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Ballet Squid Chronicles: In Which I Inadvertently Take On An Awesome and Frightening Responsibility

So, you guys might remember a while ago — sometime last summer, I think — when I decided to take on the challenge of doing some choreography to some Philip Glass, and then decided that it would be awesome to use this choreography to create a small performance piece for Burning Man that could be built upon and performed by total ballet noobs?

So, um, apparently I failed to realize until yesterday that, in so doing, I basically said to the world, “Give me your ballet noobs, and let me teach them!”


So, in essence, this means I’ve taken on the task of teaching some very basic ballet to a random group of people without either A) injuring them, B) ruining any chance they have at developing sound technique, or C) destroying their love of dance forever by overfacing them with things they can’t do.

You know.

No pressure.

Obviously, I’m not going to take a bunch of total beginners and try to teach them double tours (or even single ones) or anything like that — and I’m pretty sure I can put together a basic barre that anyone with appendages can do (I’ll be cribbing it from Margie’s barre). I’m pretty sure I can even impart basic form and placement decently well.

Here’s the thing: I remember my very first ballet classes as a wee kid reasonably well, but by the time I took them, I’d already been doing gymnastics for at least three years (seriously, I was three when I starting taking gymnastics lessons) and pre-ballet for one year. Nothing we did seemed difficult at all, and I picked up everything really easily, so I have essentially no idea which bits and pieces people find difficult.

And that leads to my question for you, adult ballet students of the internet. Two questions, actually!

First, when you were completely new to ballet, what was hard and/or unpleasant for you?

Likewise, what was easy and/or fun?

I realize I’m going to get a range of answers, here — like, if it was up to me, basically nobody would ever do chaines until they’d already been dancing for fifteen years, because for some reason I perceive chaines as difficult (even though I’m now at least somewhat good at them). Denis, on the other hand, has no difficulty with chaines, but thinks piques (to my mind, the easiest turns in the entire universe) difficult. Likewise, soutenu turns are super easy for both our nephew and for me, but apparently nigh impossible for Denis. I’m just hoping to get some consensus on what’s doable.

Fortunately, we don’t have to try to do any leaps, because as far as I know we’ll be dancing on the equivalent of a marley remnant laid directly on the playa. I don’t want to mess up anyone’s joints, so no leaps — maybe a few sautés, but that’s it. As such, the mini-performance choreography in question will be mostly adagio and steps that might otherwise be linking steps.

Anyway, that’s it. I’m very much looking forward to this project, even though I’ve realized that it entails way more responsibility than I initially imagined. It should be a lot of fun, whether I wind up working with a bunch of eager people who’ve never danced a minute in their lives or a bunch of people who dance professionally and could mop the floor with me in a ballet-off.

That’s it for tonight. As my now-favorite ballet shirt proclaims, “Keep calm and rond de jamb!”

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