Category Archives: modern

Choose Your Own Intensive: Days 3 & 4

Yesterday, I had nothing before ballet, so I was properly fed and rested and so forth.

As a result, BW’s class went very well.

After, I went and played at Suspend, where we did all kinds of lifty things in Acro 2.

After that, my car decided to throw a fit and D had to come rescue me (fortunately, I noticed that it sounded weird and didn’t get on the expressway). As result, an already late night got later, and I was too tired to pack lunch.

This morning, D came home early and sent me to Cinci with his truck, which was really sweet of him. I had eaten two hot dogs for lunch, with the intention of grabbing some real food when I got back into Louisville.

In Cinci, partnering class was half really frustrating: I couldn’t hear because my allergies were trolling me, and we were learning partnering phrases, so I kept not quite understanding what was going on[1]. As a result, I kept frustrating my partner, which made me nervous, which makes my brain not work too well.

  1. Also, my body wanted all the fouettés to be tour jetés. WTF, body?

Anyway, we got there eventually.

During the second half, we did group lifts, and that bit went really well. Didn’t hurt that Acro 2 last night was all about the dynamic group lifts :p

Anyway, after Partnering, my plans for food were scuttled by a traffic jam. I resorted to buying Chex mix at a gas station when I refueled the truck. I would be surprised if that even brought me back up to baseline.

Anyway, BW’s final class was more challenging than it should have been, since I basically ran out of juice. I got all the way through anyway, but my grand pirouettes weren’t really all that grand. They started out nice going right, then fizzled, going left, I just worked fourth-passé-second-plié-relevé-plié-relevé, etc, without the actual turns.

On the other hand, I cracked out some nice grand allegro: it was kind of my way of saying, “I value your class and, dammit, I’mma try as hard as I can!”

That backfired, of course, when we proceeded to follow the second grand allegro combo with even moar petit allegro.

Oh, I can now check entrechats six off my goals list. Or, at any rate, I can mark them as done with baseline success but in need of werk, werk, werk, werk. They’re not pretty, but they’re there.

We did 36 of them.

Also, after that, so many Royales, which are my least favorite jump. I mean, seriously, in France there’s a hamburger named after them[2].

  1. I may be employing artistic license here. Who knows?

    Anyway, my legs felt weak and resentful (I suspect that, if you’re a dancer or a cyclist, you understand what I mean), and I resented their resentful attitude (note to self: I need to draw a resentful attitude 😁) until I realized that it wasn’t fair to resent them when it was my own fault for not feeding them.

    Evidently, it takes a lot of calories to run this body at peak performance, or at any rate more than the ≈600 I have it before tonight’s ballet class.

    …Oh, well.

    At any rate, I’m pleased with myself for not giving up. There were a few times in class tonight that my dark side whispered,”You could just say your foot is unhappy!”

    But I didn’t.

    So there’s that.

    Anyway, I’m going to go have a wee soak in some Epsom salts. Tomorrow, I have to leave at 7 AM for Cinci because evidently I’m insane, so after that I’m off to bed.

    Choose Your Own Intensive: Day 2

    At ML&Co, it was partnering day. I paired up with a girl who was frankly awesome at partnering. She made us both look good!

    I landed hardish a couple of times on my healing foot, but still made it through everything in BW’s master​class except grand pirouettes going left. My foot complained about those, so I decided to play it safe and only do a couple.

    Even grand allegro went reasonably well. Still can’t get out of my own way doing brisées in medium allegro, though :/

    Or, well. I managed a couple going right, but literally got off on the wrong foot going left and failed to actually recover.

    I guess that’s going to be a goal this week.

    The combo is:

    Glissade, jeté, jeté jeté; balloté x4; coupé-balloné; brisée, brisée; temps de cuisse, entrechat quatre x2.

    I think I’m going to have to mark that at home.

    On the other hand, some of the stength-y things and some of the balance-y things felt easier today, as did the crazy petit allegro brainteaser that BW has us running (the one from last Thursday with the incredibly confusing assemblés).

    So that was today. No ML&Co class tomorrow, so I plan to catch up on housework, make friends with the foam roller, and review the crap out of that medium allegro.

    My Car Is Horrible Right Now; Brief Notes on Modern; Also, I Made A Thing

    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.

    1. I can neither confirm nor deny that this has actually happened to me[2].
    2. Possibly more than once.
    3. For the record, this problem is pretty specific to commuting by automobile, since taking public transit or riding a bike rather prevents leaving your dance bag in the car all week, doesn’t it? Though I did once leave legwarmers in my bike’s trunk bag ._. Good times, good times.

    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.”

    C&W_kittens_(544411242)

    TFW the lights go out during floorwork. (Credit: Paul Holloway from Birmingham, UK – C&W kittens, via Wikimedia Commons)

    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.

    calendar

    A visual representation of a visual representation of a conceptual representation of … anyway, it’s a calendar.

    Why?

    Because I’m 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.

    A Slow Accumulation of Competence

    Today in modern class we did a neat little combination that involved a kind of hunchy, quasi-parallel barrel turn[1]. 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.”

    1. 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.

    You’re welcome.

    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[2].

    1. 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[3].

    1. 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.

    Thursday: He Who Fondus, Endures(1); Friday: Grand Allegro For The Perplexed (2)

    1. This is probably sufficiently obscure to require some explanation. Basically, it’s a play on a translation of the motto on the Great Seal of the State of Connecticut, which translates literally to “He who transplanted sustains,” but “endures” is close enough).
    2. Maimonides didn’t write this, but maybe he should have.

    I started a post about last night’s class, well, last night, and then I got too tired to finish it, so it’s currently a draft on my tablet and I don’t feel like going to get my tablet.

    Anyway.

    Last night turned into another Private Men’s Technique Class, during which I summarily discovered that one does not, in fact, have to do grand allegro to be completely exhausted at the end of Men’s Tech. BW’s gloriously murderous barre is quite demanding enough to do the job.

    In a nutshell, classical men’s technique is essentially about two things: power and endurance. It can be summed up via the famous equation:

    bravura=endurance*power(technique)

    …What do you mean that isn’t a famous equation?

    Power allows you to do the grand allegro pyrotechnics that pretty much define the vast majority of men’s variations in the classical repertoire. Your grand jeté entrelacé isn’t going to look anywhere near as impressive if it doesn’t get off the ground, and as for double tours, you can’t even do them if you don’t basically launch yourself into space. You won’t have time. Disaster (or at least an ungraceful exit) will ensue.

    Endurance allows you to get though demanding variations without A) dying or B) flopping around like a distressed fish wrapped in a damp rag (you guys, this is NOT a valid way even to do fish jump). It allows you to still not drop lift your partner in the next bit of the grand pas de deux and to not collapse under your combined weight.

    wait-what

    You guys, why does this show up when I google “fish jump ballet?” It wasn’t even in the first page on just plain “fish jump.” WTF. And you guess what didn’t make the first page for “fish jump ballet?” THE EFFING FISH JUMP, FOR FRACK’S SAKE. Come on, Google. You had ONE job.

    Power requires strength. BG mentioned to us today that we’re sort of designed around gravity, so even though the idea in classical ballet is to look like you’re defying gravity, you do it by employing gravity. Still, if you’re going to launch yourself off the floor, you need power to do it.

    Your plié is all about giving yourself to gravity; loading the springs. Your launch is all about pushing down through the floor, right to the center of the earth, fir(ing) all of your guns at once (to) explode into spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace.

    Nureyev-is-metal-as-hell-01

    Heavy Metal Thunder, via Pinterest. (And of course it’s Nureyev. What did you expect, the Spanish inquisition?)

    Endurance requires … erm … endurance. Right. Just pretend I wrote something more intelligent than “x = x.” Move along. Nothing to see here.

    What I mean, really, by “endurance requires endurance” is that endurance itself is a pretty complex entity.

    First, there’s cardiovascular endurance: no point in being strong enough to do all the things in the Slave variation (or Albrecht’s, or Bluebird, or…) if your heart literally explodes halfway through, or if you can’t get through it without puking because you can’t breathe.

    Next, there’s muscular endurance, which I’m sure has some fancy technical name that I can’t recall right now. Basically, that’s the kind of endurance that surrounds the question, “How many times can you launch and catch your own weight (multiplied, as needed, by whatever forces apply at various points) before you have to lie down for a while?”

    This is the kind of endurance that you can think of in terms of “reps to exhaustion” or “reps to failure.”

    This second kind of endurance depends quite a bit on power: like, really, you need to be flat-out strong enough that the variation you’re doing doesn’t lead to failure—indeed, you may very well need to be strong enough to manage it in the context of an entire ballet.

    This is, in a way, kind of like riding a mountain stage in the Tour de France. Mountains have this annoying way of being multiple kilometers in height, and involving multiple climbs, and you don’t get to stop at the top of a given climb.

    The race keeps going, and so do you, until you get to the end of the stage (or until you spectacularly crash your bike and are summarily scraped into the team car). Until you get to the end of the stage, you have to keep stomping those pedals, or at any rate turning the cranks.

    Most full-length classical ballets are only 2 to 3 hours long, and not a Tour-stage-esque 6 hours long (though nobody ever suggested a mere 6-hour cap to the Sun King). On the other hand, ballet never lets you sit in the peloton and just turn the cranks and recover. Not even when you’re in the corps.

    Power alone will get you through a single run of a variation in isolation, but add the rest of a 2-hour ballet, and unless you have some serious endurance, you’re seriously fecked.

    Last night was more about endurance than about power, though it was also about power, because holy fondu, Batman. Mostly, it was about the “reps to exhaustion” kind of endurance and the “attitude devant for a million counts” kind of endurance.

    (It was also about TOES, because BW’s class is always about my toes.)

    It was a “stretch your leg up to your ear, hold, fondu the supporting leg, hold, stretch, hold, drop your arm and see if you can maintain the extension for an additional million counts” kind of day(3).

    1. Regarding which, you guys: this was an exercise in “well, hey, THERE’S a thing I need to fix.” Because, seriously, I haven’t figured out how to do antigravity above about 100 degrees a côte, even though my range of motion theoretically allows for it.

    My foot got achy before we made it to jumps, so we called it a night and did a stretch-n-kvetch session in which I learned that, like me, BW really can’t use cycling to cross-train for cardio. Like mine, his quads go crazy too easily.

    I know I’ve said this before, but this is one of the reasons he’s such an effective teacher for me: we share some of the same Ballet Problems. One of them is being the elusive kind of unicorn that actually does pile on the muscle rather too easily.

    Today, I managed to haul my hinder out of bed and make it to BG’s 10 AM class, where I found my body surprisingly willing to do things, possibly because last night we skipped jumps and stretched instead.

    Because BW’s barre is usually even harder than Killer B’s barre, barre didn’t feel difficult(4). Last night we did circular port de bras in sus-sous, so when I opted to do a straight forward-then-back port de bras in sus-sous, it really didn’t feel like much of a challenge.

    1. Except for the part where I failed to acquire a significant portion of one combination because I was busy reflecting on body mechanics, and then the whole class had to start over. Sorry, guys.

    This time, possibly because I didn’t take modern class in the morning first, my foot agreed to make it through the little jumps to a very nice grand allegro. That makes twice in one week, which is great.

    That said, I found myself overthinking one of the transitions and, as such, screwed things up completely going left.

    I did it three times to the left, though, and eventually got it more or less sorted.

    Regardless, it was very much a case of, “What do I do with all these legs? Aaaaaugh!”

    In fact, though, I think the combination I liked best today was a weird little petit-allegro brain-teaser that went something like:

    sissone
    sissone
    coupé 
    to slidey thing avant
    assemblé

    …and continued around the points of the compass counter-clockwise, though the slidey thing never traveled backwards (so I guess it skipped “south,” and just went “north-east-west-north”). The main challenge is remembering which way you did the slidey thing most recently, so you don’t do the slidey thing in the same direction twice and cause a traffic accident.

    I’m sure there’s a name for the “slidey thing” somewhere in the great lexicon of ballet, as it’s a thing that occurs in choreography, but I don’t know what to call it, so my apologies there. It’s sort of a coupé-tombé to second or fourth with the trailing toe gliding  across the floor. Hard to describe, easy to do(5), and really quite pretty.

    1. YMMV. I also think renversé is easy, and apparently people disagree in droves about that. That said, I didn’t always think reversé was easy, but once I got it, I got it.

    Anyway, that was class today. Very-nice-but-perplexing grand allegro; unusual and satisfying petit allegro.

    Oh, also, I keep forgetting to post this video. I think I keep looking a little lost (which is terrible, given that it’s my own freaking choreography >_<), but given that I had a fever, it could have been a lot worse.

    Also, that weird sort of attitude balance near the end? That is HELLA HARD on crash mats, y'all.

    In Which We Make A Spectacle Of Ourselves

    You guys! We have graphics (stolen from the Facebook event) and everything!

    I’m in this, and stuff? (Poster design by Erik Underwood.)

    …Here’s a plain text linky, too:

    https://www.facebook.com/events/715635038638570/?ti=as

    In other news, D and I started working on our PlayThink piece this weekend. I might have forgotten that he’s not accustomed to basing fish-hooks with danseurs who got dat grand allegro booty. I kept discombobulating him and, as such, he kept dropping me :O

    Kevin Spalding has officially documented the heck out of my thunderous grand allegro-enabling hindquarters. These legs got powerrrrrrrrr. Also, people look hella weird in modern-dance freeze-frames. 

    Regardless, we got the first two verses sketched out. I just need to resurrect the ballet choreography from whatever room corner of my mental Dance Attic it’s crammed into.

    I promise that this act is all kinds of silly and definitely not knock-you-on-the-head-political like “Fade to White.” Instead, it’s fun and light-hearted, and if you’re in the area you should to PlayThink and see it. 

    But mostly you should to PlayThink because it’s like everything you secretly hoped adulthood be like when you were 5, and that’s amazing.

    Memories … In the Corners of My Mind

    Here’s how I memorize ballet:

    • The Mark: Okay. Okay. Oh, crap! Wait, what? Okay. Maybe this? Okay. And okay!
    • The First Run:Okay. Okay. Okay. Wait, what? Okay. Maybe this? Okay. And okay!
    • The Second Run: Okay. Okay. Okay. Wait, what? Okay. Okay. Okay. And okay! 
    • The Third Run: Like a Boss, Like a Boss, Like a Boss, Like a Boss, etc. 
    • Next Rehearsal:Like a Boss, Like a Boss, Like a Boss, Like a Boss, etc. 

    Here’s how I memorize modern*:

    • The Mark: WTF, even how, but what, can I just-, where do I, how do I, what do I, WTF
    • The First Run: okay, even how, but what, can I just-, where do I, okay, what do I, WTF
    • The Second Run: WTF, okay, but what, can I just-, okay, how do I, what do I, okay
    • The Third Run: okay, okay, can I just-, where do I, okay, what do I, okay
    • The Next Rehearsal: okay, okay, okay, where do I, okay, what do I, okay
    • The Rehearsal After That: “Are we sure we learned this dance already?” 

    Modern: the struggle is real. 

    (Also: Autocorrect: the struggle Isreal.)

    “And then she was like, ‘No, it’s up, flick down, swirly, and contract!’ and I was like, ‘I can’t even remember my own name right now.'”


    *Okay, so I’ll own up to a little hyperbole, here.   

    Wednesday Class: Add X

    Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you do algebra, even though I love algebra.

    I’m talking about a different kind of “adding X.” Specifically, adding X-rolls—the modern dance kind—to improve your ballet.

    Today, BG substituted for Killer B because it’s Spring Break. The unofficial topic-of-the-day was using contralateral diagonal connections to drive movement in ballet: like, thinking of your tendu front on the right beginning, more or less, from your left shoulder.

    If you’re familiar with X-rolls in modern dance, this will feel very familiar.

    If you’re not, here’s a nice little introduction:

    Really, contralateral connectivity should feel familiar to everyone in ballet, since it’s basically just a different way of explaining ballet technique … but since nobody ever said to to me in quite that way before, I never made the (AHEM) connection, so I never really thought about it before.

    X-rolls and their relatives are great for learning to feel connections between, say, the right toes and the left fingertips via the core and limbs.

    When I thought about it that way at center, my tendus and turns suddenly looked lovely: present (if that makes sense), intentional, and clean. Also, my arms were far less inclined to be lazy and/or stupid.

    The difference was subtle: my tendus don’t normally look bad. They just looked better. More alive. My turns, meanwhile, are usually a mixed bag: sometimes they’re beautiful; sometimes they’re just giant whirling handbaskets of WTF. Thinking about this kind of diagonal engagement made them reliably look (and feel) nice.

    I’m going to have to keep working on this. I suspect that it is, for me, one of those “version update” things: an element that will move my technique from Ballet 2.0 to Ballet 3.0, or whatever I’m on now (honestly, I really wish I’d thought of this metaphor right at the start, so I could use it more effectively >.<).

    I’ll also have to bring this with me to BW’s class next week (we don’t have class this week because of Spring Break).

    Last week, he analyzed my turns via an exercise that went: tendu, fourth, plié, double from fourth, finish to lunge in fourth, rélèvéplié, double from fourth, finish to lunge in fourth, rélèvéplié, double from fourth, finish to lunge in fourth, rélèvéplié, and so on and so fourth forth and sorted some of the other stupid things I do when doing turns from fourth.

    Stupid things like finishing in a freaking enormous lunge(1), then not bothering to pull it in a little before launching the next turn, so I’m basically forcing myself to either jump into my turn or, like, climb into my turn.

    1. My fourth likes to be a borderline lunge all the time, if it can get away with it. I have heard the phrase, “Maybe a slightly smaller fourth,” sooooooo many times…

    The purpose of the rélèvé was, of course, to force me to pull myself back in. A couple of times, I just did this crazy lunge-en-rélèvé instead. What even is that?

    I’m afraid that this is really why my demi-pointe is crazy strong(2). I am constantly doing insane things with it. If I stop doing them, I hope my feet won’t be like, “Oh, cool, we can relax now.”

    1. Okay, not really. What makes my demi-pointe strong is a combination of mobility and, like, actual strength. My ankles and feet are incredibly mobile, which makes it possible to get up into a super-high demi-point. The downside, of course, is that I never, ever, ever get away with half-assing my demi-point(3), even when everyone else in class does.
    2. This also goes for just straight up pointing my toes. Amongst the many reverse-printed t-shirts I need to make, there is definitely going to be one that just says TOES! I can’t get away with half-assing that, either. My point is fierce, and every single one of my teachers knows that and corrects accordingly. There are days that counts for Thursday class basically go, “And one and TOES and three and TOES and five and TOES…”(4)
    3. Come to think of it, I am officially setting a goal for myself: get through one entire class without half-assing my toe-point so BW does not develop nightmares about desperately shouting “TOES!” into a cold and uncaring universe.

    This week, then, is all about the x-connection, overhead pull-downs to get the lats back in order (because my right shoulder has been all creepin’ on my ear when working left at barre lately), keeping the sternum up and the transversus abdominis engaged, and … hell, I don’t even know. That’s enough to worry about for one week.

    I realized today that some of the things I’ve been working on with BW are quickly becoming habits. I think that’s the upside of doing class several times per week. I don’t have time to forget the important corrections from the previous class, and each class involves practicing them countless times.

    That means—whether for better or for worse—that habits build quickly.

    So there we go. For better ballet, add X.

    Too Tired to Write an Entire Post

    … So please enjoy this screenshot of a screenshot of “Fade to White.” 😉

    More soon! 

    %d bloggers like this: