Modern Monday: Amazingly, Modern Is Not Ballet (Go Figure, Eh?)

So I’ve decided to stick with modern for the time being. I’ll try to add a second class in somewhere, though it may mean taking class somewhere else, with someone else, maybe, if Friday mornings just prove to be impossible.

I’m still flailing my way back into it. I felt a little better today (even though I started out with a knee I somehow tweaked whilst watching ballet, rather than whilst doing ballet) — a bit less like a cartoon character broadly approximating modern dance; a bit more like, you know, a dancer who’s adapting from one discipline to another.

There were only two of us today, so Modern T gave us both some really, really specific guidance. For me, a big part of it was a question of how I’ve been using my back, shoulders, and head. This was, in every sense, a MOAR MODERN, LESS BALLET kind of day.

I think this is particularly hard for me at this particular moment in time because, right now, I’m all about the back, shoulders, and head in ballet as well. My legs more or less know what to do with themselves most of the time, so now I’m really working on bringing the rest of like, basically everything up to speed.

As such, I spend a lot of time thinking about port de bras, epaulement, placing my back and pelvis, and all that jazz (or, well, all that ballet, since I don’t actually do jazz).

This morning I had to basically force myself to shove all of that onto the back burner and do something else entirely — or, well, all the same things, but in a completely different way. Grounding the spine, in particular, does not come easily to me (because hypermobility).

On the other hand, all of this made several of the things we did in our floorwork make a lot more physical sense, so there’s that.

This was definitely a “struggling to remember the combination” kind of day. I feel less frustrated about it than I used to, though. My experiences in ballet — in which I’ve now developed a pretty strong ability to pick up choreography on the fly — have taught me that it’ll come. I just need to get the vocabulary into my body so I can start thinking about phrases instead of just individual “words.” I was starting to get there at the end of last semester and during the Mam-Luft intensive, so I know I’ll get there again.

All in good time.

Anyway, today I’m going to go help my friend AM (whose modern:ballet ratio is the opposite of mine) with dance team auditions. She teaches and coaches at a middle school. 

Should be interesting — I haven’t been inside a middle school … well, more or less since I graduated from middle school. It’s a tough age for kids, and I think dancing is a good way to get through it.

Depending on how things shake out, I may be jumping in as assistant coach for the rest of the year. I told AM I have no idea what I’m doing, and she said, “That’s okay; even though I was on a dance team and earned 6 national titles, I don’t have any idea what I’m doing either!”

So, basically, we can be clueless idiots together, the blind leading the blind leading the … well, hormonally-challenged, socially strained, and probably also blind. Fortunately, AM is a qualified English teacher, so she at least has prior experience working with kids in this age bracket.

As for me, I have discovered that kids often like me reasonably well because I take them seriously and don’t talk down to them (in part, I suspect, because I was raised by adults who didn’t believe in treating kids as if our thoughts and dreams and so forth were less important than those of adults). I hope that’s still the case, and that I haven’t become the annoying kind of adult in the interim between the last time I interacted with kids on a regular basis and now.

Anyway, this could be interesting.

After Dance Team it’s dinner, scrape the trim on the house, and then … honestly, I can’t even remember. I should probably check the online calendar and see if I’m supposed to be dangling from the ceiling in one way or another tonight.

Tomorrow, my goal is to finish scraping and get painting, and then I’ll be going to a Flexibility & Mobility class and to Acro 2.

In other news, I’ve invented a new word (if only in my head). Linguistically, it’s a terrible one — but it’s a useful one.

The word is eyerollment. Think of epaulement, and just replace epaule- with eyeroll.

Eyerollment is, for the most part, the wrong way to use your head in ballet.

Perhaps because we’re frequently reminded that the eyes follow the hands, when we’re learning to use epaulement, often we lead the movement with our eyes — literally rolling the eyes first, and then turning the head only when the eyes can go no further.

That, my friends, is eyerollment at its worst(1).

  1. At its best, it’s something that can add a touch of character — this weekend’s Swan Lake included at least one imperious “Guardian Swan” who somehow managed to use a small degree of eyerollment to convey grace, gravity, and superiority).

The best fix I’ve found for eyerollment is to think of the eyes pushing the hand instead of the hand pulling the eyes. 

If the eyes roll  around in their sockets, they’ll lose contact with the hand and won’t be able to push it. So you keep the eyes mostly fixed and turn the head to use them to push the hand.

I wish I could remember who suggested the idea of pushing the hand instead of pulling the eyes. It works really well for me and largely prevents the host of stupid things I routinely do with my head when I forget to think about it that way.

Coincidentally, nixing the eyerollment also prevents that ridiculous thing where you go into, say, first arabesque and then just roll your eyes to look out over the extended hand. If your eyes are more or less fixed, you are forced to use your head — and, in my experience, you’re less likely to do something crazy with your head, since your eyes aren’t all over the place.

So, basically, in short, ballet is a good reason to be glad we don’t actually have eyestalks, no matter how useful they might seem.

I’m off to middle school in a few. Wish me luck!

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About asher

Me in a nutshell: Standard uptight ballet boy. Trapeze junkie. Half-baked choreographer. Budding researcher. Transit cyclist. Terrible homemaker. Getting along pretty well with bipolar disorder. Fabulous. Married to a very patient man. Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2015). Proto-foodie, but lazy about it. Cat owner ... or, should I say, cat own-ee? ... dog lover. Equestrian.

Posted on 2016/10/17, in balllet, class notes, dance, modern, teaching and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. So I missed class this evening, because of reasons (big bad ones but this isn’t the place for ’em). And guess what? Lisa decided to stream tonight’s class on the web.

  2. She’s new; I thought Donna (the redhead) was really good but then she’s reliably the class dark horse.

  3. Oh, I like eyerollment! We’ve been warned about in the summer course, but as beginners, of course we still do it. Maybe we should make an entirely new dance style out of it. There’s a dance style for hands, after all (which looks awesome), so why not eyes, too? 😀

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