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Wednesday Class: Coming Together, Coming Apart

Ha! Started this post yesterday, then totally forgot to post it.


Here you go:

I have an appointment at 12:30, so I just did barre.

It was a lovely barre today with a nice adagio before grand battement. Brienne spent a lot of time with me — getting my développés aligned and higher, refining my épaulement, and making sure I was keeping my knees straight.

(Addendum: for me at least, really keeping the turnout and alignment solid during developpé makes a huge difference in getting the extensions higher. I’m not sure whether this is just because it uses the muscles more efficiently or if my hip impinges much sooner when I’m not correctly turned out, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’ve hit a snag there.)

My knees are still my ballet kryptonite: I’m figuring out where “straight” is, but since it’s just shy of locking my hyperextensions, I sometimes overcorrect when I’m concentrating on another detail.

For a long time, I just locked those puppies without realizing it, but that causes two problems: first, it’s bad for your knees; second, it can make transitions and weight-shifts awkward. It can also make you feel faint when you’re just standing there,but that’s a different problem.

So instead, these days, I focus on keeping my knees straight and pulled up without locking them, which can be hard, because I’m combating a lifetime of standing with my knees locked both in and out of class.

Ballet is like that: you’re doing so many things all at once, and they all need to be as perfect as possible. It takes time to train the muscle memory, and each time you add a new element (you’ve got the feet, legs, alignment, port de bras, and even the combination; now let’s sharpen up your épaulement!), the cognitive load is just immense.

Fortunately, it gets better, as I’m learning — both in terms of getting all the motor programming in place and in terms of correcting more easily when something isn’t quite right. Like, I no longer have to concentrate hard on my feet to correct them; I just sort of send a balloon of awareness towards them when they do funny things, and they get and stay sorted (at least for a while).

Things come together so much more readily now.

They came back apart, today, when I started really concentrating on épaulement in complex combinations — especially when, in addition, I suddenly received these amazing jolts of body-awareness during fondue and rond de jambe (Ohai! I can feel my hip and thigh doing the right thing!).

The part that dissolved, interestingly, was my command of the combination itself — so I’d do part of it, get a string of good corrections, work them, and immediately forget the details of the combo 😛 (At least once, I forgot it so badly that I couldn’t remember how it started when we turned to do the other side o.O’)

So then I’d be all, “Développé, fondu, extend, tendu, close fifth … which way was next? Oh, heck, I’ll just go à la seconde and pray.”

Since the exercise in question when avant, arrière, à la seconde, that didn’t entirely work. Though I guess doing the wrong thing well is still better than doing the wrong thing badly!

On the other hand, my développé is about a thousand times better than it was a few weeks ago, so there’s that.

Fortunately, we were all kind of faking it through bits of some of the combinations — so it wasn’t just me, and I didn’t feel like a complete disaster.

In other news, the new vesty thing worked just fine during barre, though it was too chilly this morning to take off my top layer (I actually wished I hadn’t forgotten my sweater).

We’ll see how it goes at center and across the floor on Saturday. It’s less itchy and cooler than my other ones, so I think I’m a convert at this point.

But for now, I must jet(é) off to catch a bus.

À bientôt!

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