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.
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!
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.
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
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.)
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
This week’s Friday Favorite is “Excerpt from a Letter by a Social-realist Aswang” by Kristin Mandigma. This is a short and delightful piece (I would call it satire, but it does far more than just make jokes) that is incredibly dense with allusions and asides and asks genuine questions in there too. It reminds me of nothing so much as Borges.
But it has a delicious modern sensibility—and isn’t afraid to take a sly swipe or two at politicians on top of the writing & publishing scene. I am not qualified to comment on the political satire so I will comment on the writing. My favorite passages:
With regard to your question about how I perceive myself as an “Other,” let me make it clear that I am as fantastic to myself as rice. I do not waste time sitting around brooding about my mythic status and why the notion that I have lived for five hundred years ought to send me into a paroxysm of metaphysical Angst for the benefit of self-indulgent, overprivileged, cultural hegemonists who fancy themselves writers.
… I think that being an aswang is a category of social difference—imposed by an external utilitarian authority—like sexuality and income bracket. Nobody conceives of being gay just as a literary trope. Do they?
Well. Let me introduce you to a few websites. They are not respectable proletariat reading at all but you do need to learn about your enemies—right?
Do the boring but useful thing: that is is the lesson of the week. Home barre routines are fun but I am starting to fear forming bad habits in the absence of instruction. Also, bookshelves are not very good barres and that cannot possibly be helping my technique/habits.
That said I have been improving. A metric: I could hold a passé relevé for a few seconds this week, which is (sad to say) superior to previous weeks.
And I can work on things slowly at home, when I know what to do. I’ve started to sickle during developpés for some reason. So I’ve done many, many, MANY slow developpés focusing on letting the heel lead. Feeling the muscles so I know which ones need to be engaging. It’s starting to come together. Same with tendus, although I am having trouble with the moment when the working foot slides in/out of first.
For the moment I will restrict home practice to pliés, tendus, developpés, passé/relevé, and the daily élevés. To work my cerebellum (I once again bombed center this week) I will practice learning choreography (I especially need to memorize the damn body facings …) by marking but not full on dancing. Again, boring, but the right neurons ought to fire, over and over again. Without the risk of forming bad habits when no one is around to correct me. Similarly, I will watch more company practices (Royal Ballet has a great one). Watching how they hold themselves, especially the core/upper body, has been extremely educational.
And for the muscles: continued workouts. Remembering to stretch afterwards.
Okay, it’s not all boring. I bought a new-to-me leotard in BRIGHT GREEN! I am leaning way in to this wearing garish colors to class thing. Who cares if I look like I’m five, I certainly dance like I am. And if it makes me stand out in a crowd of sensible blacks and primary colors … so much the better, in a large group class. Ha.
This week’s favorite is La beauté sans vertu by Genevieve Valentine. This is everything (maybe nearly everything?) Valentine likes to write about—fashion, the fashion industry, fairy tales, feminism—rolled up into one gorgeous and dense and prickly story, like a bed of roses. Which is, not coincidentally, a motif throughout the story.
I really have to gush a little about how the story is so perfectly structured. Every sentence is as layered as it is gorgeous. The story overflows with #aesthetic but at no point does that get in the way of the story’s function. Every pretty thing in this story is an important signifier or symbol; it doesn’t just stand there looking nice. That’s harder than it sounds even in a story about the fashion industry. (You wish all your clothes could accomplish the same.)
All right, speaking of roses. La beauté sans vertu is the story of Maria, a 19-year-old model who (with the help of bones grafted from a dead 14-year-old; this is the industry standard) rises to become a star in the House of Centifolia, a couture house. Rhea, the owner of the House of Centifolia, designs a runway show around Maria and her beauty. Then things start to fall apart.
It’s a story about the currency of women’s bodies and how and when they’re valued and what we consider beautiful and why. It’s a deeply beautiful story that understands the price of beauty and who has to pay it.
Reading this story is—to borrow an image from it—somewhat akin to swallowing a rose. Someone will bleed for this. But oh, the beauty of it.
Clockwise starting at upper left: Danskin leotard, Mirelle skirt, spare pair of Bloch leather shoes, Capezio transition tights, working pair of So Danca canvas shoes.
(The bag is holding the less crucial and/or photogenic items: spare leos, spare tights, spare skirts, water bottle, light reading material, knitting WIP, and mass transit card.)
Couldn’t attend class this week, sad but しょうがない so I practice as much as I can.