Tag Archives: passe releve

Overcorrecting, Bad Habits, The Fear, And Some Improvements

Last class I took, Teacher corrected me on my foot alignment. What was unusual about this correction was that she said I was supinating my foot, whereas not too long ago my problem was pronating and not lifting my arch. Apparently I’ve been overcorrecting – since I knew that my problem was pronating, I worked on it to the point that it was too far to the other side.

But it did make me think that I tend to do that – overcorrecting – a lot. Other specific examples I can think of is raising my chin too far in arabesque arm and head position, or slightly tilting my head if I’m just supposed to turn it (like spotting). Luckily, Teacher gives great corrections during class and always catches me. But no sooner do I fix a bad habit that I seem to get a new one. Sometimes I don’t feel very body aware at all (though much better than the pre-ballet days, so I suppose do have some body awareness. Even though at times it seems like none).

As I’ve already mentioned before, I think, whenever it’s a completely new move to me I am absolutely terrible at it. Even if it’s something I already know, the slightest deviation from how it’s originally done will throw me off, like if I have trouble recognizing the pattern. It seems I can only do steps that I’ve learned how to do, and without already knowing it, I’m  lost. This is especially apparent in Modern or Intermediate  ballet class, when we do things that we didn’t do last session. Suddenly, I feel as lost as any brand new beginner. Due to my habit of learning choreography by watching the same small segment of a video over and over until I can mimic it, I seem to be having an even more difficult time learning choreography on the spot and in person. In class I almost feel like yelling “pause!” and hitting the imaginary pause button to sit on the side-line and observe many times until I can actually figure ot what I’m telling my body to do. I’ve stared, perplexed, at a series of movements, thinking ‘what just happened? What did she do?!’ And then I work on seeing what each individual part did, the legs, the torso, the arms, the head, before I can make sense of it as a whole. I wonder if a lot of actual adult beginners struggle with this much more than adult returner beginners who danced for several to many years as children? At a recent class I took I was working over the step very slowly until it made sense to me and noticed that other classmates were intently following along with me, and that happnes a bit now that I think about it, so maybe.

A big part of it, why it’s so difficult to learn new things (I’m specifically thinking center and grand allegro type stuff here) is that I’m scared. If you’re used to being extemely uncoordinated, awkward, and unathletic for almost three decades, the fear of failing at something that will result in load of pain – or worse, injury – is there, you know. I do tend to err on the side of caution, one of the reasons why my sautes were absolutely terrible for so long – I was afraid to really jump and push against the floor because I feared I didn’t have the strength to land safely. Especially since my balance back then was so bad that I would travel farther horizontally than vertically while trying to jump… If sautes alone were the scale we use to rate progress, I’ve improved so much. Under Teacher’s watchful eye I even managed some changements without losing my turnout. I noticed in class this week that I’m starting to not fear sissones, but I know I need to find a good compromise between being not being afraid of landing weird again and playing it extra safe. Same goes for tour jete – I haven’t actually hurt myself by doing or attempting to do one, but I can definitely see that my fear of doing so holds me back.

To end on a good note though – and to me it is a really good note, because this has not been easy for me – Teacher corrected me on my alignment when balancing in retire at the barre, and it made all the difference. She said to shift my shoulders (and weight) forward, which has always seemed counterproductive to me because my umm, weight, is in front and I always feel like I have to compensate by being more back. But I did it anyway and it seems I’m finally strong enough in the core because I balanced up there for, like, forever. I had my seond arm off the barre and perfectly placed the whole time and everything, as stable as if I’d had both feet on the floor. I started counting one-one thousand, two- one thousand, etc, and I made it all the way to 15-one thousand before my calf finally got tired and I brought the working leg down to sous-sus. I’ve never held a balance one one leg without the barre long enough for my leg to get tired, so I was super excited. I wasn’t able to do it on my right foot, but still, yay! It’s possible – even with my off center of gravity, it’s possible!

Another cool thing I learned this week was that pivot thing, the one between finishing a pirouette en dehors in fifth and switching facings for the pirouette en dedans that we always do in Intermediate. Since previously I hadn’t taken a class where it was actually taught  (instead of it just being expected that you know it), I’d always just kind of struggled to follow along. But this week I had a crummy week so I  treated myself to a basic beginner class at Adults Only studio, and it was taught. Instead of from a pirouette we did a passe on flat, then arabesque with right leg in back (like if we had just landed a pirouette en dehors to the right), then then pivot to the other side. Ok, I admit the first few times I was as lost as anyone, but then A Teacher mentioned that the arm that was out to the side when we were in arabesque was the one that comes up, and suddenly it makes sense. I practiced it about a thousand times since then and now I feel totally comfortable with that move to both sides. So yes, it definitely pays off to take a class with a different teacher occasionally, and for this beginner, especially a more basic beginner level class. Great way to fill in the gaps in my training.


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.

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…

First Class After The Break

I eased back into my ballet class routine with a class at New Studio. Since there was a  few beginner level students, NS Teacher went  easy on us at the barre – at least until we got to the frappe combination. It was beated frappes en croix, petit battements, and some form of a kick (like a fast developpe, or a grand battement beginning from retire) and holding the leg extended a la second, repeat, then fondue, pas de bourre turn, other side. To the right side I was feeling like I was at the very least keeping up on tempo, but on the second side I got lost and started doing the petit battements when it was the second round of frappes. And when I realized my mistake I wasn’t able to figure out where to jump in to start. So it was sloppy, but the fact that the first side was much better is reassuring.

In center, we worked on pirouettes for a good while. We did 4 to the right, then four to the left, en dehors, from fourth with the working leg foot in front. This is a less common preparation for me than the working leg foot in back, so I was surprised to find that I not only got around a full revolution, but I also didn’t use an excessive amount of force, like I do with pirouettes from the other preparation. It felt less powerful, but somehow effortless. Then after doing a couple I started to psych myself out and couldn’t do them anymore. I think I was throwing off my alignment, and putting too much weight on my back leg (the supporting leg), trying to generate more force. Which, I’d just realized, was counterproductive. Of course, I kept doing it anyway, because it was apparently too hard for me to trust myself, even though I had proof that the other way worked.

Across the floor was fun and mostly doable (meaning I can memorize the combination and attempt the steps in the correct order, not that I can make it look perfect). We did tombe, pas de bourre, chasse pirouette en dehors, repeat. Nice and basic, though I still struggle on landing the pirouettes cleanly. Then we did (saute arabesque, saute passe) x2, pique arabesque, chasse backwards, tour jete, soutenu, balance in sous-sus, run away. The biggest contrast from one side to the next for me was the tour jete. To the first side it feels like if I were to practice it I could improve, as if I just need to commit the movements to muscle memory and then push myself. To the second side, it feels like I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I didn’t freeze up in the middle of center, but I don’t even know if I used the correct leg first. It was still fun thought, and watching the more advanced people in this combination was entertaining. The more beginner students did an easier version of the combinations, omitting turns and going at a slower tempo.

Also, I wasn’t in the most beginner group there was – though not in the most advanced either, obviously. It’s a weird place to be, not quite intermediate level, but not one of the more beginner students. I spent a long time doing the easier version of the combinations in the beginner group, and I feel like if it wasn’t for my teachers in the past suggesting that I try the harder version, I would probably try to do they easier one until I get it right. Which isn’t going to happen. But I have noticed that I tend to stick to the comfort zone more than others. I’m always awed by how well other beginners do  given their time dancing. I mean, I didn’t even attempt pirouettes until I had been doing ballet for a  year and a half, so to see someone get a full revolution (with bad technnique, but still) on their second class ever is something different. I’m just impressed that they’re fearless enough to do it, I guess. While I’m more of a take it slow person – I wouldn’t have even attempted a pirouette if I hadn’t known that I was at least strong enough to passe releve. Which I definitely wasn’t when I first started ballet…

Last Week’s Ballet Fun

Although one of the places I take class at has already gone into break as of last week, the two other studios I frequent had regular class schedule this past week. So I made it out to four ballet classes (as well as a local Nutcracker performance – another ballet-ful week!). On days with no class I did barre and a very basic center (tendus, degages, passe releves, pirouettes en dehors from fourth) and some slow sautes in first, second, and changements. That’ll be my routine for the days until regular class schedules resume. Maybe some days I’ll do a video off youtube.

The classes I took were Adult Ballet (Open Level) at New Studio, and Basic Beginner and Intermediate at Adults Only studio. All very fun in their own way,and with their own challenges

Here are some highlights:

We did the tendus en croix in croisse, releve, pivot, other side center combination from last week again, as well as a similar one (on a different day) that went something like tendu devant (or was it a fondu, the kind where your working leg’s foot slides alond the floor as your supporting leg plies? I forgot…), rond de jambe to second, close back,tendu derriere, lift leg off and promenade, and end up with the other leg in front to do other side (there may have been a pas de bourre in there? This is what I get for not jotting down some notes immediately after class…) What was memorable about this combo was that my promenades actually didn’t suck (for me). I was surprised, as my promenades weren’t particularly good before my break, and I know I lost some strength. Perhaps it was the pressure of knowing that the more beginner new student was following me and I had to at the very minimum get all the way around without losing my balance that did it? Or maybe it was knowing that there was no pressure of getting my leg up any higher than I can manage for my current skill level? Either way, not my sloppiest day.

Really fun combination- (3 pas de chat, assemble)x3 first traveling right, then left, then right again, sissone devant, sissone derriere, sissone left, sissone right, 3 pique turns, chaines, ballet run away. The tempo was fast, and I mean fast. So instead of focusing on making it look pretty there was a lot of just trying to keep up. A shame, because I was really loving the music and would have loved to make this combination presentable.

We did attitude devant turns, en dehors, first from fourth then from fifth. While my attitude turns still have a ways to go, I’d previously only tried them from fourth. From fifth they were exponentially harder for me. All kinds of turns are harder for me from fifth! It doesn’t help that I got into turns from fifth with a negative attitude…

Get it, attitude?

In Basic Beginner class, we worked on pas de basque. I’ve done pas de basque before in Intermediate class since last spring, but I was going about it in a copy-what-the-person-in-front-of-you-is-doing-and-try-not-to-fall kind of way. In BB class, our teacher (B Teacher?)  broke it down for us step by step, with the port de bras included (and, I might add, that doing it with the port de bras does make it much easier, just like she told us). We practiced it all as a group, then went across the floor. This repetion of a single step is exactly what works for my body, so it went fine, although I am not familiar enough with this new cleaned up version of the step – I guess with any version of the step… -to make it look decidedly graceful. Then I remembered how much more unstable on my feet I had felt back when I first attempted the step back last spring, and I felt really good about my current level.

At the same studio I’d also asked B Teacher about the Intermediate ballet class she teaches, and she told me that she thought I would do fine in it. So I tried it out for the first time. Adults Only studio is a little out of our budget, but since there are no classes at this studio for the next couple of weeks I felt I could justify the expense. I figured if I liked it (and I did – loved it!) I could look into getting a multiple class pass instead of just paying per class as I’ve been doing. That way I’d be only spending a couple extra dollars per week but I’d get to take both classes.

The class was fun, and definitely at a more challenging level. I’d been curious what “Intermediate” meant at this studio, since it caters strictly to recreational adults. Would it be on “easy mode” with no expectation of triple pirouettes, 120+ degree extensions, and entrechats like those frequently found in my other school’s Intermediate class? Yet still offer a higher level of challenge than Beginner class, perhaps using epaulement and working in croisse instead of en face in center, using port de bras for all of barre. The technique and complexity without the intimidation, I guess. Actual adults that are over a decade past their teens, perhaps even some adult beginners. For me personally, the opportunity to work other than in first withoutgetting chewed out over my crappy turnout…

The barre combinations were really long and somewhat complex, so I got to work on my memory as well as the strength of my supporting leg. Here is a combination I remember: 2 tendus devant, tendu en croix, 2 tendu derriere, tendu en croix, 4 tendus a la second, coupe, 2 tendus a la seconde, tendu en croix, reverse the whole thing, all with port de bras. When B Teacher first gave out the combination I was feeling so overwhelmed, but then my body started to somehow “get it”, and it felt like I was doing it right out of reflex or something. It was a nice feeling, but so strange, like my body reacted before I had time to even process what to tell it to do. I’d definitely take this class again just to experience that alone…

We also had a very long rond de jambe and fondu combination that involved rond de jambes en l’air, rond de jambes with fondu/while fondu-ing, lunges into the barre, and lots of cambres. It was really lovely, and continued the theme of giving my supporting leg a work out.

In center, we worked on pique sous-sus, plie, passe releve, repeat other leg. The tempo was a bit fast, but I wasn’t feeling completely lost. Then B Teacher gave us our across the floor combination, and once again I felt overwhelmed. It was 2 pas de basque, soutenu, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot to change facing, pirouette en dedans, soutenu in place, soutenu traveling, pique turn, pique arabesque. Once we went over it a couple times I committed it to memory, but I was still a little apprehensive because of the pirouette and tempo. The first few times through, I forgot the soutenu immediately after the pirouette, but by the time we got to the second side I was remembering. Not that it made it look pretty when I did it or anything. I wish I could make a combination like this look good, but I guess it’s one of those things that will take more time and practice. Some of the parts I feel are better than others, my personal favorites being the pirouette en dedans, tombe pas de bourre preparation for the pirouette en dedans (though the pirouette en dehors itself sucked).

Also, I realized that I have difficulty with soutenus in place – not the half-soutenu like at the barre to switch sides, but the kind that makes a full revolution without traveling. I don’t quite seem to understand where the feet go. The traveling kind where you sort of pique into it, soutenu, plie, then step out again, repeat one makes sense to me, but starting from a fifth position plie I have no idea how to go about it. Non-traveling soutenus are not something I’m used to doing, so it could just be that I need more familiarity with it than actually understanding the mechanics of it.

Some Happy Things…

I figured I could write about some things that went well in my ballet week, you know, a nice change of pace…

While I missed the majority of it (since it was on during what is the middle of the night on my side of the world. I think the Bolshoi Ballet segment was at like 2 am or something), I did get to catch some of World Ballet Day.  Caught part of the Canadian Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet.  I really loved watching the petite and grand allegro segments of the San Francisco Ballet class – so inspiring! The rehearsal for Giselle was a nice treat as well.  I also really enjoyed watching the pictures and videos that people submitted of them balleting in random places. I remember they’d had the option to submit something last year, but I didn’t know they were going to do it again this year.  If I’d known, maybe I would have tried to submit something… or not. Last year I was nowhere close to even a single pirouette, but now that I’m closer, who knows?

My first class of the week went pretty well.  During barre I’ve been working on letting go for longer periods of time when we balance in passe releve. I balanced for a few seconds with the second arm in a nice shape while on my left foot.  Still just testing letting go of the barre with my right (weaker) foot.

We did this across the floor combination, tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, 4th position releve balance, down to 4th, passe releve balance, down to fourth, pirouette en dehors, repeat the whole thing all the way across the floor (I think it was like 4 times the whole way through), and I actually got around in all my pirouettes, even managing to finish them in a nice pose.  My balances in releve were not too shabby either. I don’t know if it was all the balancing before attempting the pirouette that helped or what, but this is a combination I’ll be working on at home.

Another combination that  was helpful was sautes. It was 3 sautes in first, but on the third hold a really deep plie, then on the next jump the jump would start from the deep plie. We did it twice in first, twice in second, and then fifth.  It was really helpful for me because of the deep plies, especially because from the plie that we landed in we were supposed to go even deeper. While it was helpful in first, it was even more helpful in second. My jumps in second have been improving steadily the more I’ve been practicing them, I’ve noticed. Can’t really say the same for jumps from fifth yet, but seeing how long it took me to even get pointed feet jumps in first and second I know that I just have to keep practicing. But you know what? I totally don’t hate the part of class when we do sautes anymore. I used to dread that part of class, but I’ve been feeling way more confident about them. At least in a beginner or open level class…

In Intermediate Class, we were given this combination, 3 pique arabesques (each one a little higher than the last, both the leg outstretched in back and the arm), tombe, pas de bourree, pirouette en dehors, this like 3/4 of the way around soutenu, pirouette en dedans (yay! love these!), soutenu, chasse, chaines for the rest of the music.  When Teacher first demonstrated it I started feeling a bit overwhelmed, but it was not so bad.  It was fun, actually, especially the pirouette en dedans part.

We did petite allegro in two groups, one slow and one fast – guess which group I’m in, LOL.  It was glissade, assemble, glissade, assemble, glissade, assemble, jete, pas de bourre, changement, 2 pas de chat, 2 soubresauts, and 3 sissones. I’ve discovered that I actually like doing sissones, though the arms are still confusing me. Someone asked “So your arms open in the direction you’re traveling?” and Teacher said yes, so I’ll be keeping that in mind for next time. Assembles, especially to the left (when the left leg assembles) are still challenging for me, but I do think I’m overthinking them.  It was a fun combination though.  When the faster group went we tried to follow along in the back, but it was definitely about 5 times harder than I can do at this moment.

So then, after my latest class, I popped the question.

By that, I mean I asked “So, how far am I from being ready? I mean, besides strong ankles, what should I work on?” In case you couldn’t tell, I’m talking about pointe (!). NS Teacher told me to continue working on holding my balance and core, but that she would be ok with me doing barre in pointe shoes! (She also said that she’s seen me improve so much in the time since she’s first seen me take class, so that made my day 🙂 )

It was weird. I hadn’t planned on asking or anything, but we were all having a discussion about pointe readiness. The only reason I’d even asked was because I was curious about how far I am, hypothetically speaking. I was shocked to hear her say yes.

Now before we all get excited, I’ll say that the possibility of me actually taking class en pointe is not immediately likely. When I’d seen the clearance bin pointe shoes during my last visit to the dance store I’d been excited, but  NS Teacher was talking about the importance of having a good fitter the first time. She recommended a place in particular, and they’re notoriously expensive (I’ve been there for dance wear back when I first started and didn’t know my options). The fitting is free, but I figure the cost of the shoes may be marked up. Or not. Maybe I need to do some research. I haven’t actually done any pointe shoe research because I always figured it was out of the question. So we’ll see, but don’t expect anything yet…

A Rough Week In Ballet-land

So, this past week has been one of the hardest weeks I’ve had in a while, as far as dancing goes. At times – many times – I’ve been feeling like I can’t do anything right at all.  Then I get so frustrated at myself, because even though there’s no rushing it when it comes to learning technique – it needs time, repetition, PRACTICE – why can’t I at least not screw up at remembering combinations? I feel so unfocused when this happens.  I mean, during the combinations my mind is definitely focused on doing the steps, but before the part when we do the combination, I’ve caught myself getting distracted. Whether it be by a classmate’s ridiculously high extensions, the kind of flexibility I’ll never have no matter how much I stretch, so why bother (I realize this is sounding really negative – I apologize), or just by random intrusive thoughts. It’s driving me nuts, but I’m hoping desperately that it’s just a passing phase.

There’s been some memorable class moments though, as well as some things that have been of great help.  At New Studio, we had a sub for one of my classes this week, and some of the things she had us do were pretty helpful.  During tendus, she would have us close to first, and then squeeeeeze our thighs together into fifth. At first it was weird getting used to it, but afterwards my balances on releve seemed much more stable, and my sous-sus much tighter.

We also did rond de jambes with a new-to-me different port de bras.  It was challenging to do, but I liked it. It went something like when the foot comes up to the front the arm goes to low fifth, when the leg goes a la seconde the arm goes to middle fifth (first), when the foot goes back arm goes to high fifth, and when the foot closes the arm goes a la seconde. Reversing it was the exact opposite, when foot goes back arm foes a la seconde, foot goes side arm goes to high fifth, foot goes forward arm goes to middle, foot closes and arm comes down. Well, those were the slow rond de jambes. The quick ones had a slightly faster port de bras – it took two rond de jambes for the arm to make the same port de bras as the slow ones. Like I said, it was confusing but fun.

Across the floor we did these super slow chaines, with our arms up on our shoulders. The tempo was really, excruciatingly slow, just a half turn at a time, staying up on releve. The teacher told us to keep our ankles touching the whole time.  This was one of the hardest things I’ve done recently (I wanted to say “done ever”, but honestly, during my first year of ballet everything was the hardest thing ever). My calves were so sore! Then after we’d gone across the floor twice in both directions we did regular speed chaines, which my legs were too tired to cooperate during.  If I’m having a bad chaines day by this point I know it’s not a good ballet day…

Then we did pirouettes. First 1/4 pirouettes, then 1/2, then full, en dehors from fifth (which are my least favorite – and hardest to do – pirouettes).  As usual, the 1/4 and 1/2 ones went fine, the full ones sucked. And here’s when I heard some new pirouetting advice, which I’ll now share, I guess: the teacher told us that if we feel like we’re not going to make it around, rather than just flop down to the floor, stay in sous-sus so that our muscles are working anyway.  Once I started doing this my turns felt smoother. I guess I realized that I was just kind of letting go, giving up halfway through the turns when I felt my balance starting to go.  For the rest of that class I felt much more confident about my turns, though that didn’t do me any good in Intermediate Class the rest of the week…

At that class we also did a petite allegro that was fun, though a bit on the fast side. It was petite jete, temps leve x2, echappe releves (no idea how many, becuase it was about 3 times faster than I’m comfortable doing), 2 passe releves on opposite legs, 2 changements,  entrechat (yeah, wasn’t happening), pickup pas de bourree. I think our pickup pas de bourres were pretty bad because then the teacher had us practice those over and over. Then we went to the barre to work on entrechats, where I manage to kick myself.  I’m definitely not good at beated jumps, at least for now.

Intermediate class this week was tough.  Our barre combinations have been getting increasingly complex, and with my full dance schedule I haven’t been making enough time at home to slowly go over the combinations. One day I had time, but I was so sore from the two preceeding days of classes that I just lounged about at home on the couch. So that didn’t really count as free time…

We did a lot of switching our working leg between the outside leg and the inside leg (like 3 tendus devant with outside leg, 1 derrier with inside, 3 a la seconde with outside leg and 1 devant with inside leg, etc), and instead of going en croix we would do a totally different thing after derriere, like a pas de cheval, or a passe balance. Oh, and all this was with port de bras, of course, and Teacher wanted us to use epaulment as well. I try, but at some point there’s only so much I can do, you know? Lately Teacher has been correcting me on my fifth position, saying that I need to cross it even more, more!, even though my far-from-perfect turnout makes it look less nice, my feet farther away.  So yeah, during barre I’ve been feeling flustered.

We did 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 away from the barre and with port de bras. We also did 8 degages a la seconde with no barre and with a slow port de bras that took the whole 8 counts to do, and battement cloche for 8 counts.  I have to keep reminding myself that even being able to do stuff like this with no barre without falling over is signs of progress, though as barre progressed the combinations get harder and harder to do. During rond de jambes there was this bending of the upper body going with the port de bras that felt like I was doing it totally wrong (and there was no clear view of the mirror from where I was).  As I focus more on that I start losing my turnout.  I really like rond de jambes, so I’m especially displeased if I’m messing them up. Still, I struggle to keep up…

But then, we did frappes on releve.  It was horrible – horrible, I tell you! It was 3 devant, hold, flex, and point; 3 a la seconde, hold, flex, and point; 3 derriere, hold, flex and point; then doubles en croix, reverse the whole thing – all on releve! Focusing on not losing my balance with all the fast motions, there’s not enough brain power to devote to actually doing a nice frappe with a pointed foot and to the correct place. So hard! On the second leg (my right foot, my weaker foot), I actually fell off releve during the reversing – there was only so much the barre death grip could do. This was definitely not one of my finer ballet moments…

Center started with an adagio, which I kept forgetting the order of steps the first day we did it, but my memory was much better the second day. It was 2 steps ballet walk with port de bras, pique sous-sus. 2 balances, soutenu, chasse into arabesque, promenade, developpe devant then a la seconde, chasse, pirouette en dehors from fourth, tendu, pirouette into a temps lie, repeat other side. As I got better at remembering what step came next I got better at doing it, but it was still a pretty challenging combination.

Across the floor turns was 3 pique turns, soutenu, chasse, chaines, all of this happening in the space of 8 counts. It’s hard enough to do this at a slower speed, but that fast it was so messy. I started not getting all the way around during my pique turns while trying to do them faster, which gave me a crooked trajectory across the floor. The hardest part is that after the last chaines we are supposed to go back into doing pique turns.

Petite allegro was also much too quick and involved the dreaded beated jumps. Unlike what F Teacher had said (and how I had started to teach myself) Teacher said that a royalle opens up before it beats and changes. This is considerably harder thanjust doing a soubresaut and closing in back. So I guess I can’t do a entrechat or a royalle then. The combination was changement, changement, echappe, close, 2 pas de chat and pas de bourre, royalle, other side.

Across the floor jumps was a little better, perhaps because I do enoy this part of class more than petite allegro. It was saute arabesque, saute coupe, saute arabesque, saute coupe, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, pas de chat. While actually doing the jumps was a little bit easier this week(instead of stumbling around and randomly putting legs in different places after the first 4 jumps), my timing was off. After that we did it again (yes, the whole class had to do it again because I was off) and as long as I go in the back and see the others doing it I have a better chance of staying on timing. Once again, ballet is so hard!

Also, Teacher said she will push me because she knows I can do it. She belives in me more than I believe in myself, it appears. She said I’ve already improved so much (and I totally have, at least from those early days of not even being able to plie on flat without losing my balance) and to not get discouraged. It’s not hard to get discouraged when there’s extremely good dancers there though.  Sometimes I feel that no matter what I’ll always be a beginner level dancer, due to the fact that I didn’t grow up dancing. I mean, I can do a lot of steps, and back when I first started I would have loved to be able to do this much (and I still do), but when there’s a step I don’t know yet I tend to mess up horribly. This lack of natural grace combined with being a slow learner really gets me down.

To end on a good note, I noticed during my last class of the week that my balancing in second position and fourth position releve have been really improving. And I managed to get the second arm in high fifth during a balance at the barre in passe releve, instead of my usual quick tests of letting go before I quickly put my hand back down. I’ve been working on my turnout in second(mostly in the form of standing in a wide second while making sure to turn out from the hips, so that my knees are also facing the sides not just my toes) randomly at home.  When I take Modern class I also feel like I have a big ballet advantage over people that are also taking the class for the first time.  We do plies, tendus and releves, and I continue to forget to not do ballet arms. Since we don’t use a barre at all I do think that it will help me for center in ballet class. We’re also going across the floor, doing something that looks like chasses, then shifting out weight to only the front leg, or turning.  I’m still having fun with it, but I don’t know yet if I’ll be wanting to continue the way I did with ballet once the semester’s over.