Tag Archives: intermediate ballet class

Keep Your Head Up!

‘Keep your head up! Look up!’ Is one of the most common group corrections I hear called out during class. Apparently, this is something that many people struggle with, and i can completely relate. When I was new(er) – I mean, this went on until I’d been ballet-ing for over two years – this was something that I really struggled with. If looking up and keeping my head up and shoulders back were something I struggled with in regular life, how was this supposed to change (for the better) when I was wearing awkward clothing and constantly losing my balance?! Simply put, I couldn’t.

What changed? You know that expression about faking it ’till you make it? Let’s just say I’m still faking it, but hey, it works! I do got to say that this is easier said than done…and I definitely wasn’t able to pull it off until I felt more sure of my balance. But I think I finally have this looking up thing somewhat under control. Now if only I could improve on that external focus thing I keep hearing about…

This past week all my classes were pretty challenging, each in a different, appropriate-for-that-level way.

In Int/Adv, we did several long combinations, one of which I  remember enough to share here: Walk slow 3 steps, releve walk faster, run, pique sous-sus, developpe croisse devant, developped a la second, chasse to arabesque, pormenade in aattitude, allonge, sous-sus, tombe, pas de bourre, releve in 4th balance, pirouette en dehors, pivot to prep for pirouette en dedans, soutenu, pique arabesque, walk, pique arabesque, run off.

We also did sissone while changing facings, faille, assemble which is so fun and I remember a little over a year ago just freezing up and not being able to do these in center when it was my turn  (instead I did some weird cross between a glissade and looking like I was falling down), so it’s a definite sign of improvement. I still get confused about the sissone arms though (which way do the arms open?  Better clarify that with a teacher, and write it down so I can remember…), but the jump itself is not too bad.

In Intemediate class we did an adagio: pique sous-sus, developpe devant croisse, pique sous-sus (change facing) developpe a la seconde, pique sous-sus en arriere (change facing) developpe derriere, promenade in attitude, allonge, pas de bourre, soutenu in place. Soutenus in place are finally making sense to me!

We worked on our facings and I realied that tendu efface devant is to devant while facing en face is what ecarte derriere is to a la seconde and  croisse devant is devant as ecarte devant is to a la seconde. (Hope I explained it right) I’d had an idea about this, but having the knowledge has made my facings more precise.

I worked on my beated jumps at the barre for a bit, and could really see some improvement in the mirror. I’m hoping if I keep uo the practice at bar it will translate to center.

In Beginner, we jumped, a lot. Previous to this we had been mostly working on barre work and ballet walks and tendus, so the change to sautes, balances, and tombe, pas de bourre was nice. For sautes, we did this exercise when you saute landing count 1, then hold plie for 2-4, then saute twice on 1 and 2, hold plie 3-4, etc. all the way to 4 sautes then repeat.  Of course, my calves were absolutely dying the whole weekend…


A Rough Start And A Great Ending

At the start of the week, I was feeling rather silly about being in the Int/Adv class. Feeling like what am I doing in that class when my skill level is clearly not up to par. I’m not the most beginner person there, but a commenter here once said something wise (and I may be paraphrasing a little, too tired to to look it up, sorry): just because you’re the worst one does not make you a worse dancer [than you already are], and just because you’re the best one [in a particular class] does not make you a better dancer. Horrible paraphrasing job there, but hopefully you get what I mean. Anyway being objective, and looking at where my level  is now, I feel like I don’t belong there…

I have no intention of dropping out of it though – as long as I don’t get all introspective and think about how much my dancing sucks in the scheme of things, I have an amazing time in that class (and it’s not like there’s much spare time for thinking during class anyway…). But now that I am feeling introspective (and rather melancholy – I am probably not a fun person be around right now… ), I can’t help thinking that I have no business there, with the real dancers, the ones that actually have a future in dance, the ones who are not done with their youth and well on the way to middle age.

(I feel I should clarify that these classes are not through an adult recreational program, and there’s dancers training there who are really good, and past alumni have made it to big companies and all that. So I do feel like I’m wasting their class time or taking up space, or something. Taking these classes with the older teens/young adults is a double-edged sword; while there’s no way I would be able to afford such an intense dance course load otherwise, sometimes it just feels like a lot of pressure. And inadequacy. And this strange feeling of not belonging. Not that I feel particularly at home or like I “fit in” when I take a recreational class with only “real” adults… maybe the problem is me…) Hello, tangent!

At barre I don’t feel like i get in the way – though when I mess up obviously (like, wrong foot tendued in  wrong direction) I start to worry that I’ll draw attention to myself.  But in the center, like when doing turns across the floor, it’s pretty bad. I force myself to go faster, but my technique suffers, I feel. And I don’t want to go slow and hold up the better dancers who, for whatever reason, were not in the front of the line/group. Which may not be my fault, that the better people didn’t go forward, but I don’t want to get yelled at about it for not filling in the gap, so yeah…

Well, that was kind of a pointless ramble, but I feel better having written about it. That said, the rest of my week was actually pretty awesome. The pace in Beginner class really picked up this past week, in the form or us doing the barre one exercise after another with hardly a pause (we have a set barre for the session so G Teacher doesn’t have to give us the combination in theory) and I love it. Intermediate class, while more challenging than Beginner (obviously…) still does not fill me with the intimidation that I feel in Int/Adv. It could be because Int. class happens to be a very small class, and I don’t feel like I’m in the way. But I’d be lying if I said that the people there didn’t make a difference. The crowd in Int/Adv is more,well, advanced, and while they’re lovely to watch while in the other group waiting your turn, dancing with them is intimidating. It Int class it feels friendly and with less pressure.

As far as hip hop, there may be some hope yet? For our latest combination, instead of only working on it for a week we’ve been working on it for the past two weeks, and I’m actually remembering it now. At least as far as getting the feet and arms roughly where they should be, moving in the correct direction. H Teacher worked with me a little bit during class individually, so I think maybe I’ve made that jump between Incurable Klutz and just plain bad, and he thinks that some help will make a difference. For what it’s worth, it did.

Still, it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to, but I’m guessing that’s something that will take time. A friend told me to imagine I’m dancing alone in my room, but when I dance alone at home I want to do ballet. So that did make me question whether or not I actually want to dance hip hop. If I do, and hope to actually show improvement, I’m guessing I need to put in some outside of class time. As it is, I don’t practice hip hop on my own time, but I’m thinking it wouldn’t hurt to at least go over the combination in my head.

Another cool thing that happened this week was that through my school I got a free ticket to go watch a live performance of the ballet! It was a small touring company doing a full-length performance of Sleeping Beauty and I had so much fun. I couldn’t get over how sparkly the tutus were in real life. This was my second time watching a ballet live that is not the Nutracker. There aren’t too many opportunities to watch ballet live out where I live without having to drive out to the Big City, so even without the added bonus of the free ticket it was still a rare treat, a wonderful night.

Last night, I had a ballet dream. In my dream, I was in a full time ballet program, like the residential kind (I think I’ve been watching too much Dance Academy…), and I remember I was so thrilled because I could do every combination in class. So yeah, a peek into my subconcious – and impossible – wishes.

A Week Of Firsts

First week of the new session of classes after about a month break. I was excited, but very nervous. The main reason for being nervous was that the Intermediate class I signed up for is actually called Intermediate/Advanced. My first class with the word “Advanced” in the name! Of course, I’m nowhere close to being an Advanced student, I even doubt I’m at the Intermediate level. Petit allegro keeps me firmly grounded in the reality of my (current) ballet abilities, haha.

The first day of an Intermediate class session is always a little nerve-racking because the teacher reserves the right to send you to the Beginner class is you don’t hold up well during class. Barre went well though even though the girl right in front of me was so distractigly good that I was a bit distracted. I don’t know if other people were also feeling the intimidation of dancing with dancers that were Really Good, and if it was obvious, because F Teacher gave us a little pep talk about not being intimidated or concerned with the level of other people in the class. As it was, I was doing my best to just focus on myself and the music and not let myself get psyched out, not feel like I’m not a “real” dancer.

This is even more important in center, I think, because then there’s no hiding at the barre. Our first combination started off  with grand plie, releve sous-sus, developpe devant, developpe derriere to attitude, promenade, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors and I forget the rest. Grand plies in center still scare me if only for the memory of when I couldn’t do them without falling, so it was a shaky start but I remembered the combination. We were doing the combination in groups, so it did feel like the pressure was on.

For tendus we did tendu croisse devant x2, temps lie devant, tendu croisse derriere x2, temps lie derriere, tendu ecarte, pivot to efface, tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors. Even though I felt intimidated, especially since I wound up in the front row, I made sure to do my preparation port de bras and everything. F Teacher said “Good!” To me and since she definitely doesn’t just give away compliments I was thrilled.

For across the floor we did waltz en tournant, balance x2, tombe pas de bourre, chasse to fourth, releve in fourth, pirouette en dehors, pivot to other side efface, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, run off. Once again I amazed myself by actually remembering the combination and not horribly messing up.

I’m also taking Beginner class this session, with G Teacher from the summer session, but since it’s beginner level we mostly worked on alignment, posture and conditioning this week. Since I wasn’t ultra tired from all those classes, I stopped in at New Studio for a class. The drop-in level was pretty good that day, and we did a really fun combination in center ( 4 pas de chat with a slight pause between each one, contretemps, pique arabesque, chasse, tour jete, pirouette en dedans, sous-sus, balance x2, waltz en tournant x2, run off). We got the opportunity to mark it plenty of times, so by the time we did it as a class it was already in my memory even though it used a variety of steps and direction changes.

Another first this week, I took my first hip hop class. It was mostly unplanned – I originally had something else scheduled for that time but those plans fell through. My ballet friend mentioned that there was the hip hop class, and since I’ve been thinking of trying hip hop I figured why not. How’d it go? Well, it’s a good workout, and I had fun – I certainly laughed a lot – but I absolutely looked ridiculous!


The teacher, H Teacher, gave us our first combination: 8 counts of poses (we were supposed to improv our own, and I quickly asked a girl I knew to give me some pointers), then these side steps right and left, four little steps to the front, then step to the side three times quick and bring in the other leg, step the right foot forward and behind, then 1/2 turn to the left, and something called a body roll (which I could not figure out for the life of me), then bring in your right leg and jump on on leg to face front again, then this step I coluld not figure out at all, these arms movements I couldn’t remember, and then these jumps alternating legs that I could do, then 8 more counts of dreaded improv. The arms were up to us. So I looked around and it seemed like everyone knew what they were doing. I was just glad that we went over the combination enough times that at least I wasn’t going left when everyone else was going right. Safety, you know? But I definitely don’t know how to dance, and it shows. I’m ok with it, if anything because I know that it could be so much worse. Even though I don’t think what I was doing could be called dancing, I felt so in shape keeping up with all the jumping. I also think it will help me with the memorizing of combinations because since these steps don’t really have a name like every single ballet step, it’s a bigger challenge for me. And of course, if I actually get proficient in hip hop dance I’m thinking of all the awesome fusion choreographies that I could do.

Another first for this week – this one not so good – my first time being snubbed by a classmate. We were in the Int/Adv class at the barre, and this more advanced girl at the barre I was at asked a different classmate if we were using the inside leg for the second part (we weren’t), and they answered something like ‘I think so?’. I said something like ‘No, because after we do en cloche the outside leg ends up in the back’ and she didn’t reply, but asked the other person again. I repeated what I’d said (just in case she didn’t hear me?) and once again she didn’t acknowledge me at all. Rather than being upset it made me want to laugh. I mean, you must have some serious insecurity issues if you’re going to be rude for no reason to someone you don’t even know, or maybe you’re buying into the ‘prima ballerina’ attitude a little too much. Either way, it didn’t ruin my day or my class experience, but was a good reminder that there’s snotty people out there, and for me to be extra nice to the more beginner people to make up for it.


More Videos, More Classes, Still Not Remembering

This week I kept up the same routine of 3 classes at New Studio, supplementing with Kathryn Morgan youtube classes. This was my first week of summer vacation proper (last week was technically finals week, but I’d finished early), so I had more time to do even more video classes. I also found and did a few Pilates video classes, because unlike ballet which I just want to do every day – no excuses or motivation needed – I actually need that extra push to get off the couch and get my work out in. Don’t want to lose the strength I’ve gained, but even then I don’t feel so motivated, so I’m really glad to have discovered the world of youtube videos!

Classes at New Studio went well. I really like how NS Teacher gives plenty of hands on corrections, but at the same time there vibe feels laid back compared to my regular school. Even on the day when there was some way more advanced dancers there it still felt laid back. I also like how if there is a huge gap between the most advanced dancer there and the most beginner she’ll give us different levels of the same combination across the floor. This is a skill that I think it’d be nice if more teachers had, the ability to tailor the class to the different levels there (too many teachers seem to either cater to the most advanced or the most beginner, leaving us middle students either lost of unfulfilled).

Combinations I remember were across the floor temps leves (saute passe, saute arabesque)x3, chasse, tour jete, chasse, tour jete, pirouette en dehors, sous-sus, run off. Another one was start in B+, step out the back foot and then sous-sus and bourre towards the front foot, then turn while switching feet to repeat the whole thing. This was so fun because even though it was not a hard combination it felt so dance-y, especially when adding the port de bras and stuff. *Boyfriend just interrupted me to say “You were smiling while you were typing that”, LOL*

We did two saute combinations, one slow one fast. The slow one was a good tempo for me,  and really emphasized the plie portion. The fast one had entrechats in it, which I am horrible at, and I saw that my feet were getting not-so-pointed. I haven’t really had any improvements in my beated jumps over the past year actually (not that I had before that either). I don’t really know where to begin on that, I mean do I keep practicing them wrong just to built up strength (but risk building muscle memory of the wrong thing), or am I strong enough but it’s just something in my head (like the fear of landing wrong). It’s possible that I’m strong enough, because I’ve seen people that are weaker than me or get tired quicker be able to do them. I can do more sautes, correctly, than ever before, but when it comes time to add beats it just turns into flexed feet flopping around. Well, for starters I’ll work on my royalle, since that feels easier to me than entrechat.

As for my youtube video classes, this week I once again did the “Easy Ballet Barre” and “Easy Ballet Center” as well as the “Classic Ballet Barre, 2” and “Barre for Turnout” and “Barre for  Core and Balance”. The difficulty of all the barre videos except for “easy” is pretty tough, especially towards the end of the video, but I managed to pull through – with some modifications. Like the part where there’s was something like pas de cheval devant, releve on coupe, then two pas de chevals on releve with a mini rond de jambe en l’air, and repeat on croix, or something like that – I was all over the place. While the difficulty of the videos starts off similar to the Intermediate class I’d been going to, by the end I definitely think it’s at a much harder difficulty.  I am happy that I’m strong enough to be able to do combinations on releve at the barre, but my coordination does go down. Any frappes or rond de jambes while on releve are a complete mess.

As for center, I attempted the “Classic Center” video and, well… I guess it comfirms to me that I am still very much a beginner. Certainly makes my choice between Intermediate and Beginner at the same exact time slot a whole lot easier! I could do the first combination, but after that I was horribly lost. I switched to the “Easy Center” to finish my ballet session – love that video, by the way – but I did take some time later on to sit through the rest of the “Classic Center” class to see what the deal is. So, it seems like the first few combinations are definitely steps  I can do, I just can’t remember what comes next and then I’m behind and catching up sucks. The combinations feel so long! I know if I were to take a few hours and study the videos I’d be able to do the combinations correctly, but doing them immediately after being given them – like in a real class scenario – is currently impossible for me. I don’t think I’ve seen much improvement in this area over the past year either.

The thing I wish I knew the most is, is it because I’m a beginner and I’m still not familiar with ballet (at a little over three years of dancing), or is it because I’m not a child/teen? Like, is it because I’m an adult that I can’t remember a full sequence of steps, or it is just because I haven’t been doing it that long? Are beginner-children/teens better at memorizing combinations than beginner-adults?  By now I’ve proven -at least to myself – that I can take a combination or piece of choreography that’s several minutes long or more, study it at home on my own time for many obsessive hours, and be able to do it in class/rehearsal/ a show, but I am so slow at learning them in “real time”. While I feel like I shouldn’t care, like I should just be grateful that I’ve even gotten to perform at all, I am somewhat upset that my slowness at learning in person may be a big reason why I don’t get considered for longer parts.  If it’s just because I’m still a beginner then I can feel better that it may get better in the future, but if it is because I’m not super young – and I’m not getting any younger – then maybe it’s time to… one of two things: either learn to be grateful for at least getting to do the “beginner”parts, or stop having delusional dreams of performing. I worry that I sound whiny – I’m not whining, I just like to know where I stand, like to know the reasons for things and then see if there’s something I can do about it or not. To know that if I’m failing it is because of things out of my control, not my undedicated lack of trying, or msguided effort.

I also wonder, is learning choreography this way “cheating”? Am I screwing myself up more in the long run? I mean, I get the instant gratification of learning and performing a dance, but then I get even worse at remembering the combinations in class. Is the only way to get better at following along in class to stop doing it the slow, step-by-step video way? Even if that class-only learning style just doesn’t seem to work for me?

As you can see, I’m full of (possibly rhetorical?) questions today…

Lesson Learned?

This past week I didn’t take too many classes, because of a combination of the long weekend, family events, and rehearsals, so by the time I got to class I felt a little rusty in my technique. As luck would have it, the first class I took in four days (and only second in about a week, because rehearsals) was Intermediate, so I came out feeling   somewhat discouraged. Lesson is, if I haven’t taken my regular amount of class in a couple weeks, perhaps Intermediate is not the way to go, especially if it’s the end of the session (with a higher difficulty level).

Barre went ok, sort of. I remembered the leg changes of working leg from outside leg to inside leg and the slow port de bras during quick rond de jambes. While I wasn’t able to replicate that super long balance in retire on releve from last week, I did hang up there  for a little while, several seconds.

Center, in short, sucked. I wasn’t feeling paticularly confident, and Teacher was overwhelming me with the new combinations and too many corrections. She usually does the same combinations for the week, but since I’d missed the last class before I felt lost.

The first combination was (as well as I remember so I might be missing something) balancé x2, pique arabesque, promenade, passe, developpe devant in efface line, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dedans, sous sus. I was all over the place, struggling with the promenade about half the time, not sure how to prepare for the pirouette. Of course this was all complicated by the fact that I can’t remember the combination until like the fourth run through…

During pique turns across the floor, Teacher corrected me on my arm going too far behind me, but when I tried to do it without having my arm there I felt like I wasn’t getting around enough. Ugh, I hate it when I realize that  something I thought I was getting better at I was doing wrong all along. Especially when I think that the reason I was doing it wrong was to compensate for weaknesses in by body, and I’m not strong enough yet to be doing that particular step at all…The way Teacher words the correction, “Stay up longer so you can get all the way around” cracks me up because it’s like ‘I’m trying to stay up!’.

We did these turns while doing little temps leves and the other foot in coupe devant, I think. It was hard for me, really hard. Not the turning part, but the one-footed jumps. Teacher kept calling out corrections to me by name, but I couldn’t really understand what she wanted for me except to jump higher perhaps (because it’s hard for me to separate jumping while pointing my feet to jumping higher and harder). I was apprehensive about it because, as I mentioned in my last post, if I fear that I’m not strong enough to land a jump safely I don’t jump it as hard as I can. It was stressing me out though, because I feel like sometimes when things are way beyond my current level I should just … I don’t know, work on a preparatory version at the barre for a month or five until my body has a general idea of what’s going on. I told Teacher, “I don’t think I’m strong enough to do this yet,” after about the twentieth attempt, which is probably a huge ballet faux pas, but it was the truth and, I felt, relevant to the situation.

We’re not even going to get into how much I sucked at petit allegro (can’t remember the combination exactly, but it was fast, and the second time through we were supposed to beat our jumps, which is something that I’m still afraid to try because I think at this speed I’ll get my feet tangled together or something). I was mostly just trying to keep up and go the correct direction in the traveling jumps to not crash into the others.

This is around the point that I wonder if I’m not ready for Intermediate, because I still feel as lost as I did when I first tried Intermediate class a year ago. Beginner class is so fun, but it doesn’t get challenging until the latter weeks of the session. I feel like I’m at the level of  between-the-end-of-session-in-Beginner-class, and the beginning-of-the-session-in-Intermediate. It’s a tough place to be; people that are more advanced than me danced for years and years as children, and other beginners I know (and take class with) have only been doing ballet for around a year. So I feel like I’m still in that no man’s land between beginner and intermediate that I was in a year ago. Yes, progress in ballet does come rather slow for me…

I know I’m not a ballet teacher (obviously), but I really do feel like it’s not particularly productive for me to be attempting things that I clearly can’t do and am nowhere close to be able to doing. Perhaps with children – “normal” (ugh, hate using that word) children, not a spacially uncoordinated child such as I was – it’s a different story and they do well by just being thrown in the deep end (which didn’t work for me as a child either, this being thrown off the deep end, because then I would cling on to the swimming instructor and pull them in with me…). But as an adult, I definitely don’t think so. If I think it’s not safe for me to do something, I’m going to be reluctant to do it (and especially so soon before the recital).

I hope all of this doesn’t sound bad, like I’m criticizing Teacher (because that’s not my intention – I think she’s been a great Teacher and I owe much of my progress to her and her patience with my detailed-and-at-times-dumb questions)), but I really think it’s hard  (or maybe even impossible) for her to undertand how my body works and responds, not only as an adult beginner but as a person who was inactive and  in terrible shape during my early years (when other people were building muscles and muscle memory). I realize that I’m not that much “older” in the grand scheme of things, like old enough for muscle loss to have significantly occured – if at all – but the fact that I wasn’t building muscle during my prime years does worry me, like I have a much lower maximum potential of total top strength (not to mention bone density, and that really concerns me, especially as far as the force of landing jumps is concerned…). Or perhaps I just have a much lower tolenrance from pain than this dancer high tolerance for pain I’ve heard about. I don’t like thinking these things because then I feel like I have no business dancing, like I’m not really a dancer,  like I’m trying to force the unnatural (well, any more than ballet already is forcing the unnatural). I realize that probably makes no sense, because I’ve tried talking about it and I seem unable to articulate what I mean. But I guess I just want there to be a record that I felt like this at this point…

I’m not trying to sound all down about any of this though – I’m not contemplating quitting ballet all the way, nothing like that. Just thinking that perhaps I should stick with Beginner class only for a bit again and work on the fundamentals. I know I had the same debate with myself at the end of the last session last December, and I ended up taking Intermediate anyway (because  Teacher had asked me, not because I’m a good dancer but because if not enough people sign up the class may get cancelled). And I just may take it again, I’m just frustrated at the moment. In Beginner class I feel like I can actually do some dancing, but at the same time the first 2/3 or so of the Beginner class session can be too slow paced. Wish we had an ‘Advanced Beginner’ class!

Next session at my regulal school starts in a couple weeks, so we’ll see how that teacher is. In the meantime, I’ll be taking class at New Studio and perhaps – hopefully – Adults Only Studio,

This Week Was Fun

It was a good ballet class week, although I’ve been incredibly sore. I did four ballet classes total, 2 beginning and 2 intermediate (six hours total), plus lots of rehearsing, and 3 hours of beginning Modern. Perhaps because we’re nearing the end of our sessions, both Beginner and Intermediate – and Modern, too, actually – have been picking up in difficulty. I always love these last few weeks, and wish they could last longer.

In Intermediate, we’ve been doing our tendus derriere at the barre slightly different sometimes, with our arm out to second and us looking out the side sort of under the arm, instead of the usual an arabesque arm. I like it, it’s a completely different dynamic, and a new way to work on epaulement. Also in Intermediate, we’ve been doing our tombe, pas de bourree in combinations with a different port de bras – just when I was starting to feel that I was proficient in the original port de bras. The new one has us bringing the arm opposite of the direction we’re traveling up into high fifth (I think it’s similar to the efface line in tendus), instead of the arm in the direction we’re going coming up though middle and out and then the next arm through middle and out.

In barre, also in Intermediate, we did the circular cambre (grand port de bras?) up on sous-sus, which I’d never done before. Surprisingly, it was no more difficult -perhaps even less – than the cambre forward on releve which we’ve been doing for a while. I’ve also been letting go of the barre more and more for our one-legged releve balances. Something that really helped me was when Teacher noticed that I would slightly lean towards the barre (or towards my supporting leg) when trying to hold the balance, and she told me to really pull up and push against the floor, keeping my ribs and shoulders in line with the lower body. The first time she told me I was thinking ‘what?!how?!’ but I think I made sense of it now.

Another thing Teacher worked with me on was my ridiculous excuse for a grand plie. As I may have mentioned before, I have a very shallow grand plie, in pretty much any position. She said that it’s not a tendon tightness issue, because my demi plies are actually quite deep and if it was tendon related that wouldn’t be. So she had me grand plie facing the barre so I could see myself from the side on the mirror, and I start going down until the point I’m used to and she urges me to go deeper. The front of my thighs start burning and I struggle to keep my torso up perfectly upright, but I can’t hold it for more than a couple seconds at most – probably less. She asks if it hurts and I say no, it’s not pain, it just feels weak, like I won’t be able to get back up. She mentions that I started to stick out my pelvis, and if I were to tuck my pelvis into neutral I would be able to access my rotator muscles better. Which I know, as she has already shown me this before, when we were working on developes a la second and she’d had me tuck in my pelvis at which point she’d lifted my leg up higher than before. It’s a little frustrating – I realize that in ballet (and in Pilates too, she’s always getting on me for the same correction there as well) I need to keep my pelvis neutral for a functional reason, but in my every day life I have a tendency to stick it out. This makes the changes harder to stick in muscle memory, but (and I realize this will sound super superficial…) when outside of class I plan on continuing to stick in out, I just feel it makes my body look much better; when I tuck it in my butt looks terrible and my lower stomach pooches out more than ever. So looks like I got myself a dilemmna…

(Still, I feel like I need to say “please don’t judge” lol)

(Also, a few months ago I read an article online entitled “Long Legs Suck For Squatting” and it explained how people with shorter legs are able to squat deeper without having to bring their torso forward, while those who are long-legged have difficulty. It was about regular gym squats, not plies, so perhaps it’s irrelevant but it made me feel better – it’s not my fault, it’s the leg length! Also, and I feel this part gets really underestimated, my chest is heavy! Even sitting up straight is more difficult for me, I’m always amazed that I can plie with a straight back at all.)

Our center combinations in Intermediate were really fast, and on the left side I felt lost. One combination was (saute arbesque, faille, glissade, assemble)x2, (glissade, jete)x2, pas de chat x4, pas de bourre, other side. I would start  out ok on the saute arabesque, then get lost and pick it up somewhere around the pas de chats. We did the mazurka-balancé-pirouette combination from last week as well, and I was still feeling lost. Teacher divided us up, so intead of going with the other beginners I had to go with the more advanced students, which highlighted even more how lost I was. It wasn’t that the individual steps were too difficult, just the speed which leaves no room for thinking about what I’m doing next. I’m not discouraged, that’s what’s important.

Beginner class was lots of fun though. We continued with the slightly more complex barre combinations, switching working leg and using port de bras, balancing on releve for a long time. I love this part! (as I’ve already mentioned)

Center was even more fun. We did a temps lie combination: temps lie devant from croisse and then derriere (while switching the port de bras), face front and temps lie a la seconde and close, tendu derriere, chasse devant, passe releve, other side. What was  even more fun is that we went from one side to the other more than once without stopping. Felt a little bad for the true beginners though, as they looked quite lost.

Across the floor we did 2 waltz turns, 2 balancés, tombe, pas de bourre, chasse to fourth, releve in fourth, then either pirouette en dehors from fourth or passe (or passe releve, all depending on level) balance. Not only did I manage to do some pirouettes, I did them to my weaker side (the one I usually don’t get around on), so I was really excited. The way it happened was just casual, like ‘ok, I’m going to do a pirouette, no one’s watching’ and I did it. Then I did it again! So of course I attempted them when we actually did the combination and it went well.

I’m sure more happened during this ballet week, but I’ve been so incredibly busy rehearsing for the upcoming show and all that (not to mention regular school work and house chores) that I haven’t been taking good notes…


More Dance-y Fun, And Some Challenges

It was a very dance-y week, with four ballet classes, two modern classes, a rehearsal, and lots of practicing. If I include all the time spent practicing, I think I danced something like fifteen hours! My body held up pretty well, even though the weather remained gloomy and wet. Perhaps because the temperature hasn’t dropped as much it didn’t affect me as much.

Beginner ballet classes this week were more focused on working on the fundamentals, with the entire class doing the same exact combinations regardless of level.

On the one hand it’s easier, because the at the barre there’s much less port de bras, and in center the steps are beginner level (for example, waltz is not en tournant, and passe in on flat). On the other hand it’s harder because it’s so slow and everything has to be just so… precise. And as a not-completely beginner in the class, I feel an expectation to do it correctly. Also, since I’ve been doing the slightly more challenging version of every combination, I’ve commited those to memory, not these. This is only relevant to the fact that we’re going to be tested on these combinations sometime in the near future, and we’re expected to do it without F Teacher calling out the steps.

We’re told that preparing for exams is like an audition, and that she will treat is as such so that we can be prepared for that. I temember my first time taking ballet, I used to think how unlikely (and, given my skill level at the time, ridiculous) the idea of me ever being at an audition was, but here we are, 3 years later and I’ve actually auditioned – and performed in – performances for my school, so yeah, you never know where life will take you…

I also had my midterm exam for Modern, a performance, in small groups, before the class of a combination we’ve been working on for a few weeks.  I hadn’t done a class performance since the end of my last ballet session a few months ago and I’ve come to realize that I really love performing. That feeling – the racing heart rate, am-I-about-to-pass-out? rush right before the music starts as we wait there before our audience – I think I love it. As an introvert with some kind of social anxiety, who can be terrified of interaction unless it’s people I’m comfortable with, and gets really uncomfortable in crowded or group/social situations, I feel this is my only release, my only time to have attention focused on me and me actually enjoy it. Or something. I worry that it’s just a cover up for underlying problems that I should be working on (my anxiety issues, shyness, social awkwardness, overcoming the childhood truamas that actually contributed to these issues…), but for now I’m just going to dance and see where this goes. Anyway, performing’s such a thrill, and I’m glad that there’s at least a couple more class perfomance opportunities coming up in the nearish future.

The combination itself for the Modern class exam was not challenging, especially since it’s the same exact combination we did last session 6 months ago or so. The parts that are the hardest for me involve the contraction movements, since they’re still somewhat new to me, but I’ve improved much since last session. There’s this part where we do a jump (like a saute arabesque, but with less technique) and land in a way that we drop to the floor and roll over sideways, and it’s much less scary this time around. Floor work is something that still continues to intimidate me a little, but since it’s my second time taking Modern it feels a lot less foreign. I’m still glad that my first dance experience was with ballet, because it provided such a solid foundation for Modern, as opposed to the other way around. And,o of course, there’s the whole being able to rely on the barre at least a little thing; I definitely couldn’t have done Modern back when I first started dancing.

This week, Intermediate ballet class was just plain hard. I don’t know if Teacher turned up the intensity level or if it was just me, but I found myself struggling more than usual (for that level class).  To start with, Teacher was using the CD that F Teacher always uses, and that was thowing me off quite a bit. Especially when the piece we always use in Beginner to do 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 degages was being used for this complex-ish tendu combination, something like 3 devant with outside leg, 1 derriere with inside leg, 3 a la seconde with outside leg, 1 devant with inside leg, 3 derriere with outside leg, 1 devant with inside leg, 3 a la seconde with outside leg, en croix with outside leg, reverse, soutenu for other side (I may be missing a section in there, it’s not like I had the combination perfectly figured out). A lot of our barre combiations include switching the working leg from the outside to the inside leg in different patterns, and I usually am able to get it by the time we do the end of the first side (we usually mark the barre combinations before doing them, at least halfway). But the music was really really throwing me off.

During frappes (3 single frappes devant, beated frappe derriere, 3 derriere,  1 beated devant, 6 super quick beated frappes a la second in this weird pattern that I haven’t quite figured out, temps lie away from barre a la seconde, pique onto retire on releve back at the barre, and once again I’m possibly missing something in there) I slammed my toe into the ground. That kind of sucked, but it didn’t get in the way of m finishing out class. I think I’ve improved on the pique onto releve retire since last time we did that at the barre (because for whatever reason it feels scarier at the barre than center).

Center was where the challenge really was though. The first combination was ok, just 2 tendus and a grand battement in the usual croisse devant, ecarte, derriere pattern, then brush the working leg forward and pas de basque, chasse, pirouette en dehors, other side. The hardest part was the piroeutte en dehors (more on my pirouette woes in a bit), but other than that the combination felt quite do-able. The pas de basques that Teacher has us do are different from the ones we do with F Teacher; Teacher’s are like rond de jambe-glissade-chasse (I’m really breaking it down here, but the moves just flow together) and F Teacher’s are like rond de jambe, coupe the other foot behind that one, then step it through in front of the other one. I like doing both kinds, but I think both versions of the step have a completely different energy quality to them from each other.

Across the floor combination was pique arabesque, rise up on releve on the other foot with the other leg in attitude devant, pique arabsque, releve attitude, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dedans, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, attitude derriere pirouette, hold balance in attitude, plie, pas de bourre, other side. Ummm, yeah, I’m not there yet at this level, and was having trouble remembering the combination. I think if I had time to mark it – slowly- about 20 times I’d be able to get it, but obviously that doesn’t fly in a class environment. I kept getting confused on which leg was I supposed to pique arabesque or releve on attitude devant on (like, did the legs switch? was it always on the same leg?), then forgetting to tombe, pas de bourre after the pirouette en dedans. And holding the balance after the pirouette in attitude devant was not going to happen since I wasn’t even getting around all the way.  It was still a fun combination to attempt though.

Petit allegro was only in group, not a slower group and a faster group, and that reduced my chances of getting it remotely close to right. The combination was (glissade, assemble)x2, echappe, changement,  4 sissones ferme, alternating sides, pas de chat, pas de bourre, other side. I was getting confused from the beginning because I kept ending up with the wrong foot in front, and Teacher wanted to to do the arms for the sissones (which apparently open in the direction you’re traveling), which confused me further. Then we reversed the combination, and by this point my brain was just mush, so I just kind of clunked along one count late. Honestly, it’s much more fun for me when we can go in 2 groups at different tempos, because this way I feel like I’m not even learning, just struggling along. I should really just practice this combination at home, but center combinations change so often in Teacher’s class that there’s never a guarantee that if I memorize a combination it’ll help me the next class.

Speaking of practicing, I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, as I have been getting access to a place to practice lately that’s larger than my little home kitchen studio. Mostly been working on choreography for our upcoming class shows, with different classmates. For one of the pieces we’re working on, my classmate insisted on adding a pirouette (en dehors, from fourth and not fifth thankfully) to the choreography that I had come up with. I explained that I don’t know if I’ll have a reliable pirouette by show time, and I could also have the alternate backup choreography ready to go, just in case. She said something like ‘it’s just a single pirouette, you’ll be fine by then, don’t be so negative’. I was somewhat annoyed, because I don’t like it much when my being realistic is mistaken for negativity. I don’t have a negative attitude – if I did, I doubt I would have ever gotten this far from where I started. But I’m also realistic in the amount of time it took me to improve, and how slow progress can be. She mentioned something about how she’s been dancing less time than me and has a clean pirouette which, if it was intended to motivate me, had the opposite effect – it was a reminder of how slow my learning curve is. I often feel that no one at my school can truly understand how difficult it has been for me to pick up ballet, what an uphill struggle it has been every step of the way. But I agreed to practice my pirouettes more, and I will (and have been since this happened). At least I get to do it to my stronger side, which I do get a clean single occasionally, something like one of of every 3 or 4 (which drops to one out of 10 when under stress…). The main problem, as I tried to explain to her, is that it’s not reliable when I’m going to be able to pull it off. But, I’m doing my part and practicing.

Either way, I love working on choreography so much. Repeating the same movements over and over enables me to achieve this level of comfort that I’m not able to when doing a combination that I’ve only done a couple times. It’s especially exciting when putting the little phrases of movement together and ending up with minutes worth of dancing. It feels so awesome for me, and it’s something I wanted to do since I first started, to be able to dance.