Just Going For A Promenade…

Ahhh, promenades… First, of all, I really like the word “promenade”, saying it out loud or in my head. Like, prome-nahhhde, not prome-naid like lemonade (and if you never, ever saw the word “promenade” and thought it was pronounced promen-aid (yes, this was long, long ago, definitely in my pre-ballet days), you’re clearly much more sophisticated than I).

Now, actually doing the ballet step, that’s much harder. And my classes at New Studio include a lot of promenades, both at the barre and in center. Sometimes, in center, I almost get all the way around, but that’s with the working leg in attitude or coupe.  The other day in class we did this combination with promenades with the leg in arabesque – actually, started from developpe a la seconde, then bring the leg back to arabesque – and I just could not get around. Ok, who are we kidding – I couldn’t even get a quarter of the way around.

My balance while moving (dynamic balance, I guess, as opposed to static?) with my leg outstretched is not coming to me so easily. When we do promenades with the leg in coupe or attitude I think I make it around – or at least halfway – through sheer willpower. It’s hard! Much easier to just walk (which is what promenade means, to walk, just in case you didn’t know…).

Then the oddest thing happened in class the other day: We had just finished a center combination (in croisse: tendus, rond de jambe, pirouette en dehors from fourth, pas de chat, assemble, en face: tendus (same working leg), rond de jambe, pirouette, pas de chat, assemble x2, other side), and NS Teacher had just told us that for the next combination (tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors from fourth, repeat x2), which would be across the floor, we would be going in groups of two. The girl next to me and I were in the fourth group. And honestly, I was a little nervous, as going across the floor in groups of two still makes me at times (specially since NS Teacher had told some of my classmates that she expected double or triple pirouettes!). So my partner turns to me and asks “Do you know where the restroom is?” I figure it’s a bit of an odd time, specially since we just had a long stretch break before center, but I tell her where it is anyway, hoping that she’ll be back by the time it’s our turn. So she walks out, and the first pair goes and I’m waiting… and waiting… and doesn’t come back. Like, at all, for the remainded of class!

I don’t think NS Teacher even noticed. The only reason I noticed was because she was supposed to be going across the floor with me. Good to know in case you ever feel like sneaking out of class, I guess?

As for the combination, it went much better than I had expected, at least to the right. To the left, I got confused and by the end I was accidentally doing the pirouettes en dedans. I’m glad I didn’t just freeze up though (or walk out, lol).  Thankfully, someone else went across the floor with me, since their partner decided to sit out the across the floor combination as well. (I did have my introspective moment, in which I wondered if I would be too shy to sit out an impossible-for-me-at-the-moment combination – attracting attention to myself – as opposed to just silently slipping out the door… but no, I’d be worried that I could never come back to that class. )

The dumb thing is, before class I thought that this girl was totally intimidating looking. She had the stereotypical “ballet body”, and she just looked like she would be good at ballet. When we did barre though, I noticed her arms – whoever said you can tell how long someone’s been dancing by their port de bras was spot-on – and felt much less intimidated. I guess this is one of those “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” situations…

… or maybe I should be focusing more on my own dancing instead of my classmates.

9 thoughts on “Just Going For A Promenade…

  1. Sarah

    Haha, have to remember that one, if it’s getting tough in class, escape to the toilet and just don’t come back! That’s hilarious 🙂 To be fair though, maybe she just wasn’t feeling great, I’ve been tempted to leave a few times when I’ve been feeling a bit ropey. I’m proud to say I’ve never run away from a difficult combination though, (although there’s always a first time!)

    1. kit Post author

      Yeah, now that I’ve given it more thought I’m thinking ‘That’s a smart plan – just sneak out when everyone is caught up in their own thing!’. But true, maybe she wasn’t feeling well.
      I’ve been tempted to run off AFTER a tough combination before – specially petite allegro – when I’ve felt like there was no way I could possibly be more exhausted and class was still not over. Of course, in a class of four people it would have been hard to slip out unnoticed…
      When I’m intimidated by the combination my plan of action is usually just to hide in the back – also difficult to do that with only 4 people in class, lol.

  2. asher

    Amen to this … I still think promenades are the hardest thing to do beautifully (and, in some days, to do at all). I wish I could mail Claire and Brienne to you, because they’ve both helped so much with my promenades in arabesque … not that those never go horribly awry anymore; I nearly faceplanted for no good reason a few classes back.

    1. kit Post author

      Do you remember what they said that helped by any chance?
      NS Teacher was telling us that we have to find our balance before even beginning the promenade, which works great for promenades at the barre. Mid-combination though, it’s harder to quickly just find my balance. If I wait until I feel stable I’ll be behind for the whole combination!

      1. asher

        Part of it was advice for finding balance, definitely; there’s also finding the sort of invisible connection between your foot and your back in arabesque — like an imaginary bungee cord that runs from the working foot to the spot right between your shoulderblades, pulling them together to maintain the center of gravity (this makes arabesque penche much easier, too).

        I think also that both guys (except the ones who are even more lightly built up top than I am, maybe?) and girls who are bigger up top (whether they’re muscular or bustier) may find promenades in arabesque harder to do — the whole balance relationship is different, I would think … of course, I’ve never been either David Hallberg or a sylphlike girl, so I could be crazy, but I have noticed that promenade difficulties in class seem to break down along those lines much of the time.

        This, I think, is where experience will help as you do more and more of these (promenades in arabesque, but also just plain arabesque balances, both on flat and en releve) — you’ll develop that instinctual sense of your own balance points, and it’ll make its way into your muscle memory, which will make it easier to “get there” in the mid-combination.

        The other thing that Claire pointed out that really, really helped was that it’s much easier when you use really small movements of the supporting foot.

        I tend to want to go halfway to releve and pivot, which was not working out so well (it also looked really dorky; everyone else was like, “Yay, we are swans gracefully wheeling about in the water,” and I was like, “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! This beach sand is HOT!”).

        To keep myself nailed down, I had to learn to think of the movement for promenade almost as scooting the heel sideways without even lifting it, even though that would be pretty much physically impossible.

        There was also something that Brienne said on Wednesday that was really useful, and now I can’t remember what it was. She had us doing a promenade from with change of arms from first to third arabesque, and besides the advice about making sure the change of arms didn’t happen all at once at the end (which, I discovered, can knock you right off your leg), she said something else. I’m sure it’ll come back to me at some point, probably in the middle of the desert where I have no internet! …But I’ll try to keep it in my head and get it out to you when we get back 😀

      2. kit Post author

        Oh,ok, that part about the connection between the foot and the head sounds helpful. I’ll definitely be keeping that in mind next time I try them. I also think I’m guilty of lifting my supporting foot up way too high as well, so I’ll be working on keeping the motions smaller, and more of a scooting to the side motion.
        That is true about bustier girls having a different – higher – center of gravity. I’d read in one of my Pilates books about women having a lower center of gravity than men, and how some exercises are harder for men because of that. Sure enough, the same exercises present a difficulty for me.

        Thanks for all your helpfult tips! 🙂

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