Monthly Archives: July 2015

Week 6: Short But Sweet

Short week, only 2 days of class. It was a great couple of days!

We had a nicely challenging barre, lots of work on releve and  pretty quick combinations.

The plies combination included 2 grand plies with port de bras, which are really fun to do.  The hardest part of the plies combination is remembering the little changes from one day to the next that F Teacher gives us. For example, one day we may start in second, then go to first, then fourth then fifth. A different day we’ll start in first, then go a la second, fourth with working leg in front, fourth with working leg behind, then fifth.  Sometimes we only cambre forward, sometimes forward and back, or to the barre only and not away from the barre.  I like it because it keeps me from just going into autopilot, keeps me on my toes you might say, lol.

Four count port de bras with four degages en croix easier than eight count, I found out.  When we do it with eight counts I tend to either rush the arm or do it in little bursts as opposed to a smooth fluid movement.  I will definitely be working on this at home during my upcoming free time. As for the rond de jambes with 1 slow port de bras, we went a little slower and I actually did my rond de jambes to the correct side. I also noticed that when doing them en dehors the arm also moves en dehors, and when we do them en dedans and the arm is reversed the arm goes en dedans. This is probably a “Duh!” movement, but I feeli like it made so much more sense once I realized that.

I also really enjoy all the temps lie combinations we do. We’ll temps lie forward (sometimes closing the back leg, other times not), then back, then a la seconde, then reverse. But first we’ll do it at a nice slow tempo and it feels so pretty, then at a faster tempo (this is harder).  Then we’ll do the same thing but instead of with tendus it’ll be with degages. This means that when we go a la seconde it’s a quick weight shift to balancing on one foot.  But you know what, I’ve actually gotten way better at this than I thought was possible.

After doing the combinations the whole way through both sides on flat, we had the option of releve for fondues and passe releve and developpe combinations.  For fondues it was just fondues en croix with arms, and the releve part was no big deal. The developpe combination on releve was a little more challenging.  We would do a developpe with arms on releve, then stay on releve for 2 grand battements, en croix.  While I have done a grand battement that goes up to releve before, I’d never tried to do them while already on releve.  I was a little nervous, but I’d already decided that I was going to try the more advanced combinations, so I went for it. It was a different feeling, though not as hard as I had thought it would be.  When we did the combination on flat, F Teacher had been telling us about how when you grand battement you’re supposed to have a feeling of pushing the floor with your working foot, that way the correct muscles are used to get the leg up. Well, it’s definitely harder to get the feeling of pushing the floor when you’re already on releve and the foot loses contact with the ground a lot sooner! It was a really fun combination though.

I do a bad job of remembering exactly which ones did what, but all of our combinations ended in a releve balance.  After 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1, or whatever more difficult variant of it, it’s usually a balance in releve in first.  Then we go on to balancing in sous-sus, then coupe releve and finally passe releve.  I’m still working on letting go of the barre for short periods of time on the one-legged balances, and I almost got my second arm in middle fifth once or twice.  Ok, to be honest, the closest I came to death-gripping the barre – though not as bad as me trying to do tendus in my second week of class ever – was towards the end of that grand battements on releve combination.  It wasn’t just the releve aspect of it, but the speed as well.  That’s my excuse…

Center was fun.  We didn’t do any adagio this week (boo!), but we did work on the combination we’ve been doing throughout the term in different tempos.  The faster it gets the sloppier, but I’ve been able to more or less keep up.  I really liked how we went right from the right side to the left without stopping.  The combination had a pirouette en dehors from fourth and I actually got around enough to get the correct foot in back.  I definitely prefer my pirouettes from fourth than from fifth.

We also worked once again on the 1/4 turns, 1/2 turns, passe releve balance, and full pirouette, all from fifth. Yeah, my pirouettes from fifth still need work…

Across the floor we did 4 soutenus, 4 pique turns, and 4 chaines.  Of all of these turns, the newest  to me are soutenus – prior to these last few weeks I’d only done soutenus at the barre to change sides.  I feel like my soutenus across the floor are somewhat hesitant and slow, but when we do the piques i feel like I’m flying. I really enjoy pique turns! Something I need to work on though is facing the correct angle when I do my chasse to first arabeque finish.

We also went across the floor with the waltz step that turns, then 2 balances, and some soutenus.  If this combination was slower I feel like I would find it so pretty, but as it is I struggle to waltz quick enough. The pianist played the Sleeping Beauty waltz though, so it was quite pretty.  I also noticed that the reason I waltz so slowly is because I turn too early in the sequence of steps. Another thing I’ll be working on…

Sautes are rough, still.  I think the hardest part for me is to jump quickly with not compromising technique.  I so would rather just jump higher and slower, but the quick little jumps ar a mystery to me.  I’ve improved so much though, so I’m just going to practice more, and when I least expect it I might find myself doing it right. I hope.  While glissade-jete is making more sense, I haven’t yet figured out how the arms for it go. Last, but not least, F Teacher had us working on royales. It beats to the front and then changes once.  Seems more manageable than entrechat for sure. It’s funny how I can do all these beated jumps on the Reformer, but upright I just get scared of gravity. Perhaps I should try on a trampoline and cheat a little bit…

Class ended with an exceptionally long and lovely reverance.  I seriously love reverance, it’s one of my favorite parts of class (along with pretty much all of barre, and most of center. Except sautes, and petite allegro…). Oh, but I don’t like the fact that it means that class is over, that’s for sure.

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End Of Week 5: Some Improvement And A Whole Lot Of Sloppyness

This week I feel like I caught little glimpses of improvement in between all the stuff I keep messing up on.  It was nice to have little reminders of progress. I had fun during classes, though honestly I am feeling a tiny bit burned out at attending class, specially the same level, that often. I really miss taking a beginner class and getting to work on technique obsessively. But there’s only one more week and I know I’m going to miss going to class, and there will be a month or so until the next semester starts. Speaking of which, it looks like due to scheduling conflicts I won’t be able to take a beginner class, just intermediate, at least through my regular school. I really miss beginner class… though I do love the more complex stuff we work on in this class.

At barre, while I have the general idea of how our new barre combinations go, I still haven’t got any of them down yet. As in, I mess up each one, except perhaps plies and the slowest tendus. Plies have been really fun actually. Specially with the new pretty port de bras we’ve been doing. The faster combinations are not always  a disaster, but  things like closing fifth instead of first, or bringing the arm in through middle fifth instead of going from high fifth right to a la seconde.

But then, we’ve been doing stuff to work on arm-leg coordination and that’s hard! Stuff like taking 8 counts to bring the arm up to high fifth while doing 8 degages devant,and then en croix, taking 8 counts per side to do the arm. Devants ok, but when we do a la seconde we’re supposed to switch (we’re doing them from 5th, not 1st) and that makes it so much more challenging. Reversing it is a mess…

It’s a similar thing with doing the 4 rond de jambes while doing only 1 port de bras. Sometimes I get so confused that I do my rond de jambes to the wrong side.  I get confused because we start the rond de jambes from a tendu a la seconde not first or fifth. And apparently in a split second my brain can’t decide on which direction to send the leg while also trying to do the slow arm. One day I think I accidentally did both sets of rond de jambes en dehors, except I managed to realize it on the last one.

Center has been pretty fun, though if the tempo during average combination was slower it’d be great. Once I actually feel like I kind of know how the combination goes the faster speed is ok, but I’m only that certain about one or two combinations. When the faster group goes though it’s fun to do the combinations in the back and then get to do the slower version and then it feels so much easier than before.

We did an adagio combination with 4 counts ballet walking starting in B+, then pretty port de bras, grand plie, developpe devant and a la second, 2 pas de bourre (right and left), developpe derriere, close in fifth and pirouette en dehors from fifth. And possibly one more step that I’m forgetting… possibly a promenade? I do remember that there are promenades (with working leg either in coupe or attitude derriere), i think en dehors but I can’t remember for certain, in at least one of the combinations we do. I’ve gotten better at them, and once in a while I might actually get almost all the way around.  My arms were absolutely terrible while doing it though.

When we did the left side of this combination immediately after the right (2 tendus devant croisse, arms switch to efface and ecarte, tendu back into a fondu, change facing to the back, 2 pique turns and a soutenu, a form of pas de bourre that crosses over and then under to the other side, bring the back foot to the front through coupe, 2 glissades and chasse to finish in first arabesque) I actually didn’t get thrown off. Of course I messed it up after the soutenu the first time around to the right. Like, I just blanked out about what move came next. I made myself remember the next few times though. I also get confused by all these different types of pas de bourres!

The petite allegro with glissades and jetes felt much smoother towards the end of the week. Like it’s finally starting to become muscle memory after weeks of trying to do them. But I did feel like I was able to do it a little faster, and not fall behind as much. The combination also had soubresauts towards the front and – unfortunately, lol – assembles. Definitely my least favorite jump in ballet this far…

The ballote and saute arabesque across the floor is still most likely hilarious to look at.  I feel completely ridiculous when doing this, and have decided to record myself next time I practice so I can have a rough idea of how bad it looks. And perhaps, give me ideas of what to fix.

Going across the floor diagonally did not go so well this week. We did across the floor 4 soutenus, 4 pique turns, 4 chaines, and chasse to arabesque to finish. The hardest part for me is being distracted by worrying about crashing into someone or someone crashing into me. And the faster I try to turn the more sloppy my turns get, I think.  But otherwise, it was fun. I like combining different kinds of turns, though sometimes I do get confused. Before that we were just doing soutenus across the floor, and I was accidentally doing pique turns instead. I caught myself after only two or three turns, but it was still pretty awkward, like in a people-had-noticed kind of way.

Also, when the saute arabesque, saute coupe combination became more complicated, now to include switching arms to 2nd arabesque at some point, as well as some counts of ballet running mixed in there… I got totally lost. But just kept moving, hoping for the best. I actually like saute arabesque-saute coupe, I just wasn’t able to remember how this new combination went, at which point we switch, etc.  We had a pretty full class this one day and I felt crowded out, so it was harder to mark it. Yeah, that’s my excuse…

At some point F Teacher mentioned that the combinations we work on in class are somewhere in a level 3 or 4 (out of 6 I think?) from the syllabus she teaches at her other studio where she teaches. So that’s pretty cool, doing work that is somewhere out towards the middle of the spectrum. Of course, I’m not saying that I’m actually doing the work – specially center, but barre as well – at a high level, but I’ve noticed so much improvement in my dancing. Also, I’m not discouraged by center because I was thinking about it the other day, and for the first year almost since I started ballet I never practiced center, only “barre”.  So, it would make sense that I would be better at barre than center. I also know that when I first started practicing center it was so awful compared to what was I was doing at barre, but I’ve gotten so much better. And I feel so graceful just randomly chasseing into first arabesque on impulse at home…

Memories and Gratitude

Wow, I realized earlier today that it’s been exactly one year since I sprained my ankle – time flew!

It was my left ankle, and it healed good as new.  That was a couple of very sad ballet-free weeks last summer though.  I remember I was extra sad because I had been working on echappe-releves and I was getting the hang of it.  And seeing my foot all swollen and weak, I wondered how long it would be before I could try stuff like that again (answer: a little over a month, to be safe).  I worried about losing overall leg strength, too. Floor barre to the rescue!

Luckily, that fall I met Teacher, who taught us all foot and ankle strengthening exercises with the Theraband.  Now I often forget that I ever even sprained that ankle!

And every day I remember to be grateful for my mobility 🙂

Read about how the sprained ankle happened at:

https://balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/07/22/i-fell-down-the-stairs/

Also, I wrote a private post (for anonimity), and could really use some thoughts and/or advice. After all, no one I know in “real life” shares my ballet obsession!  The post can be found at

https://balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2015/07/22/when-opportunity-knocks/

The password is the same as the password of my last private post, for those of you that have emailed me before.  For the rest of you (or if you forgot, lol), you can email me at balletandorbust@inbox.com for the password. Please provide your location; country, or state if in the US, unless you’re a fellow blogger.

Beginning Of Week 5: Still Struggling With Speed

For the first time in what seems like forever – but actually just several weeks – I had a ballet practice session at home (my first at out new place!). Since I haven’t had the opportunity to go to a  basic-beginner level class in over a month it was a nice change of pace. Breaking down each movement to a manageable (for me) speed definitely helps me feel less frustrated. I love taking the time to focus on what I’ve improved on or how much stronger I’ve gotten, than focusing on how very far I am from actually being somewhat good at ballet. My plies are deeper now as well, which was a nice surprise. I can’t wait until I have my little private studio set up!

Class continues having it’s ups and downs, as we begin week 5.  At barre, I took a couple of the more advanced options available. One of them was to do the slow port de bras while doing 4 quick rond de jambes (instead of just leaving the arm a la seconde).  I’m not saying I did it correctly – in fact, I was corrected on my leg not going all the way around – but I’m trying to step a little out of my comfort zone.  Hey, it’s better than being thrown out of the comfort zone in center! I also did the releve option for this passe and developpe combination we did (passe devant, bring it down the back, passe derriere, bring it down the front, developpe devant with arms, bring leg around to a la seconde, touch foot to passe both devant and derriere, close front, tendu close back, and reverse the whole thing) and I liked how strong I felt going up in all those 1-legged releves..

We had this center combination with grand battements and pirouettes both en dehors and en dedans.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again: pirouettes en dedans feel so much more “natural” to me than en dehors.  When we do en dehors (both from fifth or fourth, though from fourth is a little easier)  I feel off balance or afraid of falling or something. But when we do en dedans, I feel like I can go into it with no fear at all.  Not surprisingly, since I go into them fearless I actually make it all the way around and land with the correct foot in back.  At home, since I finally made some time – and some room – to practice, I was actually doing somewhat cleanish pirouettes from fourth en dedans, one after another (I had to make sure it wasn’t a fluke). Are en dehors pirouettes considered easier, or is there another reason why they are taught first, I wonder… or is this just part of how my body and I seem to learn everything backwards?!

We did chaines across the floor, but a big difference was that we were doing them in timing.  Fondu and prepare on count one, chaines across up to count 6, finish in chasse to first arabesque on count 8, and be ready to do the whole thing again.  Since I start messing up when I try to chaines very quickly, it was hard to keep up. It was a lot of fun though. I definitely enjoy the feeling of turning more than jumping. Well, leaping across the floor or jumps that involve traveling are really fun, but just jumping up and down, not so fun… possibly because I’m not very good at that.

When we do our sautes, F Teacher has us split up into two groups, the guys and the ladies.  Why is it that the way the guys do it (slower tempo, higher height) is so much easier for me than the women’s version?  I mean,  when I jump at a slower tempo I get to really focus on pointing my feet, and getting my heels down, landing in a deep pile, all that good stuff.  And in order to feel like I really point my feet I kind of like to jump high (so I won’t stub my toes on the floor?). But the women’s version is much quicker, which then translates to sloppy jumps for me. F Teacher corrected me, saying that we’re not going for height, but quickness. But when I try to not jump as high I have a difficulty pointing my feet. On top of that, I land somewhat clunky.  I guess it’s time for a lot more practicing…

Glissade and jete are not hard, just much too quick the way we do them in class. I can do them… about 4 times slower than we’re supposed to.  Now that I’m getting some time and space (space-time?) to practice at home I will be working on increasing the speed a bit more.

A new thing we did was ballotte.  And it was, in a word, hard.  I’d never tried to do this before, and mostly I was glad that I wasn’t falling over! Though I’m sure that I looked even more ridiculous than I felt, lol. We went across the floor doing this, and the music was so fast!  There was a more advanced version that combined saute arabesque with the ballottes.  Though it was difficult, I feel like it’s the kind of thing that will improve with practice.

We were all having so much fun that class went over the scheduled time. Not that I was complaining – I love having an enormous studio to dance in!

Week 4: In The In-Between Stage

Have you ever had that awkward moment in class when the teacher says something is “for the more advanced students” or “not for the more beginning students” and you have no idea if it applies to you? Like, should you try anyway, even if you think that if you do actually do it, it will be super sloppy? Should you only avoid trying something (instead taking the easier option) only if to try it would be to risk serious injury?

More and more I find myself truly not knowing in what category to place myself.  I mean, there’s been stuff that I feel for sure I could do, like fondus on releve en croix, that I’ve gone ahead and done even though it was the harder option. Or using the arms when doing a tendu combination.  And in center, obviously I’m not going to try the doing a cabriolet mid-combination, or entrechats or royales.

Today in center, F Teacher gave me the choice of which group I wanted to go in, the easier version or the harder.  The harder group went first and while it was all steps I know how to do, it was much too fast and I got lost about halfway through the combination (though I did remember the tip I read a while back on someone’s blog – no idea who, so if it’s yours, let me know so I can give you credit 🙂 – that as long as you get the last step right it looks less horrible. Or something like that. At least I ended with the correct foot in front, I guess.

Then I went with the easier group.  And it was, in fact, much easier. It was nice to not be guessing about the next step – though when we did the left side I did momentarily forget what was next..  It seems to me that a big part of the problem is that I just can’t seem to memorize combinations. Short and basic ones, sure, but anything involving more than 6 steps or so, not. And it sucks. I mean, the harder combination was so fun! There was even a pirouette en dedans from fourth – my favorite kind of pirouette (and the only kind in which I can get all the way around and end with the correct foot in front). I wish I could remember the whole combination, so I could practice it and make it better, but if I remembered it I would have probably been dancing it better.

Anyway, I don’t know if this means the more advanced versions are not for me.  Afterwards, we did a saute arabesque, saute passe, saute arabesque, saute passe, run in a small circle (whatever this is called), saute arabesque, alternate legs after running again to a daute arabesque on the other leg, glissade, 4 brises or assembles (yes, assemble was the “easier” version), pas de chat, other side combination.  It was pretty fun, but as I’ve mentioned in other posts, my assembles are not very assemble-y and my arm transitions from middle fifth to arabesque need work. The more advanced people did cabriolets. I think I’m a long way from doing that…

At barre, we’ve been doing a lot of work from a plie position, like tendu and close in plie, they stay in plie for two more tendues.  We’ve been doing more stuff on releve, as well. The frappes have gotten ridiculously fast, and we’re switching it up, like instead of en croix we do three front, three back, en croix, then four  a la seconde, then reverse.  It’s so hard to not get lost, and thinking about which one is next while also actually doing frappes instead of just swinging your foot at the ground is a huge challenge.

F Teacher also worked with us on the concept of it being a dynamic movement, to try to project energy out through your fingertips when doing arabesque arm, that kind of thing.  Honestly, it’s something that I struggle with. If I had to summarize it in my own words, I would say to do the moves like you mean it , not like you’re just marking the combination or, in my case, like you feel like an impostor in ballet class.  I think I have a fear that I’m taking myself too seriously and that if I really try to do it I will look ridiculous.  But it’s something that I need to work on, I just don’t know where to begin.

Overall, I think the level of combinations in class (so far, there’s still a couple weeks left) is a good fit for me, though I don’t really know where I fit in the whole scheme of things. Beginner or beginning-intermediate/ beginner 2?  And everyone in this class has extensions of at least 90°, which is intimidating, just a bit.  I’ve been stretching my butt off, but the discrepancy between my flexibility in my right leg and left leg seems to increase daily… At least by this point I’m not really feeling like ‘why am i even in this class’, which is a good sign. I’m feeling more like ‘I’m not very good at ballet, but this is still probably the funnest summer I’ve ever had’. And yes, I know that “funnest” is probably not a real word…

I Guess Home Is Where You Hang Your Tights…

Doing dancer-laundry did not feel like a chore, compared to the drudgey of moving...

Doing dancer-laundry did not feel like a chore, compared to the drudgery of moving…

Finally, today I felt like I took the day off, doing no moving-related things at all. Could that be why I felt like I had a good class, despite at times floundering about in center?

We did this cool new thing at barre, which I was not able to catch the name of, but it basically went like this. Do 4 rond de jambes while doing a promenade, turning a quarter turn every rond de jambe. When F Teacher had this girl demonstrate what we were about to do, my jaw dropped, just a little. It looks so intimidating! So when we did the combination, when we did the first side I just took the option of doing 4 regular rond de jambes. But when we did the second side, F Teacher happened to be right near by, and I kinda felt like I had to just do it . So I sort of did, having no idea how I was supposed to do this.  I actually made it around, I can’t believe it!

Center was hard. We did a more contemporary piece and the speed was really getting me. There were a couple slower moments, when we did stuff like passe releve balance, or grand battements on releve that were fun even, but the quick parts were not very good. I loved the music though, but it was hard to really just dance instead of worrying about keeping up. Can’t believe I consider a passe releve balance (from fourth, to then come into releve sous-sus) an easier part of the combination. I guess it just goes to show that a move that was once considered impossible and some point becomes do-able.

Overall, I felt I had a good class. Been going over the new center combination a little, trying to work off my post-class hyperness/adrenaline rush. At a much slower tempo, of course…