Sunday, July 15, 2018

I took my car to a mechanic, and...

Ever take your car to a mechanic because it's making an annoying noise, only to find it won't make the noise when the mechanic is listening? I just had the dance equivalent happen.

But first I'm going to whine about aches and pains for a few paragraphs.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Instructor improvement

I didn't get to class at all last week. I was busy all weekend, but told myself I'd get to class Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Tuesday evening we had such violent storms that the power went out, a rare occurrence in my neighborhood, and I chose to stay indoors. Later I found out that the storm was so localized that the studio 20 miles away didn't even get rain. I was still planning on attending Thursday when I received an email saying that studio would be closed. Bummer. This weekend I again had other commitments.

So I was determined to go this Tuesday evening, and I did. Unusually congested traffic ate up all my warm-up time, and I didn't get into the classroom until half way through the instructions for the first exercise. Our regular instructor was out and another was substituting.

I've taken classes from this substitute instructor before, and had not been impressed. Not that her class was horrible, but it wasn't something I'd look forward to. Since I don't think I could explain what I didn't like about her previous classes I don't know how to explain how this one was different, but it was much better. She had the exercises planned and written out. They were a bit of a mental challenge, but not impossibly difficult and they seemed to be designed with a purpose. I also liked the way she gave feedback on the problems she observed. Overall I was quite impressed with her improvement as an instructor, and I complimented her after class.

As for myself, having been out of the studio for far a couple of weeks I found myself fighting cramps in my calf muscles and feet. In fact, I'm still quite sore two days later. I managed to get through most of the class, skipping the jumps and petit allegro, but rejoining for grand allegro. There were three other men in the class, and quite by accident three of us ended up doing grand allegro together. I wish I had the ability to watch in the mirror while doing the exercise because I'd really love to have been able to see it.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Generational divides

The instructor for my Thursday evening ballet class has found new recorded music. Most of the recorded music used in ballet classes is nondescript, sometimes taken from famous ballets. This, though, is a collection of modern, popular music played on a piano without vocals. It's become something of a game to see who can name the original artist and the title.

For example, last night we heard "Material Girl" by Madonna and "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon, among others. I can name most of them, though if the combination we're doing requires focus I'm less likely to be able to recognize the music.

The funny thing is to watch the older students react to familiar music while the younger ones show no signs of recognition. For example, a week or two ago we heard the title track from the movie "Fame" by Irene Cara. The instructor said this music was significant to her because it led her to pursue dance as a career. Not only did the younger folk not recognize the music, but they had never heard of it or the movie it came from. Not totally surprising, given that many of them were born a dozen years or more after the movie's release.

This weekend my other regular instructor got into the act. She was providing feedback on some centre combination we were doing when she announced, "You have to stick your landings. Just like Nadia Comaneci!" The younger folk showed no recognition of this name. Not terribly surprising, given that Nadia was an outstanding gymnast in the 1976 Summer Olympics. I remember the '76 Olympics -- I tried speedskating for a brief period as a result -- but I was 15 at the time. Nadia retired from competition before many of these students were born.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Flattery will get you... everywhere?

I've been getting to at least one class a week, most often two, over the last month. Last weekend I had other commitments Saturday morning so I went to the Sunday Beginner 2 class instead. This is the true Beginner 2 class, rather than the Saturday Beginner 2.75 class I usually attend. The result is that the sequences are short and relatively easy to remember, which allows me to focus on technique.

Sometimes I have my...differences...with this instructor. Last weekend she directed what I consider a rather obnoxious comment toward me, though I'll write it off as a rather poor attempt at humor and not anything malicious. Fortunately I'm not in this class because of her charming wit or personality, but rather because she's quite an excellent ballet instructor and that forgives many sins.

Case in point. She made an observation to another student regarding how the working leg and foot should be placed for a pirouette. I always listen to her comments, regardless of whether they're directed to me or not, and I tried to apply the comment to my own technique. It made an immediate improvement in my turns en dehor.

On the other hand, she never believes that my legs are actually straight when they are. Bent legs when they're supposed to be straight are a big deal to her, and she can spot bent knees through skirts and sweatpants. She came over and tickled the back of my knee -- not poked, not prodded, just lightly tickled -- saying I needed to make sure it was straight. My knees don't get any straighter than they were at that moment, and the tights I was wearing hid nothing. But it's better than being ignored.

This morning it was pouring rain (again), and many students were still trickling in when it was time for class to start. She was explaining to another very new student that this class was much simpler than some of the other Beginner 2 classes, though some of the students took both this and the Advanced Beginner class that followed so she shouldn't judge herself in comparison with others. I commented on the pirouette advice that I'd found so helpful last week. She seemed very pleased by this.

Later, during barre, she took a position at the barre I was using, facing me, and gave suggestions on my pliés. At first I thought she was speaking to the woman on the other side of the barre, but then I realized she was speaking to me. I have to admit that because of this I really have no idea what correction she was trying to make, but I'm happy she did it anyway. It's been my observation that students in her class fall into one of two categories: those who are likely to benefit from receiving corrections and those who probably will not. Understandably it's those in the first group who get most of her attention.

As I look back on this morning's class, it occurs to me that the only turns we did were the detournés at the barre as we switched sides. No pirouettes, no waltz turns, nothing. Very unusual, even for this class. I recall hearing her tell one of the newbies that she had planned a different class, but the presence of several new and inexperienced students caused her to revise her plan. I guess that's why.

Friday, May 11, 2018

The stigma of being a boy in ballet

Pointe Magazine has posted a blog article about an upcoming feature-length documentary called Danseur that addresses the stigma of being a boy in ballet.

From the Pointe article:
The documentary is the brainchild of director Scott Gormley. "I have a son who is a dancer, so I watched what he went through," he told Pointe last week. "I thought, is this typical?" After doing some research and talking to other parents and dancers, he realized that cruel and relentless teasing, along with social isolation and disapproval from peers and adults, was all too common. "It just felt like a message that had to be broadcast. My goal with the film is to educate people about the subject and hopefully start some conversations about what young men face when they choose to dance."
There's no date for a theatrical release yet. If I hear of one I'll mention it.