Ballet Squid Chronicles: Saturday Class Notes – It Came From Studio 5
We went out last night, so I did this morning’s beginner class, and I did it on about 5 hours of sleep (not quite a record, but still enough to throw me off my game a wee bit).
I was not, however, the most sleep-deprived member of the class. The same guy by whom I was so immensely intimidated a few classes ago — who is, in fact, a professional dancer — came to do barre with us this morning, and he hadn’t left his other job* ’til 4 AM.
He joined me at the end of the barre nearest the door. It turns out he’s actually a rather nice person and not, in fact, at all intimidating. As such, I decided to try to learn from him, though since we were across a portable barre, this time I just listened to his breathing and tried to emulate it.
Class was a mixed bag today.
There were moments at the barre during which I was really feeling and using the music. There were other moments when I was all, “Frappé? Whaddaya think this is, a Starbucks?” or “Port de bro? Je ne comprends ce que vous dites. Je n’ai pas un frère.”
At one point, after totally leaving out a part of a combination, I mumbled after turning, “And maybe I can get the combination right this time.” Professional Dance Guy grinned and said something like, “Don’t worry about it. Just hold your head up and look like you know what you’re doing. That’s what I do.”
So I did, because, you know. When Professional Dance Guy says it works for him…
Oddly enough, it did work.
I did much better remembering the combo**. It was a tendu-degagé-degagé-pique, and I was sort of automagically doing degagé-degagé-degagé-pique.
I still hosed up all my frappés on the next combo, but my grand battement — seriously, I didn’t know I could get my leg that high yet (until a few years ago, I could still pretty much swing it up and whack myself in the face; I’m getting back there). Apparently I work well under pressure.
I think the highlight, though (besides grand battement) came in the form of 16 bars of free practice that Claire gave us to work on “whatever, as long as it’s ballet-related,” during which my entire barre decided through telepathy that we were going to swing the bejeebers out of our legs in sync. We looked like a trireme going to war or something (though, had we actually been a watercraft, we would simply have found ourselves sitting in place, since there were four of us on the barre with two facing each way).
The “everyone at my barre doing a kind of whippy attitude en cloche” moment was pretty fun, too. I think that may have evolved out of an effort to not kick the stuffing out of each-other while rowing our imaginary trireme, though. The class was packed, so even angling would’ve potentially meant kicking someone .. and nobody kicks like a dancer***.
There were moments at centre, working turns, during which I was look, “Oh, look, if I pull my core together and really focus on nailing my passé, suddenly I can do this nice, controlled pirouette en dedans.” There were other times that I was like, “Don’t look. Just … don’t. It’s better that way.” At any rate, my pique turns were good. Again, I focused on opening the knee at passé. I rediscovered my turnout a while ago; now I’m learning how to use it again. You know, to do other things than get my feet out of the way when I’m coming up the stairs or opening our pull-out freezer drawer and whatever.
Going across the floor, I messed up the first combination, then nailed it (it was very, very simple: just, “Sauté arabesque! Sauté pique!” lather, rinse, repeat — but because it was simple we were supposed to be musical and expressive and pay attention to our arms and stuff). I messed up the second one, then kinda got it, too. After that, I somehow memorized the third one (pique arabesque, faillé, pas de chat, pas de chat, tombe pas de bourée, glissade, whatever big jump you like) in the wrong sequence.
In short, I put the tombé where the faillé should have been, resulting in … well, it was just bad, okay? You can get from tombé to pas de chat, of course, but it’s harder and doesn’t look as nice.
So I ran the last combo the wrong way like four times, struggling to get from Point A to Point B, before I finally realized I was doing something completely different around the second step than everyone else, and that I should probably ask Claire to go over the combo again. Problem solved … ish. By then I was sufficiently confused (and tired) that my final two runs were sloppy and kind of awful, but at least less awful than they had been. I guess that’s something? I’ll work on that combination at home this week (no tour jeté, so I can probably clear the floor downstairs and run it without whacking my arms on the ceiling).
If all else fails, I will disassemble the coffee table and mark it in the living room. Seriously. I have been thinking about removing the coffee table anyway (I hate it; it’s made of four huge effing pillars and a giant piece of beveled plate glass, weighs about four million tons, and is a giant pain in the neck to vacuum around — and it also encourages Denis to accumulate snow-drifts of papers in the middle of the living room, AHEM).
The real low point of today’s class, tough, was the little jumps. You know — the ones I’m good at, the ones I love doing, the ones I could do all day?
Yeah, I totally hosed those up as hard as I could. I didn’t actually know that I was capable of screwing them up that badly. We were doing a jump-jump-relevé combo, and mine turned into … something else. Something … horrible.
The ultimate problem was simply coordination. I was feeling a bit cooked, and my feet and legs just didn’t want to hear about sauté-sauté-releve. So instead it was all, sauté-sauté-bounce on releve and scare the crap out of poor Clare. By the time I got them fixed, we had moved on.
Also my adagio was rather awful. I’m not sure I even want to talk about it. It stated out beautifully, and then … I don’t know what happened. It fell apart. I fell apart. And then there was the promenade. At least one promenade was passably okay, which is enormous progress from the “Holy crap, I have completely forgotten how to do this!” moment I had when I first did Claire’s class a few months ago. My promenade still sort of resembles the flailings of a wounded moose, but, you know. Before it was even wrose, so I guess that’s progress!
So not my best class ever today — but everyone has bad days (probably even Claire and Professional Dance Guy), and I did get a really nice compliment afterwards. One of my fellow students said, “You have really beautiful feet. I wish I had feet like yours.” (I thanked her profusely, of course.)
So that about made my week. The rest of this week’s classes could suck (WHICH THEY WON’T, ahem), and I would still be able to say, “Yeah, but at least I have beautiful feet.”
This week’s imaginary t-shirt slogan?
*Louisville unfortunately doesn’t really have a large enough arts-funding base to keep its professional musicians and dancers fed and housed without second jobs.
**Didn’t we just talk about this last post? Not thinking so hard? Letting it happen? Etc? Sheesh.
***True story: I used to do Muay Thai for a while. I loved it; in some ways it was very much like ballet — you know, if you were actually allowed to kick your partner in the face in ballet. One time I had been having kind of a slow day warming up at the heavy bag, but finally woke up by the time we got to partner kicking drills. I threw a high kick that whizzed past my partner’s ear. He was taller than I was. Our trainer looked and me all bug-eyed and said, “Jeez, where was that high kick on the bag?” In the end, I had the best high kick in class, and there was one reason for that: grand battement. That was some consolation, because I largely sucked at all the boxing parts of kickboxing.