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.

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!

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!

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

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

Weekly Ballet Post, 11/2/17

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.

Packing for the studio

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.

Weekly Ballet Post, 10/19/17

I’ve been doing some workouts in addition to barre practice at home, and I would like to think that’s why I did better at things like attitude and passé this week. I did not try any center work at home (logistics are difficult) which is probably why I totally sucked at center this week. At least I am consistent.

Goals for this upcoming week of home practice:

– 2x back workouts
– 2x core workouts
– 3 home barres (any level)

– 1x spotting practice coupled with chainé turn practice, sigh but I want to start getting better at turns

– Every day:
– 4x passé passing front/back on flat, 4x on demipointe
– 8x passé HOLD on each leg (4x on flat, 4x on demipointe)
– 24x elevé on each leg
– Stretches (all splits, the two hip stretches)

Weekly Ballet Post, 10/12/17

Went back to Hardcore Studio this week, after a week off. During the week I tried to work a bit at home, practicing various basics: brushing with the tendu, not letting the knee fall during a developpé, passés up and down (4x flat, 4x in relevé), and 24 daily elevés on each leg. Not sure which of those was the hardest …

But the best prep I actually did was a lot of practicing how to turn at the barre. Most combinations are done first on the right or left, and then switch to the other side. If you are at the barre, this generally means you need to turn 180 degrees so that you can switch hands (and feet). This is not done casually. No. It is accomplished by some variation on:

1) Rise into sous sus
2) Turn 180 degrees on the working leg (defined as the leg away from the barre) towards the barre
3) Come back down on working leg while simultaneously placing the other leg in front of working leg; now it is the new working leg

I’m not sure if that made sense in writing. It certainly did not in speaking, which is why I spent so much time staring at YouTube and tied my ankles into knots at home trying to practice.

The other hard bit about this turn is you don’t want to start either too close or too far from the barre; otherwise once you finish the turn you will either end up squeezed into the barre or so far away that your arm can’t reach. So you have to place the working foot correctly at the start. Here’s where it came in handy to learn that in sous sus, 1) the toes of both feet are supposed to be aligned (this is a very popular pose for pointe photos, especially from the side) 2) when you rise into sous sus from fifth or whatever, you don’t shift both feet towards the middle; you pull the working foot to line up with the standing foot. Consequently your working leg will be at the same distance from the barre as your standing leg, thus ensuring that once you’ve turned around, you will remain at your ideal distance (assuming that you were at a good distance before the sous sus). Clever, that one. Anyway, this sounds like a very small matter, but I assure you that with the amount of turning there was in class, I felt much less awkward compared to last time when I had zero idea what to do. It also helped with other small turns; having the muscle memory to pivot and close in fifth without thinking too hard is very handy. Unfortunately this bit me somewhat when we did a combination with a passe relevé closing in the back. I think out of eight times, I closed in the front seven times.

Now back to staring at videos trying to learn assemblé, which was whipped out last night and I had never heard of it before. I was able to stay late and get some tips but for sheer patience, nothing beats YouTube for a teacher.

I still have no idea what a “perris” lilac is

So my leo collection is nowhere near epic, but I have definitely expanded from the single black short sleeve Capezio leo that I’d started out with.

In particular, I have (with some embarrassment but obviously not enough to stop me) longed after the leo/skirt outfit worn by certain years/classes of Vaganova swans-in-training. It took me a stupidly long time and much failed googling before realizing they were probably wearing Grishko, which is the Russian ballet brand. Well, Grishko dancewear is not easily if at all available in the states (although their pointe shoes appear to be readily available). P.S. you can find some creepy yet hilariously awful photoshopping if you trudge through their English website in desperation like I did.

An aside: this obsession set in just before Worldcon, so I had the genius thought “Finland is close to Russia, maybe in Helsinki …” and so I spent my first sleep-deprived day pounding some pavement at dancewear stores instead of, you know, going to the con. Anyway it was a bust. I should’ve gone to some panels …

But I was undeterred! And after weeks of googling for various combinations of “cornflower” “periwinkle” “[insert other blue-purple shades here]” “leotard” and “skirt” I hit lookalike paydirt. I am now the proud owner of a Dansko leotard in perris lilac and a Mirella skirt in periwinkle.

Having obtained my objective, the real question is, how shameless do I have to be to go to class dressed like that?! Answer: I have less ballet budget then shame, so I’m not letting these acquisitions go to waste. Do svidanya, see you in the studio.

(Where was the class post last week? Out sick, like myself. Hopefully I will be able to attend a class tomorrow night.)