On Ballet: Stretch Those Knees!

So during barre last night, in the midst of a complicated combination involving fondus and developpés and arabesques and various other things and also counting, I heard a distant voice saying, “Stretch that left knee! Stretch that left knee!”

We were working the left leg in back, so my face happened to be turned to the right, and thus towards the wall. I was listening intently to the music, focusing intently on not losing my place, and I thought I was stretching my knees, so I kept doing what I was doing.

…And then I felt a tap on the back of my left knee (which was extended behind me in midair), and heard the same voice — Brienne’s of course — saying, “Asher, stretch that knee!”

The tap made me realize that my knee was, in fact, not all the way stretched. It made me instantly aware: oh, hey, there is still slack in those muscles and tendons and so forth!

I had a moment of epiphany: what felt stretched and straight wasn’t.

Reflexively, I said, “Oh!” then obliged immediately and was rewarded with a, “Much better!”

I wish I could say that this was the most awkward part of Monday's class, but it wasn't.

What a difference a degree makes.

So that’s an interesting development (which, for the record, is different than an “interesting developpé” — of which I’m sure I did a few last night, particularly during our adagio). I know I have lazy knees*. They’re also mildly hyperextended, which is to say that if I stand with my knees together, like in a really tight first position, my heels will be a couple inches or so apart.

It never occurred to me, however, that what feels like straight might not be straight, where my knees are concerned.

That’s the interesting thing about ballet (and maybe “concert dance” in general). It makes you pay attention to your body in ways you really otherwise wouldn’t. You build habits little by little that might feel wholly unnatural at the outset.

Beyond the knee issues, class was a mixed bag last night. Some things went really well. Occasionally, I went, “Ohai! Pirouette from fourth! I own this!” And sometimes I was like, “Oh, soutenu turn? Is that the one where you nearly fall on your face and somehow wind up on the wrong leg?”

For what it’s worth, getting the combo at center has not been my strong suit the past two classes. Actually, come to think of it, I haven’t been super on the ball at the barre, either. Last night, this “tendu, tendu, pique, tendu” thing kept turning into “pique, pique, tendu, panic,” and the more I thought about it, the worse it got. I have made enough progress to know that the best thing I can do to get through a fast combination is stop thinking, but I’m not yet at the point where I can stop thinking on command.

It will come… ._.

Bike-wise, evidently it is possible to ride after Brienne’s class (though probably not after two of them). I was so busy thinking about ballet (okay, and ice cream) that I got on the wrong bus last night and went downtown instead of cross-town. That was no big deal, as home is only 7 miles from downtown, and I banged it out in about half an hour, including a stop to check out a cat some kids were worried about (turns out it was two cats, in fact, and they were having a mild territorial dispute, which was soon resolved when one of them scurried off and the other said the feline equivalent of, “And good riddance!”).

14 MPH may not be the fastest pace ever, but it’s nice to be able to ride it effortlessly after an hour and a quarter of Brienne’s super-athletic class.

It probably also helps that I remembered to stretch after class this time.

One more class this week, then it’s off to PlayThink for the weekend. Woohoo!

*Denis says this is true of everybody: we spend so much time learning not to lock our knees that fully straightening them feels a wee bit unnatural.

About asher

Me in a nutshell: Standard uptight ballet boy. Trapeze junkie. Half-baked choreographer. Budding researcher. Transit cyclist. Terrible homemaker. Neuro-atypical. Fabulous. Married to a very patient man. Bachelor of Science in Psychology (2015). Proto-foodie, but lazy about it. Cat owner ... or, should I say, cat own-ee? ... dog lover. Equestrian.

Posted on 2014/06/10, in balllet, class notes. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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