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.