Monthly Archives: October 2017

Pirouettes

If there is one step that has been a constant source of frustration for me in my journey as a dancer, I would say it is pirouettes, specifically en dehors, even more specific from fifth. Not that I’m saying other things have been *easy*, most definitely not, if it was easy it wouldn’t be ballet, but pirouettes just hold that place for me. Part of it might be how slow progress has come. I mean, i started off with literally no balance, no ability to jump while doing anything close to pointing my feet, but those things have come; I’ve been able to do my 32 changements (often times twice with only 8 counts of rest, first starting with the right foot in front, second time starting with the left) while pointing my feet for about two years now, and I’m not sure at what point i was able to hold a superlong balance in a high releve on two feet in any position, but these are things that I would say I’m comfortable with. I don’t take them for granted – I don’t think I could ever take them for granted – but I’m well past the point that I freak out when these things come up in class.
Pirouettes though, are different. Part of the problem is that I can tend towards being a perfectionist – all the parts have to be there to make the whole. To me, its not *really* a pirouette if the foot is not pointed and up at retire, for example. Rather than focusing on getting around, I obsessed over getting up to that high releve, getting that working leg up to a high passe, having my arms in a strong middle fifth. I sometimes see classmates get around, twice even, but the working leg is completely turned in, the foot flat against their supporting leg, or down by their ankle rather than by their knee, their elbows drooping down. To me that is not really a pirouette – just my opinion, of course…if someone is dancing just for fun who am I to criticize their technique? But, speaking for myself, I know that it was the attention to all these little details that has slowed my progress.
There was also the fear factor, of course. As someone who would fall forward out of balances instead of backward, I was apprehensive about giving that extra push to get up onto that high releve on one foot. What helped me out with this the most was, strangely enough, going on pointe. Getting used to that extra push that is needed to get up on pointe really helped me get over the fear of what-might-happen if I pushed up too hard. The change was almost immediate- within several weeks of first geting my pointe shoes I found pirouettes (on flat) were more… I’m not going to say *easier*, but perhaps less foreign? I found myself getting around with minimal effort. I realized that before I had been attempting to compensate with momentum for my lack of being up on my leg, which was then backfiring and throwing me off balance. All I know is, a year ago (before going on pointe) whenever we did consecutive pirouettes from fifth it was utterly hopeless and now… well they’re definitely not perfect but my supporting leg manages to last through the whole series of releves and I don’t throw myself completely off balance. I’ve realized that not a whole lot of momentum is needed for a single pirouette (a correction I often heard, but that moment when you finally internalize a correction and make it yours is magic). As for doubles, I’ve done them accidentally, but they don’t count (re:perfectionist); I would only count them if they were completely *intentional* the result of spotting my head a second time not just a fluke caused by excess momentum…

Speaking of spotting… ugh, what a difficult thing! It’s not the head motion necessarily that’s the problem, it’s that you actually have to be looking *at*something. Actually looking *at* something has been one of the things that I’ve struggled with in more recent times, now that I can’t really complain about things like balance. It’s scary! I mean, what if you accidentally look at *someone*, like make eye contact? Can’t relate? Must be nice to not have terrible social anxiety… but I’m working on it and it’s been getting better… on my own time (outside of dance class) I may still sometimes leave my glasses off purposely in order to avoid knowing if anyone is looking at me when I’m having a particularly anxious day, but in class I am all eyes up and focusing. Perhaps it will one day translate to the “real world”? In the end it is just muscle memory…

And now, a little bit of class notes.

We did a really fun adagio: grand plie in fifth, sous-sus and arms come to high fifth,open to second, developpe ecarte derriere, rond de jambe to devant with facing change as arm changes; developpe ecarte devant, rond de jambe facing change as arm changes; tombe pas de bourre, releve in 4th, pirouette en dehors, pas de bourre en tournant, pas de basque into arabesque, deep lunge and circular port de bras, attitude promenade en dedans, releve into arabesque and run off. Second time we did from right side to left back to back. My memory for longer combinations has improved so much!
Waltz en tournant, ballote x2, ballone x2, tombe pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, chasse to releve arabesque, hold balance, faille and chasse thru to releve arabesque on other leg. This combination was trickier, especially because of the ballote and ballone. Mostly the corresponding arms, the leg part is getting a little more familiar. Unfortunately, I’m off jumping for a few weeks for health related reasons, so improvement on those ballotes will have to wait…

Back At It (For Now)

I was reading over some of my old posts, like c. late 2014 kind of old, and i realized something – actually, several things…
1. I’ve come so far, so incredibly far. I mean, its hard to explain accurately without photographic or video evidence just how terrible i was at ballet when i first started, or even back when i first started blogging. The average new-to-ballet classmate is already better after a few weeks than i was after a year and a half. Sad. But at the same time, it was this very disadvantage that made me work harder… so it was a blessing in disguise… I’m a huge believer in blessings in disguise…
2. I love writing about ballet, if anything for the sole purpose of being able to come back and *read* what i wrote about ballet. I continue to be my own biggest fan… perhaps this makes me egotistical, but I’m past the point of caring about that…
3. I’m a bit sad that I haven’t been doing much writing about ballet for the past year or so… unfortunately, in the not-too-distant future i may be on a dance hiatus, but for now i will cherish the time I have and do my best to hold on to the memories…
4. (bonus point) i read something on social media that went something like “if you quit now you will be back where you started, and back when you started you would have done anything to be where you are now”… Ok I’m probably butchering the quote but something along those lines and reading over mg old posts I’m just like “yes! Exactly!” and i am so incredibly grateful that I didn’t quit, that i believed in myself… I dont know if i ever even believed that i would get to this level that I’m currently at, but it’s nothing short of amazing for me
(Side note: i was having a long talk with one of my teachers and she calld me a “success story” as an adult beginning dancer. That felt like wow…)

Anyway, all this talking (writing) about my current level, and no actual descriptions of where I’m at… so, where am i?
Im currently taking about four ballet classes a week (2 int/adv, 2 beginning), plus two beginning modern classes. Int/adv is difficult, but I don’t feel in over my head. Barre and center are so much fun. The kind of combinations we do in barre are similar to the kind of stuff in Kathryn Morgan’s advanced barre on youtube, for reference. I actually attempt the pirouettes at the barre, and my balance on releve on one leg lasts several seconds on a good day.
Center is so much fun! Combinations like tendu devant croisse, grand battement, grand battement on releve, close in sous-sus, land in fourth, pirouette en dedans, tendu derrière croisse, grand battement, then on releve, pirouette en dehors, tendus and grand battement a la seconde, pirouette a la seconde, soutenu, other side. Or balancé front and back, en tournant, waltz en tournant, tombe pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, temps lie back, pique turns x2, step over turn, chaînes, chasse to releve arabesque, faille, run off. Consecutive pirouettes from fifth en dehors in center – and i can actually do them. Grand allegro- sissone, faille x2, glissade assemble, brise x4, glissade pas de chat, sissones en croix (so hard! So fast!), run and fouetté. Im not saying it’s perfect, but I’m doing it!
Beginning class is also lots of fun. I like to challenge myself by doing the barre with my hand either lightly on it or not touching at all. Even though it’s beginning, our teacher lets us use port de bras and epaulement, so that keeps it fun. In center we do lots of waltzing and balancés, tendus and pas de bourres. So fun to continue to work on the basics.
There’s things that I don’t really expect much improvement on though, like turnout. I mean, i can do clamshells with resistance until forever and all the pilates turnout exercises in the world and while the muscles get stronger and stronger, the flexibility in my hips is set. I can hold my turnout, but it’s not very good. Same as my splits. I’ve made peace with this fact, but it’s so frustrating when a know it all teenager who’s being doing ballet since they’ve been walking comes along and harasses me about it. So hard to remain civil about it…
Modern class is lots of fun in a different way. I’m finally at the point where i don’t feel like doing ballet when we have to improv! I’m actually enjoying the opportunity to move my body in new and unique ways. Floorwork has definitely become less scary, though my transitions from the floor to standing could still use work – I’ll blame my disproportionately long legs. But going from standing to the floor is ok, because I definitely have the upper body strength. And I finally figured out how to do a body roll without lookign like I’m having a seizure.
As far as pointe, I don’t have a pointe class to go to, but i keep working on it at my home barre, and occasionally at work, taking advantage of the studio time. The floor there is marginally better than the floor at home, so i do a little bit of center. Not much though, because the floor there is still not optimal for pointe and i like to play it super safe. My barre pointe work has gotten better though, I continue to get stronger and more comfortable. I love the feeling of being on pointe, love how my shoes hug my feet, love how it feels so magical to lift up and out, no longer making contact with the floor. I think I mention to all my friends how it doesn’t hurt, how the pressure of standing up on releve for a long time is arguably more “painful” than being up on pointe. It seems like this is a taboo thing to say because everyone always goes on about how much it hurts, but this is my experience and, like I’ve said before, if i can’t express myself truthfully on my own blog then where? Anyway, I’m sure its just because my shoes are a perfect fit for my feet, not because of me – I still continue having a low tolerance for pain.
Anyway, this year i am not performing, which is another blessing in disguise… I will explain that one later, eventually . I will say that at first i was very upset about this development, but the support of my dance friends has really helped me out. That’s another thing, I’ve made some amazing and supportive – not to mention talented – dance friends. And the other day one of my friends mentioned that she’d heard one of the faculty members discussing how much they’d enjoyed my piece that I choreographed this past summer. I found myself surprised and pleased about that.
Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone who expressed their condolences in reply to my last post, I really appreciate it.