You Might Be A Dancer If… #001

You might be a dancer if you go to look for a picture of yourself in “professional attire,” and realize that essentialy every picture taken of you in the past year is more or less you in elaborate underwear.

Edit: PS – I’m #NotDeadYet but I’m completely swamped right now. Bleh.

So festivities. Much schedule. Wow.

Chiaroscuro

Sometimes There Are No Words

I try not to lend aid to the cause of people who would use fear to control the rest of us, so I’m not going to comment on them. Not directly. Not here.

Nobody — asexual, bisexual, queer, straight, Atheist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan, female, intersex, male, transgender, immigrant, native-born, Asian, Black, Latino, White, any race, any faith, any anything, whatever else people can be — should be targeted with violence.

And yet it happens every day.

We notice when it happens to a lot of people at once. We don’t always notice when it happens to one person at a time; not until it reaches a kind of critical mass.

I thought about this when I was in Cinci; when I saw the words WE CAN’T BREATHE stenciled on the same square of pavement every morning; every evening. I thought about it today, when people in Louisville came together to organize a vigil for people in Orlando who they never met.

Regardless, tragedy is tragedy. Human cruelty is human cruelty.

I don’t pretend to make sense of any of this. I don’t pretend to have intelligent things to say about it; I don’t.

Even if I did, maybe it’s too soon to make sense; to say intelligent things. I don’t know.

Grief is a mysterious thing, whether it’s the direct grief of an immediate personal loss or the indirect grief of living in a world where things happen like this.

So that’s what I’m saying, because I don’t have any other words; because for a long time I haven’t had any other words.

I Survived Mam-Luft & Co’s Summer Intensive…

…And it was basically one of the best weeks of my life, even though I felt all shy and weird and awkward at first.

I even took notes (and occasionally remembered to apply them in class) … though they’re still in the car right now, because yesterday I had an epic (and completely unnecessary) meltdown on the way home from Cinci and then did a cube workshop (pictures to follow). Needless to say, I was kind of tired when I got home.

Some quick highlights:

The masterclass series. I keep finding myself being like, “Jeanne’s masterclass was THE BEST!” or “Demetrius Tabron’s masterclass was THE BEST!” or “Gina Walther’s masterclass was THE BEST!”

In fact they were all THE BEST! for entirely different reasons — and that, my friends, is how a masterclass series should work.

Every master teacher reinforced concepts we worked on with the others, but every one also brought unique insights. In short, Mam-Luft & Co knows how to assemble a masterclass series.

Remembering the choreography (or not). For basically the whole week, I thought I was the only person in the entire class who didn’t have the choreography 100% down in rep. I was wrong. Almost everybody was missing bits here and there, it just took me ’til Friday, right before the final showing, to figure that out because I was too busy being anxious about not having it down (and about that whole eldritch god thing; see below).

Partnering. I freaking love partnering, y’all. I think I already said that, though. Partnering class was the first one in which I felt really confident; that transferred to the parts of rep where we lifted people.

There was one part of the choreography in which we collectively lifted G into a high side-plank lift, and then, as everyone else stepped away, I wrapped my arms around her and lowered her slowly to the floor. The moment when our instructor Susan said, “It’s okay, guys, he’s got this,” was literally one of the best moments of my life.

You guys, there was a time not all that long ago when I figured I would always kind of suck at partnering because, frankly, upper-body strength has never been my strong suit. Turns out that has changed considerably. It is good to feel capable, and it is amazingly good to feel capable of adapting myself to meet a goal.

Wednesday. Basically, all of Wednesday was pretty awesome for me.  That was the day when I started being less terrified that my fellow students were, like, going to sacrifice me to an eldritch god or something. (Seriously, WTF is wrong with me?) Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was also the day that my brain went, “Oh, wait, this is dance, we can do this.”

Ir probably helped that ballet went well (Triple turns on demand! Like it was no big deal! …Which was totally not the case on Friday, btw, but that basically owes to a nasty blister* in a horrible spot which consequently made me super-stiff — I was constantly afraid I’d rip my foot open and render myself unable to dance).

Cheetah eyes.” At lunch on Thursday, one of the other students mentioned that one of her teachers once said something like, “If you were a cheetah, your spine would enter your skull in a different place, and your eyes would be in a different spot in your skull. Imagine you’re a cheetah, and imagine where your eyes would be. Now go back to being a human and use your cheetah eyes (as well as your human eyes, obvs).” No an exact quote, but I hope you get the gist. Holy crap, did this ever fix the frack out of my alignment.

Release technique stuff. We do a lot of this in Modern T’s class, and bits of it had clicked here and there — but I discovered in Cinci that I actually really love it when I get out of my own way. In Leslie Dworkin’s masterclass, especially, I was able to briefly stop being an incredibly shy, uptight ballet nerd and just really use my whole body.

Repertory class. I started out feeling downright timid about this class, and it ended up being a highlight (and a bit of a crucible, I think).

I walked in afraid that I would literally never nail down the choreography; that I’d be so freaking bad at it that they’d ask me not to dance in the showing.

By the end, I felt like I knew enough to try to start making something out of some of it (though I still forgot to add the whole performative element to one of my parts, feh). Not that I didn’t make some mistakes during the showing (the most glaring one being the part where I wound up on the wrong leg in a static pose).

Also, we all kind of bonded over the lift-y parts and turned into a cohesive group. That was just plain cool.

Perhaps the most important thing I learned is that I automatically adjust my game to the level of expectation — when, for example, our ballet instructor called for triple turns in a combination on Wednesday, a small part of me went, “I don’t know if I can do that,” but a bigger part went, “Welp, better crank out some triples.” So I did.

This didn’t happen every time, but on average, when I got the hell out of my own way, things went better than I expected them to. When I got all tense and weird, things did not go so well.

I need to learn to hang onto my confidence in the things I do well and not freak out about other stuff.

I’ll try to post my more detailed notes later. Suffice it to say that I had a blast, learned a great deal, and will definitely be going back next year.

*nasty blister picture below the cut, because seriously, if you want to know what happens when you start to get a tiny blister right on the ball of your foot and then don’t think to tape it, this is what happens

Read the rest of this entry

Modern (Intensive) Monday

In Brief

Busses Ridden: 1

Classes Attended: 5
Ratio of Girls to Boys: Something like 29/me*
—*Apparently, yes, there is a point at which being Only Guy feels kinda weird

Favorite Class: Partnering & Weight Share
—Girls Dropped: 0 (Yay!)
—Girls Stepped On: 1 (Sorry about that!)

Most Awkward Moment:
That time in Rep when I basically had no freaking idea what the middle of the dance was. Herp de derp.

Second Most Awkward Moment:
That time in ballet when the lining of my left shoe was like, “Screw you, I’m done,” and I finally just peeled it out and chucked it between barre exercises.
—Two unexpectedly-long balances kinda made up for it, though.

Friction Burns Acquired: 2
Muscles Used: So, so many. Basically all of them.
Giant sandwiches consumed: 2
Tireds Acquired: All The Tireds

So far, I’m really enjoying this. Can’t wait to go back and suck less at rep tomorrow.

G’night, errbody.

PS: We did barrel turns. Huzzah!

Early Thoughts on a New Dance Belt

I’ve historically danced in a Capezio … um, I can’t remember the model number at this moment, but it’s on my underpinnings page (I’ll link this later, too …  if I keep this up, I’ll have to change my surname to “Linklater”).

Today I took a page of of the Monty Python Playbook and said, “And now for something completely different” — Body Wrappers’ M006.

I don’t think a single class can provide a really complete sense of how anything functions, but here are my initial thoughts:

1. The Construction Is, Indeed, Quite Different
I’m rather short-coupled. There’s about a half inch difference in the width of the elastic on these two models, with the BW M006 coming in wider.

The functional difference is rather greater: while the upper edge of my Capezio dance belts rests a couple inches below my navel, the BW M006 rests right at the bottom edge of my navel. (Edit: I think this is because of the way the pouch is designed, really; turns out that’s important.)

This will take a little getting used to and makes it clear that there’s still a little insulation going on there — though not enough to cause the top edge of the elastic to roll. In short, evidently I have a spare tire, but it’s a bike tire (appropriately enough).

On the other hand, in all other ways, this thing is really rather superior in the comfort department. Kind of makes me wish I wasn’t so bleeding conservative about these things.

To be fair, an uncomfortable dance belt is a thing of horror and a hell forever, and you generally can’t return them (or even, at our local shop, try them on first — besides which, they don’t carry this model). In short, because Bodies Are Different, choosing a dance belt falls somewhere between Voodoo and the Dark Arts for many of us even with the help of the entire Internet.

In terms of comfort, the major difference been the two models is the construction of the thong bit, which is flat and unobtrusive on the BW M006.  The one on the Capezio is basically a small rope. This makes sitting down for any length of time miserable for me (broke my tailbone when I was 10).

2. Holy Elastic, Batman
I now have two black dance belts and two tan ones. Both of the tan ones are apparently possessed by angry pythons. Is tan elastic inherently stronger than black?

I do suspect that dance belts are manufactured under the assumption that you’ll wear them until they literally fall apart, and that the manufacturers accordingly make the elastics a bit stronger than they need to be, lest we injure ourselves down the road.

3. But Nothing Moves!
If anything, the BW M006 is even more secure than the Capezio whatever (sidebar: why can’t Capezio use less bizarre model numbers?).

4. Sweat
I’m not that certain which of these dries faster. That said, the fact that there’s not a random panel of some different fabric in the middle of the BW M006’s waistband is good by me.

Overall, I’m really quite happy with this thing. I think, given the construction, I will also try the M007, even though (GASP!) the waistband is only 2″. Maybe I’ll be able to convince Denis to try it, too.

Anyway, that’s it for now.

Gotta jeté! (Okay, that was terrible.)

“Nobody Wants To See That”

At risk of doing that thing wherein I get up early and proceed to make myself late by getting caught up in the wicked hempen seive that is the Internet, I want to comment briefly on a cultural phenomenon that really grinds my gears: specifically, the phrase,

Nobody wants to see that.

Over on Dances With Fat today, there’s a post about how a lot of us just plain don’t want fat people in our eyespace. It’s worth a read (I’ll come back and link it in a bit). It might feel very in-your-face, but I think Reagan Chastain and other fat people have probably earned the right to get a bit confrontational. I’m not sure the rest of us are going to hear them if they don’t.

Some of us will tolerate the appearance of bigger folk conditionally — like, as long as they fall within x distance from “normal” (whatever that is) or as long as they “cover up.”

When they don’t, the given justification is often, “Nobody wants to see that.”

There are some serious problems with that phrase.

First, I beg to differ on purely literal grounds: try dropping in on a convention for bears (not literal bears — 0/10, do not recommend, wildly unsafe — source: every naturalist ever). Try asking anyone who loves someone who’s fat. Try visiting a Sumo match.

Second, though — and more troubling — is the stunning degree of privilege and/or internalized prejudice entailed in that phrase.

Think about it: when, in judging someone else, we say no one wants to see that, what we’re really saying is:

A. Of course my personal likes and dislikes are of critical importance to how all other people live in their bodies.
B. Of course everyone shares my opinion.
C. Of course I get to police other people’s self-expression.
… And also:
D. I cannot possibly look away if I see something I don’t like.

When we say it about ourselves, we’re really saying:

A. Of course bodies like mine are disgusting.
B. Of course everyone else has a right to enforce their likes and dislikes upon my body.
C. Of course I should be invisible.

By the way, I don’t mean to imply that the people who say this about others are necessarily giant flaming arse-hats. Every single person on the face of the planet, including myself, has prejudices.

It’s just that this one is still reflexively accepted. I’ve heard some of the kindest people I know say this very thing.

Hell, it only dawned on me when I was in the middle of saying this exact phrase maybe a year or so ago that it didn’t jive with the beliefs I’m trying to embody and that it was immensely problematic.

The interesting thing is that, since I’ve forced myself to stop saying it, I’ve discovered that, in fact, fat girls can look great and stylish in lycra (not that they have to look great and stylish; I don’t get to decide that, either), fat guys can rock mesh shirts, and so forth. It was my reflexive dismissal that kept me from recognizing that.

As someone with an immense degree of body privilege, I’m in a position that allows me to step in with authority when I hear someone I care about saying, “Nobody wants to see that.” (The trick is doing it without sounding like a self-righteous busybody).

The funny thing is that, when I have, the response has usually been pretty positive. People usually sort of stop and blink and go, “Huh. I hadn’t thought of it that way.” (On the other hand, I mostly know really thoughtful people. It isn’t always going to go that well, unfortunately.)

In the end, what we say to ourselves and to others impacts the way we see the world.

And, for what it’s worth, as a general rule, there is somebody who wants to see that — but neither they not the nay-sayers really matter.

What matters is how we see ourselves.

A Few Thoughts, Late In The Evening

I’ve been trying to sort out the unique flavor of my feeling of anticipation about my upcoming trapeze performance, and I think I’ve finally sorted it.

I was surprised by this sense that I don’t want the next few days to slip away too fast — I’m not prone to stage fright. Rather the opposite, in fact: I’m essentially a giant show-off by nature, but shy around strangers in small groups. Give me a stage or a podium, and I’m good.

So why, I kept wondering, is my anticipation not the unadulterated OMG OMG I am going to explode if Saturday doesn’t get here soon! of my childhood?

And then I got it: this is the feeling of knowing that it will be over as soon as it begins. We get one night: for me, 2 minutes and 30 seconds. It will be amazing — and then it will be over. It would be easy to get so caught up in eager anticipation that I actually don’t experience the actual thing, let alone this whole week.

I don’t want to get caught up in the anticipation of this singular moment in the future — our first-ever trapeze performance — and miss now.

Right now, my summer looks a little like a running start off a cliff into a wild, exhilarating wingsuit flight. It would be easy to miss the whole thing if I let my monkey mind run away with me. Anticipation has its merits, but it can definitely take the but in its teeth and run.

So I’m going to work on being present for the next few days. Really, I guess, that’s work we should be doing always — but some moments make better examples than others of why that is.

image

Shamelessly stolen from Hendy Mp/Solent News via The Telegraph.

So, in short: here is good. And I’m going to try to be here, now.

ch-ch-changes!

I write a lot more about dance, aerials, and all that stuff than anything else at this point, so I’ve re-structured my menu system.

This means that I no longer have to put each and every post in the “balllet” category to feed it to the front page. Instead, the MyBeautifulMachine page is now specific to bike posts (not to be confused with seatposts).

I’ve also added a page called “The Underpinnings” — in case you haven’t guessed, it discusses my perspective on every dancer/aerialist’s favorite semi-taboo topic, Super-Fancy Underwear™!

You’re welcome!😀

Lastly, at some point, I plan to make a media page, as much for my own sanity as anything else. I am forever digging through my media catalogue and/or old posts trying to find that one picture from that one time. A media page might allow me to organize all that crap more effectively.

So, there you have it. Blog updates FTW.

We now return to our regularly-scheduled broadcast day.

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,152 other followers

%d bloggers like this: