Weekly Ballet Post, 1/18/2018

Went back to ballet class last night! I haven’t had the chance to attend in a while for various reasons but I have been doing my best to work out in the meanwhile. It has helped a lot. My technique hasn’t reeeeally improved, but I now have more strength to hold the correct positions, which is the foundation on which good technique is built.

Anyway, today I thought I’d link some YouTube resources that I’ve been relying on in the meantime. I obviously do not do all or any of these in a given day, but I generally attempt one long workout in the morning (after toddler drop off, before work) and a shorter one before bed.

Literally everything here has a video autoplay warning if that wasn’t clear XD

Longer Workouts

Easy ballet barre – I do this one whenever I have the energy/time. I don’t do the grand battements at the end btw. Also, I have done this often enough that I no longer need the explanation of all the combinations, so I use the intro-less version.

Turnout barre – I don’t have much turnout but I can’t even access what I have*, so I’m trying to strengthen those deep hip flexors. This barre targets those muscles and is, accordingly, more challenging. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through a complete set, but then I haven’t tried it in a while.

Easy center practice – I don’t do the turns (I do a passé instead of a pirouette) but the rest is really great for training my brain in learning choreography. I would say this is not as “easy” as the “easy barre” though. Also effacé derriere omggggggg.

Basic Pilates for dancers – nice and basic, after the core workout there is a side leg series for developpés etc.

Total Pilates – It hits just about every muscle so sometimes I consider it allllll the workouts rolled into one. Planks suck though.

Shorter Workouts

Leg stability & strength workout – murders your calves (and ankles) but really great. I could see in the studio mirror how my relevés have gotten higher since I started doing these regularly. My favorite of the bunch since they are so quick and easy yet have a great impact.

Quick back workout for higher arabesques – I’m going to look for something more strenuous, but this is a great basic workout.**

More intense back workout – see above.

Theraband foot workout – marked as something to do before class, but IMO a good exercise to do whenever I’m bored and can take off my shoes (and have access to a Theraband) … I now have a theraband stashed in my desk drawer. The joys of an office of one’s own.

I’ve also got a few personal exercises/stretches that I feel help me the most:

– Deep hip flexor workout (not clamshells – the kind you do by rolling a leg on the floor inwards)
– Stretching hip flexors
– Stretching quads/hamstrings in the elusive hope of splits
– Stretching inner thighs up against a wall for second splits

All stretches are done AFTER working out, because they reduce muscle strength!

* The teacher used me to do a demo this week and somehow wrangled my left leg nice and open (from the hip!***) and uhhh desperately hoping I can reenact the experience.

** My biggest frustration right now is extension in back arabesques. I have the flexibility to at least hit 90 degrees (either in a grand battement or in a static stretch) but in a developpé or enveloppé I can MAYBE reach 45. And my back hurts the next day.

*** I finally shed my skirt during class because I am aware that seeing the hips is important. I got some really useful corrections this class, and plus it was really helpful to see my alignment in the mirror.

Friday Favorites, 1/5/18

The first Friday Favorite of 2018 is Saga (Book One), by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. A shoutout to E for gifting me volume one for Christmas. I mainlined it in one day and it made me squee and laugh and cry. The worldbuilding is incredibly vast, the characters are all so real even if they only appear for a panel, and I’m just in such awe of the authors’ imagination.

And of course, it’s all about parenthood.

I had always thought that becoming a parent wouldn’t change my tastes in reading or writing. For instance, an unflattering confession: I loathed kidfic before I gave birth. Well, I was wrong … I loathe it even more now. Before it was merely insipid. Now it’s insipid and inaccurate. And don’t get me started on pregnancy fic. (And both these experiences are life-endingly fraught enough that I can’t just let it go when things are inaccurate, the way I can let LOLTASTAIC SCIENCE go.)

But Saga is the real deal done so right that I was thrown back to week three, living on three cans of coca-cola and three hours of sleep a day while quietly wishing for death. Those days were frankly dark but I’m remembering this in the best way, I swear. And let me just say that I, too, would have accepted a disemboweled ghost as a night nurse during week four AKA The First Fucking Growth Spurt.

And that’s how it is for the mom, too, when she is running through a very large and exciting universe with her family by her side!

Before having a kid, I would probably have rolled my eyes a little.

Now … now, reading this, I want to try to make the world a better place for my child. My world has no wings or horns or intergalactic travel, but we fight the same battles. I can do this. Hey, I’m no longer breastfeeding, what excuses have I got?

P.S. I just bought Book Two!

2018

2017 was incredibly hectic. You may have noodled that one for yourself from my dramatic decline in posting frequency.

Anyway, three goals for 2018:

  • Get promoted to the next level (Beginner II) at ballet school. Overall goal is to one day be able to attend a NYCB open class at the Kennedy Center! You must be at least intermediate level to join in, and observation is not allowed, so I better do all my exercises today. (I’m ordering a Theraband stat.)
  • Sell another short story. You know they say “it never gets easier, you just get better” and I’ll vouch for #1 but I’m not so sure on #2. For quite a while now I have only been getting better at seeing how my writing sucks. A useful skill to be sure, but best paired with an actual increase in writing ability. They promise me that eventually that curve flips but I think they lied. I’m still writing though. Forgive the tone of this item – nobody ever said that grinding EXP was heartening.
  • Do something original and self-directed at work. But first, I must get good enough at my job that I have the bandwidth to conceive of something original and execute it to completion.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and heaven willing productive 2018!

Friday Favorites, 12/1/17

Today’s Friday Favorite is one that probably everyone has read: The Lady Astronaut of Mars, by Mary Robinette Kowal. I’m way late to reading this, I know. But maybe someone else is too …

The threads of love and fragility and hope and exploration are all masterfully interwoven in this story. I disbelieve most love stories in SFF, and I’m guilty of it too–it’s easy to skimp on that when I just want to get to the time travel or whatever. Not so here. The love is deep and rich and real and kicked me in the feels with astronaut boots.

On top of that, I made my own connection with this story is as a former academic married to an academic. There was a time before I realized how much traveling is involved in the jobs that we both chose, and what sacrifices you have to make when you chase your career and/or tenure across the country and sometimes the world. And even after you have it, your career still depends on your willingness to give talks and attend conferences and on and on and on. It takes a toll, especially if you have any special circumstances. I should know—one of our joint decisions resulted in some rough months of solo parenting a tiny child. It’s not the same, but I know. I know what it’s like to make those choices. (We got a happy ending though! Those months passed and we are now happily together, both working jobs that we love.)

This story brought it home to me, thread for thread, exactly how it feels to want the best for someone while knowing exactly what you are bringing upon yourself. Anticipating what lies ahead and still saying yes, dear, we need to do what is best for you.

Anyway. Read The Lady Astronaut of Mars! And if you don’t want to cry, may I suggest read it in space like an astronaut. Because there is no crying in space.

Weekly Ballet Post, 11/30/17

Went back to class last night after a break for (wonderful, amazing) holiday weekend. In the meantime I did Pilates as much as I could (not that much, because either time or motivation was often lacking). I took a bit of a break from home ballet practice because I did something stupid with my knee and decided to take it easy for a while. While wearing a knee brace. But before class I did manage a little barre and center to get those muscle memories fresh. I also did a little turn practice at home; that doesn’t stress the knees. And I worked on learning facings—the muscle memory isn’t quite there yet, but this week the teacher said “remember, you’re in écarté” and I … understood what she meant.

A nice moment in class was that the teacher complimented my pirouette! I get dizzy/motion sickness easily so I have always believed I would be terrible at spins and I feared them as a result. But a previous teachers mentioned that she has terrible problems with motion sickness and yet, spotting works for her. So I have been working on core strength (“a pirouette is just a passé rélevé that happens to turn!”) and spotting and I got off one pretty good twirl before confusion and fatigue spoiled the rest of them. Gotta take what you can get!

Friday Favorites, 11/17/17

Today’s Friday Favorite is A GUIDE FOR YOUNG LADIES ENTERING THE SERVICE OF THE FAIRIES, by Rosamund Hodge.

This is the lie they will use to break you: no one else has ever loved this way before.

I love stories about ordinary people. Chosen One narratives do nothing for me. The funny thing is that sometimes in real life I do still struggle with flashes of ambition. Of wanting to be–important. I have been told for all my life, by people as well as stories, that if you are not Important then you are nothing at all, that your life is a waste, you’re a waste.

That’s why I really, really, really love this piece. It emphasizes both that you are ordinary, and that you are still worthy simply because you are yourself, that you can still take on the universe (or fairyland) and win. You do not have to be better than the rest. You only have to exist, and persist.

Weekly Ballet Post, 11/17/17

I did some center practice at home this past week and it helped quite a bit in class. For once, I had a fairly good adagio. Unfortunately I must have been the limiting factor in the class or something because the teacher said “you’re all so good today! so as a treat …” and a harder combination came rolling out. With turns. I decided to just go with it, which was not actually too horrible, but I really need to start practicing turning. Unfortunately pirouettes are something where you really need a Dancing Surface, or the traction will not be right. My place has some hardwood but it is grooved, not smooth, so that’s not really an option. We’ll see. Meanwhile I can still practice chainés.

(The other thing that was really hard for me was remembering where to place the foot once it comes down … because if you get it wrong, then you can’t take the next step! Very important! Must watch more center/turn practice on YouTube.)

The Pilates & other targeted workouts are also helping my strength very nicely, so I will continue that this week. Yesterday was brutal at work so I gave myself the night off, but it’s back to the usual today.

Next week the beginner class is cancelled for Thanksgiving, but there is a beginners II class on Tuesday that the teacher “strongly” encouraged us all to go to. Sure, why not, it’s time to limit a different class. Ha ha ha.

Extra practice this week on: jeté, glissade assemblé

Wool Base Layers: A PSA

Eff Minus 33. I bought a pair of their midweight bottoms last winter because it was cheaper than the SmartWool equivalent, which I also bought a pair of (on heavy discount, which was still $$$). Well, the Minus 33 developed a cluster of small runs in one area with three that developed into full on holes. I mended them yesterday (I hand baseball-stitched them shut – the holes were essentially vertical) and there will definitely be more repairs in the future. The time lost is/will not be worth the $30 or so that I saved. For comparison my SmartWool leggings are still pristine. But the good stuff is $$$, so I’ll try to get through this winter with these two pairs and wait until next winter to swap out for a second SmartWool pair. Sigh. 便宜没好货。

(“Kara why are YOU buying wool base layers” – I have picked up the unfortunate habit of commuting to/from work on my bicycle. Good exercise, but an enterprise that occasionally requires new clothes.)

Weekly Ballet Post, 11/10/17

This week I had a useful realization. This was entirely thanks to watching the Royal Ballet’s practices. In particular, the upper bodies of the dancers barely moved while they did tendus (and other, more complicated moves). Whereas I always feel quite unstable while doing tendus, like my weight is constantly shifting. Which by the way it isn’t supposed to; the way it was told to me was “you always need to be ready to rise on the supporting leg.” So you are supposed to be extremely stable! And I thought, how do they do that …

So, I did some tendus very slowly to analyze my movements, and realized that I was rocking up and down because I was always shifting my body and weight towards my working foot. After that realization I worked on pulling myself up as high as possible all throughout. The key to that was finding that I always got “taller” when I closed from the tendu (so both feet back in starting position) because I was back to being completely vertical. So I would do a bad tendu, but close in the right position, and I would work on holding that position all throughout the next tendus, and those would be correct. That made a huge difference. It also made the standing leg a lot more stable because it’s always engaged instead of just waiting there.

Here’s to more realizations. Off to watch videos again. XD