After a really quite good class tonight, I asked BW for some input on ballet goals.
After we tossed a few ideas back and forth (yes, the coordination/port de bras/artistry/épaulement idea got the nod), as we were looking for at least one really concrete thing, he said, “Balances—how long can you hold your passé balance?”
And I said, “Heh, erm, well … probably not as long as I should be able to…”
And he said, “Well … how about holding your passé balance with no hands on the barre for 8 seconds by the end of the year?”
And I agreed that that’s a good goal, especially since I can already do exactly that inconsistently. The idea is to be able to do it consistently … which will, in turn, help with, erm, turns (spotspotspotspotspotspot!!!).
This led to BW saying, “You should definitely be able to get there. You have the body for it.”
Which was awfully nice. It is really rather lovely to have the right kind of body for anything in the universe of classical ballet, in particular balances, since they’re so essentially to basically everything else.
In other news, tonight’s class was the first one since I came back that really felt good all the way through … Except maybe the part where I did second arabesque at barre with my supporting foot on an unused facial tissue that had escaped from my reserve … BW was like, “ASHER TURN OUT YOUR SUPPORTING LEG MORE HEEL FORWARD” and I was mentally like I’M TRYING BUT OMG IT’S SO SLIPPERY … but OTOH I actually did manage to turn that leg out, tissue or no tissue.
Everything was working together, coordination was coming along nicely, and I was finally able to detect the existence of those little muscles under my butt that make everything work like “Boom-ba-doomboom-boom-ba-doomboom…” um, sorry, wrong musical thought.
I’m nailing nice floaty doubles on the regular both directions at this point, and surprising triples out of the bush, so triples and quads will be back soon enough.
To be honest, even chaînés felt good tonight, and my piqués felt boss, though I got excited and got ahead of the music and had to reel them in. BW likes to run us through an exercise that’s just four piqués and four counts of chaînés on repeat, which is nice.
It’s simple, but allows you to focus on the most awkward thing in the entire canon of classical ballet, AKA chaînés. There’s a reason that you begin learning chaînés in your very first class and keep working on the for the rest of your dog-forsaken life.
I got the facings right on the tendu-et-turns thing every single time, too, which made me feel amazing, and my assemblés actually assembled, and I mostly managed to keep my chest and shoulders open. It also changed directions with a glissade, which makes me indescribably happy. I love following any kind of turn with a glissade, and this exercise ended with: single en dehors, soutenu turn, glissade.
I realized during today’s simple-but-hard (because only in ballet…) fondu that I’ve been releasing my shoulderblade at certain points in my port de bras. That might not sound like a big deal, but it’s shorthand for saying that I’m disengaging my lats and traps, thus closing off my own lines. Derp. Predictably, I do it because it feels like doing something, when in fact what I should be doing really doesn’t feel like doing anything. Which, because I am flexible, is basically how many things feel.
Lastly, I’ve got my really nice sauté arabesque back. For a while I kept sort of running over myself: then I figured out (thanks to a brief word with BG that was actually about cabriole, but the principle is the same) that I was trying to land my sauté arabesque by bringing my leading leg back under myself instead of letting my body follow its momentum.
This, in turn, led to doing this screwy thing in which I feel for the floor with my foot and halfway release my turnout. Blargh.
Needless to say, once I focused on letting the leg go where it was going, instead of trying to reel it back in, things got about a thousand percent better.
I’m trying to retain the lovely feeling of dancing that I caught in Killer Class yesterday. Thus far, I think I’m succeeding. Every time my brain starts to go THIS IS HARD AND MY BUTT HURTS, I go, “But we’re dancing!” (or should it be, “Butt, we’re dancing!”) and it makes me smile and I relax a little, which helps get my shoulders back out of my ears.
So that was class tonight, along with the first of my concrete ballet goaaaaaaaaallllllllls for 2018.
Last year, I published my list of ballet goals for the new year on December 18th.
Almost a year later, I can say I’ve made good progress on them (for one thing, I actually understand brisée now, instead of just doing the balletic equivalent of whacking at it with a big stick whenever it approaches). It’s been two steps forward, one step back, but overall the long arc of technique bends towards … um … better technique.
Anyway, I’m formulating next year’s goals now.
It’s funny—last year I focused on making my goals more concrete. This year, I intend to make fewer really concrete goals.
Part of this is that I’m not sure what’s next in terms of technique: obviously, I don’t know everything. I don’t think anyone alive knows every single step, if only because some of them exist in one stream but not in another, and most of us come primarily from one stream (Vaganova, RAD, Cecchetti, Balanchine, Bournonville) or another. That said, without the guidance of a syllabus program, it’s quite hard to say what should come next.
Last year, things seemed pretty obvious: the double tour is a standard feature of men’s technique, so it’s worth having if you’re going to audition; I had nailed triple turns and quadruples were obviously the next thing and also useful; etc.
This year, I don’t know that I need to focus on adding new steps as much as polishing existing ones. It would be nice to have a solid revoltade, but it’s not essential.
Anyway, I’ll have to remember to ask my teachers, especially BW and Killer B, for their thoughts on ballet goals. The elusive Reliable Double Tour has eluded me; if I don’t nail it down by December 31st, I suppose that’ll stay on the list.
More of my goals for next year have to do with pushing myself out into the world a little more—auditioning for more things—while shifting my focus a bit.
They say that it’s easier to get a job when you have a job, and I think that’s certainly true in the usual working world. I suppose there’s a corollary in the performing arts: it’s easier to feel confident about auditioning for things when you’ve already got a gig.
I don’t feel like I have to audition for every single thing out there. I have a gig that I like and that I’d like to continue with. I certainly wouldn’t turn down a paid ballet gig, of course, but I enjoy working with CirqueLouis. I feel like I can be a selective about my auditions, and like there’s less pressure: I am, rather surprisingly, on my way to my goal of making dancing pay, at very least, for itself.
I have my eye on some specific auditions, and I feel pretty relaxed about them.
Choreography-wise, my goals are a little more specific.
I think I’d like to actually see about setting the opening to Act II of Simon Crane—the traveling piece set to Ravel’s “Bolero,” which will stand on its own rather nicely. I’ve also rather completely re-envisioned the first piece of choreography I auditioned (that seems like about a thousand years ago now!). It began as a solo piece; I’m resetting it for two dancers (though more could work if I can lay hands on more dancers).
To be honest, I’m not sure it’s really even accurate to call it the same piece, at this point. It’s still set to Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” and it still centers on a theme of loneliness and grief, but beyond that it has almost nothing in common with the original version. It has inherited some ideas from “Work Song,” some from “Fade to White,” and some from the Pilobolus intensive. I’m hoping to snag L from Sunday Class, but I don’t know if I’ll manage to, as I haven’t seen him in ages. Either way, I’m really hoping to figure out a way to make that one happen.
Intensives-wise, only LexBallet and Pilobolus (all 3 weeks) are currently on my radar for 2018. I’m hoping LouBallet will run the master class series again. I might add another ballet-specific intensive and I might not.
It depends on what I’ve got on the calendar, how our finances look, and whether I can get a scholarship. Proposed changes to our joke of a healthcare “system” are set to significantly increase our insurance premiums, which will mean tightening the belt with regard to what I can afford to do out of pocket. I’d like to hit Ballet Detroit’s open intensive week, though, if I can.
So that’s it.
In summary, here’s the list:
- Technique: consult the masters. Overall, though, I want to improve the quality, consistency, and artistry of my technique.
- Auditions: LexBallet, Allegro Dance Project (maybe), Inlet Dance Theater, a couple of dancer/aerialist gigs with touring companies and/or cruise lines (haven’t decided which ones yet), Pilobolus if they hold auditions this year, other gigs as they appear on the horizion, probably.
- Intensives: Definitely LexBallet and Pilobolus. Possibly Ballet Detroit.
Quick update: if you’re not completely sick of Nutcracker yet, there’s a really nice version from the Dutch National Ballet on YouTube here.
You guys, WTF?!!!
IT IS ALMOST JULY, YOU GUYS. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN.
Anyway, as you know, ballet goals: I haz them.
Anyway. (Yup, it’s about to get long in here, so have a cutscene thingy.)
D and I are now rehearsing our #Playthink piece.
It’s actually going much better than I expected it to.
As one does, I’ve re-written essentially the entire piece now that I’m setting it on actual people and not just on myself prancing about in the studio and waving my arms to vaguely represent the acro moves.
Initially, I had one vision in mind. Because I was futzing around with it by myself, it involved a lot of ballet.
Now, of course, that has changed. I mean, there’s still ballet: there’s always going to be ballet because, hello, it’s me. That’s kind of what I do, apparently.
But choreography has a way of getting away from you. You begin with one vision, and as you actually create a dance and actually set it on actual people, it transforms.
I suppose that this is because, in a way, a dance is sort of a living thing. It’s a little like having a child (though, of course, on a very different scale) or maybe an elaborate pet. You might think, of a horse, “I’m going to train this horse to be the best cow pony ever,” but the horse might actually not be any good at being a cow pony. It might turn out to be a dressage beastie or something else.
- My philosophy on training horses was very much shaped both by my childhood trainer and also by the trainer of my friend’s lovely Arabian gelding, which began life as what the Arabian show world in the US calls a “park horse,” morphed into what the Arabian show word in the US calls an “English pleasure” horse, did a brief stint in Arabian-show-world western pleasure, and then eventually found his calling as an endurance racer. Basically, the lady who was responsible for training the horse felt that you needed to figure out which discipline suited the horse, and then train it to be as good as it could possibly be at that discipline. I think that’s a good way to do it.
Anyway. I digress.
So this dance is now almost a steady stream of rather-balletic acro and physical theater, and I’m okay with that. One of my goals was to build a dance that tells a story, and in this case, the story is kind of funny and implausible, and acro and physical theater are good ways to tell it.
I’m not going to try to force this dance to be something it isn’t. I have an entire lifetime in which to craft ballet pieces on ballet dancers (I keep joking that I have this entire three-act ballet in my head, now I just need about fifty dancers and a million dollars or so to get it off the ground … but, really, I do have an entire three-act ballet in my head, and it’s taking up a lot of space!). Right now, I’m working with one ballet dancer (me!) and one Denis, and that presents its own set of challenges and limitations.
Honestly, in creative work, it’s so often the limitations that free us to innovate (just as necessity—or, just as often, laziness—gives birth to invention).
The neat part is that this has led us to inadvertently create a new acro move. I mean, probably someone, somewhere has done it before, but I’ve never seen it. It happens to be one that requires that the flyer have a legit center oversplit (among other things), so probably there are a lot of people who can’t do it. Bony impingement is real, it’s just not something that I experience.
Anyway, the sequence involves moving from this:
…via returning to a standard vertical candlestick, then opening to a straddle and rolling down onto the base’s feet, and then rotating your legs back and around into the position above (the arms also have to do a thing, obviously).
The same basic end could be approached by moving from the vertical candlestick into a pike candlestick and lowering both legs down that way, but I don’t think it would look anywhere near as cool.
Annoyingly, when I snagged these screenshots, I completely failed to get one of the straddle transition. At the time, I think I was like, “A still photo of this isn’t going to impart any useful information.”
Anyway, you really have to have a perfectly flat straddle for this particular sequence so you don’t just rip your legs off, because your hips take a lot of your weight in the middle of the transition. Basically, if lying face down in a center split feels stretchy, this isn’t the sequence for you.
You also kind of need really good turnout in order to do the rotation bit.
The fact that D literally cannot straighten his legs in an L-base also means that I kind of drop myself onto his feet. Eventually, I’ll reach a point at which I can do a complete smooth rolldown whilst upside-down in a full center split, which will make things a little easier, but right now there’s a gap between the end of my smooth rolldown and the end of Denis’ range of motion (because my core strength is still only pretty good, and not completely awesome).
I wanted to use a sort of grand rond de jambe as an exit, but that also takes more adductor power than D has right now. If I bring my downstage leg to second, then rond it over, the force makes his right leg (which supports my left hip) shift, and I fall off 😀
We’ll get it eventually, but not in the next two weeks.
So there’s that.
Anyway, classes were good-ish yesterday and today.
Yesterday’s, in fact, was fairly lovely. Today’s was our first Advanced Class with JAB (OMG, his initials are seriously JAB!!! XD), who really does actually give an advanced Advanced Class.
On the upside, I’m finally (FINALLLLLYYYYYY) jumping again for real: grand allegro and everything. Cabrioles with turny bits, even (though I think I kept turning them into some kind of cabriole-scissor hybrid and landing on the wrong leg).
On the other hand, possibly because I went to a party last night and didn’t get to sleep ’til almost 4 AM (and then had to wake up and eat a sandwich, which was surreal because I was still pretty tipsy and more than half asleep), my brain was for the birds today.
I struggled because there were gaps in my recall of Every. Single. Combination. once we left the barre. The bits that came off, though, mostly went pretty well (except for a weird disaster in adagio during which I basically fell off my leg and then couldn’t get back on because gravity is the worst thing sometimes).
I also hit up a new class at Suspend, which is basically floorwork for acro.
You already know how much I love floorwork, soooooo…
Anyway, we got to break out our improv for the last 10 minutes of class, which resulting in some video that’s party really cool and partly like WHY DO YOU KEEP NOT COMPLETING THE MOVEMENTS WITH YOUR ARMS, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.
But, anyway, here are a few nice shots from this morning’s video, just because I like them:
Also, I feel like in the arch picture, my butt looks like a couple of angry badgers having a fight. Muscular angry badgers, though.
The tape, by the way, is just there because a tree stabbed me in the foot yesterday
Anyway, I was being annoyed with myself for not making the effort to do quadruple turns today, and then realized that I’ve somehow, like, sideswiped my ballet goals without realizing it. Like, basically, I’ve made a significant dent in them and didn’t even notice.
Basically, one of my major goals for this year was to nail down reliable triples and unreliable quadruples, basically. And, bizarrely, I have achieved that goal. I had this weird epiphany on the way home from class yesterday: I realized that, like, a year ago or so, even doing one little triple turn more or less by accident was the most amazing thing ever.
And now I’m like, “Meh, triples, yawn,” when I don’t try for quads.
So, basically, I need to pause and appreciate how much progress I have made.
For what it’s worth, I’ve also got turns in second sorted. They’re not always beautiful (or, let’s be honest, even pretty), but I can always do them. Just not always sixteen of them.
So, yeah. There you go. I feel like I’m “back,” more or less, right now.
Of course, Choose Your Own Intensive begins Monday, soooo… . . .
We’re on break for the next couple of weeks, so this seems like a good time to sit down and set some ballet goals for next year.
I think I set some last year, but I’m not sure what they were (because I’m too lazy to look them up right now). Anyway, I may not have included all of these on whatever list I made, but I know these were all things I hoped to achieve in 2016:
- Reliable double turns. Check.
- Suck less at port de bras. Hella check. I realize now that this is a really, really vague, but still. The nice part about being actually terrible at something is that you can improve really fast if you put in the work.
- Suck less at petit allegro. Kinda check? This one was too vague as well. I am less bad at petit allegro than I used to be, but it is not my forté. Not at all. Got beats, though, and at least least it’s usually just bad petit allegro these days and not the desperate flailings of a a baby giraffe on rollerskates.
- Barrel turns. Oddly enough, I did manage to learn these. I wouldn’t call them reliable—they’re still squarely in the “can do it if I don’t try to think about it” department.
- Tombé-coupé-jeté. See “barrel turns.”
- Saut de basque. Check. Like a boss, mofos. I have one heck of a nice saut de basque.
- Ditto pas de chat Italien. I didn’t know this was a goal until someone asked me if I could do it. Then it was a goal for the 5 minutes it took me to remember how.
- Ditto also renversé. I don’t know why it’s so hard to “get,” but once you really have it, you want to put it in everything. It’s like saffron or fleur du sel.
So my first goal for 2017 is to make my goals for next year less vague (pretty sure that’s basically like wishing for more wishes).
So here we go.
Steps & Stuff
- Double tours.
- Double cabrioles avant and arrière (edit: see footnote 1)
- Reliable triple turns.
- Unreliable quarduples.
- Reliable turns à la seconde.
- Entrechats six et plus. This should be doable; my quatre is reliable.
- Brisée—this needs to be reliable. Right now, it’s …. Yeah. Let’s not talk about that.
- Maybe revoltade? I feel like fewer of my goals should be grand allegro pyrotechnics, since that’s basically playing to my strengths.
- Solve the infuriating problem of being good at circular/grand port de bras without the barre and less good with.
- Overcome my turns-at-the-barre phobia. Seriously.
- Balances. All of them. Today in Sunday class I slow-piquéd into a first arabesque, slowly brought my working leg up above 90, and just hung out there until my head pretty much exploded with amazement thanks to a very simple exercise that Aerial A gave us. Then I failli-ed out like it was no big deal.
- Temp de puisse. Stop turning it into a funky Sissone.
- Sissones. Review them. ALL OF THEM.
Specifically for BW:
- Directional stuff. BW is basically the reason I can now reliably describe whether something is croisé or effacé without having to freaking well get up
offa that thing and dance til ya feel betterout of my seat, draw my imaginary box, and then execute the movement in question.
- Strengthen them turnouts.
- Use that crazy-high passé/retiré without having to think about it.
- Dat sus-sous, though. I feel feel that BW will be happy with me when he never, ever has to remind me to tighten my sus-sous (for the record, he’s the one who helped me solve my sus-sous versus knees problem, so I’m glad he calls me out on it).
Effing devil turns.Chainês. Be good at them, because I want BW to be proud of me, and whenever I do chainês he looks vaguely horrified. I think this is exacerbated by the fact fact that we usually precede them with My Favorite Thing, piqué turns, at which I rock
- Revisit Albrecht’s variation. Work out the kinks. Specifically: connect the steps and passes better; get the arms sequenced so I don’t do stupid flappy hands after jumps.
- Revisit the first act Peasant Pas from Giselle. See above. No flappy hands and no half-assing the balances.
- Learn at least 2 more solo or duo variations. This should be no problem. I should look at the repertoire and see what’s what. Probably not Le Corsaire, though miracles do happen. I could probably learn the trepak from one Nutcracker or another. Maybe something from Swan Lake? Or from La Dame aux Camélias.
- Learn at least one pas de deux. This will probably depend on whether we get rep class and partnering class to happen; otherwise it’s just going to be a thing that maybe happens at summer intensive, I guess?
- Finish and stage “Work Song.” I should should be able to fully check this one off in March!
- Finish at least the first act of Simon Crane. Possibly look into setting and staging a few pieces.
- Finish Peace, set it, and perform it.
And, of course, I will endeavor to actually be good at port de bras and épaulement, in accordance with the scriptures, and to focus on making my petit allegro light, precise, and clean, instead of always approaching it as “grand allegro, but faster and with a million fussy steps.” (Read: tone down the elevation and the travel.)
That might prevent Eric Bruhn, Bournonville, and Vaganova visiting me from beyond the grave to stare at me in silent disappointment. Not that this has happened, of course, but I feel that it’s what should happen to bad little boys who don’t work on their petit allegro.
Lastly, I will attempt to remember that attacking turns does not mean we’re trying to kill them. Or, rather, to remember that when it counts, and not after class or in bed at 11 PM.
Um, that’s probably enough for one year.
- Turns out I can do double cabrioles arrière using the “hands on the barre (or shopping cart)” approach that we use to convince ourselves we can do any cabrioles at all as little kids. This doesn’t actually buy me any air time, so apparently this is entirely a mental thing. Avant on the other hand? Dunno yet.
Bonus: it’s Hella fun doing shopping-cart double cabrioles across a parking lot in winter boots 😀