On Ballet: Saturday Class Notes
So it happened, yesterday.
We had a substitute, who was awesome, and I got called out in class on being lazy with the pulling-up-the-quads and the using-all-those-muscles-that-make-your-turnout-turn-out.
I mean, not that I was being lazy on purpose. Like, I thought I was doing all that stuff.
Except it turns out that I wasn’t — or, rather, I wasn’t doing it all the way — and that when I really engage the the piriformis and all those other muscles, my turnout suddenly gets quite a bit better. But, wow, it takes work, and concentration, and I can’t keep it going for all that long yet*.
It’s funny how knowing there’s some arcane thing you’re good at makes you want to work to do that thing even better. Somehow, as humans, we’re wired to want to work on the stuff we’re good at. Likewise, we see perfecting the thing we do well as a kind of responsibility — or, at least I do. Of course, the upshot of all this, in my case, is that I tend to neglect the stuff I’m not good at.
The cool thing about ballet is that there’s no room for that (maybe this is true of life in general?). If your legs are great and your arms suck, you suck it up and work on your arms … while still working on your legs because, you know, you don’t want those to just fall apart. Same thing goes if you’re strong on technique but weak on musicality or interpretation. You can’t let one go while you’re working on the other.
The sum of all this can seem like a bit of a centipede’s dilemma. Suddenly you’re trying to remember to keep your belly zipped up; your turnout muscles REALLY, REALLY engaged; your shoulders down; your neck long; and your arms … well, not tangled, at very least — all while counting, or also remembering some combination, or while balancing on the ball of one foot, or while doing turns. Oh, and also, don’t lock your knees.
Little by little, though, all of these things become normal and natural — like all the tiny little elements involved in riding a bike.
Of course, in the beginning, as soon as one thing becomes natural, your teacher adds five more.
…But if I wanted to do something easy, I’d have gotten into rocket surgery, right?
*And, also, my thigh flabs still get in the way when I’m in 5th, even though I’ve now lost 11 pounds this year and they’re quite a bit smaller than they used to be. Having ridonculously huge cycling muscles doesn’t help, either.