Category Archives: class notes

Thursday Class: Slow Burn

I’m still playing it safe with my foot, which means still no jumping in BW’s class last night—but I think that’s actually turning into rather a good thing.

No jumping means we have tons of time for everything else, and that we can work at a borderline-glacial pace.

As a kid, this would have driven me insane. That’s half the reason it’s so good for me now.

~

For much of my life, I tacitly equated “slow” with “boring,” though I didn’t admit it even to myself.

Like many with ADHD, I am best at remaining focused when I’m moving quickly.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing—it made me a good skiier; it still makes me a good cyclist. It serves me well in the midst of grand allegro. It might be related to my tendency to stay calm in acute crises[1]. But it’s limited, and doesn’t cover so much of daily life.

  1. At least, the physically-actionable kind: I’m great when faced with a panicky horse or a bike crash, but when I locked my keys and my wallet in the car in Cincinnati with only 15% battery charge left on my phone, I rapidly descended into meltdown mode. Physical action couldn’t solve the problem at hand, and the only solution I could think of—calling D—wasn’t working. Cue utter panic.

This is one of the things medication improves. I may sweat even more than usual, but it’s worth it to be able to remain mentally engaged through a slow and repetitive exercise designed to tease out the deep and subtle essence of technique.

I suspect that BW is the kind of person who was born with that ability to reflect and synthesize. Nothing that I know about him suggests that he is, in any way, more than typically impulsive; if anything, I’d guess that he’s better at planning and implementing his plans than the average human being.

As a teacher, he’s a master of the slow burn: the exercise in which one folds and unfolds through slow tendus, fondus, ronds, and extensions, battling gravity and all the weirdness of the human body in order to maintain placement, aplombelan.

This doesn’t mean he doesn’t excel at the fast stuff as well. Last night’s class involved, among other things, a super-fast degagé-frappé that fried my brain even as it forced me to use the right muscles to close because there was literally no other possible way to make it happen. When we do petit allego, it’s light and quick, as it should be.

But I suspect that I learn the most when we’re working slowly. I come out of every single one of his classes with greater awareness of technique and of how my own body works in conjunction with technique. Nothing will make you more aware of the body mechanics required in attitude devant than finding it, then holding it for sixteen counts.

~

Last night’s class felt like a watershed, in a way: things that we’ve worked on for weeks suddenly made sense, physically and mentally, in new ways. It was like the day last year that I realized I had developed the ability to feel and activate my deep rotators with much greater precision.

As human beings, we can take many routes to learning. We can flail or inch towards transcendence. I suspect that ballet requires a bit of each. You can’t inch your way into grand allegro, for example: you just throw yourself at the target, dust yourself off, take your corrections, and adjust.

But in order to know how to adjust—in order to operate the minuscule muscles that control turnout and maintain the subtle adjustments that define placement as you soar like a lightning bolt—you must first have inched your way into the control room of your own body, taught it to do things, built those things into habits.

Last night, we worked slowly and with precision. There were no fireworks. No grand allegro. No triple turns.

Instead, there was what BW calls “medicine”—those dry, academic exercises[2] that lie at the heart of sound classical technique—and one exercise with turns and balances, and at least one really impeccable single from fourth with a fast spot.

  1. Full disclosure: I love dry, academic ballet exercises. Not everybody does. To me, they feel like playing Tetris with my own body, and those moments when I suddenly “get” it really give me a charge. That said, Adderall makes me a lot better at doing them for an entire class.

At least, it felt really impeccable. Chances are that, one year from now, I’ll remember that turn and think, “Huh, that really wasn’t so great.”

The final combination was pure medicine: tendu side with arms in second, hold, petit rond, petit rond, petit rond, hold and carry the arms through first to third without changing anything else, tendu, close back, reverse, other side.

It sounds easy; if you brute-force your way through it with no attention paid to the finer points of technique, maybe it even is easy. But when you’re thinking about everything, when you’re keeping the placement of your head and body and legs and TOES absolutely precise as you try to move only your arms (without automatically doing a petit rond or bringing your leg in), suddenly it’s not so easy anymore.

It takes a lot of a thing I’m going to call “microtechnique;” a lot of management of the tiny muscles that control placement, the awareness of which is essential if you want to dance well and for a long time.

You’d better believe that I’ll be working that one in my kitchen pretty often from here on out.

And then we stretched, and that was it.

Slow and steady, as they say, wins the race.

Wednesday Class: In Which I Haz A Confuze

This morning, I opted just to do barre. My foot is finally actually healing now that I’m being extremely conservative with it, and since I have two classes tomorrow, then classes and rehearsals Friday through Sunday, I figured it would be a good idea to take it easy today[1].

  1. For values of “take it easy” equal to “do barre in Killer Class,” which is sort of like saying, “Oh, I’m taking it easy; I’m only climbing halfway up Mount Everest.” Particularly given that barre was a full hour long this morning.

Anyway, that was probably for the best. My brain was not on its A-game today. I managed to get almost every combination wrong in new and different ways … especially our fondu, which was supposed to go like this:

balloné, balloné, jeté front front front, balloné, balloné, jete side side side, balloné, balloné, jeté back back back, fondu passé developpé, fondu passé developpé, fondu passé developpé, retiré, fondu attitude, grand rond, fondu attitude

… and then reverse all that shizzle, or something along those lines.

…but quickly turned into this:

balloné, balloné, jeté side, wait, what?! balloné, balloné, jete … side for realz, I think??? balloné, balloné, jete … what the **** am I doing with my inside leg right now??? fondu all the unfoldy legs at the wrong time all the way around, retiré, arabesque, fondu attitude side, what the actual heck am I even doing right now??????!!!!, fondu developpé and HOOOOOLD.

Barring the moments in BW’s class when I sometimes fail to actually intake the beginning of some combination because I’m busy thinking about some fine point of technique and then have nobody to follow, it has been a while since my brain so thoroughly failed at the barre.

I actually asked between sides which way we were supposed to jeté first, and then proceeded to do a completely different set of wrong things on the second side.

>____<

Sadly, I had no problem remembering the adagio and terre-a-terre, even though I didn’t do them (I was stretching and watching BG dance, since he took class with us today).

I don’t know what my problem was, and I don’t think I want to know.

Tomorrow will be better. Until then, here’s a picture of my cat being extra derpy:

20170426_135314

Pretty much how I felt during most of class.

 

Summer Heats Up!

I know I said I was probably going to do Mam-Luft’s intensive again, but it turns out I’m not.

Instead, I’m taking a four-day ballet masterclass taught by BW right here at home. Huzzah!

I’m pretty excited about that (in case you weren’t sure what I meant by “Huzzah!”). They decided to individually evaluate students for eligibility and sent me an invitation, so w00t. Makes me feel fairly decent about myself, which is good, because yesterday after class I was like I CANNOT REMEMBER COMBINATIONS AND MY FOOT HURTS.

I went to the doc today for Regularly Scheduled Maintenance and discovered that A) they can now submit my prescription for Adderall electronically, B) …but I have to pee in a cup from time to time (which was only a problem because I was kinda dehydrated, but I juuuuust managed a sufficient sample) because Regulations[1], and C) my foot looks normal on X-rays, so it’s just soft tissue BS sorting itself out at this point.

  1. …Which is fine: honestly, it’s less onerous to be a person with ADHD who has to pee in a cup once in a while than one who has to remember to request a paper prescription, remember to go get the paper prescription, NOT LOSE THE PAPER PRESCRIPTION!!!, carry it by hand to a pharmacy, then remember to go back and pick up the medication later on … yeeeeeah.

As such, though it made me sad, I didn’t jump in BW’s class tonight (nor did anyone else, since I was All By My-seeeee-eee-eeeelf again). We opted instead for another stretch-n-kvetch, in which we discussed the assertion (made by neither of us) that dancers shouldn’t stretch, to which I responded that A] some dancers shouldn’t stretch some things (hip ligaments, kids), B] but we should stretch the other things, and C] if stretching wasn’t good, cats wouldn’t do it, because let’s be real, cats only do things that are really worth doing.

House cats, anyway. The ones that don’t have to worry about hunting and whatevs. The ones that are given their due as, at very least, minor deities, &c.

Merkah-Does-Laundry

Take Mercutious T. Lawndrey-Tubbs, here. Whatever he’s doing, it’s obviously worth doing, or he wouldn’t be doing it. Also, pretty sure he’s #UpToNoGood, based on those eyeballs.

We also did lots of fondu-y things, as ever, and at center a nice adagio that began with a backwards pas de basque (or, more formally, pas de basque en arrière).

This has been a week of combinations with interesting beginnings. We did one yesterday that began waltz turn and waltz turn, devloppé croissé avant, tombé… It was starting right into the waltz turns that was the interesting bit. We don’t do that very often (more often, one encounters balancé, balancé, waltz turn and waltz turn and…).

Personally, I quite like pas de basque en arrière as a way to launch a combination. It’s at once a bit diffident (since, by the very nature of the step, you’re kind of bowing to the audience and backing away from them) but also a bit impressive, as it’s one of those steps that looks like it should probably be difficult (and, of course, you get a nice  allongé effacé moment).

BW says I am making good progress, which makes me very happy. I actually felt like a more effective dancer today, particularly at the barre, where I was much more able to notice when my shoulders were being dumb and (literally) put them back in their place.

The interesting thing about not being able to jump is that it forces me to buckle down and work harder in the other parts of class (…imagine that ._.).

Revelations at the barre today: I can now feel when I’m temps-liéing into too wide a fourth. I also figured out what it does that makes life so terrifically difficult (beyond just having to tap basically All The Mana to get back up on your leg to do turns): it turns off your turnouts (and all the other stuff that holds you together as a ballet person).

A more obvious example of the same phenomenon involves doing grand plié in second until your butt drops below your knees. The rotators and … well, basically all the muscles that aren’t the quads … say, “Feck this noise, we’re outies,” and then it’s difficult to get back up, let alone anything useful. (Meanwhile, the quads be like “AIGHT WE GOT THIS BOYS! PULLLLLLLL!”)

Turns out that when your fourth is ridiculously big (because you are a travelly go-er who likes to absorb all the space), the same basic thing can happen.

Who knew?

…People who aren’t idiots. Specifically, I’m pretty sure Mikhail Baryshnikov wasn’t constantly unspooling his rotators.

Anyway, that’s what’s what for now.

During Masterclass Week, I plan to hit up my normal morning classes, unless my foot is like SCREW YOU NO. I’m hoping I’ll be back to normal by then, though. I plan to take a week or so to rest[2] it after Orpheus.

  1. …By which I probably mean “just do barre and flat center-work,” because let’s be reals.

Anyway, here’s my Updated Summer Plan:

  • Ballet Week At Home!!!
  • Lexington Ballet Intensive
  • Possibly Pilobolus (depending on finances and stuff)

BW said the Master Class will be “Hard, but good.” Which pretty much describes most classes with him, and is what I need anyway.

Advanced Class: Armed And Dangerous  

…to myself. 

Class was mostly okay this morning. The brain was a tad slow getting started, but once it got up to speed it basically did its job. 

My arms, on the other hand (no pun intended, but jeez), were just … Argh. You know that one correction I get all the time about arabesques? 

The one where everyone be like: ASHER YOUR ARM IS BEHIND YOUR SHOULDER WTF

And I’m like: Is this better?   ____0____

And they be like: NO THAT’S EXACTLY SAME

… So, yeah. 

No wonder tours lent were so freaking hard today :/  
Skipped jumps, but then realized I’m up to jumping every other day now, which is good progress.   

Thursday: He Who Fondus, Endures(1); Friday: Grand Allegro For The Perplexed (2)

  1. This is probably sufficiently obscure to require some explanation. Basically, it’s a play on a translation of the motto on the Great Seal of the State of Connecticut, which translates literally to “He who transplanted sustains,” but “endures” is close enough).
  2. Maimonides didn’t write this, but maybe he should have.

I started a post about last night’s class, well, last night, and then I got too tired to finish it, so it’s currently a draft on my tablet and I don’t feel like going to get my tablet.

Anyway.

Last night turned into another Private Men’s Technique Class, during which I summarily discovered that one does not, in fact, have to do grand allegro to be completely exhausted at the end of Men’s Tech. BW’s gloriously murderous barre is quite demanding enough to do the job.

In a nutshell, classical men’s technique is essentially about two things: power and endurance. It can be summed up via the famous equation:

bravura=endurance*power(technique)

…What do you mean that isn’t a famous equation?

Power allows you to do the grand allegro pyrotechnics that pretty much define the vast majority of men’s variations in the classical repertoire. Your grand jeté entrelacé isn’t going to look anywhere near as impressive if it doesn’t get off the ground, and as for double tours, you can’t even do them if you don’t basically launch yourself into space. You won’t have time. Disaster (or at least an ungraceful exit) will ensue.

Endurance allows you to get though demanding variations without A) dying or B) flopping around like a distressed fish wrapped in a damp rag (you guys, this is NOT a valid way even to do fish jump). It allows you to still not drop lift your partner in the next bit of the grand pas de deux and to not collapse under your combined weight.

wait-what

You guys, why does this show up when I google “fish jump ballet?” It wasn’t even in the first page on just plain “fish jump.” WTF. And you guess what didn’t make the first page for “fish jump ballet?” THE EFFING FISH JUMP, FOR FRACK’S SAKE. Come on, Google. You had ONE job.

Power requires strength. BG mentioned to us today that we’re sort of designed around gravity, so even though the idea in classical ballet is to look like you’re defying gravity, you do it by employing gravity. Still, if you’re going to launch yourself off the floor, you need power to do it.

Your plié is all about giving yourself to gravity; loading the springs. Your launch is all about pushing down through the floor, right to the center of the earth, fir(ing) all of your guns at once (to) explode into spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace.

Nureyev-is-metal-as-hell-01

Heavy Metal Thunder, via Pinterest. (And of course it’s Nureyev. What did you expect, the Spanish inquisition?)

Endurance requires … erm … endurance. Right. Just pretend I wrote something more intelligent than “x = x.” Move along. Nothing to see here.

What I mean, really, by “endurance requires endurance” is that endurance itself is a pretty complex entity.

First, there’s cardiovascular endurance: no point in being strong enough to do all the things in the Slave variation (or Albrecht’s, or Bluebird, or…) if your heart literally explodes halfway through, or if you can’t get through it without puking because you can’t breathe.

Next, there’s muscular endurance, which I’m sure has some fancy technical name that I can’t recall right now. Basically, that’s the kind of endurance that surrounds the question, “How many times can you launch and catch your own weight (multiplied, as needed, by whatever forces apply at various points) before you have to lie down for a while?”

This is the kind of endurance that you can think of in terms of “reps to exhaustion” or “reps to failure.”

This second kind of endurance depends quite a bit on power: like, really, you need to be flat-out strong enough that the variation you’re doing doesn’t lead to failure—indeed, you may very well need to be strong enough to manage it in the context of an entire ballet.

This is, in a way, kind of like riding a mountain stage in the Tour de France. Mountains have this annoying way of being multiple kilometers in height, and involving multiple climbs, and you don’t get to stop at the top of a given climb.

The race keeps going, and so do you, until you get to the end of the stage (or until you spectacularly crash your bike and are summarily scraped into the team car). Until you get to the end of the stage, you have to keep stomping those pedals, or at any rate turning the cranks.

Most full-length classical ballets are only 2 to 3 hours long, and not a Tour-stage-esque 6 hours long (though nobody ever suggested a mere 6-hour cap to the Sun King). On the other hand, ballet never lets you sit in the peloton and just turn the cranks and recover. Not even when you’re in the corps.

Power alone will get you through a single run of a variation in isolation, but add the rest of a 2-hour ballet, and unless you have some serious endurance, you’re seriously fecked.

Last night was more about endurance than about power, though it was also about power, because holy fondu, Batman. Mostly, it was about the “reps to exhaustion” kind of endurance and the “attitude devant for a million counts” kind of endurance.

(It was also about TOES, because BW’s class is always about my toes.)

It was a “stretch your leg up to your ear, hold, fondu the supporting leg, hold, stretch, hold, drop your arm and see if you can maintain the extension for an additional million counts” kind of day(3).

  1. Regarding which, you guys: this was an exercise in “well, hey, THERE’S a thing I need to fix.” Because, seriously, I haven’t figured out how to do antigravity above about 100 degrees a côte, even though my range of motion theoretically allows for it.

My foot got achy before we made it to jumps, so we called it a night and did a stretch-n-kvetch session in which I learned that, like me, BW really can’t use cycling to cross-train for cardio. Like mine, his quads go crazy too easily.

I know I’ve said this before, but this is one of the reasons he’s such an effective teacher for me: we share some of the same Ballet Problems. One of them is being the elusive kind of unicorn that actually does pile on the muscle rather too easily.

Today, I managed to haul my hinder out of bed and make it to BG’s 10 AM class, where I found my body surprisingly willing to do things, possibly because last night we skipped jumps and stretched instead.

Because BW’s barre is usually even harder than Killer B’s barre, barre didn’t feel difficult(4). Last night we did circular port de bras in sus-sous, so when I opted to do a straight forward-then-back port de bras in sus-sous, it really didn’t feel like much of a challenge.

  1. Except for the part where I failed to acquire a significant portion of one combination because I was busy reflecting on body mechanics, and then the whole class had to start over. Sorry, guys.

This time, possibly because I didn’t take modern class in the morning first, my foot agreed to make it through the little jumps to a very nice grand allegro. That makes twice in one week, which is great.

That said, I found myself overthinking one of the transitions and, as such, screwed things up completely going left.

I did it three times to the left, though, and eventually got it more or less sorted.

Regardless, it was very much a case of, “What do I do with all these legs? Aaaaaugh!”

In fact, though, I think the combination I liked best today was a weird little petit-allegro brain-teaser that went something like:

sissone
sissone
coupé 
to slidey thing avant
assemblé

…and continued around the points of the compass counter-clockwise, though the slidey thing never traveled backwards (so I guess it skipped “south,” and just went “north-east-west-north”). The main challenge is remembering which way you did the slidey thing most recently, so you don’t do the slidey thing in the same direction twice and cause a traffic accident.

I’m sure there’s a name for the “slidey thing” somewhere in the great lexicon of ballet, as it’s a thing that occurs in choreography, but I don’t know what to call it, so my apologies there. It’s sort of a coupé-tombé to second or fourth with the trailing toe gliding  across the floor. Hard to describe, easy to do(5), and really quite pretty.

  1. YMMV. I also think renversé is easy, and apparently people disagree in droves about that. That said, I didn’t always think reversé was easy, but once I got it, I got it.

Anyway, that was class today. Very-nice-but-perplexing grand allegro; unusual and satisfying petit allegro.

Oh, also, I keep forgetting to post this video. I think I keep looking a little lost (which is terrible, given that it’s my own freaking choreography >_<), but given that I had a fever, it could have been a lot worse.

Also, that weird sort of attitude balance near the end? That is HELLA HARD on crash mats, y'all.

Killer Class: Foggy

I think I’ve figured out the source of my pervasive brain fog.

Spring is upon us, with all the flowers in bloom, and as such I’ve been taking loratadine for my allergies. I haven’t taken it in a long time, but if I remember correctly, it definitely made me feel foggy in the past (which, of course, is probably why I haven’t taken it in a long time >_<).

Anyway, I made it through Killer Class, but it took me until Grand Allegro to feel like I had any brain at all. During Grand Allegro, I managed to do Bournonville jetés without winding up on the wrong leg every damned time, so that was a big step (leap, actually … womp womp woooooommmmmmmmp) in the right direction.

I have to dash off for our Dance Team rehearsal, but figure I’d post this before I forget, because frankly right now I am forgetting ERRRTHANG.

No more Claritin for me.

Wednesday Class: Add X

Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you do algebra, even though I love algebra.

I’m talking about a different kind of “adding X.” Specifically, adding X-rolls—the modern dance kind—to improve your ballet.

Today, BG substituted for Killer B because it’s Spring Break. The unofficial topic-of-the-day was using contralateral diagonal connections to drive movement in ballet: like, thinking of your tendu front on the right beginning, more or less, from your left shoulder.

If you’re familiar with X-rolls in modern dance, this will feel very familiar.

If you’re not, here’s a nice little introduction:

Really, contralateral connectivity should feel familiar to everyone in ballet, since it’s basically just a different way of explaining ballet technique … but since nobody ever said to to me in quite that way before, I never made the (AHEM) connection, so I never really thought about it before.

X-rolls and their relatives are great for learning to feel connections between, say, the right toes and the left fingertips via the core and limbs.

When I thought about it that way at center, my tendus and turns suddenly looked lovely: present (if that makes sense), intentional, and clean. Also, my arms were far less inclined to be lazy and/or stupid.

The difference was subtle: my tendus don’t normally look bad. They just looked better. More alive. My turns, meanwhile, are usually a mixed bag: sometimes they’re beautiful; sometimes they’re just giant whirling handbaskets of WTF. Thinking about this kind of diagonal engagement made them reliably look (and feel) nice.

I’m going to have to keep working on this. I suspect that it is, for me, one of those “version update” things: an element that will move my technique from Ballet 2.0 to Ballet 3.0, or whatever I’m on now (honestly, I really wish I’d thought of this metaphor right at the start, so I could use it more effectively >.<).

I’ll also have to bring this with me to BW’s class next week (we don’t have class this week because of Spring Break).

Last week, he analyzed my turns via an exercise that went: tendu, fourth, plié, double from fourth, finish to lunge in fourth, rélèvéplié, double from fourth, finish to lunge in fourth, rélèvéplié, double from fourth, finish to lunge in fourth, rélèvéplié, and so on and so fourth forth and sorted some of the other stupid things I do when doing turns from fourth.

Stupid things like finishing in a freaking enormous lunge(1), then not bothering to pull it in a little before launching the next turn, so I’m basically forcing myself to either jump into my turn or, like, climb into my turn.

  1. My fourth likes to be a borderline lunge all the time, if it can get away with it. I have heard the phrase, “Maybe a slightly smaller fourth,” sooooooo many times…

The purpose of the rélèvé was, of course, to force me to pull myself back in. A couple of times, I just did this crazy lunge-en-rélèvé instead. What even is that?

I’m afraid that this is really why my demi-pointe is crazy strong(2). I am constantly doing insane things with it. If I stop doing them, I hope my feet won’t be like, “Oh, cool, we can relax now.”

  1. Okay, not really. What makes my demi-pointe strong is a combination of mobility and, like, actual strength. My ankles and feet are incredibly mobile, which makes it possible to get up into a super-high demi-point. The downside, of course, is that I never, ever, ever get away with half-assing my demi-point(3), even when everyone else in class does.
  2. This also goes for just straight up pointing my toes. Amongst the many reverse-printed t-shirts I need to make, there is definitely going to be one that just says TOES! I can’t get away with half-assing that, either. My point is fierce, and every single one of my teachers knows that and corrects accordingly. There are days that counts for Thursday class basically go, “And one and TOES and three and TOES and five and TOES…”(4)
  3. Come to think of it, I am officially setting a goal for myself: get through one entire class without half-assing my toe-point so BW does not develop nightmares about desperately shouting “TOES!” into a cold and uncaring universe.

This week, then, is all about the x-connection, overhead pull-downs to get the lats back in order (because my right shoulder has been all creepin’ on my ear when working left at barre lately), keeping the sternum up and the transversus abdominis engaged, and … hell, I don’t even know. That’s enough to worry about for one week.

I realized today that some of the things I’ve been working on with BW are quickly becoming habits. I think that’s the upside of doing class several times per week. I don’t have time to forget the important corrections from the previous class, and each class involves practicing them countless times.

That means—whether for better or for worse—that habits build quickly.

So there we go. For better ballet, add X.

Modern, Rehearsal, Thursday Class, Shadowy Cabal Ops

Modern today felt good. It was just me, and LF gave me a cool visualization thing to start with. We did lots of floor work and work with using weight and the head-tail connection to move through space. Very cool stuff. 

At first my legs were like, “NO. NO, NO, NO. Nope. Screw you, buddy.” I’m experiencing the kind of achy, fatiguey weirdness that I have when my hormone levels are more out of whack than usual (read: when I’m essentially running on empty), which probably explains it. Seeing an endocrinologist is definitely in the plans for … meh, some time this year. 

That said, the legs got over themselves by the of class, and I feel it was a good class overall. I finally admitted to LF that I get stressed out about remembering modern choreography, and she told me not to worry so much about it. On the last run of our final combination, I didn’t. Oddly enough, I remembered way more of it than I thought I would.

Dance Team was awesome today. They did some really good and really original work, and AS and I were really impressed. My own rehearsal also went well.  

Ballet with BW was partly a private class—one of the owners of studio was with us much of the time, but had to pop out now and then to take care of admin things. Such is running a business! 

Class was very intense—in a good way, as always. Interestingly, I got the exact same physical correction from BW tonight that Killer B me yesterday (or, well, one of them…). Obviously, my shoulders, neck, and chest are a hotbed of ballet problems right now.

I’ve realized that, too some extent, this grows out of a deeply internal focus. When I’m working hard, I to draw into myself mentally—and, it would seem, physically. I’m working on it, though!

Curiously, though, my legs had overcome the morning’s meh-ness … which is good, because I would have died of the rond de jambe combination alone, never mind the fondu and the grand battement, if my legs had continued to suck.  The fondu/adagio, in particular, was challenging: slow fondu, slow relevé, slow fondu, extend avant then fondu attitude, hold forever, extend, sus-sous, continue pattern inside leg back, etc. The pace was what made it hard—it’s that combination of precision, restrained power, and grace that makes your blood boil at adagio tempo. 

Speaking of grand battement, I realized that I haven’t been leading with the heel when closing from the back. It starts that way, then gets lazy in the last inch or two, which is no good. It makes for a lazy fifth and, over the course of the combination, works the supporting leg loose. I mentioned that to BW, and he gave me an extra set to the back only (though still finishing with plié-passé-attitude devant) to sort it.

We also did the dreaded Kneewhacker Turns, which went better than usual. Interestingly, I did whack my knee quite resoundingly once. It didn’t particularly hurt, but startled the heck out of me.  I didn’t do it again, that’s for sure 😀 And, in fact, The Kneewhacker Turns that followed were whack-free. 

At center we tendued (with turns) and then drilled double turns from fourth and second. BW had many thoughts my turns, all of which tie into problems I’ve been attempting to solve. My spot wasn’t as slow as it was the other day, except when I was being afraid of the Kneewhacker. 

I called it a night after a nice waltzy combination across the floor. My toe had started complaining a little, so I decided to take the conservative route. Little jumps Saturday, maybe, and we’ll see how it goes from there.  

After class I my fellow Bike Commuter Cabal operatives for a drink and a late supper. Ben and Jenn Folsom were in town, a rare treat for all of us. It was good to catch up with my bike peeps! 

D took one look at this and said, “No one would ever guess which one of you is a dancer!” 😀


    

Wednesday Class: Mostly Functional

I was on the fence about going to class today, as I woke up feeling foggy and congested.

I went anyway, and was glad of it, since two guys who came for a few weeks last year were in class. They’re both very good, and really quite nice. Sadly, they’re only in town for a week this time—they’re both professionals, and they spend most of their time on tour.

Either way, it was nice having them in class. They’re both good examples for me: relatively muscular guys who dance really nicely. I wanted to tell the taller of the two that he’s basically my hero right now, since he, like me, is built for big, powerful jumps, but is actually really quite good at petit allegro. He makes the small, finicky jumps look pretty freaking great.

#goals, amirite?

Fogginess notwithstanding, I found myself surprisingly able throughout barre, adagio, and turns. BW’s class has proven to be the biggest help to getting me through Killer Class: BW gives me physically demanding fondus, makes me use all my turnout, makes me get my legs up as high as I can and then hold them there, etc.

I did get weirdly woozy at one point during grand battement. I’m not sure if I was holding my breath, or if my blood pressure just dropped through the floor for no reason, but it was weird. The last time that sort of thing happened, I was definitely holding my breath during a long cambré back (in BW’s class, of course) and almost fainted. Wooooooo.

I was also not too terrible during petit allegro, although I kept blanking on a part of the third combination that should’ve been obvious.

I actually did royales without substituting entrechats. I may be the only person alive who learned entrechats before royales, and whose body thus stubbornly persists in refusing to acknowledge the existence of the royale.

It was Killer B’s demo that fixed me: I’ve been thinking of a royale as a sort of half-baked double beat (like an entrechat that’s slow to wake up, or something), but if I think of it as a squeeze-change, I don’t then end up doing an entrechat quatre and thus finish on the wrong foot.

Or, well, I don’t finish on the wrong foot unless I start on the wrong foot, which is always a possibility.

Killer B gave us a long, beautiful grand allegro. Predictably, I landed a pas de chat not terribly well (I was trying not to run into a railing at the edge of the studio), my toe started kvetching at me, and I had to stop.

Or, well, I didn’t have to stop. I could have kept going … only I’ve realized that this toe isn’t going to finish healing until I stop pissing it off all over again. Sometimes you give up the grand allegro for a bit, even though it’s the thing you really love, so you can get back to doing grand allegro without having to bail a third of the way through the nicest grand allegro combination you’ve seen in ages (there was a cabriole and everything!!!).

I thought about getting back up there and hitting the repeat on the grand allegro, but I didn’t. I think that was probably the right decision, particularly since grand allegro is really my strong suit as a dancer and I’m not really losing a great deal by sitting it out once in a while.

Anyway, it turned out to be a much better class than I expected, considering the slow start this morning. Now I’m off to dance team, then probably home for the evening. Last night I was hit with a gigantic wave of fatigue at roughly 8 PM, so between that and the fogginess and the vaguely-itchy throat (and the performance this weekend), I’m taking a conservative approach to physical stuff today.

I Just Can’t Even (Finish A Post Right Now) 

So I’m going to write a short one and just get it doon.    

After last week, during which I lacked A) higher cognitive (and any executive) functions and B) the ability to actually execute a decent pirouette, I appear to be regaining my faculties. 

The weekend was highly mediocre ballet-wise, with a really nice moments lightly sprinkled on a field of “meh,” “Wait, what’s the combination?” and just plain “WAT.” Highlights included half-awake me and pre-coffee BG attempting to follow each-other at the barre, with about the degree of success one might predict under the circumstances. 

Last night I took class because, in short, I’m an addict.  Even though I was late (and made friend L, who came with me, late) thanks to challenges resulting from last week’s brain fog(1), it wasn’t half bad. I managed some nice doubles and some intentional, if not awesome, triples.

  1. Dear Sunday-Evening-Just-Past Me:Where did you put my keys?! THIS IS NOT FUNNY 😦 😦 }:( 

Today’s technique tidbit: take a second before launching your turns (with all guns blazing, if you’re anything like me) to feel a few things.  Where are your trochanters in their hip sockets? Is the pelvis rotated or tilted? If so, can you adjust it?  (Unless you’re in a ridiculously huge 4th,the core muscles can usually correct the pelvis.) 

Obviously, this is easiest to do when the music is slow, so use your discretion, but it can be really helpful. More than once, I’ve caught myself preparing turns with one hip cocked, which isn’t what one might call a Best Practice. 

Still couldn’t stop second-guessing myself during petit allegro, though, which resulted in a petit allegro that looked as if I’d been told, “Using the medium of ballet, interpret the behavior of a ball in one of those showy random-number generators they used to use in televised lottery drawings.”

What’s the rule, again? 

“There’s no THINKing in BALlet!” 

—Not Tom Hanks in A League Of Their Own, but close enough.   

…So that was Monday, also known as Logical Friday The Second, because my schedule is FUBAR.

Oh, and I think I acquitted myself decently in our lone grand allegro, which is good, because I kept running over myself in a high-momentum tombé-pdb during Sunday’s.

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