Tag Archives: coupe

Wednesday Class: In Some Things Progress; In Others, Not

Once again, my once-a-week (for now) class…

Today we had a full class, or as close full as it gets for ballet class at Evening Studio – about a dozen of us.  One of the students was walked to class by her boyfriend and E Teacher asked excitedly “Are you taking class? We need guys!” He wasn’t.  I have to be honest, when I saw that a guy had walked into the studio building I had thought ‘Cool, there’s gonna be a dude today!’, but no, there wasn’t. We haven’t had one in months!

There was plenty of first time (or first few weeks) beginners though, so once again barre started out easy. I took advantage of the super slow tendus to work on my foot articulation.  The “working through the demi-point” way of putting it wasn’t explained in a way that made sense to me until this past Fall semester (I used to think that as long as the toes of the foot never left the floor, the objective was to point as soon as possible, don’t know how to explain it better, but I used to do it Wrong), so over the last several months I’ve really been working on having my foot articulate, and go through demin-point before reaching the full point. It’s gotten way better, almost muscle memory.

Though barre started out easy, E Teacher did incorporate some more challenging aspects for us that are hovering in the land of uncertainty between beginner and some kind of beginner 2. We did several looooong balances in passe releve, once starting from flat and going through sur-le-cou de pied coupe (wrap-around), another staring from releve sous-sus and then wrap-around coupe to passe releve.  Wrap-around coupe is relatively new to me (about 6 months, my teachers before that just did the regular front-of-the-foot kind), making it not as muscle-memory controlled as some of my other ballet moves, so I loved how E Teacher insisted I do it over until I got it right – well, right-ish.  I like being pushed to do it correctly, or at least to try harder.  The passe releve part is getting easier, I was practically balancing for the whole time, at times just one of my fingers lightly touching the barre, at times slightly letting go.

I kept staring at my feet in the mirror, in something close to disbelief – I was liking them! Not just during barre in tendus a la seconde, either (which is a pretty flattering angle if you’re looking to see some pointing action, in my opinion…) When we did our center combination (ok, it was during tendus a la seconde, but it was center, not barre) I thought it was great how I was able to point my foot fully almost instinctively, without any concern for my balance, or anything. I still remember wishing the day would come when I could do something as simple as this (in center) without falling over – and it’s here! I guess I set the bar somewhat low when making goals, but whatever, it makes it more likely that I’ll reach them. And then I can set new ones…

But besides the not falling over part, I was liking the shape of the feet.  It’s like the months of theraband foot exercises have made it so that my feet not only get stronger but pointing gets gradually pointier.  I like the way they look pointed in the air as well, like during grand battements. Now if only I could remember to point during sautes.  I know I’m strong enough to jump now, it’s just a matter of remembering while being overwhelmed by the fast tempo of the music. Today we went through 8 sautes, 4 echappes, 8 changements twice – without stopping – and I felt so in-shape LOL. Definite improvement.

Since yesterday, while practicing at home, I was able to do a full revolution for the first time ever (!) on my right side en dehors pirouette from 4th, I was hoping we would get to do the tendu-plie-passe-pirouette combination. I did make it almost all the way around, but it wasn’t as controlled as the one from yesterday, which was weird as I had thought starting from 5th would make it more controlled. Of course, to the left I’m still stuck at about 1/4 of a revolution.  I wish we would do en dedans pirouettes as well.  For whatever reason, the first time I ever attempted a pirouette it felt more “normal” to go in the en dedans direction and en dehors felt like I would certainly fall over.

Today we did reverance, which we hadn’t done in a while, possibly last summer. E Teacher just tells us to follow along and it starts out easy, just a pretty port de bras, but then she takes a step, unexpectedly changes direction and suddenly we’re lost! I wish I could memorize how the reverance goes (and practice it!) because it’s totally doable if it wasn’t just sprung on us right then and there. And so pretty, too.

Before class I tried to befriend someone.  There was a new girl in ballet class who had a tattoo of something uncommon that I used to – and still am, I guess, just to a lesser degree – be into, so I complimented her on it.  She grunted back “Thanks,” barely looked at me, and didn’t say another word.  I was like, ‘Ok, maybe she’s shy, or awkward (like me). Maybe the tattoo is a sore subject. No big deal…’ and resumed stretching, but then this other girl walked in and the girl I had tried to talk to started discussing her tattoo with her. I felt like such an idiot, and made myself feel better by the end of class by the fact that her ballet technique was absolutely terrible (or at least worse that mine).  Now I feel like a total jerk, having to put down others (in my head, not aloud, of course) in order to feel better about myself. (And what if she’d been super good at ballet? Then what?!)   But I have this horrible social anxiety and it is so rare for me to reach out to people at all, for fear of rejection, so when I do and rejection happens it really sucks.  Sometimes I feel like I am truly unfriendable – and unlikeable (if not dislikeable) – I’m just so socially-awkward and different.

I think I need to stop trying to have a ballet friend and maybe when I least expect it it will happen…

Coolest Socks Ever!

… and they’re ballet pink!

See? Color match!

See? Color match!

A few days ago, while deep in the middle of my cold (from which I’m mostly recovered – yay!), I was looking through my sock bag looking for something to keep my feet warm while I sipped on mint tea with honey.  I was just expecting a pair of generic kneesocks – nothing fancy, just trying to keep those extremities warm – when down near the bottom I felt something particularly soft and warm. Pulling it out, I was delighted to see that it was a pair or socks with “toes” in them, apparently a long-forgotten present. Somehow, ballet pink becomes cooler when you actually do ballet!

It's weird, they're like wearing nothing at all. Except, you know, warmer.

It’s weird, they’re like wearing nothing at all. Except, you know, warmer.

More pictures of the ballet pink toe-socks (or whatever they’re called).

I was trying to take a picture of one of the ankle-strengthening exercises Strict Teacher taught us.

I was trying to take a picture of one of the ankle-strengthening exercises Strict Teacher taught us.

I wonder what would happen if I wear these with sandals?

I wonder what would happen if I wear these with sandals?

Apparently like this.

Apparently like this.

So… what if I tried doing balletish things with them?

I could really get used to how these socks feel...

I could really get used to how these socks feel…

Releves felt so stable in these socks!

Releves felt so stable in these socks!

pointy, pointy foot - I really wish I could wear something like this for ballet sometime...

pointy, pointy foot –
I really wish I could wear something like this for ballet sometime…

image

next time will be on releve…

My cou-de-pied.

My sur le cou-de-pied.

Unfortunately, they don’t come with anything grippy on the bottom for traction.  Center in these would be a bad idea!

Monday Class: Lonely At The Barre

Today I had a whole barre to myself, though some other students were crammed 3 or 4 to a barre.  It was weird, and gave me anxiety that no one wants to be my barre-mate because I suck so much they don’t want to follow me, or I have cooties or smell or something.  Yes, illogical, unconstructive (and ridiculous) thoughts – I know the combinations, I showered! –  but they were there and I have to acknowledge them.  Tried to play it off like I didn’t notice, but was secretly hoping some of the later arrivals would join me.  Nobody did, and I had to put on my game face and pretend that all was well.

At barre, Teacher introduced a new port de bra for plies, so it threw me off somewhat. By now I’ve learned that I get used to the way movements go together and learn how to do them in that order but when the order is changed the difficulty increases way more than I thought it would.  It’s crazy how something as small as “instead of bringing arm in from second, take arm out to second” can throw me off!

We did some tendus  a la seconde and weight shifts at barre but away from the barre – no hands! I liked how I didn’t mess up that exercise and my feet looked so nice and pointy.  My balance during the degages without holding the barre has gotten better as well.  We do the 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 exercise (8 degages right leg, 8 left leg, 4 right leg. ect.) and I’ve noticed my 8 and 4 count degages are strong but by the time we get to 2 on each side I feel a bit wavery.  Not enought to fall over but enough that my foot may not be as pointed as it could be by the 1 counts.

We worked on the wrap-around coupe (sur le cou de pied),  bringing it up to passe and developpe, holding a balance with our leg out in front or the side of us.   Luckily, unlike during my first semester of ballet, by now I can sort of balance during this.  Developpe-ing was so hard back then when I couldn’t manage to balance on my supporting leg  long enough to even bring up my foot to passe. How embarassing!

As for the developpes themselves, they’re easier when standing on left leg, right leg working.  On the other side I’ve noticed that it is a bit harder to hold my turnout through attitude and developpe and in order to hold it I have to not bring the leg up as high.  If my leg is not turned out to my fullest, besides it being bad form it’s also slightly uncomfortable. So I guess what I’m saying is that my extension is higher on the right leg when developpe-ing froward.  My developpes a la seconde are better than the front ones  on the left leg.  Right leg, much better.  When we stretch out our hamstrings my left leg is much tighter than the right, so I’m guessing that has to do with it the whole turnout not staying turned out and all that.

The rond de jambes, both a terre and en l’air, – something familiar, something newish – with a one-legged balance after each direction went well.  If everything in class was as fun as rond de jambes class would be so awesome!

The first thing we did in center was a pas de cheval and balance combination.  Starting in fifth with right foot front, 4 pas de cheval then 4 balances, then with the other foot in front 4 pas de cheval and 4 balances. It was a do-able combination, and when Teacher told us to practice while she checked off the roll sheet I was feeling confident. But then, when we did it in groups, to music, it kind of fell apart.  It was like I had a choice: do the moves accurately and fall behind the music (and the group), or stay with the music (group) but do the moves sloppy and rushed.  The first time through I opted for accuracy, the second for speed.  It’s so hard for me to do things at a quicker tempo! Oh, and by “sloppy” I mean my feet weren’t as pointed as they could be, legs not as straight as possible – we’re not even going to go there about the arms!

On our chaines across the huge studio, predictably my chaines to the left were better.  The ones to the right felt wobby.  However, I did manage to (sort of) finish in arabesque after both sides.  I’ve been wondering though, if we did the ones to the left first before the ones to the right would it make a difference?  When I practice chaines at home I go to the left first and I wonder if that made it my stronger side or if it already was. Because although the ones to the left are easier somewhat, at home my right ones are almost comparable. In class there’s a big difference between the sides.

During sautes I had a breakthrough and realized that if I use my plie and “push” off the ground it gives my jumps more power – you know, what teachers always say, “Use your plie!”.  Just goes to show that hearing something and actually understanding it and implementing it are two different things.  Anyway, the sautes went ok, thanks to this new-to-me realization.  Can’t really say the changements and echappes went well, I’m still feeling underpowered on those. Then dumb thing is that even though ballet-wise my jumps suck, I’m somewhat impressed with just the fact that I’m jumping and feeling almost light on my feet. Even as a kid I wasn’t much of a jumpy, light on their feet person so if I compare myself only to myself there has been so much improvement.

Only compare myself to myself, once I get that through my head – and keep it there! – I feel like so much less of a failure.  Still, today felt like an “off” day, let’s see what next class brings.

Double Dose of Ballet Wednesday

It’s wednesday, you know what that means! Two ballet classes, one day again.  Also, bringing my weekly ballet class total to 3 classes, a new record for me.

Wednesday morning class

As this semester progresses – I can’t believe week 3 is already over – something I find myself thinking quite a bit is “I love the way this teacher teaches class, but I’m so glad it’s not my first semester taking ballet!”  Class has been so much fun, but if it was my first semester I would have been so miserable and discouraged.  There are so many things that this teacher has us do without holding on to the barre that there was just no way I could do until I had been practicing on my own at home for a while.  Like grand plies in center, degages without the barre, balances in releve for a long time, chasse to arabesque with arms, and I’m sure there’s other moves that I can’t recall right now, but those are all things that at this time are possible but challenging.  A year and a half ago? Just downright impossible for me. 

 So far though, this teacher is my favorite teacher I’ve had at community college ballet (I’ve had three different ones here).  She’s really nice and I love when she demonstrates a move because it just looks gorgeous.  I believe she said that she’s an ex professional ballerina and I think that is so cool to take class with a retired professional dancer teaching.  Her feet, extensions, and turns are amazing!

Today, after our warm up plies and tendus we did a different tendu exercise that included rond de jambe, so that was really nice.  Rond de jambe is one of my favorite barre moves – and I can actually do them right, so that might have something to do with it.  No, it’s because I like them that I made myself learn to do them right, like it would be a shame to ruin such a pretty move.  They remind me of drawing circles in geometry class. 

The port de bras that we do at barre during our tendu combinations is nice.  Besides just bending to the side (I think that’s technically called a port de corps but anyway), and to the back, we also this this like circular arm movement (it’s really hard to describe) in which we take our arm out to side and then bend back, kind of following our arm, but our upper body kind of does a circle too.  It was just as hard to perform it the first time as it is to describe it , but luckily my first time with that move wasn’t today but a few weeks ago in wednesday evening class.

Apparently the leg swings through first into attitude devant then back through first to attitude derriere have a name : en balancoire, which means like a seesaw.  Today teacher passed out a list with over 70 ballet terms on it, so that’s the only way I knew how to spell that, I didn’t acquire awesome French spelling overnight. 

When we did grand battements a la seconde, I was facing the mirror and when we all kicked I was like “Is that my leg!? OMG!”  To be fair, it is a beginner class, but I could kick higher than a lot of people, and the initial shock was just incredible.  Besides the height – which honestly isn’t that impressive, just about chest height, but it’s impressive for me – it was also cool how my leg did not come crashing back down to the floor, but landed gently, the way teacher said it should be.  She actually said “Good!” to me!   Now, to be fair, this was holding the barre.  If I had to do a grand battement without the barre I would probably (though hopefully not) fall on my face.  Given this teacher’s love of doing things while letting go of the barre, I could see barre-less grand battements in my near future. Hopefully not too near…

In center, we did the same combination we’ve been working on for the last few classes.  I have to say, the idea of a grand plie in center is scarier than the reality of it at my current skill level, but I still get sooo nervous before doing it.  Teacher is so nice, and says that it’s ok if we fall, so it’s not even that there’s a lot of pressure or anything (unlike last semester’s teacher) but I still don’t want to look all clumsy.  

Of course, with that in mind (not wanting to look clumsy), we had a new across-the-floor move today.  Teacher said it was a chasse, but wednesday evening teacher calls a different move – an almost skipping, hopping, traveling move, where the same leg stays in front – a chasse.  This morning’s chasse involved starting in plie and then sliding one of our heels forward to fourth position and then pushing off with our back foot.  While doing first arabesque arms, unless the coordnination was too much for the particular student.  The arm coordination was not a problem for me, as I always practice stepping into arabesque at home with the arms as well.  The problem was that I’m used to stepping into arabesque from standing in first position and this move involved moving/sliding  our foot forward while plie-ing and then pushing up to straighten our leg in front. Balancing was a bit hard to come by on this part and I felt so much better when one of the girls said that she wasn’t able to balance. That makes two of us!

Obviously, I will be obsessively working on that move at home until my next class with this teacher.  

We did many sautes,  echappes, and changements today, though less than last class.  If I had to guesstimate I would say we did 64 of them total, based on the 8 counts.  The foot strengthening exercises may be helping because I felt as though I could point my feet in the air just a tiny bit more than on monday. Yay, inprovement (however minuscule)!

Teacher said next week we will be focusing on turns and she mentioned chaines, at which point I saw a fellow student make a panicked expression.  I’m guessing she doesn’t much care for chaines, while I’d rather turn all day than have to jump. It’s crazy how we all have our own individual strengths and weaknesses!        

Wednesday evening class

There were 10 of us for class today, 9 ladies and 1 young man.  Before class one of the other ladies started a conversation with me and apparently one of the other students,  whom I had previously thought was her friend, is her daughter! That is so cute, I would’ve loved to have that kind of relationship with my mom.  But no, my mom is still passive aggressively hinting that she’d rather I not take ballet, so that’s not going to happen.  I’m starting to recognize some of the other students at this studio so slowly but surely I’m getting comfortable.  Feeling like part of the group is not a prerequisite for me to have a good class, but it sure helps!  

I like how even though this is a basic beginner class, at the barre we work up to using arms instead of just leaving them in second.  It definitely makes the tendu exercises way more interesting.  Since things like keeping my leg turned out while tondu-ing or remembering to not bend my knees are things that I’ve known and applied for a while, it can get a bit boring if we don’t incorporate arms.  Sometimes when just starting a class with a different teacher I mess up because I’m not familiar with the exercise – and my memory can sometimes suck – but I feel like I’m familiar enough with this teacher’s combinations now that I can focus on actually trying to dance, rather than how many times am I going to tendu in each direction.  Or especially things like the circular motion port de bras I mentioned earlier, which I’m finally starting to feel confident about.

We practiced the wrap-around coupes a lot today, slowly bringing the foot up to passe and then back down, possibly because we didn’t do developpes since there were too many brand newish people.  My wrap-around coupes have improved a bit since I was first introduced to this way of coupe-ing back a couple months ago when I first came to this studio.  Back then the movement was completely foreign to me (like if everything in ballet wasn’t at first!) but now I’m able to do both styles of coupe. I may post progress pictures in the near future if I remember, can’t right now because my “photographer” is not home.

My center sautes were a visible improvement over last week.  I actually saw pointed feet, and it happened more than once.  We then did echappes and chagements.  It’s a bit harder to point my feet when we do echappes and I start the jump from second, but I’ll get there.  For changements, the teacher said that when we bring the legs together we should squeeze them together in the air. I tried doing that and kept landing on top of my own feet.  No, I know your supposed to literally land on your own feet but what I mean is I kept landing kith part of one foot on top of part of the other foot.  This is something I need to work on, but at least the pointing of the feet is sort of coming along. Continuing to do the theraband exercises every day should show some results by next wednesday hopefully.

We also did jetes across the floor. Last time I attempted a jete was before my ankle incident – I had been too afraid to attempt any jumps that involved landing on only one foot – but I wasn’t afraind and went for it. There was no pain at all.  That doesn’t mean it looked right, of course.  I need to figure out a way to get that back leg straightened, but I’m glad I didn’t freeze up and not jump as I’ve seen happen to other people (including one lady today).

Another great ballet day, despite the chasse fail in morning class. The positives just happen to outweigh the negatives regardless!

Corrections, Corrections, Corrections!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to more future corrections and improvement!

Coupe Confusion and Pointing Feet

The way my first two ballet teachers taught us to coupe our foot was more or less the same: in front of our supporting leg’s ankle, making sure to touch it with the toes and not the heel, lest your foot be sickling. I guess sort of like this

image or if you prefer without the shoes so it can be clearer

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So that’s the way I’ve been practicing it this whole time, and I’ve gotten used to bringing it up to passe from that positionimage

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My new teacher however, teaches us to coupe in a slightly different way: we are to wrap our foot around our supporting ankle – so that it’s behind it? – and then when we bring it up to passe we bring it to the front to the knee.

image

Sort of like this.

It’s an adjustment, that’s for sure. I’m still trying to figure out how to comfortably get into that position. It might require greater hip flexibiity/ turnout than the original way I learned how to do it. Or it could just be one of those things that after you’ve been practicing for a year and a half it will make sense. Who knows?

In other news, I still can’t point my left (the one I recently sprained) foot as well as the right foot, but at least there’s no pain and it doesn’t feel sore or weird. Little things to be greatful for.

Here’s the right foot…
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and here’s the left
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Feels so good to be back to practicing!