Modern Monday: In Which I Psych Myself Out

Modern Class largely went better today.

It was like my body suddenly went, “Ohhhhh, modern dance!  Why didn’t you just say so?!”

And I’m like, “Umm … it’s in the class title, so…?”

Some of this was the direct result of last week’s tiny class in which TB reminded me that I have no idea where my body is and should probably figure out how to find it.

Not that she put it that way — that was all me. TB always begins her corrections about my weird proprioception with, “You’re so hypermobile, which is great, and—”

So today I managed to remember some of the physical sensations that I’m using as cues to tell myself when I’m correctly placed and so forth. That helped.

On the other hand, I totally psyched myself out on the last combination. It was one that we started working with two weeks ago, then didn’t touch on last week. As TB began to demonstrate, my brain went, “Oh, this is knew,” but then when we started to mark it, I suddenly remembered that it was one we’d done before and found that bits of it were still familiar.

…And then, somehow, I completely lost it. At some point, some part of my brain said, “We are never going to remember this,” and I promptly lost the very beginning of the first phrase:/

So, basically, I totally used neuroscience against myself: I told myself I couldn’t possibly remember a combination that I ALREADY KNEW, got nervous, and not only failed to learn it, but started flying in “reaction only” mode, which prevented me from recalling the familiar parts.



Take it from me, don’t do that. It’s the dance equivalent of being like, “OMG, I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN HIT THIS TARGET; I SHOULD DEFINITELY SHOOT MYSELF IN THE HAND NOW.”

On the other hand, someone else mentioned that she couldn’t remember the very beginning, and TB replied that always happens to her in ballet class — which just goes to show you that the familiarity of the movement vocabulary matters. I essentially never forget the beginnings of ballet combinations, though sometimes I forget important things in the middle or the end.

So that was modern this week, and now I need to eat lunch, do a bunch of household tasks, go make DanceTeam happen (AM is sick), and then run away to the downtowns for the ballet stuff.

Finally, A Thing 

So DanceTeam is going well (though I am still convinced that at any moment our dancers are going to realize that I have no idea what I’m doing and revolt/go rogue/possibly eat me). 

Ballet and modern were less than awesome last week, but the Pilobolus workshop made up for a lot of that, especially the part when one of the instructors tracked me down afterwards and told me I was a beautiful mover with a lot of presence. Definitely one of those “I can die happy now”  moments.

Likewise, today’s Open Fly, during which I started formally building a dance to Hozier’s “Work Song” that’s actually going to happen (Finally!), felt like a leap forward.
Including myself, I have four dancers lined up. Aerial A, who went to the Pilobolus workshop with me, is also in, as are my DanceTeam partner-in-crime and a fellow I know from acro (upon whose very high shoulders I have literally stood). We’ve got a tentative performance date early next year (the performance is a definite; it’s just the date that’s undecided). Aerial A happened along while I was working on choreography this afternoon and we stepped through the first 41 seconds of the dance — at least, as much as we could, since there’s some partnering stuff that requires our compatriots.

Aerial A likes what I’ve got, and I think it’s going to really work.

Needless to say, the explosion of dance stuff in my life is both exciting and a bit overwhelming. I’m still in that phase during which you just kind of white-knuckle it whilst you adjust to your new schedule. Hence less posting. I’m somehow managing to scrape paint off the trim in the midst of all this, also, because miracles evidently do occur. 

This week, we’ve got a dance event on Monday evening (a sort of “live interview” with Wendy Whelan), then I think a “normal” schedule again — wait, no, DanceTeam performs on Friday! 

Anyway, here’s hoping that in class this week I won’t do dumb things like choosing too shallow a line in a bidirectional combination and almost colliding with someone in the next group.

Intensive plans for next summer are also in the works. Aerial A and I are hoping to hit at least one of Pilobolus’ week-long workshops. In addition, I’ll probably go to Cinci and Lexington again. There’s a remote chance of doing Sun King if our finances are okay, but in the current economic climate it’s really hard to predict.

No worries there, though. If I don’t get to go til 2018, I’ll be even better prepared than I will next year.

There are also a few audition-y things on the radar, but let’s file those under, “To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent.” At least for now.

So that’s where I am at the moment. Still percolating other choreo projects, especially Simon Crane — but one of them is finally taking off. 


I know I have danced enough for the day when…:

A. class is over. 

B. the third class of the day is over.

C. I have officially burned enough calories that I need to eat breakfast again. And lunch. And dinner. 

D. I lie in bed reading and can still feel my muscles firing while my brain works through the choreography. 

E. My legs are on fire, O G-d, whhyyyyyyyy
…The correct answer, of course, is, “F. NEVAR.”

(In reality, this post was inspired by the thought, “I’ve only put in six hours today, my legs should definitely not feel this sore.O NOES I HAZ AN OUT OF SHAPE!”

Yes, I am ridiculous. Also, pretty sure sure there’s ground glass in my turnouts.) 

5, 6, 7, 8 — Boy, Can We Procrastinate! 

I am clearly confused about life right now. 

I’ve jumped into an assistant-coach gig for a middle-school dance team, which is a huge leap out of my comfort zone, what with my background being strictly ballet & modern of the kind that tends to foam at the mouth when someone mentions “dance as a sport.”

That’s not where I’m confused, though. 

While I may be something something of a knee-jerk mouth-foamer about about the concept, I’ve realized that, with the right coach, Dance Team can be a way into dance as art for kids who might otherwise never have a chance. The coach I’m working with, a friend of mine from the increasingly tiny world of dance and aerials, is that kind of coach. Likewise, she and I come from essentially opposite dance backgrounds, and know how how to work together to take advantage  of that, so we make a good team.

I’m totally drinking the Kool-aid, there. 

No — what I’m confused about is this: why am I still scraping the paint on the house when I should be firming up the piece I’m choreographing for the team? 

Or, well … Okay, I’m not really confused. I know what’s going on. I’m just confused about why I’m letting it happen. 

Basically, I’m terrified. I’m afraid I’m Doin’ It Rong; that the dances I create are stupid. 

This is also part of what keeps me from finishing my longer choreography and writing projects. Every now and and then, I experience a spasm of lack of faith in my own vision. 

I don’t, I should note, most faith in my ability as a writer (sadly, the same cannot be said for my flaming case of Impostor Syndrome about dance): I’ve had too much success not to know that I can put words together beautifully; I just fall into fits of thinking my stories are stupid. Then I freeze for an indefinite period of time, after which I return to my projects and continue work. 

Anyway, today I should be making a dance, but instead I’m busy being afraid to make a dance. (I should be making plans for auditions for next year, but I’m paralyzed about that, too.)

I’m writing this so I can see how silly this all is. Maybe someday, I’ll read this and laugh at how silly I was. 

After all, it’s not like I have to go win the Prix de Lausanne the day after tomorrow (besides, I’m over-age for that). I just have to come up with a dance for a group of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders who all seem like hard workers with good attitudes (or mostly-good, which is good enough).
Regardless, I really need to up my procrastination game. Who procrastinates by scraping paint, anyway, FFS? 

Apparently, I do.

There’s also this other thing. Maybe you can relate. When everything starts coming together and landing in my lap, which is totally happening right now, part of me (of course) feels grateful and excited … but another part starts looking around to see if the Universe is trolling me. Like, “Was that a real pat on the back, or did some divine force just stick a kick me sign on there?”

…Which is also totally happening right now (sorry, Universe).

I’m going to force myself to proceed as if there is no Kick Me sign; as of there’s no possibility of any such thing.

It just might take me a little while to really start believing it.    

Modern Monday: Amazingly, Modern Is Not Ballet (Go Figure, Eh?)

So I’ve decided to stick with modern for the time being. I’ll try to add a second class in somewhere, though it may mean taking class somewhere else, with someone else, maybe, if Friday mornings just prove to be impossible.

I’m still flailing my way back into it. I felt a little better today (even though I started out with a knee I somehow tweaked whilst watching ballet, rather than whilst doing ballet) — a bit less like a cartoon character broadly approximating modern dance; a bit more like, you know, a dancer who’s adapting from one discipline to another.

There were only two of us today, so Modern T gave us both some really, really specific guidance. For me, a big part of it was a question of how I’ve been using my back, shoulders, and head. This was, in every sense, a MOAR MODERN, LESS BALLET kind of day.

I think this is particularly hard for me at this particular moment in time because, right now, I’m all about the back, shoulders, and head in ballet as well. My legs more or less know what to do with themselves most of the time, so now I’m really working on bringing the rest of like, basically everything up to speed.

As such, I spend a lot of time thinking about port de bras, epaulement, placing my back and pelvis, and all that jazz (or, well, all that ballet, since I don’t actually do jazz).

This morning I had to basically force myself to shove all of that onto the back burner and do something else entirely — or, well, all the same things, but in a completely different way. Grounding the spine, in particular, does not come easily to me (because hypermobility).

On the other hand, all of this made several of the things we did in our floorwork make a lot more physical sense, so there’s that.

This was definitely a “struggling to remember the combination” kind of day. I feel less frustrated about it than I used to, though. My experiences in ballet — in which I’ve now developed a pretty strong ability to pick up choreography on the fly — have taught me that it’ll come. I just need to get the vocabulary into my body so I can start thinking about phrases instead of just individual “words.” I was starting to get there at the end of last semester and during the Mam-Luft intensive, so I know I’ll get there again.

All in good time.

Anyway, today I’m going to go help my friend AM (whose modern:ballet ratio is the opposite of mine) with dance team auditions. She teaches and coaches at a middle school. 

Should be interesting — I haven’t been inside a middle school … well, more or less since I graduated from middle school. It’s a tough age for kids, and I think dancing is a good way to get through it.

Depending on how things shake out, I may be jumping in as assistant coach for the rest of the year. I told AM I have no idea what I’m doing, and she said, “That’s okay; even though I was on a dance team and earned 6 national titles, I don’t have any idea what I’m doing either!”

So, basically, we can be clueless idiots together, the blind leading the blind leading the … well, hormonally-challenged, socially strained, and probably also blind. Fortunately, AM is a qualified English teacher, so she at least has prior experience working with kids in this age bracket.

As for me, I have discovered that kids often like me reasonably well because I take them seriously and don’t talk down to them (in part, I suspect, because I was raised by adults who didn’t believe in treating kids as if our thoughts and dreams and so forth were less important than those of adults). I hope that’s still the case, and that I haven’t become the annoying kind of adult in the interim between the last time I interacted with kids on a regular basis and now.

Anyway, this could be interesting.

After Dance Team it’s dinner, scrape the trim on the house, and then … honestly, I can’t even remember. I should probably check the online calendar and see if I’m supposed to be dangling from the ceiling in one way or another tonight.

Tomorrow, my goal is to finish scraping and get painting, and then I’ll be going to a Flexibility & Mobility class and to Acro 2.

In other news, I’ve invented a new word (if only in my head). Linguistically, it’s a terrible one — but it’s a useful one.

The word is eyerollment. Think of epaulement, and just replace epaule- with eyeroll.

Eyerollment is, for the most part, the wrong way to use your head in ballet.

Perhaps because we’re frequently reminded that the eyes follow the hands, when we’re learning to use epaulement, often we lead the movement with our eyes — literally rolling the eyes first, and then turning the head only when the eyes can go no further.

That, my friends, is eyerollment at its worst(1).

  1. At its best, it’s something that can add a touch of character — this weekend’s Swan Lake included at least one imperious “Guardian Swan” who somehow managed to use a small degree of eyerollment to convey grace, gravity, and superiority).

The best fix I’ve found for eyerollment is to think of the eyes pushing the hand instead of the hand pulling the eyes. 

If the eyes roll  around in their sockets, they’ll lose contact with the hand and won’t be able to push it. So you keep the eyes mostly fixed and turn the head to use them to push the hand.

I wish I could remember who suggested the idea of pushing the hand instead of pulling the eyes. It works really well for me and largely prevents the host of stupid things I routinely do with my head when I forget to think about it that way.

Coincidentally, nixing the eyerollment also prevents that ridiculous thing where you go into, say, first arabesque and then just roll your eyes to look out over the extended hand. If your eyes are more or less fixed, you are forced to use your head — and, in my experience, you’re less likely to do something crazy with your head, since your eyes aren’t all over the place.

So, basically, in short, ballet is a good reason to be glad we don’t actually have eyestalks, no matter how useful they might seem.

I’m off to middle school in a few. Wish me luck!


Another moment from yesterday’s class with JP:

“In sus-sous … You know what a mullet is? The hairstyle — short in the front and long in the back. That’s how you want your body to be; it helps you balance.”

I borrowed this and used it with my class today (properly credited, of course). They’re just starting to learn sus-sous.

It works — they did a great job even though sus-sous felt weird and new.

After class, Aerial A said I’ve come a long way as a teacher, and that my explanations work now.

That means the world to me.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It certainly is in this case. I crib constantly from the lessons my teachers give us, and i do that because their teaching works.

Anyway, it turns out that I can be taught — and not just taught to dance, but taught how to teach effectively.


Last night turned into another 2-hours-of-sleep fiasco because Reasons.

Denis got up and drove me to class so I wouldn’t kill myself or anyone else on the way. I left my legwarmers in my car, and started class feeling disgruntled because A) sleep dep and B) changes in routine are not exactly what we thrive on in ballet, and part of my routine is legwarmers.

However, it was one our rare classes with JP, and I love the way he teachers. By the time we got through the first tendu, I had forgotten that I was supposed to be having a bad day.

As a result, barre went beautifully. I realized that my prioprioception needs updating: at one point I glanced at myself in what I thought was an arabesque at roughly, I don’t know, 70 degrees and discovered that it was above 90. Which was partly, “WTF*” and partly “Such arabesque. Very Geometry. Wow.”

  1. So, like, “Where’s the Femur?” :V …Okay, I’ll stop. No, wait, that’s a lie. I won’t stop. Ever.

I lost my braings a little during the grand battement combination, but that was simply a function of thinking there were supposed to be MOAR ATTITUDE SWINGS. They just felt so good, which is nice, because for reasons I still don’t comprehend, I have wrestled with cloche en attitude for the past, like, two years.

Adagio was faaaabulouuuuus. When did I become, like, an Adagio Specialist? (In addition to being a jumper.) Even the adagio turn was A) nice and B) properly adagio. There was a renverse that just kept automatically being beautiful.

Waltz and terre-a-terre turns got a little wild. I started attacking my turns(2) like I was trying to kill them, even as JP reminded us(3) NOT TO DO THAT.

  1. I kind of feel like, in ballet, there are over-attackers and under-attackers. I am definitely an over-attacker. Most of the people I know in class seem to be under-attackers. It would be interesting to study if attack in ballet class correlates with, I don’t know, impulsiveness or trait conscientiousness or something like that outside of class.
  2. Which is to say: reminded me. You know the general correction that’s really an individual correction? That’s pretty much how JP does class. He rarely issues individual corrections directly; instead, he issues a general correction while somehow managing to make eye contact with everyone who really needs that specific individual correction.

    And then it was time for petit allegro. And, um, yeah.

    You know how brisee means “broken?”

    Yeah, um, well… So mine were really good, for values of good equal to literal. For values of, like, actual ballet, though, they were horrible.

    I think I did one actual brisee today:/ We did that combination twice in each direction, should’ve been a total of eight brisees.

    Grand allegro went a bit better. I lost the end of the combination on the first pass, but filled it in for the most part by the end (I kept forgetting the tombe-coupe-jete/cabriole that was supposed to change the direction — specifically, the tombe part). Apparently my jumps were high and looked good. I didn’t think they were particularly high, but it’s really hard to watch yourself doing entrelaces. Unless, like, you video them.

    So I made it to the end of class and didn’t die, but my brisees were like zombie brisees. Oh, well.

    That’s it for now. Overall, a good class, and I still feel like I’m moving forward. Especially barre-wise.


    We had a minor extended-family emergency tonight,  but it turns out everything is okay. Anyway, notes are finally up. 

    That Just Happened

    Scene from advanced class.

    We’re preparing for terre-a-terre. JP counts us up and says, “There’s, what, nine of you? So maybe five and four.”

    We start arranging ourselves.

    From somewhere in the pack, a timid voice pipes up, “Um, there’s ten of us.”

    JP pauses for a sec, then says, “Nine, ten, whatever. I can only count to eight, anyway.”

    PS: notes forthcoming, but life craziness had intervened. They're on my tablet.

    Also, Swan Lake was awesome. Awful lot of, "OMG, that's my teacher!" (Or classmate. Or friend. Or all three.)

    Wednesday Class: Perception versus, um, Perception?

    I had a good class today, for the most part — my turnouts were turnt, port de bras ported, etc. For once, I managed not to rack up the greatest number of “support your elbow” reminders in class (instead, for me, today was all about “Lift out of the hips sockets!”).

    Adage felt shockingly solid. Somehow, somewhere along the line, I’ve more or less completely stopped sucking at adagio? Part of it was definitely the music. No idea what it was, but it was beautiful, and I was like, “Ohhh yeah, feeling this music, w00t,” and not all like, “OMG OMG I HAVE TO GET MY LEG UP NOW AND NOT FALL DOWN OMFG. OMG NOW I HAVE TO ROND EN L’AIR. CRAP, WHICH ONE IS THIRD ARABESQUE??!!! O NOES O NOES.”

    (Some of that, BTW, was simply the effect of finally being able to feel confident about remembering which arabesque was which. It’s amazing how much just NOT HAVING TO THINK helps with arabesques.)

    Turns terre-a-terre were just like, “Doubles, sure, why not?” on the first pass. Like, doubles happening without even thinking about it. Just: Ohai, that was a double! Ohai, that one, too! On the second pass, I was busy thinking about a transition detail (a part that went tombe-pas de bourée-fondue arabesque-to-relevéfailli through, turn en dehors, pivot with rond de jambe) and threw out a mix of singles and doubles, but that was okay.

    By the time we got started with jumps, though, I was feeling tired (in fact, I already felt a little cooked after grand battement). I made it through the warm-up jumps and the first petit allegro combination (in fact, that one went shockingly well in terms of remembering what was supposed to happen — it was just, like, there when I needed it, pas de basque and everything).

    But then we got to our last combination, which was basically medium allegro, and it was jsut like … bleh.

    My assemblés sucked. I felt slow and heavy and imprecise. Beats happened (more or less by divine intervention, as far as I can tell), as did, by some miracle, this jeté-coupé-balonné thing that I didn’t think I even had. Beyond that, though, the whole combination felt, I don’t know, dumpy. By which I mean, more or less what I think a dump truck would feel like if it tried to do medium allegro.

    After class, though, I said something to Ms. B about feeling way out of shape, and she replied, “Well, you didn’t look out of shape!”

    So, basically, my perception was that I was a gigantic mess by the end. Hers, on the other hand, seemed rather otherwise.

    I guess this says a lot about how often we only see the worst in ourselves.

    And then, this was another of those classes that, looking back, I realize I couldn’t have done a year ago. Not like I did today. I would have made it through, but it would’ve been harder, and I wouldn’t have danced as well.

    Bit by bit, we move forward.

    Anyway, that’s it for now. No class with BW tomorrow because Swan Lake is happening. I’m going to see it on Saturday. Can’t wait!

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