Today’s class with Mr. EF was excellent.
First, EF is the polar opposite of Company B as a teacher. Both bring the humor, but EF is much less gentle. Company B gently invites you to do things right; EF expects you to and (lovingly) yells at you if he knows you can and you don’t.
I feel like they’re two sides of an important coin for me: Company B relaxes me and reminds me that I can, in fact, dance quite well; EF — like Ms. B of Killer Class and like Siren of Trapeze — speaks to the part of me that responds to pressure and a high bar(re).
Speaking of which, the barre was rather high today: lots of counting, shaping the feet, decoupling the automatic port de bras.
Seriously; we did an entire combination of rapid degagés en croix with the arm in fifth the whole time, which is way harder than it sounds like it should be (you spend years developing the habit of automagically taking your arm from fifth, through second, to arabesque).
EF made us keep repeating it until everyone in the room had it right, which took three runs through a combination that repeats itself halfway through (in short, six repetitions of the basic pattern).
On the other hand, by the time we got around to doing our adage at centre (or, really, terre-a-terre), we were, in general, very much on our legs.
I did fall off of mine at one point (see below), but for the most part, things went well … which is remarkable, because this wasn’t adage for the faint of heart. We did every arabesque, we fouettéd, we did tour lent from 2nd arabesque to attitude — and we did so traveling the entire way and doing (or, well, attempting to do) beautiful things with our arms and backs.
It went something like: sweeping chassée into 1st arabesque, sweeping chasée into 2nd arabesque, step through, developpé arriere to fourth arabesque, step through, developpé avant, fouetté to third arabesque, tour lent to attitude, allongé, walk off (gracefully; this isn’t Rent, it’s classical ballet).
There was no half-assing through this; EF will call your butt out if you try.
The rules in his class go like this:
You will carry your arms. You will not drop them. You will swim them through.
You will use your head, your shoulders, your back, your chest. That is classical ballet.
You will present yourself to the audience. You will look at them from behind your elbow or over your arm, or you will show them your cheekbone and your neck.
You will turn your head in second arabesque.
You will turn your shoulders in fourth arabesque (and I quote: “Otherwise, it’s just an incorrect third arabesque.”).
You will fouetté without dropping your leg or losing your turnout.
You will initiate your tour lent to attitude with your back. You will not just schlub your way into attitude: instead, you will take a higher damned passé than you believe humanly possible (I can guarantee that EF knows exactly how high every one of us can passé) and you will continue to rotate that leg and lift that knee until you think the whole leg going to come off.
And then, just when you think you might be done, you’ll open to a proper allongé and reachreachreachreachreach, extending the line through every part of your body, hovering for one deep, spine-tingling breath before you release yourself and walk off while remaining not just present, but a presence.
You will finish your turns. None of this turns-to-fourth-with-arms-just-wherever: no, first you will finish to (arms in) first, then to fourth allongé; then to en haut, then to a second position which you will open, using every ounce of épaulement that you can muster and saying to the audience, “Here I am.”
You will turn your face upon the audience when you temps levée passé and when you grand jeté. If you’re taking your arms to fourth as you grand jeté, you’ll turn your shoulders and tilt your head and extend the line until your arms are seventeen feet long.
This is all the stuff I need to learn how to do: not that I don’t know, in a sort of cognitive sense, how to do it and that I should do it. But it’s not all in my blood and my bones yet.
It will be. It’s getting there. I was closer in class today than I’ve ever been (even compared to last night, which was mostly a good night for me in terms of épaulement and all that).
After class, l’ancien directeur artistique buttonholed me in the hallway, pointed to my leg, and said, “What is this?”
Thoroughly confused, I fumbled through an attempt to determine whether he was asking about my shorts, or my short tights, or…
He then asked a clarifying question, tapping my leg: “What do you call this, when you’re working the other one?”
“Oh — the supporting leg!”
“Yes! So make sure it’s supporting you in your arabesque.” He then explained how he sort of double-checks his, and that he doesn’t even begin to allow the working leg to float up until he’s dead certain the supporting leg is doing its job.
I made noises of affirmation. He asked me to show him; I did.
It was revelatory: I understand now why sometimes my arabesque, attitude, balances, fouetté, and tour lent feel dead stable, and other times they just don’t hang together. The difference is whether or not I’ve got my supporting leg completely sorted before I roll.
He seemed happy with my demonstration; satisfied that I understood what he was telling me. He grinned at me and clapped me on the shoulder before he headed off.
So that happened. It makes me at once aware of the fact that I am on his radar and far less nervous about it than I was before (it doesn’t hurt that I danced respectably today, after being a disaster all week).
Oh, and there was one triple turn, though it wasn’t a good one. I startled myself — started to go for the triple, didn’t think I had it, hung on tenaciously anyway, and then there it was, but I was already not quite on my leg anymore.
Also got a couple of nice complements from classmates.
D, who has been away for quite a while. She grabbed me before we went left on the adage and said, “You’ve gotten so good! What have you been doing?”
I got all shy and said, “Oh, lots of class,” and then thought to mention that I was fresh back from a ballet intensive.
K complimented me on my arabesque and described it as my “ace in the hole.”
I doubt I would have been able to get my head out of the studio door, what with it being all puffed up afterwards, except that I had EF around to remind me, Not so fast! You’re not perfect yet!
So, yeah. Overall, a really nice day, even if the goal posts do diminish forever along the horizon.
PS: We decided to do a retake of today’s balancé video because we kept cutting off our own heads by dancing too close to the camera😛
So that is forthcoming.