Tag Archives: jumping

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…

 

Like A Ballet Brainteaser

Now that we’re about a third of the way through the session,the difficulty has really picked up in Int/Adv and Intermediate. Well, I guess in Beginner too – I always get extremely sweaty in that class, working on technique at this excrutiatingly slow speed. And by now I feel that whatever strength I lost in the inter-session period I have regained (I want to say ‘and then some!’)

In Int/Adv though, the tempo is usually rather quick, both in barre and center. Lately, F Teacher has had us do diferent variations on the 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 theme. One of them was still facing the barre, but  afterwards we did three quick degages in first, followed by flexing the foot and quickly beating/closing fifth in front, back and front, then temps lie and then the other side. Yeah, so I may have been  a bit lost on that one, hoping we’ll repeat it in another class…

The other version we did was not facing the barre, and it was 8 degages devant, taking the full 8 counts for the arm to arrive in high fifth, then 8 degages a la second with the arm taking 8 counts to get there, 8 derriere with the arm slowly going to arabesque, then a la seconde, and then repeat the whole thing with 4 degages, then 2, then 1, then soutenu for the other side. The first time F Teacher had us try it, it was so fast that most of us were all over the place. So then she picked us a slower piece of music, and it started to become do-able but still really hard.

Another brainteaser-ish aspect is changing facings at the barre. For example, after our four on dehors rond de jambes (with port de bras so the arm takes the four rond de jambe’s worth of  time to make the transistion through all the positions), with each rond de jambe we pivot, so that at the end of the first one we’re facing away from the barre, then after the second on we’re facing the opposite side, after the third we’re facing the barre, and by the time we close the fourth one we’re facing the way we were. These are challenging not only because of the changing facings/instability aspect, but also timing it so that we’re facing the next direction as the rond de jambe closes. And, of course, going the right way since we do these en dedans as well, with the pivots taking us the opposite direction… I mean, it took me about a year and a half to realize that the slow port de bras follows the same direction as the quick rond de jambes, so yeah… (at my most paranoid times, I imagine some of those quick-natural-dancer-people coming across my blog by coincidence, and reading confessions like these while snickering at my slowness and seeming ineptitude…)

Center has also been getting progressively more difficult (but so much fun; I hate to sound like I’m bragging or gloating, but center – even center in a difficult class – has stopped being the time of class to dread, quite the opposite), with combinations including several direction changes of travel, a quicker tempo overall (both during the combinations themselves, amd also the way we very quickly switch groups from one to the next – picture those company class videos on youtube, that quick) and a variety of turns in even the first combination. Here’s an example of one such combination: 2 tendus croisse devant, 1 tendu efface devant, 1 tendu ecarte, fouette to arabesque, chasse to arabesque, coupe back foot, then bring it up to attitude and promenade to other side, allonge, sous-sus, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot, pirouette en dedans, repeat with degages instead of tendus, and attitude pirouette for pirouette en dedans, other side.

Waltz combinations are a little trickier. They usually start with waltz en tournant and balancés, then F Teacher changes it up every class. One time it was a series of pique arabesques in a circle, followed by pique turns and a series of chaines. To the right we marked it as a class several times before breaking into groups of three, to the left we didn’t mark. It started out alright, but once we got into the pique arabesques it seemed we each went a different way and chaos occured.

We also do piroeutte drills, including one when we’re supposed to do pirouettes continuously/consecutively while the music plays (supposed to prepare us for fouette en tournant, I believe F Teacher said). These are hard but they take out some of my overthinking associated with pirouettes, at least some of the time. They’re from fith, which besides being more difficult, helps me to work on bringing my retire foot to the front of my knee (lately I’ve noticed that on pirouettes from fourth sometimes I get lazy about bringing my foot all the way to the front instead of (incorrectly) in the back).

In Intermediate class, the combinations are less complex, but it does help bridge the gap between Beginner and Intermediate. We’ll do tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette, repeat, or balance, balance, tombe, pas de bourre, repeat. Also our passe releve, pirouette and promenade combination for strength. However, sometimes things get a little more dificult. Lately we’ve been working on fouette (not en tournant …yet… hopefully not for some time, I don’t think I’m ready yet…) across the floor. It goes something like, step, step, fouette saute, step, step, fouette saute, repeat, all the way across the floor. I’ve gotten over the fear factor, but my coordination is still off and I get confused which way I’m going.

Speaking of getting over the fear factor, I did some beated jumps! Mostly royalles, entrechats are still harder for me. I attempt them, but my feet end up not-so-pointed in there. F Teacher said we should have our  entrechats by this level, but I clearly don’t. I’m going for it more though, so I do feel like I’m (slowly) improving. As for the royalles, it’s much harder for me when the left leg is in front, so I’m still trying to figure out if it’s a strength discrepancy from left to right issue. Perhaps I need to work the left side more at the barre at home with some quick footwork exercises? I’ve been working on my left side as it is. Lately I’ve been taking a spot at the barre in class where I can see myself in the mirror for the second side (left), because I feel like if I have the mirror to answer to it makes me really work hard. There’s also the advantage that since we usually face the mirror when marking the combination, by being on that side I get to work that side just a little more. I can see how always marking on the same side can contribute to one side becoming much stronger than the other.

 

A Mixed Week, And Headstand Progress

If I had to use one word to describe the past week, it’d be ‘inconsistent’. Not as far as my class attendance and practicing – for that I get an A for effort – but as far as my actual dancing. I’m not too worried, because by now I’ve noticed patterns and sometimes it does appear that I’m getting weaker or my dancing’ getting sloppier right before it gets better. And besides, if all my classes went super well and it was all compliments and not corrections i would start to feel like something’s off. I guess at this point in my training I need not-so-encouraging classes just as much as encouraging ones, to keep my perspective balanced.

The biggest inconsistency/disappointment this week had to do with extensions on releve. At home I’ve been doing the  Pointe Barre video (which is by far my favorite of all the youtube barre videos that I have tried, and it is really challenging. A year ago or so, when I first started to do youtube barre videos at home, I remember I was most comfortable with the Easy Barre video, and would have been so lost on this), where my favorite combination is the  adagio (developpe devant, plie, pique attitude derriere, plie, allonge, developpe a la seconde on releve, close, cambre, reverse this time developpe derriere, pique attitude devant). I actually rewind and do the combination 2 or 3 times, I love it that much. I love the fact that I can actually do this combination without feeling like I’m about to fall over, and it actually looks ok in my mirror, and I can’t help admiring my extension because it seems so unbelievable for me considering the less-than-mediocre extension capabilities I brought to ballet.

Anyway, during class we did a combination at the barre that was not similar but did involve an extension on releve. We were bringing our working foot up from coupe to passe on flat, then rising up to releve before extending a la seconde and holding it there, then back to passe and coupe derriere. For whatever reason my extension was absolutely terrible, I felt like I’d used up all my energy just going on releve. Which made no sense because I’d done the video class at home the day before and the developpe on releve had been fine. I think the part abot having to hold it out there may have had something to do with it? But either way I did feel off.

Center varied immensely from a day with only brand new beginners (we did tendus with basic port de bras, and then sautes and changements)to a day with crazy fast combinations that were close to impossible at my current level. At some point NS Teacher had us do 16 entrechats, and then we were supposed to start with the other leg in front and do 16 more and there was just no way. I don’t think I’ve ever even done one entrechat correctly, but I tried the combination anyway. It was pretty awful. The whole time I think I was doing it in half time, taking a small rest between each jump to charge up, not on purpose but because i just can’t jump that fast yet, not even with unbeaten jumps. I also wasn’t really able to fully cross on the beats, but at least my feet didn’t do some wierd flexing thing, I guess. Another combination that day was glissades with assemble battu. I’d never tried to beat my assembles, so I was unsure about how to go about it.  NS Teacher said we didn’t have to beat them, possibly noting my apprehension, but omitting the beat sort of threw off the timing.

At home, for center, I’ve finally gotten through the entire Classic Center video (except for grand allegro, because there’s just no room, I do my petit allegro and sautes on this rubber mat thing I have that I put on the carpet), being able to do all the combinations. The way I approached it was to repeat the exercises several times in each practice session, until I started to remember them (it also helps that she goes over the combination several times). Another thing that helped was that I’ve just been going up on releve retire instead of the pirouettes (so I can devote the energy spent to pirouette anxiety on remembering the combination instead).  The combination that I’d had the most difficuty remembering was the adagio, because there’s all the changes in facings and chasses and temps lies with port de bras, and honestly at first (and second, and third, and tenth…) glance those kinds of steps majorly confuse me and I have trouble remembering them until I’ve marked them many times.  I’d set the goal for myself that I wanted to get though the Classic Center video before my regular classes resumed for the Fall and I wouldn’t have much time to practice at home. I found it really fun to work on the same combination until I was able to remember it, and then actually feel like I’m dancing it, which is something that I don’t get much opportunity for during regular classes outside of the beginner level. I’m hoping this continued exposure to a more intermediate-ish kind of combination will help if/when I return to Intermediate class. I’ve also become really comfortable with promenades in attitude.

In non-ballet-related news, I have  leveled up on my headstand skills. I no longer need a doorway to walk my feet up to get into the headstand. I’d been practicing the doorwya method for the past few weeks, and finally this week I decided I felt brave enough to try it by myself (still against the wall though). I’m still not kicking up, just getting in the clasped hands and head between the arms position, and really pulling up with my core then lifting up one leg and pushing off a little but mostly just using my core. The first time I tried it I was pretty scared, but by the third or fourth day it was starting to feel very muscle memory-ish. My next goal is to be able to do it without a wall at all, but I imagine that one will take a little more time…

Also, i never got around to publishing my yoga session thoughts, and that is because it turned into a rambling mess, and I’m still not sure what I want to say on the topic (not to mention I’m torn with guilt because I get it that yoga is Good For You, but I just don’t feel as inspired to do it as I do ballet, and I hate that you-should-know-better feeling). But I do have to say that besides the headstand progress, yoga did help me improve my flexibility even more and even out the flexibility gap between my tighter and less tight side. I’ve noticed that my extensions on either side are becoming more or less comparable, although as far as strength goes I remain uneven.

 

Annoying Classmate, But Overall A Good Week

Recently, I took a class with a new classmate who was.. a little irritating. Ok, a lot! Since I was in an extraordinarily chill mood already as it was, it still turned out to be an extremely fun class, and didn’t really give it thought until later. (I have this worry deep inside that if I had not been in such a great mood as it was, it would have been a disatrous situation)

The reason this lady was so irritating (to me) was that she kept putting herself down in a repetitive and contradictory way (and maybe also because I thought that she had looked at me in a not-so-friendly way in the lobby, though due to my anxiety I can’t really trust myself on that call at the moment). Like, “I’m so not flexible!” as she does the splits or brings her leg up to barre level in arabesque, or “I’m terrible at this!”  (no you’re not, trust me) or “I haven’t done this in forever, I’ll probably struggle to keep up” over and over as she, in fact, does. This all made me feel inadequate because if someone’s more flexible than me, and they say they’re not flexible, what does that make me?  I like to think I’m not that inflexible – I mean, my yoga teacher called me flexible and she’s seen it all! And besides, when people constantly bag on themselves like that, I think they’re just fishing for compliments, which is soooo annoying. Either that or trying to put everyone around them down. Perhaps this all goes back to how I can’t relate very well to people, or understand social cues, so many times I’m just left wondering ‘huh? what was that supposed to mean?!’

I also felt incredibly awkward because I’d taken my usual barre spot near the front (where I usually get put anyway by NS Teacher, so brand new beginners can follow), and she gets directly behind me while saying that she’ll just follow. And maybe I’m just weird or whatever, but I feel so nervous and on the spot being at the barre right in front of someone new who does not need someone to follow – like if they’re thinking ‘why am I following her?’ and I just feel even more pressure than if it was someone who truly needed to follow. Yeah, hard to explain that one, but in conclusion, by the time we’d gotten through the second combination I was feeling beyond awkward.

After a relatively short barre, it was time for center. It was a small class, just three of us, so at least we’d all go across the floor at the same time. We did tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, assemble, sissone, balance en tournant, chasse en arriere, pose, repeat, across the studio and a combination I can’t remember that involved balances and a pique arabesques. The whole time I was terrified of a combination heavy on the pirouettes being given. Luckily, instead we moved on to jumping.

Even though for the longest time jumps were the part of class that I looked forward to the least, ever since I actually figured out how to point my feet in midair I’ve come to somewhat enjoy them. Except for the beated ones, those still suck. Our combination included none of those, just a very long configuration of sautes, changements, and echappes, with a balance in sous-sus at the end. It went well – like I said, it’d been a really fun class.

Then I went home, and told Boyfriend about it, how I’d felt inadequate, and how it’s annoying when someone has the habit of putting themselves down while showing off at the same time. I said how it’s even worse when it’s a stranger, because I’m extra shy and weird around new people as it is, but if they are acting like how this lady was it’s just, like, distractingly irritating. And yes, I admitted that part of my irritation was rooted in jealousy because I still don’t have my splits all the way down (and possibly never will, because if stretching regimens can bring me from nowhere close to a several inches away in a few months, but there’s been no progress since then in years, that may be all my body’s willing to give me, and I’m ok with it, most of the time), and it makes me want to scream when someone can do something and still puts themselves down about it while I’m struggling. I said something like “At least when they’re your friend and they do that you can call them out on it. Or if they can do something awesome you can’t do, you can still be happy for them because they’re your friend – even if you’re a tiny bit jealous – and you don’t wonder if they’re giving you a dirty look the whole time!”

I think he replied something about how normal people will befriend the person theyre intimidated by or something. Oh well,  “normal”  sucks anyway.

My classes at my summer session at my regular school are going geat though. This week G Teacher really picked up the pace, having us go through the entire barre pretty much without stopping between combinations. I love it! We’ve also been doing more center work and across the floor. We’ve been working on tombe, pas de bourre; on pique sous-sus in all directions (I guess en croix); on soutenus and chaines; and, of course, lots of ballet walks and bourres. It was really fun when we did tombe, pas de bourre back and forth, left and right, because it felt so waltzy. I’ve never done just tombe, pas de bourre without it being a preparation for the next step, like glissade assemble, or something. So that was nice, a way to see how sometimes steps fit together in ways I hadn’t thought of before.

During the soutenus, G Teacher corrected me on my second leg (not the one that piques, but the one that closes onto it) turning in. He was really watching, instead of just giving the correction and walking away, and so I was able to make adjustments until he said “like that!” It was a foreign feeling, making me think that I have been turning with my leg turned in this whole time. Something new to work on! Reminds me of how two years ago I was learning to temps lie in all directions and I would lose my turnout every single time, like my foot would go completely parallel. So I had to really focus on keeping the muscle engaged, nothing passive about it at all. This is sort of like that, but while turning and on releve. The fact that I was able to figure out the temps lies while holding my turnout eventually reassures me that I can improve at this,  just need lots of time and repetition.

We also did my favorite temps leve combination (saute arabesque, saute coupe, repeat), after doing chasses across the floor. I was having so much fun and one of my classmates said “You look so happy!” which is not something I’m told often (Boyfriend says I usually look either upset or worried, which is something I really dislike about myself, but I just don’t know (yet) how to make a neutral-to-pleasant relaxed face). But I was happy to hear that, because I’ve seen how sometimes people have that look of exertion or concentration while dancing, and I knew I want to avoid that…

So then G Teacher suggested I do cabrioles in place of the saute arabesque, and my smile slipped right off. Ok, no, it wasn’t that dramatic, but there was the change from ‘ok, I got this, let’s just make it even better! (and have fun, of course)’ to ‘ummm… I’ll try it?’ And if I’ve learned one new thing recently, it’s that it is not truly ballet without confidence. Unfortunately, I find it incredibly hard to be confident when I’m… not. All the stuff I can already do, it’s in muscle memory, but when it’s not there I look like an idiot and I know it. So I get over the awkwardest part of that phase by practicing in private until I have a rough idea of what I’m trying to do. And I’m honest about it to anyone who asks, too – I didn’t get my chasse jumps and saute arabesque, saute coupe by taking class and learning it then and there in front of ALL THESE PEOPLE; I would get up early and go to the park and practice them after jogging. Same goes for my barre work – hours and hours of practicing at home, slower and slower at first if that’s what it took. So, naturally, I expect to learn new stuff by taking it home and going over it at my own pace. Then, once I have a rough draft, I submit it to my teachers for corrections, and it’s all good from there. In short, if I don’t have a rough pattern for a move, it seems like I just can’t do it.

Anyway, back to the cabrioles… one of my classmates pointed out that if I’m not afraid to do assembles – and I’m not – then in theory cabrioles shouldn’t scare me either. True, just got to remember to open the leg again after they beat. Perhaps that will work.

Also, I found out that at the end of the session we’re going to have a small performance for the class, yay! G Teacher gave me a solo to work on and I’ve been going over it repetitively to memorize it. So far it seems that other that reduce the number of turns per four counts of music I’ll be able to do it directly from the video without too much modifying needed. I’m pretty excited about that.

So I guess overall I had a great week in ballet!

‘En De-don’t’s, Fun Turns, And Scary Jumps

 

 

It was another incredibly fun ballet-filled week. The class tempo level picked up a bit, resulting in lots of calf soreness. Seriously, I think all week my calves felt completely solid, like no give at all when I would press into them with my hands. It was a job for the tennis ball for sure.

G Teacher is really pushing for the whole class to learn the ballet terminology in French. He’ll randomly quiz different people on what step we’re doing, and what direction. I remember he asked someone what direction we were going, and they were like “En de… dont ?”, which is a closer approximation to en dedans that I would have had after three weeks (back when I first started, I thought F Teacher was saying ‘on the dot’, and ‘on the rough’ for en dehors, which I realize makes no sense, but yeah) . Then, when we did  our rond de jambes, I forgot the combination (my own fault, for spacing out when G Teacher was giving it), and rather than stop and look around I followed the person in front. Who, of course, was going the wrong way, so G Teacher corrected me ‘No,  we’re going en dehors’. It was ‘an en de don’t’ indeed!  I made sure to not forget that combination again (for the record, it was 1 4 count rond de jambe, 2 2 count rond de jambes, and 3 1 count, all en dehors, then repeat the whole thing en dedans, then grand port de bras (circular cambre) in both directions, and long sous-sus balance).

We also learned an extremely fast frappe combo: 2 en croix, 1 en croix, soutenu, other side. I’m pleased that my frappes have really improved, especially those tricky frappe derrieres. I no longer feel like I’m going to stomp my toe on the floor. I still think of the “strike” in the frappe being more like striking a match than striking something with a stick – it helps me a lot.

In G Teacher’s class we have a set barre, but some of the exercises are so long that it’s hard to keep track or not mix them up… like is this  the one with the long balance at the end, or not? Or the one that we stop in between both sides, or go right to the next one?

We also worked on fondues (he let a few of us go up to releve) facing the barre: fondue, stainghten in coupe, fondue, leg out devant, fondue, staringten, fondue, leg a la seconde, fondu, straigten, fondu, leg arabesque, fondue with leg out still, pull in it to sous-sus, other side, then repeat whole thing en dedans. I hadn’t worked that much on releve in a while, and it was a workout!

For our rond de jambe turnout exercise at the barre, G Teacher came around and said to me “You should be doing with no hands”, which I then attempted. It was a challenge, but I willed myself to not lose my balance and got through the rest of it without the barre. The exercise, which I think I mentioned a few months ago back when I first took G Teacher’s class, is a slow (16 count) rond de jambe en l’air with a flexed food, first en dehors right foot, then en dehors left foot, then en dedans left foot, and en dehors, right foot. Then you get to do the whole thing with the supporting leg in plie.

We did lots of jumping this week, enough to make up for not jumping the other ones. First up, saute combination: plie releve 3 times, hold plie, 1 saute, hold plie, straingther, 1 saute, hold plie, straingten, 2 sautes, hold plie, 3 sautes, hold plie, 4 sautes, hold plie and slowly straigten for 4 counts. It was a brain teaser, but I happen to prefer slow sautes so I liked it.

Then we had an echappe combination: start croisse in fifth, echappe to fourth changing facing to croisse other side, close to fifth, echappe to second en face, close fifth, repeat the above twice, then 3 changements and repeat the whole thing to the other side. I had a classmate take a video of me, and I was shocked to see the whole thing was 28 seconds. 28 seconds! But when you’re jumping it can feel like half an hour. We also did echappes to second while traveling forward (all the way across the studio), hands on hips, and those were hard!

This week I also went to New Studio, for 2 classes.  One of the days, as I was parking outside the studio, I saw that there was a few advanced dancers there, and for a brief second I contemplated turning around and going home. But I reassesed the situation, and it was more lazy than tired, so I went in. And yes, NS Teacher gave us a more challenging class, like barre stretch with no hands on releve, and super fast degages with port de bras, fondues up to releve and fouette at the barre.

In center our first combination was balancé x2, balance en tournant, pirouette en dehors, repeat. I kept messing up because I would do a chasse into preparation with the pirouette, instead of just going into the pirouette, which was way harder (after NS Teacher corrected me on that I was struggling way more with it).

Another combination we did was cabriole devant, temps leve (1 legged saute in attitude derriere), tombe ,pas de bourre, attitude pirouette en dedans, repeat. This combination was fun. That does not mean I’m saying that it was easy, or that I could even do it right, just that I enjoyed really moving around after doing more beginner classes recently. My main difficulty with it was the cabriole. Cabrioles frustrate me because I don’t even know where to begin. I think I’m scared of falling, so even though I can get my legs to touch in midair, i always bring my top leg back down too, sort of like a really ugly assemble. I always get corrected ‘Don’t bring the top leg down!’ and I feel like ‘I know! But I’m scared!’.

The rest of the combination was so fun though. That temps leve in attitude looked intimidating, but it was actually so much fun, and my attitude derriere has improved so a lot in the last few months. The attitude pirouette was also fun, and because it was en dedans, I actually had a hope of getting around for a single. The most advanced dancer in class was doing maybe 5 or 6 revolutions in all her pirouettes, which was amazing to watch in person. She also has incredible feet. The things we notice!

So yeah, cabrioles scare me. But, this weekend we went to the lake again, and I got an idea. I decided to work on my jumps in the water, that way there was no fear of falling and getting hurt. I managed to work not only on my cabrioles but on my entrechats and royalles. It was very encouraging (not to mention fun!). At least now I know I can do it under conditions of reduced gravity.

Summer Fun And Ballet

This post is somewhat  and undetailed, but having spent the weekend having some summertime fun – picnic-ing and swimming at the lake – I am tired.

Second week of my summertime ballet session! The week was fun – the level of the class is something like Beginner 2, more challenging than basic beginner level but definitely not intermediate (both regular Intermediate class, and that Beginner-Intermediate class session from last summer). Well, actually it’s a little difficult to narrow it down to which level it is. At barre we’re using port de bras for some exercises, some of us are working on releve a bit more, and in center we’re using the body facings instead of just facing front for tendus. At the same time, we haven’t worked on any turns and have hardly jumped. I’m hoping this coming week we will do more of that, since I don’t want to feel out of practice. I actually started freaking out the other day at home, thinking about how I hadn’t done any jumping at all in about a week, and I haven’t had time to go for a run or even a walk, so what if I lose all my stamina. My fears turned out to be groundless (I had a home practice session with plenty of jumps and I was fine), but still, I got myself all worked  up. Since it took me so long to build up the strength to jump through a whole saute combination without ending up with flexed feet, I’m pretty worried of losing it again.

About the tendus with facings that I mentioned, I was so glad that during my weeks of completely from class I did the Kathryn Morgan Easy Ballet Center, because it was very similar to it – tendus croisse devant, en face, efface (we did ecarte as well), and reversing it, all with port de bras. I felt super on the spot, especially after one of my classmates made it clear she was going to follow me, but it went pretty well even the reversing. I think the facing I’m least familiar with is efface, but I’m starting to become as comfortable with it as I am with the rest. This body facings thing was something else that took years for me to understand, but to be fair not all of my teachers have taught the body facings to the Beginner class.

Class at NS was also fun. There was not one, but two(!) couples taking class together, a fact that I immediately mentioned to Boyfriend when I got home, as a hint somewhat. He’s still not going for it.

Barre went slow and detailed, with lots of work on our plies and tendus. Then for center NS Teacher had the more beginner students work on passe releves and pique passe along the barre while some of us did a turning combination. It was pique turn x2, stepover/lame duck pique, pique turn x2, pirouette en dehors from fourth, repeat. It was pretty tricky – basically, from the second pique turn, momentum takes you all the way to a fourth position preparation for the pirouette. That part scared me a little. I wasn’t really trusting myself and making it a fluid motion, so I’m sure I looked far from graceful. But a couple of my pirouettes were ok, in the sense that I made it all the way around, but not great. I had a few definitely bad ones in there as well… As for the pique turns, they were ok, but by the end I noticed I was getting a little tired. I feel like that’s because I haven’t been working on single leg releve lately, so I’ve gotten weaker. Or perhaps I was just tired, since it was my second class of the day.

We also did the temps leve combination (saute passe, saute arabesque) which is always fun for me. We started from B+ with the saute passe instead of saute arabesque (which I’m more familiar with), which makes it seem like it’s more difficult. Once we start it becomes just muscle memory, but the start just feels like it would throw me off, as I watch the first group go. But I’ve noticed more advanced dancers do this thing where they kind of plie and spring off their supporting leg when they start a combination from B+, and  think maybe this could help get me in the habit of that?

I’m still doing my yoga session (4 days a week, 1.5 hour per day), and the results have been interesting. Throughout the first week I was thinking ‘yeah, this is ok, but I feel much more of a workout with pilates’. But then in the middle of this past week, something changed – while doing/attempting to do one of the poses, I realized that my shoulders could open up even more than I previously thought possible. In pilates it’s always like ‘engage your lats!’ or ‘relax the shoulders!’ (which seems a counterproductive cue for me, since my shoulders feel relaxed in  their slightly forward incorrect posture, and to bring them back and down I actually feel like I’m contracting a muscle, not relaxing it), but in yoga the instructor said to ‘open up our side chest’ and ‘lift the shoulders up and back’, which somehow did the trick. It’s like I discovered even more muscles that I didn’t know I had and it felt awesome! So I’m defintely becoming a bigger fan of yoga. Don’t see myself stopping pilates though.

My body imbalances from left to right have also become apparent to me while doing yoga. There’s poses that I find it much easier to do one one side than the other. There’s also poses that I can’t really do all the way (I feel like I should clarify that this class, just like my ballet classes, are based on a session system and get increasingly more difficult or challenging as the session goes on. Since we’re barely at the end of the second week, we’re not doing anything crazy challenging, or even headstands, yet), including one where you stand, cross one leg over the other, bend your supporting leg, and try to wrap the foot of your working leg around your supporting calf – sort of the anti-coupe (or at least that’s how I think of it, and it’s the final wrapping the foot around part that I can’t do).

We are going to get to handstands and headstands by the end of the session, and honestly I feel a little worried about that. The instructor really emphasizes safety, but still, when it’s something that’s completely new to me I hesitate to just trust my body. And for me, there’s something about being upside down – as a kid I was obsessed with it. but I could never do it,so I have this, like, mindset about it. This can be so hard to overcome sometimes, the idea that I’m doing  the same action so why would I expect a different result. But then, this past weekend at the park I was doing cartwheels wth Boyfriends nephews and nieces, having a great time, and I barely learned how to do a cartwheel a year and a half ago for the first time ever. I turned 33 this past week, and I’m so happy that at least I’m getting to experience at my age now what I never got to as a child.

And that paragraph just went on the biggest tangent ever.

 

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…

 

Down And Up

This week I’ve been feeling down – perhaps burned out or maybe just down, it’s sometimes hard for me to tell. The weather’s turned chilly and wet again, bringing with it soreness and aches. It’s one of the surest signs for me that I am getting older, when I see my decade-younger dance classmates happily skipping through the rain, not bothered by the cold and I can’t (after last year’s slip and fall in the rain, I treat the rain with respect!). One one level I don’t care; I’m doing quite well for my age (and – perhaps more importantly – for myself; certainly a decade ago I wasn’t able to do the things I can do now with my body). For a long time I was worried that I had to keep my age a secret, that if the teachers found out they would think I was a liability risk (most of my classmates at my regular school are in their late teens to very early twenties). Now I start to see the occasional older student, even much older than I, and it’s somewhat reassuring (however, these older students are usually not adult ballet beginners, but returners, and more advanced than me). But then, they usually don’t participate in the recitals and stuff, so I go back to feeling like I need to “fit in” (or at least not stand out from, too much) the younger students. Though I do have the energy to keep up (especially since it appears at a younger age one doesn’t place such a high priority on health and taking care of their body – I know I didn’t at their age…) for the dancing aspect of it, it’s exhausting in the more human interaction aspect of it (some of them act like immature brats, and it takes all of me to just metaphorically close my ears and let stuff go).

Still… things have been bothering me, so if you’ll excuse me I’m just going to whine, rant and speculate for a bit before going into abbreviated class notes.

After Beginner class, a few different more-beginner classmates have approached me to chat (thankfully, due to my introversion and anxiety, one at a time), asking me questions about ballet. Sometimes it’s clarification, like ‘how do you do pas de bourre?’ or ‘how does that center combination go again?’, stuff like that. I’m always happy to answer any questions, and the fact that they are comfortable approaching me with their questions (there’s at least three or four more advanced students than me in the class) makes me feel good. I wish when I had first been starting off there had been someone that I could have approached with questions (yes, I’m aware there’s a teacher, but when you’re too intimidated to ask the teacher, then what? Besides, F Teacher has said numerous times during class that more beginners should observe the more advanced students and ask them questions if they need to.)

I know this is a tricky subject to get into, so I’ll tread lightly, but I think it has to do with feeling comfortable with people that you can relate to. While I mostly fixate on the fact that I’m different because I’m an adult beginner, and I’m rather top heavy, those are not the only things that set me apart from the other more-advanced (or, less-beginner, I don’t know which would be the proper term) dancers in class: I’m also a woman of color and I don’t come from a priviledged background and prior to staring ballet I did not have dance training (because, trust me, starting ballet from scratch is so much more challenging than if you already have a sense of balance).  The girls that tend to approach me perhaps see me as more relatable or less intimidating? We do plenty of bonding over stories of wanting to try dance as a child and not being able to due to finances or cultural factors. I’m happy for them that they are going for their dreams now as a (young) adult, but I do feel the slightest amount of sadness over all the years I wasted doing absolutely nothing once I’d hit adulthood. Oh well, can’t do anything about that, so look forward and keep going…

Anyway, during these conversations the subject of pointe comes up. I’m completely honest with them, telling them that I did not start ballet to get to pointe, that it wasn’t something that I set as a goal. In fact, I tell them that when I started (and realized just how much I sucked at ballet) my goals were as simple as plie and tendu in center without fallling over. They usually reply with something about how I’m decent at ballet now (they say “good”, but let’s face it, I’m not good, it’s just that they’re looking at it through beginner’s eyes), and is it a goal for me now? That’s when I bring up that no, it’s not, I can’t afford it. They don’t seem to understand that it’s more than just the one-time purchase of a pair of very expensive shoes; it would involve trying different pairs until finding one that hopefully feels like I can dance in them, and all the padding and accessories to actually make it possible as I think I suffer from the dreaded longer-second-toe-than-big-toe issue. If it’s enjoyable to someone to go shopping I can see how this may sound fun, but since shopping is something that I absolutely cannot stand doing, I think I would be miserable.  I’m happy to just dance in my flat slippers.

But then, I read a stupid article that states how it’s not ballet without pointe, and how it’s every beginner ballet student’s goal to get en pointe, or else why are you even bothering. So I think, ‘good point, why do I even bother?’ It upset me enough to think ‘maybe I shouldn’t be doing ballet then – perhaps I should do modern, or jazz, or something! After all, according to know-it-alls (who perhaps are technically correct, but still) it’s not really ballet that I’m doing anyway.’ So then I started to feel even more down. I like to measure my successes (is that even a word?) by how far I’ve come from where I started, but it’s only when other people’s expectations get in the way that I feel that in effect I have accomplished nothing. I love to dance, both alone in my kitchen and during class. Can’t imagine giving up this joy that movement gives me, but perhaps I need a little break sometimes in order to miss it.

Then, last night I had a dream that I was in class with one of my teachers (who’s opinion I really respect) and she said something like ‘don’t go en pointe with your feet’ or something like that. I guess I certainly have been fixating on the subject recently…

In an unrelated – yet still ballet-related, somehow – issue, I still have lack of confidence issues. When the more beginner group finishes their center combination and the more advanced-beginners have to run out to center to do theirs, I shy away from the front row. If I may be completely honest, it’s because I worry that even if I can do the combination correctly, the fact that I don’t have this certain attitude (the mental kind, not the position) gives it away that I don’t belong there in front. But, here’s the paradoxical part (and I hope this makes sense), part of the reason I like ballet class is because it’s the only time that I am comfortable looking a certain way, like the way you almost look down your nose at your hand when in arabesque, for example. In ballet class I’m able to … I don’t know how to put it… I guess, carry myself in a way that would just be unimaginable for me in the real world, in a very snobby-looking way or something similar. I am one of the most humble, down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet, so it’s a complete change of character, like acting. I am able to do this once the music starts and I “get into character”, but before that I’m just me, and the contrasts between the two must be quite apparent. As “me” I can’t be in the front, but as the ballet-version of me I could… I realize this all makes me sound like a complete weirdo, but whatever.

I guess just be glad you don’t have annoying thoughts like this getting in the way of your life?

In Beginner class, at barre we did plies, tendus, and degages one after another, going from side to side with soutenus without resting at all in between. I like it, it really gets me warmed up. When there’s too long of a pause between the barre exercises I think it doesn’t get me warmed up quick enough, and trying to ballet while not warmed up feels very sluggish to me, like my legs are heavy (not that I attempt to ballet without being warmed up often or anything, but I’ve noticed during my own practice sessions that when I first start barre I feel almost too lazy to move much, but by degages I’m feeling like ‘yes! let’s do this!’).

Center combinations in Beginner class: 2 demi-plies, 1 grand plie, developpe devant, a la second, derriere, balance right and left, 2 pas de bourres, other side.  More basic option was just 2 demi plies, developpe devant and a la seconde, 2 pas de bourres. I remember struggling with that one when I first started –  I just couldn’t balance on one leg no matter what! It would be like, pick up foot and attempt to coupe, and I would tip over. Then  I would try again and again and would not be able to get it up to retire in order to developpe without falling over and having to bring my foot down, and by this point the group had moved on to the second  developpe and it was so embarassing because I was the only one who couldn’t do it at all. The darkest times in my personal ballet history…

In both Beginner and Intermediate we worked on turns across the floor. In Beginner it was chaines (with hands on shoulders for the more beginner students), just chaines for the more beginners, and chaines for five counts, chasse to arabesque, tendu close, prepare, and repeat all the way across for the slightly less beginner students. In Intermediate we did 3 pique turns, 1 soutenu, chasse into chaines for the remaining counts, repeat. The tempo was really fast, but I think I’ve improved a little since last time we did this. My transitions from pique turns to soutenus to chaines especially seem smoother. I still have the problem of losing my spot when I get too close to the thing I was spotting.

I can’t remember the center combination from Intermediate, but I remember it involved a lot of direction changes, like facing the left in croise and then chasse towards the right, or somehow changing facing to developpe devant to the left croise when we had been facing right. There were promenades in arabesque in there as well, and I actually got around in all of them without falling off balance – this is a first. For a while now I’d had a feeling that I can physically do it, I was just not focusing and really pulling  up, so this confirms it. After the promenade came a pas de bourre and pirouette en dehors from fifth, which I fell out of to the right, but completed to the left.

In Intermediate, we worked on sissones, sissone oueverte to be more specific, and that sucked. The combination was sissone ferme, pause in plie, 2 sissone fermes in quick succession, sissone oueverte, hold balance, sissone ouevert to the other direction, reverse.  I actually like sissone ferme (the regular kind that seem to start and end in fifth plie, even though I realize that if correctly done you land on one foot. But my brain is tricked by the optical illusion that it’s less force on my body for whatever reason so yeah…), especially a la second. To the front and especially to the back they’re still a big challenge for me – to the front my body keeps wanting to do a saute arabesque, and to the back it’s just as complete mess. But still, I enjoy them.

The other kind, the open kind, not so much. It was landing one of these that I hurt myself about six months ago, and I certaily didn’t want to repeat that.  So I approached the exercise rather cautiously, just marking until the last possible second, and closing them a bit sooner than what would be considered technically correct. Of course, that just got me plenty of individual correction from Teacher, as she thought I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do… not what I had intended – so many sissones! One of the more advanced girls who went in the group before mine kept staring at me while I was attempting to sissone correctly and it was so annoying. So I raised my hand and asked Teacher if our back leg was supposed to be bent or straight (advanced girl was bending hers) and she said ‘straight’ – probably passive-agressive of me, but this girl always looks at me like I’m stupid because I don’t have the decade or more of training that she has.

Anyway, I managed to finish out class without getting hurt this time. I don’t know if I’m actually stronger now than I was a few months ago, so I’ll continue to approach these sissones cautiously. A part of the problem is that when I do big jumps I tend to jump really big, and it’s the landing that gets me. Since I didn’t have much experience with jumping at all until I started ballet, it can be difficult for me to jump smaller (this especially gets me in trouble during petite allegro, because I want to make each jump super high and I’m instead supposed to do little quick ones. I prefer the slower tempo that the men use when they do their jumps). If I try to do a little jump I feel like I’m not using enough force to leave the ground and point my feet. Definitely something I need to work on. I think all the little prances and small jumps we do in Modern have definitely been helping in this aspect.

Since I’ve noticed that one of the issues I have is that I tend to lose my turnout when moving quickly, I’m commiting to working more on my turnout muscles. I think the key is to get to the point where I can feel when I’m engaging them, and then I’ll be able to know when I’m not. Hard to explain, but all I know is that at some point I could barely feel my lats, so it was hard for me to engage them. But ever since I began to work on strengthening them (mostly through Pilates), I’m able to feel them so clearly, and this has helped me so much with holding my balance. So I hope to get that way  with my rotator muscles. For now I’m going to do the side-lying rotating opening exercises every day (clams, with the feet on the floor, then the feet in the air, then the legs tied together with a theraband) and see how it’s going at the end of the month (I figured the start of a month would be a good time to set a workout goal).

 

Once You’ve Been Sprung You Don’t Want To Go Back

And other ramdom thoughts from my ballet week.

Recently, I had the opportunity – the priviledge – of dancing on a sprung floor studio for the first (and so far, only) time. It was amazing – I felt like I could jump all day. The landing is so much more cushioned and smooth. Then, I returned to reality my regular studios. Anyone who gets to work on a sprung  floor on a regular basis – I hope you realize how lucky you are. But then, I get to dance at all, so I should consider myself lucky as well. (And I do)

This week, there was a sub at NS, and it was a cool experience, as it often is taking class with someone who is not one of my regular teachers (if anything, I seem to get different – and extremely helpful -corrections when taking class with a new teacher.) One thing I really liked was that for the balance in releve retire at the barre, she had us just rest the hand lightly on the barre, the only use one finger to rest on the barre. I find this so much less abrupt to switch to no hands than to just take the hand off, espccially since I’m still working on my balance and confidence. That one finger does so much for my confidence, but at the same time I’m having to work much harder to pull up than if I had my whole hand on the barre. This sub in particular is really big on pushing us to go for a deeper plie, which is something that I need. I also like this intense stretch we do at the wall barre: from the croise leg at the barre stretch, she has us twist back with our leg still at the barre and grab the barre behind us with the opposite hand. I’m not good at describing it but it looks so hard to so that I felt a sense of accomplishment just for being able to get into it, like my flexibility’s come such a long way.

This class also got me thinking: good teacher will find a way to challenge everyone – even the girl that is showing off that she knows what she’s doing (and insisting on multiple pirouettes when everyone else is struggling with singles, yet she’s late on the count every single time (reminded me of that scene in CenterStage when one of the characters – I think her name was Anna? – kept trying to squeeze in an extra revolution, and the teacher called her out on it)). I tend to get intimidated when there’s a more experienced dancer – and I know I’m not the only one, but when the teacher corrects them too instead of just heaping praise upon them it makes the class atmosphere so much less intimidating. Or maybe it’s just me..

Speaking of showing off, I still struggle with the whole idea of me being one of the more advanced dancers in a particular class. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m taking a beginner Modern class. M Teacher has us do almost the same exact exercises she had us do the last session, so they’re familiar to my body. I’m at the point where I’m focusing more on making them look as they should rather than just holding my balance. During warm-up, as we all stay in place, I’m able to stay more or less inconspicous. But when we go across the floor, there’s nowhere to hide (as we all know). My classmates are visibly struggling with the across the floor combinations and I feel really guilty going through them seemingly effortlessly. I mean, they can’t know the huge amounts of effort it took me to get to this point just from looking at me. It’s so awkward when we line up to go across the floor and even though I didn’t set out to be in the front they just line up behind me anyway, placing me in front by default. Then we went across in partners and there was an odd number of people so I ended up going by myself. It was a somewhat challenging (for beginner level) combination, including balances on one leg, this weird plie/lunge/glide walk, direction changes and quick turns. I didn’t feel shy or awkward about dancing, or going alone, but about being able to do it. I suppose I’m just a weirdo, because I fully realize that the exact opposite (being the only one who cannot do it) is a place I don’t want to be as well.

There’s a girl who starts randomly dancing around (not doing the steps M Teacher set out, just kind of shimmying around), and I find myself feeling irritated, so maybe I’m just projecting.

On the happier side of things… fun combination of the week: balancé, balancé, soutenu, developpe devant croise, tendu close, brush back to arabesque, plie and hold balance (I could have sworn a promenade would follow, but not this time), close to pas de bourre, pirouette from fifth en dehors(that I kept accidentally taking en dedans because that seemed more natural in a hurry), land in fourth, pirouette from fourth, other side. This was in Intermediate class. Pirouettes from fifth continue to be my weakness, but from fourth I’m starting to feel more comfortable.

I continue to work  on straightening my knee. A big part of it was just needed the reality to sink in. Now that I’m super aware of the issue I’m making sure to really feel like I’m pushing the floor away every time.

In Beginner class our combination was port de bras with plies fo four counts, developpe devant, developpe a la seconde, close back in coupe, pas de bourre x2, passe releve balance, other side. We also worked on our chaines across the floor and lots of jumping. The easier combination was 4 sautes in first, in second, 4 changements, and 2 echappes – standard jumping combination. The more challenging one was the same except instead of the 2 echappes at the end there were 3 jumps where we jump in second, beat the legs, and land in second again, followed by one jump from second, with a beat and landing in fifth, then reverse the whole thing to the other side. I remember last summer I definitely couldn’t do those jump-from-second-and-beat jumps – I think I was too weak to attempt them – but I tried them and they could have been worse. My comfort level for beats is increasing, as well as my leg strength. And at least I no longer flex my feet while attempting to beat.

Sometimes, Teacher will switch up the music she plays for class and she will ask the class if they know which ballet the piece is from. This week, I must have been feeling bolder than my usual self, because I actually spoke up and named quite a few of them. Then one of my classmates made a comment about it and I felt like a total nerd. I don’t get it though – why take ballet (as an adult) if one is not enthusiastic about it? I couldn’t imagine devoting so much time to a hobby if I didn’t feel very interested in it (and as such, spend countless hours watching it on youtube). But I guess we’re all different and it is not my place to understand…

Long Weekend, Long Walk, Short Break

It’s been an extra long weekend, which meant a shorter week, and less days of ballet class. My mini-intensive ended as well, so I’m sort of on a break – at least until the long weekend ends. Been doing lots of ballet obsessing, but also been spending more time outdoors in the real world. Actually, quite a lot of time, especially in my garden. The weather has been just lovely these last few days, and staying it seems like such a shame.

Ok, honestly I only went to one class last week. Other ones I’d usually have the option of going to were off because of the holiday weekend. Compared to the amount of classes per week I’d gotten used to taking, it’s felt like quite a change, but not necessarily a 100 percent horrible one. I have been practicing at home, though not as much as I had originally planned. On Friday we went for an extremely long walk and it left me much more sore than I had expected (It was close to ten miles, but relatively flat terrain. I usually walk and jog around 4 miles). So that ruined my balletful weekend I had been planning, as I figured it would be better to play it on the safer side. It did confirm to me the necessity of cross-training, because as usual it was my weak quadriceps that felt like they were giving out. At least it wasn’t the same leg I hurt a few months ago, so I’m not even more lopsided, ha ha. Anyway, my leg is feeling much better.

Let’s see, stuff I remember from the class I took…

We did this barre combination, fast tendus with alternating working leg, then this somewhat unusual en croix pattern and reverse. It was two devant with the outside working leg, two derriere with the inside leg, then (all outside working leg) tendiu devant, a la second (close front), a la second (close back), derriere, reverse. It doesn’t sound too hard on paper (on screen?), but it was at a super fast speed, and when I hear en croix I tend to automatically think of the regular pattern. I had it by the second side, though the tendus themselves felt sloppy, like my feet were not warmed up yet. Oh, and did I mention that I had forgotten my ballet slippers? I was already halfway to the studio when I realized it, and was too lazy (and on a time constraint) to turn back. So I did class in socks over my tights and dealt with it. Can’t say I enjoyed taking class in socks over slippers.

Perhaps because we jumped – a lot. After doing 32 changements. We did a combination: 8 changements, then echappe to second,  echappe to fourth, echappe to second, echappe to fourth (with a different foot in front than the last time), repeat, all with port de bras. Amazingly, especially because the last time we’d done a similar combination I was all over the place, I was getting the coordination of the ams and landing in the correct positions somewhat. It was exhausting, and then we followed up with another jumping combination, this one with sissones after the changements. I like sissones a la seconde (and think I’m decent at them), but this was sissones en croix and the tempo was really fast. It was not pretty.

On the positive side, ever since those landed double pirouettes last week, single pirouettes have seemed easier. I didn’t become great at them overnight or anything, but I feel less nervous about attempting one, less likely to mess up, to use too much or too little force. Even from fifth position, or to the right, both of which have given me difficulty. Let’s hope I still have this going on when I return to class!