I will traipse happily through a store openly carrying underwear I have not yet purchased.
It seems I will also happily traipse across the studio openly carrying my dance belt.
Once changed, however, I feel weird traipsing back to my cubby or my dance bag carrying my underwear.
So, um, seriously:
Edit: I just thought, “Well, I wouldn’t have any compunctions about performing in Just A Dance Belt, since that happens all the time.”
And then I realized that, apparently, I have absolutely no compunctions about wandering around in my skivvies at Burning Man.
So, apparently, it’s just carrying my underpants around in my hands that’s a problem?
This afternoon, things went well. “And So It Goes” (got the title wrong before) sets really nicely for an adagio dance trapeze piece. I roped Denis into doing some acro for the opening, though it was awkward because our portable crash mat is mas squishy — not particularly stable.
The performance piece was very much a work in progress. I forgot to do a couple of things I meant to do, which meant there was more improv than I intended, but the improv resulted in some nice moments, so I really can’t complain.
Our friendly photog, Kevin, shot pictures, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them. After I finished, essentially everyone wandered up to em and said, “I wish I had your back flexibility.”
I am learning to basically just say, “Thanks!” without launching into a long and boring explanation of how one achieves that kind of thing.
Secretly, inside, I’m like, “BALLET, Y’ALLS.”
Well, okay, ballet and genetics.
But mostly ballet: ballet will make the most of whatever genetics you’ve got. The secret isn’t so much flexibility — it’s strength. Nothing teaches you to use your back like ballet. If you want to be able to draw your body up into an arc while dangling from one knee, do a billion arabesques (but they have to be good ones).
Anyway, after I did my thing on the trapeze, we also got to play on the lyra and do some crowd-pleasing acro. We had extra time because we all kept forgetting that we had 10-minute time slots😛
That’s it for tonight. I’m itching to see the pictures, but also completely exhausted.
And I am about as happy about that as it’s possible to be.
Spent a relaxing day looking over (and then frantically revising, because I can’t leave well enough) a couple of things I wrote for Dr. Dancebelt, sent them along, reviewed things and updated old reviews on Amazon, kibitzed on the Tweeters, chatted about some camp inventory stuff with one of my fellow camp leads from Burning Man (who is also one of my favorite people, full-stop), and spent a bunch of time doing laundry, folding laundry, doing laundry, folding laundry. Ate some food, probably going to drink some decaf chai now. Waiting for the last load of laundry to finish drying, then I’m off to bed.
There is much to be said for a quiet day spent reading, writing, and folding things (I like folding things; it’s one of those jobs that has a clear start and end point, and when you’re done things are better than they were when you started).
More or less decided what to wear to tomorrow’s performance, which (as it will be for most of us) is less rehearsed and will be seen by more people than anything else I’ve done in the vein of performing arts (probably including all previous dance performances) simply by virtue of being part of a free outdoor festival. It may involve quite a bit of improv, but IDK, not worried about it.
I’m in that place, mentally, in which things appear to be improving, but I’m taking my optimism with a stiff dose of caution. Tomorrow might be a trial — not because of the performance itself, but because I should probably be cautious about how much I actually wind up interacting with humans.
Getting back into the regular rhythm of ballet, on the other hand, helps immensely. Looking forward to class tomorrow. I hope by then my trapezii and lats will be done being sore, though.
Since Ms B got married and there are no longer two BWs among my ballet teachers, I shall henceforth refer to Company B simply as BW (because I’m lazy and it’s easier).
Anyway, class with BW was, as always, good. I didn’t dance as well as I usually do, but everyone has those days. Only three of us again, so once again there was much drilling down deep in the technique. There was also more than the usual array of conversation; we were all tired and disorganized (I arrived earliest, only 5 minutes before class time; BW arrived just after, and everyone else was late).
My turnout took a while to turn on — back to Trap 3 last night meant back to Single Knee Hangs (with ronds-de-jambe), and those make the turnouts tight. (I’m going to have to contemplate that, as I plan to use SNH w/ RDJ to open a trap performance on Saturday.) Not that it was non-existent; it just wasn’t up to the standard of Wednesday’s class.
On the other hand, my grand rond got its stuff together after a fashion. Coming from behind, I was rotating the turnouts later than necessary and thus losing much of the quality of the movement. BW laid on hands and fixed me: he proved to me that I can rotate my hip much further in arabesque than even I thought possible, which made for one high extension coming à la seconde. Like, BW even commented on it to B: “See how high that is?”
I appreciate the fact that my teachers aren’t afraid I’m the least to touch me.
Going terre-à-terre, though, my brain was absolutely determined to leave our the waltz turns. This kept making me end up facing the wrong corner. This may have been fatigue (I’m sleeping better, but still not really well, as you might gather from the fact that I’m posting at 2 AM), or it may have been a lack of Adderall. I forgot my second dose until it was legitimately too late to take take it. Ironically, I was so busy cleaning… Anyway.
I discovered that I haven’t lost my attitude balance, and that I can pretty reliably élevé into it now. After class, BW worked on my arms, which are slowly becoming graceful. Minor miracle, there, all things considered.
So that’s about it.
Trap performance on Saturday should be interesting. I’m resetting some existing choreography to Billy Joel’s “You’re The Only One Who Knows.” Here’s hoping I get through without bursting into tears. Seriously, that’s why I’m not even thinking about using “Leningrad.”
Also, a picture from Burning Man, below the fold since it’s mildly NSFW:
So these things happened in Acro 2 yesterday (both photos by Starr Peters, I think? … at least, I know the first one is).
I can only describe the first one as a four-way fold. Basically, you pretend you’re sitting in a chair, and then you grab hands in the middle and lean back into each other’s laps, and it’s like, “By our powers combined, we are Captain Awkward-As-Hell-But-Looks-Pretty-Cool!”
Also, if you have only one person in the fold who feels comfortable sort of exploding up from this position, everyone else winds up falling over.
Ask me how I know, heh.
The other one is what we’ve nicknamed the “Scented Candlestick” (as in, “Trick or treat, smell my feet…”), though it has another name in Yoga.
Because I’m a medium-sized person, I base and fly everything and everyone, and Katie (who I’m basing in this picture) is one of the best flyers I’ve had the privilege of strangling with my feet😀
In other news, today was my first day back in Trap 3 since I went to the Burn. I was expecting to suffer, but it was a review day, and I pretty much nailed everything … okay, except for that one thing where I forgot that my flexibility means I can dump myself right out of the trapeze, but fortunately I was on the moderate-low trap and could easily catch myself in a handstand.
And then I got back up and nailed that thing, too. I failed to catch the name of it, but it was kind of a bird’s-nest variant that you enter by dropping from a front balance and catching yourself with the backs of your legs on the ropes. The downside of being really flexible is that you can slide right off the bar; the upside is that you can get into a super-cool hang with your knees folded over the ropes and your hands on your ankles (or calves, or knees). I’ll have to get a picture of that next time I’m in Open Fly.
Edit: I also nailed pike beat to tuck-through and full ankle beats during the warm-up. I meant to try long-arm beat to front balance, but forgot. Still, I’ve never even tried to tuck through from a pike beat before, and I think I’ve done ankle beats all of once. All of that, though, owes to the rather extreme flexibility of my back. It makes doing almost any kind of beats much easier, because you can get a better release and therefore more momentum.
We ended class by playing what I’m going to call Improv Telephone: everyone lines up, then the first person mounts the trapeze and does something, the second one does the mount and the first move and adds something, and so on. The cool part is that, being the second-most advanced class on offer, we’re allowed to do whatever feels right, even if it’s not officially A Thing.
The result (in addition to a fun little piece of choreography) was the invention of a possibly-new skill that we’re calling the Mer-Horse (I say “possibly new” because basically everything under the sun has probably been done at one point or another by someone, somewhere, but this one definitely isn’t in our existing syllabus, and our trainers are pretty well-trained).
Also, I discovered that I do remember how to do dragonfly on the trapeze, even though I always get confused about it on lyra.
Ballet today was alllll about the turnouts … and it was a good class. There was so much fondu that we could’ve opened a restaurant.
It was also timely, because I’ve been working on maintaining all the turnout — like, alllllll of it, in both legs. It’s a workout, but it’s paying off. It’s much easier now to step into and maintain a 180 degree first or a legit toe-to-heel fifth (regarding which: when I started letting my supporting leg drift, Ms B. came over and grabbed me by my hipbones😀 Hooray for physical corrections!).
Anyway, the biggest challenge right now is to keep the upper body light and easy while working the turnouts like the fate of the world depends on it. This ties into what BW kept shouting at me last week: “Use your lats!”
So I’ll be thinking about turnouts and lats in class tomorrow, heh. And about not letting the barre-side shoulder creep up.
And also about everything else, because ballet.
Also, petit allegro is finally improving, which feels like a minor miracle. I thought I was having a mental block about Sissones, but it turned out that it was a physical block: my épaulement was interfering with liftoff. Ms. B gave us a useful note about that: there’s that little side cambre in the port de bras for Sissones changée a côte, and if you start to cambre before you start to jump, you kind of wind up crippling the jump itself.
Ms. B complimented me on my turns, which is huge. I applied Modern T’s note about using my chin to spot, and it really seems to have helped. Ms. B said she’s going to steal it for another one of her students who spots with her forehead like I was … so a big Well Done to Modern T for that catch and the note to fix it!
I haven’t posted a poem in a while, so here’s one I wrote today, when I could have been writing up my class notes instead.
I rather hope that you’ll like it. I think I do, though of course it’s a rough draft and almost certainly needs some revision.
I hated the boulder.
Each morning, I woke,
encamped at the base of the hill
with the boulder beside me.
I boiled the water,
drank the black brew
that passes for coffee here
in the land of long shadows.
Fried up the eggs.
Scraped off the rough stubble
that peppered my chin.
I said to myself,
“These bitter gods will not break me,”
as I finished my breakfast,
“I will not succumb
to the madness of Tantalus:
I will overcome;
I will push this boulder
over the top of this hill.”
Then I set to work:
rain or snow,
cracked heat of summer,
joyful reprieve of the fall.
I bent down,
set my hand to the plow—
though if course it was neither my hand
nor a plow,
but the stone digging into my shoulder.
I did not look back.
Every day, I marshalled my strength.
The boulder rolled:
slowly at first,
then just a bit faster
as I found the pulse of my work.
as I climbed,
I felt I was a man.
How can I explain?
For the length of the day,
I drew closer and closer,
the bald crest of the hill
rising before me
as ever I strained at the climb.
Each day, I pronounced,
“I am man,
I shall conquer!”
as each day staggered closed—
I felt first the will of the boulder
and then the hard will of the gods.
at the crest of the hill,
as the wheels of my fate turned their round
and the counter of days
added a hatch to his register
the boulder, too, turned—
and then sharply
and all at once there it was
charging back down
to the hollow that rooted the hill;
the place where I boiled the coffee.
Every night I wept—
not with sorrow, but wrath—
bitter tears salting the earth
as I followed my fate
to the place where I’d boil the water for soup;
where I’d rest myself under the stars
and the laughing, invisible eyes
of the gods.
Each morning ,
I hated the boulder.
Then one day I woke
and I boiled my water for coffee
and scrambled the eggs
and scraped off the stubble
and threw my weight into the stone
and did not look up.
All day I pushed,
climbing the hill,
saying, “This is my work,
as once being a king was my work.”
All day the stone rolled
and I felt the hot strain in my back
and the fire of my calves
and the weight of perpetual burden.
I welcomed them,
“This way I do
that which I was given to do.”
And at last,
in the pivotal moment,
as the last rays of light grazed the pale, bald crest of my hill,
as my boulder began its decent,
I felt my heart lift
knowing that I had done
the thing I was given to do.
My boulder rolled down,
tearing clods of pale grass from the earth,
racketing over the bare spots.
I followed with tears,
but not bitter tears:
as I had been king,
and every day shouldered the burden of kings,
now I am but Sysiphus,
and I shoulder the burden of Sysiphus.
And if I have not conquered,
no more does anyone else.
I go gladly instead
to the work that Persephone grants me:
let that, instead,
be the breadth
and the depth
of my victory.
And sometimes at night,
I look up at the dim, distant stars—
so far from this land of long shadows—
how much harder it was
all those years,
all those hardscrabble years,
when I was still a man.
I don’t like the manic phases of my bipolar disorder very much, for the most part. The early on-ramp can be pretty nice sometimes — who wouldn’t want to feel amazingly capable and confident? — but it passes quickly into what I can only describe as overconfidence of psychotic (in the literal sense — that is, out of touch with reality) proportions and leaves me with a serious distrust of any moment of confidence I experience. And that doesn’t even begin to address the fact that, most often, I experience dysphoric or mixed manias, which are agitated, angry, and uncomfortable.
That said, I think dislike my depressions even more. Or maybe I don’t; maybe I just think that I do, in the moment. The worst thing you’re experiencing right now is always the worst thing you’re experiencing right now.
Anyway, this is a depression like so many others I’ve experienced. I wake up every morning (or, today, afternoon — thanks, sleep meds) and lie in bed until I either have to haul my ass to class or, if I don’t have class, until I feel like I can no longer put off getting up.
Then I get up and start pushing the boulder uphill.
Often my depressions are agitated ones: I feel restless and like I need to keep moving; I feel vaguely angry almost all the time. Days during those depressions still begin the same way, though; it’s the end that’s different. I end those days dreading the moment that I have to get back into bed.
This depression is different. It’s the end of each day, really, that makes it different. Instead of dreading the moment that I have to lie down again, I look forward to it as a kind of reprieve. After I do the things that need to be done, or at least least the portion of them that I can manage, I can return to my bed, which is still safe and quiet. I find myself counting the minutes until I can justify returning to bed, even though sleeping is hard.
Normally I take some solace in pushing the boulder. It doesn’t matter that it’s just going to roll back down (and possibly over me) when I stop; it’s still evidence that there is something left of my strength and resilience; that I am still capable of getting up and living.
Here, too, this depression is different. With the exception of going to class, which I continue to do because I know that failing to do it would ultimately be worse for me, there is no sense of satisfaction in pushing the boulder.
If anything, there’s a kind of wariness. I start my climb and I burn too many matches; I dip into the next day’s supply.
After a while, I come to a day like this one, when I haven’t received a fresh supply and don’t know when one will come and I’m looking at a box with two measly matches in and knowing that today’s responsibilities will require more than just those two.
And all I want to do is stay here in bed and go back to sleep.
What will probably actually happen is that I’ll steal kindling from the cooking fire: I’ll build a kind of torch out of my remaining resources so any time I need a match, I’ll already have fire. In literal reality, this means running on an ocean of caffeine, knowing that tomorrow I’ll have even less energy than I do today.
The problem is that, at at the end of the day, this will leave me with even less with which to recharge myself, and then tomorrow I will have no matches and perhaps no cooking fire (in fact, I will definitely have no cooking fire if I don’t remember to save a match).
If this goes on long enough without some down time time to gather kindling and wood and without a resupply of matches, eventually a day will come on which I can’t push the boulder; a day on which the boulder and I stay in bed, camped at the base of the hill.
I write this in an attempt to understand what I’m doing to myself. In an attempt to grant myself a little grace for days like this one. In an attempt to consider whether or not it might be better to take the direct path of simply sitting with my boulder until more matches come.
Sometimes depression turns happy promises into bitter ones. In a good moment, on a good day, you promise your friends and yourself that you will come to this event or or that gathering. Then the appointed hour arrives and you find that your choices are to go and accept that the cost will be excruciatingly high … or to break the promises. Both these choices are bitter: both will leave you worse off than you were.
Today is one of those days for bitter choices.
That’s it for now.
So, technically, Modern Monday has been rolling along without me for the past few weeks, but I haven’t managed to make make it ’til today.
Anyway, in the intervening period, I haven’t completely forgotten how to modern, but it did take a little re-acclimating today. There were quite a few moments in which my body kind of went, “Ohhhhhh, that thing! Riiiiiiiight!”
I was really afraid I would be a disaster, because I’m still struggling at night but opted not to take take a sleeping pill last night because sometimes they exacerbate my depressions. Last night, I did manage to get something like five hours of sleep, though, which is a step in the right direction.
It turned out that I was acceptably able to remember combinations and coordinate most of my movements. I did struggle with an exercise on the floor in which Graham contractions and releases and flat-back were supposed to coordinate with flexing and pointing the feet.
My feet were like, “What is this flexed crap? Are we doing frappé? No! So what the snap?” I had had to think about the feet, which was simultaneously surprisingly hard and actually pretty funny, because they were seriously not into that.
I also struggled with Part B of our petit allegro combination, which seemed simple but wasn’t, because it needed precision, which evidently I didn’t have.
Basically, it went:
Walk, walk, walk, walk,
Jump, spot, jump, spot, jump, spot, jump, spot <= with quarter turns
I struggled to coordinate this and then, when I did coordinate it, I kept turning off-center.
It turns out that I was spotting forehead-first, tilting my head and neck off the vertical axis, causing my whole body to veer off track.
Modern T suggested that I think about leading the spot with my chin. This sounds immensely counter-intuitive, but in my case, it works. It keeps my head and neck on the vertical, which makes the turn stay upright.
Anyway, this explains why my turns and my tours sometimes (okay, often) teeter off their axes — so, one again, modern is benefiting ballet in unexpected ways.
So, anyway, more little details to tune up. I think this is good. The more I dance and watch dance, the more I believe that the bodies of dancers are educated bodies in a very real way. I feel like I should be able to explain what I mean, there, but I’m having trouble with words today, so I’ll have to reflect on that and come back to it.
Along the way, my loosely-connected hips have developed some pretty rocking turnout.
Along the way, I have also noticed that, as I progress through barre exercises (or exercises at centre, or … you know, basically everything else), my turnout tends to creep from awesome to average. It’s never terrible, but there’s sort of no excuse for that … especially since hanging onto the turnout is what makes sooooooo many other things happen without so much sturm und drang (tour lent, I’m looking at you, here).
This became a theme of today’s second class, with Ms J at the helm and only three of us at the oars.
While I frequently take class with Ms J, I rarely get to take class from Ms J … which is a shame, because she is an amazing teacher, and has a laser-focused eye for detail and absolutely no misgivings about using it to its full potential (which is why we love her).
Today, she pointed out to me that I’m being lazy with my turnout in pliés and in relevé balances, particularly those on two feet.
In both, I look fine getting there (and maybe I even am fine; I actually do tend to work my turnouts on the way there), but on the way back, it’s like I just throw my bike down on the front lawn or something. In short, I have been letting my rotators get away with going, “Meh, that’s good enough.”
Basically, as you rise from a plié, you should continue using all those rotators that make your turnout happen … you know, then ones that you’re supposed to keep fiercely engaged all the way down, but maybe you don’t because your turnout is naturally pretty great and you can kinda fake it?
But if you don’t want your turnout to just drift into the Zone of Mediocrity, you have to use them all the way. All the way down (because otherwise you’re gonna have a bad time cranking them back on when you come back up, and you’re also going to fall right over the very second your instructor calls you to center and says, “And we start with grand plié…”) and then all the way up.
All the way.
Which means that as you rise, you’re not just thinking about getting your knees back, but also about rotating your heels forward … and you’re not just thinking about it until your heels are on the ground (which, historically, is where I’ve just kind of dropped the reins and let the horses … by which I mean my legs … run for the barn).
You have to keep thinking about it, and doing it, until you are once again standing in your greatest possible turnout.
If you’ve been in the habit of being lazy about it, as I have, this is HARD.
By which I mean it’s physically demanding (because you suddenly realize, “Ohai, my turnouts aren’t quite as strengthy as I thought!”) and it makes you think and it’s horrible to have to think during a plié combination, because then the likelihood that you’ll hose up the entire combination approaches the singularity, or … wait, I think I’m perhaps drifting into hyperbole as well as mediocrity, here.
Anyway, you have to consciously make even that last degree, that last second, of rotation happen … or at least you do until your body gets used to it or at least just gives up and does it right because it realizes you’re not going to stop making it and sometimes it just has to choose its battles(•).
- You guys, I am pretty sure that this is how I nailed down renversé. At least for the five minutes before I started overdoing all my renversés. Anyway, I can attest to the fact that this does, for many things, eventually happen, or at least it has for me, at any rate.
- Some experts refer to this phenomenon as “muscle memory;” I call it “my body giving up the fight or maybe even kinda developing Stockholm syndrome a little.” So now I get to think about other things I’m doing wrong. Like this one.
Moreover, the same thing (that is, the rotators being like, “Meh, good enough,” not the body finally accepting that your are going to keep making it do this crazy stuff) happens when you’re coming down from relevé or from elevé — in fact, for me, this is when it is most likely to happen.
And, presumably for my entire balletic existence, I have been allowing it to happen. At least, I have until today, when Ms J took me to task on it. (I realize that this is a key component of what Company B was also trying to impart on Thursday.)
She kept me on top of it throughout the entire class, even when I was standing still.
So that is today’s lesson: if you think you’re done working your rotators, you almost certainly aren’t. Unless you’re in modern class, in which you might legitimately be done working your rotators for the moment, because maybe you’re going to get a reprieve and do something in parallel.
For what it’s worth, working on this instantly improved my fourth position (also known as “we would’ve called it fifth but then you would’ve expected it to be the hardest one and you wouldn’t have been willing to try it”). Specifically, my ability to use temps-lie through fourth and to execute grand pliés in fourth without recovering with only two-thirds of the turnout I had when I started.
(Edit: I feel like I’ve said this before, which makes me wonder exactly how distressingly bad my fourth position was when I started dancing again back in 2014.)
Of course, none of this was of any help by the time we got around to doing turns. By then, sleep deprivation had caught up with me, and I managed to execute exactly one halfway decent turn. The rest were horrible, rubbishy disasters.
Petit allegro, too, was awash in fresh horror, as I kept letting my trailing leg just sort of drift home in my glissades and then falling over sideways doing tours (I mean, not all the way over). At least I remembered the combination, eventually?
But I’m pretty sure all that owes to the fact that things were catching up with me by then. Sleep deprivation hits you right in the coordination and equilibrium. In related news, as I learned in today’s first class, sleep-deprived chainés are no joke. Or, well, at least not to the person attempting them. They can be pretty hilarious to everyone else, TBH.
On the other hand, in the second class, I somehow miraculously nailed down the Bournonville (grand) jeté (which, in still photos, has an unfortunate tendency to look like the official “Heeeeeeeeey!” entrance of ballet — in real life, these are really beautiful when executed well).
I learned the Bournonville jeté a while back, but then promptly gave myself a mental block the next time we used it and haven’t produced a decent one since until today. I mean, seriously, most of mine look like I’ve basically tripped over something whilst running at full tilt, or possibly like there’s something wrong with the leg that’s in back.
(Edit: I suspect I may have not actually been jumping off the back leg at all, but just sort of launching from the front and kinda letting it trail along. I am distressingly capable of exactly that kind of thing.)
Today, I did about nine of them. A few were even actually solid all the way up, since Ms J noted that I was jumping through my arms and letting them trail behind me instead of carrying them(•) and fixed that, too.
- …As I am forever doing, because my prioprioception in that department is still awful.
I figured out how to carry my arms and shocked the living daylights out of myself by launching a string of beautiful Bournonville jetés into near-earth orbit on the next pass.
Of course, I then failed to plan anything to do with the arms in question on a subsequent saut de chat, with the inevitable result being a kind of Lovecraftian half-breed, or possibly a rough approximation of a T-Rex attempting to pop and lock.
And my tour-jetés, today, on the other hand?
Ummmm, yeah. Let’s not even open that can of extremely-confused and possibly drunken worms.
PS: today’s first class, Advanced Class, was actually pretty decent all the way through. Even the chainés weren’t that bad. So there’s that.