Category Archives: rehearsals

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.   

Modern, Rehearsal, Thursday Class, Shadowy Cabal Ops

Modern today felt good. It was just me, and LF gave me a cool visualization thing to start with. We did lots of floor work and work with using weight and the head-tail connection to move through space. Very cool stuff. 

At first my legs were like, “NO. NO, NO, NO. Nope. Screw you, buddy.” I’m experiencing the kind of achy, fatiguey weirdness that I have when my hormone levels are more out of whack than usual (read: when I’m essentially running on empty), which probably explains it. Seeing an endocrinologist is definitely in the plans for … meh, some time this year. 

That said, the legs got over themselves by the of class, and I feel it was a good class overall. I finally admitted to LF that I get stressed out about remembering modern choreography, and she told me not to worry so much about it. On the last run of our final combination, I didn’t. Oddly enough, I remembered way more of it than I thought I would.

Dance Team was awesome today. They did some really good and really original work, and AS and I were really impressed. My own rehearsal also went well.  

Ballet with BW was partly a private class—one of the owners of studio was with us much of the time, but had to pop out now and then to take care of admin things. Such is running a business! 

Class was very intense—in a good way, as always. Interestingly, I got the exact same physical correction from BW tonight that Killer B me yesterday (or, well, one of them…). Obviously, my shoulders, neck, and chest are a hotbed of ballet problems right now.

I’ve realized that, too some extent, this grows out of a deeply internal focus. When I’m working hard, I to draw into myself mentally—and, it would seem, physically. I’m working on it, though!

Curiously, though, my legs had overcome the morning’s meh-ness … which is good, because I would have died of the rond de jambe combination alone, never mind the fondu and the grand battement, if my legs had continued to suck.  The fondu/adagio, in particular, was challenging: slow fondu, slow relevé, slow fondu, extend avant then fondu attitude, hold forever, extend, sus-sous, continue pattern inside leg back, etc. The pace was what made it hard—it’s that combination of precision, restrained power, and grace that makes your blood boil at adagio tempo. 

Speaking of grand battement, I realized that I haven’t been leading with the heel when closing from the back. It starts that way, then gets lazy in the last inch or two, which is no good. It makes for a lazy fifth and, over the course of the combination, works the supporting leg loose. I mentioned that to BW, and he gave me an extra set to the back only (though still finishing with plié-passé-attitude devant) to sort it.

We also did the dreaded Kneewhacker Turns, which went better than usual. Interestingly, I did whack my knee quite resoundingly once. It didn’t particularly hurt, but startled the heck out of me.  I didn’t do it again, that’s for sure 😀 And, in fact, The Kneewhacker Turns that followed were whack-free. 

At center we tendued (with turns) and then drilled double turns from fourth and second. BW had many thoughts my turns, all of which tie into problems I’ve been attempting to solve. My spot wasn’t as slow as it was the other day, except when I was being afraid of the Kneewhacker. 

I called it a night after a nice waltzy combination across the floor. My toe had started complaining a little, so I decided to take the conservative route. Little jumps Saturday, maybe, and we’ll see how it goes from there.  

After class I my fellow Bike Commuter Cabal operatives for a drink and a late supper. Ben and Jenn Folsom were in town, a rare treat for all of us. It was good to catch up with my bike peeps! 

D took one look at this and said, “No one would ever guess which one of you is a dancer!” 😀


    

20-Second Photo Post :D

This is us with our fabulous impresario:  

Alllll the dancers!

… BG told me to be a good boy and arrange my knees croisé 😀

… And this is me goofing off my dressing room tonight:

…I hold this exact pose for like 30 seconds at one point during the dance. Okay, so it’s prolly not *really* that long, but it feels like forevar. Also, try not to cross your legs this much in arabesque a terre, because it’s sketchy as heck. I see my supporting arch rollin’. I’m hatin’.


My right hand is essentially behaving, but my left hand is like, “Um, Don Quixote? Maybe? Just a little?” 

Tomorrow, WE DANCE! 

You Guys, This Is really Happening

OMG OMG OMG

This is how they assign you your Ballet Spirit Animal.

OMG OMG OMG

I am, in fact, about as tired as I look in this shot. Heckin dark circles doin me a concern.

OMG

This is actually the girls’ changing room, where we all hung out after we got changed because mine is tiny.

That is all.  

Tech Week Rehearsal #2

Tonight we ran the dance in the big studio downtown. It’s literally twice as big (at least) as the smallest studio at the school, where we rehearsed on Monday.

As such, we totally lost our spacing and the timing went crazy. The Apollo jump didn’t come off because there was a Siren directly in my flight path (in a moment of glittering wit, I think I literally said, “Oh! You’re there!”) and spazzed into some mutant pas de chat Italien.  

I at least made it to the right spot at the end, though. So there’s that.

The second run was a lot better. We’d adjusted to the space; we knew roughly how fast we had to run and far traveling steps could travel (tl;dr: FAR). 

I hit the turn in second and the Apollo jump dead on, though doing so made me realize something about my brain operates when I’m performing: I click into a mode in which my mind is roughly one step ahead my body. 

This works brilliantly for the choreography that I have down pat, but it’s a bit problematic with new stuff, especially details. 

Like, the arms on the turn and the Apollo jump are hella specific and pretty important, and I have literally no idea what I did with them. I mean, I know I got them up, but whether I kept up and opened after is a major blank spot my proprioceptive “video.”    

On the other hand, I’ll have time to work on that and adjust tomorrow and Friday if necessary. It’s the single newest piece of the dance, so a little repetition will help. 

The girls keep commenting on how I never get a break the dance—how I’m forever dashing from one end of the stage to the other. Before tonight, I didn’t think I actually dashed around any more than they did, but dancing the in a much bigger space me realize that I do, in fact, travel a lot. 

In fact, in the big studio, I really had to drop the hammer to make it from one sequence to another.

Anyway, overall, I think we did all right, under the circumstances. 

Tomorrow and Friday we’re in the theater. Evidently the stage is a little smaller than the studio, so we should be to adjust. 

Honestly, the hardest part for me is judging exactly when to run out of the wings. I need to make it roughly a third the way the stage before my sauté arabesque. 

Anyway, I’m excited about our dance in the theater tomorrow. For now, though, I’m going to roll my legs again, eat something, go to bed.     

Today I Learned… 

…The Apollo jump (which I had seen, but as far as know had never done) and the last remaining piece of our dance, which is mine alone and involves a turn in second and said Apollo jump.

That’s about all of it: we finish the Noodle Experiment, I back away from the girls and throw in a turn in second, then I pause for a second and when everyone else is essentially running upstage, I do the Apollo jump downstage, land it, collect myself, and run a few more steps to my place for the end of the dance. 

We might change up the first partnering bit, though we might not. We’ll see. I like the change that T and BG worked out, but it’ll be a question of whether the remaining two girls from that group are okay with it.

I’m fine either way. They’re worried about kicking me. 

I mentioned that if they kick me, it’s probably my fault. That’s kind of how partnering works for boys:

  • If the girl kicks you, it’s your fault. 
  • If you kick the girl, it’s your fault. 
  • If the girl smacks you in the face, it’s your fault. 
  • If you smack yourself in the face with the girl, it’s still your fault. 
  • If you drop the girl, it is Definitely Your Fault (and you will never live it down). 

FWIW, yes, this is intended to be funny but it’s also largely true. If you’re dancing the (traditionally) male role, part of your job is being in the right place at the right time and accounting for glitches, because the person dancing the other part has enough to worry about already. You adjust. 

And if she stops dancing, turns around, and punches you squarely in the nose? 

That is also Definitely Your Fault, unless it’s Because Ancient Aliens. 

~

PS: I was wrestling with keeping my waterfowls in a linear array in the turn from second because ATTAAAAAAAACK!, and BG was like, “Keep your chest up and think of it like … a hammer throw, only your foot is the hammer.”

Bizarrely, this worked really hecking well. 

Important note is that you still have to keep the working leg hella engaged, especially if you have sick mobility in your hips. If you think of a track & field person winding up for a hammer throw, though, they stay really tight basically the whole time. 

Roll The Tape

I am having a terrible time focusing on Things That Aren’t Ballet today, so I’m taking a few minutes to write (what I hope is) a quick post about video.

Historically, I’ve only very rarely managed to snag video of myself dancing. The rehearsals for our upcoming performance have dramatically changed that, and they’ve made me think that it really wouldn’t kill me to spend a few bucks on a GoPro or something similar, because video is actually a really stellar learning tool for dancers.

Basically, video allows you to see what you habitually do wrong. If you, like many dancers, are naturally hypermobile and thus can’t always feel things accurately, seeing them can really help.

Watching all this video, I’ve noticed a couple of patterns of my own.

First, when I get tired, my arms just … ugh, I don’t even know what to say about them:

apollo-with-arm-problems

It’s worse than that. They’re dead, Jim.

This is from the beginning of the Balanchine Noodle Experiment. My arms are just … what. I don’t even know. Like a straight line, but a lazy straight line, with no presence(1).

  1. It could be worse, but “could be worse” isn’t really what we’re striving towards in ballet, am I right?

Presence is really rather immensely important to this moment; so much so that BG gave me a specific note about it when we were first learning this bit.

Meanwhile, my hands, in an effort to not be like:

DON QUIXOTE!

…have simply dripped off the ends of my wrists. Feh.

At least my shoulders are down?

The other thing I’ve noticed is that I’ve developed a habit of dancing swaybacked. I don’t really have a good screenshot of this, though you can kind of detect it in the shot above. Check out the front line of my body: it’s a perfect curve, like a segment of a circle, because I’m standing with my pelvis tilted too far forward.

I could probably get a decent screenshot if I was a more patient human being. I’m not.

Anyway. I actually know why I’m doing that—it’s an over-correction from a different problem, in addition to being an occupational hazard of being a hypermobile dancer.

Point is, I can’t feel it, so—just as with my wrists forever being like…

\_____O_____/*  

*proportionally speaking, my hands are not this big

…until I saw a picture and realized that they were doing that—being able to see it really helps.

When I consciously correct for the swayback thing, my turns are about 1,000,000 times better (which suggests that I’m using pretty small units of measurement to grade my turns, to be honest :P).

When I don’t, the middle of my body gets up over my leg(2), but the part from roughly the shoulder-blades (or, on really bad days, the navel) on up stays behind the axis.

  1. Every time I hear or write this phrase, the little earworm that lives in my auditory cortex goes, “GET UP OVER THAT LEG … AND TURN ‘TIL YA FEEL BETTER!” and then that plays on repeat for like an hour

Likewise, it sometimes causes a wiggly hip thing that I find completely revolting.

Anyway, regular work on my core should help correct for this, and I’ve rather committed myself to Pilates on Sunday afternoons (though one class per week probably won’t cut it, so I need to make myself do it at home, too).

The other nice thing about video is that it lets you see the things you’re actually doing well. The rep group is, as a whole, on top of the beautiful lines. I jump well (but, like, I kind of knew that?). When I nail an arabesque, I nail it.

flight

An itty-bitty upstage saute arabesque. Still a little swaybacked (and my shoulders have crept up a bit, which also happens when I’m tired), but the lines are decent.

So, basically, the whole point is that video is great for sorting out some of the details you never notice when you’re in class or in rehearsal because you’re too busy, you know, dancing.

I hope if the rest of the group should stumble upon my blog, they won’t mind that I’ve stuck a couple of screenshots up here. I’m guessing they probably won’t, since you can’t tell who anyone is, including me 😛

Balanchine Noodle Experiment FTW

Tonight we added Apollo-y things and something I’m calling a Balanchine Noodle Experiment.

If you’re familiar with Balanchine’s ouevre, you probably know what I mean: those things where a flock of dancers basically ties itself into moving a Celtic knot?

Basically this, but with more heads and feet. (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.)

Anyway, I’ve always thought those were cool (even back when I didn’t like B-style because I hadn’t seen it done well).

So that’s the kind of thing we’re doing—with partnering in the mix—and it’s hella cool.

We’re basically two weeks to launch now, which is really exciting.

Tomorrow, modern and BW’s class(1). 

  1. I still haven’t found my effing jump rope, blergh; I’m just going to buy a new one. It won’t kill me to have a couple. 

Tonight, sleeeeeeeeeep. 

~

PS: I was a brainless mess in Killer Class, but evening class went brilliantly. Some light & lovely turns to combat the sheer badness of this morning’s turns. 

40 More Seconds 

After a rough start (I think the weather made us all boisterous), we sketched in 40 more seconds of choreography tonight. 

I spent much(1) of the rehearsal standing around in 1st arabesque à terre while we worked two different bits in which I, standing there as such, am the still point.

  1. The rest of the time was petite allegro, running, more petite allegro, more running, even more petite allegro, demonstrating grand assemblée en tournant, even more petite allegro, and two full runs of all three minutes and ten seconds of the dance. Holy cats, do I need to locate my jump rope. Yea verily, my cardio sucketh. 

I think the effect is going to be pretty neat.  Following a section with much bourrée-ing, I chassé through and hold the 1st a-à-t whilst eight of the girls 2nd a-à-t, then collect back to a fondu-soutenu-y thing before leaping and flocking away to do pretty things stage right. 

Immediately after the first flock departs, the other four girls envelop me (still bravely holding my position) into their flock, and then we do pretty things stage left. 

The experience of dancing this bit of my part is rather like getting off of one train, watching as it sails away, then getting drawn into a second train amongst your fellow commuters. 

Assuming, of course, that one is in the habit of arabesque-ing on the train platforms (regarding which I think I’d better exercise my right to the fifth amendment).

This was from our second rehearsal, not to mention a different part of the dance, but I really like this moment. Ironically, I’m invisible in this screenshot, except for my hands, which are in dead-bird mode.

One of the things I quite like about this piece is that it is not always the girls leading me or vice-versa. Sometimes they lead me; occasionally I lead them. At other points, I’m just part of the stream. (Evidently of commuters. On the bourré train.)
I’m curious about where we’re going next, as we’ve reached another partnering bit that is, per BG, sort of a little hommage to Apollo. For me, tonight finished on a total cliffhanger as I couru-ed my butt to downstage right and finished in this lovely lunge with arms extended à côté.

Evidently the girls are going to make use of my arms, and I’m burning with curiosity as to what, exactly, that means. 

At any rate, I just hope they put them back when they’re done, because I am definitely going to need them, if only to shove food and so forth into my face after the performance, as one does.

Anyway, it’s past my bedtime. I’m taking a rest/cleaning day tomorrow, since both Wednesday and Thursday promise to be long days. 

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