Category Archives: variations

Time Flies

Usually I go to intensives and spend the whole time thinking, Wow, there’s a whole week left or whatever.

LexBallet this year has felt completely different, possibly because I’ve been driving back and forth each day (turns out that it is less expensive even than AirBnB). I’m used to either having the days or the evenings to just loll around and read during intensives, so this is pretty different. Even though the total drive time is only about 2.5 hours each day, I’ve also been at home, doing the things I normally do: going to class, running errands, doing laundry, cooking, amusing the cat … which is really quite different from hanging out in a guest capacity somewhere and not having to do anything except feed myself and eventually put clothes on.

So here it is, almost Friday already. I’ve learned quite a bit. This year only four of us are doing rep, and we’re all in the mix together, learning a scene from Paquita that’s usually all girls but which has a bunch of nice little variations. I am, of course, doing the one with lots of big jumps.

I’m wrestling with some of the corps part still, but feeling pretty decent about my solo (which involves three sauts de Basque, so of course I love it). I’m looking forward to showing it off a little tomorrow.

What comes after gets filed partly under Continuing Education and partly under To Know, To Will, To Dare, To Keep Silent. The CE part is masterclasses: one (maybe two) at LouBallet and one at LexBallet. The other part (parts, really) I’m keeping under my hat for now.

Suffice it to that sometimes you see a fork in the road approaching, and you have to make some decisions, and while either branch has its merits, sometimes you really find yourself rooting for the new horizon.

Two From Rehearsal

Ballet Intensive Wrap-Up

Things I noticed in my rehearsal and performance videos that are incredibly frustrating:

  • I occasionally let my turnout go when I need to get my tuchas accross the floor, pronto
  • OMFG why did I prepare for my turns in such an effing huge lunge? BW would kill me all the times
  • My arms still really like to creep back behind my shoulders
  • When I get spooked, I let the music push me. To misquote Hagrid, “I shouldn’t’a doon that!”
  • I did these beautiful assemblés battus all week and then left out the battu on the big day :/
  • I still tend to end the arm movements too quickly
  • Also, when I get tired, I still throw my head back in turns.

Things I noticed that are at least okay:

  • So much less Flappy Hands! Yay! Nobody wants to watch Seigfried Flappy Hands, even if Tim Burton directs.
  • Great traveling sauts-de-chat, Batman!
  • Me legs. They look pretty amazing. Also like eleventeen feet long in those tights.
  • Before I got spooked, some of my port de bras was actually pretty okay.
  • I played off my mistakes pretty well even though they pissed me off royally in the moment (the AD showed up)
  • The nice moments are much nicer than last year’s nice moments.

I’m sure I’ve got plenty more thoughts, here, but I’ll brain-dump them later. Tonight I’m going out with ballet peeps from home just to play 😊

LexBallet Intensive 2017: Day 4 In Brief

The variation felt good tonight, except the bit when I came in too hot right at the beginning.

Note to self: tombé is not a leap.

Not usually, anyway.

The girls, meanwhile, look amazing. The thing that impresses me most is that they’re all so beautifully synchronized.

Tomorrow we ride.

Tonight, though, I’m exhausted and I need to roll my legs, so that’s it for now.

LexBallet Intensive 2017: Days 2 & 3

Tuesday, after a fairly hard conditioning class and a not-difficult-but-demanding technique class, we began learning variations.

Wednesday, after a very restorative conditioning class and a lovely technique class, we continued with them. 

The girls are doing the Swans’ entrance scene. There are only four of them, so they have a lot of ground to cover, but they already looked pretty great at Tuesday night’s brief “show ‘n’ tell” session.

Meanwhile, my variation (one of the many versions of Seigfried’s) is a challenge in the small studio even though there’s only one of me—it’s packed with big leapy bits, all of which seem to land me precariously close to the walls when I do them full-speed. Thus, I wind up doing a lot of marking and semi-marking. There seem to be a lot of walls in that studio.

Still, I was quite happy with the sauté arabesque-balancé-tombé coupé jeté sequence last night (it varies from the video we’re using as a model, which involves a bunch of revoltades, which I still am not sure how to do on purpose). Also feeling better about Bournonville jeté, although I still tend to jump through my arms. We worked on that a lot last night.

I couldn’t remember about 20 seconds of the version that C taught me (which doesn’t have tours in it), and since I was working with J last night, we subbed in some tours just because. They feel a lot better this year—I’m figuring out how to use a relaxed plié in grand allegro instead of hanging onto tension, which makes a huge difference.

To be honest, though, just having another year under my belt also makes a huge difference. I don’t have to think about choreography anywhere near as much: I’m better at remembering chains of steps, instead of individual steps. That makes a huge difference.

Likewise, even though we don’t get to do grand allegro anywhere near as often as I would like at home (especially since BW is in Europe for the summer), there are a lot more steps I can do without having to think about them at this point.

The most invaluable corrections this far have been as follows:

  • In saut de chat, focus on travel rather than on elevation (the elevation takes care of itself)
  • In Bournonville jeté, imagine leaping over a hurdle. This imparts the graceful ballon that makes it such a nice leap.
  • Also in Bournonville jeté, think about reaching forward with the arms, then opening them. This both looks better and prevents me from hyperextending my back and shoulders, which screws up the momentum of the jump and looks weird (though probably okay in modern contexts?).

The central thing I’m taking away from this intensive is that I need to focus on one idea:


I used to ride a horse with whom the same basic principle applied. You had to ride him forward, or he would just slope lazily around and pretend he didn’t know from dressage.

The highlight of last night was when I came in way too hot on the first tombé-coupé and instead of the standard jeté, it turned into something spinny and impressive whose name I don’t know. It’s definitely a thing—I’ve seen it in other variations—I’m just not sure which thing. I’ll have to see if I can find it in Tarasov when I get home. 

Anyway, J said, “Ooh, that was fancy!” Sadly, since I’m not actually sure how to do that particular thing on purpose, I’ll just have to file it away for now (with revoltades) and save it for some future date.

Last year, I think I was a bit wary of speed and power. I was forever doing Albrecht’s variation as if I had a check-rein on: behind the motion, without abandon. I was too busy thinking about the steps and trying to be precise, and I was definitely a little afraid of running myself over.

This year, I feel like I’ve made friends with speed and power, and when I get out of my own way, I can harness them. Confidence goes a long way!

In other news, my adductors are pretty sore, which is okay, since they’re one of the bits that need to be stronger. My beats look better for it, though in class yesterday I kept doing jeté battu on the wrong foot (wtf?) and decided to just do plain jeté like everyone else. I should try breaking out the entrechats sixes today. Quatres were nice yesterday.

Anyway, I should go do my laundry. I’m not going to walk down there this time; it’s 3 miles round-trip.

Tonight we polish up the variations; tomorrow we get to show them off.

Today I Learned… 

…The Apollo jump (which I had seen, but as far as know had never done) and the last remaining piece of our dance, which is mine alone and involves a turn in second and said Apollo jump.

That’s about all of it: we finish the Noodle Experiment, I back away from the girls and throw in a turn in second, then I pause for a second and when everyone else is essentially running upstage, I do the Apollo jump downstage, land it, collect myself, and run a few more steps to my place for the end of the dance. 

We might change up the first partnering bit, though we might not. We’ll see. I like the change that T and BG worked out, but it’ll be a question of whether the remaining two girls from that group are okay with it.

I’m fine either way. They’re worried about kicking me. 

I mentioned that if they kick me, it’s probably my fault. That’s kind of how partnering works for boys:

  • If the girl kicks you, it’s your fault. 
  • If you kick the girl, it’s your fault. 
  • If the girl smacks you in the face, it’s your fault. 
  • If you smack yourself in the face with the girl, it’s still your fault. 
  • If you drop the girl, it is Definitely Your Fault (and you will never live it down). 

FWIW, yes, this is intended to be funny but it’s also largely true. If you’re dancing the (traditionally) male role, part of your job is being in the right place at the right time and accounting for glitches, because the person dancing the other part has enough to worry about already. You adjust. 

And if she stops dancing, turns around, and punches you squarely in the nose? 

That is also Definitely Your Fault, unless it’s Because Ancient Aliens. 


PS: I was wrestling with keeping my waterfowls in a linear array in the turn from second because ATTAAAAAAAACK!, and BG was like, “Keep your chest up and think of it like … a hammer throw, only your foot is the hammer.”

Bizarrely, this worked really hecking well. 

Important note is that you still have to keep the working leg hella engaged, especially if you have sick mobility in your hips. If you think of a track & field person winding up for a hammer throw, though, they stay really tight basically the whole time. 

Rep: In Which I Get My Own Posse

(Sort of.)

First, I didn’t make it to Killer Class this morning.

I’ve been wrestling a nastier-than-usual episode of insomnia, but I’ve been trying not to take sleeping pills because they can screw with my mood. Last night, I was exhausted but just plain couldn’t get to sleep, so I finally took a sleeping pill at 3 AM.

When I woke up at 9, I knew within seconds that neither driving nor riding a bike was a good idea. The sleeping pill I took hadn’t worn off enough. So I went back to sleep and did evening class instead, which was actually pretty nice. I made myself do everything on relevé that could be done on relevé, of course, as penance (and also because that’s what I would have done anyway).

I also applied the note that JMG gave me about balancé back on Sunday. For some reason, I’d fallen into the habit of doing this weird up, down, up movement instead of the canonical down, up, up. JMG pointed out that it’s not necessarily wrong (sometimes choreographers want stuff like that), but it’s an alternative approach. I also think it isn’t really as pretty (and it looks weird when everyone’s doing down, up, up and you’re the only one going up, down, up.

Anyway, my balancés looked nicer tonight than they have in a while.

On to rep. We got into the meat of my part tonight. The girls are divided into three groups by height. BG has nicknamed them “Fun Size,” “Sirens,” and “Amazons,” and in this section I’m partnering the Sirens, and they kind of turn into my posse.

I mean, like, a beautiful, balletic posse, of course. Not the kind with pitchforks and torches.

The choreography isn’t hard, but it’s lovely. I’m happy with that: we don’t have a whole lot of rehearsal time before we show this piece to the universe, so I’m glad that BG has put together a dance that we can do well in the time available, but which still looks like legit ballet.

After rehearsal, I told one of the Sirens that they were really looking good, and she said, “I’m glad we’re dancing with you!”

Apparently, she likes the way I dance. w00t! (It so happens that I like the way she dances, too. We make a good team, which is good, because we’re also both sweaty disaster areas and have totally bonded about that.)

I do feel like I’m getting it back for real. I keep laughing at myself, because I say this Every. Single. Class.

I mean, seriously. Class ends, and I’m like:”It’s not 100% yet, but I feel like it’s coming back!”

Anyway, today the turnouts were doing their job, the arms had their waterfowls in a linear array, and I didn’t fall out of my turns (though I did keep proactively spotting, AGAIN).

Likewise, my jumps are regaining their ballon. Especially the sautés Arabesque in the rep piece—they were light and high, and not as “Heil Hitler-y” as they’ve occasionally been in the past.

Which is good, because I don’t want to give the wrong impression, here 😐

I do have to better work out this one part where I dodge between the Sirens. The spacing can make it challenging—they’re all standing in 4th arabesque à terre as I sort of lightly and gracefully run through the line of them in such a way that I wind up at the head of the line facing them in 2nd arabesque à terre. Or, at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. We need to work on the blocking so there’s a little more room.

At this point, I’m really looking forward to learning the rest of the dance. I’m having no trouble at all remembering my part, which is good, because I can’t exactly follow anyone.

Anyway, I’m pretty tired, so I’m going to call it a night.

Thursday Class: Company B Sorts My Arms

Tonight, I went to Company B’s class, and I’m glad I did.

Barre was generally good, though my arms crept back past my shoulders a couple of times, as is their wont (the downside of hypermobility: wonky proprioception).

Turns and waltz, too, went well. Company B gives us little the touches of finish — turn your head to the audience here; give them your cheekbones there, carry your arms through this chassée, add a little brush out of the pas de bourré.

These are the things I’m working on, now: refining, refining, dancing not only with with the music and myself but my fellow dancers (which was what I loved most about my duo with C — we naturally connected at various points in the choreography in a way that adds a great deal of life to the piece) and, most importantly, with the audience.

Anyway, the port de bras for the chassée — pas de bourré at the start of our terre-a-terre turns made me understand the arms that go with Albrecht’s variation. I thanked Company B for for this and he took a moment working it out, I think to be sure there wasn’t another piece I might need (which there was; there’s a cambré that comes at the beginning of the first sequence of jumps and between it and the repeat of that sequence that I’ve been forgetting). 

Turns were on today. I’m much more relaxed around Company B, as we sort of know each-other socially at this point and his teaching style works so well for me. In his class, I mostly  don’t attack my turns with the kind of frenetic madness that I often do elsewhere. Because of that, they’re better.

We did a really lovely zigzag waltz, which I kept screwing up in various small ways because I was focused on making it pretty — so first I left out the second set of waltz turns, and then I forgot to zag and had to catch up, and then I left out the second set of waltz turns again.

I redeemed myself with jumps, though: managed to do entrechats quatres with a smile on my face, even though I had inadvertently rearranged the choreography (thanks, muscle memory!), and in our grand-allegro I substituted cabrioles for temps levées arabesques. We were granted a little freedom to improvise, so I added tombé-pas de bourré-glissade-pas de chat, for which Company B offered further guidance on my arms.

I threw in one Italian cat, just for fun.

After class, Company B and B chatted for a while, so I reviewed the duo: specifically, the part that looks easiest, and is actually the hardest — a series of pique arabesque balances with a kind of character-dance port de bras interspersed with contretemps. The tricky part is constantly changing the arms through the contretemps while continuing to make everything look blithe and fun and effortless (oy — ballet, amirite?). You say (pique arabesque-ing toward the wings), “Here I am, ladies!” Then (pique arabesque-ing toward center stage), “Here I am, old buddy! Pretty girls in this village!” Then (pique arabesque—ing back toward the wings), “Me again, ladies! Check out these legs!”

And you definitely should not look uncertain about about it, or all lithely and tragically romantic like you will in the next act when the Wilis have got you (yeah, perfect setup for a “Mother Russia” one-liner).

So, anyway. Good class. Good night 🙂 

Wednesday Everything, OMG 

Summer Intensive being over, Killer Class with Ms.B is back. 

It wasn’t too bad yesterday, though I was too bad yesterday.

Sure, a year ago, I would’ve killed for a class in which I was like, “Yeah, I’m hella tired; I’ve only got half-baked double turns and single assemblés battu.” 

Still, I felt like an ongoing disaster: my rotators didn’t want to stay rotated, my balances were Meh, my balancés were Meh, I had trouble keeping things in my head, and at one point I forgot we had already done both sides of a combination and stood there blinking with the wrong hand on the barre while everyone else patiently waited for me arrange my waterfowls, etc.

Still, I made it through. Even managed beats in petit allegro, which was mercifully slower than Ms. E’s on Monday, during which I mentally grumbled about wishing we could do men’s tempo for once whilst simultaneously observing that any Danish-trained danseur could certainly manage this tempo so that’s no excuse. 

Grand allegro was better than I expected it to be, if not quite awesome.

I think les turnouts (which, regardless of Autocorrupt’s delightful suggestion, are definitely not “turbos” right now) and the leg-springy muscles need a day off. They might get one today, but I’m still on the fence — do I go take class with Company B, or do I acknowledge the fact that I’m rapidly careering towards two straight weeks without a rest day?

Anyway, afternoon and evening comprised a therapy appointment, my first Trap 3 class, Hoop 1, a break during which I stuffed hummus wraps into my face as I tried not not to heckle Denis during his Trap 1 class (which he’s intelligently taking to supplement Trap 2) and then some futzing about in the Dance Corner, where I discovered that I really shouldn’t more than mark Albrecht because that floor beats the holy hell out of your legs after a couple of runs of big jumps (to be fair, it’s not intended for grand allegro executed by someone with a lot of jump).

Trap 3 was revelatory. I got bumped up from 1 to 2 and from 2 to 3 very quickly because apparently that whole thing about lacking upper body strength was some kind of delusion and I’m naturally flexible, while ballet has imparted enough grace, coordination, and kinesthetic awareness to successfully tackle all the things. 

Trap 3, on the other hand, is going to be harder. I expected, for example, to nail meathooks yesterday because I have solid single-knee hangs, a stellar center-split, and controlled v-ups. Ha! In Mother Russia, it turns out, meathook nails you. 

Our instructor, who I’ll call Siren (because I somehow just realized that there are two Aerial Ms!), pointed out that for for me it’s not a question of strength, but of figuring out how to get all the parts to work together in an unfamiliar way*.

  • *This, by the way, typifies my learning process even in ballet: I fumble through the first several attempts at almost any complex new motor pattern, and then it just gels and I have it. The notable exceptions have been tour jeté, single cabriole, assemblée en tournant, and single tours, all of which I apparently learned by divine inspiration. You should have seen me trying to figure out Sissone double, though. Oy to the vey. 

In short: meathooks are … hmm. Ronds-de-jambes that you do in a different plane whilst in a long-arm hang with your head down and your junk up against the bar in such a way as to finish folded over your own arm or arms.

They should end up looking like this (thanks, YouTube!), more or less.

Our meathook exercise involves transitioning from inverted straddle to left two-handed meathook through inverted straddle to right two-handed meathook and back. So far, when I’m lucky, I can get from inverted straddle to an approximation of one meathook or the other — and that’s it.
Trying to convince your shoulders to continue to engage and your body to remain upright while you patiently rond first one leg, then the other around the barre is mind-bogglingly difficult.

I think part part of my difficulty, though, was that I set my grip too wide, which (because T -Rex arms) makes it potentially impossible to engage correctly through my shoulders and and chest. I have this same problem with the arrow/pencil inversion on lyra (and its children, pike and Verukai [sp?], when I don’t remember to set my grip a little narrower than instinct suggests). 

Still, I managed to finagle my way through the Cuddles sequence (I can only assume its name is at least somewhat ironic), which opens with an inversion into a pike across one of the ropes (or, in short, a kind of inversion into a meathook sans straddle) — and the fact that I’m very much capable of managing that inversion suggests that, indeed, strength is not the problem.

After the initial inversion, “Cuddles” involves more or less waving your legs around artfully to tie yourself in a very complicated sliding knot, from which you next glide first into a split and then into a leana, slipping yourself free of your knot as you go. 

It’s a devilishly complex motor sequence, roughly akin to the opening phrase of Albrecht’s variation in terms of coordination and motor planning (though not in the modulation of force, which is part of what makes Albrecht’s variation hard).

After all that, Hoop 1 felt like a walk in the park (which is good — I wasn’t sure that lyra as a chaser for a hefty  draught of trapeze was anything like a good idea), though I made the same grip-width mistake on my first go at the day’s enchaînement.

After, I shot some video of Albrecht’s variation broken into phrases so I could work on properly  sequencing my arms. I think, though, that I’m not going to run it on that floor anymore — I tried to turn down the jump on the cabrioles, but when I do that, the result is cabrioles badly executed, with the top leg dropping to meet the bottom as it swings up to beat (to be fair, it does have the decency to spring back up again — but it shouldn’t drop in the first place). Not a habit I want to cultivate! (I also need to get out of the habit of doing tiny, cautious tours, which I won’t on that floor). 

So I think from here out I’ll either run it on the mats or just mark the legs and train arms and épaulement, depending on whether the matts are free.

Port de bras and épaulement are definitely major goals, now. It doesn’t matter how high you jump or how well you travel if your arms aren’t up to speed. At the end of the day, in fact, that’s the thing that makes me fall in love with Russian dancers every time I see them — they can stand around doing nothing with their legs and break your heart just by lifting their arms.

I want to bring that both to my dancing and to my trapeze and lyra work.

So there you have my new Wednesday schedule in a nut-shell. Killer Ballet followed by Hard-Mode Trapeze, then a lyra class that feels like a break!

Ballet Intensive, Days Five and Six: Sleep Dep and Crazy (Arms) Mode

Friday was interesting: I had no zip in conditioning and technique because I was running on three hours of sleep (did I write about this already?); variations went well because in those three hours I seriously only dreamed about Albrecht’s variation.

Today’s performance was okay — I think I should have gone a bit easier last night; as such, my jumps weren’t awesome.

Also, I kept sort of forgetting what to do with my arms and just kind of waving them around in more or less the directions they were supposed to go, more or less. Jeez.

I know this because there’s video. I’m annoyed with myself for forgetting to just carry my arms through the opening two steps of Albrecht’s variation. Also for doing the world’s worst tour jeté and tiniest tours, but I understand why those happened.

That said, there are some nice moments in both pieces (one is the double turn that goes to attitude on the second rotation), and I’ll try to take KvN’s advice from Cincinnati and focus on those things!

Edit: I’m thinking now about ballet goals for the rest of this year, so I’m going to write them down.

  • STOP DOING THE CRAZY ARMS AS A DEFAULT.This is a big one. This happens in part because I don’t always mark the arms with any clarity when I’m just walking through things, and the arms decouple from the choreography, and if I’m tired, I lose them. This morning, I lost a really nice moment in Albrecht’s variation specifically because of this.

    The first rule of performance is: AS YOU REHEARSE, SO SHALL YOU PERFORM.

    So I need to stop rehearsing my arms incorrectly, duh.


  • Nail down the double cabrioles, because seriously, it would be good to have those in my balletic toolkit, and I think I should be able to get them down.~
  • Polish the frack out of Albrecht’s variation and get a good video posted. I should also do the other one. It would be less awesome with only one person, but maybe I could teach it to someone else?~
  • Get ballet video more often. For me, video makes a really good tool for analyzing and correcting my movement patterns.This week I discovered that I can learn and memorize demanding choreography pretty quickly; video can help me figure out how to make it cleaner and better.


  • Tune up the basics well enough that I continue to execute them correctly even when tired (I’m looking at you, tour jete and legs that opted not to stay particularly turned out during simple arabesque balances).~
  • Triple turns on tap.

So there you have my ballet goals.

Oh, and also: my turnout muscles are tired for realz. I suspect they’ll be very happy to know that they’re getting a day off on Monday.

One last edit: I think I actually forgot to do the turn from fourth to second at the end of my solo and subbed in a regular turn from fourth, but it worked out anyway.

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