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…

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