The process of becoming an artist isn’t that complicated. You do art. You are an artist.
The process of learning to see yourself as an artist, on the other hand, comprises an apparently-endless array of subtle layers.
(I’m not sure if it’s an onion or a lotus blossom: like, its roots definitely reach down into the muck of life, but sometimes it makes you cry, so…? Whatever. It can be both.)
Tonight, after closing A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a show that felt like the strongest in my career to date, I had this moment in which I was thinking about something related to work, and it didn’t even occur to me to feel a sense of disbelief, or like I’m not worthy, or anything. I was just thinking about a work thing: a piece to add to the puzzle to make me better at my job.
Only later did it even occur to me to think, “Hey, that’s cool, that my imposter syndrome didn’t even get a look in.”
Every now and then I think back to a conversation I had a few years ago with my friend BB—one in which she said, “…You have your [ballet] career to think about,” back before I was at all certain that any such thing was really going to materialize. At the time, I felt like I should, like, cross my fingers or something. Somehow signal that I wanted it to be true, but maybe didn’t quite think it was.
And yet, here I am.
I’m sure I’ve written before about this process, but I’m equally sure that, a year ago, I wouldn’t have believed I’d be quite as blasé about it as I am now, in part because a year ago I wasn’t sure I’d ever be doing the things I’m doing now.
I’m lucky to have friends who can see things more clearly, and whose words have helped immensely in the moments in which this has all seemed the most unreal.
Their belief has helped to form the foundation of my own, like a builder’s forms shape the concrete walls in a building’s basement.
They helped me believe—even believed for me—so I could do a thing that is almost absurdly unlikely. And the longer I do it, the stronger my own belief becomes.
So this is me, now. I’ve begun, bit by bit, to feel that I have something to offer to my chosen profession.
I’m not sure yet what that thing is, or how to define it. I think that’s harder to do in ballet than in a lot of artforms … like, in ballet, as a dancer, you’re both artist and medium, and another artist is generally responsible for using the pallette of dancers on hand to create work.
You don’t always know what it is that you, specifically, bring to the easel. You don’t know whether you’re magenta or cobalt or red ochre to the choreographer or AD who selects you.
But it doesn’t really matter to me. My goal is to be serviceable: to be a serviceable dancer, one who is good enough to be a credit to the artform and to honor its history. Anything more than that is a bonus.
There’s still a lot I have to learn; a reasonable smattering of holes I need to fill before I can feel like I’ve really got enough of the toolkit to be a whole package—but I’m learning those things, and I’m filling those holes.
Speaking of which: my Petit Allegro is improving again. The keys, for me, are always:
- …keep your legs under you (in other words, constrain your travel, no matter how much you love to travel)
- think about the *down* and the *up* will take care of itself.
So that’s it for now. Or, well … One last thing.
I hope that becoming comfortable with the mere fact of my existence as an actual professional dancer will never make me less grateful for it.
If it does, you can come to dinner with me and kick me under the table as a reminder or something.
Today was a bad day for double tours, of which I did exactly none, but a good day for petit allegro, albeit in a roundabout way.
I struggled through a combination that shouldn’t have been hard (assemblé, soubresaut, assemblé, soubresaut, assemblé, assemblé, assemblé, entrechat quatre), caught myself in the mirror, and realized that I was brushing my leg out to some weird angle that made closing quickly difficult.
Fixed that, et voilà! Better petit allegro with like 1/10th of the effort.
This did not save me from my inability to do brisée volé correctly in the next combination, but that’s because I am increasingly uncertain that I’ve ever learned it in the first place. Time to RTFM, I guess!
Also, in case you’re wondering, everything in petit allegro works better when you don’t neglect the beautiful plié that you’ve been working on since forever. Sometimes when it gets fast, I still resort to shoving myself into the air using only my feet. It gets me off the ground, but it’s terrible and the landings are a flaming misery.
A while back I figured out that the hard part of dancing professionally is raising the standard of your worst days to a level that won’t make an audience wish they’d gone to see, like, the Drying of the Paint Samples at Home Depot instead.
You can’t stand at the exit saying, “Sorry, it was an off day; here’s a raincheck,” so even your most awful show needs to be good enough.
…Which, in turn, means building the best habits you can, raising your endurance game, learning not to make faces even when everything is a petit right in the allegro, and really just being competent to a very high degree.
For me, it also means learning not to do the weird thing where I bury my brain in a cave of self-directed fury when I do heck things right up. Oddly enough, that doesn’t help. It just makes me late for all my cues.
At the end of the day, we’re human, and we’re going to make a right mess of things now and then. Even the greats fall on their faces sometimes.
On the balance (see what I did there? :P), class went well today.
I felt a bit asleep at the wheel for the first half of barre, then found myself able to count with my brain but not with my feet, then finally got it all working at once, so by the time we came to center I was wide awake.
We had a lovely adage that looked like it would begin croisée right but in fact shifted immediately to the left instead—one picked up the back foot and turned the hips, devloppéed to the front, then lifted up and through into first arabesque before closing back and developpéing the front leg to écarté. From there, if I remember correctly, it closed back, shifted the facing again, extended to third arabesque, fondu-ed to attitude, came around via tour lent (aka promenade) just to the opposite corner, fondu-ed to allongé, came through pas de bourrée to fourth, turned en dehors, and began again on the opposite side.
- Killer B goes by the definitions in which it’s only promenade when partnered, which I also prefer.
I might be missing something, but it was a really nice combination. The constant shifts in facing meant you couldn’t let your body get behind you: on the first run, second side I did, and wondered why everything felt so heavy and awful. I fixed it on the repeat, and it was like magic.
The real magic, though, was our petit allegro—nothing complicated, just:
…but the first time it felt heavy and disconnected.
Then Killer B said, “Think of each jump as preparation for the next jump,” and a little lightbulb turned on in my head.
We ran it again, and suddenly it felt light, free, and easy. I found myself inhabiting the physical memory of doing petit allegro as a kid. That, you guys, was a profound pleasure.
For what it’s worth, it’s not that I didn’t know that petit allegro should be done this way. There are many things that we, as dancers, may know intellectually without really knowing them. I hadn’t realized that I was executing each step of each petit allegro as A. Separate. Entity. Unrelated. To. The. Next.
But I was. And the times that petit allegro has felt good? Those were the times that I forgot myself, got out of my own way, and did it right anyway. The times that I let myself dance.
So, strangely enough, it seems as if maybe I don’t actually hate petit allegro. I certainly didn’t hate it today. In fact, to be honest, I kind of loved it.
We also learned how to correctly execute temps levée battu from jeté (presumably also battu): assuming that you’re not doing the weird reverse jeté that closes coupé devant, you spring off the leg you’ve just landed on, beat front as if in sous-sus in the air, then bring the working leg back to coupe as you land.
THIS LOOKS REALLY COOL.
Honestly, it’s one of things that always blows my mind when I fire up the YouTurbos and watch the Royal Danish Ballet.
In fact, here:
This clip is supposed to start at 0:55, where two of the boys break out that beautiful Danish petit allegro that always seems, to me, like a visual representation of the song of a canary. It might not start there for you (the preview keeps starting at the very beginning), but if it doesn’t, that’s where the really impressive bit takes off.
In other news, I had this very intense dream in which I smelled smoke and thought the house was on fire, but it turned out that someone was burning a stubbled field just down the road. I wasn’t myself—I was some random blond boy living in a farmhouse with my sisters, and we were all very afraid until we understood what was happening.
I woke to the persistent smell of smoke, but not “the house is on fire” smoke—more like that scent of burning dust that you get when you fire up your forced-air furnace for the first time in any given winter, but much, much stronger than usual, and much more persistent.
It turned out that what I was smelling was the bearings of the furnace fan burning themselves out.
D, fortunately, knows how to fix stuff like that. I continue to be impressed with him. In all honesty, while I sometimes enjoy lifting heavy things (like other human beings or myself), I am Not That Gay Guy. (And, yes, if you’re wondering, that was definitely a consideration when we were courting. He had me at “I can do most plumbing and electrical work myself.”)
So as I write, D is replacing the fan in the furnace that blows the hot air around so I can get out of bed with only two shirts and a hoodie on instead of with three shirts, a hoodie, and a parka (because we both refuse to turn the temperature above 65 degrees Fahrenheit but I’m a dancer so I get cold).
Speaking of dancers, back to the Royal Danish. There are some lovely moments in the coupled petit allegro that immediately follows the boys’ little variation wherein they’re folding and unfolding their legs in this way that is, for some reason, one of the things I love most about ballet. I love ballonés, ballottés, and temps de cuisse in part because they employ these folding-and-unfolding sequences, and so often when I catch sight of myself in class and thing, “Ah, I look like a dancer right now,” it’s in the midst of some developpé or balloné or ballotté.
If, by the way, you could use a little guidance on the difference between balloné and ballotté, Ballet Webb has a good, short article on exactly that.
Needless to say, the technicalities of ballotté are high on BW’s nitpick list. It drives him crazy when he catches us doing ballonés instead.
PS: I used the heck out of the “Look! A Foot!” cheat during the sissones. It worked like a charm, though then I got excited and kept sissone-ing to like 90 degrees. Mental note: CALM DOWN, IT’S PETIT ALLEGRO!!!
It turns out that I’m working tomorrow and the 16th. It’s handy to have useful performing skills that you can do and people will give you a money. On the other hand I could’ve had several more dates in this run if I’d spoken up quicker, which tells me that I need to be more confident.
I’m working on it. This is less actual Impostor Syndrome than simple Newest Person In The Company Syndrome. I’m still figuring out the company culture, and though my inclination is to step up for everything, I don’t want to be obnoxious about it.
Anyway, I”m beginning to get the impression that stepping up for everything is totally okay in this company. Sweet!
Anyway, on to ballet.
Tonight we had a new girl in BW’s class. She’s actually someone I know from JMH’s Sunday class—she was, fortunately, wearing ballet clothes when I saw her, so she actually looked familiar 😀
Tonight’s was a good class. Less hard than BW drives me when it’s just me, but a good chance to focus on refining things.
Lately I’ve been working really hard on keeping my chest open and forward, which makes a huge difference at center. I feel like it gets me out of my own way when it comes to balances, turns, and weight changes.
I’m also working on synchronizing my épaulement. The lesson the week before last, with its deep port-de-bras drills, has been occupying a great deal of space in my brain for the past couple of weeks.
I also seem to have finally got my chaînés back in working order, more or less. I do them in 5th rather than 1st (this is a handy trick if you have crazy-huge thighs and gigantic, hyperextended knees) and kept, for some reason, squeezing and braking like you do when you do a soutenu turn that has to finish in relevé.
I don’t even know what that was, all I know is that it’s super awkward when your chaînés grind to a halt in the middle of the combination and you have to do a sort of half-baked glissade so you don’t cause a traffic accident.
Anyway, it didn’t happen tonight, which is good, because ain’t nobody got time for that. And also because we had this lovely combination that went:
piqué 1st arabesque
piqué 3rd arabesque
piqué 1st arabesque
piqué 3rd arabesque
failli tombé (coupé the back leg)
chaînés (4 counts)
sweeping rond de jambe
posé arabesque à terre (effacé, arms in 5th opposing direction of the hips)
I really liked that one. It was one of those simple/tricky combinations: simple enough choreography, but the counts were interesting and the facings were very explicit—the chaînés had to be executed towards the back corner, etc.
I think we acquitted ourselves rather nicely, in the end.
We also did a fun combination for warm-up jumps—just your ordinary 8 in 1st, 8 in 2nd, 8 changements in 5th, 4 echappés (2 counts each), but we alternated. It created the immediate impression of a nice little choreographed piece, which is exactly what BW said when we finished: “That was like a little show!”
I think the fact that each of us tended to watch the-other while waiting added to that effect.
I’m finally feeling reasonably friendly with petit allegro again, though it still sometimes leaves me feeling like I need to drill another hole in my head for breathing … jeez. My congestion has been worse than usual of late. But, at any rate, I keep making myself smile during petit allegro exercises.
I am forced to admit that sometimes it’s actually fun. And now that I’ve told you, I’ll have to kill you. Nothing personal, just, you know.
Trade secrets and stuff.
I was maybe seven when I first learned how to sissone.
I assume that I learned what to do with my arms, because frankly my childhood ballet teacher was not about to let you get away with not learning the arms at all. I might not have regarded them as particularly important, but that didn’t mean I could entirely weasel out of using them, either.
Regardless, I’ve effectively been doing sissones off and on for, like, basically my entire life.
…And yet, I persist in forgetting what the heck to do with my arms—by which I mean, really, basically everything above hip level when doing those sproingy little petit allegro sissones.
Anyway, today’s petit allegro was all about the sissones. Like:
sissone à droit
sissone à gauche
sissone simple[see note]
tombé-coupé assemblé (medium)
On the first run, I struggled with the timing. I realized that was due to the fact that my weight was always in the wrong place—and, in turn, that my weight was always in the wrong place because I was doing the wrong freaking thing with my arms.
So I sucked it up and queried the BG, who said, “Just look at your foot–like, you’re showing off your foot, especially if you’ve got those crazy ABT feet like you do. It’s like, ‘Look, a foot!'”
You’ll notice that the arms are in a configuration that is effectively the opposite of the one you use with jeté: if you brush your right foot out, your right arm will be in first (or, potentially, even en bas) while your left arm will be in something like second allongé.
This means that your body inclines slightly towards your working (in this case, right) leg, which basically gets you out of your own way, which in turn allows you to execute the choreography faster.
You guys, so much of petit allegro is basically just getting the heck out of your own way.
The other thing that this particular port de bras accomplishes is to sustain the element of surprise that makes sissone such a delightful step[1, 2].
- Temps de cuisse employs this same element of surprise and, unsurprisingly, essentially the same port de bras.
- Thisi s actually the source of the second problem I have with sissones. If there’s literally even one other person in class who has a better sissone than I do, I can’t stop being surprised and delighted. It’s very distracting.
One hopes that one will also create better-looking lines than my poor stick figure there. Ironically, stick figures aren’t always great at lines, even though they’re literally made of lines.
Also, I’mma have to admit that I interfered with my stick figure’s lines by being too lazy to draw him with any incline through the body (his shoulder’s also failing to épaule correctly). So, yeah. My bad, Danseur de Bâton.
Anyway, the long and short of it is that, for your garden-variety petit allegro sissone, the standard port de bras counterbalances your lower body.
And if you’re having trouble remembering how to achieve that effect, all you have to do is think, “Look! A Foot!”
A Note on Sissone Simple
Sissone simple has been a source of confusion to more than one dancer. It helps if you think of it not in the most frequently-used sense of the word “simple” (as in, easy: “It’s simples, silly!”), but in a more technical sense: like a simplex versus a complex.
All sissones are jumps from two feet to one foot. This variant is simple in the sense that it’s essentially a single piece: you spring off of two feet and bring whichever leg is the working leg to coupé, and you leave it there as you land on the other foot. You see it quite a lot in the Bournonville style.
Compare this with your garden-variety sissone (ouvert or firmé), in which you either plié and simultaneously brush one leg out whilst springing off the other or a spring off two feet through a soubresaut, then open one leg straight out (this one shows up in most versions of Albrecht’s variation).
Class was decent today.
My allergies were, as they have been, off the chain—but that’s par for the course, and no small part of the reason that I bother working on my cardio. The more fit my cardiovascular system is, the less it hates me when I can barely inhale because my nose and the back of my throat are full of goop but I dance anyway.
It wasn’t flat-out the best class I’ve had recently (that was Sunday, I think), but I still feel like every single day I make progress, which is something. Even last Thursday, when my allergies were so bad I thought my head would explode and I had to beg off of grand allegro (to my great and undying humiliation), I made progress.
After class, I reviewed Siegfried’s variation. I had meant to just mark it, but instead after the first phrase I found myself running it: contretemps-tombé-pas de bourrée-glissade-saut de chat, repeat. I was watching my port de bras and my turnout in the mirror and heading back to “stage left” suddenly I noticed that I was, as the song goes, “Way up in the middle of the air,” without actually trying, in this surprisingly nice saut de chat.
- The song in question being “Ezekiel Saw The Wheel,” a folk song which I’d never heard until I met my last roommate, who used to sing it: Ezekiel saw the wheel, way up, way up, Ezekiel saw the wheel, way up in the middle of the air.
Anyway, that saut de chat startled the heck out of me and I landed like a mammoth, but it’s really good to feel like I’ve regained the best of my “Terpsichorean powers,” so to speak.
- Why, yes, of course I’m referencing T.S. Elliot. Also, the musical Cats.
On the other hand, I don’t recommend landing like a mammoth even on good floors. I went back to marking, though with a little more vigor than your usual mark.
I also realized that I tend to fail to bring my second leg to the party when I do assemblés in the context of petit allegro.
I mean, it’s not that it doesn’t get there. It’s that I fail to really actively transport it. Like the first leg gets on the train, but the second one has to walk to the party.
I had somehow failed to notice that … no doubt in part because when I do grand allegro assemblés—especially porté—I really snap that puppy right the heck up there. But, in case you were wondering, petit allegro is not, in fact, “grand allegro, only smaller,” no matter what its name might imply. It requires its own approach (they do it like nobody’s business in Copenhagen).
But, anyway, I haven’t been really pushing the second foot through the plié and snapping it up there, and Killer B schooled me over it this morning.
So Killer B’s advice is to think of glissade-assemblé as a compound word; a hyphenated phrase like tombé-pas de bourée, (or, if you’re a guy, tombé-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné-chaîné). You have to really push the trailing leg through the bottom of the plié that’s sort of the hyphen so the momentum doesn’t get lost.
- When you lose the momentum, you wind up with two separate words, one of them mumbled: “Glissade. Assemblah.”
So I tried it, and wouldn’t you know, it worked like a charm.
So that’s today’s bit of technical advice. Since glissade-assemblé is a petit-allegro stock phrase, think of it with a hyphen and pushpushpush the second leg through the plié in the middle, so when it leaves the ground again all the momentum is there.
And use your plié. And use your plié. And use your plié.
Which, coincidentally, will also stop you landing your saut de chat like a mammoth, which you will appreciate when you’re seventy and haven’t yet had to put in new knees, or so I’ve heard.
On Monday I found myself reading some old posts in the bath (because reading in the bath is what I would do basically 90% of the time that I’m not dancing, if I had my way … well, that and swimming in the ocean).
It was surprising to look back on where I was only three and a half years ago: to realize that, really, I had no idea I’d be doing what I’m doing now—or maybe just a glimmer of the idea; something that felt like the vaguest of pipe dreams, I suppose.
It was weird to read the words, “If I ever get a chance to perform,” or however I phrased it. At the time, it seemed like gift one distantly hopes to receive: perhaps if I’m really good, someone will give me–no, not a pony, but maybe a hobby horse?
Now the chance to perform is something I pursue and lay hold of with both hands and create for myself. It’s something I am beginning not to feel weird about getting paid to do, like, “Maybe if I keep my head down they won’t notice that they’re paying me money for this.”
And yet I realize, still, that in a way the chance to live the life that I’m living right now is a gift—a gift, I suppose, I’ve worked hard to be worthy of, and will continue to work hard to be worthy of, but still one that depends upon the goodwill of so many people other than myself.
Friday, early, we leave for the Playa again.
This year, a group is staging The Rite of Spring. I’ve never seen it live, so I’m looking forward to that. Perhaps I can find other dancers and do class with them.
As for me and my camp, we’re doing Open Barre, with Mimosas, twice. Contact improv, twice. And all the other things that my camp does, but that’s what I’m in charge of. My gift to the Playa, along with whatever I wind up feeding people, as so often I do.
My feelings are mixed about going this year. I’m working, so that’s a challenge—learning the choreography at a distance will be interesting—and I’m afraid of coming back with a respiratory infection again. I’ll have to be careful this year.
But there are always things to be learned, and what was it I was saying about learning not to constantly try to control the outcomes?
So there it is. This is the outcome right now. I’m strung between two loyalties, but perhaps it’s okay. If things work out as I hope they will in the coming months, I most likely won’t be able to go to the Burn in 2018.
Because, as D told me so many times, there is something in the world for which I will sacrifice all other things—even Burning Man, as much as I love it.
When all this is over, the desert will be there still (unless we blow up the world before then, in which case it’s all a moot point anyway).
I took class on Monday and found that, although my feet and Achilles’ tendons were still a little tight, I was mostly functional. I even got some nice turns in.
As such, I hit the studio again tonight (didn’t make morning class because D’s truck overheated, so he needed my car, and I was too late to catch the bus) feeling fairly confident about things.
My confidence was, in fact, well-placed. Class was good, all things considered—I’m still a tad wheezy, but with adequate oceans of medication that stayed under control.
Anyway, tonight’s class was essentially built around petit allegro—not that we didn’t do anything else, because we absolutely did, but the ultimate goal was to improve our petit allegro by improving our use of pliés.
When we finally did get around to petit allegro, BG gave us a very, very helpful note: if the music is fast, focus on getting down into the floor with the pliés.
It’s counter-intuitive as all heck, but it works a treat. I am one of those people who can milk a fair bit of elevation out of a jump by brushing hard and really springing through the feet, so I don’t always use my deepest demi-plié in preparation.
This is not at all helpful in fast petit allegro combinations—it just takes too freaking long, especially when you factor in hyperextended knees and really flexible feet.
Turns out that if I get deep into my demi-plié, I can actually get there faster. I suppose it comes down to employing the entire bottom of the foot—I suspect that when I’m struggling with petit allegro, my heels are probably just skimming the ground when they should be doing some actual work.
Anyway, this feels revelatory, as things do of late. I’m going to have to practice the hell out of it in order to overcome a lifetime of attempting to do petit allegro the way I do grand battement.
Anyway, that’s it for now. In short: never be afraid to get down when it’s time to boogie.
As you may know, petit allegro is not my forté.
As such, I ask all kinds of super-technical questions, like:
HOW DO POTEET ALLERGO ZIZZONES LESS BAD?
Fortunately, LAA’s class is small enough that she’s had a chance to really analyze my (admittedly-wack) petit allegro
calzone zizzone technique, and last night she gave me two incredibly helpful bits of advice:
- Tone down the UP!!!!
- In comparison with barre exercises, think of it as a jeté (accent in, if it helps you keep the adductors fully engaged) rather than as grand battement.
- Add some side (that is, lateral travel).
So let’s revisit a screencap of me doing
This is me landing a
pannetone sissone. Technically, this was a medium allegro combination, but it was still wildly unnecessary for me to put that much elevation into that jump (and every single other jump in that combination).
- If you need a quick refresher, a sissone is a jump from two legs to one leg. A pannetone is a delicious sweet bread (not sweetbread, that’s something else) from Milan.
You can see that my working leg is up there (and turned out and pointed and effing winged, holy hell).
What you can’t see is that I did this entire sissone with very little lateral travel relative to the height of the jump.
You can probably calculate the apex height of the jump with some degree of accuracy. That should give you an idea of why I’m always and forever behind when tasked with sissones in settings other than grand allegro (ideally at “men’s tempo,” which tends to be slow in order to allow for lots of elevation and ballon).
I’ve probably been doing petit allegro sissones this way for quite a while: I think, “Make it smaller,” and respond by making it not go anywhere but UP.
Technically speaking, sissones aren’t really traveling jumps (which is to say that they’re not leaps, basically). Laterally speaking, you shouldn’t go very far in a sissone—but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go anywhere at all.
If you tone down your elevation and allow for a little lateral travel, your petit allegro sissone tends to become the light, lovely little spring that it’s supposed to be, and you don’t get behind the music and find yourself receiving epic side-eye from the poor schmuck attempting to dance next to you.
When I approach them this way, I can make my petit allegro sissones small and light enough to practice them in my kitchen without fear of whacking my feet or shins on things (my kitchen is tiny; the struggle is real). Coincidentally, that also means they’re quick enough to use in those horrible, fast petit allegro combinations universally despised by those of us who are built for grand allegro.
- Or at least despaired over…
One more thing: if your hips are ridiculously flexible like mine are, you’ll also want to think about opening the working leg straight to the side or even a little ahead.
The flexibility of my hips lets me put my legs kind a quite far back in a turned-out second, which can make closing back to 5th to prepare for the next jump really slow and do weird things to the path of the sissone, which should be diagonal.
Coincidentally, I have to think about the same thing when doing grand pirouettes: keep the working leg engaged a few degrees forward of dead-to-the-side, or things become unwieldy because physics.
Today’s class was pretty good.
EF taught, which meant long and complicated combinations at barre, some of which were VERY fast.
After we had all sort of traded a moue of despair after flailing our way through something that I’ll call a degagé combination (with the understanding that it was SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT), he pointed out to us that we shouldn’t feel disheartened and give up mid-combo if we’re not fast enough yet.
Even if we flail through and don’t quite make it, even if the combination is so freaking fast that 75% of the advanced class can’t actually get their feet either to point fully or to relax fully, by trying, we’re developing the strength and the speed that will eventually allow us to execute these insanely-fast combinations correctly.
I was awfully glad to hear that, because that’s exactly what I keep telling myself: even if you’re just flailing away like a wind-sock, keep going, because it is through flailing that we reach transcendence.
Or something like that.
Even if you’re just flailing away like a wind-sock, keep going, because it is through flailing that we reach transcendence.
Or something like that.
(I felt like that could use some fancy formatting.)
This is how EF teachers, and one of the reasons that I lurve his classes(2). As I have probably mentioned before, he teaches to the most advanced dancer in the room (in this case: a home-town boy on a brief vacation from American freaking Ballet Theater, apparently) and allows everyone else to rise to that level.
Curiously, it generally works.
Anyway, adagio went well, once I stopped being a spaz and forgetting to actually use the muscles that make my supporting leg, like, support me (yeah, totally fumbled in a tour lent today … but I jumped right back into it and fixed it on the second side).
Turns and terre-a-terre also went well: we got music from Swan Lake today, and my insides went SQUEEE! because I ❤ Swan Lake so hard. My outside, on the other hand, went, “I’m not sure I have this! I’m still not sure I have this! Oh, wait — I’ve got this!”
Basically, I was having some trouble remembering where this one failli went, and also trouble remembering that my new dancing policy is supposed to be:
Look like you know what you’re doing.
…Even when you don’t.
Which, this week, has been frequently.
Anyway. Petit allegro was a moderate disaster, but only because for some reason on the first pass my brain couldn’t contain the combination, and on the second pass my body kept executing the incorrect version.
and then made with the glissades, but I somehow thought it began with glissade – jeté and thus kept doing it backwards and getting horribly lost.
EF tried to sort me, but my legs refused to comply until the very. last. repeat. Thus, I wound up working it alone, as everyone packed up.
EF called me over and gave me a note on my brush-jumps (the ones like jeté, assemblé, and so forth). I’ve been leaving my body behind, which has been forcing me to make extra weight-changes in petit allegro and putting me behind the count.
Evidently, my jumps aren’t actually slow anymore (EF said they’re actually quicker than a lot of my classmates’); it’s the extra weight-changes doing me in at this point.
So in addition to continuing to work on solidifying my supporting leg, this week I’ll be concentrating on bringing my body with me when I jump (something I need to think about in general, really; I do this on grand jeté and saut de chat as well).
Anyway, he spent several minutes working with me in on this, and (of course) I thanked him profusely. He takes a lot of time with me: fixing my arm at barre (which needs doing with alarming frequency; it’s better than it was, but it still likes to drift too far back and lose its shape and so forth), tweaking my jumps and turns, and so forth. I really appreciate that, as a great deal of the ground I’ve gained has been the direct result of these fine-point corrections from my instructors.
It’s also nice to know that I’m not invisible in a gigantic advanced class — there were a billion of us today (even adagio required two groups).
After, I went to juggling class, in which I managed a new-record-for-me 27 cascades, then worked my choreography a bit in Open Fly. I think I’ve solved the last of the timing problems (added a sissone to arabesque; not 100% sure it works with the music).
And now I’m at home, writing this, contemplating lunch, and preparing to undertake a cleaning binge as a way to keep myself from just obsessing about tomorrow’s audition.
Notes, References, and Asides
Sadly, I can’t find a proper source for this; if it’s from etsy, I want one!OMG I FOUND IT!
- Sadly, after next Saturday, we won’t have him again for a while, because the regular season and so forth take off again next week, and he has So Many Responsibilities.
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.
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.
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.