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.

Huzzah!

Tonight, I hopped on a Rola-Bola for the second time in my life.

And then I learned to juggle on it.

While dancing.

BTW, I can only juggle three balls, but it looks way cooler when you’re simultaneously Rola-Bola-ing.

Then our dexterity instructor paused and told me, “If there was a hat on the ground, I would totally put money in it.”

Totally going to have to perfect this and use it to avoid ever getting a job entertain my friends😀

We snagged a little bit of video of it; I can’t wait to see it. Going to have to work on this one and get moar video!

Oh, and also awesome things happened in lyra and acro-balancing. A classmate snagged some great pix, so I’ll try to remember to repost them here.

Wednesday Class: In Which Dancers Are Hot

…Literally.

This afternoon, we all walked out of class looking like we’d showered in our dance kit.

It was completely worth it, of course — especially the delightful little grand allegro at the end.

It was another simple combination (the petit allegri were hard today; crazy fast and full of beats) — just:

Small Temps levée à droit
Chassé
Small Temps levée à gauche
Chassé
Temps levée arabesque
Failli
Glissade
Grand assemblé battu or Pas de chat or Saut de chat (“Choose Your Own Adventure”)
Reverse R/L on the opposite side, of course.

… But the focus was on the performance elements — especially arms and épaulement. The idea was for the legs to stay razor-sharp and fast while the arms were light and smooth and graceful, using a variant of Ceccheti/RAD third through first on the first four steps.

Oh, and we were to do all this whilst eating up the entire floor in one pass (not hard to do in this case; I really like to travel).

The music was also quite fast, which made for a really nice contrast between the quick legwork throughout most of the combination and the flying leap at the end.

We went in pairs, and on every run my partner did saut de chat while I did pas de chat which, as it turned out, looked quite cool. Pas de chat is one of the steps that I’m willing to say that I really do very well, and my partner’s high, fleet, linear saut de chat contrasted beautifully with my high, light, bouyant pas de chat.

It probably helped that we were similar in height and proportions.

I experimented with different arms on the pas de chat. I think for this combination, taking the arms to fifth and opening back to second through the latter part of the arc worked really nicely.

Anyway, by the time we were done, I think we were all well and fully cooked and ready for a break.

For what it’s worth, my turns were better, but my adagio was terrible today. This was definitely a class in which I felt the lingering effects of my sleeping pill. I got progressively better as the hangover effect faded — I am definitely far less coordinated on mornings like this one.

In other news, I switched to the day track for the Cinci workshop — it turns out that they were probably going to wind up canceling the evening track anyway. I’ve been very impressed with how well Mam Luft & Co have organized this thing and how promptly and smoothly they handled my request.

In trapeze class, meanwhile, I nailed down Montréal and learned a new sequence that starts with Montréal, then passes into Surfer, then into a balance whose name I can’t recall (looks much like the stag pose, only your feet are on the bar, which cants up towards the front foot), then into a hands-only spin around the leading rope to horse.

I also learned that if, as you’re spinning, your hands start to burn, you should definitely not relax your grip, no matter what your brain says, unless you’re keen on — shall we say — trying a higher voice part in choir (ahem).

Apparently, the moment that the bar connects with your “no fly zone” is also clearly visible to everyone in a the immediate vicinity. I feel heartened by the fact that everyone winced right along with me, though — and that, apparently, everything looked really good up to that point.

Also, it is totally possible to semi-gracefully dismount the trapeze before staggering over to the nearest available spot suitable for collapsing. In case you were wondering.

Fortunately, no permanent harm was done. Add to with “Bodies are weird” and “Bodies are different” the aphorism, “Sooner or later, we all walk the walk of shame.”

Which is, in case you’re wondering, more like a pinched shuffle, really.

Aerials: When “Can’t” Becomes “Can”

(Also highly relevant to dance, btw.)

I’ll start with a caveat.

As we are very fond of saying at the studio:

  1. Bodies are different.
  2. Bodies are weird.

…Which is a long way of saying that “Can’t” is okay.

As a dancer, gymnast, and equestrian, I’ve experienced a lot of that “No such thing as can’t” conditioning — I still wrestle with it frequently, though for me, it’s usually on a mental-health level or a neurological-weirdness level rather than on a physical-performance level.

Aerials have taught me that, really, the proportions of my body — which are great for dance and for most things in aerials — make some skills really hard, even potentially impossible. It’s also teaching me that, you know, that’s probably okay.

I haven’t hit a skill yet that’s really, truly impossible, but I can tell you that T-rex arms make doing a half-Russian out of a half-mill pretty freaking hard. I may or may not ever find a way to make it happen smoothly; I may have to work on it until my body finds its own special way of doing it.

That’s okay, though. Half-mill into half-Russian is one skill out of a zillion. There are other skills I can use instead.

That’s not quite a true can’t, but it’s an indication that part of me is willing to move towards a world where can’t is as okay for me as it is for other people.

We’re allowed to have can’ts. In fact, we probably should have can’ts. If we were all equally good at everything all the time, maybe there wouldn’t be room to appreciate artists, spectacular surgeons, and for those people who are amazingly gifted in the realms of the heart.

There’s some real truth to the idea that the shadows allow us to appreciate the light (and vice-versa), and while some of the can’ts in our lives hurt too much to think about them this way, others sting a lot less when we come to see them that way. (That doesn’t mean, though, that it’s wrong to fight to overcome your own personal can’ts. Probably the middle road, some of each, is the healthiest approach.)

Basically, everyone has a can’t somewhere, and that’s okay.

~

That being said, there is something I love so very, very much about aerials, and it’s this.

Every now and then, there’s this magical moment when something that used to be a can’t suddenly transforms into a can.

Of course, that’s not really how it happens.

What really happens is that you practice that skill, or other skills that train the same muscles and build related neural pathways, and then a moment arrives when, Boom! It all comes together, and it seems like a miracle.

Or, like, maybe it just is a miracle. Empiricism is great and all, but it isn’t everything.

Anyway, I had one of those moments today in mixed-apparatus class. We were doing vine climb to crescent moon (here’s an image [opens in new tab]).

This, by the way, is one of the skills that are more challenging for me because of the way I’m built. The last time I tried it, my body basically didn’t “get it,” and I haven’t done it since (not on purpose; it’s just how things have shaken out).

Today, it just happened brilliantly, beautifully. I was able to sail right into crescent moon effortlessly (and did a straight-leg variation that apparently impressed the hell out of everyone; I’m going to have to get a picture of this).

I haven’t really practiced these skills; I’ve just practiced related skills enough that it came together today — and that felt amazing.

Suddenly, this thing that used to be a can’t had magically become a can.

And that felt so good.

This is one of the things I love most about aerials (and about dance). I love those moments when things that felt like I would just never, ever be able to do them magically transform into things I can do and do well.

Those moments only happen, of course, if you stick with it — and I think that this may well be the greatest lesson that aerials and dance can teach us.

When we experience those moments in which can’t becomes can, we begin to think of ourselves differently. We begin to regard ourselves as people who are capable; as people who succeed.

Likewise, we watch other people experience that same transformation, and we begin to see them the same way.

We learn to feel this way in spite of our can’ts; in spite of those other areas in our life in which we continue to be less than able.

If we are fortunate, we learn to see past those areas; we learn to see that they are not barriers to a kind of overall can.

For what it’s worth, I think this is the same knowledge that good support services for people with disabilities imparts.

I used to think of myself more as someone who couldn’t: someone whose neurology stood in the way of success. A lot of parts of day-to-day life are hard for me in ways that can be really frustrating and even demoralizing, and for a long time I internalized the hell out of that. I felt like I had to fight with everything in me to wrestle that set of can’ts into the ground; to be as “normal” as possible, no matter the cost.

Dance and aerials have taught me that my strengths lie elsewhere — and that they’re considerable.

They’ve taught me to regard myself as someone who is profoundly capable, but in ways that are maybe kind of different and not entirely compatible with the usual 9-to-5 (or 6:30, or 8:30) world.

They’ve taught me that those ways of being capable are good, and valuable, and actually pretty awesome.

That opportunity should be available to everyone.

Not that everyone has to reach it through aerials or dance — some people reach it through math, or the study of history, or organizing (seriously, this is probably the most under-appreciated gift in the whole of the Western world), or homemaking, or knitting, or bringing people together, or through an uncanny ability to navigate the difficult waters of the human heart.

I hope that, in time, we’ll grow into a culture that appreciates every one of these gifts (and all the others that I haven’t listed; we’d be here for the rest of forever if I tried).

One of Denis’ great gifts in working with his clients (adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities) is helping them transform their can’ts into cans; helping them reach their moments of can.

He believes in people with a kind of unshakable faith, and he helps them believe in themselves.

I have seen aerials do the same thing for so many people now — so many people come in saying, Oh, I’ll never be able to do that or I’m too weak or (as I once said) I don’t have the upper-body strength for that.

As our trainers are so fond of saying, “That’s why you come to aerials class.”

That, and to reveal the vast treasury of your undiscovered can.

Modern Monday: Thoughts on Picking Up Combinations; Also on Food

I’ve been working on a strategy for combination-acquisition that Modern T recommended to me, and I really think it’s probably the best way to go.

In short, instead of hand-miming or subtly marking the combo as it’s handed out, you just stand (or, in some cases, sit) there and watch — really watch and ingest; get a good, solid mental video.

Then, if there’s a repeat of the demo or a verbal explanation, you can mime or mark as needed. It also helps to program in the counts (and swing and swing and swing and around, or what have you) on the repeat if you think you’re going to get lost.

This approach prevents you from missing critical points — the direction of a turn; what exactly happens during a change of direction; whether there’s an extra step or a direct weight transfer; what’s happening with arms and necks and shoulders and backs.

I did this throughout most of class today. Sometimes it felt really weird to be standing there just watching while much of the rest of the class was doing the subtle-marking method and my brain cells were firing like crazy, trying to make parts of me move.

On the other hand, it worked.

Throughout much of the class, I had the choreography down about as well as anyone. I felt solid doing it, even though sometimes my body was busy going, “WTF, THIS IS NOT GOOD BALLET, I WANT TO DO GOOD BALLET.” Sometimes my body doesn’t get the memo that modern != ballet.

To be frank, this kind of watching is hard for me. I tend to space out (and then start jiggling) when I’m standing still (thanks, ADHD!) — so this kind of “just watching” involved a very conscious, intentional imbibing*.

*Belatedly, I’ve realized that it’s the same way I watch compelling dance performances (which also explains why I have really good mental “video” of quite a few of them).

I totally failed to apply this lesson going across the floor. I started out with good intentions, but then realized I was in somebody’s way, took a step — and suddenly I was soft-marking along and missing really critical elements (Wait, isn’t there a third triplet? And is that hop-tour lent thing on the upstage leg or the downstage leg? And why am I doing it as if it was an sauté-fouetté?!).

As such, my across-the-floor combination was a straight-up disaster.

I did it wrong, then did it another flavor of wrong, then did it a still another flavor of wrong… Literally every pass (and we did the combination at least four times each way) was a new, unique, and different kind of more-or-less entirely incorrect.

Yeah, I got a bit frustrated, there. Like, seriously, for once in my life, when Modern T said, “Do you want to do it again, or are you guys done?” I was the one who said, “I’m done.” (And then did it twice more anyway.)

But, at any rate, I learned a valuable lesson about how I absorb choreography (and, um, knowing is half the battle, I guess?).

Okay!

Moving right along.

Some thoughts I’ve been kicking around with G+ friends have led me to reflect on my eating patterns, and I’ve realized that I eat quite differently for a strongly dance-based lifestyle than I did when I was training for bike racing.

I’m not at all sure I’m Doin’ It Rite™, but — at any rate — I’ve noticed that dancing doesn’t seem to make me as hungry as cycling (I think I’ve touched on this before) and that my “fueling” strategy is quite a bit higher in carbs than it was for cycling.

Some of this, of course, is sheer disorganization. I have not adapted amazingly well to my current schedule, which often involves dance classes in the morning, a brief break in the afternoon, and aerials or more dance classes in the evening.

Basically, I am not good at changing gears, and thus am not the kind of person who can get much done in the gap — so I do less cooking than I should and more, well, scavenging for anything quick, basically.

I have at least finally managed to mostly get on top of breakfast, for the most part. Breakfast is usually ~113 grams of plain Greek yoghurt, ~70 grams of unsweetened frozen berries (I happen to particularly like the blends that include cherries), and 25 – 30 grams of whatever kind of not-super-sugary granola looks promising.

If this sounds astonishingly precise for me, I promise, it’s really a function of the fact that it’s easier to scoop yoghurt out with a spatula, weigh it, and hit “tare” a few more times as more things are added than it is to shove it into a measuring cup, then transfer it into a bowl or whatevs.

I also have fancy yoghurt bowls that keep the crunchy stuff separate until you’re ready to eat. Using frozen berries means I have to make the yoghurt parfaits ahead of time, which saves me from having to fumble around with the kitchen scale in the morning.

On days that I fail to crawl out of the crypt bed in time to actually eat like an adult (or at least a toddler), I still tend to desperately chug protein shakes on the way to class. For such emergencies, I use Orgain (Creamy Chocolate Fudge) because it’s low in sugar, decent in the fiber department, tastes okay, and isn’t horribly expensive. My base of choice is unsweetened almond milk, but it’s perfectly good with regular milk. I usually add coffee concentrate and a touch of vanilla extract, but it’s acceptable without.

*There is also a fine line between just enough breakfast and too freaking much breakfast, OMG, please stop the sloshing, but I really prefer not to think about the far side of that line. I’d rather err on the side of caution — ’tis better to feel puny in class than pukey.

Dinner is frequently some species of pasta — I’m particularly fond of ziti and penne rigate — because I can make that ahead in huge batches and reheat it later. My sauce of choice comprises an “Italian seasoned” tomato paste, a ton of diced tomatoes (usually canned, because laziness), basil, oregano, garlic, onions (sauteed in a little olive oil and red wine), sometimes mushrooms, and either meatballs (sometimes frozen, sometimes turkey) or sausages.

This makes it sound like I plan better than I do.

If I were really any good at planning, there would be far fewer nights on which we eat dinner at 9 PM when I’ve arrived home at 7:45:/

Interestingly, I almost never ate pasta when I was racing bikes (except when I was intentionally carb-loading). Training rides tended to make me insanely hungry and I would just go crazy with the pasta; I generally substituted raw cabbage for the actual noodles (the sauce heats the cabbage just enough to be crisp-tender, which is awesome).

I’m much better, now, at figuring out when I’m full, so I actually do eat pasta. I still often add either raw cabbage or raw baby spinach, though (because veggies ftw).

In the past, my breakfasts were also generally lower in carbs than they are now.

Meanwhile, lunch is just a horrible, ongoing, unmitigated disaster of food-on-the-fly right now. How desperate my choices are depends upon how well I’ve walked that fine line between just enough breakfast and way the hell too little breakfast*.

I am not too proud to admit that I lunch has recently featured such stellar choices as a fried chicken sandwich, half a Whopper (apparently, I can’t eat an entire Whopper), or pizza from a gas station’s convenience store.

This doesn’t really seem to be making any impact on my baseline health statistics (if anything, it’s the only thing stopping my blood pressure moving from “low” to “undetectable”), but it probably does significantly impact my ability to not be a horrible, face-eating hypoglycemia monster by the time my evening classes roll around.

So basically, in summary:

When I raced bikes I was hungry all the time, limited my carbs, and was much better at lunch.

Now, my appetite is more manageable even though I burn roughly the same number of calories on any given day (if not more, because I have more upper-body muscle than I used to — so, seriously, wtf), I eat pasta like it’s going out of style, and I am terrible at lunch.

The next step, then, is to figure out how to eat lunch on the fly without spending a gajillion dollars. I mean, obviously, I know how to eat lunch (open mouth, insert foot food), but the question is how to plan ahead and make food to bring with me (because apparently it’s not super safe to just leave a giant bowl of pasta in your car and assume it’ll be nice and hot by the time you get out of class…).

So that’s today’s installment. Not incredibly informative to anyone who isn’t me, I’ll wager, but it has helped me identify a “next step” I wasn’t thinking about (that is, how to handle lunch).

Advanced Class: Temps Lie, Turns, and Transitional Steps

None of the above-mentioned things, of course, are specific to advanced ballet studies. Dancers begin to learn all three almost from the beginning.

However, they’re all examples of skills that, as a dancer, you never stop honing.

Today, we touched on all three.

At barre, we used temps lié in several combinations; we came back to it in our adagio at center, then again in our pirouette combination. At barre, we were reminded to really work through the whole of each foot in order to keep our turnout; at center, we were encouraged to make our temps lié bigger (without losing our turnout or letting our cores fall apart).

Curiously, our turns themselves garnered little correction today — really, we just got a note about using a better coupe-piqué into our sus-sous turns. The idea was to make it sharper and cleaner; a clear, unambiguous step rather than a sort of blurry pivot.

We repeated everything up to the pirouette combination, making subtle but transformative changes. My favorite involved one of the really common transitional steps, faillé — Ms. T asked us to really make something of it; to carry our arms and shoulders through along the diagonal and make it beautiful. This is something I’ve been working on, and I feel like I really nailed it down pretty well today.

Not perfectly, but pretty well. Better than it has been so far.

On Wednesday, Mme B noted that I was doing a weird thing with my arms in turns from fourth and sorted them for me — so turns today were also much better than they’ve been for a while.

During petit allegro, I finally got my temps de cuisse sorted again, which is comforting. For a while, I kept stepping on my own foot during the shift between the posé phase and the sisson fermé phase. I suspect that may have been a function of not engaging my lower core, and thus losing my turnout on the back leg.

In case you’re unfamiliar with temps de cuisse, it’s a handy little jump that combines a coupé with a sisson fermé.

I still screwed up the combination a bit, though — I kept forgetting that there was a pas de bourree in there and also a second set of entrechats, so I kept going, “Oh!” and winding up a quarter-beat or so behind. Not the end of the world, but not ideal.

We ended with a simple zig-zag grand allegro, one at a time (with the next dancer starting as the previous one zigged for the first time, since there were a million of us in class today).

It went, simply:


tombé à droit
pas de bourrée
glissade
saut de chat
tombé à gauche
pas de bourrée
glissade
saut de chat

…twice, for a total for four diagonal passes.

Not difficult in terms of steps, but very exposed and timing-critical.

I think my tombés were probably terrible, but it’s also the first time since I received clearance to dance that I’ve done grand allegro (okay, except in Essentials, which almost doesn’t count).

On the other hand, my sautes de chat were pretty decent.

Anyway, I must go do a bunch of cleaning and make a portable dinner for tonight. We’re going to have a picnic with B and N and then go watch U of L’s spring dance gala.

That’s it for now.

À bientôt, mes amis!

Modern Monday, T… I Got Nothin’ For Tuesday

Yesterday (Monday) began not-so-well and ended brilliantly.

Modern class was, on average, more or less a wash. I had trouble waking up, and while my floorwork was good, I simply couldn’t remember much of the across-the-floor sequence.

I suspect some of that was sleep- and medication-related. I have been having trouble sleeping for …  well, for reasons that I hope are sorted now via some very blunt communication with our housemate (in summary, “Yes, I sleep that lightly; no, I cannot afford to stay up later at weekends, so Quiet Hours After 10 PM really, really means just that, or I will eat your face, kthxbai). My circadian rhythm had crept back to its natural 2-or-3-AM-is-bedtime pattern, so I finally just knocked back an Ambient on Sunday night.

I got some much-needed sleep, but I don’t think my brain was 100% online until after lunch.

That said, a post-lunch choreography session went really well (once I wrestled technology to the ground, anyway) and produced some useful material — and the extra edition of Killer Class (Mme B subbed for M BeastMode) went brilliantly.

First of all, I did all the freaking turns the right freaking way. There were no backwards turns. There were no just l-plain-failed-to-turns.

I was not channeling Derek. Zoolander.

image

Don't be this guy. (Shamelessly stolen via teh Googs.)

Second, I adaged like a boss.

I was pleased with that, because the strength of my legs is uneven at the moment (though improving every day), which mostly translates to left-supporting-leg balances being wobbly. (Y’all, it is so frustrating to pull off a really long attitude balance on the right, then barely manage one at all on the left because your hip is all loosy-goosy).

Third, I did do part of the petit allegro incorrectly on the last repeat, but only because my brain skipped over the easy part in order to get to the less-easy part.

Also, my left split is back, now that my sacrum is no longer jammed on the opposite side.

Even better, after nearly four hours of dancing, I felt sufficiently tired to sleep without pharmaceutical guidance.

Today, I played on the lyra and got stuck in the silks in Mixed Apparatus Lunch Meeting Class. The silks thing was kind of hilarious. We were practicing figure-8 foot locks one at a time up the fabrics, and (because my legs are super-strong and flexible because ballet) I climbed right up to the ceiling … Where I proceeded, somehow to get my left foot tangled while stepping out of a foot-lock.

At ground level, this is merely embarrassing. You hop around on the free foot as you extract yourself.

Fifteen feet in the air, it’s a little more complicated.

I should simply have put my right for into a foot-lock, but by the time I realized that, I’d been desperately hanging there, alternating between single short-arm hangs, until I’d already exhausted my arms. I was, at that point, freaking out not about the prospect of falling, but about the prospect of being caught by that one tangled foot and breaking or straining something.

My brain was like, “NONONO, WE NEED ALL OUR FEET FOR DANCING.”

So instead I called to Denis for help, and he reached way up and flapped the tail of the silk around until we managed to free my foot.

Silks, you guys. Sometimes, the struggle is really real.

Incidentally, I now enjoy a much healthier sense of empathy towards fishing-industry by-catch.

This miniature disaster was mitigated by a very enjoyable Flexibility & Mobility class tonight — it turned into the equivalent of a knitters’ Stitch-n-Bitch (complete with off-color jokes) as we foam-rolled ourselves into oblivion.

After, in open fly, Denis & I worked on the timings for our performance and ran through the piece several times. I ran mine on both sides, just because — it works well either way, so I can adjust as needed according to how the apparati are set up.

I’m still just really excited about the fact that I can make it through several successive runs of my trapeze routine in a row, even with the timing changes that force me to hold gravity-defying positions for ages.

I’m also happy that I feel confident running my routine on the second-highest of our traps (the ropes on the highest one are too short for the iron cross segment).

FWIW, I’ve now practiced this piece, or sequences from this piece, on four of the five trapezes that are most often rigged in our studio. Woot.

Tomorrow, it’s my usual Killer Class, so I hope the fact that I took my Ambien early will help reduce the duration of the “hangover” effect. Then I’ll be working around the house until it’s time to go to Trapeze class.

Speaking of Ambien, mine has decided that I will sleep now — so I’ll close this here.

Good Days, Bad Days

Today, we rang bells for the last time this year. For me, it might be the last time for a while, since next year I will be really drilling down on dance stuff.

We played three pieces, all of which were pretty easy for me with the exception of a small bit of very quicbell-juggling — and even that wasn’t difficult, just less easy.

So we rocked right through the prelude piece (one which, I’ll admit, I could ring in my sleep) without a hitch and came off feeling quite good about ourselves, and I expected the same from the communion piece.

And then we began to ring, and I was startled by a wrong note.

…And then I realized that I was the one playing the wrong note (egads!).

…And then I figured, “Oh, hmm, must’ve swung the wrong hand.”

But when next I rang that note — a G — I swung the correct hand (which was, incidentally, also the right hand).

And then a kind of horror broke through me.

I shifted my bells. Rang again.

Still wrong.

Grabbed the bell that was still on the table. Rang that.

Still wrong.

…And, finally, I just put them all on the table, looked down, and picked them up all over again, in the correct hands.

Needless to say, although my wrong notes somehow managed not to sound too off (my part, in that section, was practically a bagpipe drone), I was flustered. Mortified. Frustrated.

Much the way I felt in class on Saturday, when I dropped in on Essentials because Ms J was teaching and proceeded to dance well enough that my fellow students concluded that I knew what I was doing and that they should just follow me … At which time my brain decided it would be a good plan to start doing the turns on the left side of a very simple combination backwards.

…Thus leading these tender, innocent new dancers into error (seriously, Ms J remarked on that when my group finished).

I knew what was supposed to happen. I even knew how to do the thing that was supposed to happen. I saw the wrong thing happening: and yet, once again, I was forced to watch in horror as my Ballautopilot hosed things up — only, this time, said Ballautopilot generously hosed things up for everyone. (Father forgive me, for I know just what I do, but not how to stop myself doing the wrong thing anyway?)

As such, the lesson of the day for the Essentials class was, “Know the choreography, and the choreography shall set you free. Also, don’t follow that one guy just because he looks like he knows what he’s doing.”

The lesson for me, on the other hand … Eh. I guess, “Sometimes the power steering breaks at the worst time,” or something like that. At least I remained physically committed to my own special variation and made it look good.

My ego is salved (at least where ballet is concerned) by the knowledge that I, too, have in my time been led astray, sometimes by company members who presumably are much better at this stuff than I am :}

But, yeah. Ballautopilot: the struggle is real?

At any rate, it’s good to be dancing again. I shall be doing a great deal of it over the next few weeks in preparation for the Cinci workshop.

So, there you have it. Good and bad days at the same time, sometimes in the very same combination.

~

PS: After my ignominious defeat by the communion piece, we rang the postlude piece like professionals.

Three Poems

I wrote three poems today —
or really four,
because that one
is probably more than one,
but I don’t think it’s really more than two —

And now there’s this,
so that makes five, I think,
which makes me want to say,
“Oh, wow, that’s something—
look, I’m writing things again;
I’ve found that thing
(whatever that thing is)
that makes the words pour out.”

Or maybe just
“I’ve finally found the stopper,
yanked it loose.”

Regardless,
I have written, now,
five poems
and later I will take them all apart
and strip them for their marrow
as one does.

And this will be the day
(I hope it will)
that I look back on,
saying,
These five poems
became the start of fifty-five more poems,
five hundred fifty-five,
of this great stream of neverending poems
that tumbles me along
and does not die.

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