Tag Archives: promenades

Long Time, No Write…

Wow, it’s been over a month since the last time I got around to writing on here… life’s been hectic… actually, it’s been really rough the past couple of months, for personal (non-ballet related) reasons. Immersing myself in ballet has kept me sane; so grateful to have something positive to focus my energy on when things around me  seem to be falling apart. It hasn’t been all bad – many wonderful things, both ballet-related and not – have happened, but I’ve also suffered a terrible loss in my family…and I’m still dealing with the very stressful aftermath. I’m still not at the point  that I’m able to discuss it calmly, so I won’t be getting into it on here yet.

Back to discussing ballet…

Good things:

I’ve gotten much better  at remembering combinations, pirouettes are much less scary, and overall I feel more comfortable and balanced.

On the bad side, my turnout still sucks. It’s called  starting ballet for the first time ever when you were almost 30… I will continue to work on the feeling of being turned out – engaging the deep hip rotators – but will I ever have 180 turnout? I’m not betting on it.

Combinations (that I remember):

developpe devant crosse, plie on single leg, tombe into attitude derriere, close. Repeat to a la seconde and derriere, then in a lunge do a circular port de bras/cambre. Then another day we did the same combination, except added on promenades after each of the tombes (one in attitude derriere, a la second, and attitude devant). My promenades have improved so much! This was a big goal for me last year, so I’m feeling so accomplished haha.

developpe a la seconde, fouette to arabesque, fouette back to facing front, promenade a full 180 turn en dehors with the leg extended a la seconde(!), plie supporting leg and pas de bourree, tombe, pas de bourree to the other side, and repeat the whole combination to the other side. Did I mention this was in Beginner class?! What a challenge to promenade with the leg  out in second! I noticed a tendency at first for the leg to come in, somewhere between a la seconde and devant, as I was about halfway through the promenade. But when I applied the correction of using opposition and ‘leading with the leg’, as well as having the leg carry it’s own weight, it became more possible. Fun, even.

in my other beginner classes, the ones I do pointe during, I’ve been feeling pretty challenged, We do plenty of single leg releves (from fifth to retire) in the center, as well as 1/4 (which I attempt, but definitely don’t feel comfortable with yet), 1/2 and full pirouettes (both of these which I don’t attempt yet – I am cautious when doing newer things en pointe away from the barre. I don’t know if what I would call it is “fear” necessarily, it doesn’t feel like the same feeling as back when I started and I was terrified away from the barre. Perhaps it’s just a lack of comfort, or familiarity). I’ve gotten comfortable with pas de bourre en pointe and balancé, pique arabesque, soutenus, as well as chaines, but only to the right on the chaines. I attempt them to the left too, but those need more work….way more work…

A couple of firsts – I took my first jazz class and a booty barre class (I’m aware booty barre is not a dance class, but I was curious and the place I work at lets me take any class for free, so why not). Jazz was so much fun! I’m so glad I let one of my friends convince me to go. My ballet training definitely came in handy, because we did a lot of turning and going across the floor. It was so fun to just pirouette without constantly being corrected on your turnout, haha. At the same time it was challenging because there was a lot more, umm, dancing without being told specifically what to do. I would definitely take jazz class again.   Booty Barre was not a dance class, but there were some hints of ballet  thrown in there as well. I found myself using epaulement when doing the exercises, haha. And the ladies were impressed by how far up I could battement my leg.  I had a blast, but my glutes were burning waaay more than they usually do after ballet… probably means I should regularly attend for the workout.

Our performances are coming up, so I’m a little nervous about that. This year I’m actually doing a solo up on stage (not on pointe, just had to clarify), as well as several small group dances and lots of corps. Actually, all of my performing is on flat, which is kind of a bummer, but what you gonna do…

Until next time, hopefully not too long…

2016 – My Year In Review

Wow, what a year! Perhaps not the best ever for me, but it’s up there. Definitely the best since I started ballet, thought there were some rough patches. Contrasts – it wouldn’t be good without the bad, beauty without the  beast the ugly. But altogether, I am content, I am happy.

Looking back over my last two Year Review posts (something about the end of the year puts me in a reminiscing kind of mood), I almost feel like I have nothing new to say.  In 2014 I started ballet-blogging, and even though I’d been doing ballet for  a year then, it was around then when it had started to make sense, rather than just being repetition for strength building sake. 2015 was the year that I went from 2 – maybe, rarely, 3 – classes a week to 5 or 6 and showed much improvement. It was also my first time perfoming, my first year having lots of fun dancing instead of just trying to stay on my feet. Compared to that, it seems like now it’s just more of the same.

Wait, I did just get those pointe shoes last week…like I said, it’s like I almost don’t have anything new to say…(oh my gosh, I love my new shoes so much!!!)…let’s see what this year will hold, but I will say that the last couple of weeks have been fun.

Anyway, this year I did two different “official” shows with my school, as well as more than a handful (seven, to be exact) of performances for the class (which don’t count as a show to me, but they’re an excellent opportunity to get a video). Of those, 4 were choreographed by me, of the others 2 were based on existing choreographies on youtube and one was a collaboration.

I started hip hop dance, and discovered that I am absolutely terrible at it. As terrible as when I started ballet (except that at least I’m not falling over constantly), and while it was awkward, I had lots of fun. Still dreaming about making that fusion choreography – maybe this next year (ok, perhaps that’s too ambitious, even for me, but hey, sometimes you really do got to dream big and be surprised.)

In ballet class, I continued to work on my technique, as well as my artistry (oh gosh, that almost sounds so pompous… like I’m taking myself too seriously… next I’ll be saying I’m an artist). While I’ve learned to keep my head up, I continue to struggle with what my teachers call my “external focus” – apparently I have a tendency to go into my own head instead of focusing on something there in the room. This will be something that I will continue to work on this coming year. I’m not expecting it to be easy, but I have a feeling that my troubles with spotting are related to this, so if I ever want to have any hope of multiple turns (and not just by using excessive force) I better get on that.

Speaking of multiple turns, this year I did my first double pirouette n dehors. Sadly, although I did more than one that day, it was an isolated incident. Refer to spotting issue mentioned above…

I have steadily been improving though. My balances on releve on one foot have gotten longer and more frequent, My jumps off one leg have become  more powerful. I keep up more and more in petit allegro (until we get to those sissones en croix, then I lose it). And the promenade in attitude with allonge up to releve – possibly the step I struggled with the most last year – finally became a reality (in fact, developpe devant, cloche to attitude derriere, promenade in attitude, allonge in releve has become one of my go-to sequences.

On the not-so-improved side of things, my beated jumps still don’t have much of a beat to them. And then, there was that time when I quit ballet for a couple weeks last spring – that was definitely the low point of the year for me.

My skill level has gotten to the point that I can pinpoint what I’m doing wrong, and how to fix it (at least in theory; whether I can actually fix it in practice with my current strength level is another story). But I keep working on it – like I’ve said before, I believe in practice, repetition, and muscle memory. Just to clarify though, I don’t simply practice for the sake of improving, but because dancing (paricularly ballet, since I am a mess in all other styles of dance I’ve tried) makes me feel so alive. Why wouldn’t I want to do it all the time? As someone who’s not, who never has been a “talented” person in life, I feel like there’s finally something that I can be proud of, something that I’ve poured my effort, my heart, my soul into and gotten results. Sure, I’m not “good” compared  to a pro, (or a pre-pro)  but I’m good for myself, and that’s enough for me.

On the not-dance-but-still-movement side of things, this year I became a certified Pilates instructor. While my passion remains ballet, pilates has been such a huge help in this process; without pilates I would never have come this far. So I hope to share some of my enthusiasm for both of these things in the coming year.

So, sending off the year – and looking forward to the new one – with a lovely picture taken by my little sis.

Ballet pose and a bright blue sky - my kind of day

Ballet pose and a bright blue sky – my kind of day

(I will choose to ignore that not-so-turned-out working leg and instead focus on my back, haha)

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…

 

A Mixed Week, And Headstand Progress

If I had to use one word to describe the past week, it’d be ‘inconsistent’. Not as far as my class attendance and practicing – for that I get an A for effort – but as far as my actual dancing. I’m not too worried, because by now I’ve noticed patterns and sometimes it does appear that I’m getting weaker or my dancing’ getting sloppier right before it gets better. And besides, if all my classes went super well and it was all compliments and not corrections i would start to feel like something’s off. I guess at this point in my training I need not-so-encouraging classes just as much as encouraging ones, to keep my perspective balanced.

The biggest inconsistency/disappointment this week had to do with extensions on releve. At home I’ve been doing the  Pointe Barre video (which is by far my favorite of all the youtube barre videos that I have tried, and it is really challenging. A year ago or so, when I first started to do youtube barre videos at home, I remember I was most comfortable with the Easy Barre video, and would have been so lost on this), where my favorite combination is the  adagio (developpe devant, plie, pique attitude derriere, plie, allonge, developpe a la seconde on releve, close, cambre, reverse this time developpe derriere, pique attitude devant). I actually rewind and do the combination 2 or 3 times, I love it that much. I love the fact that I can actually do this combination without feeling like I’m about to fall over, and it actually looks ok in my mirror, and I can’t help admiring my extension because it seems so unbelievable for me considering the less-than-mediocre extension capabilities I brought to ballet.

Anyway, during class we did a combination at the barre that was not similar but did involve an extension on releve. We were bringing our working foot up from coupe to passe on flat, then rising up to releve before extending a la seconde and holding it there, then back to passe and coupe derriere. For whatever reason my extension was absolutely terrible, I felt like I’d used up all my energy just going on releve. Which made no sense because I’d done the video class at home the day before and the developpe on releve had been fine. I think the part abot having to hold it out there may have had something to do with it? But either way I did feel off.

Center varied immensely from a day with only brand new beginners (we did tendus with basic port de bras, and then sautes and changements)to a day with crazy fast combinations that were close to impossible at my current level. At some point NS Teacher had us do 16 entrechats, and then we were supposed to start with the other leg in front and do 16 more and there was just no way. I don’t think I’ve ever even done one entrechat correctly, but I tried the combination anyway. It was pretty awful. The whole time I think I was doing it in half time, taking a small rest between each jump to charge up, not on purpose but because i just can’t jump that fast yet, not even with unbeaten jumps. I also wasn’t really able to fully cross on the beats, but at least my feet didn’t do some wierd flexing thing, I guess. Another combination that day was glissades with assemble battu. I’d never tried to beat my assembles, so I was unsure about how to go about it.  NS Teacher said we didn’t have to beat them, possibly noting my apprehension, but omitting the beat sort of threw off the timing.

At home, for center, I’ve finally gotten through the entire Classic Center video (except for grand allegro, because there’s just no room, I do my petit allegro and sautes on this rubber mat thing I have that I put on the carpet), being able to do all the combinations. The way I approached it was to repeat the exercises several times in each practice session, until I started to remember them (it also helps that she goes over the combination several times). Another thing that helped was that I’ve just been going up on releve retire instead of the pirouettes (so I can devote the energy spent to pirouette anxiety on remembering the combination instead).  The combination that I’d had the most difficuty remembering was the adagio, because there’s all the changes in facings and chasses and temps lies with port de bras, and honestly at first (and second, and third, and tenth…) glance those kinds of steps majorly confuse me and I have trouble remembering them until I’ve marked them many times.  I’d set the goal for myself that I wanted to get though the Classic Center video before my regular classes resumed for the Fall and I wouldn’t have much time to practice at home. I found it really fun to work on the same combination until I was able to remember it, and then actually feel like I’m dancing it, which is something that I don’t get much opportunity for during regular classes outside of the beginner level. I’m hoping this continued exposure to a more intermediate-ish kind of combination will help if/when I return to Intermediate class. I’ve also become really comfortable with promenades in attitude.

In non-ballet-related news, I have  leveled up on my headstand skills. I no longer need a doorway to walk my feet up to get into the headstand. I’d been practicing the doorwya method for the past few weeks, and finally this week I decided I felt brave enough to try it by myself (still against the wall though). I’m still not kicking up, just getting in the clasped hands and head between the arms position, and really pulling up with my core then lifting up one leg and pushing off a little but mostly just using my core. The first time I tried it I was pretty scared, but by the third or fourth day it was starting to feel very muscle memory-ish. My next goal is to be able to do it without a wall at all, but I imagine that one will take a little more time…

Also, i never got around to publishing my yoga session thoughts, and that is because it turned into a rambling mess, and I’m still not sure what I want to say on the topic (not to mention I’m torn with guilt because I get it that yoga is Good For You, but I just don’t feel as inspired to do it as I do ballet, and I hate that you-should-know-better feeling). But I do have to say that besides the headstand progress, yoga did help me improve my flexibility even more and even out the flexibility gap between my tighter and less tight side. I’ve noticed that my extensions on either side are becoming more or less comparable, although as far as strength goes I remain uneven.

 

Promenade Progress, Weird Coincidences, and Class Performance

After a slightly rough start it ended up being a great ballet week.

Possibly the biggest breakthough I had this week involved promenades. As you may remember, I’ve been complaining about falling out of promenades ever since … well, ever since I first attempted one – balancing issues, you know? In fact, when I made a ballet goals post abour six months ago, getting a clean promenade to both sides was in there (and most of the goals I wrote could be self-described as ‘unlikely’).

So, this past week NS Teacher gave us this combination: developpe devant, brush the leg through to arabesque, promenade in arabesque, penchee, promenade in attitude, allongee(sp?), other side. I was pretty nervous, but I told myself that I was going to really try it, not just give up on it about halfway through because I feel like I’m not going to be able to make it all the way around anyway. And. to my surprise, I did make it around, in both arabesque and attitude promenades and to both sides!

Then another day at another class at NS it got even more intense. We did this combination with sets of three petit battements while going down in plie (I guess fondue?) then petit battements up to retire as we straightened the supporting leg, extend leg a la seconde, fouette so the leg is in arabesque (no, not fouette en tournant, the turns from the Black Swan variation; just the facing change kind of fouette), promenade, faille through, pick up pas de bourre, repeat other side. Wow, this was a challenging combination! As NS Teacher first gave the combination I started feeling a little panicky, because, I mean, petit battements in center (!) and then following that up with promenades, that’s a lot of pulling up on that supporting leg. But I got through it again without losing my balance. I’m not saying I did the combnation perfectly or anything – I think my fouette resembled a partial rond de jambe en l’air more than anything – but still, I’m pleased with my progess on promenades.

In regular school we did a nice and long – yet slow and doable – waltz combination that was really fun because of how dance-y it felt. It was balancé right and left, then balancé front and back, this little turn that took six counts with a step that felt like half pas de bourre and half easy waltz step, then tombe, pas de bourre, pique sous-sus, soutenu, other side. One of the times we did the combination we forgot to stop after going through both sides twice and G Teacher let us keep going and the next thing we knew the music was over and we’d danced the whole thing! It was a lovely moment.

Then – coincidentally – both NS Teacher and G Teacher gave me corrections on “moving bigger”, on playing it less safe. With G Teacher it was at the barre when doing our chasse en avant and en arriere and with pique sous-sus, with NS Teacher it was also with pique sous-sus.  They both want to see me really travel, and gave me a literal little push to get me started in the right way. You know… for a while now I’ve found it a little odd when two or more teachers (especially at different schools) suddenly start giving me the same exact correction they hadn’t given me before. It’s like, do I pick up glaringly bad habits overnight that come to their attention the same day… or do ballet teachers talk amongst one another? I know that sounds unlikely (even though I do think the local ballet/dance community might be small enough that they all know each other, I think they probably have better things to do with their time than compare notes on individual students), but often times I’ll go to two different classes at different schools the same day and the two different teachers will either give out very similar exercises to the class, or have us work on the same exact things. And no, we don’t do the same things every day, or have time to do it all on the same day, which is why it seems even more coincidental. I’ve been noticing this for almost two years now, ever since I first ventured away from my main school to try out other classes. Is there like a place where teachers get their lesson plans (like, ‘this week we should work on glissades’, for example), or communicate with each other and that’s why they end up coordinating, or is it truly a coincidence?

(For the record, at my wise old age I personally believe there’s no such thing as coincidences… feel free to think I’m weird – if you didn’t already – all you want…)

This other really fun combination we did was two sissones ferme (left and right), passe releve and bring it to fourth in back, pirouette en dehors, repeat to other side. The hardest part was the pirouette, of course, but I kept up to tempo and found it enjoyable. This combination was during a class that had mostly more advanced students (I think two of them are teachers as well) and I was one of the beginners, so it was nice to keep up. And only once did I accidentaly do a glissade instead of a sissone.

The other exciting thing was that we did our small in-class performance! This one wasn’t in the real theater with real costumes and everything, just in the studio for the rest of the class, but I managed to get a video (the main downside of performing in the real theater is that there is No Filming Allowed). I did the Spanish dance from Coppelia, which was short and relatively straightforward, but very fast. When I have a choice in th matter I tend to gravitate towards slower, more adagio-like choreographies, so this was out of the comfort zone and Iiked it.  First I marked it at home to commit it to memory, then I worked on getting it up to tempo in a practice room at school. The most challenging aspect for me was the quick balancés, because the floor’s so slippery and when you’re moving that fast and the floor feels slippery it can get scary. So while practicing I made sure to keep the soles of my slippers damp (by stepping on a moist paper towel, which I save and reuse for next time) to provide more traction and that helped with the fear or slipping.

Unfortunately, when it came time to perform it instead of rehearsing, I didn’t remoisten my shoes, and of course I remembered when I was already starting the dance. It was just like a repeat of the show a couple of months ago in which I forgot part of my costume backstage and realized as soon as I stepped onstage! Luckily, I get through it, and I didn’t slip, or lose my balance, or freeze up, or any of those things that can happene while performing. I’ve watched the video a bunch of times, and besides this part where I’m carrying my arms a bit too behind in second, I’m satisfied with my perfromance. I’m not saying it’s great, but for someone who started ballet (for the first and only time)  when they were almost 30 and has only been dancing for as long as I have, I’m impressed. It’s ok to be impressed with youself, I think…

The rest of my classmates also performed their dances, and they were quite impressive too. I especially enjoyed watching the Bluebird variation, the Lilac Fairy (both from Sleeping Beauty), and Basilio’s variation from the grand pas of Don Quixote. There were also a few original short choreographies from the more beginner dancers, which were quite good. I know they don’t believe me, but I always tell my newer classmates how their dancing is really coming along. Peer support, I believe in it.

 

Down And Up

This week I’ve been feeling down – perhaps burned out or maybe just down, it’s sometimes hard for me to tell. The weather’s turned chilly and wet again, bringing with it soreness and aches. It’s one of the surest signs for me that I am getting older, when I see my decade-younger dance classmates happily skipping through the rain, not bothered by the cold and I can’t (after last year’s slip and fall in the rain, I treat the rain with respect!). One one level I don’t care; I’m doing quite well for my age (and – perhaps more importantly – for myself; certainly a decade ago I wasn’t able to do the things I can do now with my body). For a long time I was worried that I had to keep my age a secret, that if the teachers found out they would think I was a liability risk (most of my classmates at my regular school are in their late teens to very early twenties). Now I start to see the occasional older student, even much older than I, and it’s somewhat reassuring (however, these older students are usually not adult ballet beginners, but returners, and more advanced than me). But then, they usually don’t participate in the recitals and stuff, so I go back to feeling like I need to “fit in” (or at least not stand out from, too much) the younger students. Though I do have the energy to keep up (especially since it appears at a younger age one doesn’t place such a high priority on health and taking care of their body – I know I didn’t at their age…) for the dancing aspect of it, it’s exhausting in the more human interaction aspect of it (some of them act like immature brats, and it takes all of me to just metaphorically close my ears and let stuff go).

Still… things have been bothering me, so if you’ll excuse me I’m just going to whine, rant and speculate for a bit before going into abbreviated class notes.

After Beginner class, a few different more-beginner classmates have approached me to chat (thankfully, due to my introversion and anxiety, one at a time), asking me questions about ballet. Sometimes it’s clarification, like ‘how do you do pas de bourre?’ or ‘how does that center combination go again?’, stuff like that. I’m always happy to answer any questions, and the fact that they are comfortable approaching me with their questions (there’s at least three or four more advanced students than me in the class) makes me feel good. I wish when I had first been starting off there had been someone that I could have approached with questions (yes, I’m aware there’s a teacher, but when you’re too intimidated to ask the teacher, then what? Besides, F Teacher has said numerous times during class that more beginners should observe the more advanced students and ask them questions if they need to.)

I know this is a tricky subject to get into, so I’ll tread lightly, but I think it has to do with feeling comfortable with people that you can relate to. While I mostly fixate on the fact that I’m different because I’m an adult beginner, and I’m rather top heavy, those are not the only things that set me apart from the other more-advanced (or, less-beginner, I don’t know which would be the proper term) dancers in class: I’m also a woman of color and I don’t come from a priviledged background and prior to staring ballet I did not have dance training (because, trust me, starting ballet from scratch is so much more challenging than if you already have a sense of balance).  The girls that tend to approach me perhaps see me as more relatable or less intimidating? We do plenty of bonding over stories of wanting to try dance as a child and not being able to due to finances or cultural factors. I’m happy for them that they are going for their dreams now as a (young) adult, but I do feel the slightest amount of sadness over all the years I wasted doing absolutely nothing once I’d hit adulthood. Oh well, can’t do anything about that, so look forward and keep going…

Anyway, during these conversations the subject of pointe comes up. I’m completely honest with them, telling them that I did not start ballet to get to pointe, that it wasn’t something that I set as a goal. In fact, I tell them that when I started (and realized just how much I sucked at ballet) my goals were as simple as plie and tendu in center without fallling over. They usually reply with something about how I’m decent at ballet now (they say “good”, but let’s face it, I’m not good, it’s just that they’re looking at it through beginner’s eyes), and is it a goal for me now? That’s when I bring up that no, it’s not, I can’t afford it. They don’t seem to understand that it’s more than just the one-time purchase of a pair of very expensive shoes; it would involve trying different pairs until finding one that hopefully feels like I can dance in them, and all the padding and accessories to actually make it possible as I think I suffer from the dreaded longer-second-toe-than-big-toe issue. If it’s enjoyable to someone to go shopping I can see how this may sound fun, but since shopping is something that I absolutely cannot stand doing, I think I would be miserable.  I’m happy to just dance in my flat slippers.

But then, I read a stupid article that states how it’s not ballet without pointe, and how it’s every beginner ballet student’s goal to get en pointe, or else why are you even bothering. So I think, ‘good point, why do I even bother?’ It upset me enough to think ‘maybe I shouldn’t be doing ballet then – perhaps I should do modern, or jazz, or something! After all, according to know-it-alls (who perhaps are technically correct, but still) it’s not really ballet that I’m doing anyway.’ So then I started to feel even more down. I like to measure my successes (is that even a word?) by how far I’ve come from where I started, but it’s only when other people’s expectations get in the way that I feel that in effect I have accomplished nothing. I love to dance, both alone in my kitchen and during class. Can’t imagine giving up this joy that movement gives me, but perhaps I need a little break sometimes in order to miss it.

Then, last night I had a dream that I was in class with one of my teachers (who’s opinion I really respect) and she said something like ‘don’t go en pointe with your feet’ or something like that. I guess I certainly have been fixating on the subject recently…

In an unrelated – yet still ballet-related, somehow – issue, I still have lack of confidence issues. When the more beginner group finishes their center combination and the more advanced-beginners have to run out to center to do theirs, I shy away from the front row. If I may be completely honest, it’s because I worry that even if I can do the combination correctly, the fact that I don’t have this certain attitude (the mental kind, not the position) gives it away that I don’t belong there in front. But, here’s the paradoxical part (and I hope this makes sense), part of the reason I like ballet class is because it’s the only time that I am comfortable looking a certain way, like the way you almost look down your nose at your hand when in arabesque, for example. In ballet class I’m able to … I don’t know how to put it… I guess, carry myself in a way that would just be unimaginable for me in the real world, in a very snobby-looking way or something similar. I am one of the most humble, down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet, so it’s a complete change of character, like acting. I am able to do this once the music starts and I “get into character”, but before that I’m just me, and the contrasts between the two must be quite apparent. As “me” I can’t be in the front, but as the ballet-version of me I could… I realize this all makes me sound like a complete weirdo, but whatever.

I guess just be glad you don’t have annoying thoughts like this getting in the way of your life?

In Beginner class, at barre we did plies, tendus, and degages one after another, going from side to side with soutenus without resting at all in between. I like it, it really gets me warmed up. When there’s too long of a pause between the barre exercises I think it doesn’t get me warmed up quick enough, and trying to ballet while not warmed up feels very sluggish to me, like my legs are heavy (not that I attempt to ballet without being warmed up often or anything, but I’ve noticed during my own practice sessions that when I first start barre I feel almost too lazy to move much, but by degages I’m feeling like ‘yes! let’s do this!’).

Center combinations in Beginner class: 2 demi-plies, 1 grand plie, developpe devant, a la second, derriere, balance right and left, 2 pas de bourres, other side.  More basic option was just 2 demi plies, developpe devant and a la seconde, 2 pas de bourres. I remember struggling with that one when I first started –  I just couldn’t balance on one leg no matter what! It would be like, pick up foot and attempt to coupe, and I would tip over. Then  I would try again and again and would not be able to get it up to retire in order to developpe without falling over and having to bring my foot down, and by this point the group had moved on to the second  developpe and it was so embarassing because I was the only one who couldn’t do it at all. The darkest times in my personal ballet history…

In both Beginner and Intermediate we worked on turns across the floor. In Beginner it was chaines (with hands on shoulders for the more beginner students), just chaines for the more beginners, and chaines for five counts, chasse to arabesque, tendu close, prepare, and repeat all the way across for the slightly less beginner students. In Intermediate we did 3 pique turns, 1 soutenu, chasse into chaines for the remaining counts, repeat. The tempo was really fast, but I think I’ve improved a little since last time we did this. My transitions from pique turns to soutenus to chaines especially seem smoother. I still have the problem of losing my spot when I get too close to the thing I was spotting.

I can’t remember the center combination from Intermediate, but I remember it involved a lot of direction changes, like facing the left in croise and then chasse towards the right, or somehow changing facing to developpe devant to the left croise when we had been facing right. There were promenades in arabesque in there as well, and I actually got around in all of them without falling off balance – this is a first. For a while now I’d had a feeling that I can physically do it, I was just not focusing and really pulling  up, so this confirms it. After the promenade came a pas de bourre and pirouette en dehors from fifth, which I fell out of to the right, but completed to the left.

In Intermediate, we worked on sissones, sissone oueverte to be more specific, and that sucked. The combination was sissone ferme, pause in plie, 2 sissone fermes in quick succession, sissone oueverte, hold balance, sissone ouevert to the other direction, reverse.  I actually like sissone ferme (the regular kind that seem to start and end in fifth plie, even though I realize that if correctly done you land on one foot. But my brain is tricked by the optical illusion that it’s less force on my body for whatever reason so yeah…), especially a la second. To the front and especially to the back they’re still a big challenge for me – to the front my body keeps wanting to do a saute arabesque, and to the back it’s just as complete mess. But still, I enjoy them.

The other kind, the open kind, not so much. It was landing one of these that I hurt myself about six months ago, and I certaily didn’t want to repeat that.  So I approached the exercise rather cautiously, just marking until the last possible second, and closing them a bit sooner than what would be considered technically correct. Of course, that just got me plenty of individual correction from Teacher, as she thought I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do… not what I had intended – so many sissones! One of the more advanced girls who went in the group before mine kept staring at me while I was attempting to sissone correctly and it was so annoying. So I raised my hand and asked Teacher if our back leg was supposed to be bent or straight (advanced girl was bending hers) and she said ‘straight’ – probably passive-agressive of me, but this girl always looks at me like I’m stupid because I don’t have the decade or more of training that she has.

Anyway, I managed to finish out class without getting hurt this time. I don’t know if I’m actually stronger now than I was a few months ago, so I’ll continue to approach these sissones cautiously. A part of the problem is that when I do big jumps I tend to jump really big, and it’s the landing that gets me. Since I didn’t have much experience with jumping at all until I started ballet, it can be difficult for me to jump smaller (this especially gets me in trouble during petite allegro, because I want to make each jump super high and I’m instead supposed to do little quick ones. I prefer the slower tempo that the men use when they do their jumps). If I try to do a little jump I feel like I’m not using enough force to leave the ground and point my feet. Definitely something I need to work on. I think all the little prances and small jumps we do in Modern have definitely been helping in this aspect.

Since I’ve noticed that one of the issues I have is that I tend to lose my turnout when moving quickly, I’m commiting to working more on my turnout muscles. I think the key is to get to the point where I can feel when I’m engaging them, and then I’ll be able to know when I’m not. Hard to explain, but all I know is that at some point I could barely feel my lats, so it was hard for me to engage them. But ever since I began to work on strengthening them (mostly through Pilates), I’m able to feel them so clearly, and this has helped me so much with holding my balance. So I hope to get that way  with my rotator muscles. For now I’m going to do the side-lying rotating opening exercises every day (clams, with the feet on the floor, then the feet in the air, then the legs tied together with a theraband) and see how it’s going at the end of the month (I figured the start of a month would be a good time to set a workout goal).

 

Some New Things

Well, experiences, really…

In addition to my usual dance classes, this week I took a class taught by a new to me teacher (umm, let’s go with ‘G Teacher’). It was labeled a Beginner level class, but it wasn’t quite as Basic Beginner level as the Beginner class that I’m currently taking. I found it quite fun, but there were a good number of brand-new beginners who appeared lost. One of the other students was kind of helping other fellow students during class.

The barre combinations had port de bras, and it was a different one than the common beginner-level port de bras (like arm in high fifth for tendu devant, arabesque for tendu derriere, etc.). It was pretty though, I remember it involved the arm coming up straightened to the side at some point – I’m having trouble describing it, but it looked so graceful when G Teacher did it. I did a decent job of mimicking it, and the combinations were not particularly fast, so I had no trouble keeping up.

Some of the exercises were on the more challenging side, and I wish more teachers would include stuff like that in their classes. We did these ronde de jambes en l’air with a flexed foot, so that we could really feel our working leg lengthening out. Then after doing it both en dehors and en dedans with both legs, G Teacher had us do it while our supporting leg was in plie! The thighs were really feeling it then, but we were nowhere near done.

Another exercise I remember was grand battements en croix, two at regular tempo, then the third we were to hold the leg up and then slowly lower it back down. While doing port de bras, of course. So, like I said, not really at a Basic Beginner level, more like beginner 2. Good for strength building though.

Center was really fun, though definitely would have been torture previously than the past year. A combination we did was chasse to arabesque, bring the back leg up and balance in retire, promenade, tombe, pas de bouree, repeat other side. I had fun and actually got all the way around some of the times, as promenades in retire are easier for me than in attitude derierre or a arabesque.

Then we did something I’d never done before – we got in partners and we did partner-assisted promenades. Our partner had their hands lightly under our upper arms while standing  behind us,  we balanced on high releve retire, and then they slowly moved us around. It was such a strange feeling, and the discrepancy in balance from my better leg to my other one was apparent. But I liked it (especially on my good side), and would love to experience it again, and on a larger scale.

So now I’m wondering if that’s even possible. Partnering, I mean. I guess I realized that I would really like to learn partnering, but I know how unlikely that may be  – it’s not like the girl-to-guy ratio is anything smaller than 30:1. And I’m not a small girl by ballet standards which also limits the possibilities (both height-wise and amount of force needed to lift me as opposed to someone lighter). Also, the whole thing may be irrelevant, as I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do partnering who isn’t en pointe.

But it would still be nice… At home I tried to get Boyfriend to hold my hand and walk around me as I balanced in retire on releve but he wouldn’t play along. Sigh, that sounds really pathetic… but it’s the truth – it happened – and it illustrates how much I would enjoy even basic partnering without any lifts (though that too would be fun if it wasn’t a physical risk to anyone).Anyway, it was fun to get to try and experience that in this class.

Aside from that, during Intermediate class Teacher really pushed us and  I did a couple royales, and attempted the entrechats during our petite allegro. I was pretty pleased about that. Also, during Modern class, when M Teacher had us hold a balance on releve in second, she had us close our eyes to make it harder and I was actually able to hold the balance. Balances in second have always been harder for me than in first (just how in first it’s harder than sous-sus) so that was a surprise, but a nice one.