Ballet Squid Chronicles: Monday Class Notes — Suddenly, We’re Dancing!

Today I did the Monday Double Header — Margie’s Ballet Essentials followed by Claire’s Beginner/Intermediate class.

Essentials was well populated, and we’ve gained couple of new students. We did a fairly low-intensity class (Margie was under the weather), so we got to focus on technique — which meant I got to focus on not focusing so darned hard!

My goal for the day was to practice the two big lessons from last week — Jim’s “Watch your mouth!” and the “Don’t make it happen, let it happen” philosophy from Ballet Talk for Dancers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this two-pronged attack on tension and over-focus works really well. “Watch your mouth” becomes shorthand for “Relax!” which leads naturally into letting it happen.

This let me move much, much more freely, though at times I still lost count during little jumps (in Margie’s class, this was because I was thinking about feet — specifically, observing how everyone’s feet looked — instead of just doing my thang; in Claire’s class, I’m guessing I was just having a tired moment and hadn’t yet caught my second wind).

Claire’s barre was lovely, and I got to share a bare with the wife of our friend Nicolas. Nicolas is one of the Saturday Ballet Essentials regulars.

Nicolas’ wife (whose name, sadly, I cannot recall just now) is a very good dancer. She does the advanced class and the daytime intermediate classes as well; this is the first time I’ve done class with her. I found myself mostly able to remember the combinations (another thing I decided to work on today — no following!), so I watched the way her back and arms worked and tried to emulate it.

I think it actually made a big difference; my barre was much prettier than usual. It was definitely more “port des bras” and less “port de bro.”

(You guys, true story: I was totally going to put a picture of men doing port des bras badly, here, but now that I want one I can’t find one.)

Better still, Claire gave me another amazing correction. I’ve been overbalancing myself when in coupé and passé en relevé and I couldn’t figure out why. It turns out I was A) still hollowing my lower back and B) my head was tipping back beyond my center line. This threw the whole column off, causing me to be tippy.

Claire’s correction worked like a miracle cure. As before, it felt weird, but holy cow, guys! It worked!

Suddenly I was on my leg, balancing on a nice high demi-pointe in passé, and just, like, there. Wow.

I think the hollow back thing is also the source of my squidly-middly problem, because my grand battement in Margie’s class was questionable, but in Claire’s class I did it pretty well at the barre and then used it in a combination, without the barre! OMG grand battement without barre and without falling over, you guys!

And I did not even die (though I was so shocked that it worked that I proceeded to totally fumble a simple little arabesque immediately thereafter)!

And then, of course, I had to demonstrate how awesome I was by picking up the wrong freaking leg while doing turns.

Wait, let me back up.

So across-the-floor went really well at first. In my new “letting it happen” mode, I wasn’t freaking out about the combinations.

Instead, I walked through them (even when nobody else was), recited them to myself, marked them, and put myself in one of the first few groups* so I didn’t have time to A) stress out, B) forget the combo whilst waiting in the “wings,” or C) confuse myself by thinking too much (cue Jaws theme: How are we getting to piqué arabesque? What comes aftertombé-pas de bouree?? Do I even remember how to tombé??? And whatdo I do with my arms again?!).

Still, it was better than last time.

Still, it was better than last time.

So we did a couple of lovely runs on our first combination across the floor, and then we did … um … something with pirouettes from fourth en dedans.

And on the first pass, I did fine.

And then, on the second pass, Heaven help me, I did some horrible thing where I somehow picked up the wrong leg entirely and still attempted to turn en de dans. Claire called out, “The other leg!” and I said, “Oh, right!”

And then I did it wrong.


I have only two questions: Why me?  Why now???

I have only two questions: Why me? Why now???

But at least my piqué turns were okay, I guess?

I’m guessing I wasn’t the only one who was DOIN’ IT RONG, though, because then we all got to practice pirouettes from fourth en dedans. Of course, it wasn’t until I got home that I mentally ran the audio description of the combo that I’d hosed up and realized that was exactly what it called for (so why did I do it right the first time and wrong the second time?!).

But, anyway, after that, we did some leapy stuff, and that was good.

Claire suggested that we end a run with either jete or saut de chat and I only heard the “…de chat” part, and while mentally sorting it out I said, “Oh, saut de chat, not pas de chat,” and then Claire said, “You can do pas de chat if you want.” So I did it that way once, then with grand jeté a couple of times.

The pas de chat version turned out to be fun. Especially since last week I couldn’t seem to wrap my brain and body around glissade, pas de chat, but this week, I let it happen, and there it was.

A couple of my classmates also tossed in pas de chat, which made me feel kind of great ^-^

In other news, Jim only had to call me out on making faces once! I did it a lot more than that one time, of course, but a lot less than I was before last week. So there we go. I am at least working on becoming a Smiling Squid instead of a squid who sucks his lips into his mouth and bites them while doing leaps. Because that just looks dumb, and it also makes you really tense.

So there it is. I discovered a couple of good ideas, and suddenly instead of struggling through the choreography at the end of class, I’m freaking well dancing! And looking decent enough at it that I no longer hope I won’t catch sight of myself in the mirror.

Okay, this is long enough, and I still have a couple other odds and ends to clear up before I can stuff some Triscuits in my face and go to bed (in that order). So, you know the drill. Sunny side up, leather side down.

Good night, everybody!

*Class was huge today, y’all. We used all the barres. We were also packed into the small studio. The group was so big that even though we angled ourselves at the barre, I still collided (lightly and briefly) with another dancer while doing grand battement. It was so big that someone who came in just after me paused and said, “Is this company class?”
…And, of course, even though I was pretty sure she was joking, the really nerdy part deep inside me went, “Yaaaaaay! We look like company class!”

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 2014/08/11, in balllet, class notes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. The best I ever danced, I had the flu and simply could not get my brain involved, so my body took over. Suddenly everything was surprisingly easy. Even pirouettes. I had stopped concentrating and started getting out of the way of my own feet. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing. With the hollow back issues, try to get so familiar with the correct posture that your back is more comfortable in that posture, than misaligned. It all sounds great!

    • Thanks! Excellent point about getting familiar with the correct posture.. I think that will be better fit my back in general, too.
      It’s amazing what happens when our beans get out of the way, isn’t it?

  2. Congrats on your barre-less grand battement! It’s crazy how much of a difference the head placement makes when it comes to balancing. Interesting point about going in the first group when going across the floor – I’ve got to try that soon and see if it lowers my across-the-floor anxiety level.

    • Thanks! Let me know if going in the first group works for you! It really seemed to work well for me, at least in bigger classes where I might find myself waiting through three or four groups.

      • Didn’t make it to the first group, but I did make it to the second group. It did feel a bit less stressful. I don’t know why in the past I though going in the last group was a good idea since I don’t learn by watching but rather by doing…

      • I’m glad it helped a bit! I have been doing the same thing until Monday’s class. I think there’s some unspoken ballet protocol that makes us expect the confident people to go first and stand in front (perhaps because they’d be in front on stage?).

        Now I understand why my childhood ballet teacher used to bring the students who were struggling to the front!

      • I know! I almost expected the teacher to be like “Hey, back of the line!” . Now, one of my past ballet teachers would bring someone who was struggling to the front (and at times it was yours truly) to have them attempt the step over and over in front of everyone – while the whole class just watched. That was super awkward!

      • Oh, geez. I can’t imagine that went over well with the shyer students!

      • I was so anxious/awkward/embarassed that I wished that I could climb into a hole and hide! I feel like that made me stronger in a way though, like it can’t get much worse than that.

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