Tag Archives: pique turns

Coming Up With A Title Is The Hardest Part…

Since the last time I wrote on here I’ve had a few really enjoyable classes…

In intermediate, we did this really fun center adagio: developpe croisse devant, cloche  thru to arabesque, go into attitude and promenade with the working leg going into retire by the time the turn is done, and from there developpe out again in ecarte line, bring the foot down into a pique pas de bourre, developpe same working leg in ecarte line, balancé  onto that leg, soutenu, now facing other side, chasse to a fourth position lunge, port de bras/cambre front and back, tendu close, other side. It was so pretty!

We also did tendus to work on our facings: croisse devant, en face, efface devant, close, hold; ecarte derriere, a la seconde en face, ecarte devant, close, hold; efface derriere, en face derriere, croisse derriere, close hold. The confusing part was when we got to derriere, because I wasn’t sure to which side I was supposed to angle my body next, and I ended up doing croisse when it was supposed to be efface. I got it by the last time we did the combination, but it was something I think i should practice more. We do a very similar combination in one of my beginning classes, but in Intermediate it’s about twice as fast – no time to think, just do – which really tries that muscle memory.

In Beginning, we had as center combination of  tombe pas de bourre to both sides, then this new one (to me): tombe backwards, then pas de bourre by closing in front instead of back. It felt weird to tombe backwards, as I’d actually never done that before, but I was so grateful for my improved balance that made it actually do-able and fun.

Also in Beginning we did lots of piques to prepare for pique turns, first at the barre, then in center on flat, then on releve and finally adding the turn. While I enjoyed myself, I was thinking that I would’ve hated to have been an actual, brand -new, several-weeks-into-ballet kind of beginner (like some of my classmates in that class are), which kind of confirms to me that the learning curve expected in these classes is more than I could do with the fitness level – or more like lack of fitness – I had going into ballet. So many of them have a dance, cheer, gymnastics, or sports background  that it is perhaps expected to have such a background, but those of use that didn’t start off with one can really struggle at first. At first, being the operative words – sometimes I feel like my initial struggles did serve to motivate me into working harder, and if so then it was a blessing in disguise.

Speaking of pique turns, I  did my first pique turn en pointe, then I did a few more, but not in a row. What happened was that I started to muscle-memory my way into the second turn, then my brain caught up and I realized what I was doing and when it came time to pique into the turn I just when to demi pointe. I’m annoyed because I think I could have done it, but I wimped out. But at the same time I love it that I actually did a pique turn en pointe! And I piqued onto a straight leg, which I know because an advanced dancer classmate was scutinizing my every move – she even insisted I do it with correct arms instead of just doing nothing with my arms. So far it’s only been to the right, but in general with every thing en pointe for me the left side lags behing the right by about 2 to 3 weeks, like once I become comfortable with something to the right it takes on average for my left to catch up.

I also started working on balancés and pas de basques on pointe. I’m pleased about this because they feel so dance-y and I can start to feel like I know enough steps to put together a dance. Exciting times in my ballet journey!

Since we had break from my regular school, I had the opportunity to go on down to New Studio and take a class there. It was great; the people who showed up that day have been going there for several months so we got a nicely challenging class. Short barre, then right into an adagio in center: developpe croisse devant, close, developpe ecarte, close, developpe to arabesque, rond de jambe the leg back to the front keeping it up the whole time, tendu down to fourth, pirouette en dedans (my fav!). Not only did my adagio-loving self love the combination, but the teacher mentioned that she finds en dedans easier and I was like ‘Yes! Someone understands!’ Haha.

We also did a lot of across the floor. Tombe, pas de bourre, chasse to arabesque, pirouette en dehors, pirouette en dedans, repeat, first at a slower tempo, then in double time. Then lots of waltzing and this really cool combination in which we did a saute arabesque and landed into a balance en tournant, then repeated, all the way around. We went in a circle around the room for this one and it was so awesome, like we were a corps de ballet gliding across a stage. Good times.


There is something else that happened that made me happy, but I feel weird just saying it, so first some background: I am extremely socially awkward and have anxiety over it. Like, you wouldn’t believe how socially awkward I am, and I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. You know those situations when two people find themselves in the same place, in each other’s way, and there’s this hesitation/pause, kind of like you’re deciding who gets to go first, and then ultimately you always let the other person go out of awkwardness? Yea, that’s me, pretty much every moment that I come across anybody… (Strangely enough, I don’t have this issue while driving, go figure)

I think I wrote on here over a year ago about how one of the most challenging aspects of ballet is when we come out to center and we have to line up and I struggle with that because I don’t know where to put myself – like I start going for one particular spot but then I think someone else wants that spot and my first reflex is to let them have it, to avoid a “confrontation” (put in quotes because while the intelligent/logical side of my brain knows it’s not, the traumatized/scared side of me thinks it is, and self-preservation, and yea…). Well, now it’s been years of training in ballet – 4 years to be exact – and I still have this issue; I’ll “back down” to people who are brand new beginners. It’s not that I don’t want to be in the front – let’s be honest, I do – or that I don’t know the combination and need someone to follow, because by now I’ve actually gotten decent at memorizing combinations, especially beginner level ones; it’s that I’m terrified of the potential drama, and I feel guilty, like I’m taking someone’s spot. One of my teacher’s said something along the lines of ‘with ballet, you have to stake your territory’ and I felt so depressed because if that’s the case, well, I’m kinda screwed…

Anyway, in one of the last classes I took, we were lining up to do pique turns across the floor. I was ready for the more,ummm, assertive, I guess, people to crowd the front as usual, but then one of my classmates said to me “You should go first – you’re more advanced.”  !!! I can’t even describe how pleased I was! This probably makes me sound like a weirdo (but let’s face it, if you’re still reading you probably already knew that about me) but I felt so validated – like someone has noticed my hard work.  I mean, in a different class I took recently, someone crowded me out of the front and they didn’t even know which leg to start on (and I’m not saying any of this to be mean), and this makes me feel like I’m not taken seriously as a dancer. Like no matter how much I advance I’ll always be the person that gets pushed around… and, being honest, I feel that it has to do with the fact that I don’t *look* like a ballet dancer. So this little moment was very refreshing and still brings a smile to my face,

Better Pirouettes And Turns; A Good Week

The things that sticks out as the most memorable about this week is pirouettes – for whatever reason, they were much better than usual (the usual, for me, when it comes to pirouttes, is downright crappy with the rare exception). Now, me being the way I am, I want to know exactly why is it that they have been getting better. One thing I figured is that before I wasn’t getting my weight up and forward enough. While I heard that correction many times, it was something I couldn’t really do – or was scared to. But as I think I mentioned before, working with pointe shoes takes away some of the fear of doing stuff in slippers. Since a releve en pointe requires a certain amount of force to get up there, I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with using more force, which gets me up over my leg. Anyway, I was practicing after class and I kept landing clean pirouettes over and over. I was feeling incredulous, like do-I-pinch-myself-to-check-if-I’m-awake kind of feeling, so I would attempt another one, and land it, and keep repeating. Even better, I was able to do it to both sides reliably.

To me this is important to me because for too long pirouettes have been the thing that frustrate me because by this point I should be able to do them (by “should” I mean, not trying to put undue pressure on, but when I look at what different levels should be able to do, like on the Sun King Dance website – not that I have the remote chance of going – I noticed that compared to where I am in terms of technique or other steps I am behind in pirouettes. I think the problem began back years ago when a teacher asked me to do them in center when I didn’t even have a passe releve balance or strong core – I was not ready, I was terrified, and the initial failure – and almost fall – stuck with me. Because for at least the past year I ‘ve been able to do pirouettes when I least expect it, but when the pressure’s on I screw up. So hopefully now that I’ve seen with my own eyes that it’s possible for me to do more than one clean piroeutte at a time (and even hold a balance after) it will help. And then I can focus on multiples!

This week our petit allegro was (glissade, assemble)x3, entrechat x2, ballote 4 counts, temps leve (saute arabesque), faille, pas de chat, pas de bourre, other side. Last time I did ballote I felt so ridiculous, but this time it felt so much better. I was still doing it wrong the first couple of days, until realized that the leg that is kicked out is not in tendu but actually off the floor, but in general I felt way stronger than last time (which was probably close to a year ago). There was the two beated jumps right after the other, and even though I wouldn’t say I did them well i do think I getting more comfortable with them.

While practicing, I noticed that soutenus and pique turns (with slippers, of course) feel more controlled, and I’m able to turn faster without losing my balance or that certain “rhythm” that happens once I start doing the turns. A correction I’ve gotten quite often is to turn out my passe leg more during pique turns,and I feel that now that I feel more stable in my balance I can better focus on that.

As far as pointe, I’m still staying at the barre and facing it for one-legged rises. I do feel increasingly comfortable with two-legged rises off the barre though. This week Teacher worked with me and was correcting me on releve from first, telling me that I need to feel like my feet scoot in a little when I go up so that my releve position en pointe won’t be too wide. She said this will help with my passe releve. At first I was not really able to put into practice what she was telling me (instead I used excessive force and jumped up), but then suddenly I felt it, that little scoot. It’s sort of how the feet come in together to go up to sous-sus, but less distance.

Teacher also told me when doing a pique (I was facing the barre and pique-ing onto my front leg with the back leg going to coupe) to get up there quicker and to bring my back leg in quicker as well. I’m still working on that…

I also worked on pas de bourre on pointe at the barre. I was hoping that this would help get me over my apprehension of stepping up on pointe. Once I felt like I had the feel of it down I gradually reduced my hold on the barre until it was just a finger from each hand resting on it, then I brought my arms out to second while continuing to pas de bourre. This was so cool, and brought back my memories of when I was still new at ballet and I wished I could pas de bourre without the barre without falling over immediately. I didn’t try it complely in center, just facing the barre with my arms out but it was still nice to get to do this.

As I mentioned last post, this week I attempted to begin chaines en pointe without the barre. It was not exactly a success – after about two half turns (or one chaines turn) I would start to lose my balance and resort to doing little steps to stay up (bad habit!). So apparently I’m not ready for that yet…

Overall, it was a good week. One more week left in the short session (I’m gonna miss it! We have a real cool group of people this time around), then a new schedule and some new classes. I got to have a cool conversation with some classmates, talking about ballet and my learning curve, and giving them lots of encouragement to continue (if they want to). One of them said something like “Wow, you started ballet four years ago and you’re already  en pointe!” and that was pretty cool because I’m used to hearing about adults going en pointe after much less time (because there’s no issue of the foot bones still being soft I guess? And most people, even adults [if the internet is representative of ‘real’ life] tend to not be as unbalanced and weak as I was when they first start ballet) and people harrasing me  about why am I not en pointe yet. So it was nice to hear something different.

And then, completely unrelated, a beginner girl asked me to be her ballet teacher for privates! I am beyond flattered (and of course I said yes) because secretly I’d been wondering about the possibility of getting to teach ballet as well as pilates some day. I tend to think it’s unlikely, that I won’t be taken serious because my body doesn’t meet the (current) ballet ideal, (let’s be honest – at worse I’ve imagined being laughed right out of the studio) but this cheered me up so much. I felt…accepted.

Actually Dancing, and “Naturals”

F Teacher is always telling us to really dance – to feel the music – when we do our combinations, telling us that we need to begin to develop the artistry since the beginning of our study of dance. And she’s absolutely right, and I’m sure anyone who follows her instructions will become a better dancer much quickly . However, while I know she’s right, that’s not the way it’s come along for me.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even think about the artistry back when I first started, as I was too concerned with building up the strength needed to do any of the exercises to think about doing them in a beautiful way. Especially in center, even as I had gradually improved in my technique at the barre, I was too worried about losing my balance without it. I felt quite silly trying to make my movements look beautiful when I feared that any second I would have to bring my working foot down very ungracefully  in order to avoid falling over. Kind of hard to feel like I’m taking myself seriously if I’m crashing down randomly. I think even after I’d gotten strong enough to hold myself up I still had the memory of all the times I hadn’t been able to, and it was holding me back.

Thankfully though, at some point in the not-too-distant past I got over my fear of losing my balance and now I feel like I can actually feel the music without all my fears getting in the way. More and more it’s feeling like dancing instead of some strange exercise in multiple limb coordination. It’s actually looking recognizably as ballet (at least until we get to petite allegro)! Since dancing has always been either a mystery of something that I’m horrible at (or just plain refuse to do due to fear of looking -and feeling – extremely ridiculous) I’m really exciting to finally be actually dancing. It is a good time to be in my ballet timeline.

Anyway, point is, I’m not a “natural” at ballet.

You might think ‘Who is? After all, this is an extremely challenging art form.’ And it is, but at the same time there are some people, clearly beginners by their technique, who just have it – they can dance. Like this girl I took class with the other day. From the way she strugged with barre, it appears that she’s new to ballet. But once we came out to center there was something about the way she moved, so graceful and beautiful and lovely to watch despite all the technique errors. To someone who is unfamilar with ballet technique it would look like she’s doing ballet. Definitely more ballet-like than my stiff or hesitant movements of my early ballet days.

(There’s also a different kind of “naturals”, those with an anatomical facility that makes them better suited for ballet, like impressive turnout or beautiful archy feet. Like this new girl in my class with amazing natural turnout – her little toes almost touch the floor when she turns out in a seated position. While I don’t know if that helps with making it look like dancing from the beginning, I’m sure once the technique is there it does help with making a more visually interesting image.)

On to some assorted class notes from the classes I’ve taken so far this week:

In Beginner class, we worked on pas de bourres at the barre as part of our releve combination. I remember how much I struggled with these back when I first started, and I would do them at home over and over, just back and forth, pas de bourre, pas de bourre, hoping to get it into muscle memory. Hearing the more beginner students get corrected repeatedly was reminding me of back then and stressing me out!

At New Studio we did this fun combination at the barre: tendu devant, plie in 4th, releve in fourth, tendu a la second, plie and releve in second, tendu derriere, plie in 4th, releve, passe releve to the front, passe releve to the back, reverse. I found myself really enjoying this combination, though it may have been partly because the music just went with it so well.

We did a developpe combnation at center: 2 demi plies, 1 grand plie all in first, tendu a la seconde and close in fifth, developpe devant, developpe a la seconde, pas de bourre, other side. With the exception of using the correct arms during the pas de bourre, I actually did it pretty well. Lately I’ve been thinking that I do have my balance, but I need to make sure I stay pulled up if I want to stay perfectly balanced when doing developpes or promenades or I guess anything else that involves balancing on one leg while not beng completely still. So I remembered to stay pulled up during the developpes especially, managed to hold my balances every time.

Another combination we did was 2 tendus and temps lie devant and derriere in croisse, developpe devant, change to en face, 2 tendus a la seconde and temps lie, close to begin other side. I feel proud of myself that I figured out by now that F Teacher likes us to do arabesque arms when we tendue derriere, while R Teacher likes us to do croisse derriere arms (which is the downstage arm up and we look like we’re looking under it – horrible description, I know).

Across the floor we did waltz step, with no turning for the more beginner students. The tempo was nice and slow, so it was not like all my effort was on keeping up like when we waltzed at New Studio class.

We also started working on pique turns across the floor. I enjoy pique turns, and find them much easier than pirouettes (especially pirouettes en dehors – at some point I realized that pirouettes en dedans make sense to me because they are essentially pique turns that stay in place. But then, for what it’s worth, even my step-over piques  are better than my stationary en dehors pirouettes.). Since we had worked on pirouettes (or just passe releve, for the more beginner students) for about 20 minutes straight – no exaggeration, I may have peeked at the clock here and there – my legs we starting to get a tired even before the piques. R Teacher corrected my on keeping my working leg (the one that’s in retire) turned out during the turns. I’ve gotten this correction before in my stationary pirouettes, so it’s something that I really need to work on. Other than continuing to strengthen my rotator muscles I don’t really know exactly what though.

We did grand jete leaps across the floor, as well as chasses into saute arabesque, as this jump that was like a grand battement on releve but letting the supporting leg jump up off the floor then landing on what was the working leg before and going into a saute passe. It felt like skipping, but ballet-ish, and was so much fun.


Two-Class Thursday: Still Sore

End of the second week of class.

My thighs were still sore from Tuesday’s classes (and I’m sure my Pilates classes may have had something to do with that as well), so I was hoping we would go easy on those slow 4-count grand plies during B(eginner) C(lass) – no such luck.  We also did lots and lots of releves and eleves (going up with a plie and without plieing beforehand, respectively) so our calves could be as sore as our thighs.

Barre combinations included tendus and degages without holding on to the barre. I remembere last semester I was so stressed out about these. Six months makes quite a difference apparently…

We went across the floor with our waltz step, and then added a turn to it.  Definitely felt less scary than last semester, or all the other past semesters for that matter. First Teacher didn’t really teach how to do this, just said “Ok, you’re going to be doing a waltz step, yes?” and since most of the class was like “Ok!” she didn’t go into it further. Strict Teacher was actually pretty horrible about my lack of an ability to pick up the step quickly, kind of treating me like I was an idiot because I couldn’t get it right away.  But by now I’ve been practicing it – or at least had it in my body – for almost a year, so it’s starting to feel more effortless. Now I’m actually having fun with it, letting the arm movement carry my upper body side to side, as Teacher said it should.  Feels so lovely, so dance-y…

Thankfully, in I(ntermediate) C(lass) we didn’t do much grand plieing. Just the standard 2 demi plies, 1 grand plie, cambre forward and back (side when in second position) plie combination.  Our port de bras for the plies was confusing me, though now that I’ve (slowly) gone over it at home I see that it’s nothing new to me (we were starting with a low arm, going out and in during the first demi plie, then up to middle fifth and out during the second demi plie). But in the spur of the moment I just blanked out a little bit.  I think it was the perceived pressure; somehow I ended up in the barre that was up front and in center and I felt really on the spot. While in BC I’m happy with a spot up front – mirror space! – in IC I feel like I should hide a bit.  At least until I don’t completely destroy the combinations…

Speaking of destroying the combinations… where do I even begin?! The fast rond de jambes with the slow port de bras are still not looking good.  If anything, doing attempting to do the arms confuses my body so much that then even my rond de jambes get sloppy. We did a tendu combination at barre that involved angling our body differently – epaulement, I guess? – and it was so confusing. The only thing I remember out of all that is that in ecarte you look up at your hand. And then, during the beated frappes I totally slammed my foot into the floor – ouch. Beated frappes just don’t make sense to my body yet. At all. But by now at least I figured out that the reason I was confusing myself was that I’m used to frappe-ing out however many number of times and then tendu back in, but in this class we frappe front, a la seconde, and back without ever tenduing – and then we do the beated ones.  Also figured out that another reason I mess up is that I’m used to doing stuff en croix, but in IC we usually just go avant, a la seconde, and arriere, and then do something completely different for the fourth thing.  This is taking my body some time to get used to, and I still remain a somewhat slow learner…

For center we did the same tendu combination, except now Teacher told us to do a different port de bras. It was close enough to what we’ve been doing that it went ok for me.  I’ll be honest though, I feel like I am a bit out of my league. Like, here Teacher is telling us to be concerned with the way our hips are facing our “audience” and I’m still like ‘Yay! I didn’t tip over during those tendus and I can’t believe I can chasse and yay my pirouette almost went all the way aroung!’  I feel like there is this huge gap between what you learn in BC and IC, like how do you learn the stuff that comes after BC leaves off?  I mean, it seems like in IC it is assumed that the students know certain things but we weren’t taught this in BC!  I’m having lots of fun doing, I mean attempting to do the more complex combinations in IC, but I feel so overwhelmed!

We did the same 4 balancé, tombe, pas de bourre, en dedans pirouette combination, which unfortunately I hadn’t had time to practice at home at all, but with different port de bras (the first two with arms at middle height, the second two with our arms up high).  We did it in two separate groups so it was like ‘Great! Spotlight on my terrible dancing!’  The strange thing is though, I was having fun, just super-aware of my bad dancing. I couldn’t help smiling while attempting the combination (and falling out of my pirouettes, or completely botching the arms, or being a count behind, or any other mishaps.) – I know I’m not good at this, but I’m better than I was before and that means a lot to me. I refuse to punish myself over my far-from-perfect dancing. No, just no; as I have no intentions on ever doing this for a living I just don’t see the point in coming down so hard on myself.  Dance is supposed to be fun, in my opinion…

In pique turns across the floor, I got a correction: apparently, I don’t come down off releve in between pique turns.  I hadn’t even realized that I was doing that. Great, another bad habit that I have to break…

Our petit allegro combination was 4 sautes, 4 changements, 2 echappes, pas de bourre, echappe, pas de bourree, repeat.  I kept getting confused on the pas de bourre from the echappe, and the tempo was super fast (duh, that’s why it’s called allegro, but I guess I’m more of an adagio kind of girl).  Our across the floor jumps (grand allegro? or is it still petit?) combination was saute arabeque, saute with foof in coupe x2, saute arabesque x4 while switching the arms from one side to the other.  Yeah, I’m not even going to pretend that I knew what I was doing with the arms there…

There was this dancer though – possibly one of the regular students in the class but I’ve never seen him before – who was just absolutely amazing. When he jumped it was like he flew, seemingly catching some hang time, his body making perfect lines in the air, and he was doing beats with some of his jumps. It was so enjoyable to watch him, so hopefully he’ll be taking class with us again.

On Friday I finally got some time to go over the combinations from class on my own and at my own pace at home.  Something that helps me as I practice the move is to say the name of the move to myself as I do it, to remember the sequence of moves better. I’m getting it – slowly – and it’s enough to keep me from getting completely discouraged. Don’t get me wrong, I am feeling slightly discouraged, at times feeling like I have no business in IC.  I think what I’d had in mind was that it would be like BC, but just slightly harder.  I feel like in BC we were learning how to do the moves whereas in IC we’re supposed to know how to do the moves and we just get corrections on all the moves we should already know.  Sometimes I feel almost like I’m back at square one, feeling lost with terminology I don’t understand (yet) and unfamiliar body motions.  It’ll make sense, I’m sure, but for now I just feel exhausted.