Monday, July 28, 2014

(Re)Learning to turn

We had a substitute instructor yesterday. She normally teaches at The Washington Ballet school, but is covering for our regular instructor who has personal obligations this week. She's really good, but unfortunately doesn't appear to teach adult evening classes.

One of the sequences in center included two pirouettes en dehor. The humidity level was lower, and floor didn't feel so sticky. While we were marking the sequence I found that my turns in one direction felt far more stable than usual, with less of a tendency to fall out of it at the end. I concentrated on repeating that success, and by the time we moved on most of my turns in both directions ended with the feeling of being balanced. If I can do that consistently I'll be much happier.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

That's dancing

Has it really been over a month since my last post? Wow. I suspect it's because my usual time for blogging is while eating after class, and recently I've spent that time being social. Cuz it's not because I haven't been going to class.

Tuesday evening the instructor was apparently feeling inspired, having recently returned from a reunion of sorts with her dance academy classmates. This resulted in the center work being rather lyrical with a lot of emphasis on making the steps flow together. Thus the comment she made to the effect of, "It's not a series of separate steps; they blend together. That's dancing!"

Despite getting to two classes a week (Tue & Sun) on a regular basis, I've been feeling quite tight. Yeah, yeah, not enough stretching between classes. Somehow, during barre, I managed to overstretch something in the outside of my left heel. Not a "pop" but just a little ache. This is the tendon that supports a lot of the weight when on demi-pointe, and the ache got a bit worse as class progressed. I ended up skipping most of the jumps at the end of class as a result. I limped a bit after class as it tightened up, and I'm still walking a bit stiffly. I'm going to give it more warm-up time before class Sunday.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Still almost invisible

Ballet San José is experimenting with holding an adult beginner class on Friday evenings, and I managed to go. The same instructor in the same room; the big difference is that I arrived 30 minutes ahead of time so I could stretch before class. I think seven of us showed up, one of whom is a young man who I think said he'd just started a college dance degree.

Again, barre took over an hour. I thought the instructor was going to give us a break on the relevés but I was mistaken. This time, however, rather than trying to hang tough I simply stopped when my legs said so, thus avoiding the later lack of control due to twitching, shaking, and other signs of muscle exhaustion. Aside from that it was a good workout.

With only about 20 minutes left for center work we only did a few exercises. We started with a simple tendu, lift, hold, close to fifth sequence en croix. Then we did a variation of the pirouette preparation exercise, which is something I want to practice on my own, followed by the combination tombé, pas de bourrée, plié in fourth, pirouette en dehor to fifth avant, tendu and repeat across the floor. We then did some simple jumps (changement and echappée) in place, which was followed by a sequence of sauté arabesque with opposite arms, step through, chassé and repeat. Then came reverance and we were done.

I was going to entitle this posting "still invisible", but I did get two comments. One was to raise my arms higher during pirouettes, and the other I've forgotten. I'd guess I'm in the upper 1/3rd of this group. I'm not terribly impressed, but it's an OK place to go so I don't miss a whole week of classes on these trips.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Do you know the way to San José?

I decided to drop in on the Ballet San José's adult beginner class this evening. I was quite rushed when I arrived, and barely finished changing in time to help put out the last few portable barres and take a spot at one of them. There were about a dozen students in total, most in their 20's, I'd guess, and two of the others were also men.

Barre began with exercises to limber the ankles and legs, then pliés, and finally a seemingly endless repetition of quick relevés that left my legs aching and twitching. We then did fondues, frappés, petit battements, grande battements, and eventually developpés. All in all a thorough workout, but it consumed about 2/3rds of the 90 minute class.

When we finally did center work, it was a simple adagio of tendu, lift and hold, tendu and close to fifth performed en croix. My balance hasn't completely returned, made worse by the (over)work at the barre and a health touch of jet-lag. I'm just not used to class starting at 9:30pm and ending at 11pm. This was followed by a sequence of plié, sous-sus, plié, passé relevé, plié in fourth, pirouette en dehor to fourth, rise to tendu derrièrre, close to fifth, and repeat. My pirouettes still leave much to be desired, but I'm getting all the way around and not falling over.

We also did a sequence of "lame duck" (en dehor) piqué turns, which are apparently new to most of these folk. Last Sunday I realized that the reason I had so much trouble with piqué turns was I was stepping too far out, which throws me off balance. This instructor pointed out the same problem to another student which reminded me of my realization and after that I did much better.

While I wasn't the best in the class, neither was I the worst. During the piqué turns I found myself going first with the more advanced of the other guys because everyone else declined to go first. I felt pretty confident so it was no great stress to be there.

Once again, though, my biggest complaint is the almost total lack of feedback from the instructor. During pliés she did suggest opening up my second a bit, but other than that I might as well have been invisible. It could be that she doesn't want to criticize someone new to her class and potentially scare them (me) off. Or she might think I'm doing well enough that I don't need specific correction and will just get better with practice. Or, like when I'm struggling in my Advanced Beginner class, it's just easier to not embarrass me with lots of criticism. Whatever the reason, though, I'd really like to know how I'm doing and not be left wondering.

Now it's time to collapse on this nice hotel bed.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Just complex enough to be evil

That's how the instructor described one of tonight's combinations. Yeah, it's been one of those nights. If I felt totally lost I'd drop out of this class in favor of an easier one, but I don't. Instead, I'll get all but a tiny segment of a combination. It's like a tantalizing smell that you can't quite taste. A chocolate cookie you can see and smell but can't have.

Realistically, I'm still improving. I'm feeling more comfortable with turns of all sorts. I'm not falling out of pirouettes anymore. I don't think we did a single step this evening I couldn't do, but I'm not up to linking them together at the speed requested. And it's still taking conscious thought to do a bunch of them rather than being free to think about the sequence. But it's getting better.

Does anyone have suggestions for a drop-in, evening, adult class in the northern San Jose area? I'm looking for one to keep me limber during an upcoming trip.