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On Technique: Frappe, Elevated

Fifth in a series of posts on the details of technique that focuses primarily on steps and aspects of dance that I’m struggling with. Take it with a grain of salt.

I find it helpful to write things out in an effort to get a grip on them. These aren’t so much instructions (though if they work for you, awesome!) as observations.


Today, in HD’s advanced class, we were given the option to do the frappé at the barre on flat or rélevé as we saw fit.

Since I’m trying to see my way back to being fit, I chose to do the whole combination on rélevé

Frappré en rélevé has been a bit of a white whale for me for a while. I tend to knock myself off my leg. Today, HD fixed that for me.

The source of the problem it seems, is that en rélevé, I tend to snap! my leg out from the knee.

Not only is this bad for your knees, but it has a way of making your turnout muscles say, “Aw, hell naw!” and let go. Hence, the knocking-one’s-self-off-of-one’s-leg part.

HD caught this and told me to squeeze the working leg out, as if against the resistance of a Theraband (or, in my mind, a giant vat of chocolate pudding … I went to class without breakfast this morning).

On the second side, I tried it, et voilà! 

Much better frappés en rélevé.

So that’s today’s snack-size serving of technical notes: yes, frappé should be quick and sharp, but it’s still a squeeze and not a snap!

That’s it for today. Problems to solve in the world, etc. (Dancer problems, but still…)

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Two for the Road

On Monday, M. BeastMode drilled us all about conservation of motion. Since I seriously need to work on that — I’m all about the attack, but sometimes at the expense of letting myself sort of fall apart — that was a very welcome topic.

Anyway, today, while catching up with the Tweeters after literally months of trying really hard not to look at Twitter ever because, seriously, it’s like being kidnapped by some secret spy agency; you go in and then you wake up and it’s three days later and you don’t know what happened and it feels like someone hit you in the head with a brick.

Okay, maybe minus the part about the brick, except when eyestrain occurs.

ANYWAY.

So today I saw this fantastic tiny video from Miami City Ballet, and I went, “HOLY CRAP. THIS IS IT.”

It’s in time-lapse, and that’s what makes it work. Here are these dancers, and their arms and legs are like all over the place, and their bodies DO. NOT. MOVE.

This, people, is how you use your core. This is conservation of motion. This is what will make your turns a thousand times better and your renversés and balances all Balan-shiny. This is what Ms. B picks on me about now that my pelvis seems to be more or less reliably sorted 😉

So, here you go. Watch (you may have to click through; I’ve never tried to embed a Twitter video before) and absorb, and then the next you’re in class, install and run this mental image. I am dead certain that this will help me, and pretty sure it will help almost anyone.

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Another Reason to Watch Ballet

…As if Ballet Geeks needed more reasons.

This weekend, we caught Louisville Ballet’s “Studio Connections” performance. It was super cool for many reasons (not least that we got to sit with Claire and T :D). The whole idea was pretty cool: the performance took place in the big studio downtown (the one where company classes and rehearsals are held, as well as the advanced class that I aspire, someday, to join).

Padded bleachers were set up to give the audience somewhere to sit, and we got to watch the dancers “up close and personal.” (It was comforting to know that I’m not alone in sounding like a freight train when I dance while congested). For those of us in the audience who dance, this provided a really great opportunity to observe technique.

I was watching one of the guys when the solution to my waltz balancé problem suddenly materialized in a flash of light (or possibly a glint off a rhinestone; there were definitely some sparkly costumes).

It’s the same problem that was afflicting my arabesques, promenades, and penché — I’ve been dropping my chest for some reason.

When we got home, I tried a more vertically-oriented balancé, and — what do you know — it worked quite nicely (even strung together a little combo — balancé, balancé, pas de bourree, fifth; plie, turn (en de hors); plie, turn (en de hors). The second turn was impeded by the door to the dishwasher, which I’d forgotten to close. Such is Practice At Home.

Anyway, there you have it. I remember noting that Brian’s balancé looked rather different (and, of course, better) than what I was doing, and now I’ve figured out how and why. That feels pretty cool.

So watching ballet is most enjoyable, but it also makes us better dancers.

So, there you go: another excuse to cram all the ballet you can into your eyeballs. You can thank me later 😉

On Ballet! — Monday Class Notes

First, On Unhelpful Thoughts
If you do ballet, you already know that ballet class affords very little time for indulgent mental wanking. Especially when you’re new, or “re-new,” as I currently am. However, because our minds are capricious, every now and then an unhelpful thought finds its way in.

Like, for example the following:

  • Is my butt really shaped like that?

This is the unhelpful thought that I had last night. It actually wasn’t judgmental or anything … just. You know, like, WTF? Because my butt was all, like, pointy and triangular in profile in the mirror while we were doing something facing the barre (I can’t even remember what, now!). I didn’t know butts could even be pointy and triangular, but there you go.

I don’t remember any other random, unhelpful thoughts from last night, so there probably weren’t any. But that one was amusing enough to last a good long while.

And Now, the Round-Up
Strengths

  • Our teacher! She is awesome and does not hesitate to provide extremely useful corrections. It helps that she puts them in terms that work really well for me.
  • Sautés: I felt pretty good about these last night. Good enough to take the point position once when we were doing passes across the floor in two groups of three and to focus on remaining synchronized with the girl who was in the point position when I was in back. Now, if I could just stop being surprised when I come to the end of the diagonal … oddly enough, it’s the same length every time ._.
  • Grand battement: Felt pretty good about this, too, particularly à la seconde. I seem to have regained the feel for it, so I focused on working from the hip and keeping the rest of me still, like it’s supposed to be.
  • Surprisingly enough, sous-sus. It’s weird when your body suddenly says, “Oh, you mean we’re doing that! Why didn’t you say so? We haven’t done that in ages!” and you find you are really kind of together after all.

Weaknesses

  • ARMS.

    Arms! Why won’t you do what I tell you to do? (Admittedly, they’re getting better at this.) Why do you insist on coming decoupled from the rest of my body and doing crazy stuff sometimes?

    I blame cycling for this. My arms are now exacting vengeance after years of being mostly ignored. After class, Denis said, “Sometimes your arms aren’t doing what everyone else’s arms are doing.” At least they were cooperative about the arabesques and the sautés.
  • Counting. Still. I am still not great at counting, and I really seem to lose it during degagés every single time. At least now I have figured out that if I get off the count somehow, I should not so much try to catch up by doing degagé-on-crack. Rather, I should treat it the way I would treat a missed beat on stage. Interestingly, I came to this realization while practicing the organ.
  • Relevé retiré — for some reason this just wasn’t happening last night. I think I was over-correcting and pulling my weight out of alignment to the back while trying to look, you know, all upright and princely. Note to self: Princes do not fall over backwards.

    Clearly, more core work is in order.
  • Staying connected. I am still doing too much of executing one thing, then executing another thing without really making any connection between them. This is my great weakness in all life’s activities (except singing), so should I be at all surprised that I do it in ballet class? No. Our teacher called me out on this at least twice during class.
  • And, of course, freaking chaînés. I keep over-rotating. I think I need to mark the crap out of these, walk through them slowly, and then try again*.

    In class, though, I tend to go for the, “WHEE! SPINNING IS FUNNNN!!!!!” approach, which is dumb.
  • Someday, I will look back upon this and laugh.

    Chaines: Scourge of the Universe

    I asked Denis last night what he’d like to see in a beginning ballet blog, and he asked for explanations of basic positions and stuff with links to videos, so I think I might put together a wee series of that sort of thing.

    That’s it for now. I must go forth and clean, then try to learn not to fall over whilst executing chaines.

    Notes on the Notes
    *Unfortunately, we do not yet have a surface at home on which one can practice more than two chaines at a time, because I cannot do chaines small enough to fit more than two in our tiny kitchen, any everything else either has carpet or huge area rugs. We are in the process of planning a studio for the basement, and — come to think of it, there’s always the storage room and my backup slippers.

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