On the First Day of December

Last year, I published my list of ballet goals for the new year on December 18th.

Almost a year later, I can say I’ve made good progress on them (for one thing, I actually understand brisée now, instead of just doing the balletic equivalent of whacking at it with a big stick whenever it approaches). It’s been two steps forward, one step back, but overall the long arc of technique bends towards … um … better technique.

Anyway, I’m formulating next year’s goals now.

It’s funny—last year I focused on making my goals more concrete. This year, I intend to make fewer really concrete goals.

Part of this is that I’m not sure what’s next in terms of technique: obviously, I don’t know everything. I don’t think anyone alive knows every single step, if only because some of them exist in one stream but not in another, and most of us come primarily from one stream (Vaganova, RAD, Cecchetti, Balanchine, Bournonville) or another. That said, without the guidance of a syllabus program, it’s quite hard to say what should come next.

Last year, things seemed pretty obvious: the double tour is a standard feature of men’s technique, so it’s worth having if you’re going to audition; I had nailed triple turns and quadruples were obviously the next thing and also useful; etc.

This year, I don’t know that I need to focus on adding new steps as much as polishing existing ones. It would be nice to have a solid revoltade, but it’s not essential.

Anyway, I’ll have to remember to ask my teachers, especially BW and Killer B, for their thoughts on ballet goals. The elusive Reliable Double Tour has eluded me; if I don’t nail it down by December 31st, I suppose that’ll stay on the list.

More of my goals for next year have to do with pushing myself out into the world a little more—auditioning for more things—while shifting my focus a bit.

They say that it’s easier to get a job when you have a job, and I think that’s certainly true in the usual working world. I suppose there’s a corollary in the performing arts: it’s easier to feel confident about auditioning for things when you’ve already got a gig.

I don’t feel like I have to audition for every single thing out there. I have a gig that I like and that I’d like to continue with. I certainly wouldn’t turn down a paid ballet gig, of course, but I enjoy working with CirqueLouis. I feel like I can be a selective about my auditions, and like there’s less pressure: I am, rather surprisingly, on my way to my goal of making dancing pay, at very least, for itself.

I have my eye on some specific auditions, and I feel pretty relaxed about them.

Choreography-wise, my goals are a little more specific.

I think I’d like to actually see about setting the opening to Act II of Simon Crane—the traveling piece set to Ravel’s “Bolero,” which will stand on its own rather nicely. I’ve also rather completely re-envisioned the first piece of choreography I auditioned (that seems like about a thousand years ago now!). It began as a solo piece; I’m resetting it for two dancers (though more could work if I can lay hands on more dancers).

To be honest, I’m not sure it’s really even accurate to call it the same piece, at this point. It’s still set to Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” and it still centers on a theme of loneliness and grief, but beyond that it has almost nothing in common with the original version. It has inherited some ideas from “Work Song,” some from “Fade to White,” and some from the Pilobolus intensive. I’m hoping to snag L from Sunday Class, but I don’t know if I’ll manage to, as I haven’t seen him in ages. Either way, I’m really hoping to figure out a way to make that one happen.

Intensives-wise, only LexBallet and Pilobolus (all 3 weeks) are currently on my radar for 2018. I’m hoping LouBallet will run the master class series again. I might add another ballet-specific intensive and I might not.

It depends on what I’ve got on the calendar, how our finances look, and whether I can get a scholarship. Proposed changes to our joke of a healthcare “system” are set to significantly increase our insurance premiums, which will mean tightening the belt with regard to what I can afford to do out of pocket. I’d like to hit Ballet Detroit’s open intensive week, though, if I can.

So that’s it.

In summary, here’s the list:

  • Technique: consult the masters. Overall, though, I want to improve the quality, consistency, and artistry of my technique.
  • Auditions: LexBallet, Allegro Dance Project (maybe), Inlet Dance Theater, a couple of dancer/aerialist gigs with touring companies and/or cruise lines (haven’t decided which ones yet), Pilobolus if they hold auditions this year, other gigs as they appear on the horizion, probably.
  • Intensives: Definitely LexBallet and Pilobolus. Possibly Ballet Detroit.

Quick update: if you’re not completely sick of Nutcracker yet, there’s a really nice version from the Dutch National Ballet on YouTube here.

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 2017/12/01, in aerials, balllet, cirque, goals and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Not drawing up a list yet because I’m still hoping to snag a pukka double before school’s out on the 22nd:-)

  2. Hi, I just came across your blog today. I’m a guy getting more serious in my ballet training, and am interested in trading notes with you on how you have gotten better and improved, particularly at men’s technique. I am in St. Louis, and the men’s classes I have tried have mostly young teens starting out, so it was only the basics covered in those classes. I am coming off a knee injury and am focusing on building up the legs the right way (I had been rolling in on squats, plies, running without realizing it). I’d like to know how you progressed on turns, beats and tours. I can do singles but anything more than that is hit or miss, and I know I need more practice.

    • Thanks for commenting! I’d be delighted to blather about all of this!

      I was the king of 1.5 tours for SO LONG, so I’m right there with you. I’m finally managing doubles on the regular now, though I don’t nail them 100% of the time yet.

      I’ll write up the details in a post tonight!

      • Hey, I wondered if I could ask you a couple more things- I really want to get better at turns and learn the a la seconde turns. I work on a la seconde a the barre, promenades in center, and I can do the hopping turns decently. I can think of several ways to progress, but wondering what you thought. I can think of these options: 1. Practice 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 turns with the preparation in front/open to second, and keep increasing. Hold position after stopping, to maintain full control.2. Continue hopping turns, and gradually reduce number of hops3. Try full turns, keep failing for weeks/months until finally they come to me.4. Try to learn foutees, then make adjustment for a la seconde4. Try any/all of the above with leg low, then gradually move up to 90 degrees Next topic – I can’t seem to do more than single turns consistently. If I put more energy into it, I fall or come off balance. If I think only “up” and stay solid on releve, I run out of gas and sometimes only get a partial turn. But, I hold the position really nice!! I just can’t seem to feel the proper axis. I know this comes down to body type (where I am at a disadvantage, with small feet, thin legs, and high center of gravity), but would like your thoughts on where you feel the axis, and what goes through your mind during preparation so that you can nail doubles at least. I also sometimes wait too long to spot, and by then my head is pulling the torso off center, so I’m working on that. I realize a private lesson and video is probably my best route here. I am also working hard on leg strength to build confidence and take any strength issues out of the equation.  I think it’s so cool you are working with the company in Lexington. I have big regrets for not trying something similar years ago. At the time I took adult classes, but never thought a studio would let me take class with younger students and actually become a serious, regular student and let me be in performances. Now I have found some that would accept me, but I don’t have the time to do it. My wife also doesn’t like ballet, so she allows class but not performing. My studio asked me to be in the Nutcracker this year, but she said no to that. I was excited – it’s basically a teen pre-professional company with no guys, so roles were probably wide open – I would get whatever role fit my ability. Maybe that will change in years to come. Thanks, Andy

      • Good news first! If you can stay up on demi-pointe in passé and you’re finishing single turns with your turnout intact, but you find that you lose your momentum in doubles, you should be able to nail down a double turn without too much difficulty.

        Doubles don’t really need more force than singles—even triples require almost no extra force—so don’t worry about that bit.

        Instead, the first thing to try is a faster spot. There’s a saying that your eyes should be the last thing to leave and the first to arrive; our ballet mistress also points out that the second spot should, if anything, be faster than the first.

        A slow spot if often the result of holding tension in your neck, but it can also result from proactive spotting—that is, turning the head instead of leaving it until the body forces you to turn it.

        You can practice spotting using the classic 1/4 turn, 1/2 turn, 3/4 turn, full turn, 1.5 turn (etc) exercise. I’ve done that one both from 4th and from 5th, both en dehors and en dedans, so many times I can’t even count them.

        I think just getting the timing of your spot down might actually do it, so I’d focus on that first.

        It might help to think about bringing your shoulder and back around faster (without disconnecting them from the hip). This is one of those weird things that doesn’t require you to really *do* anything; usually just thinking will make you add just enough impulsion.

        Also, especially if you’re preparing from fourth, really focus on rotating both heels forward as you prepare and execute your turn. Likewise, when you do turns from fourth, make sure that you’re not starting in an enormous fourth. The first adds impulsion; the second keeps you from dissipating the energy of the turn while getting to passé.

        Interestingly, I don’t think a lot about my axis in turns at passé (as opposed to double tours, in which I do think about it, and turns in second, in which I have to think about distributing my weight). If I keep my head level and my body properly engaged, the axis takes care of itself. Since I tend to carry my eyes a degree or two above level, I mostly just think about using a level spot, and that solves a lot of problems for me.

        What goes through my mind after “level your spot and connect your back!” is usually a countdown—I don’t remember where I first ran into the idea, but counting backwards from the desired number of rotations actually helps.

        Anyway, turns in second are another question. By hopping turns, do you mean the ones where you basically do a little series rotating chugs on the standing foot? If so, those are definitely helpful for learning to keep the free leg steady, which is critical to the success of turns in 2nd.

        I think working on balances à la seconde at the barre is also a good thing, since it trains the requisite muscles in the core and the hip.

        For further groundwork, you might try brushing the free leg straight to second, then drawing into passé, which is also a useful variant preparation for normal turns at passé from either fourth or fifth. That can help you learn to counter the weight of the free leg.

        I think trying to learn fouettés as a way of trying to learn turns in second is probably not a great plan, if only because they’re complicated in a different way. There’s nothing wrong with learning them just to learn them, though. You could also try opening from passé to a sustained second, which may or may not be easier than brushing straight into second from whatever preparation, depending on your body. My hips are ridiculously mobile, so setting up from passé helps as a reminder of where to place my free leg when it’s been too long. Likewise, I think the plan of increasing rotation is probably sound.

        I do think, ultimately, just getting a teacher to look at your turns in second is probably the best plan, so they can give you an idea of where you need to make adjustments. In company class, the guys and the girls often do different versions of some exercises so they can, say, keep their fouettés sharp and we can work on our turns in second, so if you have an agreeable instructor that might also be an option.

        I’m sorry to hear that your wife is opposed to you performing 😦 I hope she’ll change her mind eventually!

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