Ballet Summer: Week 1

Wrapping up the first week of my summer course in ballet.  It has been so awesome! I am so glad that I decided to go for it.

Apparently, Day 1 was a bit of a placement/audition, in order for the teacher (F Teacher) to see where we stand as far as our ballet skills and level.  About half the people I saw the first day vanished by the second day, though F Teacher did say she would be glad to have all of us.  I was so nervous, but the level didn’t seem incredibly impossible-difficult, just challenging.

Second day was a little easier.  The barre combinations seemed more manageable, though they take some getting used to after basically doing the same combinations for months.

For plies, after first and second position, we rond de jambe the leg around to fourth, then tendu close to fifth.  In first and fifth we cambre front and back, in second towards and away from the barre, and in fouth we extend our arm out in arabesque (with the head angle, which looks so ballet-ish!) My grand plies in fourth are pretty terrible (but when I first started ballet I couldn’t do them at all), but F Teacher actually complimented my plies in first.

During rond de jambes en l’air, we let go of the barre and balance with our leg out a la seconde, instead of devant or derriere. That took a little to get used to, but it doesn’t feel more difficult anymore. For now I’m keeping my arm in second while doing the superquick rond de jambes.

We did the kind of fondu when you bend the supporting leg and slide the working foot along the floor (rather than the kind of fondu when you bend the supporting leg and bring the working foot to coupe) then lifted the foot off the floor (I guess a fondu degage?). The next move was releve sous-sus. That took up a lot of my coordination, but by the time we did the second side – after a soutenu turn, no stopping – I started to get the hang of it.

The pianist (yes, there was actually a live pianist!) played something from Swan Lake during our releves and then one-footed releve with foot in coupe combination.  I really like how F Teacher – and Teacher  to some degree – include lots of releves, often followed by balaces on releve at barre. While messing up at these balances is embarrassing to me still, I’m often able to hold them if I just engage all  my muscles even harder and just pull up . This makes me work harder, since I know it’s possible to do it.

There was a nice adagio combination: developpes en croix, coordinating the arm with the leg.  This combination feels pretty, though I feel like I’m still missing a little piece of it.

The grand battement combination was tendu, close fifth in plie, 3 grand battements, en croix, then soutenu and other side, with arms, or course.  I found this combination particularly fun.  I love the feeling of getting my leg up there.  And, I’ll be honest, I like it because it makes me feel like I actually have coordination.

We practiced glissades – lots and lots of glissades – all the way across the studio. I think this came after we completely butchered a combination that had glissades in it.

Day 3

Barre combinations are starting to make better sense to me – and to my body (though I’m still having trouble remembering additional ones to the ones I wrote about yesterday). I really like how we don’t stop between both sides, but do soutenus. We often do soutenus with no hand on the barre, and I’m actually able to do it, which is so cool. I’m also able to let go of the barre for super short periods of time when doing the passe releve and coupe releve balances.  I love how I feel much more stable on releve, especially 1-legged releves, than a few months ago. The things I need to work are my arm placements, particularly arabesque (I know it goes out in front, obviously, but I think I’ve been putting it much too high) and timing when I’m facing the back of the studio and don’t have anyone to follow. I tend to rush things at times, like somehow ending up on my cambre back already when everyone else is still coming up from cambre forward.  Perhaps I need to learn to listen to the music better…

center combinations:

In croisse, two tendus devant with the arm of the supporting leg in high fifth, arm of working leg a la seconde. Arms change to first arabesque and two tendus derriere, arms come to low fifth and body position turns en face, two glissades to the right, plie and passe, plie and passe releve, other side.  This is the kind of combination that, if I’m being honest, I’m simply glad that I’m not falling over. I know I should be concerned about the exact placement of every motion – and I am, trust me -but at the same time I’m just so happy that I’m getting through it. We then did the same combination in degage. The part that was messing me up the most was that with degages the accent is in, as opposed to tendus when the accent is out. My timing was totally screwed up on that, but once again I was glad I was actually balancing on one leg while doing quick movements and keeping the foot en l’air.

The next combination was fondu devant (the slide your foot out kind) en l’air, step out onto the working foot in releve to releve sous-sus,  come down in plie, repeat for a la second and derriere, then coupe back foot and do 2 pas de bourree (one to either side), then other leg.  I love how I didn’t completely destroy this combination. The hardest part was the arms during the pas de bourrees, as my arms kept wanting to do the movements already in muscle memory. Fun combination though.

We then did an across the floor waltz. A few of us did a more beginner version (in plie,brush the foot forward off the ground, take little releve steps, then brush other foot, more little steps) instead of the one with turning this day.

Lots of jumping. First we did 4 sautes, echappes out to second and 4 sautes in second, 4 changements, 2 echappes. Then we did 1 saute, 4 soubresauts, 2 echappes ( the more advanced people we to beat their legs in and the land in second, but just echappes for me), same thing with other foot in front.  The good news was I didn’t feel out of breath and I realized that I know which mucles I have to flex to point the feet (making it more something I’m in control of, instead of random).  The bad news is my timing sucks.

We did passe releve, 4 1/4 pirouettes, 2 1/2 pirouettes, and 4 full pirouettes. Make that, I attempted to do 4 full pirouettes, lol. We then did chaines diagonally across the studio. After that there was a spotting drill to work on our spotting.  If I could get the spotting down I think my pirouettes would improve dramatically, as I don’t seem to be having as much a balance issue in passe releve as before.

Then we did reverance. F Teacher is pretty traditional, and taught that after class we are to thank both the pianist and the teacher. I like it, it feels very much like “real” ballet class.  Finished up class soaked in sweat again – I think this’ll be a daily thing in this class.  I’m also drinking much more water than usual after class, I think I downed a whole liter immediately afterwards.

Thursday, Day 4

I’m not gonna lie – I am so sore! In fact, I gave in and did something I said I’d never do: add protein powder to my fruit smoothie.  My workout-obsessed acquantance swears by it…

After the first day I was feeling like oh, it’s not so bad about my soreness level. But by now it’s had a cummulative effect or something, because I feel sore all over. I really like it though, and it’s been a while since  Beginner Class has left me that sore. Months, at least. So long that I had even forgotten how that level of soreness felt like… anyway, I like that feeling.

Besides being sore though, I think I might also be tired.  It’s been a little over 8 hours of ballet class in the last week – a new record – and my brain is starting to revolt about memorizing combinations. Or communicating that information to my limbs.  A few times at barre I caught  myself forgetting to switch the arms, for example, finding myself tenduing derriere while still having the arm a la seconde.  At times throughout barre I felt like I wasn’t on my “A” Game, I guess. But on the other hand, as this has been my longest streak of daily ballet class, I’ve been noticing improvement in other areas.  My balance while using my working leg off the floor is better than ever.  I’ve been pulling up more (to prevent from losing my balance, obviously), but this has helped me to notice how I wasn’t pulling up as hard as I could before.

During the developpe en croix combination, the second time through F Teacher gave the option of doing it on releve (since we had quite a bit of advanced people this day (including a couple pros), she was giving more advanced options throughout) and I did it! I was feeling pretty good about that one 🙂 The fondu combination immediately preceeding had also had that option but since I was having a hard enough time remembering how it went so I focused on that.  I felt like I had to be able to anticipate what move came next, and if I was concerned with what’s next my releve techinique may suffer. From what I remember, the combination was something like fondu devant, fondue a la seconde, one of those little rond de jambes en l’air (not the kind I’m used to doing),  tendu, fondue a la second, fondu derriere and by that point I’m completely lost (especially the second side when I couldn’t see anyone) and this is one of those times when I forgot to change arms.

I completely screwed up the timing of the grand battement combination again,  but I think now I finally have it clear how many battements we’re doing. It’s tendu out, close in plie, one battement, short pause, then three quick grand battements. The part that was messing me up what whether we change in a la seconde on the tendu. Apparently, under pressure I can’t do simple math to know that it equals five and is therefore an odd number – so switch!  I’m pretty sure by next time I got it, unless we do a different combination.

Center tendu combination (same as yesterday) went a little better. I really like how when I’m in croisse and I tendu devant it actually looks like ballet! Like, my leg and pointed foot make this line that looks just lovely, something that I couldn’t have imagined I could do last year.  Which reminds me, when I complimented a classmate on his flexibility (he’s a gymnast, as well as a dancer) and said that I wished I could do that, he said “You can do anything you put your mind to!”  I like his attitude.

This day we all tried the waltz including the turns and it was much better. F Teacher even said “Yes! You got it!” However, when we put the waltz together with the balancés, my balancés were horrible. I kept overcrossing the back foot.  Somethign I need to work on.

When we did the same pirouette exercise as yesterday, my full pirouettes were better to the left. This one really talented dancer guy did quadruple pirouettes.  I’ve seen that in videos, but let me tell you, in real life it’s crazy!

During petite allegro jumps, I noticed my feet were pointed, but my biggest issue was forgetting the combination.  We went in two groups, one slower (that was me), one one much faster for the more advanced people.  We also did changements while turning in a circle, which looks much harder than it was.  We worked on our assembles, and especially going from glissade to assemble immediately after.

We then went across the floor with saute arabesques and saute coupes.  The girl that was going across with me got cold feet or something and I ended up going alone. I didn’t realize it until I was all the way across the studio, but I was surprised that I didn’t feel anywhere close to as awkward as I would’ve thought I would feel.  I think I have grown so much as a dancer in the last few months to feel this way.

It has been an amazing week!

And now, I would just like to thank all of you that left me encouraging comments when I was deciding whether or not to go for it and take this clas. Thank you all so much! I really appreciate all the support, it means so much to me 🙂

My class note updates are most likely going to be published weekly (though I may post more frequently if I find the time). Besides the fact that class lets out kind of late, and I’m super tired, we’re also in the middle of moving. Things are going to get hectic!

6 thoughts on “Ballet Summer: Week 1

  1. Sarah

    Sounds like you’re having a fantastic (if tiring) time, I’m so glad you’re enjoying it, and getting a real, live, pianist and dancing to exerts of Swan Lake, that’s so lovely, what a treat! Eight hours of ballet in one week and a move on top of that, no wonder your poor muscles are aching!

    1. kit Post author

      It has been pretty fantastic! I never would’ve imagined that we would actually get to dance to such lovely music. Besides the bits from Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, we’ve also had so many other beautiful songs on the piano. It’s been great.
      The moving part is stressful though. I was really hoping that it wouldn’t overlap with my ballet course, but our new apartment wasn’t ready to be rented out on time. The good news is I’m going to set up a mini-dance studio to practice in with a lovely garden view (once the move is done).

      1. Sarah

        Ooooh, Sleeping Beauty as well, I love Tchaikovsky’s music, it’s so inspiring to dance to 🙂 Your own mini-dance studio sounds really cool and with a garden view too! You’ll have to post some piccies once you have it all set up. I have to make do with moving the rug in our living room, at least we don’t have a carpet, thankfully.

      2. kit Post author

        Tchakovski’s music is great! Last night we did an across the floor combination to the Sleeping Beauty waltz and it was so cool!
        The place where we were living has wooden floor but it’s got neighbors directly underneath so I couldn’t practice any jumping. The new place has carpet throughout most of it (boo!), but it’s on the ground floor and has one room with no carpet and a backyard. I immediately jumped on the opportunity of using it for a studio. I’ll definitely post pics when it’s set up, but it’ll be a little while.

    1. kit Post author

      Glissades are pretty fun – and really hard to do quickly under pressure, lol. But for whatever reason chasses are the ones that make me feel like I’m gliding over ice…almost a skating motion…
      Reading about dance is pretty fun though 🙂


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