Tag Archives: center

A-Line-Ment

There’s this thing F Teacher does – or rather, wants us to do – when we come into the center. Since there’s a lot of people in the class, we’re in two groups, Group 1 and Group 2. So, Group 1’s on, and they’re doing their thing there, and as soon as they finish and are dismissed, they’re to run off and Group 2 will run in and do their thing. Except we’re supposed to be in lines of four, perfectly lined up, so it’s more like run in and be lined up perfectly immediately as soon as the other group leaves than just simply run in and do your thing.

Doing this is not one my strengths in ballet class, or even something I’m just ok at. In short, I suck at this.

I’d forgotten that this is how F Teacher does things in Beginner class, because it had been quite some time since I’d taken her class at the beginner level (and with this many number of people in the class that it’d be necessary to do things this way). But now looking back, I do remember it from when I first started and I remember being terrible at it. Back then I used to think it was because I’d only been dancing for a few days, weeks, whatever, and everyone else must be more advanced than me – that’s why I was so bad at it. It was a good reason/excuse for a while.

Except now I’m not new, and I’m not one of the most beginner students in the class and I still suck at this! So I’m sitting here wondering what I could do about improving this, like, what skills do I need to develop or what is it about this that is so hard for me. Part of it is that I worry about being in someone else’s spot (the spot they’re walking towards), so I tend to have to make sure that an area is open before I go there. And by the time I do that it may not be open anymore (because someone else took it). So then I head towards the back, because there’s room there, but since there’s open spots more towards the front that were missed, we end up shifting the lines anyway, and maybe around this point I figure out what line I’m in. Or not. And by now we’re off count.

So I’m still thinking about it, just trying to figure it out, because I want to improve at ballet (and therefore, all aspects of ballet class), if not for any other reason. Thinking hard, hard, and then I remember Modern class. Specifically, that exercise we did with a partner where we took turns to follow each other, then there was no leader specified but a leader just happened anyway – that crazyness. Is something like this what is going on – no one knows exactly where they are going to go but they just assume the spot they are walking towards will not be taken? And if so, how do you do do that?! Do people just know? I’m scared this is one of those things that “normal” people learned naturally when they were like four and I never figured out… Ugh, when not knowing how to do things in regular life means not knowing how to do things in ballet.

I realize this will probably make no sense to a lot of people, but I just wanted to catch that thought before it flies away like a bird…

And maybe I’ll figure out the secret to this and look back on this and laugh.

Beginning Of Week 2

Rested off my soreness over the weekend (at least as far as ballet is concerned, though I did do a lot of lifting and going up and down stairs). Ready to get back to class and have my fun yet physically and mentally challenging couple of hours… and I even had a little spare time to write about it!

I love coming home with bits of Swan Lake floating through my head. It’s bugging me that I can’t identify from which part exactly this piece the pianist played for one of our barre combinations is from (and things are way too hectic right now for me to watch the whole thing right this second, unfortunately). Doing sautes and other petit allegro stuff to “Dance of the Little Swans” has been fun though.

Today at barre we did a lot of coordinating a slow port de bras with quick leg movements. One combination was something like 4 tendus en croix while doing one low port de bras; in the time it took to do the four tendus devant the arm was to have moved up to high fifth through middle fifth, then in the time it took to do the four tendus a la seconde the arm would go to a la seconde, then 4 tendus derriere while arm makes it though middle fifth to arabesque. Honestly, this stuff is so hard for me! Not enough to be completely frustrating, but just something that’s a bit away from my current skill level. I guess around the same level of frustration as the beated frappes, which I have been practicing for months now but am still not able to do them beyond a ridiculously slow speed.  I’m not feeling hopeless though. because I remember at some point it felt like that to even do a basic port de bras with rond de jambes, or tendu en croix with arms. Whatever, it just needs time.  Possibly lots of time…

We also did this cool barre combination that involved temps lie.  First we just did temps lie forward and back from fifth with port de bras. then a la second (letting go of the barre), close back to fifth, sous- sus and soutenu.  Then we did them a new way I’d never done before. When we switch our weight we were supposed to push off from our supporting leg to the new supporting leg, going up on releve and keeping the other foor off the floow.  Then closing the other foot behind into sous-sus, then from sous-sus tendu back and push off again to be on releve again. The hardest part was doing it a la seconde away from the barre, completely letting go.  I don’t really have my balance yet for quick weight shifts onto a single leg releve. From one releve leg to another, or on two legs, I feel like I’ve been improving, but onto one leg the best I got are my mediocre passe releves, and occasionally a very quick releve arabesque.

I also made it a point to work on my posture, making sure to keep the lats engaged, as we’ll as the whole core, to help with balance.  Sometimes I get nervous and I forget stuff that I already know, so I made a concious decision to keep myself aligned and catch myself if I wasn’t.  Also remembered a correction from last week about really pulling up and out when doing cambre devant durring barre and stretches.

Center was a little complicated.  We learned this new move used to switch from one side to another (might have been a pas de basque, but I’m not sure). After we did tombe, pas de bourree twice, and two glissades we took the back foot and brought it around like a rond de jambe then stepped on it and coupe the other foot, before repeating the tombe, pas de bourree and everything else in the other direction.  At first I was getting it, but then when we did it from a different body angle, I was so confused.  Kept messing up which leg was in front.  I keep forgetting to switch feet on my glissades because I keep remembering some other combination in which they don’t switch.  Or maybe I just need to focus harder…

We also did developpes en croix with port de bras in center as part of a combination that I totally can’t remember.  I do remember that I was happy I wasn’t losing my balance during the developpes and that my leg in devant and a la second is nice and high (well, at least by adult-who-never-did-ballet-as-a-kid standards). My arabesque leg, not so high.

I hope we repeat these combinations, because I think they’d be fun once I actually remember how they go.  When we switched lines and I was in the front it was not pretty.  It’s hard to follow people who are behind you, lol.  But I still enjoy watching my leg tendu devant in croisse… it’s like I can do one cool thing that looks like ballet, lol.

Regardless, class was fun.

Something Weird I’ve Noticed…

The first time I noticed this was during that month or so that I was also taking Intermediate class a few months back (and honestly, I had all but forgotten). However, a couple days ago I was practicing at home, doing the tendu combination off of Kathryn Morgan’s “Classic Ballet Class Center Workout” video on youtube – which is excellent, by the way, highly recommended – and it included some pirouettes en dehors, which reminded me of my experiences in IC.

It is so much easier – well, not necessarily easier, just smoother somehow – to do pirouettes mid-combination than by themselves.  What I mean is, if I set out to just practice pirouettes, like tendu, close fifth (or fourth), and pirouette, odds are very high that I will mess up. Not get all the way around, lose my form during the turn (losing turnout, foot not staying in passe), not spotting at the end, the usual.  But then, when I go into a pirouette as part of a combination, with little to no prep time, for whatever reason I actually get all the way around. Not only that, I actually keep my turnout. By no means am I saying that I have perfect pirouettes – trust me, I don’t – but there is a visible difference. (Of course, the spotting is still not there, argh!)

So now I’m wondering why this is. And, I guess, is this normal?

I have a theory, of course.  When I’m just doing pirouettes I may be overthinking it, and not letting my body do it’s thing. But in the middle of a combination, there’s not much spare time to think, just time to do.  This may be just like how it was so hard for me to go up to passe releve until all these (mid-combination) pirouettes were thrown at me. Suddenly, going up into passe releve wasn’t such a big deal anymore.  Turns out my body had the muscle memory and the strength to do it, it was just a mental block of some sorts. Is that what’s happening now with my pirouettes?

I’m also wondering, should I even question this or just go with it? Like, instead of wondering why my body is so weird like this should I just be happy that I found something that sort of works for me?

I guess I’m just confused because I thought if I just practice pirouettes repetitively they’ll get better, but they’re not.  So then, I try a combination, thinking ‘Here goes nothing!’ and I actually get all the way around. Every single time. So weird. But a good kind of weird, I think…

Oh, and just had to clarify: I am by no means skilled enough to get through that entire video. I’m working on the tendu combination, and was hoping to work on the adagio, but it is freaking hard! In the comments, someone requested a beginner version of the video and I am so with the commenter on that. Still, it’s nice to see what more intermediate combinations entail, and to have them broken down step by step how she does. She’s doing an amazing public service – much thanks! 🙂

Two-Class Tuesday: The Soreness Begins…

..and I love it!

In B(eginner) C(lass)we did these super slow grand plies, really holding it down and the lowest point before bringing the ankles back down. My thighs were so feeling it, as I held my turnout and tried my hardest to keep my tailbone from poking out.  Since Teacher knows I’m doing Pilates, she’s really on it with those corrections to keep my core tight and my tailbone it. So true about BC level classes being harder in a way because of all the attention to detail.  This did remind me though that I tend to rush through my grand plies when I do my practice barre at home, a bad habit (and this, kids, is why it’s not recommended to practice without teacher supervision. However, until ballet is free we’ll all make do with what we can…) that I’ve apparently fallen into.

And then we did grand plies in center. I remember last semester when we did that I was freaking out, like ‘seriously?! Grand plies in center?!’ In Beginner Class?!’ (link below) But today I was like ‘Oh cool, whatever, just keep your core tight,’ which was definitely a step up. I like obvious reminders like this that there’s been progress. That’s one of the reasons I like taking the semester-long ballet class; I get to see my progress compared to how I was doing the semester prior. (I have my notes from a year ago on my computer, as it’s from my pre-blog days, and I’ll probably end up posting it as a blog post at some point. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything from my first semester ever. At the time I was too flustered by the difficulty of doing ballet to even think about writing about it, though I really wish I had…

Anyway, BC was fun, if slow paced.  Really feeling the burn on the thighs though.

Then came I(ntermediate) C(lass).  Faster-paced, more thinking involved for sure, and lots of little challenges.

Barre combinations were tricky: switch closings on tendus (like close first, close fifth front, close first, close fifth back) or close the tendu with a plie. The  slow arms during 4 fast rond de jambe combination is still not going so well, but arguably better than last week. And then we did beated frappes. I’ve never even attempted beated frappes! It was not pretty…

Then came center, which is not as scary as I would have anticipated as little as a few months ago.

The tendu combination from last week ( 2 tendu devant, temps lie, 2 tendu derriere, temps lie (in croisse) 4 tendu a la second (ecarte), pas de basque, en dehors pirouette from fourth, other side), was making way more sense to me now.  I realized that I was getting confused because I didn’t know how the arms go in tendus in ecarte (the arm in hight fifth is the same as the working leg), so I asked Teacher beforehand and tried to get used to the motions.  During class it was way better, I even noticed that a few of my classmates were sort of getting mixed up on that part too. Made me feel less alone…

So now the main problem I’m having with that combination is that my pirouettes don’t quite reliably make it all the way around. I mean, if I really wind up and kind of throw myself into it I can make it around (and probably lose control), but if it’s with bad technique then it’s just cheating, in my opinion. At the same time, I’m thinking ‘This is so cool, I can’t believe I’m actually doing combinations with pirouettes! (High pitched squeal)

After doing it with tendus twice or so, we did the whole thing over but with degages instead. Fun – and I actually held my balance!

We did a 4 balancé, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dedans combination, which was super fast.  However, I was happy to see that en dedans pirouettes were part of today’s class.  For whatever reason, the en dedans direction for pirouettes has always felt more “natural” (an oxymoron in ballet?) than en dehors.  Unfortunately, it’s not like I can actually land my en dehors pirouettes cleanly either…

Chaînes were going well, I was actually spotting correctly for once, and then another student and I collided. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be, but it did mess up that series of turns.  We didn’t, like, fall or anything, just kind of bumped arms, apologized quickly, and then attempted to keep going.  Before the semester started, I’d been super worried that in I C everyone would be an awesome turner, but I’m glad to see that I’m not the worst one. (Great, now that sounds so mean. Isn’t it so sad that in order for someone to be better it means someone has to be worse?)

After our sautes, we did a jumping combination (4 changements, echappe, pas de bourree, 4 changements, echappe, pas de bourree) and there was just so much to focus on! I felt like I was barely finishing my 3rd changement and it was already time for the echappe and so on, always one thing behind. And now I’m thinking, ‘A jumping combination – does this mean we did petite allegro?’. If so, that is so cool!

Then we did reverance, which we’d never done with Teacher. She called us through it, so it went ok. Felt so pretty!

And then I limped my sore self to the car 🙂

Me freaking out over grand plies in center last semester:

http://www.balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/wednesday-morning-class-and-how-i-my-absentmindedness-strikes-again/

(Actually, reading over that post, I realized that I went into super detail of what we did in beginner class at that stage in the semester.  I’m thinking of including a link to what what going on in beginner class during that week last semester for all my posts, since I tend to be focusing a little more on intermediate right now (and I don’t want to be redundant.) )

Come Out To Center! LOL

I was reading this website I found, which I really wish I had read before my first class ever (and if anyone reading has not had a class yet – or even if you have – I recommend reading it as well), and it was discussing the progression of a typical ballet class.  So, at some point it says how after barre the teacher will say to “come out to center!” (I guess they don’t put the barres away as a class? Edit: Nevermind, it says clear away the barres literally right on top of where it said to “come to center”.  Guess my attention span needed work that day.), but by “center” they don’t mean literally the center of the room, just you know, away from the barres.  And it made me laugh so hard, not just the visual of everybody huddled in the exact center of the room, but also because that is so unlikely to happen.  In fact, pretty much every teacher I’ve ever had has to tell everyone that they can come forward, there’s plenty of room up near the front, that she’s not going to bite, etc. But no, we insist in hiding in the back, LOL. Which kind of sucks, honestly, as I don’t like feeling crowded in while balleting, but the front – so intimidating! (Even if it was the teacher’s idea, LOL)

Anyway, good website for beginners : http://www.danceclass.com/ballet-class.html

(I am in no way affiliated with danceclass.com, nor have I tried their products available for sale or endorse them or any other stuff (though they may be awesome, for all I know). Just stumbled across the site while searching for the possibility that maybe, just maybe a new studio that has adult ballet classes would pop up, and thought ‘This site looks super helpful for people that want to try ballet and have never taken a class! Lots of (free) info!’

Spectators At Ballet Class

During this past wednesday evening’s class, a curious phenomena occured – (fully grown) spectators peering in at us through the enormous studio windows.  I specify “fully grown” because children observing us, their little faces pressed against the glass, are neither rare nor unwelcome. All the spectating children I’ve seen have always looked so awed, even by our beginner-level barre exercises, and it’s super adorable when they then try to mimic us.  But as for the adults, I have mixed feelings.

The first set of spectators were a middle aged man and woman.  They were walking along the sidewalk in the busy downtown district where the studio is located, and stopped at one of our windows (the studio where I take evening class has wall to ceiling windows that face out to the sidewalk).  While they are by no means the first people I’ve ever noticed slow down or stop, they stayed at the window for an unusually long time – about 3 or 4 barre combinations (yes, both sides).  At some point the man made detailed hand motions to the woman which made it obvious that they were discussing the dancer’s legs.  Then the woman started trying to copy some of the movements.  Eventually, they came into the studio’s lobby, possibly to ask for information about how to join the class.  So, hopefully we were inspirational and got some new people hooked on ballet.

The second set of spectators was a trio of skateboard-riding teenagers or young adults.  They sat on a nearby bench and gawked, also for an unusually long time.  It was a bit awkward, and it felt a bit like there should have been a tip jar or donation box or something.  I considered asking E Teacher if we could let down the blinds, but ultimately decided not to, as I figured the reason they were open in the first place was to promote the studio.  The difference between this past class and all the other preceeding weeks is the time of the sunset, I think, and while before it was bright both in and outdoors now the studio’s lighting obviously stands out in the dark of the evening, drawing them in like moths to a flame.

As luck was on my side, it was the day of the easy class and I’m glad – while they may have been staring at our bodies, at least they weren’t watching me making a fool of myself. That sounds like I may have my proirities of of whack, but it’s the way I feel. If I can’t tell the truth on my blog, where can I?

And as it turns out, I do have something to compare to, so I know how it feels.

During the first semester of ballet, I was in class one day and my First Teacher suddenly announced that we would be having visitors – an entire dance appreciation class!  With no prior knowledge of this, I was in a state of numb shock as I took my place at the barre.  While F(irst) Teacher gave us the option to stand at a barre in the furthest corner from our guests, I was too new to be in a “leading” position at the barre and stuck to the middle.  That and I was still too surprised to move.

It was at around the midway point of the semester – my first ever – so we were doing some things at the barre that were getting to be too advanced for my very beginner self.  While someone without prior ballet training may not be able to recognize correct form (like completely pointed toes, a correct passe or coupe, or the correct shape of an a la seconde arm), things like not balancing, tenduing a la seconde when everyone else tendues front, or having the wrong hand at the barre are obvious signs that you are lost.

However, in the relative safety of the barre, it was not as terrifying as my mind would have made it, had I known about this previously.to be honest, I would have probably ditched class that day.

But the real fun came in center.  During barre, possibly part of the reason I sucked so much – because by that point you’d think that I would at least have known what hand to put on the barre to start with – was because rather than focusing on what I was doing or F Teacher’s instructions I was obsessing over the horror that was to come in center. I prayed that we would have easy combinations, hopefully nothing involving running and jumping. Or balancing. Or developpes. Or pretty much anything other than demi plies and tendues either devant or a la seconde, since that was about the extent of my center ballet abilities without tipping over at that point.

I don’t remember the details; either I have repressed them or simply time has taken a toll on my memory, this being my pre-blogging days.  So while I would love to tell a humiliating tale of public embarassment, I can’t. However, since I know that right down to the last day of my first semester I couldn’t balance on anything than two flat feet or do any ballet moves at all without the barre, I know it must have been some of the clumsiest attempts at ballet ever witnessed.

In a way though, I’m so glad I went through that. If I could get through that disastrous first semester of ballet, with it’s multiple visits by dance appreciation classes – yes, it happened again, more than once –  I could get through anything.

By last semester I was feeling more confident when our dance-appreciating visitors came by as I have improved quite a bit.  Still, it did not help that at time the students act like they don’t want to be there appreciating us, at times texting or passing notes. I remember Strict Teacher even kicked out a couple people that had been snickering during one of our center routines.

This semester, so far, we’ve had no visitors. I’m glad. I still prefer if there are no adult spectators in ballet class.

Wednesday Ballet Adventures

Looking at the calender, I saw that daylight savings happens this sunday.  No more getting up before the sun for the sake of ballet…

Even us amateurs suffer for our art…

morning class

There’s no clock in the dance studio, but unless my time perception is waaay off we’ve been spending less time at the barre and more time in center. Eeeeek!

Barre was fun, however, though short.  I like how in this part of the semester barre gets more interesting (faster paced) than earlier on: using arms with everything, fondues (which if I haven’t said it enough times already, I love!), piques (fun, and then hours later your legs feel like they’re falling off), going from one side to the other without stopping, cambres on releve.

However, there’s also the drawbacks, the reasons that this part of the semester is nerve-inducing: lots of balancing (and we’re expected to be able to do it this late in the semester), one-legged balancing, and as I mentioned, longer center.

Today, after doing the degage 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 exercise twice at the barre Teacher told us to do it again with no hands (ok, no big deal, been doing ok at that) but afterward do 8 echappe releves while holding a balance after the 8th.  I tried not to think about the challenge this presented – lately I’ve been thinking that when it comes to ballet I’m my own worst enemy.  Getting psyched out by the perceived difficulty of the move is not going to do me any favors.  So I attempted to blank out my mind and do what was asked without overthinking it – since I knew that if I overthought it I would come to the conclusion that it’s not going to happen.

It went better than I expected.  My balance was a bit shaky – ok, really shaky – but the ecchapes looked ok in the mirror.  It was not easy – when is ballet ever easy? – but I realized it wasn’t impossible as it had seemed.

By this point in the semester almost every barre combination ends in a balance. I’ve been trying to prepare for this by incorporating a balance into all of my barre combinations that I practice at home.  But I need more time!

Today Teacher gave us the option of balancing in passe flat or passe releve at the barre.  This worries me; whenever we are given an option of doing something a few classes later it means we all have to do the more difficult option.  Once again, so glad this is not my first semester taking ballet – I think if I hadn’t worked up to this I would have ran out of there crying by now.

In (our new and improved, now with 40% more time, lol) center, we had a new balance (balan-say) combination.  I carefully watched everyone else’s feet and,besides the jumping, I realized why my balances take so long:  when I learned this move last semester, I learned to bring the back foot to coupe before putting it down behind and rising on it (which takes longer than just putting it on the floor).   I’m not sure if this is incorrect technique, or just a different style; Teacher has corrected me on the jumping, but has never said anything about the coupe-ing.  But the good news is that I was able to keep up in timing for once!

Good news means there’s also bad news, right? So, after the four balances, we step out, arabesque, pas de bourree.  Nothing new, not too hard.  But then, Teacher sprung a New Thing at us.  It was a turn – seemingly on two legs, but in place – which I attempted and promptly found my legs tangled with each other.  Teacher said that we are turning on the left foot (which was behind) to the right.  I’m still not getting it.  Then she says “It’s like a pencil turn,” and I’m thinking “What the heck is a pencil turn?!”

We attempted the combination multiple more times.  I still don’t understand the concept of pencil turning, unfortunately.

Lately – well, the last two classes – we’ve been doing our chaines in diagonal in groups of 3 or 4, rather than just going across the huge studio.  It’s quite a bit more difficult; we all turn at different speeds and it’s hard to not worry about crashing into someone. Today I surprised myself by finishing my turns to the right (my harder side) in a chasse and arabesque.

We were given the option of doing pique turns on the second try of chaines.  Pique turns and chaines are about the same difficulty for me, but I haven’t excessively practiced the pique turns at home so I’m a bit intimidated about doing them across the huge studio. I tried anyway, and Teacher told me to not even think about it. Ok, she wasn’t mean about it but basically told me to stick to chaines.

During sautes, I figured out why my timing is off. Apparently near the end of the sautes (so if we’re doing 16, at around 11 or so) I start going faster, probably thinking that it’s a way of getting through it quicker.  So today I worked on slowing it down and staying in timing.  Also, my feet were pointed!  My changements are still much weaker than my sautes from first though, and I have no idea how to work on that. I feel like when my feet switch I move my hips or pelvis excessively or something. So trying to stabilize the pelvis while not letting the rest of my body hunch over is tricky!

Next week, according to Teacher, we will de doing pirouettes. Oh, crap…

evening class

We had a tiny class, only 4 of us. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate to a “let’s use our brains more” class because the other students were new to ballet.  But class was nice, and somewhat of a confidence booster.

My balances is releve sous-sus were nice and stable, but in first position releves they sucked. I don’t know if it’s because we did the first position balances earlier on in class and I wasn’t warmed up yet, or if releve sous-sus if is just a more stable position.

Since the combinations were very simple – due to E Teacher toning it down – I got to focus on my timing more than usual.  And since there were so few of us, we were able to just walk on over to the other side of the portable barres to see ourselves in the mirror on both sides. I really enjoyed that.

For center we did sautes, echappes and changements. Still need to work on my changements but my jumps in general are improving. E Teacher complimented us on our timing, but told us to go deeper into plie.  Said it’s a better workout. A light bulb turned on in my head and I realized that as my legs get stronger my jumps will continue to improve.

We also did chaines but luckily, no passe releve balance and pirouette combination.

So I came home and just for the hell of it, tried to do a passe releve balancing exercise. With arms in high fifth, I plied and straightened and on the 3rd one I brought my arms down the sides and went up for the passe releve balance.  Holy crap – it worked! I stayed up the for as long as I can remember with a possible exception of one time right before I sprained that ankle – in an unrelated activity – last july.

Tried it again on the right foot, which has been my weaker side for this particular thing, and I was flabbergasted to see that it worked again! I think I’ll just keep doing it tonight, just to believe it’s real. I’ll probably make Boyfriend film it so I can appreciate the length, too.

Why is this such a big deal to me? Perhaps because a passe releve balance looks – to me, at least – as such an awesomely balletic pose. To think that I could, despite my body’s center of gravity issues, actually work up to pull this off is so amazing to me.  Perhaps it means I can learn to do even other things I’d previously thought impossible.

I’ve had this fear for a while now – ever since two months or so in my first semester of ballet, when I realized that all the girls that had started as brand new at the same time as I had leveled up to being able to balance on releve and I couldn’t – that there was only so far I could get.  I figured the reason no teacher has brought it up or pretended to not notice was either because it’s a lost cause and it would be rude of them to bring it up, they don’t want to get in any “political correctness” drama, or a mixture of both.

I’d never considered that perhaps I was just really weak when I started ballet and after a while had begun to expect to fail at certain things. That I was holding back my progress subconsciously or something. It’s a really  interesting idea that I need to ponder some more.