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On Technique: How Not To Turn From Fourth

Okay, so my turns are often, erm, not horrible these days (probably because my AD is relentless in his quest to make us do six billion turns per class) … And yet I’m still entirely capable of making a complete hash of them from time to time.

In the interest of full disclosure, clarity, and the greater good, then, here’s a spectacular example caught on video in the wild today and translated into handy screenshots. (I am NOT posting the video. I don’t want to scar you guys for life.)

I just can’t even with this. No part of my core is even a little engaged. I’m jello

Erm … That’s not where that goes. How embarassing.

Look at that standing leg. I dare you. That’s right: I’m serving up fresh horror just in time for Hallowe’en, Betches.

I didn’t fall out of this turn in the sense that I didn’t literally go splat. In every other way, though…

We’re not even going to talk about my arms. They’d just doing it for the attention, and we cannot reward their egregious behavior by acknowledging it. I haven’t been this disappointed since … Well, tbh, 2016, but … you know.

Okay, I will say one thing about my arms. See that first photo? Balanchine prep up top; Cecchetti downstairs. No wonder this turn failed. It was the balletic equivalent of a mullet … replete with hamberder hands. 

I’m going to cry.

This turn was not assisted by the fact that there’s a divot in the subfloor under my standing foot, but honestly that excuses nothing. Without said divot, it still would’ve been a fugly turn. You could take it to a salon and give it hours and hours of mud wraps and so forth, and it wouldn’t do any good. Lipstick on a pig*.

*I mean … some members of the porcine family are quite handsome. But lipstick? They don’t really, like, have lips.

Here’s a less bad example, just so I can feel better about life

The non-standard port de bras is intentional.


The gesture leg is attached. The supporting leg is … well, sort-of turned out. My core, like, exists. The balance is fairly straight up and down. And in the video it’s evident that I spotted this turn like a boss.

That last one was of the “effortless double” species. The MOST important factor, for me, is simply keeping my coreengaged. This prevents Slinky Back (would that it could prevent Nickleback), which in turn basically prevents EVERYTHING ELSE THAT IS WRONG WITH THE FIRST TURN.

So engage those core muscles, kids!

…And remember: only YOU can prevent Nickelback  slinkyback!

One More Weird Trick That Will Shock You When You See What Happens

(OMG CLICKBAIT!!!)

Wednesday evening, Señor BeastMode gave us a really useful note for improving our turns.

It goes like this:

Before your free foot leaves the ground, rotate the heel forward.

Before your free foot (the one that gets pulled up to passé) leaves the ground, rotate the heel forward. (This works from 5th as well, but I thought that would make a very cluttered diagram.)

That’s all. Simples! Basic ballet technique, amirite?

…Only, it would seem that I wasn’t really doing it before—because as soon as I added that in consciously, my en dehors turn improved shockingly. It wasn’t bad before, really, but this detail makes for reliable, clean, controlled turns.

Also makes en dedans, already my stronger turn, even nicer.

In the diagram, I’ve drawn both rotation arrows for clarity, but you probably won’t have to think about the supporting leg (that’s the front leg, except when you’re turning from 2nd and everything gets kind of ambiguous). If you don’t keep rotating the front leg, you’ll wind up with some kind of crazy jazz turn.

If you do have to actively think about rotation of the front leg, think about rotating both heels forward as you launch.

In short, this approach makes you skip the weird bit where the free leg doesn’t have clear instructions beyond “open the knee; passé” and can become wibbly as it leaves the ground. It also forces you to actively engage all the turnout muscles.

You’re welcome.

Mmmh … tender, flaky rotation…

This approach worked well enough that BW was actually impressed with my turns last night. Coincidentally, it also helps with passé balances that don’t turn, even from fifth.

Next up: brisées demystified, if not quite rendered easy-brisée easy-brizayzay easy-breezy.

Like, seriously, after a lifetime of being horribly confused about brisées, I can now do them devant & derrière, closing to 5th or to coupé, thanks to BW’s explanation (and to the fact that he made us do literally a million … okay, literally at least 36 brizayzays at each of our most recent classes).

En DeDon’t

I went back to advanced class today.

All things considered, it went reasonably well. Our AD Emeritus came just to watch, and—to my great amazement—this did not cause me to completely forget how to dance. I’m hoping that this means that this particular hex has worn off, or at least only takes effect when the current AD is present (I should specify: I mean the ballet’s AD, not Cirque’s AD, who doesn’t appear to have this effect on me).

Rather, it caused me to remember a correction he gave me ages ago and in an incredibly memorable way: specifically, to make sure the supporting leg is stable before you start waving the working leg around in the air.

675px-Flamingo_at_SeaWorld_San_Diego

Like this. (Image credit: Howcheng, via Wikimedia Commons.)

This isn’t to say, however, that I didn’t make any really stupid mistakes. I did, in fact, make one.

And, in fact, I made it twice.

We had a lovely adagio that ended with what should have been an en dedans turn. As you probably know, I am in favor of en dedans turns: they’re easier for me because I err on the side of falling backwards, so the physics of the en dedans turn overcome that tendency.

However, immediately prior to executing said en dedans turn, we executed what you might call an en dehors tendu: opening from fifth front to a la seconde closing to fifth back. A balance at passé derrière followed, then the pirouette en dedans. The trick was to prepare the arms accordingly on completing the tendu. Sadly, I figured this out too late to save myself.

The first time, I managed to do it right by sheer main force on the first side, but didn’t correct in time on the second side, and the turn wound up being en dehors instead of en dedans.

The second time, I made an even worse mistake: I told myself:

It’s not en dehors!

This meant, of course, that my brain was full of en dedans, and accordingly I did the final turn the wrong way on both sides the second time.

Argh.

Anyway, in short, this demonstrates one of the basic principles of learning: the human mind (and indeed, almost any kind of mind) works better if you give it a positive input than a negative one.

In other words, it’s more effective to say, “Do this!” than it is to say, “Don’t do that!”

And, as such, I completely screwed myself, and probably would have been fine if I’d just told myself, “Prepare arms for en dedans … Turn is en dedans.”

Given that my mind is very visual, it goes a step further: it’s stupid hard to execute the right thing while visualizing the wrong thing. That’s just not how we work.

Anyway, everything else—including petit allegro!—went fairly well. There were no moments of full-on Baby Giraffe Mode, and I was able to easily recover from picking up the first petit allegro combination incorrectly (thought started fifth with left foot front instead of right, which made the whole freaking thing not work right).

The combination, by the way, was simple but a little bit of a mind-bender, since it begins with échappé. It went:

Version 1:
échappé
jump to 5th*
glissade
assemblé
changement
changement
changement
soubresaut
(other side)

 

Version 2:
echappé
jump to 5th*
glissade
jeté
jeté
jeté
petit assemblé
(other side)

*This could be accomplished via petit assemblé or petit assemblé battu changé.

I also didn’t die—not even a little. In terms of physical intensity, I would actually place this class third for this week–Killer B’s was the hardest, BW’s the second hardest, then this one, then JMH’s Monday class.

HD spent a lot of time working on me today, which is always reassuring. She also mentioned that she’s been following my adventures on Instagram, which I think is pretty cool 😀

Beyond that, for the first time in a while, all through class I looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t hate what I saw. I’m assuming that’s more mental than physical, though I am starting to feel like I’m making it around the bend reconditioning-wise (especially given that I’m actually, like, enjoying petit allegro).

Next week, we may or may not have class, depending on how things roll for HD. She’s working on getting over a nasty cough and also Nutcrackering in addition to teaching our class. She’s currently the only person available to teach advanced class (everyone else is also Nutcrackering, some here and some elsewhere), and we would rather that she didn’t kill herself trying to do everything at once.

I Just Can’t Even (Finish A Post Right Now) 

So I’m going to write a short one and just get it doon.    

After last week, during which I lacked A) higher cognitive (and any executive) functions and B) the ability to actually execute a decent pirouette, I appear to be regaining my faculties. 

The weekend was highly mediocre ballet-wise, with a really nice moments lightly sprinkled on a field of “meh,” “Wait, what’s the combination?” and just plain “WAT.” Highlights included half-awake me and pre-coffee BG attempting to follow each-other at the barre, with about the degree of success one might predict under the circumstances. 

Last night I took class because, in short, I’m an addict.  Even though I was late (and made friend L, who came with me, late) thanks to challenges resulting from last week’s brain fog(1), it wasn’t half bad. I managed some nice doubles and some intentional, if not awesome, triples.

  1. Dear Sunday-Evening-Just-Past Me:Where did you put my keys?! THIS IS NOT FUNNY 😦 😦 }:( 

Today’s technique tidbit: take a second before launching your turns (with all guns blazing, if you’re anything like me) to feel a few things.  Where are your trochanters in their hip sockets? Is the pelvis rotated or tilted? If so, can you adjust it?  (Unless you’re in a ridiculously huge 4th,the core muscles can usually correct the pelvis.) 

Obviously, this is easiest to do when the music is slow, so use your discretion, but it can be really helpful. More than once, I’ve caught myself preparing turns with one hip cocked, which isn’t what one might call a Best Practice. 

Still couldn’t stop second-guessing myself during petit allegro, though, which resulted in a petit allegro that looked as if I’d been told, “Using the medium of ballet, interpret the behavior of a ball in one of those showy random-number generators they used to use in televised lottery drawings.”

What’s the rule, again? 

“There’s no THINKing in BALlet!” 

—Not Tom Hanks in A League Of Their Own, but close enough.   

…So that was Monday, also known as Logical Friday The Second, because my schedule is FUBAR.

Oh, and I think I acquitted myself decently in our lone grand allegro, which is good, because I kept running over myself in a high-momentum tombé-pdb during Sunday’s.

Selections from Advanced Class

During terre-a-terre:

Me: I keep adding an extra tombé-pas-de-bourée.

BG: Don’t do that—we don’t get paid by the step!

Notes:

  • Think about over-crossing the working leg in Arabesque
  • At the barre, don’t let the working foot get lazy (also in Arabesque)
  • Corrolary: if you have beautiful feet, use what G-d have ya
  • Get your back up and keep it up, but don’t leave it behind when you failli
  • Double turns: stop looking for your spot!*

So, in short, all the same things I mostly had sorted before the break.

*Except this. I only recently realized that I’m practicing “proactive spotting” rather then letting the spot happen naturally.

Also, petit allegro was a disaster today, but that was because my brain refused to absorb the combination.

Miscellany

1. I Dream Of Turning 

Last night, I dreamt very vividly about successfully attempting quadruple turns. I should probably note, though, that the class in question took place in something like a a church fellowship hall, we had to clear up folding tables and chairs first, and I accidentally stole some girl’s water. 

But still, I hope the turns part will be like the dreams in which I sorted out Albrecht’s variation.

~

2. Things I Don’t Like About My House

  • Low ceilings. 8-foot ceilings are sub-optimal for dancers, chandeliers, heat distribution in punishing Southern summers, and ceiling fans. 
  • Lack of cross-ventilation. This house was built after WW II, and the floor plan seems to assume central air conditioning. It does not have central aircon, however, and thus is a boiling misery even on days when a little proper cross-ventilation could solve the problem. 
  • Too much clutter. I find it hard to clean around clutter. D won’t get rid of his stuff, so instead I’m getting rid of mine bit by bit. 
  • Too many small rooms. There’s no reason a house this size should have a separate dining room at the expense of counter- and cabinet-space in the kitchen (which it too small even for a rolling island). If I make one major change to this house, it will be to knock out a couple completely-extraneous walls (they don’t even have have electrical outlets, let alone ductwork or structural importance) to join the kitchen and dining room. This will allow for a much better kitchen while still preserving a reasonable dining area.
  • The location. Our neighborhood is not walkable at all by most people’s standards. By mine, it is unpleasant to walk in. This is one thing about the house that I can’t change.
  • Edit: Oh, yeah—left out the thing that inspired this post in the first place. I really profoundly dislike the fact that the front door opens right into the living room. Full disclosure: I grew up in a pretty big house with an actual foyer. This is the only place I’ve lived that had an entry directly into the living room. It feels weird and exposed. Maybe that could be changed along with the kitchen, if we stick around long enough. On the other hand, it’s probably not worth it. 

    3. Things I Do Like About My House

    • It’s a house. At the end of the day, that’s nothing to sneeze at. 
    • The kitchen, though tiny and not terribly efficient, is rather private. I actually used to hate that; I would find myself washing up after dinner and bitterly resenting the fact that D was relaxing in the living room, watching TV. Then I thought the problem through and realized that I could listen to documentaries or podcasts while working. Now my kitchen is really a haven for me; a place where I can both be alone (which, as an introvert, I desperately need) and get things done (which makes me happy). 
    • The port de bras mirror in the bathroom. There’s a huge mirror, probably 5 feet wide by four feet high, that takes up an entire wall (from the edge of the linen cabinet to the side wall of the house). This mirror is where I practice port de bras. This and video are why my arms look less stupid than they used to.
    • The colors. D is not afraid of color, and as such we do not live in a sea of beige. Truth be told, this was also a factor in his making it past the Just Friends stage. The fear of color says a great deal about a person. I’d rather live with someone who decorates boldly and badly than with a timid soul who is afraid to decorate at all. Fortunately, D does it boldly and well.  
    • The world’s most efficient furnace. Seriously, the thing is dedicated and does its job insanely well. Our electric bill can be rather high in the summer, but it’s balanced by the ridiculously low gas bill in the winter.
    • The mid-century main floor bathroom. For a long time, I thought I wanted to completely redo the main floor bath. The downstairs bath (technically a 3/4 bath, as it has a stand-up shower of the variety in which one whacks one’s elbows whilst shampooing one’s hair) is beautiful and modern, and I thought I wanted the main-floor bath to be beautiful and modern as well. However, as it stands, it has rather a charming mid-century modern feel that could be fully realized by replacing a few broken floor tiles,  removing a seriously hideous set of shower doors, and repainting the walls. I haven’t decided whether to replace the shower doors with something period-appropriate or something more up-to-date, but unobtrusive.
    • The window above the kitchen sink. US homes built before the 1970s almost always feature a window right above the kitchen sink. For some reason, newer homes often lack this feature. Few things say, “Homemakers don’t matter,” quite as effectively as staring at a blank, depressing wall whilst doing the washing-up. Fortunately, my house does not suffer from this. 

      So that’s today’s unusually-pedestrian post. 

      Thursday Class: Tour de Force*

      *Yeah, it’s a pun, and a bad one.

      I can’t sleep, so I might as well write, eh?  

      Mostly good barre today (or, well, yesterday). No scary turns-at-the-kneewhacker; got my RdJ en l’air back, extensions were okay-to-good. The adjusted passé/retiré is becoming automatic.

      That said, the frappé was delightfully wicked: facing the barre (universal ballet code for This will either be a piece of cake or hell on wheels), singles (from flexed) en croix on flat, repeat in a sustained fondu, spring straight up to doubles en relèvé, petit battement at maximum speed for a billion (okay, actually sixteen) counts, straight into the reverse, repeat twice as fast, plié, brush out while remaining in plié, close back, other side. Doesn’t sound too hard, but it’s that “repeat twice as fast”  that gets you. It adds up. 

      Also, my petit battement is currently way(1) better on the right than on the left. Feh.

      1.  Or, well — the difference at double-time is definitely enough that I notice it, which is too much. 

      What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. BW either wants us strong or dead. I’m guessing strong; he’s a sweet guy.

      Also a fondu-adagio thing with all the attitudes and demi-ronds en l’air and the holding the extension à la la seconde until the legs became impervious to pain, plié — inside passé balance for eight, plié — outside passé balance forever, sus-sous, détournée, other side. This was lovely and light and painless except for that à la seconde. At one point BW shouted, “Fight for it!” and I kid you not, that gave me a second wind. Because I adore BW as ridiculously as I adore Ms. Killer B of Wednesday Class fame. Basically, if he told me to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge…

      Also, at one point he touched my foot, and part of me is like I will never wash those shoes again but, to be honest? They’re kinda grungy, and they’re white, soooooooo… .  

      Anyway, at center we did a tendu (or dégage, or grand battement) combination that was all about body facings and épaulement and little faillis and turns from fifth. I did grand battements and doubles on the repeat, since my body finally decided to get with the program and face the right way.and my arms Asiago sorted themselves. 

      We then did a really nice (and simple) terre-a-terre with back-to-back turns from fourth:

      balancé

      balancé 

      chassée – pas de Bourée – fifth

      chassée to fourth

      turn 

      land fourth

      turn

      Sweep through to soutenu turn from croisée to opposite croisée

      sus-sous balance with port de bras

      balancé, etc. 

      Going right, I felt good and managed two easy doubles in  the first three turns, so I aimed for a triple on the third. 

      Turns out that you can, in fact, force a triple through sheer stubbornness, even if if you haven’t got the momentum for it, if you’re willing willing to let it be an ugly triple.

      It was totally, “Around, aROUND, gorammit WE … ARE …  MAKING … IT …  AROUND AGAIN IFITKILLSME!” 

      But it was still a triple. 

      I made up for for it by almost careening into the mirror doing hell turns  chaînes on the left. Apparently, my ear isn’t quite up for those yet, no matter how hard I spot. 

      Also, I travel like a mofo. I managed to eat up the whole floor doing 2 piqué turns, 2 soutenu turns, 2 piqué turns, 4 chaînes. There was a lot of ATTAAAAAAACK! involved. I get a little excited about piqué turns sometimes. I’m even worse about tombé-piqués/lame ducks, though. Frealz.

      So that was Thursday. Today it’s all about scraping the paint, then painting the paint. 

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