Tag Archives: modern dance

Mini-Review: Bunheads Gel Knee Pads

Making modern and contemporary possible for the aging dancer! Kidding… but some truth to it…

Bunheads Gel Knee Pads

Bunheads Gel Knee Pads

For the most part, when I think of kneepads I think of those big bulky white ones that we wore in junior high p.e. when playing volleyball. So when a dance classmate mentioned wearing kneepads during modern (and feeling much more confident about floorwork with them), I did get sad – and feel positively geriatric. But then I saw a different classmate wearing some that looked much more streamlined, and hope grew.

I searched online and apparently the item I was looking for was the Bunheads Gel Knee Pads. After calling my local discount dance store and finding out they don’t carry them (or any style of knee pad, which was surprising given how huge the store is), I called the local not-so-discounted dance store which did. Said not-so-discounted shop is actually quite close to home, so off I went.

The store carried two styles of knee pad, a bulkier type for around 10 bucks, and the Bunheads Gel Knee Pads for around $40. Yes, $40 for some knee pads! So about as much as my three favorite leotards and leg warmers put together. But…cheaper than a knee replacement, so I paid up, grumbling on the inside.

The view from inside

The actual knee pad part

I feel like I have to justify why I picked these out instead of the bulky ones for 1/4 of the price. Well, as the back of the package boasts, these are ‘the first gel knee pads made specifically for dancers’ and are supposedly able to be hidden underneath tights on stage, as well as don’t slip around or roll up. And while I’d have to say that they are visible under tights (I haven’t tried wearing two pairs of tights, but I may do that for the show) – picture below –  I wouldn’t  say they’re distracting. It doesn’t look like, hey that girl’s ready to go to the volleyball game right class! or anything like that. If I wear black leggings – well any actual leggings that are opaque, not tights – they are invisible. I’ll see if I get around to taking another picture to put up.

The store carried two sizes: S/M and L/XL. I got the L/XL and the first time wearing them they felt uncomfortably tight (after several wears they feel much more comfy). I was anticipating this, since some dance stuff tends to run small, which is why I didn’t even bother with the S/M. My legs are rather thin by “normal” standards, but by “dancer” standards they’re XL apparently. Measurements are 14″/35.5 cm circumference around knee, 16″/41 cm around the top of the knee pad band, for comparison. For length, I’m 16″/41cm from hip/greater trochanter to knee, 15.75″/40 cm from knee to ankle/malleolus. (The store had great customer service, as the shopkeeper let me take them out of the package before purchase so I could see what I was getting into. But if you have to buy online, just know they run SMALL)

So, do they work? Yes! I’m able to get on my knees and not be screaming in pain, both then and there and after. At first I doubted them and their effectiveness, and still played it really careful (and besides, this just takes care of my knees and there’s no padding to protect other delicates like my tailbone), but soon as I was feeling completely unhindered. My worries that I wouldn’t be able to continue doing anything that involved any floorwork at all melted away. I only wish I had discovered this product sooner (and, of course, if the price tag was slashed by at least half…).

Here are some truly awful pictures that show how the knee pads look once worn:

image

Under ballet pink tights

Under ballet pink tights

I assure you they look much less lumpy from farther away.

Just Hiding Behind Beautiful Movements

There was something F Teacher said the last time I saw her that has stuck with me. It was our end-of-session class performance day (not to be confused with The Show of my previous post) and as the different students presented their short dance pieces, she gave constructive criticism as each finished.

I’m paraphrasing somewhat (if I can’t remember a few steps in center combination you think I’m going to remember a whole motivational speech?!), but she said something along the lines of “when you’re a beginner at dance, you have to give more of yourself to make your performance interesting, or fun, because the techinique’s not there, and there’s only you. But as you get more advanced, and you have more technique, and there’s more things you can do, you run the risk of being able to hide. You just hide behind the beautiful movements and don’t reveal any of yourself at all, and that’s not as entertaining.” (Remember I’m paraphrasing; the original quote, complete with her method of delivery, was about a million times more awesome)

Reason that this stuck with me is because… I think she’s right. At least in my case, but who’s to say that it doesn’t apply to others as well. Now it’s time for my long-winded explanation of why…

By this point in my dancing experience, I’ve mostly done ballet with a little bit of modern thrown in the mix. I wrote a post last year before comparing the difficulties of the two, but that post just dealt with the physical difficulty, actually doing the steps (and balancing without falling over). Taking the physical difficulty out of the equation – assuming we’re strong enough to do both equally well – I still believe that modern is much more difficult for me than ballet.

Reason is, in ballet it seems to me that there is the correct way or the wrong way, and all that’s left for me to do is to work towards the correct way. In modern, it seems there are so many different ways that are all technically correct, and it’s up to me to choose which (and I am one indecisive person). Those times when M Teacher would leave it completely open for us to decide what to do, they were very challenging for me. In ballet class, if the teacher says walk, you know it’s a ballet walk. In modern class, M Teacher could say to walk and it can mean a number of things – walk facing front or back, leading with your shoulders or pelvis, level up high or down low – you decide. In ballet, the port de bras is more or less codified unless the choreographer says other wise, but modern is so open. There were many times during modern when M Teacher would tell us to walk around while moving our arms and I seriously couldn’t think of anything to do with them besides swan arms. In short, I think during modern class I mostly do ballet with bad technique (because we’re not corrected on technical stuff as much).

Getting back to discussing performances, back when I first started dancing I wanted badly to choreograph. I would listen to music and imagine what I would dance to it, if only I was able to. And now, I have improved to the point that it is feasible that I could hear a piece of music and choreograph a short dance to it. This is something I enjoy extremely, something I find quite exhilirating.

But still – I guess I’m never satisfied? – I worry that the dances I make are boring. Perhaps all I am doing is going through the movements, never really revealing myself in the process (or maybe I am revealing myself, and the truth is that I am a bore, a coward, or both). I often feel guilty of the fact that I enjoy watching beautiful dancing. Not necessarily expressive dancing, or dancing that tugs at my heartstrings and elicits an emotional response – though I do find enjoyment in that too (provided I can actualy understand it) – but just beautiful movements, connected still shots of beautiful poses, as beautiful music plays.

Is the fact that I like my art “pretty” rather than expressive a character flaw? This is one of those times when I wish I could be as self-assured as others make themselves out to be, just “I like what I like, whatever”, but I’m not. I grew up feeling like my opinion was never valid, and the feelings of invalidation and self-doubt are still there – I fear they’ll always be there. Often I feel like I’m missing something, like others can see things that I don’t, understand things I can’t. All I want to do is make pretty art that is beautiful to look at – is that so wrong?

(not wrong, just boring)

Does it make me simple-minded to find it NOT boring to look at beautiful things without searching for a deeper meaning? Boyfriend says that perhaps it’s because I barely discovered dance as an adult and all my modern-loving classmates have danced since they were kids, so by now they’re over the concept of just making pretty movements, whereas all I ever wanted was to be able to move gracefully and I’m still stuck on that phase of my development. His explaination makes sense… somewhat. Another part of it, still having to do with having found dance as an adult, is that to me dance is my (only) form of escapism – I dance to forget the troubles, and the ugliness, and the sometimes horrible truths of my existence. I dance to feel happy, to feel free. So when I dance, I like to create beauty, just simple, uncomplicated beauty.  There’s enough ugliness being created out there, no need for me to add more to it (or so I feel) .

Of course, things could change as I get more experienced in dance – and life. Perhaps I’ll look back on this post in the future and be like “What were you thinking?!”, and feel so much superior to my in-the-past version of me. Stranger things have happened.

Anyway.

We ran out of time and I didn’t get to dance for the class, which was a relief as I was worried about the constructive criticism (because not only do I fear that my choreographies are boring, but I know my technique is not all the way there yet either). But I did get a video of me dancing my piece that I had prepared, and that makes me happy. I’m still contemplating making a youtube account to post some of my dances, but making no promises.

Forgetting Combinations and Intimidating Dancers

At class at New Studio there was a new group of dance students this week. It was intimidating because they all  looked  like dancers, the kind that know what they’re doing.  It was funny because once we went out to center the group of regulars (I guess I’m kind of a regular here now) kind of huddled together on one side and the new people stood together on the other side of the studio. NS Teacher made some kind of crack about it, something like “What, are we going to play dodgeball?” and that broke the ice a little.

After a short barre, center started off with an adagio, and I completely messed it up (so sad, I love adagio). It was developpe devant, brush back to arabesque (and here is where the messing up began. I thought we were supposed to switch arms when we brush back, but I guess not in this case), promenade, penchee, and pas de bourree with picked up feet, then other side.  My pas de bourree with feet picked up (not in coupe, but it looks like it’s higher, and the foot goes in the front) is something that I need to work on, so for now I just get confused.

There was a really fun combo that began with 2 sissones (one to the right and one to the left for the first side, opposite for the second side), then 3 changements, 4 changements turning one way, 4 changements turning back the other way, and a balance in sous-sus. I really liked this combination (and not just because we all did it together instead of in small groups).  With the exception of the arms (bringing them up from a low position to high fifth while doing the changement turns) it went ok.  My sissones have gotten better, wish I could say the same about my assembles!

Across the floor we did developpe devant of the upstage leg (which I think was supposed to be taken to releve, but I was kinda flustered and NS Teacher didn’t specify), tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors from a deep fourth position lunge, glissade, assemble, and ballet run away.  When NS Teacher first gave this combination I was so overwhelmed! Kind of feeling like ‘ok, after the developpe what happens?!’ But after the first groups went I started to get a better idea, and by the time it was my turn it wasn’t so bad. I mean, my assembles suck, as I’ve mentioned numerous times, but the rest of the combo was fun.  I hadn’t done a tombe from developpe devant before and it felt less scary than it had sounded.  I even got around in the pirouette.

I think the presence of all these new students made NS Teacher amp up the difficulty of our combinations. Though the new students looked intimidating at first glance, once we left the barre and went out to center it was evident who was an experienced dancer and who wasn’t. Ah, center, where no one can hide (including me)! As it turned out, with the exception of one lady they were not very experienced ballet dancers. That lady was really good though. She could do triple pirouettes effortlessly, one after another.  She would also ask the teacher about all the little details of how she wanted the combination done.  It was so intimidating! Like, here we are trying to remember the combination and not fall over and she’s asking these ultra specific questions.  It was hard not to think she was showing off, but I tried to stay positive.  I really hope I don’t come across like that when I take class with students who are more beginner level.

As for class at regular school, we seem to be slowly picking up the difficulty level.  It’s not feeling completely discouraging and overwhelming, but I’m definitely being challenged.

Barre was not too bad – though it had it’s moments! There were lots of long balances on one leg on releve (which I didn’t let go of the barre for a long time, but it was still challenging on the strength-building aspect), as well as on 2 legs. We did echappe releves with no barre and those were rough.  It also was not a good frappe day.  I managed the singles ok, but the double frappes were all over the place.

In center, we did the standard tendu devant, tendu derriere in croisse, tendu a la seconde in ecarte type of combination.  The difference in this class’s combination was that after our tendus we did 2 grand battements in each direction, and after the last direction we did a passe releve balance, bring the leg down behind in fourth, shift weight to front leg and point back foot with arabesque arm, then pirouette en dehors from fourth.  Compared to my first attempts at this combination a few months ago it felt much smoother.  My transitions from tendu devant to tendu derriere, and to ecarte especially. Ecarte used to feel so unnatural to me, but it’s slowly but surely getting into my muscle memory. Not only that, I once again surprised myself by getting around in the pirouette, though to be fair it was from fourth.  As for the grande battements, when we were marking the combination I wasnt fully engaging my core and I almost went flying to the side. Once we did the combination “for reals” though it was much better.

We did across the floor waltz turns, pique arabesque, chasse into chaines.  I’ve been working on speeding up my waltz turns ever since I figured out the problem was that I was turning too soon in the sequence.  To the right it went ok, but to the left I pique arabesque’d onto the wrong foot and it was all confusion from that point on.

After our 16 sautes in first and second, we did a petite allegro combination. 2 changements 2 soubresauts, echappe, pas de bourree right, echappe, pas de bourre left, repeat the majority of the combination except the second time around do 3 entrechats instead of the second echappe and pas de bourre. I still can’t do entrechats, so I either jumped around, or forgot (not on purpose – I swear) and did the echappe pas de bourree. Then afterwards we were all practicing entrechats and I landed on my foot a little weird. Not enough to get injured, but enough to make me reconsider trying entrechats again without the barre until I get stronger. Oddly enough, I don’t feel too discouraged because I see that my sautes have come a long way but it took a lot of time. So I just have to force myself to be patient…

Actually, if there’s something that does make me feel discouraged, it’s my slowness at remembering brand new combinations. We had some choreography thrown at us – nothing too difficult (a few chasse gallops one direction then a grande battement  out of the back leg, chasse gallops the other direction and a kick out the other leg, then something like soutenu, ballet run, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette from fourth) – and I totally blew it. I’m upset at myself because I know that it wasn’t that the steps are too difficult for me (except my hit-or-miss pirouettes), it was that I forgot what came next after the second set of chasses and kick. So I was trying to follow someone and then I was late on the timing. But since we didn’t have the combination ahead of time there was no way I was able to practice it on my own.  I’m feeling a little down about this, but I’m trying to tell myself that it’s for the best – I would have probably mssed up on the pirouettes anyway if I had to do this combination reliably  . ..

Modern dance class is still going well.  We’re still doing lots of stretching, and plies, and now we’re doing tondus. We’re doing them mostly in parallel, so it’s a different feeling from what I’m used to. We also do this thing where we point our foot really fast in the air (also in parallel).

Across the floor we’ve still been working on doing walks at different tempos, as well as this walk where we stay in plie, pushing off with our back foot.  Sort of like a turned in, badly done chasse. While all this stuff has felt really easy for me, I know that I have ballet to thank, both for the leg stregth and the body awareness. It’s also really hard for me to resist doing ballet arms or hands when we coordinate our arms with our movements. Ballet is just so much more beautiful to me (but so much harder, too).

I’ve been having fun though, except for all the core conditioning exercises we do. The floor hurts – though I do wonder if this is on purpose to prepare us. A lot of modern dance pieces I’ve seen at school do include a lot of work on the floor. I could do without any floorwork. I don’t mind doing core conditioning exercises al all, but couldn’t we use a gym mat?! But that’s not the majrity of class, so in general it’s still a fun class.