Tag Archives: pirouettes

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.

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Conquering The Fear… Sort Of

I think I can tentatively say that this past week was much better…

After last week’s (admittedly whiny) post, I gathered myself together, took myself to my home barre and decided to face some of my fears head on. I mean, there’s things that are not in my control but the least I can do is practice, right? As I’d mentioned, I was afraid of being completely off the barre for pointe work, specifically quick   releves and echappes to second. So, after a warm up barre in slippers I put on my pointe shoes and started to go through my eleves, releves and echappes at the barre, at first with my hands resting on it, then with just a finger resting on it. Then I forced myself to step back from the barre, gave myself a little pep talk, and before I could wimp out, quickly sprung up in sous-sus, followed my my first echappes completely off the barre! Even though I pulled it off, once I stopped to rest I had to give myself another pep talk before doing it again. So it’s still not something that I felt confident about, but at least I knew it was possible? I didn’t know it yet at the time, but good thing I forced myself to take this next step because during our last class of the week, Teacher asked us to step away from the barre for our echappes combination and for once I didn’t feel that deer-in-headlights feeling when she has us do something new while I’m wearing pointe shoes.

This week we continued with similar barre combinations from the last few weeks, except adding on longer balances in sous-sus, coupe, retire and attitude on releve (which meant all the way on pointe for me). And yes, I even let go of the barre a little bit while up on one foot but no super long balances or anything yet. After our frappes combination we did petit battements on releve. I do think my eyes got wide when I realized what we were going to be doing, but once doing it I found that for me they are much more difficult on demi pointe. Teacher’s always mentioning how it is much less stressful on the body to be in a higher releve than a lower one, and I think the same thing goes for being en pointe instead of in demi pointe. I mean, yea, my big toe was hurting, but my calves were not even feeling it compared to all the times I’ve done this on releve in soft shoes.

By now I feel more comfortable leaving on the pointe shoes for center. Of course, I’m still doing passe releve facing the barre, still scared to do it with one hand at barre (and of course in center). However, I’m not longer using the death grip at the barre when doing 1 foot passe releves or the chasses to releve arabesque (side note: why do the chasses to releve arabesque feel much less terrifying than the passe releves? I mean, they’re both a rise up on one foot from two). I’m feeling patient with myself, I mean back when I first started ballet I practiced passe releve facing the wall every day for about six months before I attempted it with only one hand on it, both for lack of strength and fear reasons. So why should I assume that my progress en pointe should be any faster?

Since there’s a mixture of levels in the class, when the newer beginners work on tendu, close, passe releve in center I do that combination near the barre (so I can use the barre for the passe releve part), and then when we do the more beg-int combination I come out to center and do the single leg rises or pirouettes on demi, two leg rises en pointe. This week we did tombe (in efface line) pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot, pirouette en dedans, soutenu, chasse into chaines. I substituted the soutenu with sous-sus en pointe, because even though I can do the half-soutenu to switch sides at the barre (detourne?) with no hands, I still haven’t figured out how to do the full revolution soutenu while en pointe. I asked Teacher about this last class, and she said that the hardest part is the sous-sus, so if I’ve got that part I’m good to go, so we’ll see how it goes next time I practice. For now, it’s like half soutenu and half bourre turn…

I  continued with the chaines en pointe along the barre. They’re starting to feel much less scary, thankfully. I was thinking about how when I first started learning chaines, I would put my hands on my shoulders and just slowly do half turn and pause , gradually speeding it up as I improved. It suddenly struck me that if I can hold a balance in first position up en pointe then I should be able to slowly start working on chaines off the barre, using a similar approach. I don’t want to feel like I’ve become too dependent on the barre after all.

During pique passes at the barre (to prepare for pique turns), one of my classmates mentioned that I was making it harder on myself by traveling out too far. I told her that yea, it feels like I’m pole-vaulting, but if I don’t go out that far I feel like I will slide on the tip of my box instead of getting over it. I asked Teacher about it and she said to think of it as pushing off my second leg to get up there quicker and  to also think of pointing my toes more of my landing foot so I don’t feel like I have to launch myself out as far to get over the box. I will work on applying those corrections in the coming week.

This week, I actually kept the pointe shoes on for the jumps and petit allegro parts of class. I was surprised to find out that sautes and changements are not any more difficult while wearing pointe shoes. If anything, I was really liking seeing my pointed feet in the mirror. Petit allegro was glissade (right), jete, glissade (left), jete, pas de bourre (left), pas de chat (right), entrechat, royalle, other side. As I’ve mentioned many times, beated jumps are hard for me, but I think I’m starting to feel a little more confident about them. By that I mean that I’m actually attempting them mid-combination, as opposed to just taking the easier route (substituting changment for royalle or soubresaut for entrchat). One correction I got was to close my glissade a little quicker. I think I’m struggling with this because all the times I practiced glissades I would go really slow to really feel like I was pointing my second foot, and when I try to speed it up my second leg kind of drags behind a little. Doing glissade jete over and over quickly while wearing pointe shoes makes me feel like I’m tap dancing…

We  did temps leve (saute arabesque) chasse, temps leve, chasse, repeat all the way across the studio while alternating legs. Then we incorporated ballet run and grand jete into it. I took off my pointe shoes before that last part because I just wasn’t up to running and grand jete-ing while wearing the shiny, slippery shoes (though I did leave them on for one go across the floor of temps leves and chasses). However, one day when we had a slightly shorter class I technically kept the shoes on the entire class all the way through reverance (which, by the way, was lovely: cambre forward in croisse, come up and cambre back with the arm closest to the barre up, chasse backward to tendu devant, bend towards the pointed foot as you extend the arm the length of the leg, step forwards into B+ and curtsey, ronde de jambe the back leg around to do the same to the other side). I did feel like I’m getting over my mental block of keeping the shoes on for the whole class.

This week I also had the opportunity to do lots of practicing on my own – and with a ballet friend – at school. I worked on pique turns and chaines with my slippers on (since during class I’m usually working on the preparation to do these en pointe I don’t get to work on them on flat as much as I’d like). We also worked on pirouettes and stepover pique turns. I haven’t been doing pirouttes in my soft shoes lately because I’ve been wearing the pointe shoes (and turning in demi pointe), and that may have been a factor in my pirouettes suddenly coming out way better! As in, holding a balance after instead of falling out of them, actually attempting a double just by spotting without using extra force (I made it about 1 3/4), going from one side to the other consecutively. I don’t know if the improvement is from working with pointe shoes (even if on demi point) causing me to be more hyperaware of technique and that translates to stronger pirouettes, or getting over the fear of attempting pirouttes in flat shoes since they’re scarier – or supposed to be – in pointe shoes (even on demi point, just because of the satin being slippery) and I’ve in theory attempted them, so if anything I’m doing something that should be less difficult.

I ran through one of the variations I’m working on (a simplified version of Swanilda’s variation from the first act of Coppelia – when she’s trying to get the doll’s attention) a few times, as I’m trying to make sure my stamina’s up to par. In general, the variation’s going ok, but I’m still feeling a little clumsy on those pas de bourres en dessous and en dessus. Other than that I’m pleased that I have memorized it already, just need to clean it up, possibly speed up those turns…

After that, we put on some music and then just improvised and randomly danced around. It was so much fun! I love ballet improvising, and having a large space to play with. Confession: I couldn’t resist putting my pointe shoes back on and dancing around with them a little bit. I didn’t do anything crazy that I hadn’t done previously, and did lots of stuff on demi point (because all I’m doing en pointe in center is bourres, two-legged balances and echappes to second) but it was so surreal to look in the mirror and see that I was dancing in pointe shoes. I mean, seriously, when I got these I was already thinking that it was ok if I didn’t get to fully dance with them, I was just going to enjoy my eleves and feeling so lifted. And I had never really planned on going en pointe – honestly, when I decided to start ballet I didn’t even think of it as an option, I just wanted to do a beautiful barre routine with my slippers and call it a day. Dancing in the center, was still nowhere in sight for a long time. I’m so happy I didn’t quit back then, when everything about ballet seemed impossible.

(readers, sorry for the long post length… Just saw the word count and was like :0

Week 3: Ambivalent

To be completely honest, this past week didn’t have the same yay-everything-is-awesome-in-ballet-land feeling that the previous couple weeks had. That’s ok, plateaus are to be expected; perhaps they will help me appreciate the times of great improvement even more. But that’s not it, not really… I mean, I did improve at some things this week, after all, but… I don’t know… I feel somewhat unsatisfied, I guess, for lack of a better word (I’m sure there’s a word for what I’m feeling, I just don’t happen to know it, haha). I’m sure this is just a low mood, so I’m working my way through it regardless.

Actually, just writing that down helped me better articulate what I’m feeling (which I will now share, uncensored): I’m frustrated. Frustrated because I’m aware that I hold myself back; frustrated because I have low expectations for myself, because then – if I keep my goals low – I won’t have to face much disappointment (and won’t grow as much either, on the downside); frustrated because though I’m willing to work hard and put in time and effort, I hate pain and discomfort and am not willing to do things that will result in these, or similar, feelings; frustrated because even though I know that these thoughts are erroneous and counterproductive, I can’t seem to stop thinking them, wondering what was I thinking, why do I bother, why try if I know I’m going to fail, if I’m always  going to lose, simply because that’s what I’m used to, been used to all my life, and it’s too late to change the script now. (or IS it?…)

Yeah, some dark, low thoughts indeed… but I’m not going to lie – sometimes not everything is happy and cheerful. Sigh. We’ll get through this as we always do.

It’s kind of dumb, but I think part of the reason I’m in this mood is because the room I use to practice at my school was not available this past week, so I didn’t get to do any extracurricular dancing. Some of the happiest times I have involve just me and my headphones, working my way though a variation or crafting my own choreographies. I mean, the creative process for me begins at home, and I do walk through different segments of my dances at my home studio space, but even though it’s great for marking the choreography and nitpicking details, there’s no room to actually dance full out, using all of the space. I think I need my actual dancing time to calm my inner turmoil. It doesn’t  help that the weather’s been sucking, making it impossible to go for a long relaxing walk, or work in my garden.

Anyway.

This week I continue to wear the pointe shoes at barre. That fondue up to sous-sus from last week seemed much less scary. I don’t remember if I’d specified, but that was from a fondue devant, the kind where the supporting leg is bent and the working leg is off the floor out to the front. This week I added in a sous-sus from a fondue derriere and it was much less scary. Don’t know if it’s because I’m getting used to it or because it’s easier less difficult from this position. There was also a single leg rise up from either arabesque or a degage devant position (it was after our rond de jambe combination, so from arabesque after going en dehors, and from the devant position after going en dedans) and I was too scared to rise up to pointe, instead just going up to demi-point. So then I tried it with both hands on the barre and it still felt like a bit much. I do think I’m strong enough, but I’m pretty terrified.

The first time I took class during the week went along as normal, with me switching out to slippers after barre. But then Teacher said how about we left our pointe shoes on for center and do the center combinations near the barre, so we can use it to assist with the more difficult parts. These difficult parts turned out to be a pique sous-sus (in the combination it was a soutenu, but she said to substitute it with a pique sous-sus), and a chasse to releve (on pointe) arabesque then pas de bourre. The first day attempting this I was able to do it all to the right side, but to the left I was too scared to do the chasse to releve arabesque, only rising to demi. The next day I pulled on my (metaphorical) big girl panties and made myself do it.

Then the class did chaines across the floor and Teacher had us do them on pointe at the wall barre. It was scary at first, then awkward, then just slightly uncomfortable in that pressure-on-the-toes way. I also did some chaines off the barre while wearing the pointe shoes but just going up to demi pointe (I guess my shoes are broken in enough to do this now, but I do wonder if doing stuff in demi point  in them will break them down faster?). When the class worked on pique turns across the floor I did pique passe releves along the wall barre. Once again, to the right side it felt much more secure than to the left (like a crazy discrepancy – to the right it felt like I’ve been doing this forever, to the left I was terrified). It’s funny, up until very recently I would have said that without a shadow of a doubt my left foot is stronger, after all I balance much better on it on flat and demi point with soft shoes, do better promenades on it and everything. And my right foot was the one I messed up in a car accident years ago (though the left ankle was the one I sprained when I very gracefully fell down the stairs) But pointe work has shown that it is actually my right side which is much stronger, weird.

Then we worked on pirouettes, and since I still had my pointe shoes on I attempted to do some on demi point (because there was no way I was going to try a pirouette en pointe at this, umm, point in time. Perhaps I should have been working on just rising up to pointe in passe at the wall barre at this time). To my surprise, I found that pirouettes on demi point feel much more stable for me in pointe shoes than flat slippers. Not only that, balancing on demi point in general felt more stable with the pointe shoes. I guess I’ve officially decided that once these shoes die I will deshank them and wear them to class sometimes instead of my soft slippers.

Then it was time for sautes and petit allegro (chagement x2, echappe, glissade, assemble, pas de chat, coupe, pas de bourre, other side) which meant it was time to take off the pointes. I mean, I think Teacher would have let me leave them on, but I think I have some sort of mental block at the idea of doing the whole class en pointe (even though, who are we kidding, I was either using the barre to help me or only going up to demi, so it’s not like I was really doing the class en pointe, just merely wearing pointe shoes…).

But we all gotta start somewhere, right? To be honest, I never thought I would be doing this much with the pointe shoes already by this point in time (I would have been content with just doing eleves, releves, and sous-sus at the barre for the next six months or so – there’s those low expectations I mentioned earlier…). It’s been exactly one month to the day since I first slipped the shoes on. I remember on the way home from the dance store, Husband asked me if I thought it was going to be like starting from scratch as a brand-new beginner again and I said ‘Maybe, but I hope not. But if it is, it’s ok.’  Well, one month into it, I’d say that it’s not like starting from scratch, but at the same time I can see how my fears of trying new things rear their ugly heads. For example, even though I’ve been practicing it with just one finger from each hand resting lightly on the barre (so not much support), I get quite scared of springing up to sous-sus or releve in 1st with no hands. I feel like I need to go through the motions of it thousands of times on my own before I can do it confidently in class in front of everyone. In class there’s not enough time to repetitively work on the same thing, so this is something I need to put some time into on my own.

On the positive side, I did meet my goal of doing a half soutenu on pointe with no hands this week, I even did some away from the barre after working on springing up to sous-sus with no barre. I did not meet my goal of bringing my feet up to coupe with no barre, but I did let go of the barre while up in retire on pointe, so maybe we can consider that goal halfway met? I continue working on my bourres with no barre while doing port de bras. I know for an upcoming goal I would like to do echappes with no barre, but I don’t believe I’m ready yet. Perhaps then for now my goal for the week will be to improve on that chasse up to releve arabesque, and springing up to pointe on one foot.

As far as non-pointe work, this week I really concentrated on working on glissade assemble. To the right I’m not bad at this sequence, but to the left it feels sloppy. So after class I went over it repeatedly, both sides just back and forth, and I’m feeling much more confident about it. We worked on chasse, saute arabesque across the floor and I got a correction on not losing my turnout, so I will be paying more attention to that. Also, after class I worked on these pas de bourres that we would do in Int/Adv class last session, the kind where you plie your supporting leg and the working leg kind of degages out a la seconde, then it comes in to sous-sus (the pas de bourre part), and the other leg then degages out to seconde as your supporting leg plies. I think F Teacher called them pas de bourre en dessus and en desous. Anyway, ever since I slowed the steps down I feel like I’ve been improving on them, because at the speed we would do them in Int/Adv class I was mostly just flailing around and trying to not fall behind (thankfully, not trying to not fall, period). I guess I should just be grateful for that.

I think I’ll end this post now, before it becomes a novel…

Week 2: Testing Out My Comfort Zone

As anticipated, class increased in difficulty for the second week of the session. Nothing too extreme – we’re still firmly in Beginner territory – but enough for me to be glad that this isn’t my first ballet session ever. My learning  curve is flatter than that…

I wore pointe shoes for barre for all the classes, which did prove a bit challenging because of the increasing difficulty pushing me out of my comfort zone (which previously was working on two feet). Barre included a fondue devant up to sous-sus – yes, a releve on one foot. I was approaching it cautiously, which besides being incorrect also made it harder. It was my first attempts at releve, not eleve, on one leg. The first day we worked on it I was hesitant and, honestly, a little scared, but by the second class doing this I was feeling more confident. For now, my right supporting foot seems to be stronger.

We were also working on soutenu at the barre when changing sides. This was also new to me en pointe, and a little scary at first but once I got the hang of it I just kept going up into sous-sus, doing a soutenu to the other side, coming down, and doing the same thing again. Yes, it is that fun, I promise. Balancing in 1st, 2nd, and sous-sus, on point is sometimes easier than other times (and easier towards the end of barre once I have my alignment completely sorted out). Definitely not comfortable letting go of the barre completely for echappe releves yet, but I am discovering the perfect amount of force needed to spring up to pointe without it being a jump up. I love the end of the grand battement combination because  when we turn for the other side after the three grand battements en croix everytime we changed direction we would do two quick changements, and when we changed directions it was like changement-changement-sous-sus-soutenu and it was so fun. (I’m pretty sure that was a run on sentence, but but it was out of excitement…)

At the end of last week I set a goal that I would do some bourres en pointe off the barre this week. Initially letting go of the barre was a little scary (is there a theme here?) but I got over it and did some bourres with pretty arms (mostly swan arms, but also going through the positions). Been doing that after barre every day. I also did a completely spontaneous promenade in attitude while wearing my pointe shoes and that amused me. My goal for this week will be to pick up each foot up to coupe while on pointe without the barre. And – maybe this too ambitious, but what the heck – to do the barre soutenu to the other side with no hands. I’d like to clarify that for goals I don’t set any that I think will be unsafe, just a little out of my comfort zone (meaning I’m strong enough to, but just being a baby).

For across the floor we had a couple new combinations (walk x4, passe balance on flat, developpe devant, walk x2, pique arabesque, plie, pas de bourre), including a waltz combo that included a pirouette en dehors from fifth for the more difficult version. Pirouettes from fifth suck for me, so I wasn’t feeling too confident by then. But then in the back I was able to do some pirouttes en dehors from fourth in which I even stayed balanced on releve after making the turn. Then we did chaines across the floor, and I (re)discovered that it’s even harder to do just chaines across the whole studio than to do them in a combination because it’s more of them in a row.

For jumps we did changement x4, echappe x2, changement x4, pas de chat, coupe, pas de bourre, soubresaut. Teacher then changed the final jump to entrechat, and once again, there went my confidence. Ugh, beats are still something that have much to improve on. I did get a correction on front leg losing the turnout when landing, so I have a concrete thing to pay attention to.

Across the floor we did chasse gallops x4, ballet run, grand jete. While I am by no means great at grand jetes, I’ve noticed that they’re not as awful as they used to be (especially with my right leg in front). There’s hope yet…

 

Like A Ballet Brainteaser

Now that we’re about a third of the way through the session,the difficulty has really picked up in Int/Adv and Intermediate. Well, I guess in Beginner too – I always get extremely sweaty in that class, working on technique at this excrutiatingly slow speed. And by now I feel that whatever strength I lost in the inter-session period I have regained (I want to say ‘and then some!’)

In Int/Adv though, the tempo is usually rather quick, both in barre and center. Lately, F Teacher has had us do diferent variations on the 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1 theme. One of them was still facing the barre, but  afterwards we did three quick degages in first, followed by flexing the foot and quickly beating/closing fifth in front, back and front, then temps lie and then the other side. Yeah, so I may have been  a bit lost on that one, hoping we’ll repeat it in another class…

The other version we did was not facing the barre, and it was 8 degages devant, taking the full 8 counts for the arm to arrive in high fifth, then 8 degages a la second with the arm taking 8 counts to get there, 8 derriere with the arm slowly going to arabesque, then a la seconde, and then repeat the whole thing with 4 degages, then 2, then 1, then soutenu for the other side. The first time F Teacher had us try it, it was so fast that most of us were all over the place. So then she picked us a slower piece of music, and it started to become do-able but still really hard.

Another brainteaser-ish aspect is changing facings at the barre. For example, after our four on dehors rond de jambes (with port de bras so the arm takes the four rond de jambe’s worth of  time to make the transistion through all the positions), with each rond de jambe we pivot, so that at the end of the first one we’re facing away from the barre, then after the second on we’re facing the opposite side, after the third we’re facing the barre, and by the time we close the fourth one we’re facing the way we were. These are challenging not only because of the changing facings/instability aspect, but also timing it so that we’re facing the next direction as the rond de jambe closes. And, of course, going the right way since we do these en dedans as well, with the pivots taking us the opposite direction… I mean, it took me about a year and a half to realize that the slow port de bras follows the same direction as the quick rond de jambes, so yeah… (at my most paranoid times, I imagine some of those quick-natural-dancer-people coming across my blog by coincidence, and reading confessions like these while snickering at my slowness and seeming ineptitude…)

Center has also been getting progressively more difficult (but so much fun; I hate to sound like I’m bragging or gloating, but center – even center in a difficult class – has stopped being the time of class to dread, quite the opposite), with combinations including several direction changes of travel, a quicker tempo overall (both during the combinations themselves, amd also the way we very quickly switch groups from one to the next – picture those company class videos on youtube, that quick) and a variety of turns in even the first combination. Here’s an example of one such combination: 2 tendus croisse devant, 1 tendu efface devant, 1 tendu ecarte, fouette to arabesque, chasse to arabesque, coupe back foot, then bring it up to attitude and promenade to other side, allonge, sous-sus, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, pivot, pirouette en dedans, repeat with degages instead of tendus, and attitude pirouette for pirouette en dedans, other side.

Waltz combinations are a little trickier. They usually start with waltz en tournant and balancés, then F Teacher changes it up every class. One time it was a series of pique arabesques in a circle, followed by pique turns and a series of chaines. To the right we marked it as a class several times before breaking into groups of three, to the left we didn’t mark. It started out alright, but once we got into the pique arabesques it seemed we each went a different way and chaos occured.

We also do piroeutte drills, including one when we’re supposed to do pirouettes continuously/consecutively while the music plays (supposed to prepare us for fouette en tournant, I believe F Teacher said). These are hard but they take out some of my overthinking associated with pirouettes, at least some of the time. They’re from fith, which besides being more difficult, helps me to work on bringing my retire foot to the front of my knee (lately I’ve noticed that on pirouettes from fourth sometimes I get lazy about bringing my foot all the way to the front instead of (incorrectly) in the back).

In Intermediate class, the combinations are less complex, but it does help bridge the gap between Beginner and Intermediate. We’ll do tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette, repeat, or balance, balance, tombe, pas de bourre, repeat. Also our passe releve, pirouette and promenade combination for strength. However, sometimes things get a little more dificult. Lately we’ve been working on fouette (not en tournant …yet… hopefully not for some time, I don’t think I’m ready yet…) across the floor. It goes something like, step, step, fouette saute, step, step, fouette saute, repeat, all the way across the floor. I’ve gotten over the fear factor, but my coordination is still off and I get confused which way I’m going.

Speaking of getting over the fear factor, I did some beated jumps! Mostly royalles, entrechats are still harder for me. I attempt them, but my feet end up not-so-pointed in there. F Teacher said we should have our  entrechats by this level, but I clearly don’t. I’m going for it more though, so I do feel like I’m (slowly) improving. As for the royalles, it’s much harder for me when the left leg is in front, so I’m still trying to figure out if it’s a strength discrepancy from left to right issue. Perhaps I need to work the left side more at the barre at home with some quick footwork exercises? I’ve been working on my left side as it is. Lately I’ve been taking a spot at the barre in class where I can see myself in the mirror for the second side (left), because I feel like if I have the mirror to answer to it makes me really work hard. There’s also the advantage that since we usually face the mirror when marking the combination, by being on that side I get to work that side just a little more. I can see how always marking on the same side can contribute to one side becoming much stronger than the other.

 

Since Last Time…

It’s been a few weeks (I think?) since I wrote any class notes, but there’s actually been stuff to write down, just busy-ness combined with a healthy dose of blogging apathy. Anyway, since I last wrote some class notes I have:

Actually consistently landed some pirouettes en dehors, both from fifth and fourth (and then noticed and psyched mysel out…). Yeah, I was surprised, en dehors is not my best kind, but as a whole I am feeling much more confident about them. My en dedans pirouettes – the kind that feel easier for me – have been pretty much reliable… hope that didn’t jinx it…

Then I landed some  prouettes in attitude (en dedans). Still though, they’re a mystery to me – the ones I’ve landed have felt purely by chance – although I did look up on youtube the Kathryn Morgan tutorial for these. They’re hard, however, arabesque pirouettes are harder…

I’ve gotten really comfortable with en dehors promenades (I’m used to going en dedans, so now I can do both), possibly because of this little combination from Intermediate: (tendu a la seconde, close in plie, passe releve)x2,  (tendu a la seconde, close in plie, promenade en dehors)x2, (tendu a la seconde, close in plie, pirouette en dehors)x2. All on the same side  – often twice thru – before doing the other side, major strength building there.

We also do a similar combination, but for 1/4,1/2 and full pirouettes instead. And I got happy when I realized that this means I can do at least 16 consecutive full releves on one leg in center. Sometimes at barre (especially in Int/Adv class), on one of those ultralong single leg balances on releve, after the third combination or so of having to do this I feel like I just can’t anymore and I feel like I’ll never be strong enough, so to be able to find the strength to do that in center is just like… incredible. I still remember when I couldn’t even do one single leg releve at the barre (never mind center). When ever I tell people in person they don’t believe me – “But you’re so strong!” – and that annoys me a bit. I feel like I need to hold on to my identity of the-girl-that-started-off-weak-and-terrible, and I’m still working out my issues on that. I don’t see a resolution to that anytime soon though…

My waltz en tournant has gotten much more fluid, especially at hyperspeed or doubletime or what ever it’s called (the tempo we do in Int/Adv class). I’ve grown to really love waltzing.

It hasn’t been all improvement and such, of course.  Apparently gotten into the (bad) habit of opening up too much when I tendue a la second, like my hips are no longer square to the front. Two different teachers have corrected me on this in the past week, so it means I need to pay some serious attention to this.

Ballet running still sucks. I don’t quite mean the slow, somewhat dreamy run off at the end of the combination with the windmill arms, but this quick, almost urgent kind of run, the kind that leads to a pique arabesque or sous-sus mid-cimbination. Don’t know how else to describe it…the Best Dancer Girl in Int/Adv class (the one that was rude to me a while back) does it perfectly, but she’s ridiculously good. There’s a lot of great dancers in that class, but she just takes it to a different level. I’m doing that thing when you learn from someone despite not liking the person, because I think having someone in class who is at a really high level can be really educational. Of course, this is Int/Adv class; in Beginner I think it would  make the atmosphere kind of intimidating.

My futile attemps at dancing continue in hip hop class. I had to miss a class at the beginning of the week because I wasn’t feeling well, and when I returned for the next class I was hopelessly lost (new combo every week). I do like that H Teacher allows us to videotape the combination, so I’m planning on learning them on my own at home (if I find some time that’s not allocated to ballet!).

I’m also still a really slow learner, despite the fact that I can remember longer combinations now in ballet. I still need to go over certain parts of choreography over and over, dozens of times, in slow motion until I can attempt it at anything approximating normal tempo (more on that later). Also – and I found this out in Pilates, not ballet, but it definitely applies as well – I’m distressingly bad at following without some sort of visual or physical cue. What I mean is, when the teacher gives a combination or directions, if they demonstrate it it’s ok, or if I’m able to mark it (preferably with my feet, but I can deal with that obnoxious hand marking if needed) it’s much better. But if it’s 100% verbal, I kinda… I don’t want to say zone out, but yeah…either that or I’m trying to make sense of it, and I can’t so I have to make a little video of it in my head to try to understand and then I’m behind. Once something’s in my muscle memory it’s not such an issue, but mostly when learning new things. I can’t say that I like this about myself…but whatever. The way I see it, at least I’ve figured out a way that works for me (as opposed to not being able to do it at all), so I’m not going to feel bad that I don’t learn the exact same way as everyone else. I’m just going to enjoy the dancing.

So yeah, in order to learn my choreography (contemporary ballet) for the school show and be able to actually pull it off, I need to practice – a lot. The other day, one of my classmates made a comment, something along the lines of ‘Must be nice – at least you have lots of time to practice, some of us don’t’ or something like that, but I felt I could detect some passive-aggresive tones in there. It made me upset, to be honest. I mean, it’s not like I tell people ‘must be nice to have had parents that put you in dance as a kid’ or ‘at least you got to dance when you were young’ or ‘must be nice to get stuff quickly and be so strong without working at it’ or anything else indicating bitterness about the diferences between us. I don’t know, perhaps I’m being hypersensitive, but I really dislike it when people make it out as though my situation (as far as dancing goes) is somehow perfect. I mean, I started ballet for the first time as few months before I turned 30, and it was such an uphill struggle, still is much of the time.

But apparently I decided I valued it enough to prioritize it above other things (I have no social life to speak off – but then evenif I didn’t have dance I probably still wouldn’t), and yes, I practice, I watch videos repeatedly searching or all the subtleties, I obsess. It may seem contradictory, writing it here publically and all, but I feel like it’s no one’s place to judge me on the amount of practicing I do or the amount of energy I devote to dancing, they should just focus on themselves. Boyfriend makes me feel better when I rant to him though; he says ‘they’re just jealous because their hobby’s not really ballet – it’s buying oufits to wear to ballet class – and they’re mad you actually practice and improve!’  That sounded like a cheap shot, but sometimes I get really upset when someone says something ignorant to me and I don’t stand up or myself.  I should work on that…

 

How’s This For A Funny Story

So, I drove myself to my regular school, with my black leotard pink tights “uniform” and plenty of time to spare, and I was so excited and happy that classes were starting up again and – surprise! – turns out I got the date wrong  and classes won’t resume for another week! Although I’d been looking forward to taking class in “uniform” again, I took myself to New Studio instead, where we had quite an challenging class.

My extension was back! After that last class the week before with the mediocre extensions, I was happy to have it back. Don’t know if it’s related, but I did give myself a nice long Pilates and Yoga session at home before class, which was out of the norm – and the day before the bad extension day I’d been cooped up in the car for hours, But yeah, in class I felt both well-stretched and strong.

A challenging extension combination we did was rond de jambes a terre, lift to rond de jambe en lair, from derriere position leg goes to passe, then developpe a la seconde (don’t remember the rest, i was too busy being happy my extension was back, it may have been the combination with a penchee, bring it up to attitude derriere and balance, or the one with failli, pas de bourre en tournant, other side ). then fondues to releve front, side back, bring leg to a la seconde, to retire and back out four counts up on releve the whole time, plie on supporting leg while keeping working leg en l’air, soutenu, other side. I really started to feel both my supporting and working leg by this point, for sure. And that was before the really slow fondues up to releve, with more of holding the leg out in extension while up on releve after doing at least 6 consecutive fondues per side.

Center was intense. We jumped a lot – 32 sloooow changements, with a sous-sus balance every eight counts, then sautes in first, second, echappes from fifth to fouth, second, and fouth, and changements, twice, at regular speed. 32 pas de chats, changing directions every fourth one, which is way harder than it looks, if for the slipping factor alone. We did a combination that included a jump called a gargouillade which appears to be (to my undeducated eyes), of course(a pas de chat while doing little rond de jambes in the air with both legs. Despite looking hard, it was actually really fun to do  attempt and I started running into the problem of … laughing. It reminded me of when I was a kid at school, someone else would do something funny (or dumb, probably, looking back) and I would get the giggle fits and not be able to quiet down long after then initial set off had happened, therefore getting in myself in trouble. This was reminding me off that because I just kept cracking up everytime we got to that point in the combination. It just looked hilarious in the mirror and it felt funny, and the whole time I was amused that I could even do a crappy attempt instead of just freezing up like I used to, or tripping over or something. I don’t think I’m much a fan of the step even while done correctly, after seeing it on youtube.

We also did tombe, pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors, en dedans, repeat. My pirouettes still remain my weakest point in center. While it does feel discouraging, at the same time I don’t mind because I know these things take time, sometimes lots of time. I mean, breaking it down to all the parts of a pirouette – I was too weak to even go up on releve on one leg at the barre until I’d been down ballet for maybe 8-9 months (and at the time still couldn’t balance on releve on two feet for any length of time ), and I’m pretty sure I wrote on here back sometime in late Fall 2014 about the first time I went up in passe releve in center, and barely about 3 months ago I had my first good barre releve retire balance (and I have not really been abl to replicate it), so yeah, these things take time. I am patient… it’s weird because I actually struggle with being patient quite a bit in other areas of life, but with ballet it feels different. Perhaps because I’ve improved so much at ballet in other areas that I know it’s at least possible to get better. I don’t think I expected to get “good” when I started, but I hoped to get to a level that I could participate in center without immediately losing my balance. At the time even that seemed unbelievable and far off, but I’ve gotten there at least. That helps me convince myself that some day when I least expect it pirouettes will become no big deal, but for now I just practice without expecting too much results.

The other classes I took were more on the basic beginner level, so mostly working on technique fo plies and tendues. I’m happy to notice that my grand plies, especially in first, have really been getting deeper. I wish I knew what exactly I did differently to improve or get stronger though, because it appears to be one of those things that did improve when I least expected. I was not happy to note that during grand plies in fourth I have a tendency to lean forward. Sometimes my torso just feels so heavy. Sigh.

Anyway, ballet classes at my regular school should return this week – this time for reals – and I think I’ll be doing Intermediate level as well as Beginner, so we’ll see how I hold up.