Tag Archives: chasse

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.

Thursday Class: Still Holding Up

Well, the arms/lats/core connection continues holding me up…

We did LOTS of super long balances on releve, going from arms in middle fifth to high fifth, then slooowly opening them up to the sides ( “Get taller!” calls out Teacher) and finally coming down into plie.  These long balances with moving arms used to always get me, as it felt that right when I had found my balance the motion of the arms would upset my center of gravity and down I come.  But with the engagement of the lats, much more stable.  Before I felt as though even though my abs and turnout muscles were fully engaged I was folding over from the top half – no more!

An added bonus is that since now my balance is not so precarious – because even on flat using the back has helped – I am able to work on lifting the arches of my feet.  I think this class was the first time Teacher didn’t correct me on my fallen arches.  She also mentioned to me that my back was looking much better at as well, yay!

About the whole using your back as part of the core and the amazing improvements I can’t help but feel why did nobody tell me! But the thing is, as with other non-ballet related things in my life (that once I discovered the secret to I was like ‘why did I not know this sooner?!’), people did technically tell me. I just seem to have a comprehension problem until I have that “Aha!” moment and make it my own understanding/knowledge. I don’t know how to explain it any better, but let me just say that this realization takes a lot of (both literal and metaphoric) weight off my shoulders; one cannot truly know/comprehend something until one is good and ready, and nothing else will hasten the process. (Please don’t mind my tangentiality. Even if this makes sense to no one but myself, it needed to be said. For me.)

Besides the many long balances at barre, we also did a couple new combinations.  We did piques with our degages en croix (facing the barre), and I really liked seeing how my coordination has gotten much better (as well as my legs getting stronger, as I wasn’t sore after the piques at all).  We did a fondue en croix and then 3 rond de jambes a terre combination that has the most beautiful piano music to go with it.  I especially love rond de jambes – and fondues – so it was nice to have them both in the same combination. That and the lovely music made it feel very dance-y.

In center, we added on to our 3 grand battements with arms in high fifth and passe releve balance combination: now after doing both sides we grand battement derriere 3 times and passe releve.  My grand battements derriere are not as strong as the ones to the front (obviously, as I’ve never met anyone who battements better to the back than the front (though they may exist, in a mythic land with unicorns and flying piglets…)) but they’ve gotten better since last semester.

Actually, speaking of grand battements, when I did my home practice session on Friday, I noticed that if I do the lat engaging thing it keeps my upper body from sort of collapsing on itself when I battement front.  This was something that I was having trouble with, and had almost given up on ever improving, so I’m glad to see that things are looking up.

My sautes were better than Tuesday’s class – maybe that day I’d just been a little tired? My feet were pointing at least, though Teacher corrected me on my landings (I was raising my heels at times, and lots my turnout a little). Chaines turns to the left were weak though I did manage to hold my balance in my finishing arabesque pose (once again, thank the lats!).

In our 4 chasse gallops, ballet run, and grand jete combination, remember I’d said that I was going to try going in the front of my little group of three? Well, that proved a bit harder than expected, as people always rush to the front spots (unless they’re shy), and me – being shy – usually end up in the back.  So we went across the floor that way (me in the back) and I totally felt restricted, like I couldn’t use my longes strides (or whatever you’d call the gallop version of a stride) to the fullest extent (and at one point I smacked someone’s hand accidentally with my right boob – awkward). I think one of the other people in my group noticed (or maybe I was too close to her personal space) and she offered for the second side if I wanted to go in front. Ok, sure! It went much better that time (except for the fact that it was to the left and my jetes with left leg in front suck compared to my right).  Actually, on the right side I was able to land on one leg in plie and actaully hold the balance, which shocked me (in a good way).  Once again, I’m giving credit to the back muscles.

During the last few minutes of class, someone I’d never seen before came in – probably for IC – and she looked so officially ballerina-esque.  I think my classmates felt that way too because I noticed we kept looking curiously in her direction as she started to warm up while we waited our turn. After that this one male dancer that took IC class with us once – the one with the awesome beated jumps with hang time – also came in. It was so tempting to ask Teacher if I could stay and observe IC just to get an opportunity to watch these dancers (probably pros or ex-pros) take class. But I was worried she would ask if I was staying why didn’t I just take class rather than observe so I didn’t.

Oh, and we did reverance (a rare occasion with Teacher).  It was a pretty port de bras, then chasse slide side and chasse slide front, foot goes behind in B+, and curstsey, other side.  To be honest, my curstseys suck – I think I’m doing more of a fondue movement, bending my front leg while sliding my back foot along the floor. Other people are bending the back leg as well, not keeping it straight. Off to youtube for clarification!

Tuesday Class: Beginner’s Rule!

Lately I’ve been hanging out (well, I guess you don’t really hang out in ballet class. I meant “stand near and occasionally shoot nervous glances at, as well as even hide behind…”) more with the beginner students.  You  know, beginners who are taking ballet for the first time ever (since the beginning of the semester), as opposed to all of us in BC – with our various skill-levels and histories with ballet.

I like it, takes off the pressure (which may not exist outside of my head, but to me it’s real) to do any better than my own personal best. Trying to be good enough for IC was just not working out for me, and ever since I’ve decided to just take BC it’s been so much more fun.  Being around all the first-time beginners reminds me of that time when I just couldn’t wait – or even imagine – being able to do beginner-level combinations in center, or even barre for that matter.  Back then I would watch the other students doing even a basic barre (like what we did today), and they looked so graceful and fluid and lovely and I wanted that. Not to blow up my own ego, but I’d say my basic beginner-level barre looks passably graceful, fluid and lovely, at least to someone with undiscerning eyes.

Shared the barre with a ballet beginner, and we had a short chat while stretching before Teacher showed up.  While she is a ballet first-timer this semester, she told me about her dancing background: no ballet, but all through high school she was on a dance team and they rehearsed for 5 hours a day. Oh wow, during high school I mostly sat on the couch reading books (lol, pre-internet) and stuffing my face with pizza.  Yeah, I really need to remember that even all of us first-time ballet beginners do not start off at the same place. Nevermind that for me it’s been 14 years since high school, and for her like 2…

We did plies with one hand at the barre, yay! It was nice to get to incorporate some port de bras into it.  Cambre forward was introduced (to the people who haven’t taken this class before, I mean) and I remembered when I first started out how I was like ‘I’m totally gonna do that one day!’ and at the time my legs were so weak that I felt like I was going to fall over while trying it.  I’ve really come a long way ballet-wise, and will definitely be thinking more about that than how far I still have to (hypothetically) go.

Tendus and degages were still facing the barre, though the second time around each combination we did it with no hands on the barre.  Once again, as I said at some point – many times – last semester: so glad that Teacher was not my first ballet teacher ever; if I’d had to tendu and degage with no hands my first semester I would have cried (and fallen over, repeatedly).

But then we did a passe, 2 rond de jambe en dehors, balance in second arabesque, cambre forward, 2 rond de jambe en dedans, balance with leg out in front (straight, so it’s not an attitude, but don’t know what to call it) combination with one hand at the barre. So I guess there was a good variety for barre work this class.

We did a slightly different – though very similar – balance combination in center, this time doing a really slow and pretty port de bras (which was mostly just bring up our arms from low fifth up to high fifth then open, one at a time, while looking at our hand, then both arms together, but it looked pretty) before 4 balances, tombe, pas de bourree, other side (which meant starting the port de bras with the other arm instead). The balances had a nice slow tempo, and Teacher said it was ok to do arms (which I find super helpful) or not.  I love slow tempo balances, as it gives ample time to really point those feet and coordinate the arms.  When we do faster balances I always feel my feet look sloppy, the back foot not getting enough time to point, the front one coming too far forward.

My chaines to the right were horrible today. I just could not get my head to spot fast enough, and Teacher noticed and corrected me on it.. To make matters worse, I was feeling a bit ill already before class, so I think I was subconsciously keeping myself from whipping my head around super fast.  To the left they were better, as there was just no way they could suck more that the right side ones.

We did way too many sautes and echappes.  I was really starting to feel ill by this point, lol.

Fun across the floor: one glissade (the gallop, not the slide kind), one grand battement, all the way across the floor alternating legs, with arms  (out to second for the glissade, up in high fifth for the grand battement). Which (to a beginner like me) sounds incredibly hard – I mean, when Teacher first demonstrated what we were going to do it looked  so freakin’ hard – but it was actually not that bad and turned out (oops, a pun – my actual turn out was probably terrible to nonexistent…) to feel like actual dancing.  Once I marked it and realized it was actually possibly (as opposed to my clumsy fumbles in IC) it was so much fun.  We didn’t do this particular across the floor last semester as far as I remember – time to read some archives!

This last combination was extra fun, made me feel like skipping to the car 🙂

Two-Class Thursday: A Little Slower, A Little Better (I Hope)

After last Tuesday’s I(ntermediate) C(lass) I was having mixed feelings about my ballet-future.  I love B(eginner) C(lass), how the barre combinations are so do-able and simple, so all the attention can be focused to technique – did I articulate my feet?; am I not lifting my arches or overpronating?; my timing; the point of my foot; the straightness of my knees.  In center, I can focus on the details as well, make it look pretty, dancey.

But then in IC, it’s so difficult to even remember the combinations, that I’m lucky to even know which leg is in front about half the time.  The complex port de bras take up so much concentration and focus that my legs are somewhat left to their own device.  If I tendued or rond de jambed the way I do in IC in BC I would be really upset at myself, just sloppy,sloppy sloppy.

So all day Wednesday, and half of Thursday, I though about it. Obsessed about it, really.  I just don’t know what to go with: am I supposed to be happy that I’ve progressed this much, even though I clearly suck, or am I supposed to continue to push myself because it’s never enough? Am I without a doubt a Beginner level dancer only, and IC is only meant for people who have the basics deep in muscle memory? I mean, I can do a pretty pointed tendu correctly – even in center – without falling over but the second my mind is elsewhere it’s a mess. I think. I’ve honestly been too scared to look during barre in IC.  For some odd reason I do look in center – probably because it is center, and my expectations are not too high – and believe me, it’s not looking too good.

The muscle memory just isn’t there during those quick transitions, is I guess what I’m trying to say.  Luckily, I haven’t actually frozen up or anything, made sure to keep moving, but there’s been times when I feel like I’m just jumping around (and ending up with the wrong leg in front, of course).  Like I’ve mentioned before, I know how to do the moves, and I can do them in a row over and over and stuff like that, but mixing them up and putting them together turns me into a confused – and clumsy – mess.

I keep going on tangents, but point is, I worry that it was a mistake to sign up for IC.  I mean getting to do 6 hours of ballet a week is awesome, trust me, but is there any point in taking class if I’m just jumping around like an idiot in center or flailing my legs around in barre?  It’s a work out, sure, but as far as ballet technique goes, does it even benefit me to take a class that is this challenging? Would I have been much better off (assuming it was hypothetically possible, which it is not) taking that many hours of BC-level classes?

These are the things I think about as I drift of to sleep at night…


In BC we chassed – both kinds, the slide and the gallop – and we chaines-ed.  They all went well, even the chasse slide to the slide that I technically hadn’t learned before. I learned something new today – yay! That combined with lots of nice slow tendus made me feel good, like I don’t completely suck at everything.

Actually, there was something I totally sucked at: getting up from the floor, not from a lunge postition but from a sitting one. Teacher wanted us to practice getting up gracefully with no hands by crossing one leg over the other in front of us with arms in a low fifth in front. I just couldn’t do it, and felt really uncoordinated. Next time I see Teacher I will have to ask her what exercises she recommends to strengthen whatever muscles I need to be able to do it (if it’s even possible – when things get tough – tougher than for the other students – I always assume it’s a weight distribution problem.)

But overall, BC went well.

I had really pondered not going to IC, is a confession I have to make. But I went.  Not because Mom didn’t raise no quitter – she did, I’ll admit, as I hang my head in shame – but because it’s ballet. I have not been practicing this obsessive pursuit practically daily for 2 years just to walk away after an off day (or 2 or 3…).  Another confession I have to make is that mixed in with all those days that I was counting the minutes excitedly until time for class are  the days when I felt so lazy and unmotivated and hopeless that I had to force myself to go. The thing is each of those days that I have dragged myself in I have left  glad I went; today was no exception.

Tendu combination was 3 tendues devant, go through first all the way to the back then close and 3 tendus derriere, then tendus en croix, and something else I’m forgetting (which is probably the reason I keep messing up).  I somewhat understood the degage combination today (8 degages with arm in second, 8 degages while arm does one port de bra en dehors, 8 battements en cloche with piques after 3 and 6 with arm in second, and repeat with slow en dehors port de bras.  Then repeat the whole thing except battements en cloche would go back first this time, and the port de bras would be en dedans. Soutenu and then other side.). That is a lot of information, but I was doing it ok for once.  Then Teacher came over and corrected my alignment and I was like ‘I totally suck at this’, but I’ll bet to a very untrained eye it looks ok…The fondu and developpe combination at barre went ok as well. We also did promenade towards the barre, and now I honestly can’t remember what position we did it in, passe or arabesque.

We did not do frappes and I was glad; those beated frappes are really making me dislike frappes. I used to enjoy them when they were just simple tendu-flex-frappe-frappe-frappe-point-close-tendu-flex-frappe, etc. but the way we do them in IC is just too advanced for me. I’ve tried practicing the beated frappes at home but I don’t even know where to begin.  There’s a lot of things in IC that I would love to practice more if only I didn’t forget immediately how they go as soon as I walk out of the studio.

Center was a bit easier today, perhaps slower.  Well, except for the petite allegro, that was as fast as ever (and completely destroyed by me. That would be the part when I was jumping around at random, or so it seemed.) But the tendu combination went much better, as did the hard across the floor waltz step with turns. Chaines diagonally across the studio are so much more challenging than just straight across like we did in BC.  Anything involving angling the body in any particular way (other than en face) is still not coming to me. And ecarte and the whole looking-at-your-hand thing is really hard for me; I feel driven to look at myself in the mirror, I don’t know why (see, earlier I said why not (the whole lower expectations thing) but I never said I know why.).

Let’s see, good things.  I was putting my passe foot correctly in front during pirouettes today, so I am learning and improving, gradually.  I have a theory that it was already in my body to do it, but being focused on doing all the other (harder, newer to me) things made it so that I could just be on autopilot and allow my body to just DO IT. Same with the balancing on passe releve.  I’ve actually been going up into passe releve like it’s nothing, even when it involves bringing the leg up from the back and lowering it down in front. There was no way I could do this last semester, so I’m pleased with that progress.

In other news, I’ve been considering making the blog private, or visible only to followers or something, if possible.  Or if WordPress has a feature for blocking certain parts of the country (or the whole country) I could just do that.  Reason is, I feel like the original reason I created the blog (to discuss my experience with starting ballet from scratch at my age and with my body type, so that I didn’t completely destroy my relationship by babbling nonstop about ballet and the happenings in ballet class to my completely disinterested Boyfriend) is getting lost.  There are a lot of things I would like to say, but don’t, because I don’t want people from Real Life to know (and sometimes I worry that they’ve found the blog).  I really mean it when I say that I absolutely detest drama, confrontation, or any negative feelings.  But sometimes these things arise, and I’m not really comfortable discussing them on such an open forum. At the same time, I feel like I just need to let it out, you know?

The closed-ness, “small world” aspect of the dance world really freaks me out. I don’t want to censor myself – I don’t think that’s fair to myself, to be honest – but I don’t want any Real Life drama.

Case in point.  In between classes, while eating our inter-class snacks, a girl who is in both of the classes – and is an amazing dancer, by the way – and I were chatting outside.  She asked about the other teachers at the school, and I was giving her my honest opinion. Isn’t that what we share when asked, our opinion? Anyway, when I was telling her that I don’t recommend Strict Teacher, but maybe First Teacher would be ok, this other kind of loudmouthed girl buts into the conversation and started arguing with me, interrrupting me, raising her voice and talking over me, contradicting everything I was saying (as in, while I was talking to the Great Dancer Girl she was loudly saying “No, no!” and blabbing on about what an awesome teacher S Teacher is (In her opinion, I might add. In my opinion S Teacher is nothing short of sadistic, unless you get on her good side. S Teacher is actually a very polarizing topic; most people either love her classes or hate them.)).

As a quiet introverted person, I don’t do much of sharing my opinion and viewpoints, unless asked.  So already as it is, I go through life keeping my opinions to myself for the most part, unless I’m speaking with a very trusted individual.  I thought Loudmouth Girl was being beyond rude and I was getting super pissed.  I ended up raising my voice too, and then it was time to go back inside for IC, but then afterwards I was feeling sick with anxiety.  I HATE arguing! I’m torn between wishing that I’d just kept my mouth shut and thinking that I was in the right in sharing my opinion (which had been asked for, after all).

If this was just a regular drop-in class I’d probably go take class elsewhere for a bit until the situation cools down, but I don’t have that option. I’m still feeling very anxious about the whole thing, to be honest.  Really considering going somewhere else for future semesters, as Loudmouth Girl is really involved in the dance department here.  But then, like Boyfriend said, it’s not just that girl, it’s always the same situations with a different person.  Perhaps I just never learned (and somehow need to learn) to get along with people with a certain (annoying, in your face, loud, know-it-all) temperament.

I may erase some of this later if my anxiety persists, so read it while it’s hot, LOL.

Edit: As it turns out, it was nothing personal with Loudmouth Girl.  We actually spoke briefly a few times later in the semester – even shared a barre a couple times – and she was perfectly nice, if a little on the more, um, assertive side, especially compared to a quiet one like me.  Anyway, I’m sure she didn’t mean to be rude to me, and I was probably having a crappy day.  I definitely learned both about myself and about interpersonal interaction from all this though…

Wednesday : Two Classes and New Shoes

morning class

For plies, Teacher let us do the port de bra of our choice today! I used the port the bras I’m most familiar with (start with arm in second and bring it in when going down in demi plies, back out when coming up, stretch out and slightly lift to bring all the way down on grand plie) and not having the added stress of “Am I doing this right?” made it so much easier and even beautiful.  I love when it feels like beautiful dancing rather than just a very difficult exercise routine – when it’s like I can feel the music, not just hear it.

Still, today took forever for me to feel warmed up, and then suddenly it just felt too hot in the studio. Weird.

Teacher introduced frappes and petit battements to the class. My frappes are ok – we do them all the time in evening class and I practice at home – but the timing of the petit battements was really throwing me off.  We were doing them facing the barre, probably because it’s the first time we’ve done them in this class, but from what I could see without the mirror most of my classmates were lost too.

We had a visitor in class – one  student’s friend, I think – so I was feeling a little apprehensive about center because of that.  Otherwise, I found myself looking forward to center.  It’s been a week since I’ve had an enormous studio to dance in, after all.

Center was actually pretty great today!  The 4 balances, step into arabesque, pas de bourree, releve sous-sus, repeat other side combination was looking like dancing.  I’ve really been working on it at home and I was glad to see that it looked so much more fluid.  It felt like I was dancing “for reals” instead of just going through – or attempting to go through – the motions.

Our 3 grand battements with arms in high fifth, plie and passe releve, then other side combination had a new twist today: after we finished the second leg (left), rather than doing the first leg again to the front we were to grand battement our left leg back 3 times and then bring it to passe releve and bring it down in front, to do 3 grand battements derriere with the right leg.  After the initial shock of “OMG we’re going to grand battement derriere in center!” , which I’ve never attempted, it went ok.  I would like to see my derriere grand battements as high as my devant or a la seconde, but we’ll get there. The passe releves are steadily improving and I’m happy with that.

Chasse gallops have really been improving ever since I’ve been practicing them on the grassy field.   I can feel luch more power in my legs that wasn’t there before. Then Teacher mixed it up and had us do something that went like: a chasse gallop, then a sort of skip with our other foot in coupe, then chasse gallop other foot and a sort of skip with the foot in coupe, just continuing to alternate legs.  It was my first time doing this, so I got confused a few times about which leg am I on and I just kept the arms still.  Not hard, just involves coordination and, for me, lots of practice.

My sautes looked pretty good today; my feet were pointed, I was landing in plie, and my feet were not landing too far apart from each other.  I still need to work on the timing though…

evening class

8 of us for evening class today, 2 brand new, a few familiar faces.

At first, I felt a little off because I was wearing my new split-sole slippers – which I will be writing about in more detail in a future post, as well as other ballet-wear adventures.  I’d saved them to wear for evening class rather than morning class because evening class is only 1 hour and mostly barre. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about running across the studio until they are broken in. Don’t know if it was the split-sole-ness or the cloth-ness but the floor just felt so Right There compared to my usual shoes.  It took me a couple barre combinations to get used to it.

As typical for evening class – unless there’s only a few of us and we already know basics – we mostly did plies, tendues, degages.  We went slow but for once I was glad, as I was really getting a kick of of the visible articulation that is so much better displayed in split-sole shoes. We also balance quite a bit in this class, mostly in first or releve sous-sus.  Once I got used to the shoes I was able to balance really well, though lately I’ve been noticing that I’m much more stable in releve sous-sus than first.

During grand battements, E Teacher corrected me on my grand battement derriere. She said that I wasn’t putting enough “energy” into it, that I was just slowly lifting it up rather than kicking it up.  She’s given me this correction before, I think about 3 months ago, but since she had also given me other corrections that day I may have forgotten. The ones to the front and a la second are more kick-y though, it’s just the one to the back. I think I’m afraid that if I kick it I will bend my knee or something.

My sautes were good, but by the time we made it to changements they were looking very unpointed.  Changements are much harder than sautes and echappes, in my opinion.

We finished up by doing chaines, which in evening class are enjoyable since the studio is not enormous. Still, it’s bigger than my living room so it’s the perfect size.  In this class we usually go to the right – my weakest side, so it’s good to get the extra practice – but today E Teacher surprised me by saying “Ok, now to the left” after we had chaines-ed to the right twice.  I like how this studio has plenty of things that stand out for spotting, like a clock, several exit signs, and even the (2 non-mirrored, non windowed) walls are painted with colorful silouettes of dancers or something.

As we were taking the barres back to the storage room – because that’s how we roll in this class – one of the new students made a comment, something along the lines of “Which one of you is a “real” ballerina?”. This  would have been fine if she then hadn’t followed up by pointing out different ladies in the class, which led to a discussion of some of the student’s bodies. Awkward, and it kind of soured my mood, although I’m trying to not let it. Being reminded of how I don’t have the expected body type for ballet brings my mood down some days, while other days it spurs me to work even harder with a defiant attitude of “I’ll show you!” – the attitude that got me through my first year or so until I really started to see improvement,  It’s ridiculous feeling this way, probably, but what can I say? It’s how I feel.

It really sucks because just a few weeks ago I was saying on here how this studio was the only place where I had felt complete acceptance.  When people say that I don’t look like a dancer it makes me feel like they are saying that I have no business there. Perhaps I’m being overly sensitive – ok, I’m probably being too sensitive  – and I’m not going to quit ballet over it, but things like this really bug me. And the fact that it bugs me bugs me even more!

Other than that, I really did have a great ballet day today. 🙂

Monday Class: Passe Releve, We Meet Again

Week 10 of the semester… Ballet class starts getting harder… No idea yet what the final combinations will be.

Lots of releve-ing in one form or another today! Besides balancing (in different positions), Teacher is having us do forward and back bends on releve as well as bringing up the working foot to coupe and passe.

Immediately after doing the degages at the barre Teacher had us plie and releve quickly 3 times, holding a balance with no hands after the third. By now I’ve noticed that my legs get super shaky when balancing if I’ve been working really hard, and the degage combination is not easy.  Especially when we then do the whole thing without holding the barre.  Surprisingly, after doing the no-hands version I was able to balance today, which I wasn’t expecting because it was the double challenge of rising up quickly (I fear I’ll fall forward!) and having tired legs.

When we did releve sous-sus Teacher said “Beautiful!” – and she was looking right at me – which was probably the best compliment I’ve ever gotten in a ballet class. Happy day!

We did echappe and changement at the barre (not the jumps but the sliding the feet out while releve-ing, and switching feet when sliding back in).  Then Teacher mixed it up a bit and had us do it without holding the barre. And I was momentarily confused, thinking ‘so when you take away the barre does it become like the jumps or is it still just like a slide?’.  I mean, I know the sliding move exists – I’ve seen the dance of the little swans – but physically doing it was sort of a miscommunication from my brain to my feet.  Teacher then paid extra attention to me and my correction was to keep my knees straighter when out to second, so hopefully besides that I wasn’t totally destroying the move.  The few girls in class that are en pointe were so fun to watch during this – I love watching echappes and changements en pointe.

In center, we did a combination that was tondu forward, grand battement forward 3 times, then after the third time we plie and go up to passe releve. If you read my class post last wednesday, you know how I feel about passe releve in center (hint: not too good).  However, something about the port de bras with this made it easier – more like actually doable – today.  We had our arms up in high fifth and when we went up we would bring them down the sides.  I don’t know if it was leverage, or if what prevents me from doing it right normally is just a mental block and this provides a distraction, but today my passe releves felt stronger and more stable than usual. Which is still not saying much…

More advanced people were to do a pirouette (en dehors) the second time through.  I have a confession to make:  I’ve never officially learned how to do a pirouette (though I’ve attempted them – with varying degrees of success, mostly en dedans – here and there). It’s still a foreign concept to me – I realize spotting is involved but other than that I have no clue how to get more than 180 degrees of rotation without using my arms for extra impulse in the beginning.  If a completely stable passe releve  – the kind where you’re just hanging out on one leg for an eternity – is needed then it’s going to be a while.

While I’m thrilled that I no longer run out of breath during the saute and running combinations, I realize that my newfound endurance, while it helps, is not a cure-all for my bad jumps.  At least now when Teacher yells “Point your feet!” I’m able to keep jumping while attempting to apply the correction without feeling like collapsing. Feels less stressful at least.

The timing of the jumps is still somewhat of a mystery to me. Teacher says that we should all be jumping in unison, to the music.  But then we start jumping and by the third or fourth saute some of us are bobbing up when others are on their way down.  It would probably be helpful if I knew whether to slow down or speed up.  Usually I’m too slow, but who knows.

The last 10 minutes or so of class we hustled from one across the floor combination to another – chaines, galloping chasses, ballet running, pas de chat, more sautes, more galloping chasses and running and jetes.  My galloping chasses are getting better, but my ballet running not so much. But I actually found myself having a lot of fun and feeling like a kid (even more than usual) . It was an awesome feeling!

Really wanted to end on a positive note but this is just bugging me and I’ve got to say it: If you’re more advanced, don’t laugh when the beginners are attempting to do a move (especially if they are on the spot and all alone). Today I wasn’t the object of such amusement but I saw it happen to a newer girl.  It’s really sad; I mean just think – some people were not fortunate to take lessons as kids.  How would you feel if you were learning to read as an adult and adults whose parents put them in school as kids were laughing at your pathetic attempts to sound out the words? Not very good I’ll bet.  Add to that additional body image issues and you have yourself a recipe for disaster. So be kind and treat others as you would like to be treated. End rant.

2 Classes Yet Again

Since I hadn’t had class since exactly a week ago, I was really looking forward to today.  I love practicing at home – no distractions, no pressure, no feeling on-the-spot and you get to pick the music – but you can’t beat the floor-to-ceiling mirrors, square footage by the thousands to move in, learning new moves, and the occasional correction that makes everything click.

Morning class

We had a completely different – and easier, at least for me – port de bra for our plies again, which was nice even though I’ve been practicing last week’s port de bra and finally getting the hang of it.  In this one during grand plies our arm goes to high fifth, where it stays for our forward and backward bends.  Later on, during a different barre exercise, we did forward and backward bends while in releve sous-sus – luckily, with a hand on the barre.  My legs felt stable during the bends – nice straight knees, legs tightly together, high releve – but I know without the hand on the barre I would’ve collapsed forward.  I’m so glad I’ve been practicing doing more exercises at home on demi point because at least my calves don’t get tired.  Unfortunately, after coming back up from our back bend we did have to let go of the barre, balance for a bit, then soutenu (still with arms in high fifth) and do the other side. Sometimes I mess up and have my shoulders lifted when trying to hold a balance with arms in high fifth.  Really need to work on remembering to not do that!

During our degage exercise – still at the barre but with no hands – I was focusing so much on tightening my core, pointing my foot off the ground, and not slamming my heels together when bringing the foot back in (a mistake I keep making, as no teacher before current Teacher had caught that and brought it to my attention), that I was totally off on the music. Seriously, ballet is so hard!

I was actually looking forward to center today –  though I love barre – because I was hoping to see whether  my sautes would show improvement after all the jumping practice that I’ve been doing.  The good news is that I no longer felt out of breath at the end of the 32 sautes.  My legs felt powerful!  The bad news  is that my jumping practice didn’t teach me anything about timing or quickness. It’s so much easier to just do things at one’s own speed! It’s like there’s not enough time to go down into a plie for the next jump because by then I was supposed to have taken off already for my next jump, or something. Frustrating!  But the way I see it, jumping practice has made me more comfortable with the act of jumping so I will continue to work on it.

As for changements, I’m still having trouble with them.  Once again, I wasn’t out of breath at all but switching the feet, pointing the toes in the air, landing in a plie, and not stepping on myself is just too much multitasking for me.  I definitely did feel stronger though. At home I’ve been working on my chaines to the right (my weaker side) way more than to the left, hoping to even it out. I think it worked – for once I made it all the way across the enormous studio while turning to the right without losing my spot or having to stop and restart, even finishing in 1st arabesque.  It’s awesome when practicing actually  pays off!

Our center combination – 8 balances (balan-SAYs, the rocking, waltzy-kinda move), tendu a la seconde, arabesque, bend supporting leg, pas de bourre, switch to other side – did not go so well today.  Unfortunately I keep doing a jump with my balance, it’s in my muscle memory from last semester so getting my body to remember to do it more like a step than a jump is challenging. And my arms during the whole combination felt so awkward! I like doing balances – they feel so dance-y – but, just like my jumps, it’s hard to do them on any timing other than my own.  It seems like I either do them to slow trying to get it right, and fall behind the group, or try to speed it up and then they’re sloppy.

On the bright side, after we finished going over the combination twice – oh, and did I mention that I was also practicing it while the other groups went (with Teacher’s approval; it was her idea) – I was not feeling out of breath at all.  I wonder, if this is only after about 1.5 weeks of jogging, while I have waaaay more endurance after I’ve been jogging for a while?  Of course, assuming my jogging learning curve is better than my ballet one.

We finished up class by doing the 4 galloping chasses, ballet run and jete.  Once again, left leg forward jump felt very awkward compared to right leg forward. Sometimes I feel so lopsided – for turns my left is stronger, for jumps my right side is.

Evening class

A completely different group from last week taking class today. After seeing the same classmates every single class in morning class, it’s a change of pace. I like it – for some reason it’s less pressure (and therefore less stressful, less anxiety-inducing, less self-judgment and therefore lots more FUN!).

Writing this makes me realize how much I like evening class studio’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, out of the multitude of classes they offer, there’s only  2 ballet classes and the other is full-on Advanced. In other words, they offer 1  class a week I can take, but I would love to take more classes here if they were available (ok, now I put that out there – who knows, it could happen!)

We didn’t do as much “involving the brain” stuff, as E(vening) Teacher says, at the barre as last week 😦 but class was still fun. My (two-footed) balances at the barre went pretty well, at least for me.  I managed to not mess up at any of the barre combinations, and avoid making dumb little mistakes like closing back instead of front.

Once again, I was not tired at all after we did our jumps. Considering how out-of-breath I would feel before – as recent as a couple weeks ago –  this is an awesome improvement. I realize it doesn’t sound like much – I mean, I’m bragging about not panting after doing 2 sets 16 jumps. But I have to appreciate even seemingly small  inprovements, or else I will just feel like a ballet failure. Especially because of the aspects that are not coming along.

Like my one-legged releve balances. None of this week’s barre combinations involved those – they were saved for center.  The combination went: starting from fifth (right foot front) tendu a la seconde, rond de jambe back, then be in fourth position (right foot back), passe releve bringing the right foot front, loooong balance, then back down to fifth (right foot back), then passe releve (right foot front), another looong balance,     back down to fifth (right foot back), then either piroeutte or yet another long passe releve balance.

I’ll be honest; I didn’t even attempt the passe releve balance. Instead, I just balanced on passe flat. As  E Teacher was explaining the combination, which I remembered from last week, I came to a decision – I’d rather not worry about the releve balance and just focus on making the rest of the combination look cleanish (and I think I did) than attempt it unsuccessfully yet again and look like a clumsy oaf.  Last week I had been in a more experimental/adventureous mood and the results were not pretty. I know how to quit while I’m ahead!

Passe releve balances in center are definitely a weekness of mine.  If they are what separate a brand-new beginner from a semi-beginner (someone who can make it look decent-ish – possibly even good – at barre), well, I feel like a total noob.  It is not a good feeling. It pisses me off – I practice so much and try so hard but it just takes me so long to improve.  If the jogging and jumping practice really improves my jumps then at least I’ll be ok at that.  I just hate being the worst at something in class (like passe releve balancing), and for whatever reason one-legged balances on releve are apparently easy to people with little-to-none ballet experience.

However, we wrapped up the class by doing chaines. Evening class’ studio is tiny compared to the gigantic gym-sized studio at school, so chaines-ing across (even to the right) was nothing.  I’m just going to brag: I turned faster than everyone, kept my legs close together, and didn’t lose my spot. And it felt so good, Great way to end class!