Category Archives: goals

Mid-Year Progress Report, 2017

You guys, WTF?!!!

IT IS ALMOST JULY, YOU GUYS. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN.

did-that-really-just-happen

This blog has now reached a point at which I can recycle images at will for almost any topic.

Anyway, as you know, ballet goals: I haz them.

wp-image-1097475121jpg.jpeg

Some of my ballet goals, affixed to my copy of Tarasov’s (ahem) *man*ual pour les danseurs (Get it? *MAN*ual? Whomp, whomp, whooommmmmp… :V).

Anyway.  (Yup, it’s about to get long in here, so have a cutscene thingy.)

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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:

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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… . .  .

Finally, a Mostly-Good Class

mostly-dead

From The Princess Bride, via blatant heckin bamboozlery.

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[1], which requires a better spot and more accurate placement[2].

  1. …Though, today I was just having a remedial “don’t turn the wrong freaking way” kind of day. There were singles and doubles and one triple, and that was fine, since we were aiming for precision.
  2. …And a steady supporting leg, which in my case also comes down to strength—or, more accurately, the balance of strength, as do extensions. BW noted that, for me, the challenge is balancing the extreme mobility of my hips and the natural strength of my quads by strengthening the rotators and other muscles that oppose the quads. Basically, I need to work on my butt. Even more. And not ever do anything extra with my quads, period, end of story. He might not have actually said that second bit, but it’s kind of implied?

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[3].

  1. This works because ballet is systematic and sequential: sus-sous balance begets soutenu turn and soubresaut, which in turn begets changement. Soutenu turn and changement together, combined with a strong plié, beget tours and then double tours (or, if you’re me, 1.5 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[4].

  1. …So if you’re a dude and you’re going to work on double tours, wear your best dance belt (and a smile, I guess?).

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[5].

  1. This is moderately counter-intuitive, because in a soutenu turn it doesn’t feel like that’s happening … but it is.

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!!!!!!!

A Brief Hello

I’m apparently in a bit of a rut right now, of the irritating kind defined by the feeling of being sufficiently depressed to find socializing exhausting but not so depressed that you can’t see that A) you’re depressed and B) you’re kind of a jerk right now.  

On the other hand, good things are happening regardless, to wit:

  • I can finally jump reliably again! (And I am So. Out. Of. Shape. But I can jump, so that’ll be sorted soon enough.)
  • Ballet Detroit’s master class was superlative! Literally one of the best classes I’ve ever taken and also one of the hardest. Rayevsky gives a heckin brutal barre, but in a good way. Meanwhile, our final exercise across the floor involved (for the boys) sixteen grand pirouettes. On each side. I managed eight on the right; I literally can’t remember what happened on the left =:O I will be working on these with BW.
  • Got my triples back going right. Going left, turns still feel a little weird on my healing foot, so I’m working on getting clean ones and not focusing on counts—so it’s singles and doubles, which I mostly don’t do like a crack-addled wildebeest. Mostly.
  • Did a … We’ll call it a “quarduple.” Not quite a real quad, but a proper triple that ended with I … AM … GOING AROUND …  AGAIN … DAMMIT!!! It wasn’t pretty, but it happened.
  • Did turns at the barre without panicking because there was no time to panic, because the in question was like “8 counts AND TURN! 8 more counts AND TURN! Now repeat (AND TURN!) and reverse (AND TURN!)”   
  • Also landed a double tour out of sheer terror. Apparently, I perform best when I’m basically terrified of disappointing my instructor. Sadly, I didn’t even really clock the fact that THAT HAPPENED at the time because, you know, sheer terror. 
  • Got a scholarship for Pilobolus’ intensive 😀
  • Picked up my first Official Dance Paycheck. YASSSSSSS. 
  • Learned that D can Bluebird Lift me.

So those are all good things that happened. I’m hoping that now that I can jump again and have survived a double tour once, I’ll stop psyching myself out of double tours. 

PS: I can only Bluebird Lift D if he climbs into it, partly because he’s harder to balance than I am because he’s not as good at engaging all the things, but also partly because my arms are short. 

PPS: I realized that even though I know how to lift people bluebird-stylie, trying to be lifted us confusing as hell when you’re trying to remember where your hands go when you’re doing the lifting and translate it to placing your bodyparts appropriately. 
😁

On Learning To Be Serious

Sometimes, in the process of navigating your life, you look up and realize you’ve passed a bunch of waypoints without even really noticing.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: I realized that I needed to update my dance resumé, which pretty much made me laugh out loud, because I’ve come a really long way in less than one year, and I totally failed to notice.

In short: this year, my life has suddenly taken off.

Or … well. It feels sudden, but when I think about it, it really isn’t.

(moar behind the cut; it’s long)

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Remember That Audition Where I Fell Off The Trapeze? 

The most interesting man in the world doesn’t always fall off the trapeze, but when he does, it’s during an audition … and lands him a callback!(1)

  1. Okay, so falling off the trapeze may have had exactly nothing to do with it. But still! I got a callback!!! YASSSSSSS!

Pretty much a perfect depiction of how I’m feeling right now 😀

Ballet Goals for 2017

We’re on break for the next couple of weeks, so this seems like a good time to sit down and set some ballet goals for next year.

I think I set some last year, but I’m not sure what they were (because I’m too lazy to look them up right now). Anyway, I may not have included all of these on whatever list I made, but I know these were all things I hoped to achieve in 2016:

  • Reliable double turns. Check.
  • Suck less at port de bras. Hella check. I realize now that this is a really, really vague, but still. The nice part about being actually terrible at something is that you can improve really fast if you put in the work.
  • Suck less at petit allegro. Kinda check? This one was too vague as well. I am less bad at petit allegro than I used to be, but it is not my forté. Not at all. Got beats, though, and at least least it’s usually just bad petit allegro these days and not the desperate flailings of a a baby giraffe on rollerskates. 
  • Barrel turns. Oddly enough, I did manage to learn these. I wouldn’t call them reliable—they’re still squarely in the “can do it if I don’t try to think about it” department. 
  • Tombé-coupé-jeté. See “barrel turns.”
  • Saut de basque. Check. Like a boss, mofos. I have one heck of a nice saut de basque. 
  • Ditto pas de chat Italien. I didn’t know this was a goal until someone asked me if I could do it. Then it was a goal for the 5 minutes it took me to remember how.
  • Ditto also renversé. I don’t know why it’s so hard to “get,” but once you really have it, you want to put it in everything. It’s like saffron or fleur du sel. 

So my first goal for 2017 is to make my goals for next year less vague (pretty sure that’s basically like wishing for more wishes).

So here we go.

Steps & Stuff

  • Double tours.
  • Double cabrioles avant and arrière (edit: see footnote 1)
  • Reliable triple turns.
  • Unreliable quarduples.
  • Reliable turns à la seconde.
  • Entrechats six et plus. This should be doable; my quatre is reliable.
  • Brisée—this needs to be reliable. Right now, it’s …. Yeah. Let’s not talk about that.
  • Maybe revoltade? I feel like fewer of my goals should be grand allegro pyrotechnics, since that’s basically playing to my strengths. 
  • Solve the infuriating problem of being good at circular/grand port de bras without the barre and less good with.
  • Overcome my turns-at-the-barre phobia. Seriously.
  • Balances. All of them. Today in Sunday class I slow-piquéd into a first arabesque, slowly brought my working leg up above 90, and just hung out there until my head pretty much exploded with amazement thanks to a very simple exercise that Aerial A gave us. Then I failli-ed out like it was no big deal. 
  • Temp de puisse. Stop turning it into a funky Sissone.
  • Sissones. Review them. ALL OF THEM. 

Specifically for BW:

  • Directional stuff. BW is basically the reason I can now reliably describe whether something is croisé or effacé without having to freaking well get up offa that thing and dance til ya feel better  out of my seat, draw my imaginary box, and then execute the movement in question. 
  • Strengthen them turnouts.
  • Use that crazy-high passé/retiré without having to think about it.
  • Dat sus-sous, though. I feel feel that BW will be happy with me when he never, ever has to remind me to tighten my sus-sous (for the record, he’s the one who helped me solve my sus-sous versus knees problem, so I’m glad he calls me out on it).
  • Effing devil turns.  Chainês. Be good at them, because I want BW to be proud of me, and whenever I do chainês he looks vaguely horrified. I think this is exacerbated by the fact fact that we usually precede them with My Favorite Thing, piqué turns, at which I rock 

Variations 

  • Revisit Albrecht’s variation. Work out the kinks. Specifically: connect the steps and passes better; get the arms sequenced so I don’t do stupid flappy hands after jumps.
  • Revisit the first act Peasant Pas from Giselle. See above. No flappy hands and no half-assing the balances. 
  • Learn at least 2 more solo or duo variations. This should be no problem. I should look at the repertoire and see what’s what. Probably not Le Corsaire, though miracles do happen. I could probably learn the trepak from one Nutcracker or another. Maybe something from Swan Lake? Or from La Dame aux Camélias.
  • Learn at least one pas de deux. This will probably depend on whether we get rep class and partnering class to happen; otherwise it’s just going to be a thing that maybe happens at summer intensive, I guess?

Choreography

  • Finish and stage “Work Song.” I should should be able to fully check this one off in March!
  • Finish at least the first act of Simon Crane. Possibly look into setting and staging a few pieces.
  • Finish Peace, set it, and perform it.

And, of course, I will endeavor to actually be good at port de bras and épaulement, in accordance with the scriptures, and to focus on making my petit allegro light, precise, and clean, instead of always approaching it as “grand allegro, but faster and with a million fussy steps.” (Read: tone down the elevation and the travel.)

That might prevent Eric Bruhn, Bournonville, and Vaganova visiting me from beyond the grave to stare at me in silent disappointment. Not that this has happened, of course, but I feel that it’s what should happen to bad little boys who don’t work on their petit allegro.

Lastly, I will attempt to remember that attacking turns does not mean we’re trying to kill them. Or, rather, to remember that when it counts, and not after class or in bed at 11 PM.

Um, that’s probably enough for one year.


  1. Turns out I can do double cabrioles arrière using the “hands on the barre (or shopping cart)” approach that we use to convince ourselves we can do any cabrioles at all as little kids. This doesn’t actually buy me any air time, so apparently this is entirely a mental thing. Avant on the other hand? Dunno yet.

    Bonus: it’s Hella fun doing shopping-cart double cabrioles across a parking lot in winter boots 😀

    Ballet Intensive, Days Five and Six: Sleep Dep and Crazy (Arms) Mode

    Friday was interesting: I had no zip in conditioning and technique because I was running on three hours of sleep (did I write about this already?); variations went well because in those three hours I seriously only dreamed about Albrecht’s variation.

    Today’s performance was okay — I think I should have gone a bit easier last night; as such, my jumps weren’t awesome.

    Also, I kept sort of forgetting what to do with my arms and just kind of waving them around in more or less the directions they were supposed to go, more or less. Jeez.

    I know this because there’s video. I’m annoyed with myself for forgetting to just carry my arms through the opening two steps of Albrecht’s variation. Also for doing the world’s worst tour jeté and tiniest tours, but I understand why those happened.

    That said, there are some nice moments in both pieces (one is the double turn that goes to attitude on the second rotation), and I’ll try to take KvN’s advice from Cincinnati and focus on those things!


    Edit: I’m thinking now about ballet goals for the rest of this year, so I’m going to write them down.

    • STOP DOING THE CRAZY ARMS AS A DEFAULT.This is a big one. This happens in part because I don’t always mark the arms with any clarity when I’m just walking through things, and the arms decouple from the choreography, and if I’m tired, I lose them. This morning, I lost a really nice moment in Albrecht’s variation specifically because of this.

      The first rule of performance is: AS YOU REHEARSE, SO SHALL YOU PERFORM.

      So I need to stop rehearsing my arms incorrectly, duh.

      ~

    • Nail down the double cabrioles, because seriously, it would be good to have those in my balletic toolkit, and I think I should be able to get them down.~
    • Polish the frack out of Albrecht’s variation and get a good video posted. I should also do the other one. It would be less awesome with only one person, but maybe I could teach it to someone else?~
    • Get ballet video more often. For me, video makes a really good tool for analyzing and correcting my movement patterns.This week I discovered that I can learn and memorize demanding choreography pretty quickly; video can help me figure out how to make it cleaner and better.

      ~

    • Tune up the basics well enough that I continue to execute them correctly even when tired (I’m looking at you, tour jete and legs that opted not to stay particularly turned out during simple arabesque balances).~
    • Triple turns on tap.

    So there you have my ballet goals.

    Oh, and also: my turnout muscles are tired for realz. I suspect they’ll be very happy to know that they’re getting a day off on Monday.

    One last edit: I think I actually forgot to do the turn from fourth to second at the end of my solo and subbed in a regular turn from fourth, but it worked out anyway.

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