The Show Goes On
Last night, I wrote about how sometimes living with bipolar feels like walking a tightrope; how the only way to survive is to keep your eyes up and keep moving forward.
Ballet is the thing that makes me able to do that.
This morning, getting up was a complicated, but I did get up, and I made it to class.
..And I’m glad we did, as we had four new dancers (new to class, not new to ballet), all of whom were quite good, and two of whom were guys.
Barre went well except for the double-rond-de-jambe-and-frappe combination, which went badly at first because I apparently brain-dumped it right at the start. I remembered it before we started the second side, though.
I also miraculously remembered how to sissone (though my turns … oy vey … my turns) and did the assemblé-sissone-chassé-jeté combination fairly well (after the first time, during which I failed to put my working foot down between the sissone and the chassé and turned it into some kind of awkward saut de chat).
In case you’re wondering, by the way, I think the entirety of that combination went:
assemblé (à droit, R foot back, no change)
assemblé (à gauche, L foot back, no change)
assemblé (à droit)
assemblé (à gauche)
…though I may be combining it with the other petit allegro combination we did (glissade-assemblé-jeté-hold; glissade-assemblé-jeté-hold; etc) come to think of it. Regardless, it was something very much like that.
In short: not difficult, but a mild brain teaser, since you have to get the directions of your feet right and there’s a little change of direction entailed in the sissone. It was also a nice-looking combination, and one of the new girls did lovely little battus on all the jetés on our first run.
It no longer feels weird to start a combination with assemblé
There is definitely a part of me that likes to show off or something in the presence of other male dancers (particularly when they are not so much better at dancing than I am as to make me look patently ridiculous). Today, it worked — my dancing was better overall than it was at any point last week, and although my turns were a tad wild and sloppy, they weren’t as horrible as they might have been.
It’s weird (if unsurprising) how much what’s going on in your head can influence your dancing. Saturday, even before the disaster with my ear, I was tired and achy and didn’t feel like I was going to acquit myself respectably, so I didn’t.
Today, I wasn’t thinking about any of that. Instead, it was like I had a little Japanese grade-school kid from some monster-battle anime series in my head saying, “Let’s do our best!” (“Jeté battu, I choose you!”)
Bizarrely, that worked. And we got to do saut de basques, which I lurve. And my assemblé looked good — high and suspended and not afflicted with horrible kraken arms or an unnecessarily curvilinear torso. So, huzzah. I suppose once I’ve had that nailed down for a couple of weeks, I should tried to put a beat back into it.
Because we do oceans of beats in advanced class, I’m really focused on using my inner thighs during barre, closing every tendu, degagé, and jeté by pulling the inner thigh muscles together instead of pushing in with the quadriceps (as if I was pedaling a bike or something).
When one uses the inner-thigh muscles, one tends to automatically engage both, maintaining alignment and placement; likewise, getting to a solid fifth between jumps is much easier.
Think: glissade to fifth, giant plié, brush out from plié, grand assemblé, for example. The working leg is carried by the momentum of the initiating brush, then the quadriceps (and some other muscles) in the supporting leg provide the spring; both legs are collected inward by the engagement of the inner thighs; the plié tension-loads the spring again; then a second brush (from the bottom of the plié) carries the working leg out and up, the quads (and related muscles) in the supporting leg push through to activate the spring; and the inner thigh brings the second leg up to meet the working leg.
Without the collecting movement from the inner thighs, a solid fifth position is unlikely; without a solid fifth, the grand assemblé is unlikely to be as … well … grand.
When one uses the quads, the body tends to shift towards the working leg, which pulls the balance away from the ball of the supporting foot. “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold,” &c.
As in cycling, the quads should be used mostly for pushing down; you need them to give you explosive power during jumps. When you pull in, you use the inner thighs; when you lift into passé, the impulsion comes from under the thigh and buttock. Incidentally, this also prevents that thing where your leg grips itself into a horrible spasm as you développé.
All this actually makes it much easier both to keep my knees straight and to maintain my turnout. It also makes maintaining balance and placement easier. I did the first set of fast degagés sans barre (7 each way x2; then pliés to relevé), though I did take the barre for the second set, which was really, really fast.
I guess I also need to get back to focusing on carrying my upper body directly atop my hips. This really imparts a surprising amount of lightness. I found myself doing this today as a function of not trying to look like a dork in front of the new dancers, and as a result, my work at center and going across the floor looked pretty good.
Aerials should help with that, as part of the problem is an imbalance between my back muscles (those “arabesque muscles” again) which are ridiculously strong (because I have spent a ridiculous amount of time cultivating a beautiful arabesque and a lovely, controlled penché), and my core muscles, which are not as strong (because I am lazy).
In short, this is what happens when we focus more on our strengths than our weaknesses … the weaknesses get weaker. Because I’m flexible and can get into a really nice arabesque as a result, I seize every single opportunity to use my arabesque.
Need a teacup on a high shelf? Arabesque. Need to hand something to Denis when he’s standing a half-meter or so away? Arabesque. Collecting Denis’ empty glass when he’s sitting on the sofa? Arabesque penché.
But do I work my core muscles anywhere near as much?
Aerials are all about the core, though, so that will get fixed.
In other news, on the way home from class, I learned that David Bowie had died.
It was startling, in a way, because I was just listening to some of his stuff from Blackstar last night and thinking about how cool it is that he’s still creating and innovating in his late 60s.
Bowie contributed a great deal to the cultivation of popular music, and it says a great deal about his work that he will be sorely missed across several generations.
I don’t have much more to say about that right now, though. What do you say when an icon falls?
Someone I know on facebook said it best: Imagine the ticket lines in Heaven for the Bowie-Mercury reunion show!