First of all: THANK FREAKING G-D. I have broken my week-long streak of disastrous classes, FINALLY.
Today in BW’s class, I was not a giant freaking disaster area.
I did not feel weak.
I did not forget every single combination (in fact, I managed to remember all but one of them, though for some bizarre reason I kept doing inside-out turns on one of them).
I did not feel horribly nervous or completely unworthy of BW’s tutelage and as such didn’t spend have the class talking, though I did ask several clarifying questions (another really nice thing about private class).
My legs didn’t fall off and my foot didn’t start screaming at me.
…Which is good, because it was, once again, the All Asher, All The Time show.
When you’re having a terrible
week day, nothing will make you feel worse than a private class.
When you’re having a fairly decent day … erm … well, you’ll probably come out of your private class feeling fairly decent.
Today definitely fell into that zone: I can tell I’m making progress, but the goalposts keep moving, so I keep thinking I’m so bad at this one thing, but I also think, I’m way better at this other thing.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve got 100% of my strength back, but I’m also not sure that’s accurate. Were it accurate, I think the 8-8-4-4-2-2 grand battement would’ve killed me.
In case you’re wondering, that particular grand battement is fairly hard, but still not as hard as Rayevsky’s which, if I remember correctly, went: 8 front, 8 back-inside, 8 side, 8 back, 8-front inside, 8 side, EFFING DETOURNE, straight into the other freaking side. Honestly, I feel like I’m probably missing something in there. Regardless, it’s clear that Mr. R wants his dancers strong—and he teaches with enough precision to warrant it.
In the hands of an ineffective teacher, that combination could easily become a turnout-destroying exercise in futility, but Mr. R is one of those teachers who have 27 pairs of X-ray vision-equipped eyes arrayed all over their heads so they can call you out on failing to engage one wee finger of your deep rotators even when they’re looking at someone at the far end of the barre.
Edit: I suspect invisible eyestalks may be involved.
BW also teaches with that kind of precision. I am still totally in awe of the moment when he shot me exactly the right correction with his back to me and no mirror for guidance.
Anyway, I think I’m in that in-between zone: kind of between levels. I’m working on sustaining higher extensions and so forth, and that requires a greater degree of strength in the supporting leg. I’m working on cleaner, sharper, turns with higher turn counts, which requires a better spot and more accurate placement.
- …Though, today I was just having a remedial “don’t turn the wrong freaking way” kind of day. There were singles and doubles and one triple, and that was fine, since we were aiming for precision.
- …And a steady supporting leg, which in my case also comes down to strength—or, more accurately, the balance of strength, as do extensions. BW noted that, for me, the challenge is balancing the extreme mobility of my hips and the natural strength of my quads by strengthening the rotators and other muscles that oppose the quads. Basically, I need to work on my butt. Even more. And not ever do anything extra with my quads, period, end of story. He might not have actually said that second bit, but it’s kind of implied?
We also managed to get our petit and medium-ish allegro on, though we skipped entrechats this week. BW was pleased with my changements, which we’ve been modifying to improve my tours.
- This works because ballet is systematic and sequential: sus-sous balance begets soutenu turn and soubresaut, which in turn begets changement. Soutenu turn and changement together, combined with a strong plié, beget tours and then double tours (or, if you’re me, 1.5 tours >.<).
BW has a way of saying to me, when we are in the midst of Accidentally Private Men’s Class, “We do this this way…” and then explaining some subtle point of men’s technique and what makes that subtle point important.
A solid double-tour requires that one’s legs squeeze together and stay there through the change of feet and through the rest of the jump, essentially because physics.
If you ever had the opportunity to play on one of those rotating tire swings as a kid, you probably remember that you could make it spin faster by tucking yourself into a ball or slower by stretching out and leaning outwards.
If you’ve done dance trapeze, lyra, rope, or any of the other free-spinning aerial circus apparatus that allow it, you also know that you can create insanely fast spin by making yourself into a vertical line that runs right up and down the vertical axis of the spin.
The same principle applies to tours: the closer everything stays to the vertical axis, the faster you can turn.
You can’t have your calves flapping around when you have to rotate twice around your own vertical axis before you land (facing the correct direction). That means you have to snap-squeeze your legs right the heck in from the tips of your toes to the tops of your thighs.
- …So if you’re a dude and you’re going to work on double tours, wear your best dance belt (and a smile, I guess?).
To build this habit, you do a billion changements in which you do not snap the legs out and bring them back (as pretty as that is), but instead sort of pivot them around each-other as you would in the midst of a soutenu turn.
- This is moderately counter-intuitive, because in a soutenu turn it doesn’t feel like that’s happening … but it is.
Anyway, that’s about all the braining I can manage tonight.
The funny part is that I remembered our medium-ish allegro combination, but still proceeded to do it wrong because my brain would not engage. It ended with assemblé back no change, assemblé changé. That assemblé back no change tripped me up soooo many times, because (like every dancer on earth) I do assemblé changé a lot more often.
In the end, though, I ran it until I got it right, which is another nice perk of flying solo in class. If you need to get a thing down, you can drill it ’til ya kill it.
Anyway, I’m taking an extra class tomorrow in honor of BG’s birthday, and then the usual assortment of weekend shenanigans, and then it’s onto my self-imposed Dancer’s Hell Week; my wee Choose Your Own Intensive.
You guys, I cannot believe it’s June already!!!!!!!