We had our midterm exam for Modern class, which meant that we were going to perform our little, minute-or-so long, dance combination we’ve been working on in class. It wasn’t a solo, but in 4 person groups, while the rest of the class watched. It wasn’t my first time performing for the whole class, and my first – and only, so far – time did involve a solo, but it’s been a while. Like, over two years ago kind of while. My point is, I’d forgotten that nervousness, combined with the rush of energy. And that feeling of almost denial up until the moment has all but arrived, this feeling that it’s off in the future, and not right now, so I don’t have to worry because I have bigger, more immediate things to worry about. That is not to say that I haven’t been practicing it the whole time, but somehow convincing myself that I’m practicing it only because I enjoy dancing, and not because some time soon I will be doing it in front of people. Lots of people.
It went well though. Except for this one part on the second side where for one instant I started to lower my left arm instead of my right arm, I didn’t forget the choreography. I’m still debating with myself as though this is because modern choreography is easier to remember than ballet, or because we’ve been working on the same combination for at least 5 weeks. A little of both? I’m not saying the combination itself was super easy, because it wasn’t (it includes a leap that lands down to a squat of some sorts, and then we roll on the floor, which sounded terriying to me until I actually did it). But somehow it stuck in my mind, and I’d say I practiced it much, much less than I practice ballet.
With the exam past, our upcoming recital is now the thing that is in my not-immediate-but-it’ll-get-there future. If someone would ask me if I was nervous I’d say ‘no’, without giving it too much thought – what goes does it do to be nervous on top of everything else? But when I thik about it, yes, I am nervous. The goal is that by then all the movements are in muscle memory, and that’ll override the nervousnesss, and I’ll just react. So far, I’m remembering the order of the steps pretty well (after the thousandth time going over it). I just keep making myself go over the steps and arm movements, thinking about the choreography constantly thoughout the day. But I don’t think about the actual performance…
This week, my ballet classes didn’t go as well, and unfortunately I did a lot more focusing on improvement than on enjoyment. The improvement I’d noticed on my pirouettes from last week appears to have disappeared – I was back to not getting a full revolution with the correct foot in back for both sides. It was a bit of a disappointment, to be honest. I hope last week’s turning success wasn’t some kind of a fluke.
While my improvement in basic sautes in first appears to be here to stay (finally!), the same can’t really be said about my other jumps. I think I’ve identified the problem with my changements – it has to do with balance and fear. I remembered that back when my sautes were downright terrible (I’m talking flexed feet mid-air), I was afraid of jumping higher and pointing my feet because I thought I would lose my balance upon landing and hurt my feet. This is not completely unrealistic, because back when I first started, I did end up losing my balance and traveling horizontally as much as vertically quite often.
Anyway, we were doing changements, and Teacher wanted me to cross my fifth position more (because I was doing third, rapidly heading towards first), and I noticed that I felt a little off balance when I land. Since I am much stronger now than when I first started though, I think the problem is fixable. I need to really focus on holding my core and not letting my chest fall forward when I land, and that should really help. We also did temps leves (the one-footed sautes), which I hadn’t done since summer session. They felt a little less difficult, and afterwards my ankles didn’t feel sore like they used to.
At New Studio we worked on entrechats and royalles, and I think the problem from the changements is the same problem here. I had a good mirror view and I could see my feet perfectly – and the very un-perfect, flexed at the ankle thing they were doing. I was, however, getting the beats done with my legs (and flexed feet). So I think I’m doing that thing where I fear landing so I don’t point. because in my head that means I wont be able to land. So weird that the muscle memory about pointing mid-air with sautes doesn’t translate over to all the other jumps.
We also did tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, jete, contretemps, repeat all the way across the floor numerous times. That forward glissade is stil feelling foreign to my body, and I made a mess out of that combination. At New Studio, we did (saute passe, saute arabesque) x3, chasse in the opposite direction, tour jete, pirouette en dedans, sous-sus balance, waltz across the floor. I feel like I could have done better on that combination, at least to the right) but the reversed order of the sautes (I’m used to saute arabesque coming before saute passe), and the different port de bras during them messed me up. It sucks, because one of my classmates had said she wanted to go across the floor with me because it looked like I knew what I was doing, and I didn’t do nearly as well as I could have. Is that what matters – how you perform under pressure instead of how you perform after practicing it repetitively?
Not to ramble about modern class excessively, but I think all the exercises and combinations we’ve been doing have been helping me out with balance, and timing, and stuff like that. We do this exercise that is kind of like adagio in ballet, but with no turnout and flexed feet. We walk three steps, then on the fourth instead of putting our foot down we keep it off the ground, then bring it up to a kind of turned in passe but without bringing the flexed foot to the knee, then very slowly we bring it to turned out passe (still keeping the foot away from the knee), then to the back and slowly extend the leg and finally bring the upper half of the body down while bringing the leg up even higher, kind of like a penchee arabesque without as much technique. We also do lots of sautes, and leaps across the floor, as well as long balances in first and second. I’ve been noticing that I’ve been holding my balances, especially in second, for much longer.
I don’t want to say that I find modern to be easier because, as I said earlier, it’s not easy, but at the same time I can see why so many people who are new to dance would try it before ballet. The ambience in class is more inclusive, and much less intimidating – and I want to say, feels less judgemental. There are students of all sizes in there, as well as other forms of diversity, and I don’t feel like so much of an intruder in the rich and skinny little girls club. I realize that probably sounded really bad, but the demographics in some ballet classes I’ve taken did make me feel like an outsider, and for someone as introverted as me it can really be a struggle. I don’t want to go into too much detail (because I don’t see anything positive coming out of it), but sometimes in some of the (ignorant, insensitive, borderline prejudiced) things some of these students say I am reminded of the students who made my life hell in middle school. As a grown woman now of almost twice their age I have a different perspective on the whole situation, but who likes being reminded of an ugly time in their past? Not me, at least.
Anyway, modern class has a wide variety or dancers/students and that makes me happy. To be fair, it is a beginner modern class. In the past I’ve noticed that beginner ballet class seems to have a more well-rounded group than intermediate, so who knows how intermediate modern class is (though I do have an acquaintance who takes intermediate modern, and she doesn’t have the stereotypical dancer look). But I do wonder if there still is that relaxed atmosphere that I’ve been finding in beginner class.