Category Archives: video

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.


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:


…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.


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.


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:

to slidey thing avant

…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.


Technique: Notes On Tombe-Coupe-Jete

I’m launching a series of post on the details of technique. It’ll probably consist primarily of steps I’m struggling with, so take it with a grain of salt.

I find it helpful to write things out in an effort to get a grip on them. These aren’t so much instructions (though if they work for you, awesome!) as observations.

Tombé-coupé-jeté is a subset of coupé-jeté en tournant (if you do jazz, you might know this as a “calypso,” if I understood my classmate correctly). 

As its name implies, it’s a compound step. The elements are:

  • a tombé into a
  • turn at coupé
  • that lends its rotation to a jeté

Some form or another of coupé-jeté en tournant shows up in men’s technique a lot—QV Le Corsaire’s famous (and famously-hard) Slave variationthe Pas de Trois from Swan Lake, a whole bunch of stuff in Nutcracker, etc, etc.

Coupé-jeté pass starts at ~1:20 This guy knows what he’s about.
I like the way he moves.

The tombé version is the one I’m concerned with here.

I’ve been wrestling with making my tombé-coupé-jeté consistent on both sides so I can use it in choreography without having to think about it (because thinking is basically death to my ballet technique; it makes my brain overheat and crash).

The basic mechanics, traveling right, go like this:

  1. Tombé onto the right leg.
  2. Bring the left leg to coupé while executing a turn en dedans.
    1. Your arms help to provide momentum for the turn.
    2. Don’t leave your body behind!
  3. Transfer weight onto the left foot. Your left leg will be in a demi-plié.
  4. Simultaneously, grand battement the right leg just as you would for a plain old vanilla jeté.
  5. Spring off the left leg.

JP’s notes:

  • For men’s technique: tombé to second (you get a bigger jump, and men’s technique is basically be distilled into How To Get A Bigger Jump).
    • I realized today that I kept tombé-ing to something like 2.5ième. Bleh.
    • It works a lot better if you actually really do tombé to an actual 2nd.
  • The turn happens in the coupé.
    • NOT in the tombé.
    • NOT in the jeté*.
      • *The remaining momentum from the turn will cause the jeté to rotate slightly, but if you think of the turn as being in the jeté, you’ll inevitably add a rond-de-jambe, and everything will go right to Hell in a hand-basket.
      • O-Turns-Why

        So, basically, this is “how not to pirouette,” but, eh. You get the point.

    • I tend to start unfurling my working leg at the wrong point in this turn. DO NOT DO THIS. It throws everything else off, and also results in a wobbly flight path.
  • The right leg sweeps STRAIGHT OUT, as in grand battementavant or to 2nd (I’m not actually sure if one is correct and the other incorrect; I didn’t think to ask JP).
    • The working leg does not rond.
    • I repeat, the working leg DOES NOT ROND.
      • I find that it helps to think “Grand battement!” rather than “Don’t rond!”

So let’s think about how this all works on the right.

  • The tombé loads the right leg, providing impetus for the turn just as the plié does at the beginning of a pirouette.
  • The arms come together to add to the momentum of the turn as the left leg snaps to coupé.
    • The body has to stay connected—the shoulders and hips must travel together—in order to execute this movement well. This is true for all turns, but especially true for coupé-jeté en tournant.
  • The coupé builds momentum that will allow the jeté to sail along a curvilinear pathway.
  • At the end of the turn, the weight is transferred to the left leg in demi-plié. The right leg sweeps straight out to initiate the jeté.
  • The jump lands on the right leg. It’s possible to move right into another coupé-jeté en tournant or into another step entirely.

Here’s what I tend to do wrong when doing tombé-coupé-jeté en tournant.

  1. tombé into some weird 2.5iéme kind of position instead of a clean 2nd.
  2. I fail to keep my hips and shoulders together.
  3. I try to come out of the turn at coupé to soon.
  4. I sometimes snap the leg up as one would in saut de chat instead of sweeping it straight up.
  5. rond the leading leg in the jump to compensate for exiting the turn too early.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I did do about a million slow-motion coupé-jetés on my living room carpet while trying to work all of this out.

Anyway, now I know what I’m doing wrong, so I should have a better time getting it all sorted.

In the meantime, here’s a really good video that demonstrates coupé-jeté en tournant. I should probably note that I’ve only watched it with the sound off, so I have no idea what it sounds like 😛

Oh, G-d, Y’all.  

In which Ballet Theater of Indiana identifies “The Nine Insufferable People You Meet Auditioning.”

Got to “the intimidation stretcher” and just about died. Yup, that’s me (though it’s usually unintentional, like, “Welp, not sure what to do with myself right now,def don’t want to make eye contact with with strangers, soooooooo… *attaches leg to head*”).

Sorry about that.

I should get back to homemakering now.

Choreography: Iterations

On Sunday, I banged out what turned out to be a kind of very rough first draft of the choreography for an upcoming Lyra performance that opens with a bunch of ballet.

I video-ed the initial draft choreography and discovered that, at least for me, video is a really useful tool for the choreographic process. It let me analyze my own dance from an audience perspective (only one: the person sitting at the corner of audience R, heh), which in turn helped me figure out what worked and what needed to change.

Today, I worked the ballet part again, and I think I’ve resolved some of the problems I ran into with the first draft — particularly the excessive repetition and the fact that I’d boringly choreographed everything down the same diagonal and back.

I didn’t record video today, but instead wrote the choreo down by hand. This is progress; I used to have trouble doing that because I couldn’t always figure out what to call intermediate things.

Now I just write “step through in coupé” (or short-hand “step thru coupé) or whatever best describes the action if it doesn’t have a really discrete name.

Also, I no longer get my Eighty-Seven Cardinal Directions of Ballet confused (thanks to Company B), which makes it soooooo much easier to write out the instructions.

I just realized, though, that for some reason I dropped one of my favorite sequences (your traditional:

pique arabesque – chassée – tour jeté – something else

…So maybe I’ll put it back in on the next iteration, with or without the interesting little pivot that kept appending itself to the landing of the tour jeté.

That said, I also addedtombé – pas de bourrée – glissade – Pas de Chat Italien into a balance à la seconde.


This iterative process feels very comfortable, which surprises me.

As a choreographer, I’m apparently quite happy to just bang out a very rough initial draft.

By contrast, as a writer, my initial drafts tend to feel pretty finished because I work into the diction and sound and feeling and imagery of the writing so much.

This means that my initial drafts as a writer take foreeeeeeeeevar, while an initial choreographic draft can be accomplished in a few minutes for a short piece (obviously, you’re not going to choreograph a 3-act ballet in 10 minutes, unless each act is like one minute long).

I think we have another Open Fly session tonight, so I might shoot some video of the second draft of my choreography, and possibly also the lyra choreography, if I’m feeling up to it.

Maybe this time I’ll remember to bring an external speaker so I can have video and sound AT THE SAME TIME!!! O.O

I think I will, in time, post my various iterative videos here. I haven’t ported the first two (both first-draft videos, but recorded in two separate phrases) over to the YouTubes yet, though.


In other news, yesterday’s rest day went well, and I learned that one of my favorite dancers and instructors is also an incredibly good cook. Like, somehow, in the midst of teaching and rehearsing and generally being amazing, he also found time to make two really good pie crusts from scratch and fill them with amazing savory pies also from scratch.

I already knew that he was a really lovely human being … only, now I’m not so sure that’s accurate.

Specifically I am not entirely sure he’s actually a human being; he might really be a unicorn in elaborate biped drag.

Video Killed The … Oh, Wait

Okay, so I couldn’t really think of a good title for this post. Video hasn’t killed anything in my life recently except my own misconceptions about the progress I’m making.

In the past year, I’ve really been trying to “bust my butt,” ballet-wise: taking class more often, taking actual physical notes, working like crazy on port de bras in the mirror at home, applying things learned in modern or aerials to my ballet training … even looking at my limitations and challenges through different eyes*.

*Maybe through cheetah eyes? Maybe not. Anyway … it’s like:

Okay, so I’ve got huge knees. So what? Nureyev had huge knees.

Okay, so when I’m in demi-pointe, only three toes (and the attendant portion of the ball of my foot) are actually on the ground … so what? I personally know at least two guys who are not only professional dancers, but key members of their respective companies, whose feet are shaped like mine.

Besides, I can physically lift my body off the floor with those three toes. Those are my jumping toes, y’all.

The thing is, where ballet is concerned, the goal-posts move constantly, and sometimes they move really fast. In other words, it’s easy to lose sight of the progress you’re making (especially when you routinely take class with seriously amazing company dancers — which, IMO, you should if you can; it will make you a better dancer).

This is, it turns out, where video can be an ally.

I shot my first bits of ballet video back in December of last year. Even watching them then, I felt like I had so, so very far to go.

I shot my most recent bit of ballet video today, while working on a new piece for Suspend (it’s about half ballet, half ballet-on-the-lyra, heh). I still, of course, feel like I have so, so very far to go: I will feel like that for the rest of my life, because that’s ballet for you.

But I also feel like I have come so, so much further than I would have thought possible in the intervening time.

It’s really, really hard to fathom how much I’ve changed as a dancer in the time that elapsed between those two recordings.

There are still times that I do weird things with my arms. I still have a bad habit of telegraphing the moments when I don’t quite remember what I’m supposed to do next (note to self : STOP THAT, ALREADY).

I still have challenges translating between the Movie-In-My-Head that I create when I’m making dances and the actual dance, because when I’m dancing I lose track of the movie in my head (so then I just wind up reverting to tons of rond de jambes or pique turns or whatevs; lately, attitude turns and renversé are in heavy rotation as well).

But the way I carry myself is surprisingly different. Surprisingly better. My arms kind of know what they’re about. My body isn’t basically a gelatin mold (I’m not talking about fat distribution, BTW — I’m talking about core engagement). My legs seem to more or less understand what’s going on. Everything is more or less on the same page more or less all the way through.

I can almost watch the video I shot today without cringing. I only have to cringe a little**, though I suspect that a year from now I won’t actually even be able to watch it, because when I watch it, some inner part of me will be all like, OMG! HOW COULD YOU HAVE THOUGHT THAT WAS GOOD, YOU TWIT!

**Like: it opens with this developpé, which is in and of itself awkward, because EVERY FREAKING TIME I make adagio dances they open with the same stupid developpé avant en effacé, except when they go croisé instead. Indeed, I am so thorough in this regard that the first partnered adagio I made opens with BOTH AT THE SAME TIME, mirroring one-another >.<

But, anyway, the developpé starts off nicely, and then just above 90 degrees my working leg is like, “Newp, too tired. Hahahahahaha.”


Leg be like: “Okay, so we start with trollface en effacé…”

So. Annoying.


Here’s my point: I think, too often, we don’t feel the progress we’re making in the ballet studio. We notice it when we suddenly develop a skill we didn’t have before (OMG DOUBLE ATTITUDE TURNS!), but the rest of the time we just don’t see it at all.

Ballet makes you weirdly myopic.

You forget how bad your single turns were six months ago. You forget that you didn’t actually have a reliable attitude turn.

You forget that renversé was hard once; that contretemps were just WTF (and definitely not something you could just toss into a variation, like, because); that your brisée was, exactly as its name implies, broken (pro tip: brisée is actually easier if you do it with the prescribed arms … though I could not even remotely begin to explain why). That your beats were, um, beat. That your developpé remained undeveloped. That your extensions were just, like, tensions, really.

You forget that, not all that terribly long ago in the grand scheme of things, you had some kind of crazy mental block about glissade-assemblé and spectacularly wild arms.

Video can help you with that — even if you can’t stand to watch your old videos again. If your brain is anything like mine, the endless blooper reel that is last year’s videos has been seared upon your brain FOREVAR, so you won’t have to watch them again. Video can remind you how far you’ve come***.

***And also that you’re STILL DROPPING YOUR FREAKING ARMS INSTEAD OF COMING THROUGH A PROPER FIRST, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, OMG, I CANNOT WATCH THIS ANYMORE, I’m feeling a little verklempt, talk amongst yourselves, I’ll give you a topic: FREAKING PORT DE BRAS, FOR G-D’S SAKE.

Anyway, at the end of the day, this all amounts to one thing: MOAR MOTIVATION (which, to be fair, isn’t a thing I really lack, where dancing is concerned).

Not to say that I’m not going to enjoy my week with two rest days (because it’s now been two solid weeks since I’ve taken a rest day, even though I was like I AM NOT DANCING ON MONDAY. OKAY, SO THEN NOT ON THURSDAY. FRIDAY? NO, MUST DANCE FRIDAY; EF IS TEACHING …Crap. It’s Sunday already, isn’t it?).

But I’m looking forward to further pursuing those elusive goalposts.

They’re not going to catch themselves, after all.

A Singularly Awesome Day; Also, Have Some Improv

Today, a small group of us got to do an exclusive trapeze performance for a group of people who are way under-served in our community. It was fantastic to be able to take our show to them — they had a great time, and so did we.

Back at home, I managed to get some laundry done, then trundled off to the studio for Denis’ trapeze class and our mutual flexibility/mobility (which I definitely needed; in retrospect, I should definitely have brought the foam roller last week!) and acro-balancing 2 classes.

Suspend usually has good music playing, and I am unable to resist the urge to dance, so eventually I relocated myself to our dance corner. The dance floor is slightly sprung, but it’s still better than the concrete corner where I had initially been trying to convince myself that even itty, bitty jumps were a bad idea.

The meditation/yoga hammocks were still hanging down, and while mucking about on the dance floor, I happened upon the idea of leaping from one open space to another, skimming between visible and invisible zones.

I wound up playing around with the idea and eventually wound up recording a few minutes of the little improv that came out of it.

To be sure, there are definitely some complete WTF moments — like, at one point I wind up on the ground and decide that I should fold myself in half.

What am I thinking in that moment?

Who knows?

I sure as heck couldn’t tell you. At one point, you can clearly tell by the look on my face that I’ve realized I’m doing something that doesn’t really make any sense, and that I have no idea what I should do to fix it.

There are also some moments I really like; ideas that I plan to work on — a bunch of nifty développes, some interesting turns that kind of fold in on themselves; a sequence of pas de chats, another of glissades.

I wasn’t paying any real attention to technique (in case you’re curious, this is more or less what I look like when I go out clubbing, heh); instead, I was making up little rules in my head and seeing what happened when I attempted to follow them — but I think with some attention to technique, something could be made of them. I think next time I’m going to try alternating between the two methods of travel; in this space, that could be pretty interesting visually.

I didn’t notice until I had watched this a couple times that there’s also kind of a motif that occurs near both the beginning and the end (totally not planned; the end of the video is the point at which I realized I had like 2 minutes before my class started)There’s also a brief conversation with Aerial M, asked if I wanted the hammocks put up (when I said I was using them, she actually said, “Cool!” but you can’t really hear that bit).

There are also several moments in which I want to strangle myself for doing the weird things that I so frequently do with my arms, though in a way seeing them in video is helpful, because I don’t usually realize that I’m doing them (the downside of hypermobility: sometimes, you really have no idea where your body parts are).

Watching video of myself dancing, I’m always like, “Wait, why are you dropping your arms there? Why did you just — no! PUT THEM BACK, THEY SHOULD GO AROUND THE OTHER WAY, YOU MORON, DON’T—” and then I realize that yelling at a video of yourself is even dumber, somehow, than yelling at the TV.

Anyway, here, have this little video of me playing around in warm-ups and leg-warmers as a sort of aperitif, and I’ll work on making a better recording of Albrecht’s variation. I think we’re going to try to get the new balancé video done this Friday or next Wednesday, schedules (and weather; we’re crazy, so we’re planning on recording it outdoors!) being what they are.

Edit: PS, I know that a bunch of times, it sounds like I’m hitting the floor really, really hard — that’s an artifact of the way my phone records sound and possibly of the floor itself.

PPS: I have absolutely no idea which song is playing.

Actual Video, Finally

So Denis totally shot this last Tuesday, and I am definitely pretty tardy in posting it. We’ve been having some internet connectivity challenges that have made larger uploads (and downloads) difficult.

I think I look pretty tired in this video, as I’d just run through this routine four times in a row, but all of the choreography is there. Next, I’ll work on adding timings (synchronizing the routine to the music) and polishing the movements to add musicality and elan.

That is, once I’m allowed to get back on the trapeze 😛

The voice in the background is Aerial K, one of our instructors, who was working with one of our friends on the lyra.

Update: Oh, and the little thing where I flap my feet to find the bar after coming down from the Iron Cross/Egg/Stag/Switch sequence is pretty hilarious.

Two for the Road

On Monday, M. BeastMode drilled us all about conservation of motion. Since I seriously need to work on that — I’m all about the attack, but sometimes at the expense of letting myself sort of fall apart — that was a very welcome topic.

Anyway, today, while catching up with the Tweeters after literally months of trying really hard not to look at Twitter ever because, seriously, it’s like being kidnapped by some secret spy agency; you go in and then you wake up and it’s three days later and you don’t know what happened and it feels like someone hit you in the head with a brick.

Okay, maybe minus the part about the brick, except when eyestrain occurs.


So today I saw this fantastic tiny video from Miami City Ballet, and I went, “HOLY CRAP. THIS IS IT.”

It’s in time-lapse, and that’s what makes it work. Here are these dancers, and their arms and legs are like all over the place, and their bodies DO. NOT. MOVE.

This, people, is how you use your core. This is conservation of motion. This is what will make your turns a thousand times better and your renversés and balances all Balan-shiny. This is what Ms. B picks on me about now that my pelvis seems to be more or less reliably sorted 😉

So, here you go. Watch (you may have to click through; I’ve never tried to embed a Twitter video before) and absorb, and then the next you’re in class, install and run this mental image. I am dead certain that this will help me, and pretty sure it will help almost anyone.


Two Weeks Without Class: Life Moves

First, let me state for the record, yet again, that not dancing drives me crazy.

Doubtless, the element of structure it adds to my time is critical, as is the element of physical exhaustion — but I think that, more than anything, I need the ritual and the communion. I need to check my mind at the door and do the steps. I need the order of barre and the challenge of the floor. I need to be not simply a dancer alone, working out his private salvation in turns and trembling, but a dancer among dancers. We are not solitary birds.

Second, an interesting thing has been happening in my life. The last year has made me less afraid to reveal myself — to others, but also to myself. I’ve learned to reflect on my own condition (in both the general and specific senses) in a new way. I’ve learned also to think more clearly about how my actions affect people around me, particularly those I love.

In some ways, this makes life harder. I begin to see the difficulty I present as a friend, with my abrupt flourishes of vigor and my equally abrupt retreats into solitude. I begin to see, also, the challenge I will face as long as I live; the tightrope-walk that is bipolar, with its precarious drops. I begin to see that to bolt forward without considering that in my plans is a fool’s errand.

In other ways, it makes my life better. Because something has shifted (Adderall, maybe?) in such a way that I can sometimes think about my thinking, I can begin to plan a life in which the room I must grant my illness is part of the design. Likewise, I can begin to step out on the ledge of public creativity again.

I have begun, once again, to believe in my vision and my voice.

Oddly enough, some of that has happened in the studio.

In real life, I have trouble with feelings — I can’t tell them apart very well, nor can I put them into words as readily as most people.

But I can dance them.

When I know the steps; when I no longer need to struggle to remember whether the next thing is pas de valse or balancé, I am suddenly able to summon feeling from the depths of my soul with trembling intensity. I am suddenly able to be transported; to let the music carry my heart and let my body follow it.

I used to be afraid of my own emotions (sometimes I still am: the crazy ones, in particular). Now, though, I’ve learned to manage them, like one manages a powerful horse, and I’m no longer afraid to turn and look at them.

At least, not most of the time.

It is true that I’m still afraid to look the out-of-control parts in the eye: the glittering mania ready to snatch the bit in its teeth and drag me out into the freezing void of space; the lightless depression, with its great liquid eyes, equally ready to drag me with it “down to a sunless sea.”

But the real feelings — pain and grief and fear, but also love and hope and joy — which I’ve kept at bay for so long…  Those feelings I can now entertain; examine; hold in my hands. At least sometimes, for a while.

This is the work I am doing; the most critical work — in my therapist’s office, of course, but also in the studio and also alone, in my living room, with Holst’s The Planets whispering and shivering and surging from the speakers of Denis’ stereo system.

Little by little, I’m plumbing and charting the depths of my soul, filling in spots on the map that used to read, “Here be dragons.

Life moves, and finally I’ve started to feel as if I’m moving with it.

This is a gift, a change, born from many seeds — but not least ballet, and the obedience of this body, which at last has begun to learn to belong to this soul.




I mean, wow, video editing is kinda fun.


Sorry. It keeps going to my head. (Worse: I’m editing ballet videos today, and they’re full of music that makes me want to dance, but NO! It’s a Rest Day. NO DANCING. Or, well, less dancing.)

*Although the attempt fails.

I say, “You don’t want to use your arms…” when that’s blatantly, obviously wrong; what I mean is, “You want to use epaulement and a soft bend in your upper body to create that beautiful diagonal line in the arms…”

Anyway, here’s my rambly little video about balancé. You’ll notice, near the end, that I attempt describe what NOT to do with your arms*, and then proceed to do exactly that.

You guys, sometimes it is really hard to think, dance, and explain all at the same time.

Anyway, in addition to a handy way to remember how to balancé, you now have a great visual example of how NOT to use your arms while you’re doing it.

You’re welcome! ^-^

For what it’s worth, I think it’s kind of hilarious how my head occasionally disappears into a cloud of light. My house is not well suited to filming anything dance-related; the rooms that have good light are either tiny and jammed with furniture** or have concrete floors, while the one room that is large enough and has a wood floor also has terrible lighting and a carpet (which is beautiful, but obviously ill suited as a ballet surface).

**Seriously, Denis adheres to an updated version of the Victorian approach to furnishing a house — in short, cram in everything you can, then add doilies.

It’s still the best option out of the available rooms, though, so I’m going to have to figure out how to work with it if I’m going to make this a regular thing.

One last thing: the tights technically belong to Denis, not that he ever gets to wear them. They’re Joe Boxer brand, from K-Mart, and they’re so freaking comfortable it’s not even funny — just enough compression, excellent wicking qualities, stretchy-but-not-too stretchy, with no angry-python waistband. They’re also just long enough to tuck into your shoes, if you’re me.

If you go looking for a pair, make sure to either pop them out of the box if you can, or at least try to find the so-called “seamless” ones (which do, in fact, have seams). Some of the others do, in fact, have horrible waistbands.

And now, your feature presentation…

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