Monthly Archives: February 2017

First Week, Long Weekend

Week one of a brand new regular-length session… classes no longer over two hours long, but the upside is I’ll be taking a whole bunch of classes – 2 Beginner, 2 Intermediate, 2 Int/Adv (yes, I went back…I must like it…) every week, with the option to occasionally drop in to Beginning Modern as well (if I’m not too sore and am able to get up at the break of dawn). Due  to the holiday, this coming week I’ll be missing a couple classes (but I got to sleep in, yay).

This week all my classes went pretty well. Intermediate was super fun! Int/Adv was more difficult (and also fun) but it didn’t feel as overwhelming as last fall. I think I’ve gotten better at remembering  the combinations in center! Perhaps because I’m not busy thinking about how I’m probably going to screw up… yea it’s gotten to the stage where I’m not constantly worried about screwing up.  We did a center combination with tendus and grand battements that changed facings and included both pirouettes en dehors and en dedans and I got through it without forgetting what was going to happen next. While I didn’t find myself worried about what the next step was, my weak point appears to be the timing. Like sometimes I forget a pause, or pause where there  was none. I need to work on that – while I’ve gotten better at timing and musicality in Beginner level combinations, when the combinations are of a higher level I mess up. This is probably one of those things that will get better with time (and practice) so I’m not stressing about it, just noting it for a later-date comparison. In Beginning class we did strengthening stuff, worked on port de bras, and  plie and tendu combination. We’ll be doing more in upcoming clases.

I didn’t wear the pointe shoes for any of my classes this week (but I asked to start wearing them this coming week, not for Int/Adv, obviously), but I still got some practice time to go over the things I’d learned. I managed to do passe releve with only one hand on the barre. I only did it a couple of times, but the knowledge that it’s possible will stay with me, and help me get over my fear of doing it. I’ve also gotten much more comfortable with pique arabesque in center, even getting some couple-seconds long balances in there. I figured out the problem with my chaines en pointe – the first half is fine, when I’m turning in the direction I’m looking, but the second half, when I’m turning “backwards” scares me so I don’t use enough force to not pick up momentum. But if I do use more force, I go right into the next turn. So I guess when you’re en pointe there’s no slow chaines, just regular speed? Anyway, I’ve done about 2 full ones before I scare myself and stop. I’m also doing soutenus, not the pique kind (yet) but the kind where I sous-sus and then turn in place, I guess that describes it…? I’m still having fun, and not feeling frustrated. Of course, that may have to do with not having the comparison that class can become. I’m ok with the rate of my progress, but if I see that my rate is much slower that everyone else’s I start feeling down. Ugh, you’d think that I’d be used to it by now… but oh well, all I can do is continue to work at it (both my pointe work and at not minding when all others zoom past me on the learning curve). It’s a process.

 

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A Pointe-less Class, Great Week, And Some Firsts

Though by no means pointless… I don’t think I’ve ever taken a pointless ballet class…always learn something new…

This past week was a little different. To start off, the night before the first class of the week after I finished resewing my ribbons on my pointe shoes, I somehow I misplaced one of my toe pads. I then searched everywhere, literally everywhere, for them, because I knew I hadn’t been outside so they had to be somewhere, but they were nowhere to be found. After combing the area repeatedly I finally resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to be able to do any pointe work the next day. Though I was disappointed, I wondered how it would feel, as it would be my first class in over a month  that I didn’t wear the pointe shoes for at least barre.

It felt…hmm how to explain…not easier, but ‘why is this not more uncomfortable?’ I guess. Like when we did an eleve in all the positions during the plies combination, I pressed up to releve and then felt ‘is that it?’, like I knew that I could press up even higher. Springing up into sous-sus to soutenu for the second side didn’t have that extra challenge that I’ve grown to like. However, when we held a balance in retire on releve, I let go of the barre and actually balanced for a good 10 seconds! I think all my attempts at balancing on one leg en pointe (I always at least attempt it) have been helping. For comparison, last fall I was a little unconfident about letting go of the barre on one-legged releve balances, though I could balance in passe releve in center.

Afterwards, I went by the dance store expecting to get the Ouch Pouch to replace my lost one, and instead got shoes (I wrote about this a couple days ago) when I found my missing pouch.  I figured I’d just saved $20, so I could apply that towards the cost of the shoes…Anyway, the rest of my classes this week were with my new shoes.

First off, these shoes feel completely different. And by different, I mean much better. From the beginning I noticed that it was much less pressure when up on only one foot en pointe. But once I used them in class I immediately noticed that I was able to balance so much easier in first and second (I usually don’t have a problem balancing in sous-sus). Though barre went well, my first day wearing these shoes I only kept  them on for barre. Since when I wear pointe shoes for center I’ve been doing one-leg rises on demi point, I didn’t think these shoes were ready.

The next day, I decided to leave them on for center. We were working on a tendu combination using facings (since it is a Beginner class, we usually just face front, except for the more intermediate options for combinations). It was 2 tendus, 1 grand battement, first croisse, then ecarte, and efface derriere with port de bras in between, passe releve bringing the back leg to the front, tombe on front leg, pas de bourre, sous-sus. It was a nice combination and I was really excited because except for the passe releve I did the whole thing en pointe! Well the parts that involved rising, the pas de bourre and the sous-sus. Good thing I’ve been practicing my pas de bourre while facing the barre over and over and then stepping away from it a few inches because there’s no way I would have just one day decided that I was confident enough to try this in center without all that preparation.

We did a waltz-y combination: balancé x2, balancé en tournant x2 (this was a different balance en tournant than what I’ve done most commonly – in this one we turn  towards the direction we’re going and it takes 2 sets of three steps to complete the turn, I’m used to turning in the opposite direction of the direction we’re going and the turn taking 3 steps. And no, this was not traveling waltz en tournant, which we did do in a different combination), tombe, pas de bourre, piroutte en dehors, repeat starting to the other side.

The traveling waltz combination was 4 waltz en tournant, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, temps lie back to tendu, pirouette en dedans. It was really fun, because at this point I’m comfortable with waltz en tournant and that’s something that I wanted to get to, a medium-term goal you might say (the first time I ever tried an Intermediate class, one of the combinations had waltz en tournant, and as I fumbled and stumbled my way through I was just thinking ‘I want that!’ watching the more advanced dancers glide across the floor). Since I had my pointe shoes on, the pirouettes weren’t so great, since I only go up to demi pointe and was a little afraid of the amount of momentum I picked up.

Petit allegro was glissade, jete, pas de bourre, jete, ballote x2, pas de bourre, royalle, other side. This combination was pretty challenging for me, more so than the past few week’s combinations even though this one didn’t really change direction of travel. After the ballote I seemed to freeze for an instant before remembering the pas de bourre whereas last week’s transition to into saute arabesque seemed more fluid. I feel like I could really improve on this combination if we stuck to it for more time though. Unfortunately, since this was the last week of the session, we won’t…

We did emboites across the floor, first bringing our legs forward, then back. While my emboites to the front feel less weird, the ones to the back, just no…such an awkward movement! Well, at least it felt better than the last time I’d tried them. Then we did the forwards traveling ones and ended the last one in assemble. That was fun and the one that ended with the assemble to the right looked pretty good. To the left it looked funny…story of my ballet life LOL.

After this we did temps leve (saute arabesque), faille, pas de chat x2, and then this little skip (on the left leg if going to the right) with the other foot in coupe before repeating across the floor. I really enjoyed this combination once I got the pattern, but it frustrates me that my second leg in the pas de chat tends to lose its turnout. Then Teacher let us get in groups and make an across the floor combination with our group. We came up with saute arabesque, saute passe, saute arabesque, faille, pas de chat x2, glissade, assemble which was so fun (and of course I messed up the ending to the left).

Wrapping up the week (and session), we got the opportunity to do something I’d been  longing to try for a long time – partnering.  It’s a rare opportunity, but we actually had enough guys to attempt this (it wasn’t mandatory to participate). First we started by them hold us by the waist while standing behind us and shifting our weight forwards, backwards and to the sides. I don’t know about for my partners (I got to work with two guys!) but for me this took so much effort. Like I was engaging everything as hard as I could.  Then we faced our partners and they walked around us for a promenade. After this we first went up to passe releve to test out our balance and then we did pirouettes. With pirouettes it was tricky because our partner has to step back so we don’t knee them by accident, and then step closer to catch us for the balance at the end. With one of my partners it wasn’t really working out (he’s around my height when I’m standing completly flat, so don’t know if that was a factor), but with the other guy we got some good balances at the end of the pirouette. While it was fun, it was so hard though – I can only imagine how it’d be so tiring to do a whole pas de deux!

I’m hoping…that maybe it’s something that I don’t have to just imagine…I know it’s a more complicated goal than my usual (because all my improving-at-ballet goals just involve me) but I would really love to dance a pas de deux. I’m often reluctant to publicly express goals that I feel are highly unlikely to come true, but what the heck…what do I got to lose, you know? Before I felt even dumber about it, because I wasn’t even sure if it was something I really wanted to do, and making sure that it wasn’t just the idea of it that I liked. Just like how the first time I tried on a pair of pointe shoes I realized that this was something I really wanted to do. So yea, I guess let’s see what happens? (Yes, I feel incredibly ridiculous right now…but to be fair, before the idea of me going en pointe would have seemed ridiculous, so who knows what’s possible)

Speaking of pointe, this week I unlocked a couple of acheivements (for the longest time, Husband was such a gamer that we still talk about things in this household in terms of ‘unlocking achievements’, ‘leveling up’ and ‘spending our XP/MP points’ on different things…umm yeah, anyways): besides the pas de bourre in center that I mentioned earlier, I also got over my fear of doing a pique (specifically arabesque, but once I got going I did some into a passe traveling a la seconde) in center. While I didn’t try it, I almost felt like I could have done a pique turn, I was stepping into the pique by doing the little rond de jambe that preceedes turns and everything. I don’t know whether all my practice at the barre has been paying off or is it that my feet work so much better with these shoes. Perhaps both? I will say that with these shoes I’m able to actualy feel how my feet are pointed in the shoes as I’m up en pointe and I love the feeling. I’d read before somewhere that one should use the least amount of padding as possible to really “feel the floor”. I wonder if that is a different way of explaining the feeling that is the differnce between these new shoes and my old ones (with the built in cushions)?

And finally, some pictures if you’ve made it this far.

First my coupe derriere en pointe

image

Left foot

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Right

A Picture is worth 1000 corrections…

Note to self: lower side arm! (No I'm not holding on to anything, but the angle kind of sucks)

Note to self: lower side arm – a lot! (No I’m not holding on to anything, but the angle kind of sucks)

Pointe Shoes Adventures

Like the title says, this is about my pointe shoes…just stuff  I haven’t had the chance to write about.

Ever since I got my shoes, let’s just say I’ve become friends with a needle and thread. After initially sewing them, and wearing them once (this was before the school session started and I was just doing eleves in first and fifth at the home barre), I realized my left one had to be resewn. The ribbon was just not where I needed it to be to help mold the shoes to my not-so-high arches when up on pointe. That time it took as long as the first time, since I was still getting the hang of it. Since then, though I’ve gotten much better – and quicker – at it. Or perhaps the time just appears to be going by quicker…

Then couple weeks ago, I resewed the ribbons my left shoe. A few days before, when I was putting on the shoes at home, one of my kitties decided to paw at my ribbons, so they had a little scratch that I was hoping wouldn’t turn into a hole or tear. Since the other ribbon had a scratch too, I switched out both ribbons on the shoe. Now that I wasn’t being impatient to put the shoes on I found the process somewhat enjoyable. I’m glad I’ve come around to liking it because I’ve found myself doing a lot of ribbon sewing since then…

My first pair of shoes (Bloch Balance European) seem to be done. My feet, especially my smaller right foot was feeling like it was sinking in too far andnot being supported. That’s when I discovered that I do need something between my big toe and rest of the foot, at least on my right foot. While I have a space between my big toe and second toe on both feet (due to my stupid flip flop habit a decade ago), my right foot feels, and behaves, completely different from my left. After putting together some common sense with good old youtube research, I realized that I was at risk of developing a bunion, and needed something for my toe gap (it being close to midnite whe I figured it out, and no chance of going to any dance store before my next class, I improvised… and used some disposable earplugs, which were the only thing available that seemed like the right size to do the job). While that helped, I still was feeling like the shoes could at any time cross the line from broken-in comfortable to unwearable.

So I got another pair of the same exact shoes because, well, up until they’d started to increasingly put pressure on my toes they’d been good, so it seemed like a good reason. Unfortunately, even though I made sure to get the exact same model, size, width, they shoes felt completely different. At the store I was able to slowly roll up to pointe very easily, which should have made me think something was up. I don’t know if this is a dumb (or simply unasked – believe me, I typed it in to my search engine of choice and nothing came up) question but I wonder, do pointe shoes become somewhat “broken in” by being tried on constantly in the store? Well, anyway, the store only carries one pair of each size in stock at any given moment, and I wanted to have a pair of back up shoes ready to go in case my first pair failed at a time when we couldn’t get to the store. So I got them and hoped that they would, in time, feel like my first pair.

Long story short… they didn’t. I wore them around at home, hoping to mold the box to my feet like with the first pair, but it didn’t seem to be working. But when I did eleves and releves the shank just seemed so flexible. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if it wan’t for the box being so uncomfortable. I started to worry…it had seemed too good to be true that I would find the perfect shoe on my first try and things would be so simple. I was also worrying because…this feels like confession time, but the reason my first shoes were so comfortable was because that model comes with a built in cushion, which combined with the Ouch Pouch really took the edge off things (ok, honestly, I’ve been feeling like such a cheater…). But, the downside is I was afraid I was now stuck to that particular model because of the stupid cushion. Except that the box of this model, even at the narrowest width, was starting to feel like it might be too roomy for my foot, like I needed a lower profile, and so, if I flattened the box it would be too wide . How stressful! What to do…

Well, through a small series of coincidences I wound up at the dance store again, and decided since I’m there I may as well try out some shoes (so strange, I usually hate trying stuff on, but for some reason with pointe shoes it’s different. Perhaps it’s the utilitarian factor?). I started with the same model I have, because the girl suggested that maybe I’d just gotten an off pair. Hmm, well I was not convinced, because the pair I tried on seemed ok, but it was just too easy to roll up, and I didn’t want to deal with that issue again. I asked for something with a lower profile and she gave me a couple different models of Russian Pointe shoes to try (I think Rubin and Alekssandra?). They were not very comfortable on my feet once en pointe (not to mention pricy), and I was starting to think that I’d just had beginner’s luck when I found my first pair. Or perhaps they’d been completely unsuitable from the beginning, but maybe I’d just wanted it to work out so badly that it did?

Then, my friend suggested I try on her shoe model (Grishko 2007), and figuring I had nothing to lose by this point, I did. Oh my gosh, as soon as I went up en pointe with them (not rolling up, because the shank was much stiffer, and the heel kept sliding off, but just stepping to pointe at the barre), they just felt so comfortable. I even experimented just being up on one leg, and still, no pain (which made me realize how unsuitable my first “fitting” [I mostly fit myself] had been, since I’d been scared to stand on one foot en pointe – perhaps rightly – but I hadn’t been able to gage how much pressure there’d be on my toe while on one leg. Since my first pair were getting more painful by the day, I decided to get the shoes. When I got home, I looked up these shoes in the pointe shoes database at PointePerfect (which is an amazingly useful tool) and saw that these are low profile shoes designed to reduce the pressure on the big toe joint. Perfect!

More sewing. First I unsewed my second pair of Bloch Balance Europeans, so I could reuse my ribbons. I managed to get the ribbons placed correctly on the first try, but ended up adding a second piece of elastic to keep the heels from sliding off. But my work was rewarded once I put the shoes on and did some barre work. I was feeling really secure in these shoes, like I could hold balances for longer, even on one leg. Even though the platform is narrower, I just find these shoes easier to work with. Then again, they are still really new, so we’ll see.

I feel pretty bad about the pair of shoes that didn’t really work out. The box appears to still be far from broken in, but at the same time I don’t feel supported. I suppose I will still use then for basic barre work at home, but there’s also the possibility that i could use these as the pair that I turn into soft pointe shoes. I know the box isn’t comfortable now, but if I knew I wasn’t going to be going up en pointe in them I could soften it up more.

And now, some pictures. I’m too lazy to take some of me wearing them while doing anything remotely cool right now, but yeah…

My pointe shoes

My pointe shoes

From right to left, my first pair of Bloch European Balance, second pair, and Grishko 2007

From right to left, my first pair of Bloch European Balance, Grishko 2007, and second pair of Blochs. Notice how the platform on the Grishko is much narrower

Why do cats like pointe shoes so much?!

Why do cats like pointe shoes so much?! Could it be the string…

 

Better Pirouettes And Turns; A Good Week

The things that sticks out as the most memorable about this week is pirouettes – for whatever reason, they were much better than usual (the usual, for me, when it comes to pirouttes, is downright crappy with the rare exception). Now, me being the way I am, I want to know exactly why is it that they have been getting better. One thing I figured is that before I wasn’t getting my weight up and forward enough. While I heard that correction many times, it was something I couldn’t really do – or was scared to. But as I think I mentioned before, working with pointe shoes takes away some of the fear of doing stuff in slippers. Since a releve en pointe requires a certain amount of force to get up there, I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with using more force, which gets me up over my leg. Anyway, I was practicing after class and I kept landing clean pirouettes over and over. I was feeling incredulous, like do-I-pinch-myself-to-check-if-I’m-awake kind of feeling, so I would attempt another one, and land it, and keep repeating. Even better, I was able to do it to both sides reliably.

To me this is important to me because for too long pirouettes have been the thing that frustrate me because by this point I should be able to do them (by “should” I mean, not trying to put undue pressure on, but when I look at what different levels should be able to do, like on the Sun King Dance website – not that I have the remote chance of going – I noticed that compared to where I am in terms of technique or other steps I am behind in pirouettes. I think the problem began back years ago when a teacher asked me to do them in center when I didn’t even have a passe releve balance or strong core – I was not ready, I was terrified, and the initial failure – and almost fall – stuck with me. Because for at least the past year I ‘ve been able to do pirouettes when I least expect it, but when the pressure’s on I screw up. So hopefully now that I’ve seen with my own eyes that it’s possible for me to do more than one clean piroeutte at a time (and even hold a balance after) it will help. And then I can focus on multiples!

This week our petit allegro was (glissade, assemble)x3, entrechat x2, ballote 4 counts, temps leve (saute arabesque), faille, pas de chat, pas de bourre, other side. Last time I did ballote I felt so ridiculous, but this time it felt so much better. I was still doing it wrong the first couple of days, until realized that the leg that is kicked out is not in tendu but actually off the floor, but in general I felt way stronger than last time (which was probably close to a year ago). There was the two beated jumps right after the other, and even though I wouldn’t say I did them well i do think I getting more comfortable with them.

While practicing, I noticed that soutenus and pique turns (with slippers, of course) feel more controlled, and I’m able to turn faster without losing my balance or that certain “rhythm” that happens once I start doing the turns. A correction I’ve gotten quite often is to turn out my passe leg more during pique turns,and I feel that now that I feel more stable in my balance I can better focus on that.

As far as pointe, I’m still staying at the barre and facing it for one-legged rises. I do feel increasingly comfortable with two-legged rises off the barre though. This week Teacher worked with me and was correcting me on releve from first, telling me that I need to feel like my feet scoot in a little when I go up so that my releve position en pointe won’t be too wide. She said this will help with my passe releve. At first I was not really able to put into practice what she was telling me (instead I used excessive force and jumped up), but then suddenly I felt it, that little scoot. It’s sort of how the feet come in together to go up to sous-sus, but less distance.

Teacher also told me when doing a pique (I was facing the barre and pique-ing onto my front leg with the back leg going to coupe) to get up there quicker and to bring my back leg in quicker as well. I’m still working on that…

I also worked on pas de bourre on pointe at the barre. I was hoping that this would help get me over my apprehension of stepping up on pointe. Once I felt like I had the feel of it down I gradually reduced my hold on the barre until it was just a finger from each hand resting on it, then I brought my arms out to second while continuing to pas de bourre. This was so cool, and brought back my memories of when I was still new at ballet and I wished I could pas de bourre without the barre without falling over immediately. I didn’t try it complely in center, just facing the barre with my arms out but it was still nice to get to do this.

As I mentioned last post, this week I attempted to begin chaines en pointe without the barre. It was not exactly a success – after about two half turns (or one chaines turn) I would start to lose my balance and resort to doing little steps to stay up (bad habit!). So apparently I’m not ready for that yet…

Overall, it was a good week. One more week left in the short session (I’m gonna miss it! We have a real cool group of people this time around), then a new schedule and some new classes. I got to have a cool conversation with some classmates, talking about ballet and my learning curve, and giving them lots of encouragement to continue (if they want to). One of them said something like “Wow, you started ballet four years ago and you’re already  en pointe!” and that was pretty cool because I’m used to hearing about adults going en pointe after much less time (because there’s no issue of the foot bones still being soft I guess? And most people, even adults [if the internet is representative of ‘real’ life] tend to not be as unbalanced and weak as I was when they first start ballet) and people harrasing me  about why am I not en pointe yet. So it was nice to hear something different.

And then, completely unrelated, a beginner girl asked me to be her ballet teacher for privates! I am beyond flattered (and of course I said yes) because secretly I’d been wondering about the possibility of getting to teach ballet as well as pilates some day. I tend to think it’s unlikely, that I won’t be taken serious because my body doesn’t meet the (current) ballet ideal, (let’s be honest – at worse I’ve imagined being laughed right out of the studio) but this cheered me up so much. I felt…accepted.