This gallery contains 9 photos.
In ballet, as in life, it’s better if you don’t leave any bodies behind.
Class was decent today.
My allergies were, as they have been, off the chain—but that’s par for the course, and no small part of the reason that I bother working on my cardio. The more fit my cardiovascular system is, the less it hates me when I can barely inhale because my nose and the back of my throat are full of goop but I dance anyway.
It wasn’t flat-out the best class I’ve had recently (that was Sunday, I think), but I still feel like every single day I make progress, which is something. Even last Thursday, when my allergies were so bad I thought my head would explode and I had to beg off of grand allegro (to my great and undying humiliation), I made progress.
After class, I reviewed Siegfried’s variation. I had meant to just mark it, but instead after the first phrase I found myself running it: contretemps-tombé-pas de bourrée-glissade-saut de chat, repeat. I was watching my port de bras and my turnout in the mirror and heading back to “stage left” suddenly I noticed that I was, as the song goes, “Way up in the middle of the air,” without actually trying, in this surprisingly nice saut de chat.
Anyway, that saut de chat startled the heck out of me and I landed like a mammoth, but it’s really good to feel like I’ve regained the best of my “Terpsichorean powers,” so to speak.
On the other hand, I don’t recommend landing like a mammoth even on good floors. I went back to marking, though with a little more vigor than your usual mark.
I also realized that I tend to fail to bring my second leg to the party when I do assemblés in the context of petit allegro.
I mean, it’s not that it doesn’t get there. It’s that I fail to really actively transport it. Like the first leg gets on the train, but the second one has to walk to the party.
I had somehow failed to notice that … no doubt in part because when I do grand allegro assemblés—especially porté—I really snap that puppy right the heck up there. But, in case you were wondering, petit allegro is not, in fact, “grand allegro, only smaller,” no matter what its name might imply. It requires its own approach (they do it like nobody’s business in Copenhagen).
But, anyway, I haven’t been really pushing the second foot through the plié and snapping it up there, and Killer B schooled me over it this morning.
So Killer B’s advice is to think of glissade-assemblé as a compound word; a hyphenated phrase like tombé-pas de bourée, (or, if you’re a guy, tombé-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné). You have to really push the trailing leg through the bottom of the plié that’s sort of the hyphen so the momentum doesn’t get lost.
So I tried it, and wouldn’t you know, it worked like a charm.
So that’s today’s bit of technical advice. Since glissade-assemblé is a petit-allegro stock phrase, think of it with a hyphen and pushpushpush the second leg through the plié in the middle, so when it leaves the ground again all the momentum is there.
And use your plié. And use your plié. And use your plié.
Which, coincidentally, will also stop you landing your saut de chat like a mammoth, which you will appreciate when you’re seventy and haven’t yet had to put in new knees, or so I’ve heard.
On Monday I found myself reading some old posts in the bath (because reading in the bath is what I would do basically 90% of the time that I’m not dancing, if I had my way … well, that and swimming in the ocean).
It was surprising to look back on where I was only three and a half years ago: to realize that, really, I had no idea I’d be doing what I’m doing now—or maybe just a glimmer of the idea; something that felt like the vaguest of pipe dreams, I suppose.
It was weird to read the words, “If I ever get a chance to perform,” or however I phrased it. At the time, it seemed like gift one distantly hopes to receive: perhaps if I’m really good, someone will give me–no, not a pony, but maybe a hobby horse?
Now the chance to perform is something I pursue and lay hold of with both hands and create for myself. It’s something I am beginning not to feel weird about getting paid to do, like, “Maybe if I keep my head down they won’t notice that they’re paying me money for this.”
And yet I realize, still, that in a way the chance to live the life that I’m living right now is a gift—a gift, I suppose, I’ve worked hard to be worthy of, and will continue to work hard to be worthy of, but still one that depends upon the goodwill of so many people other than myself.
Friday, early, we leave for the Playa again.
This year, a group is staging The Rite of Spring. I’ve never seen it live, so I’m looking forward to that. Perhaps I can find other dancers and do class with them.
As for me and my camp, we’re doing Open Barre, with Mimosas, twice. Contact improv, twice. And all the other things that my camp does, but that’s what I’m in charge of. My gift to the Playa, along with whatever I wind up feeding people, as so often I do.
My feelings are mixed about going this year. I’m working, so that’s a challenge—learning the choreography at a distance will be interesting—and I’m afraid of coming back with a respiratory infection again. I’ll have to be careful this year.
But there are always things to be learned, and what was it I was saying about learning not to constantly try to control the outcomes?
So there it is. This is the outcome right now. I’m strung between two loyalties, but perhaps it’s okay. If things work out as I hope they will in the coming months, I most likely won’t be able to go to the Burn in 2018.
Because, as D told me so many times, there is something in the world for which I will sacrifice all other things—even Burning Man, as much as I love it.
When all this is over, the desert will be there still (unless we blow up the world before then, in which case it’s all a moot point anyway).
I took class on Monday and found that, although my feet and Achilles’ tendons were still a little tight, I was mostly functional. I even got some nice turns in.
As such, I hit the studio again tonight (didn’t make morning class because D’s truck overheated, so he needed my car, and I was too late to catch the bus) feeling fairly confident about things.
My confidence was, in fact, well-placed. Class was good, all things considered—I’m still a tad wheezy, but with adequate oceans of medication that stayed under control.
Anyway, tonight’s class was essentially built around petit allegro—not that we didn’t do anything else, because we absolutely did, but the ultimate goal was to improve our petit allegro by improving our use of pliés.
When we finally did get around to petit allegro, BG gave us a very, very helpful note: if the music is fast, focus on getting down into the floor with the pliés.
It’s counter-intuitive as all heck, but it works a treat. I am one of those people who can milk a fair bit of elevation out of a jump by brushing hard and really springing through the feet, so I don’t always use my deepest demi-plié in preparation.
This is not at all helpful in fast petit allegro combinations—it just takes too freaking long, especially when you factor in hyperextended knees and really flexible feet.
Turns out that if I get deep into my demi-plié, I can actually get there faster. I suppose it comes down to employing the entire bottom of the foot—I suspect that when I’m struggling with petit allegro, my heels are probably just skimming the ground when they should be doing some actual work.
Anyway, this feels revelatory, as things do of late. I’m going to have to practice the hell out of it in order to overcome a lifetime of attempting to do petit allegro the way I do grand battement.
Anyway, that’s it for now. In short: never be afraid to get down when it’s time to boogie.
Tuesday, after a fairly hard conditioning class and a not-difficult-but-demanding technique class, we began learning variations.
Wednesday, after a very restorative conditioning class and a lovely technique class, we continued with them.
The girls are doing the Swans’ entrance scene. There are only four of them, so they have a lot of ground to cover, but they already looked pretty great at Tuesday night’s brief “show ‘n’ tell” session.
Meanwhile, my variation (one of the many versions of Seigfried’s) is a challenge in the small studio even though there’s only one of me—it’s packed with big leapy bits, all of which seem to land me precariously close to the walls when I do them full-speed. Thus, I wind up doing a lot of marking and semi-marking. There seem to be a lot of walls in that studio.
Still, I was quite happy with the sauté arabesque-balancé-tombé coupé jeté sequence last night (it varies from the video we’re using as a model, which involves a bunch of revoltades, which I still am not sure how to do on purpose). Also feeling better about Bournonville jeté, although I still tend to jump through my arms. We worked on that a lot last night.
I couldn’t remember about 20 seconds of the version that C taught me (which doesn’t have tours in it), and since I was working with J last night, we subbed in some tours just because. They feel a lot better this year—I’m figuring out how to use a relaxed plié in grand allegro instead of hanging onto tension, which makes a huge difference.
To be honest, though, just having another year under my belt also makes a huge difference. I don’t have to think about choreography anywhere near as much: I’m better at remembering chains of steps, instead of individual steps. That makes a huge difference.
Likewise, even though we don’t get to do grand allegro anywhere near as often as I would like at home (especially since BW is in Europe for the summer), there are a lot more steps I can do without having to think about them at this point.
The most invaluable corrections this far have been as follows:
The central thing I’m taking away from this intensive is that I need to focus on one idea:
I used to ride a horse with whom the same basic principle applied. You had to ride him forward, or he would just slope lazily around and pretend he didn’t know from dressage.
The highlight of last night was when I came in way too hot on the first tombé-coupé and instead of the standard jeté, it turned into something spinny and impressive whose name I don’t know. It’s definitely a thing—I’ve seen it in other variations—I’m just not sure which thing. I’ll have to see if I can find it in Tarasov when I get home.
Anyway, J said, “Ooh, that was fancy!” Sadly, since I’m not actually sure how to do that particular thing on purpose, I’ll just have to file it away for now (with revoltades) and save it for some future date.
Last year, I think I was a bit wary of speed and power. I was forever doing Albrecht’s variation as if I had a check-rein on: behind the motion, without abandon. I was too busy thinking about the steps and trying to be precise, and I was definitely a little afraid of running myself over.
This year, I feel like I’ve made friends with speed and power, and when I get out of my own way, I can harness them. Confidence goes a long way!
In other news, my adductors are pretty sore, which is okay, since they’re one of the bits that need to be stronger. My beats look better for it, though in class yesterday I kept doing jeté battu on the wrong foot (wtf?) and decided to just do plain jeté like everyone else. I should try breaking out the entrechats sixes today. Quatres were nice yesterday.
Anyway, I should go do my laundry. I’m not going to walk down there this time; it’s 3 miles round-trip.
Tonight we polish up the variations; tomorrow we get to show them off.
As you may know, petit allegro is not my forté.
As such, I ask all kinds of super-technical questions, like:
HOW DO POTEET ALLERGO ZIZZONES LESS BAD?
Fortunately, LAA’s class is small enough that she’s had a chance to really analyze my (admittedly-wack) petit allegro
calzone zizzone technique, and last night she gave me two incredibly helpful bits of advice:
So let’s revisit a screencap of me doing
This is me landing a
pannetone sissone. Technically, this was a medium allegro combination, but it was still wildly unnecessary for me to put that much elevation into that jump (and every single other jump in that combination).
You can see that my working leg is up there (and turned out and pointed and effing winged, holy hell).
What you can’t see is that I did this entire sissone with very little lateral travel relative to the height of the jump.
You can probably calculate the apex height of the jump with some degree of accuracy. That should give you an idea of why I’m always and forever behind when tasked with sissones in settings other than grand allegro (ideally at “men’s tempo,” which tends to be slow in order to allow for lots of elevation and ballon).
I’ve probably been doing petit allegro sissones this way for quite a while: I think, “Make it smaller,” and respond by making it not go anywhere but UP.
Technically speaking, sissones aren’t really traveling jumps (which is to say that they’re not leaps, basically). Laterally speaking, you shouldn’t go very far in a sissone—but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go anywhere at all.
If you tone down your elevation and allow for a little lateral travel, your petit allegro sissone tends to become the light, lovely little spring that it’s supposed to be, and you don’t get behind the music and find yourself receiving epic side-eye from the poor schmuck attempting to dance next to you.
When I approach them this way, I can make my petit allegro sissones small and light enough to practice them in my kitchen without fear of whacking my feet or shins on things (my kitchen is tiny; the struggle is real). Coincidentally, that also means they’re quick enough to use in those horrible, fast petit allegro combinations universally despised by those of us who are built for grand allegro.
One more thing: if your hips are ridiculously flexible like mine are, you’ll also want to think about opening the working leg straight to the side or even a little ahead.
The flexibility of my hips lets me put my legs kind a quite far back in a turned-out second, which can make closing back to 5th to prepare for the next jump really slow and do weird things to the path of the sissone, which should be diagonal.
Coincidentally, I have to think about the same thing when doing grand pirouettes: keep the working leg engaged a few degrees forward of dead-to-the-side, or things become unwieldy because physics.
This gallery contains 9 photos.
In ballet, as in life, it’s better if you don’t leave any bodies behind.
First of all: THANK FREAKING G-D. I have broken my week-long streak of disastrous classes, FINALLY.
Today in BW’s class, I was not a giant freaking disaster area.
I did not feel weak.
I did not forget every single combination (in fact, I managed to remember all but one of them, though for some bizarre reason I kept doing inside-out turns on one of them).
I did not feel horribly nervous or completely unworthy of BW’s tutelage and as such didn’t spend have the class talking, though I did ask several clarifying questions (another really nice thing about private class).
My legs didn’t fall off and my foot didn’t start screaming at me.
…Which is good, because it was, once again, the All Asher, All The Time show.
When you’re having a terrible
week day, nothing will make you feel worse than a private class.
When you’re having a fairly decent day … erm … well, you’ll probably come out of your private class feeling fairly decent.
Today definitely fell into that zone: I can tell I’m making progress, but the goalposts keep moving, so I keep thinking I’m so bad at this one thing, but I also think, I’m way better at this other thing.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve got 100% of my strength back, but I’m also not sure that’s accurate. Were it accurate, I think the 8-8-4-4-2-2 grand battement would’ve killed me.
In case you’re wondering, that particular grand battement is fairly hard, but still not as hard as Rayevsky’s which, if I remember correctly, went: 8 front, 8 back-inside, 8 side, 8 back, 8-front inside, 8 side, EFFING DETOURNE, straight into the other freaking side. Honestly, I feel like I’m probably missing something in there. Regardless, it’s clear that Mr. R wants his dancers strong—and he teaches with enough precision to warrant it.
In the hands of an ineffective teacher, that combination could easily become a turnout-destroying exercise in futility, but Mr. R is one of those teachers who have 27 pairs of X-ray vision-equipped eyes arrayed all over their heads so they can call you out on failing to engage one wee finger of your deep rotators even when they’re looking at someone at the far end of the barre.
Edit: I suspect invisible eyestalks may be involved.
BW also teaches with that kind of precision. I am still totally in awe of the moment when he shot me exactly the right correction with his back to me and no mirror for guidance.
Anyway, I think I’m in that in-between zone: kind of between levels. I’m working on sustaining higher extensions and so forth, and that requires a greater degree of strength in the supporting leg. I’m working on cleaner, sharper, turns with higher turn counts, which requires a better spot and more accurate placement.
We also managed to get our petit and medium-ish allegro on, though we skipped entrechats this week. BW was pleased with my changements, which we’ve been modifying to improve my tours.
BW has a way of saying to me, when we are in the midst of Accidentally Private Men’s Class, “We do this this way…” and then explaining some subtle point of men’s technique and what makes that subtle point important.
A solid double-tour requires that one’s legs squeeze together and stay there through the change of feet and through the rest of the jump, essentially because physics.
If you ever had the opportunity to play on one of those rotating tire swings as a kid, you probably remember that you could make it spin faster by tucking yourself into a ball or slower by stretching out and leaning outwards.
If you’ve done dance trapeze, lyra, rope, or any of the other free-spinning aerial circus apparatus that allow it, you also know that you can create insanely fast spin by making yourself into a vertical line that runs right up and down the vertical axis of the spin.
The same principle applies to tours: the closer everything stays to the vertical axis, the faster you can turn.
You can’t have your calves flapping around when you have to rotate twice around your own vertical axis before you land (facing the correct direction). That means you have to snap-squeeze your legs right the heck in from the tips of your toes to the tops of your thighs.
To build this habit, you do a billion changements in which you do not snap the legs out and bring them back (as pretty as that is), but instead sort of pivot them around each-other as you would in the midst of a soutenu turn.
Anyway, that’s about all the braining I can manage tonight.
The funny part is that I remembered our medium-ish allegro combination, but still proceeded to do it wrong because my brain would not engage. It ended with assemblé back no change, assemblé changé. That assemblé back no change tripped me up soooo many times, because (like every dancer on earth) I do assemblé changé a lot more often.
In the end, though, I ran it until I got it right, which is another nice perk of flying solo in class. If you need to get a thing down, you can drill it ’til ya kill it.
Anyway, I’m taking an extra class tomorrow in honor of BG’s birthday, and then the usual assortment of weekend shenanigans, and then it’s onto my self-imposed Dancer’s Hell Week; my wee Choose Your Own Intensive.
You guys, I cannot believe it’s June already!!!!!!!
Class today started out with a heaping plate of WTF.
BW gave me the first combination facing the barre. I had the counts alllllllll wrong and couldn’t figure out where my body was relative to my legs (you guys: WHAT EVEN IS THAT?!).
Then he gave me the second combination. Not only did I hose up the counts, but I forgot the middle of the thing and started on wrong side. Which I figured out when I went to do the combination left and then realized, “Frack, I just did this side!”
Fortunately, it was not all downhill from there. I mean, I felt weak as hell for some reason, but mostly didn’t completely screw things up, though it took a while to convince my knees that, yes, they needed to be all the way straight.
Anyway, things eventually got better, and we did a stretch/fondu/extension exercise that is both pretty hard and a good measure of progress. Last time we did it, I had to content myself with extensions at 90 degrees front and side. I could get them up there flexibility-wise, but I couldn’t hold them any higher. This time, I found I had gained several degrees of sustainable extension and the ability to actually make my rotators operate whilst holding my legs up there (which, really, means I’ve figured out how to turn off my big, stupid quads).
BW also gave me a nice adage that involved slow half-fouettés followed by half-promenades into pdb-to 4th to en dedans turns, then reversing. That proved to be a nice little brain teaser and a nice piece of choreography. It’s also a great way to figure out if your butt has decided to take its lunch break without clocking out, so to speak: if your rotators and your butt check out, your supporting leg is gonna have a bad time with that transition from the fouetté lent going one direction into the promenade going the other way.
The highlight of the class, though, was a, little break we took to hone my waltz turns. I’ve never really been clear on what my head is supposed to do, which coincidentally turned out to be exactly what BW wanted address.
So here’s a brief description of the technical bit, via the mental visualizations I used to keep it sorted:
If you’re wondering why this is all about Wilis, it’s because last year, when we were learning Albrecht’s Variation, we had all forgotten that it was from Act II’s scene where the Wilis are dancing Albrecht to death, and we were like, “What’s with all the gesturing to the sides of the stage? Where even is Giselle? Is this Giselle over here? Or is this Giselle over here?”
And then we went and watched videos and we were like, “…Oh.” Because, like, all that romantic gesturing is basically like, “Please! I’m too handsome to die this way!”
So now it’s always Wilis, Wilis everywhere when I’m trying to figure out where to point my limpid gaze.
Or, well, Wilis, Audience, Wilis, moar Wilis (because you have to populate the back of the stage with somebody).
Honestly, whilst your mileage may vary like a mothertrucker, this visualization works like crazy for me.
And, also honestly? I don’t want to know what that says about me
So I got to do grand allegro today for the
first actually third (but who’s counting? #dancermath) time in aaaaaages, and it was awesome (in the sense that it was hella fun, not so much in the sense that it was like, “YES, PARIS OPERA BALLET HERE I COME!!!!!!”).
The combination was simple so we could do it ziggy-zaggy-wise and get in a few reps per side:
grand assemblé en tournant
On the other hand, if you take a look at the screenshot above (from BG’s video), you’ll notice that I am
Also that apparently I am preparing to catch a baseball with my left hand, but meh. That’s no biggie. Better that than the eternal Don Quixote Hand of Doom.
This is actually one of the General Ballet Things I’m working on right now: using my eyes.
First, of course, there’s the performative aspect—you can’t dance the whole ballet with your face frozen en face, or staring at the neck of the dancer in front of you, or whatevs. The audience wants to see your face, amirite?
Second, though, and rather more importantly, there’s a rule in cycling that kind of applies to ballet, too:
The bike goes where your eyes go.
Only, like, in ballet, it’s your body and your balance and stuff instead of a bike.
Like, if you’re doing adagio, and your eyes are pointing the wrong way, it can throw your balance offfffff.
We talked about this with turns, too: apparently, once we’re done looling for spit (if you remember that post, kudos :D), some of us (AHEM: me, but also other people) glance down as we finish our turns and cheat ourselves out of extra rotations.
Legitimately, I got a triple out of this fix today, though my turns working left are still pretty awful.
Anyway, evidently I need to do this in jumps, too, instead of staring at the mirror. Yegads, if ever there was anyone who needed a studio with a curtain over the mirror, I AM THAT PERSON.
Oh, and here’s an annotated version of the screencap so it’s clear exactly what one should and should not do:
Anyway, there you have it.
Oh, also, TIL that this shirt totally does not stay put when you do grand assemblé en tournant. It corkscrews around you and rides up to, like, mid-chest level, then falls back down. Pretty funny stuff, particularly given that I had NO IDEA that was happening.
PS: My mood is a little better today. Still feeling like AAAACK PEOPLE RUNNNN but class has this nice cushioning effect.
PS: I just noticed at E and I were all matchy-matchy-ish, which is hilarious because we were a pair for basically all of the across-the-floor stuff today 😀 Funny when it works out like that!
This week, the days seem unbelievably long. I just basically seem to have SO FREAKING MUCH TIME (First World Problems again).
It just occurred to me that there’s a reason for that: last week, there was an awful lot of running off to rehearsal and class and that TV news thing; this week, there’s … well, there’s class?
Class and housework. Some technologizing in the margins.
I’m fine with that. I’m really not complaining. It’s actually pretty nice—it’s just weird and surprising how spacious this week feels after last week’s compressed, frenetic schedule.
You would think I’d have figured it out by now; that I’d have been around this block enough times to be able to predict that, hey, this week is way less busy than last week so it’s going to feel luxuriously slow, but nope. I haven’t figured that out yet, apparently.
My brain is on a break, or I’d try to draw some really intelligent correlation between this kind of experiential relativity and Einstein’s relativity. Like, I feel the germ of an idea kicking around in there, but I can’t quite seem to get hold of it.
Anyway, this morning I did barre and adagio, then made my excuses (foot, as usual >.<). Killer B gave me a correction that made my arms look awesome: keep the shape of the arm as is, but imagine that you’re pressing the whole thing down against something.
Curiously, what this accomplishes is not arms that collapse, but arms that look strong and shoulders that stay open and down and back and all that good stuff (read: all the other stuff BW regularly reminds me to do ^-^).
Basically, it’s like when you’re a little kid in those swimmy things (they still make them—who knew?!) that go on your arms, and you’re using your lats to push them down against the water so they push you up. Maybe normal people don’t do that, but during my Swimmies-wearing phase, I totally did (in my defense, I was 2.5-3 years old) because I liked being able to go Boing!Boing!Boing! in the water, usually whilst my grandparents’ German Shepherd/Alsatian looked on with a heckin concern.
Anyway, here’s a bunch of pictures taken (JUST NOW!!!) with D’s late-90s-era webcam (seriously, this thing is geriatric in tech years, though it still does the job) that more or less illustrate the point:
In case you’re wondering, this is my office/guest room, where I’m in the midst of catching up on the laundry after last week’s scheduling madness.
The really interesting thing is that I didn’t actually change the angle of my arm between the first and second shot in any of the sets: engaging my lats moved my entire shoulder joint.
That said, I don’t think pix 5 and 6 are great illustrations of anything except the fact that engaging your lats makes your neck look longer.
Picture 7, meanwhile, is just silliness for its own sake.
I’ll have to try to get better pictures of this effect next time I’m in the studio. It was hard to get enough of my body in the frame and still be able to click the mouse (I appreciate voice-activation so much more right now, you guys). I would’ve done better just to use my phone and email the pix to myself, but that seemed like too much work.
One of these days, I’ll try to see if I can get D to take a picture of what this looks like from the back, because I really feel it right below the margins of my scapulae/shoulder-blades/wing-bones, and I suspect that it’s probably quite visible.
I am not, however, very good at taking pictures of my own back.
I’ve been busy cleaning and organizing today, but I finally have time to write up a useful note from this morning’s class.
As you may know, I’m not great at detecting where in space my arms are. Today, I apparently kept throwing them behind my head in turns. HD caught it and gave me a visual demo, and—I suppose because I live in Louisville and Big Hats are a thing on Derby Day—I immediately exclaimed, “Oh, so if I just pretend I’m wearing a giant hat—!”
And it was all like:
Tombé, pdb, other tombé, pdb, piqué soutenu, tombé pdb-chasée, 4th, HAT!, really clean single, pdb under to 4th, HAT!, really clean single en dedans…
You guys, the hilarious thing is that IT ACTUALLY WORKED.
I imagined a big, giant, frilly, yellow wide-brimmed ladies’ hat (Why yellow? Who knows?), and of a sudden my arms were like, “Cool, we’ve got this!”
Visualization is a powerful tool … and apparently in my case, the more ridiculous, the better.