Blog Archives

It’s A Sign 

Went to class tonight. As she prepared to give us the waltz, Trainee L (who gives a very fun class) announced, “I woke up this morning thinking about Renversé!”

Evidently, my life at at the moment is all about the magic of renversé. 

Monday night is a beginner class, and renversé was new to many of them. Trainee L did a good job teaching it, though, and I was very impressed with how well they picked it up! And my renversés were rather nice (to make up for my abominable double turns, bleh). 

Traînée L also picked up on a weird thing I was doing with my outside shoulder at Barre. It may be new, as today I did Barre with ankle weights for the first time, but I suspect it’s something I always do that isn’t usually as visible.

In other news, beginner class makes me feel like I don’t suck at petit allegro, except insofar as I keep wanting to put in a balonné where there isn’t one.
Don’t worry, though, I’m sure my next advanced class will put me back in my place. 

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.

Thursday Class: Split the Difference

Tonight was my first class back with Company B.

There were only 3 of us, the more advanced members of the class, so he taught to a fairly high standard. (I should say, he always teaches to a high standard, but in this case he also gave us fairly advanced material).

At the beginning of barre, I was worried I wouldn’t be up to hanging with the cool kids, since I’m still fresh back from my Off Season, but once we got into it, I felt fine. My body woke up and remembered that dancing is what it does, and after that everything went fairly smoothly.

I got my left split back today. That’s a huge improvement. I’d been having trouble recovering it after yoinking something in my hip at the July intensive, but a month off seems to have un-yoinked said something. Now the only thing making life difficult is a tight spot in the top of my right quadriceps, but it’s not preventing me from getting that split all the way down, just making it slower getting there. It’ll come.

So that’s another keen reminder of how sometimes it’s good to take some time off, let the body just recover. 

In other news, I had developed a weird hait of fouette-ing out of my renverse, and I got that sorted tonight a well. I was, it turns out (har, har) turning (ha!) my renverse into a turn, which, as M. BeastMode reminds us whenever we do renverse in his classes, it patently isn’t. It’s just a fancy way to change the direction of your body, really.

Anyway, if you turn your renverse into a full turn, you wind up doing a crazy kind of fouette thing to face yourself back into the correct direction. That sort of defeats the whole point of the renverse, and while it looks cool, it almost certainly isn’t valid technique.

On the other hand, being able to float through a full rotation in renverse means you have the balance working, so there’s that?

So basically, renverse is a fancy pivot that takes you only halfway around your imaginary box (generally from one corner to its diagonal opposite) and not a turn. And it looks awesome.

We also drilled down on pas de bourree en tournant, which is one of those steps that, at this level, many of us have just been faking forever with varying degrees of success. CB pointed out that it’s helpful to think of the en tournant part as quarter-half-half, and mentioned that even our resident Russian-trained-in-actual-Russia ballerina (and, yes, I’m using that term in the technical sense) says you often wind up having to fudge it a little. So you might go quarter-half-half and then sort of pivot subtly in sus-sous, or whatevs.

Anyway, excepting one instance of my prodigious ability to do the should-be-impossibly-wrong turn, my turns were good today, as were most other things once my body woke up. So that was good.

I love Company B’s class, because he tends to give a slightly slower class (possibly because he legitimately has a full 90 minutes, whereas my other classes are nominally 75 minutes long, but generally run closer to 90 anyway), which allows more time to absorb the finicky little details.

Which is good, because finicky little details are, to some extent, the heart and soul of ballet, though of course they mean nothing if the technique underpinning them isn’t there. They are, however, what puts the finish on.

So that was class tonight. 

I apologize for my lack of diacritical marks, by the way.I’m trying out a new Bluetooth keyboard and am too tired this evening to go back and add them after the fact. I suppose I could’ve just used HTML mode on this editor, but I didn’t think of it ’til just now.

Choreography Study Group tomorrow, Advanced Class on Saturdau, teaching on Sunday, back to Modern on Monday now that my car is back from its maintenance visit.

Also, I really quite love this little keyboard, even if I keep mistyping “keyboard” in various creative ways.

Monday Madness

I didn’t do Modern T’s class this morning because I had a scheduling conflict, so I went to M. BeastMode’s evening class today.

We were all just coming back from Spring Break, so M. BeastMode went easy-ish on us (which meant class was pretty relaxed, for me; M. BeastMode’s class at its hardest is still only about half as physically grueling as Ms. B’s Killer Class).

Barre was great. Everything went beautifully at barre. I worked on the let it happen principle, and suddenly my fondues, developpés, and grand battements were beautiful, high (or, as required, low and elastic), and really effortless.

Ditto turns, as a general rule. Fine and effortless, mostly. Turns from fifth are back; turns from fourth are trending towards reliable doubles again.

We did a quarter turn-half turn-full turn combo that was perfectly intuitive as long as you didn’t think, but went straight to Helena Handbasket (good ol’ Ms. Handbasket, heh) if you second-guessed yourself or started thinking. Mostly, though, I acquitted myself beautifully doing turns.

Ditto across the floor, at first. We did a cool combination that I am now nearly unable to remember, but it was set to a tango, and the goal was to focus on economy of movement. Since this is a thing I’m working on anyway, that was great.

Then we did another thing across-the-floor, and it just … I don’t know. There was a renversé. I love renversé, and I can do it quite well, and did beautiful renversés while marking the combination … and then, for some reason, when actually dancing it, my body kept insisting that the step in question should be fouetté, even though there was no fouetté in the combination.


I didn’t work that part out until after class, though. I just knew that something cray kept happening to my beautiful renversé moment.

This is what happens when I don’t go first and don’t mark all the way through the combo while the first group (or, in this case, groups) are going because I’m afraid of kicking somebody or getting in the way.

So, um, yeah. I shall work on that. It is getting a heck of a lot easier to pick up combinations, though (honestly, picking up almost any ballet combo seems like a breeze after a complex modern combo — not because modern is harder, but because ballet is my “first language”).

After, I ordered most of the remaining parts for our trapeze costumes (which should double for ballet stuff, later; it looks like things might be shaping up in terms of getting an adult students’ performing group together, but more on that later, as I don’t want to screw it up by speaking too soon).

Likewise, it would seem that I now have a choral performance iron in the fire for next year, which is great — not something that will require a year-long commitment, but something I’ll enjoy immensely.

So that was Monday. I’m super tired, so I’m off to bed.

G’night, everybody.

Leap Day (and the Rest of the Week)

Ha. Forgot to post this the other day. Derp. So, here it is, a few (okay, four) days late.

A fine class today: except for a touch of wheeziness, barre was good; at center, I threw off a beautiful turn from 2nd, then got cocky and kept putting too much power into the rest of the turns in that combination. I backed it off when traveling across the floor in the next combination and things improved vastly.

I have discovered that I get excited about things like renversé and sometimes kind of lose my head. I worked on keeping it together, though my failure to take my Adderall this morning made that a bit more challenging than it might have been.

Our final combination, however, was not challenging, just:

Pas de Bourée

…Eight times. The cool part is that you’re constantly switching the direction of your hips and shoulders through each pas de bourré. It’s easy to do, but looks really cool,especially if you can get high Sissones and clear épaulement.

I managed both, and felt quite good about myself, thank you very much.

After class, I took a few minutes to practice entrelacés/tour-jetés, because it would be a travesty not to leap on Leap Day.

Thanks to a second-hand note via Yorksranter (thanks, Yorksranter!), Mr. B, who was chatting with someone but still utilizing the Ballet Master’s All-Seeing Eye called out, “Good! Again!” then gave me another note that resulted in a series of, “Good! Again!” séquences.

So that was Monday’s class. Wednesday’s class was also quite good, though I was still not back at “full power,” so to speak. Nonetheless, there were some good moments, and I didn’t hose up absolutely everything.

I made it all the way through, as well, even though it was a billion degrees in the studio and I was already somewhat dehydrated at the start.

My promenades are improving again. For what it’s worth, I love promenades (and turns) in attitude. They just look cool. My turns are also coming back together.

Also, a quick shout-out to the amazing Kathryn Morgan, whose excellent video on Renverse has greatly improved mine. A few weeks ago, we had class with J.P., and he mentioned the part about renverse beginning as RDJ (grand/en l’air, of course); Ms. Morgan takes it a step further, pointing out that you want to make it all the way to arabesque before you think about getting to attitude.

Otherwise you just do crazy, dumb things with your legs and lose your turnout and stuff. Um, but she puts it much more eloquently than that.

Anyway, go watch her video; it will help you immensely with your renverse (or, if you’re already a master of the renverse, it will help you explain it to other people).

Also, pelvic placement (the Theme of The Month, apparently) really helps, but indirectly: forget your heart — if your pelvis is in the right place, you’ll have an easier time with turnout and extensions, both of which are necessary to RDJ, which is necessary to renverse.

Aerials this week have been a mixed bag. I didn’t expect to be awesomely strong after sitting on my tuchas for a week and a half, and as such was not terribly disappointed in myself, though at times I was frustrated.

That said, Trapeze on Wednesday rocked. I kind of feel like trap is my “thing,” aerials-wise — I love being up there and I find it fairly easy to do things well. It probably helps that I find heights thrilling, rather than frightening, since a lot of trapeze work involves either standing on your toes on a skinny little bar or dangling from ropes above one or your knees below one.

It also helps to have freakishly strong legs and abs, which apparently I do? I haz the knee beats, y’all. CL is teaching now and has a fantastic gift for conveying subtle technical details.

Thursday I had some weird and alarming stuff going on that led us to go see my doc today. She doesn’t think I’m going to keel over dead or anything, but did order some bloodwork to check on various things, including my thyroid function.

On the upside, my vital stats are still stellar, with blood pressure of 107/63 and a heart-rate (including the uptick for Adderall and caffeine) of 71. w00t.

Anyway, that’s it. Advanced class tomorrow, then various Suspend-y things.

Saturday: Renversés, Etc.

Today’s class with John was challenging. He included material that I’m pretty sure I’ve never done  before, ever — item the first: a sauté renversé, which I eventually figured out; item the second, a coupé jeté en tournant, which I managed to do right only once (for some reason, my brain kept deciding that saut de Basque* would be an acceptable substitute and doing it whether I liked it or not).

*Edit: Now that I’ve considered this for a while, I’m guessing my brain was putting the whole step together backwards. Wouldn’t be the first time.

That said, I’ve been wanting to learn coupé jeté en tournant, but didn’t know what it was called, so that’s excellent. Now I can ask Brian or Brienne to formally teach it to us.

I’ve realized that what I really like about John’s and Brienne’s classes is that they do a really good job building from barre to centre to grand allegro using related movements: for example, we did fouetté at barre, then used it in our adagio, then again in our turns, then used sauté fouetté in our grand allegro.

Ditto renversé, though we didn’t do that at barre, and attitude turns (which we didn’t do at barre, but which feed into both the sauté renversé and the coupé jeté en tournant).

I am coming to really love renversé.

I had a harder-than-usual time remembering the last two combinations today — in part because they were long, in part because I’m partly deaf right now, and in part because, as with coupé jeté, I didn’t know all the steps.


I felt that this required an illustration, so I shamelessly sto… erm … borrowed one from here: Candy01 at Imgflip

In short, I felt like I struggled today, but in a good way.

It’s good to have classes in which you know all the steps and can dance beautifully, and it’s equally good to have classes in which you’re just out of your depth but not so much that you feel like it’s not worth trying.

We’re off for the next two weeks, now, so I’m going to have to devise a way to stay fit over the break. Maybe I’ll spend it teaching myself coupé jeté (but probably not).

So, anyway, that’s all for now. I hope your various classes and Nutcrackers and breaks treat you well.

À bientôt, mes amis!

%d bloggers like this: