Today I took my first class with my company’s ballet teacher. She’s fantastic.
I particularly like her focus on strengthening the elements that are really essential to technique (her approach is very Vaganova-based; I think Ste. Agrippina would approve)
She also has a fantastic eye for the small-but-important elements that really solidify technique.
When we finished, she asked us what specific things we were going to remember from today’s class. Here are mine:
- *Really* connect the retiré, and connect it a little closer to the kneecap (I’ve been connecting mine about a cm or 2 too far towards the inside of the knee, which functionally means that a lot of the time I’m not really connecting at all, even though I THINK I’m connecting). Also, send the knee all the way to the side, and be a revolving door.
- In petit allegro, using pas de bourée en l’air can help you keep your legs contained. Basically, you tombé and close the back leg in a little assemblé, then do the “side, front” bit of the PdB. This gathers your power under you instead of sending you forward.
- In exercises battu, think about whether the beat changes or doesn’t change. If you pay attention to this when receiving the combination, you won’t find yourself desperately doing FeetMath en l’air
These are really elemental things—things that as dancers who’ve been dancing for years and years, we probably think we’re doing already.
It’s remarkable how much difference it can make when someone gives you an effective correction on one of these things.
Anyway, that’s it for today.
I am, of course, planning to steal these ideas and bring them to my students tonight, because part of becoming an effective teacher is cribbing things directly from other teachers who are themselves highly effective.
Technical Notes: Biiiiig Bada Beats
Tonight JMH gave us a really useful note about beats, especially the ones that don’t change the legs:
Beat on the way up, not on the way down.
This reminded me instantly of the weird sissone-thing at the beginning of Albrecht’s variation, in which you essentially launch as if you’re going to soubresaut yourself into orbit, then open in mid-air (I’ll see if I can find video of this in the morning; there are other versions that use a sissone failli or something battu or whatevs—men’s variations are really, erm, variable).
Anyway, running the combination, this made all the beats (which were legion) feel so, so much better*.
*When I was doing the right combination, anyway. We did one that went, echappé 4th, jump – beat; echappé 2nd jump – beat, and so on all the way round, and I kept reverting to a combination BW gave us this summer that went echappé 4th, jump – beat – 2nd; jump – beat – 4th; etc all the way round, which was both wrong and harder than what we were supposed to do. I also “opted” to put fecking extra entrechats and royales into an exercise designed to leave room to rest.
Regardless, this will also help with cabrioles—you want to beat the bottom leg against the top and throw the top leg higher, which is easier if you’re beating on the way up in the the first place. Also helps prevented bad landings.
In other news, I hate royales, and today we were required to do them A LOT, and I eventually found myself doing what one might call “velociroyales,” with my arms in full-on Jurassic Park mode.
To my defense, I was having a rough time in the breathing department, and pretty much had a choice between using my arms and using my legs—so what begin as a acceptable first position collapsed into despair.
And this is what happens when your asthma acts up during class, but you hit that inhaler and keep going anyway. Specifically, you get through class, but sometimes you look really dumb for entire combinations at a time.
I also ruined my really nice grand allegro by making Effort Face the whole time 😛 In my case, this seems to involve leaving my mouth open, then tucking my lips behind my teeth. In case you’re wondering, it looks exactly as balletic as it sounds >—<
I didn’t do going left (that I know of…), but only the entrelacé and the last leap (I chose pas de chat Italien going left, of course; on the right, I threw a beautiful, lofty regular pas de chat with my face like this: :||) were anything to write home about on that run.
The combination in question, by the way way, went:
sauté arabesque, failli, assemblé, sissone failli, assemblé, sissone failli, assemblé
piqué arabesque, chassé, jeté entrelacé, tombé, pas de bourré, glissade, leap of your choice
…So not hard at all, but lovely, unless you ruin it by making Broken Robot Face.