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.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sixteen Weeks

Yesterday it was exactly 16 weeks ago to the day when I bailed out of my last Advanced Beginner class after barre because I couldn't keep up with the pace. I told the instructor I had a doctor's appointment scheduled to find out what the problem was, but I'd be back.

After 10 weeks off I was permitted to start easing myself back into ballet classes starting with the easiest of the classes the studio offers, in which I discovered I'd lost flexibility, balance, and the ability to turn. Slowly, with practice, these have come back. Last week I started to get the hand of pirouettes again, finally getting a full turn without falling out of it only this past Sunday. Tuesday's Beginner 2 class confirmed my progress, and last night I showed up for Advanced Beginner again.

A couple of the other regulars acknowledged me with querulous smiles that indicated recognition with a hint of, "hasn't it been a while?" No one asked, though. None of the other men who had been taking this class were in attendance. The instructor has seen me in her Sunday Beginner 2 classes, and she gave no indication of approval or disapproval. Barre was okay, with a few missteps but nothing out of line with others in the class. Center was a challenge with long (to me) combinations. To my surprise I did pretty well learning the combinations, though I had some difficulty getting my feet to do some of the linking steps. Often I was behind the beat but never completely lost it.

I also did better than I expected with the pirouettes, both en dehor and en dedans. One combination included one en dedans to fifth, then later one en dehor to coupé, and ending with one en dehor to arabesque. I got all the way around on all of them, and by the end I was able to finish in coupé or arabesque without touching the working leg to the ground first. I was quite excited by that, despite my so-so form.

So... Sixteen weeks, and I'm getting closer to where I was. Not too shabby.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Pool-side update

I've been to class fairly regularly; I just haven't had much to blog about. Today, though, I managed to get that centered feeling again, where everything seemed balanced over the middle of my forefoot and everything rotated around that. The combination was 2x regular piqué turns, 2x step-over piqué turns, and a series of chaînés. Nothing terribly complex and I felt pretty good, at least until the last run where I got dizzy and almost fell over. My spotting is getting better, but there are limits.

After class I did a couple of pirouettes just to see, and I got all the way around with no effort. I credit the work my therapist did to loosen my hamstrings the night before. If I'm able to do it again in Tuesday's Beginner 2 class I might try the Thursday Advanced Beginner class again.