Category Archives: life

How to Get a Dancer’s Body: Two Strategies*

I: The Slow-and-Steady Approach

  1. If you don’t live in a locality with a good professional company, move to one
  2. Go to performances. Identify a dancer whose body you wouldn’t mind having.
  3. Find a teacher. No, not a dance teacher; that takes way too long. I’m talking about a teacher of the obscure occult arts.
  4. Gather such materials as you may require: the black goat, newts’ tongues, and rooster’s egg may be difficult to source in urban areas.
  5. Using the materials and methods  already acquired, become incorporeal.
  6. Once you have become incorporeal, locate your chosen dancer and cause him or her to become incorporeal as well.
  7. Take over the body of the dancer in question.
  8. Congratulations! You now have a dancer’s body.

II: The “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That” Approach

  1. Start dancing. No, seriously, right now, to any kind of music or none.
  2. Are you dancing? Are you in your body? Congratulations! You now have a dancer’s body!

*for best results, attempt with tongue held firmly in cheek

…You Stop When The Gorilla Gets Tired

(File under: Every Aphorism I Know I Learned In Bike Racing)

I’ve been having a tough time with re-entry following this summer’s intensives.

Not that I’m, like, pining for the fjords. Just…

Hmm. How do I explain it?

Going to a dance intensive is, in a way, very much like going to summer camp. You’re essentially excused from most of the responsibilities of adulting. Your daily activities are heavily programmed for you. You don’t have to juggle variables, interruptions, or random transportation disasters.

If you forget your ADHD meds, you make it through the day pretty well because all you’re doing, really, is dancing, and your brain works best when you’re in motion. You don’t have to remember a bunch of discrete, unrelated tasks and somehow accomplish them.

If you stay up really late bonding with your new dance family, it’s no big deal. You get up the next day, pour some strong coffee into your face, hit the studio, dance your butt off, and sleep like the dead when you get back to the dorms or your AirBnB.

And then you come home, and your body is adapted to an 8-hours-per-day-plus physical workload that you’re unlikely to match except during the most intense periods of rehearsal or performance, and you have to get back to Adulting (with or without ADHD).

For me, this illuminates one of the central challenges in living with ADHD: it never goes away.

To borrow a quote from Kiwi bike racer Greg Henderson [1]:

Greg Henderson quote:

Swap “ADHD” for “training” and you’re good. (Shamelessly stolen from Pinterest, of course.)

  1. or a quote about success from Robert Strauss, who presumably doesn’t race bikes but could feasibly be a Kiwi; can’t be arsed to look him up right now.

You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the gorilla is tired.

ADHD is, in some ways, a gorilla that never gets tired. Instead, you have to learn to manage your gorilla—and managing is largely a question of automation.

When I’m doing it right, I manage my ADHD by making it as hard as possible for myself to screw up the basics.

I lay out each day’s clothes the night before, so I never have to fumble around looking for clothes before my brain is working.

My morning and afternoon doses of Adderall are right there in my 7-day pillbox, so I don’t find myself thinking, “Feck, did I take my meds?”

My keys, wallet, sunglasses, and other important small things live on a shelf by the door, so I will always put them there when I walk in and never have to wonder where they are.

My phone lives next to the bed, where it acts as an alarm clock. Once I get out of bed, I either leave it tethered to one of its chargers or keep it nearby. That way, I never have to look for it.

My class and rehearsal schedules get written out on the whiteboard on the refrigerator door. Writing them down helps me remember what’s coming up; it also gives me a hard-copy reference when I’m not sure and lets D know where I am, when.

While I cook, I clean as I go and streamline general dishwashing into those moments when there’s nothing that requires attention.

I run errands before, after, or between classes so I won’t have to take extra trips out of the house. I maintain shopping lists on Google Keep so I don’t have to remember anything, including the shopping list.

I burn a ton of energy, knowing that it’s the only way I’m going to be able to sleep on anything resembling a normal, diurnal schedule. I run Twilight on my phone and f.lux on my PCs to cut out blue rays (this really does make a huge difference, for me). I don’t play video games or peruse social media in bed, because those get my brain ticking over too fast.

I pay really close attention to things like caffeine intake: and if I’m having a rough time sleeping, I avoid any caffeine at all after about 2 PM.

These are all fairly small things, but they add right the heck up.

The problem is, they’re all routine-driven, and once I get out of a routine, it can be really hard getting back in.

This week, I’m struggling really hard with insomnia. After being sick for most of last week (during which all I actually did was sleep), I’m left with a surplus of energy, but not enough on the schedule to burn it off.

Since it only takes one sleepless night to torpedo weeks of careful sleep programming, I’m currently in the midst of a really unpleasant cycle of sleeping two hours one night, then nine the next.

Last night was one of those two hour nights. I missed class today because of it: I finally got to sleep around 8 AM. Turned off the alarm at 9 AM, when I realized it would be foolish to try to do modern on one hour of sleep. Woke up at 10, when I should’ve been starting class, anyway.

I’ve realized I need to get back to negotiating with my gorilla. I’m home for one more week, then off to That Thing In The Desert[2] after all, then back for a week, then off for a medical thing[3], then possibly starting rehearsals for a thing, depending[4].

  1. In addition to the usual Open Barre sessions with mimosas, I’ll be leading some contact improv playshops at our camp this year.
  2. I’m going to apply my “to know, to will, to dare, to keep silent” clause here. This is a minor medical procedure but a huge freaking deal for me, so I’m trying not to  feck it up.
  3. Here, too. I’m actually okay with waiting and auditioning for the next thing this company does, but it’s sort of up in the air right now whether we can work around my temporary restrictions after The Secret Medical Thing.

None of this makes it easier to figure out where to start rebuilding my Life Management Protocols, so I’m just going to do what I normally do: fumble forward and hope for the best.

In other words, just pick something and start where you are.

In that vein, I’m hoping to get a class in tomorrow to make up for missing today’s (though tomorrow’s class will be ballet, not modern).

I’ve got a doctor’s appointment at 8-o-freaking-clock in the morning for which I have to check in at 7-goshdarn-30, which means getting up at 6-what-even-is-sixthirty-30 because I kind of need D with me for this one and he needs more than 20 minutes to get out the door 😛

As such, I need to actually get my tuchas in bed at a reasonable hour tonight and, if necessary, hit myself with a whacking great dose of doxylamine succinate to make sure I don’t stay awake all night.

Those are some easy start-where-I-am steps that I can actually do (along with getting audition video links to the AD for the Secret Dance Thing and signing some documents for The Secret Medical Thing and emailing them back to the practice in question).

So, there you have it. I think I really wanted this post to be more of a thought-piece about managing ADHD than me scrabbling on about how I’ve managed to hose everything up for myself (though I did plan to mention that), so I suppose I’ll add that to my queueueueueueue of posts to actually write sooner or later as well.

Until then, I’ll be here, negotiating with my gorilla.

~

Oh: in other news, I successfully gave a bit of advice to a new guy in class last night, which felt really good.

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.

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?

Why I Love JB Right Now

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):

  • catch up the finances
  • mow the lawn
  • bath
  • make dinner
  • early to bed, Nyquil if necessary because insomnia and insane allergies are making my life difficult

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.”

 

Some Boring, Practical Advice on Pursuing Your Wild, Impractical Dreams 

Recently I had a chat with a good friend of mine about goals and so forth, and later it occurred to me that I’d failed to say a few really important things—or, well, things that have been important in my own journey, anyway.

They’re things other people have said to me, mostly, though a couple are insights I gleaned by osmosis growing up. They’re things I need to hear too, from time to time, in order to help keep myself on track. I’m writing them down here, where I can always find them if I need them.

Here they are:

1.Identify your actual Wild, Impractical Dream.

This is harder than it sounds. It took me a long time (though it wouldn’t have taken anywhere near as long if I’d just listened to the voice inside me screaming, “GET BACK TO DANCING FFS”).

First, not everyone actually has a wild, impractical dream of this kind: and that’s okay. Honestly, there’s a lot to be said for practicality and reliability, neither of which which are associated with being the kind of lunatic who goes off in pursuit of a Wild, Impractical Dream.

Second, the kind of Wild, Impractical Dream I’m writing about rarely involves the word “and.” It’s an all-in kind of gig: I want to dance for a regional ballet company, not I want to dance for a regional ballet company and ride my way to the top of the FEI stadium jumping circuit. 

Occasionally, someone manages a spectacular “and.” Usually, if you look into it, it owes either to truly extraordinary circumstances or happens largely by chance and involves related dreams (dance and musical theater, for example, or visual arts and fashion, or architecture and mathematics).

Usually, though, pursuing a Wild, Impractical Dream requires singularity of focus (not least because tunnel vision helps you ignore naysayers).

Basically, when you discover the thing that makes you willing to put everything else aside, you’ve probably found it.

If the thing is coding or massage therapy, congratulations: you’ve got a Wild, Practical dream. You can still read the rest of this if you want, though. I’m pretty sure that, when it comes down to it, the same basic advice applies.

2. If the phrase “…be (a) famous…” is part of your dream, consider reassessing your goals. 

I say this not because any one individual is wildly unlikely to become famous, but because if being famous is part of the motivation, you might actually be barking up the wrong tree.

The passion for the thing, whatever it is—dancing, writing, rotary engines, differential calculus—has to come first.

Otherwise, you’re very probably not going to be motivated enough to stand a snowball’s chance of sticking with it long enough to become mediocre, let alone famous. Wild, Impractical Dreams are harsh mistresses.

If, on the other hand, fame itself is the real Wild, Impractical Dream, own that.

The history of the world is rich with the stories of people who thought, “Man, I’m really not good at anything, but I want to be famous.” The ones who succeed are the ones who acknowledge that fact and dedicate themselves to taking any and every path that might lead to fame until, eventually, one does.
Oddly enough, that’s essentially the same approach that one takes in pursuing  any Wild, Impractical Dream.

3. Take Any and Every Path As Long As You Do So With Focus  

Maybe ballet is your One True Dream, but in the course of pursuing your Wild, Impractical Ballet Dream, you get an offer from a modern company.

If that’s the thing that’s going to let you keep dancing, take it. Be a good Buddhist and avoid clinging to perceptions and phenomena. Maybe ballet feels like the only thing, but sometimes serendipity leads us via scenic byways. Sometimes modern is the way to ballet—and sometimes, on the way to ballet via modern, you discover you were born for the weird and wonderful world of contemporary ballet.

Just learn to discern between scenic byways and “shortcuts” that leave you in Poughkeepsie. And know that sometimes you might get stuck in traffic for a bit.

4. Stand Up for Your Dream 

This might be the hardest one.

A Wild, Impractical Dream is Wild and Impractical at least in part because people don’t “get it.” It might be ahead of its time. It might be way outside of the predominant cultural framework where (and/or when) you are. People might think you’re too young, too old, too black, too white, too poor, too mentally ill, too fat, too skinny, too disabled, too whatever.

Any good Wild, Impractical dream is one you’ll probably have to defend at least once. This requires you to believe not only in your dream, but in yourself—or at least to act like you do.

The funny thing is that by acting as if we believe, we tend to come to believe: we stick around until things start to get real; so real that even we can’t deny it.

5. Accept Change Gracefully (if not Immediately)  

Sometimes, in the midst of pursuing your Wild, Impractical Dream, life will intervene in profound and unexpected ways.

It’s okay to be upset when that happens. Feel the feelings. Have the meltdown, if a meltdown comes along.

The death of a dream is a very hard thing. Even the temporary side-lining or minor refitting of a dream can be hard.

But change is inevitable, and sometimes change knocks is off one course and puts us on another.

Fight with conviction for your Wild, Impractical Dream, knowing that in the end you might not get there. It’s worth doing anyway.

A Relative Dose Of Success Followed By, You Know, Life

Leading up to PlayThink this year, I was bulldozed by a swift and nasty bout of your bog-standard “depressolepsy”—that fierce, crushing, exhausting depression that rocks up out of nowhere and smashes everything in its path. Thanks, Rapid Cycling Type I Bipolar, or whatever the hell is going on with my brain.

That’s been the case the past three years running, so I think it has to do with timing: the time of year; the timing of the onset of Summer Intensives and my inability to figure out how much GoGoGo I can take before I need to take my brain out and put it on ice for a couple of days; the timing of the stressful bit of my non-dance job; the timing of always effectively losing my husband to The Great Wave of Planning that precedes his standing summer plans (PlayThink and the Big Burn) just when I most need someone to help me stay afloat[1].

  1. This bit isn’t really his fault, btw. It’s more that I have a hard time broaching the divide between myself and other people, including D, when I’m struggling, and it gets even harder when he seems preoccupied. It’s something we both need to work on, together, and we’re doing it, but it takes time.

None of this was improved by my lack of security about our performance piece for the Friday-night “FlowCase,” which we hadn’t rehearsed anywhere near enough.

D offered time and again to cancel, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be better to get out there and do the show than to back out. This is, for all its friendly down-home atmosphere, a professional gig—and the first rule in the performing arts is and always will be: “The Show Must Go On.”

  1. Corollary[3]: if your name is printed on the official marketing materials, you’re part of the show.
  2. I consistently misspell this word, even though if I stop and think about it for a sec I actually do know how to spell it. Seriously, self: “Corolarry?” Really? Is that, like the cousin of Corojessica, or…? SMH.

Basically, getting out there and screwing up sometimes is part of the business—even Nureyev fell flat on his arse from time to time—but you don’t want to get a reputation for backing out of your commitments.

So I gritted my teeth and accepted that we might totally bomb; that the whole thing might go right off the rails. That life is, after all, pretty much an exercise in walking a tightrope in a maelstrom, for all our delusions of control. That the even inclusion of a twirling beach umbrella and faux 20s-era men’s swimwear might not pull my carefully-crafted little acro-clowning-ballet back from the edge of disaster[3].

  1. I had thought of also including fake moustaches, but forgot about them, so even they could not have saved us if things went south.

So we wrestled our way through a couple more hours of rehearsal rendered incredibly awkward by the lack of so much as a single properly-flat spot in which to rehearse, which in turn made the apex of the whole number—the candlestick-to-diver transition that we basically invented for this show—literally impossible.

And then we went on.

And you know that thing that happens when you get on stage and the whole world falls away and suddenly you’re ON and even if you literally put a foot wrong, you can’t put a foot wrong?

So, that happened.

~

Our performance wasn’t perfect in the literal sense. Because we hadn’t been able to nail the diver transition, we left it out (though we didn’t actually program in something else, just in case it magically came off: I simply sort of rolled out to the side, pulling D up with me).

We had already scuttled the bluebird lift at the end because we need more practice with it before we put it in a show. Right now, its hit rate at home is only about 25%; the rest of the time, I wind up hitting it for about .5 seconds while D struggles to figure out the balance point, then we fall out of it and I yell at him and then apologize for yelling at him.

And, yet, in another way, our performance was a million times better than I could have imagined.

D lit up in a way I’ve never seen him light up on stage (evidently, all you have to do is give him a beach umbrella and let him twirl it[4]).

  1. I actually rather suspected this would be the case, which is why he got to twirl the beach umbrella (okay, so also it fit his character better than it fit mine). D has a lot of natural clown in him. I formulated this thing to play to that strength, and I think it paid off. Choregraphy Rule Number One: when you’re creating a piece on a group of dancers, create it on the dancers you have.

The piece filled up the music exactly (I was incredibly worried that we’d get ahead, finish early, and have to stand there grinning like eejits for 30 seconds or what have you).

Perhaps most importantly, the audience rippled with genuine laughter at all the right moments. It wasn’t that weird, “Uh … is this supposed to be funny?” laughter that we all secretly dread. All the jokes (physical jokes, not verbal ones) hit the mark.

When it was over, they cheered. Lustily. Thrillingly. Authentically. It was awesome.

So, score one for team Dawson/Taylor-Dawson. Not bad at all for a pretty complex bit of physical theater that had a sum total of maybe four or five hours of real rehearsal time and literally no full run-through with music.

Throughout the rest of the festival, we constantly heard how much people had loved the piece.

A few even commented on exactly the thing I’d hoped to bring to the table: the fact that the piece had characters and a storyline, which isn’t something I’ve seen in FlowCase in previous years. Our good friend reported that she was so proud she found herself tearing up. Someone even commented that my ballet (all three-ish steps that actually made it into the final piece!) was beautiful.

Needless to say, the success of the piece and the instantaneous lifting of the pressure of it off of our collective shoulders helped immensely. So did being done, and thus able to go retire to the camper and just read (I did stay for most of the rest of the show, though, until the mosquitoes emerged and began eating me alive).

I also discovered a technique that really helps D and me: right before we went on, we simply talked our way through the piece, back and forth, each of us simply stating the short-hand name for our moves[5].

  1. Except for the ballet part: since I do that by myself, and I sometimes find it quicker not to actually attempt to get the language bit of my brain firing, I just visualized and went, “Balletballetballet, maybe some other ballet” there.

We each went on feeling like the other knew not just the skills required, but the sequence in which they needed to be called up, and it let us both relax. Handy!

~

Anyway, there’s video of the whole FlowCase, but it won’t be ready for a couple of weeks. I’ll watch it, even though I’m not sure I want to (the performance felt really good, but when I watch video, I tend to get hung up in my flaws).

This week, I’m taking two days off to get things back to normal as much as I can before diving back into class and so forth. I am vaguely regretting not signing up for our AD’s master class, because I know a couple of people who are taking it and it sounds cool, but I also recognize that I need a breather.

I need a couple of days to just do day-to-day life stuff. Mentally speaking, I already feel like the summer is more or less over: I’m away for two weeks of July on dance intensives (LexBallet and Pilobolus), then possibly again for much of August and the first week of September (depending on a handful of circumstances) for Burning Man. Because I struggle with time, the idea of those giant pre-planned blocks makes it hard to understand that the rest of the summer, the windows between those bricks, exists.

Inevitably, when I take a couple of days off, there’s a part of my brain that remembers how nice it is to have the whole day to do the things that need doing (or, if possible, to do nothing, or do only things that don’t need doing). Occasionally, a very quiet voice in the back of my head whispers, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to do this than to pursue your insane visions?”

I remind it, of course, that “it makes more sense” hasn’t really worked out for us in the past—that I’m not actually great at predicting what makes sense; that (perhaps more importantly) the pursuit of impractical dreams, Quixotic though it may appear, keeps the wind in my sails.

Someday, I’m sure, it probably will make sense to ease off the accelerator a bit; to drop out of the big ring. Right now, though, I’m riding to ride the hills; I’m dancing to feel the sensation of soaring at the top of the grand assemblé porté.

And, yet, I think it’s good for me, having a life in which something as powerfully thrilling as Friday night’s performance is followed by something as entirely mundane as getting out in the backyard to chop up the branches that are still waiting there for me.

To misapply Jack Kornfield’s magnificent summary of Zen practice: “After the ecstasy, the laundry.”

So there we are. Back to class tomorrow, though I am sure I’ll sorely (ha!) regret jumping back in with Killer Class instead of something gentler.

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!!!!!!!

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