Tag Archives: adults and flexibility

A Mixed Week, And Headstand Progress

If I had to use one word to describe the past week, it’d be ‘inconsistent’. Not as far as my class attendance and practicing – for that I get an A for effort – but as far as my actual dancing. I’m not too worried, because by now I’ve noticed patterns and sometimes it does appear that I’m getting weaker or my dancing’ getting sloppier right before it gets better. And besides, if all my classes went super well and it was all compliments and not corrections i would start to feel like something’s off. I guess at this point in my training I need not-so-encouraging classes just as much as encouraging ones, to keep my perspective balanced.

The biggest inconsistency/disappointment this week had to do with extensions on releve. At home I’ve been doing the  Pointe Barre video (which is by far my favorite of all the youtube barre videos that I have tried, and it is really challenging. A year ago or so, when I first started to do youtube barre videos at home, I remember I was most comfortable with the Easy Barre video, and would have been so lost on this), where my favorite combination is the  adagio (developpe devant, plie, pique attitude derriere, plie, allonge, developpe a la seconde on releve, close, cambre, reverse this time developpe derriere, pique attitude devant). I actually rewind and do the combination 2 or 3 times, I love it that much. I love the fact that I can actually do this combination without feeling like I’m about to fall over, and it actually looks ok in my mirror, and I can’t help admiring my extension because it seems so unbelievable for me considering the less-than-mediocre extension capabilities I brought to ballet.

Anyway, during class we did a combination at the barre that was not similar but did involve an extension on releve. We were bringing our working foot up from coupe to passe on flat, then rising up to releve before extending a la seconde and holding it there, then back to passe and coupe derriere. For whatever reason my extension was absolutely terrible, I felt like I’d used up all my energy just going on releve. Which made no sense because I’d done the video class at home the day before and the developpe on releve had been fine. I think the part abot having to hold it out there may have had something to do with it? But either way I did feel off.

Center varied immensely from a day with only brand new beginners (we did tendus with basic port de bras, and then sautes and changements)to a day with crazy fast combinations that were close to impossible at my current level. At some point NS Teacher had us do 16 entrechats, and then we were supposed to start with the other leg in front and do 16 more and there was just no way. I don’t think I’ve ever even done one entrechat correctly, but I tried the combination anyway. It was pretty awful. The whole time I think I was doing it in half time, taking a small rest between each jump to charge up, not on purpose but because i just can’t jump that fast yet, not even with unbeaten jumps. I also wasn’t really able to fully cross on the beats, but at least my feet didn’t do some wierd flexing thing, I guess. Another combination that day was glissades with assemble battu. I’d never tried to beat my assembles, so I was unsure about how to go about it.  NS Teacher said we didn’t have to beat them, possibly noting my apprehension, but omitting the beat sort of threw off the timing.

At home, for center, I’ve finally gotten through the entire Classic Center video (except for grand allegro, because there’s just no room, I do my petit allegro and sautes on this rubber mat thing I have that I put on the carpet), being able to do all the combinations. The way I approached it was to repeat the exercises several times in each practice session, until I started to remember them (it also helps that she goes over the combination several times). Another thing that helped was that I’ve just been going up on releve retire instead of the pirouettes (so I can devote the energy spent to pirouette anxiety on remembering the combination instead).  The combination that I’d had the most difficuty remembering was the adagio, because there’s all the changes in facings and chasses and temps lies with port de bras, and honestly at first (and second, and third, and tenth…) glance those kinds of steps majorly confuse me and I have trouble remembering them until I’ve marked them many times.  I’d set the goal for myself that I wanted to get though the Classic Center video before my regular classes resumed for the Fall and I wouldn’t have much time to practice at home. I found it really fun to work on the same combination until I was able to remember it, and then actually feel like I’m dancing it, which is something that I don’t get much opportunity for during regular classes outside of the beginner level. I’m hoping this continued exposure to a more intermediate-ish kind of combination will help if/when I return to Intermediate class. I’ve also become really comfortable with promenades in attitude.

In non-ballet-related news, I have  leveled up on my headstand skills. I no longer need a doorway to walk my feet up to get into the headstand. I’d been practicing the doorwya method for the past few weeks, and finally this week I decided I felt brave enough to try it by myself (still against the wall though). I’m still not kicking up, just getting in the clasped hands and head between the arms position, and really pulling up with my core then lifting up one leg and pushing off a little but mostly just using my core. The first time I tried it I was pretty scared, but by the third or fourth day it was starting to feel very muscle memory-ish. My next goal is to be able to do it without a wall at all, but I imagine that one will take a little more time…

Also, i never got around to publishing my yoga session thoughts, and that is because it turned into a rambling mess, and I’m still not sure what I want to say on the topic (not to mention I’m torn with guilt because I get it that yoga is Good For You, but I just don’t feel as inspired to do it as I do ballet, and I hate that you-should-know-better feeling). But I do have to say that besides the headstand progress, yoga did help me improve my flexibility even more and even out the flexibility gap between my tighter and less tight side. I’ve noticed that my extensions on either side are becoming more or less comparable, although as far as strength goes I remain uneven.

 

Some Classes, And Thoughts On Childhood vs Adulthood

This past week I continued my schedule from the week before, three classes at New Studio and then youtube classes for the other days. Mostly I’ve been concerned with not losing the strength that I gained during summer session – cutting back on class hours will do that to me. Luckily, fall session at my regular school will resume next week, so it’ll be a full ballet schedule again.

At home, I’ve been mostly working on a better, more controlled passe releve, hoping that it will traslate to better pirouettes. It appears to have worked! I’ve been doing the combinations in Kathryn Morgan’s youtube videos Easy Ballet Center and Classic Ballet Center, but during the pirouettes I just go up into passe releve instead (the floor at home is pretty terrible for turning). So then, when I was in class at NS and we went across the floor (tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors, repeat), I was actually getting all the way around on my pirouettes, even to my harder side (right). I got to be honest, I was surprised to be getting around consistently! This must mean that it’s been working though, so I will continue on with the video practice.

I had committed that I would be doing the Classic Barre this week, but then I found a newer video class called Pointe Barre. After giving it a quick view, I noticed that the combinations seem faster and more involved, so I just had to try it. It was a bit more challenging that the Classic Barre video, but I was able to keep up (except for the frappes on releve, but I just did them twice through in flat). I’ve actually gotten better at customizing the difficulty so that I can get through all the exercises, and even start to memorize them. However, I don’t know if I should be working on the same barre video to focus on technique, or if I should switch up the barre videos so I’m forced to learn to remember combinations faster.

My timing was a little bit better during class, not like how I kept starting too soon in all the combinations last week. So perhaps last week I was just having on off week after all. During sautes I got a little bit ahead of myself, but once I realized it I was able to settle back down to the correct speed. I’ve gotten so much better at remembering to breathe during my jumps instead of holding my breath, and as a result I feel like I can jump for longer and longer.

And then, something else, something I almost feel like I’m not supposed to/allowed to say… I feel like it’s as though i’m saying ‘why does everyone say the sky is blue?; it looks green to me’… but since it’s my blog I’ll say it anyway, even though it is not the experience for the majority of people (and besides, if you want the majority opinion, there’s plenty of other places to get it) – it drives me absolutely nuts when other adults keep going on and on about how easy everything is when you’re little. Or how flexible you are as a child and how it all goes away. Not that you can’t have that opinion; your opinion can be whatever you want. But I can’t stand it if someone whom I barely know (new classmate) starts going on and on to me about how this would be so easy if we were children, and don’t I remember how easy everything was back then, how can I not remember? And it’s like no, I can’t remember because it was NOT easier for me to do physical/kinesthetic things as a child. It just wasn’t my experience. And flexibility? Back then I couldn’t even reach my  knees, much less touch my toes, and my extensions would have been nonexistent – all my flexibility came as an adult (though my hands and locked knees do indicate possible hypermobility, even then). But for whatever reason people always seem to look put out when I express my truth, and it’s not that I’m trying to be deliberately contradictory, but if it just wasn’t my experience for things to go a certain way why should I lie about it? Am I supposed to lie about it, in order for them to have the piece of mind, to keep believing that their truth is the only one? Is this one of the reasons why I can’t even have simple small talk conversations with most people, because I refuse to give them the answer that they expect (if it’s not true to me), so they move on to those who will just echo their sentiments?

But if I may be honest, even though I may sound irritated or angry in my little rant, I’m actually lonely.  It can be very alienating not having anyone to relate to. I mean, sometimes they all start having a group conversation about how great things were when they were little girls and I just feel so lost, so unrelateable, like there’s something wrong with me. I often feel like no one can relate – I know what it feels like to be an adult who can do somewhat awesome things, but I don’t know what it feels to be a child who could. And since it’s presumed to be easier to do things as a child – no one expects a grown up to be able to jump and skip and dance and cartwheel – there’s this feeling of failure that I carry around with me, like I was an inadequate child, like if we were living in caveman times I would have been left by the group to die as the weakest link (I know that sounds so dramatic, but I think about stuff like that…).

Anyway, I’m trying to find something constructive in all of this….Yes, I may have been a disappointment as a child, but at least now I’m not full of excuses? Or at least since I don’t have those memories of the happiest childhood ever, it makes it so my adulthood is really fun in comparison? I feel like if I was more motivated, and social, I could turn this around and have it be somehow inspirational, to not let your past define your future. But I’m not really that motivated (except to practice ballet!) – or social – so it will be up to someone else, if there even is anyone else like me out there. There probably is… they’re just not coming to my local classes, or writing about it on the internet (yet – if you’re different that the “norm”, please share your story; we need it).

(p.s. yes, I know that it’s easier to recover from things like falls as a child, and that bone remodeling rate or cell growth slows down when one is older, and these things may apply to everyone, even me. But I’m not really talking about the physiology of it, so much as the mental/cognitive aspect of it. Even though I had healthy bones as a kid, and if I scraped my knee it would scab quickly, that doesn’t mean that I could do all the things that other children could do. I just couldn’t do it. And the whole thing about kids being fearless? Uh-uh, not this child.)

Back To Regularly Scheduled Life

 

 

It feels like forever since I wrote on this blog, though it’s only been a little over a week…I miss it so much though, so even though I don’t have anything good to share I’ll write anyway. Just a heads up though – this post is kind of a mess. Since I wrote the last post, I’ve been kind of a mess…

I haven’t taken a ballet class since the last one I wrote about. It’s been a crazy week.  My body has apparently decided to revolt against me…

In my last post, I mentioned how we were working on sissones in class. When landing one of them, I landed a little weird (meaning not quite pain, but I felt something), which translated to a soreness in my hip. For whatever reason, my thighs had been unusually sore for a few days even before class as well, so it wasn’t very apparent at first.  I thought ‘no big deal’, iced my hip and thigh, and went to sleep. Wrote the last post…

Last weekend (right after writing the post) I was helping my parents move. During the moving process, my dad collapsed (he’s a diabetic and he doesn’t manage his blood sugar all that well) and while helping to pick him up  before the ambulance arrived I pulled my back slightly. So by the start of the week I was already sore both in my upper and lower body. To make it worse, by Tuesday I was also experiencing some unexplained pain in my knee (same side as the hip).

By Wednesday I was so upset by all of the above mentioned things that I didn’t even want to get up. I blew off school completely (which is so unlike responsible dependable me, but anyone who knows me personally would start figuring out that things were not well in Kit-land). When I finally did get up, it felt like my knee and lower leg were where the majority of the soreness was concentrated, and my hip felt a little better. Or perhaps it was that it was just better in comparison to the throbbing knee. I spent the rest of the day curled up on the couch, crying intermittently.

Thursday I woke up stiff, sore and freezing cold. While the only goal I was committing to was to make it to the couch, a phone call with my dad cheered me up slightly, and I motivated – at the time it felt more like forced -myself to go spend the day with my family. The first few steps out of my apartment and into the cold sucked majorly – every step felt like it was pounding right to my knee. Getting into my car also sucked –  honestly, by this point the idea of me being able to dance anytime in the near future seemed more and more unlikely.

(And did I mention I’m supposed to have a performance coming up?!)

The weirdest thing is that as soon as I got to my parent’s and headed down the hallway towards their apartment, my leg felt so much better. This lifted my spirits and I remained cheerful and mostly pain-free for the duration of my visit. At this point I started to wonder (among other crazier thoughts, which I won’t get into here…), was my pain all in my head? After all, I haven’t fallen, or even gone jogging or practiced jumping in the days immediately before the pain started. It just made no sense.

When I returned home  that night, the pain returned, although not as intense. I think this is around the time we figured out that the cold seems to have a huge effect on my knee pain  – as long as I stay warm it doesn’t hurt. Now armed with this knowledge, I spent the rest of the long weekend bundled up underneath like 5 or 6 layers of clothing or taking boiling hot showers. I guess it’s good to know that moving up north to a higher latitude – and the accompanying colder weather – would be a terrible idea for me; my body would probably just fall apart!

So now it’s been about 12 days since the hip issue started, and about a week since the knee pain began. They good news is that my knee is doing better everyday (my hip is not doing worse necessarily, but it just faded to the background when my knee pain started to flare up). My back has recovered completely as well (or at least it’s not doing that pinching feeling when I bend over, which is good enough).

While I still have yet to return to ballet class, I have been to a rehearsal and Modern class once (today). I was really apprehensive about participating in Modern, but I told M Teacher about my pain and how any jumping or hard landings are out of the question. I actually had a really great time in class – it felt so awesome to just move! But I’ve been so anxious about returning to ballet class. I’m paranoid that the reason Modern didn’t aggravate my body (the hip, specifially) is because we didn’t really work in turnout (or at least not an extreme ballet-style turnout), much less fully crossed 5th position.

Here’s the thing: while I realize that according to some (all? most? those in the know?) people it’s not really ballet unless you’re working in 5th (as opposed to 3rd) I really don’t want to quit ballet, I just love dancing so much. But, being rational for a moment here, I don’t want to completely wreck my body by forcing my tight adult ligaments to stretch in ways they don’t – or can’t . At the age I began ballet (with no childhood stretching experience whatsoever), I feel it’s unlikely that I will achieve the kind of turnout needed to actually cross my fifth without it looking like fourth.

So I don’t really know my options here (once the pain is gone, of course). Stick with Basic beginner class where we mostly just work in first? Try to learn ballet only on my own at home again? I really, really, really don’t want to quit – the idea of that breaks my heart.

And I really hate feeling like I had no business even trying to do ballet, like it’s not meant for me, because I’m just so weak and fragile.

Last night, a friend of mine came to visit. We were close several years ago (or at least as close as I let people to me), but at around the time I started ballet we started to drift apart and she moved out of state.  I never told her that I do ballet. As we talked, I realized – yet again – how big a part of my life ballet has become. I still didn’t tell her, so it was apparent to me more in the gaps and pauses, all the things left unsaid. The main reason I didn’t say anything is because I’m worried she will tease me and I’ll feel dumb for dedicating so much time and energy towards ballet.  I mean, it’s like in the almost three years since we stopped hanging  together almost every single day (and wasting our time and energy, lol) our lives took very different paths: she’s been all over the place, traveling the world, and I’ve been here trying to make myself a ballerina. It’s not that I wish I had her life – I don’t even particularly like the idea of traveling – but I know that her interests have become more along the lines of “the norm” while mine are not understandable to many people.  It irritates me that I feel this way, but I have no idea how to just not care.

Issues, I have them…

Anyway, I hope to have more happy dance-y things to share soon.

Thanks for reading 🙂

A Better Ballet Week

All things considered, I had a pretty good ballet week. A few really good classes, and no extra stressful classes, not to mention the occasional moment when I really felt like I knew what I was doing.

My first class of the week was Basic Beginner class, which is one of my favorites, mostly because center is somewhat do-able for me to the point that it’s really fun.  We did balancés, walts step and chaines, one at a time and then combining them all into a combination across the floor. So fun! I seriously feel like getting to take a fun class like this makes up for all the days of hard work that doesn’t seem to be paying off. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, I really like that in this class there’s not a big emphasis on having a super high extension at barre. While my flexibility has increased so much since I started ballet, and has even increased more recently, I don’t think I’m going to be having my foot all the way up over my head anytime soon.

In Intermediate Class, barre was quick and difficult. Not impossibly hard, but hard enough to make me a little sloppy, or close in back instead of front, stuff like that. Lots of changing to the inside leg as working leg, and different port de bras from what I’m used to. I did notice that at some point I stopped getting confused about the direction in the super fast rond de jambes. Actually, our rond de jambe barre combination is a little different from what I’ve been used to. After our rond de jambes a terre and en l’air, we do this thing where our leg goes up from attitude devant to a la seconde really up high and it comes down in back (reversed after rond de jambes en dedans). This is one of those moments when I feel inadequate about my mediocre extension.

Center started with a tendu combination: tendus in croisse, temps lie, switch sides and repeat, ecarte tendus and degages, then I don’t remember but there was both kinds of pirouettes (en dehors and en dedans) in there. And I managed to do a few decent ones en dehors. This one time I just tried it without really thinking about it too much, and it was one of my cleanest ones. My en dedans pirouettes are stronger than en dehors, so in those I’m not as worried about making it all the way around, just focusing on technique. They’re so fun though, and remind me that turning in ballet class feels so much better once you’re more confident you can get all the way around and somewhat lost the fear of falling over.

Then we did an adagio: 4 ballet walks, developpe devant, chasse, promenade, pirouette en dehors, forgot the rest unfortunately… but it was nice and slow. The part that sucks is the promenade, as Teacher wants us to do a really high arabesque for it and it throws me off balance completely. But other than that it was fun.

Across the floor was soutenu x3, tombe pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, 3/4 soutenu?, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, chasse, chaines, finish in releve arabesque. Let’s see, the soutenus we fun, and of course I like pirouettes en dedans, but the combination is long enough that I was stressing out about remembering how it goes and what’s next. It was so pretty though.

Petite allegro ( [glissade, assemble]x3, jete, changement, soubresaut x2, pas de chat x2, pas de bourre, sissone is still waaay too fast. I think it would benefit me to go through the motions slowly and get a feel of which step goes after which, and then speed it up. As it is, I get lost after the last assemble, and then try to resume in timing during the pas de chat. I really wish we could do it in two groups at different tempos so I could actually try to keep up. In the meantime, I’ve been practicing both assembles and sissones at home, so it can feel more instinctive (I seem to have forgotten how I learn the best by practicing the rough idea at home, then working on improving it at class with corrections, as opposed to trying to learn it right then and there).  Especially the arms for the sissones, those take some work to get used to – need to keep remembering to open them the way I’m traveling.

The [saute arabesque, saute coupe] x2, tombe pas de bourre, glissade, saut de chate/grad jete combination felt much better the second day we did it this week. I could almost feel how it would go if it actually was done right, is the best way I can put it. It’s usually the glissade after the pas de bourre that messes me up.  Part of it was that when I think “glissade” I would usually think of the kind that travels sideways, the petit allegro step. A few days ago I asked Teacher about it after class (it’s funny, I was remembering the other day that when I first started taking class with Teacher a little over a year ago what I really liked about her was that I could ask questions after class if I didn’t understand something. It’s been so helpful!) and it was then that I figured out it was a forwards travel. Still, my body is not used to performing that movement yet, so when we go to the left I hesitate slightly (I think this is what leads to me jumping off on the wrong foot for the leap after).  To the right, like I said earlier, I almost felt like it how it would feel to do it. My glissade is a little sloppy (what were my arms doing?) and my leap lands a little clunky, not to mention that I don’t know how to finish after that. But I did a series of connected jumps, more or less, and it feels good. I’m really glad class ends with this (or reverance) and not petite allegro. That way I can have nice memories to think about on the way home.

Another thing that happened is that I forgot my little warm-up sweater when I went to class one of the days, and I didn’t realize it until I was inside the studio (I got dressed at home and just grabbed my slippers and threw them in my purse) .  I hadn’t taken class without my sweater in quite a while, and though it felt so strange at first, I made it through class just fine – in fact, I had a really good class. I was starting to worry that I use my warm up sweater as a crutch (I wear it because then I can tell myself that it somewhat disguises my chest and any incidental bouncing), so I felt pretty good about making it through a class without it. To be fair, it was a class not through my regular school, where I feel even more like I have to hide my body.  So, it’s a small victory, but it’s something. On the other hand, had I realized in the car I wouldn’t have gone inside. It would feel like taking class without my shoes (which happened about a year ago before I started packing spare pairs of shoes. And I only did barre – I was scared of slipping during center on my tights.). It sucks, as pretty soon there will be a day when I’ll have to take class with no cover up over my leotard, and I should prepare.

Basic Beginner Class: So Simple, Yet So Challenging!

As my session of almost daily ballet classes is over, this weekend I found myself taking Basic Beginner class at Adults Only studio.  It was something I was looking forward to (taking a basic beginner class, not my session of classes being over), so I forced myself to get up at a way too early hour considering it’s the weekend.  It was pretty fun though, so I’ll probably do it again.

The class was more basic-beginner level than I remember, though in the time since I last attended months ago they switched to a different teacher. We did a lot of stuff facing the barre, and we started off with some warm up exercises and in sixth position (parallel). New Teacher gave combinations that were pretty complex, yet not hard if you figure out the patterns.  When I came out I told Boyfriend, “This class was so easy but so hard!” and that about sums up how I felt about it.

For example, we did tendus with no arms. The combination was tendu devant to demi point, full point, demi point, close in first, twice. Then tendu devant 4 times, tendu a la seconde four times. Then tendu devant 3 times, a la seconde once, then tendu devant twice, a la seconde twice, then tendu devant once, a la seconde three times.  That is a lot of tendus! The part that was throwing me off when we were marking the combination was that I kept waiting for the tendu derriere to come (we didn’t do any in this class), but once I realized we weren’t doing that it was a nice exercise.

Of course, we later on did the same thing, but for grand battement.  And honestly, that was a little difficult.  I mean, that is a lot of grand battements without resting.  My first sets of them were nice and high, but by the end of the sequences I’d noticed that my battements just weren’t getting up there as much as the previous ones.  N Teacher gave a general correction to not sink in the upper body while doing the grand battements and I worked on applying it, but I was feeling so tired. It looks like I have identified something that needs work!

We didn’t use arms for any of the combinations, which I really missed.  I like doing the little preparation arm thing before each exercise, and I felt like I wasn’t supposed to do it.  This is something that happens to me often in basic beginner class, actually – I feel like I’m not supposed to do the more advanced things that I’m used to doing because no one else is. Stuff like finishing the exercise with arms in low fifth, head turned away from the barre, or following the hand with the head.  For example, we were doing some combinations with one hand on the barre, the other on our hip, and everyone  else was starting with their hands already on the barre and hip, but I wanted to do a preparation from low fifth.  Later on, N Teacher reminded the students to do a preparation as soon as the music starts but before we start moving our leg, so I felt a little better.

Some stuff I really liked was how we did about a million releves and eleves, I’m assuming for strengthening. I was actually really feeling it in the calves by the end of that combination. I also really liked how we took this super long balance in releve first position, which I’ve mentioned before that for the longest time I had trouble balancing in. Once on releve, we brought our arms up to high fifth, looked to the right, then left, then brought the arms out to second then back up to high fifth.  I was so proud of myself that I didn’t lose my balance, though I did feel the slightest bit of a wobble when we looked around.

Center was low-key and fun.  We did tendus a la second with temps lie, then tendus devant (with no temps lie). All with no arms, and just facing en face, but I still enjoyed it.  We then did chaines. I was a litle worried that we were all going to do them super slow and with our hands on the shoulders, but N Teacher said we could go at our own pace.  So I went at a moderate speed, working on my spotting. I didn’t finish in chasse to arabesque because honestly I didn’t want to seem like I was showing off. Only 2 of us out of the whole group were wearing leotards, so I wasn’t looking to stand out more than I already was!

For sautes, N Teacher had us do four slow sautes (plie, saute, land in plie, straighten up, repeat), before doing 8 at regular speed.  The super slow sautes were more tiring than I had expected, even though we didn’t do changements or anything more complex. See, this is what I mean by the class being both easy and hard at the same time.

We also did the waltz across the floor, without turning, and it was so nice and do able.  I would have liked to work on the arms, but it was just hands on the hips again. But working on the basics is one of the pluses of taking a basic beginner class, so I took advantage of it!

I had a great time overall – and taking a basic beginner class really helps put it in perspective that I have improved so much since I started. Glad I forced my lazy butt to get up!

Week 4: In The In-Between Stage

Have you ever had that awkward moment in class when the teacher says something is “for the more advanced students” or “not for the more beginning students” and you have no idea if it applies to you? Like, should you try anyway, even if you think that if you do actually do it, it will be super sloppy? Should you only avoid trying something (instead taking the easier option) only if to try it would be to risk serious injury?

More and more I find myself truly not knowing in what category to place myself.  I mean, there’s been stuff that I feel for sure I could do, like fondus on releve en croix, that I’ve gone ahead and done even though it was the harder option. Or using the arms when doing a tendu combination.  And in center, obviously I’m not going to try the doing a cabriolet mid-combination, or entrechats or royales.

Today in center, F Teacher gave me the choice of which group I wanted to go in, the easier version or the harder.  The harder group went first and while it was all steps I know how to do, it was much too fast and I got lost about halfway through the combination (though I did remember the tip I read a while back on someone’s blog – no idea who, so if it’s yours, let me know so I can give you credit 🙂 – that as long as you get the last step right it looks less horrible. Or something like that. At least I ended with the correct foot in front, I guess.

Then I went with the easier group.  And it was, in fact, much easier. It was nice to not be guessing about the next step – though when we did the left side I did momentarily forget what was next..  It seems to me that a big part of the problem is that I just can’t seem to memorize combinations. Short and basic ones, sure, but anything involving more than 6 steps or so, not. And it sucks. I mean, the harder combination was so fun! There was even a pirouette en dedans from fourth – my favorite kind of pirouette (and the only kind in which I can get all the way around and end with the correct foot in front). I wish I could remember the whole combination, so I could practice it and make it better, but if I remembered it I would have probably been dancing it better.

Anyway, I don’t know if this means the more advanced versions are not for me.  Afterwards, we did a saute arabesque, saute passe, saute arabesque, saute passe, run in a small circle (whatever this is called), saute arabesque, alternate legs after running again to a daute arabesque on the other leg, glissade, 4 brises or assembles (yes, assemble was the “easier” version), pas de chat, other side combination.  It was pretty fun, but as I’ve mentioned in other posts, my assembles are not very assemble-y and my arm transitions from middle fifth to arabesque need work. The more advanced people did cabriolets. I think I’m a long way from doing that…

At barre, we’ve been doing a lot of work from a plie position, like tendu and close in plie, they stay in plie for two more tendues.  We’ve been doing more stuff on releve, as well. The frappes have gotten ridiculously fast, and we’re switching it up, like instead of en croix we do three front, three back, en croix, then four  a la seconde, then reverse.  It’s so hard to not get lost, and thinking about which one is next while also actually doing frappes instead of just swinging your foot at the ground is a huge challenge.

F Teacher also worked with us on the concept of it being a dynamic movement, to try to project energy out through your fingertips when doing arabesque arm, that kind of thing.  Honestly, it’s something that I struggle with. If I had to summarize it in my own words, I would say to do the moves like you mean it , not like you’re just marking the combination or, in my case, like you feel like an impostor in ballet class.  I think I have a fear that I’m taking myself too seriously and that if I really try to do it I will look ridiculous.  But it’s something that I need to work on, I just don’t know where to begin.

Overall, I think the level of combinations in class (so far, there’s still a couple weeks left) is a good fit for me, though I don’t really know where I fit in the whole scheme of things. Beginner or beginning-intermediate/ beginner 2?  And everyone in this class has extensions of at least 90°, which is intimidating, just a bit.  I’ve been stretching my butt off, but the discrepancy between my flexibility in my right leg and left leg seems to increase daily… At least by this point I’m not really feeling like ‘why am i even in this class’, which is a good sign. I’m feeling more like ‘I’m not very good at ballet, but this is still probably the funnest summer I’ve ever had’. And yes, I know that “funnest” is probably not a real word…

Week 3: Exhausted, But Happy

Oh my gosh.

We reached the point in the moving process when I found myself without internet access for 4 days. Four whole days, lol. No youtube ballet video watching, no blogging (reading or writing), no random websurfing – though in fact, I hardly had any spare time at all. Practically the only times I wasn’t doing something moving-related (up until right now) was when I was sleeping, eating, or in class. It was interesting though, being without internet … sort of reminded me of being back in 1999 or so (we didn’t get internet at home growing up until 2000) and it was kind of nice, though I missed all my ballet-related internet stuff.  I did get good use of my Classical Ballet Technique book to get my ballet fix during that occasional rare rest moment…

Anyway, this was week 3 that just ended of my ballet summer session, the halfway point.  F Teacher said she is going to change up our barre combinations next week, and we’re going to start working on speed.  I’m a little nervous – when things speed up I tend to get a little sloppy.  However, since the worst part of this whole moving thing is over I hope to be able to get more practice time in.

She gave us a few glimpses into a faster barre: before 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 facing the barre (which reminds me, I really have to practice at home so I can remind myself that I can do it with no barre, since we don’t do that in class) we did this thing where we would degage out three times really quick, then two slow ones (it was incredibly hard!); super fast beated frappes after the regular speed beated frappes; this soutenu at the barre when we turned en dehors instead of towards the barre as I’m used to.

Since I’ve seen some progress in these last several weeks, especially in my beated frappes, I’m not feeling horrible discouraged – though when I do arms at a faster speed they tend to get ugly. Particularly my arabesque arm…

I’ve also started to let go of the barre for slightly longer periods of time for the passe releve and passe coupe balances, though I’m not yet getting my second arm in middle fifth. F Teacher said that we have to see it in our mind before we do it, sort of will ourselves to do it, I guess. I got to remember to try that…

One day we did this adagio center combination to one of my favorite pieces, Mozart’s piano concerto 21, 2nd movement.  The combination was a bit long, here’s what I remember: ballet walk four steps, then turn and ballet walk 2 steps before ballet run for 2 counts ending up in a sous-sus releve balance. From there, grand plie (you know, without falling over…), straighten up and tendu devant, shift weight to fourth, go into  a deep forward lungue and port de bras cambre forward, then from fourth push up to passe releve, sous-sus, and passe releve again from sous-sus.  The music was so beautiful, but since it was hard to remember what step came next it was not the amazing experience it could have been. I hope we do this combination again though.

We also did promenades during a different center combination (that I can’t remember), with the option of having the foot in coupe, or the leg in attitude derriere.  I find it easier to promenade on my left leg, but promenades are something that definitely needs work. Still, “needs work” is a definite impromeven over “I keep falling over”.

I think I figured out the problem with my assembles: it’s a jump off of one foot!

We did this drill at the barre in which we brush out our back foot while plie-ing our supporting leg, then quickly close front into releve sous-sus. So far it’s not impossible, just takes some mind-leg coordination. Then, instead of closing into sous-sus we jump and close in the air. Why does it suddenly become so hard?!

I think the short answer is that I don’t have enough strength on a single leg yet. But other jumps from one leg, like jetes (not grand jetes, just regular) I don’t feel particularly weak. Saute arabesque and saute coupe, both also off of one leg, feel ok as well, at least the jumping part, though my arm placement can get a lopsided by the end.  Then we did these one leg jumps called lemps leve and those were super hard. I know more leg strenght certainly can’t hurt, but I wonder if there is anything else involved here, like something I’m overlooking.  Well, in the meantime F Teacher said next week we will be doing more one-legged releves at barre, so that’ll help, right?

During the developpe partner leg stretches, when we developpe and our partner pushes our leg up higher and higher and then we try to keep it there and lower it down controlledly, I was again complimented on ym leg strength for keeping the leg up there. But why can’t that leg stength translate over to strength for jumps?! It’s either different muscles, or different methods of training the muscles, but which, I don’t know yet…

We also did floor barre one day.  I’ve done floor barre at home before, following a youtube routine, last year when I sprained my ankle and couldn’t do any weight-bearing ballet.  It’s a lot more intense when you’re in class that by yourself for sure. Though I walked out of class totally ok, if anything less tired since we’d done shorted center, the next morning I was so sore! It was really fun though, and I think we’re going to do it again at some point.

Floor barre started with us working on turning in and out, pointing our feet and engaging our turnout muscles. From there we went on to tendus and plies while being on the floor, using the floor to guide us into maintaining proper alignment. We also did cambre, coming up off the floor while bringing our arms up into high fifth. When we we up from the floor all the way to a sitting position with arms in high fifth and the slowly back down I was soooo glad that I’ve been doing Pilates. There was no way my abs would have been capable of doing that previously. Anyway, floor barre is a great conditioning exercise for ballet, though it didn’t feel like doing ballet. F Teacher said we will have an accompanist during the next time we do it, so I am curious if it will feel more balletish then. If so, I’m sure it will be an amazing experience. If not, still a great workout, like a cross between ballet and Pilates.

Balletwise, it was a good week 🙂

Now, off to continue getting myself reacquainted with the internet. And sleep, of course…

Tuesday Class: Rough Starts, Good Endings…

Had another great class, though it did get off to a rough start.  It wasn’t until about 15 minutes before class that I realized that I had not packed my extra sports bra (I could have sworn I grabbed it, but apparently I packed the wrong thing), which was making me not look forward to the jumping part of class. Also, my favorite – and enormous – bathroom stall was occupied so I had to change into my ballet gear in the most cramped quarters ever.  By the time I made it into the studio quite a few of the students were there, though the barres were not set up yet. I wasted no time in setting up a barre at my favorite mirror spot. Chatted with my barre-mate about the possibility of taking Summer class…

Barre started easy enough: two demi plie with arm in low fifth going up to demi-seconde, then eleve and open arm, grand plie bringing the arm all the way down, and cambre, in first, second and fifth. We also did the circular cambre port de bras that either is done right and looks awesome and is done wrong and looks terrible, at the end.  Tendus combination was a little trickier. Mostly becaus it involved a lot of flexing the foot when out in tendu and tenduing only to demi point first (to work on foot articulation, I guess).  It also serves to make sure we are really on our supporting leg and not using our tendu foot as a “kickstand” as Teacher says, I suppose.

Rond de jambe combination was sort of complex. We did 4 rond de jambes en dehors, fondues, then balance in 3rd arabesque, 4 rond de jambes en dedans, fondues, balance with leg out in front and arm in high fifth, close, releve sous-sus, soutenu and other side.  It was fun, though the girl on the next barre over and I kicked each other’s foot during the rond de jambes.  I love how ballet class is all you-don’t-say-anything-and-just-keep-going about little accidents like than, because it seems so different compared to how it seems people are quick to react over little things like that in the  “real world”. Or something…

The hardest part of barre was definitely the 8 echappes without holding the barre and a long balance out in releve a la seconde before finally coming back down.  It felt wobbly and  unstable, but could have been worse.

Wrapping up barre, we did the partner developpe stretch. We were holding on to the barre behind us, then developpe as high as we can and have our partner guide our leg up even higher, as high as we can. The they would let go and we would try to hold it up there for as long as possible.  Besides devant and a la second, we also did derriere, having our partner push up our leg as we went to penchee arabesque.  I think I can get my legs up higher now than the last time we tried this, especially my left leg which is usually tighter and less flexible.  After this, as we had our water break before center, a couple of the students asked me about my stretching routine. Do I stretch everyday? “Yeah, kind of. Like 5 days a week?” How long have I been stretching? “Since starting ballet two years ago.” I also made sure to mention than I’m not naturally flexible, that as a kid I couldn’t even touch my toes.  It’s been hard work every step of the way. I’ve always been more impressed by people who’ve worked hard to accomplish something as opposed to having a facility for it.  Perhaps because it makes it seem like anything can be possible if you just work hard enough/want it bad enough, and sometimes I need to think something reassuring like that…

Teacher had everyone go along the wall barre practicing steping out from a pique on to a passe releve.  Pique out the right leg, put right foot down in demi point, left leg in passe (and then the opposite to the other side of course). But she had a couple of the students from IC do pique turns instead – and she had me join them! I instantly wished that I’d practiced pique turns more recently than last weekend, but they went ok. At least to the right.  My spotting to the left still needs work, though I did manage to pique turn across the whole huge studio. I still believe pique turns are a million times easier than pirouettes.

We went over the balance, step to arabesque, pas de bourre, other side combination.  Teacher wanted us to work on bringing our arabesque leg up even higher.  That made balancing harder, of course. Something to work on at home…

While sautes seem to continue improving, changements are still leaving much to be desired.  My feet frequently land in the wrong place, or I land a good 6 inches to the side of where I took off from.  After this we did a new jumping combination. We jumped out to second, then pas de bourre three times total, then pas de chat twice, then start the whole thing to the left.  It was fun to attempt, but as I’m still lacking in speed it wasn’t looking too good. It reminded me a little of one of the combinations from IC, and I think I did do a better job at it than I did when taking IC a few months ago. And, to my surpirse, I completely forgot about the missing extra sports bra…

Then it was time to practice ballet running.  Since I was missing my second sports bra there was quite a bit of bounceage going on, but since we were all running at the same time I felt camouflaged.  Teacher told us to make sure our arms were not wobbling whele we ran, so it was nice to work on the stuff I can control and keep from bouncing. It did feel a little silly to be running around in a circle.  It wasn’t until hours after class when I realized that when Teacher has kept mentioning that we were running like a corps de ballet she actually meant this as a serious exercise.  I think I’d had a dumb grin on my face the whole time we were running.

We did the 4 chasse gallops, ballet run for four counts and pas de chat combination.  Teacher didn’t correct me on pointing my feet during the chasse gallops, so hopefully that means I was doing them right. They did feel strong though, and I could actually feel the part where the ankles touch in sous-sus in midair.  It was as good a way as any to end class (though you know how much I love reverance)…

Only one more class left in the semester.  Sad 😦

Thursday Class: Hot

We had no class on Tuesday – though I did enjoy a nice practice session at home – so Thursday was my first class in a week.

The weather got hot (finally – it was feeling more like fall than late May), making it harder to stay cool, especially towards the latter part of class.  This may have been the first time ever in ballet class when I’ve actually found myself sweating.  Out of breath, sure, has happened many times (especially back before I started running), totally sore, also yes, but never actual sweat. Of course, I was wearing my little sweater (they call them warm ups for a reason…) but I’ve just gotten so comfortable taking class with it on that I can’t imagine doing it without. So yeah…

We did a new combination with our rond de jambes: 4 rond de jambes en dehors, then brush the foot through  first to the front en cloche, then back, then front, hold, close, 4 rond de jambes en dedans, brush foot through en cloche, then end with foot behind and balance in 3rd arabesque. It was a nice combination, a bit challenging on moving the leg en cloche in correct timing. Actually, the timing of the rond de jambes was a little faster than usual, which also added to the challenege. The balancing part was ok, I balanced better on my second side (right leg), which was a little different than what I’m used to. In general my balancing was strong this class. It’s so unpredictable – going into class I never can guess ahead of time if it will be a good balancing day.

We did frappes on croix, then soutenu and other side.  It was a little tricky, closing from a frappe right to a releve sous-sus for the soutenu and then on the other side having the foot flexed and ready to frappe.  Also, it was 4 frappes in each direction, so there was the whole don’t-swich-the-first-one thing to think about.  It was fun though, I like doing stuff that is somewhat tricky so I can pat myself on the back that I can even do it at all. I remember my attemps at doing frappes my first semester – horrible!

Around the time we put the barres away for center, several dancers who sometimes take the next class (Intermediate) came it and began to warm themselves up in the back.  I have a strong suspicion these dancers are either pros or ex-pros, and I think one of the guys is en pointe.  Anyway, our first center combination was our 4 quarter pirouettes, 2 half pirouettes, and 2 full.  We start facing the front, quarter turn to the side, then quarter turn to the back, and I see one of the possibly pro dancers doing some ridiculously flexible stretch on the floor with his legs up by his ears (and he was wearing a sweater tied around his waist, with the arms placed strategically on the area where his dance belt is/would be. And then I noticed the other pro male dancer was sporting the same look. Is this a thing? For extra coverage while stretching? I though dance belts were designed with modesty in mind? Does the fact that I even noticed make me out to be a total perv? Not that it was distracting in the least… LOL).  We quarter turn twice more, and now we do our half turn to the back.  This time he’s in a completely different, also ridiculously flexible stretch, this one involving sort-of circling his legs out along the floor and bringing them back up rapidly.  By the time we’re on our second full pirouette – well, my attemps at a full pirouette – he’s down in completely perfect splits.  It was just like ‘Wow!’ because we have some people in class who are somewhat flexible, and even I myself sometimes get considered a flexible individual (especially by non-dancers, LOL) but these dancers (and this guy in particular) are just on another level.  It amazes me. I mean, I’ve watched youtube videos of pros taking class – actually, I love watching pros taking class videos – but seeing it right in front if you just makes it so real.  It was so intimidating fumbling through the pirouettes (and the rest of class) knowing they were there. It’s not like they were watching us or anything, they were mostly focused on their warm-up, but I still get embarassed. The whole concept of “That girl sucks at ballet – why does she even bother?” combined with my special brand of anxiety over being observed.  I guess I still feel so out-of-place at ballet class, unless everyone is on a very beginner level.  I don’t have much confidence in my dancing abilities, though I still have fun with it and continue to try.

When we did chaines from corner to corner I went in the last group.  It was not the wisest decision. First of all, there was only 2 of us (which in itself is not a problem, in IC we even went completely alone), but the other girl is really new (first semester) so, understandably, she turns really slow.  When we got to the other side we were supposed to finish by chasse-ing and then balancing in 3rd arabesque.  It’s usually no big deal, just a quick balance and then get out of the middle of the floor and get in line for the other side. The problem was that I had to hold my balance for much longer, since I finished crossing the floor much quicker and had to stay while the other girl finished and Teacher corrected her on her turns and chasse and arabesque. Holding the balance for longer, especially after all those turns (especially to the left) was certainly a challenge.

During our 4 balancés, tombe, pas de bourre, then other side combination, Teacher corrected me on my turnout. I tend to lose some of my turnout while moving, especially moving quickly.  It’s so hard to apply a correction when you’re in the middle of motion!

Jumps were definitely better today. During the 16 sautes and then 16 changements, Teacher told us “Much better on the timing!”, and being honest, it was usually me who was screwing up the group’s timing.  I’ve gotten much better at not speeding up towards the end, and actually staying on the same timing as everyone else.  I was trying to focus my attention more on making sure my feet were landing in the correct position and pointing in the air, not just jumping for the sake of jumping.  Like, being really deliberate in telling my body what I wanted it to do.  When we did 3 echappes, pas de chat, pas de bourree Teacher actually complimented me on my jumps, and I was looking in the mirror and the jump did look really powerful. Possibly the best echappe I’ve ever done!

Left class feeling pleased with my improvements (though frustrated by the areas that show no improvement). Feeling sad over the (rapidly) approaching break for the summer though. Teacher mentioned that there will be a session of IC taught over the summer, but it won’t be taught by her so I don’t know if I’m up for it.  I really dislike this aspect about me, but if I can’t feel at least comewhat comfortable it’s hard for me to relax enough to concentrate on what I’m doing.  If I don’t feel comfortable with the teacher I don’t know if I will just make a great big mess of things.  On the other hand, it is  almost daily and affordable ballet classes. Arg, what to do?!

Tuesday Class: Definitely A Better Day

Had another fun class, feeling much better from last week 🙂

It was one of those I-love-ballet-class days…

Tendu combination was complex enough to make it more interesting than usual with slow tendus with lots of articulation, tendus at different speeds, and using arms for tendus en croix. Can’t remember exactly how it went, but it may have been the slow tendus en croix, then quick tendus en croix with arms with some plies in there.  During it I kept up really well, and I was glad, though I wish I could remember exactly how it goes so I could practice it at home.

Rond de jambe combination included a passe releve balance on flat after 3 en dehors a terre and 1 en l’air, and then a passe releve (attempt at) balance after the same number en dedans.  From there we were to bring our foot down into sous-sus, then cambre front and back.  I love this kind of stuff, since this is the kind of stuff I practice at home. It’s great to actually get to do stuff like this in class and get corrected on possible ways I’m doing it wrong and stuff.  Ok, that and I love having an enormous mirror to watch  myself sort of doing ballet in right in front of me.  If I had mirrors like that at home I’d be so motivated to practice every single day even more than now. Anyway, it was a nice combination.

During the barre stretch and foot in hand stretch part of class I didn’t have to worry that I was showing off by keeping my leg up, as there was this really advanced male dancer took class with us, and there his is one barre over with his foot up over his head. It was pretty cool to watch him do barre though, so flexible and graceful.

We used arms for our grand battements en croix, which made it funner – and of course, more challenging.  Muscle memory is nice to have though, and using arms is something I’ve gotten used to by now.  When demonstrating, Teacher told us where the leg goes relative to the arm when doing grand battement a la second, and I think she said behind but now I’m not  so sure and I wish I’d written it down faster.  Behind is  where I do them to anyway, but it’s nice to know if you’re doing it right.  Some teacher had said it didn’t matter whether it went behind or in front, and that had seemed odd. Like, rarely in ballet is something just left up to where ever the dancer feels like it, I had thought, but maybe I’m wrong…

During pirouettes, Teacher identified the reason for my crappy pirouettes (though ok quarter and half pirouettes): I was not spotting at the end.  She said I start out spotting ok, but then lose it – which was news to me, as I didn’t even realize I’d been managing to spot at all.  Spotting almost makes sense when doing across the floor turns, like chaines or piques, but for stationary turns I just can’t seem to get the hang of how to spot. Does this mean that when doing across the floor turns I wasn’t really spotting? Was I just pretending to spot?  So confusing, though I’m sure I’ll have fun figuring it out.

We did the full pirouettes from 4th instead of fifth, which used to feel easier in the past. By now we’ve done so many from fifth that they’re both feeling around the same difficulty. I haven’t practiced my passe releves from 4th in a while, now that I think about it…

Ballet running practice was next.This time we ran with our arms in third, which is a million times less awkward for me than with arms in second for obvious reasons.  I’m pretty sure that did not have any effect on my ballet running though, as it remains terrible. It looks so pretty when done right, and there’s a couple classmates who’ve really got it down.  This one lady in particular is so entertaining to watch do pretty much anything (I’ve mentioned her before as the lady with the perfect attitude derriere), but especially her running and grand jetes. She is amazing.

Sautes went much better than last class. I caught myself starting to speed up the tempo, and forced myself to slow it down.  Working on taking each individual jump at at time, just focusing on pointing those feet, landing with the feet in something at least resembling the position they’re supposed to be in. All this stuff that i could be focusing on, instead of just getting high off the floor as many times as quick as possible.  If I keep it up I’m sure my body will eventually figure out what we’re doing here…

On another, sort-of-related  note, I’ve been working more on my toes, trying to activate all the muscles that spread the toes out, or stretch them out.  I’ve been thinking of taking before nd after pictures of what happens, to see if there’s any improvement.  Maybe see if any improvement in my ablity to stretch out my toes results in an improvement in my dancing. So we’ll see if I get around to that anytime soon…