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Killer Class: In Which It Comes Back Bit By Bit

Also, it is not easy to eat your lunch with 16 pounds of cat in your lap. At least not when your lunch is ziti with red sauce and the cat insists on interfering with your working arm(1). Just saying.

  1. You might be a dancer if the best way you can think of to describe your arms in the act of dining is as “working arm” and “supporting arm”…

Anyway, I felt stronger and better than last week, though still a bit chaotic. On the other hand, the part of my brain that perceives what’s happening deep in my hips came back online in the midst of doing frappés on relevé. Since I was doing them en relevé very much in hopes that such a miracle might occur, it was quite satisfying.

Also, my coupé balances were boss.

I forgot to mention that my brain re-engaged with my turnouts yesterday thanks to modern class. That, the work I’ve been doing on balances, and the input Killer B gave me last week all coalesced to allow long, steady coupé balances avant and arrière on both sides.

That actually surprised me.

My turns, on the other hand, were basically a roving disaster (or, they were during terre-a-terre). Too much attack, not enough preparation, and I kept panicking because I had assembled the combination in the wrong order in my brain (today was not a great day for remembering combinations, for me).  In short, there was a thing where you piqué soutenu turn into sus-sous, pick up the front leg directly into extension, give it a breath, and tombé onto it. It was lovely, but I couldn’t remember to which of the two piqué soutenu turns in the combination it was attached, and consequently kept getting myself muddled.

As such, I did the first side twice; once in the first group (nobody else stepped up, so I went even though I knew that I didn’t know the combination), then once in the last group.

New Boy came back, and he now has a name, which begins with F. I can’t remember his surname, but I suppose he can be New Boy until he’s come back to class one more time. After that, I’ll have to figure something else out. Perhaps that will be my new rule for naming people. They can be New Person until they establish themselves as regulars by attending at least three Killer Classes without dying.

I wound up unintentionally attached to New Boy’s group as a function of having repeated the first side of the terre-a-terre. I just basically stayed there afterwards—partly because it seemed weird to run back around to the front of the group, and partly because it gave me time to watch the combination a million times.

still did it incorrectly at least once more, but that was a function of the fact that learning by doing is, for me, more powerful than learning by watching (also figured out that one of the things I’d been doing was turning too far on the first piqué soutenu and facing the wrong corner of the “box” (basically, turning to effacé instead of croisé).

At least petit allegro went surprisingly well today, though, so there’s that? We did a little combination that went sisson simple-sisson simple-tombé coupé-assemblé, changement-changement-echappé, changement-changement-changement-entrechat quatre.

I may have too many changements in that last little phrase, come to think of it.

For once, my legs not only grokked sisson simple, but also grokked tombé coupé-assemblé. I forgot the echappé once on each side, though, because…I don’t even know why, actually.

It’s not like I can’t normally do those steps, by the way. I’m just not great at doing them cleanly and at speed. As such, this is progress, particularly since I haven’t been doing anything speed-work wise.

Ran into BW after class. I’m looking forward to his class (and modern) tomorrow. After that, I’m looking forward to sitting on my behind on Friday 😛


Break (Almost) Week; Reflections on Renversés and Choreography as a Process

Saturday, I spent four hours teaching, several more hours scraping paint, and two hours composing choreography before we went to a party that was actually very fun. Sunday, after acro and Acro Brunch, I spent an hour running choreography, then another hour teaching, and then untold æons (with, so really an hour and change, maybe two) standing on a ladder and painting the house while my hands froze in a chill wind in spite of my gloves(1).

  1. Note to self: wear winter cycling gloves next time. They’re wind-resistant.

As such, I opted to stay in this morning, do housework, and take evening class instead) even though I should really get back to doing Modern Mondays). 

The piece I was working on Saturday evening and a Sunday is essentially a 5-minute long comedic story ballet set to the 2nd movement (adagio cantabile) of Beethoven’s Pathétique. I programmed in a few renversés, and I realized while I worked the piece that not so long ago I wouldn’t have even thought of them. They just wouldn’t have occurred to me. 

BW and JP have really tuned up our renversés this semester, and as such they seem perfectly natural now. I put them in more or less by instinct where the music calls for them and the movement leads to them.

This is, in fact, true of a lot of movements in the classical vocabulary. Many things feel perfectly natural now that wouldn’t have a year ago. 

I think I’ve discussed my tendency to get get to the studio and instantly forget every step I’ve ever learned, then devolve upon programming a bunch of piqué turns and ronds-de-jambe (sometimes while thinking, “How do I get to the jumps?! Ack!”).  I also used to open every adagio piece with essentially the same sequence of développés and adagio turns that open Simon Crane.

Somewhere along the line, that seems to have changed.

This surprised me. Ballet is funny like that. It creeps up on you, and one day you discover that you are far more fluent in its language than you thought.

As a caveat, I must admit that I don’t know if it works this way for people who are genuinely new to dance. I think it might take a little longer in the situation, possibly. For me, the vocabulary was there but largely dormant; I could picture a dance, but when I tried to essentially run dance.exe to execute the dance, it was as if I couldn’t access the necessary files and code.

Taking class again for the better part of three years has apparently done a great deal of hard disk repair, kicking out the bad sectors and improving the connections between the good ones. The dynamic link libraries are once again accessible; the modules of code that create renversés  and cabrioles are no longer in the land of File Not Found (double cabs continue to elude me: goal one for 2017, I guess; double tours are probably goal two). 

When I go to create a piece that’s floating around in my head, I rarely lose the piece anymore. The vision and the finished dance usually match pretty well. I still mostly work phrase by phrase — visualizing, iterating, visualizing, iterating, then moving to the next phrase when the current one one seems solid, then eventually stringing them together into parts and finally stringing the parts together into a dance — but that may simply be my work style.

It also really helps to be able to remember the names of things. Makes writing them down much easier. The downside, though, is that I can now stay up till 1:30 AM listening to music and writing out choreography, knowing that in the morning it will still make sense. Or maybe that’s another upside, because it’s not like choreography didn’t keep me awake before. It just rarely turned out to be particularly intelligible in the cold light of day(2).

  1. Seriously, while working with BB, I have actually said things like: Why did I just write “effacé” there?! Éffacé what?! How? What does that mean? …Did I even mean éffacé? … Wait, I don’t think I meant éffacé.

So I’m pleased to say that this current piece, which I’ll be performing on 9th December if I can convince a couple of people to join me (there’s a second, far less technical dancing part and one brief non-dancing part), is not just a sequence of RDJs and random turns (it has arabesques, penchés, faillis, renversés, double turns, sautés arabesques, tours lent, and some other stuff, not to mention a grand allegro chase scene in the middle). Progress!

In other news, this week will largely be a break week, which means I’ll have time to catch up on household minutiae and start rehearsing “Work Song,” possibly, if everyone is available. After tonight, both dance team and ballet are off until next week. This will be a good week for reconditioning. You guys, I am weak. Between vacation and being sick, I have lost a lot of strength and stamina. 

So it’s back to eating for performance (with, of course, occasional digressions into the realm of pure pleasure) and training for … Erm,  also for performance.

And housework, because adulting never ends. 
Edit: PS – Señor BeastMode would probably like me to remind you that:

Renversé is not a turn.

In Which Things Are Accomplished

In addition to submitting my audition registration forms, today I:

  • tidied and vacuumed my living room (oy vey)
  • got promoted to Trapeze 3 (BOOYAH!)
  • got oversplit back on the right side (though I suspect that me try to figure out how to get a yoga block under my front foot while in a full split probably made for a pretty hilarious floor show)
  • hung out with friends and ate ice cream

This was one heck of a good day, people. Now I’m going to bed so I’ll be well rested for class tomorrow 🙂

Belated Essentials Class Notes; Weight Bias Online Open Course on Canvas

I don’t think I posted notes the last time I went to class, back before Spring Break and the Week of the Plague (we were both sick last week; fortunately, I was spared the fate of a follow-on bronchitis, unlike Denis). It was lovely, though I was not entirely at my best. There was a new guy, who we’ll call T. It was his third class, and he was doing quite well, so I hope he’ll stick around, and that I’ll see him in class on Friday morning this week.

Last night, we had another new dancer in Margie’s class. Margie asked me to lead her barre, and I subsequently realized I need to remember to keep a hand on the barre when leading a totally new student. In Margie’s class, I often work hands-free, in order to refine balance and stuff. It never occurred to me that a really new dancer might not realize that it’s okay to keep a hand on the barre, but that’s exactly what happened.

My balance was a little off, since I have some lingering fluid-in-the-ears stuff going on, but other than that I did well. Because I hadn’t been in class the prior week, I was also able to see myself with fresh eyes; I realized that my body has changed profoundly in the year I’ve been back in the studio.

My thigh muscles are leaner than I ever expected them to become, which is surprising (my calves are still huge, but no longer “out of spec” with regard to the classical-ballet mold). I’ve regained the flexibility I lost while alternating between sitting at a desk and training for bike races. My arms have learned how to be expressive and graceful.

For me, Margie’s class is now all about refinement and musicality. It’s actually invaluable in that regard.

Once school is out, I plan to keep Margie’s class in the Friday morning slot in my class rotation. Monday and Wednesday mornings, I’ll be doing Intermediate class, and Saturday morning I’ll be doing Beginner class (I’m not quite confident enough to try flailing my way through the Saturday-morning Advanced class yet!).

I will probably skip Wednesday evening class this week because I’m working on my final paper for my Buddhism class — as I said to Denis, I’ve reached “the boring part,” during which I’m basically just putting in all the references I didn’t enter as I wrote the paper because I was writing it on my tablet and tabbing back and forth was a PITA. That falls right into the range of work that is the most challenging for someone with my particular flavor of ADHD, so I’m giving myself time and room to work on it.

Of course, since I know I need to do it and I know it’s boring and I know it’s hard, my brain is also busily suggesting a million other things that I also need, with various levels of urgency, to do. Like, “Hey! It’ll only take a few minutes to complete the updates you need to do for the PorchLight Express Project! Plus, you need to work on that mini-article for Jack Rabbit Speaks! And you still need to take a picture of the trainer you’re offering up for the raffle for CabalAid! If you do those, you’ll feel productive, and that will help you with your paper!”

Well played, ADHD. I see what you’re trying to do, here. (But maybe I’ll do a couple of those things anyway, because I am someone who feeds on the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing things.)

In other news, I’m taking a free, 5-week online course offered by Dalhouse University on Canvas Network called “Behind the Scenes: Addressing weight bias and stigma in obesity.”

It looks really cool, and I’m very heartened by the fact that one of the readings for this, our first class week, is a paper from one of my favorite researchers. Dr. Rebecca M. Puhl is a prolific researcher in the field whose work kept popping up as I reviewed the literature upon which I would found my Senior Seminar project; I think I wound up citing four or five papers on which she was either a lead or one of two lead investigators.

Anyway, if you’re interested in the course, it’s not too late to sign up (and you can create a Canvas account for free)! I wish I’d thought to post a link earlier. It really looks like it’s going to be a great class.

Here’s a link, if you’re interested in checking out the course:

Those of you working in the health-care professions may even be able to gain Continuing Education or Professional Development units. A certificate of Completion costs $50 Canadian and provides 15 PD units.

If you don’t have time to take the class but would like to follow along with the participants, we’ll be using hashtag #weighbiasaware on Twitter.

Speaking of Professional Development and Continuing Education, I have some long-term plan updates that I’ll be posting in a bit. Nothing particularly drastic, but I’m feeling pretty optimistic about my road forward now thanks to a chat with Dr. Morgan yesterday morning.

That’s it for now. Keep the leather side down, and don’t forget to ride your bike!

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