Midsummer

 

This summer i find myself in a unique situation: my school is having a break as far as ballet, but they’re offering modern dance. So rather than just dancing on my own, I’m taking classes, just not ballet. As a result, I’m a bit concerned about losing my technique.
The past two years we had a summer ballet session, four times a week, and I had such a great time. Three years ago there was no ballet, but i didnt take any classes in other dance styles. This year, I’m in modern three days a week ( would have been four, but one of the days interferes with my work schedule, so three it is) for a little over two hours per day. Im doing ballet through New Studio, but only two classes a week, an hour each.

What this results in is more hours per week doing modern than ballet, even if i practice at home, which I’m having trouble doing more than twice or maybe three times a week, both due to time management with work and just sheer soreness. Oh, I didn’t mention that in addition to the six hours a week or modern class i also have about six more hours a week for rehearsals? More modern…
Don’t get me wrong – I find modern class to be lots of fun, and I’m so glad my school at least is offering some form of dance over the summer. It’s just that some things in modern are so different from ballet class that I worry about my muscles picking up some habits that will be the opposite of what we want in ballet. There’s this move we do on the floor laying on our back. We have our knees bent with the feet on the floor, then we let the knees drop to one side and the leg that is now on top swings free. And if you do it correctly your foot completely sickles the whole time, because you’re supposed to trace your toe along the floor not your ankle…it bothers me a little honestly. Alignment is not focused on as much as in ballet, so I have to check myself especially when it comes to not tilting my pelvis anteriorly while standing. I’ve been corrected to flex my foot. My partner in one exercise told me to tilt my upper body forward while doing an arabesque even though I didn’t need to (which kind of annoyed me), just because the teacher said we could. Which reminds me, there is a huge interacting-with-people component here compared to what I’m used to in ballet… and at times that’s just awkward. I understand that I may be a bit antisocial and not like human interaction as much as the next person, but it’s not just talking, but full on body contact – in ballet the most contact was partner stretches at the barre.
On the other hand, I love the warm up exercises, and the teacher plays some really cool music throughout class. We go across the floor a lot and that’s really fun. And while alignment and technique are not focused on, some of those exercises can really try your balance. Stuff like kicking the leg out (I’d call it a grand battement) then bending the knee to make passe (like a turned in enveloppe) while coordinating arm movements. I’ll save the part about how this class would have been impossible back when I first started dance due to my lack of balance…
Only a few weeks left of this class, then a short break before the fall classes begin. Don’t know yet what my schedule is for the fall, or if I will continue with modern. My work schedule so far has worked out that I will only have to miss one of the evening ballet classes and none of the morning ones, but if any changes occur it wouldn’t be the case. And I definitely want to take some cross training Pilates classes as well. But at the same time I dont want to overschedule myself and feel like I’m rushing from one class to work, back to class, run home to cook, back to work, etc… I feel like with my current schedule I’m not getting enough time to just relax, didn’t realize at the time what a big commitment it would be to do this summer modern session, and partucipate in the show, and choreograph.
As for choreographing, it’s been fun, but at the same time so stressful! I’m not used to managing a group of people, and I’m probably about as opposite of a people person as you can get. I fake it really well at work, but let’s face it, interpersonal skills are not one of my strong points. So I find myself with a dozen young dancers and aspiring dancers, and I’m just the idea person but I have to get them to listen to me, and do what I say, and give some effort… the effort part being the most important, the willingness to try. I know that it takes me a long time to get things sometimes, so I try to be patient with people who are a little slow – I know that sometimes slow and steady wins the race. But what I just dont know how to deal with is people who just won’t even try, if you ask them to do a step they say “i’ve never done that” and just stand there instead of “ok i’ll try it”…it can be frustrating. By now I’m kind of just in this weird state of acceptance about it, like it’ll work out the way it works out… i dont want to put too much pressure on myself. It’s been an educational experience for sure. Don’t know yet if I am interested in choreographing again, for a group – for myself it is practically inevitable that I will. But this group thing, it can be stressful… I definitely need to work on my communication skills, it’s hard when I know what I want my dancers to do but I’m unable to communicate with them. Also difficult for me is being able to tell people things they don’t want to hear, and the thought of having to remove some dancers from certain parts (re:lack of trying) fills me with anxiety. I suppose in the end we will see what wins out, my desire to choreograph or my desire to close to my comfort zone.

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4 thoughts on “Midsummer

  1. Dork

    Hey, good to read from you again! I think you will get back to the proper ballet movements pretty soon after the break, even if the first class or two might be a bit difficult. Muscle memory is cool and takes a long time to really lose.
    Congrats on the choreographing! I couldn’t even imagine doing something like that!

    Reply
    1. kit Post author

      Thanks! That’s very reassuring to hear, and the fact that classmats have told me that when I dance modern it ‘looks like ballet probably shows just how stubborn my ballet muscle memory is 🙂
      And thank you! It is A LOT of work, so much more than just choreographing a solo for myself, but it’s so rewarding seeing what you had planned (somewhat) coming together.

      Reply
  2. jessicadaretodance

    Starting contemporary can feel so strange when you’re used to ballet! I remember starting my first full-time dance degree programme, having come from a purely classical background, I was suddenly doing a lot of contemporary as well as other dance styles. I found I had to really concentrate to not turn out and not point my feet if they were supposed to be flexed. However ballet training is a huge advantage in contemporary work, and they compliment one another surprisingly well. I actually added a contemporary class in to my schedule this year after 3 years of training only in classical ballet. I find that using my muscles in a different way gives my body some kind of “active rest” and addresses the imbalances that ballet can give you. I feel great afterwards. Don’t worry too much about losing your technique: muscle memory is surprisingly retentive, and doing something different for a while can be really good for you. The best comes out of it when you get over the ballet mindset and really surrender to what contemporary can bring you. Good luck with it, and I hope you get back to ballet classes refreshed and invigorated (even if slightly rusty!) xxx

    Reply
    1. kit Post author

      Thank you for making many great points! I agree with so much of what you said. That said, I’ve found it very difficult at times to get out of that ballet mindset…

      Reply

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