Category Archives: intensives

Not Dead Yet, Again

I’m a bit tardy in reporting that I made it home safely from Connecticut after a lovely weekend with my parents.

Since then, I’ve been muddling through the side-effects of the antibiotic I’m taking, which has caused me to feel like I’ve been run over by a truck or something. 

I’d forgotten how thoroughly this stuff hoses me up by the end of a course. This was not in any way improved by driving for 14 hours straight on Monday 😛

Fortunately, I took my last tablet last night. It’ll take a few days to get back to normal. The challenge with this stuff is that it causes fatigue, pain, tightness, and weakness in the muscles and can cause tendon ruptures, so one must be careful. 

I managed not to rupture anything at Pilobolus’ intensive, though—the side-effects were accumulating last week, but hadn’t peaked (and I forgot to take my dose a couple of times).

I went to class yesterday but skipped out after barre because everything in my body felt like it was about to snap. My grand battement was pathetic. I spent much of the rest of the day asleep (so I woke up at 5:30 this morning … Yay?). 

Not sorry at all to see the back of this prescription, though I’m glad it has sorted my sinuses.

I’ve got so, so many thoughts gleaned from my week in Connecticut. I’m slowly organizing them. I’ll try to report back soon-ish.

So It Was National Dance Day

Rather ironically, I celebrated by mostly not dancing.
Well, there was some dancing, in the morning, before I headed for Mom’s. And my friends carried me down the hall to the door when I left.

Pilobolus Summer Workshop was beyond words—or, well, beyond words that I can find when I’m happily exhausted because I spent the week dancing and creating feeling and spent Friday night singing and drinking and dancing and talking and talking and talking…

Went to bed at 7 AM on Saturday. Woke up at 10:50 AM. My body didn’t feel tired, but I could tell my brain was tired.

Anyway, I’m rolling all this stuff around in my head. You leave Pilobolus’ workshop ready to work, but in need of some time to think.

Anyway, instead of writing, today I’ve been taking pictures. Here’s a few from today and a couple from the week for your enjoyment or what have you.

Me, standing in front of a closed windier in my childhood bedroom.

I realized tonight that this room no longer really belongs me, and I no longer really belong to it. ATM though it’s hard to explain what that means. Also, I kind of can’t believe this is my body. That is not hard to explain.

A late ray of sun slanting down through the variegated leaves of a small tree, with a house in soft focus behind.

“Glory be to G-d for dappled things…” —Gerard Manley Hopkins

Students from Pilobolus' Summer Workshop Week 2, 2017.

This is us: the surprisingly-cohesive little commune that was Week 2 in 2017.

Asher sitting down with garden plants in the background.

There was a lovely cool breeze this evening. I sat on the bench near the house and drank it in and was glad to be alive and to be tired.

Asher lying on the floor of the dorms at the workshop with other students in the background.

This was a rough moment: knowing we were all about to part ways. Hard to describe how much you can come to love a group of people when you’ve just spent a week learning to trust them to hold you, guide you, and lift you high into the air.

A woven basket hangs on the outside wall of a garage flanked by mature plantings.

This basket has been hanging on the garage for a long time. I’ve photographed it before, in fact. The light was so beautiful that i couldn’t resist.

Pilobolus: Initial Thoughts (on Day 3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Or, well, mostly wasn’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That, too, is an amazing thing.

The Accidental Rest Day

I arrived home on Saturday, went out with friends on Saturday night, stayed out way too late, got up and went to class anyway on Sunday[1], and took a planned rest day on Monday.

  1. It was a surprisingly successful class, except for this one moment during which something crazy happened in the preparation for a renversé and I literally said, out loud, “What just happened?!” With that exception, I managed to remember combinations and execute them with a fair degree of élan. I also spread the gospel of Bloch Pro Elastics by handing off the pair that’s too big for me to T, who immediately fell in love with them.

Unfortunately, in the midst of said planned rest day, D’s truck decided to fry its alternator again, which means he’s using the Subaru right now, and I’m Riding the Combat Express (which is, you guys, very different from Going Commando)—you know, hoofing it, with a side of bicycle. This (coupled with uncertainty about whether I’d need to be available in the morning to facilitate picking up the truck from the shop) resulted in Tuesday being an accidental rest day, which might not actually be a bad thing.

Today has been iffy. It’s not impossible to get to class without the car by any means, but it involves a different decision-making process with different criteria in the analysis.

One of them is: am I a sleep-deprived wack-job right now?

I am, predictably, having difficulty sleeping this week—partly because I never sleep well in the middle of summer, but also because physical exhaustion really helps with that whole sleep thing and I’m both still adapted to last week’s exercise load and not getting anywhere near as much exercise.

Anyway, last night I managed to get to sleep by midnight (not going to lie: better living through chemistry, there—a little Nyquil because I’ve either got a cold or am at present violently allergic to the universe). That said, I woke up at 4 AM and didn’t succeed in getting back to sleep until 8:30 AM. Not helpful.

Under the circumstances, I decided against spending 3 hours on the bus (round-trip) to make it to Killer Class, even though I normally would have done exactly that. I wasn’t particularly worried about actually killing myself in class. Rather, the idea of coping with humans and scheduling and bus transfers just seemed impossible.

Instead, I went back to sleep for a couple hours.

Anyway, I’m hoping things will work out so I can deposit D at Suspend, hit up evening class, then roll back down to Suspend for acro.

In the meanwhile, I’m doing the books and serving as a cat-rest—or, well, my right foot is serving as a headrest for the cat, who is sleeping on the footrest under my desk. It’s all very restful.

In other news, I’m off to Pilobolus on Saturday: I plan to leave right after Advanced Class and complete as much of the drive as possible on the first leg, so as to leave less driving for Sunday.

I’ve received the instructions for checking in to the dorms and so forth, so I’m feeling more relaxed about things. In a way, it’s very much like going to summer camp—you get a list of what to bring and what not to bring, details about how dorm rooms and room-mates are assigned (first-come, first-served and dancers’ choice, as it were).

My brain has been percolating choreographic ideas I might want to play with in Connecticut. I’m looking forward to working with a bunch of complete strangers, since it always results in interesting outcomes.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Back to Modern tomorrow; will probably take class Friday morning to make up for my generalized delinquency this week.

Until then, I’ll be here, being a pillow for the cat.

Ballet Intensive Wrap-Up

Things I noticed in my rehearsal and performance videos that are incredibly frustrating:

  • I occasionally let my turnout go when I need to get my tuchas accross the floor, pronto
  • OMFG why did I prepare for my turns in such an effing huge lunge? BW would kill me all the times
  • My arms still really like to creep back behind my shoulders
  • When I get spooked, I let the music push me. To misquote Hagrid, “I shouldn’t’a doon that!”
  • I did these beautiful assemblés battus all week and then left out the battu on the big day :/
  • I still tend to end the arm movements too quickly
  • Also, when I get tired, I still throw my head back in turns.

Things I noticed that are at least okay:

  • So much less Flappy Hands! Yay! Nobody wants to watch Seigfried Flappy Hands, even if Tim Burton directs.
  • Great traveling sauts-de-chat, Batman!
  • Me legs. They look pretty amazing. Also like eleventeen feet long in those tights.
  • Before I got spooked, some of my port de bras was actually pretty okay.
  • I played off my mistakes pretty well even though they pissed me off royally in the moment (the AD showed up)
  • The nice moments are much nicer than last year’s nice moments.

I’m sure I’ve got plenty more thoughts, here, but I’ll brain-dump them later. Tonight I’m going out with ballet peeps from home just to play 😊

LexBallet Intensive 2017: Day 4 In Brief

The variation felt good tonight, except the bit when I came in too hot right at the beginning.

Note to self: tombé is not a leap.

Not usually, anyway.

The girls, meanwhile, look amazing. The thing that impresses me most is that they’re all so beautifully synchronized.

Tomorrow we ride.

Tonight, though, I’m exhausted and I need to roll my legs, so that’s it for now.

LexBallet Intensive 2017: Days 2 & 3

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:

  • In saut de chat, focus on travel rather than on elevation (the elevation takes care of itself)
  • In Bournonville jeté, imagine leaping over a hurdle. This imparts the graceful ballon that makes it such a nice leap.
  • Also in Bournonville jeté, think about reaching forward with the arms, then opening them. This both looks better and prevents me from hyperextending my back and shoulders, which screws up the momentum of the jump and looks weird (though probably okay in modern contexts?).

The central thing I’m taking away from this intensive is that I need to focus on one idea:

FORWARD.

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.

LexBallet Intensive 2017, Day 1: The Onliest Boy Rides Again

…A giant registration system SNAFU almost scuttled the whole thing! But! A bunch of us showed up anyway, and N, the director of the school, called us in for a huddle after class and said, “We can still make this happen!”

So we’re back on.

Tonight, whilst everything was up in the air, we just did the Intermediate/Advanced Open Class. It was a really good class, though!

After a tough morning in class at home which I couldn’t keep brain and body together (seriously, we did an awesome manège which I managed to screw up by losing track of which cycle I was on–did an extra on the first side, left one out on the second), it was a relief in to not go full Baby Giraffe tonight.

Tonight I apparently mostly remembered how to dance. W00t. There was one combination I didn’t pick up right, but I got it on the second run.

Also, heckin grand jetés across the floor. Evidently, I haven’t forgotten how to fly.

Tomorrow it’s back to the regular intensive schedule.  We have, in essence, three days to learn variations o_O’

I have no idea what we’re doing, but Friday night we’re showing them, G-d help us!

Honestly, though, if I can dance like I danced most of tonight’s class, I’ll be fine.

In other news, C opted out this year, so I’m the Onliest Boy again. I guess it wouldn’t be right to make it through a summer without that?

Stiff

So I realized a few exercises into barre tonight that I had eaten lunch way, way too early. 

Oops. 

By end of class I was both bonking hard and sweating like an unfit racehorse. I couldn’t get enough air moving through my nose to do that nifty breathing exercise I use to slow my heart rate, so I sweated far more than was actually necessary.

I was also stiff in a way that I initially interpreted as ordinary fatigue, but later realized was the result of my muscles flipping me the bird every time I asked them to do anything. That’s what I get for not feeding them enough.   

Still, excepting the repeat of one of our later pirouette exercises, during which I glanced at the mirror and immediately forgot which leg I was supposed to be on and semi-froze (seriously, WAT), things went reasonably well, with some really nice moments into the bargain. 

I don’t think I danced as beautifully, overall, as I did yesterday, but it was still a nice improvement in terms of freedom and musicality compared with what I’ve been doing lately (read: ever). 

I also kept having that weird experience of being flummoxed by frank masculinity of my body. Honestly, I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever get used to that. I’m slowly becoming okay with it, though: I am not a delicate little waif-twink, but I am graceful and occasionally even elegant. 

I don’t think I ever really did the math on that. As horses go, maybe I’m basically like a Friesian: strong-boned and muscular and powerful, but also graceful and elegant. I suspect on some level I’ve codified a dancer’s grace and elegance as those of an Akhal-Teke or a young Thoroughbred, but that’s not the only possibility. Trakheners and Friesians and Dutch warmbloods are also graceful and elegant. So are the baroque Spanish breeds.

I’m built for classical dressage: the restrained power of the passage and the piaffe; the explosive brilliance of the airs above the ground. 

I used to believe that the sheer mass of my body undermined the effect of adagio and so forth. Now I’m beginning to see that a powerful build lends its own magic to balances and développés and penchés. 

So there’s that.

Anyway, I’m exhausted. Tomorrow should be good, though.  

Forgot To Mention

I only learned about this yesterday, or I’d totally be in Detroit right now, but Ballet Detroit has an Open Session this week. If you’re in the region, drop everything, go, suffer, and return stronger.

Rayevskiy brings the Vaganova, but if you’re afraid you can’t hang, don’t worry. I couldn’t make it 100% of the way on every exercise either, but it was still worth it to take his class. I really wish I could go, because a week of Rayevskiy would be really, really good for all my goals right now.

Ballet-Detroit-Open-Summer-Week-Schedule

Go learn from this terrifyingly-beautiful-but-actually-really-sweet danseur. (Image ganked via screengrab direct from BalletDetroit.)

Since I can’t go, though, you should. You’ll wind up a beast in the best possible sense of the word.

PS: it took me an hour to write this because my stupid computer is terrible :/ Time for some troubleshooting.

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