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Back to the Front (Group)

Evidently, my unintentional vacation from ballet technique has done me more good than harm. Far more good, in fact. 

At the Burn, I barely got to ballet at all. I did get to dance often, and I do use my ballet technique instinctively even when dancing to techno or electronica or disco or whatevs, but that’s not the same as a disciplined class (for one thing, it turns into a rond-de-jambefest, because apparently I like waving my legs around; for another, pirouettes on Playa dust in platform jelly sandals(1) be like WUT?).

  1. I succeeded in killing my sandals this year. I’ll either have have to buy another pair or come up with something else. 

Anyway, finally made it back to class today. It was Advanced class, but since quite a few of us were out late last night watching the company’s season opener, M. BeastMode (subbing for our usual teacher, who is in the show) went a little easy on us.

Basically, everything went remarkably well. The chance to fully recharge to glycogen stores and rest all the things has clearly been good for me. I generally remembered the combinations; my body generally did what I asked it to do. Nothing hurt and nothing felt difficult. I psyched myself out on one combination only to discover that I actually had it down, which was really cool. 
It felt good to return to the discipline of the barre; the order of class.

I wouldn’t be the first to describe the ballet studio as my chosen house of worship; I think there’s much to be said for the sacred ritual of class. This goes for modern as well, but I think the difference is that between highly-liturgical worship and the more heart-led but not entirely unstructured kind. 

Both are fine, but I am a fan of liturgy; of the mysticism inherent in ritual done well. I love liturgy for its own sake, whether sacred or secular.

Perhaps, then, it should be no great surprise that my heart is most at home in the ballet studio, with its ancient rites — the liturgies of the barre, of adagio, of centre, of turns, of terre-a-terre, of allegro.

Speaking of which, petit allegro was surprisingly okay today, once I got the of the combination in the right order (I somehow misheard it when it was given).

It went:

  • Glissade, assemblé, sisson simple, coupé (x2) 
  • Glissade, jeté (x2) 
  • Coupé, Ballonais, 
  • Pas de bourré, changement

At first, I had somehow had taken it in with the [Glissade, jeté (x2)] between the [glissade, assemblé, Sisson simple, coupé] parts. Fortunately, I caught that during the mark. Pro Tip: if a mark is offered, TAKE IT. 

Petit allegro-wise, I kept thinking back back to EF’s note about placing my weight so I’m prepared for the quick transfers. (M. BeastMode’s barre did a superb job preparing us, as well.) Also of Krieger’s beautifully light, precise petit allegro in Balanchine’s Theme and Variations last night.

Krieger is our resident Ballet Prince — tall and lean, with a noble visage, and superbly beautiful in flight. I think, though, that he is a jumper rather than a turner by nature. Comforting, that. 

Anyway, it’s back to the usual order of things tomorrow; at least, kind of. Sunday, at any rate, will be normal. 

I am considering swapping Modern Mondays for Modern Fridays, moving my day off to Tuesday — but that’s really all pretty much irrelevant until we have both autos back in action, as Modern Friday is is at 9 AM and hellishly difficult to get to via the bike-and-bus combo. 

So for now I’ll probably stick  with Modern Mondays and revisit my schedule once we get both the car and the truck back from Denis’ brother, who is doing the maintenance stuff on them.
That’s it for now. Oh, I will at some point have photos of the most terrifying arabesque I’ve ever done, atop a giant hashtag in the desert (nope, that’s not a typo). I’m hoping they turn out well, because I really want to post them here. 

Needless to say, I was surpassing grateful for Ancien A.D.‘s note for my supporting leg whilst arabesque-ing some twelve feet or so off the ground with with the wind up my tail and a not-entirely-stable surface underfoot! 

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Working Out The Kinks

…By which I don’t mean taking a certain band to the gym 😉

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve done a bunch of injuring myself in the past two years.

I think it’s also fair to say that I’m getting better at managing injuries and recovering from them — at reasonable share of which is learning, through trial and error, what “rest” means in relationship to various injuries if you’re a dancer and/or an aerialist (and, for that matter, what “rest” means in general as someone that my physiotherapist spouse defines as “an extreme athlete” — read, if you’re a serious dancer or aerialist, that’s you! Hi!).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, I’ve found myself doing a fair bit of reflection on why I’m injuring all the things and how I might, you know, stop that. (Or at least mostly stop.)

I’ve concluded that there are three major components:

  1. REST!
  2. Balance.
  3. Learning when to say “when.”

Let’s start with Point the Third: Learning When to Say “When.”

Like most dancers, I take pride in my ability to listen to my body in certain regards.

I know when I’m hungry, and I know when I’m full. I know when I should eat all the salty pommes frites and when I shouldn’t. I know when I need a freaking salad. I know that I should not have more than one beer when I have class the next day (so, basically, ever; we’ll address that under the heading of REST).

I more or less know when I’m really freaking tired and should just Go the F**k to Sleep (hint: I realize that I’m acting like a poorly-socialized two-year-old; shortly thereafter, I put my cranky behind to bed).

I know … okay, I almost know … how to not spend all my money on dance and aerials (I really did need that fourth dance belt; there might not be even one laundromat in Cincinnati, and more importantly, I might be too tired to bother! Also, it is totally important to have twenty pairs of tights and three pairs of ballet shoes and special socks that you basically only use for modern class and … okay, maybe I’m not that great at this one yet).

But when it comes to classes, I’m not great at knowing when I just plain need to STAHP.

Or, at least, I wasn’t.

Recently, I’ve tried a slow-and-steady approach to getting back into class after an injury. Amazingly, just as every physiotehrapist and exercise scientist and coach and trainer and ballet instructor on earth would’ve predicted, it worked!

I didn’t completely forget how to dance. My legs did not fall off. I did not lose my single knee-hang on both sides (though I’m still working back into it on the left, because when you basically completely disengage your adductors for a couple weeks, they detrain pretty fast).

I’m now working out the series of kinks (not injuries so much as low-level irritations) that I accumulated while compensating for my most recent injury: weirdness in my back; knee and calf fatigue on the opposite side. My right calf was a wee bit sore by the time we finished petit allegro on Wednesday, but not so much that it felt like I should skip grand allegro. I rolled the dice and it worked out, but I’ll probably need to think carefully about that tomorrow, too.

And every other day, for the rest of my life.

Okay. So that covers the whole “know when to say when” thing. On to Point the Second: Balance.

While this isn’t quite how things work in the real world, it’s usually more or less functionally accurate to acknowledge that when you increase strength, you reduce flexibility.

This is a problem for normal people, but it’s a huge problem for hypermobile people.

In short, if you don’t pay attention to muscle balance when you train and/or you don’t stretch adequately (or you overstretch, or — worst of all, if you do some of each), you can throw your whole body out of whack.

That goes double if your body isn’t strung together very securely in the first place (that is, if you’re hypermobile).

I would like to show you a picture.

Here:

Group-Candlestand-3

Top Row: Janie, Me. Bottom Row: Amy, Courtney. Both Rows: COMPLETELY FREAKING AWESOME. Also, I am astoundingly modest today, amirite?

On the face of it, this just looks like a really cool acro-balancing pile (and, for the most part, that’s completely accurate).

However, ballet wonks will notice that my eyes say Armand (from La Dame Aux Camélias) while my hands say OMG DON QUIXOTE!!!!!1!!oneone

Which is what they say ALL. THE. TIME. unless I pay a ton of attention to what I’m doing with them.

I hear about this in essentially every class ever, unless I pay a ton of attention to what I’m doing with them.

All this is more or less the result of muscle imbalance. I don’t always stretch adequately after aerials classes, nor do I do much to counteract the effects of working on aerial apparati in terms of strength balance — so unless I think very hard about making my hands soft and graceful, they do this*.

*Okay, it might also partly be a personality trait: as a dancer, I tend to operate in one of two default modes — I have no idea what I’m doing right now or I am such a cocky little badass, depending. The fact that it was specifically the Russian dance in Nutcracker that made me want to take up ballet probably tells you essentially everything you need to know.

Anyway, until I started being really conscious about stretching my hands after trapeze, silks, lyra, and mixed apparatus, this was making my hands hurt, because things were pulling on other things in unbalanced ways.

The whole disaster with my pelvis started more or less the same way. I neglected to train the bottom third of my abdominal muscles, and things pulled other things out of whack — and since my connective tissue is unusually stretchy, they got really, really out of whack.

So, in short, things that train strength need to be balanced with things that train flexibility and vice-versa. Likewise, when you train the crap out of your adductors, you should also do some work on your abductors. And so on.

And, of course, training needs to be balanced with every dancer’s favorite four-letter word:

Point the First: REST.

The process of getting stronger is essentially one of creating tiny tears in your muscles, then letting them heal.

Guess what makes them heal?

REST.

Likewise, the process of accumulating explicit knowledge requires rest. A great deal of memory consolidation, as far as we can tell, takes place during sleep.

Also, the brain itself gets tired. The brain needs rest, too (and not just sleep: sometimes the brain just needs to, like, kick back and sit on its cerebral porch and watch the world go by).

And ballet, modern dance, and aerials need the brain.

Moreover, all kinds of injury-preventive functions, from equilibrium to coordination to proprioception to decision making, are compromised by fatigue and sleep-deprivation.

You know what one weird trick combats fatigue and sleep-deprivation?

Say it with me:

REST.

(Also, sleep.)

I also need a fair amount of rest when it comes to that whole Being Around Humans thing.

I am very much an introvert in the sense that I recharge by being alone: like, really alone. Like, “Don’t bust up in my kitchen on one of my designated Leave Me Alone days and start chatting with me and expect me to be anything other than a complete b1tch” alone.

So, basically, I’ve done a piss-poor job giving myself adequate rest. Even on the days that are supposed to be my days off, for the past several weeks, I’ve had to go out and get things done and be among humans, which has more or less literally been making me insane (seriously, sobbing-on-the-floor-in-the-kitchen-at-9-PM-on-Monday, snapping-at-my-best-friends-for-no-reason insane).

So, yeah. That’s part of injury prevention for me, too: first, because I get really, really tense, which makes the tight muscles tighter and increases the likelihood of strains and so forth; second, because I have enough trouble sleeping without being, as my old roommate used to say, “outside my mind;” third, because it keeps me from eating people’s faces, which is definitely a kind of injury, just more for them than for me. Heh.

So here’s another picture:

WIN_20160527_13_42_04_Pro

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it whole-ly, even if you have to move it to Sunday because you have a Cube Workshop on Saturday afternoon. Also, sorry it’s fuzzy.

Please notice the dark circles under my eyes. They are what happens when I don’t sleep (also when my allergies are going crazy).

Please notice also the bold text and giant circle around it, reminding me that:

THIS REST CRAP IS IMPORTANT.

So, basically, I’ll be scheduling my rest days much more strictly (and, it appears, emphatically) in the future. I’ve also opted for one less-physically-demanding class on Tuesday and Thursday at the Cinci intensive in order to build in a little more rest.

I don’t know about you, but my long-term goal is to to be (as my trapeze instructor is) completely, mind-bendingly awesome at trapeze when I’m 50; to still be dancing when I’m 90.

It would also be great if my legs don’t fall off long before I reach either of those milestones, because I’ve got a pretty long way to go, frankly.

Paying attention to moderation, balance, and REST are probably the keys, really, to making that happen.

So that’s what I’m going to do, even if it kills me.

…Wait, no that’s not quite what I’m going for. In fact, to some extent, that’s what I’m trying to avoid.

Let’s try this again:

So that’s what I’m going to do, so all this doesn’t kill me.

Edit: Lastly, a very short clip of the juggling-while-Rola-Bola-ing bit,complete with juggling-club videobomb 😀 This was before I figured out I could plié on the Rola-Bola, pick up the balls, and start juggling without falling off.

Monday Class: Click!

Click! is the sound of “getting it” — and while there are a few awkward spots today, there were also a lot of click! moments.

I have noticed, in the past month or so, that I feel the small muscles in my hips and throughout my legs far more subtly than I used to.

I suppose this is part of the process of ballet — much like pitch training when you’re learning to sing. As a singer, you often begin by learning to sing pitches and scales: fourths, thirds, and so forth come next, then eventually chromatic scales as you learn to feel your vocal apparatus more subtly.

In ballet, first you are simply happy to get your leg off the ground (or something like that); then you learn, perhaps, lead back with your knee; then you learn to also rotate your heel forward while keeping the knee back; later, your begin to feel all the subtle little goings-on deeper within your leg that allow you to do this cleanly, with maximum turnout, while maintaining freedom of movement. Presumably, down the line somewhere, there’s some even more sublime destination.

Bizarrely, in the midst of learning all of this, I have somehow lost my petit battement (or, well, lost its speed). I assume it will return, in time, better than it was — but I’m glad we didn’t do petit battement today.

What we did do was a really nice combination with assemblés en tournant to one of the really lively bits from Swan Lake. That was fun.

It went:
Chasée
Tournant
Tournant
Tournant
Tombe
Pas de Bourée
Glissade
Assemblée (no change)
… Repeat going the other way.

Doing all chassées, all tournants, or alternating were also options. I did the alternating version once on each side, but I liked the “one chassé; three tournants” version better.

You guys, it felt like flying.

That was our closing combination; the one immediately before it ended with:
Tombe
Pas de bourré-Chassé to fourth
Développé
Fouette to attitude

Which looked and sounded harder than it was, provided you were doing it right. At first, I for some reason thought the second-to-last step was a pique with extension avant. That version was way harder.

We are all getting better; our whole class. It’s very encouraging.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I am writing some thoughts about ballet and my body; I’ll probably get those up here tomorrow-ish.

À Bientôt!

Advanced Class

So it turns out that, actually, I hold up fairly well in Advanced class. This wasn’t my greatest ballet day ever, but there was nothing I flatly couldn’t do.

I got another useful correction on my turns: evidently, I’ve been dropping out of passé before competing my turns sometimes. Derp.

So paying attention to that makes my turns prettier and more reliable. It should also make my doubles, etc, much better. I think what I’m doing is anticipating the “landing,” as if the floor isn’t going to be there anymore when I put my working leg back down … to which I can say only, “Hurr de durr.”

I was having one of those mildly dysphoric days: every time I looked in the mirror, I was all like, “Yay! Long, slender, graceful arms and — WTF! I am made from two completely different people :(”

Fortunately, I was on a wall barre, and for some reason my brain chose to more or less accept the rear-wheel drive reality of my body by the time we got to little jumps.

So there you have it. Advanced class did not cause me to burst into flames. I acquitted myself acceptably well. Nobody died.

That said, I must now dash off to buy groceries.

I think I shall enjoy this new routine.

At the Joffrey: In Which I Start Out Strong And Then Blow It Completely

Intermediate class at the Joffrey tonight: really nice barre, lovely adagio (which went surprisingly well), then increasingly complex traveling combinations.

I felt like I generally had my waterfowls in a linear array during barre, with the exception of an occasional hiccup or two — like the one where our instructor, Ms. S, called out the direction of a turn and I froze because suddenly I was thinking about whether or not I was turning the right way. That said, I succeeded in doing turns at a double barre without cracking my knee on the lower barre, which is a first.

I’m not sure how to describe how this class compares with our Intermediate class at home, overall: the barre was very comparable, if not as long and just plain physically hard as Brienne’s. The adagio was also comparable; it felt eminently doable, but I think that’s just because I suck way, way less at adagio than I used to.

The traveling stuff, meanwhile, started out comparable, then ramped up a bit, then a bit more.

I didn’t feel like the final combination, which I bombed magnificently (and failed to finish in the left side because I thought we were done) was comparable to anything we’ve done in our classes at home — it was quite long, quite complex, and involved grands assemblés en tournants.

Which I can actually do, but apparently not while remembering, like, any other step in a combination.

To be fair, I could neither see or hear Ms. S when she was giving the combination (this class was delightfully huuuuuuuge), and knew I didn’t have it when we marked it, and yet, for some reason, I didn’t speak up. Still not sure what that was about.

So, anyway. In short, as always, if you’re in Chicago, just go do class at the Joffrey. You might get pushed a bit past the edges of your comfort zone, but it will be worth it.

At the Joffrey: In Beginner Class, I Rethink Grand Jeté

The Joffrey’s 10 AM Saturday beginner class is taught by a gentleman, Ariel Cisneros, who may be the most effective instructor I’ve ever encountered for my particular body. In short, he immediately zeroed in on and fixed two holes in my body awareness; he also explains things in ways that automatically make sense to me.

Barre was lovely — not particularly difficult, but the combinations were unique. Mr. C used unique methods to focus us on using our feet and maintaining turnout. His methods very effectively complement those that Brian and Brienne have been using with me.

As Mr. C gave us the opening plié combination, I realized I was really, really going to have to pay attention: while there was nothing gimmicky about his combinations, they were unusual (in a good and effective way) and complex.

I really liked the fondu-et-rond de jambe combination we did, which approached Brienne’s fondu combinations in terms of complexity and physical demand, though it wasn’t as soul-crushingly long as hers can be.

At center, we did a lovely little bit of choreography with promenades, turns, and développés that went quite well indeed; I called on work we did in Brian’s Saturday class a while back to make the développés solid and pretty.

More importantly, perhaps, Mr. C gave me some very specific, apt notes of improving my turns.

Across the floor we did a really nice combination (edit: which evidently I forgot to finish writing about — the perils of small-screen blogging).

At the end, we did glissades and pas de chats, then grand jetés. For some reason (see below), my grand jetés were disastrously bad. I have sort of given myself a mental block about grand jeté of late, but after class I was able to figure out what the problem was.

I really wish I could do class with Mr. C every Saturday (heck, every single day would be better). I’ll have to bring the lessons I learned today back to the studio at home.

I came out of this class feeling, once again, like I have the makings of a good dancer, and like the problems in encountering can be solved.

Sometimes the perspective of an instructor who doesn’t see you three times a week can really help!

~
About grand jetés…

I pretty a cracking good grand jeté as a kid, and I’ve been despairing over it as a returning adult dancer.

I realized today that the problem lies in how I’m using my upper body.

Instead of keeping my upper body, well, up (and slightly back), I’ve evidently been trying to launch the jump with my shoulders.

You guys, WTF is that?

I don’t do that when doing tour jeté or saut de Basque because it wouldn’t work. I suspect, though, that’s because I like having teeth and don’t want to land on my face, which is probably what would happen. Instinctively, then, I avoid executing what would be a Very Bad Plan.

Anyway, jumping from the shoulders doesn’t leave any room for the front leg to go anywhere and makes it much harder for the rear leg to launch you up. At best, it launches you forwards; at worst, down.

So I will concentrate on retraining my grand jeté, along with everything else.

Danseur Ignoble: Gotta Get Myself Connected

Things are very much coming together in class, but at the same time, there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Saturday’s class is usually easier (sometimes much easier) than the weekday morning classes, and today was no exception. Barre felt very solid. I had no trouble remembering the combinations, so instead I spent a lot of time focused on working through my feet, maintaining turnout when tendu-ing and so forth arriere, making my port de bras more graceful, and being awesome at doing the fondu-into-grand-rond-de-jambe bit. That has been a mess for the past few weeks, coming back into the intermediate classes.

Going across the floor, I had the combinations, but wasn’t really dancing with control (which was ridiculous, since I tossed off a really, really nice turn like it was nothing while we were learning a combination). I was kind of all over the place, particularly in my turns.

I need to keep my head together in class, buckle down, and really focus on honing my technique. (The music didn’t help today. Brian had a new CD that turned out to be really kind of terrible, and we all found it rather hilarious.)

My turns should not be sloppy ever at this juncture … at least not singles. My jumps should be tighter (to be fair, my little jumps sans beats look quite good, and my glissade is finally more or less back in shape; likewise, my assembles always look great, though I need to work on doing smaller ones when the music is quick).

My entrechats should just plain be better: I only did a couple today, and they started out well, and then for some reason, I stopped pointing my feet halfway through the beats. What’s that about*?

*It’s about still being a little freaked out about landings, I suspect. I’m afraid of re-injuring my toe, though I seem to be over worrying about my calf. Having spent basically half the year mostly unable to dance, I am now completely paranoid.

At least my port de bras is generally less wacky now. Every once in a while, when I’m jumping, it gets a bit over-enthusiastic. Rarely I get it backwards during adagio. On the whole, though, it’s pretty good.

Likewise, I am no longer getting tangled making it from sauté arabesque to glissade, and not just because I’m faking it better. I realized I’ve been slipping in a pas couru kind of thing after my faille instead of collecting myself for the jump (I guess it helps when I think of ballet in horse terms?)

I think this is an issue I had fixed before and then it, like, broke again. Like my freaking shower handles (well, I don’t fix those; Denis does — the best I can manage is to fiddle with them ’til they’re more or less operable).

The hardest combo today was deceptively simple:
Fondu
Extend
Soutenu turn
Fifth
Tendu back (to 4th)
Passe balance
Close to fifth
Repeat
Plie
Extend
Soutenu turn
Fifth
Tendu back (to 4th)
Passe balance
Fifth
Plie
Double turn (en dehors)

…And then repeat the whole combination until you run out of music or room.

This was challenging for me because I tend to want to really spring into my soutenu turns, but the music was slow, so that wasn’t an option. It was necessary to really step into them with control and stay on your leg. I was not all about being in control and staying on my leg today; I was kind of all over the place. I also think I kind of let my core go. You really can’t dance without core muscles.

So, in other words, this really shouldn’t have been a challenging combination, but it was, because I was a mess (if Ms. Margie was teaching, she would have said, “Use your technique, don’t lose your technique!”).

I’m going to chalk some of today’s chaos up to sleep deprivation, but a lot of it is simply that I need to focus better in class. Like, stop thinking, breathe more, try not to get distracted by shiny moving things in the mirror (SQUIRREL!).

Right now, I feel like that little girl with the little curl right in the middle of her forehead — you know: when I’m good, I’m very, very good; but when I am bad, I am horrid.

Oh! I also totally ganked the barre-stretch leg-strengthening exercise that Kit over at Ballet And/Or Bust described, and I think it’s exactly what the doctor ordered for getting my developpes higher. Right now, they’re back to progressing reasonably well, but it’s still definitely a question of strength and muscle balance.

My thighs remain pretty unbalanced as a result of years of turning the cranks on the bike, which is pretty much the opposite of what you’re doing when you developpe properly. The “eight lifts, then float the leg off the barre” sequence should really help. I’m better on the left side, right now, but that might just be because something had made my right hip (which is usually the tighter one anyway) super, super tight a few weeks ago. It’s almost back to normalish, now, though not yet back to full-splits-on-both-sides normal. I do have a full split back on the left, though.

One last bit.

Do you guys out there in Adult Ballet Bloggerland do that thing where you see a picture of yourself ballet-ing, immediately think, “Wow, I look awesome!” and then start picking apart all of your faults?

Because I am totally doing that with my pictures now 😛

To be fair, I was aware of most of the faults in question at the time (especially the fact that I wasn’t all that turned-out), but unable to really correct them because gravel footing is apparently just as scary when you’re trying to arabesque as when you’re on the bike, descending at 35 MPH. I’m less annoyed by the fact that my passé is kind of low and not super-level because I wasn’t really trying for a perfect passé.

Regardless, I’m still pretty pleased with myself. I had to hoooooold that arabesque and the passé in the other two pictures, and it was tough, what with the shifting gravel and so forth.

My balances are really improving now, though.

Today, in addition to a bunch of very respectable coupé balances, there was one that worked so well that I just, like, hung out there for what felt like ages. I didn’t even do that thing where you go OMGOMG I’M BALANCING! and immediately lose it. My passé balances weren’t quite as solid, but they were still pretty good.

If I can replicate that and improve on it going forward, that will be a really good thing.

Danseur Ignoble: We Got The Beats

Mostly good class this morning; the usual blend of hard work and good cheer. 

I didn’t hose up any combinations too badly except the ones that everyone hosed up because the music was faster* than we expected o.O’ Also, got off a bunch of double turns, some of which were nice (and some of which were a bit wild).

My frappés were literally better than they have every been, but my grand battements were weird and wild. I realized at the last split-second that I needed to turn because I was in a corner where I was likely to battement the crap out of the barre behind me and got off my balance and off the music. We détourné-ed right into the next side, so my efforts to get fixed were a tad frantic (though the second side was better?).

Wheeee! First world ballet problems, I guess?

Did the first set of little jumps with reasonable facility, then the second set of little jumps with beats, though I started to feel it in my toe and sort of petered out at the end.

For fun, after class, a few of us did leaps; I threw in a couple tour jetés just for the halibut (insert lame joke here: fishes love tour jetés).

I read an article not long ago about how ballet dancers are not masochists.  I’m not sure I agree at all: when your ballet teacher goes, “This is mean, and it’s going to hurt, and I’m sorry,” and the whole class sort of giggles maniacally, it suggests at least a little masochism on the part of the dancers.

Someday I will create a ballet about ballet class.  It will be called “The Rented Mules,” or maybe “The Merry Mules.”  It will not be as good as Paul Taylor’s ballet about ballet class, but maybe it will be funny.

To Remember:

1. Keep that back together in pique arabesque.

2. Practice adagio turns to développé.   These look really cool, but right now mine are kind of a mess: I need to down-rate my force in order to arrive in plié in the right direction on one leg while already extending the working leg (through fondue). 

Brienne points out that to do this, you think of it as “just a spot” (presumably instead of going ESCAPE VELOCITY GO!!!, which is how all my turns begin except when I remind myself to channel Baryshnikov and Find A Still Place first).

3.  Go to the dance store and get fitted for shoes after Burning Man.  All my shoes are officially pissing me off for various reasons except the little El Cheapo shoes from eBay, which are going to the desert, where they will, without a doubt, be summarily destroyed by the Alkaline Dust of Doom.

In other news, you should come to Summer Intensive with me next year in Lexington!  🙂

Addendum:

Progress in ballet, like progress in life, seems to take place stepwise.

Step 1: Thinking, “What the heck is — how do you even do that?”

Step 2: Giving it a try by broadly approximating whatever you’re trying to do.

Step 3: Feeling fairly confident about your broad approximation even though you still have to kind of remind yourself what frappé or soutenu or pas de basque is.

Step 4: No longer having to remind yourself as often, but realizing that your broad approximation leaves a great deal of room for improvement.

Step 5: Beginning to improve by making the large, visible adjustments.

Step 5: No longer having to remind yourself almost ever.

Step 6: Continuing to improve via medium adjustments.

Step 6: Transitioning from “improving” to “refining,” because you no longer have to remind yourself what a step is or about the improvements you’ve made thus far and you’re now making quite small adjustments.

Step 7: Getting the steps “into your body,” so they begin to feel instinctual and to link instinctually to other steps (this is so cool; sometimes you can predict a significant part of a combo before it’s given to you).

Steps 8 — ???: Further iterations of the refinement-and development-of instinct process.

Step approximately 1,000,000: Mastery (not perfection, which may not exist even in Ballet Paradise, since dancers like to have something to work on).

For what it’s worth, the development of a kind of “ballet sense,” a (still highly-limited) ability to predict what will make up part of a combination based on the music and the preceding steps, has greatly aided my ability to remember combinations.

Notes
*When in doubt, mark it out! … Even at barre.

Danseur Ignoble: Night School

I set my alarm wrong, so did night class today.

It went brilliantly, except for two parts — first, the part where I misunderstimated my travel during petit allegro and nearly ran the dude next to me into the piano twice … TWICE!!!; second, the part where I hosed up the final combo because I didn’t quite grasp what was supposed to come between the flying pas de basque (not to be confused with saut de basque) and the saute arabesque/cabriole.

I’mma have to practice that flying pas de basque thing. It’s fun, but my legs go a little Baby Giraffe Mode getting from that to other steps.

Brian taught tonight. His teaching style is playful and energetic, so his classes are fun.

Seriously; while this is probably not something that he would really do, there’s something in his personality that makes me think he’s going to come around and tickle us: that makes you stand up REALLY FREAKING TALL, by the way. Some atavistic part of my brain that is stuck in pre-school pre-ballet is like PULL UP TALL SO THE TICKLE MONSTER CAN’T SEE YOU!!!

Artist's conception of the Tickle Monster.

Pro Tip: If you pull up tall, the Tickle Monster can’t see you.

The best general bit of advice (not really a correction, because we hadn’t broken out the passés yet) tonight? In passé and retiré, imagine a meat hook grabbing and lifting the muscle at the top inside of your thigh. Yeah, kind of a gristly image, but it works brilliantly for me. It makes me stop thinking ROTATE ROTATE ROTATE and, predictably, going CLENCH CLENCH CLENCH.

Clenching makes balances, like, 1,000,000% harder, you guys.

Oh, and I did all three bazillion little jumps and only screwed up the petit allegro a little**. Yasssssss! Getting that back has been surprisingly difficult, so it’s good that it finally felt like dancing.

**This was the point at which I realized I was going to run the guy beside me into the piano and completely panicked o.O’ Sorry, Guy Beside Me.

Also, the little jumps looked good. So there’s that.

Now! Other business!

I heard back from Lexington Ballet, and their adult SI was a resounding success this year, so they areplanning on doing it again, and they would very much welcome out of town dancers. I’ll keep an ear to the wind for updates on that.

I’m going to see if I can get a group of LBS students together to go (Field Trip! … Er, Week-Long Field Trip!). If not, I’ll still go by myself; it doesn’t conflict with any of the Sun King weeks that sound interesting.)

Our Tutu Tuesday costumes are complete (mine is packed, even!) and look fabulous. I am not allowed to post pix until our camp-mates have seen them, though, so the whole internet is just going to have to sit on its hands until then (because I know nobody has anything more important to do that wait for pictures of our tutus).

I am totally miffed about this, really, because I now have the most adorable picture ever of Mr. Merkah playing in Denis’ tutu*** and I can’t post it until we get back.

***…Which is precisely what The Momma predicted the Merkah would do, by the way.

That’s it for now. I really need to think about finding something to eat and then going to bed. Between mowing the lawn, riding the bike, and dancing, I have Burned All The Calories today and am Way, Way Tired.

Danseur Ignoble: Insert Joke About Having A Lot Of Class

I got my hair cut, hung out in the world (mostly riding around on the bike), then did tonight’s open house class with Ms. E.

It was, in a word, awesome.  Barre was solid, adagio was solid, we did cool waltzy things across the floor (fairly nailed the first; didn’t quite catch the combo on the second so I basically faked it: nothing like faking it in the first group :P).

I like Ms. E’s teaching style — she’s fun, but still precise, and really encourages us to dance.

We did two fun little petit allegro combos, the second of which I really enjoyed (glissade, assemblé, glissade assemblé, glissade, jete [to coupe], relève, relève).

I feel like I’m gaining a better sense for where my body is in space now: I can feel it when my arabesques are on sideways, when my feet are really working, and so forth without everything else falling apart.

Likewise, a year ago I would never have guessed that I’d be picking up combinations as quickly as I am now.  It’s still not perfect, but I’m much, much quicker than I was.   I figured that would be the hardest part for me.  It might still be, but I feel pretty confident about it now.

Part of it is not really having to think about the individual steps; part is, I think, just practice making …  well, not perfect, but better.

My toe is a little sore, but not too bad, so tonight it will get a much-deserved rest.  Tomorrow, since Denis graciously gave me a whole day for ballet, I will Do All The Chores.

I expect to sleep like a baby tonight.   I’m quite tired — though not exhausted like I was on Saturday.

I would, however, commit vile acts of inhuman depravity for a really good slice of pizza right now 😉

That’s it for today.   Ballet feels very exciting right now.   I’m looking forward to coming months.

Good night, and keep the leather side down.

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