Thursday Class: You Know What They Say About A Guy With Big Knees(1)…
I’m sure the I’ve mentioned my gigantor knees before.
They are at once the scourge of my balletic existence and evidence of my best asset as a dancer. I’ve got huge knees because I’ve got huge thighs, and I’ve got huge thighs because I can fly (or, well, I can fly because I’ve got huge thighs, but it sounded better the other way).
Anyway, in his ongoing and exhaustive tune-up of my technique, Company B took me to task about sus-sous last night. I’ve been working on approaching it differently, but I still hadn’t really been getting my feet tight. I still kind of thought I couldn’t — and then CoB called me out on it, and suddenly my legs figured out how to do it(2).
It’s amazing what being in a tiny class with an instructor who you admire rather ardently can do for you (true story, though: he keeps having to correct my port de bras avant at barre because I keep looking at the wall instead of turning my head towards the outside outside arm — I get kinda shy around him sometimes).
After class, I took a moment to ask him about my issues with maintaining my turnout. I showed him where it is (basically a legit 180 in first with a solid knees-over-toes plié; he remarked, “That’s really good!”) and explained the difficulty I’ve been having — I tend to lose it in fifth because my knees get in the way(3).
Be asked me to show show him my fifth, then asked if I could bring my front foot back (to nestle fully against the back foot) if I plié-ed. It took me a minute to figure out what he was asking, but I was in fact quite able to do so. Once stretched, though, I felt like I using a ton of muscle just to stay there once I pulled my legs up straight.
Turns out he has the same problem: big knees, muscular thighs (unsurprisingly, we’re both jumpers). He suggested that I soften my knees just a hair in fifth (and leave them that way) and noted that he can’t get his quite straight in a tight fifth, either.
So, basically, it’s not a question of strength or inadequate turnout; it’s just the cost of being a dancer with really well-developed thighs. I’ll take that.
I’ll take that.
He also suggested that I really focus on getting a tight sus-sous position in my tours and that I play around with when to change my feet. Right now, I think I’m changing at the end, which is what works for CoB — but, honestly, I’m not sure what I’m doing. I’ve never thought about it before; it didn’t occur to me to do so.
Truth be told, I have had almost no instruction in tours. I figured out how to do them as a little kid and then it was, like, since I knew how how to do them well enough, nobody felt it necessary to explain them to me until recently (Jake in Lexington and now CoB). I should probably mention that to CoB.
My first teacher was quite good, but a discrete men’s class wasn’t an option; there weren’t enough boys in the school. The same challenge persists in my current dance life. Basically, I’ve more or or less acquired most of the bits of proper men’s technique that I have by a process involving observation, reading, and osmosis. Excepting variations in Lexington, I have literally never been in a proper men’s class in ballet (except once, but accident, on a day when no ladies turned up).
My turns were mostly good last night, as they often are in CoB’s class. I should keep that in mind, because it’s direct evidence of the fact that the difficulty I have with inconsistent turns is mostly a question of psychology. CoB is an exceptionally good instructor for me in part because he relaxes me. Since I tend to attack life with the intensity dialed up to 11 all the time, this is a Very Good Thing.
Anyway, for some reason, I dreamed about tour-jetés all night, which is weird, since I didn’t do any yesterday.
- Neither do I, but what they should say is is that he should soften his knees in fifth.
- EF produced a a similar change in my attitude arrière a couple weeks ago: I was like, “Welp, guess this is about right,” and he was like, “I KNOW YOU CAN GET THAT KNEE HIGHER SO GET IT HIGHER” and I was like, O____O’ *cranks working leg into impossibly-high attitude*
- Isn’t there a song about this? Oh, wait, no — it’s words, not knees. Right.