Category Archives: it is a silly place
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.
…but don’t now that I’m an adult:
- Checking out of a hotel room. Seriously, how did it take us like an hour to pack up after one night?
- Setting up a tent. It takes me about 5 minutes to set up a normal dome tent. Though the fact my sis and I usually spent 45 of the 50 minutes of the setup process arguing miiiiiiiiight have been related?
- Waiting for the waffle iron at the hotel breakfast bar to finish its job. I mean, it’s got a countdown timer right there.
- Driving home from the pizza place. Tbh though this still feels like it my whole life I’m hangry but have to bring pizza to the party and can’t just shove it in my face.
- Driving from our house in Wethersfield to our beach cottage in Old Lyme. In Connecticut. Seriously, y’all. Connecticut is tiiiiiiiiiiny.
- Learning any choreography. Ever.
- Deflating an air mattress.
- Okay, so basically everything that wasn’t grand allegro.
Good thing I wasn’t in any hurry to grow up?
This week, the days seem unbelievably long. I just basically seem to have SO FREAKING MUCH TIME (First World Problems again).
It just occurred to me that there’s a reason for that: last week, there was an awful lot of running off to rehearsal and class and that TV news thing; this week, there’s … well, there’s class?
Class and housework. Some technologizing in the margins.
I’m fine with that. I’m really not complaining. It’s actually pretty nice—it’s just weird and surprising how spacious this week feels after last week’s compressed, frenetic schedule.
You would think I’d have figured it out by now; that I’d have been around this block enough times to be able to predict that, hey, this week is way less busy than last week so it’s going to feel luxuriously slow, but nope. I haven’t figured that out yet, apparently.
My brain is on a break, or I’d try to draw some really intelligent correlation between this kind of experiential relativity and Einstein’s relativity. Like, I feel the germ of an idea kicking around in there, but I can’t quite seem to get hold of it.
Anyway, this morning I did barre and adagio, then made my excuses (foot, as usual >.<). Killer B gave me a correction that made my arms look awesome: keep the shape of the arm as is, but imagine that you’re pressing the whole thing down against something.
Curiously, what this accomplishes is not arms that collapse, but arms that look strong and shoulders that stay open and down and back and all that good stuff (read: all the other stuff BW regularly reminds me to do ^-^).
Basically, it’s like when you’re a little kid in those swimmy things (they still make them—who knew?!) that go on your arms, and you’re using your lats to push them down against the water so they push you up. Maybe normal people don’t do that, but during my Swimmies-wearing phase, I totally did (in my defense, I was 2.5-3 years old) because I liked being able to go Boing!Boing!Boing! in the water, usually whilst my grandparents’ German Shepherd/Alsatian looked on with a heckin concern.
- We also had those floaty swimsuit things that make you look like some kind of undernourished koopa: basically, an aquatic romper with what was essentially a couple of small kickboards—one in front and one in back, if memory serves—sewn between two layers of lycra. Mine was initially too big and would ride up and bonk me in the chin and chafe my armpits. By the time I was the right size, I already knew how to swim well enough not to need it.
- For those in the US who are not dog nerds who spent too much of their formative years reading dog books from the UK, German Shepherd = Alsatian.
Anyway, here’s a bunch of pictures taken (JUST NOW!!!) with D’s late-90s-era webcam (seriously, this thing is geriatric in tech years, though it still does the job) that more or less illustrate the point:
In case you’re wondering, this is my office/guest room, where I’m in the midst of catching up on the laundry after last week’s scheduling madness.
The really interesting thing is that I didn’t actually change the angle of my arm between the first and second shot in any of the sets: engaging my lats moved my entire shoulder joint.
That said, I don’t think pix 5 and 6 are great illustrations of anything except the fact that engaging your lats makes your neck look longer.
Picture 7, meanwhile, is just silliness for its own sake.
I’ll have to try to get better pictures of this effect next time I’m in the studio. It was hard to get enough of my body in the frame and still be able to click the mouse (I appreciate voice-activation so much more right now, you guys). I would’ve done better just to use my phone and email the pix to myself, but that seemed like too much work.
One of these days, I’ll try to see if I can get D to take a picture of what this looks like from the back, because I really feel it right below the margins of my scapulae/shoulder-blades/wing-bones, and I suspect that it’s probably quite visible.
I am not, however, very good at taking pictures of my own back.
Since I am, by nature, a giant show-off, I joined a detachment of my fellow ballet peeps in the Pegasus Parade yesterday.
Although the weather was drizzly and blustery, the parade was fun. Even the standing-around-for-three-hours clusterfeck was reasonably fun, since I was standing around with BG, T, C, E, AB (our in-house yoga teacher), and, um, the one girl whose name I for some reason can’t remember (apologies!). We kept each-other entertained with snark, irony, and occasional earnest conversations about what we’re doing with our lives.
After a while, myAdderall wore off because I forgot to my second dose for the day, and I remembered an important equation:
me – Adderall + standing around with nothing to do^(enough time) = idiocy
Fortunately, I did not (seriously) injure anyone with my giant umbrella. I miiiiiiiight have gotten a little too enthusiastic during a bout of umbrella fencing and poked BG in the chest (regarding which: I should probably not be allowed to have a giant umbrella until I learn how to keep a lid on things 😦 ).
The parade itself was 17 blocks of ballet walks, waltz turns, random partnering exercises, spasms of grand allegro, and occasional yoga.
My foot did not make it through without getting sore at all, but it only got a little sore.
After, I booked it to BW’s class.
Have I mentioned that I ate lunch at 11:30 and then completely failed to eat anything until after my haircut, which finished up at 9 PM?
BW’s class, truncated, was an hour of barre, slow but not easy. By the end, my feet didn’t want to point and my left leg basically argued my about brushing into an arabesque above 70 degrees and then folded into attitude on what was supposed to be a an arabesque in plié. BW said, “Let’s callgood it a day and stretch—you probably haven’t eaten since lunch, have you?”
And then I realized that, yes, I knew this feeling. It was Ballet Bonk again. Evidently, BW is great at spotting Ballet Bonk.
So we stretched, and I asked BW to snap some pix for this month’s Suspend Challenge.
It’s Splits Time again, so here you go:
Today in modern class we did a neat little combination that involved a kind of hunchy, quasi-parallel barrel turn. My first thought (after, “I probably really shouldn’t do that,” which I promptly ignored) was “I haven’t done a barrel turn in a while—I wonder if I still have it.”
- That is to say, one of the stylized Modern-flavored ones, launching and landing in parallel, but moving by necessity through turnout, since you sort of have to rotate your knees out to do a barrel turn in the first place.
So I tried and discovered that I did still have it, and that it was comparatively easy to do.
In fact, I managed to do it in such a way that landing in either direction it didn’t make my foot hurt: lightly, softly, with just a little loft.
It’s weird to think that the barrel turn was one of last year’s Ballet Goals, and that it probably seemed like something really quite difficult, because otherwise it wouldn’t have been one of last year’s explicit goals. In essence, there are always a million things to learn where ballet is concerned, and if you make all of them explicit goals, your head will explode, so you have to come up with some way to decide which goals will be explicit (and hope, of course, that the rest will just happen along the way, I guess). My lists of explicit goals are apparently driven by Persnickety Details and Grand Allegro Pyrotechnics, with a universal criterion of “oh, that sounds hard.”
So, anyway, the barrel turn is still there, in the same way that I discovered my tour jeté and assemblé battu and entrechat quatre still waiting in a dusty corner of my somatosensory memory like so many disused bicycles when I started dancing again.
I couldn’t begin to tell you in words how to execute the barrel turn, by the way. I have absolutely no conscious notion of how I do it. I know that there’s a plié at either end and in the middle both your knees are sailing through space, but if we’re honest that could be a description of almost any jump in which both legs are bent.
If I worked through it about seventeen times right now, capturing mental “video” of the things I do and see and feel in the midst of a barrel turn, I could learn to describe it … maybe. But right now I can’t (because my foot is still healing).
Anyway, I just know that the barrel turn is still there, because as long as I don’t try to think about how to do a barrel turn, I can do one. It’s a bit of a centipede’s dilemma.
I was going to put a picture of an innocuous-looking centipede here,
but then it occurred to me that no matter which one I chose,
it would probably creep someone out. So I didn’t.
Anyway, I think a lot of learning to dance—and, indeed, to do almost anything physical—is like that. You don’t have to accumulate the ability to explain how you do what you do any more than a toddler has to be able to explain how she runs in order to make off with your keys so she can drop them in the toilet. How do you use chopsticks? How about a fork? A zipper? Try describing how you skip.
It’s not impossible to describe any of these things, of course—if we think about them carefully, we can describe them, though any student in a Physiotherapy or Kineseology program will tell you that it’s a lot more complicated than it sounds.
It’s not impossible to describe them, it’s just hard—and it’s hard because, in general, we don’t learn these things by thinking about them verbally, but by mucking about in our bodies until we get them down.
The best exception I can think of to the rule that physical learning tends to be, you know, physical is horsemanship: but I think, really, that’s because as a riding student, you’re learning how to give instructions to the horse as to how he should use his body as an instrument as much as, if not more than, you’re learning to use your own body as an instrument.
As such, a riding instructor teaching a student (especially in dressage) will often offer a correction that might seem ludicrously specific to a non-rider: “…More weight in your left sitz bone, and apply your left ankle at the girth and the right one a little behind the girth,” or what have you.
- This isn’t, by the way, a complete set of instructions for any specific thing. It could mean a lot of things in a lot of contexts: maybe you’re asking for a lateral bend; maybe you’re light in the left sitz bone and it’s confusing your horse; maybe your riding instructor needs glasses or to lay off the sauce. The last horse I rode regularly would, if you did this basic set of things at the halt while collecting him between seat and hand, give you a nice turn on the forehand, which was really handy for opening and immediately closing gates. On the other hand, at the walk in the ring, he would toss his head like a teenage girl at a parent-teacher conference unless you collected the frack out of him all. the. time. Retired field hunters, amirite?
This isn’t to say that dance can’t be analyzed using the literate part of the mind. It can; the works of Vaganova and Tarasov demonstrate that it can (though trying to read a description of a step that’s well above your “pay grade” can be a real headache).
As a student, D really benefits from a very thorough verbal description of what he’s supposed to do with his body when it comes to dance or aerials. I find that difficult to grok. Then, he’s such a verbal thinker and I’m such a non-verbal thinker (with good translation software that sometimes crashes) that we actually find it really hard to imagine each-other’s modes of thought.
- This would be less difficult for me if it weren’t for the fact that D is pretty capable of mentally manipulating objects in space, even though he can’t picture them in his head. I’m great at that, too, but that’s because I can picture them, and rotate them, and toss them around, and shuffle them, and assign various qualities of mass and so forth by feel in my head. 3D sensurround is my native mode. He, meanwhile, apparently keeps some kind of giant spreadsheet of more-or-less verbal data in his head—a kind of tabular reference, if you will. Basically, in short: the human brain, WTF.
Anyway, I can’t help but think that this is part of the difficulty of teaching dance—especially to beginners, and perhaps especially ballet.
Beyond a certain level, as a teacher, you’re probably mostly dealing either with students who are strongly kinetic-spatial-visual thinkers and/or students who have developed really good compensatory mechanisms for not having strong mental visuo-spatialization ability. Beginners, on the other hand, are likely to be a mixed bag of all kinds of thinkers, and so you have to figure out how things are done and, even more dauntingly, how to convey that information to your students.
Later, as your students accumulate their own competencies, you’ll be able to say things like, “Then you just do this [insert visual demonstration]” or “Yes, but don’t rond the leg” and they’ll get it.
In the beginning, though, it seems like there’s a lot more explaining, and that it has to be done incrementally.
This Sunday, M, one of my friends from Trapeze, finally found her way into our dance class. AM very soundly and rightly gave her only one or two corrections to work on, and later checked me when I wanted to funnel too much information her way. I constrained myself and ultimately only asked her to reduce the rotation of her ankles a little bit in turnout so her knees would track over her toes.
Anyway, being prevented from drowning a new student in information was a good thing: I’m still very much learning how to teach.
I suspect that, for me, learning to teach will be harder than just plain learning. One involves the simple accumulation of competence; the other involves the intelligible description of the elements of competence.
One last anecdote from Sunday’s class: AM give the class an exercise with a sauté fouetté in the mix. Interestingly, only M did it right the first time.
The other two did something else entirely. I was sitting on the sidelines, watching and offering what guidance I could, and noticed that our other two students were doing something that wasn’t sauté fouetté, but was somehow familiar.
The third time I saw it, I realized what it was: they were executing rather nice révoltades, presumably because nobody had bothered to tell them that they—as dancers with very little ballet background, and definitely no men’s technique—couldn’t possibly know how to do nice révoltades.
So, there you have it. The human body is a mysterious thing, and apparently a révoltade is just a sauté fouetté executed, um, more or less inside-out.
Not that I could possibly begin to explain what I mean by that.
This morning, I opted just to do barre. My foot is finally actually healing now that I’m being extremely conservative with it, and since I have two classes tomorrow, then classes and rehearsals Friday through Sunday, I figured it would be a good idea to take it easy today.
- For values of “take it easy” equal to “do barre in Killer Class,” which is sort of like saying, “Oh, I’m taking it easy; I’m only climbing halfway up Mount Everest.” Particularly given that barre was a full hour long this morning.
Anyway, that was probably for the best. My brain was not on its A-game today. I managed to get almost every combination wrong in new and different ways … especially our fondu, which was supposed to go like this:
balloné, balloné, jeté front front front, balloné, balloné, jete side side side, balloné, balloné, jeté back back back, fondu passé developpé, fondu passé developpé, fondu passé developpé, retiré, fondu attitude, grand rond, fondu attitude
… and then reverse all that shizzle, or something along those lines.
…but quickly turned into this:
balloné, balloné, jeté side, wait, what?! balloné, balloné, jete … side for realz, I think??? balloné, balloné, jete … what the **** am I doing with my inside leg right now??? fondu all the unfoldy legs at the wrong time all the way around, retiré, arabesque, fondu attitude side, what the actual heck am I even doing right now??????!!!!, fondu developpé and HOOOOOLD.
Barring the moments in BW’s class when I sometimes fail to actually intake the beginning of some combination because I’m busy thinking about some fine point of technique and then have nobody to follow, it has been a while since my brain so thoroughly failed at the barre.
I actually asked between sides which way we were supposed to jeté first, and then proceeded to do a completely different set of wrong things on the second side.
Sadly, I had no problem remembering the adagio and terre-a-terre, even though I didn’t do them (I was stretching and watching BG dance, since he took class with us today).
I don’t know what my problem was, and I don’t think I want to know.
Tomorrow will be better. Until then, here’s a picture of my cat being extra derpy:
I just couldn’t turn today.
Or,well…that’s not entirely true. I nailed a few really nice singles and maybe one nice double, but it wasn’t a good turning day.
My spot was, for some reason, extra slow.
My working foot didn’t to go where it was supposed to (seriously, at one point I closed an en dehors turn with the toe to the front of the knee, then moved it to the back immediately … just, WAT?!).
I hopped out of more than one double.
I blame my left ear, which is being weird. At one point I had to lie down on the floor and give myself a bit of the ol’ Epley Manœuvre.
I also blame Roberto Bolle, who showed up last night in one of those dreams that just go on and on, no matter how many times you blink briefly awake. I don’t remember it terribly well, but I think we were doing Swan Lake, with Bolle both dancing and directing.
Mostly I remember him yelling at me about my arabesque: higher, straighter, point that working toe harder, what’s that supporting foot trying to do? Get that demi-point UP!
My arabesques were, in fact, very nice today, though. So, thanks for that, Mr. Bolle
Dr. Dancebelt also featured in this dream as a disembodied voice over the house PA system. I remember thinking that was odd: we never saw him, but we knew he was there.
Ultimately, this is what I get for watching Paris Opera Ballet doing “Études,” Bolle in “Manon,” the remainder of Bourne’s Swan Lake (2012) all one evening. Weird dreams and bad turns.
I wasn’t awesome at the grand allegro: it ended with a change of direction via piqué soutenu, and I just couldn’t remember that.
On the upside, my extensions are back above 90 even à côté, I managed not to flail in tour lent en attitude, and I actually didn’t hose up the petit allegro.
So there you have it. Wednesday, now with 100% more advice from Dream Bolle.
The Time of the Allergies(1) is upon us again, and D had a coughing fit at 6 AM that woke me up.
- Or, if you’re me, the time of EVEN MOAR ALLERGIES, because all times are the Time of Allergies.
Since then, I’ve actually managed to put dishes away, wash last night’s remaining dishes, put those away, make waffles (because either someone in the neighborhood was making them or I was totally hallucinating the scent of waffles, and I just couldn’t stand it anymore), eat a waffle, feed D a waffle, clean up after the waffles, and run a couple of loads of laundry.
I also failed at making tea, however: boiled the water, then forgot to actually make the tea for two hours, so had to start over. Anyway, I have tea now.
Fortunately, D picked up some allergy meds for me, so I’m breathing through my nose pretty decently at the moment. #smallvictories
Anyway, ballet-wise, I feel pretty on top of my choreography, including the Partner All The Girls! bits (actually, those are the easy bits; I really basically just stand there, look pretty, and put my hands where they need to be). However, we still have the last 23 seconds to learn, so I’m going to rehearsal tomorrow instead of going to see Wendy Whelan’s “Some of a Thousand Words.”
Funny thing is that it really wasn’t a question (because apparently my #priorities are properly aligned, or something). If we’d finished the dance last night, I might have gone to the performance instead, but I really actually want to go to rehearsal.
Fortunately, D isn’t offended that I’m opting out on my birthday present, and in fact agrees with me that going to rehearsal is the right choice. He is going to give our tickets to someone who wants to go and doesn’t have tix, which is a nice thing as well. So instead of seeing Whelan’s show for my birthday, I get the pleasure of giving someone else the chance and still getting to go to rehearsal 😀
In other news, I still have no idea what I’m wearing in the show, besides white socks and white shoes. I keep forgetting to ask, and people keep asking me, and I keep having to say, “Um, actually, I have no idea.”
BG described the tights I’ll be wearing as “awesome,” so of course I’m picturing something like this:
…But I suspect that reality will be somewhat less ornate, since all the girls are wearing pastel leos and white romantic tutus, and not so much with the bling.
In other news, today is perfect soup weather, but I forgot to buy soup, so #firstworldproblems etc. I could make soup, though, if I get desperate.
Here’s what I wore last night, anyway:
I was use-testing the socks, which are new. BG and I agreed that we kind of liked the blue tights (which are brighter in real life) with the socks, but also that they would clash with the rest of the performance.
The shirt, OTOH, is just the same shirt I wear every damn day.
Today was the third straight day that I woke up at 7, did a few things, decided to read for a few, and promptly zonked out for two hours. Considering that I can usually only nap if I’ve been awake for two days straight that’s bizarre enough.
However, today’s nap featured a dream in which BG offered the following advice for creating dances:
- Make sure the floor is clean. (Okay, that’s not so weird.)
- If you’re choreographing a dance for your little sister, use a combination of dish soap and Windex so she can see the reflection of her arm in the floor, but only if it’s a wooden floor (…oookay).
- Never leave rotting fruit on top of the piano unless you’re using it as part of the choreography. (Wat.I mean, obvs, but WAT. Also, why?!)
- And even then, only bananas.
I wish I could remember more of it.
It was all so sincere! BG in the dream was totally offering this in the vein of choreographic mentorship, as if these were basic questions central to the art of choreography that any budding choreographer might encounter.
…And yet, at the same time, it was all so bizarre(1).
All of this suggests that my unconscious mind is, at present, deeply concerned with matters of choreography and cleanliness (which, yes, but I didn’t need weird choreographic cleaning advice from a dream to figure that out).
So, in short, remember:
Never leave rotting fruit on top of the piano unless you’re using it as part of the choreography. And even then, only bananas.
- I should probably admit that this dream also involved a “pee machine,” which was a kind of elaborate Japanese urinal-and-holding tank that was supposed to allow people of any sex to pee modestly at outdoor festivals (apparently Dream Japan has never heard of the standard Port-o-Potty). In fact, it was so badly designed that even a bog-standard cismale with no intersex stuff going on would wind up pissing all over everything within the area of a meter and a half. Oy to the vey. I was cleaning that, too. I spritzed it with bleach, which caused crackling noises, which caused me to say, “I love chemical reactions!” What. The. Hell.