Nine More Days

Yes, I’ve resorted to counting down the days until I’m cleared for all the things.

The problem is that I really want to do handstands for some reason. Like, right now.

Normally, when I want to do handstands, like, right now, I just do them. (Often, when this happens, it’s because I’m trying to think my way through a sticking point in my technique and my nonverbal mind thinks it’s on to something. Sometimes, though, it’s just for fun.)

I dream in grand allegro.

I may have done a few wee petit allegro jumps in my kitchen (which is far too small even for medium allegro) last night. It might have felt good.

I decided I was ready to get back to barre when I found myself doing turns in my kitchen. I don’t think I can justify doing allegro of any kind (excepting the occasional step in my kitchen) until I’m 100% cleared.

So, needless to say, I’m antsy.

But it’s only mine more days.

What I’m really antsy about, though, is being able to take a proper, fully-submerged bath. I haven’t taken any baths at all because I’m afraid I’ll just submerge everything without even thinking about it—but on the other hand I do find baths really helpful on cold mornings (and, as you may recall, we have already established that my standard for labeling a morning “cold” is fairly pathetic).

Maybe I’ll try taking a bath and mindfully not submerging myself. And, of course, if I get really antsy, I can always use one of those medical-grade wound-protector things that they make for exactly that purpose.

In other news, I’m really tempted to wear this thing:

Bondage onesie?

…to class tomorrow, just to make BW and TS giggle. I think if I do, I’ll be forced to shoot some video for posterity.

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Winter is Coming* (NSFW? IDK)

*Honestly, I have neither read the books on which the TV series A Game Of Thrones is based, nor watched the TV series itself, so for all I know I’m completely abusing this catchphrase.

But, anyway, it’s 60F today, which once upon a time would definitely not have qualified as “chilly” in my world, but then I started spending all my time in well-heated dance spaces and completely lost my cold-tolerance.

Like, I am literally wearing a fleece blanket onesie[1] over my fleece leopard warm-up pants, and my hands are still ice cold[2].

  1. Kind of like a Snuggie? Only with a zipper and leg cuffs at the bottom as well as the arm cuffs.
  2. And still I will refuse to turn the heat on until the daytime temperature is reliably in the forties farenheit.

Either way, it’s that time of year again when we begin to ponder exactly how many layers to wear to class, even though we know that in the end it’s just going to be exactly like this:

  1. By Jared Karim, via Wikimedia Commons
  2. By SureFire, via Wikimedia Commons

I feel like I’ve been waiting since roughly April for summer to end, and now that it’s over I’m like, “HECK! It’s hecking cold!”

…Like, did I expect something else, really?

On the other hand, it’s an excuse to wear ridiculous layers of junk to class in as many obnoxious color combinations as possible, drink extra coffee (to stay warm!), and eat soup.

Anyway, I’m taking a rest day today. Tomorrow I might throw myself back into Modern. We’ll see.

Also, it’s probably time to put up the rig so I can start working on stuff for Kaleidoscope at home.

Today’s Preview

We worked in the sphere a bit more today, first at about knee height, then at a more respectable height of 1.25 meters or so.

My bit of the brief duo is essentially nailed down; my partner is adjusting hers since we’re using a span-set rigging that allows her to work atop the sphere.

Got a little video and some decent still shots from there. This is one of my favorites:

This Skin-the-Cat Walkout Dismount works much better a little higher up!

This is Humid-o-We’en

So I dutifully kept my heart rate pretty moderate during tonight’s performance, but it was still so humid I finished up looking like I’d gone for a swim o.o

Dripping in the Green Room

Also, I just realized that my scars add a dimension of realism to the Sparkle Zombie get-up XD

The Greatest/Lamest Rap Non-Battle Evar

So Dorky and I discovered that our rap names (based on the formula “Young” + the most recent thing you spent money on) were A) kinda lame and B) ballet-related. Evidently, I’m Young Ballet Class and she’s Young Ballet Book.

I suggested that we could have the lamest rap battle ever. Here’s what went down:

 

Where The Girls Are

Two of my friends from the primary studio, TS and MB, joined me for BW’s class today. It was nice having them in class—I mean, I missed having BW all to myself, but they’re fun to dance with. That said, I’ll miss my men’s technique private, unofficial though it was!

BW is quite capable of teaching men’s tech to the boys even in a mixed class, though, and we’ve talked about doing an official private class now and then anyway. I will probably take advantage of that as audition season approaches. Right now, I am definitely not feeling ready, but I suspect that once I’m really back that’ll fade.

Range of motion continues to improve. Circular port de bras remains a sticking point, but I can get through it if I’m restrained in my execution (usually, I’m effusive). Cambré derrière is once again and 90 degrees with no splayed ribs or noodle neck. I continue to dance in skimpy little shirts because I can.

I’m thinking about the next phase of things—excited about getting back into grand allegro now that I won’t be fighting a compression vest. I had no idea how significantly it impacted my ability to breathe before I stuck one on just in case after class last week (to head off any possible swelling). Erm, wow?

I’m also pleased with the impact of feeling comfortable in skintight shirts: the more clearly my teachers can see my form, the better they can tune their corrections. I have a stock of tiny ballet t-shirts that I bought right before the surgery, though at the moment I’m really into tank tops. But winter is coming.

Anyway, tonight’s major corrections were the usual “chest forward” and “lock out the legs,” with a side of my barre shoulder creeping up. I caught myself doing that during grand battement, though, and applied BW’s suggestiom that I really concentrate on sending my weight down through my supporting leg. That fixed it.

Attitude balance was cracking good left but only Meh right. Also, I briefly led everyone astray during the barre adagio when I reverted to Killer B’s from Wednesday o.o

I did the centre tendu, during which BW fixed my head (he’s all about fixing my épaulement). Double turns are still very much on tap. Didn’t try for triples or quads as I think those might be too exciting. Bowed out after that and served as a human spotting target, which was fun.

That’s it for tonight. I’m pretty tired, and the next several days are packed—rehearsal, class, performance, rehearsal or class…

Cambrés: I Haz Them

Got all my cambrés back. Circular port de bras still requires a modicum of care. Forces me do it thoughtfully though.

Did the Awkward Rotator Exercise before class. L, T, & BG all took class today, too, so the boys were well-represented.

My fondus were better today, but I still had to shelve half the grand battement to keep my heart rate down.

Technical Notes: Cambré Derrière

Yesterday, I posted this picture of my “Itty Bitty[1] Cambré Committee” cambré derrière:

img_20171009_193603-1476583910.jpg

Now with 110% more Hair Floop

I shot it in our bathroom, and I wasn’t exactly attempting excellent technique[2], but I figured I’d go ahead and make an example of myself anyway.

  1. My usual cambré derrière is pretty deep—like, shoulderblades-parallel-to-floor deep, basically. This is, more techically, a really bad high release. My modern teacher would poke me in the ribs.
  2. To wit: it’s surprisingly hard, actually, to hold the mobi in one hand and execute  cambré derrière with the other arm en bas, or wherever the hell my arm actually was (maybe I left it in the other room?). I should at least have gone for what BG calls the “Margot Fonteyn,” with the free arm in a nice, languid romantic fourth.

You can’t see much of my back, here, but I can tell you based on the fact that my ribs aren’t locked down that I’m doin’ it rong.

rainbowdash-doin-it-wrong

Listen to Rainbow Dash. She knows what she’s talking about. (PS: I am now going to use this as a featured image for the rest of my Technical Notes series :D)

That said, I’m not going to focus on my back (in no small part because so little of it is visible): instead, I’m going to focus on One Weird Trick… erm, I mean, one key point about cambré back that I’m demonstrating all the way wrong, here, and that’s this:

Avoid The Dreaded Noodle Neck =:O

When you first start learning cambré back (formally: cambré derrière), your teacher will almost certainly tell you to bring your working arm to fifty-third … I mean third … I mean fifth … ah, feck it, en haut and to turn your face towards its elbow before you begin to bend your back.

This is not solely because it looks cool, though it does. In fact, turning the head towards the working arm serves a practical purpose—it’s mostly a preventive measure.

What, then, does it prevent?

Glad you asked. What it prevents, my gentle reader, is the dreaded Noodle Neck.

cambre-back-wrong-annotated

Just Can’t Even

“Noodle neck” may or may not be a technical term I laboriously translated from the Russian (шея лапшой … okay, okay, so I just ran “noodle” and “neck” through Google Translate and swapped the order because Assumptions About Grammar). Regardless, it’s a kind of “indicator species” fault that suggests a whole litany of problems further down the chain.

Simply put, it refers to the habit of letting one’s neck arch (or “crunch”) when performing the cambré back.

As you can now easily see thanks to my use of Ultra-Modern Technology[3], in the photograph above, my neck is definitely arched (Even though my head is turned! I’m talented, y’all.).

  1. AKA MSPain(t)

Instead of continuing to pull up through the crown of my head, I’m flopping languidly about like the heroine of some outdated romance novel, presumably waiting for the nobell laird to decide he’s had enough of murdering the MacAuleys and come ravage me instead. Or, um. Something like that.

Not to say languidity doesn’t have a place in the art of ballet. It totally does. If you’re not sure, the next time the Bolshoi does La Dame aux Camélias in its HD broadcast series, you should really go see it. The Bolshoi really knows how to get its languid on, and there’s a lot of opportunity for “languiding” (as a friend of mine from CirqueLouis calls it) in that particular ballet.

However! In cambré derrière, one must languid judiciously. It’s poor form to let the head dangle, and besides, it usually means you’re not really engaged all the way down (QV my embarassingly-splayed ribs).

Noodle Neck is also often a sign that one is attempting to initiate or artificially deepen one’s cambré by crunching the neck rather than lifting up through the full range of motion—which, in my experience, usually results from not actually knowing how to execute cambré derrière in the first place.

If you’re wondering what cambré derrière should actually look like, here:

cambre-back

Via Google; source sadly unidentified. Also, I’m comforted by the fact that I’m not the only one who makes that exact face during cambré derrière at the barre.

There may be some small measure of Noodle Neck happening, there, but overall it’s quite a good cambré derrière.

You’ll notice that our intrepid danseur‘s ribs aren’t sticking out like jocks at a fandom convention, and that you can draw a smooth arc from his hip through the top of his head with no precipitous drop-off near the top. There is no “crunching” at any point along the way—speaking of which, a “crunch” most often shows up in the lower back or the neck (or, distressingly, both at the same time). I, on the other hand, like to crunch at the point right where the ribs end, because I’m special.

Both BG and BW would, of course, yell at notre danseur mystérieux for letting his hips drift forward of his feet—but it’s better, in cambrés as a whole, to drift forward than backward.

Ultimately, although turning the head to look at the elbow is a useful shortcut when one is beginning to learn cambré derrière, only technique will prevent Noodle Neck.

What, then, is the technique in question?

Simple (HA! note that I did NOT say “easy”):

  • Lift
    THEN
  • Arc

You should not, at any point, cease to lift through the very tippity-top of your head (or, if you will, your “cheetah eyes“). Sure, if you’re flexible, you can do a full-on back bend just by flopping over backwards—but a floppy backbend is a recipe for injury in the long run. It also isn’t ballet.

“Lift,” by the way, is really shorthand for “Engage All The Things!”

Cambré derrière looks like it happens from the top of the head, but the engagement involved runs all the way down to the floor.

The action of lifting comes primarily from the muscles of the core. (Sadly, though mine continue to try, the eyebrows have little to do with it.) There is not, in fact, an invisible hook in the top of your head; rather, you’re technically pushing up rather than pulling up. It just looks and feels like pulling up. As such, I find it helpful to think in terms of lifting rather than pulling.

LWF describes the action of high-releases and cambrés derrières in terms of roller-coaster cars on a climb: the are lifted smoothly, each car drawing the next in its wake. All the cars remain connected, and they move together smoothly up the track.

You definitely do not want the lead car (that is, your head) to fall off the track. That’s a good way to get sued.

How, exactly, you wrangle all of this mentally in order to achieve the right process may vary—but I’ll be happy to blether on about the mental image that works for me (the one that I patently did not execute in the picture above):

  • Lift through the top of the skull whilst sending the weight down through the heels (or, if on demi-pointe, through the appropriate metatarsals and toes)
  • Lift the sternum (without letting the shoulders creep up)[4]
  • Keep lifting THROUGH THE CORE until there is nowhere to go but back
  1. Convincing the sternum to act independently of the shoulders is one of the most difficult challenges for many new dancers. Unfortunately, I have yet to figure out an effective way to explain in words exactly how to achieve this feat of human dexterity.

Because the human body is shaped the way it is, if you try to lift UP as you send your weight down, you will eventually be forced to bend your back through a smooth curve.

It’s that or tear yourself into two pieces, which never actually happens in ballet classes. Or, well … hardly ever.

So, in review, here are some things to know about cambré derrière:

  • Connect from the top of the head right down to the flooor
  • Send the weight DOWN
  • Lift the spine UP starting from the top of the head (NOT the back of the head)
  • Allow the body to carry itself over an imaginary roller-coaster climb
  • If you notice a point where you’re “crunched” in your spine, it usually reflects a point at which you’re disengaged in your core

One last note: a really deep cambré derrière demands both flexibility and strength. If you’re bendy by nature, but not particularly strong, do not be surprised if your cambré derrière is quite shallow at first.

This doesn’t mean you’ve lost your flexibility; just that you have a good teacher who allows you to take your cambré derrière only as far as you can support it correctly.

Don’t despair. Depth will come with time, as you develop the strength to support your inborn suppleness.

If, on the other hand, you’re strong but stiff, you will probably develop greater flexibility over time, but you probably won’t be surprised if your initial cambré derrière is nothing to write home about.

Dances Without Moobs: A Beginning

…Or, well, kinda dances, anyway.

As of Thursday, I began slowly settling back into class.

For all that it’s normally his job to beat me with a stick until I jump higher, BW is actually profoundly capable of imparting a really gentle barre when you need it—so Thursday we did no one-foot releve, no grand battement, no torturously-long adagio…

It was just the essence of working through the feet and the legs and the turnout, feeling placement and balance, figuring things out.

It’s funny how profoundly you feel your hips and your legs and your feet when you’re not allowed to do almost anything with your arms.

It’s also funny how freaking insanely hard it is to come up with barre combinations when your only cambré options are front (rolling up) and a tiny back, like a subtle high release (it was pretty, though). BW kept going, “Wait, that doesn’t work…” Eventually, though, he got into the groove and stopped having to pause and reset.

BW gave me the option of doing a little across-the floor, but we decided against and opted to stretch for a while instead: splits first (I was afraid I’d have lost my left split in three weeks of sitting on my butt, but I was actually able to drop right into it), then a bit of work for the turnouts.

BW had noticed (probably because he was no longer blinded by the need to octopus-wrestle my arms into shape) that he and I share a bad habit: we both have a ton of rotation in the hip, so we sometimes we get lazy about engaging all the things.

This led to the two of us lying on our backs on the floor doing a kind of clamshell-and-Theraband thing when the studio owner wandered in to grab something she’d left behind.

…Which was surprisingly awkward.

wrestling-or-pr0n

Then again, the world is an awkward place. (via Pinterest, via t3h G00gs.)

Sunday I wandered back to J’s class, where I discovered that everything feels okay with my arms en bas and first, second, second allongé, romantic fourth, and fifth. Cambré is fine to the front as long as my arms don’t drift behind my shoulders (in short: no swan dives for me, and definitely no Angry Bourne Swans); back I’ve got a little more than I had on Thursday; side is still tuggy and thus to be avoided.

img_20171009_193603-1476583910.jpg

Itty Bitty Cambre Committee (from today, rather than yesterday). Please ignore the fact that my ribs are hella splayed and that our bathroom is in chaos.

 

I stuck around for the tendu, which I did pretty well (though for some reason, my arms decided at one point to be effacé while my legs were croisé), and the adagio, which I did quite badly once because I was being tentative and then actually pretty well on the second run. Just like I haven’t lost my splits, I really haven’t lost my extension gainz either. I wasn’t trying that hard, as the goal was ultimately to keep my heart rate down, but had no problem reaching 90+ degrees even à la seconde.

I also met a really nice guy who was new to the class, but obviously not new to ballet. Have I mentioned this already? Anyway, I hope he keeps coming. There were three guys in class at the start! T had to leave right after barre, though, and I spirited myself away after the adage, leaving poor L to fend for himself. He seemed capable, though, so I’m sure he was fine.

Regardless, if the two new-dancer guys who have occasionally been to J’s class are still at it, then we have at least six guys in regular rotation in the program now. w00t!

Anyway, now begins the process of re-conditioning and easing back into my life as a dancer.

This Saturday, I’ll be performing for CirqueLouis at Jack O’Lantern Spectacular. Since I’m not cleared to get back on the silks yet, I’ll be doing some ribbon-dance stuff. Should be fun[1].

  1. This reminds me: I need to go borrow the ribbon from my bro-in-law again. I really need to get my own, but his is perfect—our basic costumes are black-and-white stripes, sometimes with red accents, and the ribbon in question is a black-and-white striped snake with a red head.

A bit ironically, I’ve never actually been to JOLS as a spectator, even though it’s supposed to be pretty cool and it’s only about a mile from my house, so I’m looking forward to finally seeing at least some of it (I don’t know yet if we get to stroll the grounds when we’re not performing, but I hope we do!).

So that’s it for now. I’m working on a long piece that I’m hoping to finish tomorrow, but between class and performing I’m not sure how much else I’ll be posting this week.

Edit:
PS: I have officially left off with the Post-Op Pasties®. I was going to wait a bit longer, but my skin was really pretty done with adhesive. There are still a few little suture-knots left over, but it turns out that they don’t snag on my shirts.

I’ll probably stick a couple of Post-Op Pasties® on during rehearsal, since rolling around in the sphere (which I’m now quite able to do) seems like a good way to snag them, though.

Further Edit:
Decided to go snap a couple of progress pix and discovered that all but the very last suture knot had fallen off. The last one was busy working itself loose, so I snipped it off with nail scissors. Et voilá—no more weird little knots.

 

One More Opinion on Surgery

For some reason, it didn’t occur to me before I had my surgery to contemplate why my surgeon suggests the particular protocol[1] that he does with healing nipples (which will now forever be immortalized as “Post-Op Pasties®”).

  1. Daily from the Great Unrapping through Post-Op Day 21: apply bacitracin, apply Xeroform, apply adhesive bandage (I’ve been using the store-brand version of the 3M Nexcare ones for the most part); after 21 days, you can discontinue the Xeroform if you like, but continue with bacitracin and band-aids for at least another 7 days.

Turns out that if you don’t do something along these lines, they tend to get all weird and scabby and freaky-looking, and wind up being a major source of (not entirely necessary) worry for guys who have this particular surgery.

Keeping them slathered in bacitracin and covered with some kind of dressing both keeps them from drying out and getting terrifyingly scabby and keeps you from having to look at them all the dang time whilst they’re busy going, “WAT EVEN HAPPEN,” which is totally how I imagine them feeling about the process of being essentially evicted from their prior residences and relocated to new ones.

ANCIENT-ALIENS

100% medically and scientifically accurate depiction of this process

Likewise, if you’re me, it keeps you from picking at the scabs, which I do compulsively.

So, in short, while the protocol is marginally time-consuming (if you consider “less than 5 minutes per day” time-consuming), I’m really glad that my doc suggests it. I had one little scabby spot on my right nipple, which has since sorted itself, and beyond that there’s just been a little occasional sloughing of dead skin when I removed my dressings.

Much better than having itchy scabs that I’d inevitably pick at, inviting infection.

So, good on Docteur Magnifique for that one, too (even though wrestling the Xeroform was a PITA because our bathroom lacks any kind of flat surface that isn’t the top of the toilet or the precarious edge of the wall-mounted sink).

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