Category Archives: partnering

Pilobolus: Initial Thoughts (on Day 3)

Just a couple of wee thoughts. We’re working so much and dancing so much and talking so much and just living together so much that I’ve been spending my alone time just reading and breathing.

Anyway, this intensive has been amazing for so many reasons, not least because it has put me in touch with feelings I haven’t really addressed in a long time.

First, it has forced me to very directly face my difficulty approaching people. Every day this week, we’ve spent the morning doing exercises with one partner or set of partners, then repeating or iterating them with another, then another.

I hadn’t realized how much it still freaks me out to choose partners. Yesterday I got seriously rattled by it—but I actually mentioned it to the person who chose me, and they helped me through that moment. It was amazing.

I realize I’ve been feeling like, “This person or that person probably doesn’t want to work with me,” which isn’t fair either to them or to myself. That’s their call. I shouldn’t try to make it for them.

Second, I’ve realized that one of the things I love so much in dance, and especially in this kind of dance, is the giving and receiving of touch in an atmosphere of deep trust.

To do the work we’re doing here, you need to touch your partners and you need to trust them. Somehow, the process we’re working with creates an atmosphere of immense trust. We are all safe here in each-other’s arms (or feet, or whatever).

I came to this understanding by a circuitous back route. There’s one guy here who I kept desperately wanting to work with—to dance with. I wanted to feel his arms around me and his body against mine, but in a way that wasn’t about sex [1].

  1. Or, well, mostly wasn’t.

I kept trying to figure out why (leaving out the fact that he’s beautiful in a very unique way) and finally I realized that it’s the way he partners: he’s solid and steady, and when he holds anyone—anyone—in his arms, you can feel the power and the tenderness of that connection from across the room.

I’ve worked with him a couple of times now. In one piece, I caught him and sank to the ground holding him in my arms (in that particular dance, he had just died). 

It was an incredibly powerful moment. I’m not sure how to explain it, except to say that in that moment he trusted me with his body, and that trust felt like a sacred thing.

But also it just felt so damned good: just a human body touching my human body, which is so strangely important, without any need to be afraid or guarded or aggressive. 

Rather the opposite: the dance involved me catching his wrist as he took a slow backwards fall, pulling him into my arms and collapsing to the ground with him. I couldn’t be afraid or guarded or aggressive; I had to be fast and strong, but soft. I had to get both of us to the floor without anybody getting hurt.

I don’t know how to explain how that feels, but it’s pretty incomparable.

Today there was a dance in which a girl trusted me to catch her mid-flight, redirect her momentum, and throw her halfway across the room; in which I trusted her to pull me straight to the ground out of an arabesque as I pulled her to her feet. That felt incredible. There aren’t many places where you get to feel that kind of thing.

Anyway, that’s it for now. The creative process here never ceases to amaze me. Groups of dancers who had, for the most part, never met a few days back are, each afternoon, creating dances I’d happily pay to see, working in groups as small as two and as large as six, with only minimum input from our teachers.

That, too, is an amazing thing.

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Two Days Off

I decided not to take an extra class this morning, then remembered after the fact that I don’t have class tomorrow either (it’s Independence Day, and LF is out of town). So I’ve got two days off in a row this week, which is nice in its own way.

My brain already has one foot in next week, though I keep pulling it back when I realize that’s what’s happening.

Today, CM of the Beasties of Spring Collection posted our video to our facebook group. I, of course, proceeded to watch it 6,000,000 times.

It’s interesting, because in one manner of speaking it really wasn’t that long ago, and in another it almost feels like a different time at this point.

Anyway, I still manage to notice what I did well[1], what I could have done better[2], and what I did badly[3].

  1. The partnering: basically, more or less everything that involves partnering is really rather nice.
  2. The one turn in second, which sort of became this jeté rond en tournant thing; the moment between that and the Apollo jump, during which I inexplicably let my arms just kind of hang there not doing anything.
  3. Letting my turnout go here and there, mostly during the very last sequence, which I’d learned a couple of days before the performance; also, looking like a bit of a tool during the running bits.

QV:

00-Opening

This jump, aka my Grand Entrance, which was just … eh. The still image doesn’t convey the fact that I was both behind and doing the wrong step entirely.

10-apolloesque-03

This partnery bit, which doesn’t translate as well to still photography as one might hope, but is still pretty cool.

10-apolloesque-06-jump

This Apollo jump, in which I’m lower than I should be and looking at the ground (and failing to turn my shoulders) because I’m scared out of my wits that my slippery landing foot is going to cause a major catastrophe as soon as I come down.

The best moments, though, really are rather nice:

01-sirens-04-saute

This lovely saute cascade, for example, even though my working leg isn’t as turned-out as it could be :/ This was before the Great Shoe Incident.

05-tendus-01

This bit of lovely synchronicity.

09-Amazons-02

And this bit, although it does read a little bit as the prelude to the biggest catfight in the history of ballet.

The oddest thing is looking at it and realizing that I’ve made quite a bit of progress since March, which seems at once like really not all that long ago and OMG so freaking long ago.

Basically, the way I carry my upper body and arms is really quite different now, among other things. I also try to do a lot less of letting one of my arms subtly flappity-flap.

It will be interesting to see how things come together at next week’s intensive.

06-theSHOE

Let’s also hope that I’m better at keeping my shoes on.

Choose Your Own Intensive: Days 3 & 4

Yesterday, I had nothing before ballet, so I was properly fed and rested and so forth.

As a result, BW’s class went very well.

After, I went and played at Suspend, where we did all kinds of lifty things in Acro 2.

After that, my car decided to throw a fit and D had to come rescue me (fortunately, I noticed that it sounded weird and didn’t get on the expressway). As result, an already late night got later, and I was too tired to pack lunch.

This morning, D came home early and sent me to Cinci with his truck, which was really sweet of him. I had eaten two hot dogs for lunch, with the intention of grabbing some real food when I got back into Louisville.

In Cinci, partnering class was half really frustrating: I couldn’t hear because my allergies were trolling me, and we were learning partnering phrases, so I kept not quite understanding what was going on[1]. As a result, I kept frustrating my partner, which made me nervous, which makes my brain not work too well.

  1. Also, my body wanted all the fouettés to be tour jetés. WTF, body?

Anyway, we got there eventually.

During the second half, we did group lifts, and that bit went really well. Didn’t hurt that Acro 2 last night was all about the dynamic group lifts :p

Anyway, after Partnering, my plans for food were scuttled by a traffic jam. I resorted to buying Chex mix at a gas station when I refueled the truck. I would be surprised if that even brought me back up to baseline.

Anyway, BW’s final class was more challenging than it should have been, since I basically ran out of juice. I got all the way through anyway, but my grand pirouettes weren’t really all that grand. They started out nice going right, then fizzled, going left, I just worked fourth-passé-second-plié-relevé-plié-relevé, etc, without the actual turns.

On the other hand, I cracked out some nice grand allegro: it was kind of my way of saying, “I value your class and, dammit, I’mma try as hard as I can!”

That backfired, of course, when we proceeded to follow the second grand allegro combo with even moar petit allegro.

Oh, I can now check entrechats six off my goals list. Or, at any rate, I can mark them as done with baseline success but in need of werk, werk, werk, werk. They’re not pretty, but they’re there.

We did 36 of them.

Also, after that, so many Royales, which are my least favorite jump. I mean, seriously, in France there’s a hamburger named after them[2].

  1. I may be employing artistic license here. Who knows?

    Anyway, my legs felt weak and resentful (I suspect that, if you’re a dancer or a cyclist, you understand what I mean), and I resented their resentful attitude (note to self: I need to draw a resentful attitude 😁) until I realized that it wasn’t fair to resent them when it was my own fault for not feeding them.

    Evidently, it takes a lot of calories to run this body at peak performance, or at any rate more than the ≈600 I have it before tonight’s ballet class.

    …Oh, well.

    At any rate, I’m pleased with myself for not giving up. There were a few times in class tonight that my dark side whispered,”You could just say your foot is unhappy!”

    But I didn’t.

    So there’s that.

    Anyway, I’m going to go have a wee soak in some Epsom salts. Tomorrow, I have to leave at 7 AM for Cinci because evidently I’m insane, so after that I’m off to bed.

    Choose Your Own Intensive: Day 2

    At ML&Co, it was partnering day. I paired up with a girl who was frankly awesome at partnering. She made us both look good!

    I landed hardish a couple of times on my healing foot, but still made it through everything in BW’s master​class except grand pirouettes going left. My foot complained about those, so I decided to play it safe and only do a couple.

    Even grand allegro went reasonably well. Still can’t get out of my own way doing brisées in medium allegro, though :/

    Or, well. I managed a couple going right, but literally got off on the wrong foot going left and failed to actually recover.

    I guess that’s going to be a goal this week.

    The combo is:

    Glissade, jeté, jeté jeté; balloté x4; coupé-balloné; brisée, brisée; temps de cuisse, entrechat quatre x2.

    I think I’m going to have to mark that at home.

    On the other hand, some of the stength-y things and some of the balance-y things felt easier today, as did the crazy petit allegro brainteaser that BW has us running (the one from last Thursday with the incredibly confusing assemblés).

    So that was today. No ML&Co class tomorrow, so I plan to catch up on housework, make friends with the foam roller, and review the crap out of that medium allegro.

    A Few More Thoughts On Choreography; More Good(ish) Classes

    D and I are now rehearsing our #Playthink piece.

    It’s actually going much better than I expected it to.

    As one does, I’ve re-written essentially the entire piece now that I’m setting it on actual people and not just on myself prancing about in the studio and waving my arms to vaguely represent the acro moves.

    Initially, I had one vision in mind. Because I was futzing around with it by myself, it involved a lot of ballet.

    Now, of course, that has changed. I mean, there’s still ballet: there’s always going to be ballet because, hello, it’s me. That’s kind of what I do, apparently.

    But choreography has a way of getting away from you. You begin with one vision, and as you actually create a dance and actually set it on actual people, it transforms.

    I suppose that this is because, in a way, a dance is sort of a living thing. It’s a little like having a child (though, of course, on a very different scale) or maybe an elaborate pet. You might think, of a horse, “I’m going to train this horse to be the best cow pony ever,” but the horse might actually not be any good at being a cow pony. It might turn out to be a dressage beastie or something else[1].

    1. My philosophy on training horses was very much shaped both by my childhood trainer and also by the trainer of my friend’s lovely Arabian gelding, which began life as what the Arabian show world in the US calls a “park horse,” morphed into what the Arabian show word in the US calls an “English pleasure” horse, did a brief stint in Arabian-show-world western pleasure, and then eventually found his calling as an endurance racer. Basically, the lady who was responsible for training the horse felt that you needed to figure out which discipline suited the horse, and then train it to be as good as it could possibly be at that discipline. I think that’s a good way to do it.

    Anyway. I digress.

    So this dance is now almost a steady stream of rather-balletic acro and physical theater, and I’m okay with that. One of my goals was to build a dance that tells a story, and in this case, the story is kind of funny and implausible, and acro and physical theater are good ways to tell it.

    I’m not going to try to force this dance to be something it isn’t. I have an entire lifetime in which to craft ballet pieces on ballet dancers (I keep joking that I have this entire three-act ballet in my head, now I just need about fifty dancers and a million dollars or so to get it off the ground … but, really, I do have an entire three-act ballet in my head, and it’s taking up a lot of space!). Right now, I’m working with one ballet dancer (me!) and one Denis, and that presents its own set of challenges and limitations.

    Honestly, in creative work, it’s so often the limitations that free us to innovate (just as necessity—or, just as often, laziness—gives birth to invention).

    The neat part is that this has led us to inadvertently create a new acro move. I mean, probably someone, somewhere has done it before, but I’ve never seen it. It happens to be one that requires that the flyer have a legit center oversplit (among other things), so probably there are a lot of people who can’t do it. Bony impingement is real, it’s just not something that I experience.

    Anyway, the sequence involves moving from this:

    stag

    Kind of, erm, scorpion? thing…

    …to this:

    stag-x2

    Double stag…

    …to this:

    superman

    Superman? Deep sea dive? Front balance? Limbs bird?

    …via returning to a standard vertical candlestick, then opening to a straddle and rolling down onto the base’s feet, and then rotating your legs back and around into the position above (the arms also have to do a thing, obviously).

    The same basic end could be approached by moving from the vertical candlestick into a pike candlestick and lowering both legs down that way, but I don’t think it would look anywhere near as cool.

    Annoyingly, when I snagged these screenshots, I completely failed to get one of the straddle transition. At the time, I think I was like, “A still photo of this isn’t going to impart any useful information.”

    Anyway, you really have to have a perfectly flat straddle for this particular sequence so you don’t just rip your legs off, because your hips take a lot of your weight in the middle of the transition. Basically, if lying face down in a center split feels stretchy, this isn’t the sequence for you.

    You also kind of need really good turnout in order to do the rotation bit.

    The fact that D literally cannot straighten his legs in an L-base also means that I kind of drop myself onto his feet. Eventually, I’ll reach a point at which I can do a complete smooth rolldown whilst upside-down in a full center split, which will make things a little easier, but right now there’s a gap between the end of my smooth rolldown and the end of Denis’ range of motion (because my core strength is still only pretty good, and not completely awesome).

    I wanted to use a sort of grand rond de jambe as an exit, but that also takes more adductor power than D has right now. If I bring my downstage leg to second, then rond it over, the force makes his right leg (which supports my left hip) shift, and I fall off 😀

    We’ll get it eventually, but not in the next two weeks.

    So there’s that.

    Anyway, classes were good-ish yesterday and today.

    Yesterday’s, in fact, was fairly lovely. Today’s was our first Advanced Class with JAB (OMG, his initials are seriously JAB!!! XD), who really does actually give an advanced Advanced Class.

    On the upside, I’m finally (FINALLLLLYYYYYY) jumping again for real: grand allegro and everything. Cabrioles with turny bits, even (though I think I kept turning them into some kind of cabriole-scissor hybrid and landing on the wrong leg).

    On the other hand, possibly because I went to a party last night and didn’t get to sleep ’til almost 4 AM (and then had to wake up and eat a sandwich, which was surreal because I was still pretty tipsy and more than half asleep), my brain was for the birds today.

    I struggled because there were gaps in my recall of Every. Single. Combination. once we left the barre. The bits that came off, though, mostly went pretty well (except for a weird disaster in adagio during which I basically fell off my leg and then couldn’t get back on because gravity is the worst thing sometimes).

    I also hit up a new class at Suspend, which is basically floorwork for acro.

    You already know how much I love floorwork, soooooo…

    Anyway, we got to break out our improv for the last 10 minutes of class, which resulting in some video that’s party really cool and partly like WHY DO YOU KEEP NOT COMPLETING THE MOVEMENTS WITH YOUR ARMS, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.

    But, anyway, here are a few nice shots from this morning’s video, just because I like them:

    This slideshow requires JavaScript.

    Also, I feel like in the arch picture, my butt looks like a couple of angry badgers having a fight. Muscular angry badgers, though.

    The tape, by the way, is just there because a tree stabbed me in the foot yesterday :/

    Anyway, I was being annoyed with myself for not making the effort to do quadruple turns today, and then realized that I’ve somehow, like, sideswiped my ballet goals without realizing it. Like, basically, I’ve made a significant dent in them and didn’t even notice.

    Basically, one of my major goals for this year was to nail down reliable triples and unreliable quadruples, basically. And, bizarrely, I have achieved that goal. I had this weird epiphany on the way home from class yesterday: I realized that, like, a year ago or so, even doing one little triple turn more or less by accident was the most amazing thing ever.

    And now I’m like, “Meh, triples, yawn,” when I don’t try for quads.

    So, basically, I need to pause and appreciate how much progress I have made.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve also got turns in second sorted. They’re not always beautiful (or, let’s be honest, even pretty), but I can always do them. Just not always sixteen of them.

    So, yeah. There you go. I feel like I’m “back,” more or less, right now.

    Of course, Choose Your Own Intensive begins Monday, soooo… . .  .

    Monday, Monday: Can’t Trust That Day

    We threw a little viewing party last night, and I finally watched our video from Spring Collection.

    There were a few WTF moments and a few really beautiful moments. On the balance, the rest was okay, especially given our highly-compressed rehearsal schedule. I’d say that analysis applies both to the entire group to me individually. It’s worth noting that essentially everyone’s WTF moments happened at different times, and the overall effect was surprisingly polished.      

    For my part, I was at my worst right of the gate: I came in too hot, and you can definitely tell. The first sauté arabesque turned into a bad saut de chat, and while the sauté arabesque that leads off the “arrow” was nice, I failed to failli through and the landing was fugly. Like, I started to relax the working leg to tombé onto it, then just didn’t even really bring it through. Eh.

    I was at my most mind-bendingly mediocre in the tombé-coupé-balloné-sus sous part, during which my legs looked beautiful but my arms were way too far back and my shoulders creeped up. I didn’t know about the giant hat yet, then.  The average of these two things —beautiful legs and feet, bad arms —is a flavor of mediocrity that must be highly specific to dancers who, as kids, weren’t into being beautiful and lyrical, but instead wanted to master the explosive jumps. 

    I will say, though, that your average person-in-the-street would not be able to pinpoint what, exactly, I was doing wrong. They might spot that something looked a little off—might even say, “The boy looks tense.” They’d be right, really: I was tense. That’s why my shoulders and arms were so weird. I was convinced that I was going to eat Marley at any moment, since that part follows on the tail of the part in which I threw a shoe.        

    Meanwhile, your entry-level balletomane would be able to identify the problem precisely—but that’s neither here nor there. 

    I was at my best, meanwhile, throughout the Homage to Apollo/Balanchine Noodle Experiment segment, in which I suddenly turn into this lovely danseur who seems to know what he’s about. I—who once despaired of every figuring out what to do with my arms at all, ever—do these beautiful, lyrical, expressive things with my arms whilst partnering four girls who, for their part, also look lovely. 

    The turn afterwards morphed into a kind of really high, lovely rond en tournant thing. According to D, if you don’t know that’s not what’s supposed to happen, it looks quite nice, though the finish was iffy—I gave it too much force and had trouble checking my momentum >.< I basically prepared for a normal turn in second, but gave it enough force to launch a rocket and, for some reason,  brushed my leg up way, way too high.

    The Apollo jump, meanwhile, was higher than I thought (which makes me wonder how high it would have been if I hadn’t been paranoid about missing shoe situation) and acceptable. Not brilliant, but technically sound, and nice enough.

    At the very end of the dance, I think I looked a tiny bit lost, though that may be because I kept, for some reason, turning my head too far in these bits that should have in profile. The movements, though, were nice enough. 

    There’s a lot of improvement over last year’s video from Lexington: like, I can watch this one without wanting to crawl under a rock. The biggest difference is that I carry my arms and upper body so, so much better. I don’t keep dropping my arms and desperately searching the middle distance for … something[1].

    1. The fact that I didn’t run myself into the ground in the dress rehearsal probably helped, there.   

    In the Spring Collection video, there’s only one spot in which I did entirely dropped my arms, and it’s because I had to shimmy through a traffic jam on the way from the tombé-coupé-balloné-sus sous bit to the Changing of the Trains bit. I mostly managed to stay one step ahead of the weird things that inevitably happen onstage, but not that thing.

    As a performer, I’m learning to adjust on the fly the same way that you do in the pack in a bike race. I think I’ve come a long way this year. 

    ~

    That said, I still have bad days and bad classes. Today was one. I’m having a wicked bout of body-image issues right now. I didn’t stretch after rehearsal yesterday, and I felt it all through class. I couldn’t get my brain to engage. I felt like I couldn’t move or engage all the things or maintain placement.

    In the other hand, I got through little jumps and the first petit allegro without any major complaints from my foot.

    In the long run, I’ve at this long enough now to know the taste of a plain old bad day. Although there’s a small part of me that’s loudly freaking out (you know the drill: worst dancer ever, no business dancing, etc), the rest of me is basically like, “Calm down, Felicia.”

    Like: it wasn’t a wolf last time, it isn’t a wolf this time, so keep yelling if you want to, but we’re gonna get back to herding our sheep over here.    

    This week, we’ve got a bunch of late rehearsals; we’re basically running the show until we can do it our sleep (ah, tech week). Orpheus opens on Friday, runs for three shows, and I’ll be down to one performance to rehearse for the time being.

    Then it’s on to summer, as unbelievable as that is.  

    ~
    PS: if we get permission to post the ballet video somewhere and everyone’s okay with it, I’ll stick a link out here.     

    Three From Acro

    Today I Learned… 

    …The Apollo jump (which I had seen, but as far as know had never done) and the last remaining piece of our dance, which is mine alone and involves a turn in second and said Apollo jump.

    That’s about all of it: we finish the Noodle Experiment, I back away from the girls and throw in a turn in second, then I pause for a second and when everyone else is essentially running upstage, I do the Apollo jump downstage, land it, collect myself, and run a few more steps to my place for the end of the dance. 

    We might change up the first partnering bit, though we might not. We’ll see. I like the change that T and BG worked out, but it’ll be a question of whether the remaining two girls from that group are okay with it.

    I’m fine either way. They’re worried about kicking me. 

    I mentioned that if they kick me, it’s probably my fault. That’s kind of how partnering works for boys:

    • If the girl kicks you, it’s your fault. 
    • If you kick the girl, it’s your fault. 
    • If the girl smacks you in the face, it’s your fault. 
    • If you smack yourself in the face with the girl, it’s still your fault. 
    • If you drop the girl, it is Definitely Your Fault (and you will never live it down). 

    FWIW, yes, this is intended to be funny but it’s also largely true. If you’re dancing the (traditionally) male role, part of your job is being in the right place at the right time and accounting for glitches, because the person dancing the other part has enough to worry about already. You adjust. 

    And if she stops dancing, turns around, and punches you squarely in the nose? 

    That is also Definitely Your Fault, unless it’s Because Ancient Aliens. 

    ~

    PS: I was wrestling with keeping my waterfowls in a linear array in the turn from second because ATTAAAAAAAACK!, and BG was like, “Keep your chest up and think of it like … a hammer throw, only your foot is the hammer.”

    Bizarrely, this worked really hecking well. 

    Important note is that you still have to keep the working leg hella engaged, especially if you have sick mobility in your hips. If you think of a track & field person winding up for a hammer throw, though, they stay really tight basically the whole time. 

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