Turn It Off!*
*(Or, really, hit that dimmer switch. )
Just a quickie today.
I’m sure someone has told me this before, but today something that Killer B said really struck home.
When you’re balancing en relevé (and at various other times; I’ll try to remember to explore this idea in much greater depth at some point), you can help your adductors and deep rotators with their job by letting the glutes (especially those pesky maximi that think they’re responsible for absolutely everything) relax a bit.
Turn on the adductors; dim the glutes.
The gluteals are huge and super strong–so they easily overpower the smaller muscles. Curiously, this makes it much harder to balance in turnout.
It makes a great deal of sense if you just think about sous-sus: if your glutes are firing all of their guns at once, they’re kind of pushing your legs away from the center line. The adductors aren’t strong enough to overcome them, so we tend to either be unstable or comprise our turnout to place our legs in a position from which the glutes can push them towards each-other.
If you relax the glutes substantially (but don’t completely let them go) while keeping the adductors, deep rotators, and pelvic floor powerfully engaged, you stabilize your hip without compromising your turnout.
In fact, you might find a few more degrees of turnout than you thought you had (no promises, but it happens).
Of course, all this depends on your nervous system having figured out how to consciously feel and activate (or deactivate) those various muscles.
Still, this was enlightening to the degree that L’Ancien’s “grand battement starts in your back” was. Relinquishing some of the fearsome grip of my glutes made my balances better instantly … and it also improved my plié, which led to better petit allegro. I did a random entrechat six today in a combination with dancers’ choice on the beats, and it felt like nothing.
Right now, I’m a glute-clencher by habit. I’ll be retraining this consciously for a while. Eventually it’ll replace my current habit … and then I’ll discover some other awful thing, because that’s ballet for you 😛
Anyway, if you, like I, am a bendy person with ridiculous hip mobility, I hope this helps.
Ah! There You Are!
The turnouts seem to be slowly returning to life.
Class today was incrementally better. I was able to feel the turnout muscles without training my entire mind upon them like the Eye of Sauron hunting the One Ring.
The result of this was that I actually got a compliment on my passé in Killer Class. It came attached to a minor correction for the placement of my arm, but it still totally counts, mmmkay? (The funny part is that I think I got the same correction from BW last week. Derp!)
I also tried to apply the principle I’ve been exploring in modern class—for me, stretch isn’t a good indicator of placement. This did much for the appearance of my adagio and for the effectiveness of my turns.
Right after terre-a-terre, though, I inhaled a roving dust bunny, which proceeded to stick to my uvula and cause me to cough my brains out Stupid dust bunny. Stupid uvula.
I used about 6,000,000 tissues while Killer B gave us the combination for the warm-up jumps, but still managed to recover in time to do them.
We then did a tiny petit allegro that went:
sisson simple avant
sisson simple arrière
changement (x4 I think?)
Or something along those lines I may have the number of changements and echappés wrong. Regardless, it ended with a pair of entrechats quatre.
My beats were still mostly messy, which is annoying. They’ll get better as I regain all the strengths.
Grand allegro, on the other hand, was less than optimal, because I kept forgetting that there was supposed to be an assemblé after a glissade, and thus getting off the music and being like, WTF, OH NO, INCOMING, ABORT ABORT!!!
…Because, of course, this was a combination that changed directions in the middle, so if you were ahead (or behind), things were going to get weird in your little individual flock.
On the balance, though, class was pretty good, and definitely indicates that I’m on my way back.
In other news, my Dance Team small group is gamely doing some hard stuff, and also my quads are currently on fire, which indicates that I’m still using them too much (read: not yet using the turnouts enough).
Anyway, time to go dangle from the ceiling, after which I am probably going to borrow a corner of the floor during Open Fly and video what the choreography for the small group’s dance is supposed to look like.
Tomorrow I have to call UPS and hound them about the location of a pair of ballet shoes that I ordered, since they were supposedly delivered to my mailbox on Tuesday. Since there has been no sign of ballet shoes in my mailbox, or indeed of a UPS truck, I’m guessing they may have been delivered to the wrong address.
Needless to say, I’m feeling a little peeved, as the new shoes are Blochs, and I was eager to try them out and see whether I like them at least as much as my favorite Sanshas (assuming, of course, that I’ve ordered the correct size).
I may just go buy a pair at the brick-n-mortar shop, as I need to pick up another dance belt anyway, and also I have no patience. But either way I am going to hound UPS about my shoes.
Since Ms B got married and there are no longer two BWs among my ballet teachers, I shall henceforth refer to Company B simply as BW (because I’m lazy and it’s easier).
Anyway, class with BW was, as always, good. I didn’t dance as well as I usually do, but everyone has those days. Only three of us again, so once again there was much drilling down deep in the technique. There was also more than the usual array of conversation; we were all tired and disorganized (I arrived earliest, only 5 minutes before class time; BW arrived just after, and everyone else was late).
My turnout took a while to turn on — back to Trap 3 last night meant back to Single Knee Hangs (with ronds-de-jambe), and those make the turnouts tight. (I’m going to have to contemplate that, as I plan to use SNH w/ RDJ to open a trap performance on Saturday.) Not that it was non-existent; it just wasn’t up to the standard of Wednesday’s class.
On the other hand, my grand rond got its stuff together after a fashion. Coming from behind, I was rotating the turnouts later than necessary and thus losing much of the quality of the movement. BW laid on hands and fixed me: he proved to me that I can rotate my hip much further in arabesque than even I thought possible, which made for one high extension coming à la seconde. Like, BW even commented on it to B: “See how high that is?”
I appreciate the fact that my teachers aren’t afraid I’m the least to touch me.
Going terre-à-terre, though, my brain was absolutely determined to leave our the waltz turns. This kept making me end up facing the wrong corner. This may have been fatigue (I’m sleeping better, but still not really well, as you might gather from the fact that I’m posting at 2 AM), or it may have been a lack of Adderall. I forgot my second dose until it was legitimately too late to take take it. Ironically, I was so busy cleaning… Anyway.
I discovered that I haven’t lost my attitude balance, and that I can pretty reliably élevé into it now. After class, BW worked on my arms, which are slowly becoming graceful. Minor miracle, there, all things considered.
So that’s about it.
Trap performance on Saturday should be interesting. I’m resetting some existing choreography to Billy Joel’s “You’re The Only One Who Knows.” Here’s hoping I get through without bursting into tears. Seriously, that’s why I’m not even thinking about using “Leningrad.”
Also, a picture from Burning Man, below the fold since it’s mildly NSFW:
Saturday Class(es): TURN IT OUT (again)
Along the way, my loosely-connected hips have developed some pretty rocking turnout.
Along the way, I have also noticed that, as I progress through barre exercises (or exercises at centre, or … you know, basically everything else), my turnout tends to creep from awesome to average. It’s never terrible, but there’s sort of no excuse for that … especially since hanging onto the turnout is what makes sooooooo many other things happen without so much sturm und drang (tour lent, I’m looking at you, here).
This became a theme of today’s second class, with Ms J at the helm and only three of us at the oars.
While I frequently take class with Ms J, I rarely get to take class from Ms J … which is a shame, because she is an amazing teacher, and has a laser-focused eye for detail and absolutely no misgivings about using it to its full potential (which is why we love her).
Today, she pointed out to me that I’m being lazy with my turnout in pliés and in relevé balances, particularly those on two feet.
In both, I look fine getting there (and maybe I even am fine; I actually do tend to work my turnouts on the way there), but on the way back, it’s like I just throw my bike down on the front lawn or something. In short, I have been letting my rotators get away with going, “Meh, that’s good enough.”
Basically, as you rise from a plié, you should continue using all those rotators that make your turnout happen … you know, then ones that you’re supposed to keep fiercely engaged all the way down, but maybe you don’t because your turnout is naturally pretty great and you can kinda fake it?
But if you don’t want your turnout to just drift into the Zone of Mediocrity, you have to use them all the way. All the way down (because otherwise you’re gonna have a bad time cranking them back on when you come back up, and you’re also going to fall right over the very second your instructor calls you to center and says, “And we start with grand plié…”) and then all the way up.
All the way.
Which means that as you rise, you’re not just thinking about getting your knees back, but also about rotating your heels forward … and you’re not just thinking about it until your heels are on the ground (which, historically, is where I’ve just kind of dropped the reins and let the horses … by which I mean my legs … run for the barn).
You have to keep thinking about it, and doing it, until you are once again standing in your greatest possible turnout.
If you’ve been in the habit of being lazy about it, as I have, this is HARD.
By which I mean it’s physically demanding (because you suddenly realize, “Ohai, my turnouts aren’t quite as strengthy as I thought!”) and it makes you think and it’s horrible to have to think during a plié combination, because then the likelihood that you’ll hose up the entire combination approaches the singularity, or … wait, I think I’m perhaps drifting into hyperbole as well as mediocrity, here.
Anyway, you have to consciously make even that last degree, that last second, of rotation happen … or at least you do until your body gets used to it or at least just gives up and does it right because it realizes you’re not going to stop making it and sometimes it just has to choose its battles(•).
- You guys, I am pretty sure that this is how I nailed down renversé. At least for the five minutes before I started overdoing all my renversés. Anyway, I can attest to the fact that this does, for many things, eventually happen, or at least it has for me, at any rate.
- Some experts refer to this phenomenon as “muscle memory;” I call it “my body giving up the fight or maybe even kinda developing Stockholm syndrome a little.” So now I get to think about other things I’m doing wrong. Like this one.
Moreover, the same thing (that is, the rotators being like, “Meh, good enough,” not the body finally accepting that your are going to keep making it do this crazy stuff) happens when you’re coming down from relevé or from elevé — in fact, for me, this is when it is most likely to happen.
And, presumably for my entire balletic existence, I have been allowing it to happen. At least, I have until today, when Ms J took me to task on it. (I realize that this is a key component of what Company B was also trying to impart on Thursday.)
She kept me on top of it throughout the entire class, even when I was standing still.
So that is today’s lesson: if you think you’re done working your rotators, you almost certainly aren’t. Unless you’re in modern class, in which you might legitimately be done working your rotators for the moment, because maybe you’re going to get a reprieve and do something in parallel.
For what it’s worth, working on this instantly improved my fourth position (also known as “we would’ve called it fifth but then you would’ve expected it to be the hardest one and you wouldn’t have been willing to try it”). Specifically, my ability to use temps-lie through fourth and to execute grand pliés in fourth without recovering with only two-thirds of the turnout I had when I started.
(Edit: I feel like I’ve said this before, which makes me wonder exactly how distressingly bad my fourth position was when I started dancing again back in 2014.)
Of course, none of this was of any help by the time we got around to doing turns. By then, sleep deprivation had caught up with me, and I managed to execute exactly one halfway decent turn. The rest were horrible, rubbishy disasters.
Petit allegro, too, was awash in fresh horror, as I kept letting my trailing leg just sort of drift home in my glissades and then falling over sideways doing tours (I mean, not all the way over). At least I remembered the combination, eventually?
But I’m pretty sure all that owes to the fact that things were catching up with me by then. Sleep deprivation hits you right in the coordination and equilibrium. In related news, as I learned in today’s first class, sleep-deprived chainés are no joke. Or, well, at least not to the person attempting them. They can be pretty hilarious to everyone else, TBH.
On the other hand, in the second class, I somehow miraculously nailed down the Bournonville (grand) jeté (which, in still photos, has an unfortunate tendency to look like the official “Heeeeeeeeey!” entrance of ballet — in real life, these are really beautiful when executed well).
I learned the Bournonville jeté a while back, but then promptly gave myself a mental block the next time we used it and haven’t produced a decent one since until today. I mean, seriously, most of mine look like I’ve basically tripped over something whilst running at full tilt, or possibly like there’s something wrong with the leg that’s in back.
(Edit: I suspect I may have not actually been jumping off the back leg at all, but just sort of launching from the front and kinda letting it trail along. I am distressingly capable of exactly that kind of thing.)
Today, I did about nine of them. A few were even actually solid all the way up, since Ms J noted that I was jumping through my arms and letting them trail behind me instead of carrying them(•) and fixed that, too.
- …As I am forever doing, because my prioprioception in that department is still awful.
I figured out how to carry my arms and shocked the living daylights out of myself by launching a string of beautiful Bournonville jetés into near-earth orbit on the next pass.
Of course, I then failed to plan anything to do with the arms in question on a subsequent saut de chat, with the inevitable result being a kind of Lovecraftian half-breed, or possibly a rough approximation of a T-Rex attempting to pop and lock.
And my tour-jetés, today, on the other hand?
Ummmm, yeah. Let’s not even open that can of extremely-confused and possibly drunken worms.
PS: today’s first class, Advanced Class, was actually pretty decent all the way through. Even the chainés weren’t that bad. So there’s that.