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When the great flood of class and rehearsals kicks in, sooner or later you reach a point at which you realize that you might be hella in shape when compared to the average human, but you’ve got, erm, room to grow according to the professional dancer standard.
Also, eventually there’s a point at which you can no longer be like, “I’m not feeling breakfast,” because you’re using up everything you put in.
So! Our AD emeritus, who once gave me an extremely memorable correction about my supporting leg, will be teaching Advanced Class going forward o.O’
I don’t know why I find him intimidating (possibly because he’s been dancing longer than I’ve been alive?), but I do. As such, I’ll be working on relaxing and keeping my head together. Which I’m working on anyway: I don’t get nervous on stage, but I do get very charged up, and sometimes that translates to doing things faster than I should. Learning to dial things back will help in either situation.
Anyway, Le Directeur Ancien takes over next Saturday.
I’m hoping he’ll take us to task on port de bras. Yesterday, I finally remembered to ask Señor BeastMode for input on this year’s ballet goals, and his answer was, “Get the whole body working together—that coordination will take you to the next level. You’ve got the legs and the feet.”
That’s strikingly similar to BW’s input. Also a pretty nice vote of confidence from the BG (AKA Señor BeastMode).
I haven’t checked in with Killer B and J yet, but I’ll try to do that this week. I should see both of them tonight at J’s Monday night class.
Saturday class this week was edifying, except for the moment in this very simple balancé x2 — soutenu — balancé combination when I was thinking so hard about refining my balancé that I forgot to soutenu. Erm. Oops?
It didn’t really screw anything up, though, since that was the option for newer students anyway. There were 15 of us all jammed into the tiny studio, so BG came up with a waltz combination we could all do at center without killing each-other (we also did a nice terre-a-terre waltz). The only time I’ve ever seen more people in Studio 5 was the time Paul Taylor Company showed up en masse.
My piece for the show on the 28th is essentially done and dusted. I ran it about 10 times today with Denis reading for me (the whole show is set to poetry), then I took a break and danced with my scarf (which is definitely going to become a thing in my flow repertoire).
I also got to chat with my actual reader, L, about prosody. Next Saturday, we’ll run the piece together a couple of times, and I think we’ll be set. The show is the final weekend of January. It’ll be a nice way to launch this year in terms of performing.
Tonight I’m finalizing my application to perform at PlayThink, even though I really have no idea what I’m going to do, since I don’t have an acro partner. Basically, I need to decide whether to choreograph a solo piece or recruit a partner. I’d really like to work with a partner, but I’ll have to poke around and see who’s going.
I’m really excited about the beginning of rep class and our upcoming piece for Spring Collection. It’s looking like we’ll have more of us than I expected, which is nice (though it would’ve been cool in its own way if there were only three of us).
This week we have two Cirque workshops as well as the normal array of classes and so forth. It should be an awesome week, but also heckin’ busy—as will be the rest of the first half of the year.
So that’s it for now.
We had a lovely jaunt to my parents’ house over the holidays, returned in time to take a breath and then enjoy a circus party with some old friends of D’s, got almost no sleep, and arrived at our healthcare network’s day surgery center at 5 AM on the 28th to get D’s rotator cuff fixed.
Since then, I’ve gone to two parties (one unofficial, one official), done a ton of cooking and cleaning, and tried to recoup my lost sleep whilst waking up at 4:30 to issue medications to poor D, who currently can’t really do feck all with his right (and dominant) hand.
None of this has kept me from nearly losing my marbles due to a combination of my brief ballet break, sleep deprivation, and stress—so it’s with great anticipation that I look forward to returning to class tomorrow.
At the primary studio, there have been some changes in the interval.
First, they’ve instituted an unlimited monthly tuition rate that literally cuts my old tuition rate back by half. Given that I normally hit twenty classes per month, it saves me $70 even over the professional rate. I jumped right on that bandwagon, of course.
Second, Killer Class is now an advanced class in name as well as in fact. I’m not sure that will actually have any bearing on what we do in Killer Class, since most of the time it’s an advanced class in terms of both pacing and technique anyway, but I do think it gives potential students a better sense of what to expect.
Third, we’ll begin work on our piece for Spring Collection next week. I’m quite looking forward to what Señor BeastMode has in store for us, even though a couple of my best girls might not be joining us this time.
In other news, my Trapeze class has moved to Wednesday … which is excellent, since it means I can get my butt back to Tuesday’s modern class (which is in the evening now). I guess that’s technically a Circus School change, and not a Ballet School change, but still.
I have one show this month (a volunteer gig) and two next month this far. D’s surgery means I’ll be limiting myself to local-ish auditions for the moment, since he needs me around to do stuff like driving and, you know, zipping up his trousers. And stuff.
That’s assuming we don’t murder each-other as result of overexposure in the next two weeks. I love D, but he’s as underfoot as a cat when I’m trying to clean 😉
Regardless, there’s a modern jazz company running an audition next week, and I might go even though I’m not even sure what modern jazz actually is. Guess I’ll find out? But first I’ll have to get someone to shoot a new headshot, maybe.
In other news, the hourly rate of pay for my last paid gig blew my mind. It worked out to more than three times as much per hour as I used to make in my (woefully underpaid, to be fair) banking-industry tech job. Also increased my dance-related income for the year by a margin of 1/3 of the overall total (which was still less than USD 2000, but every little bit counts).
There’s definitely a degree of “I can’t believe they pay me for this” going on over here, but it was also a timely reminder that they (whoever “they”may be) pay me—and pay me startlingly well—because I’ve worked pretty hard to develop a set of skills for which demand (when it exists) outstrips supply.
I try to remind myself that the fact that I enjoy working on this particular skill-set doesn’t mean it’s not work. Nor does the relative ease with which I adapt to the work mean it’s easy—just that I’m well-suited to it.
Either way, it was a nice vote of confidence at a time when I needed one. Not that I’d stop dancing if I never made another dime doing it—but if have to seriously contemplate my current career decisions.
Something I can’t recall just made me think about a jump we used in Orpheus.
It was a variant on the barrel turn that traveled through the air: you launched yourself facing one direction, then tucked the knees as you turned in the air to face back where you started. That is to say, it resembled a barrel turn, but the axis of the turn was vertical (meaning that you execute it horizontally … this is all quite confusing, written out like this, isn’t it?).
The overall effect was that of gliding through space, pivoting as you go.
Which is, if you think about it, very like a tour as well, excepting the fact that tours don’t travel. Or, well, they shouldn’t, and they try not to.
- Clearly, this is why the Tour de France is always in France and not, for example, Costa Rica.
- The fact that it travels around France is completely immaterial, and if you disagree with me, you’re wrong, so there 😛
Anyway, I never had the least bit of trouble executing that given turny jump, which we’ll call a “floating barrel” because it amuses me. Indeed, it was quite easy enough to milk it for an extra revolution and a half, since you had a great deal of time as you sailed sideways through the air.
What made executing that jump so painless was simply that one executed it as three basic steps:
Just now, I realized that I have, in point of fact, probably been screwing myself out of a solid double tour by conceiving of it as this rather desperate one-step process:
It might, in fact, help immensely if I thought of it just as I thought of our floating barrel:
- then turn
I am going to have to try this. Between that and not throwing my head back (which has never improved anybody’s ballet technique), I’m hoping I’ve got this licked.
Got all my cambrés back. Circular port de bras still requires a modicum of care. Forces me do it thoughtfully though.
Did the Awkward Rotator Exercise before class. L, T, & BG all took class today, too, so the boys were well-represented.
My fondus were better today, but I still had to shelve half the grand battement to keep my heart rate down.
I’m officially decompressing!
It turns out that what was driving me so crazy was the combination of uber-tight compression wrap and surgical drain tubing, which conspired to irritate the living daylights out of my intercostal cartilage and muscles. Those are still a bit angry, but sooooooo much better sans poky tubing and with relaxed compression.
During my surgery, I got trimmed down and liposuctioned and so forth, and now I’m all taped up and decorated with ridiculously large hospital pasties (I feel like perhaps I should decorate them?) … And, yes, I still have nipples 😛
- Made an attempt. Didn’t bring any wide Sharpies, though. SOON.
I debated whether or not to post pictures, but I’m going to bite the bullet and do it.
First, I’m really stoked about how clean everything looks already. My body just looks like, you know, my body. I don’t know what exactly I was expecting? But I think it involved bruises and stuff.
Second, I’m not the first guy who’s had to undertake this kind of surgery, nor will I be the last—and I was okay with it in part because I saw photos in various phases of the healing process from other guys who’d had the same thing done. Maybe mine will help someone down the line—another dancer, even—feel okay with it, too.
A note about the dancer-specific end of that: I hemmed and hawed about which surgical approach to pursue in part because of the potential for scarring and the fact that, as a male dancer, I’ll have more options if I feel like I can take roles that require me to dance shirtless .
- Like, for example, I’ll be able to work in modern dance, which is apparently code for “Topless Boys Live!”, ever at all
Ultimately, I opted for an approach that would leave longer scars, but in more discreet places, and would be a sure shot in terms of removing extra skin in awkward spots. Having seen myself this afternoon with no shirt and no medical pasties, I know I made the right decision.
Speaking of that, I got to see myself sans Hospital Pasties this afternoon, and I’m quite happy with the results—though as a good citizen of the internet I’m kicking myself for failing to grab a photo.
Anyway, I had a bunch of extra skin before (thanks, collagen disorder!), but you’d never know at this point. Also, I appear to have normal tactile sensation everywhere, which is great. It wasn’t terribly likely in my case, but I was a little worried about ending up with tactile “dead zones” that could be awkward for some kinds off partnering.
There will be narrow scars below my pecs extending from about 4 cm to either side of the center of my chest (looks closer to the center in the shot below due to tape and guidelines) to a point straight down from my armpits. They probably won’t be very visible. The upside of the collagen thing is that I tend towards hypotrophic scarring, which in turn tends not to stand out too much against my ultra-pasty pallor.
I’ve also got extra gauzy stuff and even moar tape going on under my arms where my drains came out today. Those will be there for about a week. (You guys, I really should’ve purchased stock in 3M’s medical supply division.)
I have some sutures in my aureolae, so I’m supposed to wear some kind of medical pasties for a couple of weeks whilst those heal up, but my surgeon suggests the big, square band-aids with adhesive all the way around. There’s no need for them to be huge like the current ones; 4×4 gauze just happens to be ubiquitous in US medical practices.
I feel like I should thank my ballet and aerials teachers for making my surgeon’s job and my life easier. He had zero trouble locating the margins of my pecs, and my blood supply and overall fitness are basically stellar, which made everything smoother and easier in every way.
That’s it for now. We’re heading home tomorrow, so I might even make it back in time to stand around idly at rehearsal on Wednesday, learning by osmosis.
PS: I am greatly enjoying wearing just one shirt at a time. I cannot explain how amazing that feels.
PPS: Still heckin’ itchy, though, because omg so much tape. At least the stuff under my pecs will fall off on its own in about a week.
I have trouble keeping my mouth shut about Big Giant News, but I’m also apparently horribly superstitious about jinxing myself, so I apologise for my recent bout of vague hint-dropping. I promise I’m not going to turn into one of those annoying hinty bloggers who try to keep readers hooked in by being annoyingly vague about things that turn out not to be all that amazing after all 😛
Anyway, yesterday I finally (FINALLY!) went “under the knife” to shed my moobs. Last week, I was super stressed-out about the upcoming surgery—not because I was worried about the surgery itself, but because I did a bunch of research and chose a doctor in Fort Lauderdale, Florida—right in the path of Bad Girl Irma.
I called their office last week to find out if they might need to reschedule, and they said, “Nah, we should be fine,” which was both a relief and a little alarming, since I was worried about the potential for last-minute changes of plans.
Anyway, no rescheduling was needed, and I did indeed have the surgery yesterday.
Evidently, it went very well, and except for the fact that I puked a couple of times shortly after I awoke from anesthesia(1), I’m recovering really well.
- Not terribly surprising, as I’m pretty sensitive to sedatives in general 😛
The weirdest bits of the surgical experience were:
- Thinking, shortly after the anaesthesiologist added the “Momma said knock you out” drip to my IV, “Huh, I’m not falling asleep yet,” and then immediately falling asleep.
- Going under with my underwear on; waking up without them (still not sure why they had to take them off for this, but no worries, I got them back).
The funny part was that the nursing staff couldn’t figure out how to put my undies back on 😛 Admittedly, the undies in question are a tad unusual. They’re jock-strap stylie, because I’m queer like that. You probably didn’t really need to know, but there you have it 😛
Anyway, I semi-slept all the way back to our hotel, then slept some more, woke up at 10 PM, ate some yoghurt and sourdough bread (which, it turns out, is very easy on the stomach), and promptly went back to sleep and stayed that way with brief awakenings until 6:30 AM.
I’m feeling pretty chipper today, though the post-surgical compression dressing is not very comfortable (could be worse, though).
So that’s finally done, anyway. I’ll be on full R&R for a couple of weeks, dance-wise, then slowly working back in so I’ll be in shape enough to perform in November and fully on form for audition season in January/February.
I’m looking forward to dancing without moobs, finally. It’s weird, in a way, because everyone I’ve mentioned it to has said, “Huh, I never would have known,” so obviously my compression vests have been doing their job well—but it’ll be nice to live life without the extra layer.
I have, by the way, been really pleased with my surgeon and his staff. I chose a doctor who has extensive experience working on intersex and trans guys as well as other guys with gynecomastia, and I feel like he really has it down to an art.
And, of course, being able to hang out in Fort Lauderdale for a week doesn’t hurt, either, even if I can’t go swimming (I can wade, though!).
So that’s it for now.
I’m back from the Desert now, and catching up on life. Today was my first full day home, and I hit it hard—did a bunch of administrative life stuff, then booked it out to a 3-hour rehearsal.
Speaking of which, now that my name’s on the official cast list (or, as Autocorrupt suggests, “the official cat list”) I feel like I can stop being silent about one thing, anyway!
I’m seriously stoked about the fact that we’re performing in the Bomhard, which is one of my two favorite local theaters.
Sadly, I missed our headshot shoot (it got moved), so my headshot won’t be in the program, but it’ll be on the website. I’m performing on hammock in this show, in addition to other things, which is pretty exciting. It’s like silks for trapeze people 😀 There will, of course, also be dancing.
Rehearsal today went really well. I’m excited about working with this cat … I mean, cast … and I’m rather a fan of our AD.
That’s it for now. Insanely busy week this week, and next week will be huge if Irma doesn’t completely destroy Fort Lauderdale.
I: The Slow-and-Steady Approach
- If you don’t live in a locality with a good professional company, move to one
- Go to performances. Identify a dancer whose body you wouldn’t mind having.
- Find a teacher. No, not a dance teacher; that takes way too long. I’m talking about a teacher of the obscure occult arts.
- Gather such materials as you may require: the black goat, newts’ tongues, and rooster’s egg may be difficult to source in urban areas.
- Using the materials and methods already acquired, become incorporeal.
- Once you have become incorporeal, locate your chosen dancer and cause him or her to become incorporeal as well.
- Take over the body of the dancer in question.
- Congratulations! You now have a dancer’s body.
II: The “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That” Approach
- Start dancing. No, seriously, right now, to any kind of music or none.
- Are you dancing? Are you in your body? Congratulations! You now have a dancer’s body!
*for best results, attempt with tongue held firmly in cheek
At my studio, we’re ostensibly proponents of the Paris Opera school — which isn’t to say that we think Paris Opera is The One True Ballet, just that that’s the style that the company employs, so that’s (technically*) what we study in class.
That said, I owe much of the improvement in my turns to Balanchine’s technique, and I feel that’s worth ruminating on a bit.
I am not the world’s greatest natural turner — not the worst, either, but in a world where we tend to be stronger either in jumps or in turns, I am definitely in the “jumper” group.
In short, my problem is that I tend to approach turns in the same way that I approach jumps — that is, with rather a lot of athleticism (read: power and momentum). When jumping, it’s easy to translate that power and momentum and make it do what it’s supposed to do (most of the time, anyway) — curiously where even jumps that involve turns (tours en l’air and jetés entrelacés, for example) are concerned.
I suspect that it comes down to elasticity — when you begin a jump with too much force and momentum, you can pretty easily channel the excess without losing grace and élan and all that stuff. When you execute a turn with too much force and momentum, there’s less wiggle room — more or less literally.
When turning, I tend to apply way, way more force than is entirely necessary — and I tend to apply it in a way that knocks me off my axis.
It’s easy to power through a fast single turn — or even, once you get the hang of it, a fast double turn — that way**. You won’t look as good as the best turners in the class (because you’ll probably be turning with your back arched and you’ll be slightly off your axis) but you’ll look all right if your basic technique is clean and you have good legs and feet. You can complete the turn before things go terribly awry, so you probably won’t fall out of your turn or, worse, fall over.
When it comes to adagio turns, though, an excess of power and force — especially an excess of power and force that throws you off your axis even a little can really hose things up for you.
This is where Balanchine technique comes in.
Mr. B’s technique is famous for its emphasis on the UP.
When you see Balanchine choreography done well, the jumps tend to be very vertical, whilst the turns are precise, tight, and … um … tall, I guess?
Not that almost any turn, ever, should fall away from the vertical in ballet — but the strict emphasis Balanchine’s technique places on the vertical forces dancers to pull straight up, the way you’re technically supposed to anyway, without the shoulders breaking back from the central axis***.
I will be the first to admit that my worst fault in turns is still (STILL!!!) a tendency to throw my head and shoulders back in my preparation. In short, that’s part of what I do with the excess of force and momentum.
I give it a big ol’ DERP HO! and try to eject it through the top of my head by throwing everything back from the shoulderblades up.
Needless to say, this is not what one might call Best Practice.
The funny thing is that, when I’m thinking about (and attempting to emulate, because sometimes ballet instructors like to mess with us) Balanchine technique, I don’t.
Instead, I keep my core pulled together and pull UP — which, coincidentally, makes it much easier to turn, since I’m not then creating a situation in which the very laws of physics are going to knock me off my leg.
Oddly enough, under those conditions, it’s suddenly quite easy to execute lovely, precise turns — even adagio turns (true fact: ever since I figured out how to do adagio turns without falling apart, I do them all the dingdangdarn time, because they’re impressive — they even feel impressive).
So, anyway. This is a thing I discovered during one of our brief excursions into Balanchine technique, and I think that’s worth noting.
A lot of us get really invested in studying one method or another (though this is less common for adult students, who often wind up taking a grab bag of classes at different studios), but each method offers something we can use.
Of course, there’s something to be said for developing a sound foundation in one method — it makes learning the basics easier (remember that thing about third position arms versus fifth position arms?).
There’s probably also an important Life Lesson here about Diversity and Learning From Unexpected Teachers and so forth, but I’ll let you glean that bit yourself.
As for this post — it’s something I’ve been thinking about. Once you’ve got the basics down, branching out and taking a class that’s couched in a different method (or even, gasp, a different discipline, like modern dance! *swoon*) might be a good way to patch up some of the holes in your technique.
Just, you know, make sure your instructor knows what she’s talking about, and stuff, the way you normally would.
That’s it for now.