Yes, This

I’m working on a post about some of the stuff I learned in David Reuille’s masterclass, but for the moment, check out this post by Circus Out Of Joint:

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I’ve been lucky to have ballet, circus, and gymnastics instructors who understand the differences in the ways hypermobile people perceive the world and in how our bodies work (versus those of people with average mobility). They’ve done a great job helping me build habits of sound alignment, teaching me what to engage and disengage when, and guiding me towards beautiful ways of moving that won’t destroy my joints.

That doesn’t mean I’m as good at looking out for myself as I should be, though. Circus Out Of Joint discusses some of the ways those of us with hEDS can advocate for ourselves in class, along with some of the challenges that we face in doing so (like, when should we ask our six million questions?).

Gay Marriage Was Never Just About Tax Breaks

Recently, my favorite podcast touched on the topic of the debate within the LGBTQI* community about the prioritization of same-sex marriage (as opposed to trans rights, equal access to housing, etc). Both the host and the guest mentioned only the question of tax breaks as a motivator, with the context suggesting that tax breaks shouldn’t take precedent over issues of survival, like fair access to housing and employment.

I don’t disagree with that premise in the least: frankly, I could care less about tax breaks (and being married doesn’t automatically save you money on your taxes anyway). We definitely need to be more in-tune to issues like the dangers faced by trans people, and especially trans women of color, who are assaulted and murdered at staggeringly high rates just for trying to be themselves. As a community, those of us out here in Rainbowland definitely need to center the issues of those among us who are most vulnerable.

I’m sure that this was an unscripted oversight, and if the topic at hand had been “Let’s Talk About Same-Sex Marriage,” the million and fifteen much-more-important rights afforded by marriage would probably have come to light sooner or later.

But the fact that both the host’s and the guest’s first instinct was to frame the question of gay marriage as one of mere access to tax breaks reflects its own kind of privilege: one that has a lot to do with the one of the Great Divides in queer history, and a lot to do with being relatively young and healthy.

Because, for gay men and women of my husband’s generation, gay marriage has a lot more to do with death than it does with taxes.

Let me back up a little.

D and I are members of two distinct generations.

He was born in a Cold War world, at the peak of the space race, and grew up in the world of arcades, local media, snail mail, and telephone calls. I was born at the very tail end of the Cold War, when we’d already decided to kiss and make up and were basically just sorting out how to do it, and grew up in the world of in-home video game systems, global media, email, and increasingly-rapid telecommunication. In high school, he had the library and his local friends. I had the entire internet and more or less the entire world to chat with.

As D was coming of age, sex was a terrifying game of Russian Roulette: he remembers the time before we knew how HIV was transmitted. He was a young adult at the peak of the AIDS crisis.

As for me … although its confusing specter haunted my childhood and probably made me far more paranoid about sex than was entirely necessary, by the time I first heard about AIDS (from an NPR radio segment in my Dad’s car), we already knew how to prevent transmission and were starting to see effective treatments. As a young adult, I already lived in a world where AIDS was a fact of life—in essence, a particularly obnoxious lifelong chronic illness that could be managed with medication. Like, herpes on steroids, or something.

D is part of the generation that experienced the staggering pain of devoted couples being separated by hospital policies that allowed only legal family members visitation rights.

He is part of the generation that saw bereaved spouses ousted from their homes when the deceased’s family decided to seize the property of the deceased.

He is part of the generation for whom access to life-saving treatment that would’ve been covered by one partner’s benefits might not be covered by the other partner’s—a roadblock invisible to legally-married heterosexual couples. He is a part of a generation in which people literally died because they lacked the protections of legal marriage.

To gay men of his generation and the gay women who carried so very, very much of the burden with them in those dark days, tax breaks are the last and the least concern. I would say “icing on the cake,” but cake isn’t sustenance.

Knowing that your mate won’t be driven from the home you’ve built together after your death? That’s sustenance. Knowing that you can’t be cut off from death benefits simply because you’re gay? That’s sustenance. Knowing that you have legal protection that allows you to see your beloved in the hospital; to advocate for them; to make medical decisions on their behalf when they are incapacitated? That’s sustenance.

Coincidentally, it’s also access to safe housing. It’s also access to healthcare—on the private market, D and I bear less of a financial burden for one decent plan than for two poor plans. We have access to such a plan because we’re legally married. If it weren’t for that, we’d be scraping by with two separate iterations of the kind of health plan that only covers you in catastrophes.

Never mind certain other critical protections: spouses cannot be forced to testify against one-another, for example … unless they’re not legally married, in which case anything goes. Legal marriage can prevent one’s life-partner from being deported.

I’m not saying that any of this makes the other work that we’re doing as a community any less critical. But to frame same-sex marriage as a matter of a tax break is short-sighted. I hope nobody actually believes that was the prime mover, here.

For what it’s worth, legal marriage also serves the vulnerable.

It affords a path to safety for immigrants who arrive here on journeys of love, or who arrive here on other journeys and fall in love anyway.

It affords protection against post-mortem dead-naming by hostile families of deceased transfolk.

It prevents children of same-sex parents from being torn from their homes if one parent dies and homophobic family members (or legal systems) intervene.

It protects the devoted spouses of military members who are severely injured or killed in service.

My generation isn’t old enough for death to have touched many of us in the ways it touched D’s generation when they were our age, or younger than we are now. We mostly haven’t dealt much with death: most of us still have both our parents (and probably a step-parent or two as well) and will for many years. Many of us still have all our grandparents. Few of us have lost our spouses.

We might have been alive during the most harrowing days of the AIDS crisis, but if we were, we were children. We didn’t personally lose friends in staggering numbers or watch our friends suffer the agony of being barred from hospital visits. I have, in my lifetime, lost one friend to AIDS—a lovely guy a few years older than I am who committed suicide because he had contracted a strain of HIV that wasn’t responding to antiretroviral treatments and so forth. He chose to end his life before the complications of HIV could end it for him.

People Denis’ age lost dozens, sometimes hundreds, of friends, in a ground swell of bereavement complicated by discrimination against which no grounds for legal protection existed.

Death, for my generation, isn’t the visible specter that it has been for so very long, from such an early age, for the gay men and women of D’s generation. For them, it has been very real from the beginning of their adult lives, as have the potential repercussions associated with the lack of the legal protections afforded by marriage (and which efforts to secure by other means have not reliably secured).

I’m not saying that focusing on gay marriage, to the exclusion of other issues, was by any means the right path. I do think that, in many ways, it was low-hanging fruit: in an age when the US is far less uncomfortable with queer people in general, but fraught with racial tension and wildly unsure about transfolk, it was relatable. Marriage, as it were, will play in Peoria.

One thing it was not, though, not ever, was simply a tax break.

Either way, at this point, it’s a fait accompli, more or less. It could be undone, but it would be easier not to undo it. People who don’t believe in gay marriage can go on not getting gay-married all they like. They don’t even have to come to our weddings (amazingly, Rainbow Goons won’t show up at your door if you choose not to attend your lesbian cousin’s lesbian wedding, and in fact you’re not even legally obligated to feel guilty about it).

And now that we’re over that hurdle, maybe we can all agree to focus our efforts on the most vulnerable among us, and on making the queer world one that hears their voices, that sees and embraces them. And maybe we can also work on making the queer world one in which no one feels like an alien and a stranger.

Adulting with ADHD: Pillowcases

I keep promising to add photos to my Like Skillz posts, but then forgetting, so I’m going to try to stop making that promise. Maybe I’ll come back and add photos here, maybe I won’t.

Anyway.

This might be something you’re already doing. I might be the last person alive who hadn’t thought of this.

BUT!

If you’re still wrestling with pillows every time you change your sheets, here’s something that might help.

When you fold your pillowcases, fold them inside-out.

(Since they’re likely to wind up inside-out when you yank them off your pillows in the first place, this can save a step in the washing/folding process, too!)

Then, when it’s time to put them onto your pillows, reach into an inside-out pillowcase and use the corners like hand-puppet mouths. (This isn’t as kinky as it sounds … but if you want to make it kinky, you do you, Boo!)

Bite down on the corners of your pillow. The pillowcase will probably bunch up on your arms: that’s fine; it actually makes the rest of the job easier.

Next, keep a firm grip on one corner while you use your other hand to start pulling the pillowcase up by its open edge, turning it right side-out as you go.

bed bedroom headboard interior design

I make no promises that you’ll turn your bedroom into a boutique hotel room, but at least you can cover those naked pillows, STAT! (Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com)

This is especially useful when you’re wrestling a really fat pillow or a floppy down or feather pillow. It’s also the easiest way to get duvet covers onto duvets, which is where I picked up the idea (which in turn transferred from putting on compression stockings).

Like I said, you’ve probably already figured this out. But if you haven’t, I hope it makes making your bed easier.

And if you’re in a place right now where making the bed and/or folding pillowcases isn’t really on the radar, that’s okay, too. There are way more important things in the world.

Do You Get Used To It?

I’ve been working now for more than a year (granted, that’s really not very long).

I probably imagined that I’d be used to it by now: that, perhaps, the first time that work felt like, you know, work, I’d sort of wake up and go, “Oh, yeah, I’m a professional dancer, this is my job now, no big deal” on a kind of visceral level.

Turns out, that’s not the case. It’s no longer terribly surprising on a rational level, and the Impostor Syndrome has slackened its grip a bit, but every time something happens that makes me realize that I’m doing this amazing thing I feel this little kind of giddy rush.

It’s like when you pick up some random thing at a thrift store, and you google it because it’s interesting, and you realize that it’s actually kind of a rare and unique treasure. It’s like, “I have this amazing thing, and nobody realizes it’s this amazing thing!”

Also a bit like, “Wow, I’ve been given this amazing gift … do They realize that They’ve given me this amazing gift?”

I could ask my friends who’ve been doing this much longer than I have, I suppose … but I also suppose that every answer would be different, because every journey is different.

I hope I never stop at least occasionally being surprised and delighted that, yo, the Universe seems to have decided on a whim that I should be a dancer, and people seem to agree with the Universe, including people who seem to want to pay people to be dancers.

Anyway, there you have it.

The Americana show went well, by the way. Better than I expected: the floor proved to be incredibly grippy … like, seriously, I think it’s surfaced in some Super High-Friction Space Age Polymer … but the costumes for the piece before ours had glitter tutus, and the tiny bits of glitter greatly reduced the friction, making turns and so forth far easier. My piqué turns in the manège at the end could’ve been better (for some reason, I didn’t crank my turnout … eh), but overall the effect of the piece was really exactly what I’d hoped for … and, of course, both Kathy and Christina are fantastic to work with and perfect partners.

The Discipline of Rest

For what it’s worth, that’s a terrible title for this post. I’m currently struggling to figure out how to do exactly that, because my schedule will be shifting rather dramatically in about three weeks, Because Reasons (which I’ll discuss further in about four weeks, or something like that: to know, to will, to dare, to restrain oneself to “vaguebooking” for the time being :P).

There are people who will tell you that in their years of training and performing, they never once took a rest day. Because I am a giant chicken bad at dealing with conflict attempting to learn to be a receptive listener, I always restrain myself from immediately asking, “Okay, so how long did it take you to seriously injure yourself or come down with a stress-induced illness?”

But I’ll admit that I think it.

The human body didn’t evolve to work as relentlessly as dancers work. To train in dance is to tax your body to a degree that’s probably best described as “really rather ludicrous.” To do so without adequate rest is, as far as I’m concerned, not a very good idea. I’m not an expert in much of anything, but I’m pretty sure that my opinion is consistent with those of experts in fields like exercise physiology, the neuroscience of learning, and so forth.

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What could possibly go wrong???

As much as I love L’Ancien’s class, and as important as it is to my training, I took this morning off. I took this morning off because Friday has historically been my day off, but obviously couldn’t be this week, and I can’t take tomorrow off (tech rehearsal), and days off are actually pretty important.

As much as I hated missing L’Ancien’s instruction (and all the stories that he tells along the way), it was worth it to me to give my brain and body a day to recoup their resources. Besides, L’Ancien is teaching on Wednesdays now, so I’m not missing all of his classes for the week.

The weird part is that there was a time in my life that I couldn’t imagine living with a schedule in which my minimum two days off per week weren’t back-to-back, let alone living with only one day off per week. But I love what I’m doing now, so now I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum: if I don’t dance for a couple of days in a row, things feel weird.

Still, the one day off is critical. When I get to the end of my six days—especially if they’ve been six long and demanding days—it feels good to loaf in bed and read for a while, and then have time to work around the house and do some further loafing in the bath. My legs inevitably appreciate the break, especially when there’s been a lot of jumping and not so much adagio.

It’s tempting, when you’re trying to make progress in an art form that speaks to your soul, to charge ahead on full steam. It’s also a recipe for over-training, which leads to physical and mental burnout, and undercuts the progress one hopes to make.

As dancers, we are driven people. Beyond a certain level, dance demands a kind of religious devotion; a vocation. It demands discipline (read: motivation + drive), and it demands disciplines.

For people working under religious vocations, the disciplines are things like prayer (or meditation), fasting, waking up before dawn, silent contemplation, and so forth. Different paths offer different disciplines, but the goal is the same: the Disciplines might not necessarily be what anyone particularly wants to do all the time, but they’re essential tools in the life of a contemplative or any other religious person.

For dancers, the Disciplines are things like class (as some of my friends and I call it, “The Liturgy of the Barre”), Pilates, stretching, suffering on the rack … I mean, the foam roller, actually bothering to eat like fueling your body matters (it does), and rest.

Like religious disciplines, all these things can be beautiful and rewarding in their own right, but that doesn’t mean we’re always in the mood. We do them whether or not we feel like it, because that’s the only way to move forward.

~

It may seem strange to think of rest as a discipline. Yet, in a culture (the modern Western world) that seems almost suicidally devoted to the philosophy of Get Up And Go, and in a subculture (dancer culture) in which hard work is the sole port of entry, it has to be.

To undertake a discipline is usually to add in something you don’t want to do or give up something you do want to do, because it will help you achieve something you want even more[1].

  1. This is why motivation is critical: I don’t believe in discipline in the way a certain subset of life-coachy types does. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: discipline is just motivation in action. You have to be more motivated to do the “disciplined” thing than to do whatever else you might do … even though the “disciplined” thing might not seem as rewarding in the immediate moment. If you’re not, you’re simply not going to do it. So “discipline” isn’t some magic gift; it’s a question of figuring out A] what really motivates you and B] how to harness that motivation to achieve your goals. Likewise, motivation isn’t quite as simple as we like to think it is: we’re often really bad at identifying the things that actually motivate us, and much better at identifying the things we think should motivate us. We come up with the wrong answer to the question, “How do I get myself to do this?” and then wonder why we fail.

Rest then, for dancers, is very much a Discipline. We don’t want to take a day off when we could be taking a class that we love. We don’t want to go to bed at 10 PM because we have to get up at 6 to drive across the state for a 9 AM class (egads: I loved David Reuille’s class SO MUCH, but I am also SO GLAD that I don’t have to be in Lexington by 8:45 any time soon). We don’t want to skip going out with our friends.

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I’ll admit, this might not look like a Discipline.

But we do (the last of the three is often the easiest for me, possibly because almost all my friends are dancers and I know I’m going to see them in class anyway). We do it because it’s good for us as dancers. It helps us achieve our goals.

We do it also, perhaps, because we know that there will be weeks when we don’t get a rest day.

I’m not sure that it’s at all possible to bank rest (there’s some argument in favor of recouping lost sleep, but I don’t think rest is quite the same), but that doesn’t mean we can’t try.

This is one of the worst-organized posts I’ve written in a long time, but what I’m trying to say is this: there will be people in your life as a dancer who will sneer at you when you tell them that rest is important to you.

Ignore them. They’re wrong.

Even Nureyev, whose capacity for work remains legendary, valued rest above almost all else. He was aware that if you were going to spend ten hours in the studio transforming yourself in to a genius of the artform, you also needed to sleep for roughly ten hours.

Rest isn’t laziness (not that laziness is inherently bad, either: “laziness” is another word for “maximal efficiency,” there’s much to be learned from the self-professed laziness of bike racers, who do everything to maximize their efficiency both on the bike and off).

Rest is a Discipline.

Rest is saying, “No,” so that later you’re able to say “Yes.”

If there’s one thing I think most of us can do as dancers to improve our ability to learn and grow and perform, it’s learning to see rest as sacred.

To see rest as sacred is to vigilantly guard the time we set aside for it, to refuse to be dissuaded from resting, and (when necessary) to preach the gospel of rest as an aid to work.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some serious resting to do, and the bathtub is calling my name.

Today I Learned #2: Be A Fastback

Pinto-Runabout

Just maybe not a Pinto. Explosive gas isn’t a good look. (Via Wikimedia Commons, by Joost J. Bakker from IJmuiden (Ford Pinto runaboutUploaded by Oxyman) [CC BY 2.0])

How do you power your turns?

If you said, “By winding up my arms and then flinging them,” erm … really, that’s an entirely different post. I mean, I’m not sure how to break this to you, but, like…

…I mean, that might be a thing in some kinds of modern, but really, you don’t need to do that in ballet, and your teacher will yell at you a lot less if you stop.

Moving right along!

If you answered, “By turning,” you’re probably someone like me, who is much better at doing physical things than at thinking about physical things (and, like me, you might be prone to the Centipede’s Dilemma). I mean … like, to be entirely honest, if you’d asked me  a while back how I power my turns, I would’ve A] done some kind of turn in an attempt to figure it out, then B] shrugged and said, “Honestly, I have no idea.”

I have since had the opportunity[1] to discuss this in class several times, and have realized that there are several factors involved, one of which is my shoulder and back.

  1. Which is to say, been forced on pain of receiving The Look…

I mean, think about it. How do you a fouetté[2]? You basically flip your back around. First it’s on one side; then it’s on the other side. Your legs just, like, basically stay where they are, though the free leg has to turn over. Neato[3]!

  1. Not the en tournant/Black Swan kind. Just the, “Your toe is a key; stick it in the lock and turn it without actually doing a flip” kind.
  2. Sauté fouetté uses the same mechanics, btw. Ideally, your free leg should maintain a steady altitude, which looks pretty dazzling when done correctly.

 

The video above isn’t the best possible example, since you don’t even remotely need to be on pointe to do this and the mechanics allow you to start from a static balance (which would make for a much clearer video), but it gets the basic point across.  TBH, though, I searched for like 30 whole seconds and all the other videos I turned up were for fouetté en tournant. 

Obviously, it’s a given that flipping your back around is going to happen in any turn.

The funny thing, though, is that many of us never really bother to think about it. We get as far as holding our bodies together and then just … let physics take care of things, I guess?

Anyway, Mr. Reuille pointed out today (or was it yesterday?) that you have to bring your back around, and more the point, you have to imagine bringing it around faster for every single rotation within any given turn. So if you’re doing a triple, you’re not thinking, “One … two … three…” so much as, “One … two,three!”

In ballet turns, the back, shoulder, and hip travel together. (This isn’t always the case in modern turns, precisely—if you’re turning and spiraling at the same time, for example, the principle continues to operate along similar lines, but it feels very different.)

They carry the momentum of the turn—if you think about it, there’s a whole lot of mass there.

In an en dehors turn, the inside of the standing leg actively resists that momentum: otherwise, the free knee will happily collapse in towards the center, and you’ll wind up with one of those parallel jazz turns.

Which … I mean. They’re great, but they’re not ballet.

 

 

fosse-fosse-fosse

What? You thought there wouldn’t be a meme for that? Of *course* there’s a meme for that!

In an en dedans turn, the inside of the standing leg goes with the momentum, so the free leg resists against it. This is, I realize, another reason I’m better at en dedans turns than en dehors turns. The adduction is not so strong with this one. I’m working on it, okay?

Anyway, in either case, if you think about bringing the shoulder-hip complex around ahead of your spot, you might find that you get more and better turns.

Predictably, I do this well at some times and horribly, terribly, or not at all at other times. This[4] is another part of the reason that my turns are so bleeding inconsistent.

  1. …Combined with my bizarre back-leaning posture, wacko spot, and apparently counter-evolutionary preference for falling backwards rather than forwards … is this possibly a People Who Wear Glasses Thing, or is this just me???

At any rate, I ended class only owing Mr. Reuille 5 push-ups (for hopping out of a turn), which he kindly did not collect, and in the midst of receiving a correction did a very nice fouetté from first arabesque to attitude devant that resulted in a dead stable balance. And that owed largely to just bringing my ding-dang-darn back around faster.

So, like, there’s hope for even the worst parts of my ballet technique, I guess.

Anyway, if you’re having issues with turns that wobble or wander or just don’t have enough moxie, and you’re not sure where to find more chutzpah (did you know that chutzpah can be translated as “audacity?”), maybe you could try starting with this thing and see if it helps. Assuming, of course, that A] you’re snapping your free leg to a turned-out passé and B] you’re not leaning back like certain idiots who write blogs about ballet on the innertubes.

Merde, and let me know if it works out.

 

 

Today I Learned #1: What is UP, You Guys?!

And I don’t mean like, “Hey guys, what’s up?”

I mean, like, seriously—what even is “UP,” anyway?!

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Upness. What is it? What does it mean? (Photo via Pixabay on Pexels.com)

So!

This week I’m attending Lexington Ballet’s masterclass with David Reuille of Apex Contemporary Dance Theater, which involves getting up at the mostly-unheard of hour of 6 AM, driving to LexBallet, actually functioning before 10 AM, and apparently learning all kinds of stuff.

Today’s corrections & insights from ballet:

  • I don’t actually know where the back edge of my foot is … or at least I didn’t until this morning. WTF, you guys.
  • When you go up & back to do cambré, ACTUALLY GO UP FIRST, duh (Mr. Reuille definitely did NOT put it quite that way, he was just like, “Oh, go UP first!” and he guided me up and over … totally different)
  • DON’T HOP OUT OF YOUR FRICKIN’ TURNS (once again, Mr. Reuille didn’t put it that way): see L’Ancien on The Standing Leg
  • Keep the pelvis neutral (that one was for errbody)
  • Saut de basque: brush to second while facing the back corner (this might not make sense by itself)
  • Emboité en tournant: UP on the coupé (again, might not make sense by itself)

…And from Modern:

  • There actually is a method to what you do with your arms in modern (again, a general but very relevant correction)
  • Difference between a contraction and an overcurve: shoulders go forward only in overcurve; in a contraction, they might move down, but they remain placed over the hips (again, general, but relevant)
  • Figure 4 turn: my arms always want to go the wrong way (this wasn’t a correction I got, just something I noticed)
  • Compass turn: don’t secabesque too far back (this one was specific to me; I’m not sure I applied it very well in the combination)

None of these points are entirely new, but the first one totally boggled me. Like, I thought I was going up and back, but in fact I was just going, like, back and back. Sometimes a small physical correction asplains things better than all the words in the world.

How long have I been doing this, like, back and back instead of up and back thing?

Oh, probably my entire life.

Oddly, this is probably one of the very, very few places in which gymnastics technique can improve ballet technique. To execute a good backbend from a standing start, you actually do have to reach up and then back. If you’re doing a backbend, you’ll probably do this automatically, because if you try to just flop over backwards, it generally doesn’t end well.

Apparently, though, even though I historically had one heck of a nice backbend (though I haven’t tried it by itself in ages), I never thought to bring that quality of upness into my cambré.

I suspect that’s a function of thinking about the end point rather than the beginning.

We often screw up attitude this way as well. We tend to think of bringing the foot to attitude, which makes the whole thing come out wonky. We lose our turnout in an effort to put a foot somewhere in space. If we just think about keeping the leg exactly as it is when à le coup de pied or sur le coup de pied (or, in shorthand, “in coupé”), then rotate and lift from the TOP of the leg (THE TOP, you guys—like, the hip, supported by the core), we get a nice attitude with turnout intact.

Anyway, so all of this has led me to the realization that I still don’t entirely know where up is. I mean, I do: obviously, it’s UP. It’s just like … um. I know more or less where Poughkeepsie is, but if I took it upon myself to drive there, I’d need a little guidance.

I also learned that my brain still doesn’t want to learn combinations (or anything else) before 10:30 AM.

Too bad, brain: you’re just going to have to get used to it.

Anyway, today wasn’t the best day I’ve ever had in terms of actually being able to dance. I particularly failed at sissones, not because I couldn’t sissone, but because I got the combination backwards and then worried about it so hard that it just got worse and worse. So much for, “Do something, even if it’s wrong.”

OTOH, I got a “Nice!” on my cabriole, but also the correction to strike sooner. Seems reasonable; I think my life would be easier if I didn’t wait like ten minutes to strike the bottom leg against the top leg.

Anyway, here’s hoping that I’ll be less confused tomorrow. I will DEFINITELY NOT stick myself on the world’s most awkward little speck of barre, where there’s both a bend in the barre as it follows the shape of the wall and also a whole bunch of taped seams in the marley. I will stand somewhere else entirely, because I will plan ahead and then not feel like I can’t move because class has already started.

Par L’Ancien: Everything Begins With The Supporting Leg

The past few weeks have been crazy and demanding and rewarding and annoying and full of challenges and problems and triumphs and complete, abysmal failures … but overall more triumphs than failures.

Last weekend, we were in Cleveland, where I took a masterclass with Hubbard Street Dance. The weekend before that was HappyBirthday. The weekend before that, I was up to my neck in rehearsals.

This week, I had two rehearsals and only two ballet classes prior to today’s. Last night I made my debut as an actor-who-gets-to-talk in the third chapter of Fabled Fragments. There was also quite a bit of physical theater, made significantly more challenging by the fact that I hadn’t had a chance to rehearse with the acres of voluminous fabric that I had to wrestle on stage.

Today it was back to class with L’Ancien after almost a month. His advice to me today (besides not staring into the mirrror and second guessing-myself so freaking much: “You’ve done this a hundred thousand times; you’ve got a good brain…”) was simply to focus on the standing leg.

In the midst of all this, I encountered a kind of revelation: the height of one’s extensions depends a great deal more on the standing leg than on the free leg.

Chances are you know that already. But for the like five people out there in the world going lolwut?, here’s an explanation.

Señor BeastMode (who has also moved on … everything is changing, you guys! … but who has left us with an excellent teaching staff for the upcoming year) used to remind us that:

Proximal Stability equals distal mobility.

Wise words, those.

They’ve greatly improved a number of things about my technique, but somehow I hadn’t really applied that maxim to my extensions in adagio.

Was I afraid that if I thought about my standing leg too much, I’d lock myself down? Maybe, but probably not.

Instead, like most people, I was thinking entirely about my free leg.

Here’s the thing, though: the free leg can’t be free unless the standing leg is rooted and solid from the ground to the top of your head.

Why?

Because to give the free leg the full measure of its freedom, the standing leg must be completely secure. Otherwise, the free leg has nothing to “hang from,” as it were.

Think about it: if you imagine a tree with a wiggly spot in its trunk (and only three branches, one of which is significantly larger than the other two, because evidently it’s not much of a tree) … wait, there has to be a better analogy.

Developpe-Crane

Remember this? I almost hope you don’t.

So! Disregarding the fact that the construction crane is A] in the Don’t column and B] illustrating an entirely different point, here[1], it actually makes an excellent illustration of a further point.

  1. …That is: when you developpé, you must first lift your kneecap as high as you can, then extend the free leg. You’re welcome.

A construction crane cannot do its job if its base and upright aren’t stable.

If it tried, the weight of its boom—that is, its “free leg,” if you will—would tip it right the heck over.

In fact, here’s what happens when you’re a boom crane and your standing leg isn’t secure:

…And while usually things aren’t quite that dramatic in the ballet studio (especially since we’re more likely to be wiggly in the hip than unbalanced at the foot and completely rigid the rest of the way up), the difference that a secure standing leg can make in the height of your developpé is.

Dramatic, I mean.

If your standing leg is solid, with a secure hip (this is my personal bugbear, by the way: I have loosey-goosey hips, and I will likely be fixing them for the rest of my working life), then your free leg has a fixed point against which to pivot and your entire body as a counterweight.

If your standing-side hip (or something else in your standing leg) isn’t secure, the muscles in your free leg will clamp down in an effort to hold things together. By extension, your extension will be less … you know … extensive.

This remains true, by the way, even when you reach a point at which it’s permissible to slightly open the angle of the standing hip in an extension de côte. You still begin by lifting the knee against a stable hip and extending; only at the very end do you tilt the body—as one piece, moving only in the standing-side hip—to further open the angle between the standing and the free leg.

Just as an aside, this is one of the reasons that penché must begin with the leg, and not with the back. If you begin by letting the back droop forward, it ceases to be meaningfully connected to the free leg and can no longer operate as a counterbalance.

You know this, I know this, everybody knows this … but I still do it wrong at least 40% of the time, so I’m putting myself on notice.

Anyway, L’Ancien gave me some ballet homework: hop on the YouTubes and watch the men’s graduation class of the Bolshoi Academy, and pay attention to the stability of their working legs and the way they use their adductors.

I’m not sure this is the one he meant, but it’s still a pretty solid example of exactly what he’s talking about. LOOK AT THESE RONDS, mothertruckers:

 

…And then roll it back to the beginning and watch the whole thing. There’s an instructive moment in which the guy on the barre at audience right (that is, on YOUR right, as the viewer) commits exactly the same sin I tend to as they take attitude: he has to put his heel down, because his standing leg isn’t stable (BTW, he looks amazing anyway), while the other guys just float there on the world’s most solid demi-pointes because they’re jerks.

Erm, I mean, because their standing legs are stable.

Anyway, there you have it: you want higher extensions? Great.

FIRST, stabilize the heck out of your standing-side hip.

THEN work on improving your active flexibility so the muscles of your free leg can work appropriately against the rest of your body.

Don’t be like me and do it the other way around, or you will also be like me in having to think about your standing hip like crazy for the rest of your natural life.

The rest, as they say, is commentary. Go and learn.

Showtime

We opened “Happy Birthday” tonight, and it was good 😀

First time I’ve done a front-handspring in front of a paying audience since I’m not even sure when (high school, probably?) … so that was pretty awesome. It’s a Vweird thing, because it’s basically a single front handspring with a leap out of the rebound, but the run-up is so long that it builds up a lot of power 😀

Anyway, I tried not to go Full VonRothbart this time, and I got to wear a pair of sparkly things on my face:

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Ooh! A thparkly!

…I’m pretty sure that our AD copes with nerves by more or less literally throwing fairy dust at them. Like, initially, a few of us were going to wear jewels on our faces, and then a few more, but tonight while we were dressing he was like, “JEWELS ON EVERYONE! WE MUST ALL HAVE JEWELS!”

No complaint here. I’m really quite delighted that I got to wear sparkly things on my face, and even more delighted that they somehow survived the one-two punch of humidity and sweat, not to mention the trapeze and everything else. Eyelash glue: it’s like hot glue for your face 😀

Speaking of trapeze, my trapeze piece went rather well … though there was one somewhat alarming moment in which my tights gripped the trapeze but slipped around my leg whilst I was doing a drop transition to a single knee hang … EEK. But I played it off like that was supposed to happen, as you do.

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Not that moment, but a beautiful shot from our dress run by photographer Maria Marchal ❤

I’m using my own trap for this show, which is cool. It’s a really, really nice trapeze from Patti at Aerial Animals. She’s a bit of a legend in my local circle of aerialists, especially amongst those of us who like our traps heavy. It’s basically an exact copy of the one my friend and trap teacher M uses.

In other news, I received an invitation to stage a piece as part of a benefit show for local refugee services, which was awesome. We’ll be doing a further iteration of the excerpt from “Tenebrae,” this time with both The Lovers and The Stranger.

I needed a name for my group, so I called it Antiphon Project[1]. So I seem to have kind of accidentally launched a wee dance company? Or at least the germ of one.

  1. The name of the group (which might, someday, be just Antiphon, or possibly something like Antiphon Dance Theater or Antiphon Contemporary Ballet) is the result of a brain glitch from a long-ago Pilobolus masterclass. They usually end up the classes with compositional improv sessions, and one of the groups made a gorgeous piece that had this beautiful antiphonal movement style … but I couldn’t think of the word “antiphon.” At least, not until I was, predictably, lying in bed that night 😀 And thus did I decide that if I ever launched a dance company, I’d name it Antiphon for several reasons, but partly so I’d NEVER FORGET THAT WORD EVER AGAIN.

BUT FIRST! I have to survive a whirlwind trip to Connecticut and back for Teacher Training with Pilobolus :O I’ll be leaving directly from Fabled Fragments rehearsal on Sunday, driving straight through with a stop somewhere for a nap for a few hours, chugging straight into class, crashing out as soon as class is over probably, doing the second day of class, possibly crashing at Mom’s overnight, then turning around and driving back home.

gray scale photo of cat showing mouth

Basically how I feel about that plan, but I can’t afford to fly, so… (Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com)

A Few From Lexington

Just a handful of screencaps from our showing 🙂

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