This gallery contains 9 photos.
In ballet, as in life, it’s better if you don’t leave any bodies behind.
Everything was reasonably functional this morning, which was good, because Advanced Class began with four of us and two had to leave after barre. The remaining pair of us got quite a workout.
JB was like, “I always end up with two students,” and I said, “It’s a sign. You should be teaching pas de deux class.”
Sadly, we did not get Pas De Deux 101 (or even 095: Remedial Pas De Deux–Topics In Not Dropping The Girl And Not Kicking The Boy In The Hereditary Storehouse).
Instead, we got a demanding class that was entirely about weight transfers.
Most of it was good. Since I know I can do quadruple turns, I’ve been dialing back the quantity factor in order to improve quality. As such, turns and terre-a-terre went quite well, except when I got a bit too excited about a developpé à la seconde balance from sus-sous and knocked myself off my leg.
During petit allegro, for some reason I could do royales during the mark but not during the actual run. WTF even is that?
I still hate royales, but that probably means I should work on nothing else until I nail them down.
At least now I’m able to do them in such a way that they don’t look like a complete afterthought: JB does them really cleanly, and I finally got my head around the idea that a royale isn’t so much a lame, beaten changement for people who can’t do entrechat six as it is a showy little flutter: you beat out-in (front)-out-in (back).
I think that in the past I’ve always beaten the first stroke of my royale to the front instead of to the side, which makes it both nearly invisible (en fact, in fact, it can be completely invisible) and probably not actually a royale—it occurs to me that, basically, only cabrioles and assemblés battus do that.
Our grand allegro went something like:
sissone faillie (passing through a clean first!!!)
fourth arabesque à terre
[something else might have been here?]
coupé-chassé-rond de jambe (en relevé)
tombé-“pas de bouchassé”-brush-grand assemblé
pique third arabesque
some other kind of chassé-developpé sequence
repeat on other side
It was a really cool combination. My tour jetés were kinda lame (like, BW would’ve made me go back and do them again, and HIGHER, and SHARPER), because I was pretty cooked by then, but I’m still so happy to be jumping again that it didn’t really matter that much.
I think, though, that as much as I’m happy to be jumping again, my favorite combination today was a waltzy thing in which we changed facings via passé from fifth to a lunge in fourth three times in a row.
It was really quite pretty, and I think I managed to do it without getting the arms backwards at all … which, honestly, is one of those awkward ballet things. Internally, I’m half like, “YESSSSS! NO BACKWARDS ARMS!” and half like, “WTF are you doing still getting your arms backwards, you jackwagon? Aren’t you past that yet?”
We also did a nifty center tendu in which we paddled ourselves around the eight points of the stage using ronds de jambe à terre. It felt, I don’t know, contemplative might be the right word. It reminded me of doing fancy paddling tricks in a canoe.
I want to say that was the same combination in which we ended with a tour lent en dedans at passé through to attitude derièrre. When I picked that one up, I initially thought that the tour lent was supposed to be en dehors, which in turn made me wonder what we’d done to make JB hate us so much 😉
It was hella awkward with the tour lent going the wrong way, since the transition into attitude derièrre happened during the turn, which meant that if you did the turn backwards, you had to work twice as hard to keep everything together (because momentum, and turnouts, and physics, and stuff).
Anyway, it’s all improving bit by bit. There are days that I suddenly really feel that I’m a better dancer than I used to be—like, I feel it in my bones, with a kind of immanent certainty.
Today wasn’t one of those days, but it was the kind of day on which I can see that I’m making incremental gains. I think the difference is that sometimes everything just comes together, and I dance well enough that I feel legitimately gifted, whilst on other occasions I just feel, you know, serviceable.
But, honestly, my goal is to be a serviceable danseur. There’s much to be said for being serviceable: it bears with it the notions of reliability and competence. Yes, when you’re having one of those “gifted” days, your teacher or AD or whatever tends to take notice: but over the long run it’s important to be serviceable, reliable, and competent.
Speaking of which, my sissones did not suck today. So there’s definitely that.
In other news, after listening through a couple more times, I’ve decided to stop banging my head against the impossibly huge wall of Late Romantic Era music and just leave the score for Simon Crane as it is for now. If it proves impossible to actually set “Isle of the Dead” effectively, I’ll sort it out later.
For now, I just need to keep listening to it and working the story into it.
In semi-related news, I have a playlist on Amazon Music called “choreography,” and I have no memory of adding half the things that are on there. On the other hand, one of those things is the first movement of Beethoven’s “Waldstein,” which I suspect might be as fun to choreograph as it is to listen to and to play[6, 7].
One more class (maybe two, if get antsy I take class Monday morning before I leave) and one Pilates session before Lexington. I’m trying to be chill, but honestly I’m so excited I feel like I might explode.
Oh, and while we’re on it, here, this is finally up on YouTube thanks to CM:
I’m vaguely iffy about posting this at this point, because I feel like I’ve come a long way since then 😛 But there it is, finally. 11 girls and me in BG’s “Vivaldi Variations.” I’m still pretty pleased with how well it came together, given our broad array of experience levels and our abbreviated rehearsal schedule.
Feel free to laugh at all my weird attempts to compensate for the fact that I’m scared out of my mind of wiping out due to the whole Shoe Incident. Also, there should totally be a drinking game that goes with this; something like, “Put the video on repeat and drink 5 shots if you actually spot the shoe” (you can, in fact, see it—and once seen it’s hard to un-see); “Take 1 shot every time Asher drops his arms;” etc. Edit: Oh, yeah, and “Take 1 shot every time Asher lets his turnout go,” though you probably won’t make it to the end of the first repeat if you use that one.
I was having an awkward kind of morning: got a little tipsy last night, stayed up too late, slept badly, woke up early (whichever one of us taught my cat that it’s possible to awaken humans by tap-dancing on their bladders needs a swift kick in the tuchas), started reading, lost track of time, failed to eat, etc.
This translated to a wonky start at barre. I couldn’t figure out where my pelvis was or find my lateral obliques or keep my arm from wandering off to do its own thing. My head kept getting ahead of my arm. I tendued to second, then went, “Hmm, no,” and adjusted (which drives both JB and BW crazy).
Midway through one combination, during a sus-sous balance, JB sauntered over, grabbed me by the back of the neck, reset my head and neck, and then used both hands to physically move my entire ribcage.
I tried not to do the weird thing where I respond to someone touching me much in the way that a sea anemone responds to the touch of a potential predator, though it took a little doing.
Anyway, I had mostly sorted myself out by the time we got around to going across the floor and doing jumps, though I was momentarily distressed by this bizarre phenomenon in which, during a mark, my brain went, “assemblé!” and my legs went, “CABRIOLE, MUTHA****A!”
On the other hand (foot?), there were some nice cabrioles in there, so…?
Since this entire combination was assemblés changing direction and leg until none of us could remember which leg was which, that obviously would’ve been a problem.
Anyway, tomorrow should be better. Today the plan is (in no particular order, except for the “early to bed, Nyquil if necessary…” bit):
Oh: I’m considering Schumann’s A minor ‘cello concerto for the third act of Simon Crane. I haven’t listened all the way through it yet, but the first movement sounds promising.
For all that, though, I’m still not at all sure that I want to do away with “Isle of the Dead.”
This gallery contains 9 photos.
In ballet, as in life, it’s better if you don’t leave any bodies behind.
Tonight, BG posted a bit of video from one of last week’s classes to our community group on the Facebag.
It’s a simple Sissone combination, the kind you do to build endurance:
Sissone fermé x3, sissone ouvert landing in 1st arabesque, pdb, changement X2, back and forth until you either drop dead or run out of music.
Watching it was illustrative: at the beginning, I’m carrying my arms, my eyes are up, my jumps are high and elastic, and I return to an acceptable fifth. I can tell I’m a bit tired by the pacing of the jumps, but overall the effect is decent.
By the end, I look like I’m flapping my arms in an effort to fly away, my face is frozen in a thousand-yard stare, and my working leg has given up on the whole concept of fifth position.
So I guess the emphasis on endurance will continue.
I’ve felt better the past few classes, though. It’ll come.
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.
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:
…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:
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… . . .
Today’s class was a … you know what, the French do have a term for it: a melange. A mixed bag. Tutti frutti, perhaps.
Barre was good. Then bad. Then good. Then bad. I’ve mostly recovered my strength, anyway. There were some very nice balances, some very nice fondus … and some balances that weren’t, and some fondus that were really very much fondon’ts.
Adagio started out awkwardly and progressed into beauty (thank freaking G-d). The waltzy terre-a-terre thing was actually fairly nice going right (musicality! literally effortless triples! literally acceptable chaînés!) and terre-a-terrible going left. I mean, so bad that on my second run left (when I inserted myself back into the last group for a remedial run), my badness became contagious and BG, who was taking class with us, blanked on the second half of the combination.
I then tweaked my mostly-healed toe and bailed out mid-run going left on the next thing, a very similar-but-rather faster terre-a-terre. I couldn’t get it taped fast enough to make it back in for the warm-up jumps, so at that point I was done. Meh.
So, basically, several points in the “progress” column and several in, depending on who you ask, either the “regress” or the “congress” column[2,3].
“If pro is the opposite of con, then the opposite of progress must be Congress.”
—Attributed to Mark Twain, anyway
After, I joined AMS for swimming and roller-coasters (and inventing fake rides for an imaginary theme park of our own), which may have been completely irresponsible, but which was also completely worth it. I now have a season pass to an amusement park that’s located barely more than a stone’s throw from my house and actually literally on the way home from ballet.
Since there’s a water park there where I can swim my brains out in a wave pool, I intend to use the bejeezus out of said season pass.
As is the way of these things, the season pass is less expensive than paying regular admission twice. It’s also comparable to or less expensive than a membership to various local swimming pools that don’t have waves and gigantic waterslides (or rollercoasters).
This solves my “How can I do cardio without overworking my quads?” problem quite nicely. I can now go swimming a few times each week … and if the occasional roller-coaster or two sneaks into the deal, that’s probably okay.
At the moment, my car smells like the inside of someone’s dance bag.
In fact, it smells like the inside of a dance bag belonging to someone who shoves his sopping-wet warm-ups into said bag after class and then forgets about them and goes home and the next day is like wtf did I do with my warmp-ups and then finds them when he goes to get his shoes out in ballet class the next day and shoves them back in his bag and forgets about them again until he finally remembers to bring the freaking bag in so he can wash them, which might take like an entire week[1, 3]. Ewww.
So I’m planning on going after my car with some carpet foam tonight. Possibly also mowing the lawn (completely unrelated, but still something I should probably do), but we’ll see.
Anyway, fairly good day in Modern today.
I am still madly in love with floorwork.
Perhaps I always will be? The lights (which are on sensors) clicked off about a quarter of the way through our floorwork combination, and we were just like, “Ahhhh.”
Modern dance naptime, you guys. For real. It’s as refreshing as a nap without all that annoying napping.
Meanwhile, I’m back to being able to withstand light pressure on the outside of my right foot, so it’s now possible to safety-release into various rolls from an upright position. It’s still iffy about turns, but TB (who has been in class with us a few times now—yay!) suggested a different way of taping it that might help, so I’m going to try that tomorrow and Thursday.
I’m also continuing to work on knowing where UP is, which is remarkably hard (TB finds this unsurprising about me; I suspect it’s part of the “ridiculously hypermobile dancer” package).
I’m also also continuing to work on not being so freaking terrible at scheduling myself. As such, I created a dance-specific calendar, and because I figured, “Why not?” I’ve posted it as a page. That way D can find it easily and figure out where in hell I’ve gone, which can be a problem when you’re married to a dancer who won’t stand still for 5 minutes.
Turns out that it loads desperately slowly (read: about the same level of urgency as an unhurried sloth), but whatevs. It’s a start. I thought about making a separate calendar page for intensives, but that seems excessive. Instead, I made two separate calendars with joint output. The intensives show up in a red font; everything else shows up in blue.
crazy awesome. Or something like that.
That said, it turns out that I’ve YET AGAIN double-booked myself on so many levels it isn’t even funny, so now I’m trying to finagle my way out of the Cultural Dance workshop I can’t take because I’m in Lexington during half of it. That sort of forces me to take our AD’s masterclass, though, which I’ve been semi-dreading because, like, he’s our AD and therefore inherently terrifying.
In other news, I guess it’s time to Order All The Dance Belts before I jet off to Lexington and then Connecticut. I have three that I like well enough; I would really like to have five so I never, ever have to worry about whether or not they’ll dry on time.
I need to make up my mind whether to order another pair of Yumikos or to order some M. Stevens tights, also, mainly because there’s some lead time involved in acquiring another pair of Yumikos.
Though, come to think of it, my Very Own Personal Yumiko Rep is about to jet off to a tropical paradise for an intensive because he is, in fact, awesome (no, really; last year he got invited to dance at Jacob’s Pillow), so that might sort that for me. I’ll have to find out when he comes back from Ballet Paradise.
Okay, confession taimz.
In class on Thursday and Sunday, I caught my balancé in the mirror and thought, “Hey, that looks really nice!” And I gave myself a mental pat on the back.
This has been fairly consistent of late, at least when I remember to make note of which flavor of balancé I’m supposed to do.
If, on the other hand, the choreography calls for leading off with arrière and instead you travel à gauche, your beautiful balancé will shortly turn into an awkward evasion as you attempt not to crash into the poor soul who has rolled up to go behind you in your group.
Either way, I’ve grown rather pleased with my balancés, and it seems that in the process I’ve forgotten what bastardy horrors they were to re-learn.
Tonight, an old entry of Dorky’s reminded me of how gum-blisteringly weird balancés feel before you
brute force finagle your way into them, and how infuriating that can be given that they look like such a natural, breezy step.
Of course, I say all of this after first receiving the Secret Brute Force Balancé Hack from BG, and then being constantly corrected and guided and occasionally actually manhandled until my balancés, too, look springy, fluid, and effortless.
Which, it turns out, more or less seems to sum up the way one learns ballet. Each step, each skill, is drilled into one’s bones by a process of repetition and refinement that begins with, “I’ll never find it! Never, never, never!” passes through the murky waters of, “I can do this, ish, but I suck at it,” to the Island of, “Hey, I don’t even really suck at this anymore!” and eventually to the distant port of, “I’m actually kinda good at this, though not as good as X Famous Dancer/Company Member /Turns Girl (to borrow someone from Yorksranter)/Adagio Wizard/Jumps Boy.”
And in time, you lose the savor of those early days of struggle.
And then Memory comes along and slaps you with a dead salmon and says, “Oh, you’re not so great! Here, have an outtakes reel of everything horrible you’ve ever done with balancés!”
And for a minute, you stand there gobsmacked, because Memory really is a first-rate b*tch sometimes.
And then you realize that the very fact that you can even be horrified at how very, very bad you were at balancés means that you’ve come far enough to know how very bad you were, which is at once terrifying (“One year from now, I am going to cringe so hard about literally everything I think I know how to do right now o____O'”) and edifying (“But you guys! Look how much LESS BAD I am now than I was one year ago!”).
…When you’re a dancer.
The body of a dancer is a precision instrument
It responds like a top-flight racing bike combined with a masterwork violin. To the dancer, it delivers sublimely subtle signals (okay, and sometimes obnoxiously loud ones) and offers exquisite controls.
It’s also persnickety as all hell, though, to be honest.
Like, there are a million things that can, for ballet purposes, just make you feel weak. For example:
So, basically, to sum it all up: like everything else in ballet, keeping the body strong and tuned-up is all about desperately fighting for balance whilst making it all look effortless.
Feeling inspired yet? o_O’
This post brought to you by a conversation with BW that more or less concluded with both of us giving up on trying to figure out what might be making me feel weak, because obviously the answer was YES.
And the numbers 1 through 8, because #dancermath.
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:
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.