Playa Time

We’re out in the dust, doing all that setup jazz.

For me, right now, this mostly translates to taking care of the domestic end of things: setting up our home for the next two weeks, making sure people get fed, and so forth. This also leaves some time for reading and writing, both of which are happening.

Once our other two camp leads are settled in, of course, the real push to build a village in a couple of days will take off.

Right now, we’re just an assorted grouping of campers, vans, and storage trailers (we bought two this year); by Monday, we’ll be a cohesive mini-community of 35, home to a dance space with barre, a bar with dance space, a public lounge, a camp kitchen and lounge, and (assuming all goes well) our own aerial observation deck.

For the moment, though, I’m enjoying the time to myself, in a space that I’ve (mostly) organized according to the way I work, which occasional forays to dance in the dust.

I miss the structure of class and the rhythm of my normal week (though perhaps not the breakneck intensity to which I’ve consigned myself by tackling both aerials and dance at the same time), but I can make my own structure until the Burn officially begins, at which point there will be enough scheduled technical dance classes to comprise another one-week dance intensive.

I’ll be mostly offline for the next two weeks — after the gates open, in fact, getting online will quickly become impossible.

As such, here are a couple of pictures is one picture because WP’s Android app is being dumb. Inevitably, during the actual Burn week, I’ll mostly fail to take pictures. I’m fine with that. Build week is actually my favorite part, and I’m okay with the momentary and serendipitous things that happen during Burn week being just that — momentary.

image

I've been decorating (hooray for liquid chalk).

So I’m off for now. I might get around to posting again before I return to the Default World, but I might not.

So, until then, à bientôt, mes amis.

Another Late Night

I realized this morning that the Acro 2/Killer Class turnaround is going to be tough.

I was definitely pretty stiff this morning at the start of barre — the kind of stiff you feel when you’ve spent the previous day helping a friend rearrange some furniture or something.

My Achilles’ tendons took longer to loosen up than my hip flexors — my calves in general felt like bricks through almost the whole barre. They did finally loosen up for fondu, heh.

My analysis? Moar stretching after Acro 2! And moar warm-up time before Killer Class. I ran way late this morning; squeaked in under the wire — 3 minutes left before the start of class. Definitely did not get a chance to get get the blood flowing! (FWIW, my usual routine, currently, it’s it’s just passé-par-terre followed by attitude swings and, if time allows, a light stretch for the calves.If I’m really, really early, I tend to pace around the studio, looking like I’m ready to go for a jog in mid-December.

Anyway, things were mixed today: you know that thing where you scare the crap out of of yourself by actually doing good turns, and then panic on the second side? That was me all all the way. 

I’ll take that, though, because adagio was good and our choose-your-own-adventure grand allegro started out a little rough but then magically clicked on the second run.

Every now and then, I forget to panic when doing saut-de-chat, and then I actually do them well. That happened today: first run, I did:

Zig: tombé, pas de bourré, glissade, pas de chat;

Zag: tombé, pas de bourré, glissade, pas de chat Italien

And the landing on the Gatto was a bit abrupt. 

The second time, I didn’t even think about it; I was just focused on getting more travel in my glissade — and for some reason I finished with a saut de chat that felt light, quick, and free. 

Looking back, I think it was at this same time last year that I despaired of ever achieving  lightness (except in my pas de chat, which, oddly, has always been light) and quickness. Now they happen sometimes as of by magic in completely unexpected places.

All of the trip prep is now done. If we’ve missed anything, we’ll either have to live without it or pick up a replacement in Nevada. 

In five hours we’ll be off and running.

…Because I Stood On The Shoulders Of (A) Giant(s) 

Yeah, I’m not usually up making posts at this time of night, but this’ll be quick. 

A friend of ours, EP, who is well over 6 feet tall came to acro tonight, and I got to stand on his shoulders. 

I’m forced to admit that this was, in fact, a little bit scary — but also amazing! This has been one exhausting day, and I almost begged off on acro … So glad I didn’t! 

Monday Class: Poco a Poco

By nature, I’m a pusher. I come back from illness or injury and push myself to jump right back in where I was when I left off.

That’s not always the best strategy, and I’m learning to listen to my body a little more; let it tell me when I should back off a bit.

Today was one of those days: we’ve entered that time of year in which the late-summer/early-autumn molds and pollens start kicking my butt, and the simple act of breathing becomes depressingly complicated.

I also woke up feeling yesterday’s lyra work a little — my mount involves using my adductors and hamstrings under pretty heavy load, and it just never really lets up after that.

Because the posterior chain is just that — a chain — the lyra work basically just left my legs tight from the bottom to the top (or, ahem, from the bottom to my bottom? I just can’t even today…). Seriously; even my Achilles’ tendons have essentially no give today, and my Achilles’ tendons are surprisingly awesome most of the time (at least, it surprises me: it’s counter-intuitive, since they’re SO FREAKING WIDE).

As a result, I took my time working into my turnout, working into my plié. I tried to keep my movements small and soft and let the legs warm up on their own schedule.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this worked pretty darned well. By the time we got to the warm-up jumps, I had quite a lot of sproing happening: powerful lift-off working through the feet; soft, quiet landings rolling back down into a cushy plié.

Prior to that, we did some really nice work through balloné more or less à terre — the same motion as the usual, but with the toe of the working leg brushing across the ground — and in pique-fouetté (proud to say that if we had been a band of hunter-gatherers, we would have feasted on mammoths!*) and arabesque turns (from fourth and fifth, one after the other).

*How I envision this actually going down IRL:

mammoth-hunt-01

Step 1: Mammoth be napping in the fancy grass. Via my imagination and Microsoft Paint.

mammoth-hunt-02

Step 2: Time for grand allegro! (Paul Jamin, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.)

So, anyway, working into my body poco a poco worked really well today.

This is something I’ll have to keep in mind.

The next three days will be a flurry of packing, dancing, and cleaning, so I may or may not do much writing here. As such, fear not, because…

not-dead-yet

From Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, via teh G00gelz, obvs.

Teaching Adult Beginners: They Grow Up So Fast!

My Sunday class is making amazing strides — their tendus, dégages, and even ronds de jambe looked so great this week.

I also experienced one of those great moments in which I grabbed a student’s leg and demonstrated how rotation and placement could help her A) keep her RdJs smooth and B) balance her arabesque, and then got to see that amazing thing where the light-bulb inside just clicks on.

And then she did it again, completely on her own, without my meddlesome, grabby hands😀

That was the best part, and really the highlight of the day. Such a cool moment!

I also guided her into a first arabesque (really, I just offered her my hand so she’d extend her arm to the right spot) so she could feel how the working leg and opposite arm connect through the back and counter-balance each-other, and she totally got it.

(Also, her arabesque looked awesome! Her back is really strong and flexible, which really helps — thanks, aerials! Likewise, because she wasn’t fighting to try to get a super-high extension, she was rock-solid.)

Something I’ve learned through my own experiences returning to ballet and teaching:

New dancers don’t just find it hard to locate the center-line of their bodies when the working leg is to the rear.

They also (and perhaps more importantly) often find that working to the center-line seems a little weird, unnatural, and sometimes even scary … until they try it and it clicks!

For me, that light-bulb moment came when I realized that I could keep my turnout more easily and effectively in RdJs if I really got the working leg all the way back to the center-line, and then that the same applied to tendus. This happened more recently than it should have, if I were better at A) listening and B) applying corrections:/

Prior to that moment, I guess I kind of felt like I’d lose my turnout that way. Sometimes, ballet can be pretty counter-intuitive.

If you’re engaging all the (right) things, though, drawing the arc of the RdJ or the line of the tendu right freaking back from the tailbone lets you stay turned-out without lifting (or dropping) a hip.

(That, by the way, is the other part that’s hard for people: they feel like they need to lift that hip even when they don’t. Which, if they’re using correct technique and working within the ever-evolving limits of their own bodies, they shouldn’t at this level, or almost ever.)

This is still one of the best ways I know to gauge my own placement: if my working leg is taking too much weight in a tendu to the rear, or I’m hiking a hip in a RdJ en dedans, usually the problem is that I’m not getting my working leg behind myself.

Exception: if my pelvis is jammed — which happens with ridiculous frequency at the moment because Bodies Are Weird™ — I can’t RdJ without lifting the hip on the jammed side (very nearly always the right).

Instead, my working leg is usually kind of camping out in … I don’t know, 2.5-ième position? Working back to the center line by rotating and reaching generally resolves the related problems.

In some ways, and as much as part of me really hates to admit it (in part because I feel weird in third because I use it so rarely), I feel like this is a really good reason to teach adult beginners to work in third position before introducing fifth.

Then, when they come to tendu derrière  or RdJ derrière, they have to think about moving the working leg in towards the center line (by rotating the heel forward and adducting, of course, rather than just by unraveling the working hip, letting the knee point to the floor, and shoving the toes over), which creates the opportunity to feel the difference that it makes when that happens.

Working from fifth, new dancers often tend to let their legs turn in when they extend back (see above re: unraveling, etc.).

Likewise, they often finish an RdJ or point a tendu a little to the side when working from fifth with the working foot closed in back — possibly because early on that seems like the only logical way to get your foot out there.

Later, of course, we get better at pulling up through the pelvic floor and lower core (also known as “pulling up through the hips” :D) and placing our weight to keep the working foot free when it’s in back — but early on, really subtle core cues and weight shifts are anything but intuitive.

With a little hands-on guidance, the sensation of bringing the leg back to the center line through (for example) a rond, on the other hand, can become a powerful physical illustration.

I doubt my student, C, will soon forget what it felt like to “get it” any more than I’ve forgotten.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that she’ll be perfect all the time — but it does mean she’ll be more perfect a lot more of the time, because now she has a memory that connects body and brain through the awesome feeling of an “Ah-hah!” moment.

In other news, the class as a whole is coming on like a house on fire.

Today we worked piqué balances at retiré going across the floor, and so many of them were bang on. It’s really cool to see a group of new dancers experience the thrill of springing on to the supporting leg and being able to just hover there, perfectly balanced, then come down.

We gave them a simple combination: piqué balances at retiré along the diagonal, to the count of:

Brush up – stay – stay – stay – down up – stay – stay – stay – down up – stay – stay – stay 

(..etc. The number of piqué balances varied based both on the length of any individual dancer’s legs and how willing she was to really step out beyond herself.)

On the first run, we let them try it on their own. A few really nailed it, but several were shaky because, as is often the case, they felt unsure and tried to bring the supporting leg under themselves instead of launching themselves onto the supporting leg.

(Really, it’s kind of like throwing a BBQ skewer into the lawn — I’m not old enough to have experienced proper lawn darts, so I can’t say that’s exactly spot-on. Either way, that’s the image I should give them: your leg is a lance, and you’re spearing a reclining mammoth … or maybe something flatter, like a giant crocodile.)

1024px-Lawndarts

What could possibly go wrong? (1)

On the second run, we simply rolled out the very-most-basic partnering, offering them a hand on which to steady themselves. Most of them literally put no weight on the hand in question, but knowing it was there made them feel safe, and the piqued more boldly.

So, lesson of the day for me: hesitant piqué balances might be the result of a little bit of fear. With new dancers, a little hand-holding (or, well, hand-offering) can really help.

(With more experienced dancers, though, yelling works just fine :D)

Anyway, that’s it for now. Sadly, I won’t be checking in with my students next week, as I’ll be off in the desert, doing tendus in the pool (and then building a freaking enormous theme camp at Burning Man).

~

Edit: fixed a thing. I don’t know why I was thinking these piqué balances were at coupé. They were at retiré. We’re planning on teaching these guys piqué turns sometime soon.

Further edit: just so you don’t think my Sunday class is really, really perfect, we still have to remind them about thinking of plié as a continuous movement. Today I explained this as:

Don’t drop and pop — melt and … um … smelt. Yeah, we’ll go with “smelt.”

Thank dog that Aerial A backed me up on that mnemonic😀

Further, further edit: They have definitely turned into a dance class. Before class today, several them were attempting to figure out pirouettes (and kinda-sorta succeeding: they were upright, weren’t falling over, and were getting around, but they weren’t turned out or spotting).

Kinda warms my heart a little😀

~


  1. By Mushy [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Advanced Class: Adagiohhh, Yeah!

I am happy to say that my group pwned adagio and terre-a-terre today.

I then proceeded to just sort of half-bakèdly mark my way through petit allegro because I didn’t want to overdo it.

Recently, CoB asked me what I want to work on. I really wanted to say, “Tours! grand allegro ! Men’s technique!”

… But I think the right answer is:

Petit allegro and arms.

Once my petit allegro sucks a bit less, we’ll get the men’s technique parts sorted.

TapPups! (Or: How Do We Make This Happen In Ballet?!)

Whilst folding laundry and watching a documentary about tap dancing, I learned of the amazing force of nature that is teacher-and-author Vicki G. Riordan and the possibly even-more-amazing force of nature that is her TapPups.

Vicki teaches tap to adults, and only adults (ranging in age from 21 to 86!), at her studio-cum-cultural center in Pennsylvania, which she describes as “Quite possibly the loudest place in America (what do you expect when you fill a room with 500 tap dancers).”

And she doesn’t just teach tap; she intentionally harnesses its power to transform. Her students — everyone from people struggling to cope with the things that suck in day-to-day life to women struggling to recover from abusive relationships — learn to use dance to lift themselves up.

That’s flat-out awesome.

Now, I’ll grant that tap — in which both room for joyful abandon and the ability to simply make noise are pretty much obviously inherent — probably seems, at first pass, like a more accessible way to learn that skill. It also probably seems less intimidating; less judgmental(1).

1.
Seriously: how many movies have you seen about eating-disordered tap dancers being drooled upon by scummy ADs?

None? Same here. Also, I’m pretty sure that if you want to understand how Americans conceptualize tap dancers versus ballet dancers, you should just watch Happy Feet and then watch Black Swan.

Actually, just watch a trailer for Black Swan, which will sum it up without making you sit through the whole train wreck, and then watch Happy Feet to make yourself feel better.

~

That said, my own experiences and those of so many dancers that I know either in “meatspace” or online have experienced the same kind of transformation through ballet.

We’ve just, erm, experienced it a little more quietly.

So, knowing that there are bajillions of people out there who were once little girls who dreamed of being ballerinas or little boys who secretly thought ballet was awesome, in addition to bajillions of people elsewhere on the gender spectrum who maybe always wanted to dance but didn’t because they felt uncomfortable about their bodies or what have you, I have to wonder what it would take to make something as a amazing as Vicki’s TapPups happen with adult ballet students.

I think, probably, the safe space of an all-adults, all-the-time program probably makes things easier for nervous newcomers (if not necessarily for parents of school-age kids with their oceans of after-school activities; there’s something to be said for your ballet class being at the same time and place as your kids’ classes).

Basically, I would love to figure out how to light this kind of fire under my studio’s adult program — because, honestly, I freaking love my (primary) studio, and I have learned so freaking much and come so freaking far in the past 2.5 years that it’s not even funny, and I’d rather drive this kind of love through their doors than work to form something that competes with that.

Anyway, I am seriously thinking I might read Ms. Riordan’s book, because this she a lady who clearly knows how not only how to get adults into the studio, but how to keep them there.

I suspect that one of the remarkable elements of her program is that she has formalized the social end of things — the lounge is a comfortable space where her dancers can hang out and chat; once a quarter, they have a tap jam session together; they offer a boot-camp program that takes both technique and fitness seriously(2).

2.
This is one of the reasons that I think serious adult dancers who are able to really should do everything in their power to get themselves to an intensive. The conditioning element alone moves mountains.

Anyway, I find the whole TapPups phenomenon pretty inspiring. Really demonstrates that where there’s a will, there’s a way!

…And now I’m off to watch some of my favorite dancers not die of heatstroke, I hope.

In Which Words Are Eaten, &c. 

First, I am very much on the mend, and forced to admit once again that taking a few days off from class is perhaps more expedient than wheezing half-heartedly on, then making one’s self terribly sick and having to take a few weeks off. 

Next, the Demiurges of Ballet saw fit to smile upon me in my convalescence and to make all of my new ballet junk arrive yesterday (excepting my grey tights, which arrived a couple of days ago).

Basically, after declaring my undying love for Sansha’s model 3/”Silhouette” shoes to BB (heretofore known as “B,” but there are too too many Bs in my life now!) and lamenting my suspicion that they’re discontinuing them, I figured that it would be well to order a backup pair or two.

My left foot, pointing like crazy, in a Sansha model 3L (

My precioussssssssss…

…So I hopped on Sansha’s NY store website and basically bought everything that was on sale and one thing that wasn’t. 

My beloved shoes are, indeed, in the last throes of clearance; I ordered one pair in black and one in white (because for like $3,why not?) but the white ones had already sold out, so they refunded me on those. I also bought a pair of stretch-canvas shoes in white (the thing that wasn’t on sale) to go with my very simple costume for my next Suspend performance; they seem like they’ll do nicely. Like the Silhouettes, they don’t bunch up under my arch when I point my foot.
I also bought a couple of shirts from the clearance page. Turns out I’m more like a size 5 in Sansha’s magical number system, but I’m okay with the fact that my shirts are nice and roomy.

Anyway, I also ordered a pair pair of black BalTogs suspender tights (which, it turns out, are convertible, foot-wise) and, finally, a BodyWrappers M007. 

This is where the words-eating comes in. 

I have have always maintained that I hate narrow elastics. It turns out that I apparently really don’t anymore.

The M007’s waistband, at 2″, isn’t terribly narrow, but it’s definitely narrower than anything else I’ve got. 

Four dance belts in different makes & models lined up to demonstrate differences in waistband widths.

Width Comparison, L-R: BW M006, Capezio, WM, BW M007

That said, it’s remarkably comfortable.
Rise-wise, it’s comparable to the WearMoi belt, which is interesting, since the M006 is so, well, tall.

Obviously, as I haven’t had a chance to wear it to class yet, I can’t really comment on its performance — but I imagine that it will do well.

In other news, I really quite like these suspendery tights, and I wouldn’t mind owning a pair of shorts of similar construction. They would be a good solution for trapeze class, in which it really helps to have garments that won’t roll up and expose your tender skin to the ropes (especially for for me; I’m allergic to the adhesive on the tape that we use to wrap them). 

That’s it for now. Back to quasi-normal life tomorrow. 

Wednesday Class: You Give Me (Mild) Fever

I seem to have caught a wee cold. I have a low-grade fever and a bit of the respiratory Blargh (didn’t realize this til after class). 

Nothing serious thus far, so I will rest, watch, and eat hummus. Mmmmmmh, hummus. 
On one hand, this is great — I’m normally sick a lot, this is quite mild, and it’s been months since I’ve actually been ill. So, in terms of averages, my staying-well game is improving. Sadly, one of the contributing factors has been riding the bike less (thus coddling my respiratory system, which apparently just can’t handle the outdoors). It is what it is. 

On the other hand, I felt puny and weak in class this morning, and like if I kept one part of my body together, some other part went awry. Poor Ms. B kept coming by to fix one thing and having to watch as I unraveled in some other way. Fortunately, she knows me and my capabilities as a dancer, so the occasional blarghy day isn’t the end of the world. 

Even my grand battement was less than grand today.

I did other things passably, including turns. By the time we got to medium allegro, though, my body was saying screw a bunch of this and my brisées were well and truly brisée (which, by by the way, means broken). 

As such, I think I’m going to bow out of classes tonight and take a little more rest. Tomorrow we don’t have CoB’s class, so I think tomorrow will be another extra rest day. Friday, I’ll see where things stand. 

Back to Modern Mondays next week. I’m going to have to think about how to arrange the rest of my week this semester. 

The Restiest Rest Day

I am having an extremely rest-y rest day, and enjoying the hell out of it.

That is all❤

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