Tag Archives: leg strength

Lesson Learned?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Class, Soreness, And More Crappy Pirouettes

Another busy week with plenty of dancing, after last week’s almost-break. Predictably, I’m very sore – ha. I’ve been rolling out my roller and tennis balls like crazy. Some of it just needs time to rest though, like my bottom. This week, in Modern M Teacher had us doing much more floorwork, and my behind is especially sore from rocking back and forth on it as we rolled from one side to the next. The thing we did was like a spinning in a circle, but on the floor (from the middle laying down to each side coming to seated, then using our arms to rotate. I can’t come up with a better way to describe it) and it made me so dizzy. I guess there’s no such thing as spotting your turns when you’re on the floor! I was dizzy enough that I was grateful I was already on the floor, actually.

This week I took a ballet class, Beginner, with a somewhat new to me teacher I’ve mentioned before, G Teacher. He seemed to recognize me/remember me since the last time, so that was kind of nice. It was a good challenge and change of pace to take an unfamiliar barre, because with my other teachers, even if they change it up slightly from class to class, I still somewhat recognize their “patterns”. G Teacher’s barre is just so different to the other classes I’ve been taking, and I’ll make sure to ask what style of ballet it is next time I make it in to that class (which I don’t know when it’ll be exactly, since the time is quite inconvenient for me).

At barre, the grand battement combination included that swivel leg thing where you grand battement a la second, then bend the leg and turn in and bring it across the body and then back out, you know, that thing. The newer beginners looked mystified, even after it was demonstrated a couple of times. I don’t blame them – the first time I saw that in person it was like ‘what is that?!’ It’s one of those things that gets more fun with familiarity, and feels so good (I especially like doing it after a grand battement on releve). There was also a rond de jambe conbination that had the ronde de jambes with fondu and port de bras, like the ones we do in Intermediate.

In center, we did lots of glissades (just one after another all the way across the floor), and then tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, grand jete over and over. This is a Beginner class, and we usually only do that in Intermediate, so it does seem that G Teacher’s beginner class is more advanced than F Teacher’s or Teacher’s. Either way, I really like – and find very helpful – the amount of repetition in center. By the end of class I was feeling pretty confident about all the steps we’d done. During the glissades, G Teacher told me “Good!” (and for once, I didn’t start messing up immediately afterward), and I do feel proud of how far I’ve come in glissades.Back when I first started ballet I couldn’t glissade at all because I was too weak and my balance was terrible. I wasn’t able to land glissades without losing my balance and tipping over. Then, once I was able to land, I was able to start working on pointing my feet and all that. And now, my glissades, at least a la seconde, are not bad if I do say so myself…

In Intermediate class we did  4 balancés, pique arabesque, plie down, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, soutenu, hold sous-sus balance, other side. Focusing on the good things:I can hold the balance after the sous-sus well, also the plie down from the pique arabesque. Bad things: I’m a little hesitant about my pique arabesque, and the pirouettes to the right are more often than not terrible. That said, I actually landed a pirouette en dehors from fifth to the right (basically, my hardest pirouette), which was nice. To my better turning side (left), I’ve actually felt a little off lately, weird.

We also had a tendu combination that I can’t remember, but it was different from the tendu combinations we’ve been doing. It included a pirouette en dedans, among other things.

This week, across the floor we did saute arabesque, saute coupe, saute arabesque, faille, pas de chat x2 instead of the usual combination. Teacher had us focus on making sure our working leg’s foot was super pointed when we jumped off it for our sautes (technically, temps leves,  I guess). The ones in arabesque are much easier for me to point my feet during, but the ones in coupe not so much – Wonder why? It was the same way to both sides, so it wasn’t a right-left side imbalance.

At home, I had Boyfriend film me going over the choroegraphy as full out as I could in our kitchen to see what specifics I need to work on. Well, specifically I need to work on my attitude devant (higher, more turned out, just cleaner. Actually, this week both Teacher and NS Teacher pulled my leg higher during my attitude balances, so maybe it’s a hint), my bourres (smaller, tighter, and quicker steps), and, of course, that piroeutte en dehors that I’ve mentioned before. Ugh, I’m pretty discouraged about that part right now honestly. Advice, both requested and unrequested, had not been helping me. And yes, I can intellectually undetstand the concept of ‘I’m overthinking it and trying too hard’, but that’s not helping me to put in action ‘under thinking and not trying hard enough’ or whatever would be the opposite. Or maybe I’m just supposed to go for a happy medium, something like thinking and trying just the right amount? But seriously, so frustrated!

But – there’s the bright side –  in addition to practicing my pirouettes, I’ve also been working on my placement and balance, just trying to make sure I have a solid muscle memory platform to build on (and my balances in center on releve retire have improved so much, as a nice bonus).  Since I’ve gotten told by teachers to use a smaller fourth position, I’ve been working on that. I have disproportionately long legs, so it feels really strange, and not too far from a really bad fifth. However, it does seem to keep my alignment in place, so I’ll trust that my teachers know what they’re talking about. I also practiced rising up to passe releve, balancing, and closing in front in fifth, then I did it with closing back into fourth, before trying my pirouettes again. One thing I noticed is that I come off my highest releve some time during the turn, and that’s what may be causing me to fall out of it. So, just to rule out that it’s not lack of strength that is the issue, I made myself do something like 24 single leg releves and eleves (no, not all at once on one leg – I’m not going to lie and pretend I’m at that level of strength – though that is a goal I’m working towards. I did three sets of eight, alternating legs with a pas de bourre). I think I’ll be doing this often, as well as my rotator muscle exercises. I should do the feet theraband exercies (flex and point with articulation) as well, but when I do them it almost feels like they’re not doing anything. Maybe I need to switch to the heavier resistance band, or just do more of them.

Even if it doesn’t improve my pirouettes, I’ll have freakishly strong and powerful feet. Which is kind of cool.

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…

More Of The Same …

Honestly, reading over last week’s progress-report post, I feel like nothing new or particularly exciting or different happened in my classes this week. So this may seem a bit repetitive. Sometimes repetititve is good. Besides it’s realistic; we can’t make huge leaps of progress every single week (though that would be nice!).

The cold weather continutes to bother me when it comes to dancing. I don’t want to be one of those people who complains non-stop about the weather, as I see it as pointless to complain endlessly about something that is out of one’s control. So, I won’t complain, but I’ll just mention that the cold makes dancing more difficult for me. As far as my legs go, I’m doing pretty ok with wearing leggings over my tights and legwarmers for barre, then losing the leggings for center. But the problem is my feet – how to keep them warm? It’s my feet that are concerning me mostly, because even though I try to pull my legwarmers so that they’re covering the tops of my feet, I still find them getting cold. And when my right foot is cold, it starts to hurt (from my car accident years back). I’ve thought about wearing socks over my tights, but don’t want to  stretch out my slippers. So that’s what I’m dealing with right now…

This week was another difficult week in Intermediate class. I’m not too worried because I know as the end of the term approaches, class does tend to increase in difficulty. Barre has been throwing me off. Were were doing our tendus and degages in this pattern that was alternating outside leg, inside leg, and during class I was just not getting the  hang of it at all. I think the part where I completely lose it is when instead of just alternating outside and inside going devant and derierre, the outside leg goes to a la second and switches to the back (or the front, depending if you’re reversing the combination). Now, in class I had no idea that was the issue, as I was just lost by that point. It took me going over it slowly – very slowly – at my home barre one day when my class was cancelled and I gave myself a class at home. Teacher said that it is a common pattern that comes up, so it’s good to learn it and recognize, so I’ll be working on that.

A correction that keeps coming up for me is that I need to cross over my fifth position more. To the back when I close it’s fine, Teacher says, but to the front it doesn’t close as much as it should. The problem is my bad turnout (especially my left leg, which turns out much less than my right), which leaves little room for the other foot  to slide in front of. When we’re going at a slower tempo it’s much easier, as I found out during Basic Beginner class, and I’m able to close in a good tight fifth position from tendus devant, but when I’m closing from a la seconde it’s less likely that my front foot will get all the way closed. Like I metioned, this happens specially on my left supporting leg.

My imbalances in flexibility and mobility from my right to the left side have been somewhat discouraging to me lately. It’s not a tiny imbalance, but enough for my teachers to notice. NS Teacher also mentioned something recently about my left side hip being so tight. I stretch out both sides all the time, but I do wonder if there is a limit as far as my body will go, but the odd part is the discrepancy from one side to the other.  I’ve also taken what feels to me like the next step: I’ve been aware ever since I started Pilates a little under a year ago that one side of my body is tighter, from my abs to my hip flexors and hamstrings, and that this may be posture related. Not so much when I’m standing, but when  I plop on the couch to write on my laptop or watch videos on youtube, I’d noticed that I rarely sit up, but sort of lean or slouch to one side for long periods of time. This then causes muscular imbalances in my body and makes me lopsided. So all this week I’ve been forcing myself to sit upright, hoping that it will eventually become a habit. I’m also hoping this will balance out my left and right sides, and this will show in my dancing.

At center we worked on attitude turns some more. This week we worked on them both with attitude front and attitude derriere, both en dehors. I found that it’s much easier for me to do them with attitude front, and attitude derriere feels somewhat scary and off-balance. We also did the balancés en tournant, which still feel really clumsy and awkward. Since it’s a turning step, I haven’t been able to get a good look in the mirror of what I’m doing (and, do I really want to?!) but going from feeling alone, they feel totally wrong. The waltz step while turning is getting better though, at least at a slower tempo (like Basic Beginner class speed).

I did a couple of pirouettes en dehors from fourth to the left that were almost decent (meaning I got all the way around, and closed the right foot i the right place), and a few en dedans that were all right. These were all in the middle of a combination, because whenever we just practice them I tend to psyche myself out and mess up, either using too much or not enough momentum (well, it’s probably not that it’s not enought – our floor is pretty slick – but I’m doing something wrong. It may be related to spotting. But the point is I don’t get around most of the time.) Spotting is difficult for me during pirouettes still, but for chaines and other traveling turns it seems easier. Not always though…

Petit allegro during Intermediate class definitely didn’t get any easier, thought thankfully there were no ballottes. Instead there was an echappe from fifth to fourth, while turning the body from en face to croisse, then some beated jumps. I always get lost at the part where the echappe to fourth happens, so from that point on I just try to catch up but I’m behind. The echappe to fourth is just so incredibly difficult for me at this point. I think the foot that was in the back is the one thhat come to the front, so I just can’t figure out how to do that without tripping on myself. I tried practicing it at home, and even there it felt horribly clumsy. Right now that my foot is acting up from the cold I want to take it easier on the jumping, so mostly I’m just practicing really slow sautes with correct form to keep up my leg strength.

In other news, I found out that during January there’s going to be a ballet session at my school of almost daily class – and it’s going to be Beginner level! While I have been taking Basic Beginner class almost every week, it’s been months since I’ve taken a session of Beginner class though my school and I miss it. I’ve been taking only Intermediate for the last few months (with the exception of the Basic class I mentioned), and I feel like I would benefit from the slower tempos of a beginner class in order to work on the details. And if it’s everyday, it’ll really help to cement it into my muscle memory. I can still go to Adult Ballet class at New Studio as well, so I’ll have a full ballet schedule. Yay!

Ballet Class Vs Modern Class – Which Is More Difficult…

… for the very beginner (like, starting from zero), recreational adult dancer/dance student?

This is a question that’s been going through my mind quite a bit recently.  And, since when I signed up for modern dance class I did a lot of internet searching and didn’t find too much info on the subject (to be fair, my internet search skills are sadly underdeveloped. Every cool thing I’ve ever found is because I stumbled across it!), I decided to add on my 2 cents.

My first introduction to modern dance was through one of the performances at my school, back when I was a complete ballet newbie.  At the time, I didn’t know much about modern – or ballet, for that matter – and while I realized ballet’s difficulty through all the struggles that I was facing, modern to me looked just plain hard!  How do they go from flying in the air to throwing themselves on the ground?! I wondered. All that floorwork, rolls, the occassional flip! Just watching it made my back ache…

Anyway, since I had my hands – and feet – full with ballet, I focused exclusively on ballet for the first 2 1/2 years or so. But then, a little over a month ago, I began my first session of modern dance.  While the first few weeks of lessons were mostly focused on stretching, finding our body’s center and alignment, and some conditioning (I’ve written a bit about my modern classes here in the blog), in the last couple of weeks I’ve seen modern class get increasingly intense. And we’re barely about a third into the session…

So, what exactly do I mean by “more intense”? Well, we started doing footwork, similar to what I’ve done in ballet. Stretching the foot through a forced arch position (demi-point, pushing the arch up while keeping the toes on the floor), pushing it off the floor into a full point a few inches off the ground, at different tempos – first slowly to help us maintain our balance, then quickly.  Releves in parallel, first and second, with balancing.

Then class really picked up.  Tendus in all directions, beginning with multiple times in each direction and progressing to one in each direction en croix, at different tempos. Degages, also following the same pattern. Plies in both first and second position, as well as parallel (6th), with coordinating arms. This move that resembles a forward bend, but with a completely flat back (Modern Teacher calls them “flatbacks”). Grand plies in first and second. The arch stretch in which you plie then bring up your arches so that you’re on releve while plie-ing. The reverse of it, going up in releve and then plie-ing from there. Even longer balances in releve. Grand battements. Sautes. And did I mention that all of this is done without a barre?!

In other words, we’re doing the same kinds of steps that are done in a beginner ballet class, but without the support (both physical and psychological, LOL) of a barre! The “center” portion of class that so many beginners dread is basically the whole class (except for the conditioning portion of class – if you’re planning on starting modern for the first time I strongly suggest you make friends with push ups and sit ups if you haven’t already).

Then there’s going across the floor. We do walks at all tempos, chasses,  and jumps, sometimes coordinating the movements with our upper body. While it’s not ballet, in my opinion it’s no easy task for a very beginner dancer. We’ve also started working on a combination, which ties together many of the steps and concepts we have been working on over the past month. Since the movements don’t all have names (at least as far as I know), it’s hard for me to describe it. I will say that at some point we go from being bent over in a plie to launching ourselves forward onto our arms – I guess that’s what all the push ups were for. I’ll also say that if it wasn’t for all the strengthening that I’ve done because of ballet I would be having a very hard time in this class.

It was also in modern dance class that I discovered that it’s better (for me) to go across the floor in one of the first groups, by the way. If you go in the last group you have to go across the floor while everyone that already went is there on the opposite side staring at you. Awkward…

So, would I consider, as a beginner-beginner, modern class to be more difficult than ballet? YES!!! Looking around the room, it’s almost obvious who has had previous dance training and who hasn’t.  Since my classmates for the most part are pretty young (18 to early 20’s, I’d guess) and in shape, they are doing an excellent job keeping up. I’m keeping up as well, but I know it’s only because of all the ballet and pilates I’ve been doing. During those very early days of dance training, I desperately needed the barre to help me balance in plies, tendus, releves, etc. The second we stepped out to center it was a non-stop struggle to hold my balance and do anything!  However, you do get to be barefoot, and I remember in those early days how I though I felt more stable barefoot than in my ballet slippers. So that’s a small consolation.

In no way am I trying to discourage anyone from doing modern dance, or even starting off their adult dance hobby doing modern dance (not that my opinion is that important or anything).  But in my experience it’s a better idea to start off with ballet – the foundation of dance – and go from there. And, above all, stay safe and have fun 🙂

These Hot, Lazy, Late-Summer Days…

Well, I haven’t been too lazy to actually do ballet – I’ve been taking class on average 3 times a week.  Just been slightly lazy about the writing about it part, though I have been doing plenty of offline writing.  WordPress has been glitching like crazy on my tablet (which I do all my blogging on), and I’ve lost some stuff that I’ve written before pressing the “save” key – argh! But I do have this obsession with keeping a timeline of my progress, so that, more than anything, compels me to write some more – eventually.

Beginning with things that are going well, I have seen much improvement in my promenades lately.  We did this nice adagio combination in center in class, developpe devant, tendu, close and brush to the back, then brush to the front again, developpe a la seconde, tendu, close, developpe derriere, tendu, close brush front, brush back, balance in arabesque and then promenade. Repeat to the other side. I’ve felt so much more stable during the promenade ever since I’ve been making my foot movements as small as possible – no more super high releves for promenades. Another thing I’ve been extra mindful of is my head placement and my core/upper back connection.  However, while I did get all the way around and not lose my balance, I did notice that my arabesque leg was significantly lower by the end of the promenade than when I first balanced in arabesque.

So then we were tortured worked on this exercise to strengthen our muscles for arabesque. It started out with us laying prone (facedown) on the floor, and pushing up our upper body with our arms (like the cobra pose). Then we had to lift our legs off the floor, trying to lift our thighs all the way off. Then (as if this wasn’t presenting enough of a challenge) we were to let go of our arms and bring them to our sides, and hold the position (I think it was for either a minute or 30 seconds, can’t remember).  We did this five times, before doing a similar exercise in which we stretched on arm out in front of us, while stretching up and out the opposite leg – so right arm, left leg. I’m proud to say that I got through the whole sequence without collapsing – not that there was much distance to collapse, since we were already on the floor.

After this we went straight into a saute combination.  As part of the combination we did turning while doing echappes from 5th to 2nd. It was similar to when we turn while doing changements, though before I had a chance to try it I thought it looked pretty intimidating. Another saute combination we did was 3 changements, pause, 3 changements, pause, 2 echappes and close, 3 changements. I liked this combination because stuff like taking a pause in the middle of jumps – in correct timing – can be tricky for me, and this day I sort of did it ok.

Another petite allegro combination we did was glissade, glissade, assemble to the right, glissade, glissade, assemble to the left, glissade assemble right, glissade assemble left, 3 petite jetes. This combinatio was fine when we marked it, but when we did it it was so fast and I sloppied it up a bit. Also, I was in the first group, so that didn’t help as I was a little nervous.

We also did this basic turning combination: chasse to arabesque, lunge position in 4th, and pirouette en dehors, then repeat with the other leg in front (and turn on the other leg, also en dehors). I was happy because I think I’m getting closer and closer to clean  en dehors pirouettes. But then, these were from fourth, so I guess it’s not something that feels as difficult for me as from fifth.

The hardest thing we’ve done, in my opinion, has to be tour jetes.  NS Teacher started giving out a combination, and it included tour jetes. I think a few of us looked terrified because she was like “Who’s never done a tour jete?” Those of us slowly raised our hands, so we worked on tour jetes by themselves instead. They’re so scary! It was like chasse sideways, then brush out and at an angle with the leg opposite of the side you’re turning to, then brush out the other leg behind you. I was starting to think it was beyond my current skill level for sure, but then at the end of class I practiced a couple of them when the whole class wasn’t watching and it felt less terrifying. I think i just don’t want everyone to see me go flying onto my face!

Another day, only one other person showed up, so it was almost like a semi-private.  There is really no way to hide then! Luckily, we mostly worked on technique at the barre and on our balance.  While my balance has improved so much over the last two years, I still need all the help I can get.

This next week my classes at community college start up again, so I’m excited about that. Yay, full dancing schedule! Possibility of ballet 6 days a week! Of course, how many days I actually do end up going to class per week is going to depend on my soreness level.  Sometimes I have days when I just feel so sore and it’s very discouraging – it’s the closest that I ever get to feeling old.  I still feel really energetic and hyper, but then I stand up and it’s like everything is sore. Makes me feel like I should take it easier, but at the same time I have all this energy and if I don’t work it off I feel so restless – and grouchy.  I still do my best thinking on my feet.  In order to not be excessively sore for ballet I’ve been refraining from running or hiking on class days, and it’s been frustrating. I think I’ll just stop this train of thought before it starts getting really whiny and negative…

Boyfriend and I have been playing tennis lately, which is kind of random.  The new place we moved to has a tennis court, and nobody else seems to ever use it, so we’ve been out there working off some of my excess energy.  Ballet has done wonders for my coordination – surely I wouldn’t have been able to actually get to and hit any balls before doing ballet.  And since Boyfriend is still refusing to take class with me, at least this way there’s an activity we can do together. Well, we’ve been watching Dance Academy on Netflix together lately, I guess that counts. Oh, and we just got tickets to see a production of Swan Lake in about a month and a half. Yay, getting Boyfriend to do ballet-related stuff!

Bun cover, by Danskin

Bun cover, by Danskin

Wrapping up this random blog post, I finally got a little bun cover!

New Studio, New Moves

In New Studio class we’ve been working on lots of new to me stuff, which makes barre more challenging that normal. I really like it though, as it seems that this will make me a better dancer.  I still can’t believe that I’m actually referring to myself as a dancer – perhaps soon I will start to feel like one.

Something I really like about this class is that when we change from one side to the other at barre, sometimes instead of doing a soutenu we do bourree.  This has been the first class I’ve taken that we do bourree at all (not pas de bourree, but just bourree), and I do remember before ever coming to this studio wondering when I would take a class in which we’re taught bourree.  It may have to do with there being several people en pointe in this class, but I’m just glad I get to be in the middle of it!

Another new thing I learned is something called serrie (my spelling’s probably off), which is kind of like these tiny little piques in the front.  Well, like piques but much quicker.  Then, in another combination I learned what is known as flic flac. This move was much more difficult for me than the serrie. Flic flac involved brushing out the working foot, then brushing it back in to the front (in coupe, perhaps?) while turning into the barre, and then brushing it to the back while completing the 1/2 revolution and now facing the opposite direction to do the other side.  NS Teacher came around and worked with each of us on the flic flac, having us do it for her until we got the general idea of it. I was struggling a bit, but she assured us that it’s something that gets easier once we stop overthinking it. As a lot of things in ballet do, apparently – or so I’ve heard.

We also do fondue-developpes, which is how it sounds: part fondue, part developpe. It starts out like a regular fondu, plie-ing our supporting leg, and bringing the working leg to coupe. Then we developpe the working leg, while staying in fondue, only straightening it as we close. These look so pretty the way the more experienced students in the class do them, but for now I still feel a little awkward doing them.

My rond de jambes en l’air, the small kind, are terrible. In my other classes, the majority of rond de jambes en l’air we did were the kind where the leg goes around from the front to a la seconde to the back. In this one we’re also doing the kind where the thigh stays a la seconde and only the bottom half of the leg does a little rond de jambe. I am so not good at those! I feel like it looks like I’m just ramdomly waving my calf and foot around – or perhaps even trying to shake something off. However, I do like how we do lots of extending the leg out and then bringing it back to passe in releve. I’m sure it’ll help with leg strength.

We also worked on echappe releves at the barre, which is something I hadn’t done in class in a while, months at least. It was 4 echappe releves, sous-sus balance, turn in bourree, otherside, repeat twice all with one hand at the barre. Another good strengthening workout for our calves, and I felt so much more stable than my last time doing this.

Once again we did lots of jumping in center, though at least this time I had a more appropriate leotard. The combination we did was 8 sautes in first , 8 changements, 4 changements while turning a revolution, 4 entrechats (!), glissade, cabriolet (to the side), then repeat to the left.  I was good up until the entrechats, which I have no idea how to do, so I think I just jumped to try to keep up with the tempo.  A regular jump with no beats uses up much less time than a beated one, and there was 4 jumps. So I ended up off tempo anyway.  Then there’s the cabriolet. This one to the side looked easier than the ones to the front that I’d seen in class before, but still not easy enough for me to actually do. NS Teacher said that you jump with one leg out, then have the second leg meet the first leg in midair and push the first leg up, and I at least attempted to do it, unsuccessfully.

In general, i think we (meaning the recent influx of beginners from summer ballet session, which I am a part of) slowed down the general level of this class because the first class ever here after summer session ended went much, much faster.  There’s a lot more explaination now between combinations, and now there’s more demonstrations. NS Teacher seems cool with it, which is awesome. Even though the level is still quite a challenge, the atmosphere is more laid back than during my regular semester classes, so that makes it seem much less intimidating. Yet I still feel like I’m learning so much.  I’m so glad I found out  about this place!