Ballet Squid Chronicles: More Brilliant Thoughts from Claire

I get great corrections from all of the teachers at LBS, don’t get me wrong — but something about the specific corrections I get from Claire just works for me. It’s like she instinctively knows how I think or something.

Today’s highlights:

1. You should always be able to see your fingertips.
I put my arms in all kinds of interesting places. The idea that my fingertips should almost never leave my field of vision keeps them where they should be. Much of the time, they hang out in the periphery, but they should still be visible*.

Like many flexible people, I have less-than-perfect proprioception (the “Spidey sense” that lets you know where parts of your body are without looking), so using a visual cue makes a huge difference. Eventually, I won’t need the visual cue — through repetition, my body will train my brain to place its arms correctly without the visual reference.

Anyway, sighting the fingertips fixes your placement so you don’t throw your weight backwards (which is still a problem for me at times). This, in turn, improves balances, turns, and just about everything else. Some of my pirouettes from fourth were pretty nice today.

For what it’s worth, I think the arms look nicer this way as well. One suddenly looks less like a crash-landing stork and more like a gliding swan.

"Ciconia maguari IMG 8588 Palmitos Park gran canaria" by Bjoertvedt - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

Don’t be this guy.

2. Don’t hop out of turns. Ever.
This correction was issued to the whole class, but I’m pretty sure I did this at least once today — you’re turning, and something in you panics, and instead of letting the momentum of your turn do its thang, you hop out (and then you curse yourself because Professional Dance Guy is doing a triple).

It looks awkward. More crash landing. It also pretty much eliminates any hope you have of gracefully moving into whatever the next step in the combination might be.

Worse, as Claire pointed out, every time you hop out of a turn, you’re training your brain and body that it’s okay to hop out of turns. So just don’t. Fall over instead, if you must.

But, in fact, once I relaxed and just let my turns go, I found I was suddenly landing them rather nicely.

In general, class was good. I felt a tad fumbly and awkward at times in Margie’s class (too much thinking, maybe?), but mostly felt good in Claire’s.

PDG (whose name I really seriously don’t know — like, maybe it’s Tommy? Maybe it’s Brian? Maybe I’m just guessing, and I should, you know, ask?**) shared a barre with me again. It was just the two of us, all by ourselves, on our own barre on the end. Apparently, nobody wanted boy cooties. I totally cribbed off his breathing, since this week has been all about everyone telling us to breathe into our pliés and stuff.

The cool part is that it’s really hard to overthink your dancing when you’re conscious about your breathing. I guess that makes sense, though — when you learn Zen meditation, you begin by following the breath.

Claire also sorted another problem specific to balances that’s been plaguing me at the barre but not at center: I kept losing turnout on my supporting leg, and couldn’t figure out why.

Turns out (no pun intended) that I was leaving the shoulder on the same side behind my center of balance, so then my hips would rotate in an effort to correct, and instead of bringing the shoulder forward and the hips back, I would attempt to do … who knows what? All I know is that the end result was a half-baked turnout and shoulders at an obtuse angle to the barre.

By bringing the shoulder into alignment, one prevents the whole chain of failure. The hips stay where they’re supposed to stay and everything else remains appropriately perpendicular to the barre.

Now if I can just get the whole chain to hang together when moving from attitude devant (which I do quite easily en relevé) to passé (wherein I fall apart again), I’ll be quite happy.

We did lovely little sous-sus turns across the floor in Margie’s class; in Claire’s, we did all kinds of stuff. Like glissade – jeté then two sautés on one foot, change direction, lather rinse repeat, followed by glissade – assemblé – soubresaut – soubresaut. I thought my soubresauts were rather nice today. My one-footed sautés started out high and pointed and all that good stuff, but around the fourth repetition or so I got tired and they stayed pointed but lost most of their height. Oh, well.

My favorite combination today was cabriole-sauté passé-cabriole-sauté passé-glissade-failli-pas de chat. But I think I’ve left out something in the middle, perhaps? It sounds like I’m missing a couple of beats in there somewhere. We couldn’t do anything much longer because we were in the small studio and there were something like thirteen or fourteen of us, all long-leggedy leapers.

Anyway. I enjoyed that one simply because it was pretty. We went in groups of three, in lines, and because we all had the combination cold Claire asked us to focus on staying together. The effect was quite nice.

After class, one of the newer students said to me, “You’re so good! I have to get like you!” So I was totally flattered (especially since I spent the whole class thinking the same thing about PDG and a fellow student who I’ll call Claire the Second).

Oh, and the Shoes

The new shoes worked nicely.

Perhaps because of the construction of the shoe or perhaps because I’ve placed the elastics correctly this time (maybe both?), I found the support through the arch quite nice. My ankles felt quite stable today (sometimes they want to supinate en relevé). Some of this is probably a question of improving technique and increasing strength, but I suspect the shoes do help.

The bottoms of the Pro1Cs feel seamless, which makes rather a difference. I’m not sure how exactly Sansha accomplishes this effect, since the sole pads are quite stiff — but one does not at any point feel as if one is standing on an earbud wire or something (which was definitely a problem with my other shoes at times — not the Romeos, but the little inexpensive eBay shoes).

A word of caution: if you do buy yourself a pair of Sansha Pro 1Cs, be aware that the sole pads (both fore and aft) will be slippery at first. Mine had mostly sorted themselves by the end of today’s second class; they’re still a little slick, but not too badly. At the beginning of the first class, I felt like I was trying to dance on ice. IIRC, this was also the case with Capezio’s Romeos.

So there you have it. Still no pictures, because I was starving by the time Claire’s class ended and didn’t think of it.

Here's one of the Pro1cs, anyway.  The little seam right under the arch seems to enhance the support of the shoe.

Here’s one of the Pro1cs, anyway. The little seam right under the arch seems to enhance the support of the shoe.

Soon! I look so different than I did six months ago. I am trending towards being rather lean and defined. That’s a surprise. Prior to gaining a bunch of weight, I was more or less skinny (except my legs, which have never been skinny). I had some definition because I had so little body fat, but now when I look at myself I get a sense of working musculature instead of just twink-tastic scrawniness. Not that I minded being scrawny, but, there you have it. I think I rather like being built like a dancer.

Anyway, homework beckons (though I think I’m going to take a bath first; my legs are seriously cooked), so I’ll close here.

It’s 4:00 — do you know where your fingertips are?

*The obvious exception is when you’re in allongée with your face turned towards the hand in front, and so forth. In that case, you probably won’t be able to see the fingers of hand that’s to the side.
**There’s a part of me which feels that sharing a barre with someone three or four times and still not knowing his name is kind of like waking up next to the dude you met at the bar last night and not knowing his name. Only, I’ve never done the latter. Still, it’s awkward. Like, “I should have asked this weeks and weeks ago, and now I’ve missed my chance” awkard.

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 2014/09/06, in balllet, class notes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I love other people’s corrections . . . makes me remember all the little things I’m doing wrong that no one has seen yet =)

  2. NECRO!!! but you know this is exactly what Miss B was on about the other week. It’s pure gold…tonight I have to remember to implement it going across the floor.

    • I still think about both of these main points on the regular — the fingertips thing in particular, because my fore-aft arms placement sense is still iffy. I place my arms well when I’m not concentrating on something else; once I focus on some *other* detail, though, they tend to drift backwards. This happens most often in second, now, because I don’t have a handy (ugh, bad puns today) mnemonic like that for arms à la seconde.

      The hopping-out-of-turns thing is weird: it happens so rarely now that it surprises me when it does happen. Sometimes when I’m having a bad turning day, though, I’m find myself doing this pathetic little mini-tour at passé to wrench one more rotation from what could otherwise be a cleaner, but less multiple, turn.

      Also, hooray for thread necromancy! I am forever going necro on other people’s blogs, so I feel honored 😀

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