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Wednesday Class: Add X

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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