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Friday Morning Variables; A Really Good Contact Form Tutorial

First, the ballet:

Today, I finally got back to class. I was again assisting in Friday class, and we had one brand-new student. He let us know that he was uncomfortable with any kind of hands-on correction, so I spent much of the class contemplating best practices for verbally imparting elements of basic placement and so forth that are easiest to demonstrate by physically placing someone’s arms or what have you.

I’ll be thinking about this for quite a while, I suspect.

In other news, I’m building a PHP-driven contact form for Denis’ website, and being as my PHP skillz are more than tad rusty, I decided to play it safe and hunt up a tutorial (especially since I’ve never hand-coded PHP into a WordPress-driven site before).

I found a great one — it’s going gangbusters, thus far, so unless I hose something up (in which case I’ll just say, “Screw this,” and copy the code from the thoughtfully-provided repository ;)), I think it’ll work.

The best part is that it’s well-written: clear, concise, and direct.

Here’s a link, if you’re into this kind of stuff:

https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/how-to-build-your-own-wordpress-contact-form-and-why/

I initially started doing this the e my WP install is wonky and I can’t actually install plugins, but since I prefer actually doing many things by hand, this appeals to my  crankety old-fashioned tastes.

I cut my teeth on old-skool HTML as a kid before WYSIWIG editors were really a thing (and definitely before good ones that didn’t produce code that looked like something a cat might disgorge after a hard night on the town), and developed my initial abilities the same way everyone did back then, through the magic of View Source. This fostered in me a deep appreciation for clean, well-commented code, and the tutorial above is a fantastic example of what that should look like.

For maximum laziness irony, of course, I am writing this entry in the WP’s “Visual” editor.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Oh, or, well — I have a research idea percolating for my ballet peeps, but I’ll get to that in another post. This is mostly a reminder to myself, so there we go. STICKY NOTE!!!!

À bientôt, mes amis!

 

Ballet Lessons: Don’t Neglect the Transitional Steps

When I talk about transitional steps, I often devolve upon the example of the floor exercise in women’s competitive gymnastics.

It’s a handy example, because most of us have watched gymnastics at one point or another (even if only in the heat of Olympic fever) and floor exercise is, in some regards, the easiest apparatus for the uninitiated observer to understand.

What isn’t as easy for the uninitiated observer (or even for many experienced observers and extensively-trained gymnasts) to understand is why some gymnasts just look so much better than others — so much smoother and more polished.

More often than not, the secret is in the transitional steps.

Historically, American gymnastics training programs have focused on training skills and little else. The skills themselves may be brilliantly executed, technically precise, and powerful: but technically perfect skills alone do not make a beautiful, exceptional routine.

For beautiful, exceptional routines, the Russians tend to lead the world: and there’s a reason for that.

The Russians train the bejeezus out of the skills, but they also dance.

When you watch a top-notch Russian gymnast doing her floor exercise, it isn’t a series of tumbling runs, balances, and isolated skills loosely linked by half-hearted shimmies. It’s a single, coherent entity from start to finish: a choreographed dance that happens to feature explosive, difficult, highly-technical gymnastics skills.

The difference, in short, is the linking steps: all of those apparently non-essential moments that take the gymnast, judges, and audience from Point A through Point Z.

Even in moments of stillness, the best Russian gymnasts continue to dance — just as ballet dancers are dancing even when they’re standing in B-plus for fifteen minutes while Odette gets her swan on.

So much of ballet happens in the transitional steps: the ones that carry the dancers from pique arabesque to entrelacé, or from tour lent to dèveloppé ecarté avant.

For the dancer (or gymnast), transitional steps serve important preparatory roles: think of precipité and failli, which essentially never appear on their own outside of the lesson, but which precede so many important moments in performances.

For the audience, transitional steps serve as the visual links that join the more dramatic steps of the dance into a cohesive whole.

As such, they’re extremely important: but often, as dancers, we neglect them in preparation.

One of the reasons — in fact, I would argue, the main reason — that great Russian gymnasts’ floor exercise routines look so beautiful is that they don’t neglect the transitional steps.

Russian trainers don’t treat dance as an afterthought; they school their charges in using transitional steps and maintaining line throughout their movements. As a result, the Russians’ floor exercises continue to be gorgeous (and they essentially own the sport of Rhythmic Gymnastics, which depends even more heavily on dance than does floor exercise in Artistic Gymnastics).

One of the reasons that American gymnasts’ floor exercises, even when technically perfect, are rarely as beautiful is that American trainers do tend to treat dance as an afterthought. Many gyms, in fact, don’t actually teach dance as a discrete element at all. Instead, they do their best to “work it in” when teaching routines.

As a result, their gymnasts’ performance suffers.

The same goes for dancers: so often we devote all our time to learning what we think of as the big, important steps — at the expense of the transitional steps that link everything together into dance.

We do this in life, too.

So often, we’re so eager to get on to the Next Big Thing that we fail to adequately prepare. With our eyes on the far horizon and our feet moving forward in the now, we stumble over pebbles and fumble through our preparations.

Often, the Next Big Thing suffers as a result — it may succeed, but perhaps not as well a it would have if we had paid attention to our preparation; if we had learned the transitional steps and used them well.

As dancers, when we learn choreography, we do well to focus on ingesting and interpolating that transitional steps — not only will they allow us to execute our big, technical steps with elan, but they help us remember the dance. Each transitional step becomes a cue; common transitional phrases (tombe-pas de bourreé-glissade…, for example) become “hooks” we can use to get ourselves back into the dance if we get lost.

A good glissade or chassé allows us to gather momentum, place ourselves, and load our springs (via plie) in order to execute those high, brilliant, explosive jumps we all love.*

*Worth noting: Sometimes, choreography starts with transitional steps.
The past two weeks, we’ve been working a combination in Ms. B’s Killer Class that nominally starts with temps de flèche, but really starts with a coupé tombé that transfers the weight and loads the springs, allowing us to blast the temps de flèche off like we were launching from Cape Canaveral.

An effective tombé to fourth or second makes a square, quiet place from which to launch a turn, or three turns, or five turns.

These are basic steps, mostly learned in the first year of class: but, like everything else, they are critical, essential, and never perfected.

Wise dancers continue to work on transitional steps as long as they continue to dance.

We can all take a page from that book: the same principle applies to life in general. We should pay attention to our transitions; work on them; prepare them.

In the end, they’ll make our big moves smoother, cleaner, and more brilliant.

~

Today’s post is inspired in part by my own tendency to neglect the transitional steps in favor of the big ones, my attendant quest to freaking well stop doing that, and the fact that I’ve realized I’m in a transitional period in my own life right now and should be paying attention to the transitional steps instead of just going, “Man, when do I get to the part where I get to do coupe jeté en tournant en menage?”

Or, you know. The life-outside-ballet equivalent.

The Show Goes On

Last night, I wrote about how sometimes living with bipolar feels like walking a tightrope; how the only way to survive is to keep your eyes up and keep moving forward.

Ballet is the thing that makes me able to do that.

This morning, getting up was a complicated, but I did get up, and I made it to class.

..And I’m glad we did, as we had four new dancers (new to class, not new to ballet), all of whom were quite good, and two of whom were guys.

Barre went well except for the double-rond-de-jambe-and-frappe combination, which went badly at first because I apparently brain-dumped it right at the start. I remembered it before we started the second side, though.

I also miraculously remembered how to sissone (though my turns … oy vey … my turns) and did the assemblé-sissone-chassé-jeté combination fairly well (after the first time, during which I failed to put my working foot down between the sissone and the chassé and turned it into some kind of awkward saut de chat).

In case you’re wondering, by the way, I think the entirety of that combination went:

assemblé (à droit, R foot back, no change)
sissone (avant)
chassé
jeté

assemblé (à gauche, L foot back, no change)
sissone (avant)
chassé
jeté

assemblé (à droit)
jeté
jeté
jeté

assemblé (à gauche)
jeté
jeté
jeté

…though I may be combining it with the other petit allegro combination we did (glissade-assemblé-jeté-hold; glissade-assemblé-jeté-hold; etc) come to think of it. Regardless, it was something very much like that.

In short: not difficult, but a mild brain teaser, since you have to get the directions of your feet right and there’s a little change of direction entailed in the sissone. It was also a nice-looking combination, and one of the new girls did lovely little battus on all the jetés on our first run.

It no longer feels weird to start a combination with assemblé

There is definitely a part of me that likes to show off or something in the presence of other male dancers (particularly when they are not so much better at dancing than I am as to make me look patently ridiculous). Today, it worked — my dancing was better overall than it was at any point last week, and although my turns were a tad wild and sloppy, they weren’t as horrible as they might have been.

It’s weird (if unsurprising) how much what’s going on in your head can influence your dancing. Saturday, even before the disaster with my ear, I was tired and achy and didn’t feel like I was going to acquit myself respectably, so I didn’t.

Today, I wasn’t thinking about any of that. Instead, it was like I had a little Japanese grade-school kid from some monster-battle anime series in my head saying, “Let’s do our best!” (“Jeté battu, I choose you!”)

Bizarrely, that worked. And we got to do saut de basques, which I lurve. And my assemblé looked good — high and suspended and not afflicted with horrible kraken arms or an unnecessarily curvilinear torso. So, huzzah. I suppose once I’ve had that nailed down for a couple of weeks, I should tried to put a beat back into it.

Because we do oceans of beats in advanced class, I’m really focused on using my inner thighs during barre, closing every tendu, degagé, and jeté by pulling the inner thigh muscles together instead of pushing in with the quadriceps (as if I was pedaling a bike or something).

When one uses the inner-thigh muscles, one tends to automatically engage both, maintaining alignment and placement; likewise, getting to a solid fifth between jumps is much easier.

Think: glissade to fifth, giant plié, brush out from plié, grand assemblé, for example. The working leg is carried by the momentum of the initiating brush, then the quadriceps (and some other muscles) in the supporting leg provide the spring; both legs are collected inward by the engagement of the inner thighs; the plié tension-loads the spring again; then a second brush (from the bottom of the plié) carries the working leg out and up, the quads (and related muscles) in the supporting leg push through to activate the spring; and the inner thigh brings the second leg up to meet the working leg.

Without the collecting movement from the inner thighs, a solid fifth position is unlikely; without a solid fifth, the grand assemblé is unlikely to be as … well … grand.

When one uses the quads, the body tends to shift towards the working leg, which pulls the balance away from the ball of the supporting foot. “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold,” &c.

As in cycling, the quads should be used mostly for pushing down; you need them to give you explosive power during jumps. When you pull in, you use the inner thighs; when you lift into passé, the impulsion comes from under the thigh and buttock. Incidentally, this also prevents that thing where your leg grips itself into a horrible spasm as you développé.

All this actually makes it much easier both to keep my knees straight and to maintain my turnout. It also makes maintaining balance and placement easier. I did the first set of fast degagés sans barre (7 each way x2; then pliés to relevé), though I did take the barre for the second set, which was really, really fast.

I guess I also need to get back to focusing on carrying my upper body directly atop my hips. This really imparts a surprising amount of lightness. I found myself doing this today as a function of not trying to look like a dork in front of the new dancers, and as a result, my work at center and going across the floor looked pretty good.

Aerials should help with that, as part of the problem is an imbalance between my back muscles (those “arabesque muscles” again) which are ridiculously strong (because I have spent a ridiculous amount of time cultivating a beautiful arabesque and a lovely, controlled penché), and my core muscles, which are not as strong (because I am lazy).

In short, this is what happens when we focus more on our strengths than our weaknesses … the weaknesses get weaker. Because I’m flexible and can get into a really nice arabesque as a result, I seize every single opportunity to use my arabesque.

Need a teacup on a high shelf? Arabesque. Need to hand something to Denis when he’s standing a half-meter or so away? Arabesque. Collecting Denis’ empty glass when he’s sitting on the sofa? Arabesque penché.

But do I work my core muscles anywhere near as much?

Hahaha. No.

Aerials are all about the core, though, so that will get fixed.

In other news, on the way home from class, I learned that David Bowie had died.

It was startling, in a way, because I was just listening to some of his stuff from Blackstar last night and thinking about how cool it is that he’s still creating and innovating in his late 60s.

Bowie contributed a great deal to the cultivation of popular music, and it says a great deal about his work that he will be sorely missed across several generations.

I don’t have much more to say about that right now, though. What do you say when an icon falls?

Someone I know on facebook said it best: Imagine the ticket lines in Heaven for the Bowie-Mercury reunion show!

At the Opening of the Year: On Failure, Success, and Sustainable Change, Part 2

Part One, if you want it.

Yesterday, I wrote about my successes, both unqualified and qualified, in 2015.

Objectively speaking, some of my so-called “qualified successes” could also have been called “failures.” I’m okay with that. Though failing is often hard when you’re doing it, it’s rarely the end of the world, and you can usually learn something from it.

I should mention that it’s not always easy to do that — there are few cultural phenomena as spectacularly annoying as the phrase, “Turn that frown upside-down!”

Frankly, sometimes you need to frown for a while. Sometimes you can’t just “turn [it] upside down.” Sometimes you need to feel what you’re feeling, get mad at yourself, or sad or hurt or whatever you feel. Sometimes you need to sit down in the middle of the pathos of human existence and weep, or howl, or scream your fury down the throat of the universe.

After, or sometimes even while you’re still there, you snatch whatever lessons you can from the jaws of defeat and move forward. In the words of Chumbawumba, “[you’ve] got no job, but [you’re] an opera fan.”

Wait, that’s not it. It’s: “[You] get knocked down, but [you] get up again.*”

*Somehow, it seems terribly appropriate that I’m citing a song about being too drunk to walk to the bogs without falling on your face. Egads, what an analogy.

Anyway! Moving right along.

Motivation and sustainable change are among my major research interests — because, while we talk a good game, we really still don’t understand them too well, and they’re enormously important in things like public health and personal growth.

Read the rest of this entry

At the Closing of the Year: On Failure, Success, and Sustainable Change, Part 1

Overall, 2015 has been a phenomenally successful year for me — both in the a typical sense (I achieved goals and made tangible progress) and in a less typical sense (I tried new things and failed in illuminating ways). Perhaps most importantly, though, I learned something immensely valuable about sustainable change and what drives it.

Mostly, I want to write about that last bit — what I’ve learned about what drives sustainable change.

First, though, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll do a little navel-gazing. In fact, I think I’m going to divide this into two posts; one in which I shamelessly toot my own horn (because every now and then it’s good to have a “Yay, me!” party!); another in which I write about what I’ve learned.

 

Unqualified Successes

You guys, I freaking GRADUATED.
What feels like a jillion years ago, when I was a senior in high school, I took it for granted that I’d step right into college, zip through, graduate in four years, and then … um, whatever. I actually didn’t have any concrete post-college plan back then.

Commencement-2015-03

Life intervened. All kinds of crazy stuff happened. I started projects and … basically didn’t finish any of them, actually. I got bogged down in all kinds of stuff and wandered all over the map. Not counting the school where I completed a one-year computer network engineering certification, I launched my little educational barque in the waters of four separate institutions of higher learning.

At last, this year, one of them — Indiana University Southeast — became my “alma mater,” a place that would (as higher education should) shape not only my knowledge of a specialized field, but also my ability to think critically about the world and my character as a human being.

And all that’s really important, ofcourse, but there’s also another critical point: this year, I finally finished something.

Something arduous and challenging, in fact. And I finished well: I didn’t quite make the “With Highest Honors” distinction (which, in the long run, is probably good for my not-inconsiderable ego), but I only missed it by .02 grade points.

I’ll take that.

~

This year, I created a job for myself and, as a result, discovered that I love teaching.wpid-wp-1421863068490.jpeg
When I decided that leading a Supplemental Instruction group for Behavioral Neuroscience sounded like fun, nobody was doing it. I had to propose the idea to the Supplemental Instruction Coordinator and to my Behavioral Neuroscience prof.

That was hard for me — but it paid off, and I discovered that I really enjoyed my work as an SI leader, even though I basically had no idea what I was doing at first and even though I had to get up really freaking early.

~

This year, I built a small-business website from scratch.
When Denis launched PorchLight Express, I didn’t feel as confident in my abilities as a web maven as I would have liked to. It had been a long time since I’d done any professional web work, and I wasn’t sure I could create 2016-445x350-Cargoa site that would uphold my standards. I was also absolutely petrified of implementing the e-commerce aspects.

 

The end product wasn’t perfect, but I was still pretty darned proud of it — and 2016’s version will be even better.

~

This year, I grew by leaps and bounds (heh, heh) as a dancer*.
I guess that was going to happen one way or another. As soon as ballet got its hooks into me, a certain amount of progress was pretty much wp-1451449289724.jpeginevitable.

But that’s not exactly what I mean. Mere ability isn’t that big a deal. Any monkey can learn to tendu (well, maybe not — actual monkeys aren’t really built for ballet).

What I mean is this: in 2015, I discovered confidence, musicality, and expression — mostly confidence. I recovered from injuries and kept plowing ahead. I stopped being afraid to go in the first group. I started talking to people I didn’t know. I launched myself into the dangerous waters of Advanced Class.

*Come on, it just wouldn’t be one of my posts if there wasn’t a bad pun sooner or later.

This year, I created a beautiful self-portrait. wpid-2015-09-20-11.34.40.png.png
It’s just a simple drawing in ballpoint pen and Prismacolor pencil, but it’s one of the very few visual works in my ouevre that I’d call art. Heretofore, I’ve done a ton of illustration, quite a few comics, etc. — but not much that had anything stirring beneath the surface.

 

That self-portrait, created for BlahPolar’s blog, re-awakened my desire to create works of visual art. It changed how I think about my art, as well.

There’s been a lot of that in 2015.

This year, I submitted my first graduate school application.
That’s an achievement in and of itself, I think — for anyone, but especially for those of us living with mental illness. To apply to graduate school is to make a bold statement about the future and about your belief

Dance-of-the-Cranes-01

I really liked this moment from the video, seasickness-inducing camera angle notwithstanding.

in your own abilities.

 

Perhaps more importantly, that application involved creating an audition video. For the first time in my life, I choreographed an entire performance piece and performed it with another dancer in front of a camera (once I discovered how much I like using video as a tool for recording and improving dance, I also recorded a bunch of solo improv pieces).

I found rehearsal and recording spaces, negotiated schedules, and learned to adapt my choreography on the fly with input from my dance partner.

While in some ways, that’s a far less profound kind of success than graduating from university, I think it’s probably the single coolest thing I’ve done all year.

Qualified Successes

This year, I didn’t finish an entire novel in November.
But I did work on one, and … um … that’s a start.

This year, I didn’t actually manage to pull of my performance thing at Burning Man.
I got pneumonia instead. But I did lead some basic ballet classes, and I did create a bunch of choreography, and I did discover that I love creating dances.

This year, I unsuccessfully auditioned for a performance.
I’ve written a little about this. I was a mess at my audition: I was recovering from pneumonia, hadn’t danced in weeks, and my choreography was far from finalized.

However, the mere idea of preparing a piece for audition transformed the way I thought about myself as a dancer — in fact, it may have been the turning point at which I stopped thinking of myself as a dancer* (*void where prohibited, some limitations may apply, etc.) with caveats and started just thinking of myself as, you know, a dancer.

It certainly revitalized my sense of myself as an artist: while I’ve spent my entire life doing artistic stuff, I have never thought of myself as an artist until this year. I was raised to regard that word with respect; to recognize the awesome responsibility that comes with creating art.

I can’t say I ever expected to see anything I did (with the exception of my poetry) as art.

And, though I talked a good game, I never seriously expected to regard myself as a real dancer.

And, yet, here I am.

This year, I struggled really hard with bipolar disorder.
I almost didn’t include this one.  There’s nothing triumphant about this one. It’s the most qualified of my successes, and to call it a “success” is dangerous.

I don’t mean to imply that those who haven’t survived — and, in any given year, there are many of us, because bipolar has a terrible rate of attrition — have failed.

They haven’t. There have been years that only chance has kept me alive. Without ballet and without Denis, it is entirely probable that this would have been one of them — or even the year I didn’t survive.

Likewise, there’s no failure implied in deciding not to struggle for a while. Everyone gets tired. Everyone needs a rest.

But, on the other hand, I tend to discount — for myself, not for anyone else — the sheer effort required to live with this thing.

So, in the end, I’m including it.

I’m not sure that bipolar is one of those things where you ever win. There is no triumphal endpoint; no emerging permanently from the grip of the sea. So you take what you can get: you honor the survivors and you honor the dead.

 

The Final Summation

2015 has been one hell of a good year for me.

This year, I have done things I sometimes doubted I’d ever do (graduating!) and things I never really imagined I’d even try (proposing a job; auditioning for a performance knowing I didn’t really have a prayer).

Ballet has become an organizing principle; a prime mover.  It has been the driving motivator behind some really significant changes. In short, it has provided a sort of razor for my decision-making processes: as a dancer, will this help me or harm me? It has made my life a lot easier.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that it has made my life easy. Living with bipolar is not easy; figuring out what to do with the year between university and graduate school is not easy; realizing how much further along you could have been if you hadn’t made x or questionable decision eight years back is definitely not easy.

But ballet has become, for me, a source of clarity, and clarity is a good thing.

I don’t think I’ve ever met with this much success in one year before. I don’t expect every year that follows to be this successful.

But it’s cool to know that, in fact, I can do things. I can finish things.  I can succeed.

That’s the best thing I’ve learned in 2015.

Well, that and how to use renversé effectively in choreography and how —at least sometimes — to carry off a coupé jeté en tournant.

Ballet Changes Us

wp-1451448581296.jpeg

Ballet does strange things to your body.
As a kid, I looked at my sister’s Barbie dolls’ feet and thought, “Nobody has feet like that.”
Now? I have them.

Ballet-Changes_02

Then, there’s this. The weird little dip caused by hyperextending the ankle.
I first noticed it on David Hallberg’s beautiful legs. Since I basically didn’t have ankles, I concluded mine could never look like that. Now, they do.
Also, now I have ankles. And beautiful* legs. (*Sometimes!)

wp-1451448964759.jpeg

Here’s another thing.
The dip at the top of the thigh. Sometimes cyclists have it, but it’s endemic among dancers.
Even I have it now.
Along with inside-out knees.

wp-1451449138481.jpeg

Often, in the morning, I marvel at the architecture of my own feet,
with their marvelous bridges of sinew and bone.
This would all be so much navel-gazing, if it weren’t so hard-won.
For so long, I hated this body so much,
because it had betrayed me,
because it had failed me,
because it did not seem to be mine.

wp-1451449289724.jpeg

But ballet has a way of re-creating us in its own image…
…And, strangely enough, when I look at what it has made of this body, what I see — is, finally, myself.

Captions are up now!

You guys, I know this is super hard to read. I’m having captioning issues, so I’ll fix it in the morning.

À bientôt, mes amis!

A Brief Synopsis of My Ballet Adventures

image

In retrospect, this is solid evidence that I'm cray.

image

Ah — those important beginner steps: "temps du Squid," "port de bro," and my personal favorite, the timeless "Dead Swan."

image

True Story.

image

It's (ahem) *hip* to be *square,* boy-o.

image

It's a good idea to get all those pesky injuries and illnesses out of the way at one time.

image

If I'd realized I wanted to draw renversé, here, before I started, it might have worked better.

image

I didn't have the chutzpah to try to draw nine dancers dancer-ing on this tiny little tablet. Also: Dear Planet Earth, I'm sorry. I tried really hard.

Created on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet using Samsung’s S-Note app,because I’m too cheap to pay for a second INKredible license.

something I forgot

I should have mentioned this in my class notes, but I forgot.

At barre, as we did a wicked combination with fondues to relevé extensions, I realized I had — at some point in very recent history — learned how to feel really specifically how my hips were placed and make minute adjustments.

You would think I’d be delighted; by all means, I should have been delighted: but instead all I could think at the time was:

Dammit, now I have to do this precisely right, too!

Mais dans la monde du ballet, c’est la vie!

Oh, one last thing: the oldest lady in our class schooled us all going across the floor. She was just lovely — which goes to show you that you can dance beautifully at any age.

Double Turns and the Straphanger Waltz

I couldn’t balance at the beginning of barre, but by the time we were going across the floor, I was effortlessly nailing double turns from fourth with that, “Gosh, I think I will just go around once more, if nobody minds,” kind of ease.

That felt like a long time coming.

In a way, that’s a stellar analogy for how this entire term has gone: a slow, tough start, followed by progress, then setbacks, then more progress than I believed I could make.

We also had a balancé turn in one combination that caused much consternation about arms, and I came up with an awesome analogy — you pretend you’re on the El, or the subway, or the bus, and reach up with the hand on the same side as the leg that steps out, grab the strap, and turn as if pivoting around that strap.

Of course, it isn’t perfect — you still have to remember to let go of the strap as other arm flows through second, then up to fifth to take its place.

If you’re a hyperactive weirdo like me, you’ve probably actually done this at some point.

Needless to say, I’ve nicknamed this maneuver “The Straphanger Waltz,” and I think it would make an excellent video post topic.

Our break begins next Monday, so I think I might cram in an extra Friday class.

All of a sudden, everything is coming together. I feel like, as a dancer, I progress not so much by leaps and bounds, but by fits and starts. In that context, I guess this is a start?

Gotta jet(é) for now. More soon.

À bientôt, mes amis!

SO MUCH POWER!!! MUAHAHAHAHAHA

Ahem.

Erm.

I mean, wow, video editing is kinda fun.

…I CAN STOP TIIIIIIIIIIMMMMMME!!!!!!!!!

Sorry. It keeps going to my head. (Worse: I’m editing ballet videos today, and they’re full of music that makes me want to dance, but NO! It’s a Rest Day. NO DANCING. Or, well, less dancing.)

*Although the attempt fails.

I say, “You don’t want to use your arms…” when that’s blatantly, obviously wrong; what I mean is, “You want to use epaulement and a soft bend in your upper body to create that beautiful diagonal line in the arms…”

Anyway, here’s my rambly little video about balancé. You’ll notice, near the end, that I attempt describe what NOT to do with your arms*, and then proceed to do exactly that.

You guys, sometimes it is really hard to think, dance, and explain all at the same time.

Anyway, in addition to a handy way to remember how to balancé, you now have a great visual example of how NOT to use your arms while you’re doing it.

You’re welcome! ^-^

For what it’s worth, I think it’s kind of hilarious how my head occasionally disappears into a cloud of light. My house is not well suited to filming anything dance-related; the rooms that have good light are either tiny and jammed with furniture** or have concrete floors, while the one room that is large enough and has a wood floor also has terrible lighting and a carpet (which is beautiful, but obviously ill suited as a ballet surface).

**Seriously, Denis adheres to an updated version of the Victorian approach to furnishing a house — in short, cram in everything you can, then add doilies.

It’s still the best option out of the available rooms, though, so I’m going to have to figure out how to work with it if I’m going to make this a regular thing.

One last thing: the tights technically belong to Denis, not that he ever gets to wear them. They’re Joe Boxer brand, from K-Mart, and they’re so freaking comfortable it’s not even funny — just enough compression, excellent wicking qualities, stretchy-but-not-too stretchy, with no angry-python waistband. They’re also just long enough to tuck into your shoes, if you’re me.

If you go looking for a pair, make sure to either pop them out of the box if you can, or at least try to find the so-called “seamless” ones (which do, in fact, have seams). Some of the others do, in fact, have horrible waistbands.

And now, your feature presentation…

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