Tag Archives: chaines

First Week, Long Weekend

Week one of a brand new regular-length session… classes no longer over two hours long, but the upside is I’ll be taking a whole bunch of classes – 2 Beginner, 2 Intermediate, 2 Int/Adv (yes, I went back…I must like it…) every week, with the option to occasionally drop in to Beginning Modern as well (if I’m not too sore and am able to get up at the break of dawn). Due  to the holiday, this coming week I’ll be missing a couple classes (but I got to sleep in, yay).

This week all my classes went pretty well. Intermediate was super fun! Int/Adv was more difficult (and also fun) but it didn’t feel as overwhelming as last fall. I think I’ve gotten better at remembering  the combinations in center! Perhaps because I’m not busy thinking about how I’m probably going to screw up… yea it’s gotten to the stage where I’m not constantly worried about screwing up.  We did a center combination with tendus and grand battements that changed facings and included both pirouettes en dehors and en dedans and I got through it without forgetting what was going to happen next. While I didn’t find myself worried about what the next step was, my weak point appears to be the timing. Like sometimes I forget a pause, or pause where there  was none. I need to work on that – while I’ve gotten better at timing and musicality in Beginner level combinations, when the combinations are of a higher level I mess up. This is probably one of those things that will get better with time (and practice) so I’m not stressing about it, just noting it for a later-date comparison. In Beginning class we did strengthening stuff, worked on port de bras, and  plie and tendu combination. We’ll be doing more in upcoming clases.

I didn’t wear the pointe shoes for any of my classes this week (but I asked to start wearing them this coming week, not for Int/Adv, obviously), but I still got some practice time to go over the things I’d learned. I managed to do passe releve with only one hand on the barre. I only did it a couple of times, but the knowledge that it’s possible will stay with me, and help me get over my fear of doing it. I’ve also gotten much more comfortable with pique arabesque in center, even getting some couple-seconds long balances in there. I figured out the problem with my chaines en pointe – the first half is fine, when I’m turning in the direction I’m looking, but the second half, when I’m turning “backwards” scares me so I don’t use enough force to not pick up momentum. But if I do use more force, I go right into the next turn. So I guess when you’re en pointe there’s no slow chaines, just regular speed? Anyway, I’ve done about 2 full ones before I scare myself and stop. I’m also doing soutenus, not the pique kind (yet) but the kind where I sous-sus and then turn in place, I guess that describes it…? I’m still having fun, and not feeling frustrated. Of course, that may have to do with not having the comparison that class can become. I’m ok with the rate of my progress, but if I see that my rate is much slower that everyone else’s I start feeling down. Ugh, you’d think that I’d be used to it by now… but oh well, all I can do is continue to work at it (both my pointe work and at not minding when all others zoom past me on the learning curve). It’s a process.

 

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Conquering The Fear… Sort Of

I think I can tentatively say that this past week was much better…

After last week’s (admittedly whiny) post, I gathered myself together, took myself to my home barre and decided to face some of my fears head on. I mean, there’s things that are not in my control but the least I can do is practice, right? As I’d mentioned, I was afraid of being completely off the barre for pointe work, specifically quick   releves and echappes to second. So, after a warm up barre in slippers I put on my pointe shoes and started to go through my eleves, releves and echappes at the barre, at first with my hands resting on it, then with just a finger resting on it. Then I forced myself to step back from the barre, gave myself a little pep talk, and before I could wimp out, quickly sprung up in sous-sus, followed my my first echappes completely off the barre! Even though I pulled it off, once I stopped to rest I had to give myself another pep talk before doing it again. So it’s still not something that I felt confident about, but at least I knew it was possible? I didn’t know it yet at the time, but good thing I forced myself to take this next step because during our last class of the week, Teacher asked us to step away from the barre for our echappes combination and for once I didn’t feel that deer-in-headlights feeling when she has us do something new while I’m wearing pointe shoes.

This week we continued with similar barre combinations from the last few weeks, except adding on longer balances in sous-sus, coupe, retire and attitude on releve (which meant all the way on pointe for me). And yes, I even let go of the barre a little bit while up on one foot but no super long balances or anything yet. After our frappes combination we did petit battements on releve. I do think my eyes got wide when I realized what we were going to be doing, but once doing it I found that for me they are much more difficult on demi pointe. Teacher’s always mentioning how it is much less stressful on the body to be in a higher releve than a lower one, and I think the same thing goes for being en pointe instead of in demi pointe. I mean, yea, my big toe was hurting, but my calves were not even feeling it compared to all the times I’ve done this on releve in soft shoes.

By now I feel more comfortable leaving on the pointe shoes for center. Of course, I’m still doing passe releve facing the barre, still scared to do it with one hand at barre (and of course in center). However, I’m not longer using the death grip at the barre when doing 1 foot passe releves or the chasses to releve arabesque (side note: why do the chasses to releve arabesque feel much less terrifying than the passe releves? I mean, they’re both a rise up on one foot from two). I’m feeling patient with myself, I mean back when I first started ballet I practiced passe releve facing the wall every day for about six months before I attempted it with only one hand on it, both for lack of strength and fear reasons. So why should I assume that my progress en pointe should be any faster?

Since there’s a mixture of levels in the class, when the newer beginners work on tendu, close, passe releve in center I do that combination near the barre (so I can use the barre for the passe releve part), and then when we do the more beg-int combination I come out to center and do the single leg rises or pirouettes on demi, two leg rises en pointe. This week we did tombe (in efface line) pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, chasse into chaines. I substituted the soutenu with sous-sus en pointe, because even though I can do the half-soutenu to switch sides at the barre (detourne?) with no hands, I still haven’t figured out how to do the full revolution soutenu while en pointe. I asked Teacher about this last class, and she said that the hardest part is the sous-sus, so if I’ve got that part I’m good to go, so we’ll see how it goes next time I practice. For now, it’s like half soutenu and half bourre turn…

I  continued with the chaines en pointe along the barre. They’re starting to feel much less scary, thankfully. I was thinking about how when I first started learning chaines, I would put my hands on my shoulders and just slowly do half turn and pause , gradually speeding it up as I improved. It suddenly struck me that if I can hold a balance in first position up en pointe then I should be able to slowly start working on chaines off the barre, using a similar approach. I don’t want to feel like I’ve become too dependent on the barre after all.

During pique passes at the barre (to prepare for pique turns), one of my classmates mentioned that I was making it harder on myself by traveling out too far. I told her that yea, it feels like I’m pole-vaulting, but if I don’t go out that far I feel like I will slide on the tip of my box instead of getting over it. I asked Teacher about it and she said to think of it as pushing off my second leg to get up there quicker and  to also think of pointing my toes more of my landing foot so I don’t feel like I have to launch myself out as far to get over the box. I will work on applying those corrections in the coming week.

This week, I actually kept the pointe shoes on for the jumps and petit allegro parts of class. I was surprised to find out that sautes and changements are not any more difficult while wearing pointe shoes. If anything, I was really liking seeing my pointed feet in the mirror. Petit allegro was glissade (right), jete, glissade (left), jete, pas de bourre (left), pas de chat (right), entrechat, royalle, other side. As I’ve mentioned many times, beated jumps are hard for me, but I think I’m starting to feel a little more confident about them. By that I mean that I’m actually attempting them mid-combination, as opposed to just taking the easier route (substituting changment for royalle or soubresaut for entrchat). One correction I got was to close my glissade a little quicker. I think I’m struggling with this because all the times I practiced glissades I would go really slow to really feel like I was pointing my second foot, and when I try to speed it up my second leg kind of drags behind a little. Doing glissade jete over and over quickly while wearing pointe shoes makes me feel like I’m tap dancing…

We  did temps leve (saute arabesque) chasse, temps leve, chasse, repeat all the way across the studio while alternating legs. Then we incorporated ballet run and grand jete into it. I took off my pointe shoes before that last part because I just wasn’t up to running and grand jete-ing while wearing the shiny, slippery shoes (though I did leave them on for one go across the floor of temps leves and chasses). However, one day when we had a slightly shorter class I technically kept the shoes on the entire class all the way through reverance (which, by the way, was lovely: cambre forward in croisse, come up and cambre back with the arm closest to the barre up, chasse backward to tendu devant, bend towards the pointed foot as you extend the arm the length of the leg, step forwards into B+ and curtsey, ronde de jambe the back leg around to do the same to the other side). I did feel like I’m getting over my mental block of keeping the shoes on for the whole class.

This week I also had the opportunity to do lots of practicing on my own – and with a ballet friend – at school. I worked on pique turns and chaines with my slippers on (since during class I’m usually working on the preparation to do these en pointe I don’t get to work on them on flat as much as I’d like). We also worked on pirouettes and stepover pique turns. I haven’t been doing pirouttes in my soft shoes lately because I’ve been wearing the pointe shoes (and turning in demi pointe), and that may have been a factor in my pirouettes suddenly coming out way better! As in, holding a balance after instead of falling out of them, actually attempting a double just by spotting without using extra force (I made it about 1 3/4), going from one side to the other consecutively. I don’t know if the improvement is from working with pointe shoes (even if on demi point) causing me to be more hyperaware of technique and that translates to stronger pirouettes, or getting over the fear of attempting pirouttes in flat shoes since they’re scarier – or supposed to be – in pointe shoes (even on demi point, just because of the satin being slippery) and I’ve in theory attempted them, so if anything I’m doing something that should be less difficult.

I ran through one of the variations I’m working on (a simplified version of Swanilda’s variation from the first act of Coppelia – when she’s trying to get the doll’s attention) a few times, as I’m trying to make sure my stamina’s up to par. In general, the variation’s going ok, but I’m still feeling a little clumsy on those pas de bourres en dessous and en dessus. Other than that I’m pleased that I have memorized it already, just need to clean it up, possibly speed up those turns…

After that, we put on some music and then just improvised and randomly danced around. It was so much fun! I love ballet improvising, and having a large space to play with. Confession: I couldn’t resist putting my pointe shoes back on and dancing around with them a little bit. I didn’t do anything crazy that I hadn’t done previously, and did lots of stuff on demi point (because all I’m doing en pointe in center is bourres, two-legged balances and echappes to second) but it was so surreal to look in the mirror and see that I was dancing in pointe shoes. I mean, seriously, when I got these I was already thinking that it was ok if I didn’t get to fully dance with them, I was just going to enjoy my eleves and feeling so lifted. And I had never really planned on going en pointe – honestly, when I decided to start ballet I didn’t even think of it as an option, I just wanted to do a beautiful barre routine with my slippers and call it a day. Dancing in the center, was still nowhere in sight for a long time. I’m so happy I didn’t quit back then, when everything about ballet seemed impossible.

(readers, sorry for the long post length… Just saw the word count and was like :0

Week 3: Ambivalent

To be completely honest, this past week didn’t have the same yay-everything-is-awesome-in-ballet-land feeling that the previous couple weeks had. That’s ok, plateaus are to be expected; perhaps they will help me appreciate the times of great improvement even more. But that’s not it, not really… I mean, I did improve at some things this week, after all, but… I don’t know… I feel somewhat unsatisfied, I guess, for lack of a better word (I’m sure there’s a word for what I’m feeling, I just don’t happen to know it, haha). I’m sure this is just a low mood, so I’m working my way through it regardless.

Actually, just writing that down helped me better articulate what I’m feeling (which I will now share, uncensored): I’m frustrated. Frustrated because I’m aware that I hold myself back; frustrated because I have low expectations for myself, because then – if I keep my goals low – I won’t have to face much disappointment (and won’t grow as much either, on the downside); frustrated because though I’m willing to work hard and put in time and effort, I hate pain and discomfort and am not willing to do things that will result in these, or similar, feelings; frustrated because even though I know that these thoughts are erroneous and counterproductive, I can’t seem to stop thinking them, wondering what was I thinking, why do I bother, why try if I know I’m going to fail, if I’m always  going to lose, simply because that’s what I’m used to, been used to all my life, and it’s too late to change the script now. (or IS it?…)

Yeah, some dark, low thoughts indeed… but I’m not going to lie – sometimes not everything is happy and cheerful. Sigh. We’ll get through this as we always do.

It’s kind of dumb, but I think part of the reason I’m in this mood is because the room I use to practice at my school was not available this past week, so I didn’t get to do any extracurricular dancing. Some of the happiest times I have involve just me and my headphones, working my way though a variation or crafting my own choreographies. I mean, the creative process for me begins at home, and I do walk through different segments of my dances at my home studio space, but even though it’s great for marking the choreography and nitpicking details, there’s no room to actually dance full out, using all of the space. I think I need my actual dancing time to calm my inner turmoil. It doesn’t  help that the weather’s been sucking, making it impossible to go for a long relaxing walk, or work in my garden.

Anyway.

This week I continue to wear the pointe shoes at barre. That fondue up to sous-sus from last week seemed much less scary. I don’t remember if I’d specified, but that was from a fondue devant, the kind where the supporting leg is bent and the working leg is off the floor out to the front. This week I added in a sous-sus from a fondue derriere and it was much less scary. Don’t know if it’s because I’m getting used to it or because it’s easier less difficult from this position. There was also a single leg rise up from either arabesque or a degage devant position (it was after our rond de jambe combination, so from arabesque after going en dehors, and from the devant position after going en dedans) and I was too scared to rise up to pointe, instead just going up to demi-point. So then I tried it with both hands on the barre and it still felt like a bit much. I do think I’m strong enough, but I’m pretty terrified.

The first time I took class during the week went along as normal, with me switching out to slippers after barre. But then Teacher said how about we left our pointe shoes on for center and do the center combinations near the barre, so we can use it to assist with the more difficult parts. These difficult parts turned out to be a pique sous-sus (in the combination it was a soutenu, but she said to substitute it with a pique sous-sus), and a chasse to releve (on pointe) arabesque then pas de bourre. The first day attempting this I was able to do it all to the right side, but to the left I was too scared to do the chasse to releve arabesque, only rising to demi. The next day I pulled on my (metaphorical) big girl panties and made myself do it.

Then the class did chaines across the floor and Teacher had us do them on pointe at the wall barre. It was scary at first, then awkward, then just slightly uncomfortable in that pressure-on-the-toes way. I also did some chaines off the barre while wearing the pointe shoes but just going up to demi pointe (I guess my shoes are broken in enough to do this now, but I do wonder if doing stuff in demi point  in them will break them down faster?). When the class worked on pique turns across the floor I did pique passe releves along the wall barre. Once again, to the right side it felt much more secure than to the left (like a crazy discrepancy – to the right it felt like I’ve been doing this forever, to the left I was terrified). It’s funny, up until very recently I would have said that without a shadow of a doubt my left foot is stronger, after all I balance much better on it on flat and demi point with soft shoes, do better promenades on it and everything. And my right foot was the one I messed up in a car accident years ago (though the left ankle was the one I sprained when I very gracefully fell down the stairs) But pointe work has shown that it is actually my right side which is much stronger, weird.

Then we worked on pirouettes, and since I still had my pointe shoes on I attempted to do some on demi point (because there was no way I was going to try a pirouette en pointe at this, umm, point in time. Perhaps I should have been working on just rising up to pointe in passe at the wall barre at this time). To my surprise, I found that pirouettes on demi point feel much more stable for me in pointe shoes than flat slippers. Not only that, balancing on demi point in general felt more stable with the pointe shoes. I guess I’ve officially decided that once these shoes die I will deshank them and wear them to class sometimes instead of my soft slippers.

Then it was time for sautes and petit allegro (chagement x2, echappe, glissade, assemble, pas de chat, coupe, pas de bourre, other side) which meant it was time to take off the pointes. I mean, I think Teacher would have let me leave them on, but I think I have some sort of mental block at the idea of doing the whole class en pointe (even though, who are we kidding, I was either using the barre to help me or only going up to demi, so it’s not like I was really doing the class en pointe, just merely wearing pointe shoes…).

But we all gotta start somewhere, right? To be honest, I never thought I would be doing this much with the pointe shoes already by this point in time (I would have been content with just doing eleves, releves, and sous-sus at the barre for the next six months or so – there’s those low expectations I mentioned earlier…). It’s been exactly one month to the day since I first slipped the shoes on. I remember on the way home from the dance store, Husband asked me if I thought it was going to be like starting from scratch as a brand-new beginner again and I said ‘Maybe, but I hope not. But if it is, it’s ok.’  Well, one month into it, I’d say that it’s not like starting from scratch, but at the same time I can see how my fears of trying new things rear their ugly heads. For example, even though I’ve been practicing it with just one finger from each hand resting lightly on the barre (so not much support), I get quite scared of springing up to sous-sus or releve in 1st with no hands. I feel like I need to go through the motions of it thousands of times on my own before I can do it confidently in class in front of everyone. In class there’s not enough time to repetitively work on the same thing, so this is something I need to put some time into on my own.

On the positive side, I did meet my goal of doing a half soutenu on pointe with no hands this week, I even did some away from the barre after working on springing up to sous-sus with no barre. I did not meet my goal of bringing my feet up to coupe with no barre, but I did let go of the barre while up in retire on pointe, so maybe we can consider that goal halfway met? I continue working on my bourres with no barre while doing port de bras. I know for an upcoming goal I would like to do echappes with no barre, but I don’t believe I’m ready yet. Perhaps then for now my goal for the week will be to improve on that chasse up to releve arabesque, and springing up to pointe on one foot.

As far as non-pointe work, this week I really concentrated on working on glissade assemble. To the right I’m not bad at this sequence, but to the left it feels sloppy. So after class I went over it repeatedly, both sides just back and forth, and I’m feeling much more confident about it. We worked on chasse, saute arabesque across the floor and I got a correction on not losing my turnout, so I will be paying more attention to that. Also, after class I worked on these pas de bourres that we would do in Int/Adv class last session, the kind where you plie your supporting leg and the working leg kind of degages out a la seconde, then it comes in to sous-sus (the pas de bourre part), and the other leg then degages out to seconde as your supporting leg plies. I think F Teacher called them pas de bourre en dessus and en desous. Anyway, ever since I slowed the steps down I feel like I’ve been improving on them, because at the speed we would do them in Int/Adv class I was mostly just flailing around and trying to not fall behind (thankfully, not trying to not fall, period). I guess I should just be grateful for that.

I think I’ll end this post now, before it becomes a novel…

So This Is What Extreme Soreness Feels Like…

My thighs are screaming! It’s a good feeling though, the right kind of soreness, definitely not pain or anything bad. It just feels like I had a few (too many) good classes.

Yesterday I took class at my regular school, and also at New Studio,  and today once again at my regular school. This in itself possibly wouldn’t have been so soreness-inducing except that in between classes I decided to go by the Pilates studio at school and get on the Reformer for some very intensive Full Body Integration exercises. I think the exercise called ‘side-splits’ is what completely destroyed my adductors.

Yesterday’s class was also very focused on identifying our turnout muscles, and foot articulation. It was definitely one of those classes where even though it’s just beginner level technique it leaves me feeling more sore than doing quicker or more complex stuff. We also worked on chaines again, and R Teacher noticed that towards the end of my turns, when I start getting tired, I do this thing where I’m not picking up my second foot, kind of doing a full revolution on one foot instead of a half turn. It’s sort of hard to explain what I mean, but once she pointed it out to me I understood why after a certain number of turns I start going a bit crooked. It’s something I will be working on now.

I was already sore before even going to NS, but since the crowd that showed up to take class was at a more intermediate level, class was pretty fast paced. We did echappe releves at barre (it went something like echappe to fourth, echappe to second, echappe to fourth, sous-sus, each with a pause on releve, then really quick echappes without resting in between – I’m sure I looked ridiculous during these), as well as these super fast tendus. Center was fun, with a tendu en croix combination, as well as a developpe combination with promenades. Even though I was very sore and tired, I felt pulled up and balanced. I’m hoping this means my body is getting stronger or has more endurance.

Across the floor was (tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors) x3, then contretemps, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete. To the right side it went ok, but to the left I got confused and ended up on the wrong leg, with a pirouette en dedans by accident. It was fun though, and I really needed it after such a technique focused class earlier.

My other class at my regular school went well. F Teacher asked me to demonstrate to the class how to degage, and I was so nervous! But at the same time happy, because she wouldn’t have asked me to demonstrate if she didn’t think I could do it right.  Also, to my surprise, she said “Good!” to me when we did our saute combination (4 in first, 4 in second, 4 changements, 2 echappes, repeat), which feels like such an accomplishment after how long I’ve struggled with sautes. So yay, a good start of the week so far.

Now, off to roll out my soreness…

Not Too Intense-ive, Yet

This week I started my near-daily ballet session at my school that will continue for a little over a month (which we’ll call a mini-intensive – my teacher’s words). Since it’s Beginner level class and this is only the first week, it hasn’t gotten too intense yet – mainly a lot of focusing on technique and engaging all the muscles. It’s been a lot of fun though, and I’ve been loving being in class that often, not to mention the extra long length of the classes (2 hours each). Though it’s a really large class size, out teachers (F Teacher and R Teacher) have been good about getting around the room with corrections and personal attention.

Here are some highlights and combinations:

Really nice long barre. The combinations themselves are not really long though, just a lot of them, which I like. I miss going directly to the second side without stopping though. My releve balances at the barre with no hands (all two-footed) were nice and stable, even after quick releves or after 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1, which used to tire out my legs so much that balancing was especially tricky.

When we did our rond de jambe combination at the barre, R Teacher complimented my extension in our rond de jambe en l’air, but reminded me that I need to make sure my leg stays turned out (this was my left leg, which tends to lose its turnout slightly in extension – I’m working on it).  I really like the fact that I’m getting adressed personally in corrections, because it’s so much easier for me to know what I need to focus on (which, apparently, is a lot of turnout).

In center, we did ballet walks with coordinating arm (from low fifth, up  to middle and out to second), 3 ballet walks, arabesque balance, repeat. We also did chasses to arabesque across the floor, first leaving the back foot on the floor, then holding it up in the air for a balance.

We had some nice simple tendu combinations, like tendu devant with arm up in high fifth, tendu derriere with arms (not arabesque arm, like I’m used to, but the downstage arm up in high fifth (while the upstage leg tendus derriere), with the head angled like it’s looking under the arm)plie, chasse, other side. Another day we did 2 tendus each devant, a la seconde, derriere, then  2 1/2 soutenus (one to face the back, the other back to face the front again, but not a complete revolution), other side.

Towards the end of the week, out combination was 3 ballet walks,  tendu devant croisse, tendu devant en face, tendu devant efface, fondu a terre, tombe, pas de bourre, tendu a la second, 1/2 rond de jambe to arabesque.

We did walks across the floor combined with a couple chaines, alternating the walks and the chaines.  Then we did chaines across the whole studio. The right side went ok, though I was really dizzy by the time I got to the other side of the enormous studio. The left side we did twice (don’t know if that was intentional or not, since my line accidentally went twice in one of the other across the floor combinations), and during the first time F Teacher said “Good!” (and then, of course, I lost focus and started messing up. But it was nice anyway). During the second time I was either tired or something, because by the middle of the way across the floor I was done.  I mean, I still held it together to get across, but my turns were wobbly and I was having trouble spotting. Other than this last time across my spotting was actually not too bad, so I just have to learn to do more turns in a row.

Sautes went ok. We’ve been doing the basic sautes in first, second, echappes and changements. No petit allegro yet (thankfully).

In general, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten much better at remembering combinations. Granted, the combinations we’re doing are not of the extremely long and complicated variety, but still, I’m doing much better than a few months ago. This is an area that I needed lots of improvement in, as I used to have a tendency to be too busy freaking out about what the combination entailed – and, will I fall over? – to be trying to memorize it. This may be one of those things that get easier over time, sort of on their own. Even though I feel somewhat guilty for admitting this, because I feel like I should have been doing something actively to improve, I haven’t been doing anything to improve at this. Well, other than not freaking out about it…

Other thoughts:

These classes are of the type that have a dress code and everything, and it’s been kind of nice taking class in a room full of people wearing leotards and tights. Especially since at the two other studios I go to the attire for the adult ballet classes tends towards the laid back side more than the ballet-ish – yoga pants and T-shirts being much more common than leotards and tights. Even in Intermediate class at my stricter school (where I’m taking this Beginner session), the dress code is much more lenient, and towards the end of my last session I was going along with leaving a pair of leggings on over my leotard and tights.  Sometimes I want to be in “uniform”, it makes class extra special – I mean, I dance around my kitchen in sweats everyday anyway.

Another thing, that I didn’t mention previously,  was that I was feeling high amounts of anxiety over the weekend before the ballet session started. I knew I was going to go anyway (because it’s an amazing deal that I knew I couldn’t pass up), but I was totally freaking out about … I don’t know … I guess seeing some of the same people from school, and what if the vibe of the class was too intimidating. Pretty dumb, because by now I’ve pretty much established that the Beginner class usually has a laid back group. The good news is that at some point I recognized that I was being irrational. I still didn’t know what to do about it, but then I started playing with my hair and put it up in a silly hairstyle, then imagined going to class like that, and the reactions I would get. That seemed to take the intimidation out of it, and by the time the first class came about I was feeling much less anxious.  I think I’m going to try that one whenever I start freaking out.

A Class Story, And Some Class Notes

This is really random, a story – or more like just a happening – that happened in ballet class about a year ago.  It’s been kind of swirling around my head, ever since I got my new shoes, so here goes. It’s a little gross though, so if you’re weak-stomached you may want to skip on down to my class notes.

We were at the barre, facing it, and I think I was at the second barre from the mirror (relative to where I was facing). To my right there was the side wall of the studio.  At some point, while looking down towards the floor (probably tucking in that stupid drawstring), I noticed some movement.  It was an insect of some kind walking along the wall towards the front, a beetle perhaps, something substantial  and hard to miss, unless you’re completely focused in class (as I should have been before, apparently).  Well, it starts deviating from it’s path along the wall, and my barre mate and I are kind of like “Ewww, I hope that thing doesn’t come near us when it’s sit on the floor stretching time.” (in silence – all about the facial expressions and body language!).  So, it passes by our barre and by this point in class we’re practicing releves, just going up and coming back down, with and without a plie.  The insect/beetle/whatever it was keeps walking and right when it gets to the barre in front of us the student there comes down from releve – right on it. My barre mate gasped, quietly enough to not draw any attention. To this day I don’t know if the lady in front of us ever found out. She was wearing pink, cloth, split-sole slippers, so I always wondered if her shoes were ruined, the fabric stained, and if she ever knew why. It’s just been bugging me lately…and I sort of know her, so sometimes I get this crazy idea to mention it to her. I won’t, off course.  I think that’d just be mean. Perhaps we should have alerted her,… but I feel like in ballet class you don’t talk to your classmates out of respect to the teacher.

What would you have done?

The latter part of the week was much better dancewise, thankfully.

During class with Teacher, I focused more during barre combinations, and managed to avoid making dumb mistakes involving using the wrong leg or closing back instead of front. I got corrected on my rond de jambes though, the timing specifically. When doing them fast I tend to get overzealous and go too fast. Teacher just calls out “Listen to the music!”. I need to work harder on that, because I get so caught up in technique things like keeping my leg straight and turned out and stuff. Must work harder!

Center felt much better as well. By this point I’d memorized enough of the adagio that I could focus more on doing it instead of trying to remember it. One of the things that I figured out is that the promenade does not do a whole 180 revolution – we start from croisse right and then promenade until we’re facing croisse left.  That makes holding the balance so much easier! The deep lunge circular port de bras cambre thing is still feeling precarious, but I think I could get more range of motion once I stop worrying about falling over. I really do like this combination, but then, I’m usually partial to adagios.

We did this chaines combination that was different from the one last class, but just as hard: chasse a la seconde and then chaines for either 4 or 8 counts (I forgot), then repeat. My whole across the floor group was not on timing and by the end I had no idea if it was the chaines or the chasse portion of the music. Needs work for sure, but I think this may be a little out of my skill level for now.

Teacher told us that our saute arabesque, pas de chat x2, saute coupe, repeat across the floor was looking much better than last time – yay.  To the left I messed up a little but to the right it did feel smoother. After class I practiced it to the left for a few minutes.

At New Studio, we started with a shorter barre than usual so that we could do an extended center. I wasn’t feeling super stiff during barre, surprisigly.  I remembered to slide my feet into a smaller second position when balancing on releve and my balances were much more stable. Since NS Teacher is always telling us to slide our feet close to the body’s midline when we releve on fourth, I was hoping she wouldn’t mind. When I remember to do this in fourth my balances are much better, I’ve noticed. I can actually do the balance in fourth  with arms in third arabesque when I bring my feet in more towards the middle.

Extended center translated to a lot of pirouettes, from fourth with the leg in front and from fifth. NS Teacher taught us this little trick for holding our arms when doing pirouettes. She said to keep our arm ourt in front, and the other arm that comes to meet it should be the only one that moves.  She said as proof that our arm stayed in front we should “hit” our hand with our other hand. I tried it, and got around (and these were from 5th!). She also told me to stop focusing so much on getting around, to just focus on going up with correct technique and it’ll happen.

Across the floor we did this combination that was saute arabesque, failli, and then a turning balance, repeat all the way across.  The turning balance was like a turn while taking little steps, with the arms going up one at a time.  They were fun, and less scary to do than they looked. I though of this combination as the opposite of the chasse, tour jete combination combination we did last week.

We also did this combination that was assemble, chasse backward, assemble, developpe upstage leg, chasse forward, assemble, sous-sus balance, repeat other side. NS Teacher chastised me for following another student instead of remembering the combination. I was having trouble remembering the seemingly easy combination because off the direction changes. Oh, and the fact that assembles are one of my weakest jumps and I was focusing more on that than doing the combination.

The saute combination was 8 in first, 8 in second, 8 changements, balance in sous-sus and bourre turn around, then repeat the whole thing.  It was pretty fun, and I liked that I didn’t mess it up too bad (or at least as bad as the across the floor combination).

Hope next week’s a good dance week!

Also, there’s a private post if those of you with the password  (same one, as always) want to check it out at https://balletandorbust.wordpress.com/2015/09/12/whatd-i-get-myself-into/

If you don’t have the password, send me an email at balletandorbust at inbox.com. Don’t be shy, LOL, I have some exciting news!

End Of Week 5: Some Improvement And A Whole Lot Of Sloppyness

This week I feel like I caught little glimpses of improvement in between all the stuff I keep messing up on.  It was nice to have little reminders of progress. I had fun during classes, though honestly I am feeling a tiny bit burned out at attending class, specially the same level, that often. I really miss taking a beginner class and getting to work on technique obsessively. But there’s only one more week and I know I’m going to miss going to class, and there will be a month or so until the next semester starts. Speaking of which, it looks like due to scheduling conflicts I won’t be able to take a beginner class, just intermediate, at least through my regular school. I really miss beginner class… though I do love the more complex stuff we work on in this class.

At barre, while I have the general idea of how our new barre combinations go, I still haven’t got any of them down yet. As in, I mess up each one, except perhaps plies and the slowest tendus. Plies have been really fun actually. Specially with the new pretty port de bras we’ve been doing. The faster combinations are not always  a disaster, but  things like closing fifth instead of first, or bringing the arm in through middle fifth instead of going from high fifth right to a la seconde.

But then, we’ve been doing stuff to work on arm-leg coordination and that’s hard! Stuff like taking 8 counts to bring the arm up to high fifth while doing 8 degages devant,and then en croix, taking 8 counts per side to do the arm. Devants ok, but when we do a la seconde we’re supposed to switch (we’re doing them from 5th, not 1st) and that makes it so much more challenging. Reversing it is a mess…

It’s a similar thing with doing the 4 rond de jambes while doing only 1 port de bras. Sometimes I get so confused that I do my rond de jambes to the wrong side.  I get confused because we start the rond de jambes from a tendu a la seconde not first or fifth. And apparently in a split second my brain can’t decide on which direction to send the leg while also trying to do the slow arm. One day I think I accidentally did both sets of rond de jambes en dehors, except I managed to realize it on the last one.

Center has been pretty fun, though if the tempo during average combination was slower it’d be great. Once I actually feel like I kind of know how the combination goes the faster speed is ok, but I’m only that certain about one or two combinations. When the faster group goes though it’s fun to do the combinations in the back and then get to do the slower version and then it feels so much easier than before.

We did an adagio combination with 4 counts ballet walking starting in B+, then pretty port de bras, grand plie, developpe devant and a la second, 2 pas de bourre (right and left), developpe derriere, close in fifth and pirouette en dehors from fifth. And possibly one more step that I’m forgetting… possibly a promenade? I do remember that there are promenades (with working leg either in coupe or attitude derriere), i think en dehors but I can’t remember for certain, in at least one of the combinations we do. I’ve gotten better at them, and once in a while I might actually get almost all the way around.  My arms were absolutely terrible while doing it though.

When we did the left side of this combination immediately after the right (2 tendus devant croisse, arms switch to efface and ecarte, tendu back into a fondu, change facing to the back, 2 pique turns and a soutenu, a form of pas de bourre that crosses over and then under to the other side, bring the back foot to the front through coupe, 2 glissades and chasse to finish in first arabesque) I actually didn’t get thrown off. Of course I messed it up after the soutenu the first time around to the right. Like, I just blanked out about what move came next. I made myself remember the next few times though. I also get confused by all these different types of pas de bourres!

The petite allegro with glissades and jetes felt much smoother towards the end of the week. Like it’s finally starting to become muscle memory after weeks of trying to do them. But I did feel like I was able to do it a little faster, and not fall behind as much. The combination also had soubresauts towards the front and – unfortunately, lol – assembles. Definitely my least favorite jump in ballet this far…

The ballote and saute arabesque across the floor is still most likely hilarious to look at.  I feel completely ridiculous when doing this, and have decided to record myself next time I practice so I can have a rough idea of how bad it looks. And perhaps, give me ideas of what to fix.

Going across the floor diagonally did not go so well this week. We did across the floor 4 soutenus, 4 pique turns, 4 chaines, and chasse to arabesque to finish. The hardest part for me is being distracted by worrying about crashing into someone or someone crashing into me. And the faster I try to turn the more sloppy my turns get, I think.  But otherwise, it was fun. I like combining different kinds of turns, though sometimes I do get confused. Before that we were just doing soutenus across the floor, and I was accidentally doing pique turns instead. I caught myself after only two or three turns, but it was still pretty awkward, like in a people-had-noticed kind of way.

Also, when the saute arabesque, saute coupe combination became more complicated, now to include switching arms to 2nd arabesque at some point, as well as some counts of ballet running mixed in there… I got totally lost. But just kept moving, hoping for the best. I actually like saute arabesque-saute coupe, I just wasn’t able to remember how this new combination went, at which point we switch, etc.  We had a pretty full class this one day and I felt crowded out, so it was harder to mark it. Yeah, that’s my excuse…

At some point F Teacher mentioned that the combinations we work on in class are somewhere in a level 3 or 4 (out of 6 I think?) from the syllabus she teaches at her other studio where she teaches. So that’s pretty cool, doing work that is somewhere out towards the middle of the spectrum. Of course, I’m not saying that I’m actually doing the work – specially center, but barre as well – at a high level, but I’ve noticed so much improvement in my dancing. Also, I’m not discouraged by center because I was thinking about it the other day, and for the first year almost since I started ballet I never practiced center, only “barre”.  So, it would make sense that I would be better at barre than center. I also know that when I first started practicing center it was so awful compared to what was I was doing at barre, but I’ve gotten so much better. And I feel so graceful just randomly chasseing into first arabesque on impulse at home…