Modern M….uesday

Modern class began at my primary studio today.

I think I might have mentioned that the instructor dances in Modern T’s company? Anyway, she does, and it turns out that I actually know her(1). We were like, “Oh! It’s you!”

  1. This is no longer surprising; the dance world is ridiculously tiny and intimate: it’s like 2.23 degrees of separation up in here. If that. It was extra-unsurprising this time, since I knew that the instructor was part of Moving Collective, but still neat.

Anyway, I was not just the Onliest Boy, but the Onliest Student—another Ambush Private Class! 😀

This was great for me, of course. We took it slowly today, and this and the student:teacher ratio of 1:1 gave LF a chance to really drill in and sort some of the details of my modern technique.

Like, for example, I have apparently never had the faintest idea how to release my neck. I never realized that. Sometimes it would happen on its own, and I would think, “Oh, modern feels good today!” without really understanding why.

Most of the time, though, my neck just didn’t release—and I didn’t know it wasn’t releasing. Then, in floor work, either my neck was always straining away, refusing to cooperate with the process, or I just shoved my head down onto (2) the floor rather than letting my neck melt.

  1. Note that I wrote onto and not into, here. To get into the floor, you really have to release. You have to feel gravity working on your body.

In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m your stereotypical flexible-but-very-tense Ballet Boy (another way in which I am, ridiculously and laughably, Central Casting Ballet Boy). I think this is one of the reasons that modern is so good for my ballet technique: it helps me relax and soften my upper body, which not only makes my dancing look better, but actually makes my dancing better.

Classical ballet technique—especially the Russian approach, perhaps—demands lightness and freedom in the upper body. In my experience, the funny thing is that once your upper body figures out “light and free” (while remaining engaged and disciplined), the lower body part actually gets easier.


The essence of classical ballet technique, via Pintrest

The hard part for me, though, is keeping the upper body light and free, instead of tight and bound(3). This is where modern comes in.

  1. Okay, so really, keeping any part of my body light and free, instead of tight and bound, is hard for me. Remind me to get back into meditation practice…

Floor work doesn’t, well, work if you’re tight and bound. Release technique doesn’t work if you don’t know how to release. When I’m not doing modern class on a regular basis, I forget how to relax and release.

This is the second time in my life I’ve had a private modern class, if I remember correctly. I feel like it was exactly the right way to jump (or, more accurately, ooze :D) back into Modern. It helped me figure out where some of my weak points in modern are (not just the “can’t relax” thing, but also the thing where I’m afraid of falling over sideways).

We touched on quite a few other things, many of which fit neatly into the “move like a human” concept that Monika discusses over at The Dance Training Project.

So I feel like I learned a lot today, and also like my body is coming back online.

That’s a good feeling. As dancers, we live in our bodies so much, and when we feel separated from them, it’s really uncomfortable—or, well, that’s my experience.

My fitness is starting to return, which is great.

Anyway, LT is a fantastic teacher, and she comes up with really amazing analogies that do a fantastic job conveying concepts central to modern technique and, really, to just moving effectively as a human being (which we Central Casting Ballet Weirdos don’t always do very well). She also described my legs as a long and powerful, which never hurts 😀

Anyway, that’s it for now. I’m really looking forward to Thursday’s class … and, of course, to Killer Class tomorrow!

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 2017/01/10, in balllet, fitness, modern and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. You know I’m just going to say this even though I probably should have said this about a couple of posts ago but I’m not a dancer but I do come from a family that has the whole hypermobility and sensory processing disorder (particularly the thing with “where the hell are my body parts?” – I forget the word for it at the moment, but it is something that is tested for in SPD) going on and I must say reading the process of dance explains a lot. We live in the sticks but I can’t help but wonder if there were classes near by available if it would have therapeutic benefit. But I never hear anyone using this. I wonder why.

    • I definitely find that dance really helps with this! For me, the formality of classical ballet forces me to find ways to learn where my body parts are, and I think that makes me better at existing in the world (though I still clip my shoulders on the corners of rooms all the time :P).

      From what I’ve found, it’s also helpful for things like learning to move through crowds and so forth which can be difficult for people with sensory processing disorder.

      The interesting this is that this is one of the areas into which the field of Dance Movement Therapy is working to expand as it gains a foundation in neuroscience. Dance does unique and fascinating things to the brain, in part because it demands that we use so many systems at the same time, and as researchers interested in the neuroscience of dance examine how those demands change the brain, I suspect we’ll see dance used more and more as a therapeutic tool.

      On a personal level, both as a dancer and as a human, right now I’m working on learning how to feel where the midline of my body is. That seems like it shouldn’t be hard, and yet it’s something that I don’t get much information about from my proprioceptive system.

      In the ballet studio, this will definitely improve my turns, balances, and so on–but it will be really interesting to see how it impacts my life *outside* the studio!

      • I find it fascinating how that those of us diagnosed with something are willing to put the pieces together often faster than the specialists. In fact many of them leading the research have been prodded by people like us or even one of us that have had to fight tooth and nail to get funding for that research. I know that much of what we know today regarding sensory processing disorder was spear headed by an individual that had it. I wish now that I could remember her name but she ended up going into neuroscience just to prove this existed and then find ways to help those who have it. And even now they are still struggling to get it recognized as a separate disorder. Right now it’s only being recognized as a “symptom” of other disorders.

        Now when I was a child you used to hear about “cross training” a lot. Like if you played football, ballet on the side would be a good thing for you. You don’t hear that talked about around where I live. I don’t know if it’s because we moved to a rural area when my father retired from the military or if times truly have changed. It would stand to reason to me that if ballet as a discipline focused on the grace of the total body it would in fact impact you in all areas of your life. It would be like learning to ride a bicycle. You can’t just unlearn something like that. You might get rusty but not unlearn it. The more I think about this the more I wish we had a dance studio in our area.

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