt very stable as far as balancing, even without the barre, and I did try to work on the whole relaxing the foot when coming back in thing. I think I put so much effort on the pointing while in the air part that I tend to forget to relax when the foot makes contact with the foot again.

We did rond de jambes a terre and en l’air with passe releve after each side (like after going en dehors for our rond de jambe en l’air, we closed back to plie and passe releve going up the back of the leg, then bring the foot back down to do rond de jambes en dehors and after that on en l’air whe closed front in plie and passe releve up the front of the leg.)  Something that I’m tryng to work on (since I heard Teacher give this correction to someone else), is making sure the ankle of my supporting foot doesn’t pop up before the working foot, when I passe releve from a plie.  I think I may have gotten this bad habit back about a year and half ago when I first started working on passe releve at home and I barely had the strength to releve on one leg.  Now that I’m much stronger, I can passe releve without a plie (would that be a passe eleve instead?), and keep my working foot’s heel down until the working foot has started going up, but when starting from plie I still subconsciously feel like I need the leverage I guess. I’m working on it…

After a nice long barre stretch, including foot-in-hand stretches and some leg swings we put away the barres for center.

Once again we did our grand battements devant with arms in high fifth and passe releve, then grand battements derriere and passe releve.  The way it was different this time from previous classes was that we didthe same working leg for both devant and derriere before doing the other leg devant and derriere.  It felt a little bit trickier this way. Also, when closing the battements we didn’t stop at tendu but closed all the way to fitth, which also makes it trickier (though I think it also means that I was relying too much on the tendu part).  Overall though, my grand battements in center – yes, even derriere – are absolutely amazing compared to last semester, so I’m feeling pleased about that.

After that, we swiched lines, and I found myself in the front line to do our 4 balancés (with arms), step to arabesque, pas de bourre, other side combination.  We went at a nice slow tempo, so I really enjoyed this combination.  While the arms coordination is really coming along, I’m still mystified by that “lean” to the side that some (I guess, more advanced) people do when doing their balances, the one that makes it look much more ballet-ish.  I think since I can actually do balancés without tipping over it’s something that I should try to start working on…

Chaines went ok. I think I’m starting to form muscle memory about holding my arms up in front of me with my lats, and in turn (pun?) it’s really helping me with my stability.

My sautes were not the best this day. In my defense, I was/am still getting over a cold, and I even told Teacher before class that I may have to end up sitting out the more strenous part of class (but I ended up sticking it out).  I’ve noticed that I actually jump pretty high, but I really have trouble with staying in timing, and of course, pointing my feet.  After  regular sautes in first we did a 4 changements, echappe, 4 changements, echappe combination which was fun (but was I out of breath or what!).  I managed to have the correct foot in front, so that was nice.

After that we worked on ballet running – ugh.  I do NOT enjoy ballet running at all.  It is so hard – like, how do I run while pointing my feet, while slightly bending my back leg (but not the front), while keeping my head at the same level? Not to mention that the whole time my chest is going bounce-bounce-bounce and it’s so awkward with my arms out in second like ‘Hey everyone, look over here at the place where I most definitely want to avoid attracting attention!’. I think ballet running is arguably more awkward than sautes, and I used to think sautes were bad…

We finished up class with 4 chasse gallops (arms in third), ballet run (only for 4 counts though, arms in second) and saut de chat with arms in high fifth.  This was much more enjoyable than just straight ballet running.  I like how I’ve finally figured out how to point my feet while chasse galloping.

Teacher announced that there would be no class on Thursday, so the rest of the week I’ve been on my own practicing.  Since we’ve been working on passe releves quite a bit, both at the barre and in center, I wonder if next week will be when we start doing pirouettes.  Hopefully it will go better than last semester…

Big Ballet, Have You Watched This?

… and if you have, what’d you think?

While searching youtube for ballet a couple days ago (literally typed “ballet” into the search bar), hoping to find something besides my usual favorites, I came across Big Ballet. Curious, I clicked on it and was instantly hooked, ending up watching all three episodes that night.  Now watching it all the episodes through for a second time…

I tried embedding the videos, but for whatever reason it’s not working right now. As I’m much too tired to try to figure it out right now, it’ll have to wait for a later date. But all three episodes are found on youtube.

This is the first I’d heard of there being a reality show about a group of larger amateur dancers who are trained to put on a recital, a short version of Swan Lake. After a  quick online search, I found that apparently not everyone believes this show is a good idea believing that it exploits overweight women.  The women (and there was also men too, though they were not really big in my opinion, though bigger than a typical male dancer, I suppose) in the show looked absolutely thrilled  to be there, so I don’t know about that.

In general, I love this show.  Some of these dancers are really good, and I find it really inspirational to see people with different shapes from the dancer “norm” body (seriously, in the comments for one of the videos someone said something like “But some are not even ‘big’.” and someone replied “Yeah, but in ballet that’s considered too big” or something like that) dancing so beautifully and being trained to perform. They seemed so happy while dancing, too, and several (at least) expressed how it was a dream come true. I hope this doesn’t get taken the wrong way, but watching some of the more allegro sequences I thought ‘if these ladies can jump and turn so well then I have no excuse blaming my poor technique on the weight of my chest.’ I’m amazed at how strong they are!

Another thing I really like is all the shots of people wearing regular clothes doing ballet moves out in public. It’s nice to be reminded that there’s a lot of us ballet amateurs out there, and to see people doing ballet outside of class.  Feels good to know I’m definitely not the only one.

However, I think it would have been nice if the show could have been focused on all amateus who don’t fit the body norm, not just large people (but then I realize they wouldn’t have been able to use the title “Big Ballet”).  While casting, even before the first audition phase I believe, people were turned down for not being big enough, which just seems wrong. The ballet body ideal is so specific that there are many – would be accurate to say most  of the adult population – of us who don’t fit it, despite not being of a BMI higher than 25 or 30 or what ever the cutoff was ( they said sizes 12-22, but I have no idea how that matches up to American clothes sizes). My point is that if there was ever something like this near me – the performing amateur ballet thing, not the reality tv part – I would love to audition, and it’s seriously messed up if I wouldn’t be big enough, though I’m obviously not small enough for ballet either…

At times some of the other people on the show made some pretty insensitive comments (I’m thinking of the ex-Artistic Director specifically), regarding ballet dancers and body type. So discouraging!  Also, I noticed that Wayne Sleep  kept pointing out how they are so talented, but it’s been their size that holds them back. That made it a little bit less releatable for me because besides not having the “right” body type for ballet I also don’t have much talent… but like, those of us without much talent can feel a need to dance too, you know?

(I hope I’m not just horribly missing the point here…)

Criticisms aside, an enjoyable eway to spend a few ballet-related hours!