Tag Archives: waltzing

A Pointe-less Class, Great Week, And Some Firsts

Though by no means pointless… I don’t think I’ve ever taken a pointless ballet class…always learn something new…

This past week was a little different. To start off, the night before the first class of the week after I finished resewing my ribbons on my pointe shoes, I somehow I misplaced one of my toe pads. I then searched everywhere, literally everywhere, for them, because I knew I hadn’t been outside so they had to be somewhere, but they were nowhere to be found. After combing the area repeatedly I finally resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to be able to do any pointe work the next day. Though I was disappointed, I wondered how it would feel, as it would be my first class in over a month  that I didn’t wear the pointe shoes for at least barre.

It felt…hmm how to explain…not easier, but ‘why is this not more uncomfortable?’ I guess. Like when we did an eleve in all the positions during the plies combination, I pressed up to releve and then felt ‘is that it?’, like I knew that I could press up even higher. Springing up into sous-sus to soutenu for the second side didn’t have that extra challenge that I’ve grown to like. However, when we held a balance in retire on releve, I let go of the barre and actually balanced for a good 10 seconds! I think all my attempts at balancing on one leg en pointe (I always at least attempt it) have been helping. For comparison, last fall I was a little unconfident about letting go of the barre on one-legged releve balances, though I could balance in passe releve in center.

Afterwards, I went by the dance store expecting to get the Ouch Pouch to replace my lost one, and instead got shoes (I wrote about this a couple days ago) when I found my missing pouch.  I figured I’d just saved $20, so I could apply that towards the cost of the shoes…Anyway, the rest of my classes this week were with my new shoes.

First off, these shoes feel completely different. And by different, I mean much better. From the beginning I noticed that it was much less pressure when up on only one foot en pointe. But once I used them in class I immediately noticed that I was able to balance so much easier in first and second (I usually don’t have a problem balancing in sous-sus). Though barre went well, my first day wearing these shoes I only kept  them on for barre. Since when I wear pointe shoes for center I’ve been doing one-leg rises on demi point, I didn’t think these shoes were ready.

The next day, I decided to leave them on for center. We were working on a tendu combination using facings (since it is a Beginner class, we usually just face front, except for the more intermediate options for combinations). It was 2 tendus, 1 grand battement, first croisse, then ecarte, and efface derriere with port de bras in between, passe releve bringing the back leg to the front, tombe on front leg, pas de bourre, sous-sus. It was a nice combination and I was really excited because except for the passe releve I did the whole thing en pointe! Well the parts that involved rising, the pas de bourre and the sous-sus. Good thing I’ve been practicing my pas de bourre while facing the barre over and over and then stepping away from it a few inches because there’s no way I would have just one day decided that I was confident enough to try this in center without all that preparation.

We did a waltz-y combination: balancé x2, balancé en tournant x2 (this was a different balance en tournant than what I’ve done most commonly – in this one we turn  towards the direction we’re going and it takes 2 sets of three steps to complete the turn, I’m used to turning in the opposite direction of the direction we’re going and the turn taking 3 steps. And no, this was not traveling waltz en tournant, which we did do in a different combination), tombe, pas de bourre, piroutte en dehors, repeat starting to the other side.

The traveling waltz combination was 4 waltz en tournant, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dehors, temps lie back to tendu, pirouette en dedans. It was really fun, because at this point I’m comfortable with waltz en tournant and that’s something that I wanted to get to, a medium-term goal you might say (the first time I ever tried an Intermediate class, one of the combinations had waltz en tournant, and as I fumbled and stumbled my way through I was just thinking ‘I want that!’ watching the more advanced dancers glide across the floor). Since I had my pointe shoes on, the pirouettes weren’t so great, since I only go up to demi pointe and was a little afraid of the amount of momentum I picked up.

Petit allegro was glissade, jete, pas de bourre, jete, ballote x2, pas de bourre, royalle, other side. This combination was pretty challenging for me, more so than the past few week’s combinations even though this one didn’t really change direction of travel. After the ballote I seemed to freeze for an instant before remembering the pas de bourre whereas last week’s transition to into saute arabesque seemed more fluid. I feel like I could really improve on this combination if we stuck to it for more time though. Unfortunately, since this was the last week of the session, we won’t…

We did emboites across the floor, first bringing our legs forward, then back. While my emboites to the front feel less weird, the ones to the back, just no…such an awkward movement! Well, at least it felt better than the last time I’d tried them. Then we did the forwards traveling ones and ended the last one in assemble. That was fun and the one that ended with the assemble to the right looked pretty good. To the left it looked funny…story of my ballet life LOL.

After this we did temps leve (saute arabesque), faille, pas de chat x2, and then this little skip (on the left leg if going to the right) with the other foot in coupe before repeating across the floor. I really enjoyed this combination once I got the pattern, but it frustrates me that my second leg in the pas de chat tends to lose its turnout. Then Teacher let us get in groups and make an across the floor combination with our group. We came up with saute arabesque, saute passe, saute arabesque, faille, pas de chat x2, glissade, assemble which was so fun (and of course I messed up the ending to the left).

Wrapping up the week (and session), we got the opportunity to do something I’d been  longing to try for a long time – partnering.  It’s a rare opportunity, but we actually had enough guys to attempt this (it wasn’t mandatory to participate). First we started by them hold us by the waist while standing behind us and shifting our weight forwards, backwards and to the sides. I don’t know about for my partners (I got to work with two guys!) but for me this took so much effort. Like I was engaging everything as hard as I could.  Then we faced our partners and they walked around us for a promenade. After this we first went up to passe releve to test out our balance and then we did pirouettes. With pirouettes it was tricky because our partner has to step back so we don’t knee them by accident, and then step closer to catch us for the balance at the end. With one of my partners it wasn’t really working out (he’s around my height when I’m standing completly flat, so don’t know if that was a factor), but with the other guy we got some good balances at the end of the pirouette. While it was fun, it was so hard though – I can only imagine how it’d be so tiring to do a whole pas de deux!

I’m hoping…that maybe it’s something that I don’t have to just imagine…I know it’s a more complicated goal than my usual (because all my improving-at-ballet goals just involve me) but I would really love to dance a pas de deux. I’m often reluctant to publicly express goals that I feel are highly unlikely to come true, but what the heck…what do I got to lose, you know? Before I felt even dumber about it, because I wasn’t even sure if it was something I really wanted to do, and making sure that it wasn’t just the idea of it that I liked. Just like how the first time I tried on a pair of pointe shoes I realized that this was something I really wanted to do. So yea, I guess let’s see what happens? (Yes, I feel incredibly ridiculous right now…but to be fair, before the idea of me going en pointe would have seemed ridiculous, so who knows what’s possible)

Speaking of pointe, this week I unlocked a couple of acheivements (for the longest time, Husband was such a gamer that we still talk about things in this household in terms of ‘unlocking achievements’, ‘leveling up’ and ‘spending our XP/MP points’ on different things…umm yeah, anyways): besides the pas de bourre in center that I mentioned earlier, I also got over my fear of doing a pique (specifically arabesque, but once I got going I did some into a passe traveling a la seconde) in center. While I didn’t try it, I almost felt like I could have done a pique turn, I was stepping into the pique by doing the little rond de jambe that preceedes turns and everything. I don’t know whether all my practice at the barre has been paying off or is it that my feet work so much better with these shoes. Perhaps both? I will say that with these shoes I’m able to actualy feel how my feet are pointed in the shoes as I’m up en pointe and I love the feeling. I’d read before somewhere that one should use the least amount of padding as possible to really “feel the floor”. I wonder if that is a different way of explaining the feeling that is the differnce between these new shoes and my old ones (with the built in cushions)?

And finally, some pictures if you’ve made it this far.

First my coupe derriere en pointe

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Left foot

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Right

A Picture is worth 1000 corrections…

Note to self: lower side arm! (No I'm not holding on to anything, but the angle kind of sucks)

Note to self: lower side arm – a lot! (No I’m not holding on to anything, but the angle kind of sucks)

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…

 

Variety And Variations

We had some variations as well as a lot of variety in my classes this week.The break from the usual routine was quite nice.

There was a lot of work on releve during barre this week. We did our fondues with rond de jambe en l’air combination up to releve and the grand battements en croix were on releve  as well. This was in Beginner class, and it was optional, not required for the more beginner students. I remember I used to struggle with working on releve at the barre a year ago, so I was happy to see that I was able to do it without my supporting leg feeling like it was going to give out, even after we reversed it. We’re not even halfway into the session yet, so I do wonder what new challenges there wil be in the weeks to come.

We frappes on releve in Intermediate, 3 frappes en croix then 1 beated frapped en croix, then recerse.  On my first side I could do them, sort of, but then when we turned around for the other side I felt like I was just randomly beating my leg around. So I guess for now I can do them as long as I’m facing the mirror.

In Beginner class we had a do-able across the floor combination: 2 waltz step turns, 2 balancés, tendu a la seconde, close in fifth, passe releve (optional pirouette en dehors), change facing for other side and do the whole thing to the left. It was so much fun. The more beginner version of the combination had no turn in the waltz steps. In Intermediate there was a not-so-doable waltz combination. This one had much faster waltz turns (and Teacher’s preferred port de bras throws me off a little bit, because F Teacher’s is more classical and I’m used to it), balances front and back instead of side to side, tombe, pas de bourre, pirouette en dedans, and a bunch of steps that I’m forgetting in there somewhere. I tried my best to keep up, but it was sloppy enough that Teacher suggested I not go in the front row. It was still fun though, because en dedans pirouettes are my favorite.

A different day, for center Teacher decided to teach us some variations (not for a show, just for fun). She picked out some really fast tempo ones, so it was really hard to do the variations, but I kept thinking at least I didn’t fall. Keeping the theme from the last few classes going, there was a lot of work on releve (the original variations are en pointe). My feet were so incredibly sore by the end of class. One of the variations also had stepover pique turns (lame duck turns), which I really enjoy doing (and have come a long way since I first started practicing them at home little over a year ago). While what my reflection in the mirror was doing did not look like what the more advanced students and Teacher were doing, it was so much fun!

I’ve been thinking lately about how I used to wonder a year ago how someone is supposed to cross the gap between what is taught in beginner level class and intermediate. The first time I tried intermediate I was completely lost, as some of the steps had never even been taught to me, and here they were in the middle of combinations. I thought that intermediate class was geared towards people who danced for years as a kid, not to any actual beginners who had been dancing for a couple of years. I thought I would never get to the point whre I would feel even a little comfortable there. After this additional year of taking classes, I think I was struggling with it back then because I hadn’t taken beginner class for enough sessions.By now I’ve noticed that the teacher’s teach different steps each session (since there’s not enough time for everything), but if you keep taking beginner class eventually you’ll have been introduced to all the steps that will be expected to be known for intermediate.

It’s Official: I’m Terrible At New Things

Class at New Studio was lots of fun. It’s open level, so the difficulty varies depending on who shows up that day. Everybody that showed up this last time was sort of around the same level, so we were given a nicely challenging  (by my standards) barre and center.

Highlights:

Barre combination with fondues (3 fondu devant, the first with the foot barely off the floor, the second a bit higher, the third as high as we can, bring the leg back around to arabesque, holding it at that height, tendu down and close, reverse starting with fondues derriere) that felt so pretty. I just love fondues! We’ve been working on fondues at Beginner class at my regular school too, doing a similar combination (in this case, fondu devant a terre, then off, bring leg back to arabesque, fondu in to coupe ad reverse, all facing the barre).

We did a similat echappe releve combination to the one from class a few days ago. It was echappe to fourth, close to fifth, echappe to second, close to fifth, echappe to fourth, close fifth, sous-sus, reverse. This time it went much better for me, I don’t know if it was that it wasn’t the first time we did that and I wasn’t feeling completely rusty on my echappe releves, or the fact that NS Teacher insisted that  we use the mirror as we did the combination, making sure to keep our turnout in each position.

We started center with a tendu combination (2 tendu devant in croisse, 2 tendus ecarte, 2 tendus derriere, brush leg forward, failli, pas de bourre, other side) that was really fun to do (I still get a kick out of doing basic tendu combinations because for so long – back when I kept falling over in center – I wanted  to be able to at least tendu in center and make it look pretty).

Another combination we did was 4 balancés, tombe pas de bourre, chasse, pirouette en dehors from fourth, repeat. During one of the pirouettes, I did a 1 1/2 revolution. It was weird, because I know I went around at least once, but when I came down I was facing backwards (which really sucked for getting the rest of the combination done correctly). The rest of my pirouettes sucked. We did 2 pique turns, followed by three counts of chaines, repeat, across the floor after this, and at least those went ok.

Then we did 2 waltz turns, tombe, pas de bourre, glissade, assemble, repeat across the floor. The tempo was much too fast for me – it was time for the pas de bourre around the time I was mid way through my second waltz turn – so I struggled along,but even then I’m grateful, once again, that I can do this kind of stuff without falling over, even when it doesn’t look pretty yet.

We then did cabrioles, which I’d never tried before. They look so impressive when done correctly, but my body just did not want to cooperate. When we did cabrioles to the front, my legs kept wanting to assemble instead. When we did then to the back my body just had no idea what I was trying to tell it to do. I remember when F Teacher taught it to the more advanced students a few months ago (I didn’t try it), she explained it as something like a saute arabesque, then the supporting leg comes up. But even thinking of it like that  wasn’t helping my body cooperate. None of the other girls there were amazing at cabrioles, but I was the worst one. That’s always a good reality check, lest I start thinking I’m actually good – whenever we do something brand new, I’m often the worst.

Beginner class at my regular school went well also. Just as I suspected, Annoying Girl (from last post) does keep it down when F Teacher is teaching, making it a much mre pleasant environment. Barre was a little more fast paced, with more combinations going from one side to the next without stopping (including one where we went back and forth between sides several times, and was so fun). We did ronde de jambes, piques with port de bras, and frappes. I really like F Teacher’s frappe combination for beginners, because it really focuses on foot articulation. I remember back when I first started ballet I could not keep up with it at all, so I would practice it over and over at home until it started feeling somewhat automatic – it took so much time! So I do feel a bit like a fraud standing there doing it all smoothly and confidently

For center we did tendus devant, derriere in croisse, then change to en face tendu devant, a la seconde, chasse to other side, repeat other side, then the whole thing with degage instead of tendu. Nice basic combination, so I worked on making it look as pretty as possible, with epaulement and port de bras.

We did a waltz and balancé combo across the floor, first without turning on the waltz, then with the turn. It kept throwing me off because I’m used to starting from B+, with the upstage leg stepping, and the downstage leg brushing on the first waltz, and we were instead going right to brushing with the dowstage leg from first. So even though in theory it’s easier, since my body didn’t have it in muscle memory it felt harder. This is also a perfect example of what I mean about me still being really slow at picking up new things. (But as i often find myself thinking, ‘at least by now I more or less have my balance, so things – even new things – are not as hard as they were in the beginning’).

Another fun thing we did was a 4 glissade (with alternating leg in front) and sous-sus combo. Glissades are somethign else that took me forever to get decent at (and by ‘decent’ I mean, able to hold my balance and not fall over while landing, but also being strong enough t push off from the one leg), but the thing that was confusng me about these was the switching of the leg. A previous teacher had taught me that glissades never switch legs, so I’d gotten used to that. This whole doing-things-that-are-not-in-my-muscle-memory thing continues to present a challenge to me, so I’m hoping this will make me a better dancer.

While I’ve been loving taking class this often (and my body hasn’t been complaining too much), I’ve been feeling guilty at times about aspects of doing ballet. With this frequency in classes my dance wear’s taking a beating, especially my tights, with most of my pairs getting visible runs by now. I don’t want to just get the cheapest ones I can find (in my case the Theatricals brand from Discount Dance) if they’re going to run after wearing them once -literally – but the times I got the more expensive brand (Bloch), I wasn’t too impressed with the quality and they stretched out relatively fast as well. I’d like something that lasts for a good while without needing to be replaced. So I don’t know yet what I’m going to do, but I feel guilty about all the hidden costs of dancing, I guess. I know this is probably an unpopular topic – dare I say even a taboo topic? – but it’s a reality in my dancing life, and I’m hoping by writing about it I can help sort the issue out. I may just end up switching to leggings for my non-dress-code classes,  but then I’ll miss those unbroken lines…