Things I noticed in my rehearsal and performance videos that are incredibly frustrating:
- I occasionally let my turnout go when I need to get my tuchas accross the floor, pronto
- OMFG why did I prepare for my turns in such an effing huge lunge? BW would kill me all the times
- My arms still really like to creep back behind my shoulders
- When I get spooked, I let the music push me. To misquote Hagrid, “I shouldn’t’a doon that!”
- I did these beautiful assemblés battus all week and then left out the battu on the big day
- I still tend to end the arm movements too quickly
- Also, when I get tired, I still throw my head back in turns.
Things I noticed that are at least okay:
- So much less Flappy Hands! Yay! Nobody wants to watch Seigfried Flappy Hands, even if Tim Burton directs.
- Great traveling sauts-de-chat, Batman!
- Me legs. They look pretty amazing. Also like eleventeen feet long in those tights.
- Before I got spooked, some of my port de bras was actually pretty okay.
- I played off my mistakes pretty well even though they pissed me off royally in the moment (the AD showed up)
- The nice moments are much nicer than last year’s nice moments.
I’m sure I’ve got plenty more thoughts, here, but I’ll brain-dump them later. Tonight I’m going out with ballet peeps from home just to play 😊
The variation felt good tonight, except the bit when I came in too hot right at the beginning.
Note to self: tombé is not a leap.
Not usually, anyway.
The girls, meanwhile, look amazing. The thing that impresses me most is that they’re all so beautifully synchronized.
Tomorrow we ride.
Tonight, though, I’m exhausted and I need to roll my legs, so that’s it for now.
Tuesday, after a fairly hard conditioning class and a not-difficult-but-demanding technique class, we began learning variations.
Wednesday, after a very restorative conditioning class and a lovely technique class, we continued with them.
The girls are doing the Swans’ entrance scene. There are only four of them, so they have a lot of ground to cover, but they already looked pretty great at Tuesday night’s brief “show ‘n’ tell” session.
Meanwhile, my variation (one of the many versions of Seigfried’s) is a challenge in the small studio even though there’s only one of me—it’s packed with big leapy bits, all of which seem to land me precariously close to the walls when I do them full-speed. Thus, I wind up doing a lot of marking and semi-marking. There seem to be a lot of walls in that studio.
Still, I was quite happy with the sauté arabesque-balancé-tombé coupé jeté sequence last night (it varies from the video we’re using as a model, which involves a bunch of revoltades, which I still am not sure how to do on purpose). Also feeling better about Bournonville jeté, although I still tend to jump through my arms. We worked on that a lot last night.
I couldn’t remember about 20 seconds of the version that C taught me (which doesn’t have tours in it), and since I was working with J last night, we subbed in some tours just because. They feel a lot better this year—I’m figuring out how to use a relaxed plié in grand allegro instead of hanging onto tension, which makes a huge difference.
To be honest, though, just having another year under my belt also makes a huge difference. I don’t have to think about choreography anywhere near as much: I’m better at remembering chains of steps, instead of individual steps. That makes a huge difference.
Likewise, even though we don’t get to do grand allegro anywhere near as often as I would like at home (especially since BW is in Europe for the summer), there are a lot more steps I can do without having to think about them at this point.
The most invaluable corrections this far have been as follows:
- In saut de chat, focus on travel rather than on elevation (the elevation takes care of itself)
- In Bournonville jeté, imagine leaping over a hurdle. This imparts the graceful ballon that makes it such a nice leap.
- Also in Bournonville jeté, think about reaching forward with the arms, then opening them. This both looks better and prevents me from hyperextending my back and shoulders, which screws up the momentum of the jump and looks weird (though probably okay in modern contexts?).
The central thing I’m taking away from this intensive is that I need to focus on one idea:
I used to ride a horse with whom the same basic principle applied. You had to ride him forward, or he would just slope lazily around and pretend he didn’t know from dressage.
The highlight of last night was when I came in way too hot on the first tombé-coupé and instead of the standard jeté, it turned into something spinny and impressive whose name I don’t know. It’s definitely a thing—I’ve seen it in other variations—I’m just not sure which thing. I’ll have to see if I can find it in Tarasov when I get home.
Anyway, J said, “Ooh, that was fancy!” Sadly, since I’m not actually sure how to do that particular thing on purpose, I’ll just have to file it away for now (with revoltades) and save it for some future date.
Last year, I think I was a bit wary of speed and power. I was forever doing Albrecht’s variation as if I had a check-rein on: behind the motion, without abandon. I was too busy thinking about the steps and trying to be precise, and I was definitely a little afraid of running myself over.
This year, I feel like I’ve made friends with speed and power, and when I get out of my own way, I can harness them. Confidence goes a long way!
In other news, my adductors are pretty sore, which is okay, since they’re one of the bits that need to be stronger. My beats look better for it, though in class yesterday I kept doing jeté battu on the wrong foot (wtf?) and decided to just do plain jeté like everyone else. I should try breaking out the entrechats sixes today. Quatres were nice yesterday.
Anyway, I should go do my laundry. I’m not going to walk down there this time; it’s 3 miles round-trip.
Tonight we polish up the variations; tomorrow we get to show them off.
I suppose that that's what comes of taking class at night then watching Mao's Last Dancer but last night, I dreamed of dancing: of the wild flight the pas de chat the grand jeté ankles swift and crisp as deers' power rising from the soft plié the triple turn erect and effortless one perfect double tour. I don't suppose it matters much and yet this thrill remains this singing in my bones this certainty: I have become, somehow, a dancer and my femurs and the smallest winged ribs all know the spirit of the dance. And so I say, and mean something much more: last night I dreamt of dancing.
…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?
Everything was reasonably functional this morning, which was good, because Advanced Class began with four of us and two had to leave after barre. The remaining pair of us got quite a workout.
JB was like, “I always end up with two students,” and I said, “It’s a sign. You should be teaching pas de deux class.”
Sadly, we did not get Pas De Deux 101 (or even 095: Remedial Pas De Deux–Topics In Not Dropping The Girl And Not Kicking The Boy In The Hereditary Storehouse).
- True story, which I’ve probably already told: when we were rehearsing Vivaldi Variations, two of the three girls in the Sirens group were convinced that they were going to kick me in the, erm, shenanigans. In case you’re wondering, the best way to guarantee that you’re going to kick the boy in the Hereditary Storehouse while doing assisted fouettés is to be afraid that you’re going to and thus stare directly at his No Fly Zone. The foot goes where the eyes go.
Instead, we got a demanding class that was entirely about weight transfers.
Most of it was good. Since I know I can do quadruple turns, I’ve been dialing back the quantity factor in order to improve quality. As such, turns and terre-a-terre went quite well, except when I got a bit too excited about a developpé à la seconde balance from sus-sous and knocked myself off my leg.
During petit allegro, for some reason I could do royales during the mark but not during the actual run. WTF even is that?
I still hate royales, but that probably means I should work on nothing else until I nail them down.
At least now I’m able to do them in such a way that they don’t look like a complete afterthought: JB does them really cleanly, and I finally got my head around the idea that a royale isn’t so much a lame, beaten changement for people who can’t do entrechat six as it is a showy little flutter: you beat out-in (front)-out-in (back).
I think that in the past I’ve always beaten the first stroke of my royale to the front instead of to the side, which makes it both nearly invisible (en fact, in fact, it can be completely invisible) and probably not actually a royale—it occurs to me that, basically, only cabrioles and assemblés battus do that.
Our grand allegro went something like:
sissone faillie (passing through a clean first!!!)
fourth arabesque à terre
[something else might have been here?]
coupé-chassé-rond de jambe (en relevé)
tombé-“pas de bouchassé”-brush-grand assemblé
pique third arabesque
some other kind of chassé-developpé sequence
repeat on other side
- At first I kept doing some weird kind of cloche thing, which made it difficult to get to the arabesque à terre efficiently.
It was a really cool combination. My tour jetés were kinda lame (like, BW would’ve made me go back and do them again, and HIGHER, and SHARPER), because I was pretty cooked by then, but I’m still so happy to be jumping again that it didn’t really matter that much.
- …Even though the part of me that likes to impress my teachers with my prowess as a jumper was really annoyed.
I think, though, that as much as I’m happy to be jumping again, my favorite combination today was a waltzy thing in which we changed facings via passé from fifth to a lunge in fourth three times in a row.
It was really quite pretty, and I think I managed to do it without getting the arms backwards at all … which, honestly, is one of those awkward ballet things. Internally, I’m half like, “YESSSSS! NO BACKWARDS ARMS!” and half like, “WTF are you doing still getting your arms backwards, you jackwagon? Aren’t you past that yet?”
- The answer, of course, is, “Mostly.” It still happens on occasion, at apparently random intervals, and thus I live in fear of doing some or another combination otherwise beautifully, but with the arms entirely backwards. What even is that.
We also did a nifty center tendu in which we paddled ourselves around the eight points of the stage using ronds de jambe à terre. It felt, I don’t know, contemplative might be the right word. It reminded me of doing fancy paddling tricks in a canoe.
I want to say that was the same combination in which we ended with a tour lent en dedans at passé through to attitude derièrre. When I picked that one up, I initially thought that the tour lent was supposed to be en dehors, which in turn made me wonder what we’d done to make JB hate us so much 😉
It was hella awkward with the tour lent going the wrong way, since the transition into attitude derièrre happened during the turn, which meant that if you did the turn backwards, you had to work twice as hard to keep everything together (because momentum, and turnouts, and physics, and stuff).
Anyway, it’s all improving bit by bit. There are days that I suddenly really feel that I’m a better dancer than I used to be—like, I feel it in my bones, with a kind of immanent certainty.
Today wasn’t one of those days, but it was the kind of day on which I can see that I’m making incremental gains. I think the difference is that sometimes everything just comes together, and I dance well enough that I feel legitimately gifted, whilst on other occasions I just feel, you know, serviceable.
But, honestly, my goal is to be a serviceable danseur. There’s much to be said for being serviceable: it bears with it the notions of reliability and competence. Yes, when you’re having one of those “gifted” days, your teacher or AD or whatever tends to take notice: but over the long run it’s important to be serviceable, reliable, and competent.
Speaking of which, my sissones did not suck today. So there’s definitely that.
In other news, after listening through a couple more times, I’ve decided to stop banging my head against the impossibly huge wall of Late Romantic Era music and just leave the score for Simon Crane as it is for now. If it proves impossible to actually set “Isle of the Dead” effectively, I’ll sort it out later.
For now, I just need to keep listening to it and working the story into it.
In semi-related news, I have a playlist on Amazon Music called “choreography,” and I have no memory of adding half the things that are on there. On the other hand, one of those things is the first movement of Beethoven’s “Waldstein,” which I suspect might be as fun to choreograph as it is to listen to and to play[6, 7].
- Which is in fact probably shorthand for having, at some point, decided that it would be fun to choreograph the whole thing.
- Which, you guys: if you know how to play the piano passably well, go get yourself a copy of the music for the Waldstein—Sonata No. 21 in C Major—and give it a whirl.
- Seriously, the first movement at least isn’t terribly hard. I figured a lot of it out by ear in high school before I ever clapped eyes on the music. I do have a very good ear, but honestly it’s pretty friendly.
One more class (maybe two, if get antsy I take class Monday morning before I leave) and one Pilates session before Lexington. I’m trying to be chill, but honestly I’m so excited I feel like I might explode.
Oh, and while we’re on it, here, this is finally up on YouTube thanks to CM:
I’m vaguely iffy about posting this at this point, because I feel like I’ve come a long way since then 😛 But there it is, finally. 11 girls and me in BG’s “Vivaldi Variations.” I’m still pretty pleased with how well it came together, given our broad array of experience levels and our abbreviated rehearsal schedule.
Feel free to laugh at all my weird attempts to compensate for the fact that I’m scared out of my mind of wiping out due to the whole Shoe Incident. Also, there should totally be a drinking game that goes with this; something like, “Put the video on repeat and drink 5 shots if you actually spot the shoe” (you can, in fact, see it—and once seen it’s hard to un-see); “Take 1 shot every time Asher drops his arms;” etc. Edit: Oh, yeah, and “Take 1 shot every time Asher lets his turnout go,” though you probably won’t make it to the end of the first repeat if you use that one.
I was having an awkward kind of morning: got a little tipsy last night, stayed up too late, slept badly, woke up early (whichever one of us taught my cat that it’s possible to awaken humans by tap-dancing on their bladders needs a swift kick in the tuchas), started reading, lost track of time, failed to eat, etc.
This translated to a wonky start at barre. I couldn’t figure out where my pelvis was or find my lateral obliques or keep my arm from wandering off to do its own thing. My head kept getting ahead of my arm. I tendued to second, then went, “Hmm, no,” and adjusted (which drives both JB and BW crazy).
Midway through one combination, during a sus-sous balance, JB sauntered over, grabbed me by the back of the neck, reset my head and neck, and then used both hands to physically move my entire ribcage.
I tried not to do the weird thing where I respond to someone touching me much in the way that a sea anemone responds to the touch of a potential predator, though it took a little doing.
Anyway, I had mostly sorted myself out by the time we got around to going across the floor and doing jumps, though I was momentarily distressed by this bizarre phenomenon in which, during a mark, my brain went, “assemblé!” and my legs went, “CABRIOLE, MUTHA****A!”
On the other hand (foot?), there were some nice cabrioles in there, so…?
Since this entire combination was assemblés changing direction and leg until none of us could remember which leg was which, that obviously would’ve been a problem.
Anyway, tomorrow should be better. Today the plan is (in no particular order, except for the “early to bed, Nyquil if necessary…” bit):
- catch up the finances
- mow the lawn
- 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.”
I thought I’d nailed down the score for Simon Crane, but once I gave it a listen it turned out that the first act was, erm.
It was very Satie.
Don’t take me wrong—I more or less love Eric Satie’s entire oeuvre. But as the score for a ballet, it turns out that “All Satie, All The Time” isn’t really all that effective.
I decided not to take an extra class this morning, then remembered after the fact that I don’t have class tomorrow either (it’s Independence Day, and LF is out of town). So I’ve got two days off in a row this week, which is nice in its own way.
My brain already has one foot in next week, though I keep pulling it back when I realize that’s what’s happening.
Today, CM of the Beasties of Spring Collection posted our video to our facebook group. I, of course, proceeded to watch it 6,000,000 times.
It’s interesting, because in one manner of speaking it really wasn’t that long ago, and in another it almost feels like a different time at this point.
Anyway, I still manage to notice what I did well, what I could have done better, and what I did badly.
- The partnering: basically, more or less everything that involves partnering is really rather nice.
- The one turn in second, which sort of became this jeté rond en tournant thing; the moment between that and the Apollo jump, during which I inexplicably let my arms just kind of hang there not doing anything.
- Letting my turnout go here and there, mostly during the very last sequence, which I’d learned a couple of days before the performance; also, looking like a bit of a tool during the running bits.
The best moments, though, really are rather nice:
The oddest thing is looking at it and realizing that I’ve made quite a bit of progress since March, which seems at once like really not all that long ago and OMG so freaking long ago.
Basically, the way I carry my upper body and arms is really quite different now, among other things. I also try to do a lot less of letting one of my arms subtly flappity-flap.
It will be interesting to see how things come together at next week’s intensive.
During the last two days of this past week’s masterclass, I found myself wading hip-deep in frustration.
My extensions were good, my turns were clean—but I felt weirdly tense and stiff.
Not, like, inflexible physically, though. Rather, I felt like I kept tensing up. Thinking too much. Obsessing a bit.
In reality, I was having the good kind of bad ballet day: once again, interpolating and consolidating all the reams of new stuff I was learning.
Saturday class was a little better; today, after a groggy start, was all aces. Even my petit allegro looked (dare I say it) good.
The exception was turns: I tossed off a lovely triple in a mark, then got excited and threw myself off my leg (with the attendant hoppity-hop of shame) on the actual run. I made myself rein it back in and go for clean singles and doubles on the second side, then got a decent triple back on the repeat.
There was a lot of new intel this week, but the outcome has been a better, freer way of moving.
I’ve also found, once again, the lightness in my petit allegro. Who ever should predict that the quest for lightness could make for such heavy going!
In other news, after a listen-through revealed that the first act score for Simon Crane was, in fact, hella boring as a ballet score, I revamped it by replacing some of the Satie with Dvorak. Now it’s no longer 30 straight minutes of tinkly adagio.
Don’t get me wrong—Satie is one of my favorite composers—but it just wasn’t doing the job in this context.
So at present the score goes Satie-Dvorak-Ravel-Saint Saëns-Rachmaninoff-Satie. Technically, Debussy is also in the mix: I’m using his orchestral transcriptions of the first and third gymnopédies.
Thanks to the power of technology, I can listen through the whole thing, which I’ll be doing later today (attempts this far have been interrupted). If I find acceptable recordings of all the pieces on YouTube, I’ll make a playlist. I’d love to hear your thoughts, as assembling a score for a three-act story ballet from fine different dead guy’s catalogs has been a challenge!
Speaking of which: I discovered that the Saint-Saëns ‘cello concerto is, in fact, choreographable. You just have to think of reach movement as more than one scene. And the transition from Ravel’s “Bolero” into the Saint-Saëns is brill.
I’m debating an extra class tomorrow. I won’t be doing this week’s masterclass because omg car repairs are expensive, but I definitely need to stay tuned up for the upcoming ballet intensive.
On the other hand, I’m almost certainly taking an extra class on Friday, since JB is teaching and that will give me two classes in a row with him, so we’ll see.