Thursday, December 31, 2015

Past Year / New Year

So it's been pretty much a full year since I started this blog and got more serious about ballet!  Thank you for hanging out with me in 2015.

I've actually been really busy this week taking class.  I'm off of work and the studio is open so it's been class one or twice every day.  It's given me a lot of time to realize how much better I've gotten.   Looking back on the first entry of this blog, I couldn't even do frappés back then!  Or anything really.  I don't think I could even stand properly!  I look back at the combinations I wrote down back then that I thought were hard, and can't believe how far I have come.

So, going back to the first post of this blog, I'm going to go through my resolutions for 2015 and see how I did!

2015 Resolutions:

-Ballet: at least 2x a week, ideally 3.
Yes!  There were some gaps because of shows I was in and some injuries (ankle sprains), but I ended up the year going to class 3-4 times a week.

-Handstands: do 5 minutes every day.
Uhm...I did not do this.

-See more shows.
Yes!  If you read my blog, you may remember my whirlwind ballet season.

-Fix my body/stop being injured.
Sort of.  Some things have gotten better (my hip and back).  My old shoulder injury is now backsliding and giving me some problems.

-Eat more home cooked meals.
Mostly?  I've recently stopped eating meat, which makes me cook more of my own meals.

I think I did okay?  As for 2016, my top priority ballet wise is to stop working so much on stuff I'm already good at and tackle the things I struggle with.  Like, my extensions are already high.  Time to start working on turns, which are awful on me.  And flexibility wise, I already have my oversplits so I should stop stretching my hips all the time.  Time to work on backbends.  No more avoiding the things that don't come naturally to me, because they will never get better.

2016 goals in list form:

-Ballet:  at least 3 times a week, ideally 4-5.
-Cross training:  I started doing reformer Pilates and I think it's going to be amazing for me.  Keeping up yoga and flexibility/contortion training.
-Handstands: Okay, really this time...work on these.
-Become a morning person:  I've been waking up early and stretching and warming up before work.  It makes me feel great, and even when I take class hours later, I feel a lot more prepared.
-Keep going with everything I accomplished last year: more home cooked meals, stick to eating vegetarian, flossing, seeing shows, etc.

Happy new year ballet blog friends!


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Secret Ballet Wish

All I want for Christmas is...a private ballet lesson with LF.  I have lots of ballet wishes, but most of them are of the more fantastical variety (like somehow growing amazing insteps).  This wish is more practically feasible, but psychologically feels impossible.

As you know (if you have been following my LF saga), LF is an amazing teacher and danced for many years with a top company.  She also  teaches at a prestigious prepro summer intensive run by a former principal of that company (shaping the future of tomorrow's possible ballet stars!).   And she only teaches one class at the beginner level.

So, how can I ask someone who is perfect in my eyes and mostly teaches people better and more advanced than me for a private?  And what would be the point?

"Hi LF, I know I'm terrible and won't actually be that good in any meaningful way, but can you help me be less terrible?"

Sometimes in our beginner class, I wonder if she gets depressed teaching us adults these basic things.  Especially when we're going across the floor and she's like, do you have it?  And we're like no.  And she has to do the combination with us over and over again.

Objectively I know that she loves ballet and teaching, and probably even loves teaching us mere mortals these basic things because of that.  And she is kind and never is actually impatient with us, and maybe only sometimes frustrated because she wants us to get it because she cares.

I also know that if I asked she would probably say yes, because privates are where the real money is for ballet teachers.  But I want her to not mind teaching me.  And maybe even be happy to.

I just trust her teaching so much.  Usually in her class, I restrain my extensions and don't do high legs because I want to be perfectly placed.  But last week, I just let my battement to the side fly way up because I have been working on it, and LF said it was beautiful.  It made my day and also now I trust that it is right.

It was easy to do privates with FBT.  I knew of her love of teaching me, and she knew of my love of ballet.

I wish FBT were still here.

I wish I had beautiful insteps.

I wish I were brave enough to ask LF for private lessons.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Quotable III

Me:  My butt is too heavy for my legs to assemble in assemblé!

Friend:  It's not too heavy, it's too weak!  So get on that.

Schooled.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Trusting the Process

I know I haven't updated in a while, but I have been taking classes.  It's been a couple of weeks where classes have seemed routine with no ground breaking realizations or shocking improvements,  just trundling along.  I once described it as "the classes in between."

But in class this past week, there were a few moments where I noticed little things that have definitely changed.  Like in grand battement à la seconde.  My left has always been high and now is approaching 180, but my right was always lower.  Same with développé (although I'm not near 180 on my left for this, I just mean my left is much higher than my right).  But this week, my I noticed my right is rapidly catching up, and my extensions just look better in general!  And the funny thing is, I really wasn't trying or thinking about high legs.  I've been focusing more on holding my standing side and rotation in both legs and not the height at all lately, and it just sort of happened.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that the bane of my existence has been petit allegro.  I wish I could say that I am now brilliant at petit allegro, but sadly, this post isn't about that.  It's more like, in class this week, during petit allegro, I found myself thinking, "Oh, I think I'm doing it!"  And I was.  Not beautifully, or even that competently, but I knew what was happening and wasn't completely flailing and tripping over my feet.  Of course they were all very basic combinations along the glissade, jeté, glissade assemblé variety, and again, it was much more of a feeling of comfort than  brilliance.  Pirouettes also felt this way this week.  No, I did not finally figure them out, but they feel familiar now, and once in a while they work out.

To me, it's very heartening that the process works.  Going to class regularly and doing the routine does give results!  Even when you don't think it is working!  I had previously described some classes as a drop of water in a bucket that you initially don't notice, but right now I'm thinking of it as a planted seed.  It might seem that giving it nourishment isn't having any effect, but secretly it is spreading roots underground.  Making a foundation for sprouting and growing, perhaps even one day flowering and bearing fruit.

Trust the process.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Faking It

Sooo there are certain things that I fake in ballet class sometimes, because I don't actually know how to do them and nobody ever explains how to?  I'm almost embarrassed to write this entry, because now you will know how amateur hour I actually am.  But I figured it's more important to be honest here than anything.

In class with (the perfect) LF yesterday, we were doing a combination in center.  It was tendu croisé devant, transfer the weight, ballet walk twice and close (maybe?  there was some plié in there I'm forgetting), reverse it to go backwards, tendu with the front leg to second (can't remember what line), turn to the other corner into a first arabesque, extend and close, sous-sus and finish.  Something like that.  ANYWAY, after we do it the first time, LF turns to look and me and says, "Okay...we need to work on ballet walks."  Caught!

Because...I have been faking it...this whole time.  I've actually been (whisper) doing pas de chaval instead of ballet walking, because I didn't know how to do it.  And nobody corrected me.  I knew it wasn't right, but I didn't know what was?  I said this to LF in an abbreviated fashion, and she said "There's no faking in my class."  Haha, LOVE LF.

So now I know how to ballet walk!  It's actually not hard once someone explains it to you.  It's almost like normal walking, who would have thunk it?

Okay, the other thing that I've been faking is piqué turns.  Teachers always just seem to tell you to just do them?  And so I've been just kind of throwing myself into them and hoping they turn out?  And I get around and whatnot, but I don't actually really know what I'm doing.  So of course we're marking and LF is basically like WTF are you doing, we are breaking this down.

So now I know you're supposed to open your arms as you turn and look to the corner before piqué-ing and turning.  And actually, piqué turns are not that bad either...when you know what you are doing!  Surprise, surprise.

Honestly, it is so easy to fall between the cracks in adult open classes here.  There are usually just too many people of varying levels for teachers to explain everything.  When LF was correcting everyone's attitude position a few weeks ago, my friend mentioned, "Other teachers will make you do attitude turns without even explaining a proper attitude position."

That's why I love my Thursday class with LF.  She will correct and explain things that other teachers just sort of ¯\(ツ)/¯ over.  A lot of teachers expect you to mimic those around you and improve.  Sometimes you figure out why yours doesn't look like theirs and you can correct yourself, but sometimes you can't and you just fake it (or at least I do).

It's helping me improve a lot and it shows in my other classes.  Like in chassé.  I couldn't figure out why mine looked kind of sloppy even though I've been doing them for a year now.  A few weeks ago, LF corrected me that I wasn't landing in a clean fifth.  So she just kept saying fifth, fourth while I went.  This Monday, we were doing chassé in class, and that teacher says to me, "That's so clear.  Pretty!"  I do love my Monday teacher, but I feel a little bit like, this could have been easily corrected earlier.

I always feel a bit...chagrined with these easy fixes.  Like how deficient am I that I haven't figured this stuff out?  I said this to the boyfriend yesterday, and he said that's what class is for.  And then he made me teach him how to ballet walk and was like, it's really not that easy!  It was actually pretty hilarious watching him, which made me feel marginally better.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Random Thoughts, Feelings and Scenes

I've been away on vacation, and I only took class once the whole time I was away.  I bought lots of dance stuff though!  For anyone in Los Angeles, Danny's Warehouse is definitely a must do if you are into scoring deals on dancewear.  Adult Beginner wrote about her adventures there if you are curious.

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I had lunch with a ballet friend after class on Sunday, and I was able to articulate some thoughts and feelings I had been having about ballet.  She was talking about committing more, doing more, etc...and I was able to say that I am personally okay with not doing more and pushing myself in that way at the moment.

I haven't really talked about it on this blog in depth, but I've dealt with mental health issues for a lot of my adult life.  I sometimes wonder if some of the things about ballet are triggering or unhealthy for me.  It definitely can play up my anxiety, and I'm having some body dysmorphia issues that I don't really want to get into as yet.  I think it's manageable, but I think I should be mindful in the way I do ballet.  It's very easy for me to push myself and be a perfectionist; it's much harder for me to be kind to myself.  I want ballet to be healthy and joyful for me.  I want to maintain my interest in it in a sustainable way.  I definitely got pretty burned out on Other Movement towards the end, and I don't want that to happen with ballet.

Even though I am writing about this in a rational way here, I do feel a bit inadequate compared to my friends who do more and push themselves more.  Am I just being a baby about this?  Am I just avoiding challenging myself?  Insecurity...

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After class on Monday, I had a conversation with a woman I see semi-regularly in class.  She mentioned that I said something to her about a combination a few weeks ago that really helped!  And she said that I was really nice and friendly, and that some people were very serious and competitive in the studio.  I said I took ballet very seriously, but not myself.  As an adult beginner, one has to have a sense of humor and perspective, don't you think?  Anyway, in light of a post about introvert problems on balletandorbust, I'm happy that more people are comfortable chatting with me before and after class.

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We were doing a combination across the floor (saute arabesque saute passe twice, one more saute arabesque, glissade, pas de chat).  My first time across on my right side was pretty good...dare I say even pretty!  So it made it really hilarious on the left side, when my pas de chat was terrible because I didn't hold my upper body at all!  A girl I know came up to me after I did it and I was laughing at myself, and was like, you are ridiculous, what was that!?  I shrugged and said, my body thought we were doing modern dance or something, and then starting doing Graham style contractions for a second before my next pass.

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I will have to remember to write out notes from that Monday class, as it was a good one for me and I had some realizations.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Connecting the Dots

FBT has been back this month, and I've been able to take a couple of privates with her.  We've been working in an incredibly detailed and specific way, and it has been amazing.  The most notable difference is how everything is coming together and making sense.

So often in class, teachers will correct one part of your body.  Like, present your heel, or lengthen your spine, or zip your ribs, etc.  I have been bringing the corrections to FBT, who has made me realize that these aren't just individual corrections, they're all connected.  So, for example, we worked on port de bras.  So she talked to me engaging the triceps, but to do that the back has to be held, but to do that the pelvis has to be in place, but to do that the core has to be engaged and inner thigh and butt, and OMG everything is interdependent and the movement of the arm has to come from the whole body, as does everything else you do in ballet ever.  She described it as everything clicking into place.  I had been thinking of an alignment correction as a puzzle piece to fit in...but now I realize it's actually more like a blurry picture coming into focus, or like a structure that is slightly out of square being shifted as a whole into being square.

This is kind of incredible to me!  Perhaps it's super obvious to others and I'm slow, but it feels like a game changer.  One of the corrections I have gotten is that I correct my alignment when I get into a position, rather than using it throughout the movement.  This is a lot easier to do when you can think of placement / alignment as a whole rather than in pieces, and it just naturally carries through everything you are doing.  I guess this is what some of my previous teachers were trying to get at, when they talk about energy or spirals as a system.  And while I still have to work incredibly hard to keep everything engaged and working properly with this knowledge, thing are easier in other ways because I'm not fighting myself.  The alignment does the work in that sense, and it just feels right.  And it gives me all this new control and awareness...which makes me feel a little closer to really dancing.

I kind of knew this in my brain and have had glimmers of experience with it, but to really start feeling and understanding it in my body is amazing.    It's hard for me to find it all the time on my own in class, I lose the constant mindfulness / awareness / connection that it requires when things get hard or fast.  But it comes together more and more often now.

This is kind of hard for me to write about, because it's so internal and in my body, so hopefully it makes sense.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

ABT Fall Gala

ABT opened its fall season at the Koch theater yesterday. It was a mixed bill, and my response was also mixed.

The evening started out with Mark Morris' new commission for the company, After You.  I hadn't seen his choreography performed outside of his own company before, and I was curious how it would translate.  I was happy to see that his musicality was clearly evident in this piece, and I quite liked the score (by Johan Nepomuk Hummel).  The piece had a light, fluttering quality, which was nicely accentuated by the loose drapey jumpsuits in gorgeous shades of pink and orange, and a sense of whimsy and joy.  Interestingly enough, my friend complained that she felt there wasn't enough emotional depth to the work.  I loved all the attitude turns in the choreography as well as the beautiful rounded arm shapes.  Perhaps I am biased, but I thought Stella Abrera looked particularly lovely in this piece with her long limbs.

The second work was Frederick Ashton's Monotone I and II.  I was eagerly anticipating this work, as I like Ashton and Erik Satie's music.  Unfortunately, Monotone I, with Stella Abrera, Joseph Gorak and Isabella Boylston, was kind of disappointing.  This ballet is all about sustained adagio movements, which is obviously hard...but this first part showed its difficulty too much, and Abrera and Boylston did not seem well matched for a work that demanded a lot of synchronization.  I also really hated the yellow green color of their skin tight bodysuits.  I did like the partnered arabesque flips here though,

Monotone II was incredibly lovely.  Veronika Part's long lines were so beautiful, and I loved her port de bras.  She was well partnered by Cory Stearns and Thomas Forster.  The music for this part has a lot of personal importance to me, and I was very interested to see the choreography.  I absolutely loved when Part was folded over like a flower en pointe and turned by Stearns and Forster in this position.  There was also a movement where one of them would hold her leg a la seconde up to her ear, and she would duck beneath it with her body which was quite cool.  This portion of the work felt more ethereal and weightless than the first.  Incidentally, I definitely want to see Part dance Swan Lake in the spring Met season...I feel like she is probably a perfect Swan Queen!

The evening ended with Twyla Tharp's Brahms-Haydn Variations, which I felt was the weakest.  It often felt too busy with a lot going on the stage, and there were moments and formations that were downright sloppy.  The dancers were noticeably not together at some points.  I also really got tired of seeing partnered slides en pointe.  Perhaps this is because I feel like this has become really overused in contemporary choreography.  There were admittedly some really nice partnering moments (I especially liked Gillian Murphy and I think James Whiteside?  I don't have my program with me), but overall it felt too "samey."  The music was really good, but the choreography didn't live up to it for me.

Part of the fun of the evening was seeing all the gala attendees in their evening wear!  One of the best images of the evening was peering down from the third ring balcony and seeing all the gowns against the staircase.  Going to check out the society pages to figure out who was there.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Attitude Adjustment

Both kind of attitudes!  Firstly, a teacher gave me an amazing hands on correction in attitude derriere.  It almost felt overcrossed the way she placed me, with the knee in the center of the back, but the line looked really good.  FBT always talks about the diagonal on your back in attitude and arabesque, and what she said totally clicked in my body with this correction.

I had a series of good ballet classes this long weekend.  A private with FBT, class with LF, and a double yesterday, including class with regular teacher who is back.  I learned so much in each class.  The corrections I'm getting are now harder to write out, as they are often hands on and about small things.  Subtle shifts in placement and small taps as reminders.  (I will try to write a post about it later.)  FBT remarked on my improvement, and I can feel my technique being much better in everything that I do.

But being in a good mood because of classes is not the second attitude adjustment.

I had been feeling kind of anxious about ballet, about improving fast enough and measuring up to my ballet friends.  This weekend, a few of my former teachers from other disciplines who were very meaningful to me contacted me / randomly ran into me.  This made me realize that I have a fair amount of body knowledge and self-knowledge.  My goals are my own, the way I learn is my own, my experience is my own, my body is my own.  It's not my first time around doing a physically intensive movement thing in a serious fashion, and I CAN trust my instincts about what works best for me, even if it isn't the same as what works for someone else.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

NYCB 21st Century Choreographers

I'm not usually a fan of City Ballet (I'm not really into the Balanchine style...unpopular opinion alert!), but this mixed bill of new works piqued my interest.  As always with such programs, there were some pleasures and some duds.

The evening started with Myles Thatcher's "Polaris" and Robert Binet's “The Blue of Distance.”    They were attractive enough, but ultimately forgettable.  I can only remember that "Polaris" had Tiler Peck as a solitary star figure alienated from a group of dancers (to be fair, she was very good), and "The Blue of Distance" was the one where everything was really blue.  The costumes were nice here, but perhaps too nice, as they just amplified the generic prettiness of the works.

Things picked up with Troy Schumacher's “Common Ground,” perhaps my favorite piece of the evening.  The choreography here seemed to have more of it's own voice.  The commissioned score was very good, and the piece had lovely musicality.  I enjoyed the joyful slightly more casual nature of the dancing, and all of the different dancer interactions seemed to have a point.  The costumes felt kind of like random remnants of fabric sewed together, but in a way they worked with the tone of the piece.

Justin Peck's “New Blood” displayed a lot of the strengths of the company.  It was energetic and fast.  However, I felt that this energy stayed on the same level throughout the whole piece, which quickly  became tiring.  It seemed one dimensional, and all of the brilliant moments became muddied because of the lack of contrast.  One dancer (who my friend tentatively identified as Lauren King) stood out to me, because her slightly more languorous movement quality, especially in the upper body, provided a point of differentiation.  The costumes, variously colored ombre catsuits, were just unfortunate.

The program was concluded with Kim Brandstrup's "Jeux," which is set on Debussy's score of the same name.  If there is anyone out there who follows my blog closely (unlikely), you may remember that I saw Ballet West do a version of this earlier this year, which I hated.  Last night's work was much more successful.  The setting was film noir-ish.  The lighting design was quite interesting here; a single bare bulb initially lit the stage, and later on enlarged shadows of the dancers accompanied a pas de deux.  The "games" referred to in this piece were subtly portrayed, with none of the cloying cliched sexual tension of the aforementioned Ballet West work.  Sara Mearns was perfectly cast in this piece.  She is perhaps my favorite NYCB dancer, as she moves and looks completely differently from everyone else in the company.  Here, her luxurious and dramatic qualities were put to good use, and I loved the way her movements filled the gorgeous music.  I feel like this was an unusual work for the company, as it seemed to be more of a "tanztheater" work than their other repertoire.

The New York Times wrote a very interesting article on the making of this piece and the choreographer, who does not come from a typical ballet background at all.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Corrections Galore

My telepathic powers must be getting stronger.  After several classes of me mentally shouting "Give me more corrections!" at LF, I got what I wanted yesterday!  She corrected me constantly.  I was in heaven.  (Insert gif of Abigail from Dance Academy saying, "Only favorites get that kind of attention."  Except LF is so perfect that she actually gives everyone corrections.)

She corrected me from the beginning in pliés, where she gave me a bunch of hands on to express that she wanted my tailbone to be more lengthened, and my back more held.  I've really been connecting with my low abs and pelvic floor lately (haha, that sounds funny), and it has been helping this alignment.

In dégagé she wanted all of us to close every single one tightly in fifth.  And she was very insistent that the fifths be all the way crossed, and the legs pressed into each other.  She wanted us to think about getting the heel to the opposite shoulder.  My knees get in the way of each other when I'm that crossed though, and then I get a gap in my thighs...maybe I will ask her about this if I get a chance.

Yesterday's class was very focused on shaping the foot.  We did a lot of wrapped sur la cou-de-pied to passé.  In retiré, she won't let you turn out your knee more if it means that the heel is not perfectly forward with the foot winged.  I got a few compliments on my foot shape here after being corrected.

In frappé, we did beats with a flexed foot, and she was on me forever about this.  The knee and thigh apparently are supposed to be very held, but the calf and feet are almost loose so that they can beat.  This was hard for me, because I think I was gripping everything to get the beats?  She literally held my knee and made me do it over and over.

In center during tendu, she gave me a hands on correction on my back to reach my arms more.  I learned something really interesting in one of the combinations.  I think it went, plié, sous-sus, plié, sous-sus, tendu out to second, plié in second, transfer tendu to other foot, close and repeat.  So on my tendu second to plié in second, she asked me "Where is that beautiful turnout you were using at the barre?"  and made me do it a few more times on my own, but I didn't really understand what she wanted.  Until she explained that my working turnout in my tendu was different from my turnout in the plié, so I had to move my foot back and front according.  Oh, what a difference!  I always felt my knees were wonky in this, but now it makes sense.  For jumps, we did a simple, rise, plié, 3 jumps in first, second in fifth.  She made me go alone in changements in fifth, and she wanted my heels to be more forward in the landing.

I can't wait to take her class again.  As much as she corrects, she is also quick to compliment you if you do something the way she wants.  A bit scared to take her class two levels up on Sunday again.  I may just do the barre.  I feel like I learn so much from her, that it's worth being slightly out of my depth.   I hope she continues to correct me a lot as I become a more familiar face to  her!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

New Shoes, New You!

If only my ballet problems could be solved with new shoes.  That being said, I really do like my new shoes!  I was on my way to class (not at my usual studio), and passed by the Chacott by Freed store.  It's such a trap!  A beautiful, glittery, tulle covered trap.  My friend says that she feels that her Prince Charming will walk through the door there.  I just wanted to fling money at them and shout, "Take it all!"  Because their stuff is all incredibly gorgeous, and incredibly expensive.

I managed to pry myself away from the leotards ($108!) to ask about their slippers.  I've been wearing my beat up Capezio Juliets for a while (after an ill fated detour to Bloch Pro-Elastics), but I've been wanting something different.  I wanted something where I could feel the floor more.  I use socks to do my barre at home, and I wanted that feeling with a shoe.  Chacott has two kinds of slipper, and I wound up with the stretch canvas one.  It's really light and hugs my arch really well.  It was $30, which is a bit pricey, but I think it works for me.

Maybe it was the new shoes, but I wound up having a pretty good class!  At one point we did pirouettes at the barre from fourth (starting with one hand and going three quarters to face it) with the last one opening to an arabesque.  I usually hate turning at the barre, but something a friend said last week really helped me this time around.  She told me it's practice for turning with a partner.  Thinking about it this way helped me deal with the barre being there, and I stopped thinking about it as being something in my way to crash into.  I ended in a nice passé position in most of these turns, and my arabesque at the end looked really good.  This line is getting a lot better on me (flexibility training is paying off).

It's too bad my turns in the center (six balancés, tombé pas de bourrée to fourth, pirouette en dehours, tendu and lift the back leg, another pirouette en dehours, and then I think a sou-sus, soutenou??) weren't as good.

My jumps were surprisingly un-terrible.  My friend who wasn't jumping because of an injury said I had one really nice entrechat!  Also, my leaps on the right side were decent!  But on the left, it was really hard and mostly terrible.  My friend gave me the note to be less flaily in the arms for my sauté arabesque, sauté passé.

I'm noting down the adagio combination here, because I think this teacher keeps it pretty similar every class.  Port de bras, three ballet walks (does anyone else find ballet walking impossible?), arabesque back, passé, developpé front, passé, attitude back, promenade, arabesque, pas de bourrée, soutenou.  Something like that.

It was nice to have a good class, because I took class two levels up with Teacher Crush (who I am going to call Lilac Fairy from here on in to be LESS CREEPY) over the weekend.  The barre was good, and I got a really good correction on my passé pelvic position.   Center was a bit tricky for me.  Honestly, it wasn't too bad, but I want her to like me...and I felt very at the bottom of the class.  The tricky combination was balancé front, balancé back, waltz turn, tombé pas de bourrée, half turn from fourth, tendu lift, another half turn, tombé pas de bourrée, full pirouette en dehours.  Actually, it was just because I haven't really learned how to waltz turn yet (I've been practicing at home since)!  So basically I could do everything, except for that, and it totally threw me off.  Then I was flustered for jumps across the floor, which was actually pretty simple.  It was just sauté arabesque, chassé, sauté passé, chassé, etc.  So I felt pretty bad about messing up, which just made me more flustered.  Siigh.

Sorry this entry is all over the place.  I needed to catch up on some notes!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Another Ballet Teacher Crush

Yesterday, my ballet friend asked what I thought of class as we were taking the elevator together to leave.  I launched into an answer, and at some point (I think when I was raving about "...and did you see the teacher's extension in that moment, which wasn't high, but it was so perfectly placed and turned out"), she interrupted me to say "You have a teacher crush!"  ...And I do.

In a way, this teacher (who I talked briefly about in the previous post) has a lot of similar qualities to another teacher crush I wrote about here.  She is precise.  She corrects a lot.  The movements she gives are simple, but she is very specific about what she wants.  She has a lovely movement quality that betrays that she danced at a very high level in her career.  Let's just say she (like the other teacher actually) danced for many years at a company that I get a season subscription to.

I think her methodology makes sense with my goals and the way I learn.  I know that I have to push myself to do harder, more advanced moves, but there's a part of me that just wants to do simple movements beautifully.  Perhaps because I can do cool tricks in other movements, I don't necessarily feel that pressing desire in ballet.

Anyway, onto class notes!  She gave me a few corrections.  For example, in sous-sus, she told me to soften my front knee so that I could press my legs together.  As I've mentioned before, because of my hyperextension, my knees knock into each other in this position so that I can't really get tight.  But if I have a microbend, then it fits!  Also in sous-sus, apparently I've been getting into it by mostly moving my front leg.  She had me do it a few times to understand that it's both legs drawing together equally.  (Simple, but precise!)

There were a few things I noticed that she is very particular about.  Like, she won't let you try to get more extension or height in an extension if you are sacrificing any turn out or placement on your STANDING leg.  I feel that a lot of teachers focus on the placement of the working leg.  With her, nothing is forced...it's a very pure line.  So she would rather have a developpé to the side be more forward (like way more forward) and not just lower, than to lose rotation anywhere or have any distortion in the pelvis.

I got a compliment for one of my passés from the wrapped coupé position.

In center, we worked a lot on pulling up in sous-sus and in passé relevé.  I have a feeling that in her class, we won't be turning until the passé relevé balance is how she wants it.  In good news, mine were not terrible yesterday!

The adagio was long but not difficult.  She has beautiful port de bras, so it felt very dancey.

We did waltz turns in center, which I definitely need to work on.  Again she was very precise...when stepping to the side, she wanted a clear second, and when brushing to the back, it was through a definite first.  I also need to work on my assemblé...my legs feel so heavy when I'm trying to get them to assemble.

My friend wants me to take class tonight, which is with her teacher crush.  She says I'll probably get annihilated, but that it'd be good for me.  Sigh, do I really need that in my life?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Peer Pressure

We all know that peer pressure is awesome for sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, but apparently it can be pretty good in ballet too.  Ever since the summer schedule ended at my studio, I've been a bit in a quandary.  My regular teacher no longer will be teaching a one level up class, so I've been struggling with figuring out what to take.  As I've mentioned, I now have a couple of ballet friends, and they've all been yelling at me for not leveling up consistently.  They think I should only be taking class one level up, and I of course am completely insecure.  Well, this weekend one friend somehow convinced me to take the barre of a class that is labelled TWO levels up with a teacher I've never had before.  PEER PRESSURE.  And also I think she tricked me with pastries.

I felt really weird gate crashing this class, so I had my friend talk to the teacher before to ask if I could do this.  And the teacher was totally nice about it!  And it was totally doable!  And she gave me a great hands on correction!  And my friend said I looked good (she was next to me at the barre)!  This teacher also has a class one level up during the week and I am totally going to take it.  She is very exacting and technical, which I love (hello new teacher crush!).

After the barre of the class two levels up, I took class one level up with another teacher new to me, and again it was totally fine.  I didn't love this class, as it wasn't super technical and he didn't really correct, but it was good practice doing things like pirouettes and slightly faster and more complex combinations.

I think I have to come up with a new way of describing my classes, as it seems I will be leveling up on a more permanent basis!

I really had my fears that having friends in ballet would be weird and awkward.  I thought it might be competitive, but actually they are wonderfully supportive and genuinely nice people.  I guess not everyone is neurotic and strange like me (thank god).

Friday, September 25, 2015

Some Thoughts on Performing

Apologies for the radio silence.  It was rather busy during the show's run, but we're done now so I have more time to take ballet and blog about it again!  I feel like I learned so much from doing this show.  I started performing (in Other Movement) over a year ago, and it is amazing how much I've grown since then.  One of course always strives to be technically better, but this time around I feel like I've improved as a performer.

This show and my character were very abstract and had a fair amount of improvisational movement, which was a bit of a challenge.  One of the notes we got from the director's friend who is a professional dancer was to explore what this abstract character meant to us, because some of the movements that felt random would make sense if we did that character work.

Coincidentally, the Royal Ballet did a live stream of a Romeo and Juliet rehearsal around the same time.  The ballet master gave an interesting note to the person dancing Mercutio for his death scene.  In that scene, Mercutio points his finger at two different people.  The ballet master said that the two finger pointing actions had to feel different, that they were motivated by two different things.  That really made an impression on me, because it was such a small moment, but it was so specific.

It reminded me of something I had read on a ballet forum.  I am going to copy and paste it here (credit Drew on Ballet Alert!).  "The choreographer Antony Tudor tells a story about creating the lead role of Shadowplay on Anthony Dowell.  He instructed Dowell to turn upstage and look up towards a tree (not literally there of course in the studio!)--he then asked Dowell what kind of tree it was. Dowell, understandably, had no idea and was evidently waiting for Tudor to tell him. But Tudor stopped the rehearsal because, as he remarked, if Dowell didn't know what kind of tree it was, there was no point in continuing ... The next day on the way into the studio Tudor saw a gorgeous mango in a market and bought it. When the same moment in rehearsal came and he told Dowell to turn around and look up at the tree, then had Dowell put his hands behind his back and handed him the mango. Dowell then looked at the fruit quite amazed and delighted and asked Tudor what it was--Tudor told him (a mango) and then when they did the 'tree' moment and Tudor asked him about the tree, Dowell volunteered "it's a mango tree"-- Tudor felt that in this way, at last the tree was "real" to Dowell."

I've always been a very character driven performer, but this made me realize that I had been approaching the characterization of my movement in a rather broad and general way.  It was almost more of a stylization.  Like, my character has X and Y traits, so my movements will have X and Y traits.  My approach to the show shifted with this realization.  I told myself to "think in my body" as my character, to have each movement to be motivated in a very immediate and specific fashion by who my character was and the narrative.

I also started connecting the movements to my own life and experiences more. For example, there was a moment in our choreography where all of us had to draw together in a tight huddle.  Earlier during rehearsals, one of our cast members received some really bad news, and we all circled around her to comfort her.  I realized that the moments were very relatable, and it wasn't just about doing the motion. As the show developed, there were more and more of these moments that made the characters, narrative and emotional content more "real" and concrete, and the show was much richer and better for it.

I don't know if and when I'll be able to perform in such a production again.  I am slowly shifting away from Other Movement to ballet and other movement things in which I probably won't have a lot of the same opportunities.  But all I can do is follow my interest.  I didn't get into Other Movement thinking I would perform (in a real theater festival moreover!).  I was fortunate to have supportive people give me opportunities along the way.  This may or may not happen again in the future, but I am content with what I have achieved for now.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Labor Day Ballet

I feel like I could have made a punny title for this post, but I'm too tired to be clever.  I went to ballet every day between Friday and Monday.  (I started this post then, but haven't had time to finish it).

My normal studio was closed on Monday, but there were classes to be had elsewhere in the city, and I wound up going with two new ballet friends!  The first class we went to was a bit intense.  The barre wasn't technically too hard for me, but the teacher didn't really demo and I couldn't really hear him (the studio was big and echo-y) so I had some trouble following.  I think I might add this class to my regular rotation, and I think it will get easier if I do it again.  I had planned to take notes but that fell by the wayside.

My new ballet crew and I also took class that evening.  The class itself was on the easier side, but it was nice to work on basics.  One of said friends is a boy and so he got lots of attention in this class (he always gets lots of attention).  The teacher asked him to stay after class to work on partnering, and my other friend and I got to tag along!  We worked on very basic things like finger turns and spotted shoulder sits.  I actually do a lot more advanced partnering skills in Other Movement, but it was cool to see the ballet way.

We now have a dilemma.  The teacher said we can come again and do the after class bonus partnering.  My normal Monday class is better (for me), but learning ballet partnering is SO rare.  Which to choose?  I feel weirdly disloyal even considering it!

I feel a bit strange having ballet friends.  I worry that they will judge me for being bad in ballet, or that they won't like me and then I'll have to see them in the studio.  My social anxiety makes me just want to be alone, but it is amazing to have people to geek out over ballet with.

The rest of the week has been rehearsals and shows so I am exhausted.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Ballet Withdrawal

I haven't had a lot of time to go to ballet class lately.  There has been rehearsal for the show pretty much every day.  I do get to dance and move in that, but I miss ballet!  I've been coping by watching lots of ballet videos and doing Kathryn Morgan's easy barre at home when I have time.  I especially like doing that barre as a warm-up before rehearsal.  It's basic, but I feel like I can focus on my technique a lot doing it.  I felt FBT's lessons about turnout really clicking this week.

On the plus side, I feel very dance-y lately.  In fact I took a new ballet class last week, and the teacher at one point said, "Wow, you can really dance!  Some people have technique but they can't dance." She might have just said it to be nice because I was new to her, but it was good because it made me feel more confident about performing in the show.  I didn't like the class though...really not technical enough for me.  But it did make me realize I feel a lot more comfortable dancing now.

I do have some anxiety about losing what I've learned.  When I do have time to take class, I take the lowest level.  I really can't afford to get injured right now, and I just want to work slowly and cleanly.  But I worry about being able to take class one level up again.  Even though its an open non-syllabus class, the teacher does like to add on to what was done previously so that regulars can get a sense of improvement.  So now I'm anxious that I will be behind and won't be able to do anything.

Taking class tonight, which I'm sure will make me feel better.  I almost always feel better in general after ballet.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Watching How Ballet Sausage is Made

I can't remember if I mentioned this, but I'm in rehearsal for an Other Movement show at the moment.  It's the biggest show I've ever done in terms of venue and promotion....We were really productive last week, but now we've lost two days due to scheduling, and we're definitely behind.  I've been trying to soothe my anxiety by re-watching series / films focusing on how ballet productions are made!  Here is a list of some of the things I am watching as I try not to FREAK OUT.

1)  Agony and Ecstasy: A Year With English National Ballet (available on Youtube).  This is one of my favorite ballet documentary series ever.  It has three parts, each following a different production.  The first, and my favorite, follows Swan Lake.  It highlights the beginning of the partnership between Daria Klimentova, the oldest principal dancer in the company at that time, and Vadim Muntagirov, a new dancer with the company.  Daria is only supposed to be his practice partner until Polina Semionova arrives for opening night, but because of visa issues, she has to dance instead!  Derek Deane, the choreographer / stager, completely rakes her over the coals...and you will just have to watch to see how it turns out.  The second part shows Romeo and Juliet and various tensions between the dancers and management while budget issues loom.  The third part is about the Nutcracker staged by Wayne Eagling, who is the spacey artistic sort who loves to rework things really late (oh that poor shoe master who painted all of those boots only to find out they were switching to ballet slippers instead).  Seeing their production problems is actually making me feel better about ours!

2)  Ballet 422.  This recently went up on Netflix and I've watched it like four times already.  This documents Justin Peck's creation of a new ballet for NYCB.  It's very cinema vérité, without talking head interviews, and shows the sort of banal minutia that has to go on for a production to happen.  I especially love seeing how the dancers collaborate to make the choreography work for them.  This film is a very intimate and subtle portrait of Peck and his process, and its calming to see people do their work diligently, efficiently and without much drama.

3) Strictly Bolshoi (YouTube).  A record of Christopher Wheeldon making a new ballet for the Bolshoi.  One of the more interesting features of this film is that it shows the culture clashes that can occur in new collaborations.  It too reveals how many last minute changes there can be in making a show; Wheeldon changes his entire concept several weeks into rehearsal (poor prop department that made all those thrones that weren't used)!  There is also a very amusing principal dancer who is a total male diva.  And it's nice that they show the complete ballet at the end (I think it's all of it, or a very lengthy excerpt).

Have you seen these?  Do you have any more for me?

The creation process of our show is actually being documented by a filmmaker, so it'll be interesting (or horrible?) to see how we come across!

Earlier: Ballet Movies: Ranked & Reviewed

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Quotable II

I complain to my ballet friend about how I can't do petit allegro.

He says, "Whatever.  I just think of ballet as an adult beginner as lessons in humility."

Truth.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cowardice

Why does class have to end with stuff I'm bad at?   Class one level up was great on Saturday until the end, when we did petit allegro and grand allegro jumps.  The teacher was like, we've been doing this for a few weeks so let's go faster and add more!  So it went even more dismally than usual.  Honestly, it was pretty discouraging to end on that note.

I'm off this week, so I decided to jump back on the horse and take class one level up this morning with my same teacher (I would have taken my regular level but there's no daytime class during the summer.)  I was nervous from the moment I looked around the room.  It seems the daytime ballet crowd is different from the after work and weekend crowd.  There was all this warmup rompers-sweater tights over leotards-leggy ballet perfection!

And appearances were not deceiving.  Teacher taught to the level of the students there, and I felt in over my head.   I couldn't focus, and my technique felt sloppy.  Although some things went better for me, I just kept seeing all the things I was doing wrong and how much better everyone else was.

So I did a cowardly thing and did not stay for center.

I've only done this once, when I was injured.  To be fair I do have 6 hours of Other Movement rehearsal coming up, and lots of other reasonable reasons...but the truth is, I couldn't stand the thought of doing things in groups while being watched.  And it wasn't even that I didn't want them to see me being bad.  I didn't want them to think that I thought I belonged there, that I was delusional....

I'm going to cry a little and console myself with pie now.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Turn Out Tune Up

FBT unfortunately has left New York, so now I am without a supplementary private ballet teacher.  I did fit in one last session with her on Wednesday before she left.  For this one, I asked to focus on turnout.  This private really made it clear that turn out is something you actively do, not something you just have.

We started out on the floor to really get my turnout muscles activated.  I've done floor barre before, and the big thing about it is that you can't cheat.  You can't use your feet against the floor or gravity to help you.  You can only use your muscles.  The killer exercise was legs extended towards the ceiling, turned out feet flexed, push to point, bringing both legs to a diamond, extending to straddle, flex, bend knees (like a second position plié but on your back), extending to straddle again, legs coming together.  We also did passé to retiré with legs in the air, and it was so difficult to maintain turnout on my "standing" leg without the ground!  I sickled slightly in my left foot which was weird...but I am having slight Achilles problems on that side.

Then we worked at the barre with resistance.  In first position with her holding a Theraband, FBT just had me go out to the side with the foot flexed and bring it back it.  I had to do like 15 on each side!  Then we did this from fifth, 8 closing front, 8 closing back on each side.  She emphasized that because I'm hyperextended, I have to pull up a lot every time I close to make space for my knees to fit.

The actual ballet barre felt "easy" compared to this, because I didn't have to work against a Theraband!  Pliés in every position with a balance.  In sous-sus, she said that I again was sinking too much into my hyperextension, which is why I couldn't fit my feet together.  Tendus with temps lie.  Tendus switching accent in and out.  There was some exercise with fondu and an arabesque balance on relevé, and I did well on the balances!  There was a combination that I think went: tendu front, plié lift the leg, straighten carry the leg side, 2 ronde de j'ambe en l'aire, one double ronde de jambe en l'aire, when extending the leg this last time come up onto relevé, close back and reverse.  We ending with grand battement and cloche en attitude to release the hips.

FBT, like my regular teacher, also wants me to push my extensions.  She took my leg so that my foot was next to my head in second and was like, you can be here.  It's so funny that they always phrase it like that, because obviously I'm not strong enough yet to be there.  I know I can pull my leg up there with my hand to stretch, but getting up there with muscles is a whole different story.  I was able to hold the position for a bit with no support, so we'll see!  I guess it's more that they want me to reach for it ...right now I just go for shoulder height, and I guess it won't go farther if I don't aim higher. But I don't want to have height without correct alignment, so I am always cautious.

We had a bit of an emotional goodbye chat afterwards.  She said that I've come so far from when she first started teaching me (a bit over a year ago).  She again brought up the picture from early days, when I couldn't do anything.  She also said that she thinks I should be taking higher level classes more often.  And, most touchingly, she said that I can call myself a dancer now.  A beginner dancer, but a dancer!

I will miss her lots.  She will be back briefly in October and I will try to get a private with her then, but I don't know when I will see her after that.

Also, I am still really sore!  It didn't help that I had a flexibility split private that morning!  Excited to take what I've learned to class today.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Social Anxiety (Just Kill Me Now)

I was pretty flustered during petite allegro in the class one level up this past weekend, and I accidentally didn't clear properly after my group went, just running off to the side instead of moving forward.  OOPS.  I still feel so anxious about it even though it was days ago now.  I know better than to clear that way, and I HATE violating social norms / etiquette.  Now I'm convinced everyone hates me and thinks I'm rude and terrible.  I even feel like anyone reading this probably hates me now because I suck at life so much.

Aside from wanting to crawl in a hole to die of embarrassment, ballet class has been pretty good since my last update.  Three classes have passed, so I have a lot of notes to set down here.  As always, this is probably a bit tedious, but it helps me a lot to look back on them later.

Friday class was great, in that this teacher always focuses a lot on technique and alignment.  I felt like it was exactly what I needed to get back into the swing of things.  I got some really good corrections.  As always, he was pretty much poking me in the butt the whole time to get me to pull up more.  Ugh, my abs are strong but my butt is weak, so it creates a disconnect.  Also apparently when I rise, he said I was rising without pulling up and then correcting this once I got to the top to balance, rather than using the lift to rise.  I've since been applying that correction and it really helps with balances.

Saturday was the day of my awful social disgrace, but at least other things didn't go so terribly.  The barre went rather well.  Even though it is faster and more complex, I feel like I know this teacher (my most regular) well enough that I understand her patterns and tendencies.  I was able to note down the barre exercises that felt more unfamiliar, so here it goes.

One was: plié tendu front, straighten and carry the leg to the side, plié tendu to the back, four ronde de jambes, passé, plié extend front, passé, plié arabesque back (I think?).  I don't remember this combination that well, because she came over to me to lift my working leg higher in the plié front extension so I missed half of it with the group.  She said, "At least that height.  You're young so we can push this."  (I don't think she knows how old I actually am, but people always love Gumby-ing my body around because I'm flexible.)

I had some problems with the frappé sequence for some reason.  Even though it wasn't anything weird or hard, I kept stumbling?  It was: frappé en croix, double frappé en croix, grand battement en croix, repeat on relevé (or flat).  I actually didn't do the second time on relevé because I wanted to get this cleaner.  I feel like I also sometimes get thrown with ronde de jambe en l'aire in a combination (in lower level we just do them alone).  In upper level, the teacher likes to do two pas de cheval front side and back, and then two ronde de jambe en l'aire, and then reversing it.  Oh also, does anybody else get kind of lost when doing cloche?  I feel like I always forget if I'm closing front or back after doing a bunch of them.  Just need to focus more I guess.

Here are the center combinations that I remember.  Two pliés in croisé with arms, developpé croisé, bring the working leg down and transfer weight straight to arabesque, one developpé side en face with each leg, piqué arabesque, promenade, pas de bourrée to other side.  We also did: two balancés, tombé pas de bourrée, chassé, pirouette from fourth en dehor, rise to arabesque en relevé, close, repeat the first part, pirouette en dedans from fourth with arms in fifth instead of en dehors, rise to relevé sous-sus.  Turns are getting better.  I think when they are from fourth and part of the combinations, I just go for it more and it sometimes works.  

My teacher is being so supportive about my moving up a level.  I think she saw how discouraged I was by the petite allegro part, and she was telling me I'm doing great and improving so much.  I took class again with her on Monday but at the lower level.  I got the correction to lengthen my tailbone a bit more and to find more space in my hip flexors.  In center we broke down glissade and also worked on pirouettes from fifth (quarter, half and whole).  Pirouettes are so much harder from fifth.  Mine still look terrible with the whole turns, but the quarter and halves have improved a lot.

/tedium. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Back from Vacation

I got back from vacation a week ago.  Honestly, it was kind of hellish.  It was too hot, there were a ton of bugs and "in-laws" around, and there was nowhere to take ballet.  I tried to do a barre on the balcony one day, but it was carpeted, which made everything difficult.  Rug burn on feet!  I wound up doing yoga in town a few times to not go completely crazy.  I practiced port de bras and extensions in the pool (I love the feeling) when it wasn't too hot.  Seriously, it was so hot.

Anyway, I went to class the day after getting back.  On the schedule it had one of my favorite teachers subbing for one of my unfavorite teachers, so I was pretty excited.  Got to class and it turns out that was a mistake, and the unfavorite teacher was there instead.  However, it actually would up being an pretty good class.  The pianist was really good, and the music was beautiful.  I understood her class a bit more and it felt less random that day.

Unfortunately, my week of mostly sitting around had its effects.  I noticed my shoulders riding up a several times, and that lovely pulled up feeling I had discovered before vacation was somewhat absent.  It wasn't atrocious or anything...I just felt off.

I went to class again the day after that.  There was a sub who clearly doesn't usually teach beginners and her class felt more like one level up.  I did like the challenge, but as I was still easing back in, I did wish it was a little more beginner.  The barre was fast paced so I wasn't able to focus on my technique as much as I had hoped.  

There was on exercise I really liked for arabesque.  She had us cross the opposite arm over on the bar to keep the shoulder and hips really square.  I think my practicing arabesques in the pool during vacation really helped (and maybe the flexibility coach I've been seeing?  more on that later), as mine was at least 90 and looked pretty well aligned!

Center was a bit tricky, but mostly enjoyable.  Thank god I'm somewhat more comfortable with turns now, as this teacher just put them in combinations (a more one level up thing in my experience).  As usual, most of mine were terrible, but I had one good one en dehor to the left.  There was one combination I really liked.  It went: échappé, pas de bourrée, 2 x changements, 1 soubresaut front, 1 soubresaut back, passé back leg to a relevé balance, close front, repeat soubresaut and passé balance section on other side.  The teacher described the soubresaut as a "boing, boing" and that surprisingly helped!  We did sauté arabesque with arms in second, which I did not like.  I feel like it was too easy for the arms to go back in that position.

Anyway, because I was feeling a bit off, I wanted to go to floor barre yesterday to reset a bit.  But the subway was super messed up and I wound up getting there too late (womp, womp).

Going to class tonight and hopefully it will be better.  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Level Up

I decided the best way to kick off my week long vacation was to take the class one level up for the first time on Saturday morning before going to the airport (where I wrote this, as my flight had been very delayed).

I had a lot of fun!  The barre was actually very doable. The tempo was obviously a lot faster and the combinations longer and more complex, but it was okay!  It is interesting how the combinations are given in this higher level, with the teacher not really demonstrating all of it, just giving a lot of it verbally.  I did hold my own, and didn’t really mess up anything too egregiously here.  I did notice (and got corrected on) a few times when my technique got sloppy (knees got a bit floppy) because I was so focused on getting the combination right.  I can’t remember a ton of the barre combinations because it just kept on moving.  Oh, balances actually went pretty well!  Arabesque ones, and attitude ones, and passé ones.  I felt very pulled up.

I was really nervous about centre, but parts of it okay, even good.  I wrote down some of the things we did (but couldn’t remember it all), so here is what I remembber:

This is one combination that went well. Start in croissé plié arms to demi second, plié arms from first through second, plié sous-sus, close, developpé front (opposite arm up), developpé other leg to second arabesque, developpé effacé with downstage leg, developpé effacé up stage leg, fondu pas de bourre, tendu back leg, plié in fourth to a pirouette en dehors. I will say, I feel like I really rocked this except for the turn.  My extensions have been great lately and I can now hold a développé to the side with the foot at shoulder height even in center with good alignment.  The turns were obviously tricky for me.  I got all the way around, but the position in them was pretty hideous and the landings were horribly sloppy.

 Another combination was two balancés to a piqué arabesque, failli, tombé pas de bouree, pirouette en dehors from fourth, repeat except ending with a pirouette en dedans.  Again, everything was fine except for the turns.

Petit allegro was an unmitigated disaster.  The combination was glissade jeté on each side, glissade assemblé on each side.  Which I can do….on my on...slowly.  Once it was at tempo with music, it was really, really bad.  I felt so tangled in my feet, it was horribllleeeee.  Like, couldn’t remember to close back in the glissade to be set up for the next thing.  Ugh.  ::hides face in shame::.

Across the floor was also not great.  Two sauté arabesque, saute passés, one more sauté arabesque, glissade, pas de chat.  Actually, everything was fine except for the glissade, which I always sort of had to pause and think about.  I really need to work on these.

Despite those hiccups, I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong.  My teacher was wonderfully supportive, saying to me during plies, what a way to start your Saturday morning, graduating a level!  And she also said that it wasn’t going to be perfect, but it is never perfect, even when you’re a pro, you just deal with it better!  It was also fun because there is a guy who I see in class quite often who has been taking ballet for about the same time as me (a little less than a year), and we support each other throughout class with little comments / faces, which makes it all more fun and bearable.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What I Wear to Ballet as an Adult Beginner

It seems there is a lot of adult beginner ballet discussion about what to wear to class.  Pink tights versus black, tights over or under, footed or footless, leotard or no leotard, which warm-ups, etc.

I wear a leotard, usually black, and tights, also usually black.  Why so much black?  Because it was the company uniform for Other Movement.  Also as a New Yorker, I pretty much live in black all the time any way, and this way I can just layer my civilian clothes over!  I have a few color leotards...grey is a color, right?  I am actually slowly collecting more color ones, as I sometimes indulge in getting custom leos nowadays, and basic black seems kind of a waste with custom.  Cutwise, I don't like anything with too high of a neck (no mock turtlenecks for me), and tend towards leos with open or low backs.  No halters because I feel they make my shoulders look too broad.

I wear transition or footless tights, because I wear pink (canvas, split sole) shoes, and black footed tights with pink shoes is a no.  Sometimes I wear nude tights.  Never pink though, it looks weird with my (olive) skin tone.  I always wear tights under, because gussets look strange.  Once in a while I'll wear a "biketard" (awful word) with no tights at all...a more contemporary feel.

I don't wear ballet skirts because I feel like they shorten the leg line, and I like to clearly see what my hips are doing.  I usually don't wear shorts, again because of the leg line thing, but I'll wear little (black) shorts once in a while because a few of my leotards have a weirdly cut leg.  I try to avoid those leotards, but sometimes fall behind on doing laundry (and by "doing laundry" I mean taking it to the laundromat a block away for them to wash and fold for me...).

In winter I will wear legwarmers (black) if it's cold in the studio, but never ones that cover my knees, because I don't want to hide any problems there.  A shrug (black) sometimes makes an appearance, and I also have a few "tops" made out of old (black) tights with the crotch cut out.

OH, and I wear underwear under my tights.  I just feel better with underwear.

There.  Everything you (n)ever wanted to know about what I wear to ballet class as an adult beginner.

Monday, July 13, 2015

So happy

This isn't really a ballet post, more of a post-ballet post.  I just want to set down this feeling.  FBT came with me to class today, and my best friend from high school was there and it was just amazing.  I worked well in class. And seeing FBT being gorgeous and knowing she was there made me work that much harder.

We all had wine and Chinese food after and FBT and best friend from high school got along really well, and it just made me really happy.  FBT said the teacher gave me a lot of attention and that she saw how much I have improved.  And we tipsily worked on my arabesque and attitude line.

Correction from teacher: don't sit in my back letting my ribs open in passé relevé.  Correction from FBT (after class): more toes and straighter jumping leg in sauté arabesque.

Sorry stupid incoherent entry, but a little drunk and just really really happy to have had some of my favorite people have a good ballet class and a good night together.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Comfort Zone

I asked the teacher who I take class with most regularly if I could take the class one level up that she is teaching this summer...

And she said yes!

I have to admit I'm pretty nervous.  In my normal class with her, I'm comfortable with everything that we do.  I can take pretty much any thing she throws at us. She puts me at the end of the barre and in the first line.  (Eeps, again, really not bragging about this.)  

I know when I move up, it'll be challenge....I mean that's why it's a level up right?  But a post on balletandorbust had me thinking about when I first started ballet and could barely do anything at all.  I will just have to start that struggle again with this class, hopefully with enough of a foundation to not work counterproductively.  Of course I'll still be taking 2-3 other classes a week at my normal level, this will just be a weekly push beyond my comfort zone.

Internet spirits, grant me courage!  And also the ability to wake up in a timely fashion, as it a rather early in the morning for a weekend.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Compliment

In the class I took on Friday, the teacher said I had nice lines!

Of course it came with a caveat "but you're sitting in your hyperextension a bit."

But still, nice lines!  Me!

I feel funny about posting this because I don't want to sound braggy.  But this means a lot to me because I started this ballet journey to improve my lines for Other Movement, where I definitely was NOT told that I have nice lines.  It's almost been a year since I've started ballet and it's nice to feel that I'm improving.

It was a great class (and not just because I got a compliment).  This teacher gives a lot of individual correction, and is not afraid of being hands on.  He corrected me on tendu back, saying I could open the hip just a bit to maintain my turnout better.  I also got corrected on pulling up from my standing hip more, as if there was a hot poker under my butt.  He put his hands around my waist like a corset and physically pulled me up!

We also did some center combinations that were new to me.  One was pas de cheval to pique sous-sus en croix twice, followed by two soutenou turns en face.  Another was two balancé followed by three chaine turns.  (Wow do I suck at spotting.)

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Balletomania: Cinderella

I ended my ABT season yesterday with a matinee of Cinderella.  I frankly wasn't expecting to like it too much; I thought it was going to be pretty silly.  But actually, I would up liking it a fair amount!

Part of it was that Cinderella was danced by Stella Abrera, which was very fitting as she is having a bit of a Cinderella moment herself.  Everyone and their mom knows that Misty Copeland was promoted to principal this week, but so was Abrera, after 19 years with the company and 14 years as a soloist.

If you have been following my ballet going adventures, you may remember that I liked Abrera in pretty much everything I've seen her in this season and that her Giselle was unforgettable.  Her Cinderella was very lovely as well, and she was well matched by Joseph Gorak as the Prince.  They are both very elegant dancers with beautiful lines.  I also thought Devon Teuscher was well cast as the Fairy Godmother.  Very pretty and fairy-like.  All of the season fairies were very good, but Sarah Lane stood out in particular as the Spring Fairy.

However, Cinderella doesn't really seem to be about its characters, but rather beautiful moments and images that stay with you.  They include: Cinderella and the Fairy God-Mother mirroring each other's movements when they first meet, the Fairy Godmother throwing the pumpkin into a puff of smoke and the silvery carriage coming on stage, Cinderella descending a set of steps en pointe without looking down while courtiers hold a diaphanous train behind her, the season scrims successively raising to reveal the next, pinpoints of star light emerging from the dark before the dancers do their beautiful configurations, and Cinderella and the Prince walking off into a gorgeous shimmering shower of confetti.  (Seriously though, I loved that confetti).

I could have done with less of the slapstick stepsisters characters, danced by male dancers in dresses.  It just wasn't that funny and grew tiresome pretty quickly.  I also didn't really like the ball corps scenes so much, although I can't put my finger on why.

Dance critic Alastair Macaulay of the New York Times loves this production so much that he is going to see all eight shows of it this week.  I wouldn't go so far as to do that, but it really was an enjoyable and beautiful production.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Not Cute

I took a class recently, and there were some things that were NOT CUTE.

We did these combinations with chugs.  I don't know the formal name for these, but they're when you are in an arabesque (arabesque allongée?) and hop in a direction on the standing leg.  The corps do them in Giselle in lines together across the stage and it's always very impressive!

Anyway, we did four chugs and then four emboîté.  It was my first time doing emboîté, and I kind of felt like a drunk frog creature.  NOT CUTE.  Then the teacher changed it so we did the chugs as a turn, so you had to get completely around in four chugs before doing the emboîté.  NOT CUTE.

We also did pas de chat that class, which I've done before...but they looked particularly ugly that day.  And doing them on top of the chug combinations...so much NOT CUTE!

:-|

Monday, June 22, 2015

Balletomania: Another Romeo and Juliet

Julie Kent's retirement Romeo and Juliet performance (Saturday evening 6/20) notes:

-Kent was a tiny bit weaker in the balcony scene, but really shone in the third act.  I really liked her portrayal  in the bedroom scene, especially the way she looked dead when dancing with Paris...it was nice foreshadowing.  And her death scene was really emotional.  I felt she filled the music in this scene better than Murphy, and I liked how she kissed Romeo before dying.  I could see how her technique is no longer what it once was (some things in the choreography seemed simplified), but she was still a very effective and beautiful Juliet.

-Robert Bolle danced Romeo very well and was a very good partner, but his characterization wasn't so full.  I felt like he wasn't so boyish, and it felt more generic.

-Herman Cornejo danced Mercutio amazingly.  That was some bravura!  His death scene was a bit more subtle, but still effective.  I liked Arron Scott's death scene better, but Cornejo was stronger over all.

-Blaine Hoven as Benvolio sort of got lost in the mix because of the level of the two leads, so the camaraderie aspect of the guys wasn't so palpable this time around.

-Of course the curtain call for Kent was amazing.  A million flowers, confetti, thunderous applause.  It was very cute when her children gave her flowers.  Another memorable evening.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Stupid Small Jumps

So in class yesterday we were doing basic small jumps in the center, sautés, échappés and changements.  It's taken me a while to be able to do these on tempo.  Seriously, I used to always be late on every single little jump.  I took all the tips I could find to help with that, such as thinking about the down part of the jump and not just the up, etc.

Anyway, I was on tempo for the combination yesterday, but got the correction that my knees weren't perfectly straight when I was in the air.  My teacher had me do them without music and said my form was good, and then had me do them on tempo again...and it was not so good.  So apparently, I have been sacrificing my form to get speed!  She kept me after class and said I had come so far and that I was working so well in everything at the barre (yay), but that it wasn't translating to jumps in the center (boo).  I did some jumps for her that she said were beautiful, but I still don't think I can do them like that fast to music!

It's so much easier to get perfect feet and knees in the air when you have more time and jump higher (this is why I like grand allegro jumps more than petit allegro jumps).  How are you supposed to get into a perfect position in the air, when you have to land so quickly?  In class, should I work on having form or speed in these jumps?  Obviously I aspire to have both....

I was reading more about petit allegro today, and someone said that you have to think about the rebound in petit allegro, like a bouncing ball, rather than it being jump-and-land-and-jump-and-land.  Maybe that will help.  Something to practice at home I guess.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Balletomania: Romeo & Juliet

My first R&J (ABT doing the MacMillan version, Wednesday 6/17 matinee), quick notes:

-The Prokofiev score is gorgeous.

-It's as much of a bromance as a romance!  Benvolio and Mercutio are major characters and major dance parts with lots of bravura solos.  The roles were well danced by Calvin Royal and Arron Scott, respectively, and they had great camaraderie with Romeo (James Whiteside).  I especially liked Royal's stage presence.

-But that does not diminish the romance.  Gillian Murphy was a superb Juliet, especially when partnering with Whiteside.  Their balcony scene was incredible.  They had great chemistry.  I will admit I had tears in my eyes.

-The corps looked a bit raggedy, some of the lines seemed quite off at times?

-I don't like the scene where Juliet's friends dance in her room after she takes the poison.  It feels really random and takes away from the emotional drama in the narrative.

-The color palette was a bit too brown overall.  A few jewel tones would have been really nice!  I also did not like the church backdrop.  The draftsmanship looked cartoonish and again, I didn't like the colors.

-Overall, I really liked this production and yesterday's performance of it!  Excited to see Julie Kent as Juliet in her farewell performance on Saturday.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Strict Teacher

Our sub for tonight's regular Monday class is a strict teacher.  It says so in her Dance Magazine interview.  Also, she would not begin anything without us standing properly and did not hesitate to restart or repeat an exercise if we were off.  Also, she started class by saying "I am a strict teacher."

The barre was not extremely difficult, but I found myself working extremely hard and precisely because I did not want to disappoint Strict Teacher.  And she was extremely strict about musicality as well, and strict about the coordination of the head and arms.

I liked having a strict teacher, because it meant she actually cared about us as students, even though we are adult beginners.  That she took us seriously.  And I could see that everyone else worked extremely hard tonight too.

Note that I call her Strict Teacher and not Mean Teacher.  There is a difference.

You may have noticed that I form a teacher crush on most new teachers I take class from.  Tonight was no different.  I wanted to be her.  I wanted to be her friend?  Daughter?  I DON'T KNOW OMG FEELINGS.

Dance journal section: hands on corrections for broadening across my collarbones, slight squaring of hips, and rotating me more in my tendu back (I love hands on corrections).   Also, for my passé, I was putting the foot to the nook of my knee (which is how I was initially taught) and she said, "Why are you so stingy with your passé?  If you have it, use it!"  And put my foot much higher...different school?  For our pas de bourrée, she had us do a very clear coupé with the foot that was being picked up (like for the second step); I feel like we usually step it to the side without that coupé front.  It's much prettier this way, but a bit confusing!

I hope we have Strict Teacher again.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Home Practice?

I'm kind of paranoid about practicing at home.  You know how there's that quote "Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect."  I always think I'm going to practice bad habits and get them ingrained into my body.

So my solution is to only practice things that literally could not be any worse.  Things that I know are bad, so my mind won't start to think otherwise.  Things that are so bad they aren't even at a level that corrections in class are helpful.  Things like petit allegro jumps (why won't my legs assemble in assemblé???) and pirouettes.

I usually do these things when I'm already warm (after Other Movement, yoga, or ballet class), but sometimes do some basic tendus, pliés and relevés because I can't get into too much trouble with these.  I'm thinking about adding a more comprehensive but still basic barre.  Kathryn Morgan's "Easy Ballet Barre" on YouTube seems like it would be appropriate.  I have a lovely ballet space at home (with a wall mounted barre), and it would be a shame not to use it more.

I also do flexibility and conditioning at home obviously, but I don't count that as ballet practice.

I don't practice more complex things at home that we do a lot in class, because I'd rather just work on them properly in class.   I definitely don't practice anything fancy at home off of YouTube that I haven't learned in class.  One of my ballet teachers yelled at a student for this, saying he could tell that he had been teaching himself off of YouTube because the move looks a certain way on video but it actually isn't that way.

This is how I approach practicing at home, not throwing shade at anyone who does it differently!  Do you practice at home?  What and how do you practice?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Balletomania: La Bayadère

Meh, that was a rather dull Wednesday matinee.  So much so that I'm not really inspired to write much about it, except to jot down my notes for my records.

The big "thing" in La Bayadère is the corps Shade entrance (they file in one by one, moving into an arabesque and sweeping back).  This entrance was quite beautifully dreamy and the corps were very together.  The solos in this act were pretty forgettable though.

Hee Seo had some really lovely lines, but no charisma as Nikiya.  A lot of people have written that she is dull and bland, and I'm afraid I have to agree.  Stella Abrera was an elegant and interesting Gamzatti (really she was the high point of the whole thing), but it looked like she had some bobbles during the wedding scene.  Cory Stearns was fine as Solor I guess, but he and Seo had no discernible chemistry.  Without a believable love story, the whole narrative sort of felt flat.  The most emotionally charged scene was when Nikiya and Gamzatti fought (thanks to Abrera).  I liked Zhiyao Zhang as The Bronze Idol.

I thought I would like this more than I did.  Maybe the performances were to blame...but the music seemed meh, the story seemed meh, the choreography seemed meh...etc, etc.  MEH.  I pretty much completely agree with Alastair Macauley's review of the production in the New York Times (I usually don't agree with him at all, haha).

Monday, June 1, 2015

Tendus All Day Every Day

Balanchine apparently once said “If you just do tendu well, you don't have to do anything else.”  While that may be a bit of an overstatement (I kind of feel like you need to at least add plié to that), I can definitely see where he was coming from.  I have been kind of obsessed with refining my tendu, because it can always be better.  I talked to FBT about it and we wound up having a private only focused on tendu for 1.5 hours.

She designed several exercises to highlight different aspects of the tendu.  After a brief warmup, we started on the floor doing seated tendus with a Theraband on each foot.  My foot articulation has gotten a lot better, but FBT wanted me to understand that the tendu uses the whole body and the whole chain of the leg to initiate the movement.  We took this lesson to the barre, with an exercise going tendu, flex, point, close, tendu, turn in, turn out, close, focusing on initiation throughout.  My muscles were engaged like never before.  I was sweating already!

We then worked on extension.  FBT said that a tendu never ends, it keeps reaching.  To emphasize this, she put tape on the floor beyond my reach and asked me to aim towards that in every single tendu. Next up was a lesson on resistance.  She held a Theraband around the ball of my foot in opposition while I did tendus in every direction.  This forced me to always think about the heel always being forward, and using resistance to accomplish this. We wrapped up at the barre with exercises designed to improve speed and changes in accent (in versus out).

In center, another tendu combination that I kind of bungled, because there was so much new information in my head that I was trying to apply and I was pretty tired.  Finished up by working on glissade (because the tendu is the basis for a glissade!), and called it a day.

I AM SO SORE TODAY.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Balletomania: Sleeping Beauty

Alexei Ratmansky's new staging of The Sleeping Beauty was a big deal and cost six million dollars to make.  Was it worth it?  My report from opening night in list form.

The Good


-The Sets.  La Scala co-funded this production with ABT, and the sets were made in their workshop.  Absolutely gorgeous hand painted scrims and wonderful design in general.  Love.

-The Costumes.  Influenced by the 1921 Ballet Russes production, the costumes had beautiful textures and colors.  They were ridiculously opulent, but it's nice to have some razzle dazzle.  I am apparently one of the few people who liked Florine's contrasting blue and orange costume, but I thought it was very painterly looking.  The Prince's bizarre George Washington getup and the Lilac Fairy's sparkly mullet dress were kind of ugly, but most of the costumes worked.

-The Choreography.  Ratmansky sought to reconstruct the original Petipa choreography as closely as possible.  This meant lower arabesques and attitudes, no high passé positions, and things done on demi-pointe instead of pointe.  Some of this was quite beautiful, especially as the longer skirts nicely framed the feet, ankles and calves.  Nice change of pace to not get a bunch of crotch shots with high extensions in pancake tutus!  Some of this style was distracting though, like the chaine turns on demi.

-The Cast.  Overall a very solid cast.  Lots and lots of roles, so I won't go into so much detail.  Gillian Murphy was a lovely Aurora.  The Rose Adagio balances had a few bobbles, but lots of gorgeous moments in general, including the final balance in the Rose Adagio and an amazing backbend balance in the Wedding Grand Pas de Deux.  (As an aside, I feel like she would make a fantastic Odile and now want to see her in Swan Lake.)  Stella Abrera took very well to Ratmansky's style as the Lilac Fairy, but the role didn't have any dancing after the prologue!  Daniil Simkin and  Cassandra Trenary were absolutely wonderful as Bluebird and Florine.  Skylar Brandt was delightful as the Canary.  Marcelo Gomes was fine as the prince...but the role is quite stupid, with only dancing in the last act.

The Bad

-The Narrative.  This story is quite silly!  There is no tension or climax.  The Prince has no obstacles in getting to Aurora.  They should take a note from the Disney version and throw a dragon in or something.

-The Wigs.  Almost everyone had a wig, and almost all of them were bad.

-Audience Behavior.  My fault for buying late and winding up in the Family Circle, but OMG it was a circus.  It is not appropriate to text on your cell phone during the show, ruining my experience of The Vision scene.  When an usher tells you to put your cell phone away, it is not appropriate to get up and crawl over a whole row of people to be able to continue your texting.  It is even MORE inappropriate to crawl back over to your seat!  If you're not watching anyway, you could have waited until intermission.

The Ugly

-The Garland Dance.  Absolutely hideous.  Horrible colors, way too many people and things on stage, boring choreography.

ETA: If you want to read more about the history and inspiration for the production, the NYT had a pretty good article here.

Balletomania: Giselle (Part II)

Part I here.

My second Giselle of the week was Paloma Herrera's Wednesday matinee retirement performance.  Herrera's portrayal of the character was very different but lovely to watch nonetheless.  Her technique was on full display, and she was completely secure and effortless in her jumps, balances and turns.  Her hops on pointe were on point indeed (haha!).

In the first act, she was more coquettish than shy.  She reminded me a bit of a high school prom queen...but I guess Giselle is the Harvest Queen!  The acting was slightly less naturalistic, but she communicated the narrative effectively.  In the second act, she was more earthly than ethereal, flesh and blood than ghostly, but there were still many moments of great beauty.  Herrera was partnered by Roberto Bolle.  I found his portrayal of Albrecht more standard, but his partnering was lovely.  He showcased all of Herrera's gifts, and the second act lifts were absolutely gorgeous.  His entrechat were also insane...one audience member counted 38.

Myrtha was portrayed by Devon Teuscher, who is a lovely dancer but was not particularly Myrtha-ish.  She was not regal, or cold, or intimidating, or anything really. Skylar Brandt was wonderful in the Peasant Pas de Deux, gracefully skillful.  It was a nice reminder that this PDD is not just a chore to endure, like Copeland's Saturday performance was.

This performance was amazing, but there were to be more memorable moments after!  After taking multiple curtain calls, Herrera tried to give her first bouquet to Bolle rather than the traditional single flower.  After some back and forthing, she laid the flowers at Giselle's grave, which I thought was very symbolically touching.  She then received flowers from members of the company present and past.  It was quite cute when the corps filed in to each lay a single stem at her feet.  There was a mountain of flowers at her feet by the end of it, and confetti showering down from above!  It took about 40 minutes to get through all of it, but it was very emotional to see a great ballerina's farewell.

I really have gone ballet crazy this season.  Stayed tuned for a report on the opening night of sleeping beauty!  I promise I will return to my normally scheduled entries about doing ballet rather than seeing ballets soon.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Balletomania: Giselle (Part I)

Giselle has always had a special appeal for me.  When I was young, I had this book about ballet and horseback riding. (Masquerade at the Ballet, it's amazing and will get its own post one day!)  The main character sees Giselle as her first ballet, and it is what sets her on her hijinks filled path to becoming a dancer.  When I saw my first ballet a few years ago, Giselle was the obvious choice.  I still remember that evening with Diana Vishneva dancing the title role.  This week, in my slow descent into balletomania, I saw two very special performances of Giselle by ABT.  Here is my account of the first.

On Saturday night, Stella Abrera performed as Giselle with ABT for the first time.  Abrera, a soloist with the company, is a favorite with the balletomane crowd, who often complain about her lack of promotion.  When it was announced about a week ago that she would be replacing an injured Polina Semionova, people on the internet went nuts!  The audience on Saturday reflected this, with a warm generous excitement in the air.  There were a bunch of ABT former dancers watching as it was Alumni Night, and apparently a few NYCB dancers crossed Lincoln Center to support her as well.

Abrera danced the role beautifully.  She was so convincingly girlish and fragile in the first act and yearning and ethereal in the second.  She was gorgeously Romantic in her style and her port de bras.  While there were some things that weren't technically brilliant (the hops on pointe were only okay), her portrayal of the character and emotions was flawless.  The mad scene at the end of Act I was gripping, I felt her descent into madness so keenly.

Partnering Abrera was Maarinsky guest artist Vladimir Shklyarov, who you may remember I was not very fond of in Swan Lake earlier this year.  I must say my opinion has been completely turned around.  He was brilliant as Albrecht on Saturday.  His depiction of the character was subtle and nuanced.  Frankly, I have always thought of Albrecht as an undeserving cad.  Shklyarov's portrayal made me see him as a tragic figure, a victim of circumstance.*  Shklyarov's dancing was also technically incredible.  His entrechat in the second act were epic.

He and Abrera were completely in sync and played off of one another wonderfully.  Their jumps together in act one were perfectly matched, with lovely ballon.  Their moments together were soft and tender.  I believed in their love.  Abrera's second act slow developpé had me in tears, and the partnered third arabesques were beyond gorgeous, with her arms touchingly emotive in their reach.

Myrtha is one of my favorite ballet roles and her second act entrance bourrées across the stage in a veil is one of my favorite things in life.  Veronika Part played the part with a commanding presence, but her dancing did not particularly stand out to me.  I thought the two soloist Wilis were quite good, and the corps were noteworthy as well.

Misty Copeland in the Peasant Pas de Deux was the only miss of the night for me.  She felt very clunky (maybe because her shoes were ridiculously loud), and her port de bras did not look right.  This section really dragged and the response was less than enthusiastic.

The night clearly belonged to Abrera and Shklyarov (with numerous curtain calls to boot), and it was a magical performance that I will not soon forget.

* (As an aside, funnily enough, I usually feel sorry for Hilarion, but in this performance (Thom Forster) my friend and I realized that he is a classic Nice Guy (TM)...as in a bro who feels entitled to a relationship because he's nice to a girl.)