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?