Video Killed The … Oh, Wait

Okay, so I couldn’t really think of a good title for this post. Video hasn’t killed anything in my life recently except my own misconceptions about the progress I’m making.

In the past year, I’ve really been trying to “bust my butt,” ballet-wise: taking class more often, taking actual physical notes, working like crazy on port de bras in the mirror at home, applying things learned in modern or aerials to my ballet training … even looking at my limitations and challenges through different eyes*.

*Maybe through cheetah eyes? Maybe not. Anyway … it’s like:

Okay, so I’ve got huge knees. So what? Nureyev had huge knees.

Okay, so when I’m in demi-pointe, only three toes (and the attendant portion of the ball of my foot) are actually on the ground … so what? I personally know at least two guys who are not only professional dancers, but key members of their respective companies, whose feet are shaped like mine.

Besides, I can physically lift my body off the floor with those three toes. Those are my jumping toes, y’all.

The thing is, where ballet is concerned, the goal-posts move constantly, and sometimes they move really fast. In other words, it’s easy to lose sight of the progress you’re making (especially when you routinely take class with seriously amazing company dancers — which, IMO, you should if you can; it will make you a better dancer).

This is, it turns out, where video can be an ally.

I shot my first bits of ballet video back in December of last year. Even watching them then, I felt like I had so, so very far to go.

I shot my most recent bit of ballet video today, while working on a new piece for Suspend (it’s about half ballet, half ballet-on-the-lyra, heh). I still, of course, feel like I have so, so very far to go: I will feel like that for the rest of my life, because that’s ballet for you.

But I also feel like I have come so, so much further than I would have thought possible in the intervening time.

It’s really, really hard to fathom how much I’ve changed as a dancer in the time that elapsed between those two recordings.

There are still times that I do weird things with my arms. I still have a bad habit of telegraphing the moments when I don’t quite remember what I’m supposed to do next (note to self : STOP THAT, ALREADY).

I still have challenges translating between the Movie-In-My-Head that I create when I’m making dances and the actual dance, because when I’m dancing I lose track of the movie in my head (so then I just wind up reverting to tons of rond de jambes or pique turns or whatevs; lately, attitude turns and renversé are in heavy rotation as well).

But the way I carry myself is surprisingly different. Surprisingly better. My arms kind of know what they’re about. My body isn’t basically a gelatin mold (I’m not talking about fat distribution, BTW — I’m talking about core engagement). My legs seem to more or less understand what’s going on. Everything is more or less on the same page more or less all the way through.

I can almost watch the video I shot today without cringing. I only have to cringe a little**, though I suspect that a year from now I won’t actually even be able to watch it, because when I watch it, some inner part of me will be all like, OMG! HOW COULD YOU HAVE THOUGHT THAT WAS GOOD, YOU TWIT!

**Like: it opens with this developpé, which is in and of itself awkward, because EVERY FREAKING TIME I make adagio dances they open with the same stupid developpé avant en effacé, except when they go croisé instead. Indeed, I am so thorough in this regard that the first partnered adagio I made opens with BOTH AT THE SAME TIME, mirroring one-another >.<

But, anyway, the developpé starts off nicely, and then just above 90 degrees my working leg is like, “Newp, too tired. Hahahahahaha.”


Leg be like: “Okay, so we start with trollface en effacé…”

So. Annoying.


Here’s my point: I think, too often, we don’t feel the progress we’re making in the ballet studio. We notice it when we suddenly develop a skill we didn’t have before (OMG DOUBLE ATTITUDE TURNS!), but the rest of the time we just don’t see it at all.

Ballet makes you weirdly myopic.

You forget how bad your single turns were six months ago. You forget that you didn’t actually have a reliable attitude turn.

You forget that renversé was hard once; that contretemps were just WTF (and definitely not something you could just toss into a variation, like, because); that your brisée was, exactly as its name implies, broken (pro tip: brisée is actually easier if you do it with the prescribed arms … though I could not even remotely begin to explain why). That your beats were, um, beat. That your developpé remained undeveloped. That your extensions were just, like, tensions, really.

You forget that, not all that terribly long ago in the grand scheme of things, you had some kind of crazy mental block about glissade-assemblé and spectacularly wild arms.

Video can help you with that — even if you can’t stand to watch your old videos again. If your brain is anything like mine, the endless blooper reel that is last year’s videos has been seared upon your brain FOREVAR, so you won’t have to watch them again. Video can remind you how far you’ve come***.

***And also that you’re STILL DROPPING YOUR FREAKING ARMS INSTEAD OF COMING THROUGH A PROPER FIRST, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, OMG, I CANNOT WATCH THIS ANYMORE, I’m feeling a little verklempt, talk amongst yourselves, I’ll give you a topic: FREAKING PORT DE BRAS, FOR G-D’S SAKE.

Anyway, at the end of the day, this all amounts to one thing: MOAR MOTIVATION (which, to be fair, isn’t a thing I really lack, where dancing is concerned).

Not to say that I’m not going to enjoy my week with two rest days (because it’s now been two solid weeks since I’ve taken a rest day, even though I was like I AM NOT DANCING ON MONDAY. OKAY, SO THEN NOT ON THURSDAY. FRIDAY? NO, MUST DANCE FRIDAY; EF IS TEACHING …Crap. It’s Sunday already, isn’t it?).

But I’m looking forward to further pursuing those elusive goalposts.

They’re not going to catch themselves, after all.

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 2016/08/01, in balllet, life, video and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I’m a huge proponent of using video as a tool for ballet (and any physical thing one is learning, I guess). That said, I already find myself cringing at stuff from as little as 6 months ago – and not just technique (which has improved, due to watching the videos) but also by my tendencies to play it safe to the extreme. In my latest video I stepped out of the comfort zone, and so far it is not too cringe-worthy (though there is a time where I’m like ‘arms, what are you doing?!). After watching that I’ll never let my arms drift too far behind me in a la seconde again…
    If I have one regret about this though, it’s that I didn’t take even *more* videos back when I was first starting. The really early ones, rather than make me cringe, leave me feeling rather proud of how far I’ve come.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: