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A Thing I’m Slowly Figuring Out

I tend to try maintain an aura of ebullient optimism.

I’m aware that I lead a relatively charmed life, in which I’m permitted by circumstance to pursue a fairly impractical set of goals, and to mention that I still struggle seems a bit like spitting right into the face of good fortune.

But I do still struggle, and I’m beginning to understand something, which is this: living a life in which I’m not forced to do work that grinds my soul to powder, in which the work I do is work that I enjoy, doesn’t alter the fact that my mental health is a little fragile and that history and genetics have conspired to place me on a narrow bridge that spans a yawning chasm.

Rather, the life I’m living acts as a kind of safety harness, so that when–not if–I go plummeting off my bridge, I can eventually climb back up, or at any rate be hauled back up by people who love me.

I am capable of periods of immense creative productivity, but they’re interspersed with periods in which merely surviving is still all I can do. Those periods of mere survival are made easier to bear by the knowledge that I won’t have to return, as soon as I’m barely able, to work that will inevitably accelerate the arrival of the next plunge off the bridge.

Because D carries the vast majority of the weight of the financial responsibility of keeping us afloat, I’m able to get up and walk along my bridge for long periods, when in the past I rarely made it beyond the clinging-and-crawling-along-the-edges phase before I slipped again.

I don’t make much money doing what I do, but I usually have enough energy left over to keep our house comfortable to live in and to cook good food.


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Monday Class: Just Dance

Class went well today.

I arrived early, and Dr. K (who made my week last time we were in class together) and I chatted for a while. Apparently she did very much intend to compare me to Nureyev, so I am now even more flattered — evidently I remind her of Nureyev both in build and in the way I dance — my attack, jumps, expressivité, plastique, and movement style. Um. Wow?*

She added, “And you have that beautiful arabesque. His wasn’t as high as yours.”


*Why, yes, I am currently experiencing an intense inner battle between my Impostor Syndrome, which says, I’M NOT WORTHY! and the rest of me, which is like, Geez, enormous responsibility, innit? … so many feels.

I told her how helpful her comment had been. It has really helped change how I think about my limitations as a dancer — Nureyev had similar limitations, and he was one of the greatest dancers ever. The thing is to accept one’s limitations and work to ameliorate them while making the most of one’s strengths.


Barre today looked fairly good. There were a couple of moments that I reverted to a similar combination from Saturday’s class, but I caught myself (and laughed at myself, as Dorky Dancing reminds us to do, instead of getting mad).

Adagio was iffy on the first side because I was confused about the counts, but fine thereafter. My penché is improving again; in tour lent (AKA promenade; it’s promenade in partnered work) coming out of penché, I need to remember to carry my opposite shoulder more.

Basically, in order to hold the body together, the opposite shoulder spirals toward the working leg. This is exactly the same as it is in arabesque (and everything else), but it takes a little more actual doing. Of late, my body wants to spiral over as if in a modern-dance-y slow fouetté, so I need to really watch that.

Doing turns terre-a-terre, I managed a triple; should’ve aimed for more, but chickened out. Next time. The combination was:

Pas de Bourré
En Dehors
Repeat Twice
Prepare Fourth
En Dedans
Pique Turn x4

It fit about 1.75 times across the floor — on the second set, the piques could either run down the side of the room or we could just leave them out. For some reason, we all kept forgetting to spot on the second set. Weird.

Petite allegro was half fine, half awful.

My little jumps were actually beautiful — light, fast, high, and quiet — though I couldn’t get my arms to cooperate.

The combination went, simply, from fifth:

Other side.

The arms went:

Opposite Third!
Bring working-side arm up for Fourth
Fifth/Thirty-Fifth/En Haut
Open and return to en bas/préparé smoothly over the the changements.

I tried to get the arms on the first set, then just left them in first in the second (which is hard in its own way — there’s so much existing motor programming that not moving them not that much easier).

None of us could do it at speed without hosing up the arms, though we could all mark through slowly with success. I’ll be practicing this one.

Our next combination was simple:

Glissade, assemblé
Glissade, assemblé
Glissade, jeté, jeté, jeté —
Both sides, then reverse of both sides.

The tempo was wickedly fast, however, and my assemblé was simply too slow. I’ll be working on that this week as well.

Edit: forgot about the Sissones! I am to have regained the motor pattern for Sissones finally. I have no idea where it was for the past few months, but my brain must have defragged or something last night, because it’s back now. The challenge is simply to NOT FREAKING THINK. Thinking + Sissones = Disaster.

Grand allegro was lovely, even though it took me a little while to nail down my own little variation. We soloed this, because we were in the tiny studio and there were only three of us today, all fairly advanced students.

The combination went:

Pas de Bourrée
Temps levée retiré
Pas de Bourrée
Pas de Chat (yay!)
Pique Arabesque
Tour jeté (land in balance)
Pas de Bourré
Saut de chat
… And then we got several bars for our own variation.

I initially tried:

Pique arabesque (low)
Pas de Bourré
Bournonville Jeté

But it turned out that there wasn’t enough room for that, and I kept doing very half-baked Bournonvilles so I wouldn’t crash into either the wall or the piano. One turned into something else entirely (Edit: a Blooperville Jeté, perhaps?).

On the repeat, I subbed in:

Pique arabesque
Tour Jeté to Arabesque Balance
Tour Jeté
Pas de Chat Italien
Land in Balance à la Second

This happened when I decided to stop thinking and just dance (hence the title of this post!). To be fair, tour jetés tend to happen whenever I just let myself dance, because I love them.

Dr. K commented that she was really impressed with my ability to stick a landing and go straight into a balance 😀

The funny part is that I find it easiest to hold a balance if I jump into it — my dynamic balance is really exceptionally good, while my static balance is only pretty good (read: quite a bit better than average compared to people without formal dance training, but probably only average for those with serious dance training).

Ms. E kept calling out, “BIIIIIG tour jeté! … Yesss!” on my runs. Apparently people have noticed that this white boy can in fact jump, so now they routinely ask me for big, lofty jumps.

As for me, I’m simply glad to have my big jumps back. It took a while to regain the power and coordination to get the kind of elevation and ballon I had as a kid, which I got partially through luck (genetics ftw) and partially through setting up and jumping ever-higher backyard hurdles (at one point, 42″) which I jumped in a style that in no way resembled proper track-and-field hurdling technique. It was more like Russian Pas de Chat over fences.

Anyway, it’s time to eat food (I have been bad about that lately — last night I turned into an absolutely horrible creature because hypoglycemia for the fail). Tonight we have fitness & flexibility, silks, and then I’m going to work on choreography with a friend of mine.

Edit: Oh, and in a bit I shall add my here are my ridiculous pictures from this week’s submission to Suspend’s Splits Challenge, just for the halibut.

As you can see, we were feeling goofy, even giddy, perhaps.


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