Tag Archives: turnout

Is It ‘Cause Of The Turnout?

Because I just don’t get it! Having tried out more styles of dance now, I still can’t understand why practically every dancer I personally know claims that out of all the dance forms ballet is the most difficult. I mean, do they mean ‘difficult to do well’? To make it look like it’s supposed to? For people who are naturals at dancing to pick up? Or to do at all (as in, without resulting in bodily injury…)?

(Notice that by no means am I saying that ballet is anything short of extremely difficult. I’m saying that I don’t see how every other genre of dance is presumed to be less difficult or less taxing on the body.)

Well, regardless, I’m not seeing/feeling it…

Recently I auditioned for my school’s next production (multi genre, some ballet pieces). Even though I was only interested in ballet as far as performing, I let some of my classmates talk me into the idea of staying for the whole thing. ‘It’ll be fun!’ they said. ‘It’ll look more ‘professional’ I thought, letting my age show (haha).

The audition started with ballet (luckily, though I didn’t know it yet). We were given a simple, beginner-2-ish level combination (something like ballet walk, pique arabesque, faille, pas de bourre, pas de chat, soutenu, glissade, sous-sus, bourre, soutenu, chasse to arabesque finish), the kind of thing I could sort of do sloppily a year ago, almost do two years ago, and didn’t dream of doing three years ago. The nervousness I’d felt over the audition sort of melted away, and I found myself able to remember the combination pretty well. We went over it a few times as a large group, then split off to do it in groups. We didn’t even have to do the left side  which made this easier than the audition i did last year.

Regardless, many of the auditioning dancers were grumbling. I heard mutterings of ‘This is so hard!’ and ‘I don’t get this’. I assume they were there to audition for one of the other genres?

Anyway, the next lady comes out to give us the combination for the Modern part, and I guess I should have taken the fact that she was wearing knee pads as a sign. She has us start kneeling and I’d say 75% of the choreography involved either kneeling, scooting around on our knees, or rolling on to the shoulders on the floor. Not only that, it was really hard for me to remember the choreography, with the steps being unfamiliar and yes, I did end up reverting to freaking out over why I can’t do the combination instead of focusing on remembering. Around this time I started considering the possibility of sneaking out the back door quietly…

And it’s not that I dislike Modern. I took Modern last year for two sessions, but to be fair I specifically chose to take M Teacher, who only does about maybe 15% floorwork at most (not counting warm up/conditioning). This style of Modern was different. It wasincredibly hard on my body, and I found it difficult to pick up steps/moves (are they called steps when you’re only the floor and there’s no literal stepping going on?) because they seemed to blend into each other, like the roll on the floor that becomes a different kind of roll but at some point the legs swithched so you can use the back leg to push off, and roll some more, andI get lost. Oh, and there was no tempo given – we were supposed to go at our own speed while this recording of static and spoken word played.

After this was what I presume was jazz. The first half of the combination – the part when we were upright – was really quick, but after we’d gone over it a few times I found it really fun. But it was too good to be true, because  then came extremely quick floorwork. It was even worse than the Modern. There was this fall onto the side that looked terrifying, then some rolling on the floor and jump back up only to fall to the floor again, several times. Everyone seemed to not be struggling though, like during the ballet portion. I was starting to feel inadequate, like when I was new, like an impostor dancer, Also, everything hurt. I ended up sitting out the last time we went over it.  Couldn’t wait to get home and collapse in the couch and ice whatever needed to be iced – which at that point was looking like a full ice bath. I wondered if my dismal performance in the other genres had affected my audition for the ballet parts . Hoped that it hadn’t all been for nothing – because I’d have to disagree with the classmate that said It’d be fun… (Yes, I did get into the ballet portion. However, it’s contemporary ballet, so still out of my comfort zone. I’m keeping an optimistic attitude about it…)

I mentioned last time, I’ve also been taking a hip hop class. That, too, is incredibly difficult. If I had started off there instead of ballet I know I would have had a hard time. I mean I get it that the vibe is about a million times more relaxed than in ballet class, but the dancing itself is not easy. H Teacher is very specific about the placement and movement quality, and there’s so many things to think about at once, much like in ballet. At this point I’m mostly still focusing on getting the feet where they need to be, and occasionally the arms – usually a count or two behind. On some days I’m undoubtedly the worst dancer in there, but I still manage to have fun. This may have to do with the laidback vibe or maybe it’s because I don’t love it like I do ballet. Who knows?

As far as ballet, I’ve been taking Int/Adv class with F Teacher, Beginner with G Teacher, and Intermediate with A Teacher, Int/Adv class is predictably very challenging. We do some center combinations in two group, one more advanced, one more do-able. I’m doing so much better as far as remembering combinations, but my petit allegro is nowhere near allegro enough for the faster group. In Beginner class we’re mostly working up a sweat with the super slow tendus, working on technique. Intermediate class is fun because it’s at that  level that fits in between a beginner class and intermediate that I’ve taken before (though the barre work is considerably quicker and more complex than center).

I haven’t been writing on here much lately. I could say “I’ve been dancing all the time I could be writing” – and it’d be somewhat true, I’m dancing up to 6 hours some days – but that’s not it, not the whole truth at least. Part of it is that I feel I have to censor myself, or that I can’t give out details at times because I may be identified. And also, I’ve realized that some of the difficulties I’ve been facing would apply regardless of what activity I’m doing, as long as it’s not a solitary one. Rather than writing about ballet class I feel like I would have been just writing about my inadequate social development, anxiety, unrelatable worries,, and issues – and by ‘writing’ I mean whining, just whining and whining without ever doing anything about it. That ties back into the feeling like I have to censor myself part…like it’s ok to admit to the internet that just how much I sucked at ballet, but it’s not ok to admit that I think I suck at being a person…and how much…

Well, that’s a rather low note to end this on, but I’m starting to ramble and I’m tired. But yeah, I’ll write some more when I can do “cheerful” a little better.



Summer Session Summary

Alternate title: What I Did On My Summer Vacation (ahhh, memories)

Even though I didn’t have much time to write about it while it was going on but a weekly little summary, my ballet summer session was pretty awesome. I learned so much and I really feel that my dancing has really progressed. It was Beginner level, but I do feel that I needed to fill up gaps in my technique in order to be better prepared for Intermediate, should I decide to take it again (and who are we kidding – I probably will).

Here’s probably the most important thing I learned: When you actually use your technique to the fullest – believe it or not – it gets easier (there is a catch though – you have to actually have enough strength in  your muscles to begin with to be able to physically do it. Back when I started, I was so weak that I couldn’t physically do a lot of things that feel like second nature now). If I’m actually holding my turnout and pulling up and not tilting my pelvis (and staying untilted at the pelvis has a huge impact on turnout) I have an extremely higher likelyhood of not losing my balance. My problems with balancing before were partly (at least – I’d say mostly, but there is that little issue of my weight distribution and center of gravity) caused by the fact that I kept losing my turnout and not pulling up. Of course, back then I wasn’t strong enough to even stand up completely straight, let along pull up, so yeah…

But anyway, I’m much stronger now, so when I remember to fully use my technique – and I’m hoping that writing this down will serve as a reminder – it results in much better dancing. I think the promenades issue is a clear example of this. Back a few months ago, I would start feeling like I was going to tip over anyway, so might as well just let it go. But now I’ve realized that when I feel like I’m going to lose my balance is a great time to pull up even more, and not let my leg drop! Same with the turnout, if I feel like I’m off balance I need to check myself and see if I’m actually holding my turnout and not bending my knees when they should be straight. Also, another thing G Teacher would constantly remind me of was having the weight on the toes not the heels – he said if the weight is on the toes I would not wobble. I really took his advice while rehearsing my dance and it was true – the change was obvious and I feel like my dancing improved so much. I’d always heard that when you rest back on your heels you’re “heavier” and therefore slower, but it was one of those things that you have to be strong enough to be able to do it first.

Another thing that helped me extremely: The turnout exercise we did (super slow (16 count) rond de jambes en l’air with a flexed foot, from fifth,  four counts devant, four counts to a la seconde, four counts to derriere, four to close on right working leg en dehors, then left working leg en dehors, left working leg en dedans, right en dedans, and repeat the whole thing with supporting leg in plie) did much to help me with my balance and stability, but also with my confidence level. In the start of the session, I liked the execise because I could really see it helping with strengthening my supporting leg and my hip flexors and rotators of my working leg, so that was all good. But then G Teacher said he wanted me to do it with my hands off the barre. At first it was very wobbly, and I thought I would lose my balance, so I held my hands very near to the barre, just in case. But by the last two weeks of the session it was like ‘I’m going to do this!’, and I held my arms confidently in second the whole time… and I didn’t fall off balance. Not even when G Teacher would come around with corrections (usually involving turning out more my supporting leg while in plie). And every day, after completing the exercise successfully my confidence would grow. By the end of the session, if he had said ‘do it in center!’ I think I could have! (well, I have at home, but you know how it seems easier to do stuff when everybody’s not staring…at least for me…)

I will say that this exercise in particular – sans barre – has the power to wring sweat from my body more than any exercise I’ve ever done. By the end of it every time I was dripping and ready to remove the warm ups, looking like I just stepped out of a sauna. So this will be a good exercise to remember this winter when i need a way to raise up the old body temperature!

Something I really liked was that I got a lot of attention from the teacher (ok, that sounds horrible… let me try to explain). G Teacher was really generous with both corrections and praise. When I take a beginner level class, often times the teacher focuses more on students that are more beginner (and I can understand why, if they need the help more), and if I’m not really being watched, how will I know if I’m doing it correctly? G Teacher often said ‘Good!’ or ‘Nice!’, but he also pushed me harder and expected more from me. And, I’ve always been somewhat nerdy, so I kind of like that feeling when teachers expect more from you, i respond to it real well.

For example, the solo at the end of the session, when I first approached him I hadn’t expected that he would have me learn a real variation. I had just been checking what we were doing for the end of session so I could begin working on one of my own chorographies if I needed to (and hoping to avoid having to work in a group to create one, because that just does NOT work out for me, as I’ve found out). So I was surprised to be assigned a real choreography to learn, and I was pleased when I ran it by G Teacher and he said he was impressed (I’m trying not to think that he was impressed because he expected much less…). Also, and I think I mentioned this before, since it was a bit fast it took me stepping out of my comfort zone. While stepping out of my comfort zone scares me quite a bit, the anticipation of it, afterwards I do I feel… not just relieved, and not just somewhat incredulous, but like I’ve grown as a person (and not just as a dancer, but that too).

And, amidst the constant correction to stop tilting my pelvis (also known as sticking out my derriere), I finally asked the question I’d been dreading to ask – more like dreading to hear the answer I feared I already knew: In order to keep it from happening through muscle memory, does it mean I have to stand with my pelvis untilted even when I’m not in class or trying to stand in a balletic manner? G Teacher answered ‘yes’. Ok, so officially no more excuses – if I want to be able to access all of my turnout and maintain my stability while balancing and turning, no more tilting of the pelvis, even outside of class. Ugh, despite the fact that an untilted pelvis makes my butt look horrible and my tummy pooch (yes, even if I hold my core as tight as I can – I have stubborn flab and loose skin left over), I will have to sacrifice whatever vanity I have left for the sake of ballet. Seems like a fair trade…I guess… I hope…?

Editted to add: Can’t believe I forgot to mention this other thing, also falling under the category of confidence – going in the front row. I think during this session was the first time that I was completely ok with going up to the front row for center work without hesitating. Previously, it had been that I could do it, if the teacher told me to, but out of my own, no way. But something appears to have changed, because now I’m ok with it. I think part of it has to do with how my own classmates seemed to accept that I’m kind of an intermediate-beginner, so that helped to reinforce it to me that even though I’m the same person who couldn’t even balance on one leg long enough to lift the other foot of the floor for a milisecond, that has changed. Which sounds really bad, because I think it sounds like I’m saying that I can only define myself by how others see me? Which is not what I’m trying to say necessarily – I define myself, in my own company (which I love); in the company of others, especially others who I find intimidating, I tend to freeze up, and so their defining of me becomes the only one… perhaps that’s closer to it. I realize it might not make much sense to anyone reading, but these are some of my struggles, and not just in dance, but in life. But it does seem that through dance I’m tackling my issues, so that helps.  Anyway, I’m hoping some of this new confidence will stick around for a bit.

I’m sure there was more, but that’s all I can think of for now. Next up, my thoughts on my yoga summer session.

Turning Out(v.) vs Turnout(n.)

So, the action of turning out – engaging the hip rotator muscles to turn the legs out from the hips – and “turnout” – the degree of flexibility in someone’s hip joints – are similar concepts but not the same thing…right? I mean, someone with very flexible hips can have a bigger degree of turnout than someone with less flexible hips (say… an adult beginner…), even if the less flexible person is engaging all the correct muscles, right? And we’ve all seen that picture in Classical Ballet Technique that shows the “ideal” ballet student and their near perfect turnout, even without any prior training (or engaging of the muscles).

(If I’m totally wrong, feel free to set me straight, people)

It’s so aggravating when people (and I’m not talking about a trained ballet teacher here… just fellow students) want to measure one’s degree of turnout by how far the feet are from that perfect 180 degrees. You can’t tell me whether I am turning out or not just by my feet, not unless my entire leg is visible. And turnout that’s not coming from the hips, but rather just faked with the feet is just asking for injuries. If my hips only allow for ~110 degrees without sacrificing alignment, then that’s what I will do. I’ll continue working on strengthening my rotators, of course, and stretching, and perhaps with time those 110 degress will increase to ~120 or more. But 180 is not going to happen – and nor do I expect it to.

Besides, I read once somewhere that if you use your epaulement to its fullest, and dance, no one will be looking at your feet 🙂

End rant.

Not Too Intense-ive, Yet

This week I started my near-daily ballet session at my school that will continue for a little over a month (which we’ll call a mini-intensive – my teacher’s words). Since it’s Beginner level class and this is only the first week, it hasn’t gotten too intense yet – mainly a lot of focusing on technique and engaging all the muscles. It’s been a lot of fun though, and I’ve been loving being in class that often, not to mention the extra long length of the classes (2 hours each). Though it’s a really large class size, out teachers (F Teacher and R Teacher) have been good about getting around the room with corrections and personal attention.

Here are some highlights and combinations:

Really nice long barre. The combinations themselves are not really long though, just a lot of them, which I like. I miss going directly to the second side without stopping though. My releve balances at the barre with no hands (all two-footed) were nice and stable, even after quick releves or after 8-8-4-4-2-2-1-1-1-1, which used to tire out my legs so much that balancing was especially tricky.

When we did our rond de jambe combination at the barre, R Teacher complimented my extension in our rond de jambe en l’air, but reminded me that I need to make sure my leg stays turned out (this was my left leg, which tends to lose its turnout slightly in extension – I’m working on it).  I really like the fact that I’m getting adressed personally in corrections, because it’s so much easier for me to know what I need to focus on (which, apparently, is a lot of turnout).

In center, we did ballet walks with coordinating arm (from low fifth, up  to middle and out to second), 3 ballet walks, arabesque balance, repeat. We also did chasses to arabesque across the floor, first leaving the back foot on the floor, then holding it up in the air for a balance.

We had some nice simple tendu combinations, like tendu devant with arm up in high fifth, tendu derriere with arms (not arabesque arm, like I’m used to, but the downstage arm up in high fifth (while the upstage leg tendus derriere), with the head angled like it’s looking under the arm)plie, chasse, other side. Another day we did 2 tendus each devant, a la seconde, derriere, then  2 1/2 soutenus (one to face the back, the other back to face the front again, but not a complete revolution), other side.

Towards the end of the week, out combination was 3 ballet walks,  tendu devant croisse, tendu devant en face, tendu devant efface, fondu a terre, tombe, pas de bourre, tendu a la second, 1/2 rond de jambe to arabesque.

We did walks across the floor combined with a couple chaines, alternating the walks and the chaines.  Then we did chaines across the whole studio. The right side went ok, though I was really dizzy by the time I got to the other side of the enormous studio. The left side we did twice (don’t know if that was intentional or not, since my line accidentally went twice in one of the other across the floor combinations), and during the first time F Teacher said “Good!” (and then, of course, I lost focus and started messing up. But it was nice anyway). During the second time I was either tired or something, because by the middle of the way across the floor I was done.  I mean, I still held it together to get across, but my turns were wobbly and I was having trouble spotting. Other than this last time across my spotting was actually not too bad, so I just have to learn to do more turns in a row.

Sautes went ok. We’ve been doing the basic sautes in first, second, echappes and changements. No petit allegro yet (thankfully).

In general, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten much better at remembering combinations. Granted, the combinations we’re doing are not of the extremely long and complicated variety, but still, I’m doing much better than a few months ago. This is an area that I needed lots of improvement in, as I used to have a tendency to be too busy freaking out about what the combination entailed – and, will I fall over? – to be trying to memorize it. This may be one of those things that get easier over time, sort of on their own. Even though I feel somewhat guilty for admitting this, because I feel like I should have been doing something actively to improve, I haven’t been doing anything to improve at this. Well, other than not freaking out about it…

Other thoughts:

These classes are of the type that have a dress code and everything, and it’s been kind of nice taking class in a room full of people wearing leotards and tights. Especially since at the two other studios I go to the attire for the adult ballet classes tends towards the laid back side more than the ballet-ish – yoga pants and T-shirts being much more common than leotards and tights. Even in Intermediate class at my stricter school (where I’m taking this Beginner session), the dress code is much more lenient, and towards the end of my last session I was going along with leaving a pair of leggings on over my leotard and tights.  Sometimes I want to be in “uniform”, it makes class extra special – I mean, I dance around my kitchen in sweats everyday anyway.

Another thing, that I didn’t mention previously,  was that I was feeling high amounts of anxiety over the weekend before the ballet session started. I knew I was going to go anyway (because it’s an amazing deal that I knew I couldn’t pass up), but I was totally freaking out about … I don’t know … I guess seeing some of the same people from school, and what if the vibe of the class was too intimidating. Pretty dumb, because by now I’ve pretty much established that the Beginner class usually has a laid back group. The good news is that at some point I recognized that I was being irrational. I still didn’t know what to do about it, but then I started playing with my hair and put it up in a silly hairstyle, then imagined going to class like that, and the reactions I would get. That seemed to take the intimidation out of it, and by the time the first class came about I was feeling much less anxious.  I think I’m going to try that one whenever I start freaking out.