Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ballet West at the Joyce Theater & Plans

Truth time..  I went to see Ballet West at the Joyce because of the reality show Breaking Pointe.  Well, also that I like to watch ballet.  And I will admit it was pretty cool to see Allison DeBona, my favorite villain turned heroine after Camille of RHoBH (I am admitting so many embarrassing secrets!).

The New York Times did a good article on the company and pieces they performed if you are interested.

I don't see a lot of contemporary ballet, so the program was very interesting to me.  I really liked two of the pieces a lot.  My favorite was "The Sixth Beauty" (choreographed by Matthew Neenan).  It felt like a sad and beautiful dream.  I also liked "The Lottery" (Val Caniparoli), a narrative ballet that had suspenseful and effective storytelling and nifty production design.

Unfortunately, I really disliked "Games," which portrayed a three person poly relationship.  The interactions between the characters just weren't very interesting and didn't have a lot of depth.  Some of the parts were cutesy and fun, but the piece didn't go with that angle enough to make it interesting.  It just didn't really seem to have a point of view beyond hey look, atypical relationship here.  The production design and costumes were awkward as well.

The dancing was gorgeous overall.  At the Joyce, the cheap seats are up front, so I got to see the details of the dancers' faces, feet and hands.  You sacrifice seeing the overall composition a bit, but I liked the intimacy of the experience.

Watching them reinforced my desire to be able to dance.  Obviously I don't mean at that level, but to be able to DANCE and not just go through the movements with technique.  On that note, in an effort to get closer to that...I am taking a break from Other Movement to focus on dance for this month.  I will be upping ballet from 2-3 times a week to 4-5 and adding modern.  Stay tuned for reports!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Retail Therapy

I've been feeling kind of tired and crummy this week.  Wednesday's private with FBT was really hard.  But instead of dwelling on any of that, I'm going to do a fun post about ballet stuff I bought with my tax refund money!

Let's get started.  (By the way, I don't get anything for linking this stuff...although I wish I did!)

List of Ballet Stuff I Bought with My Tax Refund:

1)  Classical Ballet Technique by Gretchen W. Warren
I've been wanting to build my ballet book library, so this seemed like a good one.  Anyone have other recommendations?

2)  More ballet tickets!  I had bought an ABT subscription for my birthday back in January, but I just added tickets for their new Sleeping Beauty production and for Julie Kent's farewell performance in Romeo and Juliet.

3)   This leotard
Picture from discountdance.com

4) These ombre tights
Picture from discountdance.com

I think I'm going to get a custom leotard for my last gift to myself!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Substitute Lessons

There was a substitute for my regular Monday night class.  I didn't know until I got there, and I was a bit nervous, as one of my friends from Other Movement was taking class with me.  Substitutes are always a bit of crapshoot, aren't they?

Well, to spare you the suspense, HE WAS AMAZING!  First of all, he was an incredible dancer (former principal with NYCB).  I've taken class with amazing dancers before, but not all of them are amazing teachers.  This one was also an amazing teacher.  Everything he demonstrated oh-so-beautifully was to illustrate a point and not to perform.  He was paying attention to everything we did.

The best thing was that he focused a lot on clean technique.  On everything we did to the side (tendu, dégagé, etc.) he insisted that we close through first into fifth.  This made for nice tight fifths and did not leave any opportunity for one to drop their turnout (my inner thighs and butt are sore).

He also explained the reasons behind a lot of things that he was particular about.  For example he said that arm coordination in plié was important because later on it would help with jumps (and this did in fact come to pass when we did échappé with changement in center).  He also emphasized how you had to scoop the foot up when picking it up for coupé or passé (like scooping icecream), because that foot articulation is what helps you move fast in petit allegro.

One other great correction that he gave was for sous-sus in center.  He said not to use the arms too much to hoist you up there.  The arms should be very light and without tension, and the work should come from the feet and legs while you pull up.  I knew that in my brain, but for some reason the way he explained and demonstrated it really helped.  We went from sous-sus to passé relevé and I was SO placed; it felt effortless for the first time ever.

Honestly, I was a bit swoony over him by the end of class.  Unfortunately, he usually only teaches for the pre-professional program, so I won't be able to take class with him regularly.  It still was great to have a new perspective.

I also had a private with FBT on Sunday.  We worked on a lot of the problems I am still struggling with (my weaker left side and unevenness in the hips), but did some fun new things too.  New things en pointe were piqués at the barre, pas de bourrées going through retiré instead of at the ankle, and échappé in center (I thought I was going to die in these).  She wanted me to try attitude arabesque en pointe (we worked it on flat earlier in the class), but I was too scared.  She says I am progressing very quickly, which is nice to hear from someone outside myself.

A very journally post, but hopefully with interesting tidbits for you, dear reader.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Classes In Between

As an adult ballet beginner, I am of course obsessed with the idea of progress.  Especially with a blog...if only every post was one about documented improvement.

I feel like in the beginning it seems like everything IS progress.  When you are starting from nothing, there is nowhere to go but up.  Every class is one where you can say "I learned how to do X!"  But as you learn more and go to class regularly, the progress feels more like plateaus and small steps, with triumphant progress moments seeming few and far between (like being put on pointe, or moving up a class level) and higher expectations for your performance.

My class yesterday was not a class of breakthroughs.  I did not finally nail pirouettes (definitely not) or have some realization that solved some problem.  Like most classes now a days, some things were a little better and some things were a little not.  The progress made is as yet undetectable; my body and brain have probably improved by a drop.

This post might sound kind of down, but I'm actually not discouraged at all.  I left class yesterday incredibly happy to have done it.  I am writing this because sometimes it's hard to read all the adult beginner blogs with all the exciting posts about this breakthrough or that achievement.  Not that I hate on any of them at all*, it's more of a fear of missing out or that I'm not doing it right.  But I realized that it is much easier to blog about the big progress moments (I wonder if that is why so many beginner blogs fade away), and that everyone is probably also having classes that are just a drip of progress rather than a splash.  That there are always going to be classes in between the big moments.

I often tell students in Other Movement that the achievement is in the work.  You just have to keep doing the work and love it for the process.  I should remember to learn this for myself in ballet.

Okay dance journal note for yesterday: Teacher changed up the across the floor combination yesterday, and it was hilarious to see everyone try to work around their muscle memory.  It went saute-arabesque (arms in second arabesque) three times, saute-arabesque (ARMS IN FIRST ARABESQUE for this fourth one so you just change the legs not the arms, everyone's brain just exploded), saute-passe, saute-arabesque (arms in second arabesque again).  It really is my favorite class to take...it just feels so perfectly complete.

*Seriously, I love this blogging community (check out my blogroll and maybe discover a new one!).

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Sorry for the lack of recent updates, but as the title of this post indicates, I've been pretty overwhelmed.  We have been preparing for a production in my Other Movement thing.  I had a semi-significant part and was involved in some other aspects of the production as well.  Of course, I got sick the day before opening night (Friday), but managed to pull off the performance with the power of Advil and adrenaline!  We had a second night, and then off until next weekend.

Ballet has been on the back burner because of this for the past two weeks.  I had a split-private with FBT (Friend Ballet Teacher) earlier this week, and it was kind of discouraging.  We didn't do pointe, but did a full class instead (with barre and center).  The friend I split the privates with is way more advanced than me, which usually doesn't matter when we are doing pointe because we are equally beginner at that.  But without that, we did way harder combinations and I felt a bit flaily and lost.  We worked a lot on épaulement, which I guess was good because I need to learn it, but I find it difficult on the best of days.

FBT actually went with me to my class today because she wanted a basic class, and it was actually way more basic than the last time I took the class; a lot was done facing the barre.  It was good though to be able to focus on technique.  I did like the center adagio combination a lot, it felt very pretty and dancey.  It went (I think), start in fifth croisé, plié, tendu, sous-sus, plié and straighten, developé front, developé back to arabesque, close back, pas de bourée to en face, pas de bourée to croisé other side.  We also did that turning exercise again and it went a lot better this time.  The teacher didn't really give so many individual corrections or comments.  Overall I felt kind of meh about today's class, but it was a good way to ease back in.

Looking forward to tomorrow's class, which is my favorite.

Not the most interesting post, but I am still kind of sick, and very tired and overwhelmed mentally, emotionally, physically.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Pet Peeve IV

The tweenaged preprofessional students at the ballet studio I regularly go to.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Moving Forward

I worked on my alignment with Modern Dancer Ballet Teacher (MDBT?) at Other Movement studio over the weekend, and I think I finally get being forward.  I had been getting the correction to take my pelvis forward with me, but I didn't really fully understand that.

The way he explained it was that you have to have your whole body angled forward, like a flat plane on a tilt (like this / ).  He said that it WILL feel like I'm pitching forwards until I'm used to it.

Later, I was looking through my trusty eBook of The Ballet Companion* and found this passage which sums it up really well:
"Pull-up lifts you forward as well as upward.  Ballet requires forward momentum; in a big center floor combination it's tremendous.  Think how fast you get out of the way of the people coming across the floor.  When standing still you prepare for and assist that momentum by pushing forward with the muscles on the backs of your legs, by keeping more weight on the balls of your feet than your heels, and by lifting your chest."
So in class this week, I thought about moving forward in space even while still, rather than just placing my weight forward in my feet.  This especially helped in things like developpé front, where its super easy to fall back into the heel of the standing foot.  And my balances were easier than ever.

Sometimes it feels really daunting that I'm only really figuring out how to stand properly in ballet, never mind all the other things we are asked to do in class.  But at the same time, I do feel improvements, and what else can I do but MOVE FORWARD?

(HAHA, GET IT??? It's a PUN!)

*Eliza Gaynor Minden.  The Ballet Companion: A Dancer's Guide to the Technique, Traditions, and Joys of Ballet. Touchstone, October 11, 2005.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Fantasy vs. Reality


So like many an intrepid adult ballet beginner, I took it upon myself this week to figure out pirouettes.  I read every single thing there is to be read online about mastering pirouettes (breathe, pull up, get over that standing leg, really use the plié, use your back, etc).  I practiced spotting and passé relevé balances at home like a champ.  I visualized floating through my pirouettes, calmly and smoothly.  I went to class yesterday READY TO TURN.


Quarter turns, clean.  Half turns, decent, still able to control that balance at the end.  Full turn time.  WHYYYY.  My alignment was completely horrible.  My body was completely twisted and hunched over in its ending position, working leg not turned out at all.  I guess I got around (barely), but it was NOT PRETTY.  I did notice that when I fell out, it was toward my standing leg, which (according to my research) means I am not pulling up enough.

(My best turn remains the one I randomly did during that PT appointment, where they wanted to test my motor control.)

The rest of yesterday's class went great though.  It was smaller and didn't have any new beginners, so my teacher was able to do a harder class.  We did a lot of fun combinations, including a very pretty adage in center with beautiful port de bras.  I was able to jump again since my ankle has stopped hurting!  I really liked the jump sequence across the floor that we did (sauté arabesque, sauté passé, 3x chassé, piqué arabesque).  It felt like flying.