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Danseur Ignoble: Insert Joke About Having A Lot Of Class

I got my hair cut, hung out in the world (mostly riding around on the bike), then did tonight’s open house class with Ms. E.

It was, in a word, awesome.  Barre was solid, adagio was solid, we did cool waltzy things across the floor (fairly nailed the first; didn’t quite catch the combo on the second so I basically faked it: nothing like faking it in the first group :P).

I like Ms. E’s teaching style — she’s fun, but still precise, and really encourages us to dance.

We did two fun little petit allegro combos, the second of which I really enjoyed (glissade, assemblé, glissade assemblé, glissade, jete [to coupe], relève, relève).

I feel like I’m gaining a better sense for where my body is in space now: I can feel it when my arabesques are on sideways, when my feet are really working, and so forth without everything else falling apart.

Likewise, a year ago I would never have guessed that I’d be picking up combinations as quickly as I am now.  It’s still not perfect, but I’m much, much quicker than I was.   I figured that would be the hardest part for me.  It might still be, but I feel pretty confident about it now.

Part of it is not really having to think about the individual steps; part is, I think, just practice making …  well, not perfect, but better.

My toe is a little sore, but not too bad, so tonight it will get a much-deserved rest.  Tomorrow, since Denis graciously gave me a whole day for ballet, I will Do All The Chores.

I expect to sleep like a baby tonight.   I’m quite tired — though not exhausted like I was on Saturday.

I would, however, commit vile acts of inhuman depravity for a really good slice of pizza right now 😉

That’s it for today.   Ballet feels very exciting right now.   I’m looking forward to coming months.

Good night, and keep the leather side down.

Danseur Ignoble: That Moment When You Get It

Today’s class was good.

Not “I did absolutely everything right” good (because, come on, it’s ballet; the very instant you get something really right, they give you something harder to do), but “things are starting to crystallize” good.

I once described this feeling as “leveling up.” This time, it’s not so much leveling up as refining the level I’m on: like going back to collect all the hidden coins in a video game, or whatever.

Brienne gave me a zillion corrections today, which felt awesome (given my history with ballet, horsemanship, and academics, it shouldn’t sound weird to say, “Yay, criticism!” but it rather does, actually). She also said it’s fun to pick on me 🙂 That, too, is high praise coming from one’s ballet teacher.

Barre was quite good, with the exception of a super-weird moment in a grand rond de jambe from soutenu derrière (Brienne described it as “the worst thing in classical ballet, but we have to do it”), which was … well, it could have been worse, but it wasn’t good.

The highlight, meanwhile, occurred during barre adagio: Brienne gave me a handful of corrections as I did a different grand rond de jambe from derrière (this one did not begin with soutenu), and my working leg did this magical thing wherein suddenly it was fully pointed, straight, awesomely turned out, and weightlessly* hovering at what seemed like a ridiculously high extension. It startled3 me so much that I said, “Oh! Hey!”

*Note to self: I have been trying too hard again.

And then my working leg basically owned the rest of that rond de jambe with essentially no effort from me. If only all of class could be like that, all the time!

Now, if I can ever do that again, particularly when someone is ready with a camera, I can probably die happy. I won’t even ever have to perform if someone just gets video me executing of a single perfect grand rond de jambe with that kind of ridiculous extension.

At center, adagio was … meh, could’ve been worse, but would’ve been better if I’d understood the first combination right the first time and then didn’t spend the remaining repetitions freaking out about getting it wrong.

On the upside? Double turns! On demand! WTF, when did I stop sucking at turns (again)?

Brienne gave us a useful talk about identifying one’s own natural spotting speed so one can modulate one’s turning speed according to the music.  I think I am actually kind of a slow-turner, but I’m not entirely certain.

I also sucked it up and did the little jumps, since my toe felt okay, and was surprised how much faster they’re getting. It used to be that I could either jump really slowly with beautiful point and straight legs or schlub my way through quick jumps.   Now I’m starting to hit really nice quick jumps about half the time.

Brienne has been making me focus on really working through my feet, and holy cow, is it ever helping!

We ran out of time before we got to do grand allegro, alas.

I’m thinking I will do class tonight.  A) it’s giant ballet party open house night, and B) Ms. E is teaching, and I don’t think I’ve done class with her yet.  Perhaps we’ll allegro!

Anyway.  That’s it for now.  There is nothing like the feeling of making progress!

Danseur Ignoble: Weaksauce?

On Saturday, I dragged Robert to ballet with me, and he made a respectable effort in Margie’s class. I, too, made a respectable effort, then proceeded on to Brienne’s class.

In Brienne’s class, I … um. Well.

Let me state for the record that it’s been a while since I’ve done two classes back-to-back, and apparently I’m still quite out of shape. Jeez.

Or, well — I may have been coming down with something, as I had a fever and some pretty unpleasant gastric distress stuff on Sunday and Monday. (Today, I’m feeling mostly better, so it’s back to Brienne’s class tomorrow.)

Either way, I had some strength-related issues at barre (sometimes, you fondue; sometimes, you fondon’t), though there were definitely some highlights as well. My balances are improving again.

At center, we did a rather nice bit of slow adagio (which I would have done better if I’d kept my extensions lower; I didn’t have the strength left to really sustain them above about 60 degrees).

Across the floor, Brienne tuned up our balancés — in my case, that was really a good thing, as my balancés have really needed some tuning. It was nice to get them ironed out and flowing.

I’m not sure what was done for allegros petit et grand; I bowed out at that point, as I was simply feeling exhausted by that point and didn’t want to roll the “exhaustion leads to injury” dice.

I hope to acquit myself better in tomorrow’s class.

Saturday’s problem — making it through class — shouldn’t really be too hard to overcome, as I’ll only be doing one class, or possibly two separated by many hours instead of back to back.

Wednesday’s problem — remembering all the combos and not screwing up my ballotés and, heaven help me, sissons (you know, the second easiest jump in the whole world; and as such one that I should pretty much never find difficult?) — well. We’ll see how that goes. Successive approximations, etc.

Those were very much in the Domain of the Baby Giraffe (Wait! Which leg goes where?) last week, so I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about them, because we all know how much thinking helps in ballet! Mostly, I found myself thinking about how to solve the problem of the bizarre disconnect that sometimes happens between brain and legs.

Like, I know how to sisson, and I knew which way(s) to sisson in last week’s second allegro combo, and yet somehow when it came time to sisson, my legs were all like, “HOLY FRACK HOW DO I EVEN DO THIS?!”

I imagine that it was probably quite funny from the sidelines.

Anyway, tomorrow will almost certainly be better.

So that’s it for now. May your fondues refrain from becoming fondon’ts, and the sissons rise up to meet you, or something like that 🙂

Danseur Ignoble: A Good Bad Day

I’m not sure how else to describe today’s class.

It wasn’t always an awesome class in terms of accuracy (on my part), but the problems I ran into didn’t stem from lack of technique (mostly; for reasons unknown, there was one terrible soutenu moment in our fondu-et-rond-de-jamb combo… o_o) so much as from my brain butting up against increasingly-complex combinations, and there were some really quite nice moments.

Somehow, I left class floating on a cloud of confidence even though I’d completely hosed up the final traveling combination*.

My brain was like,”That’s saute arabesque faille glissade assemble and what now?” and my legs were like, “Saute arab– HAAAAAY, WAAAAAAATE FOR UZZZZZZZ!!!!1!!1oneone”

Brienne definitely leveled us up today. We were packed with company dancers and teachers as well we few, we happy few, we band of danseurs et danseuses ignobles. After lulling us into a false sense of security with some nice, gentle pliés, our much-loved task-mistress moved on to a series of increasingly longer and more demanding combinations at the barre. We tried our hardest to execute them, because we all love her and would follow her into battle against the forces of Mordor and all that.

I also once again failed to eat (not on purpose — just poor planning and worse execution), so my brain was decidedly not firing on all 3.5 cylinders.

In case you’re wondering, that did not help me remember the combos.

That said, when I was doing things right today, they were apparently pretty right indeed — I got a, “Good, Asher!” twice; once after responding to a small correction and once straight out of the blue.

Ballet peeps, you already know: there is no accolade in the world better than “Good!” (or its equivalent, “Yes!”) in class.

Even better, I had an awesome conversation with Brienne after class. I laughingly lamented my total failure to get the last combo right, and she said she’s noticed that I’m using my feet against the floor better (thanks in largely to the combinations she and Ms. T have been giving us) and my speed is improving.

Then she said, “You have beautiful feet” and went on to explain that the range of motion in my feet and ankles means it takes me longer to “get there” (that is, to reach full point and extension) than it does for people with less flexible feet, which paradoxically makes quick jumps harder.

On the other hand, apparently it means my feet look great when they finally do “get there,” so I’ll take that. Speed, I can build.

Later, Ms. T. said I had beautiful legs for ballet o.O

This floored me. While my relationship with my legs has improved, I still think of them as disproportionately stocky (that is, disproportionately stocky relative to the rest of my body, which has always bothered me aesthetically). While I now definitely respect their functionality, I’m not really used to thinking of my legs as beautiful (to be fair, Denis also seems to think my legs are pretty fine, so it’s possible that I’m just wildly delusional).

My hypermobile knees are part of that, but at the same time, learning to actually get them straight without locking them has been surprisingly challenging, especially since dancing makes them more, rather than less, hyperextendy.

Sometimes in class I feel like a baby giraffe trying to learn to walk, scissoring around the Sahara, or maybe like a drunken ostrich**. It is nice to know that this is a function of having beautiful legs for ballet. Some problems are good problems to have.

**In its earliest iterations, the classic ballet Swan Lake was in fact called Ostrich Field. Unfortunately, test audiences were shocked and scandalized by scenes in which mobs of furious female ostriches attacked Siegfried, Benno, all of the party guests, Von Rothbart, and everyone else just, like, because that’s how ostriches roll. So they had to scrap that one and came up with Swan Lake instead.
The 32 fouettes, meanwhile, are all that’s left of the big, climactic fight scene between Ostrette (The Empress of the Ostriches, of course) and, well, basically the rest of the non-ostrich cast, after which the flagging Ostrich squadron, inspired by their leader’s display of puissance, rallies to win the day.
Or, well, maybe I’m just making that up. But I would totally go see that ballet, which could totally be a double-header with Zombie Giselle.

Suddenly, though, I feel like I have a lot to live up to. Beautiful feet and beautiful legs?

So, yeah. It was a good kind of bad day — the kind that you have when you’re working on challenging stuff and your technique is improving; the kind you run into when the dimensions of your comfort zone are starting to expand.

In short, I could live with a lot more good bad days just like this one.

In other news, both of my Capezio Romeos have swallowed their laces (in case you’re wondering, it’s really quite hard to promenade when your shoes are slowly peeling off ._.). So I’m going to have to take some time to fix them. I really should’ve applied something to the knots to make sure they’d stick after I gave the laces a trim.

Um, lesson learned?

So that’s it for now. Robert and I are kicking around the idea of doing a Cooking with ADHD video post in the next few days. I’m also trying to make him take Ms. M’s class on Friday. He’s here ’til Sunday, so he might as well.

I’ll keep you posted 🙂

Danseur Ignoble: It Helps If You Can Breathe

12:15 class today with Ms. T. I haven’t done her class in ages (Claire used to teach the noon class on Saturday), so it was a new experience. I also haven’t done the 12:15 Saturday class in over a month, so that was cool.

While the 12:15 class is billed as a beginner class, like most it gets adjusted based on who shows up; today, we skewed towards the intermediate level, particularly at the barre/

I’d say that our work at center and across the floor was more advanced-beginnery — which is to say that we didn’t do 360-degree promenades in attitude or arabesque, anything with pas de Basque or balanceé as linking steps (you guys, I absolutely and irrationally love pas de Basque; it’s one of those steps that just feels like dancing), or any combinations with different flavors of turns.

Anyway, I forgot to tape my toes and forgot to take my nasal spray. The latter of these was the worse oversight: my nasal spray keeps my whole nosapharynx open, and my allergies are on high alert today, so breathing became a challenge towards the end.

Barre was iffy at first (my plies felt inelastic, and it took me a while to get my head in the game), but the last half of barre was pretty good, and I felt pretty solid at center and going across the floor.

We did some nice adagio at center (with promenades at passé, which are comfortingly easy at this point) and then a really pretty traveling combo in waltz time that went:

Prepare (B+, port des bras);

Tombe
Pas de bourré
Plie fourth;

(Long) Passe balance
Tendu back;

Tombe
Pas de bourré
Plie fourth;

Single (slow) turn en dedans
Tendu back;

Tombe
Pas de bourré
Plie fourth;

Double turn en dedans (or triple if you were that one guy with the awesome turns);

Pivot
Soutenu turn to fifth
Plié;

Chassee to 1st arabesque en releve
Allongé
(Faille implied.) Run away!

I wanted to say that the tempo was fairly moderate, so there was lots of room for expression, but when I tap it out on my mobile metronome it’s about 130 BPM, which is squarely allegro.

Maybe it felt slow and easy because we did a really fast grand allegro combo on Wednesday. I mean, like, we ran it first at a tempo that was also squarely allegro, and then at about twice that speed. Woof.

Anyway, today it felt like we had plenty of time and room going across the floor and weren’t rushing to get from one step to the next.

I was on the rear point of a triangle with its front line made up of two people who were shorter than I am, so I kept having to moderate my travel so as not to gallomph into them or become unsynchronized. That’s a useful exercise, though, as being able to maintain spacing in a squadron of differently-sized dancers is an essential skill.

That said, triangles usually go point-first in ballet, don’t they?

I got through the first set of little jumps before my toe started to feel iffy. I skipped the second set, which made me sad — dangit, I wanted to do entrechats! I also skipped grand allegro today, just in case.

Not being able to breathe very well didn’t help. Everything feels about twice as difficult when your air intake is clogged.

It’s mostly, I think, that when you get even a little winded, it’s hard to get enough air to recover properly.

Instead of getting a little winded, recovering, getting a little winded again, and recovering again (which is a normal pattern during certain parts of class), you get a little winded, get more winded, then get even more winded. By the time you make it to the end of the first set of little jumps, you sound like a freight train and feel like your head and/or heart are going to explode.

That said, it’s not like this is a new thing for me. I have had nasopharyngeal issues as far back as I can remember — I’m just usually better at making sure I’ve dealt with them before class.

So, yeah. Nice reminder today about why I take my nasal spray before class.

I think next week I’ll swing for all three intermediate classes (M,W,F) and the 12:15 class on Saturday, which Brienne is teaching, though I may do evening class on Monday (Brienne is teaching that, too).

Brian is back to teaching the following Monday, which will be awesome. On the 14th, Wednesday AM class will be taught by the instructor who teaches advanced classes, so I’m rather looking forward to that as well.

Anyway, that’s it for today.

Never underestimate the importance of breathing 🙂

Danseur Ignoble: Now That’s Showbiz

Did Brienne’s class today, and I made it All. The. Way. Through!

(Though I skipped a couple of reps of petit allegro.)

She has a really fun CD of class music called “West End to Broadway” (hence, in part, the title of this post), including some nice, slow pieces for torture fondu and barre adagio. 

Barre is improving.  

If you’re a horse person, you know that thing where if you don’t ride or school your horse for a while, sometimes the horse in question acts a bit silly when you put him back to work? That’s kind of where my body is.

image

I'm back! Mostly!

It does things I didn’t really ask for, then I correct it, and it’s all, “Oh, you mean those turnout muscles!   Okay.   No worries!”

However, it’s doing less of that now than it was last week.  My successive approximations are closer to the goal state.   So, Yay!

Speaking of successive approximations, at center and across the floor, we had nice combos today, and I did the traveling ones, if not worth prefect execution, at least with a lot of elan. 

Now, if I could just stop putting in failles where there aren’t any and leaving them out where there are (and adding an extra saute arabesque here or pique turn there)…

But that’s more of my body being a silly horse.  At least it’s a silly horse that’s got some style?

Which brings me to the other reason for this title: one of the things my classmates kept mentioning was the struggle to remember the combinations (some of which were fairly complex).  

The cool part is that you wouldn’t have known it, for the most part: everyone focused on performing and enjoying themselves, and most of us looked pretty good.  (I’ve determined that if you turn the wrong way on the rear point of a triangle, it actually looks pretty cool anyway, so I don’t even worry about that anymore ;)).

I’m back to a point at which I don’t freeze if I blank on the combo halfway through; instead, I improvise.  It’s a skill I learned as a musician: nobody knows you screwed up if you don’t let them know.

Of course, in class (okay, and sometimes in big corps numbers), that’s not entirely true, but what you practice in class is ultimately what you will do on stage — and, of course, mistakes do happen during performances, even to professionals.   Like we lowly danseurs and danseuses ignobles, they have to learn to make it look good.

And that, too, is showbiz.

(Come to think of it, looking like you meant to do that is an important life skill in general — ask any cat!)

So that’s it for today.  The final combination in today’s class went so well (You guys, I threw in a cabriole just for kicks!   I’m back!) that I finished up feeling jubilant, ebullient, even bubbly.

Now, home to do computery work.

Danseur Ignoble: Intermediate Again

I returned to intermediate class today.   I had my doubts, but it actually went reasonably well.

While I didn’t look stellar at the barre, I did make it through all the combinations (of note, either today’s fondus were less sadistic than usual, or my legs are really fresh, or both).  Weight transfers were solid; grand rond de jambes were …  Um.

Adagio has been worse, but has also been much better.   Across-the-floor, on the other hand, was surprisingly good.  I need to tune up my balancé a bit again, but the whole thing hung together and looked rather nice (including a lovely turn from fourth; egads, I have missed turns from fourth).

I did part of the petit adagio, then called it a day.  I think that was the right call.   We did quite a bit of relevé work at the barre, and my toe was starting to speak up.

In other news, The Momma (Denis’ Mom) is making us costumes for Tutu Tuesday (I am preparing her sainthood paperwork as I write).  We took measurements yesterday.  I selected the fabrics and colors last weekend.  I think they’re going to be pretty cool.

The summer depression continues apace, but I’m managing.   I really need to get my butt to class as often as I can between now and when we ship out for Burning Man, and I’m hoping that will help.

Anyway, that’s it for now.

Don’t forget to spot your turns!

Danseur Ignoble: Ballet Bonque 2: This Time, It’s Personal

I  think I’ve written about the phenomenon of “ballet bonk” once before,
but since bonking makes the old brain a bit foggy, I’m not going to try to find that entry and link it.

So what, you might ask (since not all of you are endurance athletes as well as dancers, and I’m too cooked to link), is “ballet bonk?”

In short, it’s the almost completely avoidable phenomenon that occurs when your muscles run out of fuel.  in an endurance sport context, it’s just “bonk” or “the bonk,” sometimes with various adjectives (dreaded is a good one).  When it happens in ballet class — which it only will if you are, as I am, a complete idiot — it seems fair to call it “ballet bonk.”

The physiological explanation for bonk is that the muscles have depleted their “reserve tank” — the glycogen stores that they tap when you make them do things like run or ride a bike or fondu.   Normally, at that point, they switch over to using the fuel you’ve recently added in the form of caloric intake, but (and here’s where the “idiot” part comes in) not if you have grossly under-eaten and there’s basically no fuel for them to tap.

When that happens, your muscles will firmly and politely refuse to do frack-all until such time as you top up.   Unfortunately, unless you can afford to take a break of a couple hours, a full-on bonk spells the end of your race or brevet — or, in this case, your ballet class.

The chief symptom of bonk is that your muscles just say no.  They don’t usually stop responding entirely, of course — but you can kiss speed and alignment and power good-bye.   On the bike, your legs will make occasional, pathetic efforts to turn the cranks; in ballet class, meanwhile, your grand battement week suddenly be less than grand.  All your efforts will feel inconceivably weak.   You will wonder what is wrong with you.

And then you’ll figure it out, and graciously bow out after barre (which, today, was an hour long), and go eat some food.  Or, at least, that’s what I did.

I should point out that there are contributing factors, here.

Derp the first: I am having the usual summer uptick, which makes falling asleep very difficult, and Denis keeps leaving the shades drawn, which makes waking very difficult.  Thus, I woke up today with fifteen minutes to get out the door.  That’s plenty of time to brush my teeth, get dressed, and grab a water bottle, but not enough time to make food.

Derp the second: I didn’t eat enough yesterday, so I was already starting from behind.

Deep the third: I over-estimated how long it would take to ride to the bus stop and, as a result, rode too hard and fast, using up more energy than I should have.  At an easy pace, the ride in question burns about 300 calories.   At molto prestissimo, of course, it burns more.

Derp the herp: for some reason, at the bus stop, I ate the little 90-calorie snack thing I’d packed instead of the 190-calorie one.   I couldn’t eat both because we have already established that it is a bad idea to ingest 40% of your day’s fiber RDA in one sitting half an hour before class … a very bad idea.

Add to all this the fact that A) Brienne’s class is always demanding and B) it was really hot in the studio, so my body was working overtime to cool itself, and you’ve basically for the perfect storm, so to speak.

The worst part is that bonk is not something you can work through.  You can get stronger, you can build endurance: but bonk is bonk, a lack of available fuel is really kind of an insurmountable problem.  Sure, you become more efficient through training — but no matter how fit and efficient you are, of you don’t plan well, you can set yourself up for a bonk.

Thus, I quit while I was behind to avoid hurting myself … or, for that matter, anyone else; nobody needs a bonking flailer (flailing bonker?) crashing into — or worse, onto — them mid-adagio.

So how, one might wonder, can ballet bonk be avoided?

That, friends, is (fortunately) simple.

Eat.

In endurance sports, you avoid bonk by eating-on-the-run (or on the bike), taking feed breaks at regular intervals, etc.

In ballet, of course, that’s not really possible: fortunately, most people can handle about 90 minutes of sustained activity before they deplete their glycogen stores, and most ballet classes are about 90 minutes long.  Dancers can avoid bonking simply by, like, remembering to eat, and remembering to take into account how much energy getting to class requires if they use “active transportation” like cycling or walking.

I would have been fine if I hadn’t ridden the bike this morning and/or if I’d fueled appropriately.  Instead, having taken in only 90 high-fiber (and thusly slow-digesting calories), and having already burned upwards of 300 on the bike, and having started the day with an energy deficit in the first place, I set myself up for a bonk.

So there you have it, gentles: remember to eat.   Then you won’t bonk during barre.

And if you do ever experience The Dreaded Ballet Bonk, consider ducking out after barre so you don’t injure yourself.

That’s it for now.   Remember: eat food and avoid the bonk!

Today’s message brought to you by the letter B and the number glaaaaaargh.

Danseur Ignoble: That Feel When You Figure Out That You’ve Leveled Up

…Not to say, that at a really good school, you’re ever making a mistake by stepping back a level or two. You can use those classes to perfect your technique.

But it’s really cool to do Beginner Class and realize, Hey, I really actually do belong in Intermediate Class, even when you’re returning after an injury. That’s pretty cool.

I think when I first started doing Intermediate Class, I was reaching more than I’m reaching now: realistically, I was a fairly strong advanced beginner, maybe, and I think the stretch was good for me. I feel like I’m pretty squarely in the Intermediate camp at this point (part of which is being able to figure out what I’m doing wrong, where, and why, and to correct it myself).

There’s been a part of me that has been iffy about my decision to jump right back into Intermediate class. Yesterday I stayed home to do a whole boatload of work that needed doing, so today I did Beginner Class at noon (for the past few weeks, I’ve been doing Intermediate Class and Essentials).

I felt very on top of it — confident and effective, with a few minor exceptions: some of my allegro and adagio were less than awesome, but they were less than awesome in that “I am reconditioning after an injury and haven’t done this since February” kind of way, not in an “Erhmagerd, I don’t know these steps!” kind of way or an “Abort! Abort! We’re going down!” kind of way.

My petit allegro is still slow, but I’m okay with that right now. Speed will come back. My ballet homework now involves doing tendus, degages, and frappes in the water while I’m Florida. Slice, slice, slicing away in the pool, in the ocean, wherever. And then doing flips because they’re fun, per Claire’s orders 😀

I feel like I should probably download the Rocky Theme Song so I can create my own Getting Stronger montage which, I guess, should logically end with a sequence of Petit Allegro That Doesn’t Suck?

Also, my flexibility was 100% there. Full splits both sides, no sweat; pancake to center. Nice to have that back; my right thigh has been tight for the past few weeks. I’ve been stretching after riding the bike (and while riding the bike, which I’m sure looks very bizarre to everyone who does not ride bikes and/or dance).

This coming week, however, I’ll basically just be doing Brienne’s Wednesday class and possibly Margie’s Friday class (depends on what Denis wants me to do), and then we’ll be heading off to Florida. We don’t have class on Monday because of Memorial Day (which I somehow thought was next week; I am eternally so confused about time).

In other news, Amazon Music’s Show Tunes channel is faaaabulooooous!

That’s it for now. Off to level up in doing the finances…

Danseur Ignoble: A Bad Dream And A Good Class

This morning, after staying up way too late yet again because apparently I’m too dumb to realize that starting to read a new novel at 11:00 PM is a terrible idea, I had a terrible dream.

I was in Brienne’s class. We were at the barre, doing one of her wicked fondue-and-developpe combinations. Every time I would try to developpe, I would either fail to get my leg (which weighed a million pounds) above about 60 degrees or, even worse, I would, but would instantly fall over backwards!

Fortunately, things went better in actual class. I felt more together today. I’m starting to get a little speed back at the barre — it hadn’t occurred to me that some of my Petit Largo Allegro problem is a returning-to-training-post-injury thing (more on that below).

Tendus and degages went well, even with lots of weight transfers (ye gods how weight transfers vexed me when I first started dancing again; now, it’s basically just like, “Oh, no biggie, inside leg taimz…”); rond-de-jambes (with attendant merciless fondu) went much better than last week. Not back up to my usual standard yet, but they’re getting there.

Our grand battement combination was far less sadistic this week and involved frappes, of which I shall be doing many in coming days (again, see below). For some reason, my brain held on to that particular combination like a seive ._. I got most of it, but for some reason couldn’t seem to remember that there was a little frappe-en-crois in the middle.

Apparently, my body has finally gotten the memo that, yes, I am going to make it do this stuff every Wednesday (and soon on Monday and Friday as well — we’ll see how the leg fares; I might do Tawnee’s class this Friday). My core was not awesome, but it was not non-existent, either. I’m working on it.

I also remembered (though not always at the right moment) how to developpe correctly. No more construction-crane technique: it turns out that the method I sussed out some while back while mucking about in the fridge (because, yes, I am that ballet student who is like BALLET ALL THE THINGS!) is exactly what Brienne describes.

In short, engage the core (imagine it, if it helps, pulling your body towards the working leg) and the muscles beneath the calf and buttocks; that way you’re not trying to haul forty pounds (or more*) of leg up by your quads and hip flexors alone.

*Apparently, the average human leg weighs about 40 pounds. I suspect many of us who dance have above-average legs, and those of us who both dance and ride bikes? Let’s call our legs “superior;” that might make us feel better about our difficulties in finding trousers.

Bizarrely enough, all of this adagio stuff went rather brilliantly at center. Brienne called us on the carpet about it: she was like, “I just saw you guys do all this stuff right, so now you’re going to do it right out here, and you’re going to be all pretty and musical.” (Okay, those weren’t her exact words.)

When we weren’t as pretty and musical as we could have been the first time we ran through our adagio combination, she gave us this hilarious demonstration of what not to do (seriously, it looked like she was trying to use semaphore to land two planes at the same time — one with her arms, one with her legs) and made us do it again. We did, and — lo and behold! — it was actually very nice.

My turns were also pretty stellar today until I got tired and kind of started to fall apart. Some while ago, I realized that when I don’t prepare well, I over-do it with the spring, and my supporting foot tries to leave the ground, and that is exactly what started happening when I got really tired.

It took me longer to reach that point, though, which is a very good sign (and at least in part the result of a more organized start this morning, which meant I didn’t completely cook my legs riding to the bus stop).

Petit allegro was … um … well … less bad. I was hitting more of the jumps, but still slow. More like Petit Largo, though maybe I’ve moved up a few beats-per-minute this week.

After class, I asked Brienne about what I should focus on to get speed back. Her answer? Do tons of tendus, degages, and frappes**.

Which, ultimately, is ballet in a nutshell, if you throw some plies in there. Which you should, or you will be very, very sore later.

This actually makes a great deal of sense to me. I have noticed that my tendus and degages have become super-precise over the past several weeks (during the Era of Margie’s Class Only), but I’ve lost speed. Now I can work on maintaining precision while increasing speed, and soon my legs will look better during quick work than they did before I blew up my calf.

So that’s what I’ll be working on for the time being: zillions of tendus, degages, and frappes every day to get my speed back.

That said, I’m done for today. I put in a bunch of miles on the bike (being mindful about spinning light gears and stretching adductors and rotators and stuff when I got home), and my thighs just can’t even right now.

The next thing I buy myself is going to be a foam roller, you guys. Seriously.

~fin~

Incidentally, whenever I’m wrestling with petit allegro, I find myself thinking about A Ballet Education’s post on the topic, “Your Petit Allegro Is Awful…” and I strive not to be an example of awful petit allegro! Fortunately, the teaching staff at LBS focuses quite a lot on petit allegro and teaches technique that would make Mr. King (who writes ABE) proud.
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