Weekly Ballet Post, 4/9/18

Ballet has been very good for discovering just how my body works … and doesn’t. Minute differences in strength & flexibility between my left and right sides are amplified a hundredfold when I have to hoist one leg in the air while standing on the toes of the other.

Current tally:

Foot & ankle – left is stronger and more flexible (no surprise given bunion) … much nicer pointing and winging on the left foot
Leg – right is stronger, can raise it higher, better control
Hip – right has more turnout and strength and thus stability UNLESS the ankle/foot weakness interfere (so, when on demipointe)

Anything above the waist: haven’t stress tested yet!

Have embarked on grimly determined strength training of ankles/feet/hip on the right side. A good passé rélevé is my quarry and I will pursue relentlessly.

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Weekly Ballet Post, 3/29/18

I had three weeks off dance recently. The first two were due to work. The third week there were time issues, but as I found out this week they closed because of snow anyway. It’s warming up now but class was relatively deserted last night so I got a bit more attention than usual. Some very helpful corrections on frappés!

I dutifully worked out as much as I could in the last weeks, although I confess I was (and am) getting tired of my Pilates workout. It was sure effective though. I did a new barre for kicks last week and felt my turnout muscles were way stronger than before. Last night in class I was able to hold my turnout better than any previous weeks.

Relentless rélevés have helped with demipointe a lot. Ironically, I irritated a callus right on top of the bunion pretty badly so I didn’t do great on my right foot in class. Maybe I should ice & ibuprofen before class …

Finally, I’m trying to find technique shoes that are better for bunions. Taping gets me pretty far but it’s not enough. Finding the perfect shoe is a personal saga for all dancers, but I saw one ballet dancer on YouTube whom I follow and who has bunions mention that she was wearing Body Wrapper TotalStretch shoes in one of her videos, so I ordered two pairs today. My local dance store doesn’t carry that brand so I’ve resorted to buy-and-try-and-hopefully-keep-one. Fingers (toes?) crossed.

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Weekly Ballet Post, 3/1/2018

This week while in class the teacher told me to pull my abs back more (not to suck in the tummy, but rather to scoop it back and also straighten the lower back) and when I did that, something happened: instant engagement of abs/back and my hips. It was the first time I was ever really able to feel myself turning out from the back of my legs in class. Massively improved my ability to stay turned out, and I did some pretty okay side dégagés. However, it felt pretty bad. Like my muscles were clenching my hip bones and grinding the socket à la mortar and pestle. Not healthy. When I tried to back off on the clenching feeling, the turnout muscles went dead and I lost my placement again.

Consulted some fora today and discovered that if I simultaneously ‘scoop the abs’ and ‘lift up and out of the hips’ I can reach the happy medium where my muscles remain engaged but are not clenching.

I haven’t been doing at home barres lately—conditioning via Pilates and back/leg exercises seems to be doing me much more good—but I may have to do a few this weekend just to attempt to bank some muscle memory.

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Weekly Ballet Post, 2/23/18

Bunion taping & splinting & massage & exercises seems to be working! In conjunction with regular ankle exercises and Pilates, I have finally become capable of holding a (brief) passé rélevé on both sides! Better on the left, due to right bunion being more severe, but I am pleased with my progress. I’m also getting better at holding turnout in the center–there’s no humiliation like losing all your turnout just from tendus.

I bought a new leotard and skirt to celebrate my progress (okay, and also to get through a hectic and stressful February)! Hoping to get better at ballet selfies sometime as well so I can post more to IG. I have found the amazing, supportive, gorgeous #adultballet community that exists there and hope to join the conversation in the future. Oh well–the longer it takes for my photography to level up, the more time my ballet has to level up. It’s no shame to jump in after I have that 90 degree arabesque, right? Ahaha.

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Weekly Ballet Post, 2/3/2018

One difficulty of practicing ballet at home has been the lack of that sweet, sweet studio mirror. However, it turns out that a video camera (the kind for Skyping) mounted to a decently sized TV monitor (we don’t have cable) doesn’t serve too badly. The Photobooth app in iOS lets you use it as a real mirror/selfie view (as opposed to the camera view, which is what Quicktime gives you) as well as record. Since at home I use a stepladder whereas in class I use a center barre, this has shown me that my left side is weaker than my right—so, I tilt and sink into the barre when I’m holding with my left arm. I am able to stay square on my right. Something to work on.

I’ve also been doing ankle/calf strength training in the form of single leg rises, and I have noticed that the moderate bunion on my right foot is holding me back from good form (the bad joint is in line with the ankle, which makes it difficult to maintain a straight line through the ankle). Which means it will also hold me back from my current holy grail, the passé rélevé aka rétiré. Aside from the joint pain, the bunion weakens the muscles so staying up in demipointe (and going up/down) is difficult. I have done some research and have prescribed myself a regiment of spacers, KT tape, and strengthening the abductor hallucis (the muscle that lets you move the big toe outwards). It’s had a little effect so I will persevere.

I have already noticed my ankles getting stronger in general, so I’m very pleased with my strength training overall.

Other discoveries: my abs are okay. My back is WEAK. I’ve been doing more back exercises lately.

When doing home barres this week I will focus on shoulder alignment and working from the back of the legs. Having located the turnout muscles, it’s really time to focus on them, if only to spare my knees.

Haven’t been able to do barres for a while thanks to work and petri dish, but I hope to get back into it today! Gotta keep those muscles warm for class next week!

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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

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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

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