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…