Tag Archives: forgetting center combinations

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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Overcorrecting, Bad Habits, The Fear, And Some Improvements

Last class I took, Teacher corrected me on my foot alignment. What was unusual about this correction was that she said I was supinating my foot, whereas not too long ago my problem was pronating and not lifting my arch. Apparently I’ve been overcorrecting – since I knew that my problem was pronating, I worked on it to the point that it was too far to the other side.

But it did make me think that I tend to do that – overcorrecting – a lot. Other specific examples I can think of is raising my chin too far in arabesque arm and head position, or slightly tilting my head if I’m just supposed to turn it (like spotting). Luckily, Teacher gives great corrections during class and always catches me. But no sooner do I fix a bad habit that I seem to get a new one. Sometimes I don’t feel very body aware at all (though much better than the pre-ballet days, so I suppose do have some body awareness. Even though at times it seems like none).

As I’ve already mentioned before, I think, whenever it’s a completely new move to me I am absolutely terrible at it. Even if it’s something I already know, the slightest deviation from how it’s originally done will throw me off, like if I have trouble recognizing the pattern. It seems I can only do steps that I’ve learned how to do, and without already knowing it, I’m  lost. This is especially apparent in Modern or Intermediate  ballet class, when we do things that we didn’t do last session. Suddenly, I feel as lost as any brand new beginner. Due to my habit of learning choreography by watching the same small segment of a video over and over until I can mimic it, I seem to be having an even more difficult time learning choreography on the spot and in person. In class I almost feel like yelling “pause!” and hitting the imaginary pause button to sit on the side-line and observe many times until I can actually figure ot what I’m telling my body to do. I’ve stared, perplexed, at a series of movements, thinking ‘what just happened? What did she do?!’ And then I work on seeing what each individual part did, the legs, the torso, the arms, the head, before I can make sense of it as a whole. I wonder if a lot of actual adult beginners struggle with this much more than adult returner beginners who danced for several to many years as children? At a recent class I took I was working over the step very slowly until it made sense to me and noticed that other classmates were intently following along with me, and that happnes a bit now that I think about it, so maybe.

A big part of it, why it’s so difficult to learn new things (I’m specifically thinking center and grand allegro type stuff here) is that I’m scared. If you’re used to being extemely uncoordinated, awkward, and unathletic for almost three decades, the fear of failing at something that will result in load of pain – or worse, injury – is there, you know. I do tend to err on the side of caution, one of the reasons why my sautes were absolutely terrible for so long – I was afraid to really jump and push against the floor because I feared I didn’t have the strength to land safely. Especially since my balance back then was so bad that I would travel farther horizontally than vertically while trying to jump… If sautes alone were the scale we use to rate progress, I’ve improved so much. Under Teacher’s watchful eye I even managed some changements without losing my turnout. I noticed in class this week that I’m starting to not fear sissones, but I know I need to find a good compromise between being not being afraid of landing weird again and playing it extra safe. Same goes for tour jete – I haven’t actually hurt myself by doing or attempting to do one, but I can definitely see that my fear of doing so holds me back.

To end on a good note though – and to me it is a really good note, because this has not been easy for me – Teacher corrected me on my alignment when balancing in retire at the barre, and it made all the difference. She said to shift my shoulders (and weight) forward, which has always seemed counterproductive to me because my umm, weight, is in front and I always feel like I have to compensate by being more back. But I did it anyway and it seems I’m finally strong enough in the core because I balanced up there for, like, forever. I had my seond arm off the barre and perfectly placed the whole time and everything, as stable as if I’d had both feet on the floor. I started counting one-one thousand, two- one thousand, etc, and I made it all the way to 15-one thousand before my calf finally got tired and I brought the working leg down to sous-sus. I’ve never held a balance one one leg without the barre long enough for my leg to get tired, so I was super excited. I wasn’t able to do it on my right foot, but still, yay! It’s possible – even with my off center of gravity, it’s possible!

Another cool thing I learned this week was that pivot thing, the one between finishing a pirouette en dehors in fifth and switching facings for the pirouette en dedans that we always do in Intermediate. Since previously I hadn’t taken a class where it was actually taught  (instead of it just being expected that you know it), I’d always just kind of struggled to follow along. But this week I had a crummy week so I  treated myself to a basic beginner class at Adults Only studio, and it was taught. Instead of from a pirouette we did a passe on flat, then arabesque with right leg in back (like if we had just landed a pirouette en dehors to the right), then then pivot to the other side. Ok, I admit the first few times I was as lost as anyone, but then A Teacher mentioned that the arm that was out to the side when we were in arabesque was the one that comes up, and suddenly it makes sense. I practiced it about a thousand times since then and now I feel totally comfortable with that move to both sides. So yes, it definitely pays off to take a class with a different teacher occasionally, and for this beginner, especially a more basic beginner level class. Great way to fill in the gaps in my training.

Resisting Inertia

Found that phrase in an article I was reading about being-lazy-but-not-really, and it just seemed such a fitting title for my post and my week – can’t get moving, can’t stop when already moving…

As I mentioned last time, this week I had some extra free time. This was due to my regular school being on a break, so only classes at New Studio for me. I figured this would mean yay-nonstop-ballet-fun-day-every-day but no, for some reason it didn’t really work out that way – I overestimated the time off, and decided to undertake too many new projects (and then, of course, nothing was finished). Also, my hike on Tuesday left me so sore, which is somewhat disappointing because there is a blog post on this very blog from a year and a half ago (here’s where that little linking feature that refuses to work would come in handy…) in which I’m hiking and taking class on the same day, like no big deal.

Or maybe what did it was when I decided to go ballet-skipping along this path by home. It’s a jogging/bike path that follows along the road, and there’s trees lining it and when no cars are passing by you can almost trick yourself that you’re just happily skipping along the forest or something. After I’d been walking for a long time and knew I was warmed up, I started skipping, like a chasse-gallop, then bringing the other foot up through coupe to chasse-gallop on that one, and little skips changing feet by bringing it to coupe. I’m doing a terrible job of describing it, but it was fun.  Probably a little too fun, since I ended up really far from home then had to walk all the way back.

So, at home I keep telling myself that I should practice so I don’t lose a lot of progress from cutting back so much on class-hours, and I’m just feeling so unmotivated about it. Not about working on choreography, or just putting on some music and dancing, but of doing barre. I manage to convince myself that at the minimum I should do some plies, tendus and releves to not lose my turnout rotator muscles, and foot and ankle strength. Getting up is the hardest part, but once I’m there I decide I’ll stay (or perhaps what happened is that I’d finally warmed up). But I still feel unfocused once I get past the first few exercises (which I do facing the barre and mirror, slow so I can focus on every single detail of my technique), and just want to dance.

By this point it was obvious to me that the issue was not that I didn’t want to dance, as it was giving myself a full barre like a real structured class. Just couldn’t get excited about that no matter what. I may be spoiled after getting to take class so often, because before I always did a whole barre alone at home and enjoyed it. Then I got an idea and decided to do Kathryn Morgan’s Classic Barre video on youtube. It turned out to be just what I needed! I followed it up with the her Easy Center video, also on youtube.

Besides motivating me to actually get through barre, there were other benefits of doing the videos. With the barre one, for sure, it was a test of my musicality and memory – I would do the first side facing the video, then the second side facing away so that I had to rely on the music completely. I surprised myself by actually being on the correct count most of the time. I think even if I was finding it easy to motivate myself to do barre, if anything I should continue to do these videos to work on memorizing combinations, especially center. I only did the Easy Center video this week (which I wouldn’t call easy, and there’s different level versions available during it), but I remember trying the Classic Center one last year and the combinations were hard for me to remember. So it’ll be good practice.

My classes at New Studio were fun, although not particularly challenging this week. Since it’s open level, the difficulty depends on who shows up, and lately there’s been a lot of new-beginners. The demographic seems to be Ladies That Work Out (I’m assuming by the visible muscle tone and work out gear, instead of dance wear or t-shirts and leggings) and it’s always so interesting to me because they are so strong, even though they’re just starting out. It makes me wonder how the ballet as an adult beginner experience is different depending on one’s individual strengths and weaknesses. I got stronger as I learned technique, so I have no idea what it’d be like to learn technique while already being super strong. Probably easier, I’d imagine, but maybe the obvious answer isn’t the correct one; it may be harder because there’s other similar movements already in muscle memory that will tend to come out when trying to ballet (like doing yoga poses instead of retire comes to mind). Or not. By now I’m officially rambling…

A fun combination we did was 2 balancés, tombe, pas de bourre, chasse to arabesque, pirouette en dehors from fourth, pirouette en dedans, repeat. I managed some of the pirouettes, but they’re still not what I’d call reliable. On the one hand, I’m really stressing on that pirouette I have to be able to do for one of the pieces we’re performing. But on the other hand, I’ve been practicing that segment of the choreography, and I’ve been able to do it, so once again it seems like it’s pirouettes by themselves that are the most difficult for me.

I was pleased that during petit allegro I kept up with the tempo. It wasn’t a hard combination, just really, really fast – 8 changements, (glissade, assemble)x2, soublesautx2, repeat. Another petit allegro combination was four changements, four changements while turning right, four changements, four changements while turning left, 3 sautes in first, hold plie, echappe, close, repeat. So many jumps! Maybe that too is why I was so sore…

Our across the cloor combination was also super fast. (2 pique turns, 3 chaines)x3, contretemps, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete. My grand jete to the first side was ugly, enough for NS Teacher to comment (which was kind of funny). I tried harder on the second side…

 

Week 4: In The In-Between Stage

Have you ever had that awkward moment in class when the teacher says something is “for the more advanced students” or “not for the more beginning students” and you have no idea if it applies to you? Like, should you try anyway, even if you think that if you do actually do it, it will be super sloppy? Should you only avoid trying something (instead taking the easier option) only if to try it would be to risk serious injury?

More and more I find myself truly not knowing in what category to place myself.  I mean, there’s been stuff that I feel for sure I could do, like fondus on releve en croix, that I’ve gone ahead and done even though it was the harder option. Or using the arms when doing a tendu combination.  And in center, obviously I’m not going to try the doing a cabriolet mid-combination, or entrechats or royales.

Today in center, F Teacher gave me the choice of which group I wanted to go in, the easier version or the harder.  The harder group went first and while it was all steps I know how to do, it was much too fast and I got lost about halfway through the combination (though I did remember the tip I read a while back on someone’s blog – no idea who, so if it’s yours, let me know so I can give you credit 🙂 – that as long as you get the last step right it looks less horrible. Or something like that. At least I ended with the correct foot in front, I guess.

Then I went with the easier group.  And it was, in fact, much easier. It was nice to not be guessing about the next step – though when we did the left side I did momentarily forget what was next..  It seems to me that a big part of the problem is that I just can’t seem to memorize combinations. Short and basic ones, sure, but anything involving more than 6 steps or so, not. And it sucks. I mean, the harder combination was so fun! There was even a pirouette en dedans from fourth – my favorite kind of pirouette (and the only kind in which I can get all the way around and end with the correct foot in front). I wish I could remember the whole combination, so I could practice it and make it better, but if I remembered it I would have probably been dancing it better.

Anyway, I don’t know if this means the more advanced versions are not for me.  Afterwards, we did a saute arabesque, saute passe, saute arabesque, saute passe, run in a small circle (whatever this is called), saute arabesque, alternate legs after running again to a daute arabesque on the other leg, glissade, 4 brises or assembles (yes, assemble was the “easier” version), pas de chat, other side combination.  It was pretty fun, but as I’ve mentioned in other posts, my assembles are not very assemble-y and my arm transitions from middle fifth to arabesque need work. The more advanced people did cabriolets. I think I’m a long way from doing that…

At barre, we’ve been doing a lot of work from a plie position, like tendu and close in plie, they stay in plie for two more tendues.  We’ve been doing more stuff on releve, as well. The frappes have gotten ridiculously fast, and we’re switching it up, like instead of en croix we do three front, three back, en croix, then four  a la seconde, then reverse.  It’s so hard to not get lost, and thinking about which one is next while also actually doing frappes instead of just swinging your foot at the ground is a huge challenge.

F Teacher also worked with us on the concept of it being a dynamic movement, to try to project energy out through your fingertips when doing arabesque arm, that kind of thing.  Honestly, it’s something that I struggle with. If I had to summarize it in my own words, I would say to do the moves like you mean it , not like you’re just marking the combination or, in my case, like you feel like an impostor in ballet class.  I think I have a fear that I’m taking myself too seriously and that if I really try to do it I will look ridiculous.  But it’s something that I need to work on, I just don’t know where to begin.

Overall, I think the level of combinations in class (so far, there’s still a couple weeks left) is a good fit for me, though I don’t really know where I fit in the whole scheme of things. Beginner or beginning-intermediate/ beginner 2?  And everyone in this class has extensions of at least 90°, which is intimidating, just a bit.  I’ve been stretching my butt off, but the discrepancy between my flexibility in my right leg and left leg seems to increase daily… At least by this point I’m not really feeling like ‘why am i even in this class’, which is a good sign. I’m feeling more like ‘I’m not very good at ballet, but this is still probably the funnest summer I’ve ever had’. And yes, I know that “funnest” is probably not a real word…