Left out the most important part on Monday – did temps levée without blowing a tendon again (and it felt good!).
Things are very much coming together in class, but at the same time, there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Saturday’s class is usually easier (sometimes much easier) than the weekday morning classes, and today was no exception. Barre felt very solid. I had no trouble remembering the combinations, so instead I spent a lot of time focused on working through my feet, maintaining turnout when tendu-ing and so forth arriere, making my port de bras more graceful, and being awesome at doing the fondu-into-grand-rond-de-jambe bit. That has been a mess for the past few weeks, coming back into the intermediate classes.
Going across the floor, I had the combinations, but wasn’t really dancing with control (which was ridiculous, since I tossed off a really, really nice turn like it was nothing while we were learning a combination). I was kind of all over the place, particularly in my turns.
I need to keep my head together in class, buckle down, and really focus on honing my technique. (The music didn’t help today. Brian had a new CD that turned out to be really kind of terrible, and we all found it rather hilarious.)
My turns should not be sloppy ever at this juncture … at least not singles. My jumps should be tighter (to be fair, my little jumps sans beats look quite good, and my glissade is finally more or less back in shape; likewise, my assembles always look great, though I need to work on doing smaller ones when the music is quick).
My entrechats should just plain be better: I only did a couple today, and they started out well, and then for some reason, I stopped pointing my feet halfway through the beats. What’s that about*?
At least my port de bras is generally less wacky now. Every once in a while, when I’m jumping, it gets a bit over-enthusiastic. Rarely I get it backwards during adagio. On the whole, though, it’s pretty good.
Likewise, I am no longer getting tangled making it from sauté arabesque to glissade, and not just because I’m faking it better. I realized I’ve been slipping in a pas couru kind of thing after my faille instead of collecting myself for the jump (I guess it helps when I think of ballet in horse terms?)
I think this is an issue I had fixed before and then it, like, broke again. Like my freaking shower handles (well, I don’t fix those; Denis does — the best I can manage is to fiddle with them ’til they’re more or less operable).
The hardest combo today was deceptively simple:
Tendu back (to 4th)
Close to fifth
Tendu back (to 4th)
Double turn (en dehors)
…And then repeat the whole combination until you run out of music or room.
This was challenging for me because I tend to want to really spring into my soutenu turns, but the music was slow, so that wasn’t an option. It was necessary to really step into them with control and stay on your leg. I was not all about being in control and staying on my leg today; I was kind of all over the place. I also think I kind of let my core go. You really can’t dance without core muscles.
So, in other words, this really shouldn’t have been a challenging combination, but it was, because I was a mess (if Ms. Margie was teaching, she would have said, “Use your technique, don’t lose your technique!”).
I’m going to chalk some of today’s chaos up to sleep deprivation, but a lot of it is simply that I need to focus better in class. Like, stop thinking, breathe more, try not to get distracted by shiny moving things in the mirror (SQUIRREL!).
Right now, I feel like that little girl with the little curl right in the middle of her forehead — you know: when I’m good, I’m very, very good; but when I am bad, I am horrid.
Oh! I also totally ganked the barre-stretch leg-strengthening exercise that Kit over at Ballet And/Or Bust described, and I think it’s exactly what the doctor ordered for getting my developpes higher. Right now, they’re back to progressing reasonably well, but it’s still definitely a question of strength and muscle balance.
My thighs remain pretty unbalanced as a result of years of turning the cranks on the bike, which is pretty much the opposite of what you’re doing when you developpe properly. The “eight lifts, then float the leg off the barre” sequence should really help. I’m better on the left side, right now, but that might just be because something had made my right hip (which is usually the tighter one anyway) super, super tight a few weeks ago. It’s almost back to normalish, now, though not yet back to full-splits-on-both-sides normal. I do have a full split back on the left, though.
One last bit.
Do you guys out there in Adult Ballet Bloggerland do that thing where you see a picture of yourself ballet-ing, immediately think, “Wow, I look awesome!” and then start picking apart all of your faults?
Because I am totally doing that with my pictures now :P
To be fair, I was aware of most of the faults in question at the time (especially the fact that I wasn’t all that turned-out), but unable to really correct them because gravel footing is apparently just as scary when you’re trying to arabesque as when you’re on the bike, descending at 35 MPH. I’m less annoyed by the fact that my passé is kind of low and not super-level because I wasn’t really trying for a perfect passé.
Regardless, I’m still pretty pleased with myself. I had to hoooooold that arabesque and the passé in the other two pictures, and it was tough, what with the shifting gravel and so forth.
My balances are really improving now, though.
Today, in addition to a bunch of very respectable coupé balances, there was one that worked so well that I just, like, hung out there for what felt like ages. I didn’t even do that thing where you go OMGOMG I’M BALANCING! and immediately lose it. My passé balances weren’t quite as solid, but they were still pretty good.
If I can replicate that and improve on it going forward, that will be a really good thing.
I think I mentioned that we went to a pre-Burn party last weekend, and I may have mentioned that photographer and fellow Burner Marge Ely took some pictures of us (and others who volunteered) while we were there.
Marge sent us the pictures today. Two of them are delightful; one is really quite stunning (seriously, I’m like, “Wait, that’s me?!”).
So, without further ado, here they are:
Edit: I knew Denis was taller than I am, but not, “I’m on demi-pointe and he’s still taller!” taller.
So, there you have it. Amazing, beautiful pictures by an amazing, beautiful photographer. She’s hoping to mount a show of these, and I really hope she does, because I’d love to see the whole collection together in a gallery!
When I get a chance, I’ll post a link to Marge Ely’s facebook gallery from the party.
No class today because of packing, but I’ll be doing class tomorrow (Brian is teaching! YAAAAAY!).
Mostly good class this morning; the usual blend of hard work and good cheer.
I didn’t hose up any combinations too badly except the ones that everyone hosed up because the music was faster* than we expected o.O’ Also, got off a bunch of double turns, some of which were nice (and some of which were a bit wild).
My frappés were literally better than they have every been, but my grand battements were weird and wild. I realized at the last split-second that I needed to turn because I was in a corner where I was likely to battement the crap out of the barre behind me and got off my balance and off the music. We détourné-ed right into the next side, so my efforts to get fixed were a tad frantic (though the second side was better?).
Wheeee! First world ballet problems, I guess?
Did the first set of little jumps with reasonable facility, then the second set of little jumps with beats, though I started to feel it in my toe and sort of petered out at the end.
For fun, after class, a few of us did leaps; I threw in a couple tour jetés just for the halibut (insert lame joke here: fishes love tour jetés).
I read an article not long ago about how ballet dancers are not masochists. I’m not sure I agree at all: when your ballet teacher goes, “This is mean, and it’s going to hurt, and I’m sorry,” and the whole class sort of giggles maniacally, it suggests at least a little masochism on the part of the dancers.
Someday I will create a ballet about ballet class. It will be called “The Rented Mules,” or maybe “The Merry Mules.” It will not be as good as Paul Taylor’s ballet about ballet class, but maybe it will be funny.
1. Keep that back together in pique arabesque.
2. Practice adagio turns to développé. These look really cool, but right now mine are kind of a mess: I need to down-rate my force in order to arrive in plié in the right direction on one leg while already extending the working leg (through fondue).
Brienne points out that to do this, you think of it as “just a spot” (presumably instead of going ESCAPE VELOCITY GO!!!, which is how all my turns begin except when I remind myself to channel Baryshnikov and Find A Still Place first).
3. Go to the dance store and get fitted for shoes after Burning Man. All my shoes are officially pissing me off for various reasons except the little El Cheapo shoes from eBay, which are going to the desert, where they will, without a doubt, be summarily destroyed by the Alkaline Dust of Doom.
In other news, you should come to Summer Intensive with me next year in Lexington! :)
Progress in ballet, like progress in life, seems to take place stepwise.
Step 1: Thinking, “What the heck is — how do you even do that?”
Step 2: Giving it a try by broadly approximating whatever you’re trying to do.
Step 3: Feeling fairly confident about your broad approximation even though you still have to kind of remind yourself what frappé or soutenu or pas de basque is.
Step 4: No longer having to remind yourself as often, but realizing that your broad approximation leaves a great deal of room for improvement.
Step 5: Beginning to improve by making the large, visible adjustments.
Step 5: No longer having to remind yourself almost ever.
Step 6: Continuing to improve via medium adjustments.
Step 6: Transitioning from “improving” to “refining,” because you no longer have to remind yourself what a step is or about the improvements you’ve made thus far and you’re now making quite small adjustments.
Step 7: Getting the steps “into your body,” so they begin to feel instinctual and to link instinctually to other steps (this is so cool; sometimes you can predict a significant part of a combo before it’s given to you).
Steps 8 — ???: Further iterations of the refinement-and development-of instinct process.
Step approximately 1,000,000: Mastery (not perfection, which may not exist even in Ballet Paradise, since dancers like to have something to work on).
For what it’s worth, the development of a kind of “ballet sense,” a (still highly-limited) ability to predict what will make up part of a combination based on the music and the preceding steps, has greatly aided my ability to remember combinations.
*When in doubt, mark it out! … Even at barre.
Left out the most important part on Monday – did temps levée without blowing a tendon again (and it felt good!).
I set my alarm wrong, so did night class today.
It went brilliantly, except for two parts — first, the part where I misunderstimated my travel during petit allegro and nearly ran the dude next to me into the piano twice … TWICE!!!; second, the part where I hosed up the final combo because I didn’t quite grasp what was supposed to come between the flying pas de basque (not to be confused with saut de basque) and the saute arabesque/cabriole.
I’mma have to practice that flying pas de basque thing. It’s fun, but my legs go a little Baby Giraffe Mode getting from that to other steps.
Brian taught tonight. His teaching style is playful and energetic, so his classes are fun.
Seriously; while this is probably not something that he would really do, there’s something in his personality that makes me think he’s going to come around and tickle us: that makes you stand up REALLY FREAKING TALL, by the way. Some atavistic part of my brain that is stuck in pre-school pre-ballet is like PULL UP TALL SO THE TICKLE MONSTER CAN’T SEE YOU!!!
The best general bit of advice (not really a correction, because we hadn’t broken out the passés yet) tonight? In passé and retiré, imagine a meat hook grabbing and lifting the muscle at the top inside of your thigh. Yeah, kind of a gristly image, but it works brilliantly for me. It makes me stop thinking ROTATE ROTATE ROTATE and, predictably, going CLENCH CLENCH CLENCH.
Clenching makes balances, like, 1,000,000% harder, you guys.
Oh, and I did all three bazillion little jumps and only screwed up the petit allegro a little**. Yasssssss! Getting that back has been surprisingly difficult, so it’s good that it finally felt like dancing.
Also, the little jumps looked good. So there’s that.
Now! Other business!
I heard back from Lexington Ballet, and their adult SI was a resounding success this year, so they areplanning on doing it again, and they would very much welcome out of town dancers. I’ll keep an ear to the wind for updates on that.
I’m going to see if I can get a group of LBS students together to go (Field Trip! … Er, Week-Long Field Trip!). If not, I’ll still go by myself; it doesn’t conflict with any of the Sun King weeks that sound interesting.)
Our Tutu Tuesday costumes are complete (mine is packed, even!) and look fabulous. I am not allowed to post pix until our camp-mates have seen them, though, so the whole internet is just going to have to sit on its hands until then (because I know nobody has anything more important to do that wait for pictures of our tutus).
I am totally miffed about this, really, because I now have the most adorable picture ever of Mr. Merkah playing in Denis’ tutu*** and I can’t post it until we get back.
That’s it for now. I really need to think about finding something to eat and then going to bed. Between mowing the lawn, riding the bike, and dancing, I have Burned All The Calories today and am Way, Way Tired.
Da-na-na-naaaa! Da-na-na-na-naaaaaa! Da-na-na—
In only nine days, we’ll be leavin’ on a jet plane for the desert, where we’ll remember our names, ’cause there ain’t no one for to give us no pain (unless we ask really nicely, I guess?). What a nice surprise for our alibis!
Or something like that (you can thank my step-Dad for innoculating me with a healthy appreciation for Classic Rock, though at the time I rolled my eyes about it).
This morning, we ferried the Community Cargo stuff down to Nashville. It will ride from there with a group of Burners who had some large art projects going but had room in their convoy, so that will be cool.
The cool part is that the Community Cargo stuff is set to arrive the day after we do, which will let us get our camp and staging area set up before everything arrives. The even cooler part, of course, is connecting with local Burners (one of whom has already seen me on some of my best and worst days in ballet class).
Predictably, we listened to show tunes all the way down to Nashville. On the way back, we chatted for a while, then Denis napped while I listened to the André Previn recording of Swan Lake that’s available on Amazon Prime (note to self: it is better to listen to show tunes while driving). We couldn’t have asked for a nicer day for a long drive, either.
About an hour ago, the Costume Department informed us that our bolero jackets are done and apparently so cool that the Momma is thinking about making one for herself (she was going to go with a different design).
I am busily finalizing other wardrobe stuff for That Thing In The Desert, including a corsety thing I have never really been brave enough to wear in the past. I think I’ll give it a test run at tomorrow’s party. If I can survive several hours in it, I will probably feel comfortable wearing it on the Playa.
I should note that physical discomfort isn’t the problem (mine isn’t a serious corset — it’s more or less decorative). It’s more that I continue to be shy about my moobs. I figure that if there’s anywhere on earth you can be an androgynous corseted dancing boy with moobs, Burning Man is that somewhere. Besides, if I’m going to wear the skin-tight bodice of my tutu costume thingy, it’s just silly to get all shy about wearing some other skin-tight costume thingy.
Nonetheless, I hope to return next year sans moobs. Really, I don’t really relish the idea of going to Sun King with moobs, mostly because partnering class, and Sun King happens before Burning Man (which happens before Grad School, which is another thing I’d like to do sans moobs).
Oh! Speaking of summer intensives for adult dancers!
I didn’t realize this ’til a few days after the registration deadline (at which point I wasn’t sure we could swing the $900-ish tuition), but Lexington Ballet has an adult intensive. The website notes that it’s geared towards adult beginners, so it sounds like a great option for many of us out there in the Ballet Blog-O-Sphere (even those of us who have progressed beyond the beginner realm can always use some back-to-basics work to tune things up!).
LexBallet’s intensive takes place over the course of five evenings (3.5 hours per night) and one Saturday, which means that out-of-town students would also be able to explore the area a bit. Lexington has been making an effort in recent years to turn into a real college town, with arts and museums and cool bike trails and stuff, and it’s a nice place to visit.
Obviously, it’s a no-go for this year (since it’s already over, and all), but it’s worth looking into for next year.
I’ve dropped them a line to see if they’re planning on doing it again. If they are, I’ll let you know!
Meanwhile, I will try to keep my head together. My energy level is definitely much, much higher than it has been, but my emotional state has been a bit touch-and-go, so I’m trying not to tip myself over into a mixed state. Fortunately, I will be dancing my butt off for the next several weeks, which should help with damage control.
Tonight we went to pick up our Subaru from Denis’ brother’s house in Elizabethtown and then to my Mother-in-Law’s house for our second fitting for Burning Man costumery things for TuTu Tuesday. We got there at 11 PM, no joke. We are usually in bed by 10:30 or so, so that’s saying something.
Fit on my bodice is now spot-on (it was huge before), so it’s ready for lining (in the pix, it’s wrong-side out). The shrug/bolero thingy is coming along nicely as well, but I didn’t get pictures of mine. Denis has pix of the green lining fabric of his; the outside isn’t constructed yet. My tutu isn’t ready yet, so I didn’t get to try that on, but Denis’ looks respectable.
We opted not to go full pancake, because it is already going to be a grade-A beast getting these things to the Playa and managing them there. Besides, there is a part of me that really feels like I’m not a good enough dancer to deserve a pancake tutu (even in drag :P). I’m in that weird spot where I dance well enough that I feel weird rocking the ironic look, but not well enough that I feel like I can go Full Pancake and really own it.
In short, I am not ready for the Trocks to call just yet :D
Anyway, here’s tonight’s photodump!
Oh, and I got my hair cut yesterday. I had it cut extra, extra short so I won’t have to get it trimmed before we head for the desert.
Tomorrow we’re driving to Nashville on Porchlight Express business, so I’ll be doing double class on Saturday again. Saturday night, we’re going to a partay! w00t!
I will, of course, post pictures of the whole shebang when it’s ready. I am, as you’ve probably figured out, not what one would call camera-shy, though I am pretty sure that these pictures are about as close to naked as I’ve ever been on the internet. So there’s that.
I got my hair cut, hung out in the world (mostly riding around on the bike), then did tonight’s open house class with Ms. E.
It was, in a word, awesome. Barre was solid, adagio was solid, we did cool waltzy things across the floor (fairly nailed the first; didn’t quite catch the combo on the second so I basically faked it: nothing like faking it in the first group :P).
I like Ms. E’s teaching style — she’s fun, but still precise, and really encourages us to dance.
We did two fun little petit allegro combos, the second of which I really enjoyed (glissade, assemblé, glissade assemblé, glissade, jete [to coupe], relève, relève).
I feel like I’m gaining a better sense for where my body is in space now: I can feel it when my arabesques are on sideways, when my feet are really working, and so forth without everything else falling apart.
Likewise, a year ago I would never have guessed that I’d be picking up combinations as quickly as I am now. It’s still not perfect, but I’m much, much quicker than I was. I figured that would be the hardest part for me. It might still be, but I feel pretty confident about it now.
Part of it is not really having to think about the individual steps; part is, I think, just practice making … well, not perfect, but better.
My toe is a little sore, but not too bad, so tonight it will get a much-deserved rest. Tomorrow, since Denis graciously gave me a whole day for ballet, I will Do All The Chores.
I expect to sleep like a baby tonight. I’m quite tired — though not exhausted like I was on Saturday.
I would, however, commit vile acts of inhuman depravity for a really good slice of pizza right now ;)
That’s it for today. Ballet feels very exciting right now. I’m looking forward to coming months.
Good night, and keep the leather side down.
Today’s class was good.
Not “I did absolutely everything right” good (because, come on, it’s ballet; the very instant you get something really right, they give you something harder to do), but “things are starting to crystallize” good.
I once described this feeling as “leveling up.” This time, it’s not so much leveling up as refining the level I’m on: like going back to collect all the hidden coins in a video game, or whatever.
Brienne gave me a zillion corrections today, which felt awesome (given my history with ballet, horsemanship, and academics, it shouldn’t sound weird to say, “Yay, criticism!” but it rather does, actually). She also said it’s fun to pick on me :) That, too, is high praise coming from one’s ballet teacher.
Barre was quite good, with the exception of a super-weird moment in a grand rond de jambe from soutenu derrière (Brienne described it as “the worst thing in classical ballet, but we have to do it”), which was … well, it could have been worse, but it wasn’t good.
The highlight, meanwhile, occurred during barre adagio: Brienne gave me a handful of corrections as I did a different grand rond de jambe from derrière (this one did not begin with soutenu), and my working leg did this magical thing wherein suddenly it was fully pointed, straight, awesomely turned out, and weightlessly* hovering at what seemed like a ridiculously high extension. It startled3 me so much that I said, “Oh! Hey!”
And then my working leg basically owned the rest of that rond de jambe with essentially no effort from me. If only all of class could be like that, all the time!
Now, if I can ever do that again, particularly when someone is ready with a camera, I can probably die happy. I won’t even ever have to perform if someone just gets video me executing of a single perfect grand rond de jambe with that kind of ridiculous extension.
At center, adagio was … meh, could’ve been worse, but would’ve been better if I’d understood the first combination right the first time and then didn’t spend the remaining repetitions freaking out about getting it wrong.
On the upside? Double turns! On demand! WTF, when did I stop sucking at turns (again)?
Brienne gave us a useful talk about identifying one’s own natural spotting speed so one can modulate one’s turning speed according to the music. I think I am actually kind of a slow-turner, but I’m not entirely certain.
I also sucked it up and did the little jumps, since my toe felt okay, and was surprised how much faster they’re getting. It used to be that I could either jump really slowly with beautiful point and straight legs or schlub my way through quick jumps. Now I’m starting to hit really nice quick jumps about half the time.
Brienne has been making me focus on really working through my feet, and holy cow, is it ever helping!
We ran out of time before we got to do grand allegro, alas.
I’m thinking I will do class tonight. A) it’s
giant ballet party open house night, and B) Ms. E is teaching, and I don’t think I’ve done class with her yet. Perhaps we’ll allegro!
Anyway. That’s it for now. There is nothing like the feeling of making progress!
On Saturday, I dragged Robert to ballet with me, and he made a respectable effort in Margie’s class. I, too, made a respectable effort, then proceeded on to Brienne’s class.
In Brienne’s class, I … um. Well.
Let me state for the record that it’s been a while since I’ve done two classes back-to-back, and apparently I’m still quite out of shape. Jeez.
Or, well — I may have been coming down with something, as I had a fever and some pretty unpleasant gastric distress stuff on Sunday and Monday. (Today, I’m feeling mostly better, so it’s back to Brienne’s class tomorrow.)
Either way, I had some strength-related issues at barre (sometimes, you fondue; sometimes, you fondon’t), though there were definitely some highlights as well. My balances are improving again.
At center, we did a rather nice bit of slow adagio (which I would have done better if I’d kept my extensions lower; I didn’t have the strength left to really sustain them above about 60 degrees).
Across the floor, Brienne tuned up our balancés — in my case, that was really a good thing, as my balancés have really needed some tuning. It was nice to get them ironed out and flowing.
I’m not sure what was done for allegros petit et grand; I bowed out at that point, as I was simply feeling exhausted by that point and didn’t want to roll the “exhaustion leads to injury” dice.
I hope to acquit myself better in tomorrow’s class.
Saturday’s problem — making it through class — shouldn’t really be too hard to overcome, as I’ll only be doing one class, or possibly two separated by many hours instead of back to back.
Wednesday’s problem — remembering all the combos and not screwing up my ballotés and, heaven help me, sissons (you know, the second easiest jump in the whole world; and as such one that I should pretty much never find difficult?) — well. We’ll see how that goes. Successive approximations, etc.
Those were very much in the Domain of the Baby Giraffe (Wait! Which leg goes where?) last week, so I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about them, because we all know how much thinking helps in ballet! Mostly, I found myself thinking about how to solve the problem of the bizarre disconnect that sometimes happens between brain and legs.
Like, I know how to sisson, and I knew which way(s) to sisson in last week’s second allegro combo, and yet somehow when it came time to sisson, my legs were all like, “HOLY FRACK HOW DO I EVEN DO THIS?!”
I imagine that it was probably quite funny from the sidelines.
Anyway, tomorrow will almost certainly be better.
So that’s it for now. May your fondues refrain from becoming fondon’ts, and the sissons rise up to meet you, or something like that :)