Tag Archives: center of gravity

Wednesday: Compliments, Ballet Class, And A ‘Lil TMI

Fun day today, first Pilates, then ballet…

In Pilates class this morning, I was sitting on my mat with my in legs front of me, open about, let’s see, I wanna say about 120° or so, and one of my classmates was like “we can’t even get our legs to do that!”

So, I was like “Oh, I’ve been doing ballet for, like, two years (!) so I’ve gotten a lot more flexible; my flexibility has increased so much!”

And a different girl, her friend, asks, “Is that why your feet are so archy and stuff?”

I’m thinking, ‘Me? My feet, archy?!’ and I was so happy, seriously, but instead I taught her the theraband feet exercises that I do (after pointing my feet for the group a couple times to their ooooh’s and ahhhh’s, lol), and encouraged them to try out ballet.  But yeah, someone noticed something ballet-like about me outside of ballet class; perhaps that means I’m a (real) dancer.

Anyway.

Evening class was fun, though not really challenging today. We had a bunch of brand new students, both new to ballet and new to me.  We did pretty slow and basic combinations at barre (though I totally destroyed the timing of the slow ronde de jambs – impatient me!), and in center we did the same combination as last week but without the pirouettes.  E Teacher had me be in the front row (eeek!) so I was worried that I would mess up – thus embarassing us both (me for my clumsiness, and her for her error in judgment in thinking I could be in front row) – but I didn’t.

Sautes. I think the last time I did an actual saute-echappe-changement combination – (attempted) pointed feet in midair, ballet arms – was last year.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been jumping plenty to keep conditioned for the real sautes, but since I don’t have anywhere outside of class to practice jumping in ballet shoes and last week we ran out of time in class, it’s been a while since I’ve gotten to do sautes.  At least now I can remember to land in plie and it no longer sounds like a crashing elephant.  I think once I saw a ballet teacher wince (though she attempted to hide it) when watching – and hearing – some of my horrible heavy-landed sautes.

I really want to practice this foot pointing thing more, as I hope to get it into muscle memory.  By this point I don’t think it’s lack of muscle strength that causes my difficulties but bad muscle memory patterns that need to be overridden. Which brings me to…

Balancing.  Ever since I’ve been putting my shoulders back, my balances have improved so much.  You know how ballet teachers always say to lean forward, not back? Before I felt like I was already leaning forward, but I think it was just my shoulder positioning that was making me feel that way.  But yeah, my two-footed balances are getting super long and stable now that I have my shoulders back and I can actually lean forward. During my one-footed balances I’m afraid I’m too focused on what the working leg is doing to devote my full attention to shoulders. Hopefully once the “shoulders back” thing becomes  muscle memory it’ll be easier…

And now, the TMI part.  Ok, so I have a few pair of “dancing” underwear – basically, the leg openings are high enough (higher than the leotard’s) that they won’t be visible through my tights – but today I forgot that I had ballet and was wearing regular underwear.  Then I remembered that I read somewhere, possibly a dance forum, that the tights are the underwear (or so the dancers say). Ok, why not, I’ll give it a shot…

It was awesome! As much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes have this fear of looking in the mirror because I won’t be happy with what I see. My “lines” are different, to say the least, but besides the lines I worry about the bulges, the kind that happen between the waistband of the underwear and the waistband of the tights or the waistband of the tights and the bra strap.  With one of those taken out of the equation I looked so smooth, which helped me focus more on my placement and less on my body image anxiety. It was a nice change 🙂

But yeah, class was fun.

The Height vs. Stability Trade-off

As I alluded to at the end of my last post, this is about my short conversation with wednesday evening ballet teacher.  There was a question that had been bugging me for a bit – in fact, I as I was having trouble sleeping on tuesday night because of the heat it kept circling my mind – so I told myself that I was going to work up the nerve to ask one of my teachers.

Some background info first: As I have mentioned many, many times thoughout this blog, my balancing (while in releve) is not that great at times.  Many other aspects of ballet – my overall coordination, flexibility, timing, –  have been steadily improving throughout my 20ish months of ballet. But my balance, in my opinion, is worse than the average beginner’s.  There is nothing that sucks more for me in class – well, I can think of a few things, but not any that have actually happened – than to be one of the first people to lose their balance on releve.  Then I looked around (using the mirror, I wasn’t obvious), and noticed that many of the other students’ heels were actually not very far off the ground at all.  And I though, “If I don’t go up all the way, I guess I do feel a bit more stable.” But when at the barre – and all those times that I actually do find my center of balance – I can go all the way up. “It’s a trade-off,” I thought, “of height vs. stability.”

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I happen to enjoy looking at – and making – graphs and charts for whatever reason…

But the questions lingered in my mind : is it correct technique? Which is a bigger priority, the height (full releve) or being able to maintain stability for a sustained period of time?

This wednesday, I walked into class with my mind made up – I was going to seek an answer to my questions!

According to the teacher, if it’s not all the way  up it’s not a real releve.  Fair enough.  I’ve seen so many ballet recitals on youtube and while a high releve looks great – sometimes I almost forget they’re not en pointe – a not-so-high releve looks somewhat sloppy.

After explaining my issue ( the height vs. stability trade off), I asked if it was an ankle strength – or lack thereoff – issue.  She agreed that doing more ankle strengthening excercises would help, and  of course, more practicing. Which makes sense, because when I do my theraband excercises immediately before attempting to balance I have noticed that I’m more stable.

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A half-ass releve, heels only 4 in. off the ground. 

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A “real”  releve, or as real as it gets for me. This one was in first position.

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Releve sous-sus. My feet are too far apart, but I thought it was cool how I literally can’t see my right foot’s heel from this angle.

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And just for fun, a picture I took yesterday. Both my heel and toes are touching the floor and I was pushing up the rest of my foot off the ground far enough to fit my hand between my foot and the floor.  Just though it was a crazy thing to see my feet do, though I’m not claiming this is impressive or anything. This was taken immediately after finishing up theraband exercises.

Wednesday Ballet Overload (In a Good Way!)

The day I made it to two classes. Hopefully not the only day…
Wednesday morning class

Before class, I ran into a girl that had taken ballet with me last semester. I asked her if she wasn’t taking it this semester, since I hadn’t seen her in class. She replied that she was actually taking intermediate but she would be taking this class too. It was pretty cool because I had the opportunity to ask her about intermediate. What’s it like? How is it different? She said it’s faster and the teacher calls out the moves, which you are expected to know (in French, of course). Less demonstration and explanation, more calling out the names of moves and doing them! Sounds like fun, hopefully someday for me. Or will I be in “beginner” level class forever?

Once again we did the slow tendues in which it takes two counts to point our foot. I’m starting to get the hang of staying in timing for the slow ones instead of rushing ahead. This time the teacher had us leg go of the barre during the slow tendues instead of the degages. Quite a bit easier!

We did plenty of releves, in first and in second position, and then balancing. While balancing we put took our arms from middle fifth to high fifth and then brought them down to second as we lowered from our releve. To be honest, I’m still finding balancing while moving the arms to be difficult. If I keep my arms still, whether in middle or high fifth, sometimes I feel like I could literally hold the balance for minutes. When there’s arm movement though, it all falls apart. Perhaps it’s an engaging-the-core issue? I hope so, I hope it’s not just the screwy center of gravity issue coming back to haunt me. I thought we had gotten past that.

We also did one-legged balances on flat, with our working leg (foot?) in coupe and then in passe. Since we weren’t moving our arms during that it went ok.

At barre, the main correction I received was regarding my arches. I was letting them fall again. Oops. I’ve been wondering if doing ankle strengthening exercises would help me strengthen whatever muscle it is that needs to be stronger so I can consistently keep them lifted. I can lift them, but them I forget.

For center, after learning my lesson last week, I made sure to stand somewhere where I could see everything the teacher did. This weeks combination was different but still involved port de bras, tendu a la second (right foot), plie, tendu to first (left foot), releve while bringing the arms up. Easy-to-remember combination, but the balancing while releve with the arms was killing me! My lack of balance can sometimes make me feel so ungraceful!

We went across the floor doing our 3-step-fondue-releve-releve-walk (seriously don’t know what to call this!), this time incorporating the arms. It looked so pretty! Well, the people who were doing it right, at least. I was having some coordination issues with the arms and the walking-releveing-fondueing so I won’t say it looked pretty while I did it, but it could have been so much worse!

Next we incorporated a turn into our 3-step-fondue-releve-walk. Something like this: 3 steps to turn (while fondue, releve, releve) and then 3 steps in a straight line (while fondue, releve, releve), the 3 steps to turn (fondue, releve, releve), etc. until we reached the other side of the (HUGE) studio. It sounds way more complicated than it was, I swear. We started with our right side and then did the left.

You know what’s the weird thing? I’m not a lefty – I write with my right hand – but for some reason it’s always easier for me to turn to the left than to the right, whether it be chaines, pirouettes, pique turns, and I can 1-legged balance way better on my left foot (even though it’s the ankle I hurt 6 weeks ago). I can throw better with my left arm than right as well. Boyfriend has a theory that I’m really a lefty but my mom “forced” me to use my right hand, lol. Could be possible, I guess – my little sis is a lefty and my mom did totally try to force her to use her right hand.

We also did a lot of sautes – great way to work up a sweat! I hadn’t done this many sautes since before spraining my ankle. No pain at all, awesome! I don’t remember if I mentioned this before in a post about a different class, but at some point (when I wasn’t thinking about it too much) I figured out the concept of letting yourself land into a plie. It’s something that every teacher has said, but hearing the words and actually doing it are two very different things. I was corrected in my sautes though, because even though I leave the floor with my feet in first position I land with them slightly apart – though not enough to be full-on in second position. But I am getting the hang of pointing my feet while in the air, so I’m still feeling pretty content with my jumping progress.

So I left class happy but with my legs feeling like wet noodles – probably due to all the sautes. Tangent: where does the phrase “wet noodles” to describe tired legs even come from? Wouldn’t it be worse if they felt like dry noodles, you know, stiff and easily broken? I’m picturing horrible bone cracking over here.

Oh, and I picked up my theraband, so I can get my home foot stretching and exercising on!

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This cool oversized rubber band thing is cool.

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You can do stuff like this with it.

Evening class
After triple checking my purse for my wallet – and the $10 specifically – as well as my shoes and snack, I headed out for my evening ballet class. I hadn’t been to this studio for a couple weeks, due to a rainstorm and forgetting my wallet, respectively.

Today’s class had seven students (including two who had never done ballet before) and it was the first time with no guys. There was a pregnant lady, though, who was 7 months pregnant. That got every one talking about that youtube Royal Ballet class video in which a visibly pregnant dancer takes class, as well as other instances of pregnant ballerinas they have seen or known. I thought it was a cool topic because it’s something I would like to do sometime in the next several years ( have a baby or two), so it’s good to hear I may not have to completely give up ballet during some of that time.


This video! If you haven’t seen the video before, the pregnant dancer first makes an appearance at around 15-17ish second into it, near the left side of the frame.

We did this class’ usual plie, tendu, and degage exercises. During the rond de jambe with port de bras part, for the first time I felt like I kind of knew what I was doing when it came to the port de bras, though I still have a ways to go. But last time we did this combination I literally had my arm out when it was supposed up be up, or in front when it was supposed to be out, so at least today I felt like I was following along. I’ll take whatever small accomplishments I can get!

Today in both of my classes we did this exercise I’ve never done before that involves tendu derriere, then swinging the leg forward in to attitude, then back through first and swing back to attitide derriere, then back through first, etc, for 16 counts or so. I find it hard to keep in timing while doing this exercise, but I wasn’t self aware at the time enough to figure out if the problem is that I’m going too fast or too slow. My legs are longer proportionally than my torso, so I have wondered before if my long legs make it so it takes longer to do things like kick or walk. Physics and trigonometry would say yes – rotational inertia, and r, and the longer r is the longer time it takes for a point to travel the same distance, r stands for my leg length, etc.

My sautes sucked – it was my second class of the day, after all, so I can give my self a break. Yes, my legs were landing in plie, but my feet were refusing to point. I was also not getting very far off the ground. However, I was in timing and when we went to a la second and then did changements I didn’t completely mess up. So that’s cool.
Overall, a great, but tiring, ballet day. I think my calf is started to feel the slightest twinge of wanting to cramp.

Corrections, Corrections, Corrections!

You know what I’ve been wondering: Do ballet teachers take into account a student’s level when giving corrections or do they mostly give out corrections based on what they are currently seeing in front of them that just looks wrong (or at least like it needs some improvement?

I guess I started thinking about it after my last class when there were two brand-new-to-ballet students. Watching them reminded me of my first few weeks taking classes a year and a half ago when I had no idea how to do anything. I wasn’t really at a level where I would have been able to apply a subtle correction about my hands, for example, while I was having enough trouble figuring out how to stay upright.
I really wish I had kept track of all the corrections that I received my first semester taking ballet. Unfortunately, it didn’t occur to me until I had been doing ballet for a few months to write down corrections. So much wasted learning potential!

The way I see it, and this could be completely wrong,  there are different types of corrections. There’s the ones where you’re doing the move wrong because you aren’t physically strong enough to do it –  for example, like pointing your feet all the way when you are just starting out. These corrections are nice because they are inspiring in a way, like “You think I could actually pull that off one day?!” It kind of feels good if the teacher has more faith in my abilities than I do. At the same time, those corrections can’t really be applied that day so it’s kind of a thing to work on over time, a long term goal.

The other kind of corrections – my favorite – are the kind that you can apply right then and there and it is such an immediate change that you wonder “How could I have ever thought I was doing it right before?!” These are my favorite because I love seeing drastic improvements in my dancing (if I could call it that) and, since I can physically pull them off right then it’s not a long-term goal but instant gratification.

During my time dancing, I’ve received three of these awesome corrections (that specially stick out in my mind) that have made a huge immediate improvement:

1) During my first semester taking ballet, when we would rise up to releve sous-sus I could never find my balance, not even for a second. It wasn’t until one day the teacher came over and pushed my front foot a couple inches to the side (and closer to the back foot) that I realized what I had been doing wrong: Since we were starting from third position instead of fifth my feet had been too far away even after bringing them closer to each other, preventing me from making a stable base. After she moved my foot I was able to balance for the first time ever, at least for a couple seconds. It was such a breakthrough for me!

2) A few months ago, the teacher was going over coupe, passe and developpe, explaining the basic mechanics of it to the newer students. Since I had already technically learned those moves, been practicing them, and had become comfortable with the motions I thought that I had been doing then correctly. But then she grabbed my ankle and pulled it away from my supportive leg and I realized that my foot had been sickling. I’m really glad she was a hands-on teacher because – having already been corrected on that before – I’m pretty sure that a verbal correction on that wouldn’t have registered; it’s like I had to experience the feeling for myself to understand.

3) Just this past class, during barre exercises we were doing a lot of taking both hands off the barre and balancing. I was doing ok, a little bit of wobbling but waaaay better than how unstable my balance used to feel. She came over and said that my arms in middle fifth should be a bit higher, almost at bust level, and it will keep me from falling backwards. Well, I’m thinking “Backwards? I’m more concerned about falling forwards!” but I raised my arms a bit anyway as she said. Holy crap, the shift in my balance was insane! Now, a couple days later, I’m loving the improvement in the balance. And the weird thing about balance (and other ballet-related things) for me is that once I manage to do it the first time and I guess prove to myself that I can do it, it becomes easier like unlocking a skill.

I look forward to more future corrections and improvement!

All that weight

“That’s a lot of weight to carry,” I heard a voice say, as I sat on the floor of the dance studio, stretching before class.

I blushed.  Even though I had not been mentioned by name, and had been looking down at the floor so I had no way of knowing if this person referred to me, it was awkward.  They had been discussing breasts and previous to this I had never in my life heard anyone refer to boobs as “weight”.  And so, as far as “carrying weight”, well I had a lot to carry.

Before signing up for ballet, I had been so excited about my weight loss that I didn’t stop to think if my top-heaviness would be a problem.  Short story: it was.  Quick physics lesson:  When an object’s center of gravity is located closer to the top of the object than the bottom, it becomes more and more unstable the closer it is to the top, assuming the bottom doesn’t compensate for it.  Well, I was the picture of instability!  In real life (meaning while not in ballet class), I had a habit of leaning back slightly to compensate for the weight.   Especially since my bottom half does not match my top half.  That went out the window the first time the teacher corrected me on my posture.  “lean forward, shift your weight to the front  onto your toes, not your heels” she said.  I heard, I understood the words, there was just no way that my body was going to be able to physically pull it off.  I resolved to work on my back and core strength.

So, this was the first  time it came to my attention  that my body type(shape?) was going to present an additional challenge.  At the same time though, I was super motivated.  I would show them!  When there’s a will there’s a way and nothing strenghthens my will like a challenge.

I would do ballet,  my “extra weight” and other’s opinion of it be damned.