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 🙂


10 thoughts on “Tuesday Class: Fun Dancing, Bad Feet

  1. Ilde

    I’m really impressed at you being able to hold the leg up during that stretch (we call it “shouldering” the leg, dunno why), cos I find it damn near impossible!

    Just as a pas de chat is “step of a cat” – and isn’t it just! – a pas de cheval is “step of a horse”… so you can imagine a horse making that little leg movement when prancing.

    About your toes and arch… try this theraband exercise (or a towel or t-shirt): put it flat on the floor, stretching lengthways in front of you. Now put your one foot flat on it, like you’re stepping on it. Now try to almost splay your toes, like you would with your hands, and try to imagine the arch of your foot and your toes all flat on the floor (again, like a flat palm). Now, you kind of grip the band with your toes and pull it closer without lifting your heel, focusing on contracting the arches. Rearrange the bit of band you’ve pulled closer behind the foot, and pull another piece towards you. If you want, you can put a weight at the end to pull closer, like tinned food can or a book or two, on a tiled or wooden floor. Hope this makes sense! If you don’t know the exercise already, that is.

    Good luck!

    1. kit Post author

      Ooohh, I like that exercise! I’ve heard of it – and even done it a few times – but mostly I concertrate on the point-and-flex theraband exercises (and the ankle inversions and eversion). I’ll start doing this one more often though and hopefully it will help.
      I think the problem starts because even when I’m just trying to splay the toes out (even without any resistance) they don’t want to cooperate. I have been able to get them to stretch out – so I know it IS possible – but by default they don’t want to stretch out.
      Pas de cheval, LOL,I haven’t been around horses very much, so I don’t know whether they do a similar move, but if done wrong the move reminds me of something an animal (like a bull) would do right before charging. I always get a picture in my head of a hoof being stretched out and scraped across the ground. Like I said, if done wrong…
      I’m pretty proud of being able to hold that leg extension, too 🙂

  2. Sarah

    Congrats on making a ballet friend 🙂 It’s so nice when there’s someone to chat to at class. I’ve been very chatty lately at both my ballet schools, it definitely makes the class feel less intimidating when people actually talk to each other instead of there being the usual panicked silence. Saying that though, there’s a new girl in my class who comes and stands by me and smirks when I ask questions or when I’m struggling, I’m not sure if it’s a nasty smirk or an encouraging smile, as I got terrible cramp in my foot at my last class and she smiled at me, so maybe I’m mis-interpreting her smirks. Ahh, the convoluted thinking of an introvert!

    Anyway, do your bendy toes not make for a more nicely pointed foot though because your toes will bend to make your foot look more arched and rounded, if you see what I mean? I have awful feet for ballet, really long big and second toes, and when my leg is fully extended my big toe curls upwards, almost like it’s pointing at something! So even when my foot is pointed, it looks like it’s not, which really annoys me, it’s down to wearing shoes that have an upward curve at the toe, which apparently causes shortened tendons in the big toe. I’ve tried exercises to stretch out and lengthen the tendon again, but to no avail. It really ruins how my foot looks, as my arches (according to my teacher) are ‘really good’, but these errant toes just will not do my bidding!

    1. kit Post author

      I so hear you on the convoluted thinking of an introvert RE smiling vs smirking. I have the hardest time differentiating between the two when directed at me! There’s been so many times when I’ve thought ‘So-and-so doesn’t seem to like me very much’ and then once the ice was broken we actually got along or they were very nice. I think I have a bit of trouble understanding social cues – and I’m terrified of eye contact unless I’m comfortable with the person – so it doesn’t help the matter at all.
      Actually, my big toes do that pointing up thing as well. That’s my source of frustration with my feet: when I point they do point nicely (at least my big toes) but when I’m not actively pointing they seem to always be bent back upwards. I think it ruins the look of some of the flexed foot moves (like frappes), because other people seem to have a foot that goes straight across when they’re not pointing and my big toes look like they’re pointing up rather than straight out. Hopefully I described it well… But when they are pointing they look ok (at least inside my ballet slippers), even though I also don’t have the nice high instep. I blame the toe scruch on wearing shoes that were too big for me and my tendency of drawing my toes in instead of stretching them out. I have committed to doing some exercises to work on my feet from now on. I should probably take some before and after pictures (if I dare, because I find my toes quite ugly)…

  3. Joyce

    Feel free to ignore this advice if it is stupid and unhelpful, but have you tried counting the “ands” in the counts for the small jumps? I feel that sometimes people (including me) don’t plie on the “and” properly and wind up late.

    For your toes, have you tried isolating them in your Theraband exercises? Keeping your foot in a demi, just point ONLY with your toes trying to keep them as long as possible without crunching. Pull only the toes back towards you, rinse, repeat forever. I also practice spreading my toes, wiggling / picking them up one by one, picking objects up with them, etc. My toes have become rather strong and articulate…even though still freakishly long.

    1. kit Post author

      Actually, I haven’t tried that yet – and I will try to do that when I have class later today. When we’re going to do jumps I tend to freak out (on the inside of course) and unfortunately a lot of things I should already know fly out the window. I do know to plie in preparation for the first jump, so at that point it’s ok, but once we get past the first few jumps is when it goes horribly wrong. Now that I realized that I was speeding up towards the end I am going to start working on not doing that (easier said than done).
      With my Theraband I do that exercise but I think my toes tend to scrunch up. To be fair, I use the strongest theraband I could get my hands on, because it seemed like a good idea at the time. However, last night after writing this post I tried doing that very same exercise but without the theraband and I think it may do me some good. My toes are not yet used to the motion without scruching up, so I need to start on low (or no) resistance and work my way up. I definitely need to try wiggling them and picking them up one by one, it sounds like that will help. As for picking up objects (and pinching loved ones, LOL) I’ve been doing that with my toes since I was a little girl!

  4. asher

    I like the idea of doing partial-turn pirouette exercises. In the long run, that will probably help you execute clean, precise turns, since it requires control. l just fully got clean turns-from-5ther back after developing a habit of hopping out. What did it for me, oddly enough, was watching -The Turning Pointe.- There’s some really good footage of Baryshnikov turning, and I find it helpful to picture that when practicing turns.

    Great news about making a ballet acquaintance! (l know what you mean about the word “friend.” l have trouble gauging that, too!) I’ll ask Denis about your toes next time I pester him with ballet-related physical therapy questions! Maybe there are different muscles you can strengthen to combat that specific flavor of hypermobility. He might know.

    Congrats on your extensions, too! That doesn’t sound show-offy to me- just like you’ve discovered one of your strengths as a dancer!

    1. kit Post author

      I’ve heard good things about The Turning Pointe, but I haven’t been able to get my hands on it yet. Baryshnikov is awesome though, from what ever footage I have seem of him. Agree about the 1/4 turns helping with the control, especially when we have the tendency to use way too much wind-up before the turn.
      I’m interested in what Denis has to say about that. It must be so cool having a physical therapist around to pester with questions!
      Thanks! After being so inflexible for most my life I’m feeling proud of my sustained extensions. It feels good knowing I have at least one strength as a dancer, LOL.

      1. asher

        Wow, this is so weird! I watched The Turning Pointe on some streaming video service, and now I can’t find it. Very weird! I was hoping I could be all like, “Oh, it’s on this place over here!” but I can’t. Alas!

      2. kit Post author

        Well, there’s always hope it will resurface, right? I’ll keep an eye out for it though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s