Tag Archives: modern dance class

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.

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More Dance-y Fun, And Some Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As If Pirouettes Weren’t Hard Enough…

Pirouettes (en dehors) during ballet are still somewhat of a struggle for me on most days. The getting all the way around part, specifically, because for whatever reason half pirouettes are no big deal. It’s the actual turning part, not the balance (ok, I could use some more balance – it certainly wouldn’t hurt…).

But then, in Modern class, M Teacher introduced pirouette preparations last week: just tendu out to second, then close in plie in fourth position to the back, and then spring up to passe (first in flat, then passe releve), while coordinating the arms. The kind of thing I couldn’t do back when I started this blog for sure, but by now has become no big deal – even the releve part. I though ‘cool, now I get more practice on my passe releve in center, yay!’

Then she said to add the turn. The big deal is that in Modern we are barefoot – no ballet slippers, no socks, nothing. So, if I have trouble getting around all the way while wearing footwear, you can imagine how difficult it is with sticky feet grabbing on to the marley. At first I thought, ‘maybe I should really focus on spotting’. So I did for the next turn, and still I can feel the pad of my foot getting stuck while the rest of my body continued on with momentum. Umm, I don’t want to risk twisting an ankle or injuring my supporting knee. So I pulled my legwarmers down a little so they would cover the ball of my foot and did a whole pirouette – yay, the problem’s not me, it’s my sticky foot. Then I got paranoid M Teacher would get upset that I was “cheating”. I pulled the leg warmers back to normal and struggled through a couple more turns.

No idea what I’m going to do about this… as I already mentioned, I don’t want to risk hurting myself. When a fellow classmate asked “What do we do about our feet sticking?”, M Teacher said something along the lines of “Get some dirt on your feet!”. Uh, ok, I guess? Except my feet already come out of this class plenty dirty, so no idea what else to do.

I guess the good news in all of this is that at least regular pirouettes (with slippers on) in comparison should be a piece of cake. Mmm, cake – gotta go check on the oven…

A-Line-Ment

There’s this thing F Teacher does – or rather, wants us to do – when we come into the center. Since there’s a lot of people in the class, we’re in two groups, Group 1 and Group 2. So, Group 1’s on, and they’re doing their thing there, and as soon as they finish and are dismissed, they’re to run off and Group 2 will run in and do their thing. Except we’re supposed to be in lines of four, perfectly lined up, so it’s more like run in and be lined up perfectly immediately as soon as the other group leaves than just simply run in and do your thing.

Doing this is not one my strengths in ballet class, or even something I’m just ok at. In short, I suck at this.

I’d forgotten that this is how F Teacher does things in Beginner class, because it had been quite some time since I’d taken her class at the beginner level (and with this many number of people in the class that it’d be necessary to do things this way). But now looking back, I do remember it from when I first started and I remember being terrible at it. Back then I used to think it was because I’d only been dancing for a few days, weeks, whatever, and everyone else must be more advanced than me – that’s why I was so bad at it. It was a good reason/excuse for a while.

Except now I’m not new, and I’m not one of the most beginner students in the class and I still suck at this! So I’m sitting here wondering what I could do about improving this, like, what skills do I need to develop or what is it about this that is so hard for me. Part of it is that I worry about being in someone else’s spot (the spot they’re walking towards), so I tend to have to make sure that an area is open before I go there. And by the time I do that it may not be open anymore (because someone else took it). So then I head towards the back, because there’s room there, but since there’s open spots more towards the front that were missed, we end up shifting the lines anyway, and maybe around this point I figure out what line I’m in. Or not. And by now we’re off count.

So I’m still thinking about it, just trying to figure it out, because I want to improve at ballet (and therefore, all aspects of ballet class), if not for any other reason. Thinking hard, hard, and then I remember Modern class. Specifically, that exercise we did with a partner where we took turns to follow each other, then there was no leader specified but a leader just happened anyway – that crazyness. Is something like this what is going on – no one knows exactly where they are going to go but they just assume the spot they are walking towards will not be taken? And if so, how do you do do that?! Do people just know? I’m scared this is one of those things that “normal” people learned naturally when they were like four and I never figured out… Ugh, when not knowing how to do things in regular life means not knowing how to do things in ballet.

I realize this will probably make no sense to a lot of people, but I just wanted to catch that thought before it flies away like a bird…

And maybe I’ll figure out the secret to this and look back on this and laugh.

Expressing Myself And Social Experiments In Modern

While I’m happy to report that my minor injuries are doing much better (especially given the fact that the cold has not eased up at all), I still haven’t officially been to a ballet class since the last one I mentioned over two weeks ago. Part of it is that I’m still really nervous about reinjuring myself by doing any position besides first and second, part of it is just scheduling (I was really hoping to squeeze in Basic beginner class this weekend, but there was just no way, time-wise). This last week has been beyond hectic with long hours of rehearsals, studying for finals and other school stuff. However, as I’ve found, when you’re obsessed with ballet, somehow it finds its way into your life anyway.

 

I’ve done barre a couple times at home, though a very conservative beginner level barre. Plies, tendus, degages, releves, and a little bit of fondues – nothing too crazy. When I’m feeling better I desperately want to leap and twirl, but there’s the feeling of not wanting to reinjure myself before the performances. So I hold back, which is harder than I anticipated on the days when I’m feeling like my old self.

Another unexpected way ballet has crept in has been in Modern class. This week we did more improvisation stuff, instead of our usual structured warm up and class. M Teacher had us partner up and assigned one person in each set as the leader. The person following was to do exactly as the leader did. First there was a walking exercise, where we walked around at various tempos, depending on what the leader was doing.  We both took turns being the leader. Then, M Teacher switched it up and said that there was no leader, but we were to stay in our partnerings and stay close together to see what happens. That was so weird!

Then, after switching partners, we began a new exercise, which we started off seated facing each other.  This was an exercise in mirroring. My partner was the leader first, and she just had me do basic hand motions (and I think she ran out of ideas pretty quick). Then it was my turn, and I brought some ballet into it. We did pretty seated port de bras, going through the different positions first slowly, then at a quicker tempo. I had us doing swan arms, then stretching our legs out to the sides so we could do side bends resembling a barre stretch. As M Teacher called out that we were free to move and didn’t have to just stay seated, I got more into it. We stood up (in the way I figured out how to not stress my knees, by going into a plank and pushing up my hips to a downward dog position, then planting the feet and rolling up gracefully. More port de bras, then I added chasses and tendus, then temps lie. The girl I was partnered up with and I had spoken before, and she had told me that she’d never done ballet but she was curious about trying it (though afraid of wearing a leotard, and the body size pressure). So I kept it relatively slow and simple, but very flowy and graceful, sort of similar to the moves we’ve done before in a ballet class reverance (but without the bows). It felt so lovely to dance! When M Teacher told us to finish in a pose I brought us to a chasse into arabesque, holding first arabesque with my back leg just barely touching the floor. It was so pretty, and my partner told me she had a lot of fun.

The second day I had Modern this week we did more improvising, this time going across the floor. M Teacher divided us into groups and would call out the theme that she wanted us to do, like ‘slow’ or ‘fast’ or  ‘heavy’ or’melting’, etc.  There were some awesome displays of creativity from some of my classmates (especially the guys who’s theme was ‘heavy’ – they did this thing where they were almost dragging themselves across, simulating increased gravity. It was very entertaining to watch).

The first time my group went across, our theme was ‘low’ (as in low to the ground), so it was a little hard to pull off. The second time we started off with ‘melting’, so I did chasses, making sure to not lift my feet off the ground, nice and slow. Then, mid way through, she changed it to ‘happy’. I don’t know what it was, but I was totally feeling it. I took off, doing little leaps and saute arabesques across the floor, enjoying the lightweight flying feeling, feeling free, feeling actually happy. Afterwards I was really hoping that I wouldn’t regret all the jumping, but my body didn’t complain to me.

It’s funny, because I’ve heard from several dancers who were ballet trained but then prefer modern that the reason they prefer modern is because they feel like they can express themselves. But whenever I’m asked to improvise I find myself doing ballet. There’s nothing wrong with feeling like that’s how you express yourself the best, I hope. This may sound bad, but I really love doing ballet during modern because as long as you remember to use your plie it’s not quite wrong, and I can just dance without having to correct every single thing.

We also found our that for our Modern final we are going to be choreographing a short dance in partners. I love choreographing (not saying I’m good at it, just saying I enjoy it immensely), so that was a pleasant surprise.

I learned stuff about myself during this week of Modern though – and not just that I like to express myself balletically (which I think I already knew?) : while it’s hard to be a leader (unless it’s doing something I love, like ballet), and I am comfortable following, I was absolutely at a loss of what to do when there was no appointed leader. Like, I wanted to take the lead, but I was afraid the other person wouldn’t follow, so I kind of left it up to them.  And  the thing is, I’ve totally seen examples of this in real life, where I’ve been like ‘why is so and so telling us what to do?’. However, with my second partner, since she was so… I don’t know, I want to say ‘submissive’ but that sounds bad, it was easy for me to assume the leadership role when the teacher left it up to us. It’s like I want to be a leader, but I can only lead if the other person is content to follow, and anyone that’s more stronger willed won’t let me lead them. I don’t know, it sounds weid but I feel like I understand  myself – and society – a little better now. Like, there can never be a vaccum, it will always be filled by the person who exudes the most control, I don’t know how to explain it better.

Anyway, that wraps up this ramble. I am committing myself to attend ballet class this week, so we’ll see how it goes.

A Small Taste Of Performing, And Other Random Class Happenings

We had our midterm exam for Modern class, which meant that we were going to perform our little, minute-or-so long, dance combination we’ve been working on in class. It wasn’t a solo, but in 4 person groups, while the rest of the class watched. It wasn’t my first time performing for the whole class, and my first – and only, so far – time did involve a solo, but it’s been a while. Like, over two years ago kind of while. My point is, I’d forgotten that nervousness, combined with the rush of energy. And that feeling of almost denial up until the moment has all but arrived, this feeling that it’s off in the future, and not right now, so I don’t have to worry because I have bigger, more immediate things to worry about.  That is not to say that I haven’t been practicing it the whole time, but somehow convincing myself that I’m practicing it only because I enjoy dancing, and not because some time soon I will be doing it in front of people. Lots of people.

It went well though. Except for this one part on the second side where for one instant I started to lower my left arm instead of my right arm, I didn’t forget the choreography. I’m still debating with myself as though this is because modern choreography is easier to remember than ballet, or because we’ve been working on the same combination for at least 5 weeks.  A little of both? I’m not saying the combination itself was super easy, because it wasn’t (it includes a leap that lands down to a squat of some sorts, and then we roll on the floor, which sounded terriying to me until I actually did it). But somehow it stuck in my mind, and I’d say I practiced it much, much less than I practice ballet.

With the exam past, our upcoming recital is now the thing that is in my not-immediate-but-it’ll-get-there future. If someone would ask me if I was nervous I’d say ‘no’, without giving it too much thought – what goes does it do to be nervous on top of everything else? But when I thik about it, yes, I am nervous. The goal is that by then all the movements are in muscle memory, and that’ll override the nervousnesss, and I’ll just react. So far, I’m remembering the order of the steps pretty well (after the thousandth time going over it). I just keep making myself go over the steps and arm movements, thinking about the choreography constantly thoughout the day. But I don’t think about the actual performance…

This week, my ballet classes didn’t go as well, and unfortunately I did a lot more focusing on improvement than on enjoyment. The improvement I’d noticed on my pirouettes from last week appears to have disappeared – I was back to not getting a full revolution with the correct foot in back for both sides. It was a bit of a disappointment, to be honest. I hope last week’s turning success wasn’t some kind of a fluke.

While my improvement in basic sautes in first appears to be here to stay (finally!), the same can’t really be said about my other jumps.  I think I’ve identified the problem with my changements – it has to do with balance and fear. I remembered that back when my sautes were downright terrible (I’m talking flexed feet mid-air), I was afraid of jumping higher and pointing my feet because I thought I would lose my balance upon landing and hurt my feet. This is not completely unrealistic, because back when I first started, I did end up losing my balance and traveling horizontally as much as vertically quite often.

Anyway, we were doing changements, and Teacher wanted me to cross my fifth position more (because I was doing third, rapidly heading towards first), and I noticed that I felt a little off balance when I land. Since I am much stronger now than when I first started though, I think the problem is fixable.  I need to really focus on holding my core and not letting my chest fall forward when I land, and that should really help. We also did temps leves (the one-footed sautes), which I hadn’t done since summer session. They felt a little less difficult, and afterwards my ankles didn’t feel sore like they used to.

At New Studio we worked on entrechats and royalles, and I think the problem from the changements is the same problem here. I had a good mirror view and I could see my feet perfectly – and the very un-perfect, flexed at the ankle thing they were doing. I was, however, getting the beats done with my legs (and flexed feet). So I think I’m doing that thing where I fear landing so I don’t point. because in my head that means I wont be able to land.  So weird that the muscle memory about pointing mid-air with sautes doesn’t translate over to all the other jumps.

We also did tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, jete, contretemps, repeat all the way across the floor numerous times. That forward glissade is stil feelling foreign to my body, and I made a mess out of that combination. At New Studio, we did (saute passe, saute arabesque) x3, chasse in the opposite direction, tour jete, pirouette en dedans, sous-sus balance, waltz across the floor. I feel like I could have done better on that combination, at least to the right) but the reversed order of the sautes (I’m used to saute arabesque coming before saute passe), and the different port de bras during them messed me up. It sucks, because one of my classmates had said she wanted to go across the floor with me because it looked like I knew what I was doing, and I didn’t do nearly as well as I could have. Is that what matters – how you perform under pressure instead of how you perform after practicing it repetitively?

Not to ramble about modern class excessively, but I think all the exercises and combinations we’ve been doing have been helping me out with balance, and timing, and stuff like that. We do this exercise that is kind of like adagio in ballet, but with no turnout and flexed feet. We walk three steps, then on the fourth instead of putting our foot down we keep it off the ground, then bring it up to a kind of turned in passe but without bringing the flexed foot to the knee, then very slowly we bring it to turned out passe (still keeping the foot away from the knee), then to the back and slowly extend the leg and finally bring the upper half of the body down while bringing the leg up even higher, kind of like a penchee arabesque without as much technique.  We also do lots of sautes, and leaps across the floor, as well as long balances in first and second. I’ve been noticing that I’ve been holding my balances, especially in second, for much longer.

I don’t want to say that I find modern to be easier because, as I said earlier, it’s not easy, but at the same time I can see why so many people who are new to dance would try it before ballet. The ambience in class is more inclusive, and much less intimidating – and I want to say, feels less judgemental. There are students of all sizes in there, as well as other forms of diversity, and I don’t feel like so much of an intruder in the rich and skinny little girls club. I realize that probably sounded really bad, but the demographics in some ballet classes I’ve taken did make me feel like an outsider, and for someone as introverted as me it can really be a struggle.  I don’t want to go into too much detail (because I don’t see anything positive coming out of it), but sometimes in some of the (ignorant, insensitive, borderline prejudiced) things some of these students say I am reminded of the students who made my life hell in middle school. As a grown woman now of almost twice their age I have a different perspective on the whole situation, but who likes being reminded of an ugly time in their past? Not me, at least.

Anyway, modern class has a wide variety or dancers/students and that makes me happy.  To be fair, it is a beginner modern class. In the past I’ve noticed that beginner ballet class seems to have a more well-rounded group than intermediate, so who knows how intermediate modern class is (though I do have an acquaintance who takes intermediate modern, and she doesn’t have the stereotypical dancer look). But I do wonder if there still is that relaxed atmosphere that I’ve been finding in beginner class.

Taking Requests?!

… and other instances of “culture clash” (ballet class vs. modern)

Something that shocked me just a bit happened during my latest modern dance class. We had finished our very extensive group warm up (which was really fun actually. It was a cold day, so Modern Teacher had us walk around the studio – literally in a circular pattern around the studio – then pick a shape and walk in the pattern of the shape (I picked a parallelogram, lol). Then we went faster into a sort of prance-walk, first around, then in shapes, then backward(!). Then we did all of our ab work and pushups and all that good stuff, followed by the barre-less ballet steps), and were getting ready to do our center combination. As we lined up to do the combination, and the accompanist retook his seat behind his drums, one girl raised her hand. I’m assuming she was going to ask about the steps or something. But instead she asks “Hey, can we listen to the piano music instead when we do this? It’d be really nice.”

My jaw dropped. In all of the dance classes I’ve taken, I could never imagine requesting a particular piece of music or style of music. I figure that’s completely up to the teacher and accompanist, and to make a request would be seen as disrespectful. When I think of some of the stricter classes I’ve taken, it just makes me want to shake my head at her boldness – and I admit, for a supershy person like me there is the slightest bit of admiration in there as well. Modern Teacher was very cool about the whole thing though. She said something like “A request, huh? It’s up to him,” (the accompanist), and he obliged. But this really showed me the difference in culture between different dance styles.

I mean, I don’t know… I’m new to modern dance, so maybe this is something that happens regularly or is not frowned upon, but it’s just so different from how I’ve seen ballet classes run.

Then there’s the issue of hair.

When I first started modern class, I decided that I didn’t want to wear my hair in a bun for that class – I didn’t want to look like a bad wannabe “bunhead”. I mean, in this class I wear my leotard underneath my leggings (plus a T-shirt. I don’t think I can rock the leotard-under-tights-and-nothing-else look.) Besides, I’ve watched enough Dance Academy to know that you don’t dress for ballet class when doing other types of dance (or did that only apply for hip hop? Can’t remember…).

So I just threw the hair in a ponytail, and got on with it. And it worked out fine for the first couple of weeks, but now that we’re doing more complex, and longer, combinations, my hair is getting on my nerves! I’m wondering, how can people dance with all their hair going everywhere? I can feel it getting stuck to my neck, and in my face, blocking my eyes, obscuring my vision – so annoying. I actually fixed it quickly during class, pulling the ponytail through the elastic halfway so it at least wouldn’t keep getting caught on my neck.  Now that we’ve started turning – and spotting – I’m finding the hair to be evn more problematic. SInce I’m not particularly good at spotting, I need all the help I can get, and tidy, secured hair helps me.

From now on, I think it’s a bun for me. Hey, it’s functional!

(Not that I think there’s anything wrong with being a bunhead. I feel like I’m a total bunhead on the inside, especially when I know all the terminology better than most people in the class and obsess over ballet class nonstop. But due to my body – and age, compared to my classmates – I feel like I don’t look like a bunhead, so I thought I should tone it down. Save the wannabe bunhead-ness for ballet class, perhaps.)